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Friday, May 19, 2017

Painting Battletech (2 of 2)

We last left our heroes basecoated and highlighted. Now we move on..

Step 9: Wash.  Wash, not dunk, and certainly not drown. The color and shading are set, we just want to get some dark into those cracks.  With a tiny brush, I carefully inserted Citadel Sepia Shade into the cracks and only into the cracks. This is slow work, but most of the time if you make a mistake (and a watery wash is tough to control) you can brush off the excess with a finger.  This step really transforms the mech, and works very, very well with the metal models in particular.

From left:  Hussar, King Crab, Crusader, after the sepia wash.
Step 10:  Secondary Colors.  In this case, a very dark gray (Dunkelgrau), so dark it looks black from a distance.  It provides a nice contrast with the bright yellow, and breaks up the mech a bit visually.  This is all brushed on - carefully, as the yellow will not cover that gray. If I had any major accidents I'd have to go back to the airbrush, using both white (to cover) and yellow. Thankfully, that didn't happen here.

Thumper Artillery

The whole family: (from left) King Crab, Stinger, Hussar, Crusader, Bombadier, Wasp, Thumper.
With the secondary color brushed on, it's time for highlighting.  Now, what follows is completely optional, and most Battletech players probably wouldn't have bothered to go this far. However, at this point I was having a blast and really wanted to bring these to the next level.  So I decided that rather than simply drybrush on the highlights for the gray, I'd go back to the airbrush.  That means lots and lots of masking, covering all the yellow parts of the mech.

Step 11a: Masking.  A combination of tiny 2mm Tamiya masking tape, regular size masking tape, and bluetac putty to take care of curves.

Almost the entire mech is covered. The masking process took far, far longer than the actual highlighting that follows.

Step 11b: airbrush highlight the second color. For this I used a Barley Gray, and then hit it with a lighter highlight of the same gray mixed with a good bit of white.  

Again, drybrushing would have been way faster.

But drybrushing wouldn't have come out like this:

Funny thing about that King Crab: considering how little gray there was to highlight, I intended to just drybrush. I admit, part of that was that I didn't want to go through the hassle of masking.  But after I highlighted everything else, I just said "screw it" and freehanded the highlights for the King Crab, Stinger and Wasp without any masking at all. Incredibly, I did so without any mistakes.  Ok, there's a slight bit of overspray on one of the mechs, but no one but me will be able to see it unless I tell you which mech and where.   It's utterly invisible in the pictures.

The airbrush allows for a much smoother highlighting on those missile pods and feet.
Step 12:  Cockpits.  There's been a lot written on the internet about "jeweling" cockpit glass. I've never been happy with the result, whether I use an airbrush or a regular brush.  Sadly, this time is no exception.  I may have to try again on these later.  I tried the brush method this time around, brushing on a base of Gory Red, then watered down layers of Gory Red, Blood red, and orange, blending them together.  The blending was moderately successful, but I know it could be better. Practice!

I added a few white dots as "lens flares", again with mixed results.

Step 13: Details.  Painting missiles white, touches of Steel color, including some drybrushing of places likely to see wear (hands, feet, engines).

I even painted the missiles on the Crusader's collars, which was a bit nutty.

Step 14: Final Drybrush.  This is just to bring out the edges for some final highlights.  I used Buff, a sort of very light yellow, on the hard yellow edges, and straight White on the gray edges. This is the lightest of light drybrushing. You don't want to see the paint at all, just the illusion of light catching the edges. With the airbrush, the shading and highlighting is as good as I can get it, but this manual step hardens the edges and makes the thing seem like it's 50+ tons of metal.

Step 15: Basing.  I simply painted the edges Flat Brown and flocked the base with white glue and Woodland Scenics Summer Grass.

Step 16: Decals.  Obviously optional, but the 1st Argyle Rangers are a patriotic bunch.  I did this while the flocking was still drying.

