Tag Archives: tips and tricks

Tau Gotchas

fire_warrior_gotchaI’m working on compiling a list of “gotcha” bits from the Tau codex… those easily-overlooked rules bits that could end up screwing you over when you discover that you’ve been playing the army incorrectly at the most inopportune moments. Let’s start, shall we?

  • If taken in an allied detachment, Farsight can still have his 7 Bodyguards, but he doesn’t deep strike without scattering. That’s a Warlord Trait, which he doesn’t get to use if he’s not the Warlord (which he can’t be because he’s not in the primary detachment).
  • Multi-trackers only work in the Shooting Phase. In Overwatch, you’re still limited to your standard number of weapons you can fire (2 for Riptides, 1 for everyone else – and that includes Shadowsun).
  • Longstrike’s Hammerhead is not limited to Str 5 weapons or less when Overwatching, because he doesn’t have a Point Defense System. His armor just grants his tank unlimited Overwatch.
  • Because they aren’t Flyers, Sky Rays aren’t limited to the 2-Missiles-Per-Turn firing limit. It’s just a vehicle with 6 one-shot weapons. Note that on the actual Flyers, the Seekers are counted towards the limit.
  • Beware taking drones on lone suits, like a Riptide. Losing one drone will be enough to force a morale check, which you may just fail.
  • The extra shot from a Cadre Fireblade’s Volley Fire only applies in the Shooting Phase; you do not gain the extra shot in Overwatch. However, an Ethereal’s Storm of Fire buff does work in Overwatch.
  • Using Markerlight hits while firing Snap Shots to raise a unit’s Ballistics Skill does not make the shot no longer a Snap Shot; it just makes the attack a Snap Shot at a higher BS. That means that the unit still can’t fire Blast weapons, such as overcharged ion guns or railgun submunitions. This also applies to the Counterfire Defense System.
  • Signature Systems are one-per-army, not one per detachment. You don’t get to double up on them at 2000+ points. Airbursting Fragmentation Projectors and Cyclic Ion Blasters, on the other hand, are one per detachment.

That’s all I have for now. Keep in mind, any and all of these could be FAQ’d to irrelevancy at any time. If you’ve found a Tau “gotcha”, comment below and let me know!

My Priming Setup (and Black Black Templars)

A friend of mine new to miniature painting was having issues with painting metal models and asked me for help, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to describe my priming setup (especially since I just finished priming the first batch of my Black Templar army). The picture above gives a quick rundown of what I used in this latest batch of miniatures, and I have to say it’s given me my best priming results so far.

  1. Priming sticks. You basically put double-sided tape on these, stick the bottoms of the minis to the tape, and then hold the stick about 8 inches from your spray can while you prime. From top to bottom, you can see the plain stick, the stick with tape, and a taped stick with miniatures. Always leave enough space to use as a handle. Unless you’re using a really long stick (which can be unwieldy), you can usually get about 5 minis on a stick. Any more than that, and they’ll be too crowded to get good coverage on all sides. Here, I’m using paint stirring sticks from a hardware store. Most paint departments will give these out for free, so grab a handful if you can. They’re perfect for 25-30mm bases. For larger bases (for example, 40mm Terminator-sized bases), I prefer a wider stick. In this instance, I bought a yardstick and sawed it in half. Again, I can get about 5 larger minis on the stick. Anything larger than that (on a 60mm base, for instance), and I just hold the mini by the base while I prime. You can also use the stick for vehicles with flat bottoms, such as Rhinos and Land Raiders. With irregularly shaped vehicles, though, expect to be holding them by hand.
  2. Double-sided tape. For this, I found a double-sided mounting tape at my local hardware store that’s rated for 2 pounds of weight – more than enough for all but the very, very largest minis. The tape was strong enough to hold a Land Raider upside down. To put this on the stick, just roll out the desired length, and cut it off with a hobby knife. Then peel back the paper and stick on your minis. To free your minis, you can just pull them off of the tape, but it’s best to use your hobby knife to pry the base up from the tape, so as not to risk pulling the miniature off of its base and breaking it.
  3. Respirator mask. You’re working with spray paint. You don’t need to be breathing in the overspray. You don’t need anything fancy; just something that will filter the air you’re breathing.
  4. Rubber gloves. You want to avoid getting paint on your hands if at all possible. Not only are you going to be spraying near your hands, but with larger/oddly-shaped models, you’ll often be holding the model in your hand and spraying the visible surfaces. This just makes post-priming clean-up much easier. You might end up with a faint ring of overspray near the base of the glove, but it beats having hands covered in wet paint. I chose nitrile gloves over latex because my wife’s allergic to latex and I’d like to be able to touch her after priming without making her break out in hives.
  5. Primer. This is actually the least specific part of the set-up, because there’s a multitude of opinions on what the best primer is. What’s universal is that it actually needs to be a primer. You need something that will stick to the material underneath and provide a good painting surface. Ordinary spray paint won’t do. Fortunately, there’s a lot of different primers out there. Krylon, Duplicolor, Citadel, Army Painter, or something else – choose the brand and color (black, white, grey, or other) that fits your budget and preferences. I like Krylon myself, because it provides a good priming coat at a decent price. Whatever you get, use it around 8 inches from the miniatures and do short, controlled sprays. Try to prime when it’s not too hot out, because otherwise the primer might start drying before it hits the mini, resulting in a gritty, powdery coat. With the heat wave that’s been hitting us this summer, I’ve been doing my priming early in the morning. If you prime outside and use short bursts, you don’t end up with a lot of overspray on the ground, and the air carries off any excess fumes and particulates. Set the stick down to dry once you’re done, and in about 15 minutes you should be able to remove the models from the stick and set them aside to fully dry.

