Thursday, 29 December 2016

End Year Review: 2016

So as I write this the news that Carrie Fisher died earlier today is still sinking in. Of course she is not the only original cast member to die this year. Kenny Baker was lost to us in August. It's odd, I'm kind of inured to Star Trek original cast members dying, even Leonard Nimoy was no great shock and I'd been saying he was next for some time (though I mourned his passing none the less for it). But Star Wars is a little different, Carrie Fisher wasn't even that old at 'only' 60. Still we must accept that all the original cast are getting old now and I'm sure we will lose more in the next few years to come, made all the more poignant by the continued relevance of the film series. I've just put on Episode IV: A New Hope, it seemed fitting.

To us she was royalty. 

I must also mention Wayne England, Inimitable and a giant in his field, his passing was a low point of the year. Such will be the same when other artistic masters leave us, as they are doomed to do one day. I'm still surprised that GW haven't done an Illuminations tribute. Surely they own the images.

SO tough to choose one picture of his but I have always liked this piece. 

With honours paid to the dead let's move on. Although 2016 has been a horrific year for celebrity deaths (Bowie, Rickman, Prince, Anton Yelchin, to name but a few) it has been rather a splendid one for the hobby. And I don't just mean GW. Many other companies have had a sterling year with some very exciting releases.

Fantasy Flight have released ships from Rebels and now Rogue One for Armada and X-wing, I think it's fair to say that they make enough from Star Wars to offset the losing of the Games Workshop license, although I expect it is a blow nonetheless. However, it was fully on the cards given the amount of standalone games that GW has been releasing recently. In addition I suspect that blurring the line between board game and miniature game recently may have forced GW's hand as FFGs output could be seen as encroaching on their territory more with each release. In addition FFG have continued supporting Imperial Assault and their usual eldritch horror line of games. They have also released the Doom Boardgame, I have picked this up and should be reviewing it at some point, the models in particular look terrific.

Hawk have managed to get Dropfleet Commander launched and started to fulfill the Kickstarter pledges. It's not all been smooth sailing though and they still haven't finished fulfillment several months later, citing all sorts of problems for the delay. Hopefully they haven't done too much irreprable damage to their reputation in the process. Damage control needed methinks over the next few months. I'm still waiting on one of my pledges myself, thankfully I am a lot more patient than some of the denizens of the Kickstarter comments board.

Speaking of Kickstarter, I am still waiting on Prodos and Marrow to finish their respective campaigns, this is three years on now so that kind of puts Hawk's delay into perspective. I also backed IDW's Turtles Board game (and forgot that I did so) and that is due in the next month or so, sitting in customs over the christmas period. Prodos must also be mentioned for purchasing and ruining the Space Crusade name in one fell swoop with a line of poorly considered and gratiously explicit models.

I'm no SJW but this is utter crap.

Wayland Games bought Wild West Exodus, I must confess I already play more than enough systems but I will be keeping one eye on events there, It will be interesting to see what transpires.

Jason Fairclough has expanded his fledgling Wasteman game, (which is a lot of fun, you should check it out) with two sucessful Kickstarter campaigns to expand the range and also a fee PDF expansion. With a fantasy version coming out soon, the fun is not over yet by a long shot.

Privateer Press launched new editions of their flagship games and continued their own move into plastic and there were a raft of the usual board game Kickstarters which I SOMEHOW managed to keep myself from backing.

This is the KS that came closest to breaking my resolve. So very very tempted. 

And to GW, the big one, and I think it is fair to say this was one of the best years the company have had in a long time. Certainly it was the one in which feelings of old were rekindled and GW felt like the company I used to love back in  the day. A relaunched and largely excellent White Dwarf, The superb antics of Warhammer TV, (The Sisters of Battle in a bin will be long remembered) the return of the Daemon Primarchs, The resurgence of Age of Sigmar, Overkill, Blood Bowl, Prospero Burns,.. the list goes on and on....I almost forgot the Genestealer Cult's return. It has been a sterling year for the big GW. Rowntree's excellent work continues. Let's not forget the return of GW to social media too!

Just one of a series of highlights from Games Workshop this year. 

And by all accounts this is only the beginning. Next year is 40k's 30th anniversary and it seems certain we will get an eighth edition following Abbadon's 13th Black Crusade. It looks very much like 40k end times and all sorts of things are being rumoured such as the return of loyalist Priamrchs and an AOS-ing of the rules. Personally I hope the core rules do not change too much, AOS is too simplistic for my tastes and I would hate to see 40K go the same way. A streamlining of the rules would be welcomed though, it would be nice to be able to play the game without referring to multiple books.

