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Miniature painting Miniatures Warhammer 40k

Musings on magnetizing minis and drilling barrels

Back when I got into minis in earnest this past February, I considered magnetization and boring out gun barrels, both of which share the same tool: a pin vise or hand drill. Given the outlay of cash and time to get an army rolling, and my long history of false starts and aborted attempts at getting into this hobby, adding another step (time) that required more tools (money) seemed like a bad idea — and one that might kill my momentum.

I’ve carefully guarded and maintained that momentum for eight months now, and occasionally considered magnetization and barrel-drilling but decided that the time wasn’t right. I also reasoned that if I encountered a need for a different bit of wargear on a unit in the future, since I’m building an army for the pleasure of it, buying that unit again and assembling it a new way wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Enter Moonkrumpa

But as I got my Deathskulls Ork army, Moonkrumpa’s Megalootas, off the ground, I stumbled across the rules for Moonkrumpa’s two special pieces of wargear, the Tellyport Blasta and the Kustom Force Field. With no clear date when I’ll actually be able to play 40k, I’ve held off on reading the rules; they’ll just fade away before I get a chance to play. And I make my choices almost entirely based on the Rule of Cool, so that’s worked out fine so far.

Somehow, though (probably by browsing DakkaDakka), I’ve picked up enough to understand that the KFF is probably a much better choice, mechanically, than the Blasta — despite the Blasta looking cooler. And these two parts both have a flat bottom and sit atop a single flat surface, making them perfect candidates for magnetization.

Further, this isn’t just a random unit in my Ork army — this is my first 40k character with a backstory, and he’s the leader of my entire Waaagh!. I’m invested in playing with Moonkrumpa in a way that I’m not invested in playing with Blood Angel X or Ork Y.

I’d also previously set aside my Contemptor Dread, whose weapon arm uses a ball joint that must be glued into place (rather than a peg, like the refrigerator Dreads, which allows for easy arm-swapping), to consider whether it’s worth delving into drilling and magnets for him. I have no plans to buy a second Contemptor (it’s kind of a bland kit), and in any case they can be expensive and difficult to track down.

So that gives me two units that both have what looks to be a single fairly simple spot on each that could benefit from magnetization — one of which is My Guy, to boot.

I’ve got a pin vise, some bits, and a mix of 2mm x 1mm and 3mm x 1mm magnets in the mail, and I’ve been doing some homework. There’s an awesome article on DakkaDakka, Magnetising: a Report, Tips and Tricks from a Newbie, that’s going to be my guide. I’ve also found some excellent tips on Reddit, notably about marking magnets and using bits of sprue to simplify the process and drill pressure, marking magnets, and pilot holes.

I’ll probably bore out a spare Bolter to see how that looks, and if it looks good I’ll have a minor existential crisis and then break down and drill every mini I’ve already painted…or maybe I’ll skip that, and just drill going forwards. We shall see!

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Blood Angels Space Marines Finished miniatures Miniature painting Miniatures Warhammer 40k

I finished my first Warhammer 40k army!

On November 20, 2020, I finished my first-ever 2,000-point Warhammer 40k army. I waited until this morning to take pictures of it, and even now I still can’t quite believe I finished it.

My first 40k army, 2,000 points of Blood Angels

I’ve dabbled in miniature-painting since I was a kid, and generally didn’t enjoy it (I saw it as a means to an end, which was the wrong philosophical approach), but until this year I wouldn’t have considered myself a miniature painter. When I finished painting my Space Hulk set, something I’ve wanted to since I was about 10 years old, that was a watershed moment.

I rolled right into painting this army — something else I’ve wanted to do since I was a little kid, and always thought was out of reach for a variety of reasons — and have kept that streak up ever since. From the day I assembled my first Blood Angel, Sergeant Karios, to the day I varnished Squad Caedes, this 2,000-point army took me 255 days to complete (March 10-November 20).

Along the way, I became a miniature painter. Not, I want to emphasize, an amazing miniature painter. But I’m proud of my work on these little dudes, and more importantly I’m enjoying this hobby as a hobby in its own right. From a mindfulness perspective, this is the right approach to painting.

