Monday, 7 November 2016

+ inload: Intrigue at Warehouse CCLIX – Part III +

+  Warhammer 40,000 2nd Edition battle report – part III+

This inload stems from others – Part I of this battle report can be found here [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+], and part II here [+noospheric inloadlink embedded++

With the alarm raised and the sentries concentrating on the Space Marine, Magos Manderghast broke cover on the eastern flank and took the opportunity to dash towards the alehouse.

Atticas, zealot of the Church of the Astral Ascension, peered around the stasis chamber. Keeping his cool, he checked the seals were intact, then made a short dash into cover behind a market stall.

Like Manderghast, Northgrass had broken cover – but in his case he had a target. Old wood spalled off the market stall as he failed to draw a bead on the zealot with his laspistol.

Atticas's lips peeled back – too far, from too many teeth – in a horrific grin as he fired his shotgun one-handed. Despite bucking wildly in his hand, Northgrass crumpled to the ground. Veck cursed – seeking ammo! How had these brigands and criminals sourced Arbites' gear?

+ Shotguns don't get much respect, but they were more than enough to take out Northgrass, who was using an Imperial Guard lieutenant's statline. +
Northgrass' agonised grunt as he hit the floor was all the sound he made. In any case, oddly-shaped silhouettes arriving at the edge of the battle-zone told Veck that the Church had a rather greater presence in the area than he had suspected.

+ The scenario, adapted from Necromunda's The Raid, saw groups of individuals arriving from reserve once the alarm was raised. In order to bring a group on, the player has to roll under the number of individuals in the group. Bob Hunk had wisely decided to play cautiously, with three groups of three (each a mix of one purestrain and two hybrids), and one of two. This meant a steady stream of reinforcements poured on to the battlefield as the game unfolded. +
Urgently contacting his teams, Veck declared, 'There's no chance of retrieval now – whatever's in that stasis chamber is clearly important: destroy it.' Arcimboldo vox-clicked his assent and slammed into it, his power sword raising great cracks across the armoured surface.

The Church wasn't sitting idly by while their prize was destroyed – they beetled forward with pace and firepower, though a combination of the cover provided by the stasis pod and his mighty armour saw the small arms do no damage to the Space Marine.

His presence revealed by the shotgun's blast, Cymgin and Toria took time to aim before using their longer-ranged autoguns to shoot Atticas. He slumped to the ground, his blood painting the monument. He crawled away before the kill could be confirmed.

A purestrain genestealer was simply too dangerous to be ignored. Arcimboldo knew that he alone of the group stood a chance against the bio-engineered terror, and so broke off his attack on the stasis chamber. Robbing the genestealer of the initiative, he charged it. 

Providing cover, Magos Manderghast took a pot shot at the advancing hybrids, planting a las-shot between the eyes of the foremost one.

The genestealer darted forward – but its speed worked against it in the enclosed space. It barrelled into Arcimboldo, who interposed his power sword: the great blade ignited and reduced the alien to a husk.

A minor triumph achieved, but time was running out – more and more cultists were arriving. Ferlinghetti and Sergeant Tempest barked a warning to the other Blenheim troopers: they were being flanked.

Worse, it was clear the Church had excellent supplied. While the first responders were armed with the sort of low calibre pistols and shotguns the Inquisitor might have expected of a backstreet cult, Manderghast reported from his advance vantage that the latest warriors were carrying military grade autorifles and even heavy weapons...

Before Veck could relay the warning, one of the cultists opened up with a Marathon 7 heavy stubber. Most of the heavy lead slugs impacted on the monument with dull clatters of bursting marble, or whined past, but a number hammered into Arcimboldo will dull reverberating clangs – knocking the Space Marine back, battered and bleeding.

Grim-faced, Veck relayed information to the rest of his team at lightning pace, directing his forces across the open ground safely. Ferlinghetti and Tempest sprinted towards the stasis pod, the underscribe briefly pausing to check on the fallen Northgrass.

+ Classic 2nd edition tokens! +

Bleeding and furious, the injured Astartes ducked into cover and drew his boltpistol...

