+ inload: Skin tone recipes – pale skin +

+ Painting pale skin +

+ Tonal contrast is probably the most important thing to get right in creating a striking miniature. Hue is much less important. Because the eye is drawn to areas of contrast, it's often the case that pale skin is useful to help draw the eye and provide contrast with darker cloth/armour etc. +

+ For pale human skin, my advice is to mix a tiny touch of Blood Red and Yriel Yellow into a lot of white and use that for the base. Give it a glaze of yellow glaze (very dilute Yriel/Golden Yellow; or Gryphonne Sepia, if you prefer washes), then reapply the pale mix. Add more white and yellow to highlight overall, with the addition of a touch of red to the mix for the lips and cheeks, for these results:

+ I've added purple to the mix above the eyes for the suggestion of eyeshadow. I've found the trick is to be as subtle as possible – apply the real-world rule of makeup. If you can tell there's something there, you're doing it wrong! +

+ For a cooler feel – more appropriate for figures that use a cool palette, or if you want to suggest a cold atmosphere, replace the sepia with a purple glaze (dilute Warlock Purple, or Leviathan Purple if you prefer washes), and use less yellow in the mixes. This will give the following results:

+ Of course, the thing to remember about any paint recipe for skin is that it will result in a formulaic feel. This can give a uniform effect, which I usually feel is inappropriate for humans – we're all very different colours, even within ethnic groups. To get a natural effect across a group of miniatures, it's important to vary the mixes. 

+ The core advice I'd give for pale skin is that it is built from 95 per cent white, with tiny touches of yellow and red. By varying the specific colours you use – substituting the white for a cream or ivory, for example; or Yrial yellow for Iyanden Darksun, you will get subtly different results. This example uses Dheneb Stone in place of the white paint:

+ These skintones are just colours; so remember that you can use them elsewhere. They make nice fabric colours, for example. Alternatively, you can use them for non-humans. A good recipe I've found for a pale alien/elfen skintone is the following: start from a pale base of 50/50 white and Dheneb Stone with a touch of purple added, then add more white for highlights. Glaze with very dilute purple and glaze repeatedly with white for this effect:

+ To reiterate, this recipe isn't a be-all and end-all, but a starting point to achieve good tonal contrast. In the figure above, all the hues are very desaturated, but the tonal contrast between the pale face, hair and hands and the dark remainder of the model draws the eye to the focal points. This can also be seen on the end of his spear, where the blade and gem are very dark, and contrast with a very pale silver setting. +

+ Note also that I haven't used pure white or black anywhere on the model – they're just very dark (or light) tones. His blond hair (built from a mix of yellow and white) also shows that you can use light hair alongside very pale skin without losing the distinction between the two. +

+ inload: Worldbuilding – city streets +

+ inload: Worldbuilding – city streets +

+ Terrain can tend to take a back seat to building armies; but there's nothing better-looking in a wargame than two gorgeously-finished armies in conflict over a convincing set of scenery. +

+ Since building my board (noospheric inload link ref: http://apologentsia.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/inload-worldbuilding-while-i-own-realm.html), I've been more keen to get some sets of terrain together for the boards. A couple of years ago I supported a Kickstarter for a game called Wolsung, produced by Micro Art Studios. I'm not that interested in the game (though I'm sure it's fun), but the scenery they produced was great – it has an alternative 19th Century industrial feel. This was ideal for me, as with a little forethought, it can fit nicely into 40k and Warmachine. +

+ The box that arrived has sat in my attic for a while, but with a spare evening, I sat down and began construction. My pledge bought me two buildings ('XIX Century Block of Flats'), two walkways, and some spare oddments that I think were part of the stretch goals. +

+ As a brief review, each item was supplied as a pack of MDF in shrink-wrap. The flats and walkways had a cover sheet, which included some very basic instructions. The pieces have been very thoughtfully designed, with a great compromise between decoration and utility. Even built out of the pack, there's a lot of potential variety. For example, the storeys of the buildings slot together neatly and solidly, and are interchangeable, so the two buildings I have can be assembled as one three-storey building and one bungalow, or two two-storey buildings. The walkways in particular are very modular. 

