Out of the Painting Rut: Starting with Antares 1 – Setting Up

Erik A. Pulkka had landed in a bit of a painting rut. In the first of a two-part article he tells us how, by teaching nine friends all at
once to play Beyond the Gates of Antares, it helped him breakout of that painting rut.

Getting out of a painting rut

Have you ever had too many unpainted miniatures stack up, but just couldn’t seem to get started painting?  It can feel overwhelming. I call it my painting rut, and once I’m in one it can be hard to break out of, and getting back to painting miniatures can be difficult with all of life’s distractions.

Erik Pulkka Painting Rut 1 Station

My ability to buy miniatures has always exceeded my time and (sometimes) motivation to paint them. Don’t get me wrong I love painting, and once I get going it’s great, but it’s getting started that’s sometimes the hardest thing to do.  Over the years I’ve found that I work best with deadlines and consequences.

Now running a demo is not for everyone, and doing it for a group of people is a lot of work. Everyone is going to be motivated in different ways and finding what motivates you is half the battle. What follows is the journey I took getting ready to teach others to play Beyond the Gates of Antares, and how that helped me get out of my painting rut.

Making a deadline

I’ve followed Rick Priestley’s work since second edition 40K. And was eager to see what he had in store for us with his new Sci-Fi game.  When Antares first came out, initially I painted up a Ghar force and it grew with more releases, but really had my eyes on the Isorians from the very start.

Erik Pulkka Painting Rut 2

As I waited for the Isorians to be released, I picked up more figures for Ghar and other armies with all the good intentions of painting them. At the time I had Concord, Algoryn, Boromite and Isorian forces, all unpainted. Since the Battle for Xilos and The Chryseis Shard supplements had come out, there were even more cool figures I wanted, so something had to be done.

I decided to put a deadline on myself, to paint at least Starting Forces for the miniatures I had purchased thus far.  And the best way I could think of making a real deadline that I would be forced to stick with was to involve other people to be accountable too.  So, I set a date about six weeks out for a demo-day of Antares at my home and invited five friends, long-time 40K gamers, that hadn’t played Antares yet.

The response was great, as some of my friends now have pre-teen and teenagers of their own, they asked if their kids could also join in, so my group immediately grew to ten people. This presented a couple of new challenges. I now had a wide range of player gaming experience, from never played a miniature game before to players with many years of experience with miniature games. Also, it just doubled the number of armies I needed to field (with the date already set, I decided to proxy two Freeborn forces right off the bat).

Having a deadline to paint several starter armies is a relatively short time along with the consequence of letting people down if I didn’t make it, that gave me the motivation I needed.

The Plan

To be able to teach a bunch of players a new game all at once, I needed to be organized and make a plan.  That way the experience would be a good one for the people I was teaching, and the games could flow quickly and smoothly.  Having the tables set up ahead of time and the forces ready to play would be key.

My initial plan

  • Build and paint four starter forces, and maybe a 5th if I could manage it.
  • Have enough gaming supplies for each player (command dice, regular dice, measuring tapes, etc).
  • Choose a mission and build some new terrain plus make any mission specific items required.
  • Finally, set up three game tables with terrain before players arrived on the Demo-Day, so we could get right to learning and playing the game without a lot of standing around.

Choosing the missions

In choosing the missions I wanted to pick missions to play and terrain that would provide good flavor and show off some of the nice terrain effect rules Antares has. I decided to run two Narrative Missions because they lend themselves to multi players and narratives are my preferred style of gaming.

The demo-day would be broken down into two sessions, morning and after lunch, one mission for each session.

Picking interesting missions was important. Just lining up troops on each side of the table and fighting it out is a standard mission for many game systems and although it’s simple to run, they can feel like you’re playing a game you’ve played before. So, I looked through the Narrative Missions in the main rule book to find what I wanted.

The morning mission would be Narrative 1: Rogue Drones (pg. 148 main rule book) on both tables, with four players each 4’x6’ table trying to capture the Drones.  And after a break for lunch, we would play Narrative 3: Escort (pg. 152 main rule book).

On the third 3’x3’ game table, I planned a variation of the Matched Scenario 3: Unexpected Encounter (pg. 143 main rule book), set up in case everyone I invited did come.

