Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Garden of Morr Statue

A small scenery item in focus today -- the statue of Morr himself taken from the Garden of Morr set sold by Games Workshop.

This piece is very easy to put together and features a high level of detailing around it. Perhaps a surprisingly high level of detailing in a number of parts in fact. The things that strike me about the statue is the roses and leaves on the front of the column upon which the statue stands, coupled with the plethora of small skulls and other ornamentation around the base. 

The statue himself is less impressive to some extent. The cloaked figure holding a shield and a sword is a standard motif, but at least there is an over-sized egg-timer at his feet as well to indicate the passage of time and death itself. 

Painting for this piece was basic and straight forward as I wanted to capture the idea of this piece being very old, perhaps somewhat neglected as well. Hence following a black undercoat, the base coat was applied in an even grey tone. I gave several washes to the grey base coat to give a suggestion of ageing -- especially around the base and the flagstones. For the upper parts of the miniature that have been exposed to (assumed) sunlight, I applied some subtle green tones and even overt greens to give a suggestion of foliage having developed and grown on the upper reaches. Highlights were conducted in a steadily increasingly light grey colour, with attention paid to the skulls to give them a slightly different tone to the flagstones. 

The roses were a slight issue as I wanted them to feel like a recent growth or addition to the monument, rather than some random part of stone work themselves (which they certainly could be painted as). Hence I went for a somewhat striking red colour that contrasts highly with the grey and dull stonework and the green verdigris that is growing elsewhere. A few washes and highlights later, and the roses stand out very well from the rest of the structure. 

Taken together, this is both a scenery item that is striking for its new growth foliage, yet retains the dullness that suggests it has been hanging around for a very long time. I regard it as suitable for using in both fantasy and 40k board games equally well overall. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Ferratonic Incinerator

I am a real sucker for scenery and terrain on the table top. So much so that when the Forge World (as in the planet type) scenery became available, I knew that I wanted to mess around with some of the kits to see what kinds of things could be made and how modular they could be.

One of the first kits that I purchased was the Ferratonic Incinerator kit. This consists of a cylindrical element (the incinerator part), and a standard set of walkways to attach to the ends of the top of the incinerator (the octagonal lid element). 

In the first image below, I show the final product that I made from the kit. 

The kit was easy to put together and required less than an hour of gluing and clipping out from the sprues overall. I did not use all of the pieces though. And this is probably one of my major complaints. I followed the instructions for the kit almost to the letter with the main deviation being that I assembled it in a T-shape (rather than an X-shape) as I wanted the incinerator element at one end of the piece. 

In doing so, it became clear that some of the under hanging elements (e.g., cables, cords, skull like pulley systems) can get in the way of attaching some of the walk way elements (the barriers seen on the edges of the upper platform to prevent falls). I have several of these components left over that I don't quite want to glue in place in other locations, but would have used on the edges had I realised before assembling that the underslung elements would be getting in the way so much. Hence this is a sort of warning to others to dry fit the elements, regardless of what the instructions say you should be doing. The issue can be seen with a top down view, below:

Some of the underneath elements can be seen going over the edge of the platform. Its just poor planning on my part coupled with strong adherence with the instructions.

I also wanted to try to keep my assembly somewhat modular. Hence I have not glued the sub-elements together. Explicitly, the walkways are only held together by the tabs underneath -- I have not glued them together in to the T-shape. This is so I can potentially re-arrange in to an X-shape, L-shape or even just one long continual linear shape. I have another one of these kits (a different one in fact) that I would ultimately like to be able to mesh together with this one. Hence I would very much like to keep it all modular.

The ladders are also worth a little note here. It is essential that they are pushed in hard in to the underside of the walkways and upper platforms. Doing so means that they will be flush with the pillars that enable the platforms to stand on their own. On one of my ladders, it is fractionally below the height of the pillars and caused a little imbalance. I have corrected this by shaving off a little bit of the ladder to give greater stability and less wobbly model syndrome.

It is also worth noting that the kit can be assembled in a number of ways, including not only the overall configuration, but also the sub-elements. Here, the door or hatch to the incinerator has been left open (and glued in to place in this open configuration) at the behest of my daughter. This is actually a good idea in some ways as the door then provides additional cover for miniatures on the table top and effectively extends the surface area of the kit on the table top by almost an inch. The risk is, of course, that the open door stands more of a chance of being snapped off in transportation. But I think that's a price worth paying for it looking better in my opinion. Other bits and pieces enable the modeller to cover up some of the other exposed pipes, but in general I have avoided using them. Got to find some time to paint this one up now and build the other kit!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Kraken Mats: Desert Warzone City

I have bought Kraken mats before from their online retailer, FantasyWelt and been really pleased with the high quality of the product. Today is a quick review of my second purchase from the same company: the Desert Warzone City map.

This mat is of the exact same high standard that I have come to expect from Kraken. It really is high quality, durable and with a rubberized backing to make die rolls muted and the table surface non slip during any gaming activity.

The colours of the map itself are incredible. This was the thing that really stood out to me when I was considering a purchase. I didn't want to get just another city or city-scape map -- I wanted something a little bit edgier and unique. That was what the Desert map encompassed for me.

The production of these maps feature high quality photographs of real gaming board that have been custom built by Kraken. This is what sets their maps apart from a number of competitors. For Kraken, there is no subtle background that can be found elsewhere with these maps: they are real. Well, they're more than real. They're obviously enhanced digitally later on after the principle photography is complete.

The mat features a number of ruined buildings on the terrain, replete with debris inside them, as well as a road feature snaking through. One aspect that I had not fully realized is that these maps are symmetric. Hence if I bought another one, it would tessellate with this map perfectly to create a huge gaming board. This is such a lovely touch, and not an idea I've seen much of in 6x4ft gaming mats before.

To say I'm pleased with this purchase would be an understatement. These mats are fab!

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Lion

Rumour mongers ahoy. There are plentiful rumours circulating on the internet at the moment about the return of Lion El'Johnson to the Warhammer 40,000 timeline.

This is one case that is strongly supported by the background materials as well. The Lion has reportedly been sleeping at the centre of the Dark Angel's Rock for a long while. Possible beside Luther (or maybe not). The last we saw of the Lion was when he descended for his battle with Luther on the (then) surface of Caliban. Following its destruction, the Lion was nowhere to be seen. Luther whimpered something about the Watchers in the Dark having taken him.

Hence, there is no contradiction in the background materials about him coming back. I'm far more at ease with the Lion coming back than I was about Guilliman re-materializing after healing in a stasis field. Heck, I'd also be fine with the re-emergence of at least:

The Khan,
Leman Russ,
Vulkan (because, you know, he's immortal and all),
Alpharius (or Omegon) (or someone being Alpharius at any rate),
and any Daemon Primarch in general (because why aren't they attacking the rotten heart of the Imperium already?).

Can Alpharius Omegon please turn out to be loyal? You know, just to wrap up that story line. Pretty please? And the only person he told was someone else who went missing at a similar time? I don't know where I'm going with this really.

Bottom line, I feel re-invigorated by the new fluff that seems to be coming out recently. And I'm feeling very positive about the future of the hobby in the near and medium term! Long may it last!

