The Long Walk to Capital Palette Pt. 2: A Revival and my Nova Experience

It has been a hot minute since I have written my last post here but rest assured that I am still alive and kicking. My last post here was about my plans and ambitions for the Capital Palette contest at the Nova Open and suffice to say I didn’t quite achieve what I set out to do. The next bit here is going to get a little personal so feel free to skip ahead because several things happened that led to crisis of hobby faith so to speak. Also, strap in because this is going to be a long post as I am going to talk about my entire Nova Experience

In January of this year I was attempting to deal with a kidney stone issue that first showed up in August of 2021 and if you ask anyone who has had them, they will tell you that it’s one of the worst pains you can endure. I had already passed one the year prior which prompted me to radically change my diet seek and out medical advice where I discovered that I have two more stones in me, one in each kidney. I attempted to get the larger one broken down via a procedure that uses high frequency sound to break them only for it to ultimately fail and do nothing. During the whole ordeal I was feeling a constant low level of anxiety which permeated by day to day life and generally made everything kind of a drag.

On top of that there were some major shifts in personnel at work that led to dramatic increase in work and unfortunately the lion’s share of the work fell on me as I was the only one qualified at the time to deal with it. I can’t go into too much detail but essentially one of my more seasoned workmates moved on to a different position in the company and I had to pick up up extra work while also training their replacement. To make matters worse, a different department kept taking said replacement to do other jobs thus cutting into his training time and diminishing my departments overall efficiency. Needless to say I didn’t exactly have the energy or time to sit at my work table anymore.

There were a few times I did get to the work table to work on my piece for Capital Palette but I was not present in the process. Eventually, after talking to my buddy John Israel about what I was going to through, I realized that I wasn’t having fun with the hobby. I was enjoying myself more playing other games and doing other things so I decided to drop out of the Capital Palette and participate in other things that I enjoyed more. In other words, I stepped away from the hobby for a bit and from March to August I was able to settle into a different headspace where I was more myself and was able to come to grips with everything that was going on.

Nova Open Day 0

So now that I had mostly sorted myself out mentally I was ready to head to Nova. The day before Nova, on Wednesday, I invited my friend Sebastian over to have a quick game of Warhammer 40k because I don’t think I’ve even thought about the rules in over a year much less played a game. I chose one of the narrative missions and set up the table and terrain using an example from the Warhammer Community website. Sebastian played his Word Bearers Daemon Engine army and I played my Dark Angels with a half completed Talonmaster that I finished in a mad dash later that night.

Long story short I was able to shake the rust off and acquainted myself with a majority of the changes that had happened in terms of rules and terrains. Things such as Armor of Contempt and how it has made all Astartes units incredibly durable. Also, the changes to Command Points had made it so that taking my usual battalion and outrider detachment is actually a bad idea because I start with minimal resources now. On the flipside with my entire army being more durable I adopted a fast attack approach with my Ravenwing, shooting them out turn one to take objectives and do as much damage as possible to infantry in order to prevent them from easily taking them with Objective Secured. One other thing I realized is that there is way too much information one has to remember to play this game correctly, from combat doctrines to chapter tactics and stratagems and unit profiles and the myriad objectives, there is so much to remember all at once. This is probably why I gravitated towards the Digimon TCG during my little hiatus because there is such a small barrier to entry and the game itself is so contained that I’m never overwhelmed

Nova Open Day 1

So on day one of Nova I woke up bright and early and headed to New York City so that I can hop onto the bus that would take me to Washington DC. I made sure to have a light breakfast and to use the bathroom before I left because I am terrified of having to use the on board chemical toilet for anything other than a number 1. Luckily for me the trip was uneventful and went by much faster than I remember. Once I made it to Union Station I lamented that the chicken teriyaki place was no longer in the food court there and had a mediocre chicken cheese steak. As I walked through the station, the directions to the hotel all came flooding back into my mind and I quite easily made my way to the Hyatt Crystal City, because why wouldn’t I just stay at the hotel the convention is hosted at.

Once there I checked in to the hotel and decompressed in my room which had a view of the front of the hotel. After checking all my gear, I grabbed my badge and got dinner from a Chipotle a couple of blocks from the hotel. Afterwards I grabbed my army and the rest of my gear and headed down to the convention proper to participate in the Nova Open Narrative. I was a little nervous because it would only be the second game of Warhammer I would have played in a couple of years. I was signed up as a militiamen because I knew I couldn’t hack it playing all the Narrative games and this allowed me the freedom to play whatever games I wanted. After the opening spiel for this new narrative story they came up with they started sending people to their respective tables to play their games. They paired militiamen with militiamen which was great because it would mean that the games would be very casual.

