Tuesday, 16 February 2016

The Crude, the Mad and the Rusty Ride Again!

From left to right: The Tinman, Oxy O'Cetylene, Gore, Blood, Spikes Harvey Wotan and Skrag the Slaughter.
I have been busy over the last day or so completing this group of models. Well, I say completing -three of these were already painted before I started and have only seen mild touch ups (steady Chico!) while the remaining three have been painted from scratch. Can you work out which ones?

Skrag the Slaughterer is the oldest painted model here having been completed by me way back in 2012. He has been rebased for this little collection and his armour has seen a tiny sort out here and there too. Oxy and the Tinman were completed quite recently and you might well have read the post I did about them a few months back. The two chaos goblins, Blood and Gore, were finished off today, along with the wonderfully named Spikes Harvey Wotan.

I think I explained then that Oxy and the Tinman, though an '80s Limited Edition blister pack, were also connected with a little known Warhammer scenario published in White Dwarf '88: The Crude, The Mad and the Rusty. 

Like a career criminal (which he may well be, incidentally) Skrag the Slaughterer has a fair bit of previous, as can be seen in the advert atop. Here he is advertising his wares in White Dwarf 79 alongside the scrabble friendly Lovecraftian, Hrothyogg. Interestingly, this advertisement is one of the few published references to our old friend Malal and here the renegade god lures Skrag towards a lump of starmetal and encourages his to persuade some dwarfs to forge it into a giant axe. Great fun! 

I often wonder if the success of these models lead to Jes Goodwin's incredible range of ogres a little later on, as it seems odd to have an entire range produced and then do a colour ad for just two of them! 

Anyway, back to the plot. White Dwarf 83 boasted a 'Free Pull-Out Battlegame' on it's front cover and the prospect of fighting a Fantasy Battle straight out of the magazine probably sounded very exciting for a large number of readers. However, delving into the pages of White Dwarf that month would lead to a strange disappointment, for this was not a battlegame of massed ranks, brutal charges and the ebb and flow of combat - no - it was a few paper cut outs being manipulated around perhaps the worst full colour poster ever printed anywhere in the 1980s. Jump the bottom of this article if you do not believe me!!
It is a well known fact that you cannot polish a turd. And some have accused the Crude, the Mad and the Rusty of being an absolute clunker of a poo sticking to the toilet bowl of wargaming life. They have lain it upon the altar of poor gaming releases (probably alongside Gary Morley's Nagash) and wished it to the pits of non-existence forever. 

I don't agree with them. For there is material enough over the supplement's few pages to polish up a gem of a scenario - if you are prepared to do a little work. 

Reading the story helps understand the scenario a little better. After wandering the wastes and being seduced (if that is the right verb for a huge, sweating ogre) by Malal, Skrag locates the starmetal and forces a bunch of dwarfs to craft the ore into his gigantic axe, and make him a huge suit of armour to boot. In thanks for all of their hard work, Skrag promptly slaughters (yes, that is why he is called that) the lot of them and consecrates his new found weapon in their blood. Charming chap! 

Unfortunately for Skrag, he leaves a single witness. A solitary Khornate chaos dwarf by the name of Spikes Harvey Wotan (whether this character is inspired by the chap who appears in Judge Dredd's Cursed Earth series, which included Ronald McDonald executing customers for spillages, has yet to be decided) who, rather understandably, swears an oath to track down and kill Skrag in vengeance. During his travels, Spikes meets another crazed dwarf, Oxy O'cetylene, and persuades him to construct a deadly tinman to take on the Slaugheter one on one and picks up two Khorne worshipping chaos goblins named Blood and Gore along the way. 

So far so good really. It is wacky, zany stuff just like Warhammer should be. Once you start looking at the rules it all starts to fall to pieces, a bit like if the scenario was written on the back of a fag packet after a particularly boozy lunch one Friday afternoon. Things start well, with a D6 roll to determine Skrag's initial wounds, halving the result and adding 2. This makes sense in several ways, firstly to add a random factor to help vary the way the game is played (it is obviously trying to be one of those quick scenarios you might play through more than once) and secondly to represent the damage done to Skrag during his dwarf rumble earlier on.