My full army — everything I painted from March 10-November 20, 2,210 points with WYSIWYG wargear (9th Edition)

What else happened along the way? I assembled, primed, and partially painted another ~700 points of Blood Angels. I started a Deathskulls Ork army, Moonkrumpa’s Megalootas. And I listened to a 10 awesome 40k audiobooks (which I love to do while I paint).

I started with two by Guy Haley, both narrated by Gareth Armstrong, that seemed thematically appropriate: Dante and The Devastation of Baal. Then I listened to eight more by Dan Abnett, all narrated by Toby Longworth: First and Only, Xenos, Hereticus, The Magos, Ghostmaker, Necropolis, Honour Guard, and Brothers of the Snake, plus most of Ravenor (which is still underway).

My Blood Angels force deployed on the plains of Armageddon

Because I built my initial army list under 8th Edition rules, things changed when 9th Edition came out. I dropped 10 fully painted minis from my force, and added a squad of five — so I’ve actually finished 2,210 points of Blood Angels, not just the 2,000 in my list.

As a rough, conservative ballpark, it takes me five hours to finish a single Marine-sized model — that’s from gray plastic on the sprue to varnished and ready for play. Some take an hour or two longer; the small ones take less time; the tanks and Dreads take a lot longer. But that translates to a minimum of 290 hours of hobby work. Six hours a mini is probably a more accurate estimate, and that’s 348 hours of work.

It has been an absolute blast.

Categories
Blood Angels Space Marines Deathskulls Orks Miniatures Warhammer 40k

Pondering a second 40k army…Orks, maybe?

Ever since I decided on Blood Angels for my 40k army, back in February/March of this year, I’ve had the vague notion that it might be fun to have a second army on a back burner of my brain. I’ve kept the flame on that back burner quite low, if you will; I know how easy it can be to kill my own momentum.

But I’m one squad away from 2,000 points of Blood Angels, with another 700 points assembled and in various stages of priming/basing/painting, and as of November 8th my hobby streak stands at 260 days. My careful, flexible approach to building and maintaining my momentum has been successful for months now, and I think it’s resilient enough to handle a second force.

The siren song of Kill Team

I’ve been curious about Kill Team since February of this year, and like the idea of painting small numbers of one or more factions to use in that game. That seems like a good way to back into a second army for 40k, too.

And ditto with terrain, as while my plan remains to play primarily at my local shop (post-pandemic, of course), on a longer timeline — and with two armies, so I can loop in friends who might like 40k but don’t want to paint — I can see building up a stash that includes terrain and one or more play mats at home. Starting with a small Kill Team board worth of infrastructure sounds like a solid baby step.

Waaagh!

Bringing me full circle on this noodling was remembering how close I came to picking Orks back when I got into 40k. Adeptus Custodes came close as well, and the new Necron stuff looks so amazing that it’s prompted me to look into their lore — which is amazing. And, of course, Indomitus coming with a basic Necron kill team (all Warriors, kind of boring) and the solid foundation of a Necron army gives them their own appeal.

But right now the Orks are really calling my name.

Several months of painting clean, polished, bling-covered, aesthetics-first Blood Angels makes the idea of doing up some proper dirty, weathered Boyz sound like a fun palate-cleanser. I’ve enjoyed experimenting with weathering on my bases; applying those skills to a whole force seems like it’d be enjoyable. Same with their skin, which is quite different than Space Marine armor; learning to paint that well sounds like fun.

Similarly, I’ve enjoyed assembling a bits box and using it to convert minis, create scenery for bases, and build out my Marines in different ways. The notion of painting an entire army that thrives on stealing and converting other factions’ crap is pure catnip.

Ditto the amount of variety, messiness, and character of the Orks: starting my own Waaagh!, creating characters rather than following lore, theming my force, creating tribes, and on and on. I love working on Blood Angels, following their lore and force organization and whatnot; that was a conscious choice (I could have created my own chapter, etc.), and it’s enjoyable. But a contrast sounds fun, too.

