Meanwhile, on the Bench: Celestine Wharf game board

The Celestine Wharf of Syracuse Magna (courtesy of FFG)

It is 1pm in the afternoon on the Celestine Wharf. It is raining, and the river carries the strong sense of mould. This man-made dead end of foul-filmed water is shadowed by the close press of warehouses from which loading spars spill their rusting chains to water at high tide.

The docks here are long unused and its bays are crammed with rusted cargo barges, while its warehouses are reputedly the haunts of dregs and gangs.

You had spotted some scum unloading cargo from an armoured motor-skiff on the corner of one of the docks. Questions turned to threats, and when the team’s face draws a hold-out dueling pistol worth more Thrones than the entire cargo of the ship, avarice overcomes the thugs.

At the boiling point of the exchange, you hear a deep guttural roar from around the corner of a warehouse.

“WHO’S ASKING QUESTIONS ON MY WHARF?”

Finished product first!
an investigation on the wharf

Alongside the adventures of the Orthesian Dynasty, I also have a long-running game of Dark Heresy that meets up once every 6 weeks or so to continue a five-year-long campaign that has spanned multiple planets, systems and characters in an investigation into the cursed Samarra bloodline.

They are currently in the province of Syracuse Magna, a rotten, sodden place where the criminals act like nobles and the nobles act like criminals. You might have seen a previous session on the Canals of Syracuse Magna.

I have used scenery in Dark Heresy before, but this was the first time I’ve used a full-blown game board to represent our scraps. They probably taken an extra hour so to resolve (2-3 hours per fight), but as we get together for an 8-hour session every month or so, we think this is an acceptable use of the time. It’s a great scene-setter and we get to have wild fun swinging off the scenery and lobbing firebombs around.

The previous session ended on a “Roll for initiative!”, so we were launching straight into a combat. It gave me time to set up the board before people arrived, so I could get everything just so. It meant, however, I needed some more watery terrain tiles to better represent a wharf rather than the canals from the previous game.

The tiles in progress. Also a few other tiles for future brawls…
Building the wharf

Luckily a lot of my work was already done for the canals fight, so this would just be set dressing. I still had a lot of tiles from TTcombat left over, so I upon them with a coping saw to make some different levels of tile. I had lots of ‘plain’ boards, now I wanted some fancy piers, loading spars, rickety wooden structures, that sort of thing.

I cut a large U-shape out of the centre of this one so it would still tessellate with the other tiles, but would still be obviously a loading dock.

I picked up a bumper pack of balsa wood from ebay for a tenner a while back, and pressed a lot of it into service to make the docks. I really, really like working with balsa wood, and will likely find some more excuses in future to use them…

Less practical was my cobblestones. In a moment of panic before the first session I bought some foam and hand-carved the cobblestones with a bunch of broken biros. This had some pretty awful effects on my hands as I whinge about here, but I didn’t really have any alternative to continue the style for these new tiles.

Luckily there was way less coverage required as most of the tile were covered with loading bays or wooden decking, so I only had to do one A4 sheet rather than the five I did for the first project. I had also picked up some pricey textured plastic A4 sheets with cobblestones on, that I had originally planned on covering the entire boards with.

This, unsurprisingly, turned out woefully impractical and hella expensive, so it was used whenever I couldn’t be bothered to cover another small section of hand-drawn cobblestones and to add a bit of variety.

I also had a fewer smaller tiles that I had planned on using as risers, placing them on top of existing tiles to create height variance and all sorts. They weren’t appropriate for the dock, but I figured I might as well sort them out alongside everything else, as future Rob will inevitably have other bullshit to sort out at the last minute.

Then it was on to building docky bits!

I really enjoyed this part. There is/was a potential for combat to occur in the Sinks, a section of District 13 that is several metres underwater from flooding and mudslips, so the Sinks residents have rebuilt their shanties on top of the old town. I had a million and one large-scale projects I wanted to do for those, but I couldn’t justify it just yet as I wasn’t sure if the investigation would even go there at all.

As with everything I make, versatility is a must. I have too many large scale project ideas to allow myself to run away with something that will only get used once.

These dock parts were assembled entirely from PVA, balsa wood and wooden cocktail sticks for pinning. They needed to be both docks (for the Wharf fight I knew I had planned) and usable as other things in a pinch – rotten scaffolding around a large church or walkways on the submerged parts of town were just a few ideas I came up with.

