Sunday, July 28, 2013

Painting By Numbers #6a UPDATE - Second Shot at Sarah Blitzer, IMEF Sniper

"You want to know why I slugged that guy? I literally just stepped off the dropship after a week in the bad guys' backyard. What's the first thing I see? Some numbskull with a microphone and his pet camerabot in tow. He wanted to ask me some questions. They wanted me to take a few minutes to pretty myself up for the camera. Right. There wasn't an inch of me that wasn't covered in dust, dried mud, and old sweat. I stank. The nap I took on the trip up was the first good sleep I had since the mission started. I had been gulping down prepackaged field rations in between moving, avoiding detection, monitoring targets, calling down strikes on anything that looked expensive enough to be worth breaking, and taking the odd shot at anyone stupid enough to present a target. I wanted a shower, a nap, and a hot meal."

"Of course I punched him. No, the camerabot didn't get the shot. It was too busy laughing its tin head off."

- IMEF Staff Sergeant Sarah Blitzer, Deep Space Carrier Decatur (SCVN-2814)

I've painted this miniature before, but wasn't happy with the results. Fortunately, it's easy to remove paint from a miniature with Simple Green, a little time, and a brush.

This time I used a lighter grey for the body suit (Reaper MSP Alien Flesh 09293) while keeping a dark grey for the armor pieces and rifle (Reaper MSP Stormy Grey 09088). The greater contrast prevents the effect from being lost in slightly dimmer light conditions. I also used metallic paint more aggressively on the armor and rifle to suggest wear (Citadel Boltgun Metal).

Some details, including the lenses on the goggles and scope, were picked out in Reaper True Blue (09017) with Reaper LED Blue (09288) as a highlight. Again, the goal was greater contrast than on the original paint job.

I tried various things with the face, but settled on a mix of Reaper Tanned Skin (09044) and Reaper Fair Skin (09047) with a wash to bring out details. Painting eyes is just something I haven't mastered yet.

Overall, I like this attempt better than the first. The greater contrast between the different parts of the miniature brings out more the details. The contrast also has a neater appearance. It all adds up to a better expression of the concept.

Incidentally, I did take a few minutes to compare this miniature (Reaper Chronoscope 50274) with the Bones version (80021) released as part of the Reaper Bones Kickstarter Vampire Box. The Bones version comes with an integral base resembling metal plating. The detail on both miniatures are comparable, but I think the metal version looks a little crisper and better defined. That said, I'm not sure if the differences really matter once the miniatures are painted and on the tabletop.

My current plans for the Bones version of Sarah is to match her with the rest of the IMEF Marines included in the Vampire Box. This will allow them to be fielded as a squad. Right now, I'm thinking of a primary color like blue or red for the armor rather than grey.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Learning Experiences, Case #3a UPDATE - Reaper Bones Werewolf (77009) "Rolf"

Shortly after receiving my Reaper Bones Kickstarter rewards package, I figured out the following:

  1. That's alot of miniatures.
  2. I need to find out more about how to work with the material Reaper uses for the Bones line.
  3. My Reaper Bones Werewolf needs a bath in Simple Green.
  4. My Reaper Bones Werewolf also needs a name so that I don't keep typing "Reaper Bones Werewolf" when writing these posts. I gave "Worf" and "Shaggy" careful consideration, but decided on "Rolf" for now.

Regarding point #2, there is a vast amount of information available about working with the Reaper Bones line. Unfortunately, much of it is contradictory. Different people have different experiences with the same techniques. Many folks report good results from painting directly on the surface. My own experiences convinced me of the need to prime first. The trick is to figure out what to use as a primer.

On point #3, Simple Green worked fine on Rolf. An overnight immersion followed by some scrubbing with a brush took the paint right off. The Simple Green smell took a few days to fade away. I followed up by cleaning the miniature with dish soap and water.

A trip out to the garage revealed that I had a fair selection of spray primers and paints on hand. I decided against my usual grey auto body primer. This was an experiment and I wanted to push the envelope a little.

