Basic Miniature Assembly and Painting – Star Wars Legion
by JD Haigler ·
Star Wars miniature games have both the blessing and the curse of a very wide audience. Most miniature games would like to steal from the Board Gamers, and maaaaybe target a couple of specific groups outside of that but for the most part, they’re counting on appealing to the already existent Miniature Wargamers.
FFG though, they landed that sweet gig with the Star Wars license and specifically target those millions of people who’d never even heard of miniature wargaming. It’s not a new thing by any stretch, but don’t be intimidated by the old farts with 44 Leman Russ tanks talking about “Back in my day.” They’ll use terms like “Rogue Trader.” Allow me to assure you, nobody knows what that is anymore.
So hop in, this is a new game and we’re all new to it. What your experienced wargamers are not saying, however, is how am I supposed to assemble this stuff? We’ve been there, done that, and we’ve answered this question a thousand times in the last month. That’s ok! That’s a thousand new gamers into our hobby and while you may have a few guys not excited about this, most of us, by and large, are really excited. We’ve been wanting a Star Wars infantry game for many, many years.
We’ve got Star Wars Legion box, and we popped the lid and there’s cardboard tokens. Ok, that’s cool, expected that. Then you pulled that sheet off and revealed a million pieces. This isn’t Descent, or Imperial Assault, this is a hobby too. So let’s dive in.
Because Legion is trying to cater to a lot of new wargamers, they’re also working hard on keeping the hobby level entry point really low. If you roll over to places like Games Workshop, assembly of one or two models can take a half hour to hour, depending on the model. Here, even our centerpieces like Luke and Vader are a few minutes. This also means that they’ve sacrificed a bit on the quality, but that’s ok because you didn’t even know this was a thing two months ago.
So, FFG was very nice and they bagged everything individually. I’ve never seen that before, it’s really sweet of them. Don’t dump all your minis in a pile like you do your legos (I’m guilty too). Keep them in their bags til you’re ready to build those two dudes. I know this is daunting, but it’s not that bad.
Let me put out a few of these guys. Lets focus on our boy Luke, back when he was cool.
Luke is two pieces. Vader is 3. Our RT-ST driver is three, but there’s another handle there that goes to the RT-ST as well. Don’t lose that.
To put Luke together, we only need one thing, and that’s glue. That’s really it. You can play this game with just glue if that’s all you want to do. I know my first game will probably not have painted miniatures yet.
Don’t go fetch your kid’s Elmer’s glue or the knockoff Walmart white glue. Get superglue. This is plastic, so almost anything will work, but I really like Loctite liquid glue a lot. It will glue fingers together as well, so keep that in mind. More than one of my models has parts of me attached to it still. Those little cells are free, wandering about in the gaming world, but dead. There is that.
Dab just a little bit in the arm sockets, let it run in and then plug the arms in. Every piece here has a matching slot so it’s hard to mess up. Especially since you hopefully kept your models in the bags they came with.
Press that piece in, let it sit for a moment and then let off the pressure. That’s it. Hell or high water, Luke’s arms aren’t coming off.
Now, some people like to leave parts like that off, make it easier to paint. That’s true, and if this was a display piece, I’d consider it. However, no one is going to really be able to see in there, so don’t worry.
Now let’s look into some more stuff, like cleaner assembly, and then painting.
I like to have a couple more things when assembling. Most, if not all, hobby stores have these supplies in their model car section.
- Exacto Knife. I know these are illegal in London now, but they’re really handy for models. Model casting isn’t a perfect process, and you get little flat pieces, or cylinders from where the plastic was injected. This is called Flash. An exacto knife is perfect for knocking those off. I’ve also use it to cut the little tabs for the arms back a little bit in case they weren’t fitting as flush as I’d like.
- Sanding sticks. To file down what’s left of the flash, and to deal with mould lines. Mould lines are the seams running all over the place on these models. Most of them aren’t bad, staying out of the model’s faces at least. However, every single stormtrooper has one right across the top of his helmet. The Rebels, it’s a bit more disguised. In fact, when I assessed them, I decided that the amount of work it would take to remove their mould lines wasn’t going to be worth how much better they would look, if at all, when I was done. The Stormtroopers however, it’s worth sanding on them a little. I get a course set and a fine set.
3. Green Stuff, maybe. You’ll hear about it from some people. It’s epoxy that you can sculpt a little bit and use it to fill joints. I’m mentioning it, but it’s not super important at this stage.
That’s not much. The actual assembly part is a little more. Go over the model, look for mould lines if they bother you and sand them off. The Stormtoopers and Vader specifically are supposed to have very smooth surfaces, and that eggshell white is impossible to pull off over a mould line. Sand them off, cut them off, whatever. Use the exacto to trim flash and fill ports, then glue.
Now you’re playable. Get a game in. See what you think. Get excited about the game because now we’re going to paint, and this is where we question our life decisions.
This is where I’ve seen the most questions. What do I need to paint my models? What paints? Can I use walmart hobby paints? What is that primer stuff about and where can I get it. Let’s cover that.
