Advice

Living Card Games vs Collectible Card Games

Living Card Games (LCG) vs Collectible Card Games (CCG) :
What’s the Deal?

Living Card Games, Collectible Card Games, Deck Building .. what does all this mean?  How do you make heads or tails of it all?

For the longest time, being a collectible card game meant the same thing : You would release a couple (or a series) of starter packs to get people into the game, expansions would be released every once in a while and booster packs would be sold that included random sets of cards with different rarity.  Deck size, theme and rarity would change, but every game followed the same formula since the concept of the collectible card game was introduced in the early 90s .. this was just how the CCG world worked.  If you wanted a specific card (usually rare ones) you either bought it second hand or opened booster pack after booster pack (after booster pack) until you found that one card.

Collectible card games had their time in the sun.  There was a time when CCG’s ruled the gaming world.  Now, only a few remain.  Magic the Gathering has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, and is still going strong.   Unfortunately for the cash strapped, staying current is all but impossible, as each year a new core set is released, as well as 3 expansion sets.  Older sets generally fall out of legal use if you play in tournaments and official competitions, and so it is a CCG that can never be fully collected.  Smart marketing, but bad for those who can’t afford to keep up.

Living Cards Games are the brainchild of Fantasy Flight Games.  Rather than purchasing a deck of cards to get started, you purchase a “Core Set” of cards, that allow you to enjoy a complete game with a large variety of possibilities.  However, they also release at regular intervals, Chapter or Adventure (aka : expansion) packs to add and expand the possibilities of the original core set.  Each Chapter pack comes with the same set of additional cards, so there is no need to buy unknown numbers of them or search the aftermarket to get the cards you want.  These are essentially CCG’s where booster packs aren’t needed!

Living Card Games take what you know about traditional card games and turn them upside down. First of all, LCG starter boxes will contain a large assortment of cards pulling only from cards that have already been released. No new cards are introduced in starter boxes, and the starter boxes themselves are limited edition products meant more so for new players to get a head start into a game where their friends have already built up a collection.  Aside from this change in starter packs, booster packs and expansions are also done away with. Instead of releasing massive expansions 3 or 4 times a year, living card games feature monthly releases of “collector’s packs”. Collector’s packs each feature a fixed and unchanging set of cards.  The contents of each individual pack do not change so players will always know exactly what cards they are getting when they buy a Collector’s pack. Packs include new cards only, and continue to be reprinted as long as the game is out.

Reactions to this strategy of CCG development are mixed. On one hand, the LCG format makes it much easier (and a LOT cheaper) to find the exact cards you want. On the other hand, the lack of randomness in pack design makes it questionable as to whether or not the game is truly “collectible”.

Still though, the LCG format does bring its advantages to the table. LGC packs are affordable, and they promote more intricate deck building, as obtaining specific cards ceases to be an issue. In addition, the LCG format keeps fans excited about new cards all year round. Just when players get used to the last collector’s pack, a new one will come out shaking up the game again.

Ok, so what is a Collectible Card Game and a Living Card Game exactly?  Let’s go to Wikipedia!

A collectible card game (CCG), also called a trading card game (TCG) or customizable card game, is a card game that uses specially designed sets of playing cards. Terms such as “collectible” and “trading” are used interchangeably because of copyrights and patent holdings of game companies. The rudimentary definition requires the game to resemble trading cards in shape and function, be mass-produced for trading or collectibility, and it must have rules for strategic game play. The definition of CCGs is further refined as being a card game in which the player uses his own deck with cards primarily sold in random assortments. Acquiring these cards may be done by trading with other players or buying card packs. If every card in the game can be obtained by making a small number of purchases, or if the manufacturer does not market it as a CCG, then it is not a CCG.

Typically, a CCG is initially played using a starter deck, or intro deck, which has a basic complement of cards that can be used to play the game. This deck may be expanded or modified with cards from booster packs, which contain a random selection of cards of varying rarities, usually between 8 and 15 cards. One of these cards is a rare or unique card that is much harder to obtain than the remaining cards and often has a higher value than the rest, though these values change over time as distribution changes, cards are banned in formats, or the game is further changed by the introduction of more cards later on. Eventually, with enough cards, new decks can be created from scratch.

A Living Card Game® (LCG®) offers an innovative fixed distribution method that breaks away from the traditional Collectible Card Game model. While LCGs still offer the same dynamic, expanding, and constantly evolving game play that makes CCG’s so much fun, they do away with the deterrent of the blind-buy purchase model that has burned out so many players. The end result is an innovative mix that gives you the best of both worlds!

In the end, there is a very small, but noticable difference between Collectible and Living Card Games.  That is, primarily, the “collectible” and rarity aspects of the cards.  Which one is best?  That really boils down to what you like to be fair.  If you like to hunt for rare cards to increase the potency of your deck, then the CCG is the way to go.  If you want to be able to buy a game and not sink any more time and money into it but still be capable of playing comfortably and competitively for years to come the LCG route may be your best bet.  Of course, if you like a particular theme that may be the deciding factor!

The choice is yours – be informed, check out the options and choose .. wisely!

 

A Parents Guide to Tabletop Miniature Gaming

A Parents Guide to Tabletop Miniature Gaming

There is more to our wonderful, geeky hobby than just board games. Oh, so very, very much more.

There are card games (collectable, deck building, etc), dice games, live action games, role playing games, and the list goes on and on. Within that list, one of the most visually stunning games of the gaming hobby is also one of the most expensive and, some would argue, the most intimidating. This would be the fantastic and eternally popular “Tabletop Miniature Wargaming” category of games.

Miniature games allow you to play games that could involve fewer than a dozen to possibly a hundred or more miniature figures in various sizes and genres. Most often these miniatures are highly detailed with paints and are played on elaborate maps that more often than not include scale model buildings, hills, and forests. Small scale skirmishes, massive epic battles, and even scenario based play are all possible making tabletop miniatures one of the most diverse and flexible type of game available.

However, it can also be quite intimidating to the uninitiated and can become (but does not have to be) very, very expensive. There are three main things to get past when you are just starting out with Miniature gaming. The first, it would appear that you would need to spend countless hours painting, organizing, and building your miniatures. You certainly can do if you have the time. Second, it would seem that there is no limit to the amount of money you will spend and never have “everything”. This can very well be true, to a point. Third, the rules can be extremely complex, where rulers, calculators, laser pointers, and templates are all required. In some cases, these are not only suggested, but mandatory.

What is not immediately apparent is that you don’t have to concern yourself with any of this!  Quite to the contrary; You can start small .. really small.. and slowly build up your own collection as you see fit and still have tons of fun. Tabletop miniature wargaming can be personalized to fit skill levels, incomes, and personal tastes. Even so, it always helps to have a guide, someone who can break it all down for you and tell you how to put it all together again, piece by piece.

A fellow gaming geek has written a detailed and well-thought-out guide intended primarily to help parents learn about the Tabletop Miniatures hobby.

This article covers just about everything too. Rules, tools, accessibility, tips, tricks, child safety, and even some suggestions on how to “test the waters” with your young geeks before you go investing blindly in a hobby they might not even like.

 


Many of us have fond memories of beginning this hobby as young kids. Our imaginations were fuelled by the excitement of controlling armies of small figures, which were then fuelled by loving parents and allowances. I’m sure some parents might look on these type of games with concern or at least confusion, since they can be harder to relate to, which is what I’d like to address in this post.

Overall, the hobby is a very positive one. The negative things I’ll touch on here aren’t meant as a critique of what it is wargames are about – just that parents deserve to know all the facts about what their kids are in to.

The introduction to wargaming usually happens through a friend or while browsing a hobby or comic shop. Figures are eye-catching and line walls in boxes with exciting artwork or sit finely painted in display cabinets. (Painting is part of the hobby) They’d be small, usually no taller than a few inches, surrounded by larger things like tanks or beasts.