These were painted in the same way as my other wooden sections to keep some semblance of uniformity. They were undercoated Black first, then given a dusting with a reddy-brown rattlecan. Everything was then given a drybrush with a light brown – I often forget what I used previously so this time it was Zandri Dust. The final highlight was a light edge drybrush with Rotting Flesh (which I’m not sure of the modern equivalent) – a very light brown with a greenish tinge.

Both the stone sections and wood sections were given a final light drybrush with Rotting Flesh instead of a light brown or white. The themes for Syracuse Magna are entropy and decay, so it was only fitting that everything was painted to look like it was dying.

All together I’ve got quite a haul! My favourite part is how compact it all becomes once its disassembled – way easier to store and with so many more permutations than a regular solid board.

Showdown on the wharf

It would be mean to not have some kind of battle report on this lovely set of scenery, wouldn’t it?

Although highly inaccurate, and based off more what I can remember from the pictures taken, here’s more or less how it went down.

Pictures vary in quality and subject matter because I asked my players to take photos too, as I always forget to do so about halfway through the game.

The scene is set, including some Blood Bowl goblins one of the players was dropping round for me.

The players will enter from the right. The Undertow thugs are already present on the Wharf, unloading their cargo from a motor-skiff. The players don’t know (or care) what’s in the cargo currently. Probably criminal stuff. Didn’t matter – it wasn’t pertinent to the investigation. It was time for beef.

Had some pretty harsh light streaming in through the one window. There were five thugs present on the Wharf already, and the roar came from the Wharf Boss who was coming in from the left top corner of the board (from around the warehouse) with another two thugs.

The party is investigating some brutal inhuman murders caused by some strange undead killers in bird masks, and a few leads pointed to there being some answers around Celestine Wharf.

The party had just stepped off a boat from further up river, where they had had to make a hasty retreat from a bar fight that went sour. The Cleric drowned someone under a table, the Adept got off her face drunk on mudder’s milk and the Arbitrator killed their only witness with a throwing axe.

The previous session ended with the scum spotting some criminal activity down the wharf – just some crims doing crim stuff. The Cleric was draped in the passed-out Adept and was till picking chunks of her vomit out of his beard when the Scum strolled straight up to the criminals and demanded to speak to the person in charge.

“Hello fellow criminals, what a good day for crime”

Being criminals, they were more than happy to roll on their boss in exchange for cash. The Scum was upset at that concept so drew his duelling pistol and repeated his question. The sound of players rolling eyes was audible.

Initiative was rolled. The Scum went first and, as a man of his own flexible word, plugged the first criminal clean in the head.

As the Wharf Boss took his turn, the gravity of the situation sunk in. He’s a Named Character with a big-ass axe. Better not let him… axe me a question.

The thugs here weren’t prepared for a brawl, so only had what they were carrying on them. A handful of autopistols and shotguns, one of them carrying firebombs as backup. Their plan was to pin and disrupt everyone until their Boss could get round to axing them to kindly leave.

The rest of the team were following up the rear. In the picture below, we have the Guardsman, the Arbitrator, the Techpriest (who was the Cell’s Primus – their elected leader), the Cleric (represented by fabulous cardboard cutout) and the Adept.

Take cover! Shots ripple across the Wharf as everyone takes their bearings. There was a lot of cover further up the board, but brings you closer to the Wharf Boss. The thugs closer to the water’s edge were squishier, but there was less cover.

The team fan out, taking shots with their lovingly-cared-for weapons and pinning/wounding in equal measure.

After the Scum plugged the first thug he was having a chinwag with, the other thug returned the favour. The Scum took a grazing hit and dived behind the nearby crates for cover.

The Arbitrator battles with his low Willpower and being constantly pinned, while trying to lay down covering fire of his own.

The battle lines are drawn, and nobody seems willing to break cover to close the gap. The Wharf Boss realises going across open ground would invite every single player who knows how Bosses work to concentrate fire and bring him down before he can get the opportunity to burn a few players’ Fate Points.

He doubles back behind the warehouse and heads up the ramp to go across the roof. His minions lay down covering fire.

Dice are used to represent people who are wounded. I don’t bother tracking anyone unless they’re hit, at which point they’re assigned a numbered dice and a number on my sheet.

I found this was a good compromise of personal book-keeping, ensuring some information was guarded from players to avoid metagaming, but also so players could see at a glance who had been hit. They might not know the severity of the hit unless they ask specifically (with suitable Awareness/Medicae checks), but they definitely know which baddies are bleeding.

The Boss’s minions take the high ground.

These guys aren’t stupid. Cover is their friend, and laying down suppressing fire helps out their mates on the front line.