Friday, November 3, 2017

HH Rules Delayed due to QA

The news came through this morning for me. The new Horus Heresy rules book has been delayed. The reason given for this is Quality Assurance. In other words, it did not meet the standards deemed worthy of publication by Forge World.

These kinds of issues can and do happen from time to time. To be perfectly honest, I would much sooner have a rule book that was deemed to be of the correct standard than a rule book that was sub-par and not worthy of publication of worthy of living up to the previously high standards that the entire Horus Heresy series has been setting for all of theses years. Hence whilst I'm someone sad that there will be a delay on the pre-orders, I'm actually not all that bothered.

Santa can wait :)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Melta Bombs in Horus Heresy

Following on from the previous digest of thoughts relating to the new edition of the rules set for Horus Heresy, I wanted to briefly touch on one of the most outstanding corrections to the rules we have seen. Namely: Melta Bombs.

To explain the context for this one: Melta bombs have long been an upgrade item that a squad can take to battle. More specifically, it is an upgrade that certain units can take one of for every single member of the squad. Legion outrider squads spring to mind, amongst others.

Many players (including myself, I must admit) were very used to playing that every single model armed with a melta bomb could try to land it on their enemy in close combat (the fight phase) if they chose to.

The Frequently Asked Questions for 7th edition put an end to this. Those clarifications mandated that only one grenade could be used per phase of a turn per squad. This outraged many people in the community who felt that this was the wrong call. In turn, there were others who pointed to the fact that this was simply just "rules as written" and was therefore simply reinforcing how grenades should have been played all along.

With the introduction of the modified 7th edition rules set for Horus Heresy, this situation has been reversed. Now every model armed with a melta bomb appears as if they will be able to try to land their bomb on top of a target. Of course, this will make the players happy who spend a (not inconsiderable) number of points on upgrading their units to take melta bombs on every single model.  Why would the army lists allow this, after all, if only one model were to take an attack with a melta bomb in a single given phase.

I am personally very glad to see the return to the rules as they were being played before the FAQ was released for 7th edition. It all makes a bit more sense this way to my mind!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Mind Howl

Bit of a rough week just gone (thanks to those of you who messaged me). Hopefully things should improve now and we'll get back to our more usual roll out of posts. 

Today, I wanted touch on the forth-coming release of the new Horus Heresy rules set. There appears, on the surface, to be a number of important, significant, and (dare I say it?): longed for changed in the rules that are being proposed.

One of the big ones is the total elimination of Invisibility as a psychic power. Invisibility caused all sorts of shenanigans in the 7th edition of both Horus Heresy and Warhammer 40,000. So much so, that independent tournaments invariably had their own house rules on the power to prevent too much abuse.

Its termination with extreme prejudice is a welcome one from me. In its place, we have a new power entitled "Mind Howl". The image below was taken from the Warhammer Community website, and I use it here under "fair use" clauses (happy to take it down if desired). 

On the surface, Mind Howl is a reasonable replacement power for invisibility. It provides the caster with a way of reducing the effectiveness of a target unit both in terms of the WS and the BS of the victim. At Warp Charge 2, it has a steep price (but we do not yet know how the psychic phase will operate under the new rules system ... I'm hoping for something more streamlined myself, but time will tell), and has to be within a range of 12 inches. This range won't be an issue for a melee orientated psyker to take on. However, the temptation will be to attempt to nullify opponents best ranged weapons as well. 

In practice, this means that packers that have rules such as infiltration and teleportation may well be able to shut down some of the most powerful incoming fire power from opponents. 

You can probably guess my thoughts here. With the Alpha Legion, one of these infiltrating strategically near the backlines could do amazing damage to the ranged potential of any enemy units. Even certain Thousand Sons builds can pull off this kind of treachery. Hence, even though Invisibility was a game defining psychic power, the Mind Howl replacement power can potentially be just as frightful in its own right. I can certainly see me taking an Alpha Legion librarian just to exploit this power alone and shut down the ranged weapons of heavy support squads to snap shot levels. Hydra Dominatus brothers!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

7.1 Edition

Watching the Twitch Channel for Warhammer in the week, there were plenty of previews coming out of Forge World. These not only included the miniatures (Astraeus, Red Scorpion chapter dreadnought, space wolves terminators, doors for rhinos, etc.), but also a quick glance through the new rulebook for the Horus Heresy era.

Described as Version 7.1 of the rulebook, on screen it appeared as a large tome held together by a pair of large bulldog clips. In other words -- a high level proof. All the pages were printed and ready. Everything was there. Just the binding missing.

The guys explained that the rule book has been sent to the printers and they are estimating something like one month or so before the book is ready.

I'm still pleased that the Horus Heresy will be adopting a modified 7th edition, but sad that it is not wholly compatible with 8th edition (meaning one set of rules for 30k, one for 40k). I guess I will withhold judgement until I can actually get my hands on the new rulebook to see what has changed. Exciting times ahead!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Rumour Engine

One of the "newer" items on the release schedule from Games Workshop in recent times has been the Rumour Engine. Delivered via the Warhammer Community webpage, the Rumour Engine regularly depicts part (or a sub-part) of some model from the upcoming release range. This weeks Engine appears to be some kind of candle. Who knows whether this one is in relation to Warhammer 40,000, or the Age of Sigmar? Could be either really.

As a marketing tool it is a good one. There has been a long tradition in the Warhammer 40,000 blogosphere of posting rumours from people who are on the inside of the trade. Whether this be shipment people, or workers very close to Games Workshop, keeping secrets within a world-wide trading organisation that has to ship things on a regular basis is tough. Once upon a time, these kinds of rumour mongers were about all we had in the community. From my perspective, it is really good to see Games Workshop embrace a new philosophy, and, in doing so, stay a step ahead of the older rumour traders.

This in turn has fuelled a lot of speculation about the direction(s) that Games Workshop will take in their next batch of releases. Will it be Dwarves, or perhaps something a bit more Nurgle-esque, for example? A number of sites now regularly document the rumour engine and what has already been solved and what remains to be. In doing so, they're contributing positively to the release schedule that Games Workshop has and informing the rest of the community about the possibilities that might lie in the future.

I personally like to read through some of the comments on Facebook on the subject matter when the engine makes a release. Some of them are hilarious, others a lot more considered and pointing out things that escape even my keen eyes. The rumours that most stuck in the back of my mind were the snips we had of the Grand Cultivator. It was obvious that we were getting something Nurgle-esque, but was it going to be a new Beast of Nurgle, or something else entirely. I was a bit torn to say the least. The other ones that stick out to me are what Forge World used to do over the Christmas build up period with their jigsaw puzzle pieces. The approach is similar, but we get many pieces slotting together over a few weeks to yield the final picture. I like this particular approach a whole lot as well since it not only gives hints, but the full picture will ultimately reveal itself at a pre-known date -- unlike the rumour engine that could last for who knows how long before we know the solution. Or even see the solution with the benefit of hindsight.

Regardless, I've no idea what the candles are about this week. Sorry! I have no insight to share there.  Yet, I'm still thinking about what this one could be, and what some of the older ones are! Good work GW, you've hooked me...

Monday, October 16, 2017


Its not a big secret that I am an avid reader. This obviously includes the Horus Heresy series that has been released by the Black Library for more years than the Heresy lasted for. The latest release in the series is Ruinstorm.

