Sunday 23 April 2017

Salute 2017

I don't get to go to Salute every year for scheduling reasons, but this year I was able to make it! I didn't get as many photos as I'd like, but I can give you an impression of what I did, anyway.

I arrived early and got a pretty good place near the head of what soon turned out to be a long line:

I picked up some preorders, snagged as many free goodies as I could and made some small impulse buys, but my main goal for the early art of the day was to play in a game refighting the little-known 1239 Battle of Lodi Vecchio. It's all part of a larger project about gaming and history. I use elements of gaming in some of my classes, so the subject interests me, and it helped that the rules were the simple and fun Lion Rampant, which I knew a leetle about.

Players were divided into teams: my partner played the defenders of the town while I played the forces of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II hurrying to reinforce them. Ranked against as were the forces of the Cardinal of Milan.

Close-up shot of the ruins of Lodi Vecchio. 

The defenders' position, looking out toward the Milanese approach. 

Muslim archers of the Imperial army hurry to take up positions in the church. 

Led by the Cardinal (with the mace in the centre), a unit of Milanese knights crash into the Imperial flank. 

A lone knight of Lodi makes a heroic charge against the Cardinal's horse. 

Imperial knights drive off the remnant of the Milanese flank attack
-- but have they left the altar (behind them on the right) undefended? 

Yes, they have! Enterprising Milanese knights dash through the gap and destroy the altar. 
It was a close-run thing, and confirmed for me that I really like the Dragon/Lion Rampant games. There were moments where I looked at it and thought "welp, we've lost," and then moments later when I thought "well, I guess we've won," but in the end our opponents clutched it out. Well-played to them, and thanks to the team for running the game so smoothly.

After that I went back to wandering around the show, ran into some friends, took some photos, bought some more stuff, did a speed-painting competition (didn't win), etc. Here are some more random photos from the show:

This Open Combat "battlepit" had a fun little dragon-skeleton terrain piece. 

I really liked this Animal Farm board, which was a neat spin on the Russian Revolution theme. 

OSHIRO produces beautiful board. In other news, fire hot, water wet. 

Kallistra had a WWI table set up; great bird's-eye-view appearance.  

The rule does seem to be that Infinity tables are always bright and colourful. I like it. 

Foundry had some Congo demos going on. 

A fantastic Frostgrave game using models from every imaginable source, none of which I photographed, apparently. 

Anvil Industry was running demos in the back of a huge armoured 4x4.

This Falklands game by Jersey Privateers took place atop a massive sculpted cliff.

I believe there were multiple games going on on this Jurassic Park board. 

A cool demo game showing apes attacking London, from Crooked Dice.

Fantasy WWI game Panzerfauste had this fun table set up.
I came away with a big pile of miniatures, of course, but as always I managed to avoid getting into a whole new thing, which I think is the thing that usually leaves Salute-goers broke. Of course, this may simply be because I am already into everything there is. Look for some of my Salute purchases painted up over the next few months, with luck.

I wanted to give a special shout-out to Bad Squiddo Games. The last time I was at Salute, in 2015, Annie had just released the first in her line of Believable Female Miniatures, which was sold out by the time I got there -- a sign of things to come, as it happened. Now she has dozens of models in her range, plus all kinds of other stuff, and is the best one-stop shop for models of female characters. I got a chance to look at the sculpts for her next Ghosts of Gaia Kickstarter, and I actually think they look even better than the last ones. Anyway, my point is that in just two short years she's built something really impressive, and that's a huge testament to the effect hard work, ingenuity and a really good idea can have.

Anyway, that was Salute, and if you think my workbench was covered with figures before, you should see it now. Things are still busy here, and I have some work projects I can't really talk about, so I can't promise that future updates will go back to being regular, but hopefully I should have a few big miniatures posts between now and BOYL in July.

