Thursday, 16 February 2017

Heavy Bombard and Crew



I fancied something a little different. So I went for this ancient Citadel heavy bombard and three crew figures, all of which have been holding up my leadpile as long as I can remember. Not having much time on my hands with the kids at home, I thought I might use my speed painting techniques on multiple figures just to push myself. 

And these are the results. Sure, they are a bit rough round the edges in places but I got this unit on the table in record time - around four hours I guess, excluding basing. 


Not that it is a process I think I will be repeating. Nor will I repeat the same livery for medieval models in a unit as I feel this makes the models look a bit to samey for me. 

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

WFRP'd: The Night of Blood


The Night of Blood was Jim Bambra's first solo effort (as far as I can tell) for WFRP. As we have previously seen, the other authors of this exquisite game (namely, Phil Gallagher and Graeme Davis) had already had a crack at crafting articles for the system and issue 87 of White Dwarf saw Bambra join the club. 

Years ago, when I was an avid roleplay supplement reader, I always took the moniker 'Bambra' to be a sign of quality and as we have learnt over the years Jim was part of the TSR crowd that jumped from a sinking ship to join the GW Design Studio in the mid part of the 1980s. This scenario bears all of the hallmarks of Jim Bambra's reliable workmanship for here we have a solid, well written adventure that provides plenty of opportunities for roleplaying, action and PC death and dismemberment. It is also noteworthy for having been illustrated by the great Russ Nicholson of Warlock of Firetop Mountain fame. 

The introductory paragraph describes this adventure as being set within the Empire (and the republication of the scenario in The Restless Dead decreed the adventure as being perfect for players in the early part of their careers) and takes place on one of the many desolate roadways (or rivers) of that gigantic nation. Though I have never run this scenario myself, I would consider it to be a pretty tough situation for any PC to be in, and the fact that Night of Blood was later advertised as being for players just starting off, reminds me how WFRP (or Jim Bambra himself) was very, very tough on players at times. 

Now before I continue I really must warn about SPOILERS. I shall be discussing the characters, narrative and outcomes of this scenario in some detail and I wouldn't want to spoil the enjoyment of this adventure for others, so if you would prefer to remain in the dark over the events at the Hooded Man Inn then simply stop reading now. 


The scenario starts like many a classic Warhammer tale - along a forest road as night falls. There is, of course, a strong sense of Lord of the Rings in these episodes, with the terrified hobbits (and Bill) being replaced with our grubby adventurers, while beastmen step in to play the fell Ringwraiths of Sauron's legion. Classic fantasy fodder. 

The poor weather and rumbling thunder adds to the natural foreboding of the adventurer's plight. Strange noises and unnatural cries can be heard from the undergrowth as the two beastmen and four mutants hunt an unfortunate stag. Looking at the scenario afresh, and thinking about the players I had under my auspices, this little group of blighters would have made a dangerous situation far worse and character deaths (or at least hideous injury) could have been likely. The Hammer House of Horroresque flash of lightening, with all of its distant illumination of possible safety, would have sent my players scurrying towards the Hooded Man with haste. 

Knowing my PCs, they would have headed straight for the main gates and would have been somewhat thwarted by the fact that doors were securely locked. If they had been adventurous enough to resist the urge to bunk over the wall (my players always had a tendency to thieve, rather than being stalwart citizens of the Empire) and went on to discover the ferry, even their suspicions would have been aroused. 

This whole sequence builds up superb atmosphere. The driving rain, the thunder and lightening and the mysterious nature of the coaching inn's entranceways would no doubt raise many questions and possible theories. I would have encouraged this immensely and putting on my best Tregard from Knightmare voice would made several 'Ooo nasty' like remarks. With paddling across the river in the ferryboat the only option for dignified PCs, the slight of the lights in the inn's windows would have been welcome indeed. 

More seasoned adventurers would perhaps make a recce of the inn's environs before approaching the inn's doorway. Again, this sequence would be wonderfully atmospheric if handled with care. Desolate outbuildings, the bric-a-brac of living in a coaching inn dotted here and there, the ubiquitous rain and the odd squeaking gate flapping in the wind all adding to the tension. Horror, like chaos, is the spice of such adventures and game systems and one of the biggest mistakes of GW post Ansell, was overegging the pudding when it came to the Ruinous Powers. They became so common place as to lose their impact. The scene involving Grat and the stable boy is horrific and so well designed by Bambra as to invoke that dramatic sense of dread classic slasher films produce. To save you reading through the scenario yourself, I will run through the situation as perhaps my PCs would have proceeded. 