The Church presses in on the battered Inquisitorial team... Can the Hangman's Rope destroy the stasis pod before the scuttling man-monsters close in?

Tune in for the closing part soon!

Friday, 4 November 2016

+ inload: Storage and display +

+ I think miniature figures look best within some sort of larger setting, diorama or large base that makes them look ornamental, such as bell jar displays, which make them look appealingly like Victoriana. As a result, while I'm proud of the figures I paint, they're not necessarily the first thing I want on display.+

+ Most of my figures are thus packed (fairly) neatly in storage or otherwise away from sight. Mostly, they lurk in the excellent Kaiser Rushforth [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+] cases I own, which stack up in a cupboard and keep things safe. +

+ This was also useful when I was renting, as they're sturdy enough for transport. Now I'm a bit more settled down, my thoughts have turned to having something rather more decorative in which to store my figures. In any case, my Court of the Sun King project, being a lot more 'arty' than my usual stuff, offered a perfect excuse for a small, elegant box. As a result, I've been looking around for a writing slope. Yesterday, it arrived: 

+ Gaze in wonder at the pink polka dot wallpaper the previous owner put in the spare room +
+ It's walnut and brass, and is decorative enough that I'm happy to have it out on display, as I think it's a beautiful thing in and of itself. It's not purely form over function, however... + 

+ The cotton wool things are explosion markers +
+ The top storage is usually upside-down when the slope is in box form, so I don't want to store figures there. However, it's ideal for all those bits that I always used to lose – measuring tape, templates, dice etc. It'll also store objective markers, rulebooks, army lists and other bits that don't mind being bumped about a bit. This is invaluable for me; I've got a terrible habit of turning up at my mates' house with an army, but missing the rest of the stuff I need to play! +

+ The other end is the business end. Here, figures can be stored – I'll be cutting a small amount of foam to shape in order to keep them a bit more secure and snug during travel. Note that there's also space for brushes, paints and pencils, so it'll double-up as a portable paint station. There's not a huge amount of space for storing figures, so it wouldn't work for a big 40k-scale army, but it's ideal for the smaller number of figures that the Court of the Sun King project will include. +

+ Quite aside from transport and storage, I'm hoping this box will be practical during gaming, by offering somewhere to place rulebooks, dice etc. and generally keep the table itself clear of clutter. +

+ I like to think it's the sort of thing that Inquisitor Veck would have; and so it's a fun little pseudo-'in universe' prop, too. Little details like this all help to add to the atmosphere, and remind us that we're exploring imaginatively, not just rolling dice. +

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

+ inload: Intrigue at Warehouse CCLIX – Part II +

+ A Warhammer 40,000 2nd Edition battle report – part II+

This inload leads on from an earlier one – Part I of this battle report can be found here [+noospheric inloadlink embedded++

Fireworks proved the perfect distraction for the Hangman's Rope, as the ill-disciplined warders of the Church all seemed to turn away from the approaching Inquisitorial team.
+ [APPEND] A real stroke of luck for me – or inauspicious dice for Bob Hunk as the scatter dice (used to determine the direction the sentries would end up facing) nearly all seemed to fall facing the opposite long board edge. +

The soldiers of Blenheim, along with Ferlinghetti, crept along the overway with their autorifles trained on the nearby Church sentries. 

Veck gently opened the door to the old house and crept in to find a more commanding viewpoint while his warriors advanced. Arcimboldo showed the preternatural fieldcraft skills of the Astartes in staying hidden, despite his bulk and wargear.
+ This raised a good-natured question about whether Arcimboldo – in his bright orange power armour and flaming swords and candles  – could hide (in the 2nd ed. sense) behind the hedge, which came up to his chest. We looked it up, and the text had the following extract, which had a neat answer to our question:
+ For the purposes of this game, then, we decided Arcimboldo could hide behind the large hedge – but I wanted to point out a broader point, which is that gaming is a dialogue between two (or more) players. Later editions of 40k – and many more modern games – have tried to tighten up the rules to reduce the chances of arguments; but to me that misses the point which 2nd edition made explicit: 'Common sense is required here'. + 
+ Ultimately, any set of rules is going have at least some gap for interpretation (as that's what gives players agency to make decisions), and so rather than putting the onus on the rules to marshal the players, we should expect players to act in a way that advances the purpose of the game – the enjoyable exploration and advancement of a story. +

