Monday, 26 September 2016

+ inload: Settings and stories I +

+ Why are we fighting? +


+ At the core of a wargame is conflict. The ruleset we use to resolve it is essentially a pattern-making machine that ensures all the players' imaginations mesh together and work to create a result that they agree upon. + 

Alongside this bald result is the story or narrative. A lot of the time, this narrative is taken for granted, but it's fundamentally couched within the game. Everyone will have played imagination games like cowboys and indians, where they ran around as a group and shouted out 'bang – you're dead!' At the very root of wargaming (and role-playing games) is a framework that takes this pure imagination and reins it in. You lose some spontaneity and freedom, but end up with an agreed set of outcomes and results that, at best, enhances the experience and creates unexpected stories that are interesting and stimulating. +

+ At worst, the set of rules gets in the way of the fun of imagination. They're too complex, or obtuse; or the results they dictate fly in the face of common sense. Some players like this – the element of competition and unexpected results making things more like a real conflict, where the 'fog of war' makes all things fair, and close study of the ruleset is rewarded. Other players deliberately de-emphasise the hard line of the rules, fudging results or doing things that are dubiously logical in-game in order to have their models do something 'in character'. +

A soldier of the Lamb's World LVth, alongside a minor xenos belligerent.
+ Neither approach is wrong, but I think that all players can benefit from taking a step back and remembering that at the root of the their preferred set of rules is a story unfolding. The emphasis that you place on that will, of course, differ – some players prefer results, others want to explore. +

+ The Rogue Trader rulebook had some fantastic (and some very silly!) story ideas – little more than a paragraph of colour text – that were intended to provide inspiration for scenarios and games. These have dropped out of newer editions of 40k, but I really enjoyed them. + 

+ The Inq28 and Oldhammer communities are good examples of the older DIY approach to wargaming, where the rules were regarded less as holy writ to be followed, and more as a starting point to tune to your heart's content. This is pretty much how I like to play, and so I thought I'd share some ideas that you might like to try out if you fancy a go at a more 'freeform', exploratory style of game. +

+ Ideas +

+ Making up a story will come as second nature to some people, while others struggle. I really enjoy coming up with planets and peoples and worlds, and thought I'd post up a couple of example systems from the PCRC's shared Imperial sector, Antona Australis [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+], along with some basic ideas for games, campaigns and characters. +

+ While these are all set in a 40k sector, there's no reason that they couldn't be used with other game systems with a little renaming. You could easily convert one of the systems below into a mediaeval county, where the worlds are market towns, for example. I'd also encourage you to use different game scales – Epic, Gruntz or Infinity are all equally appropriate. +

+ Each system name contains a clicky link to take you to the relevant system within the sector. Please feel free to use and adapt them for your own games – I hope they spark some imagination and help you create some stories of your own. If you enjoy this, please let me know in the comments and I'll see if this can become a series. +

+++

+ Thetis +

+ The system +

Give me Liberty, or give me a planet of equal or greater worth. 
– The immortal words of Imperial Commander Modestus, first Lord of Liberty.

Brought into the Imperium in M35, this system is dominated by the political machinations of the Merchantile Council of Last, a group of hereditary peers that have overseen imports and exports from the system for four millennia, with a brief break in M38 following the Unpopular Uprising. The Council has holdings all over the principal planets of the system, but makes its presence felt most obviously through the opulent Last Palaces on Liberty itself.
  • Liberty is a small, civilised world with hundreds of settlements in dense clusters across rolling hillsides and bordering calm, fecund oceans. Despite having few raw materials of its own, the world supplies a surprisingly high tithe through its excellent trade network, which extends across the Hesiod-Siculus subsector. It supplies some regiments to the Imperial Guard, which are unremarkable beyond their excellent sharpshooters. The planet is ruled by a seething aristocracy currently topped by the Dam-immortél Liberty, seemingly a foppish coquette, but possessed of an acute – and ruthless – mind. Libertines, as the planet's inhabitants are known, are generally characterised as overly-focussed on profit, but otherwise honorable, good men and women.
  • Cacoph Tertiary is the largest of the three innermost worlds, and the only one with permanent settlements of any note. The Cacophians are hard workers, known through the system for their creative approach to problems and their awful liquor. 
  • Rubicon provides numerous heavy infantry regiments to the Guard, which are renowned for their sturdy demeanour and cussedness. Their officers are universally unimaginative; referring to the Liber Rubicus in almost all circumstances. This book, issued to every officer on receipt of their rankpins, contains a massive compendium of every extant report of engagements in which the Rubicon regiments have served since pre-Imperial dominance. While the tactics within are staid and conservative, they provide useful insight to the present day. It is a history penned in the blood of loyal infantrymen.