The book centres around the closure of the whole Imperium Secundus story arc. That's the one where Guilliman thought that Terra was probably extinguished already and where he got together with two of his brothers, Sanguinius and the Lion, to build a new Imperium in the core of Ultramar. 

I do not wish to write about any spoilers here. So I will keep my comments generalist in nature. Firstly, I think that the Black Library made the right choice in the author of the book, David Annandale. I like the way that he has approached the whole arc and how the various different threads have been woven together in to a successful and cohesive whole. 

Ranging from the guilt felt by the Primarchs about the founding of the Imperium Secundus, through to how they act within their own fleets and tackle the obstacles presented in front of them. Ruinstorm presents a good yarn for the long time readers of the series.

The positives for me include the perspectives on the Rainstorm and what it means for Chaos to encroach on the material Universe in general. The literal chaos that results in deep space is well described and provides an evocative ensemble of blasphemous material to draw upon for game terrain creation for example. Remarkably, as well as being a book to bring the Secundus plotline full circle, the book also links in to the Damnation of Pythos. I was not expecting that really. 

Each of the three Primarchs is "tested" in some way or other. Sanguinius wrestles with his fates (turn left and its bad, turn right and its worse). Guilliman and the Lion also wrestle with their own demons (or daemons, not sure which way that should be spelt any longer, sorry!). 

The culmination of the book deals with the "Why" and "How" of the Blood Angels making it back to Terra in time for the final battle. In that way, it provides nice closure to this known fact alongside the "Why" of the Dark Angels and Ultramarines not making it back in time. Similar to how the White Scars made it back, I was pleased with the way that the story developed around this narrative. It might not be to everyone's tastes though -- but I liked it.

The major negative is the huge amount of back-material needed to properly enjoy this book. Jumping right in to the series here is probably not a big recommendation by me. Its possible, but readers will probably scratch their heads about a few items along the way. To be honest, not even I've read the full series (I tend to skip the anthologies for instance unless there's a chapter that I really, really want). So overall, a good tale, but a specialised one in relation to the Secundus arc, yet at the same time accessible for addressing the "Hows" and "Whys" behind the Blood Angel's presence on Terra when Horus came.

Friday, October 13, 2017


By the time that I've sat down and had chance to write this, the Astraeus super-heavy primaris tank will be old news to many in the blogosphere. Regardless, I had a few thoughts from the video and writing that was released via the Warhammer community page that I wanted to jot down here.

Firstly, the link -- check out the Astraeus for yourself if you've not already done so!

Described by the Warhammer team themselves as a cross between a Sicaran, a Repulsor, and a Fellblade, its not hard to see why this tank blends these elements together in to a single vehicle. The macro cannons on the top of the tank are a force to be reckoned with due to the stats alone, and their presence on the top of the tank is highly reminiscent of the Sicaran itself. The use of the gravitation platform to keep the vehicle floating seems to be a recurring theme that is developing with both the (re)introduction of the Custodes and now with the Primaris marines. 

Although there are obviously other weapons on board this device of destruction such as the las-rippers on the sponsons, the main stand out is the defensive capabilities. This super-heavy is boasting some serious armour and defensive capabilities in terms of hosting void shields inside it. Indeed, it seems to have the defensive capabilities of a war hound titan from first glance. 

All together, this tank is a new evolution. Yet, in doing so, it seems to be breaking one of the fundamental constants that has been with Warhammer 40,000 for so long: the fact that no new technology gets designed and built since the grim dark of the far future is in a state of technological stagnation. Of course, this statement applies to other items such as the Primaris marines themselves and the other weaponry that have come along with them. I get the Guilliman has been preparing for this in secret, but I do wonder how the existent Forge Worlds might feel about all this new technology coming along. At least in terms of the grim dark dystopian narrative that has been with us for so long.

In terms of the model itself, I'm actually a bit of a fan of it. When the Primaris marines and their new transports came along I was a little bit sceptical. Yet for this tank, I really do like it. Somehow, despite the obvious things like the grab-technology all over and the over the top weaponry, it somehow just all works as a singular entity. The modellers have done really well to blend all of the aspects of the tank together in to a cohesive whole. Whist I will not be purchasing this particular model myself in the near future, I'm sure many people will be. I think it will perform very well indeed on many battlefields and will look glorious whilst doing so. Bring me my titan...

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Styrene Hill of Old

At the time I created this piece, I was unable to afford items like the Realms of Battle boards. I liked the look of the (then new) Realms of Battle since they had hills that were directly moulded in to their surface for miniatures to climb up and down.

Instead, I decided that some of my terrain could do with some natural hills for the miniatures to be placed on. Vantage points that were not ruins, or generic houses -- but natural features. After digesting the contents of books like How to Make Wargames Terrain I decided to have a go myself at making a styrene hill.

The construction of this piece is straight forward enough. Two roughly rectangular blocks of styrene, each about the height of an imperial guard figure, have been stacked on top of each other and glued in to place using PVA glue. The lower styrene block is mounted on cork board that was sold as a table mat in a department store. To shape the styrene blocks a little, I used a hot wire cutter to give them a little bit of shape and texture. 

Once the two rectangles dried out, I then coated the piece liberally in PVA glue once more and added in some large stones in corners (e.g., see the lower left corner of the upper block). Flock in several different shades of green were then applied on top of the rest of the PVA glue and left to settle in place. 

Painting consisted of touching up some areas of the piece where the flock didn't stick well to, using dark green paint for some low-lights and crevices, and painting the stony areas in black followed by several passes of a whiter dry brush. 

I have had this item in my collection for many, many years. Some of my earlier battle reports might even have it in although I've not looked at those photos whilst I was writing this piece. As a result of its age, the green flock has faded. Too much UK weather (it got rained on a bit when I was transporting in one time), Australian Sunshine, combined with transport back to the United Kingdom again has all taken it toll on the hill. I might attempt some rejuvenation on the piece, although at this stage I'm tempted to retire it and produce new pieces as its replacement. If nothing else, the construction of this piece demonstrated to me that home made terrain items can look good and not be limited to crazy conversion ideas!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Spray Painted Cork as Mountainous Scenery

This is an idea that I have toyed with on and off over the years -- using Cork to represent mountainous regions of the playing board. As a material, cork is a good one to work with. From a practical point of view, the material is very light and therefore can be transported with a minimum of fuss. Moreover, it is also "green" in the sense that it is regularly harvested and harvesting does not kill the cork plant. Its more like how sheep get sheared for their wool realistically. 

To represent mountains, I decided to experiment a little bit with using different colours. On the example below, I have used Games Workshop's own white spray paint to coat this piece of cork.

I will say from the outset that this process uses a whole lot of spray paint to be honest! If you look closely at the image, you will also see that there are patches where it looks like I have missed my target when spraying. This is not true ... the cork absorbs a lot of the paint and some areas are a bit more resistant to spray paint than others.

What I will say though is that the overall effect -- certainly in terms of the texture -- looks impressive. The nooks and crannies combined with the layered visage of the cork makes this piece look very much like a small scale mountain or cliff. 

