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Friday, April 1, 2016

Painting up Battletech

Ok, I've practiced a bit on some spare tanks. Time to put the airbrush to it's first full army force. And what better for my first airbrushed force than my first Battletech unit?  I'll be jumping into a B-tech campaign next week and I want a force that is both pretty and intimidating to its enemies. I'll introduce the in-character force in another post, but I thought I'd put up some painting pictures. 

One of the things that keeps Battletech from being as popular as certain other games is that its models have a reputation for being ugly as hell. Big clunky robots, some of which admittedly look not much better than the worst knock-off Go-Bots from back in the 80s. It's a fair criticism, although the models from the late timeline, Clan Invasion +, are often much nicer. But that's not what Fritz and I are playing. We're playing our favorite fluff period, the late Succession Wars... which also has the worst looking models.

When my wife saw my assembled force unpainted she was distinctly underwhelmed. She said something like "Martians I get, and the Spanish Civil War is fascinating, but this... this I don't get." She admitted to not being exposed to giant robots as a kid, so that makes sense. She also straight out said she thought they were ugly. So, naturally I had to prove that they don't have to be ugly.

However, before that could happen, the wife "accidentally" dropped A Game of Thrones on the assembled figures while re-shelving it, breaking several of the figures. She felt really bad about it, but I have to wonder if something was happening under the surface... some unconscious aversion.  In the end we agreed that it wasn't really her, it was George R.R. Martin that couldn't be trusted, mostly to keep the peace.

I selected a 4-mech lance, along with a combined arms force (infantry, tanks and air support), and also received some additional stuff as birthday gifts. The mechs I selected tend to eschew the more huminoid form, and in fact none even have hands.  I have to admit that I selected the mechs mostly for looks, except the Jenner which I love to play, and the Marauder so I can do my Khyron voice (Robotech reference).

I also have a thing with attacking giant robots with infantry. So VTOL transport was necessary.

Ok, time to make them  pretty.  I decided that my character in the campaign will be an arrogant Davion noble trying to make a name for himself. So no camo color schemes!  This guy wants everyone to know who he is.  What better way to be noticed than charging into battle in bright shiny yellow?

I know what you're saying - "yellow? Are you MAD?  Yellow is the hardest color in the universe to paint!  You're a noob with the airbrush!  Yellow doesn't FORGIVE. Yellow is CRUEL. Yellow is a MONSTER."

Well, experienced painter, you're quite right. Yellow is straight out UNPRINTABLE in how much of a pain it is. But oh, is it worth it if you get it right.  The key is not to mess around with the blending.

I primed them white (no choice with yellow), then hit them with Vallejo Flat Brown where I wanted to shade them, followed a few minutes later (I love the airbrush) with Vallejo Air Gold Yellow.

For highlights (and to back off the shading which was a bit overdone), I went at it with a plain white.

Followed by a reapplication of the base color, leading to a more moderate fade.

After that, a much lighter application of white, just where I wanted the highlights to be, and then went over it with Vallejo Moon Yellow, a very light and pale yellow that doesn't cover anything unless its white. On top of that, a fine mist (low PSI, lots of air, little paint) of white on the highest lights.

At some point in there I also very carefully applied a Sepia wash to all the little cracks and grooves, which really brought them out. This wasn't a heavy wash at all - I had to be careful not to get any on the raised surfaces, as covering any splotches would be impossible (friggin' yellow).

With the airbrushing done, I broke out some Vallejo Dunkelgrau and started picking out details. I also, with a LOT of trouble, masked the Marauder and did the red with the airbrush. I like it, but it probably would have been just as good and quicker doing it by hand. I suck at masking right now.

Looking pretty good so far!

The air stuff fell behind during all this as they are NOT easy to attach to their bases. None of the holes were big enough to support the stems, either on the model or the base. I bought a jeweler's hand drill, and broke it in under 5 minutes. Then I broke a file.  Finally, I just got out the power drill and that did the job (along with a bit of green stuff and super glue).  After they were primed, they got the same treatment.

Then it was just a matter of standard detailing. As was perhaps inevitable, I occasionally went over the lines, and bits of paint got on the yellow. There was literally nothing to be done. Any attempt to fix it would just have made it more obvious or just plain worse. Still, not to many mistakes, and no deal-breakers.

The final step was Vallejo Satin Varnish, which was my first use of it and I must say it's amazing. I was afraid it would be too shiny, but it's a very silky, subtle effect, and one that seemed to especially suit my color scheme (and mechs in general).

Even the wife had to admit that they turned out looking very good, and suddenly she's more enthusiastic about my Battletech project.  Personally, I'm more than pleased.  For me, these represent a new high water mark in my painting.  The airbrush really is a game-changer.

 Below, an image to give Fritz nightmares.

And yeah, I even painted my infantry.  It didn't actually take as long as I thought it would - the longest step was painting the base.

I'm particularly happy with this guy.

 Next, I need to do something with the bases (usually I do those first, so I'm a bit lost), and finish up my fluff on these guys.

Thanks for reading, and George R.R. Martin, if you're out there, you need to know that these men are not loyal to House Stark.  Leave them alone!


  1. They've come out quite well all things considered, nice work!

    Some of the mechs are indeed ugly and clunky, particularly the ones designed by FASA, rather than the ones they 'borrowed' from elsewhere. The Marauder is my favourite, followed by the original Archer design and the rest of the 'originals' in the old 3025 manual.

    Given all the mechs that were added subsequently, in retrospect I have to say 'less is more'.

    1. Thanks!

      I was a huge Robotech fan back in the day so all of the Robotech/Macross based ones are clear favorites. The archer is indeed quite cool.

      I like the look of a lot of the later additions, like the Clan mechs, but not so keen on the Clans themselves, or the complications to the game that followed them.

    2. I agree, I loved the Madcat and the Vulture... but as you say, part of the fun of the game was the limitations of weapons and the heat they generated, which all went with the arrival of the Clans.

      I remember getting a 3025 based 'Black Widow Company' totally devastated by a Clan force, that was supposedly equal on points.

  2. They look awesome! I remember the first time I saw battledroids at a games day in eighty ? I was hooked. You're correct about the clunkiness, but I still see them through early teen eyes, so it's not a problem. But who wouldn't want to pilot a Blackhawk!!!

    1. Thanks! Always interesting to hear people's favorite mechs.

    2. Ah... the Blackhawk... another favourite.

  3. Was the Vallejo varnish a spray or brush? 😊

    1. I sprayed it with the airbrush. I think you could probably brush it on though.

    2. Ah yes, airbrush. Not used that. I have a can of GW varnish which works (as long as you don't spray too close).

      Just getting my Hollander painted. First BattleTech mini. They're a pleasure to paint when you're used to 28mm and you don't need many models to play which is awesome too! :)