+ Story ideas +

  • Refight the 'Unpopular Uprising'; perhaps a series of games that build from a Necromunda size gang to a full-blown 40k (or even Epic) army? 
  • Infiltrate the Merchantile Council of Last – The Dam-immortél suspects the Marquis de-Boufbouf of plotting a coup. Can your burly mercenaries kidnap him?
  • The inhabitants of Cacoph Tertiary are acting strangely... Genestealer infiltration? Has a chaos Cult taken root here? 
+++

+ Limbs +

City of Traum, Decens
The system orbits a main sequence star known as Limbs Primary. This unusual nomenclature (Primary is usually used as a shorthand referent to the closest planet, rather than the star itself) has been cause for note amongst the Munitorum; it is suspected that there is a dwarf planet hidden within the photosphere that caused the star to be miscatalogued.

Limbs Primary supports four populous hiveworlds: Limbs, Decens, Hyppos Rusicade, and Pluracy. All support primary manufacture and help oversee, monitor and supply the Imperium with the subsector's exports. Politically important, the system is a stop-off for most visiting dignitaries, most of whom visit the Gallery of Heroes on Hyppos Rusicade, an astonishing artwork/memorial that contains a portrait for every member of the Imperial Navy drawn from Antona Australis. The gallery stretches virtually the entire way around the equator of the planet (with minor breaks to allow for tectonic upheaval), and has many billions of individual images. Owing to the near-impossibility of the artists finding images of their 'sitters', most are rote-drawn tiny near-duplicates, portraying the individual in the Late Rusicadian heroic style: three-quarter face, monochrome, and sharing typical features symbolic of heroic man- or womanhood.
 

  • The planet Limbs is the home of the House of the Golden Needle, a merchantile group that has spread its influence across the subsector. Known for its generous support towards the Ministorum, members of the 'Needle' are sure of a warm welcome throughout the sector. 
  • Decens is currently a pit of slums  (pictured) following the reign of the Imperial Commander, High King Delphis MCXI. A believer in the Millennial Church of Clocks, Delphis forwarded the last three decades of the tithe to the conman Anithon Buth, who absconded with the phenomenal wealth. The House of Buth became a notorious example of the infinitesimal speed with which Imperial Justice is meted out, with nearly six Centuries passing before the Judges caught up with Buth's descendants. A minor scion of Buth's house – believed to have embezzled a substantial portion of the fortune – was later implicated in the attempted Secession of Melissa, and is believed to have links with the renegade Sephran Mawl.
The system was the site of the notorious War of Limbs in the early years of M39, a conflict between Waa-Gargog and the Spinther Main and Auxiliary Fleets, plus numerous mercenary ships. Ships of the Carcharodon chapter of the Adeptus Astartes were first sighted in this sector during this conflict; and were instrumental in driving off the Butcherking Gargog.

+ Story ideas +

  • Is there a dwarf planet in the inner system? Your Battlefleet: Gothic fleet is ordered to investigate. On a smaller scale, why not use the X-wing rules to perform a fly-by? 
  • Tying this system into the broader sector, perhaps the House of the Golden Needle has previous history with the Merchatile Council of Last (see Thetis, above). A conflict between their respective operatives could make a very rich Inq28mmm campaign that documents the Imperium beyond the warriors and armies; and that is informed by simple politics and greed, rather than chaos or heresy...
  • Whatever happened to Antithon Buth? What was the fate of High King Delphis MCXI when the Imperium came to collect the tithe? Your Inquisitor should find this out – and post-haste, as the Millennial Church of Clocks seem to be winding up for action...
  • The Gallery of Heroes on Hyppos Rusicade would make a great setting for a pursuit story in Inq28mm.
+++

