WIP Wednesday – New Photo setup and blog category

I’ve got a rather unconventional work in progress for this week.  For the past few nights I’ve been focusing on photography rather than painting.  What I’d like to do is talk a little bit about my setup and how much of a difference it’s made in my pictures lately.

So normally for Work In Progress posts I’m just taking a picture with my cell phone.  Really, for what it is that’s fine.  Just trying to get a quick shot of the models as they stand that evening to show progress.  They come out something like this….

When I’ve finished a model in the past I often want to take some pictures of it to show off on the blog.  They have never been of a quality that I’ve ever really been happy with though.  Here are some examples of “finished” pictures that suffer from a variety of ailments!  The backgrounds are messy, they are covered in shadows, a flash has washed out the image, the focus is too shallow, etc, etc.

What I’ve done is create a setup that can get pictures that look like this though…

It’s not perfect, but the difference is huge.  I’ll continue to work out the finer details as I go.  I need to tinker a bit with the lights to remove the shadows, however minor they are.

The setup looks like this….

Basically I’m turning my basement work bench into a photo shoot.  The overhead lights are just task lighting with T20 fluorescent bulbs.  Available from your home store, I think these were about $50 each.

The background is critical here.  I’ve tried many times before to get good images with the rest of this setup minus the backdrop and it just doesn’t work!  Sheets of paper come close, but unless you have a very large roll you end up with unsightly shadows and edges.  This backdrop was about $25, and I got it from Hanger18 Miniatures.  This one is a blue/white transition which is a classic look technically called “ombre”, or so I’m told by my wife!

It’s critical that the camera be on a tripod to eliminate camera shake (which will make the photo blurry, especially since you need a very long exposure time).  This one I got from Amazon and it wasn’t very expensive.  It also isn’t very good!!  It’s actually broken right now and I’m in the market for a new one.  This one was about $30 (but I would recommend getting a better one).

The light umbrellas are used to help distribute light around the subject evenly.  If done properly there will be no shadow around the subject at all.  A light-box could also work very well for this.  I got the umbrellas because they would be more versatile.  They came as a kit for about $100.  The power rating on the bulbs from the kit isn’t great and getting higher output bulbs would be a nice upgrade.

The camera is an entry level DSLR.  It’s a Canon Rebel T5i.  You really need a DSLR so that you can control the camera parameters.  I won’t go into the technical details since you can find them elsewhere (Garfy did a nice post about photography recently on http://taleofpainters.blogspot.com/).  I have a 18-135mm lens on there so that I can sit the camera back away from the models a bit and zoom in.  This leaves me a little more flexibility in where I can place the lights since the camera doesn’t have to be right on top of the miniature.  That also helps with focusing, since it’s hard to focus really close with some focal length extension tubes.  I think you can find this camera and lens combo for about $500-600 these days.

The camera is connected to a laptop which completes the setup.  Any laptop will do pretty much, nothing special there.  The laptop also isn’t required.  You could shoot the pictures directly from the camera and transfer and edit them later, but you’ll need a fob for remotely firing the camera so it doesn’t shake when you touch it if you do it that way.  All said and done it’s just shy of $1000 worth of equipment, but honestly only the backdrop was specifically purchased for shooting miniatures and that was such a small part of the cost.  The rest of it is useful for many other things (yes, even those umbrella lights) and I didn’t buy any of those specifically for taking pics of minis actually.

So what does this all mean for the blog?  Well it means I’ll be posting better quality pictures.  haha.  What I’d like to do though is start a new category something along the lines of a “Model Showcase”.  A place to show off finished models with nice pictures.  Since I’ll be taking the pictures hopefully I can get some of the other Unplugged Gamers over to do some photo shoots and I can show off some of their awesome miniatures too.

So watch out for some High Elf models as I get new pictures of that army first, probably followed by the Skaven.


Back from Templecon

I’m pretty happy to say that this past weekend I went to attend the Onslaught GT at Templecon and took home my first Players Choice award from a GT.  I’ve been attending Warhammer Fantasy GT’s for a number of years now (4?  5?  something like that) and despite placing fairly well at a few I’ve never actually taken home a first in any category.  It was a long road getting this army painted up to standard (and really it’s not where it should be, but what army is really ever “done”?)  I have to give some credit to my club mates I suppose for not giving me any inter-club competition since Greg and Peyton were not in the running.  Haha

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The prize was a Chimeara from Mierce Miniatures.  I think these used to be called Bane Beasts.  Either way, it’s an AMAZING model that I’ve always had an eye on but couldn’t justify buying.  Needless to say I am super excited to have one now.  This was the first model I saw from an alternative miniature line that really wow’ed me a few years ago when it came out.