Step 17: Final basing touches.  Army Painter makes excellent little bushes for basing which are super easy to use. I also have a small container of desert colored stones that go with my color scheme.

Step 18:  Sealing.  I sealed these with Vallejo Satin Varnish via the airbrush. 

And with that, we're done!  Take a look at the final product below.

The Hussar leads the pack.

The Longbow, bought entirely because it looks so cool.


Davion Pride from this King Crab.

The Crusader, the mech I'm most looking forward to playing.

Back of the Bombadier.


Back of the Stinger.

Thumper Artillery with tracked tow and ammo carrier.

Painting Battletech (part 1 of 2)

Ok, the new arrivals are here. Eight new mechs and an artillery piece are ready to go. I didn't snap pictures of the new mechs prior to starting, just the Battlemaster and MadCat below which are left over from the big Battletech Boxed set. The MadCat is just getting primed for now, as we don't play Clan Era games, but it's too cool not to paint, so I'll get to it later. The Battlemaster I will save for another time.

I thought I'd take some pictures as I work and post this tutorial-style as painting yellow is a real trial and someone might find my method useful. All these mechs are destined to join the 1st Argyle Rangers, my Davion force.

Step 1:  Priming.  There's a lot of debate about which color primer to use. However, since we're painting yellow, white is literally the ONLY option. Anything else will turn green immediately.

A MadCat Clan mech, just to show what a primed mech looks like. I don't actually play Clan Era though.

Step 2: Pre-shading.  Some people call this technique "zenithal shading", but I'm not going all the way with it.  Rather than black, I'm using a reddish brown which will look very dark next to bright yellow, but will blend without turning green.  Pretty much anything with any blue pigment will green the whole thing out. Careful which brown you use!  My favorite brown for this is Flat Brown, but the Flat Brown Air color from Vallejo isn't quite as red as the regular, and the regular gunks up my airbrush. Instead I mixed Beasty Brown and Burnt Umber which ended up nearly identical.


With the airbrush, I spray from beneath first, getting the undersides of everything, areas where the shadows are likely to be strongest.


I also get the joints, especially the knees, and anywhere where I might want a little extra definition.

Step 3: Dial it back. In order to get the brown into the nooks and crannies, there's going to be some overspray onto areas that are raised and should be highlighted.  The yellow I'm going to use isn't going to turn green if it hits the brown, but it won't fully cover it either.  So, in step 3, I go in with regular white paint, and reclaim the highlight areas, taking a moment to also spray from above, inverting the preshade method. Now the brown is far more subtle, and we're ready to base coat.

Note: If I weren't using yellow, this step probably wouldn't be necessary.

Step 4:  Primary color.  In this case I'm using Vallejo "Gold Yellow" which is darker than I'm going to end up with. It blends very well with brown however, and is my mid-tone.  Here I get full coverage, painting anywhere that remains white and overspraying a bit onto the brown.


Step 5:  Back to White.  Turning the air pressure down a bit, I went back to white, spraying only the areas I want to highlight with a lighter yellow color. This is mostly the top of the model, but also in a few targeted areas.

Again, if I weren't going to a super light yellow for highlights, I might have been able to just spray right onto the previous color. Not with yellow. Here's my rule: Don't paint light yellow on anything except white.

King Crab, 100 Ton Assault Mech. It's coming for you Fritz.

Back of the Bombadier.

Step 6: Highlight color:  In this case, Lunar Yellow, also Vallejo Air.  Lunar Yellow struggles to cover even another yellow, but unlike Gold Yellow it turns green when it touches just about anything else.  So, carefully, I go over the white highlight areas.  The highlight is hard to see in the pictures, but it is there.

Hussar Light Mech

Step 8:  Back to White, Again.  This time, the white is for it's own sake, as the final highlight.  I dial the air pressure way back, put in some extra thinner and flow improver (white tends to clog up the airbrush, especially with low pressure), and very slowly apply the highlights.

