Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sons of Horus Heavy Support Troops

Heavy support for Horus, our last hope!

A little more 30k collection escalation.  Not as impressive as Dallas' recent addition to the Loyalist motor pool (see here and here), but these fellows may be able to help against them.  As Dallas has mentioned, one of the wonderful fun things about playing the 30k Horus Heresy period is the immense scale of everything, from the massive vehicles to the larger, hard-hitting squads.  There is never just one of anything, when their could be five or ten.  Embracing this spirit, here is a Devastator Squad from the 16th Legion, armed with lascannons.

The Warmaster would like to wreck your stuff...

Again, the embossed legion logos on the shoulder pads are highly addictive...once you use them on one squad, I sort of want them on every squad

Extra power cell for the cannon is hooked to the back pack
These are Forge World figures wearing Mark III marine power armour, my favourite armour set from their Heresy range of figures.  The Mark III marines have a dark, proto-medieval feel about them, particularly when armed with the heaviest "portable" (and I mean that in a relative way, as in portable for a Space Marine) weapon in the game.

"Target that Spartan over there..."
That is where that crazy sort of out-of-control aura of 30k comes in - why have just one lascannon, when you can have five?  This squad will be able to put useful dents into the heavy armoured vehicles of the duped loyalists and fools who cling to the fading light of the False Emperor.  They will also come in handy against any Terminator squads that show up out of the blue.

A lot of segmented bits on the Mark III armour...a very cool look
The squad can, in fact, round out to 10 troops with lascannons.  That sounds like fun, and is probably something I will do at one point, but there are other things that probably should be painted first.  The Sons of Horus need some more vehicles, in particular. 

I tried to use the flechette-shaped devastator squad symbol on the other shoulders, but the decals were tricky to use
I've painted about 25 models for the Sons of Horus over the past couple of months, and my painting attention is starting to wander a bit - time for some more WW2 stuff, I think.  But the overall buildup continues...

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Prairiecon 2015 Game One - Battlegroup Fall Of The Reich

A table dotted with wrecked tanks - that's my kind of game!

Summer is (sort of) here again in the Canadian prairies.  And while the temperature projections are dismal by the standards of our usual glorious weather, there are still some excellent summer traditions. One of those is PrairieCon, the annual gaming event held in Brandon, Manitoba. "Gaming event" is probably a drastic understatement - while Prairiecon is not a huge event size-wise compared to other conventions out there, it has a great reputation and history in the community.  Dallas has a much longer history with PrairieCon than I do, so he is much better at explaining the event and I will leave that to him. But as near as I can figure this is my tenth year at Prairiecon, and it continues to get better!

Commanders confer before the game - on the left side of the photo is the Russian table edge, and the German one is at the opposite end, behind the town.

The edge of Dolgelin - the train station at the upper left and and road section in the bottom right of the photo are the objectives for the Soviet attack
Soviet artillery had already hit the Germans before the battle started

The Soviet advance begins - the train station is to the right side in this photo.
Soviet advance on the left side - T-34/85s and infantry
The Fawcett Avenue Conscripts like to make a visit to Prairiecon every year to play some games and run a couple of games as well.  This year we hosted two games - a WW2 game and a Star Wars space battle game. This (obviously) is the after-action report on the WW2 game: Battlegroup Fall of the Reich.

The only early break for the Germans - this IS-2 hit a mine in the road and was knocked out!
The "Battlegroup" rules are published by Iron Fist Publishing. I will say the rules overall are pretty good, but the books themselves suffer from what I refer to as "British Rule Book Syndrome". Symptoms include beautiful production values, fantastic background information, baffling explanations of simple rules mechanics, quirky approaches to what should be simple rules mechanics (armour ratings expressed as a letter, while everything else is a number), odd decisions on content (the basic rule book does not provide an example of tank vs. tank combat resolution), painting tutorials that are so complex they are only useful for people who are already expert painters, scenarios only suitable if you have an enormous collection of figures, and Kafka-esque layout decisions that have you swearing endlessly (case in point - the stats for the tank will mention what gun it carries, but the stats for said gun are elsewhere in the book, on a big table of guns - ~@#@#@!!!!).