A peek at things yet to come? Nice hat.

And what about personally? Well, the Conclave website finally became unviable financially and I need to back up the content and get it archived on this very blog before the hosting expires ( I think I'll keep the domain just in case, however). The property I was looking to buy fell through (in more ways than one) and I ended up renting a much smaller (yet structurally compliant) place. Thus ended my dreams of having a dedicated gaming room, at least for the time being. Still, these things happen and I still have a corner for my painting desk and a table for gaming.

A little something to ease myself back into painting.

And speaking of such I have at last managed to relaunch my hobby, having played quite a few games (admittedly mostly boardgames as opposed to wargames) and get a bit of painting done. A small fleet for Dropfleet Commander and the start of my Heresy Ultramarine army. I have also done a lot of assembly for what it is worth. Sadly personal issues continue to impact my productivity and creativity so I have learned to be thankfully for what little I do accomplish. I got Dreadfleet out for a bash the other day though my ship was sunk by my girlfriend, and am half tempted to do a write up as I feel it was a bit harshly judged at the time. I really want to get the models painted too.

She only won thanks to her stupid lucky fox...

The excellent yet brutal Rogue One has dictated my painting for this week though. Imperial Assault has some very nice miniatures and after stumbling upon Sorastro's painting channel on Youtube I have been inspired to get the core set done, of course I haven't made all that much progress, true to form but the Royal Guard are done at least, painted this very day (edit - 3 of them are, I had a feeling there were four and indeed it appears I left one on the kitchen worktop. It won't take long though and I can use it to show progress shots compared to the finished ones.

Really satisfying to paint. Probably the last models of 2016

Overall my hobby year has ended on a high note and it is just a case of trying to continue and keep what momentum I have gained, I'll keep writing stuff for the Conclave as time allows and am planning regular games with Lee for the new year. After all, there is a 13th Black Crusade to repel and I don't think GW will be retconning this one.

And that is about it, When I first started writing this the Tantive IV was being boarded, now Luke has blown up the Death Star and is about to get his medal from Princess Leia.

RIP Carrie Fisher. May the Force be with you. Always.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Conclave Game Review: Firefly Shiny Dice.

There should be a fair few reviews coming up on the Conclave soon, it's that time of year and I have received a handful of games as gifts which need playing and reviewing. Two of those are Firefly games, and one of those is Shiny Dice.

Apparently, this didn't start out as a Firefly game at all, rather it's inception was something that the designer used to play with his son and the Firefly identity was bolted on a little later. The game attracted the attention of publisher Upper Deck and after being previewed at Gencon was finally released a year or so ago. Now there are not exactly a large amount of Firefly games out there so this release was met with some anticipation. Firefly may not have been a widespread success but it is certainly rabidly appreciated by it's fanbase, the very definition of cult appeal.

Apparently that is River Tam behind Mal... hmmm....

I likely would never have picked this game up myself, especially given the rather shocking art on the box cover (River looks nothing at all like Summer Glau) but seeing as it has been bought for me as a gift that doesn't matter.

Nor is the game of a type that I would usually be drawn to, being one of those push your luck dice games. I don't have anything against them per se, I just don't tend to play them. I think I am usually of the preconception that they are a little bereft of detailed mechanics and owe far too much to luck as opposed to any kind of strategic ability. Shiny Dice is a game that can be played Solo or in a group of up to five. Find a Crew, get a Job, Keep Flyin' You play for three 'rounds' and the aim is to accrue as many points as you can by the end of the three rounds. Let's give it a try.

So, upon opening the box you have the rulebook (sadly carrying the same naff art) two play mats, a stack of cards and fifteen dice, not a great deal of stuff but then it is not a complicated game. The cards are split up into 100 and 500pts cards (styled like Alliance credits) a mission deck, which have live action shots from the show on them and supply cards which you use for tracking retrieved (stolen?) supplies. All of this can be hidden behind the 5 supplied card screens to keep your opponents from knowing exactly what your score is.

The playmats are made of a thin mouse mat material and art wise match the style if not design of the rest of the set. Some might say it is a little basic and crude but the 'verse is a pretty rough and ready place and it seems to fit nicely. It's certainly functional and the layout is open to no confusion. Oh, the screens have a quick reference guide on the back, I'll mention that real quick. It seems a bit odd to have two mats when you can only use one at a time but I'm not complaining.

