Opening lines… By Nick Kyme

Imagine a magnesium bright desert. There is nothing as far as your eye can see, and the horizon and the landscape are so indistinct from one another that they merge into a single formless, toneless mass.

Welcome to the first page of your novel. Surprise, surprise – it’s blank. Better take on lots of water and figure out your route, it’s going to be a long road.

It gets better, though. Having a road map helps. You build it. You build the landscape too (though that can be capricious and surprising – it should be). It’s your world, remember?

Make no bones about it (there are many in the blank page desert, slowly bleaching in the sun), writing a novel is tough. It takes time, and isn’t for the faint hearted. If you are faint of heart, try some shorter at first. If that gives you concern too then I’d suggest getting the heck out of the desert at the first opportunity before you expire. This trek is not for you, sir/madam.

Perhaps toughest is coming up with that opening line. Thing is, once you’ve got your landscape up and running (your characters and the story they drive and inhabit), it becomes a little more self-perpetuating. Before that happens, there’s just the desert and all the compass directions laid before you.

See, the thing about opening lines is, there’s never just one. You might think there is, but that’s not true. There are lots, and therein lies the rub. So many places where you could begin, so many choices, directionless and amorphous.

It can be paralysing.

Terrifying.

Some advice?

Write more than one. Don’t be afraid to throw out what you’ve spent the entire morning agonising over. No words are that important that you can’t jettison them in favour of better or more appropriate ones.

Recycle and redraft. In the blank desert landscape, this isn’t only environmentally friendly, it’s economically sound too. I’ve dumped loads of failed opening lines, only to find them in my mental scrap and ready to be deployed elsewhere. Throw nothing out. Not completely anyway. With a little care and attention, it can be put to use again.

But I’m digressing.

I equate writing a novel to running a long race. Think of it as a journey. I remember an interesting quote about this very subject (apologies if I don’t remember this accurately): Writing a novel is like driving down a dark road with your lights on. You know where you’ve been, and you can see just what is in front of you, but no further ahead than that. The only way you know what is around the next bend is to reach it and have a look.

Think about your route. Have a route. We are back in the blank page desert again, but if you have a route you are much more likely not to get lost, especially when you start to establish some of the landmarks along the way.

Going back to the idea of a long race, the opening line is you on the starting line. It’s your preparation and thought process up to this point. You just need to put one foot in front of the other.

Endurance is the key. You have to have e physical and mental chops to stay the course. Break up the miles. It’s hot in the desert, but you’ll be all right if you just take it steady and try not to think about the journey in its entirety. That is the way to madness. You’ll end up (or rather the idea of your novel will) as one of those bleached skulls on the side of the road, the ruins of your story putrefying in the heat.

When I’m writing a novel, I prepare. Mind and body. I research and plan. I think. Then when I’m ready, I act. I consider the variant possibilities of my opening line, that first scene and simply pick one.

I take it step by step, mile and mile. It’s tough at first, and takes some adjustment. All long races are, I think. I find a novel doesn’t start to attain its own gravity (and thus pulling me along into its orbit) until I reach about 20 to 30k words. I know I’m in a long race then, not a sprint. I reconcile the fact it’s going to take some time. I double check my route map. Do it more than once, to remind yourself where you are going. I do the miles, I work at that everyday even if I’m only chipping away at them.

Write. Read. Repeat.

There is no cheat or trick. That’s it.

Opening lines, they are scary but think of all the possibilities and what might come of it all when the finish line is in sight and you get to cross it…

Imperial Armour 12 – A Review

For this post I’m handing over the reigns to #warmonger and Twitter favourite Paul Collett aka @Ozrax to review Imperial Armour 12. Enjoy.

IA12_cover

I have never bought an Imperial Armour (IA) book, always feeling that they were stupidly overpriced and as a tight fisted git, I would not spend that much on a book. So what changed my mind? Well, I am building a Necron army and I really fancied some Forgeworld kits in my force. The new Tesseract ark and the Nightshroud bomber looked great and the rumored Tomb Sentinel sounded very scary. To use these I needed the rules, so I caved in and bought the Fall of Orpheus. I hope to talk you through the book and to answer the question is it worth spending a tad under £50 for a glorified codex?

The fall of Orpheus is the 12th book in the Imperial Armour series and looks at the fall of an Imperial sector. It is the ‘Necron’ book and its designed to allow you to expand Codex: Necron to include all the current Necron Forgeworld kits in your regular games. Rather than just any old Necrons, these are the Maynarkh Dynasty. Corrupted during the great sleep, these are a mad bunch (well, madder than most Necrons, who are all mad any way!) The Necron are pitched against the Minotaur’s Space marines and the Death Korps of Kreig (assault Brigade) with full rules for both imperial armies provided.

So what do you get for the not inconsiderable amount of money?   The book is in 3 parts. First off is the fluff as you would expect and Alan Bligh, the author, has done a great job. The book talks about the fall of a sector, war on a grand scale and devastation a full-scale invasion will bring. This is not the odd tomb waking up, this is millions of warriors, in thousands of Nightsycthes.  It shows the invasion of a Necron Dynasty and the Imperial attempts to save the sector.

