Review: The Glorious Tomb, audio drama by Guy Haley

As I've mentioned in prior posts, I love the Black Library audio dramas. I've never been a fan of audio books, as I don't much enjoy being read to. However, audio dramas are not books.

I paid for and downloaded The Glorious Tomb after listening to the preview clip on the Black Library website. I found it intriguing enough to pay for, unlike many of the other audio dramas available. What caught me was the fact that the story is told from the perspective of a Dreadnought, or rather a Marine entombed within a Dreadnought.

Dreads are a Marine unit I've always been fascinated with, both on the table and in the lore. The opportunity to experience a story from the point of view of one was too much to pass up!

The story is that of Black Templars Marshall Adelard, entombed in the Dreadnought chassis Invictus Potens. You get to experience the awakening of a long-sleeping machine and its pilot. This segment is very enlightening, showing that the wakening of a Dread is no small thing (though we've been told that in the lore many times).

Once awake, Adelard/Invictus is dropped via pod onto Armageddon as part of the spearhead of an assault force tasked with destroying an Ork Rok. He, along with an ironclad Dreadnought and a squad of Centurions assault the Rok, blasting the way clear for the follow-on force of Templar infantry.

I can't give away all the plot points without destroying the story for you, but one theme prevalent throughout the story is the struggle between machine and Marine. Adelard wrestles with the idea of separating his own consciousness from that of Invictus' machine spirit. At times he confuses himself with Invictus, and at others purposely distances himself from it. And at yet others, he becomes wrapped up in it, switching freely between narrations.

Another theme is that of time and how a Dreadnought pilot experiences it. We know that Dreads are only woken in times of great need, and that decades or centuries can pass between activations. The idea that a Dreadnought has an incredibly long memory, but one that is riddled with holes is fascinating. Imagine remembering events and people from two hundred years past, but not having the benefit of knowing what happened while you were 'asleep.' The idea feels a lot like discussions on immortality I've read in the past. The idea that you can grow old while those around you age, eventually dying is always present in discussions of immortality. Could people withstand that constant anguish? Dreadnoughts have neither the choice, nor the ability to remember it. For example, while arming for battle, Adelard/Invictus sees Templars that look familiar to him, but finds that some have aged greatly, and others are simply wearing the wargear of their forebears. Could your mind withstand the agelessness of immortality, while decades of blankness prevent you from knowing or witnessing the fate of your comrades?

One of the defining traits of Black Library audio dramas are the sound effects. You can imagine things like bolter rounds, las blasts, and other 40K things when you read about them, but to hear them is completely different. The best effect in this one is the synthesized voices of the Dreadnoughts. To hear the grinding, rumbling voice of Adelard/Invictus say "Praise be!" as he strides into battle is a special thing.

Overall, I'd give this drama five of five stars for being beautifully written, strongly acted, and just a gem in general. I think I've found a new author to follow in Guy Haley.


Look at me, I'm bionic!

The painting bug continues gnawing on my brain, so I've been painting and painting these last several days. The result is some very solid progress on the final member of the Command Squad, the bionic bodyguard.

Here's where he's at right now:

The head is pretty much done, though I'm not so sure about that bionic eye. It's miniscule on the model, so I'm not sure there's much else I can do with it. I'm not sure if I should dot his other eye or not. I really should, but I fear I'll screw up the whole eye if I do. At arm's distance it looks ok, but in pictures the missing pupil is pretty glaring.

As for his body, he's got a Mk5 torso, bionic chainsword arm from the Commander kit, a stormbolter and arm from the Sternguard kit, one pad from the Command Squad box, and one from Sternguard, and those bionic legs. They're from Kromlech. I'll do a review of them in the future.

His pose is a little off. I'd intended it to be a walking forward type of pose with him having his arms out in a "give me your best shot!" gesture. I think I missed on it a little, and I think the reason is because I didn't roll his shoulders back. Instead of him having his shoulders back, baring his chest to the enemy, he's just walking forward with his weapons lowered. I really wish Marine torsos had ball joints on the shoulders.

I also applied a shading wash to my Vindicator but haven't cleaned it up yet. I've got the stormbolter hatch to add to it, which has been assembled and primed as long as the tank itself, I've just not touched it with paint. I also added a Razorback turret with heavy bolters to the painting queue, for use by the Command Squad and whomever they ride with.


Thrax Gaios, Command Squad Veteran

I've been on a bit of a painting tear over the holiday weekend. I managed to get time in on just about every day in the four-day weekend. As a result, I finished off the tank hunting veteran for my Command Squad, put a ton of paint on my Vindicator, and started working on the final member of the Command Squad.

Here is Thrax Gaios' back story:

Veteran Brother Thrax Gaios is the squad's demolitions expert. He carries a meltagun, his bolter, and a satchel of meltabombs and grenades. He can toss a krak grenade into the vision slit of a moving tank at a hundred meters. Where the other squad members wear armor featuring ornate designs and decoration to reflect their veteran status and membership in the Command Squad, Gaios wears bulky, reinforced armor with little adornment. Because his armor is so often dented and scraped when he stands in the blast wash of exploding enemy tanks and fortifications, he has opted to forego ostentation in favor of smooth lines and heavy plating.

And here are the pictures:

As you can see, he's pretty plain. I could probably drop him into a tactical squad and he'd blend right in. I had originally planned to put a brass etch aquila on his chest, but the damned things never lay flat and gluing them down is a major pain in the ass, as you either end up gluing it to your fingers or tools, or with a spread of lumpy superglue residue around the area. I tried briefly to add one freehand, but it looked terrible and I scrubbed it off. His Ultramarine symbol is also a tad crooked, though it doesn't look quite as severe in person. I might have to go back and redo that, if it starts to irk me.

Now that he's done, I've only got one squad member left. The Apothecary's bodyguard. He's largely bionic, so I used as many bionic bits as I could on the model. I forgot to take a picture of his body, but here is his head so far:

Pretty simple bionic head. The skin is done, but the metallics are not. The rest of him is made from GW parts with Kromlech legs. I'll get a shot up in the coming days.

While waiting for Dullcote to dry, I also started plugging along on my Vindicator. Here's a quick, largely uninteresting shot:

As of this morning, the blue is about 90% done. I decided to try a different technique for painting vehicles. Instead of painstakingly applying each layer, leaving careful shade lines as I go, I decided to paint each layer quickly and thoroughly, and then apply the shading with a wash of my darkest color. If it turns out right, it'll save me a TON of time when painting tanks and pods.

There is a bit of bad news to go along with all my painting progress. Yesterday afternoon, while scrubbing mold release off my Forgeworld Raven Guard Captain Korvydae model parts, I dropped one of the fuel lines for his jump pack down the sink drain. I soak my FW resin parts in Simple Green, which is a great degreaser and perfect for cleaning resin. Unfortunately, the dissolved mold release makes the parts VERY slippery. I thought to myself "I should probably close the drain plug for this." I decided that I was almost done, so didn't bother. Fate punished me by sending that little pipe part squirting out of my fingers and right down the drain. ARGH! If anyone knows where I can get another fuel line for that kit without buying the whole thing over again, or has an example of rebuilding the line from other parts, I'd appreciate it!

In general gaming news, it looks like GW is revamping the base sizes for models. 32mm bases are up for preorders, with all of the new Blood Angel reboxings and kits having new sizes. I do like the idea of added space for posing Marines, but not the idea of buying scads of new bases at fifty cents a pop. I'm not hurting for hobby funds, I just hate spending money on simple pieces. I'll wait to see what the reasoning behind the bases is before jumping in. The timing is fortunate for me though, as I'm just about to start assembling and posing Raven Guard models. Id 32mm is standard for Marine infantry, that gives my Scouts, Assault Marines, and Jump HQs a lot of space to work with. One of the basing ideas I had for them was a desert city ruin with small tumbles of bricks and broken walls, but that is largely lost on 25mm bases. 32mm would give me room to stack bricks, sculpt pavers, and add little windswept sand piles to the debris. I'd wanted to jump right in to the RG models, but new bases put a little delay in the process. I have plenty of Ultramarine tanks to paint while waiting though.