+ I hope these story germs prove fruitful – please let me know if you do anything with them, and as I mention above, let me know if this sort of thing is useful to you and I'll work on some more. In the meantime, feel free to explore the broader sector of Antona Australis [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+]. +

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

+ inload: Brave men and women of the Calth IVth +

+ Calth IVth Rifles +


+ A fairly self-explanatory shot of some new infantry to support my Ultramarines. These are Arcadian Guard from Victoria Miniatures [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+]. The figures are lovely miniatures produced in a resin that is a great balance of rigidity without brittleness. This means the characterful details are captured well; and they are cleanly produced. +

+ I was very impressed with the posing, too – with separate weapons, I was anticipating them being a bit fiddly, but the arms have been very well designed to give a variety of natural poses that go together cleanly and securely. +

+ I'd painted one of Vic's miniatures before; the limited edition banner bearer below, and had assumed that the casting quality of that was unusual – but judging from the squad I bought recently, it seems the high quality was typical. +



+ Mainly bought because I like the models – they're clearly based on GW's older Cadian models, which I loved – these will be painted up in muted brown camouflage to go with my much-delayed Aldebaran Regiment (see below):


+ The intention is to have both groups pull double duty for the Age of Darkness and 40k; with the different models potentially representing different unit types (e.g. Militia conscripts, regular infantry, veterans). +

+ Another benefit is that these models are a bit more reasonably sized than GW's plastic Cadians, which means the stature of the Astartes becomes more obvious:



Wednesday, 14 September 2016

+ inload: Closing notes on Ambush at Kalkriese and narrative gaming +

+ Zoggin' Eck! Thoughts of the Xeno in Defeat +

Bob_Hunk (he of the awesome Imperial Fists [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+] and orks) has kindly written some closing notes from our game, Ambush at Kalkriese [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+]:


A well deserved victory for the Ultramarines under Lieutenant Holion. But it takes more than a series of stinging defeats to keep a good Ork down, and I'm sure Gashbag is even now licking his wounds and plotting a suitably kunnin' response. 
I enjoyed playing against the Astartes Crusade list; after years of commanding my Orks against Codex Marines lists and the Imperial Guard, it's a refreshing change to face the might of the Imperium in a different guise. 
Now settle in while I reel out a list of excuses for my defeat. ;) There were three things that I feel went quite badly wrong.
  • Firstly, the large shoota boyz mob bouncing off the tactical squad who had extra combat weapons and counter attack. Extra combat weapons are definitely a sound investment when facing squishy xenos hordes!
  • The second problem was when Gashbag and his meganobs lost a combat, fled and were run down! I don't think I need to explain why that was a bad thing for the overall plan. ;)
  • Thirdly, the looted wagon completely failing to eliminate the heavy support squad and signal officer - in what should have been a relatively sure thing - with its kill kannon. All it managed was four turns of misses and malfunctions, with the fourth shot taking a chunk out of the newly deployed reserve squad of shoota boyz!
I would have got away with it if it weren't for those meddling dice! ;) 
Bad luck aside, I don't want to take anything away from Apologist, who outplayed me with effective use of his list, playing on the strengths of mutual support and the various buffs offered by his officers and rite of war. 
Next time I'll be sure to persecute those HQ units with a bit more prejudice, and of course bring something that can deal with the Contemptors!
Until next time, Apologist! *shakes power klaw menacingly*

+++ 

+ Theoretical/Practical +


+ From my own point of view, the game went very well – it's always fun to play against Bob Hunk's orks, and having finished my board just hours before, I really enjoyed the visuals. +

+ In game terms, things went pretty much to plan. Any scenario which sees your force surrounded at the start can be intimidating. However, if you can avoid engaging both fronts at once, you can put the pressure of your whole army on half of the other player's. This worked out well for my army, which is at best a bit slow – being made up of infantry and heavy tanks. +

+ I'd love to claim that mastery of tactics saw me having such light casualties, but in truth I think Bob Hunk's plan was fairly solid. The gods of the dice were clearly against him for a number of important rolls! In terms of how the Age of Darkness ruleset and the Legiones Astartes list works against a regular 40k army, I'd suggest that it was relatively balanced. The combination of counter-attack (provided by the Legion rules) and additional combat weapons was perhaps gilding the lily against non power-armoured enemies, and I may have been better off without the upgrade and simply taking more Breachers. +

