Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sentinel Tactics: Actual Play 1

So having punched out tokens, painted and repainted miniatures, and constructed some 3-D terrain, I finally had a chance to make it up to Emerald Tavern and play Sentinel Tactics.

Omni-Tron sends out drones to menace Ra while Absolute Zero
puts up an ice wall to block the robot mastermind's line of sight.
 My friends and I started with a couple of simple skirmishes: Omni-tron (with drone deployment) versus Absolute Zero, Legacy, and Ra, played to 3 incapacitations. This was not a balanced skirmish, since Omnitron could just spam drones faster than the heroes could stop him, and once Omitron's player realized she could just gang up on Ra, things went to pot pretty quickly. There was something of a rally on the heroes' side when Ra used his Living Pyre power (which creates hazards spaces adjacent to Ra, which meant that the melee drones tended to get scorched before they could attack) and AZ and Legacy focused fire on Omnitron, but it was too little too late. It didn't help that Ra's player rolled very poorly on his defense dice.

Omnitron's player contemplates deploying yet another drone.
Another player joined after the first game, and we played two proper 3 on 3 skirmishes: me with Legacy, AZ, and Proletariat against the Operative, Omnitron, and Ra. For the second skirmish, I switched out Legacy and AZ for Beacon and Unity. In both cases, I just got stomped. There has to be a way to use Proletariat such that he can concentrate to attack without getting curb-stomped by AoE attacks, but I couldn't figure it out. Ra would Inferno the clones or Omnitron would use Ocular Beams or the Operative used her Kusarigami/Hidden Blade combo to pull Proletariat adjacent and stab him a bunch.

Emerald Tavern is a game store and a pub, so I
can drink mead while my villains take over a
For the last game, we played a scenario from Uprising: the Operative and the Organization's underbosses try to take over the city while being defended by Beacon, Ra, and Unity. This was something of a steamroller for the villain side (played by me): I brought most of the underbosses up to improve their lines of sight, spawned thugs with just about every action, and used the Operative to punish any hero who got close. The heroes, in contrast, never quite managed to get Ra in a position to blow stuff off and spent too much time trying to set up an Arcing Strike attack with Unity. My feeling is that Unity should get Champion Bot out to buff Beacon and Ra while Beacon uses Bolstering Attack to get another use of Ra's Inferno to take out clusters of thugs and Underbosses. The heroes never really focused fire on the Underbosses, and a late game Drawn to the Flame wasn't enough.

Ra puts a Blazing Tornado underneath the
Contract to encourage her to go someplace
Overall, it was a fun game and set of plays. There's enough complexity to the game to make it engaging, but it's very quick and straightforward enough to learn (compared to some of the stuff we've tried like Game of Thrones or Mage Knight...) As beginners, we played 4 games in about 5 hours, so it's not quite as quick to play as the rules suggest but it's perfectly reasonable to play a couple of different scenarios in an afternoon or evening.

Aside: The 3D terrain was really helpful, and simplified explaining line of sight and figuring it out in play. Having all the raised terrain being physically raised was great. I'm hoping if there's ever an Enhanced Edition for Sentinels Tactics that GtG will include some pre-cut cardboard terrain.

The Underbosses and thugs are various miniatures I already had, but they look nicer than having tokens. We sticky-tacked the underboss minis to their tokens for quick identification.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Paint and repaint: Sentinels Tactics miniatures are finished!

The Citizens of the Sun!

I spent the better part of a week painting these guys, putting in several hours every day. I usually enjoy painting miniatures, even with the inevitable frustrations, but these guys were driving me crazy towards the end. Paint 8 sets of pants black. Go back and paint 8 sets of boots, gloves, armbands, and legbands red. Go back and clean up the bits where the red leaked onto the black. Go back and paint the bits where the black leaked on the red. Then paint other parts of the miniatures, and notice spots that were missed, and do it all again. It was crazy.

On to the individual figures! As a note, I haven't permanently based any of these figures, and I had them all on temporary individual stands while I was working on them (as you can see above). So the paint jobs are somewhat better than they would be if I had to get around even more complicated bits.

Citizens Tears, Blood, and Sweat. For some reason, all of the female citizens are supposed to be in their own individually colored dresses, and all the male citizens are in a uniform of black pants, beige/gray shirts, and red accents. The original artwork for Citizen Blood has him in what is clearly a dark red velvet tuxedo, which looks appropriately goth, and I decided to keep that theme. Tears and Sweat got normal dresses.

