Undercoating for Beginners

Whilst feverishly undercoating my Deathwatch army the other day two things struck me. The first was I was using a method taught to me by a bloke called Andy when I first began working for Games Workshop back in 2000.

The other was that occurred to me that not everyone necessarily knew how to properly undercoat their models.

As a couple of my friends are relatively new to the hobby and have only just begun painting their armies I thought it a good opportunity to pass on some long earned wisdom.

Whilst, arguably, there’s no right or wrong way to undercoat your models there is definitely prep and ‘best practise’ to help the unwary hobbyists along the way.

This guide is based around undercoating models black but the considerations are broadly the same whatever colour you’re using.

Step 1. Preparation

Be under no illusions, undercoating does not hide all sins. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Mould lines are far more prominent once the model has been undercoated than before so make sure you’ve been thorough when building your toys.

If mould lines don’t bother you chances are they will because they’re also a pain in the arse to paint over as well. Do yourself a favour, invest in some decent files and clean them off. It’s a couple of extra minutes per average size model and it’s well worth it.

Also be sure that any filings or other detritus is removed from the model. This can include dust if your models have been sat out for a while, or basing materials if they’ve been sat in a figure case or cabinet with a completed models.

If you’re spraying models that have been ‘dipped and stripped’ make sure that the stripping agent has been thoroughly washed off and the model is fully dry. Spray paint does not like oil and water. At all.

Step 2. Looking after your Spray

I use Games Workshop’s undercoat but I’ve also used Army Painter and I’ve found this to be true of all spray paint, regardless of colour: store your cans at room temperature.

Storing your spray paint in the garage or the shed will only spell doom and misery because the when the cans get cold the paint and propellant don’t mix properly which causes ‘chalking’ to occur on the models. It’s relatively easy to put right but (a) it’s a waste of paint (b) it’s a waste of time and (c) you’re a twat for doing it in the first place.

Step 3. Where to Spray

Personally, I couldn’t give two shits where you spray as long as you’re not vandalising someone else’s property or gassing yourself.

Spray paint is not good stuff to breathe in so make sure it’s a very well ventilated area.

As I rule I always spray outside, on top of a bin so I’m not having to crouch down. Granted this means that I can be at the mercy of the elements but better that than shaving days off my life by spraying in a poorly ventilated garage.

Step 4. How to Spray

This is where it gets a little subjective but personally I lay the models down and spray them in halves.

Make sure whatever you lay your models on is sturdy, easily movable and untreated. A cardboard mail order box is perfect. A product box lid isn’t ideal because the paint sits on the treated cardboard rather than being absorbed.

This can mean the paint can pool slightly underneath the model making them stick and can cause the box to tear when you lift the models clear. If you only have a box lid to use I recommend giving it a light spray to take the sheen off.

Lay as many models as you can on the box because any paint that isn’t going on a model is paint that’s being wasted. That said, make sure none of the models are touching otherwise the models will stick and you won’t get an even covering.

 

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As you can probably tell, this box is more paint than cardboard.

 

Before you start, shake the can well. Different brands mix at different rates. Army Painter spray has a bonkers amount of pigment in relation to propellant so whilst it doesn’t need as much shaking as GW’s, take the time anyway. The last thing you want is a bad mix.

By using short, controlled bursts in a sweeping action this allows for a smooth and even layer of paint on the model.

Rotate the box (hence using something a little substantial) so you can apply an even coat of paint to the front, top, bottom and sides of the model.

This is where placing your models on something reasonably high, is advantageous because you have more control over where the paint goes.

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When spraying make sure you keep the can a reasonable distance from the model. Most instructions will say eight inches, I’d say eight inches gives better coverage without compromising quality and detail.

Unfortunately, trial and error plays a part when learning to spray. You’ll quickly learn what’s too close and what constitutes a smooth sweeping action and what doesn’t…

4.1 Wobbly Models

The best and worst thing about modern models is they’re all dynamically posed marvels of sculpting genius.

It’s brilliant because the models are awesome, but it can make spraying models a tricky because they don’t have an even purchase when laid down.

Keep any model you think is likely to roll over once you start spraying towards the inside of the box. Give it some extra space so if it does roll over it won’t hit (and stick to) any other models.

Ultimately though, you’re better off positioning the model for stability as whilst you may not get brilliant coverage on the first coat, you will on the reverse side.

4.2 Leaving Your Models to Dry

Whether you’re letting them dry after the first spray or the second, where you leave you’re models is as important as where you choose to spray them.

If you’re spraying on a warm sunny day then leaving them outside is an obvious decision. However, summer days can bring with them dust, pollen and other airborne objects that can stick to the wet paint on your models.

If you do leave them outside to dry, make sure they’re shielded from the elements.