They would have heard the unsettled noises of the horses long before they reached the doorway, though I doubt they'd have been careful enough not to prevent the horses stampeding out into the pouring rain without a bump or bruise or two. Their almost ritualistic need to pilfer and loot would have overcome them even inside a stable and the inevitable 'searching for traps' swiftly followed by 'searching from treasure' would have burst forth in quick succession. They would have found neither, though the sound of something moving above them may have been heard. Exploring the upper hayloft would have caused them to discovered the mutilated form of the stable boy, his stomach no doubt torn open and his entrails half consumed. 

Gruesome stuff, and the sort of macabre horror the more child friendly version of Warhammer would swerve swiftly away from post '92. My players would have explored the hatch leading to the roof and found the blood leading into the thatch. I would have made a great deal out of the fact that 'something' had been eating the lad, but their natural cowardice would have prevented them going any further I suspect. I would have suggested visiting the inn itself to report the grisly find, though explaining the loss of the horses and the fact they'd been lurking around in someone else's property would have unsettled them further. 



The tone of the adventure switches as soon as the PCs enter the inn proper, and this again provides evidence about just how good a scenario writer Bambra is. After the horrors of the night, the situation now shifts to the charade of the inn's company. Otto the enormously fat landlord stand in (the occupants of the inn are in fact Tzeentch cultists in disguise), would fuss about anxiously while Hans, the would-be roadwarden, would eye the PCs suspiciously. Good roleplaying would really come to the fore here, with the GM acting out the roles of Otto and Hans with suitable gusto. As the players talked over their plans, I would have dropped in various red herrings about not wanting to mention the fact that you've found the body of a dead boy to the powers that be. 

Looking over the sequence of events so far only furthers the fact that this is an outstanding adventure that could easily provide everything that makes WFRP wonderful in an evening's play. Combat outside in the forest, stealth and mystery as the PCs explore the inn's compound and the unusual roleplaying inside the coaching inn proper. As a GM, I would have particularly enjoyed bringing these two characters to life, and confusing my players in the process. Knowing them, they would have played along with the act for a while as they thrashed out what to do next. 

At some point the GM needs to have Hans accuse the players of being bandits and the threat of exposure due to the death of the stable boy would have wound them up further. I would have made them work hard to prove their innocence and then set up the situation for the PCs to expose the skullduggery going on. 



By now, even the most inept PCs would have fathomed that something was wrong at the Hooded Man Inn, though whether or not they would have discovered the threat of Kurts or not is best left to the imagination. As with all of the best scenarios for WFRP, The Night of Blood adds additional background to the game - and kurts is a powerful sedative drug useful for further adventures. The cultists plan to use the stuff to knock out the adventurers and add their sleeping forms to the sacrifices-to-be currently locked in the cellar. 

Fagor, the bulging eyed mutant, would make the perfect waiter to bring out the drugged food Julie Walter's style and this scene could be played for sinister laughs  ( I think it would be a cruel GM who wouldn't allow their players to cotton on to the fact that the inn's occupants are trying to do them in here). Whatever happens, and Bambra is careful to let toughness tests give the PCs a chance to overcome the drug if they are foolish enough to consume it, everyone retires to bed as the evening draws to a close. The sound of the lock trapping the PCs into their filthy room as Otto bids them goodnight would no doubt set forth another bout of player discussion. Here, Bambra gives the GM so many options with the narrative - if your players know nothing of the kurts in their food you could opt to tell them that they feel a strong pull of sleep as they talk. Perhaps several players should suddenly doze off, leaving the others bewildered and frightened of what to do next. 

Wonderful stuff. 


Bambra's climax is as excellent as the rest of the adventure and provides so many possibilities for players and GMs I am now regretting never running this scenario. As night falls proper, the cultists descend to the hidden shrine beneath the coaching inn to begin their ritual. What the PCs might do at this point is full of possibility. Do they remain in their rooms all night weapons drawn? Have they fallen foul of the kurts? Will they break free of their entrapment? Will they explore the inn during the dark hours? 

The sound of the ritual chanting would have no doubt brought my PCs out of their room if they opted to remain. Even they would have noticed the splashes of blood across the inn and discover the bloodstained beds. Again, Bambra provides us with a second session of atmospheric stealth as the PCs roam around the property discovering the horror of the place. This gives canny GMs an opportunity to allow the players to put the pieces together. Descending into the cellar provides myriad possibilities for the narrative to end spectacularly. Will the PCs disturb the ritual and prevent the summoning? Will they smash the statue or become transfixed by it? What about the surviving occupants of the inn? Do they live or die?

