Sunday, 27 July 2014

Hirst Arts Terrain

Hirst Arts, if you have not heard of them before, sell high quality latex molds for various scenic purposes. I recently purchased three of these and have begun an extensive production in my kitchen.

The online store is rather archaic by modern standards but still does everything that it needs to. Naturally, when my bank saw I was spending a reasonable amount of money in the US, immediately halted the transaction and informed me of a potentially fraudulent attempt to purchase latex molds.... Sometimes my banks fraud department remind me of a puppy who brings you your shoes. They sit there in front of you all proud and happy, slobbering over your expensive footwear. Objects which you have recently put in the cupboard and have no intention of using any time soon.

Fortunately, Bruce Hirst was very helpful and emailed me swiftly to inquire about the transactions halt. I contacted the bank, he put the transaction through again and we were in business. The parcel was sent through US mail, was traceable so I could keep my eye on it and see just how long customs decided to sit on it for.

Eventually my molds arrived and I set about casting up as much stuff as I could.

This is the first time I have attempted anything like this and I am not going to lie, there is a bit of a learning curve. The Hirst Arts website has quite a bit of useful information on it which I recommend a read of and Bruce enclosed a letter with my parcel providing a few hints and tips for latex care. Our first batch came out looking a bit bubbly.... we did some research on the internet and found a great video by Famous Gaming explaining how to make a budget vibrating table. While we didn't have a hot glue gun ( I need to get one of those) or four identical sized small sponges, we did have two car sponges and a bit of hardboard. Armed with our scrounged resources, we mocked up a very crude version of the device seen in the video.

It made a huge difference, bubbly fail was reduced by a good 90%, OK, we still got a bit of bubblage but for improvised equipment I was very happy with the result.

The box of casts so far. The huge disks come from the bottom of our mixing bowl and will be used as Helipads, frizbees or maybe thundercat symbols.
As mentioned above we have acquired three molds, my favorite of which being that makes a rather cool looking bridge. To get all the required pieces, we will need to cast the mold 16 times, which is quite a lot. So far, we have done 4 and used maybe a quarter of the 1kg of plaster we have. The others were piped and industrial flooring and one that makes up an extensive plumbing system. All of these will hopefully make some great terrain for Necromunda/Rogue Trader or 40k.

Floor tiles are possibly the easiest to cast as they are, rather obviously, relatively flat. The bridge pieces came out quite easily too but the pipe sections were an absolute bugger. We have been really struggling to get them out of the molds without damaging them, especially the very thin rims. This may well be down to the plaster that we are using. Without wanting to order huge bags of plaster online, I went to a local hobby store and picked up whatever they had. It is described as being hard, good for models and takes paint easily but maybe it is quite a bit weaker than the more traditional dental plaster.

Anyway, the project is in full sing and we are both having a great time casting all the bits up. I cannot wait to actually build something!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Advance forces!

Upon reading the Third Edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle Rule book, I came across a very cool but under developed idea called Special Deployment. I have never seen this concept in any of the following games but have become quite interested in the idea.

Special Deployment splits the traditional deployment phase into three distinct sections.

Advance Forces 

Advance forces represent task forces sent ahead of the main army to secure certain vantage points and assets or just to cause havoc. This is a tactic often used in historical warfare but is completely absent from most wargames.

In Third Edition, advanced forces are chosen by the player in secret, their movement value written on a piece of paper and then compared with the opponent. The player with the lowest movement value is considered the losing side. The winner then chooses to deploy the advanced forces first or second, using the standard rules and a normal turn is resolved. Movement, shooting, combat etc.

The main force then is deployed on the table edge and moves on during its first turn.

I think that this is a really neat idea. It adds another layer of tactical flexibility and could really help build a story. It does however present a few.... issues, which would need to be house ruled.
  1. There is no limit as to how much of your army can be in the advanced force. Why not put an entire Bretonnian army in it and get a first turn charge?
  2. All units can seem to go in to it as well, even war machines. It seems a bit odd to march ahead with a cannon or catapult.
  3. The only requirement or restriction is that you can only have one advanced force and that it must have an officer in it, if the force contains fliers, it must have a flying officer.
Reasonable adjustments can be made to get the rules in to playable shape though. Restricting the Advanced forces points value to 25% of the total army, saying no war machines and that any units should have an officer would resolve these issues in my eyes. What does the wider community think?

Standard Deployment

Normal, run of the mill deployment unless an advanced force is in place. Then entry location of units is marked on the board edge, rather than plonking them down anywhere in the deployment zone.

