Friday, September 28, 2012

Figure Salvage, Part 2

In our last post I showed you some used Tau figures I picked up in a deal recently.  The first step towards cleaning them up & repainting them to match my army is to strip off the old coats of paint.

I started by dumping all of the figures in a pickle jar filled with diluted Simple Green.  This did an OK job in some cases, but a lot of the paint applied was not affected. I'm no chemistry expert but this is probably due to either a varnish being applied or the nature of the paint.  I would guess that something like Simple Green may not work so hot on figures painted with enamel-based paints vs acrylics.  If you get figures from anyone that uses hardware store spray paints this will often be the case.

Here are shots of the figures after 24 hours in Simple Green:

Plastic Fire Warriors after Simple Green
As you can see, some paint came off but most of the green & white top coats are still intact.  I had a few other figures where the Simple Green took off enough paint to call it good, but in these cases, the paint is applied thick enough that it obscures some of the finer details in the armor so we have to go further in getting these figures ready for repainting.

The metal figures were even worse.  You can hardly tell any difference.

Paint still basically intact on the metal figs
I was able to scrape off some of the raised bits on the metal figures but again, this is not nearly good enough.

Note:  Many gamers have good luck with Simple Green.  Using it undiluted and letting it soak longer may give you better results.  I'm impatient and also wanted to show what some other common household cleaners can do so I moved on.

With Simple Green not cutting the mustard for me, I moved on to the next cleaning solution.  Citrus-based cleaners & degreasers are still pretty non-toxic and are more powerful than cleaning solutions like Simple Green.  I made a solution of 1:1 Orange Clean & water, put it in a glass baby food jar (very useful by the way) and let my figures soak in there for between 15 minutes and an hour.

My metal figures came out very shiny and clean with some scrubbing.

Here's a close-up:
Where'd all that paint go?

Still some bits of paint on there but for the most part the citrus cleaner allowed my to get most of the paint off with a short soak.  I left the metal figures in there longer and they got very clean.  See the picture at the end of this post to see the final state.  They're very shiny.  

There's an important caveat to remember when using Citrus-based cleaners.  They're usually sold as 'de-greasers' for a reason:  They are very good at sucking oil out of something, and that something includes both your skin and plastics.  So, use gloves if you don't want your fingers to turn white, crack and burn for a while.  Also, there are disclaimers against using citrus-based cleaners with plastics like styrene (what GW plastics are made of) for again they chemically alter the plastics.  I took a few busted plastic figures and left them in the citrus cleaner for about 30 minutes.  When scrubbing the paint came off, but the figures got bendy and the plastic bases had started melting, so my toothbrush started scraping bits off the base and I managed to leave fingerprints embedded in both the top & bottom.  If this is all you have for cleaning figures, you can use it, but do not leave your figs in the mix for a prolonged time or you will end up with a jar full of goo.  There are better options.

After seeing a bunch of plastic figures still coated in gloppy paint, I decided it was time to pull out the heavy artillery: spray-on oven cleaner.  I use Easy-Off Heavy Duty Oven Cleaner.  I sprayed it on my plastic figures and let them sit for 10-20 minutes and then started scrubbing them under warm water with my trusty toothbrush.

Tau Fire Warrior enduring the Rot of Nurgle (i.e. Oven Cleaner)
Another safety note:  Oven Cleaner will take off pretty much anything given time, but it's toxic, nasty stuff.  Wear gloves at all time as this will  dry out and burn your skin, work in a well-ventilated area as the fumes from the spray could be classified as chemical warfare (you'll be hacking a lot if you breathe it in), wear old clothes you don't care about and work in an area where you or your significant other won't lose their mind from all the nasty chemical crap you'll be scattering around while you're scrubbing.  If you do this in a bathroom or kitchen sink, you'll be sorry.  Don't complain back to me about it, you've been warned and I'll just mock & ridicule you.