FW_IA12-15

This invasion is a brutal time and the defenders are stretched to breaking as the corrupted Necron try to kill the whole sector. The second part of the book gives you the scenarios to fight this invasion. Not only do you get the rules for the games, but you get the rules for all the planets in the sector as well. This is a great section and I love the individual planets special rules. It also suggests the type of scenery upon which games on each planet would be fought. Also included in this book are rules for both Apocalypse and Zone Mortlis games. Both are a superb and allow you play anything from small skirmishes up to huge battles, all themed to the Orpheus sector. One key feature of this book is that it has considered the new 6th edition throughout and the new rules reflect this.

Following this are the 3 army lists. While not full codices, they are comprehensive lists. They detail the full back ground and history of the 3 forces along with the special rules, unique units and wargear of the armies. They provide full rules for using them in regular 40k games as you would expect, but also stand alone rules just for themselves.

The Maynarkh Dynasty

The Necron list gives you a choice to field either a regular Necron force with the new units or a Dark Harvest (DH) list. The core changes in the DH list are the loss of the C’tan in exchange for the Maynarkh Characters. This gives you some new Wargear and you gain the Mark of the Flayer rules. These rules make your leaders less stable and present the opportunity for them to go into a berserk rage or become a Flayed one. As this is a 6th ed book, you get a warlord traits list too! This is such a positive idea and adds a lot the personality of the army. Alongside the new units are 2 new characters and new options for old units. You can now upgrade your Immortals and Lychguard to Maynarkh Dynasty. The book features all of the Forgeworld necron stuff, including the Tomb stalkers all brought up to 6th ed Standards. Also in the book is the mighty Necorn Tomb Citadel. This fortification option is a mighty addition to the Necron force.  The new Realm of Battle tile is a great model and once I get my hands on one (it’s on Back order!) I’ll post some pics!

Despite the whole raft of new units and stunning new models, for me the main event in the Necron list are the sentry Pylons. The standard Gauss exterminator is staggeringly useful. At 135 points it adds some major anti-aircraft fire power. With a range of 120” and S9 AP2, and has skyfire and interceptor, you can’t hide from this fearsome gun! You can have up to 3 in unit. They are a Heavy weapon choice, Oh, and you can Deep strike if you up grade them! You can upgrade it to either a Heat cannon or the Focussed Deathray. These are both up gunned versions of the regular codex versions of these weapons. (Yes, I did say an ‘up gunned’ Deathray!) once these start appearing on the battle field, then the Necrons will rule the air.

I found the Necron section very good and I love the new units. The art work, background and rules are all well done, adding to Necrons, but not totally wrecking them. (ok, I am thin ice here and some would say that they are pretty knackered already)

The Minotaur’s and Death Korp of Krieg (Assault Brigade)

These 2 lists are not completely new, but they are brought up to 6th Ed. Both get a Warlord trait list and the histories of both are provided. The lists are very good and allow you to use the whole range of Forgeworld kits. The Death Korp list is a new variant. It allows you to field an Assault force. This force is the ‘do or die’ squad. They are sent to the toughest part of the fight and are not expected to return.

While I don’t think there is a huge amount on new stuff in either list, they are well presented and if you don’t have either of the other IA books that feature them then they are excellent. I loved the Krieg back ground as I had not read it before. The lists are both solid and I so want a small force of each now! The Krieg list in particular allows you to field all the current Forgeworld infantry for the Death Korp range. The deathriders, mole mortar and the Hades breaching drill all get the 6th ed makeover as do the 4 big artillery options. Also included are the rules for the various Imperial Navy fighters.

I liked these 2 sections, but they felt a little like an add-on to the Necron Stuff.

Overall

Is it worth the £48? Well, I think it is. The art work on the whole is great, if a little reparative sometimes. The Photos are just out of this world, as the digital work on them takes them to level of realism that shocked me. The Death Korp photos in the tunnels are great.  The rules, scenarios and back ground are well done. I only noticed one rules mistake (on the Hydra entry-they missed the Sky fire rule) but that’s only a minor thing. The whole concept of the book works well and the production value is high. The bigger IA format has allowed them to create a very nice book that I will use a lot.

I would rate this book very highly. Alan Bligh should be proud of what he has written and my only issue is why did I wait so long to get an IA book?

I am off to build me some new lists and assemble my Tessarct Ark. Till then, See you across the battle table.

Plastic Crack of Choice

Another guest post from Chris (@Darth_Crumble) who was inspired by a post from a fellow warmonger on their blog. This time Chris muses on his GW hobby or lack thereof and the path it will take…

This post was inspired by this post by Erin, aka @sixeleven, on the difficulty of fully breaking away from Games Workshop:

SixEleven’s Warhammer 40,000 – I Just Can’t Stop Myself

My experience of trying to make a clean break is similar to Erin’s in that I am also haunted my the lure of the GW despite my better judgement. Like him, I feel the lure of the familiar rules, setting and toys. I started really looking at other game systems just under a year ago and I must admit that precious little has appealed to me the way GW – and 40k in particular – have.

