Thursday, February 25, 2010

Growing Your Gaming Group

When I moved to this area a few years ago, I much lamented the fact that there was no gaming store in the area. The nearest was in Glendale, about an hour and a half away, through L.A. traffic. The next nearest was the Battle Bunker, about two hours through L.A. traffic. So, it was just me and my friend who was stationed at the Air Force base. I have another friend who lives about two hours away as well, but for the longest time I'd only get to play one game per month.

Then one day I heard that a gaming store had opened up in town. I went by and though they mostly specialized in Magic and RPGs (they didn't sell Warhammer at all), the owner was setting up a list of Warhammer players. Later, one of them contacted me and we started playing small games. The game store (Battle Grounds) then moved to a larger store across the street and we then could play on full sized tables, though there were only three players. We then discovered more players through my friend at the Air Force base, though because of the distance they can't come regularly.

Tuesday night, we had seven players show up. Three of them are getting into the game, and one is getting back into the game after a long hiatus. We've gone from just two players to a growing group, and now the game store is going to start carrying Warhammer.

I attribute two factors to our growth, the first and most important being a supportive FLGS. They don't really have terrain (we have to supply our own) but they have tables and they let us play. This sounds pretty basic, but an unsupportive LGS can kill any Warhammer community. When I was younger, there was a store in the area that would kick players out if they didn't have painted models. Now they're an overpriced empty shell of a game store with absolutely no Warhammer patrons and a massive stock of ancient metal models that they will never sell (the good ones have all been picked clean). They only sell board games and kids toys now. Anyone from the Utah Valley area will know exactly which store I'm talking about.

The second factor is keeping a regular gaming night. With a few exceptions, we've had a game going once a week for the past year and a half. Knowing that there's a regular group helps attract new players, and keep the veterans coming.

What factors do you think help a gaming group grow, and what can hinder its growth?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Photographing Your Minis

Here's how I photograph my models. You don't need a fancy light box, just a backdrop, tripod and a camera that allows you to adjust your aperture and shutter speed manually. If you are not sure what those terms mean, I'm not going to go into it, it's pretty easy to learn the basics online.

Here's my setup. I simply use natural lighting. Do not use direct lighting, it will create harsh shadows. I use indirect sunlight. Overcast days are the best for this but in the high desert of southern California such are rarities, along with people driving under the speed limit. Gentle indirect sunlight, such as that from north-facing windows (if you're in the northern hemisphere, folks down under will have to reverse those instructions) is the best. Make sure all artificial lights are off as they will add unwanted color to your photo. Incandescent bulbs will give it a yellow cast while fluorescent will give a nasty cold green. I'm not sure about the "natural light" bulbs which claim to be pure white, I figure natural sunlight works fine for me. It has a tone of its own but I'm familiar with it and can easily correct the color balance.

The next thing you need is a backdrop. My main one is a blue-to-white fade. The top is 75% pure blue and the bottom is 25% blue. You can make it yourself with Photoshop but I understand you can also find them online and simply download them. I'm not sure why everyone uses blue, but it does seem to work really well, it makes the mini stand out better than a gray backdrop. Unless you're playing Ultramarines, or an army covered in woad. If you don't have this, or don't want to spend an entire print cartridge on just one backdrop (by the way it needs to be at least 11" wide, you'll have a tough time with large vehicles if not) a simple light gray shirt or pillowcase will suffice. A large piece of off-white paper actually works quite well. I use an off-white piece of paper for photographing my Tyranids as it makes the blue stand out better.

Set it up with a gentle curve. You don't want a fold. I support mine with a diaper box and two spray cans, but you don't need to follow my recipe exactly.

Next you'll need a tripod. I bought mine for less than $10 in Circuit City's death throes. You can find them quite cheap, usually from sketchy people in heavy tourist areas. I have been to Italy and they certainly have a thriving tripod industry. When Francesco de Sanctis designed the Spanish Steps I'm quite sure he never imagined a bunch of non-Italian peddlers hawking tripods, bizarre toys and knock-off handbags on them. Anyway, you can get one for cheap. It doesn't need to be a big one. If you can't get a tripod, try balancing your camera on some books. It gets hard when you need to do a top-down shot and you're balancing on books.

If you notice in my picture above, the tripod is on the chair. This is so I can get a straight on shot. With the legs folded it is too tall, so this is what I found that works best.

Finally, your need to have a camera that will let you manually set the aperture and shutter speed. What you want is a closed down aperture, the higher the number the better (a real photographer will probably argue that point but it works). This means you will need an exceedingly slow shutter speed. Mine generally runs at a couple of seconds, some days with less light I have had the shutter open for at least ten seconds. On that note, unless you have a remote for the shutter, you will need to set the timer for the exposure. Otherwise, when you hit the button, the mere pressure from your hand will shake the camera, making your photograph look like the filming of Cloverfield. Simply hit the timer, stand back and let the camera do its thing.

The reason you need the previous step is for the focus of the mini. If your aperture is wide open, the foreground and background of the picture will be out of focus. I'm sure you guys have all seen pictures of models mostly out of focus. By closing down the aperture, and therefore having to increase exposure time, it puts the whole miniature in focus. You'll notice that even on huge models like my Barbed Hierodule the whole thing is in focus.

Later I put the image through Photoshop and adjust the white balance, crop it and that's it! It's cheating to do touchups on your own painted models.

For the TLDR crowd, indirect lighting, tripod, and slow exposure. Hope this helps, let me know if I wasn't clear on anything in the comments.

**Post Edit 1/15/11** I have improved my technique even further.  I bought a full size tripod at a garage sale for $5.  It's fantastic.  Also, I've discovered that I don't need to close the F-Stop all the way.  Depending on the mini you can adjust it in the midranges and still have everything in focus.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mawloc Shenanigans!

