Sunday, 16 July 2017

A Ninja and a Shed

While I'm never going to have the vast towers and murky streets of Blade Runner, the setting I've been gradually putting together does have a vaguely cyberpunk feel, like a border town in the future, where high technology sits alongside waste and junk.

There's always been a strong Japanese element to cyberpunk, probably because the genre was invented around 1980, when Tokyo looked to be the city of the future: Blade Runner has blimps advertising sushi, and Neuromancer has a replicant ninja. In keeping with this, I converted a ninja-type assassin from various bits I had lying around.

The head and torso come from a 40k Vindicare assassin, which I got cheaply with a load of broken parts (someone else had already hacked the legs off). The right arm and gun originally were part of an Infinity model, and the left arm is from a genestealer hybrid. The legs were based on the legs of a plastic Eldar guardian, although I had to cut them down because they were incredibly long. I sculpted some appropriate shoes instead of the pointy boot things that Eldar seem to wear.

Here he is with a bit of paint. As ever, he's slightly washed out, so the colour looks more extreme than it actually is. Strangely, the contrast on the base has hardly come out at all.

The other current project is a clinic for the Necromunda town, based on a TT Combat model. At present, it looks like a big white shed.

It will look better once I've stuck some more bits on. I'm thinking of getting hold of the recent objectives set to make some medical gear for the interior, and perhaps building a more technological extension on the side. It's got plenty of potential - which means that it's a long way from being finished.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Nurgle Champion

So great was the corruption of the governor that folk did not argue about whether he would fall to Chaos, but which of the ruinous powers would claim his soul. The governor's crazed ranting had inspired many a Khornate militia to go on the rampage. His subterfuge and treason were worthy of a devotee of Tzeentch. And his depraved, insatiable lusts would have made a priest of Slaanesh wince.

But ultimately he belonged to Nurgle, the god of corruption and decay. Now his name is lost, and he is known only as Threebellies, a monster as bloated as he is stupid, whose ruins everything he touches.

I've never really been very into Chaos in Warhammer, either in fantasy or 40k, although some of the really old stuff has an entertaining Hieronymous Bosch feeling. It's pretty take-it-or-leave-it for me, and most of it I'd leave. In particular, I've never really got Nurgle, whose models always looked a bit jolly and suffered from an excess of tentacles.

Anyway, a friend of mind gave me part of a really old metal Great Unclean One. I had no real use for it, until I discovered that the upper body of one of the riders from the Maggoth kit fitted really well on top of it. By which I mean that it was grossly misproportioned.

I found a tutorial for painting suitably rancid skin and followed it. He does look a bit like a mouldy strawberry up on end, but in the circumstances, that might not be an entirely bad thing.


Tuesday, 4 July 2017


Presidential Decree 69784/603/17
Top Secret

Dear science guys,

Listen, I have had the best idea how to solve the prison overcrowding crisis and the recruitment problem at once! We get convicts and fill them with drugs and stuff until they're really big and kind of mutated like that guy in that cartoon. And mad, too. They've got to be mad. Then, we point them at the bad guys and let them loose! Cool, huh?

 Of course, we'd want real crazies to begin with, homicidal maniacs and stuff, otherwise it won't work. And we'd need to give them lots of big weapons. Sometimes, I amaze myself with all the brilliant ideas I have. It's gonna be great, so great. I can't see how this could go wrong.

For a while I've been interested in the "Storm of Sigmar" starter set for Warhammer Age of Sigmar: mainly because for £20 you get a lot of pretty decent models. In particular, I think the armoured Khorne chaps are really well sculpted and would make an excellent replacement for the old and lumpy plastic Chaos Space Marines. I've also been tempted to have a go at converting some Sigmarines, and this seemed to be the easiest way to get some on the cheap.

The box comes with five "bloodreavers". These are low ranking Khorne fighters (Khorne seems to be the chaos god of choice in AoS, and now everything Khorneish has "blood" in the title), and to my mind they're a bit too massive to be entirely convincing as normal humans. I thought it would be good to update them to look like post-apocalyptic maniacs, like the War Boys from Mad Max or the Raiders from Fallout.

That involved cutting off their Viking-style helmets and replacing some of their weapons. I also did some minor converting to make the poses a bit more dynamic. I gave them metal gas mask heads from Pig Iron Productions to make them look more sinister.

Painting-wise, I went for orange convict-type trousers and a lot of dirt. I wanted to use a messy style on the torsos, with a lot of washes over a pale undercoat, but it was too messy and I just ended up painting them in the usual way. Oh well: it's pretty messy as it is.

