A Seal walks into a club- Baby Seals First Steps by David Walcot

21 Oct

Breaking the Seal…

This week I tape carrier bags to my hands, gouge a Librarians stupid Finecast face off (not a real life librarian, I have no issue with their faces), and play my first game in 15 years.

Most people advise that you should start playing games as quickly as possible in this hobby. To buy your models, skip to your local game store/club, strike up some witty banter with the crowds and let them fight over who can teach you first. But, as I discussed in my previous blog, I’m too chicken to talk to anyone. Come on-who wants to play the guy who doesn’t know how a run move works? (D6 right?)

So if you, like me, spent a lot of time in GW stores, not playing games, and not talking to anyone, you probably ended up with a lot of models to make up and paint all in one go.

Painting is difficult. Chances are you will suck at it for quite some time. You will never own the models you see on the box, or anything close. They were painted by someone much better than you, and they were paid for the hours of work they spent painting individual squiggle line on every purity seal. You won’t be getting paid. You will mess up, and you will wonder how the hell you’re supposed to get a single white dot in the corner of a space marine’s eye. You will spend a massive chunk of your early days in the hobby assembling and painting your expensive little men. So tip number one…try and enjoy it!

Before I go on its worth noting a few things. Some people have a natural talent for painting. Some people will have been painting for years and will know countless little tips & tricks. Some people will be attracted to the hobby primarily for the arts & crafts side of things. I am not one of these people. I am not very good at painting. I am not qualified to tell you how to paint better than you already do. If you’re just starting up you might be able to sift through all the ramblings, and find a nugget of useful information in the midst of my verbal diarrhoea. Or you might just be reading a load of shite.

After I’d built up all the models I’d bought I needed to undercoat them. I knew I didn’t want to do this by hand, so I bought a can of chaos black, carefully laid out newspaper on the patio table, turned a cardboard box into a walled paint station type thing (I don’t know what this achieved, but it made me look like I knew what I was doing), carefully place my miniatures into rows and start spraying. Then I see a problem. I can’t get to the backs of the models while they’re in the box. I don’t want to wait for them to dry as I’ve got loads more to do, so I have to turn them all around. One by one. The paint gets on my hands. I spray the backs. But then I can’t get to the underside of the models. So I have to lay them down. One by one. Things keep going this way until I notice my fingers are completely black, and I think I may aswell just pick them up and spray them. Not one of my brightest moments. By the time Id undercoated everything both my hands had about 20 coats of chaos black. I had to wait for my own hands to dry before I could open the door to get back in the house. Invest in some disposable plastic gloves. They make spray-painting a whole lot less stressful.

I forgot to get some for my second lot of miniatures. So I improvised. Carrier bags on each hand taped down at the wrists were my solution. My fiancés mother just shook her head at me when she saw me. Somehow I’d managed to make the sight of a 28-year-old man painting little plastic super-soldiers even more ridiculous. It was just lucky I’d decided to put my trousers back on…

Another thing I will say is that I found painting human faces really intimidating. I was really happy when I realised I could make up a whole squad with helmets. No stupid little faces mocking me for not having the skills to paint them convincingly. Then I bought a terminator librarian and realised he had the biggest, most mocking face of all. “I can do this conversion stuff”, I thought (I cant), “It can’t be that hard,” I thought. (It is)  “Who needs that ‘green stuff’ stuff”. I thought (I do) I don’t know the “best” way to try and convert your miniatures, but I know that it definitely doesn’t follow the below steps:

a) Take 1 terminator librarian

b) Take 1 hobby knife

c) Stick hobby knife into librarians face and twist until you have a large hole.

d) Glue a terminator helmet in hole

e) Ignore any gaps

Later I discovered the wonder off GW washes. They really help with flesh tones and are really easy to use. Definitely invest in some!