These look a bit brighter than they do to the eye, as they're under a strong light, but once we apply the wash and detailing it won't be so obvious.  The wash we're going to use (just in the cracks) will break up the surfaces and give the overall mech a darker look.

And that's all for today!  Painting all these with the airbrush took about 2 hours and change.  If I'd chosen another color it probably would have taken half as long, but in my opinion yellow is worth it.

A brief aside... some people out there talk trash about bright "candy colored" mechs. Obviously, I like bright colors for Battletech.  Part of that is the practical fact that the smaller the model the brighter the colors need to be for it to stand out on the table. Battletech is 6mm, and I think it's great to have them in a light color.  I have friends who do 6mm Cold War and paint camo, and the final result is them kind of fading into the table.  Things get forgotten.

But beyond that...  Say you're in the field facing a lance of Battlemechs.  Do you really think you're not going to see that 6 story tall monstrosity because it's painted in a drab camo scheme?  Well, the 1st Argyle Rangers want you to know

NEXT UP:  Wash, detailing and decals!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Indirect Fire - Battletech

 Fritz has been busy.  He's got a new lance concept he wants to try, and before this game I knew nothing about it. I refrained from watching his excellent Battletech vlogs, but couldn't help thinking about our last few games.  I took a guess that he was building a force specializing in short range weapons, perhaps with some fast hovercraft as a flanker.

Building a lance to cover this force, I thought about experimenting with the rules on indirect fire of long range missiles. I took an LRM carrier, a Stalker, a Catapult and as my spotting force a Karnov Transport VTOL and three platoons of infantry.

Turns out I was wrong about Fritz's plan. The flankers were Locust mechs and the force was a long range missile carrier, an archer full of LRMs, and for close combat, a Charger.  It was likely to be interesting.

The 1st Argyle Rangers, loyal to House Davion, march straight into the town and take cover behind the buildings. The VTOL drops off the infantry on the top of the tall buildings at the center of town.

 The mechs line up under cover and start firing into the woods at the approaching enemy mercenaries.

 The infantry spotter zeros in on the LRM carrier. Taking about 60 LRMs worth of damage, it explodes without even so much as seeing the enemy.

A squadron of four Locusts move incredibly fast through the forest, positioning themselves behind the Davion force.

The enemy mechs move into the town, taking fire all the way. Finally, an incredibly lucky shot sees an LRM 15 pack take off the head of the approaching Archer, killing the pilot instantly.

Left alone, the Charger did what it does best, it charged. Running towards the Davion Stalker down the town's main road, where all of the assembled infantry opened fire on it from the windows of buildings. 

As the Charger ran the gauntlet towards her, the Stalker's pilot, Marissa Howard-Davion, was forced to turn to face the four Locusts poised to pounce at her back.

For a moment, she lost sight of her allies, and suddenly felt very alone. Charger rushing her back, Locusts swarming at her front, the Stalker went for the weaker prey, killing one of the locusts with a barrage of missiles.

Meanwhile the fast and deadly Jenner mech ran straight at the Charger's rear and unleashed everything it had. Pieces of the charger's armor flew everywhere as the laser rifles of three infantry platoons, the medium lasers and short range missiles of the Jenner, and indirect fire from the hidden Catapult concentrated fire on the mech from all directions.

Nearly reaching melee range with the Marissa's Stalker, the assault proved too much, allowing Marissa to finish the mercenary off with perhaps unnecessary enthusiasm.

The mercenary force was defeated, with the three remaining Locusts fleeing back the way they came, with a Jenner hot on their heels.

So yeah, indirect fire. It works, especially when you use Infantry and fast moving carriers, like a VTOL. They're cheap and they can allow you several turns of uncontested fire if you have the right cover and range. I was worried about fighting LRM to LRM, but deploying into the city allowed me the right cover to drop round after round of long range missiles onto the enemy.

All of this Battletech is giving me ideas of my own for some new lances.

You know, I told myself that I had enough Battletech minis.  Why do I lie to myself like that?  Why?

More Battletech to come.