Sunday, June 12, 2016

Adepticon 2016: Geek Nation Tours review

    When I went to Adepticon this year, I went in style. I booked my Adepticon experience through Geek Nation Tours and they made it my best Adepticon experience yet.

    The perks are really outstanding and start long before the event even takes place. The tour package includes the hotel, transportation to and from the airport, and dinner every night. Other perks included special minis and items just for the GNT participants. Arguably the best tangible perk is that the tour also includes the very awesome Adepticon VIG swag bag.

     Additionally, as a part of the tour, you can sign up for events one week before the general public can. You're nearly guaranteed to get a spot in every event or seminar you want to attend. No need to scramble at registration with a thousand other people trying to score a VIG bag or getting waitlisted for that one really awesome event you wanted to be a part of.

     As part of dinner each night, GNT invites a variety of guests to come talk with you. The Welcome Dinner's special guest was Angel Giraldez (who was amazing!) and Fantasy Flight came in to run demos of X-Wing,  Armada, and Imperial Assault. Another one of the dinners we did was at Medieval Times, which was an absolute blast. Each night also had a theme. One night was Podcasters night with guests from a variety of popular podcasts, Demo night (which was probably my favorite), Painters night, and the Farewell dinner (more on that).

     It's a close call to make, but the Demos night might have been my favorite. CMON, Mantic, and Osprey were there to demo games for everyone. One company I hadn't heard of was there, too, Red Republic Games. They're the ones behind Arena Rex, which I gushed about previously. This was the night where I had a chance to do their awesome demo.

     A close second was the Farewell dinner night. GNT brought Mark Gibbons to speak with us, and I couldn't have been more excited about that if I tried.

     He was at the event to debut the game he created with Andy Chambers called Dark Deeds. It's a fantastic game, which I wrote about previously. It was fun getting to meet with him and hear about what he's been up to recently.

     The best part of the tour, though, was getting to meet and geek out with a bunch of really cool people I wouldn't have met otherwise. I wasn't able to travel with friends this year, so my time at Adepticon was made even better by the instant connections created the first night of the tour with fellow participants. I made a lot of friends and many fond memories.

     This was my third year at Adepticon, but it was my best yet because of the tour. So even if you've gone to Adepticon before, going with Geek Nation Tours is an experience I would highly recommend.

Friday, June 10, 2016

40k Radio: 3rd Edition!

     I have a wonderful, fantastic announcement today. I'm one of new hosts of 40k Radio! All new hosts, all new show!

     You may have heard that earlier in the year, 40k Radio was sold to Teras Cassidy of Geek Nation Tours and the old crew is retiring from the show. After putting out the call for host applications, three new hosts were chosen- Matt, JF, and myself.
      This morning, the last show of the previous incarnation aired. It introduces JF and I and was the last hurrah for them. Thanks so much to Rik and Kyle for a warm welcome and I wish them the best of luck in their next endeavors. You can listen to the episode and all new episodes from the Freebooter's Network iTunes feed and their website.
     We'll be releasing the first official 3rd edition show in about two weeks time. I hope you'll give it a listen!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Dark Deeds Review

     One of the best games I demoed at Adepticon was Dark Deeds. I have to say "one of" because there was no shortage of fantastic games that I tried over the weekend. This one, though, was a bit of a dark horse for me. I'd seen it being demoed in the vendor hall, but I didn't actually demo it until the after-con mixer, thanks to the D6 Generation guys.

     The game is a collaboration between Andy Chambers and Mark Gibbons. It's a small card-based game where you play as a minion working for a wealthy patron to commit a series of sinister crimes. The board is the Street and there you can find cards for civilians, Nemeses, and Guards. You, as the minion, must fulfill any Dark Deeds (objective cards) from your Patron, rob civilians, and kill Nemeses to collect points. There is also a Tavern deck where you can draw cards to help you in your quest.

