Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Easter Bunker

Happy Holiday, for today is Easter, and those of you who celebrate it, may your day be filled with yummy edibles and chocolate delights. Today I am inspired to show off a piece of scenery that I created many years ago, around '99 or '00. We call it the Easter Bunker.

The "front".

Back then, Warhammer 40,000 was in it's 3rd edition, and one of the missions was called Bunker Assault and you got Victory Points for blowing up bunkers. Only GW was no longer supplying us with cardboard (or any kind of) bunkers. So if we wanted to play the Bunker Assault mission, it was left to us to scratch-build the bloody things (or use a shoe or something)!

The "back". Looks much like the front, right?
Scratch-building scenery can be a lot of fun, and when you create something that any one can look at and recognize it to be the thing you envision, and they tell you "hey, that's a cool bunker you got there" it can be quite satisfying.
Profile, to give you a sense of depth.

 Scratch-building can lead to stock-piling of what "normal" people refer to as "trash", but to us scratch-builders what the lay-person sees as "trash" we can see embryonic form of a complete trench system, or the foundation of an underhive industrial complex, or a lizardman pyramid, etc.

Sometimes however, you don't really have to work that hard to find the perfect thing to make into another thing...

The secret of the Easter Bunker revealed!

I hope you enjoyed that!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Book Review: Brothers of the Snake

    So what do you do when you finish reading the latest Eisenhorn saga installment and need more of that Abnett-fix? You could lose yourself in all of the Gaunt's Ghost books, but that feels like it might be work at this point. No, I wanted a short fix, so I turned to the book shelf and found that I had a hardcover copy of Brothers-of-the-Snake  which I recall that I found at a used book store in Louisville KY while on a business trip. So, I flipped it open and started reading, and damn it, like most other Abnett books, I just couldn't put it down.
    Understand, that Da Masta Cheef didn't give me a good review on this book, so I was a bit reluctant to dive into it. However, seeing how Abnett treats the Adeptus Astartes in his other books, I was overwhelmingly curious to see how he would handle Space Marines from their perspective. In his other books, regardless of the perspective that Abnett tells the story, the characters, typically humans, all would view the genetically-altered giant super-humans as demigods. Fearsome, powerful, demigods.

    And that's how he starts out this book. The world of Baal Solock is in a state of emergency. This rural, extremely low-tech backwater world has a bit of Xenos problem. So they call for help. And they get it. A pod lands and a single Marine arrives. Just one. Without spoiling this for those of you who might not have read this yet, let's just say that this first chapter shows you just what a single Space Marine is capable of doing. It is a fun, well written, and a bad-ass read!

    The second and subsequent chapters then illustrate how the Space Marines of the Iron Snakes battle squads function. The focus is on squad Damocles, in particular Brother Sergeant Priad's ascent to squad leader and how he prepares the battle-brothers under his command to be ready for war. The thing that is apparent, quickly apparent, is that the Iron Snakes are not a typical 'Codex' chapter. They are very much patterned to adhere to their customs and take their rituals quite seriously. They have a water ritual that they must perform each time that they land on a new world which becomes almost amusing at one point as they barely wait for the action to stop before making sure that that ritual is completed!

    Back in '92 White Dwarf presented a series of articles in the twilight hours of Warhammer 40,000 1st edition on the Space Wolves. Here for the 1st time we were introduced to all of the Space Wolf lore, including short stories by Bill King, character background, Chapter history and lore,  that would later be collected and expanded into the 1st Codex: Space Wolves. These stories showed us the rituals, and ways of the Space Wolves, their beliefs and their customs as well as why their army is formalized in such a unique way. Reading Brothers of the Snake gave me the same thrill that I had the first time that I read those White Dwarf issues! By the time I had finished with this book, I wanted to play this army! So, in contrast and comparison to the Space Wolves, the Iron Snakes have a unique chapter world, a watery death world with giant aquatic Dune-like serpents that Iron Snake prospects test themselves by catching with unique hooking devices and harpoons. Later we see that these serpent hunting harpoons are often taken into war, and used with devastating effect against horde armies. I found it fascinating and engaging.

