Sunday, 10 June 2018

Time for Positive Action

I'm returning to the same theme in quick succession, but yesterday, Cavan Scott, one of the writers of the new Warhammer Adventures books for children tweeted this:
https://twtter.com/cavanscott/status/1005198649276747777
This, understandably, lead to a horrified response from a number of wargamers. Gav Thorpe's tweet basically sums it up.
While I largely agree with this, I can't agree that "this is not our community." As much as I'm sure most wargamers wish this were not the case, it has been our community for a long time.

The truth is that the wargaming industry in general, and Games Workshop in particular, has been terrible at representation. While the industry may not have actively welcomed racists and misogynists, by making almost every character white and male, they have done little or nothing to make the unwelcome. They have, in effect, created a safe space for the far-right.

The hostile response to the Warhammer Adventure series needs to lead a to a prompt response from Games Workshop that racism, misogyny and violent threats are unwelcome. Games Workshop certainly used to have a policy that anyone caught shoplifting from Games Workshop or third party retailers would be banned from all their shops and shows. They should extend this to people making hate speech. The company needs to adopt a zero tolerance approach to this.

Secondly, Games Workshop needs to take rapid steps to improve representation in its core games. They have stated that they intend to improve, but that their three year product cycle makes change slow. They need to pick up the pace. It make take time to bring new models to market, but there are things they can do more quickly.

Firstly, they should star work on a new studio army, preferably a Space Marine chapter or a collection of Stormcast Eternals, made up largely, if not exclusively, of not white characters. This is something that can be fixed at the painting stage. This new army should be featured in promotional material and in White Dwarf battle reports.

Secondly, they should take steps to introduce more female characters into their games. For a long time, official Warhammer 40,000 canon has been that all Space Marines are male. This should change. If there has to be an in universe explanation for it, then they can simply state that the new Primaris Marines can be male or female. Space Marine armour is not particularly gendered, so Games Workshop could introduce female Primaris Marines by simply producing a plastic sprue of female heads which can be used with the existing models. They already produce upgrade sprues for the major Space Marine chapters, so a sprue of female heads should not be a major challenge. They should start work on this immediately, and keep fans up to date on their progress.

There is a n opportunity for Games Workshop to push back against racism and misogyny in the wargaming community, they shouldn't miss it.

Monday, 28 May 2018

A few thoughts on Warhammer Adventures

I think it's fair to say that the announcement that Games Workshop would be publishing a range of novels aimed at children has had a mixed response. So far, there have been basically two categories of negative response. The first is that the Warhammer 40,000 universe, in particular, is not at all suitable for children and that doing this will inevitably lead to a "dilution" of the original concept.

The other has been straightforward bigotry.

Some people have less of a problem with the idea of children's books and more with them featuring characters who may not be white and male (or even more shockingly, neither).*

A large part of the problem here is that Games Workshop is based in a country that still treats "White and Male" as the default and everything else as a deviation from that. So introducing a non-white and non-male character looks, to some, like a political statement. This completely misses that presenting all characters as white and male is, itself, a political choice.

It's fair to say that Games Workshop has not had a great record on representation over the years and has been more than willing to follow this "white and male is the default" line. Female characters have existed, but they have tended to be restricted to specific units or armies, often with suspiciously little clothing.

As far as non-white characters go, Games Workshop has, if anything, been even worse. The Warhammer World was set up as an analogue to our own world in which the most of it outside of Europe was either unexplored, uninhabited or full of monsters. Gav Thorpe, rightly, pointed out that there are a quadrillion humans in the Imperium, but its funny how most of those painted by the design studio have ended up as white.
This is something that Games Workshop have been trying to address, albeit slowly. A handful of non-white characters have crept into Age of Sigmar and more female characters have started to appear as well. If Warhammer Adventures is setting a new standard then this is definitely a good thing, though they may still have a long way to go.

Recently, I have been trying to paint a few human models as non-white, as much because there was no reason not to. My Sisters of Battle and Blood Angel Shadow War Kill Teams both feature non-white models and I painted my Lord Ordinator as black.


The odd thing about painting non-white humans was realising that the paint colours made to represent human skin tones are pretty much all white skin. I have gone through a lot of "flesh" colours over the years: pale flesh, tanned flesh, rosy flesh, rotting flesh and even dark flesh, and they are all different shades of white flesh. The only exception is "Orc flesh" which is green. My darkest "flesh" colour is Game Colour "Heavy Skintone" which might be just about dark enough to represent someone from the middle east. To paint my Lord Ordinator and my Scout Sergeant I had to use Vallejo "German Camo Black/Brown."