Thursday 13 April 2017

The cautionary tale of Ghazghkull Thraka

If you've played Warhammer 40,000 or one of its derivatives, you probably know who Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka is. He's the Orkiest Ork of them all, a big tough dude with a metal skull and a humorous sidekick. He's appeared in various iterations of the game in various forms, getting bigger and tougher with every incarnation. Here's the first Ghazghkull model I encountered:

This guy still remains the definitive Ghazghkull in my mind, even though (or perhaps because) the current one is much larger and less Adams-y.
Still got the metal skull, though.

Ghazghkull has the controversial distinction of being, together with his nemesis Commissar Yarrick, one of the first special characters ever created for Warhammer 40,000 -- that is, one of the first character models to have unique rules rather than simply being an example of his type. For instance, Marneus Calgar's stats were published in a much earlier White Dwarf, but he's just a Space Marine officer who's had his arms ripped off and replaced them, as one does, with power fists bristling with Jokaero digital weapons. Original Marneus is an example of what a Space Marine commander is like. Ghazghkull is Ghazghkull.

But, interestingly, Ghazghkull started life as just that. Let's take a look at his first appearance.

Ghazghkull's first appearance was in White Dwarf 134, where he was the leader of Andy Chambers' Goff Ork army. In the article, Chambers talks about creating the character's steel skull and psychic abilities by rolling randomly on the tables in the then-forthcoming Ork book 'Ere We Go.

So original Ghazghkull was just like Marneus Calgar -- an example of what kind of character you could create to lead your armies. Then, like so many designers of games, the people who made 40K stuck their own characters into the narrative for funsies.

Over the years, though, the 40K universe has become very focused on these characters. I don't just mean in game terms -- by high 2nd edition, that ship had already sailed. I mean that, largely because of the success of the Horus Heresy novels, people are very invested in the personalities and fates of the various characters of the franchise. And, of course, these characters have models and appear in the game. For many people, the idea that "my guy" could be as important as Fabius Bile or whoever is bizarrely alien.

And I think that's a bit of a shame. Andy Chambers seems like a very cool guy, and Ghazghkull is a fun character. But he's Andy's guy, and Badlug is my guy, and I'm fond of Badlug, dim-witted, status-obsessed narcissist though he may be.

Badlug still has a lot of payments to make on that tank.
I often refer to this as the Owlbear Problem. If you know about the history of D&D, you know that Gary Gygax created the owlbear, and other monsters, by repurposing cheap plastic dinosaur toys. And again, I love owlbears as much as the next guy. Hootroar, and all that. But I do think that something was lost when we looked at Gygax's example and instead of thinking "hey, I too will make fun monsters from the things I find in my daily life," we thought "gosh, I sure like owlbears." Obviously in a perfect world we would do both.

I don't think that any of the designers who do this intended that result. I think they intended to show that it was fun to make your guys and fun to use certain tools to do so, and they put their own characters in books because that's fun too. It just kind of worked out this way (and publishers are, of course, invested in getting people to care about their IP), and that's fine. It is what it is. But I still think taking the other perspective can be helpful.

Wednesday 12 April 2017

Some recent painting updates

It's been a school holiday, and I've spent some time catching up on my painting. Naturally, although I have some ongoing projects, I have not been completing them; I keep coming up with ideas for things I'd rather work on. I think this represents a lack of enthusiasm for the Chaos knights, but who knows.

In any event, here are some models I've painted over the last few weeks:

The Nob is old, but the others are part of a project I'm doing to refurbish some old plastic Orks and turn them into a Blood Axe unit for my Ork army, which is currently all Evil Sunz. After that I'm going to turn the plastic Orks from the 2nd edition boxed set into a unit of Goffs. "After that" might be a while, though; I have a few more of these old plastics in the post even as we speak.

This club-swinging post-apocalyptic warrior comes from Ramshackle Games; I gave him a shield based on a Foxbox miscast and a spare right hand from an Ogre model, because I originally got him as a free miscast and he was missing some of his parts. I am really pleased with how he turned out, and with my ever-growing post-apocalyptic collection in general.

