Thursday, 29 September 2016

Rise up you dead, slain of the hydra

I reckon it was Jason and the Argonauts that first made me realise skeletons were cool.  When I first saw it as a six year old boy I was deeply impressed. The 'teeth of the hydra' scene kept me awake well into the night.  That brazen soundtrack and the way they burst up out of the earth, utterly implacable and death incarnate still gives me a thrill now.

If you haven't seen the skeleton scene, you should definitely give it a go:

In my second batch of Mantic skeletons, I steered well clear of the Revenant armour and cut all the shields off.  I had a ton of Tomb Kings shields left over from building a skeleton archer horde, but they were 'wall' shields and I didn't much like them either.

So I cut those up too and made some large bucklers out of them instead, mixing in some Dwarven shields and a couple of Elf ones I think.  I wanted a spearmen regiment so naturally they are equipped with spears only except the standard bearer who is wielding a Witch Elf banner.  They look much more like Ray Harryhausen's now (I am not worthy to compare my stuff to his but took inspiration from it).

However, I'm still not sure if I like GW skeletons more.  Mantic skeletons are more in proportion but less posable.  They seem more realistic to me but the heroic scale of GW has a charm of it's own and has better defined detail.  They probably stand out more on the tabletop but they look cartoonish whereas the Mantic versions are definitely more sinister.  Oh well, I'll just have to keep buying both versions.  You can't mix them in the same unit though, they are too different (imho).

When I paint the archers I'll do a side by side comparison.  Not very original but I think Mantic gets a fairly bad press and a lot of their stuff isn't terrible.  Yes, GW generally makes better models but I've found a couple of exceptions (Mantic zombies take the piss out of GW ones as far as I'm concerned and Ghouls are arguably better too.  That kit needs updating GW) but Mantic models are significantly cheaper.  The entry price into rank and file fantasy armies was so high that it put me off for years.  The Mega Army bundles from Mantic (and the Start Collecting boxes from GW to be fair) make it much more palatable.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

KoW Billy's Super Sounds of the seventies

Just got back from the Warlords: Kings of War Super Series 'Spring' Tournament which was a good day out. 1 day event. 4 timed games of KoW. 2 wins 2 losses.  I think I placed 8th which was down to my losses being very heavy and my wins being fairly unconvincing.

Round 1 : vs Undead.  Scenario : Invade.

First up was my old nemesis Ryan Lister.  Ok, thats more or less a complete fabrication.  I've only played him a couple of times before in 40k tournaments and there is no enmity at all between us. He utterly destroyed me using my own weapons last year at Maelstrom VIII but that was just memorable and kind of funny.  Ryan was playing a pretty speedy Undead army with a horde plus 3 regiments of Ghouls.  They aren't that fast however and the 'Invade' scenario totally suits my play style.  I rushed him with Bloodworms and he hadn't spotted that they were toting the Brew of Strength and therefore completely cheesy.  They wreaked havoc and I was able to fly and assault my way across the board very early on.  Since I (kind of) play Undead too I knew that a lot of his army was very brittle.  I don't think I've ever beaten Ryan before but I didn't take any pictures of this historic event, so apologies Ryan, I put it down to opening night nerves.

Result: 15-5 Win

Tane's Defence 6 Wall.  Actually these are the crossbowmen.  Doh.

Round 2 : vs Dwarves.  Scenario : Dominate

Second game was against Tane Woodley and his Dwarven stalwarts.  I really must learn some tactics when playing Dwarves.  Running pell-mell at a wall of Defence 6 is not a tactic.  The stunty fellas just stand there and take it.  Come at me bro.  Its not even like he was unit spamming or power listing.  His force was entirely in keeping with the Dwarf persona: obstinate and sheathed head to foot in plate armour.  The scenario suited him too. He slowly advanced his wall of steel (and crystal. He was using elementals too) towards the centre whilst peppering me with crossbowmen.  He only broke formation to send his flying King and Brock Riders in to block and smash my left flank.  My main assault just bounced off him. The second wave were hemmed in by the reeling first wave and just stood there milling about in confusion.  Note to self: Full frontal assault vs. Dwarves = bad.

Result: 20-0 Defeat

I loved these re-purposed Talos Pain Engines as Darkscythe Chariots

Round 3 : vs Varangur & Kin

I need to learn to be patient and wait for an opportune moment with my cavalry/flyers.   Fortunately thats exactly what I did in my next game against Sam Whitt.  We were playing loot and I resisted the urge to grab the loot counters right off the bat, ghosting my flyers up the exposed left flank.  They didn't get their assaults off until turn 2 and 3 but were far more effective.  I also stayed well away from his ranged artillery where possible and actually utilised cover.  He had some pretty nasty shooting but initially chose to focus fire my Terror which survived the onslaught and then regenerated 10 wounds the next turn. Pretty lucky for me and Sam also underestimated my Bloodworms (they are not a tarpit unit, despite appearances) who managed to take out his Bloodsworn horde.  This left him with no real anvil units and low nerve values in the rest of his force meant that I did well by playing aggressively, picking up the loot counters on the way.

Result: 17-3 Win

Night-Stalker on Night-Stalker action

Round 4 : vs Nightstalkers. Scenario : Pillage

I was feeling pretty good going into my last game against Rex Foote.  I had beaten him in our last encounter and this was a mirror match, Stalkers vs. Stalkers so I thought I knew exactly what I was facing.  The objectives were evenly distributed.  Patience and cagey play were my new watchwords.  Rex however could give lessons in cagey play and he had one good advantage over me:  3 units of Screamers with Lightning Bolt (5).  You can be as cagey as you like when you have the firepower to delete one unit of Reapers/Nightmares per turn.  If you don't have any ranged firepower at all on the other hand (as with yours truly) then your options are much more limited.  So I lost my cool early on thinking that I could not sit back and bide my time.  I reverted to form and ran at him.  He got to pick and choose his charges as a result and gave me a good pummelling.  He also demonstrated how to play Doppelgangers properly.  One unit of my Reapers survived by running away.