Blood is supposed to have a monocle in his right eye, and Sweat is supposed to have pinkish eyes. I painted them that way, but I don't know if the detail shows up in the pictures.

Citizens Summer, Spring, Autumn, and Winter. These were pretty straightforward to paint, and simpler than the guys below. Winter is described in her background as not having pupils, just solid milky white eyes, so the lack of detail there isn't a mistake. Autumn is not solidly in contact with her base, and shouldn't be leaning so drunkenly - oops! But still, she looks fine, and there's some nice drybrush work on the dead tree behind her.

Citizens Dare and Truth are supposed to be in gray and black uniforms like everyone else, but their original card art has them in reversed red and orange outfits as fits their nature as diametrically opposed twins, so I went with that instead. These figures were a lot easier to paint for being in resin as opposed to lead - I could just fold the manifestations of their powers out of the way when I wanted to get an area that would otherwise be covered. I don't think that would be possible with lead or pewter, or at least, it would have been something I could only do safely once or twice instead of whenever was convenient. I should probably drybrush Truth's energy field with gold to make it glow a bit.

Citizens Assault and Battery, Hack and Slash, and Hammer and Anvil. Nothing really complicated here, but everything was a bit tedious. The beige overshirts are a medium grey, heavily drybrushed with a dark cream/khaki brown, and came out very well in these pictures (if a little less well up close). I painted the undershirts in a solid orange, instead of the complicated brown/orange checkered pattern shown in the card art. Slash's energy claws are medium purple drybrushed with hot pink, which was a not entirely successful experiment. Battery's sword is supposed to be glowing light blue, but I couldn't think of a way to make it work so I just left it as uncharged steel.

So that's all the Sentinel Tactics figures out so far. There's supposed to be an add-on pack out (in May 2015 or some such crazy thing) that adds Blade Battalion soldiers, the organization's Underbosses, the Omni-Reaper, and some dinosaurs. I can proxy most of those figures for now, but I'll probably pick it up when it comes out because hey, dinosaurs.

Tomorrow I'm meeting some friends at Emerald Tavern to actually play the game, so there should be some more pictures from that. And then I'll be done with talking about Sentinels Tactics on this blog for a while.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sentinels Tactics: Building up the Terrain

There's a project going on right at the Sentinels Tactics forums on creating 3-D terrain for the game. The approach is to print intricate designs on card stock that can then be cut up, folded, and glued and taped together. Some of the preview shots look pretty good:
Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to capitalize on this work, for three reasons:
  1. I am terrible at cutting up, folding, and gluing cardstock shapes in such a way that they don't immediately spring apart and have to get taped down.
  2. I know from previous experience that even if I could make decent cardstock buildings, after I toss them in a box and drive them to the game store on the other side of town a couple of times, they're going to be crumpled ruins.
  3. I'm worried that the very tall buildings will make it hard to see the miniatures on the table, especially for shorter people sitting on the far side of the table. This came up with some props I put together for a previous supers RPG game, where I discovered that 40mm high walls are way too tall to use with 28mm tall miniatures.
So I need an alternate way to get 3D buildings that will create much, much sturdier props, and preferably flatter ones that won't block visibility so much.

Fortunately, I have something like 15 square feet of black foam core lying around the house from a previous project. Small buildings of foam core are a bit of pain to cut out, but once glued together they're fairly resistant to damage and easy to repair.

The following shots are mostly a proof of concept, but I'm already liking the effect:

That's the Freedom Tower in 3D, with Beacon, Mr. Chomps, and Unity menacing the Operative.

Construction was pretty simple, though tedious and involved:
  1. Photocopy a hex tile 4 times in black and white. These are just going to be used as cutting guides, so they can be on cheap paper and in a low ink mode.
  2. Trim the photocopies to 7.5" squares, along one of the long axis of the hex tile.
  3. Lightly glue the photocopies in a line along a sheet of foam core.
  4. Cut the photocopy covered section of foam core away from the rest. There's now a piece that is 7.5" by 30", and it's not exactly convenient to use but it's better than a huge sheet of foam core.
  5. Take a bunch of the hex tiles from Sentinels Tactics and find all the elevated terrain on them. Take a pencil and match similar patterns of hexes on the photocopies. Try to maximize coverage and use all the hexes.
  6. Go over the final collections of hexagons with a sharpie or other thick pen.
  7. Cut out the patterns with an exacto knife. This is enormously tedious, and requires a knowledge of how to cut foam core, which can be found on the web. After cutting a pattern free, pull off the black and white photocopy sheet
  8. Photocopy the hex tiles in color this time. These copies are going on top of the final hex patterns, so they need to be of reasonable quality.
  9. Cut out the final color hexes and glue them to the patterns, gluing the patterns to each other as necessary.
One 30" by 7.5" section produced enough hex patterns to almost cover the entirety of the Megapolis side of the Tactics hex tiles. I'm hoping that another section will handle the rest and the Insula Primalis terrain, but I might have to do a total of three sections.