There are many genres of miniature wargaming, all with their own rules; science fiction, fantasy and historical (Civil or World War) being the most common, but there are other companies creating other games with steam punk, horror or victorian themes.

Wargaming is:

  • A large scale board game
    • Using armies of miniature figures instead of pieces.
    • That move with tape measures instead of squares on a board.
    • Dice still determine the outcome of battles.
  • You battle opponents to complete a mission
    • Wipe out the enemy, kill their commander, capture a building, etc.
    • To shorten games, some are played for a number of turns and points determine the outcome.
  • Games are usually played in a 4′ x 4′ area.
    • Dining / kitchen tables are usually large enough.
    • Adding terrain like houses, hills and trees add flair to battles.

Each army tends to look and work a little differently than the other, some are easier to learn / play than others, and usually have enough options that people playing the same army will have different forces.

No doubt, parents will have questions and concerns about whether a game is age-appropriate for their children. I’m going to answer some questions, but ultimately it’s up to you if you think this is an appropriate hobby for your own children.


All things in moderation

Even with the best of things, too much can be bad. If your kids school work or other responsibilities are being impacted, it’s not the fault of the game. Any hobby like watching TV, playing video games, card or board games and even sports can distract kids from their responsibilities. If it becomes a problem, limit their time.

What’s the difference between “Wargames” and “Roleplaying Games”?

Lots. While roleplaying games are using miniatures these days, wargames are very different.

In roleplaying, (Like Dungeons and Dragons) players take the role of a single character in a fantasy world; gaining experience, levelling up and amassing riches and power. Games are played from the perspective of the character, acting out things and talking to each other as if they were their characters. Since there is no “end” or “winners” in roleplaying games, things are more cooperative but players become attached to their characters – having a character die would be comparable to them losing a save file in their favourite video game. It sucks.

Wargaming is more like really fancy chess. Players control an army and every game has an end. There’s no roleplaying to it, you don’t put yourselves in your troops’ shoes, no acting things out – it’s just moving figures around on a tabletop. Like any sport, there are winners and losers.

What age is a reasonable time to start the hobby?

Feedback from a number of circles suggests that the beginning of their teen years or just before is about as young as is reasonable, but that’s going to depend on the maturity of your children.

A lot of people start in their mid-teens… At this age, kids understand rules easier, can handle assembling figures and will have an easier time finding people to play against. Since they’re starting to find their independence, some of these questions may not apply, but you’re probably still interested. At younger ages, lots of rules can be confusing, disagreements more tense and losses can be rougher on the ego.

I was about 11 or 12 when I started playing, my brother being two years younger. He didn’t really get into it, but I recall him having a rough grasp of the rules if not tactics.

How does the complexity compare to games I’m used to?

These games can get complicated and even adults have disagreements. Rules are certainly harder to learn than Monopoly and tactics are a whole other thing completely. Certainly more options than in chess. On the bright side, kids who grasp these concepts end up learning a lot about analytical thinking.

Most hobby stores will show people how the games are played, and this is a good way to see if your kids can understand the system before spending money.

Can girls play?

Absolutely!

Plenty of girls and women gaming these days (Including my Wife.) and they’re not limited to “girly” armies. Game systems like the ones from Privateer Press (Hordes / Warmachine) make more of a point to include heroines and female troops.

However, wargaming used to be considered a “boy” hobby, and the player base is still primarily male. The chances of finding a girl at the local gaming store are slim and many players are guys in their 20’s, 30’s and older. Parents may not be comfortable with their daughters in that situation. That said, kids don’t have to play at the store – you can set them up on a table at home and let them game with friends or spend time at the store with a book while your kids play.

Are many kids wargaming?
Will this affect them socially?

When I was growing up, not many were. Even now with video games being made about these games, they’re not pulling people over to tabletop. It’s definitely a hobby that’s less popular and kids could have a harder time finding friends who’d be interested.

Odds are that they won’t find players their age at the hobby store either. Kids may be better off playing with friends their own age, as they’re not going to make the same connection to older gamers they’ll meet through your local store. They might get along well enough, but teens and adults probably won’t be inviting kids along to other social events outside of wargaming. (And you probably don’t want them to.)

For many kids who are into “geek” hobbies, wargaming is an excellent one that requires a bunch of social interaction. Whether playing kids their own age, or people at a store, this can be something that encourages your child to put down the video games and make friends outside of the internet.

How big are these models and armies?

Models are usually a few inches tall on a round or square base about 1″ in size. There are smaller and larger ones too. Bigger models are usually robots, beasts and vehicles ranging in size from half a pop can to a couple computer mice.

Depending on the game system, an army might have anywhere from 5-20 models (small) to 20-40 models (medium) or even over 100 models. To balance, some armies are designed as a small group of very powerful soldiers, large swarms of weaker troops and all sorts of things in between.

How much is this going to cost?

Well, it’s certainly more expensive than a board game. But, it’s no more expensive than buying a game console, computer, a bunch of video games, equipment for a kid who plays sports, an instrument and music lessons or just about any other hobby these days.

I’ve got a larger break-down on my post about Choosing a Game System, but the short of it is that it’s not a cheap hobby. Starter boxes run in the area of $50 – $100 (or more), but will typically include all the rules and two small armies to get started. This makes a great birthday or holiday gift, or something two families can split. This is enough to get your kids started and see if they like the game.

There’s a little more beyond just the models.. You might be looking at $50 – $100 in hobby expenses like glue, snips, paint and brushes. These are necessary to assemble and paint the figures, but it’s also an extremely positive part of the hobby. Aside from the glue and maybe snips, the others can be bought after your decide if it’s something they want to stick with.

After playing the basic game, your kids will want to increase the size of their army, something that IS affordable on an allowance or a part-time job. Models can be bought for around $10-20 or they can save up for squads, tanks, machines and beasts at around $40-60 each. They can also buy more paint and replace brushes as required. This is trickier as a gift, because you won’t know what models they want – gift cards or a wishlist are a good option.

Can we buy used models?

That you can! eBay is a great place to start or local sites like Kijiji and Craigs List. Hobby shops or local players may sell used miniatures too. Miniatures tend to sell used MUCH cheaper than they were originally bought for. (Unless painted expertly) The down side of buying used is that they’re usually already glued together and painted. You might have to help them cut models apart and strip paint off.

Do the rules change and do updates have to be purchased?

Games are constantly being revised to improve the rules and, to be honest, sell more models. Every 3 years or so, you can expect a new rulebook to be released, ($30-50) as well as new rule books for each of the armies. Sometimes there will also be expansion packs add a new aspect.

Worth asking shop owners, is “When is the next edition expected?” It’s unfortunate, but sometimes people buy a bunch of rulebooks that get replaced a few months later. New rules are totally optional though and old models are still usable.

From time to time, free updates called FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions) are released online. These clarify confusions people have over how things are supposed to work.

What if they lose interest in the game?

Kids do that. Considering the long-term cost of this hobby, ask yourself how many interests have your kids picked up and then chosen something else? If you hold off on buying it right away and they keep asking about it instead of forgetting, then maybe it’s something they are interested in.

If they’re interested, get them the basic set and let them play before investing more. If they lose interest, then it’s as if you bought a board game. Or let them spend their own money and if they change their minds, that’s part of growing up and learning to spend money.

If they want to quit, try to find out why. Perhaps they need moral support because they don’t like losing. It could be that the rules are too complicated and they need help learning. Maybe they just don’t enjoy it. If they do quit, models will only sell used for a fraction of what they’re worth – you could always pack things up until they’re older.

How much time and/or effort will I have to put in?

