+ inload: Starfire Skybears +

+ Bolt from the blue +

+ I fancied painting something a little different last night, so dug out the Starfire Skybears, my wing of Imperial aircraft for Aeronautica Imperialis.

+ Led by the heroic Sky-Captain Tuomas Oro, the wing hasn't seen a huge amount of action, but we have occasionally played this entertaining little game.

+ An object lesson in not using dried-up paint, this 'plane hasn't proven a great success! My palette is usually very muted, but I wanted to get the idea of a bright, racing-style heraldry across. Unfortunately, the only really bright colours I had were blue and red, both of which I use elsewhere. I ended up trying to revive an old pot of Snot Green that had taken on the consistency of its namesake...

+ Sprayed black, I added the metallics then painted the cockpit with a simple sky-earth effect using orange. The top of the 'plane was painted with Snot Green and highlighted with the addition of Yriel Yellow. 

+ In order to suggest speed and movement, I applied the paint with the flat of a 3mm flat brush, drawing the colour from front to back. This minimised the brushstrokes of the rather gloopy paint, and as I tinted the colour towards yellow, the highlights built up more towards the front, drawing the eye here.

+ You can just see a hint of the underside colour here – I used Fenris Grey to create nice light blue-grey, suitable for camouflage against certain alien skies.

+ To add a bit of detail and interest, I added some white stripes and red chequer details. I see the Skybears as pretty cocky, so some boy racer-style heraldry would probably go down a treat! +

+ Stand by your bunks +

+ The new Imperial Guard codex came out recently, and I dug out the staunch soldiers of Lamb's World in preparation. I'd like to do a post about my thoughts on the new rules and changes sometime soon, but for now I thought I'd do a post on Commissars. 

+ Never having really liked the fascistic background of the Commissars – preferring more anonymous and dutiful line officers – I haven't really used them much in previous Imperial Guard armies. Ruleswise I always rather liked the fact that my troops would sometimes crumble under fire (I'm sure I would if faced with the stuff most of my Guardsmen come up against!), so that was another black mark against the representatives of the Commissariat.

+ As a final deathknell, I've never really fallen for any of the models... However, Forgeworld released some really lovely Commissar models for their Death Korps of Krieg range a few years ago, and I ended up buying them on impulse. Interestingly, they often pop up on eBay for more than you can buy them new (I think they were temporarily out of production), so if you do buy 'em, make sure you're getting a decent price! +

+ The Forgeworld models provided some interesting painting challenges and contrast well with the dusty, well-worn uniforms of the Lamb's Worlders. The model shown is not hugely successful – I think I'd like to go back and tidy some areas up – and perhaps change a few elements, but he provides some nice talking points on colour theory that I hope will be interesting to you. +

+ The model +

+ I really like the pose of this one – the straight lines give him a stern bearing, and the pose is just mobile enough to suggest he's keeping a watchful eye out. 

+ One of the challenges was to get the model to look eye-catching without sacrificing the sombre black paint scheme. I added some deep reds and yellows, and contrasting white trousers. However, all of these were kept muted. The yellow frogging and epaulettes are actually a yellow-brown (Bubonic Brown), the red is a deep scarlet-purple mix, and the white of the trousers is actually a green-grey (Rotting Flesh). 

+ This approach was taken in order to ensure the overall effect remained dark. Against the black of the coat, the colours read more than they otherwise might. This is because the eye is drawn more to patches of hue, however subtle, than black. 

+ Of course, in order to make the model eye-catching, you still need to have some elements that contrast strongly – in this case I used a very light silver (Mithril Silver) so the model as a whole has touches across the whole tonal range from very dark to very light. 

With no face as a focal point, the silver touches are also very useful in drawing the eye to the head, as they sit on the gorget, hat and mask. +

+ The coat +

+ I used my usual chromatic black effect for the coat, adding some matt medium to ensure it ended up looking slightly satin. I thought this would be the best way to get a nice worn leather effect, and think it's worked well. 

+ Highlights on the coat were kept to a minimum, and no sharp edge highlights added to suggest the softness and texture of the material. +

+ inload: Gameboard from towelling+

+ inload: Worldbuilding +

While I own a Realm of Battle board, having a proper homemade board is something that I've missed a lot about the hobby. I think GW's Realm of Battle board is fantastic, price aside (I was lucky enough to get mine second-hand for a knock-down price), but playing on it somehow feels 'tournamenty'. I think it's because it's exactly like everyone else's (bar the paintjob), and lacks that unique quality that makes a board (or army) your own. 