Marius Gracchus, Standard Bearer

The third member of my Ultramarine Command Squad is now complete. Yes, I've finally finished off the Standard Bearer, Marius Gracchus:

Here's his backstory:
Standard Bearer Marius Gracchus, "The Youngling." Marius is one of the youngest Marines ever selected to bear a company standard. His youthful features and penchant for humor hide a warrior who is capable with a chainblade and a masterful shot with a pistol.

Overall I'm pretty happy with how he turned out. The only disappointment is with the banner pole and the back of the banner itself. I had drilled a paperclip into the mounting point of the pole so I could hold the banner during painting. It worked, but when I was removing it last night, I tried to file away the excess paint. That went ok, but when I finished, I blew on the area to get rid of the little grains of paint and plastic. My hand took that moment to lose strength (hooray for carpal tunnel syndrome) and I dropped the banner on the floor. The top ornament broke off, and the paint was a little scuffed near the folds of the cloth. Then, when I was trying to apply liquid plastic cement to the area and affix it to the pole, I dropped it again with glue in the channel. That picked up some dust, so I had to fiddle with it again. The cement refused to hold, so I had to settle for super glue. After I got a scare when a drop of superglue rolled out of the tube and just missed the edge of the banner (landing instead on my pant leg), I got it held in place and decided to take the rest of the night off. I know by now that when my hands get weak like that, I need to stop.

Now that Marius is complete, I can turn my attention to the Demolitionist/Tank Hunter I'd shown earlier. I've only got a quick coat of blue on him right now, so nothing special to share in that regard. He'll be a pretty simple job once I'm not bouncing back and forth between the banner and the Tank Hunter, and picking away at my Vindicator (remember that project?). I realized just a moment ago that I've been screwing around with this Command Squad since April or thereabouts. Seven months for three models thus far, with a little work on a drop pod and a Vindicator snuck in there. Yikes.

Once I get beyond these Ultramarines, I can start thinking harder about my Raven Guard. I'm still hemming and hawing over what wargear to give the Captain, or whether I want a Captain at all. Maybe a Telepathy Librarian would be more interesting. Then there are Scouts, Vanguard Vets, and Assault Marines to think about. I'm burying myself under a mountain of planning again. Add onto that the thought that maybe the Command Squad would like to have a new HQ model to lead them, and I'm swamped with ideas, but not with spare time.

I bit the bullet and ordered three new brushes, Raphael 8404s. Two size 0s and a size 2. I previously used inexpensive Loew Cornell red sable brushes from AC Moore. They were about $4 each, and held up pretty well. But neither AC Moore nor Michael's carries the line anymore. They seem to have shifted heavily towards synthetic brushes, which I just can't use anymore. With my old brush line extinct, and being on my last brush of the type, I had to get new ones. I bought them via Amazon, directly from the distributor. Delivery estimate is 4-6 weeks. OUCH. Thankfully, my last remaining brush should hold up that long. I'm hoping these new brushes are worth the money.


More Progress on the Banner

I put some more time into the banner for my Command Squad. This is what it looks like now:

I added some shading to the scroll, and knocked off all of the dark edge lines I'd had on it before. I then added the red starburst, and some small highlights on each point. However, I need to go back and clean those lighter areas up some. Some are a little blobby. I added black line text to the purity seals and the bottom right design, and put a campaign badge on the bottom center...thing. I'm not a huge fan of the badge though, and it may end up being removed. It's off center and pretty plain.
I also added the ivy/laurel branches. I started by sketching the branches out with a sharp pencil, then went over them with dark green. After that was dry, I added the leaves in the same dark green, let them dry, and then applied a thin lighter green on top. Unfortunately, by that point I was getting a little tired and slipped in some places and was messy in others. I added small lines of dark green to the leaf centers and called it a night. I need to go back and tidy up the leaves.

Once the leaves are done and I've decided on what to do with the center bottom design (it's bugging me that I don't know the term for those little things on the bottom of the standard, I'll have to Google after this), I'll finish the back in an ivory or linen color. I think it'll look nice that way and break up the sea of blue. I'm about halfway done that process, but it's pretty boring so I didn't take a picture.

I'll be happy to have this model finished, but I do have to say that I really enjoy painting the freehand on the banner. I've always been a glutton for punishment.

As soon as this is done, I can move on to the tank hunter veteran. He'll be an easy one, and then I'll get my bionic veteran up and going. Again, an easier paint job (aside from his head/face) but I'll also have a review of the Kromlech legs I ended up buying for him.


Nearly Done: Standard Bearer

Here is some more progress on my Standard Bearer.

The Marine himself is pretty much done, with only some static grass needed around the edges of the rock he's standing upon. That rock was actually a major pain in the ass to base around. Normally, I put small strips of plasticard under my Marines' feet. This raises them up a tiny bit so they don't appear to be sinking into the ground. It also allows me to put sand all the way under their feet, so I don't end up with gaps around the feet when I glue the model to the base. The problem with the rock was that I wanted it to look like it was sticking up out of the sand, not sitting on top of it. I skipped putting card under it, while still putting card under the other foot. I'd hoped it would allow the rock to be sunk down while the other foot was not. All I ended up with were the gaps. It's simple enough to obscure them with static grass, but I need to be careful not to apply too much and make it look like a fuzzy ring around the rock.

Here is the current state of the banner itself:

It's pretty plain. Originally, I'd had grand plans for it, with a huge laurel wreath surrounding an Imperial aquila clutching the Ultramarines symbol in its talons, with the scroll at the bottom. I sketched it out on paper and searched Google for art I could use as a model to construct the whole thing. I was then going to print it out to scale and use the pencil-rub/carbon paper technique to transfer it to the banner. Then it would be a simple matter of painting it. Problem is, I no longer have access to Photoshop and GIMP flat out sucks for working with images other than retouching and cropping things. Every time I tried to combine my images, one would end up pixelated beyond recognition, or the scales wouldn't match, etc.

I said "screw it" and sketched a new design on the banner with a soft, sharp pencil. I had wanted to sketch my original design on there, but the curves of the piece make intricate lines tough. I ended up just going with the simple design you see above. That grey smear in the middle will be a red starburst that I need to re-draw and re-center. The red starburst is an old-school Space Marine symbol. It's supposed to be used for veteran sergeants, but I've co-opted it as a more generic symbol.
I still need to go back in and add some shading to the scroll and the symbol. Probably just a thin layer of a darker color for each one, and I should probably ding up the edges of the scroll with tears and dog ears. You don't typically see perfect, pristine scrolls on 40K artwork.

I also need to add something to the area between the Chapter symbol and the scroll, especially to the right and left edges. I'm not sure what to add though. A fancy, squiggly design? A couple crux terminatus symbols? Very small laurels?

There's no way I'm adding anything above the Chapter symbol unless I get VERY brave and ambitious. Those folds are a nightmare to draw on. If I were to add anything up there, it would likely be a row of checkered boxes, a Greek key design, or a small aquila.

We've also got the monthly tourney at the FLGS tomorrow. As of right this moment, I'm planning on going. I just have no idea what I'll bring for an army. I've not played at the FLGS in months now, so I have no real idea of what the meta is anymore. From what I've seen on Facebook and blog posts, there are plenty of Knights showing up in Imperial forces. Still a good number of power armored players, and plenty of monstrous creatures in non-Imperial armies. I guess it doesn't really matter, as honestly I've not upgraded my army to a 7th Edition style. There isn't a single grav weapon on any model in my collection yet. The last time I had plans to upgrade my bikes, it was to add Scout Bikers and a Command Squad with power lances. That should tell you how far behind the times my army is now.


