Review: Army Painter Color Spray Primer

Cadians Ready for Army Painter Coloured Primer Army Painter is a product that’s been around for years, but that I’ve never had the pleasure of using. Recently I picked up a can of their coloured ‘Desert Yellow’ spray primer from Mighty Ape to try on a bunch of plastic Cadians that I started assembling in 2004. So here’s a quickie review!

This first shot shows the squad of plastic Cadians, assembled and based with some Polyfilla and model railway ballast. The figures are a mix of the original GW plastic Cadians and some home-cast resin parts for detailing – extra backpacks and a crate for the Heavy Bolter. The mix of different materials should be a good test for a primer.

Following the instructions I gave the can a good shaking and lined the figures up in an old shoe box resting on its side. I’ve primed for years using old shoe boxes, because I find they’re just the right size to catch and control the over-spray. They also tend to cycle the paint around the back of the figures for some extra coverage too – no point wasting that expensive can. The figures were hit on one side, then rotated 90 degrees and sprayed again, until every side was covered. I was generous with the spray on each side as I wasn’t sure how well it was going to cover. The 10 figures were primed in two batches of 5 figures each.

Cadians Colour Primed with Army Painter Here’s the figures post priming. The coverage is excellent, although as I was spraying assembled figures there’s a little shadowing of course. I’d never be organised enough to prime on the sprue though, so this is how all my figures get primed. The colour has covered well and obscured no detail, despite being applied fairly heavily. It dried quickly too, with the figures being touch dry after say around 5 minutes – mind you it’s summer here currently so the ambient temperature in my garage was pretty warm. You can see the black base edges have also been entirely covered by the primer, despite the fact I was concentrating on priming the figures rather than the bases. The primer also had no problem covering the resin and Polyfilla either – not really a surprise, but you never know.

Army Painter do their own ‘Desert Yellow’ paint which is a 100% match to their spray primer and comes in an 18ml dropper bottle. Army Painter Desert Yellow spray primer is also a perfect match for Games Workshop’s old Desert Yellow paint as well. However I believe this colour has since been renamed ‘Tallarn Sand’ and might no longer be an exact match (thanks Games Workshop, screwing with my hobby as usual). Fortunately I still have a 12ml pottle of the old Desert Yellow on my paint station. I’ve also ordered some of the Army Painter paint for when my GW Desert Yellow finally gives up the ghost. Honestly folks, just don’t buy GW paints – they’re never worth it.

In conclusion, Army Painter Spray Colour Primer is a superb product and I’ve since primed up the remaining 15 or so Cadians I have assembled (a mix of heavy weapons, plastics and metals) with no difficulty at all. The can still feels pretty full too which is nice. If you’re looking for a good base colour for speed painting, definitely check out the Army Painter’s Spray Colour Primer as it’ll save you a bunch of time. Comes in a great range of colours too!

Pulp: Warlord Games Panzer 38(t) Review

Warlord Games Pulp Panzer 38(t) I haven’t played Pulp .45 Adventure for a while now but still find myself sporadically buying 28mm miniatures for the system. My most recent impulse purchase was the interesting looking Panzer 38(t) from Warlord Games.

This is the first and last tank I’ll add to my pulp vehicle collection which already includes an Opel Blitz from EBob Miniatures and a Bolt Action German Sdkfz 222 Scout Car, both of which eventually got painted. The .45 system doesn’t include any rules for armored vehicles but I couldn’t resist this inter-war Czech tank with a profile familiar to any WWII buffs or war-gamers. This first photo shows the tank next to the Sdkz-222 scout car and a couple of Artizan Designs DAK 28mm soldiers for scale.

Warlord Games Pulp Panzer 38(t) Parts With the strong exchange rate against the Euro, the 18GBP price came out to a comfortable $40NZD including shipping, and despite the fact I ordered it just before Xmas (something I typically avoid), Warlord Games were able to deliver it well packaged and undamaged to New Zealand in a little over a week.