A Typical first roll....

So the dice rounds out our contents and this is clearly where the money has been spent. There are five black dice representing the foes that the crew of Serenity face, Niska, Saffron and Badger with two facings for each meaning an equal chance of each turning up. Seven brown dice, which cover the core crew, (the Outlaws), Mal, Zoe, Wash, Jane and Kaylee with the sixth side being for supplies. Lastly there are three white dice which are for the passengers (still technically crew but not Outlaws), Simon, River, Shepherd Book, Inara and again supplies. River get's two facings on each of the white dice so don't be surprised that she crops up more often than not.

That's your contents covered, so how does it play? Well, you roll all fifteen dice at once, to see what you have to work with. The five black dice are the foes that you will have to defeat and the white and brown dice are what you will have to work with to do so. Step one is called getting a crew, by and large you are stuck with what you roll but Wash results (a little Stegosaurus - so cool) will allow you to reroll them along with one brown or white dice (should you so wish, it's not compulsory) whilst River results allow you to do the same but with a black dice, this can be crucial strategically but can REALLY mess you up later so it's a bit of a risk (more on this in a bit)

Definitely laying low after this...

You can only reroll once, and you must reroll everything at the same time. Once you have done so you have the dice that you will use to fight the foe and complete your mission. If you have four or more different brown dice (not including any supplies) you can take one black dice away straight away with the 'team bonus' but after that the bad guys (renamed Foes by insistence of Upper Deck according to the designer) strike.

A pair of glasses is Niska, Niska is bad, if you  remember the series he was the quiet psychopath who REALLY put the hurt on Mal and Wash. So if you have ANY Niska results at the start of the second phase then ONE of your dice (not supplies) must be placed in the KO section on the game mat. You won't be using that one. For EACH Saffron result you must place a crew member in the Cargo Hold, they will be unavailable temporarily. Each Badger result merely captures one of your supplies, put it this way, you want Badger dice, losing supplies is no great loss and you get them back if you defeat him anyway. Similarly Niska KOs one of your crew regardless of whether you have one or five of him so if you have a few it's probably not worth wasting too much time trying to get rid of him in stage one.

So now the Baddies have had a pop you can turn over a mission card. The mission card will have the dice results on it you need to satisfy the conditions and complete the mission. Be warned, your odds of completing the mission are tragically low, in all my games (Solo and otherwise) I have seen two missions get done. Also, don't be surprised if you have inadvertently got rid of something you need to complete the mission, either by rerolling or by actions of one of the Foe. It happens, and not infrequently. We'll discuss that more in a bit.

So, whether or not you have managed to satisfy the mission criteria it's time to take out the bad guys, and this is called misbehaving. If you were lucky enough to draw a Shiny mission you can take another black die away straight away so if fortune is with you you could be down to three. There are other mission types that will effect play but we'll get to those in a bit as well.

Each crew member has a different rule. No two do exactly the same so you will need to think carefully about how you utilise them. Bear in mind anyone in KO or Cargo hold cannot be used right now. Here are your options:

So as you can see there is a surprising amount of tactical depth with some dice that will straight up cause damage, some that will manipulate the dice in play and some that have other in game effects. Each time you use a crew members skill they go in KO, Each time you eliminate a foe (not a dice but all the dice for that foe) you get 100pts which goes into an at-risk pile in front of you, Now, assuming that you have eliminated all of the black dice you have a decision to make, do you carry on (Keep flyin') or end your turn (lay low) If you lay low you take your points and pass the dice to the next player,

If you keep flying you bank the supplies by taking the equivalent in cards but the points are still at risk. You pick up all the dice execpt those in the KO section and roll again, can you defeat the bad guys again with less dice? You keep going as long as you can. losing all the points on the table should you fail to defeat all the foes (completing the mission doesn't matter) so you have to weigh up the potential risk before deciding whether to fly on. Some missions you draw will force you to end your turn and using Shepherd Book's Salvation skill will also end your turn immediately. Any dice can also be used to remove one black dice so even Wash can still be useful if you are stuck with him after rerolling.

My best score after 3 rounds Solo. 3300Pts. 

And that's it, try to score as many points as you can in three rounds, either on  your own or against other players. Personally I have managed no more than three rolls in a round.  There is no real interaction with any other players other than they have to pay into the points pool if you roll more than three of any one foe. And this is one of the problems with the game, which I shall talk about now, for there are a few.

