+inload: Ambush+

She crept slowly forward, legs bent, keeping low. She could hear feet padding on the cobblestones below. Two or three of them, maybe more. Extending a hand as she approached the low wall, she gently braced herself as she settled into place next to an old wooden writing desk, waiting for them to pass. The plaster was cool. Damp, a result of the windows being blown out, she supposed, though the old hab had clearly been cheap and unpleasant even before it was half-destroyed by the shelling.

The sun languidly poured through the rents in the wall and roof, gilding the fungus-bloomed wall and frayed and broken easy chair with sumptuous gold. Dust lazily hung in the air, turning in the red-gold light. It was quite beautiful. It was quite unlike her world.

She blinked.

Bracing herself against the desk, the soldier lifted one knee and braced her rifle across it. Steadying her breathing, she peered down the iron sights through the largest break in the opposite wall. Her face wrinkled in displeasure. Studying the other breaks briefly, she considered relocating. Unconsciously shaking her head, she remained in place, murmuring softly to herself.

'Grant that one shot is enough, if you're up there.'


The war seemed very distant. The crackles of gunfire were now few and far between. He could almost imagine that it was all happening somewhere else, somewhere far away; to some other poor bastard. He sighed to himself, letting his shoulder drop a little. Curc turned to him, his eyes quizzical over the grinning halfmask he wore. Haeg's own eyes were bloodshot, unfocussed. He attempted a dismissive grin, before realising the gesture was futile behind the unfamiliar mask.

'If you can't continue, just say. We can return and pick you -' began Curc, before Haeg interrupted him, waving his mutilated hand in dismissal.

'Worry about yourself.'

Curc, annoyed, peeked over the low fence before vaulting over it with a clatter of armour plates and grenades. He continued rattling as he jogged in a low, awkward, shambling run 'til he he hit the wall. The air was heavy and still. He felt a trickle of sweat run down his back into the crack of his buttocks. He was hot, and sweaty, and annoyed. This whole assault had been one great clusterf-

For a moment, he couldn't quite understand what the noise was; couldn't connect the gentle tinkle of shifting rubble to anything important. He spun around. Nothing quite seemed to fit together. The sun behind him made his shadow seemed huge, ogreish. It was very still. It was very hot. Haeg began to yell.


Cursing, she tried to surge to her feet, but her boots skidded on the loose plaster. Awkwardly thrusting her arm out, using the wall as leverage, she slithered back down as the plaster slipped under her gloved hand. It all seemed too ridiculous for words. Furiously, she planted her feet and stood, swinging her rifle up as she did so. The figure had disappeared – they hadn't advanced up the street as she'd anticipated; instead appearing for just a brief moment as a flickering silhouette in her eye line.

She wasn't at all sure she'd managed to hit the hulk...

+inload: Dire times+

+ Further paintwork on the Dire Avengers, which aren't far away from being ready for the table now. Can't tell you how much of a sense of relief that is!

+ It's surprising to me how little I actually play with an army once it's complete. I'll tend to have games as I'm building an army, but once it's done, I move on to the next project. I'm looking forward to the Scallop Stars as an opportunity to pull some finished armies off the shelf and enjoy some gaming without continually looking to the next piece.

+ I'm pleased with how the scheme has come out on these Dire Avengers. While they share elements with the rest of the force, I've upped the amount of blue (using it across the gemstones as an accent as well as for large areas of the bodysuit) and reduced the purple to hints on the loincloth and metal of the shuriken catapult. This latter detail's a nod to the Eldar Titan the great Mike McVey painted when the old metallic paint set came out back around WD140–150.

+ I've written about this Exarch before (see earlier in the blog), but I'm very happy with how he's come out. Its not a stellar paintjob – he could certainly do with a little tidying – but I think that shows off how a well-selected scheme can make or break a model. 

+ That said, I think Eldar have been pigeon-holed into an idea that the only aesthetic that works for them is very clean and polished. Perhaps it'd be worth experimenting with dirtying them up. +

+inload: Fallout on Frigia+

+ Work on all other projects has rather ground to a halt as I get my Eldar painted for the PCRC's big Apocalypse Finale on Frigia. Currently on the desk are the Dire Avengers and Seers. These are the only ones that aren't painted – though there are quite a few details to tackle on the rest of the army. 

