Looking Back, Looking Ahead: 2014 Recap, 2015 Resolutions

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One of my absolute favorite hobby blogs is Tale of Painters, which is a group blog run by six really talented guys – some of their work has been featured in the “Armies on Parade” section that used to run in White Dwarf magazine – and a cast of equally-talented guests. Currently the principals are closing the book on 2014 and looking ahead to 2015 in a series of retrospectives and resolutions. I love this idea, and imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I’d like to present this post, the first Twilight Forge “Looking Back, Looking Ahead” annual summary.

Looking Back: 2014 Recap

The story of my 2014 actually begins in late 2013. My wife and I had been renting a townhouse condominium, and I had just finished a major overhaul of my hobby workspace in the fall when our landlord informed us that she wanted to sell the property, and so would not be renewing our lease. Hobby-related activities screeched to a halt and stayed dormant pretty much through March while we looked for a new place to live, packed, moved, and then unpacked.

Moving wasn’t entirely without upside. The layout of our new home (another rental townhouse condo) provided some opportunities to further fine-tune my workspace. Notably, I now have enough room to accommodate a small bookcase to the right of my desk, which gives me a convenient, elevated location for my ultrasonic cleaner, as well as some space to stow assorted crap that I like to keep out of the way but still near to hand (my bits box, my extended toolbox, storage for paints I’m not using in my current projects, etc.). I’m about as happy with my workspace as I’ve ever been, and for the first time I can remember I don’t experience productivity-sapping annoyance with some aspect of it whenever I sit down. About the only thing that I’d like to improve is my chair, which is really more a function of how spoiled I am by the high-end Humanscale Freedom chair I have at my computer desk.

Regrettably, the absence of productivity-sapping annoyance hasn’t translated into the presence of motivation, never mind progress on my various projects.

Despite various promises made by Steve Jackson Games during the OGRE Designer’s Edition Kickstarter campaign, the OGRE Miniatures line once again looks to be on indefinite hiatus. Metal figures just cost too much to produce nowadays, the publisher can’t seem to find a suitable alternative, and unless the miniatures are available for sale there isn’t a lot of point to publishing a revised ruleset for them. I was able to place one last, large order to acquire the remaining figures necessary to model three of the five brigades in my planned North American Combine army, but given the lack of publisher support I almost feel like I’m hanging onto the stuff out of nostalgia. I have managed to do some experimentation trying to hammer out a near-future winter-camo paint scheme that looks good at 1/285 scale (results mostly unsatisfactory so far, though I have a few ideas I still want to try) but enthusiasm for preparing playing pieces for what increasingly seems like a dead game has been hard to come by.

My relationship with Warhammer 40k, on the other hand, reached a point of dark comedy last year. Readers who’ve troubled themselves to check out the blog’s About page know that I first got into 40k back in 2010, roughly contemporaneous with the Fifth Edition release of the Blood Angels codex. That army has been my first love (to the point that I have stylized chapter insignia tattooed on my left shoulder). However, owing to various life disruptions over the years I’ve never made any sustained progress actually finishing Blood Angels models; instead I just have a pile of Space Marine kits sitting on my “to-do” shelf that I someday want to get around to. Then Sixth Edition happened, which kind of obsoleted the codex, and last year Seventh Edition happened, which obsoleted it even further, and with Games Workshop giving deserved and in many cases long-overdue attention to other factions, the published support for the Blood Angels has been basically nonexistent. Accordingly, my motivation has waned.

As a result, over the summer, a few months after we finally got settled into the new place, I resolved to try to find another 40k army to invest myself into, as a kind of hold-over until such time – surely far off in the indeterminate future – when GW finally turned back to the Blood Angels and I could rekindle my enthusiasm for them. I didn’t want to do another Imperium of Man army, and I’m not crazy about the models for either Chaos Marines or Chaos Daemons, so after spending some time noodling over the various xenos factions I finally settled on the Dark Eldar: fantastic fluff that allows a high degree of personalization, and models that are at once gorgeous and challenging to paint well.

So naturally in mid-December, after I’d spent two-plus months marinating in Dark Eldar fluff, experimenting with color schemes and working on technique for painting Dark Eldar, and collecting a bunch of Dark Eldar kits, GW released a new Blood Angels codex and new Blood Angels kits. The cherry on top of this particular karmic sundae? Among the new kits are a Blood Angels Tactical Squad and a Blood Angels Terminator Assault Squad, which include all kinds of really neat chapter-specific bits and iconography… and thus effectively obsolete existing Tactical Marine and Assault Terminator kits for use with the Blood Angels. Insert much colorful cursing here.

Highs and Lows

One of the high points of the year for me came in the late fall when I handed my debit card to the cashier at Game Kastle in Santa Clara to pay for a Dark Eldar Kabalite Warriors kit. I’d spent weeks poring over the Dark Eldar source material and finally reached a point where I was not only ready to assemble and paint some test models, but was genuinely excited about it. I hadn’t felt that way about the hobby in a while, and it was really great to find my way back to it.

Another pretty awesome moment, also in the fall, occurred when a gigantic 20-pound box from Secret Weapon Miniatures showed up on my doorstep. Way back in the spring of 2013 I’d backed Mr. Justin’s Tablescapes Kickstarter campaign at the US$150 level, and my set of Urban Streets – Clean tiles finally arrived. While the packaging leaves something to be desired (sorry Mr. Justin, but the chintzy plastic handle on the box is crap), the product itself is just outstanding, and though it’s a daunting project I’m looking forward to getting some paint on the tiles.