At a word from Veck, the time came to strike. Arcimboldo leapt over the hedge and in just three bounding steps, closed the distance to the Leavelooker's covered stall, where a sentry had taken shelter to light a furtive lho-stick. Reaching out, Arcimboldo closed his great armoured hand over the lurking sentry's head, silencing him as he snatched the man backwards over the stall.

The Astartes twisted slightly and broke the man's neck in a clean stroke – raising no alarm. He took in the dead man's appearance – and his twin hearts began to race as he saw the tell-tale signs of xenos interference.
"Genethieves!" he murmured to himself.

The remaining three sentries were oblivious; their cargo stored and ready to go. Atticus, an aspiring zealot who was nominally in charge of the duty, shifted his honour-staff into the crook of his elbow so he could rub his hands together to warm them.

Northgrass crawled across the ground to the low wall, then looked back up to the overpass, where Cymgin and Toria were lining up shots.

Two stuttering barks rang out, one after another. The first punched into the sentry, who stumbled confusedly before the second spread his brains across the cold earth. Again, the alarm remained pointedly silent.

+ With two sentries down, the field is looking well in Veck's control. +

Atticus shifted his staff back into his grip – and happened to take a glance to his left as he did so. What in the...?

The fourth sentry's form was too hunched and distorted to allow him to pass unnoticed in crowds – but his metahuman 'blessings' made him invaluable as a sentry, enhancing his vision slightly. As a result, at a brief gesture from Atticus, he was quickly able to make out the shape of the Space Marine.

Unfortunately for the sentry, it didn't make him invulnerable to mass-reactive shells. Whipping the boltgun round, Arcimboldo's snap shot detonated with a ear-splitting crack that spread the cultist across a wide area.

With that, the chance for stealth was over – Atticus frantically began ringing the hand bell he carried, raising the alarm. Arcimboldo's brow creased as he unsheathed his power sword and ignited it with a fiery flourish. He began to advance on Atticus as unstoppably and inevitably as the wrath of the God-Emperor.


+ To be continued +

+ Why a Space Marine? +

+ This part of the report mostly looked at the Astartes' point of view, and I wanted to add a few notes about the army lists. The atmosphere of the game we were creating owed much more to Dan Abnett's sublime Eisenhorn and Ravenor series and the more modern interpretation of the Astartes that has sprung up. To represent this, I ended up cooking up a statline based on a Master Inquisitor as a basis – giving Arcimboldo 3 Wounds and 3 Attacks, as well as elevating his physical statline far above a regular human. +

+ Making decisions like this obviously requires prior discussion and approval with the other player – fortunately Bob Hunk's an easygoing soul who was quite happy to see a 'movie marine' approach in terms of rules. +

+ While it's fun to see a powerhouse romp through opposition once or twice, they're a bit one-dimensional. For the sort of undercover operation that games of this style – narrative explorations – offer, I might have been better off with some hired muscle, local beggars or bribed officials. They offer equal modelling and painting opportunities, and precisely because they're a bit less reliable, they're more fun for both sides. +

+ Certainly Ferlinghetti, a cowardly scribe, and Atticus, a minor zealot of the Church, started to develop and become more memorable characters; and started cogs turning in both players' minds as to where the narrative can go next. +

+ Generally speaking, I'm not sure on the value Astartes bring to games of this scale. At this early stage of the game, I was a bit concerned that he was going to waltz through the poor genestealers and give Bob Hunk a bit of a sour taste. As you'll see in the following inloads, that's not quite what happened in this game, but it is well worth asking yourself the motivation behind wanting to include characters of this 'power level' in your own group. In my case, it was a wish to get a model I was proud of on the table; but I'm unsure if Arcimboldo will appear next time without a pressing narrative need. + 