So, that’s pretty much it on what I use to prime these days. The above set-up cost me around $35 from the hardware store, but other than replacing empty cans of primer it should last me through another army or two. It’s a simple, easy investment that doesn’t take much set-up time to use. In fact, I have tomorrow’s priming already taped to the sticks and ready to go. Here’s yesterday’s batch, all primed:

The only tricky parts were the Land Speeders and the Venerable Dreadnought. On the former, I held the model by the sensor array on the bottom, sprayed the rest of the mini (thank goodness for gloves!), let it dry, and then turned it over in my hands and sprayed the sensor array. For the latter, I removed the arms and sprayed them separately, hanging them off of a pair of chopsticks. Once the body was primed and dry, I reattached the arms. Beyond the Templars, I also managed to get my Eldar War Walkers, Farseer, and Warlocks primed, and now the rest of the Eldar force is on the priming sticks and ready to go.

Extreme Close-up! Working with a Magnifier Lamp

For Christmas, my wife bought me an APCO Magnifier Lamp. She said she didn’t like seeing me strain to see fine details as I held a mini a few inches from my face, so she took pity on me and got me this wonderful tool. Last night, I took it through its paces while doing edging and highlighting on Hammerhead #2. I will say that it slowed down my work a bit at first, because it took a bit of adjusting to get used to it. If you haven’t yet worked with one of these, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. The light is very intense. The fluorescent tube on this lamp creates some very bright light, enough to light up an already-lit room. While this is great for being able to see details well, it can be a bit jarring at first. Even more jarring is the adjustment your eyes have to make when you turn it off; everything will seem very muted for a bit, and it can be hard to see the details you just painted in normal light. You will want to see them in normal light, because…
  2. The light is very cool. I don’t mean cool as in “awesome”; I mean cool as in temperature. It’s a very blue-white light, which means it will change the nature of the colors you’re working with. I highly recommend mixing and testing your colors in natural/warmer lighting in order to get a sense of how they’ll really look on the mini before you whip out the magnifier lamp.
  3. The light obliterates shadows. This may seem like it goes without saying, but I bring this up for two very important reasons. First, if you’re using natural shadows to figure out where to highlight, this light will make that very difficult; you’re best served doing that under natural light. Secondly, losing shadows means that you’ll lose one of those subtle visual indications of how far the brush is from the miniature. The intense light flattens everything somewhat, so you have to retrain your eye to look for the new, lighter shadows that the lamp creates. Once you’ve figured it out, you should be good to go.
  4. The magnifier will wobble a bit. The lamp is mounted on a spring-tensioned swing arm mounted on a pivot point that clamps to your table or desk. You can tighten down the joints on the arm to lock it in place, but not the pivot point. Because of this, you will get a little residual side-to-side movement right after you get the magnifier situated, or if you bump it slightly while working. You can steady it again with your hand, but be prepared for a little wobbling, which, combined with the natural fish-eye effect of the lens itself, can be a bit disorienting.
  5. The magnifier has a sweet spot. Thanks to the fish-eye effect, you can’t just put the magnifier generally over your work area and get good use out of it. You’ll have to experiment with the magnifier and figure out the right distance between you, it, and your miniature to get clear magnification. I’ve discovered that you can either work with the magnifier right in front of your face, or at about half an arm’s length away, and that seems to work well. The mini itself will have to be relatively close to the lens, so keep that in mind when using your brush; you’ll have to hold it at an angle, rather than pointed directly at the mini.
  6. The magnifier will highlight every detail and imperfection. This isn’t so much a working concern as it is just something you’ll notice. You will see every uneven line and every incomplete brush stroke. You will see every minor flaw in the mini, in the priming, and in the painting. Details that look fantastic at arm’s length or on the tabletop may look crude and clumsy up close. Don’t let that discourage you. No one is going to be looking at the mini as close as you are at that moment, and once it’s out from under the lens it’ll look fine again.

Keep these six things in mind, and you can benefit greatly from a magnifier lamp. It will encourage you to sharpen up your detail work and to try finer details than you’ve tried before, because now you’ll actually be able to work on that small a scale. If you want to step up your mini painting game, I highly recommend one of these.

I love lamp.

Modeling Tip – Micro Files

90029_Micro_FilesIf you work on miniatures at all, you really owe it to yourself to get a good set of files. I own a set of Gale Force 9 diamond micro files, and they’re easily one of the best tools in my toolbox. They’re small, but surprisingly tough. The diamond coating insures that the files will work just as well on metal miniatures as on plastic ones (although plastic does require a lighter touch). Also, they come in a variety of shapes – flat, round, curved, square, and triangular – for dealing with a variety of surfaces and jobs. Utility-wise, they come in very handy at multiple tasks. With mine, I’ve:

  • cleaned up flash and mold lines
  • filed holes larger or pegs smaller to provide a better fit (particularly useful with plastic flight bases, which never seem to be sized properly)
  • scored/roughened metal surfaces to help glue adhere better
  • filing off old, stubborn super glue from older minatures
  • added grooves and depressions to a bit to make it join with a different part

Of course, a good tool requires good care. Fortunately, these are relatively easy to take care of. I keep them in their plastic sheath when not in use, and after using them I run them lightly between my thumb and forefinger to clean off any material hiding in the filing surface. By keeping them clean and dry, you can greatly extend the life of your files.

There are also sets of larger files available, but for miniature work I prefer the smaller, more delicate micro files. They’re a good set of precision tools, and not badly priced for the amount of work you’ll get out of them.