+ Forgive the slightly blurry pictures. Obviously their holofields are preserving their modesty at being half-painted.

+ Overall, the Frigia campaign has been great fun, but I've been frustrated – and rather embarrassed – all the way through by my inability to keep up with the modest painting 'deadlines' we set ourselves. The project was intended to expand by 250pt blocks every month, which I just haven't been able to do. This has been for a number of reasons; including being distracted by my guard and marines, dissatisfaction with the results of the ones I have completed, and various real-world things like moving house etc.

+ I'm looking forward to next year, where I can simply bring some old armies out of mothballs to ensure I get back to playing with completely painted armies. It makes for much better games – both visually and because I don't have my suspension of disbelief shattered every two minutes by undercoated models. +

+Project inload: PCRC Scallop Stars build-up, lead-in and general ephemera+

+ My friends and I have a gaming group we call the PCRC (pcrc.org.uk). For the past few years we've played games in our own little corner of the 40k universe, a sector called Antona Australis, a loose 'High Gothic' translation of Southampton, where most of the group met at University.

+ While the sector started out simply as a place to record the battles we fight with our armies, it's gradually grown to become a quite fleshed-out backdrop, full of political intrigue, danger, excitement and quite a few awful puns! Graham Gilchrist, the gang's Earth Caste Engineer, has made a really cool interactive sector map that we've populated over the years with subsectors, star systems and sundry fleets, warp storms and other interesting oddities.

+ If you get a chance, please do have a little explore. The sector map has a zoom function, so simply scroll the mouse wheel in and out to get closer, then click on whichever system or other item you fancy. The tabs at the top will take you to info and images of the various armies, characters and stories associated with them.

+ We'd really like to hear what you think – the sector's an eternal work in progress – so feel free to leave a comment here or fire us off an email +


+ Campaigns +

+ The sector backdrop has given us endless backdrops for stories and games, and for the past two (three?) years we've run a loosely annual campaign, concentrating on a specific planet or system. 

+ In 2014, we're going to explore what happened in M37, when the forces of the Imperium launched an assault into the Scallop Stars, a notorious den of greenskins that borders the Hesiod-Siculus subsector.

+ Here's where you come in +
+ We're hoping to include a frequent update service on this – a sort of ticker tape 'news from the front' for readers. I'd like to invite everyone to come up with Imperial Guard regiments – of any type – to join the Crusade. Please make up your regiment and leave a comment below with the name and anything else, like a history or interesting facts – and we'll see if we can incorporate it into our ongoing history.

+ Feel free to pick a blue world (Imperial) from the sector, make up an out-of sector regiment, or create a new world!

+ Of course, the 'oomies can't have it all their own way, so if you'd like to create an ork warband in the same way, we'd be very interested indeed. Again, pick a green world (ork)  – or make one up – and leave the info below.

+ Looking forward to seeing what you come up with – and a sincere thank you in advance.+

+ inload: Lamb's World Imperial Guard command +

+ Dramatis Personae: Caef Terentius Dresden +

+ The oldest character I still use, various iterations of Dresden have commanded my Imperial Guard forces for over a decade in real-time. This latest version represents him at Lief-Maior (bt.) rank during the closing battles of the Shale Campaign, when he was still relatively young. +

+ The model is based on Brian Nelson's brilliant cadian officer, with a very simple head swap for the Dresden head I use on all the figures – the capped head from Forge World's Cadian Respirator pack [+noospheric inload link embedded+]. The fact it's not a bare face goes some way to show how old it was – I made my first conversion of him back when I didn't like painting faces! +

Character-wise, he's a fairly hands-on commander, so I painted him in a scheme that marks him firmly as one of the men; being marked out by a blue sash and some standard honorifics on his armour. +

+ I decided for a nice clean scheme, so no camouflage (in any case, I don't like the look of it on dress coats, like the ones he's wearing here). Otherwise, however, he's painted with the same approach and techniques as the infantry of this army – there's a tutorial here [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+] for that if you're interested. +

+ Dresden lived for at least 450 years thanks to juvenat treaments; though doubtless some of that length was owing to the effects of warptime, so he probably didn't get to quite that age. +

+ This shot shows Dresden during the Shale campaign, with a command squad of the 310th Lamb's World regiment.+

+ inload: Squat Volksmen +

+ inload: Squat Volksmen +

+ A bit of a closer look at the squat warriors I posted up yesterday. The torsos and heads of these are ebay purchases, and a little damaged from over-enthusiastic polystyrene cement application. This rather forced me to put some of the arms into rather contorted positions to help cover things up; but I think they work fairly well overall as concept models, so I'll use the same approach on the remaining ones, but work a little more carefully.