However, once the rules for the Tinman are introduced things start to unravel quickly. The table describing what happens to the machine once the fuel runs out is great fun, and introduces a little more random fun to the proceedings. It states that the player needs to decide how much fuel to give the Tinman at the start of the game, up to six units with each unit providing enough energy for one turn, but no reason for this choice is given, nor does it seem to make a difference how many units you choose to use! In that case, every player will always choose 6 units as it is the maximum available and gives you the best chance of killing Skrag. Surely, there should be a penalty for adding more fuel to create a little tactical thought before hand?

So there is work to be done there!

The second issue that raises it's head is the total lack of Oxy in the game. Why include him in the backstory and provide a miniature for him and not include him somehow? This looks to me to be a terrible oversight and one that needs to be corrected. 

Casting your eye over the malfunction rules helps restore faith in the scenario. Again, they are zany, fun and suitably random as all '80s roll charts have to be. I also like the character trait of Wotan's, though it isn't very Khornate at all, of using your underlings to soften up Skrag so you can move in for the kill! In fact, that is the ONLY way of winning the game if you are the chaos dwarf player. You have to time your attacks perfectly and kill Skrag yourself if you wish to emerge from the battlefield victorious. Anyone else doing so will put the game into a draw. For Skrag to win, he just has to survive and kill anything that is foolish enough to come at him.

Simple stuff. 

Also, nearly every character is subject to frenzy! Ahhh! 

As I said earlier, the 'battlegame' came with a pull-out battlemap and it is certainly 'interesting' on the eyes looking at it now. 

Still, having now collected all of the figures in this small scenario set and got them painted, this scenario offers something quite intriguing to the Oldhammer player. Could the rules be tweaked to produce a more workable game AND somehow include a way of including Oxy O'Cetylene? I like to think so, and it is something I intend of thrash out in the coming weeks. So, hopefully you will see a battle report based on this game coming your way soon. 

Does anyone have any advice or ideas to help me on my quest? Or even better, have your actually played this scenario before and can offer some tips on play before I start?

I am ever hopeful.



  1. That map is pretty funky - strange it was so average when one knows that GW had brilliant artists who could produce a great map. Dave Andrews comes to mind - his second edition scenario maps are wonderful.

    I get the feeling that the fix to the tinman would be rules that altered the figures fighting and/or movement characteristics depending on how much fuel he has. So a bit like the situation one finds with a race car - it gets quicker as the fuel tank get lower but you risk running out of fuel if you push things too hard in that regard.

    The fix for Oxy would be providing him with the ability to repair and refuel the tinman. Obviously doing so puts him at risk of being killed by Skrag though

    1. These are superb suggestions Nathan, and thank you for them. Your idea about the racing car movement characteristics will work perfectly, I think.

  2. I second the idea of using Oxy for repair and refuel, giving the player motivation to have Oxy walk close to the tin man. Second I would add an 'explosive vent' rule (or maybe 'loose fuel cap' rule). The more fuel is in the tin man the higher the chance it vents fuel with a blast equal to the number of fuel units (maybe use the warp fire thrower template and a scatter die). Allow the player to split the maximum of 6 units between Oxy and the tin man (reducing the chance of an explosive vent) but add a rule that if Oxy is caught in the blast his fuel reserves explode in a blast equal to the number of fuel units on him. Then again I might be channeling a bit too much Michael Bay into this ;)

    1. With the Michael Bay theme implemented, perhaps we should rename the scenario 'The Crude, the Explosive and the Rusty'? I like you fuel venting idea very much, and it reminds me of how the sentry bots work in Fallout 4 - too much action and the machine overheats. Such a concept would work very nicely with the tinman I think, and gives purpose to Oxy on the field of battle. Thank you for your input!

  3. Your "back of a fag packet" observation is pretty close to the truth. It all started one day when I had to write the ad for Skrag and Hrothyogg. I went to see Jes and asked if he had any ideas, and he gave me the complete and detailed backstories which you can see in the ad. I didn't have to make up anything of my own.