Imagine if you were a 10 year old looking to get into miniature gaming having just read a Warhammer Adventure story. You just got one of the the starter sets and are looking for some paints for your Space Marines. Imagine you are looking through the racks of paints for some suitable colours. And now imagine you are not white. Wouldn't the range of colours labelled "flesh" send a pretty clear signal that this is hobby is not for people like you? That the company that produced them didn't even remember that you exist?

Miniature gaming desperately needs to move beyond the assumption that everyone is white and male. Warhammer Adventures are a tiny step in the right direction.

*I think my favourite stupid reaction is the claim that the character Kiri wearing a hood means she is supposed to be  a Muslim. A Muslim in a fantasy world with no concept of Christianity, Judaism or Islam and which the actual Gods interact with humans and be bought in the shops and added to your actual armies.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Shadow War - The Good, the Bad and the Atrocious

I've gotten a bit behind with my Shadow War updates. I've been playing the games, but not finding the time to post about them. So here are three quick reports in succession.

Round 2 - Game 3 - Dark Eldar Wyches vs Orks


The first game, which was also the last game of the second round saw the Dark Eldar Wyches take on the Blood Axe Orks in a straight forward Kill Team fight over a relatively open field. Nevertheless, the Ork Spanner Boy Snagrip was able to get into position on top of the Promethium Tower and spent most of the game peppering the Dark Eldar with fire.


Despite this, the Dark Eldar were able to advance and actually make into combat, only to discover that the Orks were more than capable of holding their own


With most of the Dark Eldar, including their leader Cyrix, down or out of action, the battle hinged on a close quarter melee.


But with the fight having bogged down into a war of attrition, the Orks had the upper hand. The Dark Eldar bottled involuntarily with a roll of 10. Giving the Orks their second victory and 3 data caches, and the Dark Eldar their second loss.


With this game over, round 2 was complete, all six Kill-Teams had fought two games apiece. At the end of the round, the results stood like this:

Kill Team Data Caches Wins Losses
Orks 6 2 0
Adeptus Sororitas 5 2 0
Space Marine Scouts 5 1 1
Tau 3 1 1
Chaos Space Marines 2 0 2
Dark Eldar 2 0 2

At the end of round 2 I randomly determined who would be fighting who. It's still early enough in the campaign that I didn't want to see any repeated match ups, so I re-rolled until I got a completely fresh set.

Round 3 - Game 1 - Dark Eldar Wyches vs Chaos Space Marines


For the first fight of Round 3, perennial losers the Dark Eldar and Chaos Space Marines ending up fighting each other, meaning one would come away with a victory. The Dark Eldar ended up as the Attackers in the Raid mission, requiring them to sneak into enemy territory, destroy the hidden stash and get out again. The mission started well, with the Dark Eldar sneaking up on the sentries undetected.


Unfortunately, once they were spotted, reinforcements arrived quickly and the Dark Eldar found themselves under heavy fire again.


Despite this, they were able to eliminate the sentries and reach and destroy their target.


But the Plague Marines fought back hard, surrounding the Dark Eldar and leaving them hopelessly outgunned.


With all his comrades eliminated and no obvious route of escape, the Dark Eldar Styx was forced to bottle.


The Dark Eldar had achieved half of their goal, but it was still a loss. The Plague Marines achieved their first victory and 3 data caches, but it didn't go all their way as they suffered the first death of the game when Brother Reapus died from his injuries. The Plague Marines took advantage of a 100 credit bonus, thanks to the "Hidden Cache" random event and recruited a second Specialist Gunner, Brother Rancid, while the Dark Eldar recruited a 10th Wych, Heskar.

Round 3 - Game 2 - Tau Pathfinders vs Sisters of Battle


For the second fight of round 3, the Tau fought the Adeptus Sororitas. I was looking forward to this as the two shootiest teams would be taking each other on. I was hoping that the Sisters better armour, ballistic skill and range would match the Tau's higher strength and armour penetration.

I rolled the Ambush Scenario, putting the Tau on the defensive. Turnabout is fare play given what they had done to the Orks. And, as with the Orks, the Tau leader Tas'vou and one of his colleagues were able to ambush the ambushers.


Unfortunately, the dice were badly against the Sisters from the start. They scored a couple of early hits, but spent most of the first two turns missing on 2s. The worst possible outcome, given they could re-roll 1s thanks to the "Light of the Emperor roll." Then on turn 3, when they couldn't used it any more, they started rolling 1s.


Meanwhile, Tas'vou came out strong, pinning 2 Sisters and leaving another trapped.


