Step 1 - Da Kunnin' Plan
Like the rest of the hobby world, I was curious how the new Citadel Contrast Paints worked compared to traditional hobby paints. Along with the usual hobby disease of buying whatever is shiny and new, I figured there were a few other hobby symptoms I could bundle together and treat all once with a bit of planning. Here's what I wanted to achieve:
Try shiny new paints released with a whole lotta marketing and fanfare
As Contrast Paints are designed to speed up painting to tabletop quality, clear out some minis from the backlog on my shelves
End up with something useful, aka, a Blood Bowl team, skirmish warband, or similar
Try out one of the shiny new games GW has been releasing at breakneck speed
With those criteria, here's how I chose to fulfill each of them:
Contrast Paints, duh
I dug through several bags of old Squigs and Squig Herders. Fun models that I happened to have bunches of for some great idea I've since forgotten.
I scrounged up 11 Squigs, 3 Squig Hoppers, and 4 Squig Herders. Seemed like enough to make a warband (or an anachronistic Necromunda gang).
I noticed the brand new Warcry game had a supplemental release of warband cards for Squigs - Perfect!
Step 2 - Prep and Primer
With the plan defined, I was ready to get started. The next step was cleaning and prepping the models, including priming. Since I was experimenting with Contrast for the first time, I decided to experiment with primer colors as well so I could compare the effects. Here's a photo of the warband and primers.
The group on the right side is my test batch. I planned to run them through first to test the primer colors in combination with different Contrast colours. You can see I sprayed them: white, Wraithbone (an official Contrast primer), Wraithbone zenithal (black first, then Wraithbone from the top only), Mechanicus Standard Grey (a GW colour), and finally a lone Herder sprayed white so I can test out a goblin.
The group on the left is the meat of the warband, with a few more Squigs, including a giant one, the three Hoppers, and three more Herders.
The Mechanicus Standard Grey is obviously darker than the other primers, and according to recommendations about Contrast, a bad idea. Still, I wanted to see what the effect would be as I often use that as primer for my normal painting projects.
Step 3 - First Contact with Contrast
Treating the project as pseudo-science (like most of what's on the Internet), I took notes about the colours, brushes, and times it took to paint for the first test group. I'll list those here, and post photos below.
Basing - 20 minutes - GW Shade Brush - Dark Angel Green on four models, Ork Flesh on four models, Militarum Green on the Herder
Skin - Gryph-Hound Orange - 18 minutes - GW Shade Brush - 2 models - lots of details I was careful to paint around!
Skin - Blood Angels Red - 16 minutes - GW Shade Brush - 2 models - less details on the newer edition Squigs
Skin - Talassar Blue - 10 minutes - GW Shade Brush - 2 models - really got the hang of application now
Tongues and gums - Volupus Pink - 5 minutes - Size 1 brush
Lower lips and tails - Magus Purple - 1 minute - Size 1 brush
Teeth and claws - Skeleton Horde - 5 minutes - Size 1 brush
Eyes - Wraithbone - 1 minute - Size 00 brush - cleanup step to ensure eyes are clear of other spills
Eyes - Iyanden Yellow - 1 minute - Size 00 brush - applied Contrast colour
Teeth and claws shading - Aggaros Dunes - 2 minutes - Size 0 brush - applied around the base of the teeth and claws to add a gradient tint
Fine details - various - 6 minutes - Size 00 brush - Squigs feature a lot of warts as a trait and I wanted to highlight them a bit more than the Contrast did
Totals: 8 models, 85 minutes
Night Goblin Herder
Skin - Warp Lightning Green - 4 minutes
Belt and cymbal ties - Snakebite Leather - 2 minutes
Nose bandages - Basilicum Grey - 1 minute - was too dark so I highlighted with white
Teeth - Skeleton Horde - 5 minutes - Size 1 brush
Tunic and shoes - Black Templar - 6 minutes - the bulk of the model, went very easily!
Cymbals - Brass and Silver - 5 minutes - metals aren't available in Contrast and they also take so much time to get a decent coat!
Totals: 1 model, 23 minutes
As you can see above, using Contrast over the dark Mechanicus Standard Grey was a total fail. All of the colors were washed out and dull compared to the other Squigs. In the interest of science, I wanted to see if I could salvage these models with something equally simple and fast. I put in another 20 minutes of drybrushing to fix them up, and I think the results turned out great, although the photo doesn't do them justice so you'll have to take my word for it.
One last note on the experimental phase: the zenithal primering didn't have an appreciable effect. Probably due more to the Squig models being very short, so their undersides where the black primer remained is not terribly noticeable. During this same time I tried the technique on an AdMech Dominus and it worked nicely as an additional gradient to his robes.
Step 4 - The Real Deal - (1 week later)
Next up was applying all my test experience to the heart of the warband. There were 9 more models left to paint, including a Boss. The Boss model was Skarsnik (circa 4th edition WFB) featuring quite a bit more detail than the other models. I also replaced the dark Mechanicus Standard Grey primer with the official Contrast Grey Seer on three of the models. Since I already described the breakdown of steps by colours above, I'll get straight to the results.
