Tuesday, September 29, 2009

GENERAL: Job done...for now

I've had a good clean up of my games room to try and help me get a handle on all my projects.

It might not seem that much tidier on first glance but it really is. Look at my desk for example, I've moved my cutting mat onto my paint station and taken all of the Ork models with it. The idea is that I can tuck the paint station away on my central table and then just move the whole thing over to my desk when I need to. I wouldn't normally have an entire 1500 point army on there, of course!

You can see the Orks right at the back of the photo above. The rest of the island table is cluttered with stuff but virtually all of it is with current projects.

In the front are my Planetstrike goodies. I've tucked the craters and some other loose bits and pieces away in a box and stacked it all together.

Behind them are my Planetary Empires boxes, and you can just see my half finished Mighty Empires tiles laid out behind them. Once my Ork army is built I'll finish the tiles, which will be a quick win, and then I'll hide the boxes away. I'll return to Planetary Empires after my Planetstrike terrain is completed.

I feel a bit better having tackled the worst of the mess and things will only improved further as I finish each task.

Righto, those Orks won't build themselves...

Monday, September 28, 2009

NEWS AND RUMOURS: Gamesday UK 2009

As I'm sure you're aware Gamesday UK 2009 was held yesterday. I followed the event via Twitter, Facebook and Warseer throughout the day so I thought I'd bring you a condensed news and rumours blog entry now.

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, the Tyranid codex was confirmed for a January 2010 release. It was reconfirmed on the Games Workshop website today here. We are almost certain to see the Trygon which was seen in the Apocalypse book, and this will take up one of the three new plastic kits. There will also be three new metal kits.

White Dwarf...in space
On the link above you can also view the new White Dwarf magazine subscriber model which is a 40k version of Grombrindal.

Space Wolves
There were no Space Wolf codexes at Gamesday, much to the consternation of many. There were lots of the new models, though.

There were pre-production resin versions of the long-awaited plastic Daemon Prince model and Daemonettes riding Seekers. Still no release date revealed for either.

Necrons and Dark Eldar
Forge World confirmed that they want to do a Necron book but because GW have not locked down the Necron background yet they can't. This means that a Necron codex is a long way off - probably after 2010. They also have to wait until the Dark Eldar are out of the way which has led some to speculate that the pointy-eared gits will arrive in the next twelve months.

Imperial Guard
Trainee sculpter Giorgio Bassani's Tallarns were spotted but will probably never be produced. Most of the juicy stuff came from Forge World, though.

Forge World
The new Lord of Change resin model was finally unveiled, replete with huge wings. FW are currently working on Elysian models for IA8 and we saw a six wheeled all terrain vehicle with roll cage. Rumour has it that a modified Valkyrie will be able to carry it into battle. Speaking of the Valkyrie, FW has also sculpted a row of resin Elysian passengers to sit inside.

The Space Marines got some love in the form of a prototype skimmer assault vehicle which can reportedly transport between ten and fifteen marines.

A fully painted version of the Chaos Reaver was present too.

Black Library
Copies of Blood Pact were on sale, but apparently in limited numbers. Richard Williamshas confimred he is working on a Pretorian Imperial Guard novel for black library, another Caphias Cain book is on the way and Gav Thorpe is working on an Angels of Darkness prequel.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

GENERAL: How clean is your games room?

Today will be a day when I get things done.

I've been suffering from a little post-holiday ennui regarding my gaming activities, largely because I have so many projects rumbling along simultaneously. This is also in part due to a six day working week I just finished last night. Hey ho, at least I got back in time to see Newcastle United slot four past a hapless Ipswich team. We are top of the league, say we are top of the league!


I've taken a few pictures of my games room so you can appreciate my plight. I bought all of my Planetstrike terrain, bought Planetary Empires, I got a tonne of stuff out for my selling splurge on eBay, then the remainder of that got Mighty Empires tiles piled up on it while I painted them, then Space Hulk arrived with some Planetary Empires tiles, then I bought two IA books, then I got all my Orks out to build my next 40k army then I came back from holiday and dumped all my stuff on top of all that.

This is the result:

I need a major tidy up.

The main focus of my efforts will be on the 'island' tabletop surface in the middle of the room. This is formed by two long Ikea cabinets where all of my models live. It also forms the surface where I can place my gaming table and play games.