With the pressure relieved on the main body of the team, they were able to bring all their fire power to bare leaving most of the Sisters pinned. In the end, only 2 Sisters were actually down, but all the rest were pinned and Tau marker lights meant they couldn't rely on cover. To avoid a massacre, the Sisters had little choice but to bottle.


This was a pretty frustrating and disappointing game in which one side simply underperformed thanks to some quite unreasonably bad dice rolling. It had me half wanting to junk the entire result and play again, but it was getting late and I never like taking back results. In the end, both teams came away with 6 data caches and the Sisters didn't suffer too many serious injuries. They recruited another Sister, while the Tau, having reached their maximum number, upgraded their equipment.

I have one more game to play in this round, Blood Angel Scouts vs Blood Axe Orks. Hopefully this one will not be so one-sided.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

A Malign Digression

So everyone remember my brilliant plan to stick to one project at a time? Also, does everyone remember how I was going to focus on painting my English Civil War models while I continued my Shadow War campaign with, now, fully painted models?

Well that went a bit wrong, when I accidentally slipped and bought some stuff for Warhammer: Age of Sigmar. I am a bad person.



In my defence, it came about because I was meeting up with my little brother for the Beachhead show in Bournemouth, largely because it's closer to him than me an meant I could do the travelling for a change. I was looking for a way to spend a bit of money without derailing any of my existing projects (because why go to a wargames show and not buy anything?).

Malign Portents is Games Workshop's later Winter/early Spring event and has consisted of a, relatively low key, online campaign accompanied by the release of a rule book and four new character models, collectively referred to as Harbingers. Although I have largely avoided Age of Sigmar, my eye was drawn to the characters because all four of them slot into armies I already collect.

The Darkoath War Queen is part of the "Slaves to Darkness" faction which basically means Chaos Warriors, the Fungoid Cave Shaman is a Night Goblin/Moonclan Grot, which I have been collecting for years but haven't got round to painting. The Lord Ordinator is supposed to be a Stormcast Eternal, but he doesn't actually do anything for the faction of which he is a part. Instead, he boosts up War machines, which makes him a perfect fit for my Dwarfs. Finally the Knight of Shrouds is essentially a souped up Wraith and can be just about squeezed into my rather unfocused and scrappy collection of Undead.



My thinking was that if Warhammer 8th edition were still around and Games Workshop put out four characters all of which fit into existing armies and two of which fit into armies I have painted, I would snap them up. It seemed a silly time to be dismissive of Age of Sigmar.

I picked up the Lord Ordinator and the Darkoath War Queen at Beachhead, along with the rulebook and grabbed the other two Harbingers since. I painted the first two in double quick time and even managed to squeeze in a quick game to test out the Malign Portents rules.



Speaking of which, the Malign Portents book is rather good. £15 for an 88 page hardback, makes it one of Games Workshop's cheaper books and compares pretty favourably with the army books I bought in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It's a bit of a grab back of background material, scenarios, rules for the new Harbingers and for the titular "Malign Portents." It also has a fairly good balance of background material to rules and with only a few pages of photographs of models and minimal filler. A big improvement over the early Age of Sigmar "Realm Gates" books which seemed to be all bulk and no content.

The premise of "Malign Portents" is that the Great Necromancer, Nagash, now promoted to God of the Dead, has been gathering up all the magic in the Death realm of Shyish for some nefarious purpose. This has led to all kinds of omens and portents which have been interpreted by Wizards, Priests and the Harbingers. In game terms, this is represented by Prophecy points which are randomly determined at the start of each turn. The points can then be spent on various special effects by any character, rather like spells. The effects you can use are determined by the portent you are following which you can choose or randomly determine at the start of the game.

In addition to the six general portents, each Harbinger also has a set of special effects unique to them. With all of these special effects in play, Games Workshop have, conveniently, put out a deck of cards with all the abilities on them, for you to keep track. This an obvious money grabber, but I snapped them up anyway because I am a mug and because they reminded me of the spell cards from 4th and 5th edition Warhammer.

Overall, it's a pretty decent rule book with something for most players. Even if you don't want or can't use the Harbingers, the Malign Portents can still be used by other characters and there are a few scenarios to try out, including one for Skirmish games, as well as a few extra random tables and special effects to use if you want to play in the Realm of Shyish.

Overall, given the relatively low price of the book, I can see Malign Portents encouraging a few past players to give Age of Sigmar a second look, so smart marketing on the part of Games Workshop.

And just to prove I haven't completely neglected my official projects, here is my latest unit for the Pikeman's Lament: 12 Musketmen including one with a long hunting musket. There is an example of one of these at the Basing House Museum, so I couldn't resist including in my company.