Depending on their age, they may need help assembling their minis. You might find they’d like your help painting and playing too. This could mean hours and days reading rules, or playing games that might not interest you a whole lot. Wargaming is certainly trickier to relate to your kids than with something like baseball, but if that’s their hobby, parents may want to get involved.

A good battlefield will have terrain on it to make it look real and instead of buying a bunch, you could build small dioramas: houses, hills, forests, fences, facilities, etc. If you’re artistic, you could help them learn to paint.

Sometimes you might have to read rules to help where there’s a rule that don’t make sense. You might also find yourself killing hours at hobby stores while they play a game or two if you’re not comfortable leaving them alone.

How long do games take?

Depending on the game system, small battles can take an hour or two, while larger ones could take a portion of the day. (Comparable to a sports game.) If they’re using your dining room table, this can get in the way when it’s time to finish the game and clean up for dinner. Begging to leave a battle setup overnight and finish it off another day isn’t unheard of either.

How much space will this take up?

An army usually fits comfortably in a tool or tackle box. All the paints and tools could be packed away in a desk with cabinets or drawers or in a small to medium sized plastic container. They can work on their models at a desk or table just fine. (Naturally, this can grow as one collects tools and bits over the years)

A dining room table can be used to play on, or folding tables can be bought from office supply stores. A four foot square table is a good size to play on, or 4′ x 8′ for 4+ players. If they start building terrain like forests and buildings, a couple medium sized boxes might be needed so there’s somewhere to put everything. Books, pots, lego, old computer parts and anything else from around the house (that isn’t breakable) can be used instead of terrain.

The benefit to giving them somewhere to hobby, is the activities are at least somewhat supervised even if you’re not playing with them. Hobby stores often make tables available for customers to use as well.

How many people can play at once?

Usually these are games for 1 vs 1. We usually played games of 2 vs 2 and that always worked out fine. Larger games could mean a larger table and mean more room for everyone playing though. A large table can also be split in half to allow multiple games at once. These games are designed for 1 vs 1 though – more people can slow down the pacing and it gets less exciting.

Do they have to buy all the models? Paint them?

While figuring out which model they want to buy some people will use lego, army men or paper cut outs on stands. This is acceptable for short periods of time, but in the long run the real models should be bought. Sometimes developers make rules for models that aren’t being sold yet – in this case, it’s acceptable to represent models or create your own using parts from multiple ones as long as they’re roughly the right size.

Painting is optional, but models really look better with. Aside from some tournaments which might require a minimum amount (usually 3 colours), there’s nothing saying they have to be painted to be played with.

Are there easier wargames available?

Yes, there are.

Some bridge the gap between what you’re used to in a “board game” and what might excite your kids in a “wargame.” These are MUCH easier to learn, tend to be a lot cheaper and are still paintable. These also might be something easier for you to relate to your kids with and get involved in.

A great start would be with something like LEGO Heroica, or fan-made free Lego RPG rules like BrickQuest or BrikWars.

Employees of a hobby store can point you in the direction of current options like Super Dungeon Explore, “Clix” and even Star Wars / Trek space battles.

They’re usually still competitive games, so you might have to go easy on your kids. What’s neat about some of these is that you could play the monsters, and your children the heroes.

If you’re familiar with the rules, you could even try to simplify them. It’s not unheard of for some developers to include “basic” and “complete” rules.

As for cost, these easier systems are usually in the $30-50 range and are self contained aside from an optional expansion pack.

Are there cooperative wargames?

There are cooperative aspects, such as playing in teams while planning strategies together and using armies that compensate for the weaknesses of each others. However, they still need human opponents to play against. There really aren’t any totally co-op wargames out there.

Super Dungeon Explore is a current game that is less competitive and more about a group of friends playing adventurers, hacking at monsters in a dungeon run by another friend. Kids can take turns playing the monsters.

Are there ways to balance things out if someone’s a lot better at these games than their peers?

Because these are point based systems, you could give someone more or less points. Be careful how much, because a few points can make a big difference. I recommend percentage because each game has a different point system. Privateer Press games are usually 35 or 50 points while Warhammer 40k games might be 500 – 2000 points. 5-10% bumps are safer as you want to make it more challenging without the stronger player thinking they’re being punished for understanding the game better.

To help the weaker player, they could be given a copy of their opponent’s army list ahead of time so they can plan ahead.

Unfortunately, the reality is that losing is part of the game and hopefully the underdog learns from their mistakes and becomes a better player.

How are disagreements over rules resolved?

Even adults get into arguments over a rule that’s unclear, so you can bet kids will too. Rule of thumb is to roll a die to determine how to use the rule for the rest of the game and look in to it later.

A game store can help to mediate rule issues, so a phone call can be a quick solution. Game devs are often releasing “Frequency Asked Questions” and “Errata” documents on their websites to clear up many of the questions they receive – but you can also email them.

As an adult, you may have to read the rules and help interpret them. If you do, you’ll need to read ALL the rules because these books aren’t always laid out the best and a rule might not be clear without understanding multiple sections.

What skills can be learned from this hobby?

There are plenty of positive things that kids can learn from wargaming. Painting, critical thinking, socializing, cooperating and even budgeting only touch on the intricacies that players learn.

Painting leads to creativity, fine motor skills, concentration, etc. Most stores don’t have classes, but there are instructional books / DVDs and plenty of online resources. YouTube is GREAT for this.

Minds become more analytical as they figure out what minis they want to use in the game and how to use them to complete each mission’s objective. During games, they’ll begin to get good at estimating distances, math, chance and more critical thinking.

If they’re buying figures with their own money, prioritizing miniatures vs their cost and saving up for larger models becomes important. Maybe it’ll even be a reason for them to get a part-time job.

What kind of language and imagery are there in these games?

If tabletop wargaming were a movie, it’d probably be PG-13. It’s about war, so of course there are mild to medium violent themes. This can include pictures and descriptions of battles, shooting, fighting and death.

There’s virtually no nudity in wargaming – BUT, Games Workshop, while marketing their games to younger audiences, has released semi-nude sculpts in the past. The miniature painting hobby also extends past gaming, and some professional sculptures may release nude or semi-nude figures – not something you run across in stores but could be found online if they’re looking for other miniatures to paint.

Language is usually safe; avoiding cursing, slurs and other offensive words. That doesn’t mean that other players won’t cross those lines – playing at a hobby store could mean a little foul language even though stores will often encourage players to be PG.

Reading novels based on these systems or browsing the internet could expose your kids to stronger language or graphic images.

Are there any other negative themes within wargames?

War, and war-heroes are often celebrated topics, as can be the glorification of war to solve conflicts and diplomacy is rarely mentioned unless someone’s going to get stabbed in the back. The flip side is all systems usually portray the devastation war brings. There is great debate about whether games about war trivialize what real people live through or if they make kids aware of impact war has.

Some armies have been stylized as extreme parodies taken from our history – brutal Mongolian ogres, communists in heavy armour, righteous orders of paladins, savage Trolls driven from their lands and even fascist / xenophobic regimes. Other armies have been created in the image of “evil” such as ghosts, goblins, orcs, dragons, beasts and yes, cultists or demons. Obviously the game doesn’t involve devil worship, but some parents might not be comfortable if their child came home eager to command an army of demons. The same goes for the depiction of religion-based armies, who are often portrayed as crazed witch-burning zealots, instead of a positive light.

Not to pick on Games Workshop (though I haven’t seen other developers do this) but they’ll include heroes named after people from real life. While sometimes comical, such as Sly Marbo, (Sly Stallone and Rambo) there are others like the Necromancer Heinrich Kemmler; named very similarly to Heinrich Himmler. (Overseer of Hitler’s concentration camps) There’s a lot of controversy over that one and Games Workshop’s never spoken out to justify their reasoning about including such “heroes” in their fiction, and continue to reprint them in newer versions.