At the GT I had a really fun time.  I got to hang out with some great friends, and I also played great opponents.  I’ll do a quick recap of the games, but I’m not going to go into exhaustive detail.

Game 1:
Ryan Hannagan.  Double Black Dragon Dark Elves.  This game was really fun with so many flying monsters on the table.  I just happened to have more than him so I was able to pull off some combo charges and kill his dragons before he got mine.  A lost my mage to a miscast on the top of turn 1 so it got off to a rough start but then ended strong.  15-5 win.

Game 2:
Anthony “The Sustainable Center” Fasano.  Bretonnia with load of characters in 3 lances, plus an air force.  This game was a lot of maneuvering for position.  In the end I commited to a big charge with the Star Dragon, Prince on Griffon and 15 Silver Helms.  The Helms failed the charge (needed a 4, ouch) and that let the Brets hold, and the counter charges did me in.  7-13 loss.

Game 3:
Roger Yohn.  Warriors of Chaos with a lot of variety.  Again, much dancing with the flyers.  I made a commit with the same combination of units (helms, griffon and star dragon) into 6 chaos knights with a BSB and Chaos Lord.  I lost this combat (pretty sure I should have won there?  maybe?) but got away with all 3 units and rallied them.  I managed to clean up some points in other places, and since I didn’t lose those 3 units I never lost many points this game.  12-8 win.

Game 4:
Andrew Briggs.  Demons of Chaos with lots of Slaanesh stuff, plus a Soul Grinder and Skullcannon.  I was pretty scared of the artillery but I took out the Skullcannon early and was able to pick my fights to pick off enough units to get a big win here.  17-3 to me.  Again, didn’t lose many points which helped make up for the fact that I couldn’t fight his Demon Prince.

Game 5:
Adam Steele and Dwarven Air Force.  8 Gyrocopters!!  I pretty much ran at him with most of the army and tried to deflect Gyrocopters with a few other units.  I managed to get most of the Gyrocopters because I had lots of flyers too, and mine could actually fight!  The monsters caused his units issues.  I gave up the Frostheart to ensure I could clean up the artillery and keep the dragon safe at the same time, since his Dwarf Lord was tooled up to kill monsters.  13-7 win to me.

That was enough to finished me at 6th overall.

We voted for favorite opponent after round 4 and Ryan Hannagan got my vote.  He was really fun to play against and very laid back.  I have to admit though, if we had voted after Round 5 I might have voted for Adam because we had a roaring good time pushing our flyers around.

For favorite army I voted for Rhys.  I think Rhys has come a long way with his painting recently and his stuff is starting to look really nice.  In particular some of the freehand banner he’s been doing have been coming out really well.

Overall I had a great time with my army list (which I’ll post at the bottom).  However, a 9.1 comp (the lowest score at the event) was probably not the smartest way to go.  I gave up a lot of victory points each game because most people fell in the 12-14 range.  A low comp army needs to be super aggressive to make those points back.  Although I had flyers they are kind of fragile as far as combat units go so I’m not able to throw them into stuff with reckless abandon.

So what is up next?  Well, I think I need to set up a photo booth and get some good shots of this army and some of the new units I’ve finished.  Actually over the past year I’ve painted a lot of units that I never photographed properly.  I think I might pick up a backdrop from Hanger18 miniatures to get some really clean images.  On that note, I’m thinking of adding a new category to the blogs for a “Model Showcase” or something like that for showing off completed models.  This would be a category for high quality shots.  No cell phone images with bad lighting and blurry focus (see bad army shot below for example)!

And on the painting front I’m not sure what is up next.  I need to file taxes for the year, clean up my mess of a hobby room (after the grind to get finished for Templecon), and decide what army I’m bringing to Bragging Rights I suppose.  I’m thinking in the meantime I may try to do some work on Glottkin.

Until next time.



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Unplugged GT switching to ETC comp

Hey folks,

Just wanted to note and get this up on the front of the blog that we are switching to ETC comp for this year.  We took some feedback from our player base and it was very clear that ETC was preferred over Swedish.

Personally I think both systems have something nice to offer (as do others), but let me point out a few of the ETC benefits for anyone who was on the fence:

  • Includes End Times units
  • Includes Special Characters
  • Thorough FAQ
  • Clean Line of Sight rules suited for tournament play

Anyway, that’s where we are at for now.  The big thing for me was the inclusion of End Times units.  That was a goal going into the event planning this year and I was a little sad Swedish decided not to adopt them.

WIP Wednesday – DE for Onslaught

Hey All,

Much like Jon, I too had a crazy night last night and couldn’t get this post in.  Apologies for that.

If you recall from a while back, I had been hyping a Dark Elf monster mash list that I planned on taking to Onslaught (next weekend).  Well reality eventually set in that there was no way I would be able to get all that stuff painted in time (I’m no Mr. Shipman afterall).  Step 1 in this WIP was to redo the list to include some new stuff but not require me to quit my job to get it done in time.