I'm pleased with the overall effect here. Although I want to try more, I think that I might need to assess whether there's a better way to mass paint cork for a cheaper amount of money. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

L-Bend Hardware Scenery

Carrying on from the last post, today is just to highlight a small scenery piece that was made from parts purchased at the same hardware store. This time, I am using a pair of plastic L-bend pipes from the store. 

The plastic pipework was firstly glued with superglue to a square MDF board. In this case, the MDF was bought as a table mat (the kind that you would put glasses of wine on, or just drinks in general). Following that, I used filler to mould around the base of the pipes to create a rugged look as if these pipes had been there for quite some time. Inside the opening of the pipes, I glued in to place a plastic square grid mesh. This was probably the hardest part to be honest as I could not quite get the grid cut to a perfectly circular shape. Hence if you look carefully, you will see a distortion in the grid as it sits inside the L-bends. I actually don't mind this one bit as to me it simply suggests more ageing. 

Painting followed the same scheme that I had used for the toilet parts in the previous post: red as the base colour followed by sponging of rusted oranges and selected use of black here and there. 

At the "lip" of the L-bend where the grid was glued, I applied a liberal amount of watery black ink. This gives the appearance that the pipes have seen extensive use and are probably a significant source of pollution. The overall effect is that of a forge world, or an industrial hive perhaps. These pipes have been there a long while. But does any seriously know where they connect to or what their actual function is these days? We're not sure. So we'd better not move them in case they actually are important after all!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Hardware Store Scenery

Some of you might recognize the origins of this scenery piece. Some may not. 

On a visit to the local home hardware store a while ago, I got looking at all the plastic pipework that was avaialble. Ranging from tubes, to pipes, to L-bends and everything else in between and beyond, the scope for turning hardware in to Warhammer style scenery piece is very high indeed.

This particular item was constructed out of a regular toilet valve. I attached the bottom (actually the top in the real world) on to a rectangular MDF base with superglue. Using filler, I then proceeded to create some material around the base of the MDF and the bottom part of the plastic. For the connecting pipe (pictured on the right hand side), I have inserted a plastic grid and glued it in to place to cover the opening (actually, part of it is literally screwed in to place using the plastic connection present). 

For painting, I used a subdued red tone for the base colour and have then liberally applied some orange dabs with a wet washing up sponge to give it a suitable weathered and rusted appearance. Black low-lights have been applied to the lower parts of the piece, whilst dark brown/black ink has been made to cascade out of various parts of the piece to generate an even more weathered look. The numerals are from a decal sheet I had lying about from my Shadow Sword that I had never used.

The overall result is a scenery piece that not only looks rather unique, but fits in with the grim dark vibe of a dis-used industrial world or Forge world in the depths of the Imperium. This item has already seen use in some games and tournaments we have had, and will no doubt be used again.

The only negative thing I can say is that the paint chips off too easily. I should have sand-papered the surface prior to painting to give it a better chance of sticking. Hence, I use a lot of bubble wrap when transporting it to keep it relatively chip-free.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Fire and Smoke Markers

A set of Fire and Smoke markers are one of those hobby items that the senior modeller usually gets involved in at some point during their hobby career. I am no exception.

In essence, these markers are relatively simple to create and use. On the other hand, I've also discovered that they can be a huge pain to make and execute. The picture below shows several from my collection along with one of my Alpha Legion space marines to give a sense of the scale of the markers.

To make them, I have used a small LED light from a high street supermarket (in this case, Tesco in the United Kingdom sells them in packs of six). These LED lights have a switch at their base and a small little light in the shape of a flame coming out of the top of them. Hence when they are switched on in the final product, they flicker in the same manner that a real fire might do.

The smoke on the top is made from soft toy filling. This is available at many department stores (look out for the knitting section: it is usually tucked away somewhere near all the needlework hobby area).

Assembling the markers is rather simple. Using some glue, just dab on a generous amount on to the surface of the LED itself. Grab a good amount of the soft toy filling material and stick it to the top. Job done really. 


The major issue with this is the sheer amount of glue that ends up on your fingers and the fibres from the toy filling that sticks to it. So be aware that you are going to have to give your finger tips some serious scrubbing after making these if you do so without any gloves on (like I tend to do). 

For extra marks, I've given the toy filling a bit of a twist before gluing it in to place. This gives the sense of some winds fanning the fire and the smoke up in to the air. 

As the last step, I apply a very gentle and limited amount of black spray paint to the smoke. Aiming the spray at the base of the fire ensures that the tip remains almost white and gives it a more authentic look and feel. 

In game, these double up as both regular scenery, and as markers for where vehicles may have met their demise -- literally a smoking wreck marker. Gritty and grim, they really at some atmosphere to a tabletop. Some rules might also be necessary to use if they are part of the scenery. We favour having them as blocking the line of sight (you cannot see through the thick smoke) and you cannot approach within 1 inch of the base of the fire (it is literally too hot or too toxic, or similar). I can attest that they make battles more memorable and make the scenery much better to look at. Particularly at tournament level displays. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Aquarium Scenery

On the occasional visit to a large shopping mall, or to a local specialist shop, I will sometimes browse the aisles looking for aquarium items. Having owned fish in the past, I can at least hold a sensible conversation about them with a retailer. But that is not the reason I look these days. Instead, I like to see if there are any cheap-ish items of scenery available for wargaming purposes. 

In the past, I've come across a number of gems ranging from gel-like plants or reef items, through to buildings that have been cast for fish to swim through.

This particular example that I picked up recently is a plastic tree-like item with a hard base that appears to be made out of a combination of rocks and resin. As a stand-alone piece it is large enough to provide significant cover for any troops or even light tanks in the surrounding area. The size of it can be gauged from my hand in the picture. It is approximately just over 10cm tall with an extent about half of that horizontally. As for the cost - 3 UK pounds. Not bad overall and it will come in for several gaming mats that we already own.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Symmetric Deployment

Over the years, the methods by which armies are deployed on the table top have varied strongly. Once upon a time, they were all just lined up in a row and directly faced off against each other in a pitched battle style reminiscent of Fantasy armies arrayed in long rows and columns. For a young mind, the idea that one could do this using the short edges as well as the long edges was novel to me. Then there was the battle in the back of the Rogue Trader rule book where the main force was surrounded and the enemy came in from any old angle. This also was amazing to my young impressionable mind.

What these kinds of deployments have in common is symmetry. Whether this is the long edges, or in the centre of the board, they are almost always rotationally or mirror symmetric. I really favour this kind of set up. Indeed, one of the biggest compliments that I can give the 30k battle ethos is that each and every one of them are symmetrical in some manner. One of the core examples that folks might not have seen much of is below (Clash of the Line). 

Increasingly, there are more and more deployments that feature somewhat asymmetrical deployments. Or worse: terrain that is very biased to a particular deployment zone. Now, of course, that is just realistic at some level. However, for a game such as Warhammer 30,000 where everything has been so very carefully balanced in terms of their points value on the board, I think there is a lot of merit in retaining symmetrical deployments as much as possible. Not only is it simpler, but it means that the players start on a roughly equal footing supposing that the terrain is also reasonably balanced and well positioned. Symmetrical deployment is therefore a concept that I have really come to like - doubly so for tournament play, even though I also like the narrative of unequal forces and terrain in general.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Cartoon Bad Guys (and Good Guys)

In this short article, I wanted to briefly talk about a few views that have been developing in the back of my mind with the recent releases that we have seen from Games Workshop -- and specifically the Death Guard chaos space marine faction for 40k.