I was against Ken who was sporting a Space Marines successor army it seemed with kitbashed Redemptor Dreadnoughts and some heavy firepower with a squad of Eradicators, a squad of suppressors and a Primaris Repulsor tank. The narrative game had three components; a battlefield mission, a planetary mission and a secondary that we pick. Both me and my opponent Ken completely forgot about the secondary because the battlefield and planetary mission had us set up two different set of objectives and had us put half of our army into strategic reserves. Needless to say this was a very atypical game of Warhammer and we got a multitude of rules wrong because of the amount of things that were involved. However, since it was very casual we just laughed it off and kept doing whatever we wanted because it was more fun. Thankfully my strategy of running my Ravenwing up the board to secure points saved the day because we ultimately agreed that I won thanks to playing the mission better and the fact that his heavy weapons didn’t hit the board till round 4 which would have devastated my bikes. All in all it was a very fun but exhausting time and I went back to my room to take a shower and then pass out.

The turn before all his heavy hitters came down

Nova Open Day 2

I woke up Friday nice and early because I had scheduled two 3.5 hour classes that day and another narrative game at night. I was able to grab some breakfast from Universal Gourmet across the street which consisted of eggs, sausage, hash browns and some toast (a meal I would eat every morning from wherever I could until I left DC). With food in my belly I grabbed my brushes went to take my first class which was Not Your Mother’s Basics and Basing taught by CutThroatCure. It was a great class where he imprinted in us that it’s not about color recipes or what paint you use, but the technique you apply and how you approach color. And to illustrate that point he had us prime and zenithal highlight a mini (all while explaining different types of lighting and how to prime correctly) and then had us use only black and white paint in order to paint the highlights and shadows on the mini while going over how to use a wet palette and how he lays out his colors for his work.

CutThroatCure taking the class on a field trip to prime minis

After that class I had a quick bite to eat at Bozzelli’s and then went to Oscar Lars’ class on How to Pop your Tabletop. The class was about learning how to paint your army so that it pops on the table from afar with minimal effort. Just like CutThroatCure he believes that once you learn the technique then paint brand and paint recipes don’t matter, you can use the technique with whatever you feel comfortable using. Using layering he showed us where to focus the highlights and how far to go with them in order to make the mini pop while also drawing attention to the most important features. He was even nice enough to give a little critique on one of my older commission pieces and advised me on how to approach highlighting different types of materials and where to put them. He even showed us how to add interest to TMM via highlights and weathering effects using blue green and turquoise paint to add a patina effect to the gold armor and details. Overall, it was a great class and one of the few times I felt like I was able to layer colors successfully.

my mini just before putting the top highlights

After the class I retreated back to my room to drop my stuff off and to check out the dealers room downstairs as well as take pictures of anything interesting. There were a lot of armies on display from Warhammer 40K, Necromunda, Star Wars Legion and Infinity. I took a lot of photos over the weekend using my DSLR some of which you can see on my Instagram. Later that night I took my army downstairs for the narrative but after feeling it out I decided against it and just went back to my room to just rest and take it easy.

Nova Open Day 3

So day 3 was interesting because I had schedule it so I wouldn’t have any classes until about noon. So with all this time I hit up the dealer’s room and picked up some things for myself and a funny shirt for my wife. The dealer’s room had some of usual suspects from years past including Game Envy, Toledo Game room, Games Workshop, Death Ray Designs and the Magnet Baron. A new thing this year though was a Warhammer Kill Team themed Laser Tag room with custom laser guns to look like imperial lasguns or Ork Shootas. I even ran into a couple of guys dressed up as two of Gaunt’s Ghost.

My first class that day was about making bases with Dan Ozborne, a really talented artist who also painted the warlord titan for this year’s raffle. He introduced me to using bits from a company called Epic Basing who make resin 3d printed bits I also got some hands on time with crackle medium which is something I haven’t had the opportunity to work with before. My biggest takeaway from the class was the importance of building up volume so that you have a base upon which you can add items to make the scene more interesting which convinced me to redo my mausoleum base for what was supposed to be my Capital Palette entry for this year.

Almost right after the basing class I went into my next class which was an advanced weathering class also taught by Dan Ozborne. This was a very hands on class where he started off with teaching us how to do chipping with sponges and then enhancing that effect with selective highlighting. After that was the fun part because I got to use enamel washes on some primed minis. I have enamel washes but was never quite brave enough to use them nor had a project that could make us of enamel washes so it was great to have both a chance to really test them and have some guidance when I needed it. The highlight of the class though was when he let us try out Dirty Down Effects rust paint. I have a bottle of this stuff myself but it has a bit of learning curve because it doesn’t quite behave like your typical acryclic paint or enamel wash. The DDE paint is water soluble but has some sort of alcohol in it, because of that the paint dries quite quickly and it also separates/settle fairly easily. So when you use this stuff you first have to shake the ever living hell out of it and then use a synthetic brush to apply it. After it’s applied you can use water to reactivate and remove it much like one can do with an enamel wash and white spirits. What makes the DDE paint so well regarded is that despite it’s hang-ups it dries very matte and creates a very convincing rust color and texture once it’s fully dried and cured. Which is not all that surprising because this product was original made for the movie industry to be used on props and set design, so Dirty Down Effects has a pedigree behind them. Even better was that once the class was done we got to keep the bottle of DDE rust paint for ourselves (so long as we weren’t flying with it).

