Thursday, 19 January 2017

Gaudí and the lizards

Titles for this project are becoming increasingly delirious. But it's all for a reason, believe me.
For this new batch of creatures from the World of Twilight setting I tried something new. Don't ask me why, but a recurring image was coming to mind when fiddling with the minis. If you have ever been in Barcelona you may have visited the Park Güell (don't worry, just pronounce it Park Well, sounds remarkably close enough). Designed by Antoni Gaudí (the modernist architect of those curvy buildings in the postcards), it contains, among others, this salamander:

Colourful lizard. Couldn't take it out of my mind.

The association of ideas was immediate. Of course we all agree that the pattern on the ceramic would be a little too much for these 28mm minis, but hey, inspiration comes frome the less expected sources!
So I tried a blue pattern with some yellow/orange stains, and then something similar but in red for the other guy. Here's the result.

Dammit. That's why Gaudí got his own Wikipedia article and I don't
Anyway, once I got the Gaudí inspiration, I dared to do some more gaudy work (ouch, terrible pun) on more creatures.

Nope, not a traffic light
I also managed to paint these other three, once again leaving my prejudices back, setting my mind (and brush) free until I got some fresh, colourful animals:

With these colours, they must be poisonous as hell
Here you have some overhead shots:

Getting these painted in such vibrant colours is equally refreshing and challenging. One never knows what is going to work until you just go for it and see it in the flesh. For the moment I'm happy with this turn of events. Not that much ago I was painting dirty mutants in the dullest palette posible and now I'm going just the opposite way, to a Hindu Holi festival :D
More World of Twilight to come!

Saturday, 14 January 2017

A WH40K (old) comic. First pages

Hi there! I'm daring to bring chaos and mayhem upon you! Well, maybe not that much, but you may want to roll for sanity after this.
I briefly told you about this some time ago, let me elaborate before I show you anything. Long, long time ago (twelve years now!) I decided to begin a series of comics set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. I had been drawing, doodling and making some standalone amateur comics for a while, and I got the sting of taking it to the level of actually conducting a story told in a mini collection. Narratively that would be a challenge, planning the script for a determined number of pages per volume and a determined number of volumes. You know, art shit. Ahem.

I chose the 40K universe for a number of reasons. First -and more important- because I liked it! Nuff said. Well, some more explanation. I could have done a story of my own, but at that moment I was quite into 40K fluff, and it gave a strong point of start, with a whole universe created, in which I didn't need to take 'general background' decisions, as all the aesthetics and the main design decisions were made for me; that would make it easier, I just had to fit my story into it. It was going to be my first fanfic so, what the hell, let's go.
I wasn't doing it on a strict Rogue Trader basis. By 2005 I don't even think the Oldhammer movement was a thing, or at least I didn't know of it. I was happy to embrace the WH40K fluff as it was then (5th Edition was it?), but of course the imprint of how I conceive this universe was easy to see. Less grimdark (within its parameters) and more RPG/adventure/mixture of stuff. If I had to quote an inspiration, it would absolutely be the early Dan Abnett (not that much the current).

I took a graphic novel approach, kind of European comics take. 8 volumes 64 pages each, with some additional contents in the form of appendixes, with additional info about the whole background. I guess the Alan Moore influence was quite evident, hehe (I mean, when he still was a living genius, before quitting the comic world once and again and again, becoming a Chaos magician and that stuff, you know).

I guess I never hoped to see it finished, being such an ambitious project. In fact I only got to finish the first volume, the second one being left with roughly half of it done. The main reason, of course, was life itself, but it wasn't the only one. In fact I got several kind of harsh reviews from close people who didn't share at all my envisionment of the story. They didn't feel, for example, that xenos could play a role in the story as I was telling it, or that a human would even talk to one. I guess I hadn't noticed, but the then-current fluff had evolved quite a bit since my days, and some decisions that were natural to me in my RT set of mind (border planets without law, fugitives trading xenos tech-stuff, Eldar Craftworlds actually trading with human worlds...) seemed totally alien to people who had approached first to the grimdark nature of 40K in the later days. I believe that was the first time I realised 40K was leading towards a different direction from what I liked.
OK, long story short. When I was in the middle of the second volume, chaos, entropy and mayhem arrived to the story. Matt Ward wrote the Necron bullshit Codex. Then it all changed. The ten years of established background went all through the drain and the Necrons then had a totally different way of being understood; with them a big part of the whole 40K background. Some parts were acceptable, but some others changed the role Necrons and C'Tans were to play in my story in a way really hard to reconcile with the general direction I was heading to. I could save the obstacle, of course, but some time later, Matt Ward wrote that absurd Grey Knights Codex. And no one in GW said a word!!
 So well, I noticed that the whole background I was using for my work was out of my control, and that people like the ones I told earlier (some would call them fanboys, but that won't be me) were actually right, my story was increasingly diverting from the 'approved official background'. It all was highly disencouraging.

