Friday, 12 August 2016

Confessions of a Tempestus Scion

 His failure to comply with regulation probably saved his life that day.  The Standard Infantryman's Handbook stipulated that a soldier deployed in a combat zone should wear his helmet (and facemask, if applicable) at all times, with the chinstrap fastened firmly, beneath the chin. Trooper Septimus Clegg was well acquainted with regulation, it was shouted at him often enough and his frequent breaches had labelled him a recidivist.

This did not particularly concern Trooper Clegg who agreed amiably that military discipline was a good thing in general but did not necessarily apply to him.  He was currently wearing non standard footwear and in possession of an illegally customised meltagun, which strictly speaking should have been wielded by a specialist grenadier.  But he was big and well muscled enough to pass himself off as a heavy gunner and no one had bothered to check his chit at the armoury yet.  Besides, his Commissar expected the troopers to be self sufficient as well as obedient and full of zeal and often overlooked exotic or custom-built weaponry. In addition to these indiscretions, Clegg’s face mask rebreather was not on his face but stored in a convenient thigh pouch.  Also, the straps of his helmet hung free and unclasped.  This particular rule breach likely saved his life.  It was so hot and humid in the pumping station that he couldn't see a damn thing through the oculars and even if he could, the sweat constantly running into his eyes would have blurred it anyway.  So he had removed the mask and helmet, mopped his face, and only replaced the helmet.  Removing it entirely would render him unable to hear TacCom blathering nonsense and conflicting orders through the earpiece.  A mixed blessing, perhaps.

His unit had been assigned to sweep the old pumping station, west of the city. Several spore pods had slipped through the orbital defence net and landed in the vicinity.  The actual number and disposition was not clear but Command was of the opinion that any of the alien Tyranids that made it to the surface would head for the cover of the massive water reclamation plant nearby.  The vile xenos were becoming savvy to satellite detection and elimination.  Clegg wondered how was that even possible.  Munitorum propaganda said that they were little more than animals. 'Aberrant vermin' according to the data sheets, albeit telepathically linked, space faring vermin.  Since it was not feasible to blow up the entire metropolitan water supply to be sure of purging the menace, they had sent in the troops. One understrength Company had been given six hours to sweep the entire complex which was several thousand square kilometres in area.  A bit of an oversight, that.

So the men had been ordered to search first in squads, then pairs then alone in order to cover enough ground.  At this point most of the under-officers considered the mission tactically unsound, but a sudden casualty or two would allow TacCom to narrow the search to a specific location and thus save time.  Besides, they probably wouldn’t find anything.  The super orbital battle had finished off most of the xenos and only a few had slipped through.  Tyranid threat levels dropped off dramatically if their numbers were diminished.  Break enough links in their ‘synapse’ and they degenerated into confusion and cowardice supposedly.

Clegg was disobeying orders, kind of, by searching the pumping chambers off a long atrium along with Trooper Warburton.  Technically they were split up, overlapping each other and entering alternate rooms alone but close enough to come to the aid of the other if a situation arose.  Turning into the next chamber he came to a halt.  The entire level was dimly lit by emergency lighting and the weak glow of console readouts, but he could see an untidy jumble of machinery on the grating ahead.  It looked wet with oil.  He pushed one of the timed light panels on the wall and the lamps above the consoles flickered into life.  The room wasn't much brighter.  Rows of industrial pipework stretched away into darkness above but the pile of machine parts was now fully visible, and the wet sheen around it looked like blood, not oil.  He approached carefully, levelling his weapon and thumbing off the safety.  It was a servitor. Or what was left of it.  All augmentations had been stripped away with terrible force and he could see recognisable human body parts among the mess.  It appeared to have been partially eaten, bones and all.  Clegg retreated back toward the doorway.  Surely the work of Tyranid xenos, but it was odd. They were supposed to hunt in packs, hordes even, overwhelming their prey with numbers.  This kill looked fresh, so where were they?

His thoughts were interrupted by the crack of lasgun fire in the adjacent chamber.  'Warburton!' he barked into his headset, 'Respond!'.  Nothing except static came back.  Clegg dashed back into the atrium and through to the adjoining chamber, scanning left and right frantically. No sign of Warburton.  He hesitated, but could see no danger ahead, just the cool glow of workstation lights illuminating faded pipes and apparatus further back in the gloom.  He advanced as quickly as he dared, past rows of machinery, ducts and ventilators that could be concealing anything.  Nothing.   He called out to Warburton again and his own voice startled him. 