At the other end of the spectrum, leaving your models anywhere that’s cold and damp is likely to cause chalking as if the can was too cold. This again makes sheds and garages a less than ideal place.

A moderately insulated utility room works well and avoids pissing off wives, husbands, parents etc with the smell of the paint.

4.2 Finishing the Job

Once the paint is touch dry, flip the models and repeat the process.

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You won’t need to use as much paint on the reverse of the model so expect it to be finished in short order. Don’t worry about going over the sides of the model again. Providing you stick to short bursts all you’ll do is even up the coat and give you a smooth finish.

Give the models enough time to dry then you’re done.

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To Sand or Not to Sand

I’ve been asked by more than a few hobbyists over the years whether or not they should sand their models before they spray.

Both have their merits.

Spraying a model before sanding helps the glue take better and gives you greater versatility in how you paint it. Un-sprayed (if that’s a thing) sand can be inked/washed/shaded. Sprayed sand can’t.

The big advantage of spraying sand is that it seals it making it way more durable which is no bad thing. Just remember, you’ll have to paint the sand which can affect the finish. So whichever option you choose, stick to it.

 

Why Princess Leia Matters

2016 has been an interesting year.

It’s been an interesting year for me personally and, having overcome some pretty huge challenges, it’s actually been a pretty good one all things considered. The fact that I’m putting fingers to keyboard again is indication of how different things are now to a year ago. Let alone 2 years ago.

For the rest of the world the year has racked up an astonishing butcher’s bill. In places like Aleppo and across Afghanistan, Iraq, Paris, Berlin and a host of other places. A string of shootings in the US which has inflamed already fraught race relations in the country. Regardless of the politics all these people mattered and is a tragedy of wasted life and potential.

We’ve also seen a rise in some of the most divisive and damaging politics since the 1930’s, when people on both sides of the Atlantic and both sides of the debate marched to the polls disillusioned, angry and (if we’re really honest with ourselves) ill-informed and mistrustful of the other side. The results have been troubling, potentially catastrophic and will take years to sort out and years more to understand the true ramifications.

And amongst it all, a steady stream of celebrities and geniuses have died. There are those that will gleefully point out how selfish and shallow we are, weeping over famous people we never met but sparing barely a thought for a war-torn city and its traumatised inhabitants.

To those people I say this: we care. We all care. Some care more than others but humanity is blessed with a near limitless reservoir for kindness that we pour out towards our friends, family, charitable causes, the homeless person on the street and towards the seemingly endless stream of victims of violence on the news. The victims of egomaniacal, power-hungry men and women who would rather see nations burn than give an inch. Who confuse compromise with weakness. And would happily blame everyone else for the oligarchical problems they themselves created.

Why should celebrities get all the attention?

It’s simple: from David Bowie to Prince to our very own and beloved princess, Carrie Fisher, they all moved us with their art.

Whether it’s a song that resonated with us or helped us through a break up. Or a movie that defined our childhood and our view of the world: their gifts connected with us in a way that gives us hope despite the wanton destruction both physically and politically that fills the news cycle. It also connects us in a profound and unbreakable way with those who feel the same.

This is why, for me, Carrie Fisher’s passing is all the more poignant.

One of the first movies I sat through as a young child – barely 4 years old – was Star Wars. I didn’t fully understand everything that went on. I thought the Stormtroopers were robots, Darth Vadar scared the living shit out of me and my tiny child mind had no clue at the colossal loss of life resulting from Alderaan and the Death Star being destroyed (bugger off about spoilers, it’s been 40 years!).

But what I did understand was heroism and sacrifice. I may not have had those labels for them but I knew what I was looking at and Luke, Leia, Han & Chewie all fit the bill. That and X-Wings are awesome.

Growing up I was enamoured with Leia not because she was beautiful, although she was, or because of the infamous Gold Bikini – partly because I was just too young when RotJ came out to know what to do with that image – but because she was remarkable.

She was the leader of a rebellion. She was strong, yet compassionate. Fearless yet afraid. Stubborn yet vulnerable. Strong willed but sensitive. She was all these things and more. She was a character as rich and as heroic as Luke or Han which, for the 70’s and early 80’s was really saying something.

Her character, albeit written, defied society. Leia, portrayed by the wonderful Carrie Fisher, dared the chauvinists to tell her to sit down and shut up. Dared educators to do more than just tell generations of young girls to aim for mediocre grades or not to waste their time with science and technology.

Carrie Fisher understood that character and what she represented to girls and women better than anyone.

In the Star Wars universe, women weren’t just politicians, they were soldiers, pilots, leaders and did so on their own merit, not because hubby or daddy had pulled some strings.