    As this book unfolds, it feels like you're reading a short story omnibus, with each story subtly building on the last one as you are learning more about the members of Damocles Squad and Brother Sergeant Priad. The chapters that take place back at the Iron Snakes chapter base were particularly interesting as you got a sense of their organizational politics and law (don't know if you can tell, but I'm trying really hard not to throw out any spoilers here! LOL). You also get to see some the inner tensions and rivalries that seem to afflict the Iron Snakes. Also, the rituals and trials that new recruits are put through was interesting to as well, again, reminds me of some the Space Wolf writing by Bill King, the novel Space Wolf in particular, however, in contrast due to the Iron Snakes unique ways.

    As these chapters roll onward it ultimately builds to a near chapter-wide conflict as the Damocles reserve force tries to extract the Chapter Master and primary assault force from a world overwhelmed and caught in the cross hairs of a massive Ork civil war. It is here that Adnett shows us war on an epic scale, and shows us what demigods of war are truly capable of. Allow me to present an extract of a pause during one of the battles:

    The Snakes came to a standstill, gasping and sore, flushing ichor out of their helmets' valves, clearing optic slits of blood and shreds of meat. Slowly, they realised what they had accomplished. Behind them, for a distance of about three acres, the earth was piled six or seven deep with the enemy dead, stinking slopes and mounds of carrion, gurgling as waste and fluid leaked out and turned the ground beneath to a quagmire.

    Trust me, it's more epic in context!

    Another particular favorite aspect of this book is the introduction of Autolochus, a revered venerable dreadnought. He was awesome, and it reminded me, again, of the 1st time I had read the background on Bjorn Fellhand in the Space Wolf  codex. He also had some wonderful lines and moments:

    'When a Librarian dreams,' Autolochus rumbled, 'it pays to listen. If I'd listened to Nector, I wouldn't be four tonnes of scrap metal.'

    His influence, and power due to his age and legendary status,  is taken seriously by all at this meeting of chapter leaders who were trying to decide their next course of action in a system wide conflict.

    I was quite satisfied with the ending of this book, both glad that it was a self-contained story in one tome, and yet wishing that I wasn't saying bye to these new friends, and desiring to know what happened next in the legend of Priad, Damocles Squad and the Iron Snakes.

    So, a return to my review template:

  • Did I like it? Yes! I loved it!
  • Was it hard to put down? Absolutely. I lost a lot of sleep reading this on the nights that I could find time, tearing through this hungrily.
  • Could I care about the characters? Surprisingly, yeah. Abnett is notorious for introducing  a group of characters, describing them and infusing them with character, trappings and sometimes even a bit of idiom, only to have them killed in some manner. Snuffed like colorful candles. My favorite example is his WHF pirate novel Fell Cargo (I loved this book, but man what an insane body count!) and I recall reading his early Gaunt's Ghost stories in Inferno that had named characters dying left and right. So, yeah, you go into any Black Library publication knowing that no one is safe, especially in short stories and one-off novels, but in Abnett's books in particular no one is safe! But that's part of the thrill on this ride, and the risk, as damn him, Adnett can't help but make you like his characters. So, yeah, I cared about some of these characters and shared in their loss when a warrior would fall, because it does happen. 
  • Did the writer truly grasp how the 'world' of the 41st millennium works in the sense that it doesn't betray or retcon previously established (as I know it) lore? In this one, yeah. Abnett's kind of got his own sub-universe set in the 40K universe, but it sticks to the established 40K cannon and spirit. If anything, I often feel that he adds and builds to the mythos. Having said that, I only wish my Space Marines were half as awesome on the table-top as they are in his writing!
  • Was I being talked down too? No, if anything Abnett is good at making the reader feel comfortable in the 40K universe without dumbing it down. Seriously, there is a short story Space Marine anthology that I have been limping through for a while now that has examples of the type of ways to not tell Space Marine stories. Seriously, I used to like the Salamanders until I tried to read their fiction... 
  • How predictable is this story? Not very. The broken apart, short-story compilation feel of the first 2/3s of the book really worked well at presenting the story in a way that you couldn't predict over-all. When it all comes together, I wouldn't call it mind-blowing, but definitely satisfying. I do hope Dan Abnett has another Iron Snakes story to tell us as some point. I would like to see them take the fight to the primuls and finish what the Orks started.
  • Do I recommend reading this book? Well, if you made it this far, I think you get that I have a positive vibe about it. Yeah. Especially good as an introduction to people new to the Warhammer 40,000 universe and Space Marines. Although this isn't an army that has it's own rulebook like that Dark Angels or Space Wolves, it is a solid examination of the character of what makes a Space Marine, how the citizens of the Imperium look upon them, and it's a damn fine read. After I finished reading it, I bought a paperback copy for a friend as a birthday present and, well, he devoured it! He loved it, and raved about how it was the best 40K fiction he has read so far (he hasn't read Eisnehorn yet). So, yes, I recommend Brothers of the Snake. Highly.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

When Sisters make you HOT!