+ I'm sorry Holion and the Breachers of Viginti didn't have more of a part to play in the story, and am determined to use them more aggressively next time. Still, a very fun game – thanks pal! +


+++

+ Gaming and competition +

+ Tabletop wargaming is unlike most hobbies in that it necessarily involves other people. It's a bit different to other aspects of the hobby – painting, converting, writing etc. – which can all be pursued solo. This is part of what makes it so rewarding; there's a social contract, and it brings me on to why I prefer a narrative approach over a competitive approach to our games. An important part of gaming that you discuss it with the other player. However seriously you take the game, we all do this naturally – informing the other player of what you're doing, clarifying aspects of the rules etc. – but I'd encourage you to take it further. +

+ Competition can be a lot of fun, and as the game has developed, this aspect of 'fair matches' has been emphasised over the scenario-led roleplay approach. I expect a lot of people have picked their 40k army because of a particular piece of artwork, colour text or story. If you tend to go for set points levels, I'd encourage you to go back to Rogue Trader and try a scenario game. This might be as simple as picking your armies from narrative description (and I bet you'll find a hell of a lot more basic troops and far fewer specialists!), or re-fighting a game you've played before. +

+ The important part is that all of the players understand what's going on, and that requires talking it through. The missions in the books and expansions – such as the Age of Darkness one we were using – provide a great starting point, but once you get into the habit of thinking of the person on the opposite side as another player whose enjoyment is important, rather than an opponent, you'll quickly find your gaming more rewarding and enjoyable. +

+ The old saw 'The objective of a game is to win; the point is to enjoy it' sums my thoughts up nicely. +

Monday, 12 September 2016

+ inload: Our Presence Remakes the Past +

Another? Well-met, Brother.

You have caught our us mired in memories. Arkhan had been regaling us with tales of Saturn. It had reminded me of a conversation with a fatalistic member of the First Legion during the closing stages of the Lunar Compliance – though we didn't call it that at the time, of course. We were both propped up in a field apothecarian, the atmosphere cyclers hissing to keep the cloudy tent inflated, he had talked of the Thunder Warriors. His words were matter-of-fact, but there was an odd tone or inflection. Mournful? Placid? It might merely have been his unfamiliar accent. It had been a short conversation, but I found myself thinking of it years later, when our Primarch was found at last.

For the best part of a decade, we waited impatiently, and all of a sudden, he was there. You remember. I see you do. We were met by, embraced by, and addressed by a statesman. He was a veteran; a hero. More than that; he was everything you and I had wished for in a leader and in a father.

We were Ultramarines now, fighting alongside an intake from Macragge, from Iax, from Espandor – beyond. They were bound together, and sought to bind us in – as brothers, of course – but there was something of an incompatibility. Nothing so great as to disbar us from the Legion, but nevertheless, a difficulty of integration. An uneasiness of spirit that drew us together with our own while they intermingled.

War-Born. War-bred. 

War inside and out leaves little room for compassion. 

...and thus it continued, unspoken. Even at our apogee, we were found somehow lacking. However reliable and well-tested we were, however exemplary – and however we uphold the ideals of our father and the Emperor, beloved-by-all, we are not the same as the Warrior-Kings of Ultramar. Like apex predators too far evolved down one breed-line to adapt, we are relegated to this appendix.

All of you. All of us. One by one, transferred, seconded, sidelined or outright expelled into the 22nd. Thus it is that we of the Old Legion find ourselves herded – not unwillingly – into a brotherhood outside a brotherhood. We are Terrans, to a man. 

So. Well-met, Brother. You are the last, I believe.

And now? Now we find ourselves dug inside this husk of a world we should love. And here, here at last, we can demonstrate the strength of Unity one last time. Pass me that rad-rifle. Buckle on your life-eaters. This isn't for Calth, or Macragge, or even home. Today, we go to underline the unkindness of fate. We go to spite those bastard Heralds. Today, we go to kill a dead world. 

It's back to the old ways, lads. Triumph, or death. Either way, bring honour to the Emperor, to Guilliman, to the Legion. Either way, keep the motto on your tongue as we make those words ring true one more time. Say it with me. 