     The person with the most points at the end wins, simple enough, but there are plenty of ways you can mess with your compatriots. Steal their goodies, sic a guard on them, or flat out ignore the action of a card of their own. This game is nothing but fun and laughs with friends or with strangers.

     I played it only once that night but was immediately hooked. Even though the con was technically over, the makers were kind enough to bring down some copies and sell them to those of us that missed out on it during the event. That was so fantastic, because otherwise I would have missed out.  I've now played it many times since then and it's always been a blast.

     There are rules mods included with the game so you can play it with anywhere from 2 to 5 players. 4 players is really the sweet spot. The games are a little shorter with more people, however, they're much more fun with more people killing, maiming, and backstabbing one another.

     Adepticon was the game's coming out party, it was only available for pickup at the event or preorder at the time. They also offered a special expansion for Adepticon only. The expansions are limited run and individually numbered. I had a bit of luck on my side, and somehow managed to snag the #1 Adepticon expansion. Very cool.

     But Dark Deeds is shipping now and you can get it from Games & Gears. At about $60 (give or take a few bucks due to the exchange rate) it's a little pricey but the quality is absolutely top notch. The coins are actually metal, the Street mat is that "mouse-pad" stuff that is really nice, and the tokens are stained wood instead of plastic.

     They also recently announced that there will be a new special expansion for Gen Con similar to the Adepticon one. It will include 10 new cards and a die, and will be available for order on June 8th! So, if you're like me and can't make Gen Con, you can still get your hands on this awesome expansion. They will also be offering some bundles for the base game and remaining Adepticon expansions, while they last.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Arena Rex Review

     Arena Rex is another of the great games I tried while at Adepticon. They were kind enough to provide us VIGs with a coupon for a free mini and that's what got me over to their booth.
Then I couldn't leave. They had a display case packed with amazing minis, painted stunningly. They had 6-8 different small-based miniatures to choose the free one from. I had no idea how I was going to choose one. I ended up deciding on the Lupa miniature, since it was limited edition. And awesome:

     I was highly tempted to get a starter box, but on Thursday they had completely sold out. Worse problems to have, right? They had more coming in, but they hadn't arrived yet. That ended up working out OK because it gave me a chance to try the game at our Geek Nation Tours demo night that evening. I had a fantastic demo with the guys and I was sold. 

     I ended up being able to pick up a Zephyri box set on Saturday. The box sets have 3 minis in them which is enough to play with but 4 is what we used in the demo. I'm looking forward to getting some friends to try it. It should be easy to do given the small model count. 
     They got started with a very successful Kickstarter and have since gone on to expand the range of minis available for each faction. And if you visit their website, you can download a free copy of the rules in either English or Spanish.
     Small skirmish games are really up my alley right now, since sometimes you just don't have the time to spend 4 hours setting up and playing a game of 40k. But really, more than anything, I love the setting. Ancient gladiatorial fights- what's not to love?

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Adepticon 2016! Part 3: Swag

     Swag, swag, swag! This year's Adepticon VIG bag was swagalicious. They actually made the bags larger than last year's, presumably because they couldn't fit the largest item in the old size: a Hordes two-player starter box.
Digging in right after I got it.
      Also included were a Dropzone Commander rulebook, CMON best of book, a slew of loose miniatures, coupons for free minis, paint, many bases, and all kinds of other little things. Like last year, we also got Wrath of Kings starter boxes. I ended up with a Teknes box to go with my Goritsi box from last year.
     I actually ended up with a mega ton of Goritsi stuff because of the raffle on Sunday. I had a few tickets but a friend asked me to check his tickets because he needed to be at an event. His ticket won, there were a couple of HUGE Wrath of Kings armies to choose from. I didn't know which one he might like, so I grabbed the Gortitsi because I knew their models were pretty cool. 

