Orthesian Herald: session 6 – The Beast with the Broken Back

Last time on the Orthesian Herald, our band of brave Explorers had fought off hordes of ravening Orks on the dead alien world of Gangue Prime to try and find the next piece of the map to the fabled treasure ship, the Righteous remit.

The monolith in the centre of the ruins, but imagine the ruins expand across the continent. (artist unknown – pinched from the internet)

“As you enter the monolith’s interior chamber you are overcome by its grandeur and unsettling alien construction. It is like standing in the centre of a sea of light, and you are unable to tell where the floor, roof or walls begin and end. Most disconcerting is the air seems alive with images spinning and dancing around your heads. To read the information you must spend time focusing on the swirling images to make any sense of them.”

(This was a Willpower test or suffer D10 insanity points. They gained the information either way.)

“As you gaze into the mirror the images begin to merge and spin until you are engulfed by an ocean of stars and planets. Worlds slip through your fingers and the icy void brushes your skin as you peer like a celestial god across the whole of Gangue.

“With a little effort you realise you can move events forward and backward in time, watching the dying star slowly flare back to life and the worlds once more teem with activity. Finally, you find what you are looking for: the arrival of the Rightful Remit.

“Tumbling from a rent in the void you mark its passage until it clashes into a cluster of asteroids out among the Shard Halo. Moving time back to the present you can see it still; frozen and waiting beneath the ice.

“You know instinctively that you have the exact location of the Rightful Remit.”

The chase

Our Astropath, Gil, was the one ‘volunteered’ for the mission of reading the Star Chamber. There seemed to be some misunderstanding that because he was the psyker, he would naturally have the highest Willpower in the team.

Regardless, only a handful of insanity points later, he had the location of the treasure ship beamed into his mind from the alien construct.

Feeling quite good about proceedings, he suddenly feels a sharp stabbing pain in his head, and the sensation of someone going through his memories and ransacking it for loose change. At the entrance of the chamber he can see the reason why – Lady Ash, the psyker under the employ of Hadarak Fel, had waited until Gil was distracted and forced herself into his mind to steal the location of the Righteous Remit.

I’ll get you next time, Gadget!

The chase was on! She fled as soon as she was identified, and the players heard the throaty roar of the stolen attack bike. The party was devastated – not only had she stolen the plot macguffin, but she’d stolen back their brand new bike after they stole it fair and square. Everything seemed lost, until the Explorator pointed out that he can sprint over 70 metres in a turn.

The chase was back on!

Like this, but with no Space Marines

What followed was a foot/bike chase as the scampering spider-limbed Techpriest scampered after the rogue psyker as she gunned the attack bike across the Gangue dust bowl.

He caught up, punching his limbs through the back of the bike’s wheel well (much to Lady Ash’s surprise), rupturing oil lines and causing flying sparks from the grinding metal. They exchanged a terse, high-speed close-range gun battle that ultimately lead to Lady Ash using her powers to Compel the Explorator off the back of the bike, but not before the bike engulfs in flames and careens out of control, eventually coming to rest at the edge of the alien maze.

When the Explorator finally pulled himself back up and investigated the burning wreckage of the bike, there was no salvageable parts and no signs of Lady Ash. A bitter pill to swallow.

The beast with the broken back

Returning to the ship, they consoled themselves with the knowledge that they had the location – a tumble of asteroids in the Shard Halo of the Gangue system – and with a good wind could still arrive before Fel did. They set off, only one day’s travel with some good rolls from the Voidmaster.

The Shard Halo (artist unknown, pinched from the internet)

Scattered across billions of km of space, the Shard Halo is Gangue’s glittering crown, a seemingly endless stretch of frozen rock and scattered vapour clouds.

You close within a few thousand kilometres of the icy asteroid where the Rightful Remit rests, and can scan its surface to identify the twisted wreck trapped inside. Drawing close, you see that the treasure ship is not alone and dozens of other craft seem to have been drawn here, creating an icy ship graveyard.

The team pull close to the icy asteroid and set off in an Arvus Lighter along with three of Lyoness’ Covenant, lead by their leader Alyss.

Now that you are closer, you can see the faded majesty of the ancient treasure ship. Once an impressive vessel, it has now fallen to ruin; its hull is stripped of ornamentation and its length is riddled with holes and scars.

Most terrible of all the damage is a mighty rent halfway down its hull where the ship has almost been broken in two. Taller than a hab block, the rend has exposed dozens of decks and looks like a likely way in.

The ship’s interior is somehow still powered, with powerful energy seals blocking off the lower decks of the vessel. The Explorator does some technomagic and figures out the power is being routed through the bridge – if they head there, they can shut it off.

With great caution, our band of heroes make their way to the bridge, picking their way through twisted corridors and broken arterials. They were becoming suspicious as to how easy it was so far…

The bridge of the rightful remit

The bridge is faintly lit with the pale radiance of Gangue’s star through the vista-panels of its observation gantry.

Under this cold light, you see a long semicircular chamber with the Lord-Captain’s throne at the far end. Down each side of the chamber are servitor pits, cold and dark and packed with ancient part-mechanical corpses.

The other two structures of note are a Navigator’s well rising from the centre of the chamber and the cogitator core vestibule just below the throne.

Everything is covered in a thick layer of glittering dust, smoothing lines and hiding the human remains that lay strewn about the deck.

Everyone gets suspicious when the battle map shows up

 

The Explorator sets out examining the core cogitator vestibule, sticking his MIU where into a rusted socket and getting an unhealthy dose of insanity. Didn’t mamma ever tell you about sticking your MIU where it didn’t belong? The Captain explores the Navigator’s pulpit and finds an extra crispy Navigator with an identifying medallion – Daam’Samarra.

Zilla suddenly remembers he carries a backpack-sized voxcaster round with him wherever he goes, as it suddenly chirps into life with a Bridge Officer from the Resolve informing him that they’d picked up signs of an unidentified small craft making its way towards the Rightful Remit. They had sent a lander of Orthesian armsmen down to reinforce, hold fast!

It wasn’t coming fast enough – Zilla catches gunfire on the vox, the armsmen were locked in battle in the corpse of the old treasure ship with unknown assailants.

The Captain was anxious about the well-being of his men and heads up one of the exit ramps to the bridge. The heavy blast doors open, finding himself coming face to face with…

Hello there.

Roll initiative!

Fel Dynasty armsmen come pouring in through both doors onto the bridge, spearheaded by the rogue psyker encountered in Port Impetus – Lady Ash. She is joined by an angry servitor with chainblades for arms.

With the Explorator up first, his first action is to immediately shut one of the two doors the armsmen had come in through, stranding half of the armsmen on the wrong side of the door and leaving the combat servitor all by himself on one side of the map.

This action would turn out to be pretty decisive later on, as it helped the players take out the invading force piecemeal rather than take them all on at once.

Unfortunately it didn’t stop anyone making ill-calculated decisions. While the rest of the Crew were engaging the armsmen coming in through the open door on the right, the Explorator moves to engage the combat servitor on the left. He blasts him with his hellgun as a free action and charges into combat.

Unfortunately, the ‘combat’ part of ‘combat servitor’ wasn’t just a meaningless title. After a bit of playful banter, the servitor carves the Explorator a set of new MIU sockets. Explorator Freeman hits the deck with -4 wounds and an entertaining amount of blood on the floor (how can a guy with no legs have so much blood(?!).

