Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Painting Normans, step by step

SAGA is catching on big here in the Twin Cities. Hoping to help or inspire new SAGAmites everywhere, I'm sharing my Dark Age painting process in a single, overly long post. How fortunate that I have 48 Norman spearmen waiting for a quick coat of paint! 

Basing and priming: I used a glue gun for basing as it's fast, reliable and the glue smooths out the "pitcher's mound" on the base of the figure. I primed in brown to save a bit of brushwork. How much of the primer you keep intact is your call. The back of the shields, spears, and shoes are all good options.

Paint in sets: To maximize efficiencies, I sorted the Normans into 6 sets of 8 figures. I then block-painted each set with a single color. I'll mix sets at the finish line to achieve an irregular look. 

Block and wash: After block painting, I washed the figures with Vallejo's Sepia Game Color.   My other go-to wash is Army Painter Strong tone. Both give great results in shadows and shading.

Highlights: While painting for speed, I want my Dark Age figures to mix well.  Therefore, the Normans got highlights like the rest of my SAGA war bands.  While the primary blocking color was identical in each set, I varied my highlights slightly for variety. I avoided highlighting folds and recesses to keep a shadow effect  At gaming distance, the contrast looks quite nice.

There's a saying in miniature painting that it's all about "faces, bases and flags." To that end, I put use Foundry's flesh triad. I painted the flesh last to avoid the trial that comes from stray paint getting onto a face that is not my own.

Shield Transfers: I use Little Big Man Studios shield transfers for my SAGA painting as they both lovely and a time saver. Transfers were applied over white painted shields. Each shield got a coat of my lightest grey and then white since I can't get one coat coverage with just white. 
Color coordination: I sorted the transfers by color-red, green, blue and brown-and matched them to the warrior set painted the same color. While perhaps ahistorical, color coordination is pleasing to the eye and I do want my warriors to look good.
Paint the shields in: LBMS transfers are not a tight fit over the rimless kite shields. That's where you need to paint the transfers in. By feathering your paint just over the edges of the transfer, you'll fool people into thinking your shields were hand painted. I won't tell if you don't! 

Sealer:  I sealed the transfers with Future acrylic finish. Army Painter Matte varnish knocked down the shine at the finish line.

Basing: Bases were a mix of 1/3 fine & 1/3 medium Woodland Scenics ballast and 1/3 of a larger grit.  The bases were painted with Americana Milk Chocolate, a wetcoat of Cocoa over that and then a light highlight of Sand. I put tufts down and hit everything with Army Painter Matte Finish. With that, 32 Norman spearmen are done.  Time to crack open a frosty beverage and celebrate!  The next 16 Normans are well under way but I ran out of shield transfers, dang it.  

I'm planning to use these figures to turn my SAGA Norman warband into a playable Hail Caesar or Impetus army. To that end, I need many more mounted warriors. And Warbases bases to rank up my skirmishers. And more shield transfers.  And a local opponent would be good unless I want to paint up both sides.  I guess my last bit of advice today is to look before you leap!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Quick & the Dead -Dead Man's Hand AAR

Hugh and I got to run the new gangs in DMH. Hugh played the banditos and I ran the Pinkertons in the Judge Barker scenario.  DMH is played in 3 rounds, or scenes, that roughly model classic Western films. The first scene is a small and fast showdown leading to second fight, and ending with a Big Showdown that sees both sides field their full gang.

SCENE 1 Judge Barker Must Die!: The banditos are out to kill Judge Barker as he's sentenced one of their brethren to hang. The Pinkertons must keep the Judge alive and kill 2 of the 4 banditos.  Hugh took to banditos like a duck to water. Plethora of Pistols meant his pistol-armed bandits never ran out of ammo.  Ambush let him remove a bandito from the table and bring him back later in the game. Using Ambush, his shotgun armed bandito became the Grim Reaper. One by one, my Pinkertons fell to the shotgun and then Judge Barker fell too. Scene 1 to the banditos and I do hope the Agency collected in advance for this job!
A sleepy Western town. 
Deploying in front of the Undertaker's Office is never good.  
Banditos pop an ambush. The Judge can run but cannot hide.  
"4 large coffins, please. To go.   "
Business is booming.
Pinkerton down. Pinkerton down.  
"I'm afraid there's been a terrible misunderstanding, Mr. Muerte!" BLAM!
SCENE 2 The Gauntlet:  With the Judge dead, the Pinkertons loaded a witness into a wagon with 2 Pinkerton guards. All I had to do was get the witness off the table.  Easy right?  Well, no actually. The banditos put riflemen on rooftops and gunmen in the livery where I was starting from.  Just as my wagon passed by, a shotgun opened up and down went my first Pinkerton.  They were all to fall in my run to the border, er, other side of the table.