     Sadly, the sea critters, Hadross, who are really cool, had already been claimed. But seriously a huge stack of minis. I brought them over to him after the raffle but he had no interest in the game so he generously offered them to me instead. I have a few friends threatening to play it, and have that VIG starter box, so you'll be seeing a lot of those minis coming up soon.
     There were several really awesome items this year, I picked out some of my favorites the first night:

     The Malifaux mystery box was a super fun surprise and I love the CMON bases. These are the planks, which is awesome. I ended up (yet again) coming home with almost more stuff than I could fit in my luggage. And I left with plenty of extra room, but I was not at all expecting to come home with an entire army's worth of boxes.
     If you get a chance, definitely snag a VIG bag if you can. They sell out in moments when the cart goes live in Oct/Nov so make sure you're quick about it. Or, if you're part of Geek Nation Tours, you get it automatically as part of the cost of the tour. Very handy.

Adepticon 2016! Seminars: Part 2

     Sorry for the delay, but here is the continuation of my Adepticon Seminars! Part one can be found here. My Saturday and Sunday seminars were a bit less grueling than Thursday and Friday. Only 5 between them.

Airbrush 101 - Choosing the Right Airbrush and the Joy of Using It with Ken Schlotfeldt
     Now that I've been faking my way through airbrushing with trial and error and Youtube videos with limited success, I thought I'd take a class to get some more info on airbrushes.
     This class was really informative and filled in some gaps in my airbrushing knowledge. Ken went over the various kinds of airbrushes and tailored the information toward miniature painting applications. I definitely recommend this class if you're thinking about airbrushing but aren't sure where to start.

Hands on with Two-Brush Blending with Matt DiPietro
     This class was awesome. I learned two brush blending ages ago but hadn't really gotten the hang of it. This class was the perfect refresher. I feel like I will get more out of the wet blending but there's a lot of application where this would be more useful.

     It took a little while to get the hang of it, but I got a really nice blend.

True Metallic Metal with Matt Cexwish
     After the class with Dave Taylor on day one, this class was a bit repetitive. I'd recommend taking either one or the other. No reason to do both.

The Secrets of the Loaded Brush with Ben Komets

     We dabbled a bit with loaded brush during the wet blending class but I didn't really get it until this class. Definitely a useful technique but one I need a lot more practice with.
     The wood blocks were useful because we could just paint over them quickly with a neutral color and and practice again and again. I might have tried it about forty times over the course of the class. It's not a technique I will need to use a lot, but it'll definitely come in handy.

Painting Faces with Ben Komets
     This class was probably the skill I leveled up the most in. Some very simple techniques that dramatically improved the realistic quality of my faces. The best bit of advice was to start with your base skin-tone color and mix in a little bit of black. It takes out the cartoonish look of skin tone straight out of the bottle. That alone makes a dramatic difference.
     I was very pleased with this class and highly recommend you take it.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Adepticon 2016! Seminars: Part 1

     As I mentioned in my original Adepticon post, I way over booked myself this year with twelve hobby seminars. It sounded like such a great idea when I signed up for all of them, but really, it wore me out a bit by the end of the day. I'll probably do a max of 3 each day instead of 4 next year.
     One bummer I didn't foresee was that the first class of each day started before the vendor hall opened and the first evening slot (5-7pm) ended after they were closed. That really limited my exploration time. I should have taken that into consideration when I selected my schedule. I purposely skipped all of the 7:30-9:30pm seminars to accommodate the GNT dinners each night. I also skipped the 10pm-12am slot because, from prior experience, I know I'm too tired at that point to pay attention.
     Now to the seminars themselves. Covered below, in order of attendance, are the seminars I took on Thursday and Friday. The second half of the weekend will be covered in a separate post coming soon.

Liber Metallica with Dave Taylor

     Bright and early to kick off the event was my first class, Liber Metallica. The class is about painting true metallic metals, which is something I find a bit hard and boring (which is why I signed up for two different classes on it).
     Dave gave us some very nice step by steps on how to paint all different types of metals. Included with the class was a small bottle of his "secret" metal wash, which he then tells you how to replicate yourself at home.

