Monday, February 29, 2016

Forgeworld Armageddon-Pattern Medusa

Legio-Con is approaching and Conscript Greg and I are putting on a couple of games for the masses. One is a Warhammer 40K game set in 813 M.41, early in the 17-year siege of Vraks, an Imperial armoury world that's essentially a weapons locker and staging area for the Imperial Guard.

The Apostate Cardinal Xaphan marshalled hordes of fanatical Renegade followers on Vraks, including uncounted regiments of the Imperial Guard stationed there. Our game will depict part of the final battle for the Citadel on Vraks, with loyal Guardsmen defending to the last, hoping against hope for rescue from an airmobile elite Guard unit operating in the area. Those troops have a different objective, however: rescuing the Imperial Commander-Governor of Vraks and ensuring that the arming codes for the virus bombs remaining in the armoury don't fall into Renegade hands.
ANYWAY... Greg is bringing his Vostroyan Guardsmen and Elysian drop-troopers to form the Loyalist forces, and I'm supplying the Renegades, which has given me some impetus to finish a few outstanding projects for that army. Chief among these was the Forge World Armageddon-Pattern Medusa kit that I've had now for a couple years (!).

I have to say at the outset that this kit, WHICH I OBTAINED DIRECTLY FROM FORGE WORLD IN NOTTINGHAM, UK (lest there be any confusion on the point) was the absolute worst resin kit I've ever had to build. I love the design of the vehicle - it's very Wespe-like - but it was a pile of hot garbage to build. The parts weren't misshapen or warped, for the most part, but were just not well designed for assembly with the base plastic Chimera kit.

Add to this the fact that there were absolutely no instructions provided, and you have a recipe for hobby rage.

In any case, it's built now and I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out.

While I wouldn't bother scratch-building a vehicle interior myself, the kit included some nice, albeit ill-fitting, interior details for the Chimera hull (probably, in hindsight, this is where the kit designers started to go wrong). I painted these using Citadel Rakarth Flesh and Leadbelcher, copiously sponge chipped, then sealed with a wash of Agrax Earthshade. I also had to scratch-build new hinge pieces for the rear door (the kit parts were too misshapen to use) and fitted some tiny magnets to hold the door closed.

I think "menacing" is the word for this vehicle...

Since I built the kit with the top hatch open, I needed to fit a commander... this one is built from a Renegade torso with regular plastic Guard legs and arms. I painted his tunic field grey, similar to the rest of the force, but different from the Leman Russ commander who gets a full camo oversuit. My rationale follows the example of the German army in WW2, where the tankers wore special black or camo suits and the assault gun and self-propelled artillery crews wore field grey.

In stark contrast to assembly, painting the beast was straightforward and enjoyable. I basecoated with Mechanicus Standard Grey and drew it up to a mix of MSG and Celestra Grey. After applying decals (thanks Greg), I chipped the Hell out of the paint with a sponge, followed by a Nuln Oil wash to bring it back together. Some rust streaking with pigment mixed in solvent, and a final dusting of powders finished the job. Lenses were painted and glossed.

I'm really looking forward to the game with this vehicle. Yes, it will probably get destroyed on the first turn, but seeing it on the table will be cool. And while I would paint another one in a second, I hope never to build one again.

11th Painting Challenge Entry, Part 1 - Potecknov's Bears

Soviet armoured column rumbles through a town..

My eleventh entry to Curt's Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge was a big one - a "points bomb" in the nomenclature of the Challenge.  It's a big slug of 15mm Soviet stuff for "Team Yankee". This stuff was a lot of fun to submit, but I want to break it down into a couple of different postings over here on our blog.  So here is part one of that submission - the elements of the "Potecknov's Bears" box from Battlefront - 10 T-72A tanks and two Mi-24 gunships.

"Army" box from Battlefront - lots of toys in this one
All of these models are multi-part plastic kits.  I've blathered before about my little-love-mostly-hate relationship with plastic models in this scale.  These models were par for that course.  Overall the T-72s are very nice looking kits, but the cupola MG was prone to snapping while on the sprue (they give you two on each sprue, in fact, to try and protect against this).  The connection points for the unditching beams - a ubiquitous feature of Soviet MBTs - barely touch the actual unditching beams, leading to nearly all of them being re-mounted. The smoke launchers tend to break while coming off the sprues, and are so fiddly they will not survive any real effort to remove the plastic flash.