Quality wise and looks wise the game is reasonable, it does feel a little on the cheap side but as I have already mentioned the design matches the rough and ready universe it is set in well enough.

The main problem with the game is the way the rules are written. They are far from concise and in particular the timing aspect of things seems to be very confusing. It's never a good sign when the game designer is clarifying contentious and incorrect rulings (though it is good that he is at least doing so, both on Boardgame Geek and his own Youtube Channel)  after the release. The rules writing really is NOT good, even if the game design is quite accomplished.

To a point. Though the game design provides a lot more depth and tactical potential than I had thought possible from one of these kind of games, I do think that a few mistakes have been made, and given the thanks for the 'brutal honesty' and 'feedback' on the back of the book I am surprised that they have made it into the finished product.

Firstly, Badger is UTTERLY pointless, when you are hoping or trying, to obtain as many results for a certain foe over the others as it represents a vastly reduced threat, then there is a balance issue. Niska is nasty but he is only ever going to KO one dice and Saffron can more or less destroy you there and then by removing much needed dice. Badger just takes your supplies, no real loss there in all honesty, especially when you get them back if you defeat him, I think I would have liked to have seen more of an impact on the game turn.

Secondly, the order in which you do things seems to be off. I've played a fair few games now and the mission completion rate seems to be VERY low. Given the whole idea of Firefly is to finish jobs to keep flyin' it seems a bit odd. It's also a bit odd that there is NO penalty for not completing missions at all. One change that I think might make sense would be to draw the mission FIRST in order so that you might use some strategy when deciding to reroll. This is a change that Scott Morris (the designer) has advocated himself and again it is a little concerning that he has done so. He has also suggested playing WITHOUT the missions but in all honesty although the rewards for missions are negligible the misison types do have an effect on the game and these would be lost should you omit them all together.

It also would have been nice for the missions to have had some bearing on the game, say some missions are for each foe, maybe completing the mission would have you 'solid' with that foe allowing you to reroll one of the the black dice if it comes up for that foe. Prehaps this would have impacted the balance too much, I don't know, I'm not a game designer, I can only review based upon my gaming experience.

I must stress that overall this is NOT a bad game, I have had no small amount of fun with it, it does play quite fast and the rules, although poorly conveyed are not overly complicated. Despite all of the mechanics within the game is still very luck dependant and overall it is the dice that will dictate things with certain rolls completely screwing you over, like if you roll too many supplies at the expense of crew members. It is worth playing though, either on your own as a form of Solitaire or with friends, be warned that the very nature of the game means that there is a fair bit of down time and although you will likely not be able to 'keep flyin' for long whilst you do your opponents are effectively just going to be watching you play. Certainly this is one of the more frequent criticisms that I see leveled at the game and though it is not a deal breaker for me it is worth considering.

One thing that should be applauded is the authenticity of the game and attention to detail that has gone into it in making it as Firefly-ish as possible. Every aspect of the game has been created to be faithful to the short lived TV series and from that aspect it cannot be faulted. Sadly the solidity of the game design cannot be held in the same regard. As mentioned the designer is taking an active role in addressing these issues and has made it plain that the publisher has made a fair few changes which have changed the final design, but you get the feeling it could have used a bit more playtesting and deveelopment. There is a good  game here but it will require a little Kaylee like tinkerin' to find it. Taken as is, these Dice aint so Shiny,

6 Browncoats out of 10.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Conclave Horus Heresy Review: Angels of Caliban by Gav Thorpe

It's fair to say the Dark Angels haven't really enjoyed the best treatment in the Horus Heresy. Descent of Angels and Fallen Angels by Mitchell Scanlon and Mike Lee respectively didn't really do the First Legion any justice and are among the more poorly received entries in the series. Attempts have been made since in numerous short stories (most notably by Gav himself) to redress the balance but there is no question that alongside the Blood Angels Lion'el Jonson's sons are much neglected. Especially considering they play such a significant role in the Heresy. HALF the legion turned yet there has been nary a word written about it bar some vague build up.

Well it is now time for that to change. Gav Thorpe has already done sterling work with the Raven Guard and with Corax due in a few months to provide the climax to the Raven Guard Primarch's story arc, he is free to work on the Dark Angels. After all, the name Gav Thorpe is more or less synonymous with the sons of Jonson.