By now the first set of armsmen had been dealt with by the Captain, Astropath Gil and Lyoness and her Covenant. They swing round to deal with the servitor threat and the armsmen who had finally forced their way onto the bridge. They were also joined by Lady Ash, who had unfortunately got caught on the wrong side of the door and missed most of the fight too.

The closing moves of the fight. Lady Ash retreats in the background. Zilla throws himself from the raised bridge. The Covenant slip-slide on all the Explorator’s blood.

 

As they burst in, Voidmaster Zilla had been working his way into an advantageous position, trying to use the height advantage from the raised bridge to grenade the incoming armsmen. Lady Ash catches wind of this (damned telepaths! It’s like they can read minds or something) and Compels him to throw himself from the bridge.

Another helpful lesson in why Willpower shouldn’t be a dump stat.

With the Explorator taking a power nap and the Captain’s displacer field causing him grief, it was left to Gil and Lyoness to mop up what was remaining. Lady Ash read the room and figured it was time to dip, so she ordered the servitor to cover her retreat. With great glee it clanked and thumped all the way up to the Astropath, and my notes explicitly read “and fucks up Gil”.

The servitor is eventually carved apart by psychotic religious women with chainswords and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. The word from the friendly armsmen on board – the Fel Dynasty had retreated and left the spoils to the players.

As the corpse-counters began their tallies and the players were dissecting the fight that happened, it was time to see what was in the holds of the treasure ship.

sick lewt

The holds are filled with the ancient wealth of plundered worlds that will plump your Dynasty coffers for quite some time. In addition, the lowest levels of the ship contain sealed vaults with impossibly valuable treasures, the likes of which you have never laid eyes on before.

This would be my first opportunity to use the rather splendid Treasure Generator from the Stars of Inequity book. Each player would get to roll a piece of loot, and then afterwards we could discuss who gets what.

Once the players had rolled their loot, I went away and fluffed up the loot a bit more, so rather than ‘chainsword +1’ it would feel more like a unique item.

Detailed here are all the pieces of loot the players received – the rolled results are written in italics, followed by a bit of background fluff, and finally the game effects in bullet points.

All in all an exciting, sight-seeing, bloody first adventure for our heroic crew! Let’s see where their whims take them next…

 

Archeotech Lunde-pattern plasma drive

(Ship component, plasma drive, ancient miracle, imposing, good quality, unpredictable, trusty)

Wrested from the broken remains of the Rightful Remit, the Lunde-pattern drive is an ancient and overwhelming testament to ages long past. In the late 31st Millennium, Plasmasmith Elicio Lunde was at the height of his craft, dedicating his many centuries of service to the production of high-end plasma drives for escort ships.

His plasma drives burned with an intensity far greater than normal for their size, modulating their plasma wash into a variety of vibrant hues of visible and invisible light. Exhaust conduits spaced evenly across the outer hull reduce internal space, and can be harmonised to vent in impressive warning displays.

  • This is a Good Quality plasma drive (same as is currently fitted) but takes up -1 Space
  • It provides a +10 to Command and Intimidate checks made on board the ship
  • Once per game, it can provide a +10 bonus to anything involving it
  • When it passes, it gains an extra Degree of Success. When it fails, it gains two extra Degrees of Failure
  • Any attempts to repair it must pass a Forbidden Lore (Archeotech) test first

 

Demiurg carapace armour

(armour, carapace chestplate, alien techn, remnant of the endless, poor quality, dogged)

The Demiurg are a race of short, semi-humanoid traders and miners who maintain cordial relations with several xeno cultures. They are known to avoid Imperial space, making them a very uncommon sight, but the increased sightings of Demiurg artifacts in the Nomad Stars might signal a resurgence.

They have a high level of ionic-based technology, which it is understood they gifted to the Tau Empire – their close allies. Their name means ‘artisan’ in ancient Terran, and despite this armour being clearly designed for a shorter and broader torso, does not stop it from being exceptionally effective.

  • 6 Armour to the body, 7 kg
  • Wearer suffers -10 to all Agility tests
  • Whenever the wearer is hit with a Melee attack, the attacker must pass an Agility test or suffer 1d5+2 E damage with the Shocking trait
  • One way or another, it always seems to find its way back into its owners hands
  • Any attempts to repair it must pass a Forbidden Lore (Xenos) test first

 

Nomad-pattern Razorchain

(Melee weapon, razorchain, ancient miracle, indestructible, vanishing, zealous)

A lightweight sword composed of a number of interlocking blades joined by a cable. At a moment’s notice, these blades can be separated, turning a sword into a many-bladed lash. In the hands of a skilled wielder, these are almost impossible to parry and can be woven past almost any defence.

Despite bearing irrefutable evidence of human construction, the Nomad-pattern Razorchain bears a striking resemblance to a choice weapon of Dark Eldar reavers. These similarities are hand-waved either as coincidence or adoption of superior human technology by feeble xenos minds. This particular model is wrought from a strange metal alloy that never seems to lose its edge and seems impossible to mark or cut with any device.

  • Melee, 5m range, 1d5+4 R damage, 4 Penetration, Balanced (+10 to parry with), Flexible (cannot be parried), 2kg
  • Cannot be destroyed by natural means
  • It gains a +10 to Concealment checks to hide it about your person
  • You can never have a bonus greater than +30 or a penalty worse than -30 to use this weapon

 

House Kornallis Navis Prima Maxima

(gear, navis primer, ancient miracle, compact, unpredictable, dogged, house rule: +10 to Nav Stellar)

Navis Prima are perhaps some of the most valuable items an Explorer can possess, as they outline safe routes through the warp, or at least as safe as warp travel can get.

This is a rare example of an already extraordinary artifact – created by the Magisterial Navigator House of Kornallis, who have been around since the dawn of the Imperium of Man, and are said to have stood at the sides of those brave explorers who first ventured into the Nomad Stars. This small, unassuming leather book, marked only with a humble embossing of a stylised House Kornelius crest, can slip inside a pocket or kept out of sight.

When opened, an interactive holo-display is projected in front of the reader, affording them complex – if cryptic – knowledge of likely warp routes and stellar phenomena in the Nomad Stars.

  • It provides a +10 to all Navigate (Stellar) tests
  • Search tests to find this item on your person are at -30
  • During Step 1: Determine Duration of Passage in warp travel, you may re-roll the Route Stability before calculating.
  • If using the Navis Prima for Navigate (Stellar) tests, or to re-roll a Route Stability during warp travel, increase any Degrees of Success by 1, but increase any Degrees of Failure by 2.
  • One way or another, it always seems to find its way back into its owners hands

Any attempts to repair it must pass a Forbidden Lore (Archeotech) test first

 

The Widower

(Melee weapon, chain axe, cursed, deceitful, resplendent)

This chain axe is wrought of a dark iron, that despite bearing the hallmarks of human construction, still inspires a sense of dread when looked upon. Preliminary tests suggest that the iron used in construction been extracted from human haemoglobin, and that when the teeth of the weapon are in motion, look like the dark rays of a foreboding black sun.