T-72A platoon
Painted with a mix of Vallejo and GW paints

Lots of tank commander figures included for you

Mine plows! Nice touch...
But let's look at the positives too - nice models at the end of the day!  Very, very nice in fact! You get options on whether the cupola is open or closed.  There are a whole bunch of tank commander figures.  And there is a set of mine plows on each sprue, a nice feature you can use to your heart's content. And you get two really neat helicopter gunships! If you are psyched about gaming the Cold War in 15mm, this box will really get you fired up!

Mi-24s ready to attack!

Fiddly, but fun to have

The Mi-24s, like the tanks, are also a little tricky to assemble.  But you can't fault Battlefront for lack of ambition with these suckers - you even have the option to model them with the landing gear down! And you get magnets to assist with mounting on the base as well as mounting the main rotors. The small parts are sure tricky, but compared to other 15mm options out there for Mi-24s - and I'm not really aware of any beyond QRF - this takes the cake, and whatever my challenges with the models it is a very nice treat to have these pieces of iconic Cold War kit ready to stalk the table.

Clear discs would look nicer than static rotors, but still, overall, these are nice kits, nicer than any available competitor

Areas for improvement with the helos? Well, as with the other kits, they could improve the plastics.  Again, the risk of the parts snapping on the sprue is high.  In fact, one small piece meant for the rotors was broken on the sprue while in the box for both of the helos.  Fortunately, it is not visually that significant, so no big deal, but again, !#$!$## plastic!!!  And while I on the subject of the rotors...I find the static rotors don't look very compelling when the model is sitting there on the flying base.  An acrylic disc would look better, and probably be easier to model.  Maybe something I can look into in the future.

T-72s advance in propaganda photos

I modelled the Hinds with the gear down, so they can land on the table to drop off troops

On the whole, I find the effort to create multi-part plastic models of 15mm tanks a significant effort to re-invent the wheel.  When it comes to tanks, I much prefer the simpler mixed-media kits which are still very nice (for example, the tanks available from Khurasan) that probably would have arrived a lot sooner to store shelves.

T-72s roll out
But I'm not in the business, they are, and I think Battlefront must know their business!  On the whole, Battlefront's launch of "Team Yankee" has sent a nice jolt through 15mm moderns, and I can't complain about that.  I'm pleased to have these fellows finished, and I look forward to adding more - probably another company of tanks and another pair of Hinds.  Hopefully the guys will be up for a Cold War tank battle soon...

Up next - some Soviet motor rifles!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Painting Challenge Theme Entry - Victorian Couple

This should help with the local ruffians...
For several years now Curt has been including various bonus theme categories during his Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge.  Participation is not mandatory, and the interpretations of the themes are often quite elastic, but in general this has lead to some extremely creative submissions.  Plus you get bonus points!

Many of the Challenge participants are top-shelf painters, and skilled at creating incredible vignettes.  I am not one of those Challengers, and so I have tended to ignore the bonus themes unless they coincidentally lined up with something on my pending desk.

But, as Curt had said to me once in an unrelated conversation, "This is a painting challenge, after all..." so this year I have been trying to stick with it.  This latest theme, I wasn't so sure I would make it, however.  The theme was "l'amour".  As the submission date fell on Valentine's day, the theme made sense, but I had no idea what figures to paint. Given that I am busy with 15mm Team Yankee and stuff, I didn't exactly have anything underway I thought would work, even under the "goblin spider precedent".

But I have tons of stuff lying around the in the lead pile. A quick rummage turned up these two figures. I thought they might be some kind of Victorian couple, or perhaps interpreted that way.  These are two figures from Wargames Foundy's "Darkest Africa" range.

For fun, I submitted that the scene in question is all about the photo I just goofed around with the captions, in lieu of coming up with some kind of amazing vignette.  These figures don't have much immediate wargame impact, but they would/could be useful in a pulp game, or as characters in some kind of colonial encounter.