For me this was the point I declared myself out of the way GW was managing their own IP. I guess I was already an Oldhammerer then, though I didn't know there was a word for me! :D

OK, I quitted then. Maybe I should have done it all mine in the first place, with my own background and all, but on the whole I don't regret of what I did then. I was learning, and as a learning exercise it was a really good practice. The only thing I regret is not having drawn back again since then.

The fact is that I've decide to scan what I have and post it over here, on an irregular basis. Whenever I have a page scanned and translated (you know, I originally wrote this in my mother tongue) I'll be posting it. I'm posting the first four pages as a starter today. Please excuse the amateur style, the poor quality scan, the obvious binding, my mistakes in English and the looong etc you are about to discover...

What I present here is:
1. Cover.
2. Plain text of the inside cover.
3. Page 1.
4. Double splash, pages 2-3.
5. Page 4.

Issue #1 Cover
 The inside cover had this text:

[...] The events that have eventually given shape to what we currently call the Wars of the Hammer are still a matter of study and analysis. Though it is too early to extract any conclusions yet, the job of a good Historicus is compiling all the objective data available while the sources are still accesible. Everyone agrees to point out that the Wars of the Hammer are one of the most relevant events in the recent history of the Imperium. They were a number of events that, in a relatively short period of time, unraveled in very different places and involved extraordinary stories implicating whole planets, whole systems, whole races.
We could understand that the events that led into the Xenic Alliance are, in their own way, magnificent, exceptional, incredible. Scholars always present them that way. But the truth is that those things we afterwards call the big stories are always a sum of tiny matters that only draw the interest of a few.
Those actual stories are made of people. Specific, individual, real people. Prienne, Bajakian, Lords Calgar and Tu'Shan, General Grom, Eldar Ulthran and Ellinderelion... All of them had a larger or smaller role in the Wars, they got involved in one moment or anoher. Names. A lot of names revolving around one other single name. Beronis. Brenteus Beronis. His story is the story of these events, and without understanding the turmoil of his life, the Wars of the Hammer cannot be understood.
If we were to set a point of start, we could talk about when he was but a simple fugitive...

From 'A Study of the So Called Wars of the Hammer'
Historicus Naevius Maro.
Imperial Library. 982.M41

Well, you can see what I was talking about. For the moment it's just the introduction of the leading character and stablishing a setting. I love the concept of hive cities, it's one of the most distinctive elements of te whole 40K universe, it looked like a proper place where to start.

It's all pencils and acrylics. The double splash (an A3 size) took me about two months of sporadically dotting the tiny lights of the hive with the brush. Dot, dot, dot, dot, period. Unfortunately the dusk effect ruined the whole scene.

I believe I've written enough for a day, hehe. If you reached this point I hope to have caught part of your attention. All the comments (including, of course, harsh criticism) are most welcome :)

Friday, 6 January 2017

Tiny lizards of twilight

Happy 2017 if I haven't told you earlier!
I hope everyone out there enjoyed their season days and the new year brings all the best :)

For the moment I can bring a handful of World of Twilight dinosaurs :D

I tried quite different schemes for these two, though keeping the same basic pattern:

Grishak Jenta
Though keeping in mind the 'Avatar' orientation, I'm trying not to restrain myself to that kind of strictly cold palette, I'm open to different colours, as long as they look nice and catch the eye.