I was briefly fascinated by Firestorm Armada and Dystopian Wars by Spartan Games, but after while I lost interest. I think although Spartan Games have a lot going for them they don’t score well enough on the three branches of background, rules and models to hold my interest. Of the two, I think Dysto has the bigger residual appeal and so far I am opting to keep my Britanian fleet with its HMS Warrior-inspired colour scheme.

Likewise, Warmachine and Hordes don’t quite grab me. Partly because there is no one model range that I like enough to collect an army, as and unfortunately I find a lot of the Warjacks and Warbeasts that are the focus of the games to be the least interesting models to me personally.

The only other game that has really grabbed me recently is Warzone Resurrection by Prodos. This is the first game that has grabbed me the way 40k used to. At least partly this is probably due to their similarities, both being 28mm sci-fi battle games set in a dark future. Though WZR is a very different game, not least because it is a D20 based skirmisdh game. Sadly WZR isn’t released until June though.

A lot of my nostalgia for the grim darkness of the 41st millennium is probably due to my continuing to read Black Library novels. I continue to read the Horus Heresy series, as well as Gaunt’s Ghosts, Ciaphas Cain, Space Marine Battles and one day I might get round to reading the Salamander trilogy. To be honest though, I was already steeped in 40k lore and it would no more cease to be part of my mental landscape than Star Wars, Batman, Transformers, Babylon 5 or any of the other fictional universes which I have enjoyed and have influenced me over the years.

It has been nearly six years since I last played 40k. Since then I have made some abortive attempts to collect and paint up news armies though I have never got as far as rolling any dice in anger. This has had a lot to do with the various distractions and other demands on my time the last six, extremely eventful, years.

The other issue has always been resentment of the cost. The thing about GW being not just the price of individual models, but the number you have to buy. I try not to be too irrational about this. I don’t want to be one of those people who object to a business as acting as such. But the question hanging over any transaction involving GW is whether I will get enough enjoyment to justify the cost. Of course a lot of the answer to that question is actually my responsibility to determine, and relates to how I go about my hobby and make the most of it.

I must acknowledge that GW’s behaviour has been pretty questionable, but there are lots of companies whose behaviour I find questionable but which I haven’t found myself feeling the need to boycott them, so that could just be a convenient excuse. Perhaps it’s just that GW’s brand of evil is a particularly cartoonish one, acting more like a parody of an evil organisation than the real thing.

So I have to ask myself whether I am not going back to GW because I genuinely don’t want to or if I am just being stubborn. Any hypothetical return to GW would involve me identifying an army that I genuinely wanted to collect and paint and play with. It would also need to to commit to collecting sensibly. Not buying so much stuff as to overwhelm myself but not dragging my feet either. It would also require me to not procrastinate and manage my time a bit better. Being a husband and father does make genuine demands on my time, but it can also serve as a convenient excuse to not do things sometimes.

I am of course tempted by the Space Marines, perhaps doing the Salamander or Crimson Fist army I’ve always thought of doing – possibly as #forgeworldonly project. I like the Imperial Guard, but that is genuinely an expensive force to collect and I’m not sure the ‘cheap’ all-veteran armies are actually all that viable. I like some of the shiny new Tau stuff, but I’m disappointed the Crisis Suit has not been updated and I have found Fire Warriors very painter-unfriendly in the past. Any army I do pick would need to have a codex up to date for sixth edition, I’m OCD like that.

Thanks to Erin for inspiring me to get this all of my chest. Maybe some of you other #warmongers have had similar thoughts?

Musings on Warzone

For once you’re not going to hear me prattle on about something. Instead I’m handing you over to Chris (@Darth_Crumble), a semi-regular contributor to The Shell Case. He shall be waxing lyrical about the Warzone Kickstarter. Enjoy.

warzone

Many years ago in the far of era known as the nineteen-nineties, when I was still young and pretty and had my whole life ahead of me, there existed a wargame by the name of Warzone.

Warzone was the wargame spin off of the Mutant Chronicles RPG and detailed the struggle for dominance between various megacorporations for control of the solar system. This was further spiced up with the eldrich abominations of the Dark Legion from the exoplanet Nero and the church militant that had risen to oppose them.

This was all produced by Target Games who also produced the dark fantasy game Chronopia and for a while Target were the biggest competition being offered to the Games Workshop. That is until Target fell foul of their parent company’s bankruptcy and had to fold. An event which, rumour has it caused the folks in GW HQ to break out the bourbon.

Time marches on, pages fly from the calendar and I accumulate frown lines even as I am divested of my hair. But what should I see this very February but a Kickstarter called ‘Warzone Resurrection’.