Edit: It took two sections, plus some miscellaneous scrap to build up the Insula Primalis volcano. Which is still not working out as well as I'd like.
Completed Megalopolis pictures!
And on the flip-side of the tiles, Insula Primalis (tile 7 is completely flat for Insula Primalis, so I didn't do anything with it). Visionary faces off against the Operative on the rim of the central volcano.

If I had a better workshop at home, I'd have considered doing these in a light wood (balsa?) and cutting them with a jig. I think I could have gotten the angles a little more precise with that kind of set-up.

Another possibility would be to use a 3-D printer, but that's not something I own (yet). This seems like the perfect project for one of the low cost DIY versions, but I worry about the cost of the materials. A liter of 3-D printer stock is expensive, while a huge amount of foam core is less than $10.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Paint Better: More Sentinel Tactics

So my last set of paint jobs was not my best work, I'll admit. So for this batch, I buckled down and actually used some technique: stains and washes, proper drybrushing, patience clean-up of mistakes, and select highlights and lowlights. That, and being more comfortable with the range of paints, made for much better looking figures.

Proletariat, the People's Hero! With 6 clones to paint at once and a mostly simple paint scheme, Prole was mostly an exercise in careful drybrushing to get a proper red torso. I was pretty intimidated by the yellow star, and initially tried to cheese it by painting the face yellow and then drybrushing red over it (hoping that the red wouldn't get into the trenches of the face and I'd get some really fine lines). That didn't work, so I buckled down with a fine brush and just painted the stars on the faces and then cleaned up the line with a dark red.

Citizen Dawn has a very straightforward paint job: red, red, red. Her face has minimal detail, so I painted on some highlights to accentuate the nose and cheekbones.

I don't like the Operative's new outfit, so I mostly painted her in her traditional colors of green and red (instead of green, blue, and yellow). There's still some of the new outfit in the figure, so I went with it. The wood of the tonfa is actually a very dark brown, but it's almost the same hue as the black gloves so you can't really make it out.

Visionary, Young Legacy, Beacon, and Ra. Visionary should have a green cape, but I didn't feel like messing with the green stuff to make it happen.

Young Legacy isn't technically a character in Sentinels Tactics: she's an alternate timeline version of Beacon. But I had an old lead figure that looked close enough, and I broke out the green stuff to make the miniskirt. It definitely could have gone better, but it looks good enough. I'm still not happy about not having a pure, solid white paint, but layers of khaki, cream, and pearl white wash came out well enough.

Beacon, in contrast, was simple to paint: orange, yellow, flesh tones, and some careful touch-up with cream and pearl. Most of the white is the miniature's original material.

Ra looks fairly good, with a solid drybrush for his skin tone, some decent looking flame in his left hand, and reasonably clean lines everywhere. He was a bit of a pain to paint, since there were a lot of nooks and crannies that I missed on the first (and second) passes with the paint. Too much detail touch-up!

So I'm feeling better about my painting, because I'm doing a better job.

Next up: the Citizens of the Sun, all fifteen of them. Almost all of them in shades of crimson red and/or black, but at least there's not much white to deal with. And that will be last of the existing Sentinel Tactics miniatures, so I'll go back to staring at my Reaper Bones and saying "man, I really should paint... uhm... hmmm." Hey, I heard the Borderlands prequel is coming out soon!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Painting isn't easy: Sentinels Tactics

These are not the best miniatures I've ever painted. These are not even close the best miniatures I've painted. And my photography isn't that hot, either.

When I started painted these figures, I realized I had a lot reds that were dark, or brick, or orange, but no solid fire engine red. And then I realized I didn't have a thick, solid white, nor a light grey to use as a base coat for a white drybrush.