The kit is a mixture of four large resin parts and two small sprues of detail pieces cast in a very soft white metal. You can see the de-sprued but largely uncleaned pieces in this second photo (barring one small metal piece which I believe is a headlight). The white metal parts also included a tank commander torso to drop into the open turret which is a nice bonus – although I’ll probably just model mine buttoned up. There was some minor flash and a few small damaged points and bubbles on the resin parts which I may not bother patching prior to painting. Five minutes of trimming and filing cleaned the model up enough for assembly and it dry fitted together well. Overall the riveted and detailing on the tank body is nice, as are the tracks and road wheels and I’m happy with the overall package. It’ll look great once put together and painted up on the table and rolling slowly towards a bunch of hapless pulp adventurers…”I say Maude, they appear to have a TANK”.

After doing some research via google image searches I think I’ll build up some stowage on the back deck. The 38(t) had such a small interior it seemed fairly common to store tarped over personal kit and trays of jerry cans on the flat back deck, as well as the turret bustle. Fortunately I have some Ebob 28mm jerry cans and 40 gallon drums I bought years ago with the Opel Blitz. Time to finally put them to use!

Review: Alternatives to Games Workshop Paints

Vallejo Game Colours I’ll be blunt: this post is about finding alternatives to Games Workshop’s line of hobby paints. I’ve already discussed replacing their primer and varnish spray products, and now I’m going to talk about cheaper and frankly better alternatives to their paint line.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a knee jerk reaction: I still have a large collection of Games Workshop paints and have painted with them for at least 15 years, but I’ve also endured 15 years of increasing prices, meaningless package and colour range changes and have regularly discarded dried out, useless paints. I feel it’s probably time for a change. Unfortunately I live in New Zealand, so my options from local retailers have been limited to the Flames of War military range of Vallejo Colours. These are excellent paints of course, but are unsuitable for painting Fantasy or Sci-fi figures because of the small range of drab military colours.

Vallejo Game Colours

Maelstrom Games UK have an online webstore I’ve used several times in the past for figure purchases. They also carry a wide range of hobby products including the full Vallejo Game Colour paint line. Recently they had a hobby promotion on the site, so I picked up a Vallejo 16 Colour ‘Advanced Game Colour’ set, with an extra bronze metal paint. As Maelstrom have free delivery, this set cost me a total of $46nzd (excluding the additional bronze metal). That’s $2.80nzd per 17ml dropper bottle of acrylic paint. Compare that to the $7nzd locally for a 12ml pottle of Games Workshop paint from a local hobby store. That’s less than half price for more paint.

This set arrived earlier this week and I have to say Vallejo paints are just as good as everybody says they are. The pigment depth is astounding (I already knew that from the FOW lines) and the Game Colour range is absolutely chock full of vibrant, rich colours for Fantasy and Sci-Fi figure painting. For the first time in several years I find myself wanting to paint figures because it’s a joy to simply put a few drops of paint on a scrap of plastic and paint with lovely solid colours. Using Games Workshop paints in comparison is an exercise in frustration. The paints have very poor coverage in several colours (many of the yellows and several of the reds) and the pottles are awful to use, as well as being very prone to drying out. I tidied up my paint station when the Vallejo colours arrived and threw out no less than nineteen dried out GW paint pottles, most of which were over half full. That’s $133nzd of paint wasted thanks to awful packaging, or let’s say $66nzd since they were half full. I’m confident my Vallejo Game Colour dropper bottles will last for years, particularly since I already have a set of Vallejo military colours that have been on my paint station for years already.

I will never purchase Games Workshop paints again, instead I will concentrate on replacing old GW colours as I run out (or the bloody things dry up) with new Vallejo Game Colour paints. If you’re using GW paints today you are basically wasting your money unless you rapidly consume whole pottles of colour.