+ Anyway, over the Easter weekend, I enlisted my brother to help me try something I'd never done before; and build a proper board to game on. Here's how I went about it. +

+ Inspiration +

+ My older brother used to make all the terrain and gameboards we played on, and did a great job of it – producing ruined cities, ork settlements, steaming jungles and abandoned industrial sites that were a great mix of our favourite action movies (Robocop, Predator, Star WarsTerminator, Starship Troopers), the terrain articles from White Dwarf, and some unique inspiration. He was really good at making modular scenery that nevertheless had a lot of character and identity.

+ I'm very lucky to have a gaming group that has some great terrain and scenery; mainly provided by Graham Gilchrist, who has some brilliant terrain sets including icy forests, desert mesa and urban. When choosing how I'd decorate my own board, I wanted to add something that we don't have; and that's a temperate set – a sort of slightly anonymous moorland/grassland. 

+ There was also some nostalgia there. I'm sure everyone of a certain age remembers goblin green boards – indeed, I think the reaction against that is why our group very rarely plays on green – but I wanted a nod to early gaming days, and with ten years of playing on other colours, some classic European-style terrain would be a welcome change.

+ Another advantage of grassland boards is that they're fairly anonymous and game-neutral; being suitable for my main games of 40k, Epic, and Warmachine.

+ Planning +

+ I had recently visited a show put on by Abingdon Wargamers, and saw a brilliant board that had used old towelling draped over boards to create a non-slip surface that was nevertheless flat and soft (to reduce chipping). It also had a lovely texture that really evoked the grasses and scrub of the landscape where I grew up. This was really where the germ of the idea came from, so thanks to that anonymous hero (and my apologies that I can't remember your name!)

+ My aims for the board were as follows:
  • They should be storable and relatively durable.
  • They should have a balance between modularity (for gaming variety), and character and interest.
  • They should be practical for gaming upon, with space for common game setups (12in on from the long edges, corner set ups etc.)
  • They should have proper hills and terrain; being complete gameboards in themselves, and not reliant on scatter terrain to provide interest.
  • There should be open spaces to add terrain, for further variety.
  • They should look fairly realistic. 
  • They should provide tactical and strategic opportunities and problems.
I wanted to add an element of skill and judgement to which side of the board to pick, regardless of the initial setup. Of course, this decision has to be balanced against realism – or you'd end up with a board that's perfectly balanced but boring to look at and play over. 

+ With those in mind, I made a sketch with marks every 6in (15cm) along the edges of the board. This was picked because 40k and Epic both use multiples of those distances, so I could start to plan spacing and help ensure I didn't create any awkward spots or create obvious advantages/disadvantages in the setup. 

+ To the sketch were added hatching for the four main heights: the ground level, 1in (25mm) height; 2in (50mm) height, and 4in (100mm) height. I tried to suggest an old watercourse – perhaps a river valley; and then I made sure that the three boards could be separated and arranged in different ways. The heights of the hills created some restrictions, but there are at least four ways of arranging the boards that tesselate properly. Once you introduce different games and different set-up rules, this generates a lot of possibilties. 

+ Once the sketch was completed, I adjusted it to make sure that areas were accessible from multiple approaches; and that there were some areas that could be optionally designated as impassable or dangerous terrain. This will hopefully keep players' options open, but also provide some challenges – exactly like real terrain. +

+ Action! +

+ My shopping list was as follows:
  • Three 2' x 4' 1in (25mm) MDF boards.
  • Two 2' x 4' 2in (50mm) spaceboard (inload link: wickes.co.uk/Space-Board-Eco-Insulation/p/161297)
  • Four colour tester pots of interior matt paint – a picked a selection of browns and muted greens, plus a brighter, yellowy green.
  • Polyfilla
  • PVA glue
  • Staplegun
+ Having transferred the first height level and 6in measurements to the MDF, we got stuck in, cutting and gluing the spaceboard in large sections and leaving that to dry. The higher levels were built up in the same way.

+ Once dry, the towelling was draped over the hills and secured with the staplegun, before being trimmed to allow the boards to be separated. This was a bit of a faff as we only had two old towels, which required things to be cut fairly carefully, and some patchworking. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it allowed me to break up some of the hard lines in the 'riverbed/plain' that would otherwise allow people to guess distances. You can see an example of what I mean on the far right of the picture below – the two strips on the upper two boards were placed before I suddenly thought 'oh crap!'; and you can see how I made the bits further in towards the hill more patchworky and random.

