Friday, December 30, 2011

Was Santa Good to You?

Evil Robot Santa left me some nice loot this year which I want to share with you... let me rephrase that - I want to share pictures with you. I'm doing this to help ensure that I'll get the stuff painted and on the table in a timely way, and if I let all of you know I'm intending to do this, I reckon you will tease and mock me mercilessly until I do. So this should be a strong motivator.

Some fleet-scale Star Wars ships from Odyssey Slipways. This is really nice stuff and will make a good addition to my Imperial and Rebel fleets.

Now on to New Insane Project #1, Greg's 6mm Skirmish project. I got some GZG grav-tanks and light flyers, today I'll order some infantry from Brigade.

New Insane Project #2 - Old Crow "Hammer's Slammers" blower tanks in 28mm. There's a full platoon of tanks there, including the command blower. I see these guys as a "for hire" mercenary warband in our proprietary "FuturKom/Gunschwarm" universe. The tanks are BIG!

Stay tuned for future updates as they occur, and please post in the comments if you got something cool from Santa this year!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Are You Ready For Some Blood Bowl???

I was putting away the Space Hulk boxes from the game the other night and had to move the Blood Bowl box to do it, which reminded me that a) I have a Blood Bowl set, b) I have painted a BB team, and c) I would like to play Blood Bowl next year. So I took a few pics of my team in the hope that it will motivate some fellow Conscripts to paint their teams so we can try this very cool game.

Also, it is coming up to "Bowl" season so this is timely, right? ;-)

The name of my team is "Rat-thletic Club Skavenblight" and they are inspired not by American football, but by "European" football (that is, soccer) and in particular, Athletic Club Bilbao, the home team of our friends that we visited in Spain in 2009.

So get painting, friends - we need to play some matches in 2012!

Friday, December 23, 2011

How Some Space Orks (Partially) Stole Christmas - A Rogue Trader Battle Report

Imperial Guardsmen advance during the game this week
This week we played Rogue Trader at Dallas' place.  The game - set in winter terrain to match the holiday air - pitted a band of Orks against a platoon of Imperial Guardsmen and a squad of Space Marines.  Both sides were trying to recover three surviving Imperial Titan crewmen.

Ork squad in winter wonderland - note the captured titan crewman (back at the left) they have "recovered" - no Christmas for him... 

Space Marines from the Howling Griffons Chapter enter ruins to look for the titan crew - unfortunately my pictures of Dallas' excellent RT-era marines did not turn out well....d'oh!
The game was set on a 6' x 4' table, and six "blip" counters were spread out around the table to represent possible locations of the three hiding crewmen. To "check" the blips, players would have to make base contact with it, and roll a d6 to see if it turned out to be a crewman.  The rolls would be progressively easier - so a "6" was needed on the first blip, a "5" or "6" on the second one, etc. until all crew were located and at that point any excess blips would be removed.   The side that managed to evacuate the most crewmen would win.

Da Red Barun makes another strafing run on the Imperial troops - he was eventually shot down....
The Imperial side had three tactical squads, a command section, a Rhino, a Predator and a Robot.  There was also one squad of Marines with a Rhino of their own.  The Orks had thirty boyz, two "skorchas", a wartrak, two dreadnoughts and looted Rhino.  They also had the services of the Red Barun.

Dallas, Mike F and Mike A played the Ork side, while Frederick and I rolled with the Imperial side.

Shot of the Imperials advancing, supporting by a Robot. In the grim darkness of the far future, it still all starts with a PC running Windows 7....
Rules-wise, we played what is probably best described as a "hybrid", sticking to Rogue Trader with the exception of a few tweaks, the most significant being that we use the vehicle rules from the otherwise-awful current version of 40k.

Ork boys with missile launchers focused a lot on the Predator
The Orks got a good early start, rolling a "6" and finding one of the crew almost right away.  But that turned out to be the least of their "blip" luck, as Frederick and I were able to turn up the other two blokes and evacuate them with relative ease.

"These ruins should provide great cover guys! Unless they have flamers...."

