Obyron, Lord of Hugs

I finally finished the last of Lovell’s models that the Kingbreakers had captured—Vargard Obyron, Lord of Hugs:

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Nothing too fancy here.  The overall style is to match the Overlords I did for Lovell some time back, but to have more of an “enforcer” feel. I really like the Necron fluff overall, but Obyron has a particular bit of pathos to him. From GW’s sales writeup:

Vargard Obyron is aide and protector of Nemesor Zahndrekh, and has stood steadfast as his side from their very first campaign. Unlike his master, Obyron is very much aware of the changes wrought upon their existence, but has long since abandoned any attempt to awaken Zahndrekh to reality. So, like any dedicated servant, Obyron attends to all the loose ends created by Zahndrekh’s eccentricities, chief of which are seeing to it that ‘honoured’ prisoners of war are ‘killed whilst trying to escape’, and that upstart Lords of the Royal Court are either silenced or disposed of.

Obyron’s a good model rules-wise and sees a lot of play, so I expect to be frustrated by this guy teleporting a whole bunch of his fellow automatons safely out of a critical combat at some point in the near future…

Unrelated in theme but related in my continuing quest to finish all the loose models wandering around my painting table, you can never have enough tactical sergeants:

sergeant

This guy’s been on the painting table for a long time, been through several repaints, etc., so the helmet in particular lost a lot of detail. But I really like the pose, particularly from the back where the lean is accentuated by the angle of the prayer sticks and whatnot. Too often all the various bits on 40k multi-part models don’t really make sense with how the model is ostensibly moving.

Sergeant Tolek Shows How To Photo Minis

Fantastically, several people harassed me at PAGE’s 40k narrative event last week about using my Sergeant Titus model given that in a separate, parallel narrative he was captured by Chaos and is most likely now in pretty rough shape. So, enter Sgt Tolek, new leader of the Kingbreakers’ third tactical squad:

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Doing just one infantry model like this is not super efficient, but it was nice to just get a guy done quickly, in contrast to the literal piles of have completed models I have on my painting table at the moment.

I’m happy with how he turned out. He’s a bit more detailed and better done than Sgt Titus and his squad, but matches them more than well enough to take the place on the table of the woe-befallen Titus:

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Light!

I borrowed Matt’s photo booth to give one a try, and I think the photos came out super well. The booth’s not critical, up until this point I’ve done fine with some paper glued to cardboard boxes with the sides cut. But the booth does really eliminate fiddling to ensure a totally white background, and softens the light.

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Photo shoot in progress! The room is actually fully lit, the booth is just so bright that my phone camera’s auto-adjust effectively darkened it.

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Snapping pics!

I could use slightly brighter lights to really push through the diffusing screens, and a couple more of them to hit both sides and the top, but the daylight bulbs I do have worked well enough. They’re just bulbs with a high white/blue temperature rating that I picked up at Home Depot at some point.

Although lately I’ve been using my smartphone for a lot of in-game miniatures pictures, I used my Canon S90 for these detailed portraits. The optical zoom helps deal with depth of field issues with weapons pointing forward and such, the view screen makes it easy to position models with both hands while monitoring the shot, and it’s easier to do a lot more manual settings adjustments. I used manual mode to get real control over the settings: Macro focusing, ISO 80 to gather a lot of light and detail, and adjusted the aperture until the models looked bright and clear. To eliminate jitter from my hand with such a low ISO I simply placed the camera on a small card game box about the right height to get a head-on view of the models.

All of that produced a photo like this:

The original, untouched photo.

The original, untouched photo.

GIMP

That’s already pretty good, but from there I tweaked them using the open source GIMP. The initial step is automatic white balancing and color enhancing. You can do that easily from the menus (Colors→ Auto → White Balance & Color Enhance). I use a simple GIMP script so I can batch process a ton of photos at once:

(define (batch-white-balance pattern)
  (let* ((filelist (cadr (file-glob pattern 1))))
    (while (not (null? filelist))
           (let* ((filename (car filelist))
                  (image (car (gimp-file-load RUN-NONINTERACTIVE
                                              filename filename)))
                  (drawable (car (gimp-image-get-active-layer image)))
                 )

                 (gimp-levels-stretch drawable)
                 (plug-in-color-enhance RUN-NONINTERACTIVE
                                        image drawable)

;                 (gimp-brightness-contrast drawable 25 25)
                 
;                 (plug-in-unsharp-mask RUN-NONINTERACTIVE
;                                       image drawable 5.0 0.5 0.0)
                 
                 (gimp-file-save RUN-NONINTERACTIVE
                             image drawable filename filename)
                 (gimp-image-delete image)
            )
            (set! filelist (cdr filelist))
    )
  )
)

Note that the script has lines commented out to up the brightness and sharpen the image, unnecessary in this setup. Again, you can totally do these operations through the menus. But if you want to manipulate large numbers of photos, you should look into how to run a GIMP script like this.