And while Orks do have faces, something I’ve studiously avoiding painting, 1) they’re not human and are free to look cartoonish, and 2) their eyes can be a solid color, without pupils. That second one is a biggie, as eyes intimidate the crap out of me; bad ones can ruin the whole mini.

Plus it hit me that it could be fun to give them hive world-themed bases, flat with no texture paint but lots of details, which would match many Kill Team boards (with their buildings and ruins) and be a change from my “plains of Armageddon” bases on my Blood Angels.

So now I’m reading about Orks, diving into the various clans and their lore and color schemes, and looking at how big a commitment an Ork kill team would be — and how fun the KT-eligible units would be to paint.

Deathskulls?

I’m instinctually drawn to Evil Sunz, who love going fast and fielding converted vehicles, but I don’t want to paint a second army red. I also love the color scheme of the Bad Moons, since most of the Ork bits I’ve weathered have been yellow and it turns out great, but their lore is a bit less appealing.

Which has me considering Deathskulls, the looters who love converting stuff and have blue as their dominant color.[1] It’s my understanding that a Waaagh! can loop in multiple clans, too, so perhaps I could splash in some Bad Moons and Evil Sunz as well; I’m not positive how that works rules-wise.

That would give me blue to contrast with red, vehicles to contrast with assault troops, Ork skin to contrast with armor plating, and a force that makes sense as opposition for my Blood Angels (for hosting battles at home where I provide both sides). The logic tracks.

I also often have bad luck with die rolls, so Deathskulls are fun there as well: I like the idea of Orks painted in their lucky color having bad luck with dice. The conversion possibilities seem endless, too — like this Reddit poster who is outfitting his Deathskulls in looted Space Marine armor. Or sneaky Orks in barrels. I could do a squad of Kommandos that are all stuck inside Imperial crates and barrels; the crates could be half-open, wrapped around each Ork. That stuff is a hoot, and sounds like so much fun to work on.

This bit from a Warhammer Community post on the Deathskulls really grabs me, too:

You never really own a gun in the 41st Millennium – you merely look after it for a bit until an Ork takes it from your cooling corpse. No Ork clan demonstrates this shamelessly larcenous quality better than the Deathskulls – avaricious, superstitious Orks who’ll steal anything that isn’t nailed down… after which they’ll steal everything that is nailed down. Including the nails.

Clan Fokus: Deathskulls

Plus Squigs. I love Squigs.

Right now I’m just in the noodling stage, but I’m also at the point where the culmination of months of gentle noodling has given me a lot of tools with which to firm up my ideas.

[1]: Based on this Warhammer TV video, for a color recipe I think I’d try Macragge Blue > Agrax Earthshade wash, possibly as a pin wash > Chronus Blue drybrush > weathering. Lots of ways to do that weathering, but Duncan’s sponged-on Rhinox Hide followed by dots of Leadbelcher looks quite nice.

Categories
Blood Angels Space Marines Miniature painting Miniatures Warhammer 40k

Post-army goals

When I started painting my Blood Angels army, my goal was to have 2,000 points done by the end of summer so that I could start playing at my local shop. Over the summer it became clear that the pandemic was going to make that impossible, and by August I was pretty sure that “sometime in 2021, maybe” was a reasonable target for actually playing 9th Edition 40k for the first time.

Losing that goal was a bit of a motivation-killer. But I still had my main goal: paint my first 2,000-point army, sometime I’ve wanted to do for 30 years. That one remains a powerful motivator.

But given that I’ve spent most of the past three decades not being a miniature painter (except sporadically, and generally only as a means to an end), I want to make sure “paint just for the fun of it” is a viable goal. And on its own, I think it needs a little something to make it work. Because while it does feel liberating, as I look at the 11 partially painted models that remain to paint for my first army, to think about painting whatever the heck I want after that, I know me; I need a concrete goal.

Squads Zahariel (left) and Barakiel (right), so close!