Miniatures do tend to be lacking in gender and racial diversity. Some developers are beginning to include women in normal armies while others (Again, Games Workshop) write that their most popular armies can’t include women at all so they segregate them to poorly supported women only “Sisters of Battle” armies. Most developers still portray women as busty and scantily clad. (Nothing worse than mainstream media) Human figures also don’t tend to get painted with skin tones other than white or tan, except for stereotypical theme armies such as African jungle fighters or middle-eastern desert fighters. Of course, nothing stops you from modifying or painting your troops however you’d like.

Children can easily misinterpret these topics. It’s always a good idea to talk to your kids about any issues you’re concerned about. Some kids are sensitive to these issues – If they can’t handle violence in the media, they might have trouble with these games.

Some of the game systems also publish novels based on their games. These tend to be more detailed than the fluff in rule books. Questionable themes could be glorified and exaggerated to higher levels and kids could become more influenced by the setting as they read.

Are there any game systems with child-friendly themes?

It’s all fiction, but either way, we’re talking about WAR-games. Would you let your kids watch action movies with violence, read books about murder mystery, horror, science fiction and fantasy adventure novels?

Some systems approach the topic from different angles. Super Dungeon Explore has a very cartoonish style, Wyrd Miniatures battles (creepy) puppets and Battletech has giant robots driven by human pilots.

The two most common brands today are Hordes or Warmachine from Privateer Press and Warhammer Fantasy or Warhammer 40,000 from Games Workshop. GW’s one of the longest running miniature companies with possibly the biggest player group – they’re also the darkest. (Known as “grim-dark”) Their settings are intensely violent and dark and often based off the worst parts of our real life history. Privateer Press’ lines are still about war-torn lands and include some dark armies, but their fiction doesn’t go out of it’s way to be so violent, and they do include a fair amount of strong female characters and infantry.

Am I being too sensitive to these issues?

This is a pretty subjective topic and depends on how mature your kids are. It’s a parents right to control what their kids are subjected to, which is why it’s important you’re aware of the hobbies they’re interested in. Recognizing the difference between fantasy and reality is important. This is a game after all, and if your kids recognize it, then what’s the harm of pretending?

Do you honestly think that if your kid has an army of demons, he’s going to start worshipping Satan? Many generations have grown up now watching movies and playing video games lacking a conservatively dressed action heroine.

In reality, stereotypes game developers play on are similar to what mainstream media portrays. Between news, movies, tv, video games, comics and even schools, kids are already getting the idea that war is a necessary and patriotic duty. Some topics mentioned are questionable though, especially for younger kids who have trouble understanding the difference between real and make belief, which is why you’re asking these questions.

If you want more information, pick up the rulebooks and read “fluff” – the sections (usually at the beginning of the books) that tell stories about the background of the armies and worlds, instead of rules. Or talk to the employees at the hobby shop.

How competitive are these games?

These games should be played for fun, but people can get pretty competitive about any game that has winners and losers. Store will often run tournaments requiring people to bring their “A Game” and probably aren’t the place for kids with a looser grasp of the rules. It’s unfortunately, but even cheating or “convenient forgetfulness” isn’t unheard of.

Ideally, friends can spend a few hours gaming or painting while joking, snacking, and enjoying themselves.

Will my kids get discouraged?

Moral support may be required as kids tend to have a weaker grasp on the idea that losing and trying again is part of the learning process. Playing against seasoned players at hobby stores can lead to particularly brutal losses which can place a bigger strain on the ego. When kids lose a bunch, their first reaction can be to quit. They may need help looking at what went wrong in a game, or creating tactics and lists. Sometimes a list they enjoy playing just doesn’t work against what their opponent is doing, or they play it so often their opponent can predict what they’ll do.

The same goes with their painting ability. Seeing professionally painted models can make their own look terrible in contrast. As with all things, it’s part of the learning process.

You’re the one who’ll know best how your kids will react.

Where are hobby stores located?

Sometimes (though increasingly rarely) shopping malls, but typically in lower rent areas or downtown. Not to say the “bad parts of town” but maybe not the nicest places either. This could factor in to your decision of whether you’re comfortable leaving them there by themselves.

Should I leave my kids at these stores?

This is completely up to you, the maturity of your kids and the store. Some are perfectly willing to show kids how to play the games and let them play their armies on decorated tabletops full of beautiful scenery. The idea is you’ll start spending money at their store, and your kids will end up buying their own models. But they’re not babysitters and a store run by a single employee can’t be expected to watch your kids or keep them in line if they cause a disturbance. Talk to an employee or manager and see if they’re comfortable with you leaving your kids there and leave contact information – also be understanding if they’re not OK with you leaving your children unsupervised.

Would you leave your kids at home by themselves? What about with strangers? Would they turn down an offer for a ride home? Employees aren’t going to be trained how to deal with special needs or medical emergencies.

If you’re not comfortable leaving them alone, then stay. Get involved with their games, bring a book or other distraction and see if the store has a chair available to you. They’re a business like any other, and if giving you a space where you can keep yourself busy for a few hours means you’ll bring your kids and their friends back to spend money, then they’ll probably accommodate you.

Who are the people that play at these stores?

This REALLY varies from place to place. They don’t tend to be jocks or cheerleader types, and yes are often “geeks” or “nerds”. But these are generally good people just like you’d find in any other social circle. A wide range of people wargame, most of them have jobs, often in respectable careers, many have families and friends of their own and are perfectly fine for your kids to be around. They’re generally friendly people, who are quite accepting of people from any background.

However, like any social circle, there may be people who aren’t the greatest of role models. If you feel like leaving your kids at these stores, you might want to spend some time with them first.

Are there places for me to learn more about these games?

Lot of resources are online. There are videos on YouTube, websites full of news, and plenty of bloggers discussion different aspects like list building, tactics and painting. Store owners are also usually willing to discuss the games too but I’ve run in to a few who’d be more likely to sell you product than suggest your child is too young to play.

Can the hobby side be dangerous or messy?
What kind of tools are going to be needed or used?

What are their alternatives?

A pair of pliers or wire cutters are used to remove minis from their frames – this should be safe for most kids. A hobby knife is best to clean the mould lines from miniatures but a small file will work in a pinch.

Plastic glue, while a chemical, won’t hurt or stick skin together. Super glue, for metal, CAN stick fingers together, or models to fingers. As long as your kid doesn’t panic and do something like try to use a knife or pry it off, they’ll be fine and it’ll come apart. Clean it, rub it, gently pull the fingers apart.. maybe gently file it… or take them to a doctor.

Paint for these systems are usually acrylic, meaning water based, and in small containers. Water is used for cleaning brushes, not paint thinner, and spills won’t make a large mess. Carpets could be stained, but you can buy one of those plastic office mats to go on the floor where they’ll be painting and lay newspaper on the table they’re painting at.

Models need to be primed with spray paint, which you might have to help with. Do it outside in warm weather and lay down newspaper or garbage bags to prevent spraying the floor. Primer isn’t water based, but will wash off with soap and water.

If you need to strip paint from miniatures, there are environmentally friendly options like Simple Green that strip paint excellently. (Instead of paint thinner, which can melt plastic models)


originally written by Dave Garbe of Wargamingtradecraft.com, January 26th, 2012 – Edited by I Will Never Grow Up Gaming

Hobby Tips : Gloss Varnish vs. Matt Varnish – The logical myth explained

Gloss Varnish versus Matte Varnish
and the Logical Myth that Gloss protects your miniatures better

 The “gloss varnish protects better than matte because it is tougher” comment is a wargamers’ urban myth that crops up quite often on any number of hobby forums whenever someone asks “Gloss or Matte?  Which should I choose?”.  In this we are going to take a quick look at some of the false logic behind this myth.