+ With the towelling in place, I mixed up some polyfilla and added texture to the cliff/rocky areas. I then skimmed the raw edges to give a nicer finish. This will also protect the foam a little in case I come back to spraypaint some further colouring in the future. Again this was left to dry.

+ Once completely dry, we diluted and combine the paints in rough mixes to create a dappled, random effect. I  wanted to avoid the flat colour of a lot of boards, and also avoid the weird patchy terrain on some boards, where areas of perfect grass abut patches of bare soil completely randomly.

+ We did paint the abutting areas of boards to ensure a blend, using the same mix on the potential 2in (50mm) height edges, and a different mix of the 4in (100mm) height edges. These colours were variously extended over and into the main sections to ensure a blend. This wasn't completely natural, but it does allow a balance between modularity and naturalism. +

+ I'm pleased with the finished result – which luckily for ongoing domestic harmony fits neatly behind the sofabed in our spare room – and can't wait to get a game in. What should we do first? Warmachine? Epic? +

+ inload: Last Valkyrie Out of Grogoff + 

+ Something a little different today; I thought I'd post up a battle report. If this is something you'd like to see more of, then please let me know in the comments section below. 

+ This report is part of the Scallop Stars campaign, a series of battles set in M37, in my gaming group's (the PCRC) corner of the 40k universe, Sector Antona Australis. +

After a year of near-constant fighting to secure the gains of the Legio Validus, the order had come – from the mouth of Admiral Thrane himself – that the regiments on-planet were to fall back in good order and rejoin the Purge Fleet. 
Retreat... the word tasted bitter on Godon's tongue. This had been an excellent war. The men of Anchorpoint – his men – came from one of the strongest points of Imperial dominance in the sector. To fight aliens was a novel and rewarding experience for a regiment used to hunting down rebels, traitors and political opposition. It was clean, somehow; and pure. There was no mistaking who the enemy was here. 
He chewed thoughtfully on his cigar, then spread the chart. The waiting officers gathered closer. 'Listen here, men; if we're pulling out, we're going to give the orks something to remember us by.' The Anchorpointers, grizzled career soldiers to a man, grinned. They were fond of their firebrand Brigadier. 'We're pushing through this city here.' He indicated the site of an ancient Pique Lümen settlement; long-ago burnt and ruined by the orks. 'We're the last humans here – leastways, last true humans. Crapper; you're taking this Cathedral; I'm pushing up the Arch, and the rest of you are going to sweep whatever gets caught between us. We haven't got the Kings in Yellow helping out; but we do have artillery, air support, superheavies. We can give the greens a bloody nose to remember us by before the last lifters come.'
He looked up, eyes sweeping the room. 'We've got all the tools for the job, boys, but remember that we need to be at these coordinates before the last landers go; or we're staying here for the...'
He was interrupted by a pair of naval armsmen running into the barracks. They barged past an Anchorpoint Lieutenant before coming to a clattering halt. Both threw sharp salutes. Godon looked straight at them, and barked simply, 'Report, sailor.'
'Sir; grave news. Reports are coming in of War Engines. Titan-displacement.' The room froze.
Godon's face spread into a broad grin. As he straightened up, he pulled the cigar from the corner of his mouth.
'Hear that, boys? Looks like we'll be doing something worthwhile in this campaign after all!'


+ The city had been sunk deep into the coral sand desert. Great structures, reminiscent of human cathedrals and cityblocks, but of alien design, threw stark shadows. +


+ Sentinel scout walkers advanced in and claimed the approach to the Cathedral. +


+ The two sides draw up their forces. Both sides opt for a conservative deployment, with their slower, stronger formations centrally weighted, and the flanks held by faster forces. +


+ Kilkart waves his forces forward; the orks begin to lumber towards the centre, building up momentum. +


+ Godon's company hold the flank; the impetuous commander eager to get to grips with the enemy. +


+ Opening moves. The northern side of the battlefield (top of picture) sees both sides advancing cautiously. The centre erupts as the forces trade long-range fire to little destructive effect. +


+ Four Imperial Guard infantry companies, supported by armoured elements, push forward, aiming to overwhelm the orks with numbers. +