All of these questions just go to show how each different group's journey through this scenario would vary. I doubt no two run-throughs would ever be alike. Again, this is testament to Bambra's design. What strikes me about the scenario here and Bambra's concept is that the PCs just cannot avoid avoiding the daemon once it is summoned. Poor old Hans, though he has the wit to bring the daemon from the warp, he cannot control it once it has arrived. The entity goes on an immediate rampage upon arrival (though it grows weaker every 100 metres from the shrine) and will stalk the rooms of the coaching inn until it is destroyed or fails its instability test, killing all who it finds. Looking back, those PCs who have chosen to remain inside their room, weapons drawn, would overhear this process until the daemon either breaks loose or return to the ether.

Imagine trying to understand what went on after they emerge at dawn? 

So many possibilities. Truly a superb scenario. 


Even after the 'Night of Blood' and however the players choose to proceed, Bambra leaves a neat little postscript to the adventure. As dawn breaks, a group of roadwardens make their way into the inn and will have some difficult questions for the players, especially if the mutilated bodies of the previous occupants are found. Adventure hooks lie here aplenty and will take the PCs onwards to other places and other dangers. The ramifications of the 'Night of Blood' may well have a long shelf life and could haunt the players long into their careers. 


Monday, 13 February 2017

Epic Memories



I don't spend much time online now, not like I did a few years ago. Social media, for me at least, has descended into a morass of uneducated, moronic swathes endlessly spouting their 'opinions' as the only obvious truth. And having grown tired of clickbait, sensationalism and pathetically fake news spamming up my feeds, I must confess to having returned to print media and the 'enrichment' educational course. 

As part of this, I brought my impressive stack of old school White Dwarfs out of storage and stashed them in the old cabinet in the parlour room. This has given me easy access to plenty of old school reading materials to go alongside my other interests. 

Flicking through an issue the other day, my eyes fell upon an advert for the original Space Marine game and 'whoosh' a series of memories came flooding back to me. It was 1989, I was sitting in the lounge of my childhood home in Dorset, and I was reading 'Culture Shock' in White Dwarf 114. Underneath the very '80s looking photograph of Paul Green was a snippet of news mentioning the brand new boxed game. This lead me to the competition page further along in the magazine and the exciting realisation that this new game would contain (and I quote); '320 marines, 16 land raiders and 32 rhinos.' 

My interest was most definitely piqued by the number of models (which I assumed to be 28mm in scale) and when I later found out the game would retail at £19.99 I was amazed! For a while, I imagined myself the owner of this gigantic force of models and the envy of the other boys in school. My dreams of 28mm scale dominance would not last of course, when this advert fell into my hands a few months later. 

Epic gaming had arrived in my life.  

                    

I am primarily a '80s fantasy fan. Why? Heaven knows, but my interests back then were largely goblins, elves and chaos and that remains true to this day. Rogue Trader fired my imagination in the things I drew, but I never seriously contemplated collecting any of the models. Space Marine changed that and it became my first sci-fi game. But the tiny models proved to be my undoing. 

My painting skills back then were very limited indeed. I sprayed undercoated a mass of models, painted them a base colour and then washed over with a black wash. While the wash was still wet the effect was magnificent and all of the detail was brought out in striking depth (at least to me) but as the wash dried the effect faded into dusty, drab smudges. Occasionally it worked very well (I was then unfamiliar with the concept of a quality wash) but on the whole, I wrecked more models than I ever finished. 

My dad's brake fluid pot nearly always came to me aid and my abused figures were stripped of their paint and the process continued afresh. I doubt that I ever really finished anything back then, I was trapped in a cycle of endless renewal. The trouble with the models from Space Marine was they were plastic and the brake fluid left them strangely soft and stained. Even though the change in the models was minimal, the loss of detail was an annoyance to me and if truth be told, I wrecked a goodly number of the land raiders before I had even started! 

                 
  
Looking back, Space Marine really fired my imagination and studying the photographic material printed in White Dwarf just deepened my fascination. The hundreds of tiny figures, the long chains of vehicles and of course, the monsterous, towering titans that strode above them became iconic visions to me long before I discovered Tripods or War of the Worlds. When I finally got my hands on the game at Christmas 1989, I devoured the rulebook over and over, absorbing the dystopian world of the Horus Heresy and marvelling at the brilliant illustrations throughout. 

Over the next few months, brake fluid aside, I gradually built up a painted collection of models. I choose the armies of the Blood Angels and the Emperor's Children and unlike my efforts with fantasy, I managed to complete each and everyone of the miniatures, even going as far as attaching all of the associated flags to the tiny poles on the infantry stands. As I type these worlds, I have realised that these two forces were my only finished army until my Khorne Realm of Chaos force from several years back. I was trapped in that cycle of the brake fluid for many, many years. 