Result: 17-3 Defeat

Pirate Goblins and.. and.. something deeply disturbing.

The best general was Jayden Howell with his ingenious new Goblin army.  A nice comeback.  Last time I saw him he had just dropped and smashed every single Samurai model in his list at the KoW 'Autumn' event.  It was so badly damaged that the army was unplayable (except as a bunch of movement trays).  Being such a catastrophic event, he didn't bother putting them back together again and just built an entirely new force.

I won Best Presented Army playing my Stealth Mawloc as a Terror. I tarted up my Fiends a bit and used Swarmy as my Void Lurker this time round.  Putting boneswords on a Flyrant is more appropriate in a fantasy setting and looks cool.  I've never won Best Army in a fantasy tournament before so this was a bit of a milestone for me.  I'm still a dirty cheater for taking Tyranids however and I will endeavour to finish painting a fully playable Undead army for the next KoW .

So there you have it.  I'll try a balanced army next.  A bit of fast cavalry, some damage soaking infantry, ranged firepower and the odd flyer for emergencies.  It will probably end up being mediocre and ineffective in all those areas but I'll give it a go.  I can't rely on cheesy Bloodworms forever.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

I used to be a werewolf but I'm alright noooooow!

The trouble with this hobby is that sometimes, its just work. Yeah I know that anything worth doing is never easy but I just wasn't feeling it with these Werewolves.

I hit a bit of a creative wall (oh, how pretentious) with them about 4 months ago and stopped painting my entire Undead army as a result.  I couldn't decide whether I wanted them to look like German Shepherds or Dobermans or fluffy kittens.  I tried a couple of colour schemes out and just came up with fail.

So this week I took the 'gritted teeth' approach and just dry brushed them as fast as possible.  Any colour is better than none at all.  Once that was done I felt a lot better about the whole thing and gave the detailed parts a bit more TLC.  They aren't the best thing I've ever painted but I like the posing and at least I can move on to other, more interesting projects.

Part of the problem is that I still haven't finished building the Undead KoW army much less painting it.  The whole thing is over facing.  I had completed 72 models out of over 300 and I was all zombied out.  I don't even want to think about building more Revenants.  Maybe I could just drop all the body parts into a pool of glue and call it a 'charnel pit' or something.  Yeah, multi-basing gone wild...

So, I've decided to break down the problem into smaller, more manageable chunks.  I've picked a 2000 point playable army and I'm aiming to take this to future KoW tournaments.  Well, apart from the tournament this weekend, that is.  I'm taking Tyranids to that one one and I've managed to fit my new Mawloc in as a Nightstalker Terror. Yay!  But I got into KoW because I wanted to build a new army, not re-purpose my old one (thats just a bonus).

Anyway, the 2000 point undead army only amounts to 143 models which includes all of my painted ones.  So I'm already half way there!  Give myself a pat on the back!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Stealth Mawloc

Well there it is.  Stealth Mawloc is nigh on invulnerable because you can't see him.  He isn't even on the table.  This ultimate stealth bomber appears randomly, drops two blast templates and then mishaps off the board or back into reserves. GG.

Or something like that.  And technically he's still a Stealth Trygon, I've just given him multiple jaw options so I can run him as a Mawloc.  I am reliably informed that I've been playing the subterranean horrors incorrectly all these years because I don't spam the shit out of them.  Statistical probability indicates that if one Mawloc does something stupid one time in three then you should employ a boat load of them to greatly increase the chances of at least one performing three times better than you thought.

So I'm going to run three in my list from now on.  I think the current trend is to use six but I've only got one real Mawloc in addition to this conversion and one Tervigon which is technically made from the Mawloc kit so that will have to do.  If anyone complains about WYSIWYG I'm going to call the Tervigon a 'Trapdoor Spider Mawloc' and enthuse about it to my opponent endlessly, telling him that I've written ten thousand words of backstory, a full technical profile and experimental rules for it.  It is possible to bore people into submission.  I know, I've been on the receiving end enough times.

Well, I say all that but I haven't played a game of 40k this year.  I often find that thinking about playing a game of 40k is more enjoyable than actually playing a game of 40k.  For one thing, it doesn't make your feet hurt.  You can also pretend that you're good at it without the sordid business of getting your arse handed to you by some Imperial Knight fanboy who is super-numerate and filled with the confidence and zeal of youth.

But I'm going to have to put it to the test at some point.  I've signed up for Warpstorm IX which is apparently a qualifying tournament for the 'NZ Masters'.  Not entirely sure what the NZ Masters is but I don't think it bodes well.

Well, at least I'll go down in style.  My proposed army list is completely customised or converted in some way apart from the Rippers and the Spore Mines which are small enough to go unnoticed.  It will, of course, include Lord Commissar Cheese and his flyrant circus.  I'm such a scrub.

Quite pleased with this conversion though.  I bought this model five years ago and even half painted it before losing interest, so its about time.  I don't have any standard Trygon/Mawloc models in my army now, they're all customised.  Maybe that's why I never got round to finishing this one.  It needed to wait for the new Zoanthrope to be released by GW and for me to realise that the carapace on the Zoey would look really good on a Trygon model.  The rest of it just seemed to naturally follow.

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!