Star Wars, as a franchise, has always challenged ideas of race and gender. This is a universe in which humans of both genders and all colours cohabited, fought and died alongside aliens for their freedom. It’s important to note that the Empire heavily persecuted non-humans and the Rebellion was largely made up of humans, fighting against that oppression.

It teaches every generation who watches it how remarkably capable we are and how staggeringly short sighted and pointless nationalism and divisiveness is. Granted the theme of the movie is a violent rebellion but I think we all know the message I mean. And at its heart is a young woman, raised in privilege, who could have stayed home but instead chose to stand.

I’m immensely proud of my daughter. I’m proud of her humour, her sarcasm (at nearly 4 I really have made a rod for my own back), her precociousness, her curiosity, her intelligence, her bravery, her compassion and her emotional sensitivity.

I really want her to see Star Wars (well, the original 3, Episode VII and Rogue One) not just because it’s a brilliant and exciting story but because I want her to see wonderful, capable and powerful women making a difference. Being heroes. Whether it’s stood at a strategy table like Mon Mothma sending soldiers into harms way or with a blaster in their hand like Leia.

Princess Leia matters as a character because there had never been anyone quite like her or will be ever again. Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia, for me were one and the same. For all of her problems in the years following Star Wars, Carrie Fisher never gave up. She strove to do better and to enrich the lives of the people she came in to contact with.

And judging by the outpouring on Social Media within minutes of today’s sad announcement I’d say she achieved that end. Not to mention her effect on the millions of Star Wars fans around the world.

I can’t wait for my daughter to see Star Wars and for me to point to Princess Leia and say: ‘that’s Princess Leia, she leads the Rebellion’. And when my daughter turns to me and asks ‘is she a goody?’ I shall look at her, smile and say ‘yes, my love, she is a goody. Just about the best there ever was.’

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Rogue One – A Review

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Along long time ago a massive media company known for an animated mouse bought one of the most successful intellectual properties in history.

When Disney bought Lucasfilm for, quite literally, huge piles of cash there were a lot of very nervous fans. It didn’t matter that their purchase of Marvel a couple of years before had proved that they could be respectful of fans and intellectual property alike, it was a huge deal.

Shortly after the purchase they announced an aggressive schedule of new movies, effectively giving Star Wars the Marvel Cinematic Universe treatment. A new movie, every year, for the foreseeable future.

Fans, this one included, were apprehensive when Episode VII was announced. It needed to be brilliant. It needed to right so many wrongs. It needed…not to be shit.

For the most part, our prayers were answered. It was not shit. The new cast had a great chemistry in their own right and gelled brilliantly with characters of old.

But even before Episode VII was out, Rogue One was announced. A stand alone movie set between Episode’s III and IV.

As time wore on my scepticism gave way to delight. Historically Star Wars has always been a trilogy kind of franchise. Even the books tended to work in threes and the stand alone’s tended to be the weaker offerings.

However, as the first trailers began to drop I felt a new hope (geddit). Rogue One looked like an original Star Wars movie and had a plot that nestled it up against Episode IV rather than Episode III which immediately made me like it more.

For those that don’t know, Rogue One follows the exploits of a small Rebel band tasked with getting their hands on the Death Star plans in the hope of destroying it. Anyone that’s seen Episode IV will know how this pans out.

The movie focuses on Jyn Erso, daughter of the man behind the Death Star and reluctant hero played by the extraordinarily talented Felicity Jones.

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Unlike those around her, Jyn is not a solider. She’s a tear away with a traumatic past that keeps her awake at night. Much like Luke Skywalker and Rey, destiny (or the Force) chooses her to change the galaxy.

Whilst a female protagonist is becoming increasingly common I feel Jones’ efforts were a cut above. Jyn Erso as a character is so wonderfully flawed and vulnerable yet she’s strong and resolute. She’s incredibly brave and utterly determined not to give into fear and loss.

As a character she rises to every challenge despite her fear not because of it and whilst she’s opposite the Rebel intelligence officer, Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), at no point does she rely on his big manly manliness.

In a nice contrast to most movies, he plays the conscience and the voice in her ear not to give up rather than the other way around.

And unlike the reboot of Ghostbusters, at no point does the movie makers do anything to undermine her gender. At no point does the movie nudge you in the ribs and say ‘don’t worry, she’s only a girl’. Which is wonderful and refreshing.

Jones’ performance is captivating and enhanced by Alan Tudyk’s utterly brilliant delivery of K-2SO. A former Imperial strategy droid, it provides a delightfully matter of fact counter-point to Erso’s dogged determination without the camp contrariness of a 3PO clone.

K-2 is cynical, sarcastic, hilarious but steadfast and loyal, a natural complement to Erso’s reluctant and wounded hero. And he’s awesome. He gets some of the best scenes so between the three lead characters, the chemistry that exists is a joy to watch.

