Ulthwé done right

It’s time to welcome yet another writer to the blog! Martin Peterson is a Bronze Demon winner and fellow journalist. Take it away! – David

Hi there! If you’ve actually read some of the words on this blog, you might have seen my name pop up once or twice. I’m Martin. This is my Eldar army. I’ve always seen the Eldar as quintessentially 40k, alongside the Space Marines, Chaos and Orks. They’ve been around since Rogue Trader, and the long years have seen them evolve from what was basically Space Elves into something quite unique and very characterful. The same goes for their place in the background of 40k. The Eldar are one of the ancient peoples of the Warhammer 40,000 universe. They witnessed the rise of the Imperium and the Horus Heresy as spectators, like wizened old men shaking their heads at the impetuous young.

As of now, they combine a sense of incredible power and destructive might with quiet, dignified reserve, packaged in exquisite grace and elegance. In short, they’re [bleep]ing cool.

I started painting this Ulthwé force about five years ago. As with any project, big or small, I started with the models (as opposed to the rules). Jes Goodwin’s plastic Guardians are terrific and I always wanted to try my hand at painting something so clean and smooth, so I was only too happy to fill up on those, as is appropriate for an Ulthwé army.

The War Walkers are some of my favorite models of all time, and even though they took about 56,000 hours to paint, I’m really happy I did a full squad of three. I’ve positioned them to give an idea of their respective purposes. The tank hunter, literally chasing his prey with a pair of missile launchers. The firebase, immobile and sporting sniper rifle-like Bright lances. And the horde reaper, striding calmly with his Scatter lasers set on full-auto.

I think the Fire Dragons are one of the coolest Aspects, and the new models look great. I also think the red works well in an Ulthwé army.

The Wraithlord is another awesome kit, and fun to paint. The look for the sword was actually inspired by the ‘Eavy Metal studio’s Tomb Kings weapons, and seemed appropriately different from most Imperial blades. I quite like the lack of free-hand detail on the face. (But, yes, I was just being lazy and uninspired.) I’ve seen a lot of cool Seer Councils, brimming with free-hand magnificence and awesome conversions. I think that’s cool. So, naturally, I went for something much, much simpler. In my defense, though, I must again refer to the genius of Jes Goodwin. The oldest of these (the middle one) was sculpted in 1991. That’s 20 years ago, for [bleep]’s sake! And it still looks great. So I’m happy to leave these guys unmodified.

The Farseer was really fun to paint. I shamelessly stole much of the free-hand and basic colour scheme from Darren Latham’s Eldrad Ulthran conversion. Check it out here. This “conversion” involved the severing and reattaching of one hand, minus a finger. That’s it. Again, the sculpt is just amazing and really fun to paint.

The Rangers are a nice unit. The models look good next to plain Guardians, and although I generally don’t give a crap about the game-wise effectiveness of a unit, I can’t deny how useful these guys are sometimes. [Not to mention hard to kill – David]

When it came to painting this army, I decided to try and limit my palette as much as possible. I tend to enjoy vibrant colours and loads of them, but with these guys, I think it’s good to keep it simple. The black is highlighted with a mix of Codex grey and Chaos black, highlighted with Codex grey, given a wash of Chaos black, then highlighted again with Codex and Fortress grey. The bone starts with a base of Snakebite Leather, to which Bleached bone is added in increasing quantities. The final highlight features some Skull white, as well. This is a really simple method that just involves a lot of thin layers. I guess it seems tedious, but I found it a breeze to paint lots of. So there it is. As for future additions, I’m slowly working on some Howling Banshees and a Fire Prism, which will hopefully be finished in time for the army’s 10-year anniversary. I’ve started a new 40k army, you see, and now I just can’t get enough of hairy Space Marines…


How to take better photos

This is my basic photo setup. A cheap(ish) camera, Canon EOS 400D. A kitchen counter. No tripod, just a stack of books. I described the light box a couple of weeks ago – to the right is a cheap halogen flood light I recently bought. It provides great light, but gets really hot really quick. Certainly not the sort of thing you want to leave unattended next to the tissue paper sides of the light box, or you’ll have a fire on your hands. Ideally, I’d like a light source on the left side too, but combined with the lamp above the counter it works pretty well.

