Tuesday 31 December 2019

A last minute update

I've been very slack updating the blog this year, though I've actually been more productive than ever with my hobby projects. Once again I find myself posting about models I painted and games I played a month or more back.

Having met my deadline of finishing my Sisters of Battle before the release of the new Codex and having spent the better part of a year working on nothing but Warhammer 40,000 models, I was desperate for a change. For years now I had wanted to have a go at a Wargame/RPG hybrid - something very story-based, with a small party of adventurers battling monsters and gaining experience. I have been slowly accumulating models and looking at rules, but nothing seemed to fit until I came across Rangers of Shadowdeep.

Rangers of Shadowdeep is set in a world that is slowly being consumed by a weird chaotic fog, called the Shadowdeep. The titular Rangers are tasked with investigating it. What makes it unusual is that its explicitly a co-operative or solo game in which you control a Ranger and their companions against monsters whose behaviour is determined by the scenario and a behaviour chart. It was written by Joseph A McCullough, who wrote Frostgrave, a game a little too similar to Mordheim to capture my interest, but that was well received by the Wargaming community at large.

The big draw for me was that it could be played with only a small number of models, all of which I could draw from my existing collection and it could be played on a very small table. So it was a good distraction from Warhammer 40,000 that wouldn't take up too much time. The basic rulebook includes four seperate Missions (in game terms a set of linked scenarios) so I could get the models together for the first, play them and then park the game until I wanted to play it again.

The term "Ranger" conjures up images of Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, but the Rangers are actually highly customisable. You can have a Warrior, Wizard or even Thief Ranger if you want. With that in mind I raided my collection and put together a motley crew of models from all different ranges to represent my Ranger and her companions.

I created a heavily-armoured Dwarven Ranger named Kyra Snorrisdottir, accompanied by the Paladin Merinda, a half-orc Ranger Shae, a Halfling Conjurer and Elf Rogue who work as travelling entertainers, Ashlynn and Norko and Kyra's faithful hound Beast. The models are from all different manufacturers, Reaper Bones, Heresy, Bad Squiddo, Wargames Illustrated and even GW (Beast is from Mordheim).

For their first mission the team investigated an apparently abandoned village in which one Ranger had already dissappeared. It turned out the village had been overrun by Zombies.

The scenario started pretty well, with the group splitting up to investigate and picking off Zombies as they did so. A sudden surge of Zombies left Shae dangerously isolated, but she held them off with her bow until help arrived in the form of Merinda and Norko.

In the second scenario the Companions tracked down the source of the infection - Giant Spiders whose venom turned people into Zombies. The team got bogged down for a while. Norko, having found a magic sword in the village, got over excited, charged a spider and got himself poisoned for his trouble. While poor beast got similarly poisoned defending Kyra.

But eventually Merinda, Ashlynn and Shae broke away and burned four of the Spiders treetop lairs, rescuing a captured villager in the process, while Kyra finished off the last.

So with my first Rangers or Shadowdeep mission complete did I return to the Blood Angels, the Death Guard or the Sisters of Battle? Or was I swept up with Rangers and carry on to the next mission?

Actually, it was something completely different.

This might seem like it came out of nowhere, but I have had a Tyranid battleforce (plus a couple of extra bits) sitting around since Warhammer 40,000 fourth edition. I even painted most of it, though they weren't anything close to my current standards. Games Workshop stoked my interest by releasing a really excellent Christmas Battle box. But its real draw for me was that it included 12 Termagents and 12 Hormagaunts. The old battle box had eight of each. Neither of these are viable units under the current rules, but adding them together gave me a nice, usable unit of 12 each.

Too good to ignore

The model above is a test of the colour scheme I plan to use. It's based on Hive Fleet Leviathan, who are the ones giving the Blood Angels a hard time. But, rather than use Games Workshop's very white flesh colours, I used Vallejo pale flesh with a shade of Carroburg Crimson and a highlight of pale flesh. I'm pretty happy with the results, though I have since added a second layer of highlights to the carapace edges. Currently, I have 10 nearly done.

This represents a bit of a change of direction for my hobby planning. A few years back I set the rule that I was only allowed to work on one project at a time and had to complete one before I started on another. But, at the time, I didn't have a clear sense of what a "project" was. I started by painting all my Bushido models, but allowed myself to stop when I played through the three scenario campaign I had been playing.