Command Squad Progress: the Tank Killer

In the last week or so, I've made some very solid progress on my Command Squad. Painting for the Standard Bearer is done except for his base, I've picked some parts for the bionic Veteran, and I fully built the tank-killing Veteran. Here are some shots of him:

This is the initial body construction, showing the FW torso defects I repaired and some studs I added to his knee pads.

And then his final state, with a head picked out and pads on.

The studs are micro beads, set into small drill holes and glued in place. You can see the tutorial I got the idea from over at Drowned in Plastic. While you're there, check out his Helbrecht build. It's AMAZING.
I held off on a full spread of studs, because I wasn't sure how well they'd come out. A couple added to break up the smooth lines just a bit felt like enough.

The general design behind him is that he wears plated Mk4 armor and a left-leading pad with an extended edge to protect him from the shrapnel and blast from tanks and bunkers he's destroyed with that meltagun and meltabombs (the meltabombs are behind his left hip, not visible in the images). He's got improved targeters in his helm for finding and tracking weak points in vehicle armor, including an upgraded thermal imaging suite for finding exhaust ports and venting seams in xenos and Imperial STC vehicle patterns.

I didn't elect to use another tabarded set of legs for this Marine, as I figured he'd either have no use for one as decoration or that it would be burned up pretty quickly as he stands in the blast wash from exploding tanks. It might bust up the cohesion of the squad some, but probably not a lot as the Apothecary and the bionic Veteran also do not have tabards (though the bionic one is still up in the air, with a post on him and his legs coming later this week).

It's exciting to be nearly done with the Command Squad as a whole. Once the Standard Bearer is done, I'll be over halfway finished, with only two guys left. Both are simpler paint jobs than the Standard Bearer or the Apothecary. The tank hunter will go pretty quickly, being all blue and gold and the bionic Marine will as well, since I don't forsee using any white or fancy sections on him.
Once the squad members are done I have to decide if I'll build them a custom Razorback, or just paint up a turret to put on top of one of my Rhinos. Right now, all of my Razorback turrets are assault cannons or las/plas.

Thankfully, I've finished most of my home improvement projects that were eating up my evenings and the summer heat has gone, leaving me time and motivation to paint again.


Thinking About Black Armor

As I inch closer to completion of my Ultramarines Command Squad, I'm turning my mind towards a plan for painting Raven Guard.

I have been thinking about the paints I'll use for their black armor. There are a lot of tutorials and how-to's online about how to paint black, each uses a different variation on the theme. Some rely purely on a black paint with grey or blue highlights. Some use grey shaded with black, and some even attempt an NMM (non-metallic metals for those who don't know) effect.

I've only painted black armor twice before, both times for Ultramarines Chaplains. For those models, I used a deep, dark grey from Reaper call "Grey Liner." Basically, it's a paint designed for darklining fantasy miniatures. Darklining is where you paint a thin line of a darker shade between two separate pieces of a model, like a flesh-colored arm and a tunic sleeve, or an armor plate and a leather strap or belt. I think this is an outdated technique that most folks don't use anymore, having been supplanted by washes, but I could be wrong.

Anyhow, this paint is a very dark grey. For my Chaplains, I primed black, applied Grey Liner to all the armor, and then edge highlighted with lighter greys. Here is what it looked like on my counts-as Chaplain Cassius (try to ignore the horrible posing of the model):
Here's another shot with less colors, so you can compare it to the basic black of primer:

One thing to note is that I painted this Chaplain back before I started using Badab Black as a wash. In those times, I used thinned black paint to wash my metals and such. I can't remember if I added a black wash to his armor, but I doubt it.

I think this paint scheme will work for Raven Guard. However, my Raven Guard will be very plain in the armor department. I'm planning to select a lot of models and parts that don't have a ton of dangly decorations and fancy parts. I just don't see Raven Guard, the sneakiest of sneaky, carrying around all that junk on their armor. The clink of a decorative chain can give you away, and too much carved decoration on armor makes it harder to slip through small areas. The issue facing plainer armor using my Grey Liner method is that the models might be too plain on the table, looking like unpainted, primer-only models. My hope is that the edge highlights, small metal or colored details, and deeper black of a Badab Black/Nuln Oil wash in the recesses will help them stand out enough to look properly painted.

One additional idea I'm thinking about is switching over to GW paints for Raven Guard. The only problem is, I have no idea if they have an appropriately dark grey to replace the Grey Liner. I know I'll be using Leadbelcher and Ironbreaker for metal parts, plus Nuln Oil as a wash. While I do want the models to be muted and dark, I don't want them to be boring. The solution to boring black armored models is to add small splashes of color here and there. Grenades, pouches, and especially bolter casings. The bolter casings for my Ultramarines are black. Black casings over black armor will be too monochrome, so I'm thinking of using a very dark tone washed with Nuln Oil for the casings instead. I had my eye on Incubi Darkness for a greenish blue undertone, but I have no idea what the paint looks like in person. The other option is Caliban Green. Does anyone use these colors and able to tell me how they'd look slathered in Nuln Oil?


Standard Bearer Progress

This weekend allowed me a few good hours of painting, which I used to work on my Standard Bearer for my Command Squad. This is what he's looking like as of today:

I still have all the red to do (eyes, purity seals, tabard) as well as the linen of the seals and the freehand on his armor and shoulder pads. After that is the standard itself. I have it primed and mounted, but haven't touched it with paint yet.

I tried a slightly different approach with the gold this time around. I started with my standard brown, then gold, then wash with Gryphonne Sepia. But instead of going back to my base gold, I skipped right to Reaper MSP New Gold, which used to be my first highlight color. I like the brightness of it, so I'll be sticking with that from now on.

The next veteran in line is the demolition specialist, who'll end up with meltabombs and a meltagun, plus a bolter. I successfully repaired his armor collar (from the FW Mk4 power weapons kit; it was miscast too thin), and added some rivets to his armor using microbeads. I'll get a picture as soon as I can (hopefully tonight). Thus far, I've only stuck the torso on the legs and let it sit to dry. I sometimes rush assembly stages, and end up knocking parts out of alignment slightly while glue dries or cures.


Metals and Music

I found the time to do a little painting last night. I got the midtone coat finished on my Standard Bearer, but decided not to press on to the top coat as it was getting late. Instead, I brought out the dozer blade for my Forgeworld Vindicator. I've got all the blue done on that already, but needed to start on the metallics.
I was too lazy to take a rather boring shot of a blank dozer blade, but essentially I'm painting the bottom teeth of the blade and the surrounding plate, as well as the side plates silver metallic, while the blade face is my standard Ultramarine blue.
Back when I was working on my drop pod, I'd had a really tough time on the metallic sections of the model. My Reaper Master Series metallic paints just didn't cover very well. I was getting brush strokes, pigment separation, and not enough paint in various areas. I muddled through, but decided MSP silver metallics weren't going to work for large areas anymore. It had been suggested that I try out the GW/Citadel line of metallics, so I grabbed a pot of Leadbelcher and a pot of Ironbreaker a couple months ago.
I broke open the pot of Leadbelcher and started working on the dozer blade. I held my breath and started applying paint. SWEET MOSES! It was like a revelation. The paint went on in a single coat, and perfectly covered the primer. I didn't need more than a single pass on any of the primed areas. I did need a quick second touch on areas that I'd gotten blue paint into, but it wasn't the struggle I normally encounter with my MSP metallics.
I've always been a bit of a Reaper paint snob, but I have to say I'm sold on these Citadel metallics. I don't think I'll go back to Reaper metallics on anything larger than infantry weapons. My only concern with the Citadel paint is that pot design. I had to paint with the pot open on my desk, which made me think it would dry out over time since it's constantly exposed to open air. Has anyone noticed drying in the modern Citadel paints? 

