What I did do in my holidays

I've spent the last three weeks fairly housebound, mainly as a result of the weather. The downside of having transport with 2 wheels is that if the roads turn icy you are pretty much fuxored. I can't actually get the motorbike out at the moment, as my road is (as Gill describes it)a bit like Narnia, and constantly frozen (it's on the wrong side of a hill, and gets very little direct sunlight, so the frost and ice stays for ages). Cycling is a risky business, and I've had one friend trash his bike in the last week after hitting ice, so it's just not worth the risk.

As a result I've had plenty of time to progress a project I thought would take a couple of months at least, but has in fact been almost completed in a little under 3 weeks. After the fun of painting Space Hulk up, I decided to return to my teen years, and paint up a Warhammer 40K army. I appreciate that at this point many people will turn off, and I'm going to start spouting bollocks if you don't know what 40K is, so you can probably turn off now...

...back before university I used to play a lot (member of wargame club etc) with Space Marines, which at that time were getting fairly screwed over by the evolving ruleset. When I went to uni I left all the models at home (and as a result I no longer have them...probably binned along with the rest of my stuff...no matter, they were painted in garish colours that only a teen boy could constitute as "cool"), and I've never really had the time or inclination to build up a new army until now.

There is a new, and uber lazy, way of painting called "dipping", which basically involves;
1) Spraying the models a base colour
2) painting on simple detail
3) coating the model in pigmented varnish
See an example here of the painting sequence.

Whch speeds the process up a lot. the results are not display-case amazing, however they are more than acceptable for use, and en masse, which is always the point of armies, the results are pretty good.

After browsing the Games Workshop website I decided on the Tau Empire as my new army... I wanted to try something new, and they came across as a fairly un-complex and (in some sense of the word) realistic force (as in they don't have half-naked women as their elite troops, opting instead for massive robot suits). Did I mention I hate elf-dar?

Rather than pay GW's massive prices, I hunted around on eBay and bought up a job lot of various troops, and for equipment used a combination of Army Painter and Formula P3 Paints. Finally, I actually looked into what makes up a Tau army, and then filled in some of the gaps I had in my selection of minis. The end result is a good mix of infantry, vehicles, heavy weapons and elite troops, though a bit light on fast stuff...

My plan was to paint units at a time, with the aim of getting 1-2 done a week, and thus take about 2-3 months to complete the force. Then came the snow, and I was basically stranded at home for a fortnight. I sprayed up my first batch of minatures (36 Fire Warriors, 12 Kroot, 9 Battlesuits and 8 Stealth Suits, constituting 8 units), and had them completed within a week. By concentrating on the theory that all I needed to do was add enough detail to make them look painted, while leaving the models mostly base-coat colour I could fly through them. For each model I came up with a basic colour scheme based on 3-4 colours (mainly a yellow/tan base colour, brown/red contrast, black/silver mechanics, and a white detail), and used the template for every model. Each unit then had a colour assigned to it, and the shoulder pads were tagged. Each unit was painted in a batch, so I was doing the same thing on each model before moving onto the next one, which is both very efficient and a little dull when you have units of 12.

Once that was done I gave each model a layer of pigmented varnish (which I will refer to as "dip", even though I'm not actually dipping them, but painting it on), and left to dry out of the reach of the cat for 48 hours. As I had nothing better to do I was getting through 1-2 units a day, so I ended up spraying up more models while there was still snow outside.

I'm quite lucky to have a games room in my house, and as it's effectively free space I've been able to take it over for this project, with boxes of minatures all over the table, a nice big painting area that can be left out, and the all-important laptop for BBC iPlayer and cricket commentary. Spending 6+ hours a day hunched up over the minatures did give me some back trouble, but nothing my sports therapy lass couldn't sort out (even though it felt like she was trying to rip my arm off!)

Just after christmas I realised that I was probably going to be finished by mid-January, and I thought I should probably find somwhere to play. I've got the kit to start building a battleboard in my games room (large squares of chipboard, to be painted green, and some chunks of thick wood to turn into hills at some point), however I also tried to see if there were any wargame clubs nearby. I knew that there was a 'con at Rivermead in December, and a bit more investigation led to a group called Spiky Club, basically a bunch of peeps who play GW games in a non-GW environment. sent them an email, and had a cheerful and friendly reply that I was more than welcome, would they like to sort me out a game? So on the 14th January I'll be heading down there to have my arse well and truely handed to me by someone who actually knows what they are doing. I'll be spending the next week and a half swotting up on the rules, finishing my army (1 unit to go, and a handful of support models...I reckon a good days painting, which is handy as apparently it's going to snow tomorrow, so I'll be back in the Wardrobe for a few days) and spending far more time than is appropriate trying to work out what a good army for Tau looks like for 1,500 points (I suspect nothing like the one I will go in there with...)