That white balancing and color enhancing produces an even better photo, like this:

After white balancing and color enhancing in GIMP.

After white balancing and color enhancing in GIMP.

From that point there’s a couple simple steps to produce the image up top. First I use the fuzzy select color-based wand (key U) to select all the white background. For these photos I used a threshold of 30.

Selecting the white background.

Selecting the white background.

Then I inverted the selection to be the model rather than the background, cut it, and pasted it to a new image. If there’s any specks of dirt, strong shadows, or seams in the background the select won’t encompass them and you’ll have to manually crop the image (key Shift-C). Interior holes, e.g., in the crook of this guy’s arm, also need to be selected and cut using the fuzzy select color-based wand.

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I then resized the canvas by 110% to put some border space around the model (Image → Canvas Size → Percent → Lock Ratio → 110% → Center). In the past I usually used a plain white background, but now realize a complementary gradient actually shows the colors better. So I added a new white layer (Layer → New Layer → White), moved it down under the model (Layer → Stack → Layer to Bottom), and applied a gradient using the Blend tool (key L) to get the final product.

The final product.

The final product.

Action!

The photo booth’s a nice touch and the nice-ish camera very handy, but the key thing here is having a couple bright daylight bulbs, and doing some basic photo manipulation. The bulbs are inexpensive and the GIMP is free, so there’s no real barrier to replicating this process with a smartphone camera or such for similar results. Smile for the camera!

40k Battle Report: Enter the Eldar, Come Captain Nitrol!

kingbreakers-iconRecently I painted my first couple hundred points of Eldar after talking about starting an army for quite some time. Last night they made their first appearance, battling Jason’s Chaos Marines. He’s also got his own battle report.

Armies

I only have about 300 points of Eldar finished at the moment, so I figured I’d ally them with some Kingbreakers Space Marines to make up 1000 points. At the same time, I wanted to debut a captain and squad of Legion of the Damned that Alex painted for me in our club’s secret servitor this past holiday season. They even have their own little bit of fluff that Alex wrote to tie them into the chapter’s story:

Captain Nitrol is one of the oldest veterans of the Kingbreakers, a survivor of the fall of Forestway. On multiple occasions he has been all but mortally wounded in combat and thought lost, only to be rescued at the last moment by the timely appearance of the Legion of the Damned. What faith keeps him going? What power ensures his survival?

The overtones at the end are especially dark given the chapter’s surge in psykers after Forestway was lost to Chaos and exterminatus, as well as the ongoing plight of the captured and possessed Sergeant Titus. Rumors and theories abound of the Kingbreakers’ ultimate destiny!

Captain Nitrol and Sergeant Harbinger, in the thick of the battle.

Captain Nitrol and Sergeant Harbinger, in the thick of the battle.

In any event, I thought my army would wind up a bit of a random hodgepodge from being built on those two elements and only 1000 points. But it actually wound up kind of interesting, with some reasonable strategic rationale:

  • Kingbreakers (Salamanders)
    • Captain Nitrol (unnamed captain w/ artificer armour, plasma pistol, mastercrafted powerfist)
    • Legion of the Damned x5 w/ mastercrafted combi-grav, plasmagun, heavy bolter
    • Squad Harbinger (Tactical Marines x5 w/ veteran sergeant, mastercrafted boltgun, combi-melta, meltagun) w/ Razorback
    • Predators x3 w/ autocannons, heavy bolter sponsons
  • Eldar
    • Guardian Defenders x10 w/ scatter laser heavy weapons platform
    • Guardian Defenders x10 w/ scatter laser heavy weapons platform
    • Windriders x3 w/ scatter lasers

My thoughts in building from those two arbitrary cores were:

  • The Eldar bring cheap, mobile units to hold objectives. No Objective Secured because the list is completely unbound, but I still need warm bodies after all. The jet bikes are obviously super mobile. But the Guardians are no slouches either with their ability to run and shoot/shoot and run. So the Guardians are tasked with holding home objectives or nearby markers, while the Windriders hopefully swoop in at the end to claim or contest in the enemy’s zone.
  • The scatter lasers and Predators bring a bunch of mid-strength shooting that can really wreck a light vehicle or monstrous creature, both of which are common in our scene and probably in general at 1000 points. Note that the Predators have a special rule granting Monster Hunter and Tank Hunter while all three are alive, which just furthers this thought.
  • The Tactical Squad provides a unit for Nitrol to hide in while out in the open. Otherwise, he rides with them in the Razorback toward some contested midfield objective. Any actual close combat squad will wipe them out, but if it can be whittled down or the opposition is less combat oriented, they’re reasonably able to get stuck in and prevail. Meanwhile the Legion of the Damned hang out in the warp and eventually come down to help them out.