I have many happy memories of playing Space Marine. Far more memories than playing Warhammer actually, and through the early 1990s Space Marine saw a great deal of action. After the early years of fighting the Horus Heresy, I learned the hard way that using the floor was not the best option for fighting battles. Casualties were high amongst the infantry stands, with several of them being trodden on and the green plastic figures being snapped from their legs. Eventually, I cannabalised a wooden table my father had constructed for his model railways into a proper gaming table - the trouble was, the only green paint I had was a rather pastel shade my mum had used to paint the walls in the downstairs toilet - but it did the job. I even mixed sand into the table to give in a rough texture. 

As second edition appeared on the scene, I had moved to a different village and had access to new friends who enjoyed Games Workshop games. Robin Tilbury and Adrian Taylor were their names, and for a period of about a year we collected a great many of the new plastic kits that were produced. We had orks, tyranids and even some chaos units - backed up of course with two reaver titans. The battles we fought were, of course, epic and exciting. 

So frequent were we gaming, that my Space Marine set gradually fell apart. The figures and vehicles had been painted and repainted so many times that they resembled blobs of blu-tak. After one final game where were used everything, we boxed the lot up (including the collection of Rob and Adrian) and stored it in my spare room. We moved on the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. 

That epic collection of war damaged models lived in my mother's house until I left university, and during a clear out I sold off the surviving pieces of the game, including those models that once belonged to my gaming friends. I seem to remember that the card and plastic buildings got the highest price, but they were the only things I didn't mangle with my painting skills!

Seeing these old adverts took me right back, as the best nostalgic items always do and I must confess to visiting eBay this morning. Trying to work through the many listings of later epic scale models, I was looking for the original mk6 plastic space marine infantry models I can remember crushing underfoot. They came in dark blue and green plastic if memory serves me right. Anyway, after searching for a while I found a few lots of 'pre-loved' models that look to have once graced the inside of the Space marine game. They didn't cost much and I am strangely excited about restoring them in the near future. 

I think working on them is going to be epic! 

Orlygg

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Limited Edition Zoat


February is rarely inspiring here in England. The weather being generally wet, cold and grey skied. This morning seems to be a slight exception, with a brightish light flooding through my window and shining across my parlour room table. I am not the only one up and about either, for gunshots roll around the village as somewhere, someone enjoys a late winter's hunt. 

Having been successful in an entirely different hunt, I recently acquired a long longed for model - namely the limited edition single cast zoat, one of my favourite ever figures, for a very reasonable price. The trouble was that the miniature had been very poorly treated by a previous owner and the detail was very badly clogged up with white primer. The model required a long soak in a Dettol solution to shift the worst of the build up, but I was unable to remove all of the paint before starting work. I used a series of very thin layers of white to successfully prime the model before starting work and looking at the completed piece, I don't think too much detail was lost. Where I did have concerns, I used additional shading to 'cheat' nature and create the depth the figure requires. 

I hope you like the result. 

This figure was painted entirely with Foundry's excellent paints, though I used lots of colour mixing to create a different tone of green I used last week when painting my snotlings. I used a chestnut brown to mix in with the dark green base and created each highlighting stage by adding increasing amounts of mid yellow. I was hoping to achieve a more lizardlike look with the skin.


Looking back, I much prefer the look and feel of this version of the zoat. The pose seems more regal and grand compared to the lumpen, ugliness of the two part zoat released later on. Having painted the later example I now know which one I'd use in a small skirmish game. All in all, not my finest work but not a bad result for three hours painting yesterday morning and twenty minutes basing today. 

I wonder what whimsy will select for me to paint next? 

Orlygg

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Snotling Pump Wagon



I had a bit of luck a few days ago, I located the missing handcrack from this model among a collection of Warhammer bric-a-brac. Truth be told, I was concerned that I had lost it during the move as this was the last model I worked on at my previous residence. 

With the missing piece in my possession, I spent the odd minute here and there this week finishing off the piece. This time was mostly spent touching up the painting on the snotlings (using this colour recipe) and sticking the tiny models onto the surface of the pump wagon. The finished result, I am sure you will agree, is great fun and easily ranks this model as amongst Warhammer's craziest moments. 


Painting wood has always been one of those bugbears all painters have for me. The finished result being either too artificial looking, or too washed out. It took me a while, and plenty of washes, to get a look I was happy with here and I think the completed effect suggests manky, half-rotten wood quite well. Just the sort of stuff snotlings would no doubt build with. 


