Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Why painting challenges rock

Seems like my Soviet units are like buses - wait for one forever, and then two arrive pretty much at the same time.

Blame the Guild forum for this. They (like many others) run a series of painting challenges. In addition to an annual challenge, in which you pledge to produce quarterly results in a chosen theme, there are shorter, focused painting challenges on themes set by the forum admin. At the end of each challenge, forum members vote for the winners. Small prizes are awarded to the winners, and all those who entered get recognition of their efforts in the form of "campaign medals" that get displayed on their forum profile.

I have really started to enjoy entering these challenges - as it encourages a more "completionist" (is that a word?) approach and discourages my ADHD hobby tendency. Once I enter or pledge to a challenge, I seem to make more of an effort to get the project done.  Yes, its a bit strange that I hold myself accountable to a bunch of strangers in a remote corner of the web, but I see it more about making a commitment to myself to get something done.

Also, because I know my hobby time is limited, I forces me to think very carefully before each challenge as to what is achievable, and not to over-commit. Fewer over-ambitious projects get started, and therefore fewer get abandoned put aside as my interest wanes. And with that comes a true appreciation of the scale of the lead (and resin) pile that has accumulated in my hobby room. With a more conscious awareness of how much I can paint, I have become more careful and more selective with my purchases - fewer impulse buys of miniatures that are doomed to stay unpainted.

Now, there is no way I am ever in contention for any of the prizes  - the standard of painting by the prizewinners is way beyond my skills. I count myself lucky to get a vote or two each round. But that doesnt mean that its a process only for better painters - there is a good spread of skill levels and all entries get positive feedback and encouragment. Why the Guild rather than other sites that run challenges? I guess its because it has a good overlap with my current interests - the entries are predominantly of WW2 miniatures, but entries outside of that interest are treated with the same respect. It also has a good sense of community, and is independent of any wargames company. (There are multiple sponsors - mostly individuals, but also a range of manufacturers.)

This year my annual challenge pledge is the continuation of the deliberately broad Africa/Italy/Balkans WW2 in 28mm project: at this stage mostly my South Africans in Italy, and their opponents, but I can see by the end of the year a potential to shift to the East African campaign.

The shorter-term themed challenges I hope to use to chip away at the lead pile, and get units painted that otherwise would linger beyond my interest in them.

The downside I guess is that because of time limitations, I have found myself taking shortcuts with builds: in some cases small details that I would have normally corrected were allowed to stand. Not sure if this is all bad. Maybe it will cure me of my tendency to get bogged down in the details.

Red Army 120mm Mortar Team

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved

Produced for the most recent speed painting challenge on The Guild forum.

The figures were selected from the Bolt Action Soviet Forward Observer blister and the 120mm Mortar Team (since I purchased this, Warlord have apparently added another figure to the mortar blister).

If it wasnt for this being a speed build, I think I would have made different decisions:

  • I was very unhappy with the scale difference of the rifles on the various figures - and I think I would normally have dremeled off the sidearms and replaced them with consistently-scaled rifles. I have noticed this before with the Bolt Action Soviets - there seem to be vast differences in scale and style of sculpts between blisters.
  • The mortar ammo and ammo cases were all over the place, scale-wise, and I think I should have scratch-built replacements.
  • The spotter with the map has 5 fingers AND a thumb on his left hand - I didnt notice this until I washed in some ink, and then I was a way down the road with the painting, and decided I couldnt afford the time to correct it.

There were times – early in process – that I considered abandoning the entire project – even on the nicer sculpts (from the spotter blister) there was a lot of flash and mould slip, and the mortar crew proper were nasty-looking castings. Not ideal entries for a competitive build! I hope that with the repackaging of the mortar team they took the opportunity to remaster and correct these issues.

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved
© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved

In the end I wont be too unhappy with them on the table (especially as more often than not I will only be using the spotter team, assuming the weapon is off-table), but I normally try to approach things with less of a wargaming attitude and more of a scale modellers attitude.

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved
Figures from the Warlord Games Soviet 120mm Mortar Team blister (since repackaged to 4 figures).

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved
Figures from the Warlord Games Soviet FOO blister.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Monks for Saga

Image © Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All Rights Reserved.
Furious friars. Miffed monks. Piqued padres. Call them what you like, here is my next unit for games of Saga. Standing in for levies, with a few special rules to offend their opponents, they can be used in any warband that is not Viking-based.

The pack of twelve from Gripping Beast includes only four poses, so I swapped out most of their weapons with agricultural implements to create a better impression of variety. A couple of figures also got shields ("…Brother Thomas, ever the pragmatist, was of the firm opinion that when fighting Vikings one needed more that the shield of faith and the sword of spirit." He was supported in this stance by Brother Winston the Englishman, who argued that 'one should first fight Vikings on the beaches, and then in the fields, and then in the hills, if any of us are left'. " )

Image © Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All Rights Reserved.
Image © Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All Rights Reserved.
These used the same speed-painting style I used for the rest of my Saga figures: prime; block and detail; Army Painter dip; and a simple single-stage highlight to finish.