The Guardsman had spotted something like a trench, so dived into it and pretty much stayed there for the remainder of the game, slotting fools with his Sollex-Pattern Deathlight Lasgun (tips for pros: this shit does 1d10+5 damage. It’s every las-weapon-lover’s wet dream).

The squishy Techpriest stayed back to administer military-grade combat drugs to get the Adept up and running again, and the Scum took up a position on the stairs to keep the pressure on any Undertow who got any funny ideas about melee combat.

The Arbitrator was spending much of his time pinned or behind cover (Willpower as a dump stat will keep you alive, but not contributing). She was still technically blackout drunk, but the cocktail of Adeptus Mechanicus combat drugs was keeping her coherent for about 20 rounds.

She then launched her coherent plan:

“I draw and throw as many firebombs as I’m allowed to”

We then discovered the exciting combination of having lots of grenades and having a Strength Bonus of only 2. We have an enthusiastic pyromaniac who can’t throw very far.

Cue one long-range missed firebomb later, and the first of the Undertow’s shipments has gone up in flames. Let’s hope there isn’t anything flammable in there…

Using the commotion as cover, the Wharf Boss uses the patented Gears of War roadie-run to cross the platform and make his way over the warehouse, hopefully getting a jump on someone.

The Adept, high on life, sprints across the board (now bottom right behind the cotton wool) to join the Guardsman in his new cover. Naturally, this meant it was time to lob more firebombs.

The poor Undertow thug who had been shot in the face in the first exchange was now on fire. He screams and rolls around for a bit, but ultimately decides to take a dip in the scum-lined waters.

The no-man’s land was now empty, and barring the efforts of the mad Adept, it had become a long-range shooting match which the Undertow were not convinced they would win. Time to cheat.

The Wharf Boss, “Massive” Masslow, injects his combat drugs and becomes subject to Frenzy. With a mighty bellow, he screams down the warehouse firing his massive revolver.

The revolver pings off some nearby cover, but the Arbitrator still decides that discretion is the better part of valour, and hopes that hiding behind the container will make the big bad guy go away.

The Wharf Boss charges down the ramp and takes a couple of huge swings with his Great Weapon. Everyone knew this could hurt, but when the dice came up as near maximum damage, the Arbitrator started sweating when 26 damage knocked him down to -3 health. Medic!

Now it was the Undertow’s time to respond. As all their assets were up in flames now anyway, collateral damage was not something that bothered them any more. They have firebombs of their own, and started blindly hurling them wherever they heard gunshots.

It was at this point that the crates were revealed to be packed with high-grade Obscura, and as the highly-illegal narcotic was wafting across the dock, several members of the party were succumbing to feelings of light headedness and pink elephants.

In a shockingly accurate toss, the firebomb lands between the Guardsman and the Adept, catching them both ablaze. The Guardsman prefers his chances in the toxic soup than with the flames, so goes for a paddle.

Not pictured, but entirely relevant, was the Adept also leaping into the water and clambering back out on a nearby dock, face to face with poor headshot-burning-guy from the first turn, who had taken a dip to cool off as well.

Both dripping with stagnant water, they face down. He grins. His pair of punch-daggers glinting in the half-light. The Adept grins. She draws her fishing wire (?!?) and shouts “I see you’ve played knifey-fish wire before!”.

I’m sure it would have been epic if it had been pulled off, but the Adept’s attempts to parry the pair of punch daggers with a length of wire Jackie Chan-style ended with her in negative hitpoints, just as the comedown of the combat drugs was hitting her and the effects of the Obscura were taking hold.

It was in everyone’s best interests, including hers, that she passes out for a bit.

At this point the Arbitrator is panicking as Masslow looks to take another swipe and finish the job. Luckily for our brave law-maker, our friendly neighbourhood criminal was on hand to make a placed shot into combat and literally explode the Wharf Boss’s head like a grape, pushing him into -12 damage.

As most of the remaining Undertow see their boss explode, they recognised it was time to make a move. The rest of them fleed, apart from one on the stairs who was looking for an opportunity to get some wholesome stabbing in before he had to run. Unfortunately the Guardsman snuck up behind him and critically bayonetted him in the butt, killing him instantly.

All in all a fantastic game which will no doubt be reminisced about in drinking halls for years to come. Here’s to the next one!

Orthesian Herald 12 – Blood and Gin

After last week’s initial incursion onto the surface of Cilice, Captain Orthesian is glad to have a full complement of players once again. With a second incursion planned, and some first hand intelligence gathered about the locals, the players board an Aquila Lander (with the Junior Astropath Fez, Alyss, Felicity, Thud and Oggy-bong) and  make their way down to Port Van Arkiel once more.