Say it now. 

Our Presence Remakes the Past.

Friday, 9 September 2016

+ inload: Ambush at Kalkriese – Ultramarines vs Orks part IV: the result! +

+ inload: Ambush at Kalkriese – Ultramarines vs Orks +

+ The preamble and background for this battle can be found in the inload below. +

+ The first and second parts of the report itself can be found in the inload below. 

+ The face that launched a thousand pitfights – Warboss Gashbag of the Teknorkracy +
+++

+ Extracted from the post-action report of Legionary Vispanion, squad Secundus. +

+ Practical: Turns 3–4 +

+ Mark 0.32: The Seekers prepare to receive a charge. A cry of Hold Fast goes up over the vox net, but overwatch fire fails to bring down the brutes. +



+ Meanwhile, we of Secundus were also engaged; the orks dual-pronged trap complete. Buoyed by Highheart's presence, and brandishing our combat blades, we eagerly cut into the lightly armoured orks. Their ranks thinned during their charge, we bring them down with light losses. +



Mark 0.36: The dreadnoughts of Adamantine Talon tear into the orks, slowly wading through the baying hordes to extinguish their leaders. Brother Strix loses power to his fist as the ork mechanical specialist cuts vital hydarulics. +



+ Mark 0.45: Our feigned retreat meant we were fully engaged to the north-east, driving outwards from the market square. The orks were manfully continuing their drive forward, but mercifully the terrain was hampering their heavy armour. +

Mark 0.47: Lieutenant Pullo relayed reports to Holion as he emerged from the cover of the alehouse; the Master of Signals' viewpoint proving handy in the increasingly thick dust kicked up by the swirling combat. +


+ Brother Techscion charges into the rear of the ork leader's retinue, smashing their medical specialist into a wet bag of leathery green mush. However, the Apeasians, veterans of dozens of campaigns, were torn down one after another, and the Warlord and his cronies bellowed their anger to the skies. +


+ In the south, the ork infantry warily avoid our Contemptor as he finishes off the ork walkers. +

+ Mark 0.49: Squad Quintus charges forward to relieve the beleagured Brother Strix. One by one, the orks' ranks thin – too slowly, as they take a number of Quintus with them. +

+ Brother Techscion is, in turn, outflanked. Ork cavalry crash into his more vulnerable rear – it was with a sigh of relief that I saw their primitive bombs prove ineffective. Techscion himself was obviously feeling secure, as his focus on the enemy Warlord and his bodyguard continued. +

+ With our foes driven off – the whole mob of them gunned down as the survivors fled – we turned to support the Seekers of the Apaesians. Too late – the Apaesians lay slumped and unmoving on the floor, their armour battered and broken. In turn, however, the ork commander was flattened by a blow from Techscion; his retinue scattered. +

+ Simultaneously, Holion, Highheart and the surviving Breachers of Viginti prepared themselves for the charge as our heavy support emerged from the cover of the building. +


Mark 0.50: Ork reinforcements continued to move in from the north and south; a low-flying aircraft of some sort opening up on the Breachers – to little effect – and a new unit of orks pouring out of a transport on the western side of the market square. However, it was becoming clear that the impetus of hte ork ambush had been broken. With their leaders incapacitated or engaged in combat with Squad Quintus and Brother Strix, the greenskins were wavering.  +


Mark 0.52The orks weren't giving up – they were as stubborn as they proved deadly. Our Deredeo, having turned to bring his guns to bear on their cavalry, was hammered from behind by the ork heavy machine guns; which knocked the dreadnought first to his knees, then left him sprawling in the dust, unmoving. +


+ Mark 0.53: The southern forces advanced, continuing their attempts to engage even as we mopped up the demoralised survivors in the marketplace. The battle had swung in our favour, but it was at this point that I believe it was won – and by typical orkish ill-discipline. Their heavy armour cranked their turret cannon to target Lieutenent Pullo and the Corinthians... +


+ ... but the shell sailed wildly off-target and detonated amidst their newly-deployed unit facing the surviving Seekers of the Metaeans! With nearly a third of their remaining forces reduced to little more than spatters on the armour of our veterans, the fight seemed to ebb from the greenskins. +