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

+ inload: Intrigue at Warehouse CCLIX – Part I+

+ A Warhammer 40,000 2nd Edition battle report – part I+

+ A very enjoyable game that pitted The Hangman's Rope – an Inquisitorial team led by Unfortunus Veck [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+] against the Church of the Astral Ascension [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+], who have been attempting to smuggle something sinister into the underhives of Grovsenor II... +

+ This game was a bit of an experiment, using a sort of bastard lovechild of Necromunda and Warhammer 40,000 2nd Edition. It turned out very successfully – the best game I've had in ages! + 

+ We join our Dramatis Personae following the events of The Enforcer and the Neophyte [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+], a great little short written by occasional four-armed enemy of the Imperium, Bob Hunk. +


In the distance, the sky lit up. Colourful starbursts of lilacs, magentas and greens rolled across like a barrage, painting the clouds a dirty grey-mustard. For a moment, The Underscribe felt his chest ache – an unplaceable sense of loss, of sorrow – as memories of a childhood on a distant planet came back to him. Saint Oltiman's day was celebrated throughout the sector; though nowhere more exuberantly than on Grovsenor II, the blessed martyr's birthplace. 

The moment passed. 


+ Outlying scrumhabs of the House Zavr Warehouse District +
The fireworks display was certainly impressive. Ferlinghetti wondered idly how many casualties would result this year. With a slight start, he realised his companions were beginning to outpace him. Parade or not, the diversion wasn't going to last long. He broke into a scurrying amble to catch up with the three Blenheim Guardsmen Inquisitor Veck had 'diverted'.

+ Ferlinghetti and veterans of the Blenheim MMXIVth +
Slightly breathless, the Underscribe crept up the iron-and-steel staircare of the old loading overpass after the three soldiers. Looking to his right, he saw Veck and Cyprian Northgrass, the Inquisitor's right-hand man, both sheltering behind an old hab that had been pressed into use as warehouse overflow. Behind them lurked the unnerving Arcimboldo, last Scion of the Scarlet Blades. Ferlinghetti shuddered, and was glad to be a safe distance from the Astartes warrior.+

+ Interrogator Cyprian Northgrass, Inquisitor Unfortunus Veck and Arcimboldo +

It was a desolate place; an isolated and near-forgotten sub-district of House Zavr's warehousing that had once been relatively genteel housing – until an ancestor of the current Lord Zavr had been offered a large sum if he could find some extra grain storage. The large open area near the Triumphal Arch was the only one for acres around that provided access for road-wheelers; which made this anonymous place a favourite haunt of smugglers, criminals and recidivists aiming to avoid sky-tax.

Smugglers, criminals and recidivists, Ferlinghetti mused. Which, if any, described the odd new Church best? It did not occur to the Underscribe that the Church of the Astral Ascension might be a legitimate and sincere faith-group. He had worked alongside Veck for too long to grant upstart cults much in the way of charitable thought.

+ An overview of the field of play. +
The warm early evening was broken only occasionally by the bang and crack of distant fireworks, which split the dim light with flashes of fading colour and rumbling ersatz thunder. Ferlinghetti knew Magos Manderghast, an old ally of Veck, was prowling somewhere near the dark highway; his enhanced vision providing the best chance of detecting whatever the Church was up to.


God-Emperor, he was nervous. Never possessed by the firmest of courage, Ferlinghetti found the tension virtually unbearable as Veck's teams crept forward in the half-light. The Underscribe's bowels nearly turned to water as the soldier on point – Cymgin? – suddenly took one knee and raised his rifle to his shoulder. Immediately, the others sunk down, their heads moving warily. 

'There,' whispered Cymgin, gesturing to the space in front of an old Arch, commemorating the long-dead victors of a battle in a war none now remembered. A mysterious object, steaming with stasis-fumes, sat just in front of the Triumphal Arch. Relieved, Ferlinghetti was just about to suggest they walked over, when Toria, the other veteran, murmured to her colleagues,
'Sentries I make four of 'em'.