Trailing or Outflanking Forces

This is another interesting one. You can put anything you want in to the trailing force, these units are not deployed normally instead at the beginning of the game you simply write down what turn you want them to arrive on. On the specified turn the trailing force takes a leadership test on the leadership of its officer, if it is passed the trailing force units move on to the table as described above in Standard Deployment, if it is failed they are delayed by a turn and must take the test again next turn.

This is demonstrated in the Gathering of Eagles battle report Orlygg has posted recently. The trailing force rules were used successfully by keeping two counter attack units in reserve and safe from artillery fire.

Outflanking forces are exactly like trailing forces but they can turn up on the flanks from turn 3 onwards or the enemies rear from turn 4 onwards. The board edge has to be chosen before the game begins, so your units could end up far out on a limb, especially if you play on a large table.

There doesn't seem to be as many rules implications with this as there is with the advanced forces, the only possible thing I would suggest (as well as the 25% point limit) is that the unit is placed on the entry point the turn before it arrives. Just to reduce the surprise charge of twenty knights from off table. This one turn announcement can still be pretty shocking but at least gives the opponent a fighting chance of getting their forces in to position before hell arrives. If anyone can think of any other possible implications, please let me know.

Overall the concept seems to be a fun one, it changes the deployment phase from one where you plonk your stuff down to a potentially three stage split in which to try and outwit your opponent. The thought of applying this to other games has now occurred to me, an advanced force of marines in a Rhino hurtling up field towards a critical emplacement sounds just awesome. Or a flanking jetbiker squad ready to come tearing on and get behind the enemies cover. It could be applied to pretty much any game to increase the level of strategic flexibility.

However this is all just theory, I have never used these rules personally, have any of you out there used these rules? Success or failure, leave a comment below.

Product Review: Kromlech Space Legionary Bionic Legs

For a long time I have admired Kromlechs work and have often thought about getting some of their conversion bits. Recently the owner of my FLGS announced that he was taking an order for Kromlech (amongst others) and if anyone wanted anything then to let him know. Like an excited school boy, I was bouncing up and down shouting "oooh oooh me me, I do". I'm a lazy bugger by nature but if someone is going to do the ordering, tracking and picking up parcel part for me while giving me a slight discount, then I am all for it.

I ordered some bionic legs for some veteran Spacemarines that I wanted to paint up for a modern Killteam game. Naturally being veterans, I imagined that they would have had quite a few bits blown off by now so mixing them in with the Forgeworld Iron Hands kit left them half way to being Necron.
Links below:

The parts, shipped from Poland and arrived with remarkable speed. Notably they turned up  several days before a Forgeworld order, made at the same time, despite the extra distance.

Made of resin, I couldn't feel a hint of release agent and the quality was incredible. There was no mold slippage at all, the detail was crisp and perfect throughout. They fit seamlessly with the Forgeworld parts I used them with, taking the appearance of a quite old mark of power armor (MK 2 I guess?). Size wise, I couldn't work out if they are larger than traditional power armored legs or if they just avoided the full nappy stance GW's sculptors seem to adopt. Either way, they stand notably taller than plastic power armored legs.

For me the size is not an issue. I have long held the belief that Spacemarines are too small when compared with other miniatures in the same line so I embraced the idea. Adding spacers at the marines waist and sculpted an armored section to cover the gap stretched them further and helped resolve the issue of a short torso. The five that have been built so far now tower over their plastic brethren and aliens alike, yet are still smaller than terminators. In my opinion they fit in perfectly and more accurately reflect an Astartes true stature.

Paint went on them very nicely, the details are well laid out and not over bearing, they would even look good with a quick and dirty drybrush. Though I must admit the very idea of it makes me shudder!

I cannot recommend Kromlech enough and will be ordering from them again soon, they just did everything right. Their range is expanding and they have some charming Ork models that would look great on a shelf in my house somewhere...

The idea for the marines I used the parts on started off with them being Iron Hands, then I decided black was boring and a nice metal affect would be better. Then for some reason a gold shoulder trim was added and Bam, they look like very clean (or Pre-heresy) Iron Warriors. Not my intention but I'm so happy with the result repainting them is unlikely to happen.

The fate of the remaining five marines I have parts to build hangs in the balance. Should they also be these proto-Iron Warriors or should they just be painted as a different legion all together? The idea of doing some dark angels painted up with the old Rogue Trader markings is very tempting.....

Your Pound of Flesh!