The clatter of metal and plastic directly behind sent him whirling around, diving for cover against a column.  Warburton's lasgun lay in plain sight about 20 feet away. Heat wisps still drifted lazily from the muzzle. He had walked past the spot only moments before.  There was nothing above, no sound or sign of the soldier.  In years to come, Clegg would caution his men, “Lictors only make a noise when they want to be heard. Fear and misdirection. Better look over your shoulder.”  At this moment, however, he could only stare dumbly at his friend's weapon which had inexplicably appeared behind him.  The lights suddenly went out.  They had probably timed out due to inactivity but the coincidence gave Clegg a surge of panic.  He braced himself to sprint back out of the door.  Whatever was in here, it was best dealt with in the open.

Something smashed into the back of his head and sent him reeling.  His helmet was ripped away violently.  Had it been securely attached to his head, he would certainly have followed it into the embrace of the creature behind him.  Instead, he fell forward, instinctively turning to face the threat and bringing the meltagun to bear.  Fingers tightened reflexively on the trigger and a liquid stream of superheated gases erupted from it.  The entire chamber was flooded with light for an eye blink.  His assailant was thrown into sharp relief, too many arms splayed, tentacles where a mouth should have been. Its body was transfixed by the molten beam of light spewing from the heavy weapon.  The remains of the helmet were crumpled in one massively clawed hand.  The room went dark again and he heard rather than saw the thing slither, bonelessly down the pipework like puppet with its strings cut.  As his eyes re-adjusted, he registered the remains of the monster on its back, twitching on the grating.  It was almost torn in two at the midsection, front mandibles questing weakly like antennae. He was dimly aware that he had soiled himself again.  Not the first time in his career. He tried to regain his composure, climbing slowly to his feet. Damn Spooks! Sneaking up on you like low born hivers.  He laughed weakly.

The sonorous boom of the meltagun in close confines had alerted his comrades and he heard the sound of raised voices and booted feet approaching at a run.  Armoured Scions filed into the chamber and swept the room systematically, torch beams probing the gloom.  He stood numbly, watching the still writhing corpse.
Trooper DaCosta sauntered over to him. ‘You OK, Clegg?’
‘Yeah.  Where’s Warburton?’
DaCosta eyed him sombrely. ‘Stuffed into the pipes, up there.’ he replied, prodding the dead alien with the toe of one boot. ‘Like a damn mountain leopard storing its cache up a tree.’  The massive, cauterised hole in the alien thorax was leaking yellow fluid which steamed into the air, despite the heat.  ‘What is that stench?’ he wrinkled his nose in distaste.  
 ‘They smell worse on the inside’, said Clegg by way of explanation, acutely aware of the current state of his undershorts.
DaCosta continued his grisly probing and then suddenly stopped and backed away.  ‘Its not poisonous is it?’ he enquired, ‘you know, like spores or something?’
Clegg considered this.  Most of the useful information he had learned of the Tyranid menace was either by word of mouth or at first hand.  Imperial propaganda newsreels mainly concentrated on individual heroism and the incompetence of mankind’s foes.
‘Not sure’, he replied. 

They regarded each other wordlessly for a moment, then both troopers put their rebreather masks back on.  Clegg looked incongruous without his helmet but it couldn’t be helped.  Better to be safe than sorry.  Maybe there was something to regulations after all. 

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Toy Story (WIP)

Inspired by Westrider's 'Cowering in Terror' post over on Cascadian Grimdark I decided to use the idea for a Lictor model that I haven't gotten round to building yet.  I've depicted various marines, guardsmen and Necrons on my nid bases in the past.  Usually in various stages of imminent death, incontinence and decollation.