Mark 0.63: The surviving orks slunk away, their armour swerving about and accelerating away and the infantry ducking away down side streets as we consolidated, chasing them away with occasional pot-shots. +

+++

+ Imperial victory +

Friday, 2 September 2016

+ inload: Ambush at Kalkriese – Ultramarines vs Orks part III +

+ inload: Ambush at Kalkriese – Ultramarines vs Orks +

+ The Apaesians of the 15th deploy to confront  the dread warlord of the Teknorkracy, Gashbag +


+ The preamble and background for this battle can be found in the inload below. +

+ The first part of the report itself can be found in the inload below. 

+++
+ Extracted from the post-action report of Brother Vispanion, squad Secundus. +

+ Practical: Turns 3–4 +

+ Mark 0.08: Chaplain Highheart joined us; using the jumppack to redeploy from his position with Lieutenant Holion. +



Mark 0.10: The exchange of fire was fierce, but we were having the better of it as the day's light broke through the haze. By this point it was clear we were facing a large, well-supported and determined foe. The Lieutenant ordered us to engage and destroy – these were no opportunistic marauders: we would have to fight our way out of a well-laid trap.


Mark 0.12: Ork walkers advanced on the Legacy of Armatura; its' advance to shield the Lieutenant had left it perilously close. +



Mark 0.12: Still more pressing was the advance of ork heavy infantry, supported by their damnable heavy weapons. Two of Viginti were gunned down, despite their heavy breaching shields. +



+ Mark 0.14: North of the Market Square, concentration of fire was taking its toll on the advancing orks. The more open ground and press of fire from the Corinthians and Quintus all but eliminated their recon specialists and took a toll on their line infantry. I heard reports of psychic activity [Append: note psyker's wychlight at top left of attached pict-capture] +



Mark 0.16: The presence of Adamantine, our Dreadnought Talon, was proving crucial to shoring up the line – the orks initially appeared reluctant to approach. +
 


+ Mark 0.18: Lieutenant Holion ordered the forces in the south to fall back to the market square – avoiding a two-faced battle would let us concentrate our force on one front at a time. Unfortunately, as Legacy of Armatura drew back, the Viginti were just too slow. Left exposed, the orks surged forward, gunning down half a dozen of the Breachers in a storm of fire. +



Mark 0.23: During a brief lull, the Seekers of the 15th redeployed as their targets – the ork warlord and his retinue – advanced upon us. We were glad of the assistance – with orks to both the front and back, we were hard-pressed to prioritise. The Lieutenant and his forces were close on their heels, wheeling round the cover of the abandoned alehouse; slowed only by their hardened armour. +



Mark 0.25: Lieutenant Pullo alerted us to bio-enhanced cavalry using the ork armour as mobile cover. Truly the orks are a versatile and adaptable foe. +


+ Sub-orbital pict captures appended to shows relative positions immediately after the Contemptor's successful assault against the enemy's light walker squadron. +



Mark 0.27: The warlord [Gashbag] and his retinue deployed from their armoured transport in a clattering mass of armour plates. Our boltguns proved of little worth against their heavy protection. +



+ Fortunately, the Seeker's Scorpius specialist rounds proved more effective, snap-firing even as they disembarked from their Rhinos. The first ork elite toppled, blood sobbing from smoking holes in its powered suit. +



Meanwhile, on the southern side, we could hear the steady racking of an Anvilus autocannon array and the Land Raiders' heavy weapons as our support poured fire into the orks' heavy infantry. The orks were closing in all round us. Viginti closed up into a protective circle around the Lieutenant as he continued issuing a stream of clear-headed commands. +


Thursday, 1 September 2016

+ inload: Legionary Ahluic Xbalanque +

+ Legionary Ahluic Xbalanque +


Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.
+ John Donne +

+++

+ Theoretical +

+ When painting, it's good to start by working out what you want the result to be. For me, at the core of the Grave Stalkers is their isolation. They yearn to be included and embraced by the Imperium they helped to build – but ultimately fall to corruption and lose any hope of brotherhood. Any paint scheme would have to suggest this bitter mournfulness, so I decided to work with a mainly cold scheme – a misty grey that I would make look colder by including a few contrasting spots in a complementary warm accent colour. +