I've been listening to some 40K music in an attempt to get myself re-motivated to paint. It's not that I don't want to paint, it's just that when I have free time at 8pm at night after a day of work and a few hours playing with my son, it's hard to park myself in the heat of my office (it's been an Indian summer here lately) and put brush to model. It's even tougher when I spend an hour or two a night working on home improvement stuff, like redoing windows in our living room.However, 40K related music seems to really help with getting the mental juices going. I've been spending a lot of time listening to the soundtrack to Space Marine. You can listen to the whole thing on YouTube if you don't want to buy it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2v4kaE_XbR8). I recommend Titus' Theme, Battlements, Titan, and A Hero's Legacy, though there's no bad track in the whole thing. The tracks have a little ore meaning if you've played the hell out of the game like I have, as you can picture the scenes from which they are pulled. Also good is the Dawn of War 2 soundtrack (also available on YouTube), and the first track from the Ultramarines: The Movie soundtrack, "Steel and Doom." Yes, that one's also on YouTube. I can fire these up on my Kindle Fire and listen to them while I paint, or while I'm trapped in my cubicle at work.


Expensive Conversions

This morning I've been scanning around the interwebs looking for examples of reposed Space Marines posted by players on various sites. This was prompted by my experience playing Space Marine on my Xbox the other night. I have been playing a lot of Exterminatus co-op lately, and during a pause between waves I happened to have my Marine standing on a rock. I panned the camera out and thought, "Wow, that would be a great pose for a model!"
My Marine had his arms by his side, with a combat blade in a reverse grip in one hand, and his bolt pistol in another. He was looking sidelong at the camera, with his rear leg up a little on the rock, while the front leg was extended to the ground. I wish I knew how to take screenshots on my 360 so I could analyze the pose.

Anyhow, I decided that it would be interesting to try reposing some legs and arms to make what will eventually become my Raven Guard Vanguard or Assault Marines. You know, once I finish my Ultramarine Command Squad, and the Vindicator, and the Raven Guard Shadow Captain...

In my searches, I saw some absolutely great work, and some complete butchery of parts. As part of those trends, I saw some nice things done to expensive models, and then some expensive models that were completely ruined. An entire squad of Forgeworld Mk4 Marines sliced up at the joints, and then glued back together with the gaps poorly filled with Greenstuff, or knee plates cut through and not replaced. It's not a new idea. I've seen examples online of people who buy a $400 Warhound Titan and then take a Dremel to it to give it "battle damage" or saw through joints to pose things awkwardly or with massive gaps.

Those are those peoples' models and they're free to do what they want with them. But the question popped into my head "What's the most expensive model someone risked a conversion on?".

Personally, I'm not a big risk taker with my expensive models. I'm not going to chop apart my Korvydae model to repose his legs. I've also avoided buying the Finecast Lord Executioner model and removing his arms and pads for fear of ruining a $23 model. I've done some small reposing on arms, but that's about it. The only major attempt I ever made at a leg chop/repose was for my old Master of the Forge. I'd originally intended to repose and build him some bionic legs. I started like this, but abandoned the idea when I laid hands on a set of the metal Iron Hands upgrade legs.

Even with the planned Raven Guard reposing, I'm thinking a lot about using salvaged/stripped parts to minimize the bitz cost. This might be a mistake, as a good model deserves new/fresh parts. Marine legs are one of the more expensive infantry bits you can buy, so I'm a little reluctant to invest in a ton of new legs for chopping up (though I actually already have plenty in my bitz boxes).
I've bought some expensive parts for kitbashes, but never for a full on chop-and-slice conversion.

What's the most expensive model you've ever sliced to pieces? Were you hesitant about it, or were you confident enough in your abilities to fix any mistakes?



Checking In

It's been some time since my last posting, so I figured it was time to check in with an update and some random thoughts.

I took the last week off work (hooray for paid vacation days), but didn't paint a whole lot. I had a lot of home improvement projects to do (and still do, nothing takes the time you'll think it'll take). I only found a few spare moments here and there to pick away at things. I primed the Standard Bearer, but not his banner. It's separate from the pole for painting. I also finished painting blue on the siege shield of my Vindicator (also separate from the parent model for painting). No picture, as I figure no one really needs or wants to see a siege shield painted plain blue.

I can't decide if I should finish the rest of the dozer in metallic colors before masking off the angled stripe I plan to airbrush across the front, or if I should airbrush the stripe and then finish the metals. It probably doesn't make much difference, as the stripe won't cross the metal areas.

I've selected some preliminary parts for the fourth member of the squad, who is the anti-armor and demolitions expert. I chose one of the armored torsos from the Forgeworld Mk4 Power Weapons Set, basic legs (no need for a tabard under all that plating), and haven't picked a helmet yet. FW parts are always ever so slightly smaller than GW plastics, so some heads look odd on the torso I picked. I thought about the grilled helmet from the VenDread kit, but it looks hilarious when test fitted in place.
For armament, I'm torn. I'm trying to keep every member of the squad at no more than 15 points of upgrades. Command Squad members start with a bolt pistol and a boltgun. They can buy pretty much any of the upgrade options (ranged, melee, special) and various other items. Because this guy is a demo/tank expert, he'll get meltabombs alongside his grenades. The meltabombs from the kit I linked above are about half the size of regular GW plastic bombs, so they can be fitted to a Marine's belt, pack, or thigh plates.
The sticky part are his guns. All Marine Veterans get two base attacks in their profile. You can bump them to three if you trade the bolter for a melee weapon while retaining the pistol. But this Marine isn't a melee fighter, so he won't get a melee upgrade. My decision comes down to: meltagun and bolter, or combimelta and bolt pistol? Both the combimelta and the meltagun are the same points cost.
If I take a pistol and combi, I'll get only one shot with the melta but also have the bolter to fire the rest of the time, as well as a pistol shot before a charge. It's simple to model and a pretty standard choice. However, if I take the meltagun and bolter I can fire as many melta shots as I like, and still have the bolter when other things are out of range or are less than ideal targets (you don't shoot melta at Gaunts and Orks). I won' tneed the pistol before a charge, because a meltagun is Assault 1. Modeling the bolter and the meltagun in a somewhat realistic way will be tougher. I will have to sling one or the other weapon over his back or under his backpack, or try to clamp the bolter to his leg. Unfortunately, there are no smaller bolters in any kit, and slinging weapons has always been a modeling challenge.

The fifth member of the squad is one I've not assembled parts for, though I did pickup some parts I might use. I got a handful of what I'm told are old upgrade torsos for Fabius Bile enhanced Marines. They look suitably bionic/augmetic for my purposes of building a squad member who's almost entirely rebuilt with bionics because he takes a lot of bullets for the Apothecary. The general plan is to use the half-bionic sergeant head from one of the older Marine kits, one of those Bile torsos, and then either buy or build bionic arms and legs. GW makes the Iron hands upgrade kit (though its in Finecast now), and Kromlech also makes some interesting bionic legs but no arms. I haven't picked armament for him yet, but I'm leaning towards something cheap like a stormbolter and a chainsword, because he'll be taking Look Out Sir rolls for the Apothecary a lot.