You can also see the camera is hooked up to my laptop – that’s because I like to remote-shoot my pictures. This is not something you really need. Most, if not all, cameras can be set to shoot on a timer, which is ideal since your shaking hands won’t make the picture blurry.

A screenshot of the
software I use. It’s Canon’s proprietary stuff, and allows me to change most of the settings and take the photo without even touching the camera. At the top is the shutter speed, in this instance 0.3 seconds. This slow speed allows for more light to enter the camera and hit the sensor. Which means that I get away with having a small aperture (opening in the lens system).

Using a small aperture (high f-number, 22 in my example) gives you a greater depth of field (DoF). As a rule of thumb, the higher the f-number, the more of your photo will be in focus. At the distance we’re shooting the DoF will be in the centimetres range, so you want to have control over this. Depending on your lens, you may want to zoom all the way out and get in close with the camera to maximise your DoF as well. Experiment a bit.

All of these settings can of course be changed on the camera itself. How to change them depends on what camera you’re using. I refer you to your manuals!

Don’t forget to experiment with different lights and camera settings. Some miniatures will end up looking flat in a light that shows off the colour of others.

The five most
important things to remember

  1. Never hold the camera in your hands. Prop it up on books if you have no tripod. Shoot with a timer or remote control.
  2. Diffuse your light, this avoids stark contrast and shadows.
  3. Start with the highest f-number (smallest aperture) you can. Adjust the shutter speed and aperture until you get a good result.
  4. Higher megapixel count isn’t neccesarily better.
  5. Set your white balance to the light source you’re using.

Good luck with your photography!

Gazbad’s Vengeance

Gazbad shook his head to try and stop the ringing in his ears. He snorted a cloud of dust from his nose and slowly raised his head over what was left of the wall. He chewed his squigar and looked down at the mayhem below, making sure his black woolen cap was still in place.

The humie tanks had hit them hard from the side, crushing Runtherder Rotgar and his gibbering mass of gretchin under their tracks and continuing to pound da boyz with their cannons. In their midst and slightly behind the rest of the tanks was the biggest humie tank Gazbad had ever seen. Too tempting a target to let go.

”Urg, give uz da stikkbombs,” Gazbag demanded and held out a hand behind him. When no-one answered he glanced back at the remains of his squad. Messy.

With an annoyed curse Gazbad kicked a section of fallen wall off the squished body of his second-in-command. Urg had a look of surprise on his face that contrasted sharply against the red ruin of his chest.

”Hur, hur, hur, youz looking stoopid,” Gazbad chuckled, yanking the explosives from Urgs hands and hoisting them on his back and snuck through the swirling dust in the wake of the Baneblade.

The rest of da boyz
were making enough noise to keep all the humies occupied, so no-one heard Gazbad as he crept up the back of the tank and started fiddling with the stikkbombs.

Suddenly the hatch of the cannon turret squeaked and started to open. Gazbad ducked behind it. A sweaty humie in a shiny peaked cap peered out with some kind of communikation device held to his ear.

”Yessir, we’ve sent the filthy greenskins running and are now securing the area. It is safe to move in. Knight-Commander Sorensen out.” The humie tossed the radio down into the bowels of his tank and took a deep breath through his nose. ”Aaaah, I love the smell of, GHAK!” he choked as Gazbag stabbed him through the throat and promptly tossed him to the ground behind the tank. Gazbad then armed his bombs and hurled them down into the Baneblade.

”Hur, hur, hur, whoz filthy now, huh?” He jumped of the tank, landed on the humie commander with a squelch and hit the ground running, pausing long enough to pick up his favorite stabba from the corpse.