Tuesday we played a 1v1v1 game as we only had three players show up and wanted to try something different. There's rules guidelines in the back of the BRB, so we used those. It was...interesting to say the least. I regret not taking a picture of this, but one opponent's Plague Marines charged a 30-man Imperial blob squad. The resulting combat was tied, but there was a huge clump of 30+ models left...and while it was not the most strategic choice (there were other pressing matters like a World Eaters squad attacking my objective) I simply couldn't resist. I dropped the Mawloc straight on and got a hit. I hit 27 models. I rolled a lot of ones and only killed 18 guys total, but it was an epic moment.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Another Painting Challenge...Failed

Last week I was hoping to finish painting my Tervigon by today...well it didn't happen. I only have the black and blue left to highlight but there simply aren't enough hours in the day. I was hoping to enter it painted into Warpshadow's contest, but I just had to submit the unpainted build. Hopefully I'll get it done by the end of this week.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Another Thought on the Malantai Debate

One of the hottest debates right now in the 40k online community is whether or not the Doom of Malantai's aura effect affects units inside transports. I'm on the side that it doesn't, and I don't really want to get in on the debate but a thought occurred to me that I have not seen elsewhere, and figured I should point it out.

One point of contention for the whole debate is that there are no rules for if a unit in a transport has to take a morale check. What I'd like to bring up, and this is a case of neglectful rules writing on GW's part, is that the 40k rules allow models inside an AV to take casualties.

If your group uses the Buildings rules towards the end of the rulebook (they're not optional, your group should be using them) you'll know that flame template weapons can affect the guys inside. Yet there are absolutely no rules for what happens if they take enough casualties to take a morale check. This is a big problem in Planetstrike.

My gaming group simply assumes units inside a building are Fearless to avoid this problem. We usually have two to three buildings per game, so this situation has come up plenty of times before.

As for the DooM himself, I don't think he can affect units in transports. However, this does go to show that there are certain effects that can harm a unit inside, lending some credence to that argument.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Tervigon Build Complete

3/4 of a tube of Green Stuff later, it is finished! I am certainly no Green stuff pro and it shows. That said, I still think I did okay for my first real green stuff project (the Master of the Ravenwing had some green stuff robes but that was hardly anything).

The termagants on the base are magnetic. They serve as wound counters. I am planning on having all my nids have magnetic wound counters on their bases. I have found that I have trouble keeping track of the many wounds, especially in multi-wound units.

I have begun painting it now. I wanted to turn it in for BOLS's contest, but my carnifex shipped a week later than it was supposed to so I couldn't finish on time.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Let's Talk Boardgames: Dominion: Intrigue

Enough colons in the title? Last edition of this feature talked about Dominion, so this time we'll discuss its stand-alone expansion, Dominion: Intrigue.

The basic gameplay remains the same for Intrigue, so if you missed it, check out my first review. Assuming you've read that, let's proceed with the expansion.

The cards are all fully compatible. You can mix and match the sets as you please. I have yet to try mixing the two sets, but should you get tired of either one mixing them up would bring new life to the game as it opens up new combos.

Where Intrigue stands better than its predecessor is in the interactivity. As I mentioned before, the biggest problem with the first game is that most games end up running down the same route, and it ends when someone purchases the last province card. In Intrigue, I haven't had that happen yet. Mostly, we run out of other cards first because the strategies are so radically different.

In addition, the cards are much more interactive. This helps more than anything in getting non-gamers to play and enjoy the game. Some of the attack cards are downright nasty, and provide that "screw you" factor that some people enjoy. Since none of the attacks are targeted, you can still screw over your friends without anyone feeling picked on. While many hardcore fans saw this as a drawback, I see it as an advantage. This forces you to change your game and adopt new strategies instead of the same old boring Province decks.

One other area that stands out is the dual-purpose cards. In standard Dominion, money and other cards do nothing for you at the end of the game, while during the game your hand can become clogged with victory cards which do nothing until the end of the game. In Intrigue, several cards have uses beyond victory. For example, one card is both and action and victory card. Another is money and victory. Yet others enhance the value of other victory cards. These cards vary the strategy as they can be more valuable than the Province (though the Province is still worth the most victory points).

This is a stand-alone expansion, unlike Sesaside and the upcoming Alchemy, so you can start with this set. I would recommend doing so, as I have had much more fun with this version than the first, and that's saying something. It is easy to learn (I taught my 9-year-old nephew) but difficult to master. No two play-throughs will be the same as there's the same wide selection of cards as in the first game.

Next time I write this, I'll be looking at some other favorite games of mine. Stay tuned!

Image taken from

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Axe Cop

If you'll forgive me for a non-40k post, I'd like to recommend you to read Axe Cop. This hilarious comic is written by a 5 year old and illustrated by his 29 year old brother. It reminds me of the stories I wrote when I was that age. It has a child's innocence, and the grown-up drawings add a layer of awesome that's hard to describe. Seriously, check it out.

The website frequently goes down because the makers didn't realize how popular it was going to be. If it is down when you go, you can see the first 6 episodes here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Master of the Ravenwing Landspeeder Complete

Here he is! I entered him in the Golden Bolters competition. I don't expect to win but I think I really pushed myself on this one, so I'm a winner no matter what :)

I figured this is a rarely seen model, doing a Google Image search for it yields very few results. I made it out of many bits, but especially the Ravenwing upgrade sprue. The Landspeeder kit itself is somewhat of a pain as certain parts don't want to align properly. Now that I look at it, I think I should have weathered the bumper area.

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