Plus anyone who knows and loves Laputa (Castle in the Sky) will enjoy the nod to the design athetic of the robot protectors.

The film is orgiastically pretty. Whereas Episode I had special and visual effects thrown at the screen in an unwitting attempt to conceal the weak plot and terrible acting, Rogue One’s slice of the Star Wars universe is almost incidental. It enhances something that is already brilliantly executed.

Rogue One is epic yet personal. It’s a classic Star Wars tale of a small band of individuals becoming something greater than the sum of its parts. The formula is very similar to that of Episode IV. Which is no bad thing.

Each character hints at a life lived in the shadow of the Empire and it communicates how quickly society has decayed in the 20 years since the events of Episode III. The speed at which all evidence to the existence of the Jedi being one.Which is a really nice touch.

What’s really cool is the insight you get into the Rebellion. Episode IV conveys a merry band of liberals unified against the choking grip of an evil Empire. Rogue One hints at a far more fragmented structure, held together by a desperate few. Their tactics are dirty and distasteful and many of their soldiers are no better, if not worse, than the storm troopers they willingly hunt.

The engagements that go on in the film will have every hardcore Star Wars fan reaching for tissues because they’re fantastic. They have the gritty, brutality of recent sci-fi offerings like the new Star Trek movies and, of course, Episode VII.

Anyone who played any of the Star Wars video games over the last 20 years or read the books (particularly the X-Wing novels) will be struck by the fidelity of the action sequences.

Visually it all feels so right. So deliciously perfect. It’s the ultimate thank you present from Lucasfilm to the fans that hung on in there during the years of nothing then the disappointing prequels and all the inconsistent, rudderless bollocks that followed.

Every planet (including the beautifully realised Yavin 4) helps to communicate the story, the conflicts of the individuals and team, all the while exuding the grandeur of the Star Wars universe. It really is stunning.

Every single drop of love that could be crammed into the action scenes, both in space and on the various planets, was done so.

However (come on, you knew it was coming), for all of the love I felt watching X-Wings be awesome, I didn’t feel the story quite connected emotionally. And this is a bit of a problem because it’s meant to be a deeply emotional film. It’s about friendship, family, survival, defiance, victory, loss and sacrifice.

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They’re all right there on the screen but cramming all of those highly nuanced themes and the orgasm inducing visuals means it doesn’t quite pull it off.

Maybe it’s because, as with any prequel, you know how the story plays out but I think it’s more to do with the pace with which the film moves, it lacks subtlty. It doesn’t give you the chance to be moved. To reflect on events as they unfold. Until the very end which can leave you feeling a little cold.

It’s all a little bit lost.

Speaking of lost, the Imperial presence in the film is so muted that the storm troopers and starships consistently out perform the villains.

Director Krennic (played by Ben Mendelsohn) comes off as little more than an egotistical child, who tantrums and stomps from one scene to another. Even the CGI Grand Moff Tarkin overshadows him.

Lord Vadar crops up but his scene is a fan pleaser and adds nothing to the plot. Even the performance lacked the slow grace and simmering menace of the original, he felt slightly wrong from start to finish.

Rogue One is a superb film It looks and feels like a Star Wars movie. In many ways more so than Episode VII. Everything just looks…right.

It is, of course, a genius mechanism to bridge the gap between Episode’s III & IV. It does an admirable job of dovetailing with Episode IV despite breaking part of the original movie (I’ll let you find it). References to the previous movies are so nicely done that fans will get a real kick out of it.

It’s a wonderful and deserving addition to the Star Wars canon that adds so much heart to an already rich universe that it is a shame it’s just a stand alone.

Criticisms aside, Rogue One has easily slipped into my top 3 Star Wars movies. It’s a very bold claim having only seen it the once but, honestly, it offers much of the same mix that makes The Empire Strikes Back the best of the bunch (shut up, yes it is!).

It’s not a perfect movie but then again neither are any of the Star Wars movies that preceded them. And that’s okay because what it is, is a proper Star Wars movie. And that is more than good enough.

 

Kill Team – A Review

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So in the spirit of getting back into the swing of things I thought I’d revert to type and do what I’m good at: being very opinionated about other people’s shit.

And what better way to kick off than a game I lost at the night before. What could possibly go wrong?

So, Kill Team – Warhammer 40k’s remedial little brother.

Kill Team is one of a growing number of ‘route to entry’ boxes that Games Workshop is churning out at a fairly prodigious rate.

Whilst those without a bottomless hobby budget may well be struggling to find £100 every couple of months, Kill Team offers a genuinely affordable (by modern standards) route to entry into the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

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In the box you get a Space Marine tactical squad, a Tau Fire Warrior squad, a groovy tactical turret and everything you need to play, including a data sheet for both squads with points values and the mini rule book.