+ In addition to the Volksmen (the regular line troopers pictured above), I've picked up some models to use as Hearthguard. These are from Mantic's Dreadball range; but with a little weapon swap, they look pretty cool, I think.

+ I've been wondering whether to use Imperial weaponry or not. This basically boils down to whether my reimagined background has them as Imperial abhumans or not (i.e. separate species, or otherwise using their own tech).

+ Currently, I'm leaning towards giving them Imperial stuff. The test Hearthguard (left) has a bolt pistol and chainsword from the Space Wolves terminator set, which have some lovely runic/Norse touches that fit in nicely with how I picture the culture.

+ Concept inload: Squat weaponry + 

+ Special weapons – grav-based and volkite. Both of these weapon types are cool and (to me, at least) fairly unusual; having grown up with the standard flamer, melta, plasma (and grenade launcher). They're high-tech, which suits the 'cunning metalworking dwarf' trope. Grav weapons work nicely in the context of the high-gravity worlds that shaped the squats, and volkite weapons appeal for their novelty and short-range. As an extra bonus, there are two 'basic' types of volkite guns, which gives me three options to choose from (volkite charger, volkite caliver and graviton gun) to neatly replace the traditional flamer, melta and plasma.

+ Standard weapons – a personal mix of boltguns, lasguns and autoguns. I see squats as having much more freedom in personalisation and choice than the guard – a mix of revered hand-me-down artefacts, stubborn insistence that 'X is better', and a refusal to back down from clan/family traditions.

+ Close combat weapons – Chainaxes and power mauls. Unusual but not unknown to the Imperium, this is a great way of showing that they have a common ancestor with the Imperials, but differ in detail.

+ conceptinload: Iron Staff League +

+ conceptinload: Iron Staff League +

Dabnett Unwerth, goguth of the Iron Staff League

+ Early History of the Iron Staff League +

+ The Iron Staff League formed a formidable micro-empire in the Antona Australis system between M23 and M36. Its origins lost to the Imperium, and shrouded in myth by the abhuman inhabitants, it is known that all of the original Holds of the League, which weathered the Age of Strife, were lost during the civil war that shattered the Second Yig Federation in early M28.

+ The Newholds that sprang up from the scattered survivors in the following decades were marked with an understandable wariness of outsiders and adopted a doggedly insular form of politics; refusing to meet directly with any of the species of the sector. This insularity extended even to their fellow abhumans, and many minor holds sprang up in isolation across the sector.

+ Nevertheless, by the closing years of M28, a new Iron Staff League had formed, with its core around the old stars rimwards of what is now the Invictus subsector. The League had extensive settlements and mineheads in the rich planetoids of the Mere Marches and Genosan Expanse, both in the south of the Starfire subsector; and extended as far north as the Peckim system. By the closing years of M28, the abhumans had made extensive trade agreements with a number of worlds and species.

+ Sadly, warfare remained a necessary constant for the League, particularly with the orks, which continued swelling in numbers. By the time of the Great Crusade, many Holds had fallen, and the League was hard-pressed on all sides. Far from their zenith in M28, the League was impoverished and in serious trouble. Their isolationism and hard bargains ensured they had few allies amongst the species of the sector, and things looked bleak.

+ The reigning Althing (High King) of the League at the time of the Great Crusade was Hurthar the Thrice-Cursed. Unpopular amongst the Hold Thanes of the League's components, he had been selected as High King mainly because he represented a neutral compromised between the power blocs of the League.  Aware of his lack of power in the League, he cemented his unpopularity by welcoming the Expeditionary Fleets of the nascent Imperium with relatively open arms.

+ Having allowed Imperial dignitaries to enter the Thronghold of Ibistan, he signed away the League's Independence by agreeing to become a Protectorate of the Imperium. This in essence forced Compliance on all of the worlds of the League while nominally allowing them independence. +


+ Here are the first of the Iron Staff League's foot troops, a squad of plastic squats with arms from Forge World's Elysian and Renegade ranges.