Soviet assault crosses the railway line - T-34/85s in the lead.
"British Rule Book Syndrome" does not render the rules themselves bad - it just makes you a little insane.  Black Powder is a good example of this. That is a bloody fantastic game, but the rule book, even though beautiful, makes me bonkers at times. I don't enjoy "Battlegroup" as much as I do "Black Powder", but "Battlegroup" is still a fine set of rules.

This King Tiger tank missed so much we decided an appropriate token was needed to shame the crew...
A 37mm Flak gun team waits for the attack - the half track is a supply vehicle, a neat feature in the Battlegroup rules.
The WW2 scenario for Prairiecon was adopted on one presented in the "Fall Of The Reich" book - "Holding Dolgelin Station".  The battle takes place during the final Soviet offensive in 1945 on the Eastern Front, the drive on Berlin.  The Germans made a desperate stand as the Soviet army groups crossed the Oder River.  Dolgelin is a village at the edge of the Seelow Heights overlooking the Oder river valley and here the King Tigers of the 502nd Battalion clashed with the Soviet spearheads looking to break through.  This is, of course, something many WW2 gamers like me enjoy - an excuse to use King Tigers :)

The Soviets approach the train station, one of the key objectives.
"Battlegroup" rules are agnostic on scale, although generally driven toward 20mm.  We used 15mm figures for the game, and it works just fine.  I have been painting a lot of individually-based 15mm infantry for skirmish gaming in this scale, but I found in playing "Battlegroup" that the figures based in groups (for games such as "Flames of War") work just fine or even better, as the players find it much easier to move the blocks of infantry around. My preference is still individual basing, but you can't argue with the people actually playing...

The Soviets have blasted the train station, and prepare to mount an assault...but...
The actual scenario from the "Fall of the Reich" book is (consistent with the British Rule Book Syndrome) a very, very large game and even though I have a sizable 15mm collection I still couldn't pull it off on as they have suggested.  No worries, though - it's still great inspiration and we just slimmed it down for Prairiecon.

The train station continues to sustain further damage, but note the dreaded "Scottish number" and the pin token - the infantry are pinned by German MG fire and the assault doesn't go in.
The German forces for my version of the game comprised a Volksgrenadier platoon, an MG42 team, a PaK40, a 37mm AA gun, a lone Marder III and a panzerschrek team.  They were bolstered by three mighty King Tiger tanks, lords of any WW2 gaming table.   Their objective was grim and simple - hold to the end, break the morale of the Soviet attack and buy more time for Berlin...Conscripts Mike and Cam took command of the Germans.

This officer shamed the motherland by fleeing the battlefield - he will be shot for cowardice as an example to others...
The onrushing force of Soviets was suitably enormous - a platoon of IS-2 tanks, a company of T-34/85 tanks, a platoon of hard-ass veteran infantrymen and a platoon of regulars, backed by a maxim MG team and battery of 152mm guns off table.  The Soviets could win two ways - capture the train station and the crossroads at the end of the village, or just break the morale of the Germans.  Conscript Dallas and a Prairiecon visitor took command of the Soviets.

The Tiger tanks are finally finding the range...and many Russian tanks pay the price. The Volksgrenadiers in the church chipped in with a couple of panzerfaust shots as too.
The premise of the scenario is that the King Tigers of the 502nd (acting as a reserve) are moving toward the front, which they still think is further east, closer to the Oder, but they are surprised to run into a Soviet spearhead just outside the town, where a hasty defence is organized.  The Soviets would start well on to the table (18" on), and the King Tigers would move on to the table one per turn.  The Germans would be under Soviet guns immediately.

The motherland avenged! The train station falls, and the IS-2s move into the village.
The Soviets started out big, hammering the Germans with artillery and suppressive fire from the 122mm guns of the IS-2s.  The Germans lost their Marder, PaK40 and panzerschrek team in short order - ouch! It looked like a walkover for the Russians. It got a little grimmer for the Germans in the next couple of turns, as the King Tigers suffered from abysmal luck on the gunnery dice, missing again and again against the Soviet tanks!  The only early success for the Germans came when they pulled a "mine strike" token, and an IS-2 was knocked out on the road.