Curiouser still is a hidden compartment in the axe head, that when activated from a rune on the hilt, fires a high-calibre shell straight and true at an unsuspecting target. These rounds are no different from common hand cannon ammunition, but something inside the weapon synthesizes a powerful venom to coat the ammunition before firing – something that is probably worth not looking too much into.

  • Melee, 1d10+2 R damage, 2 Penetration, Tearing
  • It can make a ranged attack as if it were a pistol – 30m range, S/-/-, 1d10+4 I damage, 4 Penetration, Clip 1, Full reload, Toxic

It provides a +5 to all Charm and Intimidate checks, but Search tests to find this item are at +30

 

Reclamation Crusade Sallett helm

(Armour, reinforced helm, finely wrought, best craftsmanship, potent, dogged)

Despite it’s archaic, clunky appearance, this ancient helm is light as incredibly light and wearing it is like donning a second skin. It is finely etched with murals of the Troubadous Reclamation in the 32nd Century, when the Saint-Admiral Troubadous (a prominent disciple of Saint Drusus) swept through the southern stars of the sector, bringing primitive human tribes to heel and re-forging the Imperium under a single banner. After seeing the Onus region begin to swell with settlers and piety, he cast his gaze southwards to the Nomad Stars, a time before the Great Warp Storms sealed off the throat.

Saint Troubadous went missing somewhere in the Nomad Stars, and thousands of official funerals were held in his honour, but not before carving a bloody path through heretic and xenos, seeding countless worlds with humans and the Imperial Creed. The capriciousness of the warp caught up with his ambition, however, and the passage through the Great Warp Storms (now known as the Throat) sealed up, and did not re-open for another 8 millennia.

Mankind is left to only speculate what happened to the Saint-Admiral, his final crusade, or the worlds he left behind…

  • 8 Head armour, 4.5kg
  • One way or another, it always seems to find its way back into its owners hands

+++++++

Next: Session 7 – A Brother’s Calling

Previous: Session 5 – The Flickering Eye

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Elysian Commission part 1

Finished articles first!
More finished articles!
Your mission, should you choose to accept it

A while ago I made the hard call to put my Elysian Drop Trooper collection up on ebay. The last time they had rolled dice in anger would probably have been ten years ago, and since then had only been used as occasional proxy models and gathered dust. The money raised from them went to an outstanding cause, however.

Many of them were unfinished, and although I had considered finishing some of the half-painted squads, I decided to put them up as-is. I tried to group squads as best as I could remember so that there wasn’t too much of a mix, but there was the inevitable Veteran squad which had some pretty extensive conversions and couldn’t really be mixed in to the other squads.

How they appeared on eBay

The whole lot went for way more than I had anticipated, and the buyer of the veterans contacted me before hand and asked if I would be interested in finishing them as a commission. I had been avoiding commissions recently for a number of reasons, but as these guys were close to my heart I couldn’t really refuse.

On top of that was another two five-man squads, unpainted. They would be part of the commission as well.

When the buyer (now the Client) then asked if I would be up for doing another thirty or so troopers, well…

It’s been a while since I’ve opened a box from Forgeworld
Gee whizz that’s a lot of resin
Finishing what I’d started

First thing’s first, while we hashed out the details of unit composition, special weapons and the like, I set about finishing off the previous squads – a five-man squad with lasguns, a five-man squad with close combat weapons and the remainder of the veteran squad.

They needed grav-chutes, easy enough for the lasgun guys

A specific request was for all troopers to have grav-chutes, which meant retro-fitting the existing models as best as I could.

Most of them went on fine. There were a few issues with the veterans and their more, uh, elaborate decorations. Some had their grav-chutes left on their base, as if they’d just landed and ejected them.

Tricky little sods ain’t ya
A question of bases

When they were all assembled and undercoated, it was time to hit the paints. Then I realised that every technique I had used when I first painted these guys 10/15 years ago had been rendered obsolete by new washes and colours. I had to re-learn how to paint Elysians, using the three painted veterans I had for guidance.

Let’s just say, thank the God-Emperor (again) for the invention of washes.

Colours on! Just need the bases sorting
Looking spangly

With both the 5-man squad and Veterans pretty much finished, there was just the decision of the base to make. There were two options – keep the Cityfight grey or try a sandy desert yellow.

As much as the yellow works better against the blue and grey colour scheme, it’s a bit out of place for their camo scheme to be running around in the desert. One of the pitfalls of painting army guys – you can’t aesthetically pair your uniform with your surroundings, you have to blend in!

No more excuses

With the decision made on bases, it was time to pull my finger out and finish these squads off. I had also been given direction for the assembly of the other squads, so it’s full steam ahead on the Elysian commission!

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Canals of Syracuse Magna

“As you near the water’s edge, the corpse-coloured province of Syracuse Magna looms in the distance. A thick, dark cloud hangs above it, and the iron-black sea reeks of stagnation and raw sewage. The omnipresent drizzle turns into thick gobbets of oily water falling from the sky. The sound of the heavy rain patters loudly off your driver’s metal hat.

You hug the coastline tightly, giving enough berth to the multi-storey hab blocks that loom uncomfortably outwards over the waters.  She picks an entrance to the maze of waterways and crumbling tenements that make up the district and the motor-skiff ambles lazily into a sluggish canal. A thick film of oil and offal covers the surface of the canal, and everything here reeks of rot

Despite the dilapidation and flooded tenement blocks, there is a semblance of life here. Citizens and labourers shuffle around in the shadows and under the cover of overhanging buildings. You catch the glint of every pair of eyes following you as your motor-skiff chugs down the canal.”

”Welcome to Syracuse Magna. May the light of the golden throne shine on you! Now get off my boat!”
making plans

With a brand new chapter of our Dark Heresy campaign about to begin, set in the decaying province of Syracuse Magna, it was the perfect opportunity to pursue a dream I’d had since I had been flicking through old issues of White Dwarf as a kid – having an awesome game board.

The idea of building a modular board grew organically from the premise. Syracuse Magna needed introducing in a bang – a three-way brawl between the players, some noble House Guard and some local scum.

The campaign book I’m basing the plot off has an interesting map in the beginning – something that looked like it would be really fun to set aside most of a session for a proper honest-to-Emperor dice-fest. It had at least a dozen guys on each side, with the implication of more ‘further away’, multiple levels, heavy weapons, firebombs and boats.

The map from the book, courtesy of Fantasy Flight Games. The names have been obscured in a vain attempt to not tip off my players too much

What started out as something that could be sketched on my wipe-clean hex map evolved as I started to plan the multiple levels. There needed to be guys shooting down from above, so I’d need to build walkways (obviously). Walkways would need something to connect to, so there would have to be buildings (obviously). Heck, the canal needs to be at a lower level from the rest.

At this point, it was becoming increasingly apparent that I was deluding myself into thinking I wasn’t going to build a game board. I had recently had a clear out of my old Elysian drop troopers, and that had freed up a dangerous amount of capital in the hobby fund.

The best laid plans…

The original plan was stuck to as closely as I could with the time I had given myself. Some parts fell by the wayside due to time constraints, such as the inlet board.

Originally I had wanted to go all-out and create full resin canals, but I couldn’t figure out how best to make those modular – I have no use for single-purpose terrain.