+ Practical +

+ The colour scheme for the Grave Stalkers [+noospheric inload link embedded+] is grey and bone. I ended up creating mixes for the basic colours to help ensure that the result would not look like one of the existing canonical Legions – always an important point to bear in mind when coming up with a new scheme. +

[APPEND: For those interested, the grey was a roughly even mix of Vallejo White, Vallejo 70.329 Highlight Russian Tank Crew I and GW Fenrisian Grey. To shade, I applied a mix of GW Liche Purple and GW Mordian Blue that was heavily diluted with flow medium. Further white was added to the base mix for highlights. The bone mix was mostly Vallejo White with a touch of GW Iyanden Darksun. ~APPEND TERMINUS]


Bone and grey are two light-toned colours that caused a little consternation when I tried to use them in combination – low contrast schemes tend to lack impact. To offset this and create some visual interest, I included some deep metallics, rich shading and incorporated deep red as an accent colour. Red was already used in the Legion symbol, so it made sense to extend across the armour in places. +

+ This marine was an exercise in freehand detailing to create more of a sense of shape to the very pale, plain silhouette. I took some inspiration from Mayan border designs to add red markings across plates of the armour – most noticably on the torso and shoulder pad here. The faceplate has a skull honorific – as I understand things, the bone faceplate of the Legion is intended to reflect an old practise of using warpaint. I decided this marine would be a veteran (perhaps a Seeker specialist?) and developed the colour into a specific marking. +


+ The Mayans also provided the inspiration for the squad symbol I added to the left forearm – this is a numeral for 13. Grifftofer, the creator of the Legion, specified that the Grave Stalkers would duplicate their Legion symbol over their primary heart (the left side of the chest), which was an enjoyable challenge. It's quite an intricate design, but a clenched fist is so iconic that it still reads well at a small size. +


+ My first attempt at the pauldron simply didn't read as anything identifiable, so I took the liberty of simplifying the dripping blood on the Legion symbol into a single droplet. I hope the new version captures the spirit of the original design. I also added a 'XV' numeral above it on the pauldron and, as mentioned, incorporated some red border designs to help frame it and set it off against the surrounding areas. +

+ As noted earlier, the general colour scheme was a challenge. Neutral grey is a rather dreary colour that sucks the life out of a miniature, so I incorporated a little blue and a little green; creating a cooler grey intended to evoke mist. This also contrasted a little more strongly with the warm yellow bone on the shoulder plates and face. Note that I've added heavy borders between the bone and grey in the form of deep metallic shoulder trim and a near-black outline around the skull honorific. Sepia ink was also used to add depth and a hint of dirtiness – the Grave Stalkers look after their equipment, but are resupplied infrequently. I wanted to reflect this by having them look a little battered. +


+ The figure was still looking a bit muted at this point, and the trophy decorations (skulls and bones) weren't helping matters, as the bone white blended in with the rest of the figure. I had a brainwave and decided to try them in the red accent colour – perhaps they are ceremonially dipped in red ochre, painted or otherwise coloured as part of a lodge ritual? +

+ The rear of the figure shows more of the dull, muted metallics and shows a cleaner side. I like the tribalistic feel of the front – it gives a hint at the Mesoamerican influences without going all-in; and remains feeling more 'Space Marine' than anything else. +


+ I hope Grifftofer and the rest of the Bolter and Chainsword's Brotherhood of the Lost team like him – he was an enjoyable diversion from my main projects, and a great opportunity to try new things. +

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

+ inload: Grave Stalker Legionary +

+ Grave Stalker Legionary +


+ The Bolter & Chainsword forum has a group that is developing an alternative universe Horus Heresy-style rebellion, called the Icarion Insurrection. The hobbyists are very enthusiastic and have come up with a lot of fun material for it; ranging from an entirely new range of Space Marine Legions to galactic maps and new campaigns. I was asked if I'd like to build a marine for the project, and thought it sounded like fun. +

+ This is the first of them, a Legionary from the Grave Stalkers Legion, by a poster called Grifftofer. Below is the brief summary blurb from the project:

+ The Grave Stalkers +

Numeration: The XVth LegionPrimogenitor: K'awil PakalCognomen (Prior): NoneAllegiance: Traitoris Perdita Appearing as wraiths of Old Night, this small legion of Pariahs use fear as their chosen weapon. Numbering the smallest of all legions due to unstable gene-seed, the Grave Stalkers make up for their lack of numbers by destroying the enemy's morale long before the battle is joined. Atrocities cling to the Grave Stalkers as they prosecute compliance as both soldier and civilian soon feel the knives of the XVth skinning them as a warning to others. At the head of this isolated army stoops K'awil the Soulless. Spurned by the Imperium due to the unnatural aura possessed by the Primarch and his sons, K'awil fought from the shadow of the grave before he was persuaded by Icarion to side with the Stormlord. 
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+ That's just a taster. The broader project has lots (really, lots) of written material (if I'm honest, an intimidating amount!) but I hope I've done justice to the concept and produced something the team – and Grifftofer – likes. +

+ Theoretical +

+ While the description suggested elements of the Night Lords and Alpha Legion to me, I was keen to make sure that the model wasn't simply a mishmash of the more familiar canonical Legions – I felt that would be selling the project short; so I cast my metaphorical net a little wider. When thinking about a figure like this, I tend to look for the iconic elements – if it were distilled down to a phrase, what would the Grave Stalkers be? +

+ At root, the Legion felt like it lived hand-to-mouth. They are few. The background suggests that their allies fear them as much as their enemies, and that they prefer to fight guerilla-style to make the most of their low numbers, lurking in the shadows. They have little support from the Mechanicum. They even ruthlessly cull their own Legion in order to ensure the survival of the next generation. To me, this suggested an uncompromising, fatalistic and nihilistic nature. +

+ There were also some hints at pop culture Mesoamerican culture – human sacrifice, trophies and warrior lodges – but I was keen not to overplay this as it's easy to over-egg the pudding and end up with Aztecs in spaaaace. It did, however, get me thinking about Astartes creeping through mist-shrouded jungles, which was a fun train of thought. I intend to bring this influence in a little more with the painting and symbology. +

+ With little resupply from the Mechanicum, I reasoned that the Ghost Stalkers would have to make do with older or non-standard equipment. Generally speaking, I felt that they would favour practicality over ornamentation – it's all very well having bat helms to scare people, but if your very nature is frightening, you can avoid things that might catch on low-hanging vegetation. +

+ Finally – and crucially – these needed to read as 'Space Marines'. It's easy to miss this core part, but first and foremost they have to feel like they fit in the (alternative) 30k universe. Taking them too far from the iconic silhouette would just result in a figure that looked like it had a load of stuff bolted on. +

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+ Practical +

+ The result takes some inspiration from pop culture Vietnam – traumatised soldiers doing abominable things – mixed in with a bit of Predator. +

+ Legionary Ahluic Xbalanque of the Grave Stalkers +


+ A sleek but brutal figure. The T-helm was suggested by the source image I was given. I toyed with a bare head (the Grave Stalkers have an unusual phenotype, with white skin and black eyes), but decided this would clash with the Mesoamerican feel. In any case, the T-helm is distinctly dehumanising, and that was at the core of the concept. His boltgun is a relatively clunky local variant (based on the SAW machine guns from countless Hollywood movies), and his only other armament is a blade, held downwards in a classic assassin's grip. + 


A few bones and other trophies dangle from his armour, which is essentially Mark II Crusade Armour with a few modifications. In particular, I chose a backpack with swept-back heat vents, reasoning that it would be better for movement through dense undergrowth and would also channel heat away in a narrower area, helping him remain hidden. +


+ The Grave Stalkers eventually fall to Chaos (Oops; spoilers?) and I wanted to get that across, so he had to look a little more 'evil'. I used a shoulder pad with raised trim and spiked bonding studs. Pleasingly, these look like little pyramids, suggestive of ziggurats and Mesoamerican weaponry. +


+ This final shot shows the dangling trophy, trimmed from a Grey Knight Terminator torso. I dropped it to his waist, where it makes for a rather sinister loincloth! Of final note is the belt buckle, which is an empty hoop. This is the Mayan symbol for zero – a little nod both to the Mesoamerican feel and a subtle hint at their soulless nature. +