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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

WIP Dreamer Crew

So, I'm terrible at commissions...

I've had a friend's Dreamer crew for quite some time. He gave me this a while back, and I think I may have posted when I assembled them earlier on this blog. I've procrastinated on painting them up for a very long time for reasons unworthy and started working on them a few weeks back. My first attempt was terrible as I decided to try using only the traditional brush and was thoroughly ashamed lol. After even more time pondering how to salvage it I decided to repaint it using my airbrush. Here's what I've done so far:



I am very much happier with these results, I didn't even take a picture of my previous attempt. I'm happy with the monochrome effect I've produced so far, although I plan on painting much more on the alps as they have a lot more different textures and articles of clothing. The pink Daydreams, however, are pretty much mostly done short of details like eyes and teeth/horns. The bases will have to painted, although I am very much intrigued by the OSL glow given off them onto the rocks. I won't be leaving them there, as cool as they are, since that's just a happy accident and leaving that as it is seems lazy.

In case you are interested here are the recipes:


  • Alps
    • Basecoat black
    • Airbrush Vallejo Stone Grey at a 45 degree angle on most of the model, leaving black in the areas in shade to create a strong contrast and deep shadow
    • Airbrush white at a 90 degree angle only catching the strongest highlights
    • Airbrush Badger Minitaire Ghost Tint Plasma Fluid on the whole model, taking care to do light coats. This stuff dries terribly and can create splatter if the air is pushing pools of it, experience with this stuff goes a long way so test it on a model you don't care about to see how it reacts. People suggest letting it dry overnight, but I have no patience for such caution and just let it dry while I paint the rest :)
    • Airbrush white carefully in spot highlights, preferably in areas that catch the light best or where I want attention to be drawn, such as the shoulders or face. Keep the contrast strong, so leave the areas of the lower face alone and concentrate on places like the forehead. This gives a great "spotlight" effect and keeps sunken in characteristics like below the cheekbones in darkness
    • Finish with a light airbrush over the white areas with your Plasma Fluid to blend in the highlights, With the Ghost Tint line you can build up your colors to create more shading without compromising the black areas effectively knocking down any contrasts too strong, but too much build up can obscure your blends and make one tone throughout, so a light touch goes a long way
    • Matt varnish the whole model with the airbrush - Ghost tints finish extremely glossy and don't look good at all before you matt varnish, you'll have to trust that it will look good once this step is done so don't overwork your blends too much as they don't show up well due to the gloss
  • Daydreams
    • Basecoat black
    • Airbrush Stone Grey exactly as the Alps
    • Airbrush White exactly as the Alps - see how these steps are similar but the results come out with different colors? That's what's awesome about the flexibility of the Ghost Tint line
    • Airbrush Ghost Tint Magenta over the whole model in light layers
    • Airbrush small spot white highlights
    • Lightly airbrush Magenta over the whole model again
    • Matt varnish the whole model with the airbrush
Not a single standard brush stroke was used so far, it's a fairly effective technique if I say so myself. I may add in some shading and highlighting in the end, but the downside to using the ghost tints is finding the right colors in standard paints to fit in. Luckily these are colors I frequently use, so the right turquoise and pinks/purples should do the trick. The scary part is finishing with brushes, as I don't want to ruin what I've done so far with a sloppy brushstroke.

If you have an airbrush and haven't tried Minitaire's Ghost Tint line, you need to! It's a very unique "candy coat" line for minis that makes painting a breeze. I've only discovered a few issues, one being that it dries funky if not used lightly. Another is the undercoat colors needed for a few of their colors are hard to figure out, particularly for brown. I've tried the same technique using grey and white zenithal highlighting with the brown tint and it does not look good at all. Maybe if I try yellow or red it will turn out different, I'll have to see. The same with purple, but maybe that's because grey isn't a good choice for those. I've yet to try a metallic undercoat with these colors, but that's usually for stuff like car models.

Once these are done, I've got the Dreamer, Coppelius and the epic Lord Chompy Bits. It's insane how these 6 models are the easy ones while the other three can be insane projects themselves. Now you see why I held off for so long?

If I ever plan on being a commission painter I need to get my act together!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

MERCS Table

So over the weekend I got to clear out a lot of stuff from the hobby room that it's been storing for a few years. After marveling at how much more space I had I got the urge to put together a quick MERCS table for no reason!




The boards themselves are from Dust Tactics, a game I bought relatively recently from a bazaar for a steal. It turns out that six of these boards are very close to the measurements for MERCS, with only a few inches on each side short - nothing that is really a difference. The industrial side works very well for the game, and that's one less thing I need to paint!