Tuesday, 6 March 2018

New Project - English Civil War

With my Shadow War campaign is under way and most of the models for it painted, I have had time to try painting something else. Shadow War could keep me busy gaming for some months, which means I have plenty of time to focus on a project that's likely to require a lot of painting before I can do anything useful with it.

A few years ago I picked up one of Warlord Games English Civil War starter battalion boxes. I've added a few extra bits and bobs to it since, but never got round to assembling or painting any of it. Part of the problem was that most English Civil War rules seem to require an awful lot of models to play, at least as many as one of my Warhammer armies, and I would need two to do anything with them. The other problem, was not being able to decide on a theme, or even a colour scheme for my army.

The first problem was solved when Osprey Publishing conveniently released "the Pikeman's Lament" a set of rules by Daniel Mersey and Michael Leck, developed from Lion Rampant and Dragon Rampant and designed to represent skirmishes between small companies of men. Having gotten hold of the rules, I realised pretty quickly that I could easily put together two companies of 24 points with the models I already owned.

The second problem resolved itself when I took a trip to Basing House at the end of September last year. Basing House would be one of the most impressive Tudor Houses in Britain if it wasn't completely in ruins. Once that Home of the Marquis of Winchester, it withstood a long siege during the Civil War before finally being stormed by the New Model Army under the command of Oliver Cromwell. The house wasn't actually destroyed by Cromwell, but it was left abandoned and much of it was scavenged to provide building material for the local village of Old Basing. The sight is worth a visit, featuring a small Museum and a visitor centre and there's an audio tour you can download from their website. The place is in walking distance of Basingstoke Railway Station, though you will have to trample through some muddy fields to get there.


Basing House has seen better days
Though the gardens still look nice

The sight also hosts an annual Civil War re-enactment day. Last September, historical re-enactors from the The Marquess of Winchester's regiment set up a living history camp, carried out some Pike and Musket drill and enacted a small skirmish between infantry and artillery. It was all pretty good fun and I got plenty of pictures.

 The Regiment on display

It occurred to me at the time, that I had more than enough models to recreate all the people involved in the event and more. Also, a large house under siege could be a pretty interesting backdrop for more than a few skirmish games. I finally had my theme.

Pike drill

My first Pikeman's Lament unit is this group of shot, all armed with standard Flintloque muskets and wearing the regiment's red coats. Although I kept the red as a linking colour, I tried to vary the look of them as much as possible. This was before the era of true mass production or industrial dyes.

I've seen units that mix together all of Warlord's plastic shot models, but that didn't look right to me as this group are clearly marching, while the others are firing. Instead, I decided to keep all the marching models together and relied on different hats, swords, weapon poses and painting to differentiate them. The models were painted as a block, so I kept things simple with only base colours, one wash and one layer of highlights, with an additional highlight on the faces.



My second unit are Pikeman. Despite having plenty of plastic pike, most of these are actually from a box of Warlord metal armoured Pikeman. The reason for this is that the re-enactors mostly wore armour and Warlord's plastics mostly don't. The Winchesters justify their look on the basis that the Marquess was a rich man who could afford to equip his men well, but I suspect most of them just like being well kitted out. I decided to follow the re-enactors, though the command group are plastics from Warlord. The Batallion box even came with an appropriate flag that matched the regimental colours.



Two units down. With the Pikeman upgraded to Veteran, to represent their armour, that's 10 points so far. I still have another unit of Shot, a unit of Commanded Shot (skirmishers) and a Cannon to complete.

Incidentally, if you're interested in the Marquess of Winchester Regiment, they have a website at www.marquisofwinchesters.co.uk with plenty of good pictures and also feature fairly prominently in the first episode of the series Weekend Warriors, which was screened on the Yesterday Channel in the UK. The episode is available on demand here though you may have to register to watch it.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Shadow War Campaign - The Blue and the Grey

It's been a long time since my last update, though I've actually been painting and gaming quite a bit. It's just the blogging I've let slide. Hopefully I'll be able to rectify it with a few updates in quick succession, starting with my onging Shadow War campaign.

With the first game of round two out of the way, and reinforcements freshly painted up, it was time for the Tau to take on the Chaos Space Marines. I randomly generated the "Kill Team Fight" scenario: the most basic scenario but, oddly, not one I'd played before.


The Tau ending up choosing a side and deploying first, taking up firing positions and going on overwatch.


Meanwhile, the Chaos Space Marines deployed out of the Tau's firing lines and made the best possible use of cover that they could.


They set up on opposite flanks, planning a two-pronged attack.