That sweet, sweet smell of freshly-lasered MDF

The game board from TTcombat would fit the bill – cheap and lightweight, it would be easy to store and I could get a lot of different configurations out of it.  They should be stackable too, so I picked up some of the TTcombat venice plaza sections of different sizes to add a bit of height variance where appropriate.

I would pick up a bunch of different bits of scenery too, that way I’d have a tool kit of stuff that I could draw upon wherever and whenever my players decide to get into a fight. It could be an open dockside, a drowned slum or abandoned city block.

Just the right height – not impassably tall, but still an obstacle
world building

Assembly began in earnest. I love the TTCombat range for its detail and ease of assembly, and everything in this pack was no different. The broken factory and shipyard went together like a dream, and the containers would be to swell my container collection to a more healthy 9 in total.

I had also assembled some silos from pringles cans which would serve to boost the height significantly and provide more things to drape walkways off.

The crates were a bit fiddly to assemble but they came together in the end, and I made the conscious decision to glue them together in lumps rather than have dozens of loose crates scattered about my board. Where I would lose a tiny amount of customisation, I would gain massively in convenience. I’ve had loose bits of terrain floating around on boards before and the novelty wears off immediately after the first accidental nudge of the table.

Dry fitting the pieces. It’s looking like a board!

As I was doing more research into scenery options, I naturally gravitated towards various Malifaux resources, including the sewers walkway and downtown walkway sets by Plascraft. I can knock rickety wooden walkways together with some PVA and balsa wood easy peasy, but I can’t knock together something that looks like it wasn’t, uh, knocked together. I picked them up off ebay for cheap, favouring the un-coloured plastic sets over the pre-painted ones.

They were an absolute pain in the ass to assemble – they were made of the kind of plastic that mocks every kind of adhesive except superglue. I went through four tubes of superglue and seventeen fingertips before everything was finally assembled, and it was only when it came to basecoating I realised I should have bathed the whole set in acid and set it on fire before starting, as it took three coats of base coat before the paint would stop pooling on the oils left on the plastic. Not cool.

When they were done they looked great – they fit in to the theme beautifully, they’re lightweight, sturdy and flexible enough so they can be knocked around a bit without any paint chipping or structural damage.

I was, however, putting off the longest, hardest (and as it turned out, most damaging to me personally) part of the project – the boards themselves.

foaming at the mouth

I had looked at dozens of different game boards, trying to decide how to design the ones I now had taking up space on my bed. There were plenty of Mordheim and Malifaux game boards on Pinterest and Google Images that tickled my fancy, but none that I could realistically achieve by myself in the time frame I had allotted.

My first attempts with glue and sand were pretty abysmal and not what I wanted at all. I wanted a cobbled/tiled/flagstone look, but the only textured plasticard I could find was expensive and sold by the A4 sheet, I needed something that could cover large areas for not very much money.

I came across some enterprising individual on a Mordheim forum who had used a biro on some thin polystyrene (the kind your supermarket pizza comes on) to draw on flagstones and cobbles. Perfect! All I need to do is find some in my local area and draw some on, right?

My finger hurts just looking at this

Turns out, nowhere sells such a thing, and I wasn’t about to buy and unwrap a dozen pizzas. I finally found some sheets of kids’ craft foam in my local book store and picked up two packs just to be sure. It was the perfect material – much tougher than polystyrene but that just meant I had to push a bit harder. Should take the strain of gaming more, right?

Each one of these sheets took about two hours

You have to press really really hard with a biro to get the indentation. I broke the ball out of four pens making these, and the ones that didn’t lose their ball will never write again due to weird internal rupturing of the ink cartridge.

By the end of the ordeal I couldn’t hold a pen for a few days afterwards. I had lost feeling in the end of my thumb from gripping the pen so tightly and I had a huge blister on my middle finger from where the pen rested. Over a month later I still don’t have very much feeling in my thumb any more, and the blister has turned into a huge callous. Yay hobbying!

Aside from that though, the sheets came out great. For what was essentially 25p a sheet, they were great value for money if you don’t value physical hand health that much. Time to stick them to things!

This was a pleasingly messy project

The sheets were carved up in accordance to the random scribbles I had made on the wooden boards. Harking back to my brief, I wanted them to be usable in pretty much any arrangement, so they needed to be (relatively) even all the way round.

I also wanted to have a conscious divide between cobbled areas and muddy paths where the roads have worn away decades ago. Making these tiled areas variable shapes and sizes meant depending on the arrangement of boards, you could get wide streets, tiny claustrophobic alleyways or snaking dog-legs between buildings.

Two thicknesses of plasticard were used for the edging (black and white)

A few of the boards went against the brief and I edged them with lollipop sticks as a boardwalk or dockside. I needed a dock in the first fight, and I didn’t have the time to figure out how to carve up one of these tiles and make an inlet. Perhaps a project for another time.

The mud was made with a nice big pot of polyfilla I had lying around in powder form at home. When mixed up in some old Chinese tupperware, you can apply it liberally with finger and spoon to create some weird shapes. Some tiles and sand pushed into it for texture helped finish it off.

Dry faster, damn you!

With all the boards in strange primary colours,  things were beginning to look a bit Legoland. I was happy that I had got this far and I was apprehensive about applying colour to them. If the paint didn’t take, I was out of options.

Duncan be praised

Well bugger me, they came out better than I’d ever dreamed they would. I killed off quite a few brain cells applying the black undercoat – I lost count of how many rattle cans I went through over the course of this project.

A light dusting of grey over the black helped break up the big chunks and would make painting easier down the line.

I’ve been painting for 20 years and the power of an undercoat still amazes me

The wood sections would get a light dusting of brown spray and painted up the same way as the other wood sections of the map. The cobblestones were highlighted with a slightly lighter grey, and splodged liberally with brown and green washes applied with a spongy bit snipped out of a miniatures case.

A final highlight was drybrushed with Rotting Flesh. In all the descriptions of Magna it would be described as a decaying, unhealthy place, and everything from the wood to the stone to the metal would have a slightly unhealthy tinge to it.

The path sections would get a thick’n’heavy coat of brown. It was time to get muddy.

Hahahaha holy shit I really hope this dries clear ahahahaha

I picked up some water effect stuff to make bases for the Undertow and this was a great opportunity to use some more of it up. It is very thick, and used for creating water effects like splashing water, so it would be perfect for giving me an unpleasant moistness to my mud. It would also double as a sealant for the polyfilla, as I discovered very quickly that despite it looking great and being super easy to work with, it chips like a bitch.

I applied it liberally and smooshed it into the surface of my board. trying to let it pool in the crevices and get wiped off the raised areas so it would look more like standing water.

I had my concerns at this point that it would look more like a river or literal standing water rather than mud, then realised it didn’t matter. It could be used for either depending on what I might need!

The stuff was touch-dry in less than an hour, but I let it dry overnight just to be safe.

The test fit

When everything was dry, next day I pushed the boards together, sprinkled some terrain on it and set up my antagonists for a photo shoot. I think the pictures speak for themselves.

Yeah, I was pretty fuckin’ chuffed with how these came out. Everything just worked. I was utterly impressed by my ability to paint all the wood in the same dead fleshy colours, despite many of these projects being painted months apart and in some cases, very drunk. The multiple layers worked really well too, something I was going to revisit later on and finish off more of. Everything looked swell, and with only one night to go before the big day, it couldn’t have worked out better.

