Thursday, January 26, 2017

Sticking to it

In my time playing and modelling wargame miniatures, one of the most useful items I have found are magnets.  The 'magic' (ok, I know it is not magic but science - however it does feel a little like magic - this invisible force that either pulls or repels objects from each other - especially when you use it to make things float in the air - it just feels like some out of this world force) of magnets is extremely useful for gaming.

I already talked about using magnets for storing and transporting my miniatures.  And I'm not the only one who does this - check out James Wappel's Blog for his take on this (actually you should check it out period.  He is a great guy (played him at Adepticon a few years back) and a fantastic painter.  He typically puts up a post per day on a different mini he has painted - nice to help keep you inspired (or, like in my case, to realize I will never be that good (because it requires talent and skill - and while you can learn skill, you can't learn talent.)))

To recap - magnetic basing, plastic bins with roofing tin in the bottom are now my preferred method of storing and transporting my miniatures.  I especially like bins that stack and connect together - I use Snapware brand because they were perfect when I first found them (and came with a little extra box that I use for tokens, etc) though they are not as easy to find now as they were (JoAnn Fabrics carries them now (don't ignore sewing and craft store (Michaels is another big brand in the US) - they often have a lot of very useful stuff there)) though I still tend to buy many at once (I bought all six pairs they had at my local store last month).  I'm not even sure how many I currently have - I calculated that I have a shelf unit that will hold 48 of these (3 stacks of 4 (12) on 4 shelves) and with the newest ones I may fill it up.

Magnetic bases are not just for transport however.  In a rank & flank game (i.e. Kings of War) they are also excellent for putting your units together into movement trays.

One of my earliest pet peeves when playing Warhammer years ago (and even occasionally when playing Kings of War as well, but not as often) was people that just had their models loose on a movement tray - and they inevitably would get knocked over or fall out, and they would have to spend time putting them back in the tray.  So it didn't take me long until I was magnetizing even my first army.

I started out buying sheet magnets (or magnetic tape) from the stationary section at WalMart, than then small sheets of tin from the local model railroad store (which is now my FLGS - shout out to The Hobby Shop) which were easily trimmed down to fit a couple of movement trays, and glued in place.  This at least kept my unit together as models were removed and it was eventually completely removed from the table.

I then found Gale Force 9 and their line of magnetic bases and rubber steel sheets.  The rubber steel worked much better (and was actually cheaper) than the modelling size pieces of tin.    However there were a few problems with their bases.

First, oddly enough, the sizes were too precise.  Specifically I found that once I painted them, they would no longer fit in movement trays properly, so I had to trim them.  Plus they were 'dirty' out of the package - the little fine bits of magnet would be all over the bases, and the edges were a bit rough and required cleaning / trimming.  They were the best I could get at the time.

Then a friend mentioned a new company he had found - Shogun Miniatures

First off, full disclosure.  Shogun has not paid me, nor given me anything to endorse them.  They did send me a sample (one) of the new round bases they are working on.  So this is strictly my own freely given opinion.

Shogun magnetic bases are the best I have found.  They are actually cheaper than the ones from GF9 (which are getting harder to find as they move away from making accessories and build more games).
and better quality.  They have always come clean (no magnetic pieces bits to clean off) and are actually stronger and thinner than those I used to use.  I have now gotten to the point that whenever I start a new army for Kings of War, the first thing I do once I've decided what units to make is to get the magnetic bases and steel movement trays for them from Shogun.  Even though I over order so that I won't have to buy more, I inevitably still seem to place an order with them at least once (and sometimes twice) a year.

I have also completely switched to their steel flanged movement trays.  The lip is only about 1/4" and about .5mm thick, so it doesn't get in the way or add any appreciable amount to the  unit size.   I buy unit bases for troops, then use the trays to combine them into regiments, hordes or legions.

Magnets are also very useful when you want to have a miniature that has options, but you don't want to build all the options.  This can be anywhere from a choice of weapon to various options you can buy when building your list.

The first time I ran into this was with my original GW Ogre Kingdom army.  The base ogres (called Bulls in that edition, later just named Ogres) by default had just a single hand weapon.  You had the option (for additional points) to give them a second hand weapon or an iron fist.  As such, I built all my Ogres with a club in their right hand, and then put a magnet in their left arm and then did the same for an empty left hand, a left hand holding a weapon, and a left hand with an iron fist.
Ogre bull, with choice of options
These were quite easy to do, as the model was large enough that 1/8" x 1/32" rare earth magnets easily fit in both the arms and hands.  I simply used a 1/8" drill bit in a pin vise to drill a hole and then super-glue the magnet into the hole so that it is flush with the surface.  The drill did leave a bit of a divot in the hold because it was slight pointed and not flat, but that didn't really cause me any issues.
Ogre bull w/ no upgrades
When doing this, you need to be careful to make sure the magnets are all aligned the same.  The easiest way I found was to do one arm first and put in a magnet.  Once the glue was dry, then drill the hole for the hand, put a magnet on the arm magnet, and then slide the hand (with glue in the hole) onto that magnet.  Once the glue has set, it is stronger than the magnet so you can just pull the hand off. Just make sure you don't have any glue leaking around the edge, or you could glue the hand to the figure, which isn't what you want.
Ogre Bull w/ 2nd hand Weapon
Lather, rinse and repeat for each hand for as many as you are making.  To put a magnet on another ogres arm, do the same thing but this time use one of the hands as your guide.  I have often put a stack of magnets with the hand on one end to use - glue the magnet on the end of the stack and then pull it off.
Ogre Bull w/ Iron fist
I used this same technique for all the options in the army.  In this edition, heroes could take special gnoblars as options.  Some of these were permanent upgrades (such as a sword gnoblar, which gave the model an extra Str 2 attack) while others were one use only (tooth gnoblars for butchers for instance).