Covered by their Recon Drone and Speciliast Gen'Tu's Ion Rifle, two Pathfinders tried to advance into firing range, while still under cover.

Meanwhile, Champion Corpulous and Brothers Scrofula and Legionella advanced into the shade of a Loyalist Space Marine Hero, ironic.

With the Tau now in firing positions, and with the range of their pulse weapons extended by the Pulse Accelerator Drone, an exchange of fire began, but to little effect as the Tau's, previously solid, marksmanship deserted them.

Meanwhile, on their left flank, the Tau drew the first blood of the game. Brother Leprous climbed to the top of the Promethium Tank, only to be gunned down by Specialist Ree'va's Rail Rifle. Brother's Pox and Buboes  stayed at the bottom and kept under cover and hidden.



On the right flank the fire fight continued.


But, despite the heavy use of Marklights by the Tau, neither side seemed to be able to land a hit.


Finally, the new recruit, Cadet Net'ra managed to land a hit, taking down Brother Scrofula.


While much of the action was taking place on the left flank, Brother's Pox and Buboes continued to advance on the right, still under fire, but avoiding any serious hits


Brother Corpulous broke cover to take revenge for Brother Scrofula and shot down Cadet Net'ra.


Only to be gunned down by the Recon Drone.


With the loss of three of their number and effective collapse of the right flank, the Chaos Space Marines bottled out (involuntarily, they failed a bottle check).

This was very much a game that was more fun to play than report, as much of it was a relatively static fire fight, which is tense when your rolling the dice, but not very exciting to describe.

I realised after the event that I made a mistake in setting up the scenery, by putting high, well protected building at the edge of the battle field which the Tau were able to exploit. If a kill-team with a lot of fire power is given a well protected vantage point, they can really take advantage of it. As a result, the Chaos Marines spent much of the game hiding or running from one piece of cover to another.

In future, I think I will roll for scenarios before setting up terrain. Hopefully that will stop one side making too effective use of cover.

In the end, neither side suffered too badly as a result. All the Chaos Marines made a full recovery, except Brother Scrofula who ended up partially deaf, which doesn't effect his combat abilities unless it happens again and he goes completely deaf. The Tau gained two data caches to the Chaos Marine's one. Both sides also recruited a new team member, Cadet Uk'alt and Brother Reapus, taking the Tau to their maximum team size of 10 and the Chaos Marines to Nurgle's sacred number of 7.

I have been fairly busy of late, so, I should have another update on the campaign and other matters shortly, fingers firmly crossed.

Monday, 1 January 2018

The Past and the Future

Another year ended, which is as good a time as any to reflect on what I've been doing for the last 365 days and what I plan to do with the next.

 Everything I painted in 2017

Overall, this year has been pretty much like the last. Steady progress, one project following another. I finished my Beyond the Gates of Antares project back in May and took some time out to build my Dwarf Brewery and try it out in a quick game.

 Brewery Battle

Games Workshop have had a pretty good year, putting out lots of new games, many of which have seen them exploring new territory. The end of their relationship with Fantasy Flight games seems to have done them some good as Shadespire feels like the sort of game that Fantasy Flight would have produced using GW IP. Now Games Workshop are doing it themselves. The new edition of Warhammer 40,000 seems to have gone down well and, while I still have no interest in Age of Sigmar, it seems to have brought a lot of new energy to their Fantasy setting.

For me, the big Games Workshop development was Shadow War: Armageddon, which gave me a great opportunity to dig out and paint some neglected old models. My campaign is now properly underway and should keep me busy for a while. I have a couple of models to add to my existing Kill Teams, but then I plan to start on a new painting project to keep me busy while my gaming focuses on Shadow War.




I haven't bought a lot of new models this year, but have added a few extras to Beyond the Gates of Antares. My last painted models of the year were bought at Warlord Games Open day in October. A Ghar Bombardment Crawler and a Concord Drone Commander. Most of my other recent acquisitions have been for BTGOA. I have been slowly accumulating Boromites, none of which are painted yet and grabbed the Algoryn starter army in the Warlord Christmas sale.

 Concord Drone Commander

Ghar Bombardment Crawler

However, my next project is something entirely different. I don't normally announce projects in advance, but I'm going to this time because I hope it will keep me focused. I've been sitting on a bunch of unassembled English Civil War models for years and, thanks to Osprey's Pikeman's Lament rules, that support medium level skirmish gaming for this period, I'm finally going to get on and paint some.

So the plan for next year, more of the same. Stick to one project at a time, balance painting and gaming and don't buy a lot of unnecessary new stuff. I hope what audience I have will stick around to see how I get on. See you in 2018.