It was time to assemble the board ready for the final fight.

The board was set up before the players arrived, I just needed to bring it in when the fight started
Some close-ups of the interior. The players will enter at the far end.
It was difficult to contain my excitement at this point. It had turned from random bits of wood and garbage plastic into a living, breathing dockside
Death in magna

I stuck as close as I could to the original map, and made concessions for the areas that didn’t work. I didn’t have the time (or inclination) to make ANOTHER boat, so we used the nose section from a previous TTcombat purchase  which actually turned out great.

The core structures were shuffled around too – the warehouse in the far corner didn’t fit on the tile I had put there and was better suited to being more central so it could be interacted with more. I commandeered some of my old 40k scatter terrain that was most fitting to the scene too – a few bits of ruined building that would stand in for, well, anything really. The one in the bottom left of the map would house a cheeky chappy with a hunting rifle that would just be a massive dick for the whole fight.

The rest of this post is just images, vaguely structured in the order they were taken. I lament not taking more pictures or documenting it better, but luckily many of my players took plenty of snaps on their phones.

So, for your pleasure, I present one of my life-long dreams achieved;

The acolytes approach, wary that they have entered an area with a fully 3D map and models
The noise of the manufactorum to their right drowned out the sound of gunfire until they were practically in the middle of the firefight
An armoured barge had been forced down a dead-end canal by raider boats, and the criminal crews spot a new ship entering, assume it’s enemy reinforcements and open fire
Keenly aware they are under fire, the Acolyte Primus jumps to shore and commands the others to do the same
A raider approaches, manned by an Undertow heavy gunner with a crank cannon. One of the Acolytes pops smoke to try and save them from becoming Swiss cheese
The Techpriest ices the first sniper on the silo, despite the rain imposing a -20 to hit
A lot of things happen except people leaving the boat. A mixture of poor Climb tests, failed Pinning tests and decisive inaction leads to them being rammed by the raider
The tiny Techpriest scampers up a silo to blast an Undertow sniper with her hellgun. Also pictured: the elusive Dreadquill GM
The mad Adept dives for cover and returns fire with any grenades she has to hand
Pop pop pop watching heretics drop
Things started to get a little capsizey

Our brave naval Acolytes eventually all managed to get off their sinking ship (hopefully not too heavy-handed a metaphor for future endeavours…) and brutally murder some starving poor people trying to feed their families see off the criminals and protect the shipment.

The day was won by the Acolytes, and they even won grudging thanks from the House Guard protecting the shipment. It sounded like everyone had as much fun playing as I had building, and we all learned some valuable lessons about the importance of having Willpower as your dump stat, why shotguns with the Scatter trait are so deadly, and just how long you can stay on a sinking ship before your team-mates start to try and bounce grenades off your head.

I’ll get you next time, Acolytes!

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Feral Orks

As you pick through the wreckage towards the great crystalline structure in the centre of the labyrinth you hear the sounds of gunfire and animalistic grunting. The snap of lasgun fire is unmistakeable, but there is a single noise that pierces the veil and sends a shiver down your spine. A single, howling, primal “WAAAAAAAGH!”

Finished shots first!

Last week’s Orthesian Herald ended with our plucky band of explorers facing down a ravening Ork horde in the dusty mazes of Gangue Prime. I knew a week or so in advance when the players were likely to arrive at that juncture, and thought I’d give myself a little modelling challenge.

Orks had cropped up in our games of Rogue Trader before, but I’d always proxied them with Blood Bowl models. I didn’t own any Ork models, so why not build and paint a dozen Orks in less than a week?

Assembling the horde

Initially I was eyeing up some of the lovely savage orcs orruks on the Games Workshop website when the compulsion (and cost) suddenly overwhelmed me – let’s kitbash these guys!

A while back I cleared out my bits bag – a collection of stuff that never even made it to any of my bits boxes. Before it went to bid I rescued as many bits as I thought might be useful, many of them were Ork/Orc parts from either 40k or Warhammer Fantasy (RIP).

As I started to dry fit pieces together, more of their story was assembling in my head.

They were to be a band of feral Orks, their original ship having crashed on the planet or a nearby moon (exact details didn’t matter unless the players pursued it), scattering good ol’ Orky spores all over the planet.

As much as I enjoyed the original savage Ork aesthetic, it wasn’t what I wanted. This particular band of Orks had spent too much time around the Star Mirror on Gangue Prime, which had rapidly accelerated their growth. Their brains were still developing the capacity to use technology, but they were scavenging metal from their broken spacecraft to use in armour and weaponry rather than the bone and flint weapons of their rival tribes.

This gave me freedom to use all kinds of bits and bobs strapped to them to give them a savage, primitive but deadly appearance.

I mixed and matched between 40k Ork and Warhammer Fantasy Orc parts quite freely, giving some fancy looking armour worn with leather caps and the like.

A few had two combat weapons, but the rest sported shields made from reclaimed scrap. Not only would this look cool on the tabletop, but they would double as boarding parties when I re-use the models down the line alongside their more shooty cousins.

The setup for the fight would be essentially a shooting gallery – how many of the ravening xenos beasts can you put down before they get to you. I’d hoped the shields would give a few of them a bit more of a fighting chance against that dastardly Arch-Militant and his bolt pistols of death.

Another feature I added halfway through construction was the addition of carved up tank treads to make shoulder pads. They made them look a bit more beefy and helped visually tie them together a bit more – with such a random assortment of bits and equipment they were looking a bit too disparate. At this point I was hoping a nice paint job in neutral tones, with some stand-out warpaint would help bring them visually together as well.

I did want a bit of ranged capacity though, and I had already written off guns for this encounter. Playing back into the idea of working with technology too advanced for their tiny developing minds, I loved the concept of a bunch of surprise Ork stikkbombas hidden among the horde.

The players would have access to a warbike and sidecar for the fight as well, so it would give them pause for thought if a bunch of explosives suddenly came hurtling out the Ork horde towards them.

As is always the case with these things, the plan didn’t go to plan. All the stikkbombas were accidentally killed by players before anyone knew there was a potential threat. Oh well.

Finally, they needed a warboss. I had a few old school metal warboss/big boss parts lying about, but I was feeling exceptionally lazy that day and I certainly didn’t want to break out the pin vice and super glue for a project like this. Plus, I wanted to keep that model back for when I inevitably need to convert an Ork Kaptin, replete with very fine hat.

There must be some plastic parts I can smash together in half an hour, right?

Meet Big Boss Gutkrusha. He’s made mostly of a plastic Ogre with a bunch of random Ork bits glued on to him. I was toying with the idea of giving him some explosives, or a big harpoon cannon or some such.

In the end I went for the no-frills option. He would be big, tough, and have a very large hammer. His sole purpose would be to soak a lot of damage, hopefully enough so that at least one of his boyz got through to smack the players about a bit.

He certainly soaked up the damage alright. It took several rounds of shooting from the aforementioned bolt pistols of death and a good few maximal shots from the Captain and Astropath’s plasma pistols. Just as well really, he had a very, very nasty hammer attack.