So what could that goal be? One idea that occurred to me this morning was finishing out the 2nd Company. I’ve always notionally considered myself to be painting a 2nd Company army, despite really painting a strike force composed of elements of the 1st, 2nd, and 10th Companies (not to mention the Reclusiam, etc.).

I have seven squads unassigned in the 2nd, and doing them as a mix of old-school and Primaris Marines, plus their dedicated transports and my planned kitbash of Captain Aphael, should provide a pleasing mix of units to paint for the next several months.

In terms of other possible goals, “Paint units that give me new options” makes some sense — but it’s a bit fuzzy since I haven’t played yet and don’t know what new options will actually appeal to me, rules-wise. And it’s pretty close to just painting by Rule of Cool, which is fine but not a terribly concrete goal.

“Paint Blood Angels-y units” might be a good refinement on that one: deep strike squads, close combat figures, and the HQ units to support them. But I know if I go that route I’ll be wistfully eyeing the Stormhawk, Razorback, Devastators, and other kits under my desk which don’t quite fit that brief but are going to be a blast to paint.

At the moment, “finish the 2nd Company” is the best goal I’ve come up with. I’ll see if any others shake loose.

Categories
Finished miniatures Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk Warhammer 40k

My first finished miniatures since 2012!

After buying the 3rd Edition of Space Hulk back in 2009, it took me about three years to finish painting my Genestealers — about 2/3 of the minis in the box.

That was in 2012.

Today, in the year of our glorious Emperor 2020, I finished Brother Scipio, Blood Angels Terminator, and “throne boy,” a nameless fallen Space Marine found aboard a space hulk in one of the missions.

The eye of the Emperor is upon you

It only took me 11 years to reach this point . . .
Let me get some action from the back section

Since I’ve put these two in the lightbox at every stage of production (base coat and wash in one post, dry brush in another, sealant in this one), let’s do a quick 4×4 gallery showing them side-by-side.

As always in my (limited) experience, the starkest difference is between base coat and wash. I wish I’d started doing washes years ago, instead of being too gun-shy to try them.

But it’s drybrushing that brings a mini to life for me. The difference between wash-only and wash plus drybrush isn’t huge at first glance (and some of that is likely down to my inexperience as a painter!), but it’s the step that makes the mini feel most real.

The overhead LEDs in my lightbox make the matt varnish (sealant) pop more than it does in person. A small price to pay for minis I can play with worry-free.

Onwards! I have 11 Terminators left in my Space Hulk set. It will not take me 11 more years to finish painting them. If I keep up this pace — roughly 2 minis a week, without feeling like I’m grinding them out or stepping on my other hobbies — I could have the rest done in about five weeks. Although the temptation to put in a marathon painting session is strong . . .

Musings on joy

More importantly, painting these miniatures brought me joy. Painting them, not just having them fully painted. There was joy in finishing them too, absolutely (and I’m so glad I stopped painting them assembly line-style), but my head was in the game as far as enjoying the painting as the hobby as much as the rest of the hobby around it.

That plus reading a piece in White Dwarf #451 about Phil Kelly, who has been collecting and painting the same Waaagh! of Orks for many years, across multiple editions of 40K, with models he’s inherited, kitbashes, new and old sculpts — just keeping going, loving the hobby for itself, riding out the vagaries of different editions because the Waaaghh! is the fun part — has got me thinking about trying out 40K again.

But not necessarily in my usual mode (buy game, learn rules, paint minis, find opponents). Rather in the mode of: pick a faction that speaks to me, buy a box, enjoy the painting, and maybe try playing down at the local shop sometime in 2021 — or not, and just keep building an army for the fun of it.

This r/Warhammer40k thread overflowing with positivity towards a 40k newbie and painting novice, is full of folks saying basically that: choose a faction you think is cool and form a bond with your minis. That’s where my head is at.

Categories
Life Tabletop RPGs

Twenty more moonrises

Recently I’ve been thinking about this Paul Bowles quote, which I first saw on Brandon Lee‘s gravestone, in relation to gaming:

Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.

