Monday, March 31, 2014

Ten Thunders Yamaziko

At long last, we had a nice enough day I could fotograph the last few Ten Thunders models I have! (I'll do a full crew post when I can again get a nice day for fotos.)

To start things off, let's get a good dramatic pic of Yamaziko:

Yes, the colours have been enhanced in this one, but it allows me to make her look appropriately dramatic with her lantern lighting her from behind.

Here she is in proper light. I decided, in contrast to Misaki, to keep her robes relatively plain. They are still fancy with a decoration of flowers, but is nowhere near the level of detail I put into the young leader. I figure this ties the feel of the models together more: Yamaziko reserved, Misaki wild and flamboyant.

Her face's paint is actually the second attempt. The first time I did my standard flesh tone, wash, with a highlight, but it made her skin seem too 'young'. I went back over it again with a pale flesh colour, intentionally mixed with a small amount of grey and highlighted with pale sand to simulate more an older person's skin. I also intetionally made the strokes all lines, and without much smoothing, to get across a wrinkled feel.

Believe it or not, this is my first attempt at source lighting painting. I've not often been a fan of it, mostly because a lot of folks go way overboard, making the model just look like they've been hit by an airbrush from a few angles with whichever colour of light. Here though, with such a distinct and significant element on her, I had to go a bit fancier.

Here's her side-shots. The bit of hair that is loose from her bun on the left side is a bit odd, and may yet see some updates. The left shows off the flowers on her kimono, while the right displays the effects I attempted on source-lighting the bricks.

Next time (and far sooner than I typically post) I will have an update of Misaki and her friend Shang.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Nomad Paint Options

As I have cleaned, assembled, and basecoated my Nomads, my mind turns of course to paintschemes. I like to have a good idea before I start putting paint to model of what I will end up with, otherwise I tend to get bogged down at the halfway point trying to decide what to do for a certain section. In this case, it's especially important with the model count being so few, and the look of the models being so clean.

Luckily, I managed to snag the last copy of the art book from my FLGS and have plumbed it for fun things (I am a sucker for art books). I scanned a few photos of models I know I have, and put 'em in Photoshop to colour. I have a tablet that doesn't see as much use as I wish it did, but for things like this it is ideal. I can test out schemes quickly, imitate paint effects, and not worry about having to soylent green any models after too many applications.

As a preamble: I love the Ghost in the Shell series. The look of the combat armour, suits, 'tanks', etc. I love that even with opticamo, they still have nice drab outfits, and am leaning towards a look like that.

With that, here's what I have been musing over:
First up is a variation on the default scheme of Corregidor. Most of my models are (and will be) from this ship, so having a good strong red scheme seemed like a good idea. While I understand the mentality of "it doesn't matter their armour colour: Adaptive camo will take effect", to me, there's no reason to strain your poor camo computer by making it red to start!

With that in mind, you can see the three-part scheme above. I've done default bright red for the really noisy big things that aren't hiding: Hellcats, TAGs, possibly remotes, etc. Next up are the "support models". Represented here by a Custodier, this class would include Daktari, engineers, and the like, and feature a nice distinct white scheme.

Finally the black on the far right, while technically a hellcat in miniature, is meant to represent the more stealthy soldiers: Intruders, Zeros, and the like. Black on grey sets them up nice and dark, with red influences to tie them together. The advantage of this scheme is it follows the classic colour design combo of red-black-white, the disadvantage is it is nowhere near camo-like or Ghost in the Shell.

Holding to the white theme; One of my first wonders was an all-white scheme with either orange or red as accent colours. On this one I've also added a digital camo pattern, which if I do, I may do as hexes instead of squares. Being consistently white gives this one the advantage of being arguably more in line with the Ghost in the Shell feel, while maintaining Nomad similarity and allowing me to distinguish Bakunin and Corregidor. I'm not entirely sold though on HOW white this one is. I tend to find pure white schemes tough to make look really slick. Any mar, any inconsistent thickness in the paint, and the effect is ruined.