I was quite apprehensive about this book to be honest. I have mixed feelings about Gav's work when it comes his 40k Dark Angels books. Angels of Darkness was a rightly lauded fan favourite that was groundbreaking at the time. Ravenwing was promising with a few niggling flaws and sadly was the highlight of his Legacies of Caliban series which became far too character focused to the detriment of the overall narrative. Not bad books by any means but I was very much hoping that Angels of Caliban would be better. After all the end of the series read more like a Star Trek episode than anything based in the 41st Millennium.  

Well thankfully it is. I can happily say that Angels of Caliban is another solid entry by Gav and although slighter than many other of it's contemporaries in page length it manages to cover a suprising amount of ground and deal with events of some import. After all the Horus Heresy series is in a weird place at the moment. .

Let's face it, thanks to the Imperium Secundus arc much time has been spent away from the main thrust of the story with Horus very much taking a backseat in his very own Heresy! Let's not forget in the original version the involvement of the Ultramarines was very much a footnote with them being cut off from the fight and therefore in a position to hold the Imperium together in the aftermath of the siege of Terra. That has changed here and though I cannot argue that there has been some great stuff as a result the split in the narrative has been noticeable. 

Well here Gav straddles both, effectively bringing the Imperium Secundus arc to an end and simultaneously moving events on Caliban to a head and moving essential playing pieces into position for the end phase of the Heresy, which is likely still another ten books off at least. The book is evenly split between Ultramar and Caliban and moves at a brisk pace due to its short length.

On Ultramar Jonson is tasked by Emperor Sanguinius to bring Curze to justice. Deeply and personally invested in his quest to take down the Night Haunter the Dark Angels Primarch has been all over Ultramar in an attempt to bring the Night Haunter to heel and is none too gentle in his pursuit of his quarry leading to some interesting conflict in the triumvirate on Macragge as the frailties in Gulliman's fledgling Empire are exposed. Thankfully things do not become too political and bogged down and Gav keeps things brisk and interesting as Curze thwarts his pursuers, as always playing his own twisted game. When he and Jonson do finally clash no one is left disappointing and their duel is gripping as the fallout afterwards.

Meanwhile on Caliban Luther's insurrection takes shape as he looks to solidify his hold on the planet. Having rallied the vast majority of the legion left behind by their Primarch (and imprisoned the rest) he knows that he'll have to make hard decisions and that it will only be so long before he is made to answer for his treachery. Whilst the reasons for Luther's secession from the Imperium and his motives are made quite clear, it did appear that I had missed quite a lot of events, many characters had experienced things that I don't think I have yet read. 

Now I know that the Heresy series is phenomenally fractured and a bit all over the place but the myriad black and gold book spines on my shelf leads me to believe that I have a fairly comprehensive collection. I really would like to know exactly where these events occur because as far as I know I have missed only a few shorts and audio dramas. In any event I would be surprised if the majority of readers were not a little confused. (edit:I have since done some research and the events were covered in 'The Lion' and 'Savage Weapons' which are found in the Novels The Primarchs and Age of Darkness respectively. I would advise reading them first if your memory is as foggy as mine. 

In addition I have to say that although by no means dull, the Caliban set parts of the book are where  Gav seems to stray back into his typical Dark Angels pattern where needless intrigue and mystery are inserted in an apparent attempt to revert to the Angels of Darkness template. That's not to say that there are not highlights here  There are some standout scenes which are excellently done, and Luther is portrayed as a likeable but conflicted character. This said, events right at the end of the book cast him in a more unsympathetic light even though there is some question about who is manipulating who. This is clearly something that Gav intends to continue and only time will tell if he can pull it if without resorting to the tricks he has previously.

So that's Angels of Caliban. Despite it's brevity it is a very solid Heresy book, a typical Gav Thorpe effort. Easy to read and executed with an adroit elan that I was not expecting though the writing still falls short of the very best of the Black Library authors. Gav deftly juggles two completely separate narratives with no small amount of skill and concludes one satisfactorily whilst opening another up for future expansion. He does a great job of moving the important pieces where they need to be for the end stages of the Heresy and the book acts very well as a stopgap or bridge. It was a pleasant surprise and I would certainly recommend picking it up even though I couldn't hand on heart say it was one of the best in the series.

7 Disgruntled Calibanites out of 10.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

The Stuff - An Unboxing

I have a lot of models. It might not be as much as some people but it takes up a lot of room. Most of it is packed away, hopefully in boxes of similar things. I need to make a list of what I have to plan future army builds so I am going through them now we are settled in our new home 

I have a number of plastic boxes like the one pictured which is also the one I am going through today. This one contains orks. I have loads of orks from Rogue Trader through to the present day as well as a number of conversion parts and good old fashioned bits and gubbinz.