+ Church warders prowl the ancient rubble near the pick-up point. +
Ah. Not just a night-time walk, then, thought Ferlinghetti, ruefully.


+ To be continued +

Thursday, 27 October 2016

+ inload: Members of The Blenheim 2014th +

+ The Blenheim 2014th +

+ I'm very happy with how these guys are coming along. Here's the final two members of the first Hand; a pair of soldiers from the Blenheim MMXIVth (the same regiment as The Two of Beasts, Thorna Tempest, who can be seen in the first image):

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

+ inload: The Sun King's war +

The war, the war. It had not reached every quarter of the vast City; though the ever-present dull glow on the horizon reminded even the most well-ensconsed Wellborne that nobody was truly safe. The initial assault had broken the Cyng-in-exyle's meagre forces and driven them from the City in short order; though the Cyng-in-exile himself was still at large. While some loyal – or foolish – romantics clung, red-eyed, to the idea that the interloping Sun King would be driven out eventually, the result was clear from the start.

Despite this certainty, it was a messy war, being fought by sides that were obscure or unclear. A regiment might fight alongside another before facing it the following day. Groups that were soldiers in name alone marched where ordered, in rags, ribbons and flounces, clearing and burning buildings and habitations that they had trooped through to welcoming cheers not weeks before. Prisoners were executed, or clapped in chains and led off weeping, back to the Palace. Ranks of ragged and dirty soldiers glowered at each other over cobblestones, slick with blood and rubbish and nightsoil, as they clashed again and again; as though toys propelled by idiot children. 

It was a messy war, but not unusual. The folk of the City had seen the incomprehensible internecine wars of the Wellborne fought for generations. Older inhabitants leaned back and smugly told their descendants of older wars survived through guile and courage and cunning – qualities often suspiciously at odds with what those descendants knew of the teller's character. They told of hardships endured and Masterships changing hands; they recounted the different masters to whom they had sworn eternal fealty. Such a war was to be expected, they said. It will pass, they said. Few such folk believed the Cyng-in-exyle's defeat would bring the conflict to an end. The interminable strife and sniping between the Wellborne, and the gang warfare and street brutality this bred were as unchangeable facts of life as the rising and setting of the sun, or the glittering stars in the heavens. 

If the past was any teacher at all, the people knew that the war would be followed by a new and different leader; a new burgomaster or Seer-o'-the-Quarter, and perhaps the announcement of a new Welleborn familyhead to whom they must swear their undying loyalty. It was the way of things. The people knew a new Welleborn would demand taxes, hardship, suffering. To the Welleborn families themselves, the war had proven an ideal excuse to air generation-old grievances and battle openly in the streets; their usual rude thugs supplemented with queer archeotech, off-world trained soldiery, or smuggled high-tech firearms like plastek-clad chatterrifles and iron wands that projected flames. 

If the Sun King cared, he made no sign. 


Displaced populations of now-destroyed villages long-swallowed up by the City were likely to take up arms to find a new quarter to settle: driving out the current inhabitants with cudgel and club, in a domino sub-war beneath that fought by the uniformed swordsmen. As always, it attracted mercenaries - from outside and inside the city. At least bloodshed was honest, they said. At least killers didn't make you pay for the privilege. At least the war was exciting - albeit briefly, for most such new warriors. Towns and quarters rifled their pockets or stripped their stores to hire protection. Most mercenary regiments were the regular rabble; broken-toothed drunkards and brutes who made their living by the halberd. Those from inside the City were commonly newly-minted mobs of angry inhabitants, driven as much by homelessness as idealism. Some came from abroad; exotic and storied regiments arrived at the Docks or the many City Gates to seek payment and adventure. Some had names were as old and famous as folk-tale; others were strange in their speech and their war-art.