I settled on including 3 monsters, down from 5 in the original list.  I have run the dragon at a few events and just love the way it plays, and its such a bargain in Swedish comp.  In addition to him, I settled on a single hydra and a K-beast.

I decided to redo my original finecast hydra to update the painting a bit and redo the basing.  Was a simple one night job a couple weeks back and the results were pretty pleasing comparing where it was before:


Sitting next to him in most battles is the K-beast.  Recall that this is a Reaper Bones miniature, which is a pretty cost effective alternative to the expensive GW model.  As the Reaper height didn’t feel very “large target” to me, I added a cork rock to raise it up a bit.  Just finished this model last weekend, and have some mixed feelings about it.  I absolutely dreaded the basecoating process on this model.  There are so many small nooks in-between each scale that I had to check and triple check to make sure everything was even.  That being said, I loved the detail stages on the model.  It lent itself very well to drybrushing and highlighting with the big open scales.  Shoutout to Chris O. for the inspiration on the highlights for this guy.  Overall, I am pleased with the final result.


Earlier this week, I updated my cold one chariot model to a newer standard.  This model is a chaos chariot, DE spearmen and DE cold ones with the chains from the gorebeast portion of the chaos kit.  I basically just updated the basing, added some highlights and blood effects.  I enjoyed assembling and painting this model the first time, and upgrading it a bit, I find myself inspired more than ever to try to make cold one chariots a thing (they likely never will be a thing).


And finally, the project for tonight!  My crossbowmen models were among the first miniatures I ever painted (only started this hobby in March 2013).  I painted the skin extremely pale, as that was my vision of elves.  Well, quite frankly, super pale skin sucks to look at (I would know, I’m Irish afterall).  Tonight’s project is redoing the skin to match my newer stuff like the warlocks and fast cav.  Simple job, just some washes and touchups, but overall its a fine result.


So what’s left?  Well technically everything is painted now, but I do have some improvements I would like to do.  I need to actually finish my cav models as I speed painted them before Crossroads 2014. I will be starting with the command models shortly and hope to wrap those up tomorrow night or Saturday.  Then onto the rank and file guys as the date for Onslaught rapidly approaches.  Hope to see some of you there!


WIP Wednesday – High Elves for Templecon (cont)

The quest for Templecon continues.  I got home from work late last night and didn’t have time to post so I’m a day late.

This is where these models are at before I started painting tonight.  I aim to have the non-BSB Griffon and the shields finished and varnished tonight.  That way I can assemble the shields on to the Silver Helms and put the griffon away to focus on the other one.

The griffon wings are getting one last highlight.  Pure (but very thin) white on the feathers to draw in some additional lines where none are sculpted.  Then I guess paint the claws black and I can call this guy done.  The shields just need a little cleanup and some gold trim around the gems.


That leaves the wings for the other griffon and the two banners for next week.  Then touch up the display board and add more flowers to the bases and it should be looking pretty good!!  I ordered a new airbrush to paint the banner flags with.  Hopefully it arrives in time.  Will post more about that later.  Back to painting!

A musing about campaigns

Now that the Border Princes campaign is over I’ve had some time to reflect back about what I liked about it, and what I didn’t like.  Actually, in a way it’s about what I enjoy about campaigns in general.  Well, and don’t like.

For this campaign I really enjoyed the consistency.  But wait, does that really have anything to do with the campaign?  Probably a little of both.  The consistency of playing games for the campaign each week was baked into the rules.  At the same time, it was the players chosen for the campaign that really made the difference.  They were involved through the entire thing (for the most part) and that made for a development of personalities, alliances, bitter enemies and fun stories!

The consistency did work against some players in particular though I think.  They got stuck in one portion of the map and played most of their games against the same 1 or 2 players.  In the context of a map based campaign I’m not quite sure how to alleviate that, other than maybe to include portals!  No, just kidding about the portals.  But perhaps if the map was an island and sending armies to coast land via ship was an option it would open up more opportunity to play other people.

The players who ended up with very small empires had a hard time “coming back”.  Granted, this probably makes a lot of sense.  They were small compared to the large empires and couldn’t bring the same resources to bear in a conflict.  But it didn’t help to keep them in the game.  I could go either way on if this was beneficial or detrimental.

We ended up using escalation of game size every couple of turns.  Some players were starting new armies and needed time to get their stuff assembled.  While escalation can be really fun, I think we should have left it at home for this campaign.  The small point size games are typically just silly, and the early turns didn’t see a lot of games being played anyway.  The low point values games were somewhat wasted.