THAT is an indecent proposal, sir...
I do so enjoy sport hunting in the spring...
So, another theme round managed! There are two more theme rounds left (in fact, the end of the Challenge is coming quickly - I hope that means spring will be here shortly as well).  I'm scraping towards my 1,000-point target, although I'm getting murdered in my side-duels...should be a fun race to the finish!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tenth Painting Challenge Entry - "Curtgeld" - Cally Samstag, Activated 26, Orestes PDF

Cally Samstag (centre), Golla Uldana (left) and Janny Wirmac (right)
When you participate in the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge, Curt asks for a single 28mm figure to be done for him as an "entrance fee" (and he makes a donation to a local pet shelter for each figure received, as an added incentive).  The figures in question are to match the theme of a given Challenge, although you can make a wide interpretation of this. These figures have come to be known among the Challengers as "Curtgeld", and I used my 10th entry to the Challenge to pay my Curtgeld for this year.

The theme this year is a figure characterized as a "risk-taker, daredevil or gambler." I spent a while trying to come up with something Curt might find interesting, and I settled on these three figures.  They are meant to represent Cally Samstag, member of Activated 26, from the Tertiary Reserve of the Oreastean Planetary Defence Force.  She is joined by two fellow members of Activated 26 - Golla Uldana, and Janny Wirmac. Who are these folks? Why would Curt care?  Here is the background...

If you enjoy 40k, you need to read this book
These are all characters from Dan Abnett's novel "Titanicus".  This is one of my favourite novels, and I think Curt really enjoys it as well. To understand why I thought these characters would be good Curtgeld, I need to share a bit about the novel and its story.

I imagine this figure as Cally Samstag

She is equipped with basic kit, and a MK2 lasrifle.  Use against enemy titans? Zero.
"Titanicus" is set in Games Workshop's 40k universe, and features an "engine war", an invasion of the Forge World of Orestes by the forces of the Archenemy - a traitor Titan Legion.
Golla Uldana, a delivery nurse from Orestes, called out to join the fighting as a member of the reserves
Normally, worlds like Orestes are well-defended - Forges have their own Titan Legions, and Titans kick ass. Who worries about invasion when a huge force of 100-foot walkers, 200-foot walkers and 300-foot walkers, together with assorted support elements, are handy? But in "Titanicus", most of the Orestean Titan Legion (Legio Tempestus) has been sent elsewhere, and the skeleton force left behind is falling rapidly in battle.  The Imperium has messed up, and Orestes is vulnerable. The situation is so desperate the Imperial Governor calls out the tertiary reserves of the Oresetean Planetary Defence Force.

Janny Wirmac, young daughter of a high-born family in Orestes

The Victoria Lamb sculpts are incredible
An "engine war" in 40k is the worst kind of battle - Titans vs. Titans, laying waste to everything in sight.  The scale of destruction is enormous, and victory in this context is pyrrhic at best. In such a war, even elite heavy infantry can do little but pray to survive.  The tertiary reserves, the very last line of defence, have even less of a chance.  Cally Samstag, Golla Uldana and Janny Wirmac are members of that reserve, and they go to battle in "Titanicus"...

For a 40k setting fan like me, this "engine war" as related by Abnett is, of course, the coolest! Big machines! The Mechanicum! The Archenemy! Massive Titans beating each other to bits! Entire hive cities in ruins! Awesome! But what Dan Abnett does so well as an author, in my opinion, is that he calibrates the context properly.  Through the eyes of Cally Samstag, you see the Titan war not as a fan boy of the genre and setting, but as a real "civilian" might.  Not the vista of heroic, genetically modified soldier, or configured mechanicum engine god, but a regular person, who had been living a regular life, called forth to face terrors you mostly read and heard about, but never thought were real.  It is terrifying - and so well done in the hands and mind of a gifted writer like Abnett.