After all of that, I'm still working and planning some Allied units. Raven Guard are still in the works, but I'm also looking sidelong at Grey Knights. I own a 5-man unit of the old metal Terminators, and a Captain Stern model who can be just about any of the HQ models in TDA. I'd originally wanted to add them to add some Sanctic and anti-Daemon ability into my force, but the new codex looks really interesting. Not over the top like its prior incarnation, and much more streamlined.
There's also the upcoming Officio Assassinorum dataslate to think about. The one thing I hated about prior incarnations of Assassins was that you had to spend points on an HQ and Troops to get access to one. I'm definitely going to look at the dataslate when it's available, as I've always wanted to put an Eversor or a Culexis on the table.


Numerian Castor, Apothecary

My new Apothecary is completed! Meet Numerian Castor...

There are some small details I'm not a huge fan of, like the vials and the white dot on his main helmet optic. For the vials, I solved the color issue by simply drybrushing some white back over the colored 'fluid' in order to make it look like there was glass in front of it. Not perfect, but good enough. I messed up the location of the white dot in the main optic, and placed it a little too low and center. I might have to go back and touch that again with some red to shift it up and left where it's supposed to be.
I also noticed that I have a small grey dot on the back of his left foot, and that I forgot to clean up the painted-on sole texture. I also forgot to add the static grass to the base that will make the rock he's kneeling on look less like it's hovering over the sand.

Other than that, I think he came out well enough for a first try at all-white armor. As I'd mentioned before, I went about painting white in the most backwards way possible, with black primer, grey basecoat, and working upward. Should I ever do this again, it'll be white primer, grey wash, white touchups. I think I was afraid his blue, gold, and silver wouldn't match the rest of my army if I'd primed white. If I'm still afraid of that in the future I'll just paint the pad separate or touch the areas with black before painting them.

Here is Castor's bio from my initial writeup of the Command Squad:

Apothecary Numerian Castor is a patient, deliberate Marine. While not a coward by any means, he takes very few risks. He knows his mission is to safeguard the Marines with whom he serves, and when necessary, their geneseed.
I have already assembled the next model in the squad, the Standard Bearer.

Pretty standard fare (pun partially intended). There's not a ton you can do with the banner arm, other than rotate the location of the banner itself around the top of the banner pole. I thought about using a super fancy chain sword from the Sternguard or Vanguard kits, but decided to let him use a basic version. His armor is fancy enough to put him in Command Squad territory. Too much decoration and fancy weaponry puts him closer to Honor Guard territory.

I'm not sure how I'll paint that banner. I recently saw a neat tutorial on using custom transfers for banners over at B&C, but that seems like a LOT of setup and materials for one banner. I'll probably leave the banner itself for last, in order to give myself more brainstorming time.


That was disappointing...

The monthly tournament at the FLGS didn't happen on Saturday. After a series of family-related delays, I called the shop and let them know I was running late. But when I arrived, not enough people were there to actually run a tournament. Bummer. I went home and dug holes for fence posts in the heat instead.

I was really looking forward to playing my bikes again, but no luck.

Attendance at FLGS monthlies has been very hit or miss for the year or so. Some months you'd see six, and others you'd see eight or ten. It's very disheartening as a player. My schedule just doesn't allow me to play on Wednesdays, and hasn't for a long time. I don't see that changing until this time next year. So, monthlies are my only chance to play, and they still require some serious effort and juggling to get to. Losing a day stinks!

I consoled myself with a little painting time on my Apothecary. Here's where he's at now:

I screwed up several different spots on him. The vials on his backpack, hip, and narthecium aren't very good. It's tough to make them look like they contain liquid. A few of the tutorials I saw recommended adding small bubbles, so that's that the dots are. They did not turn out well. I'm thinking of painting over them.
I need to retouch the metals around his helmet targeter and the bottom of his vials, but that will wait until after I paint his lights on the backpack and helmet.
There's no texture under the left foot, so I painted it in with black and dark silver. I've got to go back in and touch it up some to make cleaner lines. The button lights on his belt gear and backpack aren't done, nor are his eye lens or the green power cables in various spots.

I'm torn on his right shoulder pad. It's a Ravenwing part, and the detail is very thin/low. Once primed, it was very hard to see exactly where each raised piece of the wings was. Painting the prime helix red was a fight, because from one angle it looked straight and clean, but turn it a little and the edges were ragged. All the result of small raised detail edges. Eventually I stopped fighting it and called it good. From arm's distance he looks good enough. My painting skill has atrophied in the last several months.

I'm once again toying with bothering to play the game anymore. I get that way when I'm in a valley on my depression scale. It's why I'm so fleeting in my projects and enthusiasms for 40K.

I'm hoping to have this guy done by the end of the week, and move on to the Standard Bearer. He'll be a challenge to paint, as I've never done a very large piece of multicolored freehand. I'm sort of toying with using custom transfers instead of freehand, but we'll see.


Picking Those Last Few Units

I'm drafting up an army list for the monthly tourney at the FLGS. It's a 1600 point format, and we'll be using the Maelstrom of War missions.
I've decided to go back to my bike army for a while, so will be running a list that uses White Scars Chapter tactics.
I have the core of the army lined out:

Captain on bike, artificer armor, power sword
Command Squad on bikes, various upgrades and weapons
Four 5-man Bike Squads (one melta, one plasma, one flamer, one naked) with a couple of attack bikes sprinkled in
One full squadron of multimelta Attack Bikes
One squadron of two Landspeeder Typhoons

Once I hit this core, I have about 245 points left. I can't decide exactly what to take to close out the list.
I have some options I've put together:
  • Techmarine on bike (servo arm, signum) and a Tri-las Predator.
  • ML2 Librarian with Jump Pack and a 5-man Assault Marine squad with two flamers and a powerfist
  • 10-man Assault Squad with vet sergeant and powerfist, and two flamers plus upgrade the power sword on the Captain to The Burning Blade.
The Techmarine would add another 2+ save to go in a bike squad and the ability to bolster a terrain piece. I could also probably find the points to give him a power axe. But that's a lot of points for a single wound character. The Predator would provide the only shooting higher than S8, as well as the long ranged AP2, but would be the only vehicle without a Jink save and the only unit that wouldn't be able to move 12" and be fully effective.

The Librarian would add some psychic powers, probably Telepathy. The 5-man ASM squad would be his escort. But that's two fragile units combined into one equally fragile unit.

The full ASM squad is large enough to be durable and can be split into combat squads if necessary. The Burning Blade isn't necessary, but would be very impressive in chopping up damned near anything I run into with my Captain. I'm not overly worried about the single S4, AP2 hit he could take at the end of an assault phase. He'll be T5 and have a 4++ from his Iron Halo.

Right now, I'm leaning toward the 10-man ASM and the Blade, because we're playing Maelstrom missions with Tactical Objectives. The 12" move is very valuable for shifting around and maneuvering for objectives and also for keeping up with the bikes.


In Progress: Apothecary

I've actually been making some progress on models during the last week-plus, but have been quiet about it. It was a busy weekend that trailed into a busy early part of this week, but I found time last night to pull some images off my camera and clean them up.

Here's is where my Apothecary stands right now:

Obviously, all that is done is the white. I have a couple cleanup spots left here and there, but for the most part the white is finished. I painted this in the hardest possible way. I primed black, then painted all the armor grey. I then started layering white, backfilled any sloppy areas with grey again, and then cleaned up the spots again.

That was dumb. I should have just primed white, washed the seams grey, and then cleaned up. I was concerned about the effect white primer would have on my reds and blues, when I should have just painted black under those areas if I was worried about it. Lesson learned.

I also started picking away at the Vindicator, starting with the dozer blade.

That's my sloppy midtone coat. Once I've got the final color on there, I have to go back and clean up the seams and borders with the shade color. Eventually, I'll be adding an off-centered white or yellow stripe to the dozer to break up the monotony of the blue. I'll likely tape the area off and use my airbrush for that.