Low points include my general lack of productivity over the whole of the year, and Steve Jackson Games’ announcement that they would no longer sell metal OGRE miniatures. I was also less than blown away by the format of the Seventh Edition release: as I mentioned at the time, the “A Galaxy of War” book was 144 pages of color photographs with a little promotional text thrown in. It’s certainly pretty, but all things being equal I could have done without what’s essentially a coffee table book that got flipped through once and then put back in the slipcase forever.

The last low point (and I hate writing this) is the new Blood Angels codex. I really wanted to love this book, but unfortunately it strikes me as little more than a reprint of the Fifth Edition codex and not an actual revision in any meaningful sense of the word. It has the aesthetic of a new codex and it does contain some rules updates, but among other problems it doesn’t account for several new unit types that were introduced in the most recent revision of the Space Marines codex. I expect a variant chapter to have variant wargear and vehicles lists – that’s, after all, kind of the point – but if vanilla Space Marine chapters now all have access to the Stormraven Gunship, why don’t the Blood Angels have access to (say) Stormtalon Gunships, or some other Fast Attack flyer? Is there some particular reason the Blood Angels don’t use Hunters and Stalkers, or Centurion warsuits? If so, can we maybe, I dunno, learn what that reason is? Possibly I’ll have a longer rant about this in a separate post.

Looking Ahead: 2015 Resolutions

Housing uncertainty is, unfortunately, likely to be a theme again this coming year. My wife and I signed a two-year lease when we moved into our current rental, and that lease expires at the end of December. We don’t know if the place will continue to be available at a rent we can afford, and even if it is we’ve been considering moving out of California (our likeliest destination being Washington State). There’s a possibility that in the latter half of the year I’m once more going to need to put hobby-related activities on indefinite hold as we move.

That being said, I want to focus this coming year on actually completing the hobby work that I undertake. That probably seems like a goofy, tautological thing to write, but I am prone to fiddling endlessly with my work in a way that indefinitely delays finishing anything. If I never well and truly complete a model, then it’s forever a work in progress and I never have to be unhappy about how it turned out. The result, though, is that I end up feeling stuck in neutral while my backpile of to-be-assembled-and-painted models grows and gathers moss (because Lord knows it’s impossible to stop buying more stuff).

Another high-level resolution of mine for the new year is to do a better job of RTFM, and dry-fitting, before I begin assembly and painting. All too frequently I’ve made the mistake of doing the work-a-page-at-a-time thing with GW vehicle assembly instructions, failing to get the big-picture undertanding of how a model hangs together, and backing myself into a corner. More often than I’d like I end up frantically trying to sand away paint and primer that I’ve inadvertantly laid down over a contact point for glue, or, alternately, trying to paint a difficult assembly that would have been way easier to deal with as a subassembly. These kinds of mistakes are avoidable with a little more patience and deliberation.

A third high-level resolution is to refrain from adding to the backpile quite so much, and to spend some of the resulting savings on storage solutions instead. Simply put: if I’m finishing more models, I need someplace to either display them or store them. I already own a couple of Battle Foam trays and one of their P.A.C.K. cases, so maybe this is just a matter of expanding the tray collection as I finish work.

With respect to my three ur-projects:

For OGRE Miniatures, I’d like to finally settle on a paint scheme for my Combine army that I can live with. As I mentioned up above I still have a few ideas for an arctic camo scheme that I want to try, but the simple fact of the matter is that while camo looks great when it’s done well, it’s really freaking hard to do well on 1/285 scale micro-armor. It’s possible that this is just more trouble than it’s worth, and if I can’t come up with a relatively painless way of getting a good look, it’s probably time to abandon the idea of camo in favor of a parade color scheme instead. I don’t have a specific goal in terms of painting figures, but I’ll consider the year successful if I can at least achieve this much.

For my Dark Eldar, job number one is to finish writing the fluff for my homebrew Kabal and get off the fence about the color scheme I want to use. I have a Kabalite Skysplinter kit (basically a Kabalite Warriors kit and the Raider kit sold as a package deal) that I’d like to paint, and I’d also like to work on some Scourges (I haven’t painted a lot of feathers or bat wings, so I’m looking forward to that), some Mandrakes (I’m interested in the challenge of trying to make night-black flesh appear to have some depth), and a Razorwing Jetfighter. Anything more will be gravy.

For my Blood Angels, I’d like to paint a Tactical Squad and a Drop Pod to start with. Beyond that, I’m interested in working on Vindicator tanks and Land Speeders (I just love these models; I can’t explain why), and possibly also some Assault Marines or some Death Company.

Finally, I want to update the blog more often. My once-every-four-to-six-months posting cadence doesn’t exactly lend itself to building and retaining an audience, and while keeping up the blog does require an investment of time that could be used for hobby work, not every post needs to be a 2200-word opus like this one. In particular, I want to produce more paragraph-and-a-picture work-in-progress posts that culminate in photo-rich showcases when I finish a model. Friday Five Things will make an appearance when I have something to say that’s a good fit for that format, and at some point I’d like to do a photo-tour of my workspace.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and productive 2015, everyone!

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  1. Calculated Evil: Dark Eldar Project Planning | April 1, 2016

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