The models are as you would expect from the individual boxes rather than the okay (yet slightly disappointing) push-together’s we’ve seen in the past which really enhances both the value of the box and the gaming experience for those new to the hobby.

Games Workshop has finally remembered that short-changing new gamers is a great way to make them fuck off and never come back.

The truth is, for the money this is really quite good. The only things missing is some form of measure and a few dice but I guess you need some top-up sales somewhere.

But the fact that the rules are in there too means that novices are getting a proper introduction to the game rather than a bullshit stripped down version of the rules that means they’ll have to buy another version 3 months down the road.

Obviously for the seasoned gamers it represents a fairly hefty outlay when the only thing they’ll need to play Kill Team is the Kill Team rules booklet. For those of you who just want the booklet I suggest eBay or the fair trading group on Facebook.

The booklet itself is, for all intents and purposes the main event. Whilst the models are all good and groovy, they can (along with the rules) be purchased by other means.

Whilst far from the majesty of Mordheim or Necromunda, Kill Team does give you the merest taste of those long past glory days allowing you to take 200 points worth of your chosen army against your opponent.

There are certain restrictions of course. Such as no HQ choices, no vehicles with more than 4 hull points, nothing with a 2+ save (so no Terminators) and a smattering of others.

The idea is it encourages you to be incredibly careful with how you choose your force. For a season gamer and an Ultramarine player, I actually found this quite difficult as I’m so used to structuring my armies around the teachings of Guilliman.

Because, you know, nerd.

Whilst 200 points doesn’t seem all that much, depending on the army you can actually be pretty creative.

It’s a tooled up tactical squad, or a basic 5 man squad and a slightly tooled up Dreadnought.

Or 30 Ork boys plus a couple of upgrades.

Never before has the differences in points and unit composition been so starkly demonstrated as it is with Kill Team and it’s easily one of its best-selling points.

It so aptly highlights what an immensely diverse universe in which we game and how desperate even the smallest scale engagement can be.

Had I put my list together in plenty of time, rather than in a Burger King on my way over to Jezza’s I could have taken a small, but tooled up, unit of Sternguard which would have been hilarious. And short-lived.

Unlike Mordheim and Necromunda, beyond models being able to act independently of one another, the rules work more or less the same as standard 40k. Which means stuff dies just as easily as it always did. Or not.

This highlights Kill Team’s one glaring flaw. It is, essentially, 40k without unit coherency. Which means splitting up your models gets them killed. Which rather defeats the point.

You’re almost better off playing a 500 point game and have the freedom to take what you want.

However, what Kill Team does offer is specialists. In a nutshell, three of your models can be made specialists from a number of lists which gives them access to one of a variety of special rules.

Things like Feel No Pain, Armourbane, Infiltrate, Fear, Eternal Warrior and a host of others feature, all designed to give you a tactical edge if used correctly. There is undoubtedly some trial and error in selecting the right skills for your Kill Team.

It was very much more error on my part when I played Jezza but that was because I tried to be too clever and failed to consider how a lone Space Marine, whilst tough is still just a lone Space Marine and he’ll die just as easily when mobbed.

Looking at the skills on offer, the likes of Scouts and similar units can become hilarious broken, especially if you use them as a team. Which sort of defeats the purpose of Kill Team but there we are.

The scenarios in the book are broadly very good. They work well with the limitations of the both the size of army and lend themselves well to beginners.

But beyond the specialists and the scenarios, there’s not much more to Kill Team. There’s no progression to speak which is a real shame. Something that slow expands the engagement size as a way of scaling gamers up to a full game of 40k would have been really cool and a missed opportunity.

As a starter boxes go it’s not bad for the cash. For someone who wants to ease themselves into 40k without a huge outlay, this is pretty much on the nose. It has plenty of replay value for the beginners and lots of nuance for the veterans.

It’s also brilliant if you’re pressed for time or fancy dabbling in a spot of 40k in 40 minutes over a lunch break.

Kill Team suffers from being neither one thing or another which as a long-term investment makes it a bit of a waste but, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned veteran, Kill Team at its heart bloody good fun.

Re:Boot

After the fantastic Black Library Live ended, Lee and I were fortunate enough to catch up with the legendary Gav Thorpe over a pint (of Coke) in Bugman’s.

He reminded me that I had set up this blog, made some bold claims and then kind of did fuck all with it.

We got on to the Tragedies of the Primarchs series I began writing and, again, I was nudged by Gav and Lee that perhaps I should get my arse in gear and finish writing them.

It occurred to me that some work needed to be done on this site and what once was The Shell Case. The weight of years and sheer effort hung around The Shell Case made starting over a little daunting. Plus losing out on all that content was kinda sucky.

So, I’ve consolidated the two.