Anyway, while Oven Cleaner should probably be banned under the Geneva Convention it's pretty damn effective and loosening up paint without mutating the plastic underneath.  Here's what my figures looked like after being scrubbed and rinsed:

Now we're talking!
Are you can see, most of the paint is now gone.  This brings up an important point.  When you're buying used figures, you need to keep your expectations realistic.  Getting all the paint off of plastic figures is almost impossible, so you are aiming to get most of it off.  The idea is to get enough paint off to make sure the details stick out and you can put some serviceable figures on the table.  If you're looking to do Golden Demon-quality work, you're better off buying new figures.  These Fire Warriors will die in droves on the table.  If you have some that don't end up looking so hot, take advantage of the new casualty allocation rules in 6th edition and put the uglier figures up front so they won't offend your sensibilities for long in a game.

Scrubbing the figures down and soaking them in a variety of chemicals may mean the finer detail bits of plastic figures may snap off.  I lost a number of Tau helmet antennas during cleanup.  Thankfully I have some spares and also a plethora of those left hands holding a communication device.  I can snip off the antennas from those arms and use them as proxy pieces.  Won't be perfect, but again the butt-ugly ones will end up as bullet-takers in the front ranks.

So, here are our 4 figures after paint removal.  The metal figures are nice and shiny and after re-basing and cleaning up mold lines, they will look good as new.  The plastics look more dodgy right now but after doing some more scraping and re-priming them they will look pretty good (hopefully - time will tell).

Time to move on to rebasing, cleaning mold lines, etc.

The final step: Clean up after yourself.  The process of scrubbing paint off will leave little flecks of dark  goop all over your work area.

PS: Galan from the Hitting on 3's podcast told me he likes "LA's Totally Awesome Cleaner," for stripping paint off of figures.  It's cheap and can be found in dollar stores around the USA.  Just another option for you to look at.  Thanks Galan!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Figure Salvage, Part 1

Everyone likes saving money when they can, especially on non-essential things like hobbies.  While miniatures gaming is a relatively inexpensive hobby (compared to something like Golf,  motorsports, etc.) it still requires a decent outlay of cash, and for some gamers, the less they have to spend the better. I come from a background of historical miniatures, where paying $3 for a very well-sculpted 28mm miniature is seen as highway robbery, so you can imagine my shock when jumping back into 40K and paying $15 for a Tau Shas'ui NCO & shield drone.  You need less figures for a GW army but still... damn.

As I was saying, gamers like to save cash, and one way people do that is by buying used figures.  There are many places you can get good deals online on used figures including eBay, Bartertown, various message board swap fora.  Another place you can pick up deals is from other gamers in your local group.  I was at my FLGS last night and struck a deal with another local gamer.  For $40 (which he promptly turned into two Grey Knight leader figures from the store) I got the following:
  • 1 Metal Tau Ethereal
  • 2 Metal Tau Pathfinders with Rail Rifles
  • 5 gun drones
  • 22 Assembled Fire Warriors
  • 6 Assembled Kroot
Not too shabby, and a hell of a lot cheaper than buying every thing new.  

$40 of Used Tau.  Note the irregular paint jobs.

Disclaimer:  I buy most of my figures from my FLGS.  He's not running a charity to provide free gaming space for us so I support him as much as I can.  If you like your local gaming store, buy things there regularly.  It's a tough economy and these small business owners need support from ALL of us to stay in business. It's OK to get good deals on stuff elsewhere, but if you buy all your stuff online and then go into a local store to play and never buy anything there, you're just a leech.  </soapbox>

But I digress.  So, I managed to get a good deal on some things I needed for my force.  These Tau were the first figures this gamer had ever painted and, in all honesty, it showed.  Mold lines still in place, haphazard assembly in some cases, and the paint was laid on thick, and sometimes with a grainy finish. Those figures that were painted were done in several different color schemes, none of which are close to the one I'm using.  This is pretty common with used figures.  The better the deal, odds are the worse shape the figures are in.  Cleaning them up can be a pain, but that's the price you often pay to save some bucks.  So, I decided to go through and clean the figures up and I thought it might be interesting for newer gamers especially to see how I did it.