Wet Blending & Loaded Brush 101 with Aaron Lovejoy
     This is the class I immediately began referring to as the one that changed my life. I learned two-brush blending about two years ago, but had limited success with it. Wet blending is a totally different animal. For me, two-brush blending was like herding sleepy cats (not quite as hard as alert ones, but close) and wet blending was like herding sheep with a pair of trained collies.

      That was my first wet blend. How long do you think that took? Whatever you're thinking, you're probably wrong. It took about 60 seconds. No joke. Could it be more seamless? Sure. But I think it's pretty smooth for a thing I was trying for the very first time. And I easily doubled my skills with half an hour of practice.
     I actually practiced this one all weekend on Guilliman's cloak. I had been saving that piece of him for last, not sure what I really wanted to do with it. But as soon as I saw that wing, I knew. I actually ended up using the same two colors too, since I wanted his cloak to be red and those colors were handy.
     Now that I have this skill in my toolkit, I can't help but look at a mini and think "wow, a really nice wet blend could go there". And then I just do it. The magic part isn't getting it right the first time, but that you can easily let a rough blend dry, and just do another layer on top to help smooth it out. Seriously easy.
     If you're looking to learn how to blend, this is the class I would recommend.

Vallejo Painting Demos with Angel Giraldez

     This year's very special painter guest was Angel Giraldez. And I got to take this class with him, for free! It was a demo class, all you had to do was sign up before it filled up (which was almost instantly). It was a little about airbrushing, a little about the Vallejo paints, and a little bit about asking questions. It was very informal, just watching him go to town. He painted the face and showed us how to use Vallejo's chipping medium on the armor.
     The best take away, perhaps, was watching him clean his airbrush between colors. He did it like this:
      He loosened the needle, submerged it into the water cup up to the color cup, pushed the trigger, and moved the needle back and forth a little to run all the paint out of the brush so he could switch colors. The whole room gasped at such a brilliant but simple way to do it. I haven't personally tried it yet (my airbrush is designed a little differently so it won't be as fast) but it'll be way better than the super messy method I use now.

Painting Hair with Rhonda Bender
     I always seem to paint some dull looking hair. But no more!
     Rhonda taught us blonde hair but gave us a fantastic handout to help us do other natural hair colors, too. Thinking about the way light hits hair and the way that changes as the hair falls is very helpful and interesting when considering where the light is hitting the rest of the model, too. 
     I put it into practice on Guilliman, too, and gave his hair a little touch up. 
     Plus, the mini we got was a really lovely one from Dark Sword Miniatures.

How to Paint Faster and Better with Anthony Wang
     This class was good, even though I forgot to take a photo. Anthony talked a bit about techniques you can use to make army painting a bit quicker, simple techniques that give that 'better than average' look without taking too much time.
     We practiced them on a mini and then basically just asked questions about what we wanted to know how to do. We did some nice cloth and leather techniques. Very hands on with a little demoing to get us started.

Blood, Puss,Guts, and Gore with Michelle Blastenbrei
     Weak stomach? This class is not for you. But if you're a disciple of Khorne or Nurgle, you need to get your butt to one of these classes. The cost of this one was a little higher than the others, but that's due to the supplies you get to keep. You get a pot of Tamya clear red, a tube of Uhu (desperately difficult to get in the States), a bottle of Vallejo wash, some small cups, and mixing sticks. Totally worth it!

      Michelle was fantastic. She's got a great energy and the class was super fun. The handout she made for us was really awesome. Honestly, huge props to all the painters that made us handouts. They are so helpful when you get home and want to try the technique again on your own.
     The basic effect is achieved by mixing a little Tamya clear red in with the Uhu, which is what gives it those stretchy properties. Using other colors, like the green wash, you can get some lovely puss and gut effects. Definitely worth taking.
     I have a Papa Nurgle in the closet who is just calling for me to try these techniques on him.