For the best part of six months, the gathering fora and market squares were as likely to ring to the clash of polearms and halberds – and the occasional snap of timewornlaslocks or frag-bomb – as they were to the everyday squabbles and fistfights of daily life. After a few months or the war settled into a grumbling, smouldering state. The rattled populace become dulled, resigned to their new war-torn life. As with any other war, the people muttered in beer-halls and gathering places; as likely to cheer the Sun King's actions as bringing some excitement and change as they were to complain of shortages or brutality.

In truth, it almost seemed as though the Sun King was prolonging the conflict, gradually scouring different areas of the City - haphazardly, seemingly at random. The Sun King's soldiers did not question orders. Cepeheans were nothing if not obedient. Warehouses were emptied and burned to the ground, or weaponless villages turned over by artillery. No-one seemed to know why. 


If this seemed strange, the seventh month saw the war become very unconventional indeed. The Sun King himself took to the streets. The people took notice – It was rare to see even a minor Welleborn touch the flagstones, and no-one could remember a Cyng fighting himself. It was something from myth, a fabulist's tale. 

His forces were equally wondrous. Some, of course, were the familiar pikemen and musket-troops, the same scabby dregs as the crowds but ruffed and feathered in imported silks and cottons. Others wore seemingly magical clothes; drab and pied, that made them seem to disappear in plain sight. Off-worlders, they bore strange guns that spat like laslocks, but over and again. Besides these were occasional stranger figures; oddly proportioned in swaddling robes.

His mercenaries were not spindle-limbed and ragged men forced to find new homes; nor even those same folk dressed in glittering brocade and gleaming new arms. His mercenaries did not come from the distant towns or other countries. They were not like other mercenaries. They bore strange weapons. They came from other worlds.

Some were stranger still. Some came from further than other worlds – some came from the very myths and legends of the Imperium at large.

Some were terrifying.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

+ inload: Vanya de la Oawadh +

+ The Foure of Cüppes +

That there is no inherent defence from vice in being born to the teeming crowds of humanity that makes up the workers and ratings and slaves of the Imperium. No, there is no romantic proof against evil in being born poor, beyond perhaps the simple inability to extend that nascent native wickedness beyond a small pool.

For those at the other end of the social scale; for those vested in authority, or granted power and stewardship over others? Well, power, as is well-known, corrupts. Not always. Not inevitably. On such shifting foundations of certainty, on the thin ice between the righteous and the abominable is the Inquisition itself founded. 

For many Inquisitors – for myself – a level of pragmatism is appropriate in the exercise of my power. Should an Inquisitor sanction a bread-thief? No; for any goodness in the apprehension and punishment is far outweighed by the time wasted in pursuing bigger game. 

Eheu temporaForget the insidious temptations of the archenemy or the wiles of xenos' it is time that is our greatest foe. However, practicalities stand: since we cannot excruciate the flow of reality, it falls to us to prosecute that within our grasp – the corruption of humanity itself – to the fullest of our ability. 

It is an aphorism: Send the keenest guards to watch the powerful.

Considerations, Vol IV. Unfortunus Veck


'Only the insane have strength enough to prosper. Only those who prosper judge what is sane.
This could be the motto of the bloodthirsty de la Oawadh dynasty, a Welleborn family with roots stretching back centuries. 

Vanya de la Oawadh: Vidame of Yndbürch. Welleborn. Gadabout. Murderess.

A minor family; but one deeply entwined with the Throne of Cepheus. Vanya is of direct line – albeit nowhere near the heir apparent. As a result, the Materfamilias (for the de la Oawadh admit no man to have inherent authority over them) cares little for the Vidame's 'excursions'. Indeed, her murderous and petty proclivities – sadistic and violent – are glossed over as though a mere quirk.

Vanya runs with the street gangs of the Reddsmen's Quarter, suitably geographicly distant from her family's main assets – though she is no follower. Well-known and feared, she simply 'adopts' a gang as the whim takes her – inveigling her way in under a false pretence. Should a gangster recognise her; it is best he or she keeps their mouth sealed...

Augmented and enhanced, Vanya's whip-thin frame conceals horrifying strength and agility; and she is well-trained in the arts of fighting – and torture. Woe betide any who cross her.