This Grenadier fantasy model is one of that huge collection I acquired last August. I am trying to knock out one or two of these guys every time I do a batch of priming, although I keep ... getting distracted. She'll be a great addition to my general collection of fantasy-game civilians, although because she's an American model from the 80s, she's tiny compared to most modern figures.

This crab guy is a Ramshackle model picked up at BOYL last year. I can't believe I'm already starting to plan for this year's! I am pretty pleased with how he came out; the colour is more vibrant in real life.

Only the model on the right end of the unit here is new, but hey, it's nice to have a Warlord and unit of Hearthguard for SAGA. With the addition of another Norman I have lying around, they become a unit of Elite Riders for Dragon Rampant. Next step: paint enough models to have two units of Hearthguard, and then start on a unit of mounted Warriors. Lot of cavalry in a Norman army, you guys.

This security guard is going to be the focus of an entire future post. Looks quite unremarkable, doesn't he? But he has a fun backstory.

And here are some more survivors from the Bad Squiddo Games Ghosts of Gaia Kickstarter.

I have a few more things on the go, but that should give you some idea of what I've been up to over the last few weeks.

Friday 7 April 2017

Chaos warband for Dragon Rampant

So the other day I ordered a copy of Dragon Rampant, Osprey's fantasy followup to Lion Rampant, from the Bad Squiddo Games bargain bin. It arrived the other day and I have been coming up with warbands in my head ever since.

A Dragon Rampant warband is a pretty manageable size -- I like to think of them as rather like a Hordes of the Things army. Most seem like they will be around 40 to 50 models, at a guess, although if you like a scrub army that will probably be larger.

Anyway, as you know I have been working on some Chaos models for my ongoing painting challenge with Tim of The Responsible One's Wargaming Blog. Here, then, is my attempt to translate what I've done into a Dragon Rampant warband.

Colossal Battle Snail: Greater Warbeast, Ponderous: 7 points.

Warriors of Chaos: Elite Foot: 6 points.

Cultists of Chaos: Light Foot, Offensive: 5 points.

Plaguebearers: Lesser Warbeasts, Fear: 6 points.

On further examination of the rules I see that I only actually need 6 of these guys since Lesser Warbeasts are only a 6 SP unit.

It's a small, relatively hard-hitting army with a mix of faster and slower units, and I think it will work out interestingly. Next I'm going to work on a sort of generic barbarian army.

The bases don't match, mainly because I'm repurposing models from a variety of different projects. Guess who doesn't care about that? If you guessed me, you're right.

Between writing and posting this post, I got a chance to try out the game, and I think I'm hooked. The army functioned well, but after a promising start got worn down by steady shooting from Heavy Missile troops and a well-timed counterattack led by my opponent's Elite Riders. Still, it was a close-run thing and I'm satisfied with this force. Next to create some other ones.

Wednesday 5 April 2017

Final fight: the Annihilator in person

All good things must come to an end, and that includes my D&D campaign. I knew that I wanted a spectacular miniatures battle for the end of the game, and that included a big gosh darn dragon. I was even willing to spend a little money, although not much by dragon standards.

I was actually a bit anxious about finding a suitable model, since gaming dragons tend to be on the pricey side (although the Reaper Bones ones were quite reasonable). I didn't know exactly what I wanted, until I stumbled on this bad boy in a charity shop for £10.

That's all 28mm scenery, for reference.

Now, originally he was blue, so I just slathered him in cheap black craft paint, highlighted some fins and warts and things up to green and gave him a coat of varnish. On the morning of the game, I might add. The paint job isn't going to last, but again, he's hardly likely to turn up again, is he? When you're doing frugal gaming you have to think about how things are going to be used.

Still, I think for £10 he's not bad, especially since he can do this:

Overall, a very satisfying final battle.