My long term readers will know that I have owned a Death Guard army of one flavour or another since my youth. In modelling the Death Guard post-Heresy, I have long opted for the green colours of decay mixed in with browns and reds of flowing blood and the occasional purple of diseased flesh. Combined together, they make for a gritty and rather grim interpretation of the downfall of a once great legion and represents the monsters that they have become. Unconcerned with the feelings of the flesh and the dents in their armour, with the odd mutation here and there, they are a particular type of repugnant that only the grim dark can fathom.

In the new releases of the Death Guard, I have become a little concerned that the representation of these notorious bad guys has become a little bit more cartoonish. By this, I mean that the mutations have become almost laughable -- not so much the subtle change here and there, an odd horn growing out of the head or an addition to the armour, but a big gut of teeth and a mouth in the place of a stomach. Not some revealed corrupted flesh where the armour has dropped off, but exposed spines leaking gaseous effluent.

Now before I go further, I will readily concede the point that the ancient Great Unclean One miniature had a belly full of teeth option. So these kinds of changes are not without precedent by any means. The opening of the guts to intestines and the baring of naked spines have long since been with the Death Guard and the daemons of Nurgle in general.

However, the thing that is new for me is the sheer degree and the in-your-face style of these mutations. Many of the newer space marines in the Death Guard seem almost like an exaggerated cartoon of themselves in a number of regards. The over the top tentacles instead of arms. The exposed flesh is on almost every miniature. Combined with the proportions, it all adds up for me as being an army that now looks too cartoonish rather than inherently dark and foreboding. To much Skeletor's assistants, and too little fallen from grace.

Okay. Those are probably controversial views. I suspect that the comments below will soon have people chipping in saying they like the new sculpts. I can see merit in the sculpts, to be clear. But I do wish that not every single Death Guard marine was so over the top with the mutations and naked flesh. Just a little bit more subtle fallen angels please, and less of the cartoon bad guy would make it much better for me.

Let me end by saying something positive. I like the new Mortarion. In fact, I like this interpretation of the primarch even better than the Forge World sculpt. It shows him in his full corruption. Still wearing the battle plate from millennia ago. Still wielding his preferred scythe. Still holding Lantern. Still everything that he was. Yet darker. More grim. A true spectre on the battlefield. With appropriate levels of Nurgle built in along with the wings. His visage is that of a man who has been through a lot and has grudges unfulfilled. I really dig it.

Okay, I'm going to hide from the flak now...

Monday, September 18, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Acastus Knight Porphyrion

Rounding off our examination of units from Inferno, we have the Knight Porphyrion. This is a brand new chassis in the Horus Heresy and one that is very rare. Indeed, even the largest of Houses only have a couple as it is the ultimate sign of the Machine god's favour.

The background story behind them seem a bit odd as well: only those who have fought a brother over a matter of honour seem to obtain them.

Other than that, they are the supreme enforcers of a House's will over their scions.

It is a Knight. It is great.

More specifically though. It has a pair of magna las cannons that are twin linked. These dish out a large blast with Ordnance 2 and AP2 at S=10. Magnificent really!

Combined with this, it comes with auto cannons as standard along with iron storm missiles. Overall, this is a lethal level of firepower that will attract attention from across the board from all enemies. And rightly too. For if this Knight is not dealt with, it will represent a significant threat to most units across the board.

On top of this, it has BS=5 and good armour compared to other knights and a healthy hull point count.

This is not a close combat knight. Forget it. It is a shooty knight.

Although I like the naked knight, I do like this one as well:

Porphyrion with autocannons replaced with Irad-Cleanser (495 points).
Ouch. Just ouch. This is deadly to everything. Swap to las cannons if you have the points. It matters little. It is still a beast!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Vultarax Stratos-Automata Maniple

Hunter-killer. Rapid response. A scout. A lethal exploratory. An early mobile gun platform for the Great Crusade to help humanity expand its empire through the stars themselves. And a silent tribute to the Forge World of Anetarbraxus that was shattered to molten shards in the Mandragoran Incursion.

It is fundamentally a highly mobile weapons platform that in the future of 40k would become notorious for being blighted by Nurgle.

The weapons are standard fare to rather nice. They include two havoc missile launcher bays, a vultarax arc blaster that comes in handy with the Haywire rule at S=6, and a set of optional power blades that have rending at AP2.

The Vultarax has very few weaknesses realistically, although it will struggle against certain terminators in melee unless it takes the power blades.

3 Vultarax with power blades (570 points).
Expensive to be clear, but a very valuable asset on the table top that will certainly give any opponent a moment's pause to consider their options.

1 Vultarax, power blades, blessed simulacra (200 points).
A distraction, albeit a very powerful one. This can lurk behind some cover on deployment only to come out in to the open to rain death and then scoot to engage in close combat. Its a bit of a deal with it, or it will deal with you kind of arrangement. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Karacnos Assault Tank

A Triaros tank that has had its interior fitted with the mechanisms for the support of a weapon that should have been banned by the Geneva Convention and never made it through to the 30th millennium. The shells are (and I quote) "small plasma implosion devices wrapped around  highly toxic radium-cobalt isotope cores". If this description along didn't want to make a world press for a good deal and join the Imperium, I'm not sure anything would.

The main weapon of this tank is horrendous (as suggested above). It is heavy 3 with a range of special add on rules including the deadly rad-phage as well as ignoring cover saves. Although the AP is only 4, it makes up for it in the wealth of bonus rules it gets and can really be a great weapon for taking our infantry by the bucket load. Even terminators from the Death Guard would look at this weapon twice.

Beyond that, the side sponsons have their own little servitor brains that mean they can target different units and snap shot at BS=2. The armour on the front is a great AV=14 as well, and it comes with the shock ram that the Triaros takes as standard.

The tank has hazardous munitions that mean it can explode with a large radii. So one might want to keep one's own infantry a little bit away from the tank. Just in case.

Other than that, the points value might plausibly put some players off wanting this unit, but not many.

Just one to toy about with given that there are very few upgrades available here.

Karacnos, with blessed auto simulacra and smoke launchers (235 points).
You could add other things like extra armour or hunter killer missiles. But they're not strictly needed. I personally like the blessed autosimulacra rule myself, so that is why it is present. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Secutarii Hoplite Phalanx

The Hoplite Phalanx is the mainstay of the Secutarii forces. They are equipped to cope with challenging battlefields and to seek out and destroy enemy infantry who might otherwise be seeking to put an end to the towering monstrosities of the machine god itself. Beyond that, they are rather good at some small scale fights far from the feet of the titans and should not be underestimated.

The main strengths of this unit comes from a combination of the war gear that they are carrying. The 5+ invulnerable save from the mag-inverter shields is excellent and on par with terminators. The Kyropatris field generator argues for large sized squads to make the most of the bonuses that it gives to saves and penalties to incoming firepower. Meanwhile, the arc lance itself is a really nice weapon in both melee and short range which double up as a vehicle killer thanks to its haywire properties.