The Kickstarter campaign is being run by Prodos, the company which relatively recently acquired the rights to the Warzone intellectual property. The campaign started in February with the target of raising £35,000 to finance the development of new models for the prussian-themed megacorporation Bauhaus ( to join the new models already designed for the Dark Legion, church militant Brotherhood, and the cyborgs of the Cybertronic megacorp). At time of writing though, the total pledged stands at a whopping £86,884 pledged by well over 600 backers. Several stretch goals have been broken, unlocking extra character models, extra units (including tanks, walkers and a gribbly spider roboit) and even unlocking development of the USA-themed Capitol faction. The Kickstarter still has over two weeks to go so there’s no telling what the final total could be.

Of course, wargaming Kickstarter projects are nothing new. There has been the recent Godslayer campaign, Kingdom Misogyny, I mean Kingdom Death, and the various Mantic Kickstarters. But this is probably the first attempt to use it to bring back a game that has been off the radar for the better part of twenty years. Also, this does appear to be a ‘genuine’ Kickstarter, in that Prodos are genuinely trying to raise the money to brink their project to fruition, rather than it being used as a glorified pre-order or to allow a company to do something they could do anyway, just quicker.

I’m quite excited by this campaign. I’ve been really impressed by the model renders I’ve seen so far and I quite like seeing an old game brought back, especially as it folded before through no fault of its own. I’ve been looking to get into a skirmish scale game as a more manageable way of balancing gaming with the time and money restrictions of parenthood and this could well be the one. I have read the beta rules and they are clear and straightforward and the D20 based system allows a bit more granularity and more subtle distinctions of abilities. Also, the optional Strategy/Tactics/Warhead card rules should help keep the game fresh after repeated play.
I’m by no means an expert on the Warzone/Mutant Chronicles universe but what I have read sounds pretty cool. There are thematic similarities to 40k but without anything like the same amount of unremitting grimdark. Also, it is very much a human war without any pesky aliens (so far).

I would encourage all #warmongers to take a look at Warzone Resurrection a as it could be a really good new addition to the wargaming scene. Plus, the number of old Warzone players who will no doubt want to renew their acquittance with Max Steiner, Dr Diana, Big Bomb Watts and the rest mean there could be a sizable player base very quickly.

Check out the Warzone Warzone Resurrection site here and the Kick starter page here.

Painting Dark Angels with Robin Fitton

For those that haven’t heard of the awesome Robin Fitton, he’s the genius behind Gruntz 15mm. If you haven’t heard of the game flagellate yourself then click here.

Robin has been working on a new Dark Angel army for Warhammer 40k and he asked me if I would mind posting his progress on The Shell Case. All too happy to oblige, here’s the first part in his journey to a horde moody green Space Marines…

Phase 1 : Initial construction and base spray coating on a Dark Angels force.
I recently bought the Warhammer 40K Dark Vengeance and decided to build a Dark Angel force using the models in the box as a base. The chaos models from the box set were sold to a friend but I was sad to see them go because the detail level was very good.  I have 30 years experience of painting and playing wargames but have not played 40K since the days of Rogue Trader rules, when I had a mix of Imperial Guard and Space Marine models.  Now drawn back to the game with this latest set of rules I decide to follow the guides provided by GW for the paint work.  I am following the “How to paint Dark Angels”  iPad book from Games Workshop and I am going to use almost exactly the technique they suggest in the guide.
The Citadel paints from the new 2012 range will be used for all the paint work with the possible addition of the odd non-GW paint, thinner or wash where appropriate. The iPad painting guide is straight forward with some nice stage by stage images, however the first 3 stage images on of the Dark Angel space marine is very “Dark” and considering that I am viewing on a super sharp iPad retina display I would like to think that they could have done a better job of the photography. It is interesting how they suggest airbrushing them in the guide to complete a base coat but they don’t provide any tips on how to do it. I have been airbrushing for about 6 years, so I am familiar with the technique and it would have been great to see at least a photo in the iPad guide of the airbrushing or painting stages.  There are also no tips on actual brushing in the guide with no video content. It just shows you what sized GW brush to use and the only video is a 3 second Games Workshop logo that appears when you open the iBook.
The construction of the miniatures from the box set was very easy. What I did not factor into the time frame was the amount of mould lines on the models that would need cleaning. They have done a good job with the models and a lot of the plastic lines are hidden behind joins but I boosted the basic set with 10 tactical squad members which added to the clean up.  The main clean up locations on a space marine are the outside and inside legs,  arms (wrists), the rounded exhausts on the back packs, the top of head seam, the weapon seam (down the centre line of the bolters) and last but not least the top of the back pack. The top of the backpack is an ugly spot. It is slightly recessed, so you can’t easily get a knife in to clean it up. If it is a model that you are adding a plastic symbol to you can hide the top of the back pack.  All of these lines were cleaned up using a fresh sharp blade and I use  a subtle scraping action along the lines to scrub them off, rather than cutting a hack through them.  I then finished off most of the tidy up with some ultra fine sandpaper from Tamiya. This is made for plastic manga kits and does a great job of cleaning up the edges and seams without making them rough.   Weapon barrels were all drilled out and the bikes had their exhausts drilled (photos of bikes in next phase).
I took a lot of care and about 3 weeks to slowly prepare the models.  This was completed in front of the TV with the family and was probably about 12 hours total prep time over the course of 3 weeks.  There are an additional 5 terminators and 10 space marines plus a dreadnought in this prep.  Despite the hours and effort I still missed the odd line or edge on the models, but I am happy with the overall result.
Before priming I based the models using a mix of coral sand, GW gravel and other chunks of slate. I use neat PVA glue to stick on the sand, then once dry it gets a water thinned extra coat of PVA to seal the sand onto the bases.  Sealing the sand makes it rock hard, like mini-concrete bases and won’t rub off.
For the base primer spray I used Tamiya fine grey, instead of the black from GW. The black would not take the dark green very well when airbrushing and I prefer to be able to see the colour going onto the model when airbrushing. So the mid tone grey from Tamiya is perfect for me.
I always lay them down for a final spray to make sure the primer has got in all the nooks and crannies.
I used the Valejo airbrush thinners with the Caliban green from GW and it thins it down perfectly.  I was worried the thinner would react with GW paint but it was spot on and mixed up well with a cocktail stick before poor the result into the airbrush. Getting the mix right to thin the thick GW paint takes some care and I end up with a liquid with the consistency of milk. You can watch my airbrushing tutorial at the bottom of the page.
It can take a little while to dry…

