Thursday, November 24, 2011

Progress on my Necron Terrain and Finecast Dissapointment

Happy Thanksgiving to those of the American persuasion.  I’ve got a a couple of updates before I head to my in-laws for a few days.
Progress on the Necron Glyphs
I managed to make the first mold of the 3D printed bricks.  It was mostly successful but it had a few flaws.  The blocks came from the printer with a very grainy texture.  I thought about clear coating the blocks to make them smoother, but I was in a hurry so I just made the mold with the masters as is.  The result is the silicon settled into the grainy surface and made the mold very hard to dislodge.  I ended up with a little tear out on the glyphs of the 1.5” long block.
I made a few plaster casts of the mold with hydrostone and now I have a good set of base blocks to start the sand blasting process on.  Unfortunately, I have to head up to my in-laws place in the mountains until Sunday, so sand-blasting will have to wait.
Here’s a few pictures of some of the casts.  Sorry for the poor quality, but the low color contrast of the blocks makes them hard to photograph.

Of Finecast and Dissapointment
Over last weekend I broke down and bought my first Games Workshop Finecast model.  I had been planning to make a plastic cryptek model, but still didn’t have all the bits, so just picked up the GW version.  I know I’m coming to the finecast debate six months or so late, but man was this disappointing.  The local shop had three blisters.  Two had staves with wonky bending.  The third had a pretty straight staff, but you really couldn’t tell much else about the model through the packaging.
Once I got it on the work bench and together the flaws really started to jump out.  There’s a ton of micro air bubbles in inconvenient places.  It’s hard to see, but the worst is on the end of the thumb of the left hand and you can see light coming through the tabard where there’s a bubble in the back.  The foot also had a bigger bubble at the toes, but I managed to hide that with some flock.

None of the flaws are enough that I’d try to return the model, but I certainly won’t be buying any more finecast models unless I can’t convert the model from plastic.  I think I can hide the rest of the flaws with some green stuff, but I really shouldn’t have to.  I’m not a loyalist to any one company and have bought resin figures for years from many different companies.  I can tell you for a fact that resin figures CAN be cast at a higher quality AND a lower price.  But you can’t do that when you have to pay out your profits to shareholders.  The companies that do it better and cheaper do it for the love of what they do while they pay the bills.  Grumble, grumble grumble.
On the plus side though, I've been making good progress with my plastic models.  I’ve got five new immortals ready to finish when I get home and an annihilation barge and squad of Triarch Praetorians about half way painted.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thinking About Building Necron Terrain

I’m still reading and absorbing the new Necron codex and I’ve started building some new models.  I’ve got an immortal squad and an annihilator barge that are just about done and a few more models in construction.  In the mean time I’ve been thinking about building some Necron terrain.
I’m one of those players who would rather loose badly with a well painted army on a table full of good looking terrain than win with a plastic grey army on a table full of felt circle “woods” and cardboard buildings.  To that end, I’m looking at creating some Necron themed terrain to go with my metal warriors.
I love Hirst Arts Molds(  Bruce Hirst sells a line of silicone molds that model builders can use to cast plaster blocks used to build all kinds of neat terrain.  I’ve got many of his gothic and sci-fi molds.  He also sells a line of Egyptian themed molds that I’d considered in the past for Necrons, but while Necrons have a certain Egyptian vibe, it wasn’t close enough for me to pull the trigger.  With the reboot of the Necrons to be more Tomb Kings In Space, the Egyptian theme is a closer fit.  But to tie the whole thing together I’m going to need some blocks with Necron glyphs on them.
After wondering at the marvels of 3D printing recently, I decided to produce my own 3D Necron glyphs to combine with Hirst Arts Egyptian molds to create some Necron terrain.
Unfortunately I’m an old fogey.  As a point of reference, when I learned drafting in college, they still taught it with a drafting board and a T-square.  Over the years I’ve learned 2D CAD, but haven’t made the leap into 3D modeling.  I ended up designing some blocks in 2D and commissioning a 3D artist to put them into a printable format.  After that I sent the file to ( for printing.

Two weeks later, there’s a package of nifty little blocks in the mail.  That is just too cool for words.  Here’s a pic of the finished blocks printed in plastic.

As a comparison, here’s one of the Hirst Arts blocks with hieroglyphics. 