Last Saturday I ventured down to the local Hobbyhole for some gaming action. My new job has kept me in a worn-out state much of the week, and by the time I get home, I am just too tired to deal with little toy soldiers, never mind writing about them! But before I forget the details, I need to record this battle for prosperity. Or something.

Edwin recently challenged me to a game of WH40K but mostly due to the fact that he has simply never played against me, not that there was any prize to earn for going to war with me or anything. Also, he just acquired a shiny "new" Sisters of battle army and wanted to give it a 2nd test run. His previous run can be viewed here. Edwin has a bit of a reputation for being a power gamer, where I tend to just throw lists together based upon some preconceived notion of balance and background. But I decided to toughen things up a bit and play around with a light "Loganwing" force, which I haven't done since 40K transitioned over to 6th edition.

My force consisted of: Logan Grimnar, 2 Wolfguard packs, each with a heavy flamer, a Long Fang pack (see previous posts for close ups), a Lone Wolf (with Fenrisian Wolf), a Vindicator, and a Grey Hunter pack with Rhino APC. The Grey hunters would be joined by Erik Axegrinder who today will count as a Wolf Guard squad leader. Logan and this Wolf Guard will be deploying via drop pod.

Edwin's Sisters of Battle were fully mechanized and kitted up to flame-bake anything that comes near it.

 The game starts with us selecting the mission Big Guns Never Tire, and the diagonal board set up. My Long Fangs started the game holding an objective. Once again my Warlord Trait was Master of Cities and once again I found myself playing on a City Fight board!

Space Wolf Deployment

Sisters of Battle deployment

Loganwing arrives on Turn 1.
 I tried to take the fight to the Sisters by throwing Logan Grimnar and this Wolfguard at them.
They were able to target the weaker armor of the Exorcist and blew it up immediately! I knew if it had the most potential to ruin my day, so made it a target priority. The unit  soaked up a lot of firepower while the drop pod took out about half of the Battle Sister squad that had jumped out of the rhino to counter-attack the Loganwing.

"Quiet girl, they won't be able to spot us!"
On turn two an Immolator rolled up and, true to it's design, torched the Lone Wolf in his cover, but both he and his Wolf survived the gout of flames...

The Lone Wolf''s retaliation was swift and he blew it up with krak grenades, Unfortunately his furry friend failed to survive the explosion. But it did give the First Blood award to the Space Wolves.

Meanwhile Logan and the lads kill the Dominion squad. but lose another of their number due to overwatch. Note that this will become a theme....;)

The Sisters execute the Lone Wolf. Who dies a glorious death.

...Perhaps paint will improve your saves?

Meanwhile in the not-so-glorious death dept., Logan and the last Wolf Guard charge the Sister's Rhino, only to fail their Overwatch saves! Logan was down to his final wound, and well, they died! We both were shocked, Edwin more so than I, as me being me, there are two fundamental laws in effect: 1.) Special Character always die hard if I use them. 2.) Terminators will fail their saves en mass! And usually when I really need them to not fail!

 Meanwhile, the Sisters advance up the flank, and dispatch Eric and his Grey Hunters with a combination of Seraphin strikes and Shooting from a supporting Sister's squad. My Rune Priest took a wound early in the game due to a Perils of the Warp result.

Prior to this next pic, a lot of stuff happened in my deployment zone.
There was a rhino and an immolator over there that both unloaded squads of Sisters that attempted to flame broil the Long Fangs, They killed three of them, however the Long Fangs charged the squad of Sisters and killed them in close combat, running the screeching witches down as they attempted to flee their grizzled assault. The other squad hopped into the Rhino (the Vindicator having blasted the Immolator apart.). And was moving closer to the Vindicator.

The Rune Priest and Wolf Guard kill the Seraphin, except for two which the Rune Priest deals with himself in the following turn.

The Living Saint, having left her Seraphin behind, destroys the Vindicator.