I was impressed by the speed of the new GW painting guide, it is all about getting the best tabletop look to the model but with minimum time. However if you want to follow the guide fully for the Dark Angels you need about 35 pots of the new paint which is expensive and in many cases they appear to switch to a different grey or brown colour on some details which you could get away with using a similar colour on, rather than buying about 40% of the new colour range.

The line up: Small team of 5 veterans on the back row, Middle row tactical squad from the new 40K box set, Front row addition tactical squad. And as an added bonus a close up of my Belial conversion…

 

 

Caestus Assault Ram – A Review

No, sadly the resin Gods have not been that generous. Instead I am handing over the reigns of this post and the review of this beast ofa model to Neil Challis (@NeilChallis), writer of the Tykens Rift blog, staunch member of the Shell Case Alliance and tip top #warmonger.

So whilst wandering around Games Day UK this year I reached the decision that I wanted one of the pre-release Fellblade super heavy tanks from Forge World, but by the time I’d queued, they were already sold out. And not wishing to leave empty-handed, I decided to buy a Space Marine Caestus Assault Ram instead.

I’ve built some Forge World models before, such as Mk5 Space Marines and more recently a Storm Eagle but this is the first kit made entirely of resin that I have attempted. I have had some frustrating experiences with the Finecast range from Games Workshop and with Forge World hybrid kits but I hoped for the best with this and happily I wasn’t too disappointed.

I’d done some reading online about other people’s experiences building larger Forge World models and the Caestus in particular, so I felt well prepared for the task at hand.

With that in mind, I opened the bag and inspected the contents. Thankfully everything was there but I felt that the instruction sheet was perhaps a little sparse in terms of pictures and actual instructions! This does seem to be the case with most Forge World kits but I like to think I’m an experienced hobbyist now and can comfortably cope with this.

I very carefully clipped the smaller parts of the kit off of the sprues (there is a ‘technical’ term for these Forge World resin sprues but it escapes me just now) and gently filed or scraped the excess resin lines away. I should point out here that you really ought to have a facemask on if you’re going to file resin, and preferably a small dust-buster or vacuum cleaner to quickly clear all the resin dust away.

It became apparent very quickly that I was either going to spend about 3 days filing large chunks of resin or I was going to have to get a little sanding block and a razor saw – I chose the latter option.

The razor saw is now a must for me when undertaking any large Forge World build. Using it, I was able to easily remove large pieces of unwanted resin and use the newly acquired sanding block to smooth the surfaces. I highly recommend these items for working on Forge World kits, it may seem obvious but they have saved me hours of messing about with clippers, craft knives and files!

Once my clean-up was finished and all extraneous resin removed, I grabbed some elastic bands and decided to ‘dry-fit’ the model and see if any pieces needed reshaping. I’m happy to report that most of the model fitted together very well, there were just a couple of bits that needed fixing  – a front ramp, 2 parts of the main nacelles, inner doors – so I set about reshaping all of those.

Reshaping is a bit of a feel-your-way process even when you know exactly how to do it. I normally use a large plastic tub, fill it about 2 inches deep with almost boiling water and place the item I want to reshape in their for about 30-45 seconds, but this can vary wildly depending on the thickness.

This will also help clean the release agent off of the affected pieces (unaffected pieces can be carefully washed in lukewarm water) so that the primer/undercoat sticks to the model once I’m at that stage. After cleaning and reshaping I gently dried the parts with some kitchen roll and then left them for about half an hour to make sure they were set.

Now all the parts were reshaped and clean I could finally begin putting model together! The nacelles went together without much trouble at all and I used standard Games Workshop thin superglue. I didn’t feel that any pinning was necessary and I also elected to not paint the inside or have opening ramps at the front. This is a gaming decision based on the fact that I move models around a lot and I want a solid gaming piece rather than a display model – I tend to take some stick for this from fellow hobbyists and gamers who identify it as ‘lazy’. I’ll let you make your own mind up!