This was more or less what I thought of these swarms of tiny critters:

Squeeek squeeek
Well, I start the year with more infamous pics. Let's see if a close-up allows you to see them better.

Not that it improves, but you get an idea
I find it fun going crazy with the palette and not trying to stick to 'natural' colours. I'm not going towards a GW in the 90's style, though. However, as I'm writing this, I'm wondering how would one of these lizards look in flashy pink. Hmm. A question worth of being answered...

Well, this is it for now. Warming up the motors for 2017... Allons-Y!

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Tying up loose ends

First of all, merry Christmas to everyone! I hope everything is going well and you all are having nice days.
While starting my latest project, I still had some other things that needed closure. One of them, of the most recents in fact, was the 'Scythe' boardgame (you read about it  a couple of weeks ago). My mate (owner of the game) scheduled another game for these days wit more people and of course my reaction was as expected; I can barely bear playing a game with unpainted minis. Twice... oh, man, you're asking for too much. So I could have declined the offer (and no one could blame me) or I could be reasonable and do the only logical thing... i.e., painting those minis before the game.

You know me enough to be certain of what would I do
I obviously used the illustrator's web for reference (I can't get tired of recommending it!), but on the whole I worked with a high degree of freedom about colours, specially on the mechs. I had just a week to finish them all, so I hurried a little and made quite a speedpaint. Under normal circumstances I would have added more detail (serial numbers, signs, weathering, etc), but I think these work at tabletop distance for a boardgame. So here you have them, the characters and mechs of each faction in the core game:

Polania Republic
Crimean Khanate
Rusviet Union
Nordic Kingdom
Saxony Empire
I'm not really a fan of colouring the bases, but it was the easiest way to recognize each faction. Not sure if I'll repeat the system for other games (unlikely), but I was worth of giving a try.

25 minis in a week. Not that bad
Well, I was in a little rush, but I work fine under pressure :D. It was kind of like the old times, hehe.

Totally worth of it. I'm relieved
You may have noticed my painting rate (and with it my blogging/forum/etc. activity) has decreased this year. That's due to RealLifetm commitments (working, parenting, writing the [censored] PhD thesis, stuff, generic excuse #6, you know). Next year will most likely unwrap itself in the same fashion, but you can see I'm still riding the wave. So see you on '17! All the best for the New Year, mates! Cheers!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Winged colour attack

New project incoming!

A friend of mine and I backed the latest World of Twilight KS some months ago. You already saw what I did with some of the minis for my mutant tribe. But I had all the rest of the stuff pending. So it was time to start; I will be painting both mine and my friend's (I guess that by the end of the project I'll have trouble in identifying which minis are mine and which ones are comissioned!) :D

For a start I chose all the winged creatures. Lots of tiny models, but they would be fine to warm up the brushes and get into the mood. We agreed that an 'Avatar' approach would suit the minis. You can say a lot of things about that movie, but the design of the animals and stuff is certainly inspiring.

So let's get started! Avatar themed then. That means colour splash. Epileptic seizure would be too extreme maybe, but I could stay just one step behind that.

Rainbow flying lizards!
Avatar uses a predominant cold palette for all the creatures (but for the giant flying thing), so I stayed close to that, though I added a few warm colours to some of them; some variety seemed more pleasant to my eye.
I had terrible problems for the next stage. I committed myself to paint each one of them in a different way, and hard into the epileptic concept, with flamboyant patterns and gaudy colours all over. That went terribly wrong. It simply didn't work. From parrot-like schemes to WWII planes cammo, I made every kind of stupid mistake imaginable.
So I had to go back to square 1 again, breathe and begin all over. I had to see them not as individuals, but as swarms. Each model didn't have to incorporate twenty different colours, but just one predominant colour with patterns or whatever. I left the Avatar stuff aside and begun to google actual Amazonian frogs, lizards and whatever I could find. Then I saw it, oh, wise Mother Nature, you had it there for me to see and get inspiration. I came to the conclusion of leaving just one main colour for the body, light beige for the belly and lower membranes and darker tones of the main colour for the back.
I mean this:

So here are the Frenu swarms:

Casting for the Power Rangers pets
Besides, there are larger beasts, the two Kaopi and the Kosok:

Larger indeed
I dared to do different patterns here with more colours. These were the things that didn't work on a smaller scale, but looked better when at this size.