On this site you’ll now be able to find all of the old The Shell Case content, as well as the new stuff for SILO41. Tragedies of the Primarchs are here as is the classic Shell Case Shorts.

The Shell Case as it once was is no more and the domain has been redirected.

I’ve also updated the look (obviously) so it’s a little more user friendly.

There’s a few additions still to be made – like a page about Aurora Games – but this is my new virtual home. Welcome.

Why collecting Knights is my biggest project ever

Those of you who have followed me over from The Shell Case will know that my journey into the hobby, like many gamers around my age, began with Hero Quest and Space Crusade.

However, unlike the majority of gamers my age, I didn’t progress into either Warhammer Fantasy (may she rest in peace) or Warhammer 40,000. Instead my brother and I moved in to Epic. If I’m honest the decision was made for me as it was the game my brother asked for (and subsequently got) for his birthday so it seemed obvious for me to play it too.

I’m glad I did because I think it gave me a flavour of just how…ahem…epic the conflicts in the 41st Millennium are and the sheer variety of destruction a commanding officer has at their disposal:

Bike detachments, assault division, tank division, gunships, titans…

It was impossible to be a child back then and not fall in love with Titans. It’s impossible to be a child now and not fall in love with Titans.

In 1994 the Games Workshop released Titan Legions. A big box of mental to compliment the existing box of mental that was the core Epic: Space Marine box set.

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Gigantic War Machines clash in epic conflict. Which is nice.

Titan Legions, as well as some new rules, introduced new models to the Warhammer 40,000 universe. The obvious two were the indomitable Imperator Titan and the awe inspiring Mega Gargant.

However, swallowed in the shadows of these walking cities were the Imperial Knights. They looked a little different back then but they unquestionably brought something special to the game and the canon.

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Titan Legions Knight Paladins

I invested quite heavily in knights, picking up as many of the metal variants as I could. It never really came to anything as, by this point, we had started to move into 40k and Fantasy.

Titan Legions in many ways was the death of Epic as it made the game so big and unwieldy  that 40k and Fantasy felt like quicker and easier games to play in comparison.

Whilst this wasn’t necessarily true, it did take a lot less time to set up because there wasn’t all that faffing about with (literally) hundreds of stands of infantry.

When Epic 40,000 appeared on the scene Knights were all but forgotten amidst a complete re-release of the core ranges that saw the very best and worst of the Games Workshop design studio.

However, I clearly wasn’t alone in my fondness for Knights as they are now a playable army in Warhammer 40,000.

Regardless of the various perspectives on big kit gamers and big kit gaming in general, I think introducing armies of this type are a good thing because it’s something different and presents a whole fresh set of tactical challenges both for the user and the opponent.

If anyone can think back to when Ogre Kingdoms first lumbered on to the fields of Warhammer Fantasy, you’ll get my meaning.

So, twenty years after I bought my first lot of Knights, I’ve acquired…seven for Warhammer 40,000.

My attitude towards the army was like any other. Build the models, paint the models, (hopefully) game with the models. As I looked at the model I’d built a couple of years ago I realised what a colossal ball ache painting a full constructed model would be.

So I did something I’ve refused to do in the past. Paint it partially built. I always refused to paint bolters separate to my Space Marines because it always felt an unnecessary faff.

As I started work on the first Knight I realised something that I wish I’d realised right from the start. Painting a Knight is a fucking huge amount of work. Actually, let me qualify that. It’s a fucking huge amount of work if you want them to look good. I have seen some shockers on the interwebs.

The other thing I realised is that painting a Knight army isn’t like painting any other army. Most armies are made up of infantry, tanks, bikes, jump troops, whatever. There will also be the odd model that acts as a centrepiece.

As armies evolve and grow that centrepiece will change. When my Ultramarines began life, the centrepiece was a MkIV Venerable Dreadnought from Forge World. Then it became the first Land Raider.

Now, 12 years on and two companies later, it currently stands at a Xiphon and a Sicaran. Eventually they will give way to a Fire Raptor. If I get really bored and/or affluent that may be superseded by a Thunderhawk or some other bonkers big Forge World purchase.

It’s one of the best things about our hobby. Lacing our armies with models that make our opponents stop and take note. Not because it’s a formidable model to deal with – although it is – but because it’s just fucking cool.

The thing about a Knight army is that they’re all centrepieces models. All of them need the same love and attention and commitment in time. I also felt like every Knight deserved a suitably extravagant base which resulted in me dropping £30 on various hobby materials.

I also invested in the House Terryn upgrade kits from Forge World for the same reason. If you’re going to blow hundreds of pounds on an army you might as well go balls deep.

I partially built and sprayed two Knights foolishly (oh so foolishly) thinking that I could effectively batch paint them. I was disillusioned within the first hour of painting.