3 Squig Hoppers
2 Squig Herders
Total time: 242 minutes (4 hours and 2 minutes). I estimate about 30 minutes was extra time put into the details on the Skarsnik model.
For those keeping score at home, that brings the totals for the warband to:
350 minutes (call it 6 hours with bookkeeping fudge factor)
Pretty good compared to "classic" painting! Of course, all of these models are tabletop quality. Maybe slightly above since there are some areas/colours where Contrast really shines, like the skin on all of the models. Since that element often takes the most time in classic painting, that in itself is a huge win. It's also worth noting that there are no metallics in the Contrast line, so all of those areas I had to do classic style. In this case, that meant a couple of layers of metal and a wash with Citadel shades. Nothing fancy.
Here is the entire warband ready for action.
The lighting on my desk is not doing any favors for these photos, so I'll endeavor to get some better action shots in Step 5 when I get them on the battlefield. They really do look pretty good in person, especially for the time put in.
If there's one lesson learned in this adventure that is not apparent from the photos, it's the psychological factor that Contrast has on painting. Wargamers often have a love/hate relationship with painting their models. For me, it's always been love, but despite that there are dark moments of grappling with the sheer prospect of how much time and effort a model, team, warband, or army, will take to paint. During the gap after painting the first half of this warband, I found myself genuinely excited about painting the second half for one simple reason: IT WAS SO DAMN FAST.
I am quite certain that practice with the Contrast line, both in refining application techniques and simply learning the colour range better, can produce amazing results with ridiculously little effort. I don't think they'll ever replace what is needed to produce truly stunning models that win competitions, but they sure make it a viable prospect to field painted gangs/teams/whatever for the ever-increasing number of GW skirmish games that keep coming out.
Step 5 - To Battle!
I finally got these adorable little monsters onto the tabletop for my very first game of Warcry and all I can say is, what a blast! Warcry is a very fast and very brutal game that is easy to learn and very fun to play. I played against @scottshoemaker and it was the first game for both of us. We managed to setup, skim the rules, and get through the first turn in about 30 minutes. The next two turns were only a few minutes each as we got a feel for it. We had been told, and quickly learned, that a Warcry game is generally over by Turn 3. We could have stopped then, but we kept the carnage going for another 3 turns until one side had been completely wiped out. Note that we didn't even bother with a Scenario (and thus Objectives) or a Twist. Those are sure to inject even more mayhem and fun into an already thrilling game.
(in case you can't tell, I'm looking forward to playing more Warcry and encourage you to try it out!)
The Team Photo - the whole collection I painted up, posing in the ruins of a wizard's tower, who they surely ate, along with the tower.
The warband for the game. Turns out Squigs (and Hoppers) are awesome so they cost a lot of points. That meant I could only take a few of them out to dinner for the first game. My selection was a Loon Boss (Skarsnik), 2 Hoppers, 2 Squigs, and 3 Herders.
Turn 1 - Warcry plays very (very, very) fast! We got stuck in right away with Scott's Iron Golems equally fired up to throw blows. Note we were using the wrong counters for Activated and Waiting (we didn't even know what Waiting was).
Any attack roll of a 6 is a Critical hit and generally does double damage. My Squigs were feeling the thrill of their first battle and rolled A LOT of Crits. (sorry not sorry, Scott)
Hoppers have a move of 10(!) and the Loonie warband has an ability to give bonus moves, resulting in 20" flying leaps! --AND--- the Hoppers can land beside (aka, on) an enemy model and squish them while they're at it.
The Iron Golem Ogre charged into the center melee, but even his 30 Wounds couldn't hold up to the slavering jaws of hungry Squigs rolling Criticals like it was Christmas. NOM NOM NOM!
After Turn 3, it was a meat grinder as the Iron Golems staged an effective comeback and took out the wounded Hoppers. By Turn 6 there was only a single Squig and its hapless Herders against the ultra-powerful leader of the Golems.
But the dice came through one last time, and the Squig opened its huge mouth extra-wide, swallowing the leader, his crunchy armour, and his fancy hammer of death. YUM!
Step 6 - Final Thoughts
Because there ended up being a couple weeks between finishing painting the warband and fielding them on the table, it gave me a chance to set them aside and "forget" how they looked, letting the afterglow of completing the painting project fade. Therefore, it was very pleasing to unpack them and realize just how good they looked on the table alongside all the painted terrain and Scott's awesome Iron Golems (he also used Contrast and metals). The bright, vivid colors lit up the table, and, as all hobbyists know, playing with painted minis is not only good luck, but makes any GW game 100% more satisfying. If I had any lingering doubts about using Contrast paints, they were firmly erased by playing a game with fully painted minis.
My Arbitrary Ratings:
Contrast Paints - 6 out of 6 Squigs - fast, effective, and great results
Warcry - 4 out of 4 Bludgeons - simple, quick rules, and the thrill of tense combat in about 45 minutes
Squigs - 37 out of 37 Fangs - so many teef, so much chomping!