This is, of course, the single story version. I have had be eye out for the more substantial two decker of this model for sometime but I have yet to be successful in acquiring one for a decent price. 

All in all, an iconic 'must have' Warhammer model painted, based and now part of my collection.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

McDeath: The Original Raybees? or The Crossroads Connection?


There are many links to popular culture hidden away in the most unusual of places, and '80s Warhammer is no different. And it seems to me too easy in this day and age for new connections to be created - as people share information online without checking on its accuracy before hand. Some say that we are living in a 'post truth' world, and that the spreading of this information is a merely a symptom of that age. I disagree. My academic life concentrated on the study of pre and ancient history, and as any historian will tell you; 'truth' is a subjective force. One man's evil can be another's good after all. 

Fact on the other hand is often indisputable. It makes me laugh how many people list Ratter as being part of the McDeath set on eBay now, after I included it in my project. There were never any figures released for Glen Woe and my inclusion of the little dog was purely whimsical. But 'facts' have a funny way of going awry online, don't they? 

What I propose today is not fact. It is conjecture. As you will have seen I have painted up a little halfling. I gave myself an hour yesterday to paint him (basing excluded) and I really enjoyed working to time and the result isn't too bad if you squint a bit. Now this little chap has a bit of a mysterious heritage, having a surprisingly similar look to the original Raybees in the McDeath cardstock counters. 

Take a look. 

See the short sword and bobble-hat?



As you can see below, the unpainted and shield lacking model bears a striking similarity to our friend, the card Raybees. This figure was released with the moniker (probably supplied by Tim Pollard) of Benni Bottomdown and this name, along with the distinctive hat has had many a collector wondering about the figure's place in popular culture. Two of these esteemed colleagues are Jason Fulford and Leadhead, both of whom have suggested to me that this figure, and his curious name, are a play on the once highly popular (if incredibly low in production values) soap opera, Crossroads. 


To those of you not in the know about vintage British television series, Crossroads ran from 1964 through to 1988, with a brief return in the early 2000s. One of its more enduring characters was the hapless Benny, a rather inept handyman who pottered around the Crossroads Motel acting often in light relief. As you can see in the picture below, the character spotted a rather distinctive woolly hat too!


So iconic was the character, that poor old Paul Henry (the actor who portrayed him) was eternally typecast and has been seen less than Lord Lucan since the show ended. Though memorials to that era have adorned many a item, as illustrated here with this rather fetching t-shirt. 




Well, if it is good enough for cotton it is good enough for Realm of Chaos 80s. If you look, you can see that I copied the white shirt/blue dungaree look that Benny often sported (at least in my memories) and used it as my colour scheme. Obviously, the bobble hat had to be blue too! Somewhere in my collection I have another version of this model, or at least I did, one day I shall find him and paint a second model in splendid tribute to the rather yellow cardstock fellow. 

Until then, when can all ponder on the chances of Warhammer's Benni having anything to do with the Benny of Crossroads. I like to think that they do. 

Orlygg. 

Saturday, 21 January 2017

McDeath: Markul Grimmock


Another weekend, another opportunity to get back into the swing of things. Actually, I am fibbing a little here, as some of this model was started in the week but I managed to complete the model this morning. Having painted oodles of barbarian types over the years (and rather enjoying the theme) this C22 giant just painted itself and was a joy from beginning to end. I guess I must have spent four hours working on him once the basecolours were painted and shaded in ink. 

Of course, this model represents Een McWrecker's giant repairman in-game and is involved in the action at Dungal Hill - the fourth of the McDeath scenarios. The model was a particular bugger to get hold of as I was repeatedly outbid every time the model came up for auction. I now lack just Sandra Prangle though I do have the 'Renate' version of the sculpt, which is very similar. 


Eagle-eyed readers will no doubt have noticed the McDeath Toll House lurking in the background. At this present moment in time I just have this single model, and will need to source (or scratch build) a second one in the future. Though playing any further scenarios for McDeath is still a long way off at the rate I work, so no need to panic just yet.

Curiously, many previous gamers have chosen to mount this giant's weapon in the raised left hand. When searching for inspiration online I found several examples of the detachable weapon being placed in this way, which quite frankly made the model look rather ridiculous with its empty gripping right fist. Looking at my completed model, I like to imagine that Markul is rather proud of his ginger locks and is reaching to twiddle his golden baubles as he contemplates which stuntie he'll squish next. 

Right, off to paint once more. I have a second McDeath model on the workstation and I have challenged myself to paint him in one hour. So expect to hear from me again soon. 

Orlygg.