There are a few items still needing paint to be tabletop ready, notably the containers, barriers and dumpsters. It's not something on my priority list right now, but once I get a chance to paint them they shouldn't take too long.


I have it pretty densely packed when compared to the average MERCS player's tables, at least from what I've seen online. I think that people use way too few terrain pieces and make incredibly open boards. When you only have a few huge lanes of fire it doesn't encourage a lot of flanking maneuvers and I would imagine it just turns into a long range shootout. Not many people would weather the storm and risk running out in the open - I tend to be one, mostly because the position advantage is usually worth the risk, but also it's boring to sit back and just outroll someone.

With this amount of terrain aggressive maneuvers are encouraged, while verticality is also emphasized. You can climb on the containers to gain elevation and coverage, however all it takes is for the enemy to climb as well and suddenly you have no cover! I made the building in the middle taller to block cross lanes to keep elevation from becoming one sided - without it really it's whoever can get their men up first can hold the whole field. There are plenty of pieces to snap to but with the angular nature of the field being flanked is a dangerous possibility. There are probably only two long lanes from the opening break but they cover a limited amount of field, so it still leaves the possibility of suppression and overwatch but doesn't make it break the game - something that open terrain definitely favors.

But for the most part, a lot of terrain just looks awesome.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Leveticus Thoughts and New Behaviors

So this is going to be an insight on my latest attempts at improving my game as well as my new habits I'm trying to incorporate into my learning curve.

So let's start with the important bits...

I've decided to switch to Leveticus. Von Schill was extremely boring in the one game I played with him, and I wanted something with a bit more pizzazz. I looked to all the other Outcast Masters and Leveticus seemed like my favorite to try. His models are awesome, he has a sweet mechanic and melts models. Plus everything in his boxed set gets used, with a slight maybe on Rusty Alice. The only other one I may have pondered was Tara or Jack Daw, but really when I thought about it the Viks and Leve are really the only Masters I'm truly interested in.


Most people know what Leve can do, but if you're looking for a good primer click here for a synopsis.

So here's my list I've been tinkering with:

Leveticus

  • Pariah of Iron
    • This is only so that I can hire constructs. I've really tried hard to not use one and have this spot filled with either Tally Sheet or Scout the Field, which would make him very different than most Leve builds. But then I'd have to get something like Ashes and Dust, which makes him exactly like everyone else and I'm trying very hard to avoid A&D.
  • Desolate Soul
    • The go-to upgrade, this is the one everyone loves. It summons abominations on models Leve kills, which is an easy thing to manage and pretty much gets one new model a turn.
  • To the Earth Return
    • The bomb, this trigger makes models lose half their wounds rounded up! With his innate ability to ignore damage reduction and natural accuracy this one is what I use to crack open big models.


Hollow Waif x2


  • One of the few models I'd say is, ugh, auto include


Mechanical Rider

  • Oath Keeper
    • This is why I take Pariah of Iron. I know there are more efficient ways of scheme manipulation, or that the riders are super expensive at 12 stones. But this is such a kick ass model with such a jazzy skill set I just couldn't ignore it, even after the Errata to the Metal Gamin that she loves. She still has an awesome utility in this list and can manage to claim schemes entirely on her own in one activation. Couple that with her mobility and endurance in the late game and she's my next go-to model!
    • I put Oath Keeper on her after my first game with her and realized that at the last turn she can easily play keep away and get some last minute scheme markers in with that additional AP. As a backup if there is a crucial attack she needs she'll get one more chance to do so. I originally had this point on Hannah to use "I Pay Better," before realizing that Hannah would be the only one who could use it and therefor wasn't exactly efficient. This is a flexible point, and should I ever need a spare this would be the one to go. I'd normally throw this into the Cache but it's full.