These are three mega armoured orks made by Kromlech. I won these through one of those Facebook competitions where you like an image. These models are huge, definitely taller than the metal mega armoured nobz though I don't own any of the plastic ones for reference. First bag and already I want to stop painting Word Bearers and start painting orks.

Bag two is the finecast mekboy with shokk attack gun. I like this model, it has a lot of character. The plastic one that came out subsequently was more or less a copy of what you see here but it felt less alive. I have a metal one somewhere, no doubt we will come across it eventually. On this model I swapped the head out for a more mekboy version from a plastic sprue of some random kit.

Next is a collection of ork parts from Spellcrow. Spellcrow parts have some really nice sculpts and their ork stuff is superb. Here we have some pirate heads, pirate torsos, slugga arms and power klaws.

The heads and torsos I acquired to make a squad of Freebooterz to accompany the flash gitz and Kaptain Badrukk that is also kept somewhere. There is enough to make ten but really I want squads of twenty. You can also see a konfeder-ork head which I believe is actually from Kromlech.

It is a universal truth that power klaws are awesome but there are never enough. These spares will help me bulk out my snipping potential. The pistol arms can be spread out amongst different models or used to make some gun slingers. Maybe a brace of sluggas for the Freebooterz? Also shown is a Kromlech bionik arm.

These are special. A trio of Goffik Rokkerz from Rogue Trader days and a couple of runtherds, one Goff, one Snakebite.I have some arms somewhere to complete these runtherds, modern ork arms are too bulky and look odd when attached. The Rokkerz I want to convert up a drummer to go with them and give them a trukk or battlewagon stage all of their own.

Five plastic Deathskull Looterz. I converted the centre one as every model in the box could take a shooty gun but the fifth model in the box only has parts to be made into a mekboy and I have plenty of them already.

Bit of a mixed bag. The big guy is a miniature that came with the collector's edition of Warhammer Online. The grot shaman on his shoulder is actually controlling the orc. I thought he would make a good Snakebite warboss. The two sets of orc and goblins with the crossed arms are a set I think that was exclusive to Games Day. I am thinking of using them as bodyguards or minders for a weirdboy. Also shown is a collection of bits from other ranges.

Three metal killa kans to get stompy on the pansies and such. They will be pretty solid little buggers once they are put together but not sure which klan to do them as.

The same again but in plastic. These are an example of my early attempts with magnets. The results are mixed but I am able to swap the parts around and they stay attached if left alone. These are going to be Bad Moons.

Here are a selection of characters. There is a painboy, a mek, Boss Zagstrukk and Nazdregg minus his banner pole. I am sure it is around somewhere. When you put him next to other orks you can really see how big Zagstrukk is!

Also in the same bag are a mega armoured, Grimgor (?) less his head, a burna armed mekanik, 11 Rogue Trader era boyz and a placard waving grot. I can find replacement parts for the nob and Grimgor if the parts don't show up.

Another selection of vehicles. This deff dred is of the same pedigree as my metal killa kans so they will be painted the same klan, Blood Axe probably as I have already painted a Goff dred. A trukk that I sorta started but found lots of bits that would be awkward to paint if it were put together so I don't see more progress being made on this until I get round to painting it. Four deff kopters, one of which I found the others are from the Black Reach box set an I have magnetised their rotors, They are half painted, the time consuming metal weathering is complete but the rest of the models needs finishing.

These are all old Rogue Trader or 2nd edition miniatures. A generic runt herd with two runt swarms comprising 13 runts which need re-basing and probably spacing out to get the maximum number of bases out of them. A drummer, an ork in an ill fitting space suit and the body of a minder. If I find another then I have enough to accompany a weird boy.

Here it is! Nazdregg's banner, no surprise it was found with Baddrukk, he probably nicked it to get back at Nazdregg for banning him from the Scylla. Along with these is a Gorka Morka Slaver, one of Brian Nelson's awesome sculpts.

They might not look it but this collection of plastic ork arms are quite valuable. Many of the old Rogue Trader era and 2nd Edition metal orks needed plastic arms to complete them.On the secondary market these models are usually sans arms. Fortunately Diego Serrate recentlysculpted new sets of these arms for one of the Space Raider kickstarters so I am hoping I will be able to buy more sets soon to fully kit out any arm less orks I have.