The Knight model is a fantastic kit, it really is. The more I tinker and build, the quicker it’s working up the all time favourite model table.

It also takes a huge amount of work. This isn’t a bad thing but the realisation that nothing could be rushed killed any dream I had of getting the army done in the same time I painted my 5th Company.

To coin a phrase, I had to unlearn what I have learned. After a 6 week period of painting my 5th Company, I had worked out a really effective process that meant I could paint, base and varnish a squad every 3 days.

The Knight that I’ve actually finished threw all of that out of the window. For a start everything has to be thoroughly base coated because big models hide no sins.

As I mentioned, I opted for House Terryn as they’re the closest Knightly House to Ultramar and I felt it logical that House Terryn would have some form of mutual protection/support pact with the Ultramarines.

It did, of course, mean painting more bastard Macragge Blue but on the upside I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

The easiest way to achieve this was a combination of Leadbelcher and Macragge Blue sprays and a fair amount of laborious manual base coating. The gold was a ball ache on a blue undercoat. I’m not sure if there’s any real time saver but the finish is definitely better.

The really big lesson I learned, however, was even painting a Knight in the convention sense isn’t necessarily the way to go. By this I mean painting all the blue, then painting all the silver etc.

It’s a miserable experience. The sheer size of the model coupled with the aforementioned manual base coating over the spray meant progress felt very slow and I noticed I’d begun to put it off.

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I’m really pleased with the end result (pictured above) especially as I’m copying the named Knights from the codex to the look and feel needed to be right.

imageWhen I started the second Knight I decided to change my approach. I split the painting into three batches: the armour, the weapons and the body.

It made the painting feel more manageable as well as more in keeping with the usual batch painting approach. The result is that you get to see progress on what would otherwise be a huge project.

When I began this army, quite a on whim, I was totally unprepared for the challenges I would encounter or how I would questions processes and techniques I’ve been using for years.

But the result has been that it has given me a new perspective on the hobby and made me feel confident about tackling something like a Titan further down the road.

It’s also taught me patience. Plus, thanks to a little bit of wisdom I’ve picked up along the way, it doesn’t particularly matter how long it takes so long as I enjoy the painting when I sit down to do it.

More importantly, however, I can see myself finishing the army and using it with pride.

The Lord Inquisitor Prologue: meh.

It’s been 5 long years since I first discovered The Lord Inquisitor and 5 long years since I interviewed it’s creator, Erasmus Brosdau who, back then was making a 30 minute movie because he loved the Warhammer 40,000 universe. A project he actually began the year before.

The prologue is a 9 minute 42 second chunk of what’s to come. Take a look and then you can sit through 1,400 words of me explaining why I’m struggling to find any fucks to give. I even checked under the bed.

Credit where credit’s due, Erasmus achieved the impossible by convincing the Games Workshop to (a) not sue him and (b) let him finish the project. There were, however, some conditions of course. The first being that he had to let Aaron Demski-Bowden work on the script because it was, frankly, shit.

No disrespect to the guy but it was classic fan fiction that crammed in all the shit he liked, held together by something vaguely resembling a plot that failed to stay true to the lore.

I can say that because I’ve been guilty of the same sin in the past. Although thankfully all those atrocious attempts at writing have long been deleted.

If you’ve watched the video you may have noticed that not a single mention was given to our favourite beanie wearing Black Library author. The man himself said on two different websites that he and Erasmus were co-writing the script so I find it irksome that his name was left off. There may be a perfectly reasonable explanation for this. There may not.

In the interests of transparency, I have a bit of a beef with Mr Brosdau.

Having discovered his project in 2011 I tried really hard to help raise its profile. After two interviews on The Shell Case and heavily promoting his project on social media, he promptly declined any further contact after the first trailer hit.

In his words, he wanted to save interviews and exclusives for bigger websites than mine.

Maybe it’s sour grapes. Personally I feel it was an unnecessary snub towards a site and its readers that had shown enthusiasm for his project.

Despite all that though, I’ve kept close tabs on the project and now, after months of hinting, the prologue was been revealed to the world.

I’ve been keen to see things move forward and the movie to be a success although my enthusiasm has been tempered by Erasmus’ tendency to pull focus. I don’t like showoffs.

Which brings me neatly on to the video. If you’d never heard of Erasmus Brosdau before now and you’ve watched the trailer you’d know exactly who I was banging on about because his name is on almost everything.

As mentioned, it really annoyed me that Aaron Demski-Bowden isn’t mentioned until the end credits. It also annoyed me that Erasmus rather vaguely claimed creator credit. I can think of several people who live in Nottinghamshire that may feel differently.

The unnecessary credits aside, on to the the prologue itself.