Since then, my projects have included a Warhammer Siege Campaign, a pair of armies for Beyond the Gates of Antares and a Shadow War campaign, which I used as an opportunity to get in some gaming while I painted my English Civil War models.

I think going forward I'm going to explicitly link a project to specific games I plan to play - not necessarily whole campaigns, just single games. Right now, I want to paint enough Tyranids to play a game against my Blood Angels or Death Guard. This will probably mean painting my old battle box and the new Christmas army box, so it should keep me busy for a while.

See you in the New Year, hopefully with plenty of pictures of bugs.

Sunday 20 October 2019

Sisters are doing it for themselves

I'm starting to feel like the more productive I get with hobby projects, the worse I get at updating this blog. I've actually been pretty busy with painting and gaming over the last few months, both before and after my Japan trip.

Firstly, I had enough Blood Angels and Death Guard painted up to try my first game of Warhammer 40,000 Eighth edition. It wasn't a very big game - power level of 75 per side - and I used the open war cards to generate a random scenario, but it was a good opportunity to try out the rules, despite making a few mistakes. Most notably, I kept rolling two dice for morale check instead of one, meaning those units that weren't unbreakable were far more likely to run away.

In the end the Death Guard edged a victory after the Daemon Prince wiped out an entire Tactical Squad to claim their objective, while the Death Company remained locked in combat with the Death Guard squad guarding their objective.

I found a very fast and fast moving game. If I had any complaints it was that, like Age of Sigmar, most of the rules are rear-loaded. That is to say, the basic rules are pretty simple but their are dozens of additional rules to keep track of, with most units getting one or two unique rules plus all the stratagems that form a crucial part of the game.

I think over time, this can lead to the game becoming unwieldy and overburdened with additional rules, as happened with Epic second edition. Though, for the moment it isn't too bad. I'll certainly be playing some more.

Having gotten my Death Guard and Blood Angel forces battle ready, I decided to take a slight break and look at something else. I've had a decent sized collection of Adeptus Sororitas or Sisters of Battle sitting around unpainted for years now and with the new models on the way it felt like the right time to get them painted.

The previews of the new models look quite promising. The designs haven't changed too radically, for the most part, so I should be able to slot the new in with the old. But I know from past experience that it's all too easy to be distracted by new models and one way to avoid that is to make sure the old models are painted.

The first squad I had already mostly painted for my Shadow War Armageddon campaign, which is why they have numbers on their bases. The only change was that the Shadow War squad included a Storm Bolter which I swapped for a meltagun. This was to maximise the number of squads that could use the "Holy Trinity" stratagem that requires the squad to fire with at least one bolter, melta and flamer weapon in order to get a bonus to wound.

I had already decided to paint my Sisters as part of the Order of the Argent Shroud. This was mostly because I had a pretty quick and easy paint scheme for them. I spray painted them all in Army Painter Plate Mail Metal and gave them a wash with Nuln oil. This took care of all the armoured areas. The robes were painted in Vallejo light grey, then highlighted in pale grey blue and with a final highlight of off white. It took me a few goes to get the exact mix right, however and, if you look closely, you'll see that not all the robes look exactly the same.

The gloves and holsters were Vallejo black grey with a Nuln oil wash and highlight dark grey and the red areas on the weapons done the exact same way as my Blood Angels - GW Mephiston red, Carroburg crimson wash and then Evil Sunz Red higlights.

For each squad I left the heads until last and tried to have as many different skin tones and hair colours as possible. I'm not a fan of the Games Workshop all white hair for every model approach.

My Sisters army was assembled over a pretty extended period. I bought the first boxed set almost as soon as it was released back during 40K Second edition, along with the army book. I then got the £50 small army box as a birthday present. This was basically equivalent to the start collecting boxes you can get now and included a battle sister squad, a seraphim squad and a Canoness with a Celestian Body Guard (though back then they were Seraphim without jump packs).

That gave me about 1000 points back in 2nd edition, enough for some small games. But when third edition came along, Games Workshop initially nerfed the sisters, reducing them to standard humans in power armour and leaving me with no more than about 400 points. Consequently I left my Sisters on the shelf for a while.