The Captain also makes sure to install some of Freeman’s engine crew on Stiletto station with a vox and reclaimator tools to give remote access to the Occlusion Shields, and orders Kettlehead to prep an Arvus Lighter filled with armsmen to launch at a moment’s notice. Their plan was simple – have a small insertion team spearheaded by the senior officers, and if when shit hits the fan, drop hell down on the heads of their enemies.

The Lander sets down on the rain-slick concourse of Port Van Arkiel and head inside to Butchers’ Bay, leaving a few armsmen guarding the Lander.

For this session, I had also mocked up a map that had been ‘drawn’ by Voidsman Zilla on his fly-by at the end of the last session. I enjoy making maps, and it’s handy for players to have their bearings when talking about multiple locations, even if the map isn’t entirely accurate.

Out of the storm

Port Van Arkiel is made up of the largest buildings built into the mountains, immediately off the space port concourse. Inside are vast warehouses, receiving rooms and cargo cranes long-since rusted over from inactivity. This seems to be once-proud shipping hub for the space port, known as Butchers’ Bay.

Detritus is strewn everywhere, garbage and torn rags. The rockrete floors have been stained dark from something you hope is engine oil.

A handful of bodies are scattered around – the remains of power-lifter servitors. Anything of value has been stripped from them, and most gruesomely of all, the pallid flesh-parts have also been flensed from its metal skeleton. The only evidence of its assailants are deep gouges left by crude tools, and the unmistakable shape of teeth marks, as though the servitor had been gnawed to the bone.

It was time for a little encounter, something to reinforce the desperate, primitive and resourceful nature of the inhabitants of Cilice.

The Tiara

You notice in the gloom ahead some kind of machinery turned over to form a plinth. The pinth is surrounded by detritus and aged garbage. Light filters in from a hole in the rockface high above and falls on the plinth, Something golden and glittery has been placed there, twinkling in the twilight.

Awareness -30 (sight): the garbage has been gathered specifically to disguise a huge, barbed net underneath the plinth. You think you can make out monofilament cables running from the net high into the rafters above.

The net is 10 metres in the air and Snares anyone in it. If activated, more Debased crawl out from behind crates and underneath hides made from refuse to try and kill anyone caught.

The item on the plinth is a tiara constructed of polished metal and glittery garbage. It’s nothing but a decoy.

Outcome: Sadly, the team immediately and unanimously recognised this as a trap and left it well alone. I’ll get you next time, Gadget.

Shipping archives

As the crew ignore my not-obvious-at-all trap and proceed through Butchers’ Bay, they come across a side passage with a brass plaque reading “Shipping Archives”. Inside the room is scattered with papers and broken data-slates. It has clearly been ransacked, but the scavengers weren’t looking for any of the data.

Forbidden Lore (Pirates) +20 or Commerce -10: You notice irregularities in shipping logs and tithe payments. The residents here were importing vast amounts of food and exporting only Cilice Gin, but there were millions of tonnes of suspect shipments coming through the port every month. It appears the powers on Cilice were engaged in massive scale criminal enterprises and lining their own pockets with the Imperial Tithes.

Suddenly, the Captain felt less bad about murdering a bunch of them. They take some photos with their pict-capt devices and Zilla pockets some choice documents before proceeding downwards.

The distillery

Protected by heavy metal doors, guard towers and atmo-generators, the Gin Distillery looks more like a military installation from the outside. It is built into the rock like the rest of Arrogance, but its design is much older than the rest.

It joins to Butcher’s Bay through a big heavy door, wide enough to fit a battle tank through. Riveted steel cranes and massive pulleys above your head suggest the distillery produced a lot of Gin for export through the space port

The thick metal door to the distillery is barred from the inside. You’d need something heavy duty to get through it.

The total complement of armsmen built so far

Everyone turns to look at the armsman lugging around the las-cutter. He grins, showing all five of his teeth, and makes his way to the door. He uses a full complement of las-charges cutting a hole large enough for everyone to climb through, slams his spare clips into place and hops through to join everyone.

The distillery is huge and amazingly mostly intact. Great brass stills large enough to swallow a heavy lander line the walls, copper cabling spiralling off them.

Other machinery seems to have been smashed or pulled apart. There appears to be little of value lying around except a few dusty skeletons, picked clean with teeth and tool.