I don’t know about you, but my stack of “bucket list” gaming items — campaigns, megadungeons, settings, systems — is probably past the point of being feasible in my lifetime.

Some things on the list, like playing a MechWarrior campaign where we use BattleTech for the ‘Mech fights, I’ve been dragging around for years (roughly 25 years, for that one). Others are fresh, but I can feel them sinking comfortably into the warm, cozy blanket of wishful game-pondering.

If I turned myself to clearing the whole list, with a purpose and a fire in my eyes, and excluded all gaming that wasn’t bent to that purpose, maaaaybe I could get through it all . . . but I’d have fewer friends, and no lovely serendipitous gaming opportunities, and no con sessions, and so on. It’s in no way worth the cost.

So with 30-40 years of productive gaming time ahead of me — if I’m lucky, and stay fortunate, and don’t develop Alzheimers, and on and on — how do I chip away at the list? Do I chip away at the list? Do I even make a formal list?

I don’t know. I’m not maudlin about it, exactly, but it is a sobering thought. Only twenty more moonrises, and all that.

Categories
Life

Epicurean epitaph

Ever since I turned 40, I’ve been more aware of, and thinking more often about, my own mortality. (So clichéd! I know.)

One of the most comforting things I’ve stumbled across is this Epicurean epitaph:

I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.

The idea that I won’t exist is terrifying. I don’t want to stop existing. But thinking about it in those terms — that it won’t matter to me because I won’t exist — is oddly reassuring.

Categories
Fitness Weightlifting

Simple activities with complex underpinnings

I hit my 90th session of meditation (zazen) tonight — I’ve missed three days in the last 93. Realizing my “Seinfeld chain” was broken when I woke up on Saturday morning was a bummer (camping; slipped my mind), as I’d done 89 days straight until then, but in the end what matters boils down to: just sit. I’ll work my way up to and past 90 straight again.

Today was also day 94 of working out daily, weight lifting MWF and doing light cardio the other four days. My routine is all dumbbells (plus crunches); I started out with 5-pounders around 9 weeks ago, and am up to 20-pounders for most exercises. A couple are at 15, a couple are at 25, and I’m going to try one at 30 this week. Spurred by lifting, I’m also working on managing my macronutrient ratios and eating healthier, which feels surprisingly good.

The benefits of both of these activities — meditation and working out — have been tangible, meaningful, and more profound than I expected. I’m not big on horn-tooting and I’m not sharing this to brag — I’m a pretty awful meditator, and no one but me can tell I’ve been working out yet. Looking like Chris Evans in Captain America is a ways off, to say the least.

I’m sharing it because of the profundity: These are simple activities with complex underpinnings, and I’m just starting to scratch away the surface and see what they’re all about. It’s a good feeling and an interesting experience.

Categories
Life

Specialization is for insects

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” — Robert A. Heinlein

This quote has intrigued since I first read it when I was younger. Back then, mostly it bothered me: I’ve generally tended to become deeply interested in just a few things, rather than exploring lots of different things. (And I did, and still do, most often play hyperspecialized RPG characters.)

Back in high school my favorite teacher said, “Everything is interesting if you look closely enough,” and in the 20 years since then I’ve found that to be true on many, many occasions.

Becoming a dad five years ago shifted a lot of things in my head, as I’m told it tends to. Dads (and moms) can’t afford to specialize; I’ve had to branch out and learn to do lots of things, to appreciate things — pony cartoons, invisible sisters, weird games — that I would never have considered on my own.

Fast forward to this past year, when I took up old interests I’d abandoned (camping, hiking, biking, target shooting) and got into things that were totally new to me (peakbagging, weightlifting, meditation), and I now realize that I see Heinlein’s quote differently than I did as a kid: I’m enjoying the hell out of not specializing.

Categories
Miscellaneous geekery

Dorknado

My mom sent me my high school yearbook.

Yes, I was starring in the SyFy original movie Dorknado.

As pretentious as it was to use a Nietzsche quote . . . I still like the quote!