The looted Rhino leads the assault for the Orks.

Picture of the Imperial Command Section - these las cannon gunners brought down the Red Barun.

My completely perfect flank, which could never be turned....
That didn't stop the Ork players from pushing hard to earn a "Thorpian Moral Victory", and boy did they do that.  I used the Predator to anchor my flank, confident the heavy firepower, armour and power-field would keep the Orks from any undue mischief while the Imperial gunners pounded away.  But the Orks pulled a sneaky flank move (the buggers!) and I missed some key lascannon shots.  The outcome was that two full tactical squads got BBQ'd by skorcha bikes, and the Predator was KO'd by concentrated fire from the dreadnoughts and Ork infantry.  OUCH.

Predator commander counts all the Ork missile launchers....

The Imperial right flank disappears in a cloud of flames and dreadnought claws....stupid skorchas...
But hey, we still won!  The two crewman recovered to the Imperial side will spend Christmas being interrogated to find out why they lost their Titan in action.  The crewman recovered by the Orks...well, I don't think his Christmas will be a happy one, but Warlord Snagrod will have another helmet for his festive "tree".

As always, it was absolute great fun to play Rogue Trader - and the hybrid with the current vehicle rules works really, really well.  I look forward to playing Rogue Trader again soon with the group. Thanks again to Dallas for hosting, and to everyone who came out to play.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone out there!

Nice report Greg - and thanks for figuring out a scenario and doing up the OOBs; that's the one thing about RT that makes me a bit mental. It was great to just roll out figures and terrain and play. I also took some pics of the game...

Initial dispositions.
Guardsmen sneak around a building.

Da Barun on a strafing run.
Boyz about to investigate a "blip".
Guardsmen and Space Marine vehicles in the ruined city.

Boyz make off with one of the Titan crewmen.

Scorchas turn a Guard squad into barbeque, as Imperial Robot looks on. Too bad its programming didn't account for the masterful flank attack ;-)
Thanks again to Greg and the boys for the game!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Game Tonight - Rogue Trader

'Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the hous(es), many creatures were stirring, as Orks had overrun the planet.  In the heavy fighting, the Imperial Warhound class titan Revenge of Rudolphus, known affentionately as "The Red Nose", was destroyed by Ork Stompa mobs.  It seems, however, that the crew survived, bailing out from the crew compartment while the Titan went down, and now they are hiding in some ruins at the edge of an urban sector.  The crew sent a single distress signal on the way out, hoping Imperial forces would detect it, and then went silent, for fear of attracting too much Ork attention.

The Ork Warlord, Snagrod the Arch-Arsonist, is furious - meaning, more furious than he usually is. The victory is not complete without the heads of the titan's crew.  Snagrod rolls out personally with his lads to find these suriving humies and get them for his "collection", ready to finish the job the over-sized mek toys could not.  It's the holidays, after all, and the heads of the Titan crew would make great decorations.

Meanwhile, from the Imperial perspective, Titan crews are precious assets - way more important than any other ground-troop types. That means other, less important, lives, such as those of the ground troops, are to be risked in order to save them!

Will the Imperial forces find and resecue the Titan Crew in time for Christmas (where the crew will be ruthlessly interrogated to find out how it was they could have lost their precious machine)?  Or will the Ork Warlord get another set of "decorations" for his, er, "tree"?  We'll find out tonight!


Tonight we will ring in the holidays with a game of Warhammer 40k, using the classic "Rogue Trader" rules.  Of course, I guess they won't be completely "classic", in that we will play with some amendments, including:

  • Vehicle rules - we will use the vehicles rules of the current edition of 40k for the vehicles, with combat speed, crew shaken etc.  So no worrying about the turn radius, acceleration etc.  Although we'll still have a little twist to keep the power fields around!
  • Infantry armour - we'll up the armour a little bit, so power armour saves on a 3+ instead of a 4+, and flak armour saves on a 5+ instead of a 6+, etc.  Not to worry - lots of saving throw modifiers abound, so everything will be killed at a rapid pace, I'm sure.
  • Templates - we will use the templates from the current edition, as common sense dictates, as opposed to worrying about a half-inch blast radius for this weapon, a one-and-a-half inch for that one, etc. etc.
  • Deviation/Area Fire - we will use the updated rules from pg. 89 of the 40k Compendium, where deviation of area fire weapons is related to the model's ballistic skill, and not the size of the template.
  • Terrain - we'll be sure to have "true line of sight".....NOT.
So come on out tonight to Dallas' place and hearken back to the time when Warhammer 40k was a fun skirmish game!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Book(s) Review - The Horus Heresy

"Got a note from Horus today lads - turns out the Emperor is a douche and we're off to tune him up."
My wife and I took a little pre-Christmas vacation down in California last week. On trips like this I like to bring some reading material to relax, and this time my reading diversions included the first three books from The Black Library's Horus Heresy series - "Horus Rising" by Dan Abnett, "False Gods" by Graham McNeill and "Galaxy In Flames" by Ben Counter.  In other words, no Christmas-themed reading for me.

The series is much longer than these three books, but they really got me fired up, and they kind of stand alone as trilogy on their own, so I thought I would throw a little review up on the blog.

The Horus Heresy is one of my favourite "periods" within the fluff of the GW 40k setting. First explored (at least I think) with the release of games like Space Marine and Adeptus Titanicus, the Horus Heresy has been firmly rooted in the foundation of the GW's 40k universe for a long time. The broad strokes of the story are well-established - Horus was made Warmaster, turned against the Emperor, betrayed several Space Marine Legions in the Istvaan system, then attacked Earth with his rebel Legions and laid siege to the Imperial Palace. It was touch and go for the Loyalist side, but the Emperor personally led a direct counter-attack into Horus' HQ. The Emperor killed Horus, but was seriously wounded and now lives eternally as a kind of sci-fi-gothic-soul-consuming-drink-machine on Earth. With Horus dead, the rebels were thrown back from Earth, and the Imperial side gradually won the war.

The Heresy itself faded from any actual representation in the GW 40k games - the Epic rules moved away from the Heresy period towards representing the "current" era, in which the forces that once fought on Horus' side are represented by the various iterations of Chaos. I have always found this strange - after all GW will publish a rules supplement for almost anything (hello "Cityfight"), but the specific period of the Heresy itself has lived on only in background references of the fluff in rulebooks and codexes.

Representing the actual Heresy era civil-war type battles in a 40k game, before everyone on Horus' side grew a tail, a fourth eye, Nurgle infection etc., especially at the 25mm/28mm scales, is something that GW didn't really seem interested in, for whatever reason.

So I was surprised that the Black Library ever did books on the Heresy itself, starting back on 2007. Writing a book - much less a series of them - featuring major characters that are well-known by the fan boys (like me) based on a story arc that is already established must have been daunting. When you see the awful Star Wars Episode I, II and III, you see how easy a project with parameters like that can go wrong. Attempting to tell this story with multiple authors and still managing to keep a similar arc and tone must have been really, really tricky.

And a final challenge is (in my view) found with a key fibre of the material itself - the Space Marines. The Marines have evolved over the years since Rogue Trader and the "Space Marine" game came out. They have always been "Humanity's Finest" in the 40k setting, but through new versions of the 40k rules, newer fluff etc. they have started to become a bit....silly....almost would the authors handle that?

How do you write a characters like Horus, much less the Emperor himself?
A very challenging endeavour! They started well...they had Dan Abnett do the first book!

"We're the Luna Wolves! For the Emperor!"

Dan Abnett is a fine writer.  His books featuring Inquisitor Eisenhorn are some of the most engaging sci-fi fiction books I've ever read.  His book "Titanicus" is just fabulous.  And that is only a small fraction of the volume he has written.  He captures the 40k setting perfectly, and takes you there.  So I was glad to see they handed the pen to Dan for "Horus Rising", and it's no small coincidence that this was the best book of the three.