Once the nacelles were put together I glued them to the central body and added the engine bay sides as well.  As before, these all went together without too much fuss, however I did position and re-position a few times before actually gluing it down.

With the engine bays set, I then glued to underside engine and magna-melta into place, and added the actual engines into the engine bays. The instructions say to do this in that order but I think if I was building another one I would probably put the engines in first as this required a bit of careful manoeuvring.  After this I glued the flaps onto the wings and glued the wings onto the fuselage. I resisted the urge to magnetize the wings although this could easily be done and would make the Caestus easier to transport.

Overall this was quite a stress free build. I was almost tearing my hair out building the Storm Eagle a few months ago but the Caestus is a relatively simple kit – it only has about 20 pieces or so -  and the meticulous clean up and preparation made the actual assembly much less difficult than I was expecting. I’m happy with it and I just need to decide whether it goes in my own Space Marine chapter – ‘The Thunder Ravens’ or into my pre-heresy Death Guard.

Decisions, decisions….

Woodland Scenics – A Review

Many many (many many) months ago I got in touch with Woodland Scenics to write a review of some of their starter kits having seen pictures of scenery made by their products on the interwebs and was, generally, quite impressed.

The kits arrived and I was, if I’m honest, intimidated by the level of work that would be needed to build something. Not because it’s hard but because I lacked the (a) time, (b) patience & (c) the ability. However, I’m very fortunate to know a Chap who is a bit of scenery building guru. A certain Chap who worked for the Games Workshop around the same time as I did and was responsible for building some truly awesome boards in his store.

I refer, of course, to Lee of The Chaps. Passing him the two starter kits just prior to a game of Dystopian Wars a couple of days after getting the kits whilst I muttering; ‘Here, a present. All you have to do is build something awesome and write a review. But don’t take too long.’ Well 9 months isn’t that long I suppose. So, without further a do I hand the reigns of this post over to Lee and his review of Woodland Scenics.

I was happily plodding away with getting my FSA fleet (slowly) painted when Phil gave me two boxes of ‘scenery stuff’ and asked me to ‘build something awesome’ and write a review on how I got on.

The ‘stuff’ in question was two of the Learning Kits from scenery masters Woodland Scenics, specifically the Rock Face and Landscaping kits.  Being firmly in the Dystopian Wars groove, I thought building a nice big island to sail around/hide behind/crash into (Jeremy) would be the ideal piece to demonstrate the contents of the two kits quite nicely.

I’m fairly experienced at building scenery so I pretty much jumped straight into the Rock Face kit after a quick glance at the basic instructions on the box.  There are far more detailed guides on their website – but what can I say, I’m a cowboy.  Casting the faces from the mould was simplicity itself, just mix the correct ratio of powder with  water and hey presto; you’ve got a paste that dries fairly quickly to produce a good-sized slab like rock face and a smaller, more versatile, rocky strip.

Doing this first meant I could crack on producing the basic island structure while it dried.  I settled for a fairly standard largish island made from a hardboard base and polystyrene landmass, and figured I’d try and get two of the rock face moulds along one of the sides for the cliff.  Once I’d produced the second set of faces I played around with how they’d fit together without making it clear they were identical.  I ended up cutting one diagonally in half and a placing each ‘triangle’ either side of the intact rectangle piece. They were very easy to cut using a modelling saw which gave enough precision to keep the detail intact. The smaller strips from the mould came in very handy adding smaller height faces and fallen rock sections around the main cliff section.

You are also provided with a roll of plaster cloth to fix the cliffs in place and there is a very good reason for this – do not use glue, trust me. More on this in a moment.  After using up all the plaster cloth around the cliffs and over other areas of the island, I decided to add some areas of sand around the base of the cliffs to represent shingle using PVA glue (see what I did there?)

With the construction complete I moved on to the paints you also receive in the Rock face kit (it’s like they thought of everything) but these work in quite a specific way.  You dilute the paint to an almost wash like consistency and apply it directly to the Rock face which is made of Hydrocal.  Hydrocal is kind of like chalk and it soaks up the washes like a sponge giving a very realistic stone effect.

However, it doesn’t work if there’s something like glue preventing this from happening, and this was when I realised that gluing the sand on perhaps wasn’t the best way to go. I sorted it in the end, but the short of it is:  Do not use glue anywhere near Hydrocal. Ever.

It was now I dug into the landscape kit and discovered a green base coat paint with which to cover what would be the green areas of the island.  This stuff was great and gave a very nice muddy green tone with which to glue my choice of flock over afterwards.  And what a choice! There’s a flock for every occasion in there.  Along with a big bag of standard green you get another four types in various colours plus a bag of larger clumps to represent bushes or trees depending on your scale.

After a liberal coating of Scenic Cement using the spray gun included in the kit, I covered the muddy green base in the generic green and then added some of the lighter and darker shades to represent shadows, foliage etc.  It was here I ran into my second problem.  Make sure you shake the bottle of scenic cement thoroughly before using, and I do mean thoroughly.  I thought I had done this, but half way through covering the first layer of green flock in a sealing coat of cement a blob got clogged in the nozzle turning the fine mist into messy jet.  Needless to say, the flock did not stay where it was supposed to and a bit of a mess ensued.