I've also toyed with one borrowing from above, but replacing the default white with a more urban drab. I would still heavily theme the white in patches, especially on the support models, but any of the 'line troops' would have a nice pale colour, not specifically indicative of any one background, but neutral enough to make it hard to distinguish features. I keep the red belts and details, and above have the digicam and non digicam versions.

Finally, a more olive colour. This one appears a bit minty-green, but I'd play with that colour to make it nice and neutral, using Russian Uniform as the base. In this one, white is used sparingly (and again almost exclusively on support models), and the red is limited. The mild green influence would help them be complimentary.

Overall I'm leaning towards the last two, with digital camo only applied if, once the model is painted, it feels like it wouldn't be too busy.

Currently you'll notice all the helmets with a shiny black. This is because the 'eyeslit' arrangement is not good for binary vision. My first solution of course is to turn them into up-armoured plexi, but I may decide to do them in standard colour, and just claim that where you can't see an eye slit, it's really a complex polymer/fibre-optic cable grouping that gives a better range of view, still protecting the face and allowing for a HUD.

Now comes the part where I sit with the various schemes, seeing if one starts to intrigue me more. Then I do a test model, and if I like that, paint the rest of the force!

I can't recommend this method of scheming out colours enough though. You can set up one, then do the "adjustment layer> hue/saturation" to pull around and get wildly different colours you may not normally think to use, but once you see them on the model, look right.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Infinitely good, the bad, and the ugly...

I have formally given up GW. That's not the point of this post, but it does explain how things ended up happening the way they did. I love their models still, their art (and universe) is fantastic, and the rules are generally getting better, but I just can't take their business practices anymore.

That left me with no sci-fi (or sci-fa) tabletop game. Like many others, I'm sure, the next closest port of call was Infinity by Corvus Belli. If you haven't taken a look at it, I highly recommend you do. The first time I was introduced to it, the pitch was "squad-scale combat that's got great mechanics". Ever a sucker for more models, I wandered over to their website, and was frustrated to find it an utter chaos of javascript.

I am a graphic designer by training. I dislike javascript so much because while it can be a great tool for internet navigation, it can also be used to make clean website design and navigation an utter nightmare. Infinity's previous website was lousy with the latter. I also mostly get into games because of the look of the models. Your game could have the coolest mechanic ever, and if it has mediocre or uninteresting models, I'll look elsewhere. By contrast, I will endure awkward rules, so long as the models continue to be fantastic (see above...)

In a nutshell, Infinity's website was a mess, I couldn't find out what troops were 'standard' or which were characters, what a range looked like as a whole, and so I put them aside. More recently, with a lack of sci-fi games, I swung back around to take a second look. This time they'd updated the website so that looking at an entire range was a thing you can actually do now! As I flicked through, I found Nomad models really spoke to me. Sure they're bright red, but for the most part, their armour is practical, relatively logical, and even on women: properly covering.

Specifically, I loved this:

Those models are lean, mean, and I can even overlook the field of view issues. The poses are compelling, everything feels like it makes sense, etc.

Similarly, this model quite strongly attracted me, for the reasons above:

Dynamic pose, interesting weapon design, strong colour scheme, and a woman in actually pretty practical outfits! (No power-armoured corset or stiletto high heels.)

Something I started to notice with a lot of the line though; while some models are fantastic looking, and others are 'okay' (and all ranges have models people will think are 'okay'), Infinity suffers from some models I think are absolutely ridiculous or outright ugly, and I can't figure out how they got past prototyping.

First up is what I am going to call the "Jethro Tull Sniper" or, as some others have pointed out, "Elmer Fudd":

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a highly-experienced, efficient, sought-after sniper. That is also a pose no sniper in history has ever made. Try it yourself: Balance one heel on your knee, and suspend a (presumably) 12kg weapon off said knee, and picture firing at any significant distance with it.

I understand not every sniper has to be in full prone sniping position, but if you're going to have him shooting, at least make him look like he could!

Next up is one that needs some explaining first. The "Daktari" is the Nomad version of a combat medic. They're daring, unarmed, and equipped to help heal downed soldiers. They're known for swearing in Turkish and for being badasses when it comes to healing, just not killing.