Here are 4 figures I'll use as my test cases for this series.  We have a Tau Ethereal, a black-primed pathfinder with a BFG rail rifle and two Tau Fire Warriors.  The white Fire Warrior has a grainy, chalky white coat of paint over a black primer base while the green one has been coated in 'realistic water effect' to give it a shiny, plasticky look & feel.  In all cases the based are plan.  No paint, terrain, etc.  

The Usual Suspects

The first thing that needs to be done is get all the old paint off.  There are a variety of ways to get the paint off.  Sometimes running them under hot water and then using an old toothbrush works, but often you have to soak the figures in something to get the paint off.  For metal figures, oven cleaner spray works very well, but it's toxic and I don't know how well it would work with plastic figures, let alone resin.  Automotive brake fluid will also work from what I've read.  My preferred solution is using something less noxious, so I'm putting all these figures in a bath of diluted Simple Green.  This is a non-toxic cleaner that can be found at pretty much any DIY or Home Improvement store in the USA.  A somewhat similar product in the UK is Dettol from what I've heard.

So, I took an old glass pickle jar (the wide mouth helps a lot), filled it with diluted Simple Green (~1:15 ratio or so. The exact ratio doesn't matter much IMO.  I've seen it anywhere from 1:10 to 1:30.  The less SG in the mix, the longer it may take so be aware of that).  Once the mix is in place in go the figures for a soak.  I expect they'll be in there for at least a day and perhaps longer, especially for those pieces with the water effect gunk on them.  

A few days of this and most paint comes off.

After a few days of soaking in the Simple Green most of the paint will come right off with a rinse of hot water and some scrubbing with an old tootbrush.  I'll post more pics of the Fantastic Four over time to show the progress of the reclamation effort.  You can see larger photos of this series at my Photobucket account here.

More to follow...

If you find this series of posts useful please leave a comment or let me know on Twitter (@GreatRedoubt).  

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Genesis of Warhammer 40K

The Warhammer family of tabletop games has been around for a long time, with the original Warhammer 40K (aka Rogue Trader) being released in 1987.  What many gamers may not know was that some of the original concepts behind the game and the universe were formed well before that year, even before the original Warhammer Fantasy Battle rules were published.

Digging around in my basement this week I stumbled across an old set of rules I had called "Imperial Commander."  These were the mass-battle rules to accompany the "Laserburn" skirmish/RPG rules published by Tabletop Games back in the early 1980's.  I used to play IC with some friends when I was in high school & college back then, using the 15mm figure line that TTG produced as well.  The games were short, bloody and a great deal of fun.

Imperial Commander rules & Forces of the Imperium Supplement
Here are the original books in their black & white, simple card cover glory.  The copyright date on the rules are December, 1981, and the authors are Bryan Ansell & Richard Halliwell, both of whom went on to become co-authors of Warhammer Fantasy Battle (with other individuals as well), and Mr. Ansell was the founder of Citadel Miniatures and later became owner of Games Workshop and (after selling GW) Wargames Foundry.   

You can see hints of early space marines in the imagery used for the Imperial Marines here.

The troop types include armored infantry (i.e. regular space marines), powered armor (Terminators) and Dreadnoughts.  The main weapon used by the Imperial marines are the Bolt Rifle & 'Heavy Bolter' (sound familiar?).

There are references to the 'Forces of the Emperor and his Lord Knights (primarchs?)' and the Inquisition as well.

Laserburn & Imperial commander had no concept of Chaos, Orks, Eldar or any other major xenos races.  It was mostly humans being horrible to other humans with some aliens thrown in for good measure.  You can still buy the original 15mm figures and some of the Laserburn manuals at

Rouge Trader was heavily influenced by further developments from GW as well, but reading through the old Laserburn material it's easy to see where a lot of the core ideas and imagery came from.  I hope you found this interesting! 

Monday, September 17, 2012

My First Game of 40K

The last month or so has not been kind to me gaming-wise.  I've been trying to get down to my FLGS on Tuesday nights for Warhammer 40K but I've been out of town working for the last 4 Tuesdays in a row.  I finally managed to make it down last Sunday (the other day o the week GW games are often played at Armored Ogre) and was able to get in a quick learning game of 40K against Jeremy, another local Tau player.