Lose the Fear: Green Stuff Miniature Modeling & Sculpting with Joe Orteza
     This was the most expensive class I took, at $42, but entirely worth it just for the tools. We got a set of 4 very nice and super useful sculpting tools to take home with us. So don't let the price scare you off from this on, because if you want to start working on sculpting, it's worth it.

     We made a purity seal, a leaf, a feather, a chain, and a rope. I think I did best on the chain, it was hilariously easy and came out looking pretty neat. I did make the original strand a little too small so it was difficult to get the details all in, but I'm incredibly pleased with it.
     Joe did a really nice job with this class. He used a white board to draw each step as we went along, a very easy way for everyone in the class to see exactly what the step was without a dozen people crowding over him to watch him demonstrate it with greenstuff.
     I definitely lost my fear of greenstuff after taking this class. I'm not going to be sculpting entire miniatures any time soon, but I definitely have the confidence (and the tools!) to make some cool conversions going forward. I highly recommend this class as well.

     Stay tuned for the second half of my classes over the next few days!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

paintRack Review

     Over the weekend, I discovered this fantastic app that all mini painters will love. It's called paintRack and it's for tracking your paint collection. I don't know about you, but I have too much paint to keep track of. And it can be a huge pain in the butt to remember what you have or don't when standing in front of the racks at the game store.

     paintRack lets you to scan the barcode on your current collection to add them to the app. I had a big spreadsheet saved to Google Docs for this purpose, but this is much faster, more user-friendly, and includes a better search function. Paint ranges available currently include Citadel, Old Citadel, P3, Reaper, Vallejo, Minitaire, and Warpaints (the Army Builder paints) and others. You can select which ranges to show and which to hide, too, if you don't use all of them.

     They've recently done updates to include some smaller paint ranges, including Scale75, Andrea Color, and Secret Weapon. When adding a P3 paint by barcode, it selected the wrong paint, which I reported through the app. I added the paint manually instead. Within a few minutes I got a response from the developers asking for more info so they could correct the error. I love when companies are quick to jump on these kinds of things.

     What makes this app really awesome, though, are the additional features: the wish list, paint sets, and color tools. The wish list is simple enough, you track paints that you're looking to buy. Very handy when you're going to the game store. However, each color also has a link to Amazon so you can purchase it on the fly if, say, your FLGS is out of a color you need.

     Where it gets great is with the sets and color tools. Sets allows you to save a particular recipe for your miniatures. Very handy for those large army projects and harder to lose than my paint notebook (which I misplace way more often that I'd care to admit). You can name the set say, Grey Hunters, and then create subsets within it for each item on the minis like Armor, Weapons, Faces, Cloaks and save the paints you used for each in their own subset. So you can pull up exactly what paints you used whenever you need it again. Love it.

     My personal favorite, though, would be the color tools. You can select any one of the paints in the collection and it will help you select complementary, analogous, a triad, or matches from the available paint ranges. I have a tough time trying to select other paints sometimes so that's very helpful to me. It's also handy for helping you start working with color theory.

     You can use the app with some limited functionality for free. You can track some of the paint ranges and scan in pots you have already one at a time. But for $2.99 you can unlock all the features, including every paint line and the Rapid Scan, which allows you to very quickly add lots of paints at once. I had only been playing with it for ten minutes before I knew it was totally worth spending three bucks on it.

     It took me about an hour to scan all 350 or so paints I have across the 6-7 ranges I own (I had no idea it was so many). The Rapid Scan worked really well, except for all the paint pots with barcodes that were old and mangled. Even the best barcode scanner can't help you with that. I had about 40 paints with missing or damaged barcodes that I had to enter manually. But even still, it didn't take very long.

     The app has been out a little over a year and my only complaint is that I didn't hear about it sooner. It's currently only available for Android, but I'm not going to cry over that. I've spent plenty of time waiting months or years for iOS stuff to finally come out on Android, so now it's their turn to wait.