If you’re playing 40k, part of your decision, at some point, had to come down to either liking the fluff, or the models. Otherwise you’d be playing Chess (and your bank account wouldn’t look so bleak). So, in my opinion, it’s worth putting a little extra time into getting your army looking half decent. If you can scrape a little extra enjoyment out of the hobby, it goes a little further to taking the sting out of the cost of it all. (That’s the trainee accountant in me talking-sorry!) In essence, If you lay all your army out in front of you does it make you smile or not? Are you proud of the work you put in, regardless of outcome? Or do you hang your head in shame? Putting that extra half hour in to add a bit of detail to that squad can make all the difference. Sometimes it just takes one more layer of detail or a wash to finish off a unit.

Getting down to business

At this point I’m running out of excuses not to try and get a game. With almost a fully painted army, and about 3 months of podcasts, websites and forums filling my brain with tactics and rules, I decide I need to grow a pair- and finally ask a stranger for a game. My big tip here is to nip into a store on a games night or a lunch break, and ask some people playing a game if you can watch. You’ll learn a few things, and hopefully you can strike up a conversation during the game. Then, when they’ve finished you can ask for a game, or organise one for another day. Takes the sting out of getting your first game!

Now a few weeks previously, I had worked up the courage to ask a GW staff member for a game. I’d chatted to him a few times when buying stuff in store so I though he could give me a small game. What I actually got was an “introduction” to the game. You know, the games where the staff member is contractually obliged to let you win? I learnt one thing, and one thing only. 850pts of Grey Knights will beat 400pts of Orks quite easily. So that’s good to know. With this lesson learned, I was brimming with confidence for my first game.

The guy I played was really helpful, he answered every blindingly obvious question I had, was happy to have discussions about any decisions I had to make, and explained everything he was doing. This is exactly the kind of game you want for your first time. You basically need a running commentary, because from the moment you try and deploy you’re going to be overwhelmed. Ask a lot of questions, however stupid they might seem. And if you’re the person playing the new guy-play your best, but be transparent about what your doing (it doesn’t hurt to slip in a few nasty surprises though). It really is true that you learn more from a loss than you do from a win.

Unfortunately I won. So I learnt very little. He played a casual Dark Eldar list against my “competitive” Grey Knight list so I had an advantage from the start, but he then went ahead and failed almost every save throughout the entire game.

I tabled him turn 4.

He was great about it, and I let him know that I knew the outcome was just massive bad luck on his part. But secretly, deep down, past the many layers of doubt and paranoia, I knew that it was all down to my innate talent. Over the coming games I’d be proven wrong, time and time again…

Next Week: I hear an old uni buddy-Rob “Showbiz” Madeley on an 11th company podcast, and bombard him with list building texts and emails until I start to worry I’m getting a little too obsessed with 40k.


7 Responses to “A Seal walks into a club- Baby Seals First Steps by David Walcot”

  1. Chris Smith (@BadgerRustler) October 21, 2011 at 12:44 #

    This is rapidly becoming my favourite blog on this site – well written, funny and pretty much exactly what I’ve been through!

    The Chaos Black spray thing especially rang true, who would have known just how bastard hard that stuff is to get off your hands. Army Painter do some spray paint and I feel sorry for anyone that gets that stuff on them, they seem to mix paint and a really gloopy glue to make it.

  2. Franco October 21, 2011 at 13:27 #

    Ahh the chaos black hands… I still get them now 😛

  3. Digital Unicorn October 21, 2011 at 16:26 #

    Thankfully, the friend who introduced me to the hobby managed to slip in the phrase “molecular bonding agent” in his intro, so iv managed to avoid primer hands, lol.

  4. Andy Ovel October 21, 2011 at 16:58 #

    Love this article 🙂

    It’s a fact that you’re not really trying if your hands aren’t covered in paint at the end of a session!

    • Digital Unicorn October 21, 2011 at 19:12 #

      That’s prejudiced against clean people! Its not OCD, I can stop whenever I want…

      Also, forgot to say Great article and to start the chant…

      Showbiz! Showbiz! Showbiz! Showbiz!

  5. Embolden October 21, 2011 at 22:22 #

    Awesome article, had me laughing out loud at the bit about hands having to dry before getting back in the house! Been there, done that before!

  6. Mike October 24, 2011 at 08:52 #

    Top tip – a wire brush helps with the old chaos black hands just so long as you aren’t too bothered about all of that skin you also have on them…

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