+ In terms of construction, the fits are neat and clean. I used a little PVA to hold together critical parts, but almost everything fits so tightly that this is largely unnecessary. For the most part, construction was quick and straightforward. While the instructions are very basic and a bit half-hearted – the market stalls didn't have a cover sheet included, for example – there's nothing here that can't be worked out by anyone who's done a jigsaw puzzle. Even if you do make a mistake, you can generally remove the piece with minimal fuss. +

+ As mentioned, the sets are well-designed both as single sets – the flats are detailed inside with optional interior doors and walls – and as a set. To illustrate this, the walkways are the correct height to marry up with the first floor of the flats; and the ladders from one set will join to the stairwells of the others. 

Despite some fairly fine and small components, the finished pieces look and feel sturdy, with jutting components kept to a minimum. I did break one of the walkway struts, but they need to be fine to get the effect (and also to be able to get fingers in when gaming). Overall, I was really pleased with them, and would thoroughly recommend them. +

+ Here's a picture of the whole set up, with a single 28mm figure on the walkway for scale:

+ As you can see, there's quite a lot of the board covered, and to a good height. This has long been the 'missing link' of a realistic set of urban terrain, and I'm sure the addition of useable vertical height (i.e. not just lone buildings, but connections between) will add a lot of tactical depth to our games. +

+ The modular ladders can be added at any position along the walkway. There's clearly been a lot of thought put into balancing the aesthetics of these terrain elements with practicality, and how they will work with figures. The stair steps/rungs are large enough to accommodate 30mm bases comfortably, for example, with spaces left between so figures can be balance safely instead of hanging precariously or having to be placed at the top or bottom of the stairwell. The walkways also have attractively-designed railings that are anonymous enough to work in a number of aesthetics while still being interesting. ++

+ This shot shows how the elements from different packs fit together smoothly. The 'water tower' on top of the building is part of the walkway set. The ladder from this leads down to the building, where a soldier can either fight his way down the stairs into the building, or slip down the fire escape to the balcony. From there, he can jump onto the reinforced wall (another stretch goal separate pack I'd quite forgotten was included), where he can either jump down to ground level or gingerly edge his way along to the walkway; vaulting over the railing for cover. +

+ The walkways are a good height – again, clearly well-thought through at the design stage – combining realism and detail with accessibility. In a detailed skirmish game, I imagine a fit 28mm soldier could jump up to the lower ironwork and clamber up to the railings. All this sort of material increases the tactical possibilities. Big armoured walkers are scary, but if they can't fit through tight gaps, maybe you should send in the skirmishing light scouts? 

+ This shot also shows the care taken in designing the flats – you can see one of the small cellar windows/drainage gutters at the lower left, and the laser-cut detailing on the wall panelling. It's this detail that makes me give this the thumbs-up, and really shows one advantage of commercially-bought terrain – while it'd be possible to cut these details by hand, it'd be awfully time-consuming. This set has enough detail that I feel I'm getting my money's worth: while it's not as personal as something I've hand-made, the time saved makes up for it. +

+ A model's-eye view of the market stalls. These were very much an afterthought – as freebies, I wasn't that taken with the design, and very nearly put them to one side to assemble later (i.e. lurk in the Cupboard of Shame for another few years). How glad I am that I did construct them! They fit neatly against the walls and add some all important human interest to the area. This is something that's missing from a lot of terrain set-ups – the sense that it's a real city or location where people live, toil and love. These abandoned market stalls are really lovely reminders, as well as providing a bit of variety (and cover!) to the buildings. + 

+ In the foreground here are a couple of resin piles of crates, barrels and sacks, another free stretch goal. Single-piece castings, they feel very sturdy and solid. The larger double-sided market stall is visible in the midground. These pieces did require assembly with PVA glue – they don't slot together as solidly as the walkways and flats. +

+ As you'll see from the photographs, even unpainted these have a nice look to them. They'll be improved with brushwork and basing, but the clever use of laser-etched detail alongside white balsa and the dark burnt sides of the MDF means you could go straight into a game quite happily. +

+ Overall, I'm happy to give these three mechadendrites up, and I'll certainly be shopping from Microarts Studios again. +