Army Painter Warpaints

Another option which has popped up locally is Army Painter Warpaints. Slave To Painting sell the Army Painter Starter kits locally in New Zealand. I haven’t tried this paint line, but read a very interesting Warpaint review from the “Tale of Painters” blog recently, which recommends them as a good paints as well. I believe the gentleman that runs Slave to Painting has plans to extend the range and types of paint he sells, so it’ll be worth keeping an eye on the site in the future.

In summary, if you’re still using Games Workshop paints for your Fantasy or Sci-Fi figures, do yourself a favour and try something else! Save yourself some money, and remember how much fun painting figures used to be…

Review: Litko Splash Markers for Dystopian Wars

Litko Naval Markers for Dystopian Wars My gaming buddies and I have been playing a fair amount of Dystopian Wars recently as you can probably tell from the blog posts. I was trolling through DW battle reports online when I saw somebody using these nifty resin splash markers to track damage, instead of the cumbersome cardboard counters that come with the game. The markers come from Litko Game Accessories in a variety of sizes and they’re pretty cheap for a baggie of ten.

I ordered a set of the micro markers with the white resin base, and a set of mini markers with the blue resin base for 20 markers in total. They were promptly shipped from Litko and arrived in my letterbox in good time. You have to assemble them yourself, which involves wedging the ‘splash’ marker into the base that holds it. This was fairly painless, although I damaged one of the clear micro bases by applying a little too much force during assembly, so just go easy on them.

We’ve played several games now using these as damage markers and I think the general consensus is they’re more visually appealing than dull cardboard tokens. It was a good idea to get a mix of marker types as we’ve started using the larger blue markers to represent two hits (typically awarded by exceeding the Critical Rating of a vessel), while the white markers represent one hit. This means there’s less markers to drag around with each vessel and conserves them for play, although we’ve not run out of markers yet during our 800pts per side games. The markers are also small enough that they can be balanced on top of larger Dystopian War vessels.

If you’re playing Dystopian Wars I’d recommend picking up some of these cheap and cheerful resin splash markers for your table. The price is right and they definitely improve the look of a game in progress.

Review: Army Painter Matt Varnish Spray

Army Painter Matt Varnish Spray

The Product:

This post is a brief review of the Army Painter ‘Matt Varnish Spray’ can. This is a 400ml can of varnish with a large, wide spraying nozzle. It’s part of the Army Painter line of products and is designed to be used with figures painted with their ‘Quickshade’ dipping tins. Slavetopainting.co.nz were kind enough to supply a sample can for this review and they sell it for $14.90nzd a can.

How Matt is “Super Matt”?

A good matt spray varnish can be hard to come by if you’re a New Zealand war gamer. For several years most of us have been using the expensive, 150ml spray cans of ‘Moana’ matt artist’s varnish which frankly is most ‘matt’ spray varnish I’ve ever encountered. However Moana was discontinued in New Zealand this year, leaving people frantically buying up the remaining stocks (one local war gamer bought the last fourteen cans in store) and looking for a replacement in the local market. So the arrival of Slavetopainting.co.nz seems quite timely.

I’ve spent the last couple of nights varnishing a variety of dipped figures in the garage with the Army Painter can and have to say it compares very favourably to Moana matt varnish. I can distinguish no difference between the ‘mattness’ of my older figures varnished with Moana and the handful of figures I’ve varnished with Army Painter “Super Matt”. I took a bunch of photos to try and get a side by side comparison of Moana and Army Painter varnished figures but in the end haven’t included them here because the results are identical. I’ll say that again for clarity:

Army Painter Super Matt spray varnish is as good as Moana Matt Varnish in terms of finish.

That should be a big deal to any New Zealand war gamers because it means we still have access to an excellent matt varnish to use on our painted figures. The 400ml can also means you’ll also have a generous amount of varnish to hand, however be aware the nozzle produces a fairly wide spray so you should probably varnish groups of figures rather than individuals to prevent wastage. Army Painter Super Matt covers well and dries quickly with no unpleasant odour and the finished varnish feels as durable as the other spray varnish products I’ve used.