So this was it. The rest was just about the bases.

What a movie would Hitchcock have done out of these, not those dull birds...
Some close-ups:

Finally, the whole bunch:

Tiny and adorable
On the whole I must say that the real stuff proved to be more inspirational than the movie concept arts, which is quite unexpected. I'll dig in on that way for future references, but for the moment these are quite a start for the project.

More coming soon!

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Master Kenobi... you again...

A quick break today until I start new projects. I had this Obi Wan Kenobi from KnightModels awaiting  for some months. I made a quick job on the mini, one of these things you need to do to take some fresh air and get  the feeling of doing actual progress on something.

I don't realize how awful my pics are until I see stuff like this
Pretty straightforward paintjob, standard colours and a little mandatory OSL for the lightsaber.

I should take more risks and make more (and larger) layers. For now this is it.
It's not the first time I paint an Obi Wan, some years ago I showed the 72mm Kenobi, also from Knightmodels. I solemnly regret not hoarding the whole 30mm ranges when KnightModels released them, but I didn't expect them to drop the license so abruptly. Finding these minis (for a reasonable price) today is quite a challenge, but I take a look on the internet from time to time.

For the moment I think I'll use him for Imperial Assault, here you have a couple of scale comparison shots:

Seriously, man, I thought we had got over this
One day you fight along them, the next day you fight against them
They are totally into the same scale, so it's a deal. That's another reason why I took this quick paintjob on the mini (one night's work), I was thinking more in having a tabletop ready mini than any other thing. I know some people playing the old WEG game, so I'm in fact curious about the possibilities. Shamefully the old 25mm minis don't match these new 30mm ones (or the other way back, you know), but anyway I'd like to have a look at the game and run a few skirmishes.
Ahhh, all in due time...
For the moment I'm just keeping my mood up for next week's Rogue One release :P

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Playing 'Scythe'

I recently got the chance to have a game of this recently successfully KS-ed 'Scythe'.

If the art doesn't draw you attention, you can quit reading now
The setting is quite unusual, and that's appealing itself. It's some kind of weird war in the 1920's Eastern Europe. The factions in fact are the Polania Republic, the Rusviet Union, the Crimean Khanate... You get this, add Mechs and... what could possibly go wrong?

My pal will play the Crimean Khanate (yellow), I'll play the Nordic Kingdom (blue)
So, what's this all about? You will have to conquer (and retain!) several territories in order to get control of their natural resources, which will allow you to build stuff, improve your forces, etc.
You will move your workers and your special character along the board; if you are successful, you may deploy more workers or even military units, i.e., mechs.
Depending on your actions, you will increase factors like your Power (military power), your Popularity or, well, your money! These things are important as you will have to meet some requirements to complete missions or to fulfil some objectives (e.g., complete all your possible upgrades, deploy all 4 mechs, build all 4 buildings, have 18 popularity...). When any of the players fulfils six objectives, the game ends and the player with the greatest fortune wins the war, having obtained the most profitable situation from the new peace settings.

Let's have a look at the reference cards. Be aware they look complex on a first view, but once you get the baiscs it's no big deal at all. You will have a faction mat with the specifics of your unique skills. Besides, you'll have a player mat, randomly assigned, in which your production requirements are explained. This system avoids repetition, as a single faction can receive different player mats in different games, making each game different even if you play the same guys.

This will need some explanation...
In the upper pic you can see what I mean. The upper mat is about the Nordic Kingdom. You can see my Mechs ready to be deployed and my special stuff. Below, the player mat, different every game. This settles which actions will I be able to perform each turn and the related costs for upgrading/building/whatever. The more you upgrade, the cheaper will other stuff become.

You can see the player mat is divided into four sections, each one depicting stuff up and below. Those are the actions you can perform. Each turn you will have to pick any of those sections (always a different section than your previous turn) and then you can choose to perform any of the actions allowed there (the upper, the lower, both, none). Those actions can involve moving (up to X units), paying money for upgrading, paying resources for getting a mech or a building...
Workers can collect resources depending on the territory (wood, oil, metal... even more workers on villages). Mechs can combat and characters can combat and perform special actions.