     If you have a large collection of paint or frequently find yourself looking for a good way to track your paint schemes, I highly recommend you check out paintRack.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Roboute Guilliman Reveal

     In February, I took a commission to paint the fabulous Forgeworld Roboute Guilliman. It was both a challenge and a delight to paint him. Even though I have several Primarchs in my collection, he was the first I've actually painted.

     At first inspection, the cast seemed all right, but once I actually sat down to work on him, it was not as great as I would have liked. Normally Forgeworld is excellent at replacing models like that but time was a factor (he took longer than usual to arrive in the first place) so I had to do a bit more work on him than I should have.

     This was especially true of the stone pillars. They weren't nearly as flat and squared off as they should have been. I had to do some greenstuff work to even them out a bit but it all worked out in the end. The marble was the hardest part of the whole miniature, hands down. I'd never painted marble before so I did some practice runs before I started on him. That's probably where I spent the most time.

     I "finished" his head and the banners first and set them aside as I worked on others. I actually brought the whole model to Adepticon with me (he made the trip in my carry-on bag because you just know my checked bag would have gotten lost if he'd been in it) to get some tips. I took a class on painting faces and used those techniques and advice to make a few small changes to his face that really made him look much better.

     At Adepticon, I also learned several nice blending techniques that I decided to utilize on his cloak. Wet blending is the technique I used on it, and it's changed my entire outlook on how to blend anything. It makes even basic blending really, really easy. My first few blends weren't very smooth, but with just a little practice they got much better.

     I'm very please with how he turned out, even the marble. I struggled with that part more than anything else. But the best part is knowing that the client was happy. Guilliman was commissioned by a group of people as a gift for their friend. They were kind enough to send me a photo of him when he received the mini and that made my day.

     Now that he's done, I am taking a little time off commissions. Maybe to work on some painting for myself or maybe just to finish up school. I've got 10 weeks left until graduation and I've been burning the candle at both ends since August. So taking commissions off my plate will help a bit with that.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Adepticon 2016!

   Another year, another fantastic Adepticon! Every year this event gets better and better and 2017 is going to have a lot to live up to after this year's event. I went with Geek Nation Tours this year, and it was an absolute blast. I'll be doing a separate review of the tour later in the week.

     This year, I opted to leave my armies at home and do nothing but painting seminars. I signed up for 12 of them. It was way, way too many. They were scheduled in two hour blocks, half an hour apart. So I only have about 30 minutes between classes to run and grab food or sprint to the vendor hall. I did a lot of speed walking through the event. I stopped int a few tournaments, too, but not as many as I had hoped. There's always more to see and do than you can pack into a single weekend.

     Next year (because I dearly hope to return next year) I'll try to limit myself to 9 max. But who knows what awesome artists they might have next year? Could foil my carefully laid plans. I'll be doing a two part post on classes over the next couple days, one on Thursday/Friday classes and the second on Saturday/Sunday classes.

     I got a VIG swag bag (perk of GNT, actually). It was even better than the previous year's, but that's a separate post, too. But I was disappointed to find out that the VIGs did not get early access to the vendor hall again. Last year we got in half an hour early (if I recall correctly) but they decided not to do that this year, for whatever reason. Not a big deal, but I was looking forward to it.

     As last year, they had the fantastic painting area set up near the seminar rooms where you could go and sit for a spell, work on some minis, and chat with the huge variety of talented individuals who came by. I ran into a lot of old friends this year and made some new ones, too. That might be my favorite part of the whole con. I just wish I had left myself a little more free time to spend time there.

     Wyrd made an appearance in the vendor hall which was fantastic. Forgeworld returned again as did many of last year's vendors. Reaper had a big booth, too, as well as their awesome "paint and take" tables over by the Crystal Brush displays. Disappointingly, Scale 75 did not return this year. I had been planning on spending some money at their booth.

     All in all, this year was a great experience. I got some great stuff, hung out with some awesome people, and learned an absolute ton about painting. More than before, I'm feeling inspired by the hobby again.
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