So with great intention I recently purchased some of Mengil Manhides dark elf company from Ebay, I acquired 12 for the princely sum of £20. I'm not sure if this is a particularly good deal or not as I am no hardened trader but I was quite pleased.

I did not really approach them with much thought, I simply selected a male and female unit member and began painting using the pallet I had out after painting some Silver Skull Spacemarines (more to come of those later). Right, so that’s the metal and leather on the armor sorted, time for the flesh then.

Oh, that stuff.


I quickly realized after painting Astartes, aliens and not much else for so long I hadn't actually painted any skin of any color in quite a while. So full of enthusiasm, I went digging in my paints box for some fleshy paints. I found a bit of a haphazard selection and went to it with gusto.

Unfortunately, gusto does not really equate to quality. I quickly realized that I had no idea what I was doing and stopped with the following results:

Learning points:
  • Just because the models come undercoated, it doesn't mean they have been undercoated well. It was a bit thick and claggy in places and hid some mold lines that came out when color was applied.
  • Throwing yourself in without a reasonable pallet of paints will not produce slick color transitions.
  • Some of the older sculpts facial details are not great and require an intelligent approach to get the best from them.
Realization that I needed some practice, if not a better selection of paints, dawned on me so I went to the internet to learn from people who actually know what they are doing. Over the next few evenings I watched a variety of video tutorials and some written ones to get a better grip of what I needed to do. While all this was going on, my ever patient wife was listening carefully and providing supportive comments. The next evening she returned home from work with the Vallejo skin and leather paint box for me.

Yep, she's a keeper.

Now I just needed something to practice on. At this point I remembered that a little while ago I had ordered some of the very fine models from Hasslefree Miniatures and they had kindly included a free topless dancer in the box. Sadly, it was only a miniature one but it would prove an excellent practice canvas.  Below are the results.

I had not mixed the colors well and the difference between the layers was far too noticeable. I had then tried to merge them by using washes. Unfortunately this caused it to look chalky and the skin to be much darker than I had anticipated. Darker skin is not a bad thing but it didn't match the ginger hair color the dancer already had. As we all know a tanned ginger is a physical impossibility.

Undeterred I grabbed the next miniature in line, Marina from Hasslefree. This time I was a bit more careful with my mixing. The tones were much closer and the transitions much less obvious. I started with a Bronzed flesh (Vallejo) base, washed it with gryphon Sepia (GW) and then added repeated layers of Bronzed Flesh with more and more Pale Flesh (Vallejo again) mixed in. It's not perfect, placing of some of the highlights is a bit odd and it will never win a Golden Daemon but I am quite satisfied with it and now feel confident enough to have a crack at my intended victims.

Speaking of which, Mengils bunch really need to be stripped and prepared properly before I can paint them to a  standard that I would be happy with. So that will be the next project for me. Assuming that I do not get distracted with the Hirst Arts molds that are currently winging their way across the pond to me. :)

Thursday, 10 July 2014

And so, my rambling begins.

First off, I feel an introductory post is in order to establish myself and my incessant wittering regarding wargames and why I do what I do.

I have been playing a variety of wargames for a good 20 years now and feel impassioned by the hobby, which I see as wonderful and beneficial but slowly going to the corporation dogs. By now, you have probably guessed my interest is primarily in Games Workshop games, while I have played many others, I keep being pulled back in by their back ground, artwork and other imagery.

My gaming career started by playing 4th Edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle and 2nd Edition 40k, around 1995 or so. While I have little fondness these days for 4th Edition Fantasy (herohammer ahoy), 2nd Edition 40k is stuck very firmly in my psyche. Don't get me wrong, its a terribly unbalanced game and can be horrendously abused to exclude as much fun as possible, but when played in the intended mind set, it opens a huge amount of possibilities.

When you discount the varying power builds, 2nd Edition 40k is relatively robust and very enjoyable; some of my most cherished/funniest wargaming memories come from playing this game due to its relative complexity and room for comedy. A perfect example would be my Spacemarine Captain heroically shooting an Eldar guardian off his jetbike at close range only to have the bike itself crash on him and kill my noble captain. Both my opponent and I were laughing so hard we were pretty the rest of the game is quite a blur. There doesn't seem to be room for this kind of nonsense in the modern games, which for me is a great shame. Some people complained that heroes were over powered, in a similar vein to the contemporary fantasy games. I found that a heavy weapon to the face sorted that out, something that Fantasy lacked.