Best way to explain is playing. Let's go.

Crimean workers collect food and recruit another worker
Nordic workers collect oil and wood
Way too far from each other
 When you have enough resources, you can produce a mech. Not only the mech is a miltary unit that can conquer territories (disbanding enemy workers given the case), but it also unlocks special features. So you may want to think which mech you deploy first, as each one provides different stuff for the cause.

Crimeans deploy their first mech
Few turns later the Nordics do so
At the beginning of the game you get two mission cards. Victory points are achieved by accomplishing one of them. You keep them secret until you meet the requirements. So you have to take the proper decisions during your turns in order to fulfil the specific goals. In my case I chose to go for this one:

Become a despised warmonger. Sweet
"Have 3 or less popularity, at least 13 power, and at least 2 mechs". Sooo. Popularity: Check. Power: Check. Produce a second mech... Check. Mission accomplished.

1 out of 6 goals. To victory!
The Crimeans managed to relocate a mech and a worker to get my back:

Hmm. This might get interesting
Most definitely interesting
Mech combat! Yaaay!
Combat depends on no dice rolls. It's all strategy and resource allocation, just like the rest of the game. Each player has a combat card (randomly taken from the card deck) with a value on it. When fighting, both players use a dial with scores from 0 to 7. Those are the Power points you are willing to use in the combat. You may want to add the points from the combat card. That's it. Both players reveal their points and the higher score wins.

Nordics: 2 points from the card, 5 from the dial. Total of 7. Crimeans: 5 card points, 4 dial points. Total of 9
So the Nordic mech is sent to the HQ tile and the Crimeans can set a Star on the mat:

We're even... for now!
Nordics try to cut Crimeans their way
Third mech is produced...
Crimean character advances while Nordics produce the fourth mech
Second star for the blue team!
Bad pic, but you may see a lot of yellow workers in the back
So another star for the Crimeans, having a full operative worker force
However, Nordics trade their resources and get the last upgrade. This is escalating quickly
In addition to that, Nordics get 16 Power points, another star for them

Enough! Crimeans force the battle to stop the Nordic rising
This time I took no risks and put everything I got on the combat
Another star for winning a combat. Woah, this all happened in just a fistful of turns
The Nordic character raids the enemy position and steals food
The Nordic mech takes the initiative and attacks the Crimean tank
Blue victory, sixt star positioned, the game ends!
I'd like to state some things at this point. Don't get the wrong impression at all, the game was quite balanced the whole way from the beginning to the end. Both of us could have achieved the goals, but I was rather focused on getting one done before I went for another. My pal was on the edge of getting a few of them, and he would most probably have two or three done in a couple of turns more. However, seeing your rival getting stars adds serious pressure and might lead you to rushing and losing the point.
Anyway, the object of the game is not only winning stars. Besides, we both had to check our money, the territories under control and the resources we each owned. The victory was for the Nordic Kingdom in the end, so the Vikings from ther distant North set their rule over the Tartars of Crimea!

Exhilarating game. That's how I'd define this. Scythe is quite different from the other board games we regularly play. You could say it's clearly an Eurogame, of course everything was decided on resources and the way of managing them. Right. But there's something about it that makes the difference. It may be the ambientation or more likely the confrontation style, but this more like a combat Catan. You have to take different factors under consideration, like the popularity or the size of your military forces. It's not just a matter of 'having this gives me that', there's much more depth here (for example, having the full worker force helps you to collect resources, but moving them all to the proper places is a logistic nightmare, and an overpopulation of workers will for sure affect your popularity and make some other endeavours more difficult).
I havent told about the 'Encounters' system, special events happening when your character gets on certain tiles. Another way of adding colourful stuff to the way of developing your strategy.
We didn't get to control the central tile of the board, the ominous Factory. It apparently has some particularly tasty effects on the balance of the game.

We certainly enjoyed this pretty much, but I get the impression that this is a game better served for four or five players. Interaction between multiple factions is quite a centerpiece of the whole system. So we need to enlist some more people for more games! :D

P.S.: BTW, seriously PLEASE go check the man behind the art's web:
You cannot miss it. Jaw dropping