For any given brand or type of varnish there is no noticeable difference in strength between the gloss and matt variants. They will both be based on the exact same basic solvent / resin mixture from the manufacturer, differing only in the presence of a matting agent, which is an incredibly minor ingredient (by weight) added to the mixture.

Why, then, are gloss varnishes proported to have near mythological levels of protection when compared to matte varnishes? This is essentially caused by some false comparisons and general misconceptions.  Some seem to believe that  “gloss varnish provides a shiny and hard covering” while “matte simply removes the shine from the gloss varnish”.  These myths are even perpetuated by the ever growing number of miniature hobby blogs created by those who have taken the advice given by others at face value.

  • There is a difference in strength between a spirit based varnish and a water based varnish. The resins will be significantly different due to the solvents involved (spirit vs water) with the spirit based resins generally being the toughest.
  • Usually, multiple thin layers of varnish are better than one single thick layer. If you apply two coats of spirit based varnish (a gloss then a matte) you should not be surprised to find that two layers of varnish provide a stronger, better lasting protection than one.  Generally speaking, most people will only use one thin layer of matte varnish compared to a gloss coat + matte coat (unless of course they know better), compounding the problem.

As a result, the common hobby method of gloss then matte will be a lot stronger than a single layer of matte alone for both reasons; spirit vs water and two coats vs one.

This confusion is compounded by the observation that matte varnished figures seem to become somewhat shiny after prolonged use.  This is often described as the “weak” matte varnish layer wearing off.  While this is entirely possible it is far more likely to be due to the transfer of sebum from the skin during use.  The wax in the sebum will produce a nice shine and it will look like the matt varnish has worn off when in fact it is still there in all its glory, right underneath the buildup you caused by handling it with your bare hands.

Behind this myth is some good news.  If you prime your figures properly and use a good spirit based matt varnish you can save time and money because you only need apply one coat of varnish!

So, which should you use?  Matte or Gloss?

If you want a glossy surface, the choice is obvious.  If you want a Matte surface, the choice of FINAL layer of varnish will of course be Matte (or all layers, if you wish).  There are more factors to consider however;

The main difference between gloss varnish and matte varnish is layer absorbency. What this means is that a gloss vanish is not absorbed by the media (eg: acrylic paints on the miniature) and creates a smooth surface coat when applied properly. Matte varnish, however, is surface absorbent and therefore sometimes the matte and polymer agents become separated – this is known as much complained about “milky” effect people experience after spraying Matte varnishes improperly. Using a gloss vanish first creates a non-absorbing surface (this is rather important when you do complex freehands) that will also provide flat support for the matte varnish.

Gloss varnish will also create a better, smoother surface if you are applying decals to your painted miniature.  In addition, a gloss surface, due to it’s non-absorbent nature, will have higher surface tension and allow ink washes to flow more readily and so a gloss layer before doing your ink washes will help in that regard.

Then of course, for newer modelers, the benefit of using a gloss coat and then a matte coat are that you will be able to see where you missed with the matte as it will still be shiny.

Conclusion

In the end there ARE still merits to using both; just for much more technical reasons than for the oft purported and (all other things being equal) false idea about the toughness of gloss varnish.

Basic Course in the use of Acrylic Mediums for Miniatures Painting

A basic course in Acrylic Mediums

This is meant as a basic primer in the purposes and use of various Acrylic Mediums (fluids) available on the market to help improve your miniatures painting abilities.

Glazing medium

All acrylics are designed to be thinned with water and many people glaze perfectly well using only water as the thinner. At a certain point however, adding too much water dramatically thins the amount of suspension/binding medium that is an essential part of the paint at which point it loses it’s consistency and ability to stick. This is that point where so much water is in the paint that it doesn’t leave brush strokes anymore and instead it leaves a trail of beaded droplets and ‘bald spots’.

Glazing medium is a way to maintain the integrity of the paint while still thinning the pigment count; it is essentially thinned suspension medium, designed to maintain all the qualities of the paint while modifying it’s transparency.

This is where the term ‘glazing’ comes in. In essence you are dealing with a thicker wash with one critical difference; Washes are primarily designed to pool in recesses while glazing is in effect applying the paint via traditional, controlled brushwork, not just blobbing an entire area.

You build the color by layering the now semi-transparent paints over and over until you achieve a flawless blend, modifying the colour one small step at a time.  In addition to the way you apply a glaze being different, a wash tends to be a lower viscosity fluid to facilitate it easily and automatically getting into the cracks and recesses. Generally, this is done with the introduction of a flow aid as well as the glazing medium, and most flow aids make the end result slightly glossy while glazes should dry matte.

Glazing works particularly well over white, and the two together can achieve very vibrant but still entirely natural looking results.

It is not always necessary to use a glazing medium to achieve a glaze. However, use of glazing medium is a small step that can be taken to ensure that you will not over-thin and ruin your glaze.  Glazing without using a glazing medium can be a bit unforgiving until you get a feel for it.

Flow aid (dispersant medium) 

Flow aid is somewhat self explanatory. It applies to any additive that lowers the viscosity (ie: surface tension) of the paint. What does that mean? It means that the paint flows better, that it lies flatter to the surface and in many cases is generally easier to work with.

What is viscosity? The answer is rather complex actually, having to do with some pretty advanced fluid dynamics , but for simplicity, let’s just say viscosity is a question – ‘How much does this fluid stick to the side of a glass?’. Picture putting, say, honey in a cup. Swirl it around, or try to. It does not flow easily, it sticks to the sides etc etc. This is high viscosity. For low viscosity, think of something like vodka, or future floor polish. It flows like grease on ice, leaves almost no residue on the sides of the cup.

In essence, we are talking about liquid friction, a fluid’s ability to stick to itself and other things, how easily a droplet can be released from the main body.

So, basically, flow aid turns your half and half cream paint to vodka paint, or somewhere in between.

Retarding Medium (Slow dry) 

This is another fairly self-explanatory medium. Adding Retarding Medium to your paints will slow the drying time by quite a bit, giving it an oil like quality for a while (how long depends on how much retarder you add).

Why do it? If you are into wet blending using retarder is almost mandatory.

For those who don’t know, wet blending is, in the most basic of explanations, a technique involving putting two blobs of different coloured paint beside each other and then blending them into each other with the brush to achieve a smooth, even blend from one colour to the next.

Like a well applied glazing session, an acrylic retarding medium used in combination with wet blending techniques allow you to reach an essentially seamless transition between colors.

Thinners 

Thinners are a bit of a vague category. What a thinner is seems to differ based on what you are doing.

For an airbrush, a thinner is something like a brand thinner, isopropyl alcohol, windex or even plain old water. Thinning is almost always mandatory with an airbrush in order to get it to function properly as the tiny nozzle needs as thin and low viscosity fluid as you can get without compromising the paint in order spray properly.

With brush painting thinner almost applies to anything that could be considered a dilutant; water, flow-aid, etc. In general, you will probably end up with a flow-aid type fluid if you buy ‘model thinner’, whereas you will get a diluted alcohol type fluid if you buy airbrush thinner.

Matte, Satin and Gloss Mediums

All miniature painters are (or should be) fairly familiar with these, at least in terms of sealers for finished work. Each has some interesting applications for the actual painting process itself as well. An example being temporarily putting a gloss finish on a model in order to lower viscosity even more and make washes flow like butter in a hot pan (they will find and sink into recesses even more effectively than normal). Gloss sealer also facilitates better contact between a decal and a surface, making it flatten and adhere better than normal (aided even more by decal fluids, but that is another bag of beans).

Matte, gloss and satin mediums were not created expressly as sealers, that is a secondary function; painters sometimes employ them to modify or protect their canvases. These mediums are actually meant to be used to modify the qualities of paint colors! Most painters with a bit of experience will note that certain colors, and certain types of liquids like washes, exhibit their own finish qualities.