I was impressed with Westrider's cowardly guardsman.  It really brings the whole thing alive; its not just a base anymore but a mini diorama. This sort of thing works especially well with Tyranids.  The utterly alien and unknowable face of the Great Devourer cannot tell it's own story, otherwise it would spoil the whole scary alien and unknowable thing.  You aren't meant to identify with the Hive Mind, you're just supposed to be terrified by it.  I guess that's why there aren't many Black Library books about Tyranids.  They don't make very good protagonists.  A story from the Termagant perspective would probably go something like:  I/WE BORN! FIND PREY. EAT-EAT-EAT! JUMP INTO DIGESTION POOL. I/WE MELTING! and would leave it's audience unfulfilled.  A story from the Hive Mind perspective would probably go: billions-of-voices-clamouring-simultaneously-in-gestalt-entity. Conscious-overload-sense-of-self-eradicated-human-mind-cannot-comprehend-brain-explodes...

And so we glue hapless redshirts, bricking themselves on our monster bases to convey the story.  Something that can invoke terror in a scarred veteran or an unflappable astartes has got to be pretty horrible right?

You've got to be careful that you don't 'over-egg the pudding' though and turn the whole thing into a farce.  Pouring a pot of Tamiya Red over a pile of spare space marine legs, glued in a jumble at the foot of your bad ass behemoth is only disturbing to your mother. A kind, caring parent who wonders whether you should get out of the house more and make 'real' friends.  Or is it?  Actually, its exactly the sort of thing Slaanesh would do, isn't it?  Assaulting your senses with something outrageous, grisly and improbable.  'Sweet, merciful Emperor! is that real or just some corrupted child's dream!?!'.

I remember once, a few years ago, coming second in a conversion competition. Losing to someone who had depicted a giant with an arrow in his eye and his entire midsection missing, leaving a huge, wet puddle of intestines resting neatly between his feet.  I seem to remember being confident of a win that day, so what do I know about the macabre?  Revulsion is in the eye of the beholder.  I would have modelled him stepping in his own intestines had it been me, but maybe that's where the farce part comes in.

Anyway, in this case I haven't gone for grisly or outlandish.  I liked the fact that Westrider's guardsman was on his knees, unmanned by fear and thought it would be good to try a kneeling down Tempestus Scion. A tricky challenge. I managed to get that part done but in the end decided to model the Trooper taking cover round the back of a pillar. Just starting to peer around it to catch sight of his enemy. He's still screaming though. The Lictor will, of course, be behind him.  Just like panto!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

On Hallowed Ground

Just as thousands of wanderers have journeyed before me, I finally made the pilgrimage half way round the world to Warhammer World in Nottingham, England.  Ok, to be perfectly frank, I lived in the UK for 30 odd years only a couple of hours drive from the place and could never be bothered to go. But that just goes to show that you should never take anything for granted.  A bit like the National Health Service and that Joni Mitchell song; you don't know what you've got till its gone.

I returned to the UK for the first time in 6 years this July and we managed to fit a day trip to sunny Nottingham into our busy schedule.  Everyone else in the family was either actively sceptical or completely indifferent but I assured them it would be well worth it.  Having dispatched my wife and mother-in-law to Nottingham city centre, I dashed inside the fabled gates and spent 20 minutes in the foyer just taking it all in, quivering with anticipation.  My teenage sons were instantly bored but I resolutely ignored them.

At this point my wife returned with the grave news that she could not find the bus/tram stop into town and the plaintiff cries of my children were spoiling my zen-like state of bliss.  We adjourned to Bugman's Bar where a meal and, more importantly, free Wi-Fi were procured.  Our blood cholesterol levels increased tenfold and a tram route into town was established on Google Maps.  My wife departed, clutching her credit card with murderous intent and I abandoned my children to their fate. They barely noticed since they were busy downloading Fallout Shelter and Pokemon Go on their cell phones.

I spent the next 3 hours craning and perched at unnatural angles, trying to climb into the display cabinets.  A few anxious sales assistants approached me but I was oblivious to them for the most part.  The photos don't really do it justice.  The quality of the painting and the sheer volume of miniatures is overwhelming.  I could have stayed there all week and still not really seen everything.

Eventually my sons turned up and feigned interest, allowing me to take a few pictures and maintain the father-son bond.  They remained politely interested and a little bemused.  Ha! I had finally turned the tables on them!  All those Saturdays spent driving to Junglerama, watching them cavort with glee in the foam covered child cages and bored out of my tiny mind.  Well now the shoe was on the other foot! They had to watch me behaving oddly and grinning like a fool whilst pretending to show interest.  They had to calm me down when I got too hot and bothered and remind me to eat something and they had to gently dissuade me from stealing things in the gift shop.