The wagon made it to the table's edge before a bandito rifle dropped my driver and halted the wagon. I sent a Pinkerton agent to replace the driver but he went down in a hail of bullets, as did my witness. With my Pinkertons failing to keep the Judge and the witness alive, I'm forced to change the agency motto from "We never sleep" to "Bad stuff happens!"
Things get hot from the start.  
The well sited riflemen caused us no end of difficulties.  
The banditos sweep the "Whose hat is bigger?" contest.  
Double trouble.
Last Pinkerton standing. 
The "forever" siesta.  
The Big Showdown:  This town ain't big enough for the both of us! Each side put 7 gunmen on the table and quickly, a back ally became a hotspot.  Both bosses and shotgun armed fellows answered the call. My shotgun wielding agent whiffed with both barrels 3 times at short range, earning him the nickname Mr. Magoo. Before he could procure glasses, he was cut in half by the shotgun-wielding bandito, Mr. Muerte. I did manage to kill the bandito boss and that came into play at the game's end when both gangs had to take Big Nerve tests.

Outside of Rogan's Bar, I had a run of good luck when my agent  dropped 2 banditos in cover over 2 rounds of shooting.  
Now you see 'em.
Now you don't.  
I ran my surviving Boss and right hand man to an alley near the outhouse.  Both gangs were below 50% so we started each round with a Big Nerve test.  Hugh and I passed our tests round after round, and we both continued to bleed out.  At the end, I was down to just my Boss and the banditos were down to two Caballeros. Finally, Hugh failed his nerve test and ran. The good guys win but it's nothing to celebrate.  The Pinkertons have 6 new openings to fill and they need to ensure the press doesn't publish the story of Judge Barker and the witness. The shame of it all!

The new gangs were a blast to run and I must say I like Dead Man's Hand more with each play.  It is fast yet challenging with so many options on a well set table.  The 3 scene structure builds a colorful story and energy for the Big Showdown.  The clever activation system keeps both sides guessing and plotting. Lastly, the game goes  well with beer.  What more could you ask for?
This woman means to kill us, boss!
Hiding in the alley by the Thunder Box.   
 A small queue builds outside of the Thunder Box.  

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Banditos for Dead Man's Hand

I'm back to the blog after a family vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I filled my days with hikes to waterfalls,  great food and local craft beers. Southern hospitality is alive and well. The locals I met treated me like a neighbor and not a road weary stranger. As much as I needed the break, it is great to be back home again and at the painting table.

Banditos are the last gang off the table for The Legend of Dead Man's Hand. With plethora of pistols as a gang attribute, they don't suffer "out of ammo" results. Ambush allows a gang member to disappear off the table and reappear elsewhere. They can also use hostages as human shields and also toss dynamite. When it comes to camp and color, banditos cannot be beat.

Figures in Dead Man's Hand get roughly used. When a figure tumbles from a 2nd or 3rd floor perch during a game, they can get chipped. I've switched to a Krylon Matte finish instead of my usual sealer to reduce chipping. While providing a bit more protection, Krylon also dries to a satin finish. All of this is to say that the figures look shinier in the pictures below than on the tabletop.  
I was able to expand my palette with this bunch. The Mexican blanket was a bit of fun and the gang leader in black was as well. He could almost pass as the great-great grandfather of Cheech Marin.
Before I paint, I profile my subject by collecting a folder of inspirational pictures and articles.  I found loads of great B & W photos of banditos. Here are a couple of my favorites.