Phew, that was a lot of stuff crammed in there and it was just the first box, there is loads yet to rediscover.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Original 13th Black Crusade

GW's surprise Twitch broadcast earlier this week unveiled the next 40k Campaign book, The Fall of Cadia. This book details the beginnings of Abaddon the Despoiler's 13th, and presumedly, last Black Crusade. But time is fickle in the warp and some of us remember having already fought this war way back in the halcyon summer of 2003.

The Eye of Terror campaign ran through the summer of 2003 and had players all over the world taking part. Players chose a faction aligned to their army, played games and reported the results back to Games Workshop, mostly via the internet. A full rundown of the campaign can be found here

I took to the field as the Emperor's Children, an army I had been painting continuously for a couple of years up to that point. My army was led by the Emperor's Children warlord Desade and had a colour scheme of my own creation. In fact I recently painted a new model to see if I could remember how that you can see below!

As well as playing the Emperor's Children I was the Emperor's Children member for the Planet Killer Council. This was a think tank organised by my friend Ben Prager. A representative from each major faction of the Chaos forces would meet online every weekend and discuss strategy for the coming week. We would then return to our faction, using Yahoo Groups as that was the most sophisticated example of social media available at the time, and disseminate objectives to our fellow players.

This proved devastatingly effective and after a disappointing start the we Chaos players soon gained the upper hand. It was weeks before the forces of Order were able to organise anything similar. The credits in the Black Library tome 'The 13th Black Crusade' mention us in the with thanks section.

When the campaign was over it seemed we were on the verge of entering the 42nd millenium. The overall result was a minor victory to the forces of Chaos meaning the way was open to move deeper into the Imperium. Ahriman had located the webway and Eldrad Ulthran had been killed, his soul bound by the Keeper of Secrets at the centre of one of the Blackstone Fortresses taken during the Gothic War. Stuff was happening, the story was moving forward. 

This all happened back in 3rd Edition when I was still pretty heavily into gaming. In 2017 the march to Terra for the Legions of Chaos will be the main focus of the 40k narrative and I am really tempted to get involved again. With the release of the Traitor Legions codex we now have the Legion specific rules we always wanted since the mighty 4th Edition codex was replaced and I'm spoilt for choice having an Emperor's Children, Death Guard and Word Bearers force to choose from, though not all of the units are painted. 

The events of that campaign have since been retconned and none of the exciting story points have been kept intact. However it looks like the second run of the 13th Black Crusade is going to be better. Since then we have had the Legions rounded out more with their background from the Horus Heresy and Primarch models are now a thing. New special characters have been created for the next campaign book and the narrative looks set to flow in a more deliberate fashion with a specific end planned.

I'll miss the wild and unpredictable moulding of narrative that came with the campaign but with Games Workshop's engagement with the community in recent months and the return of White Dwarf it is hard not to feel optimistic and a little excited about where all this is heading. 2017 is going to be a good year for hobby.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Hobby Diary 11/12/16

An interesting week for me, I'm now up to six frigates for my UCM and more or less have my colour scheme nailed at this point. It's still not perfect and it's not what I had envisioned by any means but overall it's about as good as I'm going to get and I'm looking forward to getting the fleet done at an increased pace right now.

There has been so much vitriol levelled at Dropzone Commander recently. Disgruntled backers are something that I am certainly used to having backed my fair share of Kickstarters some of which have gone spectacularly awry, but this is a level of toxicity that frankly makes me ashamed to be a part of the community. Let's remember that this campaign, although running late, (I am still awaiting one of my pledges after all) finished barely a year ago. That's a brand new range and game produced and (mostly) delivered in a year. I'm sorry, but in comparison to many Kickstarters that is damn miraculous. Still, it must be said that Hawk have NOT covered themselves in glory here, their organisation and communication has been sub par and as with so many companies it seems that they have woefully underestimated the shipping process. Really six months was a VERY optimistic timescale and it is no surprise they didn't meet that target.

All that said, I would like the game to succeed and look forward to facing Lee in orbital combat sometime soon. Though I don't think he has done much with his fleet, I think he has been focusing very much on Heresy stuff recently.

Which I should be really, and I can assure you that that time IS coming, I have made some progress on my Contemptor but a road bump or two has somewhat curtailed my progress.

The Contemptor was looking really good, Though I am still but the most novice of airbrush users I have to say I am incredibly impressed by the way that  you can build up layers of  paint, both as a time saver and for the finish you end up with it just cant be beat. I'd added some Ultramarine Blue Vallejo Air, improvised some highlights and I was feeling pretty good about the way it was looking.