It’s gorgeous. I mean really really lovely to look at. The first couple of frames remind me slightly of Transformers: The Movie with Unicron but I admit, I’m showing my age.

The opening shots of the various Imperial ships and the soundtrack booming over the top is excellent. Exactly what I’d expect if a feature film was ever made.

I’m pretty sure Terra doesn’t have an atmosphere any more but we’ll call that creative license.

Terra itself is impressive. Vast, gothic, ancient, unfathomable, cramped. It also feels a little Blade Runner in places and a little Final Fantasy VII in others. Look up Midgar and you’ll totally see my point. This ins’t a problem per se but it did detract from the imposing gothic style slightly.

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That said, absolutely top marks to Erasmus and everyone involved for creating something that looks and feels very ’40k’. At least for the most part. Arguably more so than anything that’s come before it, including the Space Marine video game.

Also the soundtrack is fucking brilliant. Fantastically dramatic and orchestral yet there’s lots of contemporary influences to make it perfectly, delightfully science fantasy. I would buy that score happily.

It will shock none of you that there were things I didn’t like.

The big red balloons for one. They just seem a bit odd to me. The palanquins were stupid. Why they looked akin to Mars pattern warships is beyond me.

The procession was a confused mess of a military parade and a carnival. It’s as if the The trouping of the colour and the Day of the Dead had made an unholy, ghoulish baby.

The Space Marine animations annoyed me. They felt too lumbering and the perfect pace was to hide the fact they were all identical. Literally no difference. Plus I’m not convinced they would have been there in the first place. The Dreadnought’s definitely wouldn’t have been.

I have to accept that all these things fall under artistic license and at least are 40k and more or less accurate.

But seriously though, what the fuck is the deal with the mental hats the ecclesiarch are all wearing?

Sadly my gripes don’t stop there.

The animation of the characters is very rough around the edges. The Imperial Guard in the procession look super imposed. Their movement along the processional was faster than their footfalls so they appeared to slide down the road.

The death cult assassin is typically over sexualised complete with a bottom that, to coin a phrase, you could park a bike in. It’s okay if Erasmus is an ass man, I just think the rest of her needs to match.

Oh and it would have been nice if she wasn’t dressed in such a way to suggest she was going to chain you up and then assault your back passage with an array of silicone sex aids. It was lame when it was done in the Inquisitor game, it’s still lame 15 years later.

Whilst the features of the characters are very detailed and undoubtedly impressive, the facial animations are rubbery and the mouths don’t match the dialogue. I appreciate this is incredibly difficult but seeing as some video games have this down now, I feel my standards have been raised for me.

The voice acting is poor. I don’t know how else to put it. I’m not sure if it’s the script or the direction but it swings from being quite forced to very hurried. There’s no pace so during Marcus’ big scene he comes of as a sociopath, taking delight in the torment of his victim.

I have a real problem with this as whilst Inquisitors can be egomaniacs and their methods and perspectives vary wildly, I always feel like they would appreciate the gravity of finding and executing a traitor on Holy Terra.

Instead he’s the Inquisitorial equivalent of the kid who pulls wings off flies. Which makes him a total dick and a fairly unlikable protagonist.

Where it really falls down though, where it’s left me cold instead of ringing the sex-wee from my pants, is nothing really happens.

We’ve waited 6 years for basically eight and a half minutes of showing off. Before you start throwing objects at your screen and trying to find out where I live, really watch it.

I’ve watched it around ten times now to make sure.

We get a full minute of sexy ships. That’s fine. The ships are sexy and they deserve their time in the sun being sexy. The sequence is also beautifully, perfectly, shot.

We then get 4 minutes and forty seconds of shots of Terra: various locations, lots of dramatic panoramics and the parade. All the while with that brilliant soundtrack playing over the top.

Finally we see Marcus and co tormenting their prey. That scene lasts 2 minutes 19 seconds.

Then there’s 1 minutes 42 seconds of credits in which Erasmus is mentioned 15 times. Whilst I’m all for people getting the credit they deserve, I feel like this could have been done with a little less narcissism, with more time spent making the prologue good and less time spent making Erasmus’ career.

It’s entirely possible that I’m being too harsh, but I really don’t think I am. For all the time, hype and attention seeking that’s gone on these last five or six years I was expecting a lot more.

I don’t think it’s enough to reward your audience’s patience with 5 minutes of impressive visuals, 2 minutes of talking and almost 2 minutes of patting oneself on the back.

For all that though, I still want The Lord Inquisitor to be good and I want it to be a success. I want the glitches with bird animations to be smoothed out and the voice actors to find their feet with the material.

More than anything I want myself the other fans out there to lose their minds over how awesome it is and not get to the end, shrug their shoulders and say ‘meh’. Which is exactly what’s just happened.