We each too around 600 points of forces since that's right around as many as I have painted up currently.  My forces included:

  • Tau Commander Crisis Suit + 2 bodyguard Crisis Suits (all with Plasma Rifle, Missile Pod & Multtracker).
  • 1 Squad of 12 Fire Warriors with Pulse Rifles including Shas'ui with Markerlight (which I forgot to use the entire game - Doh!)
  • 2 Squads of 12 Kroot with Kroot Rifles (these guys were assembled & primed white, so I'm calling them albino Kroot for now).
  • 3 XV25 Stealth Suits - Shas'ui with Fusion Blaster, other 2 with Burst Cannon

Jeremy's Forces included:
  • Tau Commander with Plasma Rifle, Missile Pod, Multitracker & drone Conroller with two shield drones.
  • Squad of 3 Crisis Suits with Plasma Rifle, Missile Pod, & Multitracker (Commander had two shield drones)
  • Two squads of 8 fire warriors with Pulse Rifles, each with 2 shield drones
  • Sniper team with 3 railgun sniper drones.
As the astute reader noticed, Jeremy took a lot of shield drones and I took none, mostly because I didn't have any painted up and I only had 1 shield drone at home.  

We rolled for the mission and came up with "The Emperor's Will", basically with each side having to try and secure an objective on the other side with 5 turns.  We played on a 4x4 board with two hills in the middle, a forest on my side and a forest/crater/difficult ground area on the opposing side's deployment area.  My objective was placed in the forest while Jeremy's was in the difficult ground area.   Overall a very symmetrical layout for both the terrain and the objectives.

Here's a picture of the game as it started.  I deployed Fire Warriors on the right, one squad of albino Kroot in the forest, guarding the objective, the other one on my left flank (out of this picture) and my drone-less Crisis suits cowering in the rear behind the forest using the Kroot as a convenient meat shield.  The Stealth Suits were kept off board as reserves.  Jeremy deployed with a squad of Fire Warriors on either end of his line, the sniper squad in the rough terrain (with a clear field of fire all the way across the table) and all 4 Crisis suits in a Wedge formation, led by 4 shield drones.
The game started off pretty well as both sides advanced towards each other.  Mindful of the sniper squad and the Crisis Suit mob in front of me, I chose to keep my Crisis suits alive and spent most of the game moving out from behind the forest, firing at the Crisis Suits as needed, and then jumping back behind the forest to save myself from a LOT of high strength firepower.  The Greater Good would be served by surviving.   My left-hand Kroot squad started taking losses from the opposing Fire Warriors quickly, so to keep them alive I brought in my Stealth Suits on turn 2 behind that FW squad.  The Stealth Suits killed off three of the 8 fire warriors but then paid the ultimate price next turn when pretty much every OpFor Tau unit fired on them in the second half of Turn 2, leaving a dark black scorch mark where the heroes of the Greater Good had previously stood.  

On the other flank my Fire Warriors crested the hill and opened up on the OpFor FW squad, taking out both shield drones and putting those pulse rifles to good use.  I can see the advantages of several squads of Fire Warriors massing fire on a target and doing some serious damage.  My Fire Warriors ended up stuck on the hill for the rest of the game thanks to the OpFor sniper team and the pinning tests that they incurred each time they took out a trooper.

Fire Warriors on the Hill - OpFor Objection in Upper Left
In the middle my Crisis Suits played cat & mouse with the enemy Crisis Suit team, eventually picking off all the shield drones and then taking out the entire team thanks to the firepower provided by the 'Fireknife' configuration (plasma Rifle/Missile Pod/Multitracker).

Crisis Suits sneaking around behind the forest.
The game ended in a draw.  Neither of us had the ability to capture the other's objective, I killed the enemy commander, and Jeremy drew first blood by wiping out my Stealth Suit team.  Here's a picture from the end of the game.  All of Jeremy's remaining figures had hunkered down around their objective - How I wish I had some blast template weapons!