In "Horus Rising" you meet not only the Warmaster himself, but key officers (like Abbadon) of his Legion, the Luna Wolves, fleet commanders etc.  This book takes you to the "Great Crusade", and the first chapters get you hooked into the period.  Actually, the first pages take care of it.

Abnett also takes you through the subtle seeds that would give rise to the Heresy - and he does it masterfully.  Wounded pride. Changing leadership. Changing times.  This book gives you the thrill of the Great Crusade, and you experience the disappointment and doubt when, for example, it becomes clear a council on Terra is calling the shots, as the Emperor goes about setting up an Empire, and no longer deals directly with Horus.  It all seems logical, but Abnett gives you the view from the personnel - Marines and civilians alike - and you get a sense of the tension the Emperor's decision creates.

Abnett handles the Horus character very well.  It's clear he is a total rock star, but you relate to his human flaws and strengths, as opposed to viewing him as some kind of loser comic book character even though he is a "Primarch" (see below for more on that).

Considering how ab-human the Space Marines actually are, Abnett does an amazing job dwelling on their humanity.  He plugs you in to the strengths, weaknesses and political tensions within the Luna Wolves Legion, and manages to avoid getting bogged down in too much Brother Dorculous and Captain Fantasticus-type silliness.  The Marines are super human, and super flawed, and that will totally suck at some point...but hey - what's so wrong with a warrior lodge?

Abnett also brings in other Imperium characters, and this is something he does so well - writing in characters that you would never encounter in a 40k game (except perhaps as objectives) but that are marvellous in terms of taking you right into the setting.  You meet "remembrancers" - very Imperium-type documentary sorts sent to "cover" the Great Crusade.  You meet "iterators" - official propagandists of the Imperium.  These characters not only become important to the plot - the perspectives of these characters provide a really cool "year 30k human" lens into the Great Crusade setting, and also providing an interesting contrast to the stone-faced Space Marines.

This book will have you wanting to paint up some Luna Wolves in no time at all! I heartily recommend this book - it's a page turner for sure, and if you appreciate the 40k setting, you'll love it.

"This Crusade Armour is awesome - wait till Forge World sells it!"

Graham McNeil builds the story on Dan Abnett's foundation, and he does a very good job. This book takes you through to the actual "fall" of Horus, and the divisions within the Luna Wolves (as well as their accompanying Expedition Fleet) start to build.   McNeil details how Horus' "fall" occurred on the world of Davin.  Obviously we all know what path Horus' character is on at this point, but McNeil still makes it a good read. 

This book is still a page turner, but some flaws in the series start to appear.  Thankfully, the author manages the material well so readers will not tune out.

What do I mean by flaws? Well, the forces of "Chaos" start to appear in this book.  Other "Primarch" characters start to make more appearances too.  The Primarchs are the founding leaders of the Space Marine Legions. Meant to be super-impressive, they just seem really absurd (take "Saguinius" of the Blood Angels he has wings - the tampax Primarch!).  Each Primarch has a back story and a flawed-yet-super persona.  They are supposed to embody the attributes of their Legion.  They really just make you roll your eyes.

This isn't a knock on McNeil - the Primarchs and their personalities are key to the story - after all, they will decide whether to join Horus or not, so you can't just avoid them - and their absurdity is also bolted into the fluff of 40k, so McNeil could not dodge it.  The Primarchs all seem to have come of the reject board of a Marvel Comics intern meeting.  A creation story is even floated in this novel - I don't want to ruin it for you, but it's just....absurd.  As pinnacles of Humanity and as idols of their Marines, the Primarchs are beyond hilarious.  Lucky for the reader, their direct parts in the book are brief. 

After all the real interest of this story lies with the grunts - after all, you know what Horus is going to do.  What will happen to these people - especially when it becomes clear that Horus will turn against the Emperor?

What is very good about this book is the continued development of other, more front-line characters. McNeil does an excellent job continuing to the story of the building tension among the front-line troops, work crews and others within the fleet, as people start to sense that...well, things are no longer what they used to be.  The unity and clarity of purpose of the Great Crusade is gone - what will replace it? 