And then I was done! A few hours with the clippers and glue and I had a horde fit for a WAAAGH! A little one, admittedly, but it would suffice.

applying the warpaint

These guys would be a great opportunity to practice my 2018 mantra; Finished, Not Perfect. The only thing that mattered would be getting enough paint on them for the illusion to be complete at arm’s length. They weren’t going to be hero models, they were unlikely to be used again for a very long time after their debut, and were likely to die in droves.

Boy, that turned out to be much harder than I thought.

I used my standard speed paint technique; Base Colour > Wash > Highlight with Base Colour. It took everything in my power to resist doing another highlight afterwards or spending more time picking out details. Lots of mistakes were made, and they were ignored at great pains for the sake of the horde.

Neutral tones were picked to help the green skin stand out more – although everyone around the table knew what an Ork was, not everybody had fought them before, and I wanted them to be visually very different from the colourful mutants and gangers of Mercy. This is the Green Tide, and it doesn’t need ostentation to fuck you up.

Ostentation would come later, of course. How are my players supposed to know the difference between a regular Ork and a Ork Wot Goes Fasta if not by colour scheme alone?

The skull face paint and white dags were a late addition – with all the neutral tones and ‘regular’ armour from the Fantasy Orcs, they were missing a certain something to make them look more primal. A splash of pale flesh tones across the skin and face before the wash was all it took to break up the flat colours and give them a proper angry Orky look.

Boss Gutkrusha was just a bigger version of his boyz, albeit with a little more flesh on show so I had to take a weenie bit more care than on the others. He was a hero model in my speedpaint krew, so I could afford a few extra moments on him right?

The basing was surprisingly adventurous for me – somehow I’d never based anything in my collection in a sandy/dusty desert, and now I immediately want to go through many of my older models based on boring grey sand and sex them up a bit.

There are SO many things I would love to go back to and tidy up, and I was very close to not putting these guys into an article because they weren’t finished “enough” for public consumption. That wasn’t the point of them though, and I wanted to teach myself to break the habit of perfectionism for perfectionism’s sake.

They’re Finished, and we had a great time shooting the crap out them!

WAAAAAAAAGH!

A Lioness in Winter: Tales of Onus

Great Uncle Thalus has been shot. Julia Griswold gingerly touches the entry wound in his forehead. She needn’t be worried she told herself, he’s pulled through worse. She recalled tales from her childhood about the fierce Great Uncle Thalus who was shot on twelve separate occasions. Perhaps it was because this is the first time he’d been shot after he’d already died. Thalus grinned back at her, his taxidermied arms wide in a welcoming embrace. She brushed some plaster dust off his uniform and straightened his medals.

The estate was a battleground. Hatred and greed had marked every surface and there was barely anywhere without a burn mark, bullet hole or grenade blast. Priceless art had been destroyed and family heirlooms had been lost forever. Dozens of her house guard had been sent to the Emperor in the attack and even Father had been shot. He’s old and poorly but by the Saints he is still as stubborn as ever – the house Chirurgeon expects him to make a full recovery. Some small mercy, perhaps.

She was being crushed by the realisation that one day soon, he won’t be expected to make a full recovery from an affliction or illness. With mother gone and her brother in the Navy battling some xenos in some warp-damned corner of the galaxy, she was the only one left to look after House Griswold. Her head was swimming. She hadn’t slept in two days.

All her life she had watched with apathetic eyes as crime tore apart the other hives, corrupting the rulers and exploiting the people. Why change anything? She could debase and debauch all her days without ever concerning herself with the plight of others. She had always dismissed it as a problem for the Magistratum or those below the Wall, but what does one do when it arrives in your house, kills your kin and shoots your Father?

She slumped down in an orkhide chair, a blanket draped about her shoulders and a glass of something foul from one of Father’s decanters. His combi-bolter lay on the table next to her. An exquisite thing of beauty, passed down through the generations.

She found herself tracing the names etched into the case with her finger – Laurent, Thalus, all the way back to Juliana, the first of House Griswold and Julia’s own namesake. Life was simpler back then – if you wanted something, you took it at the tip of a sword or the barrel of a bolter.

The gun was still warm, still limber – like a caged beast before racing day. Plasma swirled behind the cooling vents, throwing a patina of shapes onto the table like light off the surface of water.

There was a single space remaining on the weapon – room for one more name after her Father’s. A preposterous thought crossed her mind and she laughed nervously to an empty room. She felt its weight, how the grip was moulded for Griswold hands, how its spirit responded to her gene-print like a purring animal. What more sign could she need?

She was interrupted by a house steward at the door to the study. He bowed low. Julia drew herself upright to be addressed.

“Apologies for the interruption my lady, it is Lady Collepan for you. She says she has grave news.”

Orthesian Herald: session 5 – The Flickering Eye

Navigator Mahd’Naz sends the translation estimates back to the Captain – 8 days in the warp to the Gangue system through calm warp currents to find the fabled treasure ship, The Rightful Remit.

The warp shutters roll down over the viewports, emergency lumens wash the bridge with a crimson glow and everybody lights their incense. As the Unbroken resolve hits the warp translation point, it fires a single defiant salvo from its macrocannons as unreality opens up and swallows the little ship whole.

First steps into the Nomads
Pleasant tidings

This was to be the first, and likely last, of the quiet warp translations. During the week, only two Warp Encounters were rolled, both getting “All’s Well!” results. A little disappointing from a GM’s perspective but hey, not every warp journey can be a harrowing trip into the hell of hells.

During the transit, Explorator Freeman and Von Gunn decide to take the two newly-appointed Battery Lords, Brassfang and Falconet, on hunting patrols through the bowels of the ship. Since the battering at the hands of the Battlegrounds raiders there were a few decks on the keel of the ship that were considered unfit for duty and sealed off. Voidships in the 41st millennium are designed with plenty of obsolescences in mind, but they do have a habit of picking up vermin and stowaways, so they need to be checked every so often to avoid an unpleasant surprise.

Freeman had divvied up the broken underdecks into sectors, and they would sweep a different sector of each underdeck each day while in the warp. Von Gunn would also use it as an opportunity to have a bit of friendly competition between the two Battery Lords and to encourage them to blow off steam this way, rather than getting antsy with the macrocannons.

It was just a minor point, but it was a neat little addition from the players to explore more of their home and stake out their claim on it.

Our journey to Gangue was over.

The system map for Gangu, detailing all the important celestial bodies
A dead race and a dying sun

The translation into the Gangue system was as painless as the journey. The crew had already acquired a system map before leaving Mercy, so all that remained to do was let the passive augurs sweep the system and report back.

Gangue is one of hundreds of systems visited, catalogued and passed over by explorers of the Nomad Stars. Since Skylar himself, it has remained mostly unexplored or unexploited, mostly due to little immediate interest: sun-blasted worlds to its frozen reaches, only a smattering of looted ruins and planets ill-suited to colonisation.

Flickering Eye: A stuttering pulsar, bathing the system in hard radiation from its death throes.

Gangue Minor: A sun-scorched world closest to the star and scoured clean of life by its fiery breath.

Gangue Prime: A dust choked graveyard littered with the alien ruins.

Gangue Secundus: An icy jungle moon covered in frozen spore-towers and cloaked in a toxic fog.

Shard Halo: A vast asteroid field billions of kilometres in length scattered across the outer reaches of the system.