Overall I enjoyed myself.  It was a quick game, and even with the smaller table it moved well.  I made plenty of mistakes in the game but Jeremy was a gracious and patient teacher.  Thanks to him for helping me learn the basics of the game.  It was a great feeling to get a brand new army on the table for the first time in many years.  

For future lessons:  I definitely need shield drones. The Crisis Suits will be the mobile striking force of my army and they are not armored enough to survive against most other armies' heavy support.  To keep them alive I need to take advantage of their jet packs and use shield drones to burn off (hopefully) enough wounds to keep them operational for an additional turn.   

I need more Fire Warriors.  The pulse rifles are a very good weapon, and I can see that a few squads of them, with markerlight support, can put an extremely high volume of good anti-infantry fire out.  S5 is good, and with enough wounds your enemy will eventually roll a '1.'   

The Kroot were fun to play, and with a forest on the table they always have some place to go.  They are not great troops but they have their uses, and since I have 24 of them and a Krootox right now I'll find ways to get them on the table.  They died in droves, but at least the Tau had fried chicken for dinner that night.  

I have plenty left to learn but overall I'm very pleased with my first game of 40K.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Review: Paulson Games' Mecha Bits

Greetings everyone, sorry for the delay in posts.  As usual that whole 'real life' thing got in the way.  Rest assured I've been working away on my new Tau army and am getting closer to being able to have a playable force ready to go.

In addition to the Tau Battleforce box I acquired to start my army, a friend (Thanks Tim!) gave me a huge box of his old Tau stuff... most of it needing some TLC and repair work but overall a lot of usable stuff.    Included in the box were a number of old Crisis Suits, including one Broadside suit. I managed to put together a team of three 'Fireknife' suits with plasma rifle & missile launchers and they are in progress now.  I was really excited about the Broadside until I figured out I only had one railgun, which makes the Broadside a bit hard to field.  Since single railguns aren't easy to find I started looking around  at alternatives and heard mention of some third-party bits that might just do the trick.

Enter Paulson Games.  This is a relatively new company based out of the Chicago area that specializes in making resin parts that work well for small-scale models.  They have a range of mecha parts that will work very well for a number of different games, including 40K.  I ordered a sampler of parts to see what they look like and am posting a review of them here.

All of Paulson's parts are cast in an off-white resin.  The level of detail is very good and while there is some flash to be cleaned up it's not bad. All of the Paulson parts are shown as-is right from the mailing packet.  I didn't clean up any flash or mold lines yet.

First up, the railguns.  I ordered both the 'long' and 'short' models of the railgun.  As you can see, the 'long' version matches up with the GW railgun (Top in the picture) very well from a length perspective. I actually like the Paulson railgun better as it looks like it has more heft and appears more like a true heavy weapon.  Reminds me more of the long AT guns from World War II.

Next, here are the missile launchers.  From top to bottom we have the Paulson 'underslung' launcher, the Paulson regular launcher and the GW Broadside arm launcher at the bottom.  The front of the Paulson launcher is a separate piece and is shown at the bottom in front of the GW launcher to show the width of the overall piece.  The launchers are about the same height but roughly twice as wide as the GW ones.
Missile Launchers

I also ordered some Autocannons and compared them to the GW Tau Burst Cannons. The Paulson cannon is the top one, with the separate front shown for detail.  The two halves of the GW burst cannon are below.  Again, the Paulson autocannon feels more like a true heavy weapon to me.


Finally, I ordered some alternate heads as well.  Paulson offers two slightly different models of heads and they are compared here to a stock Crisis Suit head.  They will be a nice alternative to the stock GW heads, possibly to show newer suit models or field modifications.  The Paulson models are on the left & center of the two following pictures, with the GW head on the right.  

Front view
Heads - Front View

 Side view
Heads - Side View

The verdict? Overall I'm very pleased with the parts.  They have good detail, a reasonable amount of flash, good prices and excellent shipping rates worldwide.  I'll be ordering more parts over time and hopefully they will keep on expanding their range of products.  As of this writing they have their entire inventory on sale 30-50% off so if you're interested in checking out their stuff order soon!