The train station has fallen, and the IS-2s move past the objective - note the carnage on the other Soviet flank at the top of the photo
The Russians, however, got a nasty surprise when they attempted to capture the train station (which the Germans had fortified).  They blasted it with artillery from off-table and with direct fire from the IS-2s, but Mike was on fire with the saving throws, and the squad in the building refused to stay pinned down.  The Russians ultimately captured the building in a bloody close assault, but it cost Dallas an entire infantry platoon.

IS-2 blasting away at targets in the town.
Further carnage was wrought by the German MG42 team stationed in another building on the outskirts of town.  The machinegun devastated the other Russian foot platoon, while the King Tigers (for once) finally found the range, and began to knock out T-34s with ease.  The losses started piling up on the Russian side.

End of the war for this 37mm German flak team...
The Russians resorted to heavy bombardments from their off-table artillery, and these took a toll on the Germans.  Finally the pin markers and casualties started to add up for the Germans, and their battlegroup ultimately broke in the end, but not before extracting a fearful punishment on the attacking Soviets.  All in all, a very suitable ending considering the setting.

The King Tigers blast away - note that one got tagged with an "out of fuel" token; these tokens are a great feature of the Battlegroup rules
Overall I found the "Battlegroup" rules to be pretty good, if maybe not as good the the hype online makes them out to be.  There are some excellent mechanics in the game, particularly the battle rating system and the random events. There also some mechanics I ignored, like ammunition limitations in the tanks.  This is, of course, a very realistic concept but the game already calls for enough documentation and I wasn't about to bother keeping track of ammunition in 25 tanks and anti-tank guns.  The rules can be confusing at times - in particular I find the off-table support process ponderous, and the means for organizing the off-table support in the army lists is confusing and poorly organized.  Navigating the book will make you want to scream, but overall it's worth it!  And the campaign background and presentation is excellent - even if the scenarios they offer up are not ones you will be able to put on easily, they are fantastic inspiration.

Some of the other games happening at Prairiecon 2015.
Thank you to Dallas and Mike for playing, and to Conscript Cam who came down to Brandon to join our games - it is always great to see Cam! A very special thank you here to Dallas for taking nearly all of these photos and for lending his terrain to the game, particularly his incredible warmat from Barrage Miniatures, as well as excellent grass fields and trees.  And congratulations to the Prairiecon organizers for another outstanding event! I look forward to next year.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Heresy Update - Blood Drinkers Spartan Assault Tank

Part of the appeal of the Horus Heresy as a 40K milieu is the sheer immense scale of everything. Where 40K has thousand-man Space Marine Chapters, 30K has hundred-thousand-man Space Marine Legions. In 40K we have 10-man tactical squads, in 30K 20 models is de rigeur. And where in 40K the Land Raider is the Daddy, in the Heresy era the Space Marines rolled in this beast - the Spartan Assault Tank.

Sporting twin-quad lascannons, heavy bolters, and a faintly ridiculous troop-carrying capacity of 25 models, the Spartan is the preferred assault transport for the discerning Legion Praetor.

The Spartan is a massive kit, to be sure. Assembly was reasonably straightforward even if the vendor I obtained it from neglected to supply instructions. The only non-kit part I added was the sensor pod mounted above the hull twin heavy bolters - it's from the plastic Land Raider kit. The vehicle commander figure is from the Forgeworld Space Marine vehicle crew set.

The sponson weapons on this machine are just super-cool too. I magnetized them both for easy transport and painting, and because the kit parts were a bit malformed and wouldn't allow articulation without some serious work. With the magnets, the weapons can easily elevate and depress.

The tracks, a source of much pain on Internet fora, were not good, but were not as bad as I'd feared. On one side they were so bad that I had to cut out one link altogether, but this is on the bottom run that can't be seen. The other problem was with the side doors - they just didn't fit and couldn't be modified. I cut new doors out of plasticard.

Decals are from the Forge World "Blood Angels" sheet.

Doors are always a pain point for me, but this vehicle is so cool that it would be a shame to seal it up. I can never seem to make Land Raider-type doors stay shut, but I address this by adding small pin to the top door that fits in a hole drilled in the face of the bottom one.