The main problem with this unit is the toughness of three characteristic. Yes, they have the invulnerable saving throw and a feel no pain save as well. Yes, the interlocking protocols of the Kyropatris fields is going to keep them alive longer. Fundamentally, however, the sheer weight of incoming fire will force them to take too many saves in the long term. In some ways, this is reflected in their price value. Coupled with this, the arc lance is certainly not a long range weapon. So if they want to go hunting, they need a method to get close. The Triaros transport is therefore recommended if they are not lurking at the feet of a titan.

There are not too many upgrades available here: most of them are about the Alpha of the squad. So, I will keep the build suggestions short, accordingly.

Hoplites with 10 members, Alpha with radium pistol and Omnispex (145 points).
Something of a baseline unit here. Grab a transport and go hunting, or keep near the feet of a titan. Or just hunker down in a bunker.

Hoplites with 20 members, Alpha with radium pistol and Omnispex (265 points).
A squad for the feet of a titan. Take augury scanner and shatter spheres to taste.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Secutarii Peltast Phalanx

These guys are the hammer on which lesser beings are smashed for the machine god, short of the titans themselves. Their role in the Secutarii army is to concentrate fire power against anything that would be an ambusher, or hide away in cover and take out a super heavy. As such, they are a very offensively designed unit and one that has the potential to excel in a number of areas of the game -- for a price.

The customisability of this unit is very nice. I think there are several roles here. The first one is to arm them all with arc rifles and then go hunting for tanks to take out with haywire grenades. The second is to use the S4 AP3 shots of hammer shot rounds to take out space marine enemies. The third is to go down the radium route and max out the number of wounds inflicted. The fourth is to provide shrouded through their special Blind Barrage rule. With two units of these using it, it can even provide shrouded to a super heavy!

Toughness of 3. Save of 4+. They are not the best troops in the game, but with a little thought (or a dedicated transport) they will survive long enough to hang around to get a job done.

Plus, they can get expensive. As the build below will illustrate.

10 Peltasts, all with arc rifles (220 points).
This is a dedicated tank hunter build. Place them in a transport to get close enough then unleash the volley of haywire. Halve the number of arc rifles if you are feeling lucky and to save on points -- I think I prefer to keep the numbers high and the chances of extreme unlucky failure low though.

10 Peltasts, hammershot rounds, Alpha with Omnispex (160 points).
A bit more of a baseline build, and one that can take out space marine squads.

10 Peltasts, all with radium carbines, Alpha with Omnispex and augury scanner (135 points).
Again, they will need a transport, but they can cause all sorts of problems for an ill prepared enemy.

20 Peltasts, Alpha with radium pistol, refractor field, Omnispex and augury scanner (260 points).
Weight of numbers. That is all. Take multiple squads for shrouding your favourite nearby titan.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Old Earth

Announced today via the Warhammer Community website, the latest Horus Heresy book from the Black Library that will be hitting the shelves in December this year is entitled "Old Earth" with the subtitle of "The the Gates of Terra". 

Ostensively a Salamanders Legion book, it promises to tell the tale of what happens next in Primarch Vulkan's on-going saga. On-going, since he simply will not die. Having been bodily transported to Mount Deathfire, he re-awakens once more at the end of the previous book. The outline for Old Earth suggests that he will have to choose between vengeance and duty. I think the title of the book kind of gives away what he might be choosing ultimately. However, we know in the background tales it is the White Scars (already depicted in the Horus Heresy series) and Blood Angels who reach Terra to join up with the Imperial Fists to defend against the oncoming storm of traitors and chaos powers. So what is with Vulkan choosing to go to Earth? Presumably he doesn't make it? Or is somehow way-laid. Or better yet, unlike the promotional material, perhaps he does opt for vengeance after all and that is why he never made it back. Heck, Vulkan has been put through literal hell between what happened to him at the hands of his brother, Night Haunter, and several other things besides (burning up in an atmosphere being near the top of the list as well). 

More than this, there is a throw-away line in the description for Old Earth that really got me interested. There are rumours of the mysterious return of Ferrus Manus as well. I mean, what the? How did this come about? Surely at best he was a fragment of a conscience inside Fulgrim's rattling brain. 

On the upside, only a few more months to wait to determine the answer to these riddles and questions. Will any ret-conning be happening? Or will Vulkan and the Salamanders never make it back to the Throne World after all. I'm going to wager on the latter. They won't deviate from the established background that significantly. Let's just not talk about Emperor Sanguinius, okay?

Monday, September 4, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Secutarii Axiarch

Axiarchs are the leaders of the Secutarii cult within the Mechanicus. Rather than being selected on merit, they are chosen for having defended a downed titan, or having recovered one from the field -- one of the most "sacred" of tasks that the sect are called on to perform. Subject to further testing and evaluation, they are then rebuilt in armour forged from a dead titan and upgraded with protocols to replace parts of their brain. The outcome is something beyond a space marine.

First of all, the stat line of an Axiarch is splendid. Strictly better than a space marine baseline with three wounds and attacks, this is a character to be reckoned with. Moreover, it is also a cheap character for the baseline price.

The Axiarch comes with a small artillery of special rules and equipment. Firstly the Titanshard armour is basically power armour with added bonuses. The It Will Not Die rule chief amongst them means that this HQ will not go down without a prolonged fight. This is magnificent in the 30k environment for a HQ to have outside of a Primarch, and at such cheap points levels too.

One of the main reasons for having the Axiarch though is the ability to select fro the Binaric Stratagems. There are four of these and each of them applies to Secutarii in the detachment that have the Hazard Protocols. The first gives a bonus to feel no pain, the second move through cover, the third a bonus on the vehicle damage table roll, and the fourth preferred enemy against infantry. This can be a tough choice as I like many of these. Move through cover is somewhat situational, so I would probably opt for one of the others. Given that the titan should be working against enemy vehicles, the extra pip in vehicle damage is not too important. Hence I'd prefer either the preferred enemy for better aggression, or the feel no pain bonus for better defensiveness. I would err on the side of the feel no pain probably.

The chief weakness is the 3+ armour save. It is probably wise to invest in some invulnerable saves for this character via a mag-inverter shield as part of the build perhaps, but a cheap Axiarch can still be had at the baseline entry to take advantage of the precision shots. Just make sure to join him up with a unit to gain some additional benefit from the Kyropatris Field.

A pair of builds to consider below.

Axiarch with power fist (65 points).
Cheap. Cheerful. Yet still powerful and a character to contend with.

Axiarch with arc lance and mag-inverter shield, omnispex and augury scanner (90 points).
Take shatter spheres to taste if wanted. This build combines offence with defence and can be very good in various situations that require him to take on enemy infantry.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Horus Heresy Review: Secutarii Titan Guard Rules

Background material evaluation.
Developed in parallel to the Skitarii legions, the Secutarii share many of the ancient and near unknowable ways of old Mars. Their purpose is, simply put, to defend the titan legions. This might seem absurd at some level. But there are many threats to titans. The Secutarii are there to take care of would be ambushers and human sized targets that would simply not regularly be targeted by the building-shaking and tank-busting weaponry of the titans. Further, they are there to mop up the human sized remnants of anything the titans blow up. Like the people who are being transported in tanks or the ones taking cover in a bunker that the titan targets. They are also regularly deployed to defend a titan landing zone or just generally help with the titan legions, as required.