Erik Pulkka Painting Rut 3 Ruins

Having everyone play the same mission at the same time would allow me to brief one mission at a time and then I could jump back and forth between tables to answer questions while the games were in progress.

Terrain and tables

Table set up: two 4’x6’ game tables, one swamp and the other a wooded hills table (plus, one 3’x3’ overgrown ruined city table. We didn’t use the third table, as someone didn’t show at the last minute).

The swamp table also required me to finish a ton of jungle terrain I had also been meaning to do for some time.  Also, I wanted to have new terrain that my friends had not seen before, because most of them had played many games with much of my terrain.

For the jungle pieces, I had picked up a few different fake plants sets from a craft store, that I cut up along with some palm trees from my local game store. Combined with mat board cut into round bases and a hot glue gun, they created a variety of alien plant life I was looking for to turn my water board into an alien swamp with a transmat.

Erik Pulkka Painting Rut 4 Jungle

It did take some time away from painting figures, but I was happy with the end results – I’ve since clear coated the palm trees with Army Painter Anti-Shine to take off the shiny plastic look, they’re better looking now.

Size of demo forces

Size of the armies to be played was important too. Scout size forces made the most sense, I decided to build 550-point armies.

I picked the extra 50-points for two reasons: First, the extra points gave me an extra couple of troopers and/or a drone shard to each force and this allowed my new players to just take that extra casualty while they learned the game.  Also, our gaming group has always given an extra 50-point bonus if our army is fully painted with bases flocked, and since everything was going to be painted, I decided to keep with our tradition. Size matters ;).

Once the points were done, I build each force on paper to ensure I had the miniatures and that each force had 4 to 5 command dice.  Then moved on to building, priming and painting the forces I needed.

Building and painting

My painted Ghar force was big enough to split and make two 550-point Scout forces.

For the others I built and primed the figures with black primer and then picked a base color for each army from the Army Painter line to give a quick base coat of each army’s main color.

Erik Pulkka Painting Rut 5 Primed

For Isorians, I picked a gray, Concord white (a nod to Starwars Storm Troopers), Algoryn green (Halo’s Master Chief), and Boromite orange (going for a Thing look from Fantastic Four). Using a simple base coat helps speeds things up for me.

Then painted the forces one at a time before moving to the next, mostly squad by squad.

As I started finishing the units, I organized each army in a pizza box lid, this was useful for setting up the Forces. The boxes served two functions, first I could have the finished units organized and include the gaming items each player would need for the game, add all the dice, a measuring tape and data cards for each force in an easy to carry tray. Second, during the demo-day, the players could pick their army and everything they needed to play in the tray; then carry the tray of their troops to the tables, deploy their forces, game on.

Erik Pulkka Painting Rut 6 Pizza Box Progress
A key idea: marking progress by Pizza Box!

An unexpected benefit was the motivational effect it had on me. Because I could see the progress over time as I finished new units and new forces to have my staging table grow as I added to it. I think my painting got faster as I went along, being eager to add another box to my staging table.

Data cards, reference sheets, dice and measuring tapes

Creating data cards for each unit was helpful.  I chose to use Microsoft Word to create the data cards.  This also helped me become more familiar with each army, as I had to type up all of their stats to make cards.  You could also easily use the PDF army lists as well, then cut and paste.  I like using data cards with unit stats including the weapon stats for a new game and especially when teaching new players, because it reduces flipping in the rule book.

Erik Pulkka Painting Rut 7 Unit Cards

Also, I printed and laminated quick reference sheets for each player, I’d down loaded them from Warlord’s website.

For explanations of terrain effects and Order Dice, I used two white boards with dry erase pens to write the terrain rules for each table, and listed the Orders with the basic examples of each (Fire Order: No move, shoot +1 AC), etc., all big enough on the wall for everyone to see while playing. (I needed two white boards because my game tables were in different rooms of my home).

I organized my dice by color to ensure there were enough dice, command dice and a measuring tape for each player.  I put all this in my makeshift army trays. I purchased a few extra sets of command dice to be able to use different colors for each army, as I didn’t know which armies were going to play each other because I wanted to let players pick the army that interested them.

Erik Pulkka Painting Rut 8 AllTogether - a complete force pizza box
A complete force pizza box!

Continued in Demo Day – how everything worked in practice!

See the Isorians, Algoryn and Concord forces on the Nexus!