Now, on a different note, you're clearly people of excellent taste (after all, you're reading this...). So why not pre-order my next novel? The Pincers of Death, an exciting tale of war, giant soldier ants and hovering teapots right: HERE. I can promise that the jokes in it are even better than the ones here. Honest.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Inglorious Technicolor!

While I really enjoy making terrain, I've found that my natural instinct is to colour everything grey. Although most fantastical buildings probably would be made of either stone or concrete, it does make for a rather drab battlefield, especially if you can't paint the neon lights like those in Blade Runner.

So I decided to experiment with some colour. I looked at pictures of the favelas in Rio, where crude buildings are often painted very brightly, and tried to do a colour scheme like that on a model. The building I made was built out of a cheap wooden chest that I bought at an art shop (perhaps for storing jewellery) on top of a lower storey made out of textured plasticard. Additional doors, windows and tech stuff were attached to break up the outline from a variety of old models and basing kits.

I'm really not sure what to make of the result. The green colour bothers me a bit: I tried to mute it down with sponged-on highlights/dirt, but it does feel very lurid. I'm reminded of the sort of "you'd never know it was a shampoo bottle, honest" terrain from the early days of wargaming. That said, the colours do tie in quite nicely with the market stalls and some of the random machinery that I've already made. Here's a back view:

I do like the brickwork (it's a bit washed out here) and the object source lighting. I'll have a think about the green colour. If either of you readers happen to have any thoughts, please do send me a comment below.

Anyway, more terrain. For some reason, since time immemorial, it has been the custom in the UK to sell oranges in a mesh bag. Recently, these bags have had a sort of plastic fishnet panel at the front. I hacked up one of these and used it as wire for a fence. Stuck between bits of sprue, and suitably painted, it looks quite convincing.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Zombie Flamenco Apocalypse!

Please note that the following post contains graphic descriptions of both rooting and tooting, and hence may not be suitable for those of a sensitive disposition.

This weekend was the Glastonbury Festival, and so my friend James and I met up to stay inside, play board games and drink tea.

First was Project Z, Warlord Games' zombie wargame. This was the first time either of us had played it, and for simplicity's sake we took on a solo scenario, controlling three survivors of the apocalypse each. We had to get from one side of the board to the other, battling through a shuffling horde of the undead on the way.

The rules were reasonable, in that they made sense and had plenty of opportunity for strategy and cunning. We played the scenario twice: the first time, all the survivors reached "safety" (in this case, a ruined building that was about as safe as a house made out of dynamite in the middle of a forest fire). The second time, one of our survivors, a bold fellow with a chainsaw, was pulled down and devoured.

Many zombies were slain, so many that the undead were forced to recruit some extra help from James' stock of Konflict 47 German zombies. The modern and Nazi zombies sealed a sinister pact in a scene that was much like the inlay art of Dark Side of the Moon.

Comfortably numbed

Overall, we agreed that for £30, Project Z wasn't bad at all.

Next up was the very reliable Shadows of Brimstone, also known as Cowboys v Cthulhu. Once again it was time to mosey on down to the old mine and draw a six-shooter on some varmints from Hell.

A horde of zombies prospectors and flamenco dancers attack the heroes

The first mission involved slaying industrial quantities of zombies, after which we were both rather tired of the shuffling dead, even if some of them were dressed like flamenco dancers. Taking on a new mission, both Sherrif Meatballs and Doc Casserole pulled their weight again, butchering a wide and colourful range of monsters and sending them to wait at the edge of the board.

In a truly manly climax, Sherrif Meatballs whipped out his Sherrif's badge, the sight of which sent Doc Casserole into a frenzy. Shooting wildly in all directions, Casserole squeezed off twelve bullets in a single turn, like the rootin', tootin' son of a gun that he is, scything through a range of monsters, and the day was saved. The mine was strewn with more bodies than a Nick Cave ballad. The two adventurers swaggered off to town to drink whiskey and have their mutations cut off.

Doc Casserole in action. Note (a) rooting and (b) tooting

 And then we tried Shadow War: Armageddon. This game pits small groups of Warhammer 40k soldiers against each other, and is strongly based on Necromunda. So far, so good. James took five harlequins and I used my squad of ork commandos.

The orks lurking innocently behind some shops

And then it went a bit wrong. The harlequins had special rules that made them very hard to hit and completely impossible to pin, as well as being able to pass straight through cover. They charged the orks and went through them like a knife through butter. The orks fought back - and died immediately. It was clear that the game was as good as over, and we called a halt to things.