It's been really enjoyable watching the army take shape, and it's taken my mind off the lack of training I've been getting in. I can see myself tackling another force at some point, probably at a more sedate pace...


wow, nice mate!

byrn's picture

This is absolutely superb. The dedication to get it done to such a high quality is breathtaking. Do you need cheerleaders for your game?

What army do you see doing next? If you have two, it means you can invite people over to play!

brainwipe's picture

I'd go for an army with a very different play-style, possibly Dark Eldar or Necrons. I'd love to do Imperial Guard, but the cost is prohibitive...

Downside is that I may not make the club this week due to weather...

babychaos's picture

How about Orks? You play FPS in a run-in-expend-ammo kind of way, surely Orks are just like that.

brainwipe's picture

Oh, that was supposed to have a smiley on it. Pretend I put I smiley there.

brainwipe's picture


Never been a big fan of orks... They are an army that is either stupidly overpowered, or randomly atrocious, so if you win you never feel like it was really you. Bit like Battlestar Galactica when you are the Cylon...you're never really sure what impact you've had.

babychaos's picture

Did the final work tonight, and packed it all in the new carry-case (after putting in all the effort painting it, made sense to get a decent travel bag)

Using a KaiserTwo to mvoe it all round, as it can hold infantry, big models (battlesuits) and vehicles in the same box, which is handy. I'm pretty certain ownership of such an item gets a couple of points of the geek-o-meter (probably doubled if I had it personalised in some way, and probably extra credit if it had some kind of stupid motto like "For the Greater Good!" emblazoned on it).

We were discussing over pie the most irritating things you could do while playing such a game. We think something high up on the list would be actually roleplaying your commander character while moving pieces...

"The second battalion shall move over the ridge, and cover the advance of the transports. MAY THE EMPEROR BLESS THESE DICE!"

babychaos's picture

I am in awe. Would love to see them in the flesh. Hopefully this Sat.

brainwipe's picture

Spiky Club last night was good. Skunty and myself headed down, and after a bit of chatter and meeting people organised a game where we each teamed up with 2 other new players who had 500 point forces (compared to our 1500 point monsters) and chugged through the game.

We only got 2 turns a side (mainly due to taking a long time to set-up, sort everything out, and understand what the hell we were doing), but learnt a helluva lot in that short time. I also saw some of the worst luck ever.

I had my Tau force, which is mainly a shooty army, and a backline of tank-busting guns, 3 squads of foot-troops in fast-moving transports, and a good selection of heavily armed and armoured battlesuits. I was teamed up with what can only be described as an Ork Brick, which consisted of 2 squads of close combat monsters in trukks.

Skunty had a fairly small, elite force of terminators, together with an inquisitor, storm troopers, an assassin and a Land Raider, with an ally force of imperial guard in Chimera, who had a dirty trick of psykers (both a character, and a psyker squad with the potential to lay out loads of damage.

We (the Tau and Orks) won the toss and let the other team set up first (and probably take the first turn). They massed opposite our objective, and we responded by putting the Tau backline on an overlooking hill, with the Tau transports (which are tough to kill at distance) shielding the Ork trukks, with the plan to tie up the terminators early. The assassin placed himself just forward of the main Imperial forces, and there was some dirty plan to combine his killing power with the batle psykers to remove one of my big gun-units. It might have worked to, if we hadn't been very lucky, and won the first turn...

...and propmptly took the middle of the battlefield, killed the assassin and the landraider, and basically bottleneck the entire opposition into their corner. Things quickly got worse, as their psykers misfired, and either failed to do anything, or had members shot for going mad. Massed fire immobilized one of my transports, but little else, and in the second turn the Ork Brick hit the Imperial lines, tying most of the terminators up in close combat, while my backline began the job of picking off the Imperial Guard vehicles. By the end of the second turn half the terminators were dead, the Inquisitor was walking (he had been in the Land Raider) toward my backline, and the Imperial Guard were down a squad. 2 of my transports were immobilised, but had dropped their squads, and I still had nearly all my battlesuits to bring on. When we stopped it was technically a draw, but in all lightlihood the Ork/Tau alliance would have rolled over the remaining Imperials through weight of numbers.

Lessons learnt. Close Combat is lethal, and vehicles are actually pretty tough, which validates the fully mechanised army I've built up. Railguns (the Tau's tankbuster guns) scare people with good reason, and I can expect them to be targetted more often.

Next week we are going to be a bit more organised, and we are doing 750 points a general, and it will be Skunty and myself against the Imperial Guard and orks, so need to come up with some way of countering that Ork Brick!

babychaos's picture