Value for Money?

Army Painter Super Matt spray is available from Slavetopainting.co.nz at $14.90 for a 400ml can. This is superb value compared to the discontinued Moana 150ml can selling for around $12NZ. It is also excellent value compared to the Games Workshop Citadel Matt Spray which is also a 400ml can however sells for almost twice the price.

In Conclusion

I’ll be using Army Painter Super Matt varnish on my war gaming collection from now on and have no problem recommending it to New Zealand war gamers. You should definitely pick up a can if your Moana stash is running low, or you don’t feel like paying twice the price for varnish from your local Games Workshop store.

Review: Cheaper than Games Workshop Skull White Primer

3M Automotive Etch PrimerI’ve been out of primer for a while now and after a recent purchase felt the urgent need for a new spray can. In the past I’ve used GW’s Skull White so I wandered into a local GW store in Auckland city and asked them how much a 280g can of Skull White primer costs these days. Apparently it now costs $30 NZD, after learning that I simply walked out of the store again. GW’s prices have been ridiculous for years now, and $30 for a 280g spray can is not acceptable to me. From memory the last can I bought cost me around $22 NZD and this is when the NZ/GBP exchange rate was considerably worse than it is today.

So I asked on our forum if anybody had a decent replacement option and Dustan chipped in with a suggestion. He’s using an automotive primer for his figures these days: 3M’s ‘Etch Primer’ which comes in a 400g can (see the photo). I nipped down to the local Super Cheap Auto and picked up a can for the low price of $19 NZD.

I’ve just finished priming my first batch of figures with it and it works just fine. I’ve finally primed my pewter 15mm Corvus Belli Romans as well as a box of resin Covenant of Antarctica ships for Dystopian Wars. I’ve noticed the spray coverage isn’t as fine as the Skull White can, but I’m only dusting figures and models with the primer, rather than trying to get solid coverage. A dusting of 3M’s etch primer doesn’t obscure any detail that I noticed and adheres well to plastic and pewter. It does adhere to resin, but not quite as strongly (you can scrape it off with a fingernail), but that’s fine as I’ll be over-painting it with several coats of acrylic paints. The primer has no negative effect on plastic or resin that I can detect and Vallejo and GW paints go over the primer coat just fine as well.

So if you’re sick of paying a ‘GW’ tax on their Skull White primer, try this product instead. It is just over a third cheaper, and you get more than an extra third of paint in the can as well. Thanks for the tip Dustan!

Review: Lego Minifig Brickarms

Brickarms World at War This review is a little off topic, but I’ll post anyway as it vaguely relates to war gaming, particularly if you’ve ever tried Brikwars!

I’ve been aware of Brickarms for a while now. They’re a US company that manufacture third party weapons for Lego Minifigs. I hadn’t ordered from them until recently as they don’t ship outside the US. However a Makeblog post rekinkled my interest and it seems they have an Australian reseller which I missed before.

I couldn’t resist picking up the World at War pack to add to my Lego Indiana Jones figures. At $20aud for a small pack of plastic pieces they’re not cheap, but after spending a couple of hours playing with them last night with my five year old son I figure it’s probably money well spent. Here’s a quick review of the Brickarms pack.

The pieces arrived in a small baggie and include the set of weapons you see above. I’ve photographed them next to several bonafide Lego pieces for scale. The Lego pieces are the standard shovel, the grey plastic revolver and the Star Wars blaster rifle to the far left. Overall the quality of the Brickarms pieces is excellent. They’re cast in the same hard ABS plastic that Lego is made from. This means they have the same weight and general feel to them as Lego pieces, down to the finish too. It also means they should have the same excellent long life as normal Lego pieces.