The Flickering Eye of Gangue
The Flickering Eye of Gangue
the goldilocks zone

A brief discussion rippled across the crew – where to go first? The nearest planet to the outer reaches where we had translated into was the obvious choice, but would we expect to find anything there? Active augur sweeps told us Gangue Secundus was a frozen hellscape, and Gangue Minor was a scorched, radioactive hellscape.

The only hellscape that didn’t require excessive equipment was the planet in the Goldilocks Zone – not too hot, not too cold. Set a course for Gangue Prime!

After three days of intersystem travel, the Unbroken Resolve enters high orbit of the planet and runs a focused scan.

Gangue Prime is a desolate wasteland with a dirty grey surface choked by clouds and dust. From orbit, you detect vast maze-like ruins covering many parts of the surface but little else. 

You also clearly detect the presence of a great monolith standing proud from the surrounding ruins and wreathed in an invisible cloud of electromagnetic turbulence – the giant crystal structure is unmistakably something unique.

The maze-like hive spans much of the northern landmass, rising up above the great dust sea, with the black monolith at the centre like a precious jewel – Impossible to bring a craft within more than a few km of the mirror due to violent ionic and magnetic storm around it.

The monolith in the centre of the ruins, but imagine the ruins expand across the continent. (artist unknown – pinched from the internet)
into the maze

Everyone was eager to step foot on their first alien world, so the crew piled into an Arvus lighter and dropped orbit. The fly-by of the monolith revealed it would be impossible to land anywhere near, its projected aura of electromagnetic turbulence causing problems to the lighter the closer it got. The crew set down a few kilometres out in a clearing and disembarked.

Atmosphere is thin here, you can survive unprotected for at least a few hours, though the caustic air will make breathing uncomfortable

The alien hive is eerily empty – a collection of labyrinthine trenches and open pits surrounding the mirror like the carvings of a giant madman. They glisten with rainbow light as though oily, even as they crack and crumble with age.

The passageways are cramped for humans, and the hive mazes are empty, as though the xenos and their works simply vanished overnight. The only sound is the moaning of the wind as it blows through enclosed maze-spaces and across desert outcrops.

An idea of the alien ruins from the inside. (artist unknown – pinched from the internet)
Exploring the labyrinth

As the players explored the ruined maze, many of them made attempts to maintain bearings or create EM-breadcrumb trails so they could find their way back. Confoundingly, the maze seemed to reject any efforts to map it or tame it in any way.

There was no signs of life, no psychic signature or presence of warp fuckery – the construction of the maze by strange xenos minds was anathema to human pathfinding sensibilities. Players found themselves double-backing on themselves, becoming lost or somehow following the same path as they just left.

These were handled by a string of Logic, Navigate (Surface) and Scholastic Lore (Astromancy) checks, with Insanity Points being handed out for any particularly bad failures as the character’s minds began to fracture at the seemingly impossible construction of the maze. After ten hours of stumbling around, the Arch Militant smelled something familiar – the distinctive odour of burning aviation fuel and charred metal…

You come to a section of the maze that has been torn apart by some flying vehicle, plowing a smouldering furrow through the crystalline walls. Bits of smoking wreckage lie everywhere, and you can just about make out through the acrid black smoke a shortcut to the centre of the maze.

The wreckage is that of a heavy lander that must have crashed when it encountered the same ionic and magnetic storms caused by the central structure.

A Search or Awareness -20 check of the site revealed the following;

You notice a similar livery painted on the craft as displayed on the armsmen who ambushed you in Port ImpetusCharred and broken corpses are strewn everywhere, so twisted blackened you mistook them for detritus from the lander. A Willpower +20 check was required to resist another doling out of Insanity Points. It was at this point that some of the more physically-orientated characters began to understand the importance of not using Willpower as their dump stat.

The players were on edge. This was clearly a Fel Dynasty craft that was fouled by the electromagnetic storms around the monolith. What were they doing here?

As they pondered, the Explorator and Voidmaster uncovered something in the wreckage – a single drop-crate that survived the wreckage and encrypted with Fel Dynasty codes. It would take a little while to crack, so the crew decided to move on through the hole in the ruins that the lander had created. The Explorator insisted on staying behind to break it open, something he would later come to be very thankful for…

As you pick through the wreckage towards the great crystalline structure in the centre of the labyrinth you hear the sounds of gunfire and animalistic grunting. The snap of lasgun fire is unmistakeable, but there is a single noise that pierces the veil and sends a shiver down your spine. A single, howling, primal “WAAAAAAAGH!”

What’s that coming over the hill?
A run-in with the locals

The crew stood on a ridge overlooking the monolith in the centre of a vast dust bowl about 200 metres across. In the centre, a mob of a dozen or so feral Orks were bearing down on some Fel Dynasty armsmen behind a rocky outcrop.

As the crew took their bearings (and rolled for Initiative), they noticed a half dozen Orks lead by a huge brute break off from the pack and thunder across the open dust bowl towards them.

The crew had 100 metres and superior firepower on their side, but would that be enough to take them down before they got close? A few players had faced Orks in 40k RPGs before and knew they weren’t to be trifled with, and the players who didn’t have an intimate knowledge of the Green Menace’s infamous toughness knew that it would be a Bad Thing to let them close the gap.

As they were sizing up the potential killing power of the scattering of plasma pistols and flamers in the party, there was a gutteral roar from behind them of a powerful engine starting up. Screeching over the ridge behind them came Explorator Freeman on an Astartes-pattern Scout Bike and Zilla riding shotgun on the sidecar. Its twin bolters spewing hot explosive death into the ranks of the Orks, and the tide of battle became considerably more balanced.

Zilla and Freeman ride into battle on a broken Xbox battery pack

The fight was set up to introduce long range combat and to give the players a taste of fighting Orks in the lowest-threat way as possible – having them start a long way away with no ranged weapons!

The fight was set up as a 1cm:1m scale, so the Orks would be on the players in less than 10 turns. They knew that if even one got through, it would cause a world of hurt to whatever it touched. Two plasma pistols from the Captain and the Astropath (a convenient last-minute Acquisition from Mercy!) could put out reasonable damage when they hit, and the twin bolt pistol death from the Arch Militant made decent work of whatever he was aiming at. The Missionary was at a disadvantage of only having a flamer, so spent most of her time shouting profanities at the ravening xenos horde.

The twin bolters from the scout bike chewed up Orks like there was no tomorrow;

Twin-linked bolters

Front-facing, 90m range, Basic, s/2/4, 1d10+5, pen 4, Clip 48, Reload 3Full, Twin-linked, Tearing

(Twin linked: +20 to hit, uses twice as much ammunition, scores an additional hit if the attack roll gets 2+ degrees of success)

Dakka dakka dakka!

The Orks were only a few turns away from beating our heroic crew to death with their own severed arms and our players were starting to feel the heat. Arch Militant Von Gunn came up with a decisive Plan B – he had a bunch of demolition charges and an appetite for destruction. By setting all the charges around the ridge they were standing on, they had an opportunity for an explosive retreat if things went sideways.

In the final few nail-biting turns of the game, the bikers had thinned the Ork horde enough so the small-arms fire could cause some damage. They had identified the big Ork as some kind of leader and were focusing fire to try and take him down. They had worked out the rest of the Orks might break if he could be stopped.