I settled on a can of Brown Krylon Camouflage Paint. It was left over from another project and I had no other plans for the rest of the can. The stuff is supposed to work on "most plastics, PVC, hard vinyl, ceramic glass, wood, metal and wicker". Given that Bones is a soft vinyl, I wasn't sure about what the results would be.

After waiting for a lower humidity day (sometimes tough to find during a Texas summer), I hit Rolf with the Krylon Camouflage Paint. The spray flowed evenly with no clogs. Two thin layers provided a good basecoat with no gaps in coverage.

Then came the wait. I could see that the paint had dried after 15 minutes, but Rolf was sticky to the touch. Rolf was still sticky an hour and a day later. Rather than abort the attempt, I decided to leave Rolf in an out of the way spot until the paint cured completely.

It took about 3 - 4 weeks until Rolf was no longer sticky to the touch. I not sure about the exact time since I got out of the habit of checking daily.

(I purchased another Reaper Bones miniature while waiting on Rolf as another test piece. Also, I really wanted a purple worm for my next D&D or D&D-flavored fantasy game. I'm experimenting with some alternate techniques with that miniature. More on that project once it's complete.)

Rolf still lacks the smooth feel of a completely dried coat of paint or primer. There is a faint tacky sensation when handling the miniature. Still, this is a vast improvement over a few weeks ago.

Rolf's coat is also shiny, which would be fine for a real canine, but is odd for a layer of flat, non-reflective paint. The shine and the long curing time suggests some kind of reaction between the Bones material and the Krylon paint.

It doesn't come out well in this photo, but look closely and you can see the shine.

At this point, I'm not recommending using this technique. Although the brown does produce a rich basecoat, the long drying time is not really practical. I might put some paint over the Krylon basecoat sometime in the future, but Rolf was pushed back in the project line during the wait.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ashen Stars - Three Unofficial Reasons Behind the Boogey Conundrum

The Boogey Conundrum is part of the background of Ashen Stars. The Combine - something like Star Trek's United Federation of Planets - fought a devastating war against the Mohilar The war started seventeen years ago and ended seven years ago. Since then, nobody in the Combine can remember details about the Mohilar Their culture, weapons, language, tactics, and even their appearance is unknown. Trying to recall these facts leads to a state of confusion. Records exist, but accessing those records causes black outs and periods of missing time. Even trying to research the effect itself is problematic. In the end, the Combine just slapped the label "Boogey Conundrum" on the effect and called it a day.

Ashen Stars author Robin D Laws states in the rulebook that the Boogey Conundrum is not part of a metaplot. It is entirely up to GMs and players to work out what it is within their own campaigns. He does offer some suggestions, but no definative answers.

Below are three ideas I fleshed out a little. None of these ideas are official, but certain elements requite a knowledge of the game's background.

Civil War Cover Up

There was never a race named the Mohilar They never showed up with fleets and living weapons, never laid waste to the Combine, and never disappeared. It was all a cover story cooked up to hide a devastating secret - the Combine went to war with itself.

There were always tensions within the Combine. The Seven Peoples had all fought each other at one time or another. Their interests did not always align perfectly. Cooperation had brought great prosperity, but for how long?

How did it start? Perhaps the careful control of the Balla slipped. Maybe the newly developed Cybes were a step too far. Durugh trickery is an easy answer. The ambition and extremism of the Humans, fueled by their boundless energy, may have become an intolerable threat to the other races. The Tavak could have struck at the other races to preserve the Combine before it tore itself apart. Or the Kch-Thk might have just gotten really hungry. In any event, the Combine shattered under the stresses placed on it.

All of the races found themselves fighting for survival. The early war's surgical strikes failed to be the decisive. The middle of the war saw a steady escalation as fleets maneuvered and alliances were forged and broken. By the end of the war, there was only horror as population centers were bombarded out of existence.