This is the old Forgeworld Vindicator kit, and I've encountered a couple problems with it. You can't see the back of the dozer in the pic, but the area behind the vision port is odd. Instead of being framed in riveted steel like the front, it's just a blank surface, but not flat. There's this weird, sunken border there that looks like a miscast, but isn't. I've seen it on other pictures of the model on other blogs. In hindsight, I wish I'd taken the time to add a strip of plasticard around the back of the port to make it look better.

I also had some areas where my hour of scrubbing wasn't able to remove all the mold release. They were small areas, so I didn't want to strip the model down and try again. Instead, I steadily added pure black paint back over the spots til it was covered. Very frustrating to have one half-millimeter spot on top, or some seam at the dozer attachment point that wouldn't hold primer. Here's hoping the mold release has finally washed away and the patches hold when painted and sealed.

It's been tough getting the time or energy to paint this week. I've been busy canning strawberry jam all week, plus hockey, keeping the garden, and the oppressive heat. In an effort to keep our electrcicty bill manageable, I've been closing the doors to rooms we aren't in, which includes the room I paint in. So, when I do have time to plop down and throw some paint around, it's 87 degrees in that room. I end up sitting on the couch in front of the air conditioner instead.

Hopefully this weekend cools down some, so I can move on to the rest of the Apothecary, as well as start cleaning and assembling the Standard Bearer.


Pertinus Aemilius, Company Champion

I finally took passable photos of my new Company Champion last night. I'd taken a set on Monday, but they didn't look quite right. I did a little more work on the paint on his face, and retook the shots. Here we go:

For the life of me, I could not get a good front-on shot of his face. As I mentioned before, I didn't paint eyes or teeth, because the model doesn't HAVE discernible eyeballs once he's primed, and attempts to paint his teeth kept resulting in what looked like an add for whitening strips. In the end, I decided to quit screwing around with the face and call it done. You have to know when to stop.

This is his bio, from the post in which I lined up all the backgrounds for my Command Squad:
Pertinus Aemilius, Company Champion, known behind his back as The Bull. Brave and self-sacrificing, to a fault. He was censured twice as a Scout for engaging enemy sentries in protracted melee, instead of silently dispatching them with his combat blade. The second such action resulted in the death of a fellow Scout when Pertinus' duel with an Ork sentry alerted an entire camp. He served five years penance for that failure. Shortly afterward, he was placed with an Assault Squad, skipping the traditional placement with a Devastator Squad. Selected as Company Champion after fifty years as an Assault Squad member, based purely on his skill with a blade. Pertinus Aemilius is not the smartest or most tactically gifted Ultramarine. He is stubborn and thick-headed, but unflinchingly loyal to his commander.
Next in the pipe is the Apothecary:

Pretty simple. Kneeling legs (which I swore I'd never use for an Apothecary, but did anyways), basic torso (I'd planned on putting his geneseed canisters on his left hip, but they didn't look right), Ravenwing narthecium and apothecarion shoulder pad, and the head from the Marine command squad box. I'd actually ordered a full set of the Ravenwing apothecary parts, but realized once I was assembling this guy that the bitz seller sent me a basic Ravenwing beakie head, not the one with the apothecarion symbol.
That makes twice I've been boned by a bitz shop sending wrong or incomplete parts and not noticing until a month later when I go to use the parts (the previous incident was a seller not including the shrine section of a Ravenwing bike that I'd pegged for a Chaplain's bike; I didn't notice until five weeks later, too late for a complaint). From now on, I'll check every order piece-by-piece. I stashed the regular helmet away for use on Raven Guard, and was lucky that I had a spare basic Apothecary head in my bitz box.

I'm going with a white-armored scheme for this guy. My other two apothecaries used the blue armor and white pad scheme, and they just don't stand out enough from the rest of the Marines on the table. I can paint white relatively well, but have only tried on small areas like helmets so far. This will be a new experience. The one thing I need to decide on is whether to have him shaded in a regular grey, or use the very thin Ultramarine blue that I used for Terminators and Sternguard. My gut says grey, as he won't have the blue armor to tie into. My Terminators and Sternguard all have regular blue armor, and it was important to tie the white to the blue. I don't know if that's needed here.


First Games of Seventh Edition

This past Saturday was the FLGS's first Seventh Edition monthly tournament and my first opportunity to play Seventh Edition.
I slammed together a list the night before, as I had no real idea what I wanted to play. I thought about testing Salamanders Chapter tactics with a lot of flamers and melta (though melta is irrelevant to the CT unless you run Vulkan, which I didn't plan to do). I also wanted to try the Hammerfall Strike Force formation from the Strike Force Ultra dataslate.

In the end, I went with the Hammerfall Strike Force formation, and added a Combined Arms Detachment of a Librarian, Command Squad in Deathwind Pod (4 plasma guns, and an apothecary), 10-man tactical in Rhino, and 7 Scouts with snipers and a missile launcher. I wanted to play some damned Terminators for a change, and wanted to try out the new psychic powers. Everything was run as Ultramarines.

I did discover one question when building the list: Can a Formation be your Primary Detachment? The rulebook defines a Formation as a "special type of Detachment" that only consist of the units defined as part of the formation. The only definition of Primary Detachment is the detachment from which you select your Warlord. With that being said, can you select your Warlord from a Formation so long as he fits the criteria for being the Warlord, thereby making the Formation your Primary Detachment? I played my Terminator Captain as my Warlord based on those readings, and I'm fairly certain that was legal. What say you?

My first game was against Thor from Creative Twilight. We seem to play each other every month now, though with only six players in the field there was a 20% chance of that happening. The players decided before the day started to try out the Tactical Objectives system and track a winner using raw victory points. The first mission of the day was #5, where you had three cards and kept them secret.
Thor ran a Korne-centered force with one or two Nurgle-marked units for effect. He beat me pretty handily (10-3), as I had no clue what the hell I was doing, and made some pretty dumb deployment decision. Dropping the pod full of plasma in front of Kharn and a Berserker squad was pretty dumb, since they're Fearless and rolled Deny the Witch tests on a 2+. My Telepathy casting Librarian couldn't do much to them.
We did learn some valuable lessons about slight changes to USRs in 7th Edition tough. You have to check the wording of your tried and true USRs now, as things like Rage and Hatred no longer confer to a whole squad! Those are now model-by-model, unless another rule like a Warlord Trait or unit ability (Chaplains) says otherwise.

Second game was against an Eldar force that was built to dismantle Gargantuans and Superheavies. it was perfectly adept at dismantling my cobbled together army. I think the final score was 14-1. Proof that strong units are still strong in 7th.

My last game of the day was against White Scars, but not in bikes. Tactical Squads, Scouts, Terminators, Land Raider, Sternguard, and a Storm Raven. This one was much closer, ending 7-6 in my opponent's favor. I actually had a nice, early lead but a strong couple of turns near the end flipped the situation, which was interesting to see.