A brass plaque on the wall nearby suggests two other adjacent rooms – the mash room and the garage.

The monster mash

The team decide to check out the mash room first. Despite being aware for traps, the Captain fluffs an Awareness check and uses most of his Fate Points avoiding a particularly nasty pitfall trap laid in the corridor to the mash room.

The room is hewn from the stone with riveted steel buttresses and steel rafters high above your head. Much of the roof has collapsed revealing more of the distillery above. A strange green fungus covers the walls, originating from the huge piles of harvested fungus in vats and containers in the far end of the room.

A dozen or so of the wretched inhabitants wipe their mouths of fungus stains and gaze at you with panicked, hungry eyes.

With a snap of the fingers, Missionary Lyoness and Alyss step forward and torch the whole room. No dice needed to be rolled – nothing was going to survive that.

What’s in the box?

Finally it was on to the garage, to see what delights awaited them in there…

The door is electromagnetically sealed, with evidence of others trying to open it with crude tools to no avail. The nearby console has rusted over from a leaky still above it. The door needs to be cut or blown open.

Eyes fall back on our lascutter armsman again. He expends the last charge cutting the door open.

Inside is untouched by whatever catastrophe has befallen Cilice. Glow-lamps stutter and fail to ignite on whatever backup power is left. In the centre of the garage is something large and vehicle-shaped under a protective tarpaulin.

Hooked up to the vehicle is a trailer with a large reinforced metal tank that looks like it could contain almost a tonne of liquid. Stencilled on the side of the trailer is “Arkiel Gyn”.

The Captain gives it a tap, it sounds full. He calls for Lyoness to bring her emergency wine glasses out and they all sample some of the most expensive booze in the galaxy. The Explorator runs some tests on it with his mouthparts, while the Astropath catastrophically fails a Psyniscience test to see if it’s safe to consume and doesn’t have any mind-effecting warp presence.

What followed was perhaps my favourite bit of character interaction to date. They all loved the Gin for different reasons;

Captain: “This is really expensive!”

Missionary: “This is really good Gin!”

Voidmaster: “This is weighted well to be driven at high speeds!”

Astropath: “This is alive!”

Arch-Militant: “This is really explosive!”

Explorator: “This is really good fuel!”

It was time to see what was under the tarp.

Under the tarp is a mighty steed of a vehicle – a tightly packed, quad-tracked vehicle resembling an angry bull. A pair of autocannons sit atop its turret, gleaming in the half-light as though they were fresh off the assembly line.

Common Lore (War) +20: A common sight on the battlefield, this rugged castellan-pattern quad-track unit is a Taurox – an armoured personnel carrier praised by Imperial commanders for its speed and persevering machine spirit. Axial co-dampeners redistribute the weight of the vehicle across its four tracks as it moves, allowing jagged outcrops and unevenly piled rubble to be traversed at full throttle. It is equally at home on the open road, through the crumbling ruins of a hive city or the knotted jungles of a death world.

(Painted by Awaken Realms)

The Explorator gave the vehicle a once-over. All systems are good Captain! The Voidmaster checks the most important part, the hymn-vox. With an astoundingly critical Search check, it turns out the space-glove compartment is filled with ancient Terran hymn-discs!

Voidmaster Zilla slams on his favourite war hymn by Saint Sabbath the Black and routes it through the external vox. The shutters to the garage are down, but that doesn’t stop them.

With a roar of the engines, and with a tonne of the universe’s last supply of Cilice Gin in tow, the Orthesian crew tear through the flimsy shutters and out onto the rain-slick valley floor. They christen her ‘War Pig’ in honour of Saint Sabbath’s apocryphal works and gun it towards the Golden Valleys in search of the missing missionary.

The Golden valley estates

Rain lashes down, running across the uneven valley floor into a deep, dark river. A highway of sorts has been constructed, now overgrown and cracked.

Patches of fungus seem to be growing quite contentedly by the side of the road, and every now and then you catch a glimpse of more figures in the rain that scurry away to hide as you thunder past.

Ugly palace-fortresses begin to emerge from the thick curtains of rain. Massive constructions that were probably once quite beautiful, now layered thick with armour and crumbling weaponry. Many of the smaller ones have been leveled, now nothing but broken ruins being reclaimed by the rain.

As the crew near the nearest estate, the Grin Estate, warning runes flash across War Pig’s console. The targeting spirits of the automated weapons guarding the estate are still sharp as ever, but it seems they ran out of ammunition a long time ago.

The Captain gives the order to move in, so Zilla guns towards the estate.