You can see my table in the photo above, in 4 foot by 2 foot sections, on end wrapped in bubble wrap just to the left of my painting desk. They have never been unwrapped since we had the conversion done on our house two years ago. The island table has never been clear in all that time.

Today that will change.

I hope that by having a good clear out I'll feel more like I have my projects under control.

I plan to blog again later in the day with my progress, and also with some news from UK Gamesday which is taking place today. Early reports say that the Tyranid codex is confirmed for January 2010 and is to be written by Robin Cruddace.

Okay, I have stuff to do.

Friday, September 18, 2009

GENERAL: Bi-monthly book update

Back in August, when I should have been painting the last of my Blood Angels army I bought How to Paint Citadel Tanks and read it in a single sitting. Obviously this was relatively easy to do because much of the book is visual rather than text based.

This is the kind of book that I would recommend to someone relatively new to modelling who wants to improve. It'll be no good to the casual gamer who wants to get their models on the table as soon as possible and play a game - many of those will be perfectly happy to play with unpainted models anyway.

Similarly it won't appeal much to the experienced modeller. They are already familiar with the basic techniques and have started to look beyond Games Workshop in terms of equipment and materials. I'd put myself in this camp, and the IA Model Masterclass book satisfied my modelling itch much better.

That's not to knock HTPCT. It does a great job of explaining the basics in its ninety six pages, from assembling the model right through to applying the transfers. There are five stage by stage examples of vehicle painting which utilise many of the techniques and they include a Space Marine Predator, an Imperial Guard Leman Russ, an Ork Trukk, a Chaos Space Marine Defiler and an Eldar Falcon.

I guess the most useful tips and techniques in the book are those for the bold, bright tanks and vehicles, because other modelling guides from other companies can be used for more 'realistic' camouflage patterns and colours.

Thinking back to all the armies I've faced across the gaming table I think a lot of them would gain from reading this book. Whether those players will ever make the effort remains to be seen. What's for sure is that they no longer have the excuse of ignorance - if they shelled out £30 for this book and How to Paint Citadel Miniatures that's pretty much all they'd ever need to produce good quality armies.

Anyone following my blog for a while will know that I regularly enter Black Library book competitions on book review blogs. I've had a bit of a winning streak on Graeme's Fantasy book review, previously winning two Ultramarine books and Salamander, and I've just won again. This time it was for a copy of Cadian Blood.

Guardsmen and zombies? Yes please!

I read Cadian Blood in just two days whilst away on holiday. Aaron Dembski-Bowden is a new author to me and based upon my impressions from this book he's one I'd look out for in future.

The book is based around the time of the thirteenth black crusade, near the Eye of Terror. The Plague of Unbelief is rife on the front line, turning millions of people into shambling zombies, but suddenly Kathur shrine world succumbs well away from the main war zone. The Cadian 88th, led by warden-captain Thade, are sent in with several other Imperial Guard regiments to head the reclamation force. They meet stiff resistance in the form of Nurgle Chaos worshippers and the dread Death Guard.

The author sets off at a rattling pace and never lets up for the length of the novel. Many of the battles, even the climactic scenes are described with refreshing brevity compared to many Black Library novels. There is a looseness to the plotting which sometimes threatens to meander away from the central ideas but ultimately allows the story to breathe a bit.

Aaron draws his characters well and teases out a range of characters, largely through dialogue rather than through dull inner monologues. Again I liked this even if some of the dialogue sounded a little too contemporary. The author was unafraid to kill his characters off, too, which I found involved me in their tale all the more.

The only real downside for me was the lack of any real zombie action. I wasn't quite sure what type of zombies we were dealing with here. What exact rules governed them? It didn't really matter much as the central characters didn't really seem too concerned about them; the zombies were there simply to get mown down. There was no real physical or psychological threat from them in the novel.

I guess you could argue that the Death Guard were the main protagonists and it's true that they were described powerfully, but I would personally have preferred a bit more zombie versus Guardsman action. Still, it's a minor niggle and I'd still recommend this book as a good read.