So, what do you do do if you want your black to come out shiny like a patent leather? What do you do if you want your black flat like soot? The simple answer is to add a drop or 2 of the appropriate medium/varnish/sealer (whatever your brand calls it) and  your color will be modified with the reflective qualities you were looking for.  Simply bear in mind the reflective qualities of the material you are trying to simulate via painting, and use the appropriate mediums to ensure your paint will work with you and not against you.

Suspension/Binder medium

This is what is at the core of all acrylic paints.  Suspension/Binder medium is the polymer resin emulsion that allows the pigments to float without pooling at the bottom and gives the paint it’s plastic like quality when it is dry. If you want to make your own paint, all you need is fine ground pigments, binder medium, flow aid and distilled water.

Not everyone will need this, but it is very cool if you are adventurous. It is also useful if you want to modify a paint you already have and thicken it.

To Recap

Glazing medium – Used to create translucent, but very controllable paint. Used to build up smooth, bright transitions, especially vibrant when used over a white basecoat. Glazing paint should behave the same as normal paint (after you of course thin the normal paint with a bit of water as usual)

Flow Aid/Dispersant medium – Generally a good idea in almost any paint style. This makes the paint flow and cover better, reduces lumpy brush strokes and makes the paint settle closer to the surface. Also an important (nearly essential) ingredient for making washes and inks.

Retarding medium – Very helpful for those who employ advanced blending as it gives you more drying time while you perfect your work. Not helpful for fine line details or edging.

Thinner – Function and use very contextual, generally will do what it sounds like it will however : thin your paint.

Matte/Satin/Gloss Medium/Sealer/Varnish – Can be used to modify the finish of dried paint, can be used to protect work after completion, can be used to enhance the effects of viscosity based capillary action, can be used to enhance contact between surfaces for things like decals and crazy glue.

Suspension/Binder medium – Used to create custom paints or modify/thicken existing paints.  Not likely of use to most.

 

You will find the more you learn, the more you will find that all acrylic paints are essentially usable for mini paintings, some art or craft paints being superior even! It is all simply a matter of pigment count and understanding how to modify the paint using the above mediums to a consistency you like for your miniature painting. As long as the pigments are good, you can turn any paint into miniatures paint, so experiment with anything you can get your hands on!

Don’t forget that these mediums apply to any type of acrylic painting, from miniatures to canvas and everything in between.

A Painting Tutorial and Resource for Axis and Allies

Painting Tutorial and Resource for Axis And Allies

Written by Spitfire38 from Axis and Allies.org on April 1, 2012.   Edited by Rorschach of I Will Never Grow Up Gaming

Hello everyone!

There are a lot of great painted pieces out there, but I have not stumbled upon a single thread that includes a tutorial or explanation of HOW to paint your Axis and Allies game pieces. Hopefully this can be a resource for anyone interested in painting their own sets or for anyone who has any questions regarding painting.

I have been painting since I got my first Axis and Allies 1942 set two years ago; I finished that and have moved onto my Axis and Allies 1940 Global set.

My work has progressed from my first crude brown and maroon T-34s to my newly finished AVG Flying Tiger with shark camo and Chinese roundels.  I would call myself experienced, but not an expert or professional. I find time between school and my job to paint, so it gets done based on how much time I have.

I’d like to start with the tools and paints used;

PAINTS AND TOOLS

I use acrylic paints (oils would be a nightmare, and I don’t think they would work well). You can get them at your local Hobby Lobby or Michaels (or any arts and crafts store, or even the Dollar Store) for about $.90 to $1.30, depending on which brand you use and where you purchase it.

You will need a good variety of paints…probably anywhere from 15-30. Here is a sampling of some of the paints I use.

As you can see, I don’t stick to one brand- if you’re willing to shell out the money, I’ve heard Vallejo paints are good too (editors note: Vallejo paints are excellent, but rather expensive for this task – best to stick with them for miniature wargames like Warhammer and the likes). I find that the paints I have suit me just fine.

Here is a list of colors I think you will need to start.

  • White
  • Black
  • Royal Blue
  • Bright Red (but not orangey…be careful)
  • Silver
  • Yellow
  • A dark forest green
  • A lighter army green
  • A burgundy maroon color (optional)
  • A nice raw sienna (brown but slightly orange)
  • A burnt sienna…basically a standard brown
  • A light grey
  • A dark grey
  • Maybe a gunmetal color…like a silvery black
  • one or two shades of sandy camel color.

Any other color you might need you can generally mix from these colors. All in all you should be up to about $15-20 right now. I already had many of these at my house for some reason, but if you are just starting, this should get you going.

You also need some good tools. I, once again, went to Michaels and bought the smallest size brushes they had, and then to Publix for some thin wood skewers. With that and a sewing needle, you’ll be good. Here is a pic of my tools.

Basically I use the brushes for basecoating and doing any thick camo stripes or drybrushing, but almost all my fine detail work is done with a skewer and/or needle.

Just take one of the skewers and whittle it to a slightly finer point… experiment till you get a few. This is better than a brush because

  1. the point is smaller
  2. it is rigid and won’t bend when it hits the surface of the piece, giving you better stability and detail.

Then a needle for really fine stuff…like roundels and squadron letters.

Grab a pallette, a cup with some water, and a section of an Styrofoam egg carton (the section WITHOUT tiny little holes in the bottom… I figured that out the hard way) for any inkwashing.

Then just set up your workstation with a newspaper and some paper towels, and you’re set!

 

I will be painting a few different kinds of pieces to cover the various techniques I use.

First, I’m painting the Chinese infantry. Then I will do part of the US Navy, then I will finish the RAF with some naval fighters and tac bombers, and finish up with the FMG Italian ground units (arty, mech infantry [armored car], and a tank).

A side note : Painting your pieces requires some practice, depending on how good you want them to look. For me, I “practiced” on a Spring 1942 set.  In all honesty I thought they were good, but then I got progressively better and realized my original pieces were awful. Just have fun experimenting and painting and you’ll improve.

THE PAINTING PROCESS (INFANTRY)

To start out, infantry is probably the most time consuming type of piece to paint, but it is also one of my favorites. There are a few basic components to each infantry piece.

The base – Everyone does their bases differently. I have seen infantry with a base that is all one color, infantry with a base that is one color on top but a different color on the side (which is how I do it), bases with roundels painted on them, or even bases that are textured to look like the ground with moss, sand, etc. I like to paint the base 2 different colors because it gives more options for nations as well as giving it contrast, which can be pleasing to the eye.

The uniform – The uniform usually consists of pants or shorts, a shirt or coat, boots/shoes with socks, and a helmet or cap. Often you can paint boots over the socks if you like that better, or extend the shorts into pants…like I said, experiment with it to see what you like. I find that it helps to make the shirt and pants a different color for contrast.

The equipment – The equipment is usually a gun, (well, I would hope they would always have a gun cheesy) a canteen or pouch of some sort, and possibly a belt, strap, or sash looking thing. Its up to you to decide what you paint and what colors you use. Sometimes painting everything can make the piece look a little cluttered, but it can also be a nice touch. Obviously you paint the gun though.

The person/flesh – This is one of my favorite parts because I feel like it makes the piece look 10x better when it has a skin color; once again, it not only provides contrast, but gives a human look instead of plastic. Different soldiers have different skin colors, but its all pretty much a flesh tone base.

To start, I always paint the base…at least the top of it. It’s a lot easier to paint the base before the boots because you can be sloppy with your brush. Some people like to do an approach similar to how you put on your clothes. First you paint the skin, then the pants, then the shirt, socks, shoes, hat, and equipment. personally I find that it’s the best for me to paint the base, then the shirt, pants, hat, gun, accessories, skin, and then boots, and lastly the side of the base. The side of the base comes last because I usually hold the piece by the base or the head to provide easy rotation and a firm grip. But choose your method.