Jason on the other hand brought a cohesive, balanced Nurgle list, something like:

  • Nurgle Champion
  • Plaguemarines w/ meltas
  • Vulture Legion (Chaos Space Marines)
  • Fly Lord (some kind of Nurgle flying daemon prince)
  • Chaos Spawn (some kind of Nurgle blobby thing)
  • Plague Drone
  • Nurglings x3
  • Nurglings x3

After much back and forth about missions we eventually settled on 3 objectives and straight 12″ deployment zones on a fairly dense 4×4 board.

Fight!

Out on patrol, a small exploratory force of Eldar are startled by a bulbous daemon schlubbing its way nonchalantly across a clearing in an abandoned Imperial town.

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With no reinforcements of their own to call on and fearing a Nurgle infestation, the Eldar entreat a nearby force of Space Marines to come assist. Their hatred of the Plague Lord’s minions overcoming their aversion to the xenos themselves, the Kingbreakers accede to the request. Captain Nitrol and Squad Harbinger mount up with a small mechanized task force to go assess the situation. Once on site, the mission escalates immediately as a gigantic insectile horror crashes into their tank column, obliterating the Predator leading the way.

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The Kingbreakers and Eldar rapidly focus their combined firepower on the beast, taking it down. It’s now clear however that the threat is severe. Guardians retreat to defensive positions, while Nitrol and the jet bikers move deeper into the town. Several transports of the traitor legions rapidly appear, but are also blown away by sheer volume of fire. Out of the flames though jump Plague Marines and a squad of the Vulture Legion. The Plague Marines come head on at Nitrol, while the Chaos Marines attempt to flank the Eldar. Their efforts are supported by torrents of pestilence vomited forth by a Plague Drone come to protect the mewling spawn.

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With Nitrol’s rash position at the center of the battle already threatened on all sides by monsters and heavy infantry, the Kingbreakers are momentarily troubled by the wisps of eldritch flame arising forward of their location. Concern turns to relief, however, as the legendary Legion of the Damned emerge from the light, pouring heavy bolter and plasma fire into the Plague Marines. The traitors and their daemon kin are forced to concentrate on the new threat.

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The ghostly warriors can only stand the combined assault for so long, but their intervention grants Squad Harbinger and the Windriders a critical moment to recover and provide long range fire support against the Vulture Legion encroaching on the Guardians’ rearward positions.

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With their primary flanking threats dispatched, the Eldar and Predators divide their attentions. Scatter lasers snipe the blubbering Chaos Spawn that prompted the battle, while shurikens and heavy bolter fire shred Nurglings arisen amid the death and gore of the small but heated conflict.

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The Plague Lord’s army all but cleansed from this corner of the materium, Captain Nitrol and Sergeant Harbinger are left chasing after Papa Nurgle’s champion that orchestrated the infiltration. His vast bulk crashing through the detritus of the town, the Emperor’s warriors finally run the traitor to ground atop a dump yard of broken supply containers, their contents spoiled and reeking. The heaving wreck barely recognizable as a once-human form, Nitrol pulps it back to the Warp with a momentous swing of his power fist.

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Outcome

Three cowering Nurglings keep the Kingbreakers from a full table sweep, but the town is secured and the Eldar and Space Marines part the best of friends…

Thoughts

I didn’t know for sure I’d be fighting Jason on Sunday, but I have to confess I was thinking of his usual armies as I put together this list. The end result has a fair amount of S5–S7 shooting, with a good balance of strength versus quantity of shots to go against his Rhinos and monstrous creatures. In particular, the decision to take the third Predator for the Monster Hunter/Tank Hunter bonus was made in that light. That didn’t do all that much in the end as his Daemon Prince poofed one of them right away, but it helped shred the Plague Marines’ Rhino well away from my home objective. The scatter lasers also did a great job with those kinds of targets. All in all, at several critical points I was able to concentrate a lot of solid firepower to take out targets like those and the Plague Drone.

One big mistake I made was I got sloppy with the Windriders and let them get assaulted toward the end of the match. I thought the Legion of the Damned were going to keep the Plague Marines and Chaos Spawn tied up in combat for another turn, so I had moved the Windriders close in order to get shots down a firing lane across the table and onto the Vulture Legion, while also moving them toward Jason’s home objective. The Damned crumpled that turn though, and Jason was immediately able to consolidate and make an easy charge on the jet bikes in his turn. That left me without any real option to go after both the mid-table and enemy objectives, so I would have been in trouble if I’d lost either mine or the mid-table.

All in all it worked out though and this list seemed a lot more capable than I was initially thinking. Don’t forget to check out Jason’s battle report, while Captain Nitrol and his Eldar friends await further action!

The Eldar are ready for you!

The Eldar are ready for you!