Picture in your head a combat medic. Heck, picture a modern military, and the guy who officially runs around with the medical gear. Looks a lot like a standard soldier minus the rifle, maybe, and with perhaps a little cross somewhere to denote his or her status? Now take a look at this:

Look at that... I know Infinity has a pin-up line, but this isn't that. There is nothing "Combat" and barely anything "medic" in that image! Yes, I know there's an alternate version that looks much more so, but man...

Finally, in the game Infinity, some models can actively hack others. This can shut down their armour, or in some cases, even take over robots and have them working for you. In this world for all that they've been inspired by Ghost in the Shell I suspect, they still manipulate the digital interface like Minority Report; hand up and with a holographic screen. The thing is, that only looks great when you can see all the CGI screen stuff. When that's not there, say on a model without it, the result is this:

That's jazz hands, or a surprised cat. I know folks have gotten transparencies printed that have the screens on them, and kudos to Corvus Belli for making those available, but it's still not a great look.

Why the post ranting about all this? Well, as any weak-willed gamer knows, the lure of a new game (and new shiny models) is an almost impossible call to resist, and I now have a Corregidor starter set and reverend custodier. Soon you will see a couple posts as I play through possible colour schemes and get to work starting a new science fiction-y force, and I had to discuss this first. I love so many of the models produced for Infinity, but I don't think I've ever had a reaction like this where it's beyond "eh, not for me" and right into "why did they..."

As a final plug, do take a look at their site: The rules are free to try, and it has mechanics I am so happy to see in a game.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Painting Log; Guilt Edition

As I work on adjusting and tweaking the Malifaux deck, I'm also trying to get a crew or two finished for Malifaux. In theory I should've had these folks done a long time ago, but I've been dragging my feet over certain details and cleaning things up...

Rather than a finished work post, I figured I'd do a "here's what I've got" post.

First up the Viktorias: I like the default paint scheme enough to imitate it. I've tried a non-metallic metal style on the blades, using metallic paints (which I prefer) and have kept them a rich blonde. I prefer the older Vik models to the new ones for the Viktorias themselves, but I do like the new ones as additional Ronin (and will be using them for that.)

One of the reasons I intend to use the old Vik models above, is they match almost perfectly the Viktoria avatars. I had to convert the forearm gauntlet things back on Avatar Vik of Blood, and I'll do a more detailed post about these two when they're further along. It's been a difficult challenge to paint them so far, because anything I paint on one pair has to be mimicked on the other pair. It means highlighting two shirts, two sets of armour, two sets of boots, each time...

Panning across my desk, the Desperate Mercenary is getting his final touches, the Treasure Hunter is being painted up (Thank goodness she can be used with a Student of Conflict now) and the original look Ronin are being worked on. I've tried to make the Ronin a mix of mundane peasant clothing and a couple of pieces of fanciful clothes.

And finally the true guilt section. I have a converted Taelor desperate merc, and the remains of my Ten Thunders crew. The new Taelor looks a lot more fitting for the character, and frees up the older as great for a Desperate Mercenary. To my mind, the female Desperate Merc model is awkwardly posed, oddly garbed, and just doesn't look as good as old-Taelor for a desperate mercenary who, in this case, quite literally had to sell the shirt off her back! (Or is following the inspiration of the Ronin and Viktorias and is dressing down!)

Though you can't really tell from this angle, I'm doing a minor source-light effect on Yamaziko, and keeping her robes very plain. A woman of her age and wisdom, I think, sees less reason to be really flashy any more. By contrast, Misaki is getting bright and strong coloured robes well decorated as befits her personality. I'll do more detail on them (and Ototo on the far right) when I get them finished.

Word of warning for now: Paint Ototo in pieces! Him fully assembled just truly sucks to try and reach angles. If I was able to go back in time, I would have warned myself to do body separate from torso, and helmet separate again. Ah well, paint and learn!

I've had an idea to make the Malifaux deck back incorporate each master (or as many as I can fit) as a symbol or icon, and am working on making those now. No guarantees if I'll like it, but when my computer allows me, I've been trying to get that to work. Now that I've shown models, though, I in theory have incentive to finish them off!