In Axis and Allies Pacific/Global there are 30 infantry pieces. I usually do 2 schemes for a nation, but for the UK and USA I will probably do 3 or 4 since you get double the standard 20-25 pieces. That being said, I am only showing you the first scheme right now (15 pieces).

Now, to start out, you have to clean the pieces with dish soap, warm water, and a toothbrush. The advantage to doing this is that often it helps the paint apply more easily because the oils from the factory will be off. It takes about 30 mins or so. You just get a pot or cup of warm to hot water (not hot enough to mold the plastic though…just tap water hot), add dish soap, and scrub! Make sure to get in all the nooks and crannies.

Update/Addendum: The pieces in this guide where not primed.  I sprayed my French infantry pieces with primer to get the hang of it and to see how well it works. It’s GREAT! The pieces only require about 1 coat of paint with a few touch ups, and the paint applies very easily. I’m sold.

To spray your pieces with a primer (editors note : Krylon Fusion works best for plastics, imo), just set them on a piece of cardboard, and give them 2 light (keyword, light) coats of primer, the second coat after the other has dried. You should basically follow the instructions on the can – hold it about 10 inches away from the pieces.

Now I painted the bases on my 15 infantry. It’s China, so I’m working with a light blue, bright green, white…those sort of colors. I decided to paint the top a light blue (not the royal blue) and the sides a bright green; not white because blue and white are what my American pieces have) Pick colors that will help you and anyone playing identify what nation they are. (Germany:black, red, gray; Italy:brown, green, white; UK: yellow, blue, red, white)

Next I mixed my color for the base. I wanted a lighter blue, so I mixed on drop or glob of white paint with 2 drops of royal blue, and then proceeded to stir with a skewer. Shake the paints very well so it’s not too thick or too thin. Make sure you mix it enough so it is evenly distributed: often when mixing you will have pockets or streaks of a certain color that will look funny when you put it on the piece. See the top right of the photo


Then apply the paint to the base…don’t worry about being sloppy because you’re coming back over it later. Just make it a uniform texture (no globs, etc). It will probably take 2 or 3 coats to completely cover all parts sticking through (fewer coats, as little as one, when primed properly before painting).

In the bottom left of the photo you can see the base, as well as the color I am going to paint the coats of the soldiers. I am doing a two layer coat…basically a base coat (no pun intended  cheesy) and then a darker color drybrushed/smeared on top to give it depth and variety. easy concept, and makes your piece look a lot better! That color is an “avacado” green (3 drops) with one drop of white.


When applying your paint, especially on infantry and ships, don’t put too much on or make it too thick because it can cover up or fill the details in the figure. So 2 coats is better than one really thick one. Just apply the paint uniformly and make sure you check all over the figure by rotating it and turning it upside down. There is nothing more frustrating then finishing a piece and finding a spot you missed- trust me!  Places to check: the part where the left arm merges with the gun…it’s a part of plastic that connects them that doesn’t really exist in real life. Sorry if that’s confusing. Also check under the shirt or coat where it meets the pants, under the arm, and the cuffs on the shirt.

Next I applied a second coat  to the infantry of a darker color (1 drop of dark green, 1 drop of light green). Its sort of a drybrushing technique…but not really. You basically get your brush with some paint on it, wipe of the paint a little but on a paper towel or newspaper, then dab or pull it across the piece so it leaves streaks or patches of that color on the piece. It sounds like it would ruin your piece, but it makes it look good and shadowed. On something like a ship or tank treads-basically something with clearly defined raised surfaces- it helps to pull the brush perpendicular to the surface. So on a tank tread, pull it left to right or right to left as opposed to up and down. That way you only paint the raised surfaces and it highlights those parts…more realistic and cool   That technique worked very well for my Russian T34s. You can see the treads were painted that way, but there are also subtle light brown dry-brush highlights on clearly visible on the barrel and engine of the tank.

When drybrushing, periodically rinse your brush in the water so it doesn’t dry out and get ruined from paint…it will lose its tip and become a poofy bunch of fibers that isn’t useful any more. I don’t know if you can tell from the lighting, but the left piece (top left pic) is not drybrushed, while the right piece is. This is very clearly visible on ships…if you do a silver or gunmetal gray drybrush on the conning towers and such, it looks really cool!

 Then I painted the pants. I originally painted them a sandy tan color, but it looked dumb, so i painted a raw sienna over it. In the picture the pieces look a little spotty, but I paint over any spots I see while I’m painting. By the end they are all tidy.

Next I gave them dark green caps and painted the pieces’ belts brown. The belt was done with a skewer…everything else so far has been a fine brush.

Finally, I gave them a gun and a red dot on their caps (i’m making half of them Communist, half of them Nationalist…just for the heck of it. HISTORY!) The gun is a brown with a gunmetal grey as the guns metal parts. basically i painted the rings on the guns barrel, the gunsight on the end, and then I ran a line down the top to look like a metal barrel.


I finished the boots with a straight black. I used a thin point brush to get in between the legs on the inside of the boots. Afterwards I had to go back over the base a little bit to cover up any stray lines from painting the boots. That’s why it’s important to make sure you can replicate a pretty similar shade again when you first mix the base.

Then I just fixed up the uniforms with a straight dark green (that’s another bonus of using 2 coats of different colors… you can touch up with one straight color without mixing it and it doesn’t look bad)

For the base, I needed a green, but more of a bright, pastel colored green, not a dark forest or army green. So I mixed some blue and yellow (come on, back to the basic color wheel- 1st grade) until I found a shade I liked. Then you just apply it to the base and wick off any extra that sticks over the top of the side of the base with your finger.

Then you wait for it to dry, sit back, survey your pieces, make any changes you want, and be proud of yourself!

Here are the pics of the final infantry pieces;

One of those guys has a face defect-poor guy. must be hard missing half your jaw.

Every once in a while you have to have some fun as well. So here is an infantry piece with some “accesories”… Taliban infantry, Chinese Rambo…take your pick.  He looks a little messy, but I fixed him up later, don’t worry

!

 

THE PAINTING PROCESS (VEHICLES)

Here are pictures of other pieces.  As you can see in the first frame, the pieces are lined up about 1-2 inches apart. In the 2nd frame the pieces have been painted with one coat of primer. The piece’s plastic still shines through a bit, but that’s good, because it means it is a light coat that doesn’t fill in the detail. Frame 3 is after 2 coats of primer. Priming really helps the painting process!!  Frame 4 is after I painted a tan undercoat with acrylic paints.


Here is a pic of one of the Field Marshal Games mechanized infantry pieces I finished up just to see how it would look. I actually like it as a desert scheme a lot!!

 

After the pieces were given a sand/camel color base coat, I did 2 or 3 coats of a brown inkwash, just because it kept coming out a little too light for my tastes.

The first thing I did after that was the tires of the artillery and mechanized infantry and the tracks of the tanks. The tires were pretty difficult to perfect with even circles, but after a but of tweaking I got it to the desired look. I used the sharpened skewer, as a brush isn’t stiff enough to get the tight cracks and smooth lines.

As you can see, especially on the artillery, there were stray black paint marks, but I went over those later with either a sand color or a gunmetal gray for the mechanics of the artillery.

I didn’t really like how plain the tanks were, so I painted the things on the back (they appear to be barrels, but they may be bundles of supplies) brown to add some interest and variety. For the mech inf I painted the jug of gasoline, the entrenching shovels, and the headlights/mirrors on the front to add the same variety. (they were part of the piece, but its optional to paint them)

A quick note on the treads (Frame 3): I don’t know how well you can see the grey, but it shows up more in person. If you did this by hand, painting each individual line it would take forever. So basically what you do on anything with clearly defined or raised parts is…yep, you guessed it, dry brushing.

