Monday, May 3, 2010
Collaborative Post: Bases
So. On Thursday I received (along with hundreds of others no doubt) an email from Ron asking for ideas about a collaborative post –one in which we each outline our specific aesthetic philosophy of Army Coherency. This is a brilliant idea, precisely in line with what I’ve come to admire about the blogosphere and the community Ron’s created therein. Alas. I may have already missed the boat on this one, as I think I saw something on FTW that collected all the responses. That was fast.
Nevertheless, I spent some time thinking about the matter this weekend and came up with three basic, and purely aesthetic, principles that I consider when trying to “visually glue” my armies together. As such, these principles (Bases, Iconography, and Palette) will be the substance of the theme this week. Generally I mix all three of these principles to various degrees in any given army but, funnily enough, during my reflection this weekend, it also dawned on me that I have emphasized one element over the others in each of my current armies: Bases = IG Valhallans; Iconography = SM Onorevoli; and Palate = CSM Arrugginiti.
Well, enough intro. Here goes.
Bases: In my opinion, basing is the most challenging and relatively least effective way to unify an entire army. This isn't to say that it's worthless -not at all- merely that this is the least potent form of building army coherency.
I don’t often stitch an entire army together with one consistent idea about basing that is either clearly focused from the outset. Usually, the bases are the last thing I paint in the process and tend to reflect what I feel best for that specific unit at that specific time. Moreover, I build and paint my armies one unit at a time, which means that any army I’ve created also took a significant amount of time to reach a genuinely playable status. I’ve found in the past that my whole painting style has changed from the time I started an army to the time I would actually consider it finished.
I have, however, exactly one army in which the entire force has (or rather, will have) one dramatic and only slightly varying style of base –my Valhallans.
Obviously, Valhallan fluff makes this choice seem almost inevitable. They are a Winter army after all, and always have been. But that doesn’t really tell the whole story of how I decided to try my hand at Snow basing.
These Valhallans are, in fact, my second IG army. The first is really quite old, and retired. On the table, they were calamitous, not only because of their lackluster performance, but also because I’d machine-painted something like 60+ infantry in exactly the same manner. I’d tried little markings on their bases and/or shoulders, but in messy assault, or even as they came off the bookshelf, they were always, always, always an utter, calamitous mess. I spent days just trying to figure out who belonged in which unit.
With these Valhallans, then, I had the idea that no two units would be painted entirely the same. Sure, they would have a similar spectrum of colors (…but that’s the substance of Thursday’s post and better illustrated by another army). The palette isn’t necessarily the glue that holds the Valhallans together on the table (or the bookshelf for that matter). In fact, each unit is immediately recognizable from all the others in the army because none of them are painted exactly alike. Even in messy assaults, I immediately know who belongs where, etc. It’s a breath of fresh air, really.
It’s important to note, however, that the army maintains a distinct coherence, and is not, otherwise, a dribbling chaotic mess. The bright, white snowy bases carry quite a lot of the burden here. As I just mentioned, the snow is quite striking, and I genuinely don’t think these bases would be able to unify the entire army if the color was somehow more subdued or muted. It works because the white is bold and visually arresting -so much so that it tends to almost stand aside from the actual colors of the uniforms, which have, by contrast, been deliberately muted and “grayed” out a bit. Furthermore, the contrast between snow and mud on these bases helps create a strong visual anchor for each model.
So. In summation. I would argue that a strongly themed and consistent basing can unify an army, provided that the bases are dynamic and/or bright enough to be visually arresting. Furthermore, I believe that this is the least potent, but nevertheless viable, method for army coherency.
Tomorrow, I will discuss how a strong icon or imagery can work the same magic throughout an entire force.