I ordered some paints from Amazon, with promising names like "Menoth White Base" and "Menoth White Highlight". Which turned out to be taupe and cream, respectively. I also got a Khador Red Base, a Khador Red Highlight, a Heartfire, and a Bloodstone. You'd figure out of 4 reds, one of them would be crimson, but it turns out I got an orange, two new red-oranges, and a dark brick red.

All this for a bunch of figures that I wanted to paint in white, crimson red, and blue.

So I did my best, with what I had and what I got, and I'm not too happy with the results. And my camera wasn't particularly helpful either, refusing to focus, use the flash, or use the macro effect.

Anyway, here's some more painted figures from Sentinel Tactics.

Two photos of the mad scientist Baron Blade and the villainous hunter Ambuscade. Blade suffers from having a lab coat that was original painted a very light blue and drybrushed white, and then overlayed with an off-white cream color. Blah. At the least the goggles came out okay.

More of the Freedom Five. I hate, hate the sculpt for Tachyon. Speedsters are supposed to be running, not standing still. I get what the sculptors were trying for, but I just don't think it works.

The others mostly came out okay. There's some scale problems between Wraith, Legacy, and Unity, but that's not really my problem.

A close-up of Unity. The goggles didn't come out to badly, and the eyes and lips are about as good as I can get them. The shirt is meant to be a kind of dusky rose, and mostly looks it at a reasonable distance on the table top, but it doesn't work as well in a close-up.

As I may have mentioned, these figures are made from the same stuff as the Reaper Bones. But for whatever reason (inexperience?), the sculpts aren't as precise and there's less useful detail, especially on the faces.

Wraith in close-up. I love my technical pen, and maybe over-use it, but it's nice to have control over something instead of the vagaries of my brush strokes.

Also, Blogger is not exactly the best platform for organizing a bunch of pictures like this. I'm spending a lot of time fighting with the interface, trying to get stuff to flow the way I want to. Which isn't news, but is still annoying.

Next week: more painting!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Paint the Easy Stuff First 2: Sentinels Tactics

So as I mentioned Friday, my Sentinels Tactics miniatures arrived and I've started painting them. And once again, I started by painting all the robots, armored suits, and golems first, because they're easy and quick.

I also started painting the core heroes and villains, but they're hard: three of them are wearing primarily white or crimson red, and my white paints are very thin and I don't have any crimson red. So I'm still working on them, but it's going a bit slower.

I prefer to work in with about 12 miniatures at a time: it's enough that I can usually put the same color on two or three figures at a go, but small enough that I can mostly remember everything. If I have a lot of time to paint, I can cycle through figures, painting color A on some of them, and then color B on others while color A dries, and then come back to the first set and paint a new color.

So to start, my preliminary figure: the Freedom 5 on the left, Baron Blade and Omnitron in the middle, and then Unity and her golems (robot versions of the Freedom 5) on the right. The figures have pegs on the bottom of their feet to mount onto clear bases, and I'm using sticky-tack and pennies to base them for now. Mostly - some of the golems are just lying down.

Close-ups of the three groups.

So as it worked out, the robots got finished first. Here's all the golems and robots.
Omni-tron, in the back, probably has the most complicated paint job: light blue carapace lined with pewter, dark blue legs and head with pewter joints. It's not showing up very well here, but there's a corrugated "neck" behind the head that's painted with a very dark grey and drybrushed with pewter. The underbody is the same dark grey, with some underchassis machinery drybrushed in pewter. The eye is "Firehawk", which Reaper's name for their orange-red paint.

Bunker and Absolute Zero. Bunker started with a medium brown base coat, a heavy drybrush with bronze, and some details picked out in pewter. Absolute Zero was painted in the same dark grey as Omni-tron and drybrushed lightly with pewter. The details of his insignia and his helmet face plate are sky blue. I painted the iceblock with the same sky blue, and then drybrushed pearl white and white to give it an acceptable looking ice effect.
The golems were based in silver or pewter, and drybrushed very lightly. Mr. Chomps Raptor Bot was then painted with a ruby red ink to match the camouflage pattern on his card art and plushie doll. Cryo Bot's ice sculpture got the same paint treatment as AZ. Eyes and insignia were picked out with a medium purple, not that it comes out very well here except for Turret Bot's chest.

So not perfect by any means, but good enough. I still need to lacquer them to protect them, and then they'll be ready to play.