The Imperial Baneblade exploded violently with a sound like Gork (or Mork?) roaring with laughter. Gazbad was still chuckling as he melted away into the ruined cityscape.

Gazbad returns!
David’s story made me want to see more of this uncharacteristically stealthy Ork.

Beating Grey Knights, the Chaos way

With the Ordo Malleus mustering their forces, it’s time to start fighting back. Last week Jonathan read the leaked Grey Knight codex, and now it’s all he’s talking about. I’ll be facing tons of invulnerable saves the very minute the codex is released. So, what do we Chaos players have to fight back with? To combat the good saves (invulnerable and otherwise) I recommend weight of fire. The more saves you force your opponent to roll, the more he will fail. Simple as that. To that end, you can’t go wrong with Berserkers. A bucketload of Attacks, and with Furious Charge they also exploit the Grey Knight’s Initiative of 4. A Power Fist Champion can instakill Paladins and characters. Add Khârn for more killyness, and to dump a few wounds on when the Knights hit back. Remember, he’s immune to psychic powers.

Using Daemon Princes
will probably be tricky; regardless of what rumours are true, the Grey Knights are daemon-killers and will have rules and wargear aplenty to deal with them. A winged Prince of Slaanesh could work, though. Leave the Lash at home, and use Warptime and your Slaaneshi Initiative to go character-hunting. Don’t commit him too early, and expect him to die. It seems like most Knight squads will bring their own anti-transport gun in the form of the Psycannon. Between that, Stormravens and Razorback spam, your light vehicles won’t be getting anything done. Try for a firing line of infantry instead. Let the Knights come to you, knock their transports out with whatever you normally use, and blast the foot-sloggers with Missile Launchers. Yes, Missile Launchers. Remember, weight of fire is your friend. Squads of ten basic Chaos Marines with a Missile Launcher and a Plasmagun will put out a respectable amount of hurt every turn. If you skip transports, you will outnumber them easily, and get to choose where to countercharge with your Berserkers. Bewere, your infantry will die fast when the Knights get into combat, so you need to maximize the number of turns you get to shoot. Pop the Razorbacks and Stormravens!

Our codex is
getting ancient, and has few tricks, but there’s no need to despair. We’re not cost-effective enough to transport everything. Dig yourself in to whatever terrain you can get, and weather the storm. Rejoice in being the horde army for once!

Tentacle Thursday: Cephalopod Illustrations

Welcome back to this old feature! This time I’ve got a link to some wonderful anatomical illustrations, from the turn of the last century. Click the image above, or the link here.

This time around
we’re not going to run Tentacle Thursday every week, only when we find something interesting. I feel that the blog has reached critical mass on the gaming side, so I’m confident that the odd tentacly excursion isn’t out of place.

Ahoy, Beasties!

Clawed Fiend of the Donorian sector, version 2.0.

Games Workshop has the new Dark Eldar Beastmaster and his beasts up for preorder (as well as a marvellous Succubus). Like most of us, I’m fighting a bad case of the Multiple Army Syndrome. This release won’t exactly make my life easier – I really really really want a Harlequin-heavy Dark Eldar army some day, and the beasts would go great together with the space clowns.

Clawed Fiends has been around as a since Rogue Trader days – just like the Harlequins. The small picture on the right is from the 3:rd edition rulebook. This is the first time they get a model, though. And what a stonking beast! Is it me, or is the Heavy Metal team getting better and better at painting with every release?

The Khymerae are an update to the old Warp Beasts that were in the 3:rd edition Dark Eldar codex. Featuring some gorgeously painted flayed muscles (check those tiny highlights) as well as neat tentacles, I can emagine these as a sideshow to a couple of Harlie squads.

As well as
being great news for Dark Eldar players, these guys offer plenty of conversion fodder for everyone else. The Clawed Fiend could play the part of Scyla in a WHFB Chaos army. Swap his head and it’s a master-bred Rat Ogre. It almost looks big enough to be a Vermin Lord …

All images borrowed from Games Workshop.