 In all of this, the background of the Secutarii comes across as very in line with the Martian way of doing things. They are highly dedicated to the machine god and go about cybernetically enhancing themselves and replacing critical organs with ones that do not possess the weaknesses of the flesh.

Rules Review.
Firstly, it is important to note that the Secutarii deploy as Taghmata. However, unless one possesses a titan in the army list, they cannot be used as compulsory selections. This makes a lot of sense really.

As Titan Guard, they are literally inspired to insane levels of bravery and therefore re-roll morale and feel no pain rolls within a wide bubble of any titan. This rule encourages the Secutarii to stay close to a nearby titan. This is fluffy and ultimately a good thing for the flavour of this army.

With Secutarii Hazard Protocols, they can act as one and boost their BS and snap shot BS for one turn. This comes at the expense of being able to make run moves (you probably were not going to do that anyway I'd think) and a penalty to WS and I.

The Kyroptis Field is a small field generator contained in each Secutarii that gets stronger (overlaps or constructively reinforces each other) with larger numbers close together. With 5 models, you get a re-roll of "1" for saving throws. With 10 or more, they get an Iron Hands inspired reduction in incoming fire by one. This is amazing and encourages large blobs of Secutarii to be deployed. Of course, this being Horus Heresy, you were probably erring on the side of large blobs of troops anyway I would suspect.

The Omnispex is a cute addition to some units causing a penalty in cover saving throw. Obviously this is situational, but can be very powerful.

Beyond these rules, some of their weapons provide for interesting options including rules like Haywire. Other special rules include Rad Poisoning that deals 2 wounds instead of 1 wound when the to-wound roll is a natural 6. Parabolic shot meanwhile means that one need not have a direct line of sight to the target which can be useful in some situations (e.g., hiding behind Titan's legs!).

The Secutarii are an army list that wants to go big and try to stay close to Titans. In some ways it reminds me of a human cyborg version of 40k Tyranids, but with different options and the big beasts costing heaps more!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Necromunda Underhive and Evolving Team Games

One of the main bits of news passing through the internet over the past 24 hours from Games Workshop is the revealing of Necromunda Underhive. I have fond memories of the original version of this game, and of analogues in Warhammer Fantasy.

I will start with the latter. When Realms of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness was released, its impact was huge and broad. Not just in fantasy but in 40k as well. What were once nearly abstract chaos entities were given very concrete forms in a very specific and hierarchical manner. More than this though, the Realms of Chaos books introduced new ways to have battles and new ways to consider building armies. One of these was to build up your very own chaos war band from scratch and improve it from mission to mission. Sure, there were pitfalls along the way (the notorious 1d1000 chart in the same book had some serious balancing issues that were barely levelled out by the large number of possible outcomes on the chaos attribute chart that your war band chaos lord could get, and indeed: her or his followers). But the idea that you could "evolve" your team from game to game is one that struck a chord with many an old-timer.

Fast forward a little bit and we see this kind of idea take shape with Necromunda. You control an under hive gang of violent men (and / or) women hell bent on proving themselves better than all others, taking control of different areas and potentially suffering from serious testosterone poisoning. However, the thing that struck me here was not so much the random gains that one could make to individuals. No. Rather it was that the person in control of the gang could "upgrade" them from mission to mission. A reclaimed flamer was perhaps discovered in a long forgotten alleyway in the darkness of the under hive that was brought back to functionality by the gang. Now one of your gang members is happily toting a (very useful) flamer to cleanse all in her path. It is this upgrade and evolution that really holds the appeal to me. Having members of the clan or gang get better over time and still risk permanent death by the end of the next game is exciting, heart breaking, and interesting. It adds a new dimension of caring about the team and the individuals within it that is not generally seen in Warhammer 40,000 so much. Well, not unless you are one of those painters who scribes the name of each and every miniature on to their base or their shoulder pads. I sometimes feel Dark Angels should engage in this a bit more, myself. I digress though.

Beyond this thought (and attractive feature) is the fact that for perhaps the first time, the game moved away from the epic scale battles and skirmishes fought by the elite Imperium and the malevolent Orks (etc.). These kind of skirmishes were at a very much lower level (pun not intended) and between distinctly ordinary citizens of the hives of the Imperium. Thus, we got a little bit closer to the grim darkness of everyday life for some of the (not quite average) citizenry of the Imperium. We got closer to explaining how the hierarchy of the Imperium works with the rich on the upper spires of the Hives controlling the wealth and industries, the elites below them, the working classes facilitating the production of promethium (or whatever it is they do - I'm not entirely clear), the slave classes and the down and outs below them, and the gangers at the lower levels literally fighting for their very lives on a day to day basis. It might not be Nostramo, but it might be close. What it did show was the very real grim dark nature of the setting in a new light. 

In some ways, this kind of game can be seen here and there in different formats. For instance, Frost Grave focuses exceptionally well on a wizard and her entourage trying to Lara Croft the pickings out of a frozen waste land. Kingdom Death might be a further example of this where a band of survivors tries to build up their village over several Lantern Years and improve their lot by taking out various monsters in the heinous world that surrounds them.

These kinds of evolutionary games are very well done. It is really appealing to see Games Workshop once again go down this route in a very complete and well thought through manner. Although I may or may not purchase the new Necromunda ultimately, it really does bode well for this type of game and game system. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Imperial Castellum Stronghold Unboxed

This is one of those pieces that I have long wanted to own ever since it came out: the Imperial Castellum Stronghold. Remarkably, it is also my first ever purchase in the Realms of Battle style of board pieces. This ultimately means that I may end up getting more at some point. But we will see how this one goes first.

My Horus Heresy Review of the Imperial Castellum Stronghold can be found here. Clearly there are many build options to think about if we are going to use it as part of a game. For my Alpha Legion - if indeed I use it for them - it will come as a surprise for many opponents who are just not ready to face either an Alpha Legion force holed up inside the Stronghold -- or a portion of it that are infiltrating way beyond its boarders. Who says that the Alpha Legion are no good at fortifying their positions. With tanks hunters special rule on the battlements, I think this idea has a lot of potential. 

Obviously, it can also be used as a scenery piece in its own right without needed to think of using it for any kind of force. In doing so, I think I would want to consider a special deployment zone arrangement so that the Castellum is situated in no man's land at the commencement of any game given how good it could be if all its rules are in play. Otherwise, it could just be used as pure "scenery" in the sense of blocking lines of sight and being able to be clambered all over.

The picture above shows the Imperial Castellum Stronghold straight out of the boxing. It comes in a very large box from Forge World that is very well packed and protected from minor dents whilst in transit. 

What surprised me a little was that the resin it was cast from is black. I think I was expecting some kind of grey colour to be perfectly honest. At first, I even worried that they had sold me some kind of second hand one that had already received an undercoat of black spray paint. But no. The resin on this piece really is black to begin with.