Most of my pictures are blurry failures of course and I've only posted a tiny portion of them since they will all have been photographed hundreds of times anyway and you've probably seen them all already.  You can't really get the scale of the dioramas in a picture.  Some of them fill an entire room.  A large room at that.

All too soon, my wife reappeared, laden with suspicious packages and called a halt to the festivities.  I was the very model of restraint however and only bought Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower (with some extra heroes.  I'm a sucker for the up-sell).  Now this is what I call a great family day out.  I don't think anyone else called it that but what do they know?

Thats some serious resin right there

Painting the inside of Storm Ravens. See? I'm not the only one!

My favourite primarch.  My wife preferred Primark. Ba-dum-tish!

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Nothing much to report

I've been playing Doom instead of hobbying.  Finished the game on 'I'm too young to die' and collected most of the secrets, then cursed myself for a wimp and restarted on 'Hurt me Plenty'.  I got up to the Cyberdemon boss again before realising that I'm too old and slow for this shit.  I am also completely desensitised to exploding zombies.  Those glory kill animations are something else.  Thankfully neither of my sons have the urge to play a game "thats like, from the 80's isn't it?" They are too busy being intelligent and thoughtful gamers, playing Undertale.  Bloody kids. In my day we only dreamed about graphically stunning first person shooters and 8 bit gaming was shite.  What is this backwards, topsy-turvy world we live in? I might go back to Doom anyway but 'No Man's Sky' is looming over the horizon and I feel the urge to explore the universe again after a rather mundane spell in 'Elite: Dangerous'.

Interesting how my Nid style has subtly changed over the years (or maybe the paints have faded?).  Left Hive Guard is newly painted.  The one on the right is about 3 years old.
In between demonic infestations, I did manage to paint one obsolete Hive Guard who has been sitting on the shelf for a few years.

I used him in a game (as part of a horde of Butchers) the other week against Pete Dunn.  There was a battle report in the offing but Pete beat me to it (here) so I never got round to finishing.  I lost the game before it started anyway.  People keep telling me that deployment is key in war gaming but I was too busy admiring Pete's gorgeous Ratkin/Skaven army to pay much attention at the time.  The one graphic I have produced (above), taken at the bottom of turn 1 illustrates the point clearly.  A textbook example of how not to deploy and what happens when you do it badly.

That squashed goblin on the Doomwheel is just genius.  I forgot to ask whether it was a conversion or comes as standard.
The game was 'Loot' (the 3 loot counters are shown as red stars).  I have outlined Pete's Ratkin forces in pink and my own Nightstalkers in blue.   You can see that Pete has won first turn and grabbed all 3 loot counters.  Fast little buggers, those ratmen.  His core troops are nestled comfortably between two pieces of impassable terrain (dotted patterned blocks) and protected from flanking attacks.  His fast, shock troops and shooting on the left are poised to smash through my vanguard.  All he needs to do now is back away slowly towards his own board edge and the game is in the bag.

Beastly Demonspawn

I, on the other hand have blocked most of my line of site to the loot counters by deploying behind impassable terrain.  I was able to fly over it but my battle line is now ragged, full of holes and vulnerable as a chew toy in Cujo's kennel.  I have to stick my neck out even further and attack those troops holding the loot counters or all is lost.

The Reapers didn't disgrace themselves.  Grossly outnumbered here though.
However, the most idiotic thing I did was to deploy my super nashwan elite, smashy unit (Bloodworms) on the far right flank, hampered by terrain, bottlenecked, countering no threats and miles away from the loot counters where the real action is.  They eventually got into combat in turn 5 and managed to wrestle a loot counter away from Pete, thus salvaging some pride, but it was a pretty poor showing from their general.


Friday, 20 May 2016

Don't Fear the Reaper

 "Armed with a bewildering array of wicked looking limbs, claws and scythes, Reapers stalk the dreams of those who abhor wanton violence, torture or pain, hell-bent on delivering their worst fears"
 -- Uncharted Empires

Its almost like the author was thinking about Hormagaunts when he wrote the rules for Reapers in Kings of War (ok, maybe Deldar as well).  A high number of devastating attacks and soft as boiled shite on the defence.  You can kill hundreds, no thousands of the little blighters but Emperor protect you if you let them overrun your lines. It would be like being dropped into a giant NutriBullet ™

Well, its how I imagined them in the 40k lore.  The dismal truth is that I generally used them as objective holders or sacrificial distraction units; charging the enemy at a stiff walking pace and fizzling out like a wave on the beach.  At least they don't shit the bed when mommy Tervigon dies.  I suppose that's something.