Unfortunately, I’m not ready to build just yet.  As you can see above the HA blocks have a pocked and worn finish.  Now I’ve now got to make a mold of the printed blocks, cast them in dental plaster and then I have to sandblast the casts so that they match the sand blasted finish of the HA ones.  Then I can make one last mold of the sand blasted blocks and I’m in business!  Yes, obsession is a dangerous thing.
I've got a draft design of a simple stele I'll try out.  I've got  a good holiday break coming up.  Hopefully I can make some good headway on the army and get the blocks ready for molding.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Necron Codex Is Here

GW released the new Necron codex and the first wave of models last Saturday.  I picked up a copy of the codex and one of the new Command/Annihilation Barge kits.  I have spent the last few days puttering with the model and ensconced with the book. (Well, as ensconced as you can be with three boys under ten, work, an oil change and a busted water line to my fridge to fix).
Despite all of that I did get a good read through the codex and have started a more detailed analysis.  I have already formed some quick impressions:
Pro:  All of my current models are still usable.  Yeah!  With a new codex release you always have to worry that something’s going to get the boot.  It looks like the only unit that disappeared outright are the Pariahs, but I don’t own any.  However the models themselves can come back in as the new Lichguard for anyone that does have them.
Pro:  Just about every model I own now got cheaper (in terms of army points).  They’ve gotten on average 25% cheaper.  In the old codex, my model collection came in around a total of 2,800 points.  Under the new codex they should be around 2,000 plus or minus.
Con:  It looks like all of the models that stepped down in price also stepped down in terms of stats, warriors go from a 3+ to a 4+ save, the “Living Metal” rule for the Monolith is toned way down and destroyers lose their jetbike status, etc.  Especially hard hit were the C’Tan.  They’ve gone from star gods to mere shards (think the Eldar Avatar of Khaine), with a significant cost reduction and a great weakening of power.   One silver lining is that now you can pick your C’Tan powers ala carte as war gear so you can create your own now.
Pro:  Not all of the units with a cost reduction got hurt.  In fact Immortals and scarabs now seem to be even better than before and at a lower cost.
Neutral:  There are some shiny new plastic and resin kits out and it’s pretty clear that the codex was written to make those more attractive than the old models.  This isn’t surprising as it’s standard practice for a GW codex.   Essentially they figured out what legacy players had the most of (warriors, destroyers and Monolith) and then make sure that there was a new unit that could do what they do better (Immortals, Tomb Blades etc).  Again, it’s not ideal, but it is what I expected to happen.  At least the old models didn’t suffer the indignities that my Tyranid Carnifex did with their codex update.
Neutral:  Something like half of the new units have kits available in the first wave of models with a rumored second wave in the first quarter next year.  While that’s pretty good, I still have bad memories of the fabled Tyranid second wave that never came.  Here’s to hoping that the next Necron wave happens.
Annoying:  Overall the fluff quality is good.  However the author, trying to move the Necrons farther into the Egyptian theme decided that it would be a good idea to stick faux Egyptian titles on everything.  As an example scarab swarms are now Canoptek Scarab Swarms.  I get the shtick, but being lover of PBS historical documentaries, it gets old quick.
On the modeling front I cleared off a space on my workbench and dug in to the new barge kit.  This thing is a treat.  It’s a cool looking kit, but good golly Molly this thing is complex.  I haven’t bought a new kit since Tyranids and while they were nifty kits, they didn’t even come close to the level of complexity to this little wonder.  I’ve been modeling for over 20 years so I’ve got the experience to take something like this on, but I shudder to think of some kid getting into the hobby and this being their first kit.  Oh the horror.
For the actual build, I think I’m going to go the route of the Annihilation Barge.  This doesn’t have anything to do with army building, but primarily due to the fact that you can take the plastic parts for the lord model of the Command Barge option and put him on foot.  This is awesome.  He even has a 25mm base included in the box.  Nice.
I also finally dug out my old Necron models and they’re going to need to get cleaned up.  The infantry were packed in one of the GW hard sided cases, which must have had some free space because the models moved around and there are plenty of loose green rods and paint chips here and there.  My Monolith was stored in a hat box and will need one of the upper pylons glued back in place.
All in all I should be reading the codex for the rest of the week and maybe having an army list of the model’s I have ready for a possible game the week after next.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Necrons Are Back!

Wow, six months.  I knew it had been a while, but man that was a stretch.  It was a busy summer that slid right into a busy fall.  Kids, cub scouts, camping, vacations, home repairs, they all add up.  The next thing you know it’s down to the hobby or blogging about the hobby, so blogging time got the shaft.  Things have slowed down the last month or so, but I hadn’t found the gumption to get back on the horse.
I’ve spent the time since my last post chipping away at weird war two projects, Incursion and Dust Tactics.  I also spent time building up my zombie force for All Things Zombie.  But what you might ask finally got me to break the silence and get back on the site?  The Necrons are back baby!