Primer. There’s cans by “Army Painter” that are for that, and I think GW makes some too. The point of Primer is to break up a model’s surface so that paint can adhere. These particular models have very slick surfaces and it will be difficult to keep your paint where you want it, and it won’t be very secure, it’ll chip super easy. So primer these guys. But don’t go buy expensive primer. I use a cheap 98 cent rattle can from walmart. There is also the question of what color to prime. The easy answer is light grey, on everything. Don’t douse the model either, a medium dusting is plenty. Some guys do white on bright models, and some do black on dark models, but those guys are doing some fairly advanced stuff usually, or blowing smoke. Do light grey, medium dusting, move on.
Brushes. I use a 10/0, a #1 and a #2. You’ll want at least a #2 and a large one for drybrushing. Everything can be done with a #2, but at this point it’ll be nice to have a #1 as well for the harder and smaller areas. I like a 10/0 for fine detailing, but in most cases I wouldn’t even worry about that. I recommend a Drybrush at this point. For a drybrush, just have another #2 or maybe larger that you don’t care about since drybrushing destroys brushes. This is a great place for walmart brushes. For your actual painting brush, again, local hobby store. Hobby Lobby has “Master’s Touch” which is great. If you really get into this hobby, look for some Red Sablinsky brushes but that’s a ways off.
Paints. We’ll spend some time here. Alright, please don’t use generic hobby paints. I’ve seen it done ok before, but I don’t recommend it. Most gaming stores carry Citadel/Games Workshop. Those are fine, but they’re kind of expensive, and super, super thick. Reeeeaaaally thick. You may not notice for awhile, so if it’s what you have around, get it. Privateer Press makes “P3” paints, which are actually really great. They’re pretty thin, they blend well, they look nice. I like P3. It’s not my favorite, but I definitely keep some on hand. I’m comfortable enough with P3 that if I’ve got two shades, I can blend them well on the model without mixing them on a palette first, so I have Black, White, a dark Red, Red, dark Blue, Blue and then a skintone I really like from them. I use p3 for my basic colors since they blend so easily. Once I get into a bit more complicated colors, I want my dropper bottles back and that control I can get with mixing them in the palette.
The king on the mountain here is Vallejo. Many hobby stores have a variation of Vallejo, and there are many. Vallejo makes Model Color, Game Color, Air Color, Mech Color and they’re also responsible for all of the new pigments and such hitting the market. Mech color is really bright, air color is for airbrushing. You’re looking for Model or Game. Both are fine. Model focuses on war colors like a million different greens, tans, browns and such for WWII Tank modelers. They have a lot of options for those colors, but less for the brighter ones like Blues, Reds, Yellows and such, though they still have some. Game Color though, they have all those in droves. Much less focus on WWII colors. For this game, Model color is actually probably the better range because you’ll be using a lot of those greys, tans, greens and browns for these factions. In other games, you get some brighter colors and Game Color becomes king again. Either one works though. My bag has many from both.
Vallejo or AV (Same company, AV is their logo. I don’t know why) is, again, my personal favorite. The widest range, the dropper bottles, the thickness of the paint, and even their new pigments. The pigments are from the last couple of years, and they’re just dry acrylic powder. You can rub them, splash them or brush them onto the model for some great dirt, wear or rust effects but I wouldn’t worry about them right now.
Another option is Reaper, but I haven’t painted with them in a long time. They were good when I had them, but I sucked as a painter then too, so…
Army Painter is the last one off the top of my head that’s readily available in most hobby or gaming stores. I have a couple of Army Painters just to try them out and I don’t like them a lot. I find they don’t have great adherence and a high surface tension that makes the paint kind of hard to work with on the model. It’s a fine paint, and I’d use it if that’s what was around, but currently it’s my next to last choice, Games Workshop being my least preferred. The advantage to Army Painter is that it usually gets the license for games and produces game specific paintsets relatively quick. It’s also affordable, and even if they don’t make a kit for Legion specifically yet, they have a lot of paintsets out there that should get you going quickly.
Speaking of paints that you’ll want. This is another common question. For starters, it depends on your scheme obviously, but let’s say that you are doing the standard Imperial and Rebel Endor scheme. For any primary color you are doing, you want at least a light and a dark version. Sure, you can add black or white to a color to adjust it’s brightness, but this just desaturates the color. It’s fine for tweaking, but I wouldn’t do it to turn regular green into various shades.
So, Imperial. Imperials really only require the utmost basics that you would want for any army. You always want Black, White, a Grey (maybe two, but definitely a midtone. Obviously, you can adjust grey up or down with black and white because it’s already desaturated), and then a light Brown, and a dark brown for any straps, leather, and in this case, the speeder bikes. It’s also good to get a metal paint of some sort for the random metal bits that you want to be somewhat reflective. In this particular set, you also want a Red for the few lights in the consoles and Vader’s saber. Right now, there is no skintone, but Veers is just around the corner, and you’ll want one for him. The browns will do a lot of it, and the red will actually help too, but it’s also worth getting a good light tan to highlight faces with. On that note, I have a walkthrough here for faces that should cover your colors for faces too since it’s kind of an area of it’s own.