The emergence of the notion of the Emperor-as-God is just starting too, and is a source of real (and, for the reader, I believe interesting) debate amongst the characters. That is fun to read too - after all, in the 40k setting, the whole Emperor-as-god thing is pretty much locked in, and your planet can be nuked for denying it.  Watching Marine captains, remembrancers and iterators debate the "absurdity" of the notion (which was the establishment view at the time) is entertaining.

"Goooooo Horus!"

"Galaxy in Flames" tells the story of the first shots fired in the Heresy.  In the fluff of the Space Marine rulebook, we know that Horus kicked off the Heresy by virus-bombing the world of Istvaan after the planet rebelled from the Emperor.  The act was seen as a major overreaction by Horus, the first major sign that he was out of control, and the signal for the Emperor to act. Author Ben Counter takes the reader through a detailed story about the campaign against Istvaan, and Horus' moves in that campaign.  

In this book Horus' betrayal is revealed - and Marine turns against Marine for the first time.  Horus basically sends all the "unreliable" types into his first wave against the formidable Istvaan rebels - which he then bombards from orbit using virus-weapons. Yikes!  Some of the heroes survive this betrayal, and try to hold out against Horus...

On the down side, the Primarchs also play a greater role in this book, and reading about their silly outfits and ridiculous personalities is....well, I find it lame.  Horus' character is still well done, but I wish the book would have dealt more with how Horus schemed to maneuver these characters into doing his bidding, as opposed to grand councils where clowns like Angron (Primarch of the World Eaters) are making vented pronouncements, and losers like Fulgrim (Primarch of the Emperor's Children) are making grand appearances.

Wolverine would make a perfect Primarch - unkillable, sullen and totally useless. I think his Legion could be known as the "Pouting Claws", and they would always arrive in drop pods, with reporters, after the fighting was over...but I digress....

Where the Primarchs suck, the front-line-type characters shine again, make this book an overall solid read. But the story arc takes these protagonist characters to a place that there really is no way out of, and you kind of know it early on.  They are betrayed on the battlefield of Istvaan, and considering that these new-found "loyalists" have zero support, and Horus has like four Space Marine Legions, a bunch of Titans, and a whole fleet, it's hard to see how they have much chance. The last stand is impressive, but you know how it's going to end....


So to sum up, I recommend these books to 40k fans.  They are well written (Abnett in particular is brilliant) and very engaging. You get a feel for a 40k setting that is consistent with "today's" version, but still unique in that it feels "earlier".  These books will have you fired up to paint something...even as you realize you would have to play using 40k rules....

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It Came From Hell Pit

This is literally the first project I've finished in several months - a Hell Pit Abomination for my Warhamer Fantasy Skaven.  Unlike some previous Skaven projects (Plagueclaw Catapult, "Doomwheel") which were scratch-built models, this one was built straight from the box.

Pretty scary piece of kit, eh? The Grey Seer thinks it should serve sufficiently for the purpose...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Space Hulk!!

Last night I pulled out Space Hulk to play with the lads. (You'll note that these are the old school first- and second-edition sets, not the latest "Genestealers think they're Spider-Man" version). A couple years back I found and painted a complete set of the original metal Terminators and love to wheel them out to play with as well.

I love the old Space Hulk game - it's simple but not necessarily simplistic, and everyone digs the visuals of Terminators exploring the corridors of a rusty space hulk with Genestealers lurking around every corner.

OK men single file, no pushing...
The first mission we played, Conscript Mike A. and I had two Terminator squads and had to get five Terminators off the board in the designated exit spot. Conscripts Mike F. and Brian ran the 'stealers. Mike A's group of Terminators ran interference for my guys mostly, and got chewed up, but MAN did his assault cannon rock, accounting for 15 or more 'stealers!
Come get some!!!

I wonder what's behind this door?

Oh crap!!!
Shufflin' towards that exit
The 'stealers were too much for the Terminators, killing six to prevent the Marines' victory conditions.

Game 2 setup
So we set aup again for a different mission; this time the Terminators had to deactivate a control panel on the far side of the board. We switched sides too so Mike A. and I ran the 'stealers.