I read Salamander just before I went away on holiday. I struggled to get into the book somewhat because it is slow in places. It's the first of Nick Kyme's books I have read, and being an avid follower of his blog through the writing process of this novel I stuck with it. I'm glad I did.

Our central protagonists are Dak'ir and Tsu'gan, two sergeants in the 3rd company of the Salamanders chapter. Their beloved company commander is killed in the first pages of the book and much of the ensuing tale takes place against the backdrop of the political infighting concerning his replacement. The main meat of the tale, though, sees the Salamanders exploring an ancient prophecy far from Nocturne which may shed light on the disappearance of their primarch. This brings them into conflict with Iron Warriors chaos space marines and a horde of rampaging Orks.

The author has a good command of the 40k setting and the Salamander space marine background in particular. Some of it was on show but I never found it flashy; it was just evident that Nick had done his homework. Some of his plot ideas were quite ambitious but I was largely sold through the context.

The characters were very well conveyed with subtly different and well thought out personalities. There was a surprising emotional content and moral complexity to the book which I thought strayed into Shakespearean territory several times. This isn't something you can normally say about Black Library books!

He's a good writer too. It felt technically accomplished without ever resorting to literary fireworks. The book is clearly the first in a series and I think Nick has confirmed that it is one of a planned trilogy.

All in all it was a good solid book, without being spectacular, and I have high hopes that the characters will develop further and deeper with the coming books.

The final book I read, which I won't dwell on too much as it is not directly related to gaming, was Bomber Boys. This is a companion book to Fighter Boys which I read previously.

Bomber Boys describes the plight of British crews piloting bombers in the second world war. Unlike their fighter pilot comrades, who had a clear objective and were defending their homes, the bomber crews were unsung heroes and history has forgotten their sacrifice over time. This is because of their rather dubious tactics of area bombing German cities, resulting in the firestorms of Dresden and Hamburg which killed thousands upon thousands of civilians, including women and children. Despite the carnage they caused no-one really knows how much impact they had on the war, and it was a real shock to me to see just how inaccurate bombing really is, even today.

This moral complexity casts a shadow over the bravery of the often very young boys who were forced to fly one nerve-wracking raid after another with appalling survival rates.

I'll be using some of the information in this book to inform my Aeronautica Imperialis games and background when I get round to playing it.

I reduced my reading pile still further by selling two Black Library background books. They were Life of Sigmar and Darkness Rising, both for Warhammer Fantasy Battle. This is very much a secondary game system for me and as a result I figured I'd never get around to reading the books. Instead I put them up on eBay to rake in some cash.

Where does that flurry of reading activity leave me?

Books read
  • How to Paint Citadel Tanks
  • Salamander
  • Cadian Blood
  • Bomber Boys

Books bought
  • Imperial Armour IV: The Anphelion Project
  • Imperial Armour VII: The Siege of Vraks part three
  • Cadian Blood

Books sold

  • Life of Sigmar
  • Darkness Rising

Books wanted
  • Red Fury
  • Planetkill
  • Titanicus
  • Imperial Guard Omnibus Volume 1
  • Creatures Anathema
  • The Horus Heresy: Collected Visions
  • Tales of Heresy
  • The Grey Knights Omnibus
  • Heroes of the Space Marines
  • Scourge the Heretic
  • Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium
  • Rogue Star
  • Star of Damocles
  • Lord of the Night
  • Emperor's Mercy
  • Fallen Angels
  • Heart of Rage
  • Dark Disciple

The reading pile

  • Liber Chaotica
  • Imperial Infantryman's Primer (Damocles Gulf edition)
  • Faith and Fire
  • Cardinal Crimson
  • Kill Team
  • Annihilation Squad
  • Space Wolf
  • Ragnar's Claw
  • Grey Hunter
  • Soul Drinker
  • The Bleeding Chalice
  • Crimson Tears
  • Codex: Space Marines
  • Warriors of Chaos army book
  • Disciples of the Dark Gods
  • The Killing Ground
  • Courage and Honour

So the reading pile has diminished somewhat but the eagle-eyed will have spotted that I bought both Imperial Armour IV: The Anphelion Project and Imperial Armour VII: The Siege of Vraks part three. This means that I now own all of the IA books and will only buy the new ones as they are released. I'll probably read the Vraks book first and then start on the Anphelion after that. I have also started reading the Killing Ground Ultramarines novel so I expect that will turn up in the next bi-monthly book roundup.