This is a vehicle that I quite enjoyed painting, and its tabletop presence will be undeniable, even in the context of large Heresy games. At 295 points plus upgrades, it's not cheap, but to me the "looks cool factor" is off the charts.

Heresy Update - Blood Drinkers Chapterhouse "Mark I" Rhinos

Heresy escalation continues! And while we all have a "resin habit", sometimes you can satisfy the Forgeworld crack cravings with some less-expensive drugs (meth?) from an alternative supplier. Step forward, Chapterhouse Studios and their "Mark I Rhino" conversion kit.

40K modellers will be familiar with Chapterhouse, one of the first third-party companies to make resin stuff compatible with Games Workshop kits. They're also famous for their nasty legal dispute with GW over intellectual property issues associated with their business. However, all of that seems to be behind them now, and they've brought out some interesting products, including this kit to convert the current GW Rhino transport into something more evocative of the Heresy era.

The kit, which retails for $14, comprises nine resin parts:the four side vents, two sets of side doors, and top hatch shown above, plus front and rear fascia plates, not shown. These replace or augment the parts in the standard GW plastic Rhino kit.

Assembly was very straightforward, without instructions being required. When putting on the side vents, though, you'll note that shaving one of the sides by a millimeter or so improves the fit greatly (see pic below).

 The other slightly awkward element of the kit is the resin casting gates connecting the side doors to the sprue (below). You have to be VERY careful in trimming these off, because the kit part is very thin at that area and prone to snapping right off. You can fix this with a bit of plasticard, as I did, but it's something to be aware of.

The crew figures are from Forge World. Front plate fits nicely in place of the standard kit part.

"Blood Drinker" decals are from the Forge World Blood Angels decal sheet.

I fitted the rear door over top of the plastic kit part, after shaving the plastic part flat. Assembling this way allows you to maintain the opening rear door feature.
I'm quite pleased with how these turned out, given the cost of the Chapterhouse parts versus that of the Deimos pattern Rhino kit from Forge World, but it really only makes sense if you have access to cheap Rhino kits. At full USD retail, the Chapterhouse Rhino costs $51.25 while the Deimos is 35GBP, at current exchange this is about $54. But for me, since I had two unbuilt Rhinos that I'd picked up cheap, it was a no-brainer. Sometimes meth > crack ;-)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Gothic Ruined Buildings from SG2 Creations

Conscript Byron leads a double triple life: IT pro by day, ace painter and gamer by night, and laser-cut MDF design maniac when it's night in some other time zone ;-)
So when I asked Byron to design some Gothic-looking ruined buildings for our big Heresy game/mini campaign this summer, of course he obliged, big style. Just look at these beauties!
Interior floors are detailed with a chequer pattern, for some added visual interest. Byron included some extra bricks to pile up on the floors, and I applied some texture after gluing them down in place.

The buildings were easy to assemble, as Byron designs the pieces to slot together. You can use wood glue or regular white glue to bond the parts. There's lots of parts to them but assembly is straightforward and quick.

Nice, eh? I spray-primed with flat black Krylon paint and then hit it from above with grey spray paint. The decorative bricks on the exterior and the chequered floor were painted with GW Rakarth Flesh acrylic. Floors and bricks were washed with GW Nuln Oil and drybrushed.

I also applied some powders to the buildings to weather them a bit.

Bits from the bits box give a bit of Imperial flavour.

This was the first one I did - before I realized I should have added the rubble before priming. No worries, I cut a few scraps of plasticard for bases, then textured on top op those. Scatter terrain for the inside of the building.

Just for kicks I did one building with contrasting flooring.

"Imperium Apartments"?


The buildings are a good size for gaming - here's an Imperial Knight and some Renegades for scale.

Byron did a fantastic job on these buildings, and there's more on the way - he's designing a longer building with a lower rise for some urban contrast, as well as some "corners" to match the ruins shown here. They may not be on the website yet, but you can visit SG2 Creations to see all of Byron's MDF wizardry for yourself. Price of the buildings is TBA but will be more than competitive. Highly recommended!