Sword Gnoblars
Tyrant, with possible gnoblar upgrades
Same tyrant, with gnoblars attached
Placement could be a little tricky based on the gnoblar and model, but wasn't hard, and now I could model all the options I might take (well until the next book came out and they were not longer available).
Tooth Gnoblars
Butcher w/ 2 Tooth Gnoblars
In the first OK book, the leadbelchers had to spend a turn reloading their cannons after they shot them.  So I used magnets to represent whether the cannon was loaded or not.
Leadbelchers loaded and ready to go
Unfortunately the lead belcher sprue only had two sets of scrap - but it was easy enough to glue some other left over weapons together to make more scrap to be fired.  The magnets were at the end of the pieces of scrap and inside the barrels.  For these I didn't even have to drill any holes - no one would notice the ones on the scrap, nor the magnets inside the barrels.  (Unless you really WANTED to look down the barrel of a Leadbelcher cannon?)
Spent lead belchers, with markers
When I first started the army, I had a very limited number of models.  I bought the army box right after Christmas, and my intention (which I was successful at) was to have it fully painted and playable at 2000 pts for a tournament in Columbus at the end of the month.  Because of this, I didn't have the option to get more models yet even if I wanted to.

This forced me to make some conversion -such as a custom Butcher - because the Butcher model would not come out for another six months.

In WFB, you purchased banners for units and they gave you +1 combat resolution.  However at the time I didn't have enough models, especially for the Iron Guts, to dedicate one to being a standard bearer if I didn't always take one.  So again magnets came to the rescue to make a magnetized standard.

A couple of magnets on the top and bottom, and I could switch the model from having a 2 handed weapon to having a standard (which had the blade on the bottom.
Normal Irongut
It didn't take too long until I had enough models to dedicate the standard bearer, so I eventually glued the blade to the bottom.  However I kept the standard magnetized, because it both made storage and transport easier, plus I could just pop it off when it was captured in battle (instead of having to use the whole model).
But pop the blade off the top, put it on the bottom, and add a standard
This also was a lot of fun as I would "accidentally break" the standard when I was setting the model out - watching the look of horror and sadness on my opponents face when I broke my model.  "Oh man, I'm so sorry".  Then I would show the magnet and laugh as they breathed a sight of relief.

Standards were another place where you could take gnoblar upgrades, so of course I made more gnoblars for standards.  Unlike a lot of the other upgrades, there were not a lot of models for these, so some were 'normal' gnoblars that were drafted into service for this.
Irongut Standard w/ flag gnoblar
Bull standard - the gnoblar comes off the shoulders
Bull standard - the gnoblar comes out of the barrel
A second Irongut standard - this time the entire crows nest comes off
bull standard without gnoblar
same model, now with gnoblar upgrade
For the Battle Standard Bearer, I again made the banner removable.  This was a little trickier, as the magnet, while strong enough to hold the banner in place, could not stop it from rotating around the center, causing the banner to hand upside down.  So this had to be fixed with a couple of pins to keep it oriented properly.  Then if I didn't want a BSB and needed another character, I could replace the banner hand with an ironfist made for it.
Battle Standard Bearer
One thing about ogres in WFB is they all have multiple wounds, so a single hit does NOT mean you remove it from the unit.  This is also true of any characters, as well as monsters and some other units. Because of this, you always needed a way to track the number of wounds on a specific model.  I found that dice tend to get knocked over, so of course I used magnets.
Wound markers - skulls with magnets on the bottom
Since I had already built a vampire counts army, I had a lot of left over skulls.  Not enough it turns out.  Actually originally I did have enough, but the year I took this army to origins, nearly all my skull wound markers 'disappeared'.  I'm not saying that someone took them, but they were gone.  I had to make more, but didn't have any more skeleton skulls, so found a pack of metal reaper skulls - which is why some of them in the picture above are NOT human.
Ogre Hunter and two cats - the cats have 2 wounds each - the hunter has 4.  So the cats need one space for a marker, the character needs 3
I continued this technique, gluing a magnet to the base and using skulls for wound counters, on all my WFB multi-wound models until I stopped playing the game.

Ogres were not the only models that I used this for.  At the same time, I was also playing Wolfen in Confrontation.  There were some models that would be indicate an upgrade by whether the model was wearing a mask.  So I magnetized heads for them to allow me to field them as either choice.
Fang or Great Fang?  Models with alternate heads
No mask - plain ordinary Fangs 
Mask - and they are now Great Fangs
During the game, certain models could get upgraded and get some new abilities.  Or there were upgrades you could buy for them.  One of the themes with wolfen was their sacred scrolls, so I made scrolls on magnets to mark these upgrades.  I rolled out green stuff into thin strips, then curled up the ends and twisted the strips.  I painted them with a bleached bone, then used different colors to write the various upgrades / buffs on them.  Then added magnets to the bases and the scrolls so I could attach them as needed.
Buffs / upgrades on the models
So as you can see, I have used magnets quite a lot, and continue to do so.  They are very versatile and are a great item to have in your modelling toolbox.

Because it is all fun and games . . .

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