+ The orks have a similar idea! Artillery fire pounds a stompa formation, shearing the superstompa's head clean off. In the air, Imperial Thunderbolt fighters swoop in to attack the Kult of Speed, but are driven off by swarming fighta-bommas. The greenskins send up a whoop as an Imperial craft falls out of the sky and pinwheels across the landscape before detonating near the Cathedral. +

+ Crapper's Company digs in by the Cathedral as an ork warband advances, supported by a kult of speed. Keen to prevent the orks outflanking or redeploying, the Guardsmen shred the Kult of Speed. +

+ The forces trade fire. Godon holds his Vulture gunships and Valkyries in reserve, waiting for the right time to strike. he orders the Valkyries (and their Stormtrooper cargo) behind the Cathedral. +

+ The orks strike! An ork landa braves the anti-air fire and lands near the cluster of buildings east of the Cathedral. Ork stormboyz leap out and wipe out two over-extended sentinel formations. Building on the advantage, Kilkart sends the second Stompa formation to the north under the cover of the avenue apartments. +

+ Trading fire, Kilkart's mob is broken by the combined attacks of two guard companies. The big mek leads his orks into cover, spitting with fury, as the remaining ork forces lash back. Kilkart's mob makes it to cover, but the proto-gargant Ragnaork Mk I fails to capitalise on the damage caused to the central Guard company by the other warbands. +

+ Crapper marshals his Company, removing the disruptive blasts but robbing the firepower of the company. Little damage is caused to the bloodthirsty orks. +

+ The orks sweep in! The battle is bloody, and both forces retreat, broken. The orks have had the best of it, and Crapper reluctantly falls back towards the centre, trusting in the threat of the Shadowswords and Bombards to prevent the orks following. +

+ Billowing steam and with a terrible wail, Ragnaork clatters twoards the disrupted central company. Desperately, the commander calls in Shadowsword support, but even the great guns cannot stop the War Engine. The Gargant swipes aside sufficient tanks and men to break the company, but is broken in turn by the weight of numbers and the courage of the ogryn auxilia. +

+ Godon gives the order, and the Vultures swoop low. Eight red contrails light the sky as the formation launches its entire payload of deadly hellstrike missiles into the Gargant, leaving it reeling, aflame – but alive!

+ Godon shows how he earned the moniker 'Guts-deep' by forcing the reeling Stompa mob into a broken retreat, claiming the objective by the Arch, and getting kilkart into the sights of his tanks in one decisive move! +

+ The Imperial ground forces pull back from the centre and Cathedral, marshalling and reestablishing a battle line with Godon's company as the vanguard. The Vulture support pushes up as the Shadowsword advance to cover the centre. Godon is forced to commit the Hydras; pushing them forward to contest objectives. 

+ The orks hold the Cathedral and the North, are in retreat in the South, but have pushed forward to claim most of the centre. A virtually untouched Stompa mob is rampaging down the avenue, but the buildings are proving to frustrate their lines of fire. Finally, the Valkyries strike; lifting over the Cathedral and depositing the Stormtroopers, who gun down the Stormboyz with disciplined fire. +

+ The Imperial forces struggle to capitalise on their gains. Godon's company is over-extended, with little support – but is virtually untouched, and faces only scattered resistance. 

+ Fighta-bommas dive in to destroy the bombards with a devastating strafing run that kills them all... but ork resistance is extinguished as the Shadowswords speak again; finally reducing Ragnaork Mk I to a collapsing smoke-belching inferno. +

+ The ork gains in the north are frustrated by the Guard as the Stormtroopers and Hydras prevent claims on important objectives. +


+ Finally, Kilkart orders the retreat. He's fairly sure he knows what went wrong with the power fields on the stompas and gargant... +

Result: Imperial Victory 2–0
(Break Their Spirit and Take & Hold)

+ inload: Orks! +

+ I'm going to keep a beady eye out for a few classic ork models that I really love – like the tinboyz – or perhaps make my own homages to them.

+ Of course, I need an army to put them in, so work continues apace. Here's two more boyz; one with a big choppa and a snazzy helmet, the other with a choppa, slugga and some trophy helmets.

+ ...what's that hanging on his belt? +

+ Some poor sods from the Stars of Dorn and the Raven Guard Fifth Company. The Ishilites escaped because I've run out of Hawk Turquoise; but just you wait, Warmtamale. Still need to fight Omricon's Hammers of the Emperor and grahamgilchrist's Emperor's Hawks... and that's not to mention the various other Space Marines in the sector.

+ Gotta kill em all! +