Anyway, once this obstacle had been overcome, it was quite fun adding all the different shades and clump foliage pieces to create an effect as realistic as you want to achieve. A quick bit of paint on the hardboard to create the lapping ocean and the island was complete.

All in all the kits were great, and aside from the piece of hardboard and some polystyrene, provided all the materials you needed.  Plenty of them too, I only used barely a third of the bag of Hydrocal so there was easily enough to build another 4 moulds worth and only a fraction of the flocks included in the Landscaping kit.  The box says enough to do a 2’x2’ section and this would most definitely be the case.  The mould from the Rock face kit can be used repeatedly too so is actually a sound investment.

Just watch out for odd stumbling block that I ran into – or better yet, simply watch the videos on the website.

Wyrd Plastics – A Review

#warmonger James, aka @belverker, has kindly penned an article reviewing the new Wyrd plastic ranges. I’m yet to look at Wyrd games, mainly because they can’t be bothered to respond to emails, so it’s handy that I can call upon such a staunch chap to do the writing for me…

For those that don’t know Wyrd Miniatures has made the bold move to plastic for their Malifaux range. So far this is for all of their new products. It remains to be seen if they move the existing range to plastic. Although it could be an opportunity for them to do resculpts of anything they’re not 100% happy with. 

When I read about the move to plastic I was a little worried as Malifaux is currently one of my favourite games and the miniatures are a big part of that, so I was worried that this could lead to issues. In particular I was worried they would move to a plastic similar to Privateer Press which I hate working with (they later posted that it wasn’t like this).

So jump forward to Gencon and I place my order for the Nightmare model, the Dark Debts boxset, Mr Graves, Mr Tannan, and the Beckoners and start my long wait for them to arrive in Australia. While I was waiting I was of course checking the forums for pics and opinions about the new plastics, and it turns out there were fairly mixed views on them. Some people thought the detail was a bit soft, others were finding it good plus all the other opinions to do with plastics vs metals.

My order finally arrived and with barely contained excitement I cracked open the box to take a look at my new shinies…

 …And any doubt that had started to creep in after reading the forums was quickly dispelled. The casting was fantastic, crisp little details, well laid out sprues, and everything I was hoping the kits would be.

For those that haven’t had the pleasure yet, the plastic is most similar to Games Workshop’s plastic kits, the mold lines are about the same and are removed just as easily, normal plastic glue works on them (yay) and they feel very strong.

There were only 2 little gripes I have. The first is that the rope for Nightmare Eric was way thin, and I broke one very easily and am worried about the other one. The second issue is that some of the figures have some noticeable gaps with the joins, nothing that a little Liquid Greenstuff can’t fix and something that I think will improve over time with Wyrd getting the hang of the sprue engineering.

I have also heard talk about the amount of pieces the models are in, and to be honest it was something that surprised me, but after putting them together I think it is to allow for better undercutting then is usually found in plastic models.

After putting them together I am very optimistic about the future of Malifaux as I believe we will start seeing some fantastically dynamic figures going forward without a loss in detail.

I still need to see how they go with painting but that will be a couple of weeks away…

@DrakePoldragon Talks Grey Knights

Whilst on Twitter the other day I spotted a couple of photos being put up by a good loyal #warmonger – Jamie aka @DrakePoldragon – of his Samurai Grey Knights. So struck was I by their look and all round awesomeness that I asked Jamie to write a guest post about them.

Phil has kindly asked me to write a little bit about how I’ve been going about building my ‘Giant Samurai Gery Knights’. They’ve been a fantastic learning experience for me, already as I work my way through Marine three I am much more confident and capable with Green Stuff. With only 14 more to go for the complete force I had better learn quickly if I want the HQ to look good. 

Inspiration for the army came from a series of sources in a short period of time. First I saw Kromlech Cyber Samurai kits, but these were not enough on their own. I then found an Armorcast mould in my local hobby shop and realised that combined I could make some awesome Samurai Marines. This was followed by some searching online for a method to make them as awesome as I could. I found the Master of the Forge tutorial on Artscale Marines

 

To create my version of these I got a box of the Terminators and a box of the Strike Squad and did a little adjusting to my Armorcast mould. This allowed me to create two separate plates of armour from each piece. It was also invaluable to get hold of a set of decent silicone tipped sculpting tools.

 

This is what is needed for each Grey Knight, plus Greenstuff and Plasticard

Each section is built up and sculpted too in separate pieces. First the legs and then torso built on to that, the arms and backpack are bulked up first and then attached. The Kromlech helmet I add last to create a sense of direction to the figure and bases will be made separately.

Whilst I haven’t completely decided how I will be painting them I have base coated the first one so as to see how it will turn out and I’m very pleased.  Here is Grey Knight 1 standing over his Bonsai tree.