When Codex Witch Hunters came along at the tail end of 3rd edition, and the Sister were restored to their former glory, I made elaborate plans to rebuild the army, but never quite got around to it, I was pretty distracted with other games at the time. Then, a couple of years ago, I noticed that some of the metal Sisters were going out of stock on the GW website and I had a paranoia attack that they were about to drop the whole range and ordered a bunch more.

At the time I was thinking or revisiting 4th edition 40K, which had been the version I had most enjoyed. But I still had other projects on the go and didn't have time to do much more than assemble my new Sisters. Then eighth edition came along and my plans changed again.

The banner carried by the Celestian Imagifier was included in my 2nd edition army boxed set and is the official banner of the Order of the Argent Shroud. If I feel like paying the command points I can upgrade it to the Order's banner. I distinguished this squad from the regular Sisters by adding gold detail to their shoulder pads and helmets, an approach I also used on the Canonesses.

The army command, including two Canonesses, the original from my army box with a combi-flamer, and Canoness Verdian, who was a Christmas present from my brother last year. The Missionary is a converted Empire Flagellant with a lot of additions from bits box, including the brazier from a Corpse cart. I painted the flame effects by painting them white and then using successive glazes of yellow and then red.

The Exorcist is a huge, unwieldy beast with a very weird centre of gravity, thanks to it being a plastic kit with loads of extra metal bits.

I basically followed the same approach as the rest of the army, with a lot of Vallejo brass for the pipes. I painted the parchment and bone in the same way using the highly useful Privateer Press paints Menoth White Base and Menoth White highlight. I painted them with the base initially, then gave them a wash of GW Seraphim Sepia, followed by drybrushing a mix of both colours before a final edge highlight with Menoth White Highlight.

The Penitent Engine was an impulse buy from when I was at Warhammer World two years ago. I was actually in Nottingham for a Warlord Games event and just popped along for the evening. I remember when these were first released they seemed over priced in money for a model that wasn't worth much in game. But, since then, their monetary price has barely changed, while they have become much more effective in game, making them feel like a bargain.

I painted most of the Penitant Engine in the same way as the metal areas of my Death Guard - a spray of Army Painter plate mail metal, followed by two heavy washes of Agrax Earthshade to give it a corroded look. The rest followed the same basic scheme as the rest of my army.

That's pretty much everything I have for my Sisters painted now, so I am taking a short break from Warhammer 40,000 all together to work on a completely different, but hopefully pretty short, project. More updates on that as soon as possible.

Saturday 3 August 2019

Returning Japanese

It's been a while since my last post. Sorry about that, but those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that, at the beginning of July, I spent the better part of two weeks in Japan. What does this have to do with wargaming? Not much, but more than you think.

Japan has basically no domestic wargaming industry. Board games, trading card games and even traditional pen and roleplaying is popular, but Japan doesn't really produce any wargames of its own.

That said, model kits are extremely popular and very widely available. Most notably, the huge range of kits based on the various Gundam anime series. My brother and I stopped in at Gundam Base on the Island of Odaiba in Tokyo Bay. For enthusiasts of the Gunpla hobby (a portmanteau of Gundam and Play) this was like Warhammer World.

There were huge displays of custom built kits

An exhibition about Gundam kit manufacture including a model of the factory that produces them.

Areas for building and painting workshops, including competition winners.

And an enormous shop selling a huge range of kits from brand new exclusives to kits first produced in the 1970s. It was as Warhammer World start selling every Games Workshop model every produced since the 1980s.

There was even a small range of kits made from reclaimed plastic from sprues. Games Workshop, take note.

The highlight of any trip to Odaiba, though is the enormous, life-sized statue of the Gundam Unicorn robot that stands outside the shopping mall. It's like plonking a life-sized Imperial Knight outside a shopping centre in Nottingham.

Despite the scale of the domestic plastic kit industry, Games Workshop did have a bit of a presence in Japan. I found displays of models in a number of different shops, primarily in the Nerd mecha areas of Akihabara and Nakano in Tokyo.

We even visited the Osaka Warhammer store in Namba.

While I was there I managed to pick up a box of Space Marine Heroes series 2. For anyone unfamiliar with these, they were a range of Space Marine models sold individually and randomly in boxes. At first they were a Japanese exclusive, before getting a release elsewhere, essentially because everyone complained.