Until I compared it to the captain that I had already done. Upon comparison the Contemptor was SEVERAL shades lighter, far too many to get away with. I had two options, either lighten up the Captain or darken the Contemptor.

Anyone who has seen my painting (hell the picture of the UCM frigates enough is illustration enough) will know that my 'style' as it were is NOT bright and colourful. No, I tend to paint things very dark, sometimes I think too dark. So I opted to try to bring the Contemptor down a bit. It was the wrong decision. I tried to add a heavy wash of Drakenhoff Nightshade to bring it in line with the Captain a bit more. However, it collected and pooled and overall ruined the nice clean finish I had. Damn and Bugger. I tried to fix it by adding a mid tone and blending the colours a little but it didn't really work. That is the main reason the Contemptor is not finished yet. A shame, I had got it looking really quite nice, I particularly liked the Gold Trim. I'll be doing some heavy weathering to it to hide my painting sins and mistakes.

So with the Contemptor put to one side for now I did what I should have done all along, tried to lighten up the captain.

Really all it involved was trying to bring it up to the Ultramarine Blue through a number of midtones, I was at least partially successful, it's another one of those where I'm just going to leave it before I make it any worse, It's in the it''ll do' category. They at least look like they belong to the same army now. I'll look to get the Contemptor finished and then compare them again, providing I can live with the results I'll be in the position to proceed full steam ahead with the Ultramarines.

So overall this week I'm fairly happy with my progress, I have never been the fastest or most proficient of painters but as long as I am painting something it's gotta be worthwhile right? Christmas is just round the corner but my main plan is to get a cruiser and three more frigates done for the UCM as they are half done already and to get the Contemptor done as well. On the side I have the Silver Tower stuff undercoated and ready to be worked on. I have made a start on some Screamers but I'm mainly going to focus on the stuff actually being used in the game at the moment.

Speaking of games I played some Silver Tower with my Girlfriend. We already had one amulet piece so the choice of challenge was up to us and we got our arses handed to us as we chose one of the harder ones (can't remember which one). Next time round we played a different one and succeeded in securing another amulet piece. I really hope  that GW do an expansion to the game at some point, the base game will only last so long.

The other game we have been playing a lot of is Formula D. I do intend to do a full review of the game for the Conclave at some point but I will say it's a lot of fun. I'm grateful to Wil Wheaton's Tabletop for making me aware of it's existence. Vroom Vroom!

So what has Lee been up to then?

Well Allen is absolutely correct with his comment that I have been concentrating on my Heresy stuff and here are the results, two more completed units! So far this month I have completed the plastic Contemptor from the Calth box and a Rhino to transport my Tactical Veteran squad, or as is more likely once more units are painted, my Heavy Flamer unit.

I've gone heavy on the blasphemous script as I don't want these guys getting mistaken for Blood Angels! How embarrassing. With the Contemptor I had considered adding horns above the head but decided against it once I added the missile launcher. As mentioned before my Word Bearers are lacking in heavy weaponry in their infantry selections in my army as the majority are close combat oriented so I have maximised the amount of fire power I can get out of this model.

I could have replaced the close combat weapon with another gun but I like my dreads to be able to punch back in a fight and the two units I am currently working on, a Deredeo and Leviathan, both lack close combat weaponry so leaving this one gives me a walker with flexibility. Plus I want to see mine and Allen's Contemptor's go head to head at some point without me being at a disadvantage. Of course I could always sic a Mahra Ghal on it but that is overkill.

The Rhino is a Deimos pattern with some Word Bearer brass etched icons attached. I didn't do very much to this. I could have really chaos-ified it but I have been giving that a bit of thought and decided not to.


During the Heresy the Word Bearers were beginning their journey along the dark path. Only the highest ranking and most devout legionaries were manifesting real signs of change. Therefore I will be adding more chaos iconography to the officers and elites and keeping the additions to the line troopers more subtle. I hope that way to show a transition throughout my army. 

Although I also intent to use these models as Chaos Space Marines in 40k I didn't want to just be using Chaos Marines for Heresy games. Still, with the new Legions Codex that has just been release my Word Bearers will be pulling double duty.

Now for the bad news. I broke my airbrush. I was just cleaning it, nothing too rough but when reattaching the fine end nozzle I turned a bit too much and it broke off. This has put a dent in my plans to get on with my Scourge fleet however I have found some £10 airbrushes in China so will be picking one (or two) up after Xmas to get back on track. Till next time.