The tipping point

As time has rolled on, 40k got simplified in to the horrific abomination of 3rd edition and has been patched repeatedly since, making the game progressively more and more playable. I played through it all, mostly because I found the back ground so engaging (I will get to that bit later).While the rule sets have been getting a bit better, I think the whole ethos of the game has been going down the pan. A purchasing arms race has emerged, where if you don't have X you don't stand a chance vs Y.

When fliers first emerged, I did not want to get one as I find the concept of air support being present on a  field about the size of a football pitch odd to say the least. Until my first game against an airborne opponent; a Necron army with three Doom Scythes. They turned up on my opponent's turn two and by the end of it, all I had left of a once large army was a combat squad of marines hiding between a wood and the burnt out hull of their Razorback. The rest of my army fell prey to death rays and the shooting from the rest of his army, in one turn. At this point (beginning of my turn three), I chucked in the towel as five bolters against an entire army is never going to amount to much.

Afterward we both agreed that the game had not been very fun and discussed what I could have done to avert the massacre. The only answer either of us could think of was to buy either fliers of my own or some AA guns.

So I got a AA gun fortification as a compromise. Still no fliers but at least some defense against them. This time I did better, I lasted until my opponent's turn three and even managed to shoot down one flying croissant. Further analysis found that neither of us had enjoyed the game again and that I needed to buy a Storm Raven. In true scientific fashion, we repeated the experiment using differing armies and terrain lay outs and came to the same conclusion.

For me this was the NOPE! point. I had played multiple games with an hour + of set up and just under 30 minutes of actual game play which had not even been that fun. After lengthy investigation, we had concluded that the obstacle cannot be over come by strategy and instead requires quite a bit of money. For me this is when a wargame breaks, when it no longer depends on the players skill but solely on their wallets. When I saw the same thing happening with the Titan/large walkers that came along shortly after, I knew that my interest had died completely.

So boo fucking hoo, an old man throws his teddies out of his pram and declares that he is not going to play this game any more in true nerdite fashion, right? Well, kind of yes to be honest but most importantly for me, it made me sit back and take stock of the bits I actually like and want to experience more of.

The root of my addiction

I am a strategy fan, either in physical games or video games. I love pitting my whits against someone else in a good natured and gentlemanly fashion. It helps me improve my mind, gives me something to think about while bored (this happens a lot) and builds friendships with some noble types. Wargames do this nicely and often in real life rather than through a screen too.

Art is something I have always been into. Sketching characters, banging out story boards or just generally shitscribbling is something I have previously spent a lot of time doing. These days with a house, a wife and a career, I cannot dedicate as much time as I want to it to get to a skill level I would be happy at. So for me miniature painting and scenery building is a nice compromise. Some nice person has drawn me the picture and I can get my kicks by coloring it in. There are also lots of very nice video and written tutorials which I can glance at in breaks between work in a bit of slow digestion. Thanks to the internet and the general free flowing of knowledge, my painting skills have really picked up in recent years, even when not actually painting that much. For me this is a big improvement over regular drawing which I was beginning to suffer frustration with.

Storytelling is an essential part of wargaming for me. I'm not bothered by "My hero is going to go and slap yours after I run this block in to your chaff and blast the rest with magic." Although that is a brief and honest description of what may happen, it doesn't really set my pulse racing. When I start putting names to faces and plots together in my head, I start enjoying the experience from a second angle. In my rather deluded head the above passage would read "While his henchman engage the puny human skirmishers Davoth Tyr, Captain of the Black Ark will gut your hairy savage as Kelmon the Spirittalker rains death upon you". (Or something to that affect).

It sounds sillier written down than it does in my head but pleasing my inner twelve year old is quite simple and requires just a hint of imagination. Stringing games and the characters in them together again gives me something else to think about when bored and adds to the vividness of the experience.

In short, there are more aspects to it than just the moving miniatures around on a table that I enjoy and modern 40k just wasn't encouraging the things I like, so I needed to readjust my focus and off I go looking for something that does tick all my boxes.


About a year ago I discovered that I was not the only one who longed for days gone by like true old farts and that there are people out there, still playing game they like because they like them, not because they are newest and they don't really like them. A new concept pinged in to being in my mind that I had previously discounted. I could, you know, choose which games I like to play and find people to play them with. As I said this had been previously discounted because I thought everyone still only wanted to play the newest games and keep up with the masses. Over the last year, I have been eagerly reading as many Oldhammer related blogs as possible during my spare time as well as digesting the Warhammer 3rd Edition Rulebook.

And that, dear readers is me. A once cranky old git, reinvigorated and back in love with his favorite past time that will hopefully create some readable content. Maybe. :)