Thursday nights are gaming night at Hobbyland Graceland. Most weeks you'll find a group playing Warhammer 40k, which I joined just as the new 8th Edition was released. For those (like me) who have been curious about Warhammer, this edition is a great time to start playing. The rules have been simplified from previous editions and I have found the game play well balanced, even for newcomers vs. veterans.
Despite my weekly strategic errors and dice that betray me, I was hooked. I've always been a fan of the battle mecha genre, so I gravitated to the T'au Empire for my first 40k army - a battlesuit-heavy "shooty" army that also fits my play style. I borrowed armies for several weeks but soon purchased the first kit of my own.... the XV95 Ghostkeel battlesuit.
I should include a disclaimer here: My last plastic model was more than 30 years ago, and this is a more challenging kit than a Dodge Charger. The first thing I did was ask our resident plastics guru, Jason, for some advice on what is available now to get started. He pointed me to a good pair of sprue cutters and Tamiya Extra Thin Cement.
Ready to start:
I opened the box, looked through the instructions, and got familiar with the sprue layout. I started to build the drones and then realized I needed to decide whether to paint first or build it completely so I could use it in a live game. I decided to build the major components and then paint before final assembly, since some places would become impossible to reach. More on that in a bit.
A few pieces in to the main model, I had my first design decision: which head to use for the pilot? I had my choice of two facial expressions. Games Workshop does a nice job in this kit with options to make your specific model unique in pose, features, or choice of modeled weaponry. This is not uncommon in their kits since each individual may highly customize their army.
Torso and Legs:
The torso/cockpit was the first major build component. Immediately I had to decide whether to halt until I could paint the pilot and interior or proceed with the build. I opted to not worry about it and seal him in forever because I preferred a closed-cockpit design with a mecha head, rather than an open cockpit. The cockpit itself presented my first construction challenge.
The cockpit is formed by a left and a right shell. The pilot slides inside before they are glued together. The lower door has an inner panel that is hinged at the bottom and was difficult for me to assemble, but I eventually got it together correctly. The door itself then hinges in a very tiny gap in the cockpit. At the same time the canopy also hinges into the two sides. It took quite a few dry fit rehearsals before I had the right sequence of holding parts in place and wiggling others in before I was ready to apply cement. The end result: a working cockpit with a pilot and opening and closing hatches. After all that effort I sealed it closed because the mecha head attaches to the top of the canopy, and it does not lift open very much once that part is attached.
The rest of the torso completed without difficulty as I became used to working with very small parts. I saw several places where my sprue cuts were sanded sloppily; but, being battle armor, I wasn't concerned. Some roughness may add to the final look, as long as they look like battle scars and not sprue cuts in the end.
Kudos to Games Workshop designers... the ankles are constructed as ball joints, and the instructions are very clear about where NOT to glue as you assemble them. This allows the feet to swivel to a wide enough degree that you can get the leg positioning correct with the feet flat on the base. In this picture the legs are not glued to the base. In this position (if I am very steady) I can balance the torso on the legs and it all stands on its own! I feel accomplishment at this point.
Arms and Temporary Glue:
With the arms came the choice of primary weapon. I chose the Fusion Collider over the Ion Raker, since I preferred the specs of that weapon in play. With some more strategic non-gluing I was able to keep the ammo cylinder loose enough to rotate freely. Even though this is a fairly static model for a game, I like to add movable, dynamic features where I can. It keeps the model interesting.
With the arms assembled and game night coming up, I wanted to see the full kit assembled. I knew that I would need to disassemble to paint effectively so I searched the internet for ideas. The one that worked was Quick-Dry Tacky Glue. This does not set up as quickly as plastic cement, but it also does not "weld" the plastic together. Once dry it has decent strength and parts can be easily separated and the dry glue removed.
Gluing the legs to the base and the torso to the legs was fairly simple since I could already balanced those dry. Attaching the arms was a challenge because of the relatively long set-up time for the tacky glue. The solution: custom built scaffolding that was able to hold each arm at the proper height and angle while a copious amount of Tacky Glue was applied to each shoulder joint (which you can see in the second picture). I let each arm dry overnight on the scaffold before moving on.
Here is the completed model, unpainted, with temporary assembly. I was able to use the model in live game-play in this condition.
Ghostkeel performed well in its first battle but ultimately fell due to uncooperative dice, aggressive placement, and my opponent focusing on the new model to see whether it was "squishy". We did have a glue failure and lost an arm mid-battle, It came at an appropriate time in the game play, so it fit the narrative of the evening.
In Part 2 of this series you'll see how I reacquainted myself with the painting process. Stay tuned!
Comments will be approved before showing up.