Friday, 21 October 2011

Hobby: Broadening Your Horizons

This'll be one of my relatively rare hobby posts. Why are they rare? 'Cause I'm kinda crap.

Today's post will not be a tutorial. It will not deal with a specific technique. There are people much better suited for that kind of article than Mediocre Me. It will, instead, deal with a wide, sweeping principle that I have just recently discovered.

Yeah, truly groundbreaking this is.

Not something I should have realized ages ago.

Changing game systems is good for your hobby skills.

As anyone who's read a little of my posting here will know, I'm a long-time GW devotee, and have only recently moved outside of that particular comfort zone and into the world of Privateer Press. This has had a number of beneficial effects on my hobbying.

Changing systems keeps things fresh
If there's a no-brainer to end all no-brainers, this might be it. When it comes to playing games, new is good. It keeps things from growing stale, keeps boredom at bay, and gives that spark we all need to keep the projects rolling.

BP (Before Privateer) this would have meant a new army release, or a new edition. I'd quite frankly exhausted most of the opportunities offered by the current ranges (yes, I've painted, or tried to paint, at least a couple of models from every single army currently available for Warhammer or 40k, with the single exception of Grey Knights).

With the move, however, a completely unexplored range of models opened up.

Also, WarmaHordes is new enough for me, and good enough as a rules system to keep the gaming spark lit, which is very important to keep momentum. It's much more likely that I finish an army ora unit or a model if I'm going to play with it.

Different systems cultivate different painting skills
So, this is where I had my epiphany. Painting miniatures is a craft (albeit a particularly nerdy one), made up of any number of sub-skills. Painting an army for Warhammer Fantasy requires quite a different set of these sub-skills than painting an army for Hordes.

I'll use my own armies as examples. Why? 'Cause it makes sense, is why.

My Empire army has a little over a hundred infantry models in it. The one skill that army taught me was batch painting. Each of those infantry models is painted much the same: a base coat of Foundation Paints and metallics, a very few carefully chosen highlights, and then a liberal application of a wash or a few washes. No paint mixing, no extensive manual highlighting. The key phrase here might be mass production.

Even the centre piece models for that army have been relatively simply painted (though a few of them have had some careful modelling work done) so as not to stick out like pink cats (who arguably stick out a lot more than sore thumbs).

My Trollbloods collection (since it has reached eighty points of painted models by now, it's not really an 'army' as such), however, has no model in more than six duplicates. Even these units contain enough variety that no actual model is duplicated more than once (so, though I have six Pyg Burrowers, these come in four separate sculpts, that are different enough to be individual). Since it's Trollbloods in particular, most of the models are fairly large; a regular Kriel Warrior is somewhere between a human and an Ogre in size.

What this means, is that each and every model in that collection has been individually painted. Apart from a basecoat (of a particular mix of Foundation Paints) and two or three washes, each and every model has at least two layers of highlights on the skin, and at least one on everything else. For me, this is an immense amount of time spent on a single gaming piece. Some models (notably heavy Warbeasts and Warlocks) have even more layers.

What I've learnt from my Trollbloods is all about precision. How to replicate a paint mix accurately (no, I write nothing down), how to apply a wash exactly where it needs to go, how to highlight large areas of skin smoothly. That kind of things the so-called 'skilled' painters try convincing us are necessary.

Different systems cultivate different modelling skills
This boils down to two primary factors: material and size.

GW makes a lot of plastic. My aforementioned Empire army has a grand total of two metal models, and only one of those is finished. The rest is plastic.
I like plastic. It's easy to assemble (I hate super glue. Kinda. Some of the time), it doesn't break if you drop it, you can easily cut into it.

Over the years, I've become rather profficient at dealing with plastic miniatures. I know how to best glue them together, I know how to bend components, and I am a devil at plastic kitbash conversions.

All of these skills are useless on my Privateer models. See, they only make metal miniatures. Oh, alright, they make some 'plastic' ones as well, but it's not my kind of plastic. It doesn't react the same way as GW's plastics.

So, all those metalworking skills I've tried avoiding, I've had to pick up (again, in some cases, since I was around when GW also made big metal kits. Also, I own a Hive Tyrant). Pinning large miniatures, pinning small miniatures, super glue dry times, and so on.

The second part of the equation is size. GW's large kits are increasingly plastic as well. The metal or resin miniatures they release are generally a lot smaller. And I've actually picked up most of the essential skills for dealing with those small metal minis. And then I try assembling a Dire Troll.
 Long story short: different skillset.

This post is going to be a thousand words long in a little while. So it's time to stop.

So, I'll see you around. Unless I've glued myself to something big and metal. Like a Dire Troll Bomber.

Toodles. (A thousand words. Exactly.)

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