Being cast of this material, the details on the piece are really crisp in most places. Indeed, there are very few holes or mis-cast portions anywhere on the entire model. Cleaning up flash lines will take minimal work. That said, I think I will glue in to place some small stones and scatter material before I undercoat this board centre piece just to add to its ambience. More on this project at a later date. Its going to be a long-term project!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Alien Wasteland Gaming Mat (Kraken Mats)

Following a high profile and well-conceived kickstarter campaign a few years ago, Kraken launched a wide range of gaming mats for sale. They presently retail through the German company, FantasyWelt, for about the same price as high quality mats from other companies (about the same as special runs from Game Mat EU for instance -- which in turn is higher than their regular gaming mats or mats from Deep Cut Studio). 

One of the key things that Kraken sells their mats on is that they really constructed genuine playing boards for their principle photography. Most of their mats has their basis in a custom board that has been specifically constructed for gaming. After building and painting their boards, they then proceed to photograph it professionally at high resolution multiple times over. After this, it enters post production where the individual photographs are stitched together and overlaid (if needed) to produce a final big composite image. This image then has some post-processing applied to it. Some of their gaming mats have more post-processing effects applied than others it seems. The bottom line though is that the final image for production in to a gaming mat is simply not one hundred per cent digital. It really is based on a custom board build specifically to be photographed and transferred to mouse mat material for printing. 

It was on this basis that I decided I would make a purchase or two from Kraken.

Below is one of my purchases, laid out in partial sunshine in my back yard. This is the Alien Wasteland gaming mat. Clearly, it is Necron inspired in background from a first glance. But there is a whole lot more going on within the details here. 

The first thing that strikes me about the mat is the sheer level of detail present. Unlike some rival products, the gaming mat is not simply a backdrop that is filled up with much bland detail -- I'm sure many of us know of featureless mats of green grass, yellow sandy deserts, or NASA produced pictures of the Martian surface from orbit for instance. Instead, since the gaming mat has been produced from a real textured gaming board, there is an incredible level of detail present here. This ranges from the grains of red and black sand that are clear in the board, through to the painting of the green highlights that streak across the plains. 

My only real criticism is that some of the shadows and reliefs might have been implemented better. But to be honest, it really is not noticeable at all. Plus: it is actually what it should look like from a top-down vantage point anyway. Hence this is no criticism at all. It is actually a compliment that the photography is absolutely spot on and what it should look like in "real life". 

Below is a close up of one of the plateau regions.

The shadows caused by the nearby "raised" plateaus are clearly visible here toward the lower right of the shiny molten looking sea portion. Speaking of that, it is very clear that a whole lot of work has gone in to the construction of the real life custom board that was produced for this photograph. Everything, and I mean everything here is just in so much detail. The game mat is just as much a piece of artwork as anything else if I am perfectly honest. The raised plateaus have been done tremendous justice with their green markings across the surface. I have no idea how the molten looking ocean was made, but that is a real highlight for me as well. It really is so well textured overall. As if that were not enough, the paint job looks splendid with the right combinations of what I presume are airbrush techniques, highlighting and some selective drybrushing going on. It really is just splendid. 

How does it play though?

I subjected it to the best test that I could come up with. The daughter test. Jumping up and down on the mat and dancing and twirling all over it caused no real issue for it, and my girl was delighted with the mat. She wanted to use it herself for her own games (of Warhammer ... and of other games too). Full marks for robustness from me then. The rear of the mat is mouse mat material (I refuse to use anything else these days) hence the tumble of die on its surface is muffled rather than very loud. Additionally, any little spills of water on the surface of the mat can be rubbed / wiped away with minimal fuss.

Overall then, this is a very high quality product. I am highly pleased with this purchase and would certainly recommend these mats to my friends across the blogosphere and the gaming community. 

My intent is to try to produce some pseudo-necron looking scenery in the longer term to go with this gaming mat. I'm thinking dark coloured monoliths highlighted by green streaks across their surface (see here for a much earlier prototype) or maybe even electronic looking devices strewn across the surface to make for a very alien feeling planetscape. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Games Workshop Liverpool

This article is about Liverpool in England, United Kingdom. As opposed to Liverpool in New South Wales, Australia. Just so that we are clear from the outset(!)

I get the chance to do a bit of travel in the course of performing my job. Whenever I visit a place that I've not been to before, or not been to in a very long time, I attempt to visit the local Games Workshop store and do a bit of a "Mystery Shopper" act. My long term readers will know all about this via my reviews of stores from around England and Australia over many years. Today, it is Liverpool's turn. 

Liverpool is a city that I know well from my younger days - I had relatives who hailed from that part of the world. In a number of ways, Liverpool can potentially be misunderstood by those from outside the region. Let me tell you: it really is a high quality, International city of great dimensions and immense promise. Indeed, its history is littered with important contributions to the Empire of yester-century, let alone the cultural importance of its outputs in entertainment and sport. Don't let certain Fleet Street tabloid publications (which are banned or simply not sold in certain parts of this great city, I might add) sway your ideas about Liverpool -- it really is an amazing place and I do highly recommend it should you ever get chance to visit. The regeneration that has happened in this city over the past decade or so is amazing. The dock lands have completely been regenerated and the "Liverpool One" area is as high quality as one could want. There are more historic (listed) buildings in this city than almost anywhere else outside of London in the UK and there's something for everyone here. 

The Games Workshop in the city is not called Games Workshop. Instead, it is entitled Warhammer. It is one of those stores that have been re-branded in recent years. I still do not know quite how I feel about it, but the look of the store from the outside is very slick and it fits in well with its surroundings.

The physical location of the store is amazing. It is a unit that is right next door to Central Station. Explicitly, it is in the same building as Central Station. For those that do not know, Liverpool has an extensive underground railway system with a number of different lines. In the centre of Liverpool, the underground Wirral line go in a circle around a number of key stations (Lime Street, Central, James Street, and Moorfields) whilst the City Line and Northern Line cross through both Central and Moorfields. I really do not know how much Games Workshop is forking out to rent a unit in a location like this, but I can only imagine it must be a lot. Seriously: its location inside Central Station building is amazing. The sheer amount of footfall that happens in this area is huge. It has almost unrivalled access for anyone coming here from greater Liverpool, the inner city, and from the Wirral. I cannot underscore enough what a great and accessible location this is -- it is one of the best that I have been to to find and locate to say the least. 

The store itself is modest to slightly larger than some I've been to. There are several displays, and obvious items displayed in the front window for shoppers to have a gander at. The interior of the store is well laid out. Although the tables are nicely sized, there is still room to go around the edges and look at the merchandise on offer whilst people are painting or playing at the main table. 

The guys at the store asked me if I was going to take part in the Konor campaign. I politely said that I probably would, but it would be back at my home Games Workshop and that I was just visiting. They asked me about my armies. I mentioned Death Guard and the Alpha Legion and how I was toying with the idea of making my 30k army fit the 40k mould. I'm not yet sold on re-starting a 40k Death Guard army just yet to be honest, but the guys at the store did seem very interested in the fact that I was rather the veteran gamer with a long knowledge of the history of the game and surrounding fluff. I bought a couple of things before leaving. Overall, the staff were very friendly and I don't have a bad word to say about the store. Top marks from me. But over the top marks from me for the location. I was blown away how accessible it is and how easy to find (its certainly not tucked away in some shopping mall like others are). 

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