Until then, adieu!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

GENERAL: Whaddaya mean ya didn't miss me?

It's been nearly a fortnight since my last blog entry. The reason is that I've been on holiday in Cyprus. It was hot, and because I'm from northern England I got burnt. I've still got a few days off from work to recuperate and I'll be using some of that time to get back up to speed with my gaming and blogging.

I read several gaming related books while I was on holiday so I'll be bringing you a bumper bi-monthly book update very shortly.

I'll also be finishing off my Mighty Empires tiles. I was very close to doing so before I went away so they should be complete by the end of the weekend.

I have just taken a load of Orks out of the Dettol bath they have been sitting in while I've been away and I've dumped my latest, and last, batch in there. Over the next couple of weeks I plan to glue all of my Orks together and write out a 1500 point army list for them prior to painting them for the Tale of 4ok Painters pledge on Warseer.

I've already played a joker and missed the first month and it's looks like I will play a joker again for September. I can only play two in the whole tale so I'll have to get something painted by the end of October (Orktober). I'm a tad worried I'll be knee deep in Planetstrike goodness at that time so my cunning plan is to paint a relatively expensive model with an easy paint scheme to buy me time until later.

A character model would fit the bill but I wouldn't want to rush the paintjob on such an integral model to the army so I think the Deff Dread will have to do. It will come in at around 100 points and I reckon I could finish the model in about three hours if I had to.

If I'm still struggling for time the following month I can repeat the trick with the three Killa Kanz. They will come in at about 150 points and will mean I could paint just four models in two months to stay in the tale. Of course that means painting a horde of Ork boyz in the latter months, but that's just the price I'll have to pay if I want to paint my Planetstrike terrain.

Righto, I'm off to slather on some more aftersun cream.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

OPINION: On proxies

What is a proxy or proxies? In a wargaming context it is the substitution of one model for another, generally a stand-in for a model you do not have but want to play. You own a rhino, but want to play a predator? Proxy it. You have a lascannon model but want a heavy bolter? Proxy it.

All well and good you might think.

You're wrong.

Let me tell you why.

Using proxies can confuse your opponent and therefore give you an in-game advantage. Going through all of your models and units one by one before the game helps a little but doesn't get you off the hook. In the thick of a game, three or four turns in, it is all too easy to glance at the table and take a scatter laser shot at the front armour of your opponent's rhino.

'What, it's a predator?'
'Well I did tell you at the start of the game.'
'Yeah, thanks pal. It's entirely my fault that I failed to memorise every single model in your army in the thirty second before the game started. Besides, I thought that rhino was the predator.'
'No that's a whirlwind.'

Proxying almost always makes the game look worse. Most people agree that wargames have a tactile quality which is an important part of the game. The best games are played on good terrain with two well painted and themed armies. In my experience the sort of person who regularly plays with proxies also plays with unpainted, and even unbuilt, models.

Take a stand I say!

Raping the background
Most proxying is done by players trying the lever an in-game advantage and they don't care if they trample all over every other aspect of the game in the meantime. If you've gone to the trouble of glueing together a lascannon, don't proxy it for a heavy bolter. You have a perfectly good lascannon. Use it, even if it won't have the best utility in the game.

If you are going to proxy models then you have to stick to the following rules:
  1. Never proxy one type of model for something else when you are using the same type of model in the army already (or worse still proxying them for something else again). Yeah, that lascannon is a heavy bolter, but that lascannon is a melta gun. That lascannon? It's a lascannon. Duh.
  2. Proxy approximately similar models. They should be roughly the same size and shape and should have the same base size. Don't proxy a monolith with a Necron destroyer. Don't use a gaunt as a carnifex.
  3. If you are going to proxy a unit, or even a whole army, with the intention of experimentation, don't let me find you using the same proxies 18 months later. If you like the unit or army buy it and paint it and I'll give you a game.

Friday, September 4, 2009

NEW MODEL FUND: Target achieved...and then some!

Over the past couple of weeks I have had numerous auctions running on eBay. I was selling lots of metal Catachan Imperial Guardsmen, Sisters of Battle, old Blood Bowl figures and some out of print Black Library books.