Here we go again...

No problem Sarge, I got this one... erk
One lone Terminator survived the gauntlet and reached the control room, but by that time it was chock-a-block with Xenos and he had no chance.

As an aside, we find when we play that the Terminators rarely (if ever) win! Any commenters willing to weigh in with some tactical hints or suggestions?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

New Wheels for Gün Schwarm

Gün Schwarm fire team tries out the new IFV from Old Crow.
In my post last month about the project pile for the fall of 2011, I mentioned that I was working on some reinforcements for Gün Schwarm, the future-retro sci-fi fascists that do battle with Dallas's FuturKom and Mike F's Future Brits.  The Güns have been able to count on important fire support from all sorts of silly, over-gunned vehicles, but they have been behind their opponents in one key areas - APC/IFVs for the troops.

Dallas' FuturKom lads ride to battle in modified BTRs, and Mike's Brits roll out in modified Rhinos.  The Güns? They walked to the fight.  They have two Space Panthers and a Space Hetzer for backup. Even a VTOL! So no complaining!

But in the game, mobile protection for the infantry is still useful, and with the streets of New New Old Berlin looking pretty rough in the wake of FuturKom's "Occupy Everywhere" operations, it was time to give the Gün Grenadiers a battle-worthy ride.

Front view of the Claymore APC, showing the standard "support" turret.
The challenge was finding the right model for the job. At first, I wanted something that fit the WW2 theme, that I could cover with searchlights, hatches and missles (standard SpaceKrieg conversion process) and just fit in.  German WW2 halftracks seemed to be one way to go, but in the end even the 1/48 die-cast models are too small, in my view, to fit the mood/look of the force.  I tried a GW Chimera, but it looked like...well, a GW Chimera - not horrible, but not...different enough.

Rear view of the model, showing the access ramp for the Gün troopers.
I finally just ordered some APCs from Old Crow.  I was already using Old Crow products in the 15mm lineup, and I thought the 28mm scale ones would be nice too. So the Gün Schwarm War Ministry ordered some Claymore APCs.

The Claymore model resembles many of the IFVs currently serving in armies around the world, but still keeps a futuristic, sci-fi look to it.

I love the model - brings to mind many of the modern 8-wheeled APC/IFV vehicles in service currently with armies around the world today, like the BTR-80 and the LAV, while still managing a bit of sleeker, sci-fi look to it.  It also looks like it would really carry a squad of 28mm infantry models.

I changed my painting approach slightly for these vehicles - no wash of Devlan Mud, so they aren't quite as dark as the other Gün vehicles.

Top view showing additional access hatches for the troopers.
One of the great things about the Old Crow models is that there are multiple turret options.  The standard turrret is the "support" version - and even there you can choose between types of barrels to go with a "cannon" look, or a "gatling gun" look. 

The Claymore APC will provide good support, and cover, for the Gün fire teams.
And if you are anticipating real trouble, you can mount the "tank hunter" turret.  I love that turret - kind of brings to mind the idea of the Stryker Mobile Gun System.  When you see the size of the gun barrell in relation to the figures in the picture, I'm pretty sure that thing will be able to hunt more than just tanks...although with the FuturKom arsenal, we'll take all the help we can get.

Another variant of the "support" turret, with gatling-style cannon barrels - good for dealing with FuturKom infantry, and university protestors.

The "tank hunter" version of the turret - what kind of tanks are they thinking about? Can probably take out apartment blocks as well...

There is a third version of the turret - "multi-missile" - but I haven't got one of those yet.

The worst thing you can say about Old Crow is that actually getting the product can take a while, but that is it for problems, and I assure you it's worth the wait.  Old Crow's stuff is really sharp, and really, really easy to work with.  The quality of the casting is absolutely top notch.

I have three of these models for the Güns - I'll do up a mix of turret options for the vehicles. One vehicles is finished, another is painted and just waiting for decals, and the third is primed and waiting to get going.  I hope the vehicles will see some service on the table sometime soon!