So why is Cally a "risk-taker, a daredevil or gambler"? Cally and her husband Stefan had relocated to Orestes from a different Imperial world in the hopes of a better life.  Stefan is a skilled labourer, in high demand on Orestes, but Cally is a junior clerk.  To get the permission needed for relocation from the Imperium's Maoist-style government, Cally had to agree to serve with the Tertiary Reserve of the Orestean PDF.
"No," he whispered.

"It was always a possiblity."

"I can't believe it."

"It was always a possibility Stef." she repeated

Cally Samstag took a risk of agreeing to join the PDF so she and her husband might have a better life.  When war found Orestes, the gamble catches up with Cally and other members of the reserve...

Three members of "Activated 26"

These figures are 28mm female Arcadian Guard from the excellent Victoria Lamb.  I have to say I was a little disappointed at the amount of flash on the figures - lots and lots of prep needed - but overall, they are just tremendous sculpts, and it is great to see a line of figures which includes female sci-fi troops without having them appear to be complete dork fantasies or BDSM play acting rejects.  The Victoria Lamb sculpts are everything the plastic GW Imperial Guardsmen might have been, and her range of figures affords Imperial Guard fans a whole new outlet to collect for the setting without having to use the roid-addled and overly round plastic Cadians from GW's current line of figures.

I used a colour scheme that would match my other, older, GW Imperial Guard collection.  I don't recall any specifics about colours of the Orestean PDF in the "Titanicus" book, so I thought the colours would work OK. I hope Curt will enjoy them!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Ninth Painting Challenge Entry - Downed 40k Valkyrie Crew

Two Valkyrie crewman walk away from a rough landing kitchen...
A few weeks ago Sylvain dropped a points bomb into the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge in the form of his whacky "Viet Cron", Necrons from GW's 40k setting he had crafted and converted into pseudo-Viet-Cong-style insurgents.  It was a wonderful and bonkers tribute to GW's juvenile ethnic pandering among its factions.  In his posting, he named some Valkyries I had painted years ago and posted here on our blog as part of the inspiration for his project. Well, I wanted to acknowledge and honour that little shout-out in Sylvain's hilarious and well-done submission with a little tribute of my own, and that is the inspiration behind my ninth entry into the Challenge.

I thought perhaps the Viet-Cron could use some "targets", so I dug through my lead pile and found these two 28mm downed pilot figures.  I painted them with crew fatigues in a colour to match my Valkyrie models Sylvain had cited in his post.

These two figures are actually from the long-lost line of 28mm modern figures from Mongrel Miniatures.  They had a fantastic range covering the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and these two are actually Soviet helicopter crewmen.  Change the colours, and I think they make fine Valkyrie pilots for the 40k setting!

Sore shoulder from a rough landing on my counter-top
It's too bad the Mongrel figures are gone, as they were wonderful, wonderful sculpts, and I'm glad to have a sizeable collection. That's part of the reason I always buy way too many figures when I see some I like, as you just never know when they will disappear...

Some Imperial Guard storm troopers escort the pilots....
The recovery of downed pilots always makes for a good game background, particularly one with a (warped) hint of Viet-Cong-style insurgent flavour. So I thought these two figures would make ideal objective markers for when Sylvain and I manage to connect some time for a battle with the "Viet-Cron".  In the actual Vietnam war US forces often went to great lengths to recover pilots, and the knowledge in general among troops that their brothers- and sisters-in-arms will go to almost any length to recover fallen and trapped comrades seems, to my lazy civilian can, to be a prime instrument of motivation and camaraderie among the troops. So I thought these two would work for a themed game with the "Viet-Cron".

Of course, this is 40k, so it would need a dystopian twist.  The Imperials wouldn't just be out to rescue the pilots.  They would want to rescue them to ensure they didn't know too much, and then execute them properly, not trusting the Viet-Cron to do it. The pilots are rescued (killing many more Imperial troops in the process), interrogated and then shot by the Inquisition..happy ending for The Emperor, and something pyrrhic for the grim darkness of the far future...

"This way guys - what could go wrong?"
These two 28mm figures toss a paltry 10 points toward my score.I look forward to seeing Sylvain's bonkers Viet-Cron trying to hunt these hapless fellows down on the gaming table sometime this year!