    A couple of chairs over, Aly showed me what he was doing, which was the Tin Man and Oxy. They didn't get an ad of their own, but I wanted to promote them somehow so I threw this little piece together. I am not sure where Spikes Harvey Wotan came from, though I have a vague notion that he already existed in a release of Chaos Dwarfs somewhere. I think Aly gave him the name, which somehow stuck and got published. Obviously this was before the Chaos Dwarfs entered their pseudo-Babylonian phase.

    I have never claimed to be a wargamer, and I think that deep down I knew the piece wasn't very good. I remember being surprised when it was published.

    What you have here, basically, is Graeme the Roleplaying Guy having been told that he didn't understand toy soldiers (with the definite implication that this did not bode well for his continued employment at GW) doing whatever I could think of to do in order to promote miniatures. At the same time I had two book proposals in the works: a Regiments of Renown book that combed through the Citadel catalogue and created new regiments from existing miniatures, and a proposal called "Heroes for Hire" which took high-profile character models like Skrag and Hrothyogg, gave them equally engaging backstories, and made them available as mercenaries for WFB3 armies. Like almost everything I proposed at GW neither of these went anywhere.

    1. I am very grateful to you contributing to Realm of Chaos 80s again, Graeme, and providing all this back story about how this small scenario was developed. Though I must say, looking over your career achievements, you are being a little hard on yourself! (;

      As you know, I am fascinated by tales of the creative process '80s Warhammer, and your tale about Jes Goodwin's background to the two ogres is wonderful. Was such a detailed backstory added to all of his work, of were these two models just an exception I wonder?

    2. Jes and Aly were the most story-oriented of the Citadel miniatures designers during my time there. Jes' sketchbooks have been published, of course, so it is easy to see how much thought he put into a new range such as the Skaven or the Eldar, creating detailed plans of their social structure, iconography, and internal culture. Once in a while, as with these two Ogres and some boxed sets such as Scarloc's Wood Elf Archers, he would focus in on one miniature or unit and give me pretty much everything about them. After Jes came up with the first wardancers, he and I talked a lot about Wood Elves. We both wanted to get away from their somewhat lacklustre image in early Warhammer ("pantomime homosexuals" was Hal's description, as I recall)and plunder Celtic lore to make them more savage and interesting. The Orion and Ariel figures were after my time, but represent a kind of logical culmination to this line of thinking.

      Aly was less into building the Warhammer mythos, but his sense of humour came out in names like Oxy O'Cetylene and miniatures like the famous "wizard with machine gun."

    3. Graeme is being far too modest about his contributions (and his native talents) as usual. He was a master at taking a master casting of almost any model and giving it a backstory and personality that slotted into the whole "Warhammer" 'verse. That he managed to keep the sculptors happy as well with his text was even more remarkable, as they were justifiably protective of "their" toy soldiers (their term, not mine).

      And being told - as a writer or editor or game designer - that you "didn't understand" toy soldiers was a regular happening at GW. I can remember being told that I didn't understand Realm of Chaos, but only after I'd written it. The correct response was a sigh, a smile and moving on to the next task. :-)

    4. Mike, you're too kind. It wasn't always easy fitting a new mini into the Warhammer mythos. I dreaded the day someone (probably Aly) would face me with "Chaos Goblin Unicyclist with Balloon on Stick" and expect rules for it.

    5. Thank you again Graeme and Mike - oh, and by the way - could you write those rules for the 'Chaos Goblin Unicyclist' when you have a moment? (:

    6. Perhaps Kev could do the model...? :D

  4. I've got nothing to add but that I think the idea is great. I love the old Ogre models and have Skrag lying about somewhere.

    1. Skrag is one of the greatest ogre models ever made. Leif, you really should find him and paint him up for your collection. You deserve it! (;

  5. Surely Spikes Harvey Wotan is a pun on Spikes Harvey Rotten from the early Judge Dredd Cursed Earth story.

  6. > on the back of a fag packet after a particularly boozy lunch one Friday afternoon

    That sentence is soooo British I can smell the tea from where I stand on the other side of the pond