Series 2 are not over here yet and, this time, they are all Terminators. Warhammer Osaka was selling the individually and in complete boxes of six, which guarantees you all six designs. Both my brother and I snapped up a box, which prompted me to film my first ever unboxing video, now available on YouTube.

Apologies for any quality issues. My camera is quite good at auto-focusing, but for some reason it didn't like Captain Donato's card. So here are the images of it below.

Anyway, it was a great trip, not only for wargaming reasons. More posts soon, hopefully.

Wednesday 12 June 2019

Shadow War Campaign Final Mission Part Three

When we last left the Shadow War Campaign Final Mission, the Sisters of Battle had taken the lead having captured their primary objective and carried it off the table via their deployment zone.

Part one, covering the mission and deployment is here.

Part two is here.

When we left things in Part Three, the Sisters of Battle had just carried their Primary Objective off the table, securing them 3 victory points. As they were in second position on the leader board, that meant any other Kill Team than the Orks needed 4 Victory Points to beat them and win the campaign.

Enough Orks had recovered to try and drag their primary objective, the Doomsday Device, back towards the table edge.

But they were now coming under attack from Blood Angel Scouts and Tau, both of whom needed to go through the Orks to get their own objectives and both of whom needed to stop the Orks if they were going to win the campaign.

But despite the heavy attack, the Orks kept struggling on.

Meanwhile, having lost the Data Bank that was their primary objective, the Chaos Marines started moving towards the centre in the hope of claiming Victory Points elsewhere. And the Sisters were not resting on the laurels. Grabbing one more piece of Archeotech would cement their victory.

The Dark Eldar had broken away from the Tau and, with their high speed, were certain to make it to the table edge.

With their primary objective lost, the Tau turned their guns on the Orks. Their slim chance of a victory depended on securing all four remaining objectives. But just as they really started to focus, their shooting failed. A series of utterly appalling rolls meant that even it point blank range they missed, or if they didn't miss failed to wound or if they wounded the Orks made some truly ridiculous saving throws. The Orks were being pinned, but still dragging their objective inch by inch to the table edge.

On the far side, the Sisters of Battle Seraphim had seized a second objective, while the rest of the Kill Team tried to surpress the Chaos Marines with supporting fire.

But they had reckoned without the Dark Eldar. With their primary objective secure, the Succubus and Homunculus saw an opportunity to take another victory point and steal victory from the Sisters.

The Orks were inches from victory and the last few survivors desperately tried to fend off the Tau, whose shooting had not improved. At the same time, the Blood Angel Scouts were still trying to take their primary objective.

The Succubus charged the Seraphim, who had little chance against her in hand to hand combat. Meanwhile, the Chaos Space Marines were closing in on the surviving Sisters from behind.

But the Chaos Marines were not about to surrender a piece of archeotech to the Dark Eldar and they turned all their firepower on the Succubus.

But all this was, ultimately, a sideshow, because on the near side, Trukk the last Ork still standing, dragged the Doomsday Device over the line, giving the Orks 3 victory points. As they were at the top of the leader board, any other team needed 4 victory points to beat them.

The Blood Angels, Dark Eldar and Chaos Marines fought over the one of the remaining pieces of archeotech...

...and the Tau secured another piece of archeotech, which happened to be the Blood Angels primary objective.

The rest of the Tau positioned themselves to prevent the remaining scouts from trying to take it back.

Had they managed to take another piece of archeotech, the Dark Eldar could have won the campaign. But it was not to be. The Chaos Marines had taken one from the Succubus and the Tau took the last.

At this point, I brought the mission to an end. The Tau and Chaos Marines could have fought over the remaining objectives still on the table, but it would have been a fight for fourth place and Sunday evening was drawing in.

The scenario and the campaign had a winner. The Orks, Sisters of Battle and Dark Eldar had managed to carry their primary objective off the table, each winning 3 Victory Points. With a three-way tie, the campaign was decided by the campaign leader board, which, at the end of round 5 stood as follows:

Kill Team
Data Caches
Team Rating
Adeptus Sororitas
Dark Eldar
Space Marine Scouts
Chaos Space Marines

All three teams were equal on data caches, but the Win-loss ratio was the clear decider. The Orks had secured a lucky victory, as they had throughout the campaign, but a lucky win was still a win and the victors took their place on the podium.

The Final Mission was over, the campaign complete. But I still have one last post planned. Come back soon for the Shadow War Campaign Debriefing.