All in all, a very good learning day. Here are some of the lessons I learned:
  • It's much harder to one-shot vehicles without AP1 weapons. Expect far more wrecks than explosions.
  • Psychic powers are tough to cast, and Deny bonuses make that exponentially harder. Trying to throw three dice at an ML1 power when your opponent denies on a 4+ or even a 5+ makes things so much harder, and throwing yet more dice makes the risk of Perils huge.
  • Objective placement in Maelstrom of War missions might as well be flatly dictated as equidistant across the board by the rules. In all three games, the objectives ended up in a pretty standard spread across the board. In the two Dawn of War games I played (two and three), the objectives were in damned near identical places.
  • Tactical Objectives are fun and interesting, but they require you to build a list based on them. if you can't move to other objectives, you're boned. However, if you're lucky enough to draw the same objective numbers in multiple turns, you can pile up a solid lead on points that your opponent has to overcome.
  • It's important to remember your Warlord traits and Chapter tactics every game! I rolled Strategic traits in every game, and got a different one each time. One was -1 to enemy reserve rolls, but Thor forgot to roll his reserves until Turn Four. Game Two was to force a Pinning test on three enemy units at the beginning of his first turn, which I forgot to use (might have helped keep some fire off my guys early). Game Three was Stealth (Ruins) and Move Through Cover (Ruins), which I remembered, but there was only one ruin on the board, and it had solid walls. I forgot my Chapter Tactics completely in Game One and half of Game Two.
  • Terrain is shitty and boring in 7th Edition. Seriously. EVERYTHING is a 5+ save now except ruins, and area terrain is so ambiguously defined that it's confusing. Of course, that makes Stealth and Shrouded that much more valuable.
  • I need to stop experimenting with crazy lists. While it's neat to try new things every month with the different Chapter Tactics, I'm stunting my ability to refine and better my game with one Tactic. Simple things like remembering to even use CTs become easier with practice, and I've spent too many games jumping from CT to CT that I've made myself rusty on applying my Ultramarine CT. I need to write an "ideal" list, and work towards refining it instead of toying around. Not so I can win all the time (read as: "ever"), but so I can play the game competently. it's a HUGE detractor to the game being played if I build an Ultramarine list and forget to apply all the Ultramarine bonuses!
So, going forward I'm planning to stop with the CT experimentation and build towards an "ideal" Ultramarines list. I need to hash out what I feel will be interesting to play, but also viable as a challenge to my opponents. Slammed together lists make for clumsy games on my part. I figure I can keep the spirit of my "play what you like" approach while still sharpening the edges on my unit selections.

After all of that, I can happily report that my Company Champion is now complete. The paint on his base was drying last night, but I hope to get pictures up tomorrow or Wednesday. Next up is the Apothecary...


Review: Space Marines Strike Force Ultra Dataslate

I bought the Space Marines Strike Force Ultra dataslate for my Kindle on Saturday afternoon. Now that formations are an ironclad "official" part of the game, I figured it would be good to own the Marine ones.

The dataslate contains two fluff sections. One is a general description of what a Strike Force Ultra is and does, and the other is a series of descriptions of historical formations in action. Standard fare for a dataslate.

It also contains three formations and all the unit entries you need to make them work. Of course, all the entries are straight out of the Space Marine codex.

The first formation is the Hammerfall Strike Force. To use it, you MUST take a Terminator Captain (or Captain Lysander), one Terminator Squad of 5 Marines, one Assault Terminator Squad of 5 Marines, and either a Land Raider Crusader or Redeemer. You can take upgrades for any of the units as you normally would for a unit from the Marine codex.
The Terminator Captain must begin the game embarked in the formation's Land Raider (it specifically notes this, so you can't get away with taking a second land Raider and putting him in that one) and it an either be deployed normally or in Reserves. The Assault Terminators have no restrictions on deployment (but logic would dictate you'd want to put them in the Land Raider), but the standard Terminators must start in Reserve and arrive by Deep Strike.
The benefits of the formation are that models from the formation get Hammer of Wrath on a turn in which they disembark from the formation's Land Raider. The standard Terminators receive the ability to shoot and run on a turn they arrive by Deep Strike.
Nice, simple benefits for a simple formation. Also, no extra points costs!

The second formation is the Skyspear Strike Force. This one requires you to take a 5-man Assault Terminator Squad, a 5-man Terminator Squad, a Venerable Dreadnought, and a Storm Raven Gunship.
The Assault Terminators and the Venerable must begin embarked on the Storm Raven, and the standard Terminators must arrive by Deep Strike.
You get the exact same benefits as the first formation: standard Terminators can shoot and run when they arrive, and anything disembarking out of the Storm Raven gets Hammer of Wrath (which is a non-factor for the Venerable, as walkers get HoW standard in 7th).
Again. No extra points cost.

The third formation is the Strike Force Ultra, which is basically just taking both of the formations together, and retaining all the benefits of both. In addition, so long as your Terminator Captain is still alive, you can begin rolling for the units from the combined formations to arrive from reserve starting at Turn One. You still have to abide by the other restrictions though, so no shuffling the shooting terminators into or out of the transports, etc.

It's important to note that this is not an Ultramarines specific formation. You can take it using any chapter tactics you like, though if you lead the Hammerfall or Ultra formations with Captain Lysander, you have to use Imperial Fists.

Overall, I think it's a couple of nice, simple formations that a lot of people can find a use for, as Terminators are pretty common in Marine collections, as are Land Raiders and Storm Ravens. In the age of Chapter Masters on a bike with Shields Eternal, regardless of Chapter, rewarding use of a Terminator Captain and some of his associates is nice. All without an added points cost, and without over the top rewards.

Now, if only they'd make that Captain Agemman model available outside of the strike force bundle...


Painting Progress: Company Champion

I've been making some solid progress on my Company Champion over the last several days. At this point, he's about 80% done.

Here's his head:

The hair is shiny because I've not sealed it with Dullcote yet. I used a paint from the Reaper master Series line called Brown Liner. It's a nearly black brown color, and the liner paints tend to come out glossy. I then did some rough lines in a dark grey across the top to break up the surface some (but you can't see them in the pic, and I couldn't photograph it because of the glare off the shine).
You can see that I missed some spots near the hairline, so I'll have to go back and touch that up. I've repainted the face a couple times due to stray dots of Brown Liner. I do still have to go in and touch the teeth with an ivory or something, but I don't plan to paint eyes. The model doesn't seem to have actual eyeballs in there, and if it does, the squint obscures them.

Then there's the rest of him:

As I said, only about 80% done. I have to hit all his soft armor joints, the purity seal, gems, laurel, and tabard. He's wearing a laurel shoulder pad on his sword arm as well. I'm going to go with green for the laurels, but can't decide whether I should go ivory/linen or red for the tabard. My old Captain model wears red, but I'm not sure if I want to keep with that trend. Here's that old Captain:

Since I'm retiring some old models (my old Apothecary, especially) when I finish this Command Squad, maybe I'll retire this Captain as well. Hilariously, I can't remember if I've updated this guy yet to my new gold recipe and power sword technique.

As a quick note, while I was digging through my Photobucket for the pics of the Captain, I stumbled across this image:

It's my army for a monthly tournament at the FLGS, back in September of 2009. All of those non-Ultramarine bikes were eventually stripped and rebuilt into my current bike force, but it's neat to see the models I used to put on the board.


Reviews: With Baited Breath, Labyrinth of Sorrows

I was so impressed with the audio drama Helion Rain from Black Library, that I went ahead and bought two more. These things really help get through a long day at work when I'm stuck on lengthy, repetitive processing tasks.
I bought and listened to With Baited Breath and Labyrinth of Sorrows. Both were written by George Mann, the same author as Helion Rain. I wanted to indulge my current obsession with the Raven guard.

I'll talk about With Baited Breath first, as I bought it a couple weeks ago and have listened to it a few times. It is voiced by Toby Longworth (the same main actor from Helion Rain) and Ramon Tikaram.
The story follows a lone Imperial Guardsman, Sergei, who is slowly dying on a battlefield. He encounters Shadow Captain Koryn of the Raven Guard. Koryn is the same captain from Helion Rain. There's some brief interaction between the two, but the bulk of the story is actually told from Sergei's perspective, and is the tale of how Sergei came to be in his situation. While I liked the overall plot and story, the narration style falls a little flat when you shift to Sergei's narration. The problem lies in the fact that the words are written in a very vivid narrative style. Sergei becomes an omniscient narrator, and uses descriptive language that a Guardsman would never use (unless he was an author in his pre-Guard life), and certainly never as he's trying to retell his tale as he's bleeding out from a gut wound.
I was able to forgive the implausible character narration because the story is so good. The background effects (music, sounds) are well done, and really help you visualize the enemies and action. I can't fully describe the sounds of one scene without spoiling the story, but rest assured that the sounds attributed to the Chaos minions are chilling.
Overall, its a solid buy for the price. It's only a half-hour long, but worth a listen. There's not a ton of Raven Guard fluff exposed in the piece, since it's mostly about Sergei, with Koryn serving as a plot device.