The sculpting on the weapons is superb and despite the fact some liberties have been taken to make them work with Minifigs, most of them should be instantly recognisable to any WWII buff. It was the M1 Garand and Panzerfaust in particular that compelled me to buy this pack. In fact many of the weapons are more finely detailed than their Lego equivalents which is obvious from the above photo when you compare the grey Lego revolver to the various German and American automatic pistols. A particular high point for me was the fact the Lewis gun has been sculpted with a clip at the bottom which will fit a standard Lego lever holder. That means you can easily mount the weapon on a Lego vehicle for AA protection.

Brickarms World at War on Minifigs In terms of casting they’re also very good, although unlike Lego pieces you may have to do a little clean up with an Xacto blade to remove rough scraps of plastic where the pieces have been detatched from their sprues. The weapons can be used without clean up, but the anally retentive modeller in me had to spend five minutes just tidying them up so they’re perfect. That’s really the only comment I have about the casting. Like Lego pieces they do have fine, almost unnoticable mold lines and pin ejection marks, but you can mix them with Lego pieces without any visible difference, which is a sign of quality casting.

Here’s another scale shot of Lego Indy and Henry Jones Snr ready for action. You can see the weapons look great on the figures and as I mentioned my young son has already had fun with them, conducting terrible warfare across our kitchen table as all manner of hell was unleashed. The more politically correct amoungst you (I doubt many of my visitors are but who knows) may mutter something about glorifying war etc, however as many Lego ranges already come with weapons (Lego Indiana Jones, Lego Star Wars, Lego Agents etc) I’m going to happily ignore you.

To close, Brickarms weapons are excellent and although a little pricey compared to normal Lego are well worth it, particularly if you’re already a Lego fan and want a little more variety in your Minifig armory.

Review: Black Scorpion Tombstone Miniatures

Black Scorpion Tombstone Miniatures A gaming friend of mine recently picked up a copy of Warhammer Historical: Legends of the Old West, which is a Wild West skirmish wargame. Reading the rules it’s sort of a franken-game, combining the best features of Mordheim, Necromunda and the GW Lord of the Rings systems. Unfortunately it still retains the awful ‘I go, you go’ scheme that GW games can’t seem to escape from, but fortunately it has staggered rounds which offsets that somewhat.

As I’ve often admired Black Scorpion’s range of Tombstone range figures, I thought this would be an ideal time to pick some up. However I didn’t just want cowboys, but rather some figures that might mix into my Pulp collection as well. Black Scorpion have two groups of female figures that seemed like a good compromise, Tombstone 5 and Tombstone 6, most of which would work in a Pulp setting too. I ordered them from the Black Scorpion site a couple of weeks ago and they’ve just arrived, so here’s a quick review and comparison against a couple of other independent figure manufacturers.

Casting

On unpacking it’s clear the figures are well cast. There’s almost no flash (one figure of ten had some flash under an arm), and only visible mold lines on a couple of figures that had to be filed down. The mold lines are also well placed, with no lines crossing faces or other important details. One minor annoyance is the fact that I had to straighten the barrels on every figure holding a gun out of the box. I suspect this is because rough handling by international post, as the figures have travelled from the UK to New Zealand. As you can see from the photo the figures use a slotta base system and have molded on tabs. I’ll probably be cutting a few of these off so I can base some figures on wooden planks.

Sculpting

The figures are well sculpted with a nice variety of clothing and hair styles. For female 28mm figures they have fairly realistic proportions with only a single figure displaying an enormous chest and cleavage – I guess there had to be one! They’re generally statically posed, with only four of the ten figures actively aiming or drawing their weapons, but it’s a nice mix of poses I think. The static figures are presenting their arms in a gun-safe but threatening manner.

They also have a nice mix of firearms, with two shotguns (either of which could be filed down to make them sawn-off), two recognisable Winchester repeaters, four armed with a variety of single and dual revolvers and two unarmed ‘showgirl’ figures (maybe they have derringers). This mix of weapons makes them ideal for putting together a couple of Legends of the Old West posses.