All of the invoices are now paid and I am just about to take the last of the items to the Post Office so I thought an update of my New Model Fund was in order.

The good news is that I've made a whopping £173.25! This brings my NMF total to a mighty £674.34. This has smashed my original £500 target and I'll now revise that target to £750 for the year.

I still have quite a few things which I need to list; some more random Imperial Guardsmen, Warhammer figures and some games magazines. I might try and auction them two per week, which was my original plan, because I didn't enjoy juggling 36 individual auctions simultaneously.

Watch this space.


It's been a while since I reported back on my Planetstrike schemes.

I had £34.15 left in my kitty which came from my fantasy football winnings over the summer. I recently spent £14.70 on the Battlescape terrain piece, which looks fantastic by the way, leaving my kitty at a measly £19.45.

It's not a real problem, though, as I now have a stack of terrain to paint up. I'll keep that money to one side until the end of the project in case I need any extra bits and pieces.

I can't wait to get started.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

BACKGROUND: Afriel Strain Imperial Navy wing

I got a little piece of inspiration this week which has helped me inform the background of my Imperial Navy Aeronautica Imperialis wing.

I like to develop background material for all of my models, at the very least recording their origins, their commander and what they are up to in the Skolarii Sector. This background then feeds into my paint schemes, conversions army lists and even in-game tactics.

I'd been struggling to come up with an interesting hook for my fly-boys when I happened upon a documentary about the Tuskegee airmen. They were a group of African American pilots which were formed into a fighter group during the second world war and proved to be at least as able as the white pilots already fighting. What really hit home to me was one pilot who explained what happened when they returned from the war. They got off the plane and were then forced into a different line from the white pilots; segregation was still in place in the USA at the time.

This injustice was reminiscent to me of the harsh backdrop to 40k universe, and I wondered what the equivalent of that racism would be in Aeronautica Imperialis.

Then I remembered the Imperial Guard Afriel Strain doctrine from White Dwarf 303. These are genetically engineered albino soldiers who are given the best equipment and training to turn them into super-soldiers. All of the regiments so far have started out successfully and then succumbed to a variety of unfortunate accidents, leading to their entire destruction. Additionally, other troops despise them because of their unusual appearance and appalling bad luck.

I dug out the article and upon closer inspection I found no reason not to make my Navy wing an Afriel Strain experiment. It specifically mentions that the mysterious creators of the Strain continue to experiment, fielding their 'perfect soldiers' across the warzones of the Imperium.

The Tuskegee Airmen formed the 332nd Fighter Group and my own wing will also take that number.

Now I just need to pad out the background material and paint the models.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

PAINTING: Mighty Empires...eventually

While I'm in the midst of my eBay selling extravaganza, and between long-term projects, I thought I'd spend a few hours painting my Mighty Empires tiles. I've had them since July 2007 but never got around to doing anything with them. The release of Planetary Empires gave me the push I needed to pull them out and paint them.

I've decided to paint both sets in the same colours so I can combine them freely. This has given me a few headaches in trying to tie the 40k and Fantasy gameworlds together.

The obvious choice, and one I immediately discarded, was to paint the tiles green and call the 40k tiles an agri-world. Boring!

My WFB army is Warriors of Chaos and my main opponent plays Dark ELves so I thought a rocky, snowy tile would represent rugged Norsca and the blasted terrain of Naggaroth and would translate well into 40k where it could stand in for an irradiated, nuclear winter type Hive world, an isolated death/feral world or even just a temperate world in winter. I wanted a few patches of colour on there to break things up with some greens and browns. Over the top I wanted a dusting of snow to tie everything together.

So far I have drybrushed the the tiles with Charadon Granite followed by Astronomican Grey, then picked out the edges of the rivers and the roads with Scorched Brown followed by Bestial Brown. I also painted the woodland Catachan Green then added some Astronomican Grey and some Desert Yellow for a further drybrush. This is too light I think, so I'll wash all the woodland with Thraka Green to reintroduce a deeper green.

I plan to wash the whole board with Devlan Mud (what else?) and Badab Black to tie it all in together. Of course I also need to paint the details like the rivers and cultivated fields.

The whole project should take no longer than a fortnight, fingers crossed.