At the end of a decade of war, somebody made a deal with the Vas Kra. The cosmic consciousness had watched the conflict with sadness as the once-proud Combine committed suicide. The Vas Kra could not reverse the damage or restore the lives lost - they were powerful, but not gods. What they could do was alter the memories of the survivors. Blame for the devastation would be cast on a race of mysterious invaders. It was hoped that this - and the implied threat of their return - would unite the Combine as it rebuilt.

The Vas Kra knew that it would take almost all of their power to accomplish the task. They did it anyway, becoming the Vas Mal. Their work was imperfect, but good enough to conceal the real reason of the near-destruction of the Combine. Unfortunately, the restored Combine is not as unified as the Vas Kra hoped it would become.

The Mad Gods

D’jellar was not the only Vas Kra to go mad, only the first. More branches of the Vas Kra turned away from the cosmic consciousness to satisfy sadistic urges. The malignancy spread quickly. Soon, the majority of the Vas Kra began to delight in using their powers to torment and destroy.

There seemed to be no defense and no hope as the decade of madness stretched on. Fleets and worlds were wiped away. Countless lives were lost as the Vas Kra amused themselves. The Combine and Durugh formed a desperate alliance, but their depleted forces were helpless against the rampage.

In the end, a way was found to reconfigure the anomaly the Vas Kra used to manipulate reality. It was widened into a gate and a weapon designed to disrupt the energy forms of the Vas Kra was sent through it. The Vas Kra were devolved into the misshapen forms of the Vas Mal.

But the crude weapon had side effects. There was a huge psychic backlash as the Vas Kra fell. The malignancy the drove the Vas Kra mad was itself a cosmic power and found itself devolving with them. Its decade of madness and joy was over, but it would go down fighting. It rode the psychic backlash, ravaging every mind in reach to create a myth. The false story of the Mohilar would serve as a distraction until it could find a way to wield real power again.

The Mohilar Went Home

The Mohilar were rolling over the Combine. The Combine's fleets were pressed up to the wall. Combine worlds burned in the night. Only a little more time and the Mohilar emerge victorious.

Then... they packed up and left.

The Mohilar's armies regrouped, withdrew from the front lines, and boarded their assault craft and transports. The Mohilar reorganized their logistics - dismantling their bases and loading everything up for the trip home. The warships of the fleet guarded the evacuation effort. Slow moving cargo ships joined convoys and turned for the home systems. Nothing was left behind.

The Boogey Conundrum was one of a number of carefully calculated acts designed to slow the Combine's recovery until the Mohilar returned. The bombardment of Earth and the fall of the Vas Kra were other parts of this plan. Leaving some of their living weapons behind was not part of the plan - the Mohilar just couldn't be bothered to gather them all up. A disrupted Combine without the aid of the Vas Kra or even any memories of the Mohilar would be ill-equipped to deal with another invasion.

Why did they go? A military campaign could be called off for any number of reasons.

  • Loss of popular support back home.
  • A restless population or civil war.
  • A new set of legitimate leaders who see no point in continuing the conflict.
  • A political process that the leaders of the campaign need to go and participate in.
  • A religious rite that must be observed personally every 10 - 15 years.
  • Some biological cycle that has already been delayed for as long as it can.
  • Ran out of slave troops and their living weapons weren't considered reliable enough.
  • Ran out of the unobtainium that their technology runs on.
  • Ran out of royal jelly for their queens.
  • Ran out of money.
Whatever the reason, the Mohilar left. But they'll be back once they deal with whatever caused them to leave. And the Combine won't be ready.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Reaper Bones Kickstarter Update - A Package from Reaper Appears!

I've got some updates on recent projects to post. Later. Expect them over the course of the next week or two. Right now, a major new project showed up at my door yesterday.

I'm gonna need more paint.

Sorting everything included in my Reaper Bones Kickstarter rewards package took about three hours. Checking what I received against what I ordered revealed one missing miniature out of about three hundred. That's not something I can really get worked up about, all things considered. More importantly, all the multi-part figures were complete. Everything went into labeled bags for easy retrieval later.

Now I've got to make some plans...