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Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Rebel Fleet to Call My Own

Just when I thought I'd be able to put food on the table for my family, Star Wars Armada sucked me in with its tight rule set, great theme, and outstanding miniatures. Having amassed modest Rebel and
Imperial fleets, I was at a loss over what exactly to do with these models between games. Past miniature games that I've played have required players to assemble and paint their miniatures as part of the hobby process.

Original photo courtesy of Reinholt, the cropped and slightly blurry image above courtesy of yours truly

Well, even though Armada doesn't require players to paint their figures (in fact, that's a huge selling point of the game) I felt a desire to personalize my forces. Although originally drawn to the Imperials - I tend to pick the "bad guy" in most games - the Rebel fleet offered the most opportunity for artistic license.

I'm going to take you on a rough step-by-step guide on how I took my nascent Rebel fleet from the default color scheme to something else entirely.

I put together a small fleet using a list from the forums that had some success at a recent store championship, comprising one MC80 and two MC30's. All that remained was to fire-up my airbrush!

The theme I had in mind for my ships was to create an effect that looked like the ships were sailing toward a light source. Originally I was thinking about going with a yellow-fading-to-green color scheme, but I recently finished reading the excellent Night Lords trilogy by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (a Warhammer 40k novel series), which got me to settle on using a dark blue as a base.

I started the process by base-coating the model in the dark blue, being sure to completely cover the red panels that were pre-painted on the models. I used a brand of airbrush paint that I wouldn't recommend but that I also don't want to trash in this article, because some of their products are gems. However, if you're going to be using an airbrush, just trust me and use Vallejo Air paints. I'm sure you can visualize a ship being painted blue, so no need for a picture. The next step was to use a slightly lighter shade of blue and blend that in about halfway up the models.

If you aren't using an airbrush: do NOT simply use a spray-paint like Krylon or Rustoleum or whatever your local hardware store contains. The paint is too thick and will destroy the detail on the models.

One technique I used was to direct the paint onto the model at an angle that was nearly "head on". This really helped with the light source effect, especially on the MC80 which has those "bubbles" on the hull.

The next stage, and the final stage with the airbrush, was to establish a vivid light effect on the ships. I mixed the lighter blue that I used with some white. I can't give you a hard rule on what ratio of blue to white gives the best result, since you'll probably be using different paints. I would advise testing the color on a nearby object and just mixing until you reach a shade that you'll enjoy.

Again, for the MC80, after getting the nose of the vessel covered with the white mix, direct the flow of the paint at a "head on" angle to the ship to really make those "bubbles" pop and make it look like it's flying toward a star. This isn't as much of a concern for the MC30.

Hopefully you can see how even those bubbles have all three shades of blue on them

Now we get into the real grind of a project like this: the brush work. All of those little panels, cables, and accoutrements? You'll need to very carefully paint them black. Make sure the paint you're using isn't too thick. Think slightly thicker than airbrush paint.

Next up was to hit the large black surfaces with a drybrush of dull silver. If you prefer non-metallic metal effects, feel free to substitute a light grey. For the smaller black areas: some I left black, others I painted a color of my choosing (red or purple, but not both on the same ship), and still others were made silver/grey.

Full disclosure: I used one of the MC30's as a test model several days before painting the other two ships, hence the difference in the lightest areas. I recommend painting ships all at once if possible, this way you can avoid inconsistencies in the mixed paints.

Also, probably the most important note of this article: If you find yourself losing patience or getting frustrated, just stop. Take a break, walk away for a bit, and revisit the models later when you're motivated. I am not the best at brush-work, and I rushed several elements on these ships to get them ready for an afternoon of gaming. Just take your time and don't rush things.

Now if only I could keep my ships alive long enough to show off their paint job on the table...

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