But Hormagaunts in the Mantica universe, well now thats a different story altogether.  These things are nasty when played as Reapers.  Not game breaking, but great shock troops and certainly a worthy addition to your force.  They can still be shot off the board in turn 1 but they remain fully functional and dangerous right up to that final nerve check (Well, unlesss they waver.  Shut up! Artistic license!). Ignore them at your peril anyway.

This has actually motivated me to finish painting some more (still less than half the entire number I own.  Ah laziness).  I was tempted to multibase them.  Many had already been drastically re-posed and it seemed like a logical step. I can't even remember the last time I used Hormagaunts in a game of 40k.  It was years ago at any rate, so why bother keeping them on the 40k bases?  Not wishing to invoke Murphy's Law however, I reneged at the last minute.  They might be stupidly good in the next codex release and so I'll keep my round bases, you know, just in case.

I have based them as 2 units of troops which can be slotted together as a regiment if needed.  A regiment is cheaper than 2 troops and has higher nerve but the loss of overall attacks makes it a tough decision.  List building in KoW is really enjoyable like that.

They will of course whiff horribly on their debut appearance this weekend.  It is the fate of all newly painted and favourite models.

 In this shot you can clearly see the mold lines.  Some of these rank amongst the oldest models in my Tyranid collection.  I didn't care about mold lines was when I first started the army.  I was just in a rush to get them built.  Stripping them down and cleaning them up for the new paint job was too much bother.

Only 7 models per movement tray rather than 10.  Still perfectly legal and they manage to look busy nonetheless.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Portal of Despair - Finished

Its already dropped from my list but I'm still pleased with the final result.  I felt duty bound to finish the Portal for fluff reasons as much as anything else.  This is literally my gateway into Kings Of War with Tyranids.  Its a bit of a stretch, claiming that Night-Stalkers are actually creatures of the Hive Mind in disguise.  No worse than the plot of an average Transformers movie though.  Or most modern day blockbusters for that matter.  What was Terminator Genisys but a piss poor excuse to portray a 66 year old Arnold Schwarzenegger as an ageing T-800 infiltrator?

The denizens of Mantica would certainly see Tyranids as the stuff of nightmares from another dimension, that much is plausible.  The actual origin and composition of the army is a bit vague though.  The rules fluff states that the Stalkers are the remains of souls ripped from the world as Oskan was born and scattered across countless dimensions.  In places where reality has thinned and it is possible to cross over, they lurk, desperate to return to Mantica.

This doesn't sound much like The Great Devourer but it goes on to say that "they take many forms - often perceived by different races in different ways" which basically means that they can look like whatever you want.  It also says "..their feeding frenzy is a terror of death as they frantically try to occupy mortal bodies.." which does sound familiar.  The 'occupying mortal bodies' part is the low tech interpretation of the consumption of host biomass to create new strains of Tyranids.

Well thats my story and I'm sticking to it.  Painting the model was pretty easy.  I sealed the plaster blocks with PVA glue first and then just dry brushed shades of grey in gradually lighter colours.  Thinned down green and earthshade washes were applied later and that was pretty much it for the stone work.

The tentacles were done with my usual Nid painting scheme.   Khorne Red, Cadian Flesh, Ushabti Bone with red and fleshshade washes.  I used a bit of Flayed One Flesh in the last drybrush layer but it was practically indistinguishable from the Ushabti Bone.  Gloss varnish was applied last.

I used bright greens and yellows on the 'cross section' bits where the tentacles pass through the portal into our reality.  I wanted a stark contrast with the pinks to highlight where the invisible threshold is.  I put some Blood for the Blood God in spatters on the ground and dripping out of the mouth of the Carnifex to reinforce the effect.  I'm not thrilled with that but the best colour is 'done'.

The Tyranid weed creeping along the door frame was a bit different. I used Elysian and Nurgling Green, highlighted with Ushabti Bone.  Standard fare from my Nid colour scheme but the result was too similar to the background stone colour.  So I added a bit of yellow before putting the green wash and varnish coat on.