After my classes were done I had plenty of spare time so I grabbed some dinner and then grabbed my camera to take photos of everything and anything I found interesting. I ended up with a little over 300 photos but after processing them I am sure I will end up with less than a hundred usable photos, but I’ve come to expect that at this point. The lighting conditions varied wildly from area to area but I was able to grab some good shots of tables and armies from a variety of different events, if I ever get through all of them I’ll eventually throw up a link to an imgur or flickr album with all the photos.

Later that night I got a chance to attend the Corvus Belli discussion and it got me up to speed with the releases for Infinity the Game and introduced to a new model for Kornak Gazarot that would be perfect for next year’s Capital Palette. After the Corvus Belli panel I went out to see if there would a Magic Commander game but unfortunately it didn’t happen due to lack of people. However, I was invited to play Dune: Imperium by one of the Magic players who did show up. Dune: Imperium is a worker placement/ deck building game with a asymmetrical powers and a combat component. Honestly, it hit all the right mechanics for me but since I have never read or watch anything related to the Dune franchise the game had no aesthetic appeal to me. Once the game was over and I got a rousing last place I called it quits and headed to bed.

Nova Open Day 4

I woke up on Sunday and got ready for the last day of the Nova Open. After a leisurely breakfast I attended my last class which was painting faces by BrushforHire. He is a very talented and interesting painter who likes to paint crazy models with bright and saturated colors. The class consisted of him expounding on a lot of his ideas and workflow and to approach minipainting with confidence, if you don’t like something that you are doing then just do it again. There is very much this idea among higher level painters to not be afraid to do anything because it’s just plastic and you can always try again; what’s important is that you enjoy the process and do what you want to do. When it came to painting faces he had a very different approach from how I paint faces. Usually, I start with the shadow color and gradually work my way up to the highlights using a layering method and several intermediate mixes so as to avoid any chalkiness. BrushforHire’s method is almost the opposite, he starts with the brightest highlight and then uses paint’s thinned to a wash consistency to add shadows and glazes to add color to more targeted areas. This is followed up with the highlight color again to pick out the raised the details like the nose, top of the cheekbones and the forehead. It was an interesting process and the end result feels pretty alive thanks to the wash and glazes as it added a lot of warmth but the lack of control puts me off the technique a little bit.

After the class I got a chance to talk with BrushforHire again and he even let me take a photo of his Capital Palette piece outside of the display case. The piece is called Lord of Butterflies Rebirth I believe and he was able to use very bright and saturated colors but without it looking gaudy or ostentatious. Even more impressive was that despite how bright the colors were, the placement of the colors was very deliberate as it naturally drew the focus of the piece to the face.

BrushforHire’s Lord of Butterflies

After a leisurely lunch I decided to take my camera and take one last look at all the different events still going on and take on last go around in the dealer’s room before heading off to the award ceremony for the Capital Palette. Even though I didn’t participate this year, my friend John Israel did with a biker model from Corvus Belli’s Infinity. He originally entered into the mid level category, the journeyman category, but he was bumped down into the apprentice category which is kind of the beginner category. However, despite that he was able to get Best in Category for his entry which is still really impressive and scored some sweet swag to go with it. I was also able to reconnect with some people I met at Nova in 2019 such as Matt O’toole and Tim Trentacoste. Tim put up a very impressive entry into the Masterclass category this year and was able to place; I can’t qutie remember what he got and wasn’t able to snag pics of his piece but I hope to rectify that in the future. After one last look around the different rooms that still had events going on I had one last dinner in DC and retired to my room to pack up for the return trip I would have to make the next day.

Homeward Bound and Looking Towards the Future

The trip home was uneventful and tinged with a bit of melancholy. I had been in a hobby slump for most of this year, finding it difficult to bring myself to the work table most of the time. The few times I was able to sit down and work on a model it felt forced, as if I was doing it out of obligation rather than enjoyment. Even though I had made these lofty plans to participate in the Capital Palette I had come to realize that if I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing then I was doing a disservice to myself and my work. A hobby should be fun and after talking to a friend about my woes I decided to step down from entering the Capital Palette. I freed myself from any obligation to paint and simply enjoyed the convention for what it was, which was a glorious return to how amazing this hobby can be. Nova re-energized my hobby batteries in a way that took me by surprise. Seeing old friends, learning from talented painters, seeing beautiful models and impressive armies stirred my hobby spirit in a way I haven’t felt since the last Nova and I have come to realize that events like these are quite important to me in my hobby journey. Different people derive inspiration and motivation from different places and for me the Nova Open is that kick start I need every once in a while to keep going.

With all that said I am now eagerly looking ahead to next year’s Nova Open where I fully intend to compete in the Capital Palette with not one but two entries. Not only that I hope to also have my O-12 army built and painted so that I can join the Infinity crew in their narrative and maybe even their Battle for the Beltway tournament. It’s gonna be a wild ride and I hope I have what it takes to make it.

Till next time.

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