They also discovered a nice little surprise the Green Tide had to hand – crude Stikkbombs they lobbed at the bike when it got close enough. In an utterly tragic cosmic coincidence, all the Orks carrying stikkbombs had been killed before they could get close enough to use them or even before the players had identified them as a threat. I’ll get you next time, gadget…

The Captain and the Astropath finally put down the Ork leader with repeated blasts of max-strength plasma pistol shots and the last two Orks began to waiver. Unfortunately for them, they had just (and FINALLY) strayed into flamer range of the Missionary, who had been lamenting not taking a long range weapon for the entire fight.

Tips for pros: fire kills Orks dead.

This is an amusing quirk of the system as to why fire is so effective. Orks have a naturally low Willpower because individually they’re a cowardly lot. Get a bunch of them together though and Orks get a +10 to their Willpower tests (for Fear and Pinning) for every other Ork within a close proximity. Lots of Orks don’t run from a fight.

When you are hit with a Flamer, two things happen. First you take the flamer’s damage, which at 1d10+4 isn’t going to upset an Ork who will soak most of that damage anyway. However, they then have to take an Agility test or catch fire. Orks have a terrible Agility, so they tend to catch alight quite often. Once on fire, you have to take an unmodified Willpower test or you are forced to do nothing except run around screaming. You don’t get your Mob Rule bonus for this, and Orks tend to fail unmodified Willpower checks quite a lot.

When you’re on fire, you take D10 damage per turn, ignoring armour. Again, this is unlikely to trouble an Ork who can shrug off at least 8 of that. However, fire also gives you 1 Fatigue per turn. Exceed your Toughness Bonus and you pass out from asphyxiation and burn to death. Each level of Fatigue also imposes a -10 to all your tests, making it harder and harder to put yourself out each turn.

So what you have is a bunch of flaming Orks running around screaming, unable to put themselves out until they all pass out and become sautéed mushrooms. Yay fire!

The aftermath

The final two Orks were toasted, and one of them turned to flee. The Missionary’s bodyguard Alyss leapt forwards and plunged her chainsword into the fleeing Ork, finishing him off.

The Captain surveyed the scene and emptied the plasma pistol canister into the mangled Ork boss, just in case. He’d heard about their regenerative abilities and figured he’d rather not risk it.

The team gathered their wits, reloaded their weapons and made straight for the Monolith.

+++++++

Next: Session 6 – The Beast with the Broken Back

Previous: Session 4 – Welcome to the Nomads

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Orthesian Dynasty Armsmen

Prepare to repel boarders!

With our Orthesian Dynasty Rogue Trader game well underway, the time had finally come to stop putting off making any cool models.

We had reached a juncture at the end of one session just before rolling initiative, and half the party were not present. They were being backed up by some NPC armsmen as I knew combat was coming and I didn’t want any players to sit out of dice rolling, so it was a perfect opportunity to assemble a few navybois for the upcoming session.

I’ve made a few different armsmen and House Guard in the past for different Dynasties – the Serafin House Guard are well-equipped, well-trained nobleborn soldiers with a stick up their ass, and the Zini armsmen are renegades with cobbled-together void suits. When those games fizzled out the models were repurposed as NPCs, so I needed something with a different flavour for the Orthesian Dynasty.

 

Through service comes loyalty

With the Captain being ex-Navy, the Orthesian Dynasty is laced with Imperial Navy traditions and carry-overs, and this was a perfect time to build some naval armsmen as the God Emperor intended.

I wanted them to look roughshod and beaten up, vaguely uniform as though they had been given their equipment but expected to upkeep it themselves. I wanted a very traditional armsmen look – literal Men-at-Arms IN SPAAAACE – which meant hunting around for the right bits.

I picked up a Bretonnian Men-at-Arms kit last year with the express plan of doing something cool with them. 40k lends itself to weird mashups of archaic and futuristic, and the Bretonnian heads and bodies were the perfect combination of detailed and ancient. I had dry fit the heads to a few different bodies over the months but I was uninspired by any of the combinations, so the projects kept getting shelved.

It wasn’t until I joined the INQ28 group on Facebook that I realised the versatility of the Genestealer Neophytes set. A dangerous plan was formulating, and after picking up a box and dry-fitting combinations for HOURS, eventually decided on this combination.

Whaddya lookin’ at? Back ta work!

The Neophyte legs needed a little bit of handy scalpel work to remove the Genestealer Cult icons and quite a lot of shaving down at the hip join so they would fit flush with the Cadian flak armoured torso.

Despite having so many different combinations of legs, bodies and arms, the Neophytes kit has slightly contoured edges where parts are supposed to fit together. It works fine for the kit, but for enterprising individuals who want to bash it together with some other plastic bits, it needs a little bit of work to make fit.

Shaving the Bretonnian heads down was agonising. Not because it was physically difficult – the plastic was actually much softer than modern sets – but spiritually taxing. They don’t make these any more so I can’t afford to make mistakes and ruin a piece!

Luckily the pieces came together better than I’d ever imagined. I had to stop myself from building another half a dozen, knowing I could easily do it, but I have to limit myself on the number of new models I can build until I finish painting some previous unfinished projects.

The whole combination worked brilliantly, and giving them a quick undercoat pulled the whole model together. Unfortunately, the easy bit was now finished.

I call this the ‘black canvas panic’
Coat of armsmen

I knew what I wanted them to look like, but I didn’t quite know how I wanted to do it. I had a very strong, vague image in my head – a cross of Alien-style space suit and medieval men-at-arms, displaying their allegiances to their lord in any way they can afford to. These would not be wealthy individuals, but be given decent arms and armour to carry out their job of policing the ship and performing boarding actions.

I went through a few different colour scheme ideas, and was one of the rare occasions I had to bust out the drawing tablet and sketch some ideas before committing them to paint.

I tried out a few different ideas within the same scope

Luckily I had some colours to work with – dark grey and dark blue were Navy standard colours, but I also had pastel blue, orange and white as part of the Dynasty heraldry. My spot colours were chosen for me, I just needed to work out how to implement them.

You can see from the image above how I reworked the colour scheme until I got something I liked the look of. I actually started painting after number 5, as I was pretty convinced those were the colours I wanted. It wasn’t until I started putting paint on the model I realised I didn’t like the blue for the armour, and the tabard/waist cloth didn’t match the material of the gloves. I was also scratching me head about how to do the various wrappings, armbands and bindings that covered the other models. The neophytes kit is great because it’s so varied, which is a problem when trying to create a uniform colour scheme.

It was then it dawned on me – flags! These guys would do anything to show their allegiance to their Dynasty and their home, so tattered bits of heraldry here and there were perfect. I also remembered a reference from an old Kal Jericho comic about gang brawls in the underhive – everyone fighting everyone looks totally the same except for the coloured armbands everyone wears. Made sense to me – you really want to be able to tell friend from foe in the dark, brutal meatgrinder of ship-to-ship combat, so you’d want to splash those colours across you wherever you could!

And so it came together, part planning and part luck. I couldn’t be more happy with how they’d come out, and I’m doing everything in my power to avoid building more of them. Maybe one with a lascutter for opening sealed doors? Ooh! I need a few guys with boarding shields obviously. Perhaps some with demolition charges, some more with melee weapons…

And one final one, because I couldn’t resist