In terms of detail the figures are passable. Period costume of the Old West was pretty simple and this is reflected on the miniatures, with decoration consisting of tassled fringes and the odd bow. In terms of detail I’d say the Black Scorpion figures are comparable to the Copplestone Casting ranges, but not as detailed or crisp as the Artizan Designs collection.

The wide mix of clothing, hats and hairstyles will keep the figures interesting to paint though. I particularly like the figure that looks like a gentle homemaker, in a full dress and leg’o’mutton jacket, clutching a sun umbrella in one hand and a Winchester repeating rifle in the other…!

Scale

Black Scorpion Tombstone 
Miniatures Comparison Black Scorpion state their figures are ’32mm’ scale, which equates to the so called ‘Heroic 28mm’ that Games Workshop use. Here’s a photo comparing several of the Black Scorpion figures to an WWII Artizan Designs 28mm German and a Copplestone Castings female archaeologist. I’ve chosen the tallest of the Black Scorpion ladies for comparison and as you can see there is a noticeable scale difference. However as it’s not often you see figures lined up like this on the tabletop I can’t see any problem mixing and matching these slightly larger figures with the rest of my Pulp collection.

Cost

At GBP7.50 for each group of five figures, plus 15% for shipping internationally they’re a pretty good deal and I’m perfectly happy to recommend them to anybody after some 28-32mm Western miniatures. I ordered directly off their site and had no problem getting the items shipped international air to a New Zealand PO Box.

Black Scorpion also have several other interesting looking ranges, in particular their Pirates, Fantasy Pirates and Iraqii Militia all look good to me.

Review: Wings of War – Famous Aces

Wings of War Famous Aces I recently borrowed a copy of Wings of War: Famous Aces from my mate Griff because I was curious to see if my four year old son CJ would be interested in playing it. As CJ will happily play a number of the Cranium range of board games (Zooreka being a favourite) that involve standard card and dice mechanics, I suspected he could handle Wings of War which is entirely card based.

In Wings of War you dogfight various WWI single and double seater aircraft. The game supports any number of players (although 5-6 players is a practical limit) who all act simultaneously. Each aircraft is represented by a card which you move around the playing surface – which can be any flat, clear tabletop. Each aircraft only has three basic statistics: the amount of damage they can receive before being shot down, the deck of cards they use for movement, and the deck of cards they use when firing their machine guns.

The real beauty of the system is the way the decks of cards work. The various planes use different movement decks which reflect the historical flight abilities of that plane. So for example tri-planes like the Fokker DR-1 which were very maneuverable have a set of cards that give you quick side slips and sharp turns, while planes like the Albatross D-III tend to have a smaller set of more graceful movement cards. The various movement decks work well to give each plane a distinctive feel while gaming. Famous Aces comes with four distinct movement decks which enough to give you a fair range of planes to fly.

Continue reading Review: Wings of War – Famous Aces

Review: Hasslefree Sci-Fi Weapons

Hasslefree Sci Fi Weapons I recently ordered some 28mm sci fi weapons from Hasslefree Miniatures on a whim. The vague plan is to use them to try scratch building a Necromunda Scavvie warband, and maybe just random sci-fi figures in general, which was the same reason I lalso picked up some sci-fi heads from Pig Iron Productions..

I ordered two baggies of Squad Support Weapons and two baggies of Sci fi Human and Halfling guns from Hasslefree. They arrived promptly and well packed in a bubble wrap envelope. Nothing was damaged or required straightening which is good considering the distance they had traveled to reach me in New Zealand.

In the photo above you see a couple of the white metal sprues as I took them out of their baggies. There was a moderate amount of venting spikes on both of them, but they were all easily flicked off with an Xacto blade. There were no prominent mold lines, but I did spend around five minutes per spure taking the weapons off and tiding them up with a needle file.

Continue reading Review: Hasslefree Sci-Fi Weapons