I painted the tread brown, then selected a relatively stiff brush, and got started. Get the brush tip wet with some pain, then dry it almost completely off on a paper towel until you can barely see any paint coming off. Then do a rapid back and forth motion over the length of the treads…if you don’t see it at first, give it a sec and keep doing it- it will show up surely enough. By having little paint and doing it quickly you are ensuring the paint only comes off on the raised surfaces… ideally the tip won’t touch the depressions in the treads at all, only the raised parts.

Next it was time for the division and platoon markers. I did this because it

  1. Fills up the empty space on the side of the piece
  2. Gives the pieces more character in my opinion.

It is cool to see the different pieces with its own unique something. You may find yourself cheering on your HQ “black and white stripe” mech inf in the battle for Alexandria because it has withstood the enemy fire – it is now an veteran piece to be counted on!

Here is the site I used for inspiration.  It is a great site for painting ideas – its a miniatures WWII battle site, but its great for this too. http://www.flamesofwar.com/Default.aspx?tabid=110&art_id=856&kb_cat_id=27

Add the platoon markings, do some touch up, add the Italian flag on the back (merely for identification) and voila!! You’re done.

They turned out fairly well if I do say so myself. Keep in mind when you’re painting your own pieces (I need to remember this often!!) that perfection isnt the goal. If there is a slight problem that you can’t quite fix, leave it. The piece should look good from table view (2 ft or so), so it doesn’t have to be an unblemished product.

Do your best work, and appreciate it. I can see some flaws in my pieces right now, but it’s not a big deal in the end. They look good from far away, and we’ll have fun with them.

ADDING CAMO AND OTHER COLORS TO YOUR VEHICLES

You will notice in this picture of my German armor, artillery and support pieces that there are 3 schemes.

  • Desert
  • Woodland
  • standard black/grey (German Feldgrau) 

The woodland camo is a 3 step process :

  1. dark khaki color, based off of a photograph or drawing.
  2. burnt sienna brown in stripes and an occasional “splotch”, to simulate the camo.
  3. dark forest green overlapping the brown, making sure to cover most of the piece.

There are many different kinds of camo, but as a general rule, it looks better when it overlaps, when it’s not a predictable pattern (you don’t want parallel stripes running along the length of the piece), and when you cover the entire piece, then paint details over it. This makes it look more authentic in my opinion

To elaborate the process more;

I started with a coat of spray can primer, just a standard light gray primer from the hardware store. Then, I painted a base coat of dark gray on it. However, the base coat needs to be lighter than you intend the final product to be because of the wash. If I had gone with a near black gray from the start, the tanks would just be black and you wouldn’t see any detail and it would be nasty looking. The base coat was something like “Value 2” from this color swatch.

That’s the best estimate I can give you, since I didn’t take a picture of my paint when I was painting. I can tell you it was one of my dark gray paints with a bit of black mixed in to make it a bit darker.

After that, I did a wash with black. (I have black and brown; I just used the straight black wash. There’s a picture of further up in this tutorial). This was liberally applied, then I sucked up any thick pools of it with my brush until it was a decent amount left, mostly from the tracks and the hatch/MG at the top of the StuGs.

If you want the wash to really do it’s job, you should apply the wash one side at a time, setting the piece on it’s side to dry. That way it seeps into the tracks and the lines in between the side skirt panels or under the turret, depending on what you’re painting.

After the wash was completely done drying (20 minutes or so), I went back over and did a drybrush with a light gray. Something like “Value 4” or “5” from the image. This was applied pretty liberally, because I felt that I had gone overboard with the darkness and that the piece was too dark for what I wanted. But it’s all personal preference, so if you like the color you have, don’t worry about making the streaks and highlights show up everywhere. So it was applied liberally, and I really made sure to get the ridges on the Hummel and the skirts and turrets of the StuGs and Panzers, since these are the really defining parts of the piece, and the parts that have really defined edges and make for a great drybrush. This all gives it the “scratched paint” look, and since I did it enough, it sort of looks like there is a light gray base coat that I somehow covered up with gray, while it was actually the other way around. Here’s an example with the Hummel.

You can see it on the desert scheme Hummel as well. After the drybrush, I did a light drybrush with brown on the turret and MG, and the back a bit, just to simulate dirt and stuff like that. Very light drybrush though.

Then it was time to paint divisional markings and identifications, and then I was done.

Oh, the tracks. The tracks are done by dragging a brush with just a bit of paint across the tracks, and since they are raised (both the tracks themselves and the mechanisms), it makes your job really easy.

 The Italian Battleship 
The Italian Aircraft Carrier.

The Italian Cruiser and Destroyer

 
And last but not least, the Glorious Regia Marina


Note: The Italian subs will probably have an addition of a few colors to differentiate them from the US sub scheme.

ADDING SCENIC BASES (BASING)

So yesterday I whipped up some infantry and then practiced terrain basing … WOW, was I pleased with the results!!

Here are the materials I used.

  • Cut out egg container – This is what I used to make the glue mixture… you can use something else if you want. If you DO use the egg carton, make sure there are not small holes in the bottom, as many sections have 2 small holes. I figured it out the hard way a while ago- paint wash all over my desk
  •  One fairly stiff brush – This brush should be one you do not cherish, and it should be a little bit stiff, so you can paint glue where you want it.
  • Some terrain flocking – Pick what you want. I went to Hobby Lobby for mine… $8 total. You want it to be pretty fine.
  • Tacky Glue– I would actually recommend PVA glue, but I couldn’t find any. So I used this. Its dirt cheap too.


To start out, paint your basic infantry pieces. The only difference is, the base of the piece needs to be the color of the terrain you’re applying instead of using national colors like before.

  • Desert/Sand- Light brown or tan
  • Grass/Forest- Olive Green
  • Dirt/Rocks- Brown
  • Cobblestone/Gravel/Urban- Grey
  • Seasons- White (Snow), Burgundy (Autumn), etc.

Here are pics of my infantry. I painted them in 4 hours, which was actually remarkably fast, and they turned out to be my best work yet.
Next, mix some of the tacky glue with a little bit of water… use your discretion. You need to stir it with a wodden skewer or your finger or something like that. You basically want spreadable glue. But not too much water!

Next, apply the glue to the base liberally.

Now, quickly spread the glue around the base, then sprinkle the terrain all over the base; put a lot on, because some will fall off. If it’s too clumpy, crumble it between your fingers while you do it OR you can dip the piece into the terrain materials.

  

Tap the pieces, brush off any excess around the base you don’t want, do some touch ups, and voila!!

Here are the final product. (The grey pieces I tried to paint, but they weren’t secure enough, so I couldn’t really get it to work… I’ll figure out a solution.) The usual disclamier…things always look better in person, but here they are!

 

 

 

 

Pro Tip : The Importance of Good Natural Hair Brushes

Originally posted on December 13th at Anatolis Game Room

The importance of brushes for miniature painting cannot be underestimated. Being able to steady your hand or having painting skills don’t really mean much if your brushes are worn out or crap quality.

Like many others I grew up with Games Workshop games and for a very long time I was limited to Citadel paints and brushes. Like everyone else my first efforts to paint something were horrifying. The colors may have been applied in a tidy fashion, but it was block painting without layers, depths, shadows, highlights or anything at all beside one coat of each color. As you get gradually better you also start painting smaller and smaller details, maybe even try some freehand symbols. For this a good brush is needed. And it was around this time of my development as a miniature painter that I started to get frustrated and either started noticing the problem or perhaps there was in fact a decline in quality but I had to move on and find brushes from another manufacturer.

Continue reading this review ..