My feeling is that the various forces are too different for the game to run smoothly, and the ability of the harlequins to ignore the pinning rule (which is pretty fundamental to Necromunda) was a gigantic advantage. We decided to give it another try, but with less extreme forces. Bit of a shame, that.

Anyhow, a very good weekend was had by all (well, both). Quality stuff!

But That's Heresy 4: Special Rules

I’m beginning to think that a wargame stands or falls on its special rules, and the more special rules it has, the greater the chance it has of falling.

The problem with special rules is that they override normal rules. They tend to say “No matter what, this happens” or, perhaps worse, “No matter what, you can’t do that”. Let me give you an example.

Years ago, I played Fantasy Battle against a High Elf army. I carefully positioned a tough unit of lizardmen to charge a smaller unit of axe-pixies (or swordsmen or whatever they were). I charged, ready to make the most of my cunning deployment. But it was not to be.

The High Elves had a rule that not only meant that they always struck first, but that they got to reroll any misses. My cunning lizardmen were simply wiped out before they had the chance to strike back. Had the High Elves not had that rule, I would have won hands (claws?) down. 

A High Elf trying to look casual.

I learned my lesson. Quite simply, anything that touched the axe-pixies would die without a chance to hit back. So I bought some fire-breathing lizards. The next battle, I kept away and set the whole axe-pixie unit alight from range. Sometimes, revenge is a dish best served flambé.

You might argue that I ought to have known about the special rule before I played. I'm not convinced by this. I feel that, as a fairly casual player who nevertheless wants to have a fair chance of winning, I shouldn't be confronted by rules that can't be got around and seem to go against the common sense of how you win a tabletop battle (by manouvering, charging first, etc). The rules should roughly follow the logic of the game.

The special rule, therefore, had two effects. First, it won my opponent the first battle without him having to put in any effort. It caught me by surprise and meant that all my manouvering was a waste of time: anything attacking the axe-pixies would just die. Second, it meant that I never went near them. Every time they appeared, I killed them from range. 

Some lizardmen, out for a stroll.
So what was the upshot of this? Largely that, by having this special rule, the axe-pixies were a waste of space. My opponent didn’t get to use them, because I wouldn’t and couldn’t fight them, so buying them was something of a waste of money for him. And they forced me into one particular tactic: not a dirty trick as such, but one that trumped his unit as it would have inevitably trumped any of mine if I had let it reach them.

I doubt this made the game better for either of us. This sort of thing doesn’t open up tactical opportunities: it closes them, forcing players to get around the special rule in a particular convoluted way. Neither I nor my opponent became better players or had more fun because of it. 

This is one of the reasons why Necromunda is such a good game. Because everyone is so similar (they’re human riff-raff), they all have nearly the same rules. Nobody can spring huge surprises on the other. When you lose, you don’t feel cheated, and when you win, you feel like you’ve earned it. And the games are almost always close run. If you are going to have special rules, they should: (1) apply to everyone (in which case, are they still special?); (2) have a very small, limited effect; and (3) not go against the common sense of a player who doesn’t know them.

Ten years later, am I still hung up about the High Elves (who were not even proper elves, because proper elves wear green and live in trees) and their special rules? Of course not. But it's a fair point. And I watched the axe-pixies burn. Yes, burn.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Gaze Upon My Orks And Despair!

The last two yoofs are finished for the ork commando force. These guys came as "broken", because their weapons had snapped off. I gave the one on the right a Roman soldier's sword to act as a commando dirk. He's probably the weakest sculpt of the four: I think the old moulding methods rather limited his movement. The other yoof's axe had broken off. Because every commando unit in an old war film has an explosives expert (or just a lunatic who likes things that go bang), I drilled a piece of dyed string into the handle of the axe and painted it as a stick of dynamite.

The unit now has ten members, and is ready for a bit of gorilla warfare!

Warlord games had a half-price sale, and I bought a couple of ruined houses sold for Bolt Action. The houses are Italieri kits and small, even by Warlord's standards. I assembled one and painted it in a quick, rough way for use as a generic ruin. I left off the sandbags and modern details, and cut away the top of the doorframe to make it look less tiny. To be honest, if I had bought these things at full price (£16 each!) I'd be feeling cheated.

At any rate, it can't be that terrible, because Orke Waaargate has taken up residence in it.

An Englishman's home is his castle. An ork's home is his hovel.

And finally, a bit of resin terrain from Spellcrow which I bought ages ago. I don't think all the bits were sent, but as with much Spellcrow stuff, it's a really nice, detailed sculpt.

Needs work, but plenty of opportunity for extension.

Now, how will the orks perform in combat? Will the terrain be getting some use shortly? Wait and see.