With my army mostly whittled down, the following rounds would prove strangely grueling for us both.

My favorite moment in the game!

 The Living Saint Charges the Long Fangs only to find herself "killed" by an overwatch  shot of super heated multi melta goodness! There she would remain for 2 more of my rounds before rising from the dead.

 The rhino is destroyed and my Rune Priest charges the Sisters, killing them.

On my Turn 7 I had the Rune Priest send living lighting psychic attacks down the field at the Sister's squad holding an objective while the remaining Long Fangs sent Frag missiles into the same squad. They failed to kill off or break the Sisters who clung greedily to their prize!

Finally on the bottom of Turn 7 (7!) the Living Saint comes to her senses, hops over the wall and contests my objective! That bitch!!! Grrr!

For WAY too many rounds, the Sisters had the drop pod circled and was trying to blow it up with krak grenades, but this proved unsuccessful, my final attempt to kill with with the drop pod missiles scattered horribly, allowing the Sisters to claim the objective...

With Big Guns never tire in effect, our Heavy Support choices could score and count toward the VP tally. We figured it was Sister 8 to Space Wolves 3.

Things I learned about the Sisters:
  • For a White Dwarf liste that seemed uninspired and drafted just to get the players by, it was surprisingly resilient. The special Faith Saves really saved their bacon far more than it should've!
  • Imperial Guard in power armor aren't bad! Especially with Strength 4 bolters!
  • Charging flamers is never a good thing! I started to take a lot of flamers in my armies as I find that they are a good counter-attack against assaults and for those relying on cover saves. The Sisters can maximize flamers better than any army in the game!
  • Space Wolves are easily distracted by cleavage. Personally, I think the Lone Wolf surrendered and faked his death...
It was a good game, one that the dice gods definitely decided to randomly foil us. Had the game ended at the bottom of turn 5, the results would have been in my favor, but the resulting two rounds were all the Sisters needed to turn things around to their favor.

I enjoyed the game, and found Edwin to be a decent chap to play against.

Wow! Someone painted those trees finally?!

On another table, Murl was tormenting Da Masta Cheef with his daemonic legions! Read the tale brief here.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Long in the Fang (Part three)

The four Long Fangs completed in this round, ready for war.

This is the final part of this Long Fang series, that is, until I get around to painting more Long Fangs.
This part will feature the model that required the most work, the Squad Leader.

"I feel so dis con nect ed".
For models like this that can prove to be tricky to get to all the areas with a paint brush, I like to leave them in a semi-assembled state. In this model's case I left off the head, backpack, shoulder pads and melta bomb. This allowed me to paint all the areas of the model that might otherwise be difficult to reach if these components were already there.

If Hiveangel played Space Wolves. :)

This was the level I had brought the model up to prior to attaching the head. I used a really dark blue on the "plasma parts" of the plasma pistol, and used Ultramarine Blue as the mid-tone.

Aiming at you!
Leaving the head off allowed me to paint the area of the armor around where it would rest without spending a lot of time touching up the model. Placing the head so that he was kind of looking down his arm and aiming with the plasma pistol gave a lot of character and body language to the model.

Tin Bitz base coat

Tin Bitz was the base coat for what will become the gold sections. Also I have added the Space Wolf Gray highlight and finished the fur apron.

 Shining Gold added.

 Final highlights of white added throughout the model.

 Here is the model completed with all the components added.

Here you can see the highlights on the plasma gun, and the rest of the model. The melta bomb was painted to match the canisters on the multi-meltas that I recently painted as well. I added the decal to the shoulder pads before I glued them to the model. I find them to be a bit easier to work with doing it this way. Both of the decals in this pic are old 1st edition era decals. Of particular interest is the sergeant badge that I put on his left leg greave. I panted the yellow on the leg, and then placed the decal over it so as not to lose any detail that could happen had I attempted to 'color it in'. Due to the age of these decals I had to touch up the areas around the image to cover up the distorted color of the transparency. Apparently these old GW decals are not "acid free", and I suspect the new ones aren't either...

As per the 2nd edition Space Wolf Codex, I placed the Long Fang Squad Leader fanged red skull icon over the pack marking. However, while trying to reposition the decal on the shoulder pad, it tore! I lost most of the top of the skull, and I had to repaint it free-hand. Luckily I was able to get a fairly close color match to the decal.

That's it for now.