Who are you and what do you do besides play wargames?
My name is Mikko Savolahti. I’m an engineer by education and work as an environmental scientist. Outside of the nerdy stuff, I like to spend my spare time compensating for the damage the desk job/hobby does to my body. That can be going to the gym, playing ball games, hunting or whatever I get excited about. I’m always excited about something.
How did you first begin the hobby?
Me and my brother bought Hero Quest back when it was first published, if I remember correctly. Then later my brother brought home some undead and high elves for Warhammer. The rules felt a bit too complicated at first and I wasn’t interested in playing, but I was fascinated with the miniatures. Eventually I started playing the 4th edition of Warhammer, Blood Bowl, Necromunda, Mordheim… For some reason I never played 40K until the 6th edition.
For the first 20 years or so my gaming was quite irregular however. I had long breaks every now and then and never played in competitive environments. The last few years I’ve been more active than ever and it feels I’m living the golden age of my hobby life right now. One of the reasons behind this current motivation is the inspirational work done by War Head, so thank you guys!
What armies do you play? What's your favourite kind of roster?
My main armies are Vampire Counts (or Covenant in The 9th Age) and Dark Angels. I also have several older Fantasy Battle armies, Tyranids that I haven’t used too much and a large British/Canadian army for Flames of War. I like armies that have a fast and hard hitting element to them. I always want to field cavalry, tanks or something similar. I like to push the attack and would rather act than react.
My armies tend to be balanced and I usually include things that I think are just cool, even if they are not the most popular choices. However, I do want the army to be functional and I always try to learn and get better at playing.
Why did you choose the Vampire Counts as your fantasy army?
Starting the army had been on the back of my mind for ages, but I had a long break from Fantasy Battle. When I got excited about The 9th Age about a year ago, I finally decided to take action. I’ve always related to the traditional heroes like the men of the Empire, High Elves and Space Marines rather than the bad guys, but there is something very characterful about the Vampire Counts. Also the miniatures from the 7th and 8th edition are mostly awesome, so this decision was based purely on the look and feel of the army. It also gave me the chance to paint and convert something totally different than what I had done before. Luckily it turned out to be a fun army on the field too.
What is your fondest gaming memory?
I’ve been gaming for most of my life, so I have many. Something that I remember well is when the concept of Mordheim was introduced in a White Dwarf. That was maybe the most inspiring thing I had ever seen, and when some early rules were given in the next issues, it instantly became my new favorite game. We built some cardboard terrain, made up campaign rules based on Necromunda and had a hell of a good time with a couple of friends.
As an adult, perhaps the coolest gaming experience was my first proper game of 40K. That was actually the first time I got to play on a gaming table with nice terrain and two fully painted, good looking armies. I also really liked the system and the game itself was very even, bloody and had several momentum shifts. With my last heroic troops advancing amidst the flaming enemy tank wrecks, I could almost smell the burning vehicles and hear the cries of the heretics I cut down. It felt that 40K was everything I had hoped it to be.
What is your best tournament / campaign achievement?
I only started going to tournaments about two years ago, but now I attend them quite regularly. However, I just can’t seem to find the time to play one system enough to keep up with the meta or to really even get to know my own army thoroughly. I tend to rank OK-ish in tournaments, but I also get destroyed by top players too regularly in 40K and Fantasy Battle. I’ve had some nice victories over more experienced players though. And it’s always very rewarding if your models get recognition.
He doesn’t have the time to play much these days, but that has to be Oh My Game’s Zuher. We played our first Warhammer games against each other (starting with improvised rules when we were just kids) and he’s been my most regular opponent in most of the other gaming systems as well. I’ve probably played considerably more games against him that other opponents combined. I hope I can lure him to playing The 9th Age, so we can go back to our roots and kind of complete the circle.
Describe your unique painting technique. Is there something special in your work flow?
I’m kind of used to seeing my own minis, so I haven’t really considered my technique to be that unique! Nowadays I’m mostly interested in finding the best cheating methods. I only use the brush, but with that I want to take all the possible shortcuts, without compromising the end result too much. The thing I like most about painting is getting new minis ready, and I want to be able to complete even whole regiments in one evenings time, though of course that doesn’t always happen. I can be more patient with a character, but I wouldn’t want to spend more than three evenings on any one miniature.
I’ve got a reasonably steady hand and I like freehanding, but to save time I always try to avoid anything that repeatedly requires accuracy. I especially dislike base coating the different parts of the model before getting to the fun part of highlighting. I try to plan my process so that I can start washing or dry brushing straight on the undercoat. In my VC army, I use a black undercoat and leave a lot of it visible in the recesses to create a sinister atmosphere. Many people don’t consider dry brushing a valid method anymore, but I use it in some way in basically all my rank and file models. I usually start layering only after the color theme has been created and the surface based with more effortless methods. I can use quite a few layers on even a simple mini, but I want to make each step as fluid and fast as possible and never to get stuck in any of them, otherwise it starts to feel very laborious and I get bored.
My color choices tend to be cartoonish and I always use sharp contrasts. Even with a dark and dirty army like the VC, I do the final highlights with a bright color to make the shapes stand out from a distance. This can be an effective cheating technique, but I also like to use it with minis that I paint more carefully.
Why do you think a retired Fantasy Battle player should give The 9th Age a chance?
The 9th Age is basically the same old Warhammer that we loved, but with a very inspiring goal: every unit should be worth fielding, and the rules are designed only for the purpose of playing and not for selling the latest miniatures. Of course it might be impossible to achieve a perfect balance, but at least for VC, there are very few “useless” units (too bad I happen to like those few). I’ve liked the rules so far though, and they are still being developed.
Anyway, all the rules are available for free, so if you have old fantasy battle armies lying in the basement, why not give the game a look?