As I make further progress I’ll be recording it on my own blog http://inquisitordrake.blogspot.no/ alongside some discussions of my army list and how I will be using these all as Terminators and enhancing the ‘Scaled up Marine’ idea. Feel free to ask any questions or make suggestions, this has been a great leap forward in my hobby skills already.

Inquisitor Drake

Jamie Searle

Poster Boys

I may have done something rather silly. I’ve briefly handed over the reigns to Timothy Stephens (@tjstep83) who has written a little article poking fun at the noble warriors of Macragge and why they’ve become the poster boys for the Imperium and Warhammer 40,000 as a whole.

Before I unleash Tim on my beloved Ultramarines I will say this; I started collecting an Ultramarines army after years of watching kids paint them terribly because they were the ones on the box. I was determined to prove that you could field a nicely painted Ultramarines army. It was only until I’d started down my journey to Ultramar that I realised what a fantastic and honourable heritage the chapter had. It resonated with me and started a passion for those blue armoured bastards that is approaching 10 years and 2 full companies…

Ultramarines are perhaps the single most prolific space marine army on the tabletop in the science fiction or fantasy realm of Warhammer 40,000. Since Second Edition the Ultramarines have also formed the basis, whether we like it or not, of every vanilla marine codex ever printed. Ultimately, for whatever unfathomable reason, Games Workshop chose the Ultramarines as their poster boy. In the following article the question is raised, why did Games Workshop make the Ultramarines their poster boy and not some other Space Marine chapter like the Imperial Fists?

Why not choose the Imperial Fists? The sons of Dorn were featured in one of the first ever Games Workshop printed novels entitled Space Marine and have inspired many a gamer since. Imperial Fists were there at Terra by the Emperor’s side when Horus came knocking, surely that is a worthy enough deed! In addition they successfully helped to defend Cadia against the thirteenth black crusade, have fought against Tyranids and stopped many an Ork WAAGH! Surely that must be taken into consideration when deciding who gets to be Games Workshop’s poster boy?

However, only Ultramarines are worthy enough to be put on the cover of 3 out of 4 vanilla marine codices (We won’t mention third edition now will we?). Only Ultramarines are good enough to be pictured on the Vanilla Marine Box Sets. Well to be honest that marvel of a movie “Ultramarine: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie” says it all about why the Ultramarines are the Games Workshop poster boys! When John Hurt states in the introduction that “the greatest of them all are the Ultramarines.” You don’t need to debate the issue anymore! Quite simply they are the greatest, no qualifier as to why is needed.

Ultramarines have a proud history of slaying the alien, burning the heretic and knowing no fear! Indeed on many occasions they have stuck to the holy tenants of the Codex Astartes, as laid out by Roboute Guilliman, to persecute a war in a timely and efficient manner that any management team would be proud of! They defeated the Tyrannic hoard at Macragge and destroyed the Necron menace at Deimos all in quick order and without incident. Compare that to the blundering efforts of the Imperial Fists who’s greatest contribution to date was letting valuable gene-seed fall into the hands of the Iron Warriors Traitor Legion, or First Captain Lysander’s dubious escape from Malodrax.

A further reason why Games Workshop would choose the Ultramarines over the Imperial Fists comes from fluff relating to the scouring, that event in which the Loyalists pushed the Traitor Legions back into the eye of terror. During the scouring the Imperial Fists located the Iron Warriors final bastion, the Eternal Fortress. The Imperial Fists under Rogal Dorn leaped head first into a war of attrition with no forethought or planning. Needless to say the legion was nearly wiped out to a man. The remaining sons of Dorn were rescued by the heroic actions of the newly formed Ultramarine Chapter who also forced the Iron Warriors to retreat. Thus the Imperial Fists could never hope to challenge the Ultramarines as poster boys!

The choice of the colour palate is a more practical example on why Games Workshop chose the Ultramarines over the Imperial Fists. Unfortunately, for the Ultramarines, this is a point of derision that seems to rear its head occasionally. The most common dig seems to be Ultra-Smurf for obvious reasons. However painting an army yellow is for either the most experienced pro or the bravest amateur around! Good yellow often starts with a dark brown and works its way up, layer after painstaking layer. Blue on the other hand only requires one coat if you’re a beginner or maybe three if you want to put some more effort into it. This is why ultramarines are great for Games Workshop’s target market, the tween boy! As a result the Ultramarines have their own free how to paint guide available and if someone wants to go all out, they can purchase the “how to paint Ultramarines” guide from iBooks. You don’t see a guide on how to paint Imperial Fists on iBooks now do you?

Clearly Ultramarines are the number one choice for poster boy for a number of reasons. Let’s recap! Their Fluff is better than the Imperial Fists, being more noble and pure of heart than any other chapter of space marines. According to John Hurt they are the greatest, no qualifier needed! They also rescued the Imperial Fists from certain doom at the Eternal Fortress, while they are much easier to paint than other space marine chapters featuring their own free how to paint guide. At the end of the day however it is easy to see why a jealous Rogal Dorn that started these anti-Ultramarine shenanigans all because he couldn’t choose the colour he wanted for his legion.