Labyrinth of Sorrows is an hour and fifteen minutes long, and is voiced by Rupert Degas and Saul Reichlin.
It is the story of a small squad of Raven Guard, led by the oft-recurring Captain Koryn, and a squad of Brazen Minotaurs led by Captain Daed. Note that these are the Brazen Minotaurs, not the Minotaurs. Big, huge difference in mindset and doctrine. The Brazen Minotaurs land on the planet Kasharat, a mortuary world, in order to retrieve "a weapon" from the clutches of the Empyrion's Blight Chaos Marines and the various forces of Nurgle. The Rave Guard are there to clear a path for the Brazen Minotaurs as repayment of an honour debt incurred when the Brazen Minotaurs sacrificed an entire company so the Raven Guard could destroy an Iron Warriors fortress (this event occurs before the events of the audio drama).
The first thing you learn about the Brazen Minotaurs is that they're based on a Greek or Persian culture. Unfortunately, you learn this from their voices. I say "unfortunately" because the accents given to the characters in the Brazen Minotaurs squad are god-awful. They're almost a caricature. At first, I thought they were trying to pull off a Rasta Jamaican accent! The speech settles down some as the story goes on, almost as if they did they whole drama in one take while ironing out the kinks of the accent as they went along. Sadly, it never reaches "good" quality. Late in the story, one of the characters' accents is butchered so badly that it sounds like he's having an emotional breakdown. He shouts "What has happened here?" in such a poor accent when looking at dead Chaos Cultists that you get the impression that he's anguished over the death of Chaos scum, instead of just confused. At one point, one of the Raven Guard speaks so slowly it takes half a minute for him to finish a sentence.
One thing that is done well on a voice acting level is the narration. When narrating the Raven Guard, the narrator's voice is low and whispery. When narrating fight scenes, it's loud and terse.
The sound effects are well done, as they were in the previous two dramas. My only problem was that weapons sound differently in this story than in the prior two. Bolters in this drama sound like rapid fire submachine guns, whereas in prior dramas they sounded like shotgun blasts. It's a little disconcerting, but not a huge deal.
One confusing point are the recurring Raven Guard characters. Koryn leads the squad, but Grayvus and Argis from Helion Rain also appear, both as Tactical Marines or Command Squad members. It's odd to see characters in different battlefield roles entirely from their previous appearances.
There are also two actions in the narrated fight scenes that don't make much sense from a lor/fluff perspective. During a fight one of the Brazen Minotaurs, Torgas, fires his heavy bolter...but only one shell. He then fumbles to reload another single shell. He's not a scout, and isn't described as using Hellfire rounds, so why is he loading a single shell into his heavy bolter at a time? That's tactically moronic. Also puzzling is when Koryn sneaks up behind a Plague Marine, and instead of chopping him apart with his lightning claws, pulls out a combat blade and slits the Traitor's throat. This obviously fails to kill the Plague Marine, and Koryn is actually surprised by that. A Shadow Captain who's fought Chaos for centuries...doesn't know you can't kill a Plague marine by cutting its throat?
Overall, Labyrinth of Sorrows is an interesting story that falls a little flat in execution of the script. Inconsistencies, terrible voice acting, and some minor missteps in the action mar an otherwise great story. One of the things I really have to be careful about when listening to these dramas is not getting too excited about obscure Chapters. I could totally paint some Brazen Minotaurs after listening to Labyrinth of Shadows!

For those keeping score, I'd give With Baited Breath 4/5 stars, and Labyrinth of Sorrows 3/5 stars.


Final 6th Edition Tourney Report

In my last post, I presented an Iron Hands list I intended to run at the final 6th Edition monthly tourney at my FLGS. I figured it would be a fun army to push around the tables.

I played my first game against Thor from Creative Twilight. We play against one another quite a bit, as we're both regulars at the FLGS monthlies. Odds were a little longer this month, as we had 11 people show up, a nice increase from months past.
We played on a city fight board heavy in ruins (I think they're the ruins from Pegasus Hobbies). Beautiful scenery but it made for some tough deployment. Thor went first, and wisely crammed my army in the most congested quarter of the board. I probably could have overcome the congestion, but I deployed very poorly. I didn't look hard enough at his army list, and planned for anti-tank shooting that he simply didn't have!
It was a good fight as always, with some fun moments (his Raptor squad repeatedly failing charge distances was fun for me, less for him). He outplayed me for a 31-5 win.

My second game was against a new player, playing his first ever tournament games. He ran a Space Marine list using Ultramarines tactics, and largely just models he owned. Nothing optimized. It was a hard game to peg down, as I wanted to provide teaching moments, but didn't want to throw the game or steamroll over him.
Hopefully the game was enjoyable for my opponent, as despite me taking a 28-3 win, it was a close fought game. I hate giving new players list advice, especially when they've told you that they're playing with the stuff they liked the looks of and enjoyed painting. We talked about some idea for adding more contrast to his black-and-bronze Marines, like adding small additional bronze details on rivets, skulls, etc.

The final game of the day was against a Space Marine (White Scars without bikes) and IG combo. Two Thunderfire Cannons, tons of lascannons and autocannons, an ADL, Yarrick, a Vanquisher, some blobs, and a beat stick Chapter Master on Bike (Shield Eternal, powerfist, etc).
As usual with the final game of the day that isn't on a top table, I aimed for pure entertainment in my tactics. I was trying to win, but not at the expense of cinematic and crazy moments. There was the tank duel between my tri-las Predator and his Vanquisher Russ, which ended with me exploding the Russ after he repeatedly whiffed on twin-linked cannon shots. My Ironclad roasting Yarrick alive with his heavy flamer and meltagun, only to see him get back up. One Tactical Marine in one of my combat squads taking 18 armor saves by himself, and passing them all. A single enemy marine blowing up one of my Dreads with a thrown krak grenade at rear armor. Lots of craziness and lots of laughing, which made for a great game despite the 31-0 loss I took.

It was a nice send-off of 6th Edition. As for the Iron Hands chapter tactics, they're nice, but not spectacular for my play style. I don't do min-max units, so the Chapter Master on Bike with Shield and powerfist/hammer/whatever won't ever show up in an IH list for me. I only made a few successful It Will Not Die rolls all day, and entirely forgot the 6+ FNP save in the first two games. I never made a repair attempt.
What I did like was the Armor Indomitus on the Master of the Forge with his conversion beamer. I was able to move him around for better sight lines and still fire, as well as have him hop out of a transport and still fire. The beamer itself wasn't a blockbuster, as I either scattered off target or my opponents made all their saves (we play on some boards with significant cover, as the rules intended).

Seventh Edition is next week, and I broke down and put in for the rulebook and both sets of cards. While I have my reservations about the new edition, I've decided to take an "embrace the changes" stance. I realized that our little community at the FLGS might squawk a lot about spam and OP lists, but in practice, we rarely see them run by our group. I think it's highly unlikely that I'll jump into Unbound armies or anything, and will soldier on with my Ultramarines.
I thought about buying the rulebook in Kindle format, but I find it easier to learn a rule set by having pages to flip. I bought the 6th Edition rules in digital format because the rulebook was so damned HUGE. With the three-book format of 7th, that shouldn't be an issue.