Rebels are more difficult. So, you’ll need everything that you needed for the Imperials. All of those are really basic paints you’ll need in any army except the Red, but even then it’s good to have. For the rebels, you’ll need a light green, dark green and try to push those towards the olive drab range for this kit because of the endor camo (which is an atrocious camo incidentally). You’ll definitely need skintones here, but I think we covered that. You also need a blue for Luke’s saber. If you do the Endor uniform on him, you’ve already got black and grey. If you do the Bespin stuff, you have white, grey, and a tan that you can mix in to get the off-white look if that’s what you want. You’ll find out relatively quick that you need a lot of different browns to account for straps, tans, leathers, skintones, wood, all sorts of things. I have hundreds of paints and 20% of them at least are a brown of some sort.
Last but not least, at this level in your painting, I would find a Wash, or make one. Games Workshop wins the game here with probably the best washes on the market. If you can’t get them, I think Army Painter has them, so does Vallejo, so does P3. They’re pretty standard. Or make your own. It’s like, 5:1 water to paint. What is a Wash, you say?
Well, we’re not going to do a painting tutorial here, but I do want to throw some basic terms at you so you know what’s going on. At the top of the lineup, we have Paint. This is what comes out of the bottle, obviously.
If you thin it down a little, it’s what Games Workshop likes to call a Layer paint. It’s probably 75-80% paint, the remaining is water. It’s thinner, it spreads easier, doesn’t cover as well and lets the layer below it show through. Because it’s wetter, it’ll let you work it a bit.
A Glaze is just before a wash I think. It’s got more color to it, but still a lot of water. Glazes are something of a medium to advanced concept. Very thin paint, very translucent. When you see Lightsaber glow on a model and it wasn’t done with an airbrush, it was probably several layers of a thin glaze spread around to build up the color on the already painted parts. This lets the colors you painted originally, like the black on Vader’s uniform, show through the light reflection somewhat.
A Wash is mostly water. Again, probably 5:1 water to paint ratio. You’ll brush this over a large part of the model and let it set. Usually it’s a dark, dark color. Because it’s so watery, it’ll flow into the recesses and lower aspects of the model, dry and leave the paint pooled there. This auto-shades your model. Most painters start right here. Most painters paint their base colors on the model, wash the whole thing in this wash paint, let it dry, and then do some highlights. It doesn’t look bad, and it’s painted. Everything you paint is usually only seen at arm’s length, so just the fact that your model is painted is great.
Lastly, I’ll mention drybrushing, but it’s at the other end of the spectrum and not really a type of paint. Drybrushing is where you get a little bit of paint on the brush, then wipe almost all of it off on a napkin or something. Then you go back and forth really quickly over the part of your model you want to drybrush and it only leaves paint on the raised edges. This is an easy way to highlight a model, like the raised folds of Luke’s shirt, or weather the edges of the barricades or AT-ST. Really, if you basecoat a model, wash it, drybrush it with a lighter color (the highlight), it’s probably good to go in most cases. Most of your Stormtroopers are going to have that exact procedure.
Alright, that’s paints. It’d be a good idea to pick up a cheap palette while you’re at it, something to keep them in. I wouldn’t worry about wet palettes right now. I’ve used paper plates if I needed to, but I do like having an actual palette.
Bring something to mix the paint. I have a little sculpting tool I use, but bring something. Mixing with a brush is the best way to get paint up into the neck of the brush and ruin it.
At the very end of all of this, it’s good to seal your model, protect that paintjob. I use just Krylon Matte from Walmart for most of my stuff. For my display models, I use Testors Dullcoat. Glossy just looks weird, though it’s tempting on the Stormtrooper armor. However, it’s going to be hard to have that armor perfectly smooth, so the gloss may just show errors, rather than be cool looking.
I’ve been painting for long time. My first model was a Space Marine Chaplain from Warhammer 40k in 2008. He turned out great doing exactly what I just said. Basecoat, wash, drybrush with a highlight, seal. I’ll never get rid of him, one of my favorite models of all time that I’ve painted. It’s a great reference to go back to and be pleased with my progress since then.
This game isn’t about painting, but it’s an aspect of it. Not many will be mad at your for not painting your miniatures, and most of my games that I’ve ever played have had at least a few until I went to tournaments that required it. However, there’s not many things in this hobby that are cooler than a fully painted army facing off against another fully painted army on a board with some nice terrain. It’s a lovely picturesque moment where you’ve captured the essence of the Star Wars part of the game that brought into the hobby, and it’s cool. It’s your army, these are the real dudes, and you’re going to get them all killed. Or win. Who knows?
I’m excited about this game. I’m playing the badguys for the first time ever, but I couldn’t pass up painting Luke too.
I hope this article has answered some questions for you. I hope it points you in the right direction to make the run to the hobbystore a bit simpler. Post up those pictures! Get in the Star Wars Legion painting group on Facebook and check out some of the great painting articles that are already up. Get some critique and encouragement. Heck, tag me on Twitter @diceotfirstdegree and I’ll throw you some feedback.
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