Hannah


  • Ancient Tomes
    • Here she is, my crutch. I can't stop using this woman, she's got incredible tech. Most games she doesn't do anything of note either! Not a lot of damage getting thrown around with her, and although she's tanky she's not impossible to kill. But the amount of effort used to disable her is usually disproportionate to her cost short of Master abilities, which even then net a stone or two due to her stripping suits. Her other big use is her size, as she's a height 3 50mm base that when coupled with terrain easily block fragile models from view behind her. In this list she doesn't have any real synergies with the crew, but she brings in Blast damage and protection for a mid to front line Waif, and is a bad ass model. She also has an incredible WP 8 for crews like Pandora.
    • Ah, Ancient Tomes. This has been a controversial upgrade for me, and even got a shout out in a podcast I was featured in. At two stones it's a hefty one, and I expect it to deliver every time for that premium. The ability is powerful, but it requires a suit she doesn't have, which means a stone in this crew as I don't have access to a Friekorpsmann's ability to add suits. I banned it from my lists for a long time as I felt it was a trap card, but recently I've decided to see if I was wrong and try to find its uses. In the last game I played this ability ended up being a clutch move for me, as it buried the Dreamer preventing his summoned Stitched from operating at full capacity. I'd just hate to buy it and not use it, which happens more often than not as its cost of use is so high. In this crew I could also use it to bury a Waif, then at the end of the turn unbury it before unburying Leve. It's a little bit of back up tech.


Rusty Alice


  • From the Aether
    • Here's a model I'm still deciding on. Although she's got her uses I get a feeling that I could spend the stones on something better. I currently use her as a back field anchor with a gun. It seems a waste to have a 10 point model just shooting occasionally, as to keep her safe usually means out of range for most models. But her upgrade certainly makes her a keeper.
    • From the Aether is pretty nice to have. I bought it for mileage, as she doesn't have any native (0) actions, it's basically an extra action a turn, which can turn into other AP once the summoning starts. When I was theory crafting this list I thought that this upgrade meant 3 Abominations max, starting on turn one making the scrap marker and turn two summoning it. I didn't realize how many scrap markers end up on the field with this list, so really she should be summoning an abomination every turn with the right set up and cards. If she can't then that's when she drops a scrap marker for free. Couple this with Leve popping out A-Bombs every turn it starts to make a crap ton of extra bodies, which in turn make extra scrap.
    • A lot of people like to put Desolate Soul on her, but I don't think I'd like that. I keep her far too back for that use, and I mostly use her to soften up targets rather than killing them. Plus I don't need two models with 4 stones between their upgrades fighting over crows. And it makes her way too expensive.

Hodgepodge Effigy
  • I threw this one in there since I don't have the Brotherhood of the Rat yet, which was my original plan of using rats and the Obedient Wretch to seriously out-activate the opponent and gain scheme manipulation with the Rat King. I used the 4 spare stones for the upgrades and got this guy to see if he'd work, and boy does he work. He got about 4 to 5 extra soul stones for me in one game and his Accomplice or Companion or whatever helped get a Waif out of a tight spot. He's a low priority target so he can zip around the field, and his main ability can be used when he double walks as it's a (0) ability. This is crucial for Leve as he pops up all around the board. If I could figure out a way to replace Pariah of Iron and the Mech Rider I'd add in Tally Sheet and get some card cycling going.
So with this list (or a slight variation of it, I originally had Oath Keeper on Hannah to sling more Buries) I've had a game under my belt. What was the result?

Well, long story short I won 7-4 against a tough Dreamer crew.

I learned a lot about how this crew operates in an actual game as opposed to just in theory:

  • Having a full cache makes a huge difference. I ended up using a lot for damage prevention on Hannah as she was a clutch anchor for the waif in the middle of the board. Along with the sheer number of Stitched he brought and summoned the blasts were priceless. With their low DF it was rather easy to ensure moderate damage to get those blasts. But the cache helped with decision making on the field, as I wasn't nearly as limited in spending them for anything in need at the time. I tend to be short sighted with their use and spend them very fast.
  • Having the Hodgepodge Effigy getting more stones also helped out tremendously. It meant even more resources for a mere 4 stone cost. He's also a minion who's zipping around the board 10" every turn, so in strategies like Reconnoiter he may be able to help out more while handing out his condition. His Mist ability was useless to me this game. Overall I like his easy play style and limits the amount of decision making in my game. I did often forget to activate him before Leve sometimes, which costed me a stone those turns. Which leads me to...
  • There is a lot of interaction to keep track of, as well as a huge emphasis on order of activation. I initially built the list attempting to make it where Leve acted last and got his pick of targets, but the tension with any activation that occurs before him was too much. Enemies can be tricksy, so you never know what will happen and a previously safe Leve can end up a buried Leve. So I ended up activating him first almost the entire game. Along with that there's the interaction with Rusty's summons and shots, Hannah's bury, Mech Rider's summon and marker placement or card draw, Metal Gamin's attacks and DF boost... there are a lot of actions competing for your attention, and deciding which is the priority after Leve shoots caused Analysis Paralysis for me.
  • I got way too excited to shoot with Leve and would forget a lot of important details. For example there were often times where I'd forget to buy a suit before the flip, so although I was expecting to reduce an enemy down by half his life I'd flip and realize I didn't get a Ram, or that I forgot the Crow when I really needed that A-bomb summoned. When reading the cards and thinking about what I want to happen in a game I tend to forget spending resources as they are infinite in my head. I had also forgotten to channel almost every attack, leading me to not nearly be as accurate as I could be.
  • I realized with Rusty that I didn't need to make a scrap marker one turn, then summon the next, etc. as there were plenty of scrap markers out there between us. I could have been summoning every turn and didn't even think about summoning off my scrap from the previous abominations or Gamin, let alone any enemy scrap. The problem is the need for 10's competing with the need for high cards for other abilities.
  • Putting a Waif out in the open leads to a bad time. There were a few instances where I risked moving a Waif somewhere visible and closer to the enemy in order to set up next turn. When against even one model that is a huge risk, and I lost one of them to a dumb move like that. It did manage to grab the attention of several models and possibly have kept Hannah alive, but I need to weigh those needs more carefully next time.
  • The Mech Rider is amazing! I don't care about the nerf to her favorite summons, her abilities are incredible. With one attack I managed to get breakthrough done with 1AP! In the turn that we didn't play (called it early) we calculated the points we could get, and I was able to move her 16" then get Power Ritual done, so she got 6 VP for me single handed! I really wish I didn't have to use one of Leve's upgrade slots for her, but it really is quite a useful model. She was also tough as nails to hurt, leading to the fact that he didn't really try to hurt her at all after a bit. Plus she was summoning Metal Gamin every turn from turn 2, who were doing work on the Stitched and gumming up charge lanes against the Waifs. Overall a solid pick for this list, especially for a model I mainly wanted to include for painting reasons!
  • I'm finding reasons to take Hannah's Ancient Tomes. I still feel uncomfortable with it and don't get the mileage I would expect out of it. It's expensive, it costs a precious AP, and it requires a Ram she doesn't have. It seems like a Rude Goldberg apparatus in game, and soaks up more resources than I care to let go of. If there is a Friekorpsmann somewhere then I could use their Field Guide, but even then I find that they aren't in range a lot of the time or they die early. But in this game I managed to pull it off twice - once on the Widow Weaver, making her webs disappear, and once on the Dreamer, which made the Stitched much more vulnerable during a clutch turn. I'll keep trudging along with the upgrade to see its potential.
  • You end up getting quite a lot of activations out of this list. The model count starts at 7, which if you use the Effigy's Accomplice then that ends up with 6 activations. But on turn two you start cranking out a Gamin, an Abomination and any other Abominations from kills and you start getting a lot more. Being that these summons cost no AP makes them really action efficient, and these guys that come out are all minions! Reconnoiter was once my weakest Strategy, now it's going to be no problem! I also kept pace with his Dreamer crew's number of activations, which wasn't easy as almost all his crew consistently gained reactivate even when summoned. 
So far I love the crew, especially when compared to the Von Schill crew. I definitely felt more in control of the pace of the game, and with every attack I felt like it was much more impacting than with VS. I think I'm going to stick to this one for a bit.

Also for this game I decided to take a new approach with improving my game. I've noticed players taking notes during games before and even read a few articles on it. I just always thought I'd be too focused on my game to take notes. But this game I brought my pad and pen and wrote all the pertinent details down and also any interesting asides. 

I wrote down the crew I took, wrote down his even though I had no idea what it did, strats, schemes, turn notes and when VP was scored. I also wrote down any interactions I noticed, like "Don't forget to Channel" and stuff like that. Later on I plan on looking up every enemy card and upgrade to get an understanding as to what happened in the game and any important details, like Target Numbers, suit requirements, interactions, summon options or how the heck Waking actually works even though I've read it once.

Another key thing I'm planning is putting actual reminders on the cards. Even though I know I'll forget to channel, or summon with Rusty, I need to put a piece of paper taped onto the back of the card with these reminders to make sure they happen, and to save any necessary cards for it. I need to remember to buy a ram for Ancient Tomes, save a 10 for Rusty's summon and channel and buy the suit for Leve every time.

Overall though I can already see the potential for taking notes like this consistently. I feel like it will help my retention for this game a lot more, which is vital considering the sheer amount of models you need to be aware of and all their possible interactions to avoid future catastrophes. I think this tactile approach will help me much more than any previous attempt at memorizing stats.