A cynic might say that they obviously never went anywhere, but without an update since 2001, it’s fair to say that my interest in them fell away.  It was rumored for the past several months and finally announced last Friday that the Necrons from Warhammer 40K are going to get a new codex and a serious update to the model line.  Stored away down in the basement I’ve got around a hundred painted 3rd Edition Necron models that haven’t seen the light of day since probably 2007 or so.  I can’t recall why I stopped playing them exactly, but it probably had a lot to do with my AT-43 obsession at the time.
I haven’t played a game of 40K in over a year and truth be told, I’ve played less than ten games total of 5th Edition 40K.  Is a codex and model update really enough to get me excited again?  Yes, it is, but it’s complicated.  I like games based on a number of factors, but the most important are the minis, the rules, the background and the general gaming culture.  When you take the actions of Games Workshop the company and separate them from the game itself, I think it can take some of the emotion out of a volatile subject and paint a clearer picture.
40K strengths:
-          A very deep and engaging universe.  Yes it’s grim, dark and full of skulls, but that’s not always a bad thing.
-          Quality production plastic models.  I buy models from all sorts of companies and sources.  Again, taking out the emotional issues, GW puts out the best multipart plastic figure and vehicle kits on the market.  Yes, new companies like Mantic are catching up fast, but GW has a great head start.
-          Availability.  Face it you can always find a game of 40K at least once a week in just about any game store around.  With most of the other games I like, it’s really, really hard to find players.  There’s a game store a mile from my house where I can always find a 40K player, but if I want to play Dust, or heaven forbid a board game, I’m driving an hour down to Colorado Springs or forty five minutes up into Denver.
40K weaknesses:
-          Clunky rules.  Once I started to play other games I found out just how much baggage 40K carries around, from outdated concepts like IGOYGO to vaguely worded and contradictory rules.
-          Expensive Minis.  The flip side to great kits is that they’re pricey.  I’m not one to jump on the “GW is price gouging” bandwagon.  My perspective is about my perceived value and for the last several years, the price of 40K models doesn’t seem to equal the amount of fun I would get from them.

It’s also helpful to know what actually drove me out of 40K.  It was codex Tyranids.  Flash back to January 2010.  My interest in 40K was waning and 5th edition just wasn’t doing it for me.  Then came codex Tyranids.  The old bugs had been another favorite of mine for years and I had a full army painted and stored away.  I knew there would be new kits to by, that’s the nature of the beast.  But then you find out that the kits you need, the ones that the book was designed for aren’t going to be made.   Seriously?  They didn’t put out a kit for the spore pod?  No Tervigon kit?  
It took some shine off the project, but I plugged away at upgrading my army and learning the new codex.  Now here’s problem two, GW publishes the codex with vague and frankly contradictory language for some of the most engaging units.  How could they not see this would cause problems?
The last straw for me was the ludicrous FAQ that came out later that year.  What few cool rules that gave Tyranids a fun strategy were reversed in some very odd ways.  Now I’m not a super competitive player, but it became clear that Tyranids was now an army where you had to study up, take maximum advantage of every tool in the box and pick up the proverbial slack in every part of the force.  You had to try out some units, play a bunch of games, tweak the list and then repeat.  Or you had to go online to a whole slew of blogs and forums and pick eveyone’s brain for a good list.  I’m sorry, but I just don’t have the time or energy for that kind of gaming.  If I can’t bring a reasonable sample of units in a codex and have an average chance of winning or losing a game, my interest fades.   So after six months or so, the Tyranids went back in the box.  It’s a shame too as I have an almost fully WYSIWYG and painted army now just sitting out the rest of 5th, hoping that something good will come along for the rumored 6th edition.
Now flash forward a year and a half to this summer when Necron rumors start to crank into high gear.  I don’t play 40K anymore, but I still keep tabs once a week or so just to see what’s coming down the line.  The leaks sound promising and now I’m interested.  Then the leaked pictures come out and that sealed the deal.  Those sweet looking kits may be expensive, but they defiantly caught my eye.

Am I signing myself up to get burned again?  Probably I am, but even if the new codex is total crap and I stop playing again, but even if I do, I have just as much fun building and painting models as I do with playing them, so I’ve got my fingers crossed that this isn’t a repeat of Tyranids.  One way or another I’ll know by Saturday when the local shop gets the pre-orders in.