Although these figures are made from the same stuff as the Reaper Bones figures, I felt they were noticeably more hydrophobic when painting them. A lot of the paint beeded up as I was putting it down, especially on the various capes, Omitron's legs, and and stuff like that. A little patience and extra brush strokes was enough to overcome it, but it was much worse than the Reaper Bones. I washed the figures in soap before I started, but maybe I should have used a toothbrush to get some more agitation on the figures themselves.

Sentinel Tactics purists should be aware that I'm painting everyone with their Sentinels of Multiverse costumes, not their Sentinel Tactics costumes. Hence, Bunker is more yellow than silver, and Absolute Zero is onyx/obsidian/ebony looking instead of white. And when I get to Unity, she won't be hot pink!

Friday, August 15, 2014

The cycle of miniatures painting

  1. Receive a new load of unpainted miniatures from a game, a random purchase on E-bay, another Reaper Bones kickstarter, or from a gift (ha!) from a friend, and realize that the backlog is only increasing and the only way to make it manageable is to paint some miniatures.
  2. Select a dozen figures and think about how amazing they're going to look when they're completed. Contemplate possible paint schemes.
  3. Realize in the months since the last round of painting, several more bottles of paint have dried out or sealed their lids. Curse. Revise paint schemes to reflect available colors.
  4. Prepare the figures. When painting metal figures, attempt to prime them without holding the spray bottle too far away and accidentally dusting them. Fail. Decide that the sanding is on a non-critical part, like chainmail or a furry cloak, even if it's really on the princess figure's satiny looking dress.
  5. First pass at blocking out major areas with colors. Make sure to splotch dark paint on areas that will be later painted with bright colors. Realize the figures look like crap. Despair and contemplate a hobby more suited to innate talents and skills, such as counting lima beans.
  6. Second pass at blocking out major areas with colors. Go over previous dark splotches with light grey paint and then the bright color. Splotch some of the dark bits with light colors. Notice a flash line that should have been cleaned up before priming and try to clear it with an x-acto knife without destroying the rest of the paint job.
  7. Touch-up the major areas and do some preliminary dry-brushing. Notice that aside from the unpainted detail areas (belts, pouches, boots, gloves) and finishing the skin and hair, the figure actually looks pretty good right now.
  8. Go through the finicky process of painting the detail areas with a fine tip brush. Get slightly cross-eyed. Curse the finicky detail and once again vow that next time, all this stuff is just going to get painted black and to heck with proper contrast.
  9. Notice while doing the detail bits that there's an area under the figure's arm pit or leg that should have been painted in a color but that was left white. Swear again. Paint that little area, accidentally overstaining the adjacent areas and get an uneven color effect that is nearly impossible to fix.
  10. Apply the flesh tone base and wait for it to dry. Apply the flesh tone wash and wait for it to dry, which it does unevenly as usual. Apply the flesh tone dry brush and notice the figure is looking really good. Paint the eyeballs with white. Repaint the area around the eyeballs in flesh tone, thereby obliterating the wash and the drybrush. Use a technical pen to do the eyebrows and pupils. Notice the figure is a little cross-eyed but lack the patience to redo the entire face from scratch to fix it.
  11. Paint the hair with a dark base. Drybrush with a lighter highlight. Realize that there's almost no tint difference between the two and re-drybrush with an even lighter tone. In the process, accidentally strip off the not entirely dry drybrush and base coat, revealing the primer. Swear again. Repaint the hair's base coat. Let it dry. Drybrush again with a color that has too much tint difference and looks vaguely unnatural. Despair. Notice that some of the drybrush got on the face and despair again.
  12. Realize that the paint on the figure's toes got worn off during all the handling. Consider picking up another hobby like a normal person. Touch up the toes instead.
  13. Consider lacquering the figure now, but realize that its 100 degrees outside. Put it off until fall.
  14. Quickly base the figure with globs of green paint. Notice that the foot to base boundary is pretty uneven, and consider fixing it, but decide against starting an endless cycle of painting foot and base to get the lines perfect.
  15. Throw the figure onto a shelf with the other figures waiting for lacquering. Feel proud about how good it actually looks with all the colors complete, and then sad because it could look better if it'd been painted by someone with some skills.
  16. Contemplate starting another set of figures. Realize none of them are especially compelling right now. Get distracted by a video game or novel.
  17. Return to step 1.
Why yes, my Sentinels Tactics figures arrived this week. Why do you ask?