The special tiles on the map (the named ones with special rules) really needed more rules with a wider impact.  There were only a few that ever had battles fought on them, which was the only place the special rules applied.  I think a realm wide bonus (maybe a smaller bonus, or maybe a mix of weak and powerful) would make those spots more highly contested because they would be more useful overall.  We did end up using them for special rules during the mega battle, which I did to make up for the lack of impact during the normal turns.

My question to the players is what did you think about the campaign?  I’ve run a fair number of campaigns over the years but this was probably the most successful.  What did you like?  What would you do differently next time?


Border Princes Campaign – The Epic Conclusion

I’m a little late in getting this posted, but better late than never.

To wrap up our Border Princes campaign we played a mega battle involving all of the players.  The general premise was that some race in the land (happened to be Legion/Demons of Chaos) was getting to be large (well, we actually hit the turn limit) and some other races had decided to either throw their lot in with the forces of Chaos or make a stand against them.  Each player made a secret bid to either support or defy the leader.  After the bids were in the teams came up as follows.

Team Chaos:

  • Legions/Demons of Chaos (Jon)
  • Dark Elves (Pat)
  • High Elves (Brian)

Team Against Chaos:

  • High Elves (Peyton)
  • Ogres/Dogs of War (Jeff)
  • Wood Elves (Scott C.)
  • High Elves (Scott W.)
  • Dwarfs (Greg)

The points value each player would field was based on their size in the campaign.  The smallest realms got 1500 points and it scaled up to 5000 for the largest realm.  Team evil was outmatched by quite a few points.  No worry, the forces of chaos had granted them an array of Exalted Greater Demons to bolster their forces!!  The Legion of Chaos would command an Exalted Great Unclean One.  The High Elves would command an Exalted Keeper of Secrets and the Dark Elves would command an Exalted Bloodthirster.  Nasty!!  That just about evened up the points so on to the game.

The scenario was pretty simple.  The deployment was hidden using a few large sheets.  The table was 8 feet long.  The game started at 10am sharp and each team had as long as they wanted to set up as long as they were ready to throw dice by 10am.  In practice both teams finished at 9:45 and we started a few minutes early.

Rules were that all teammates counted as “allied” units.  Magic was broken down into 3 phases per team.  Each defender matched up against one of 3 casting players and they each executed their own 2d6 magic phase.  This kept things moving along without too much complication.

I think the highlight of the game for me was seeing 15 Ogre Maneaters across the table from us, joined by a High Elf BSB.  Gee, I wonder which banner he might be carrying???  After running into a unit, smashing it and then overrunning into a Gorebeast Chariot who was cleverly placed, the chariot managed to snipe out the BSB from the Ogres!  The absolutely huge unit of Ogres was then quickly overwhelmed by masses of demons.  If that BSB hadn’t died, that unit was a PROBLEM.  haha.  What were some highlights from the rest of you?

On to the pictures!


It was an epic game.  We wrapped it all up in around 6 or 7 hours.  After turn 6 ended we sat down to total up the victory points.  The teams announced how many victory points they had each scored (mind you, this was a 12,500 point game) and the totals were within 3 victory points!!  A SOLID draw.  Haha.

Anyway, it was a super fun way to end out the campaign.  A huge thanks to all of the players who participated in this with me.  It was a pretty intense campaign that required at times a lot of games and heavy participation.


WIP Wednesday – High Elves for Templecon (cont.)

I’ve been slowly plugging away at these models for Templecon that I had started a few weeks back.  I thought it’d be nice to show some side by of the progress I made since last week.

First off is the model that is finished.  This is the Archmage who will be riding my dragon.  I had mentioned last week that I wanted to do some freehand along the edge of the cloak.  I’ve decided that the cloak just has too many folds in it, not enough open space.  I am scrapping the idea for now.  I did try a design on the orb attached to the end of his staff, and unfortunately I don’t like how it came out.  It’ll have to do for now though there are other models to paint!

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Before and After


Then the two silver helms.  First the unit Standard Bearer.  I’d say this guy is almost complete.  He needs a little bit more work on the whites and the horse skin, and some highlights on the metal.  Then the gems should finish it off.  What about the banner you say?  Well, I don’t know what I’m doing with that yet.  Haha.

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Before and After

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The unit filler is in a similar state of completion but looks better since the base is done and it doesn’t have a flag.

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Before and After


The first griffon picture came out blurry unfortunately, but it was hard to hold it still with one hand and take the picture with the other.  Oh well.  The BSB shot came out better and gives you an idea of where they are.  The riders are mostly done.  Again, need more work on the white in the cloak and the gems need to get picked out.  Other than that, what needs the most is the wings of the griffon.  I highlighted the feathers on the body portion and it made a world of difference.  I can only imagine how long those wings will take though!

Before and After