On the approach, Von Gunn (in the gunner’s seat, naturally) picks up incoming small arms fire – someone in the estate is firing lasguns at the Taurox – and poorly at that. One shot in a hundred seems to be hitting, and with the heavy armour of a military-grade transport, there was no chance of being hurt.

Von Gunn: “Permission to return fire, captain?”

Captain: “Carry on.”

C R Y   S O M E   M O R E

The Arch-Militant racks the autocannons and lets loose. A weapon designed to shoot down small craft and light vehicles opens up on the crumbling ruins of the Grin estate. Masonry explodes. Bodies fly from windows. Von Gunn rakes the middle section of the estate with high-velocity explosive-tipped rounds until huge plumes of smoke and tongues of fire erupt from the estate as the upper floors crash down, annihilating everything in the middle section.

A poor Estate of affairs

As the dust settled, the Astropath was quietly invoking in the back of the armoured transport. Before someone could point out the risks of the psyker throwing his powers around in the back of a metal coffin containing all the plot characters, he had launched a Mind Scan on the remains of the estate.

He reads over a hundred conscious minds, slightly more advanced than the ones they encountered on the Port Van Arkiel concourse. There seemed to be several ‘leaders’ of sorts inside, so he homed in on one who identified as ‘Rak’.

The rest of the party were beginning to look a bit panicked as the Astropath’s eyes had rolled back in his skull and was twitching uncontrollably in the back of the Taurox while Von Gunn was screaming with delight in the gunner’s seat, but there wasn’t much that could be done at this point. Gil was off on a magical psychic adventure in his head, and they just prayed it all went well.

The Mind Scan power allows you to single out an individual and communicate with them telepathically. Gil kept it simple – giving this ‘Rak’ character a straightforward command: OPEN THE DOOR.

Girl Virgant – painted by Dan Taylor (our Captain)

It all went a bit quiet. They waited for a few minutes, and they could just about make out the crackle of small arms fire from inside the estate from their position about 50 or so metres out. The Captain gave the order to open fire on the estate again, which Von Gunn carried out with glee. “I get to roll how much damage?” (it’s 4d10+4, Pen 4, if you wanted to know. Dakka dakka dakka.)

This time Von Gunn scythes straight through the foundations of the right hand spire of the estate. With a thunderous noise, the entire spire collapses back in on the estate, as las fire can be seen spitting from the estate like faulty fireworks. The spire topples sideways into the estate defenses, crushing the outer wall and exposing the inner courtyard to the outside world.

Zilla: “Shall we go have a look Captain?”

Captain: “Carry on.”

Party crashers

They bring War Pig around, and inside the courtyard they can see a fierce laser battle unfolding between… well nobody was quite sure. The place was teeming with Cilice wretches wearing vaguely similar attire as each other, but they were all gunning each other down like their lives depended upon it.

Gil did another quick Mind Scan but in the melee couldn’t get quite as detailed information. Their numbers had dropped by half in a matter of minutes, and although he couldn’t communicate with Rak, he got the impression that Rak had thought he had been visited by a vision from the God Emperor and had decided to take up arms against his fellows. Just as planned, I guess?

They uncoupled the Gin trailer from War Pig and hit the gas, riding straight over the rubble and into the courtyard, shooting at anything that looked at them funny. Zilla rolled a critical for pulling off sick doughnuts while the passengers poked their weapons out firing ports and took pot shots at whatever they could see.

The Captain got on the loudhailer. “Primitive descendants of the Grin Estate, cease your pathetic attempts to overcome the Orthesian Dynasty!”

The remnants of the Grin wretches scattered to the hills, and after disabling the anti-air capacity of the estate so they could bring in reinforcements, set about looking for where a criminal family might keep all their valuables in an estate of this size.

+++++++

Previous: Session 11 – Secrets of Cilice

Meanwhile, on the Bench: The Jade Kunai

Finished product first!

I got the new Necromunda boxed set back in Christmas and finished the Goliath half of the gangs that come with it back in February. To my eternal shame, the Eschers remained assembled but unpainted ever since. As a break from the Elysian Drop Trooper commission I’m working on, I thought I would treat myself to painting some acid green.

These were the first models I had undercoated in anything under than black, and I wanted to go for vibrant colours to offset the Goliath’s dull metal tones. A nice diseased skin tone would work well for them, as they spend a lot of their time around hazardous chemicals.

As I was going to paint them in light colours, why not undercoat them grey? A splash of Athonian Camoshade on the skin with a highlight of Rotting Flesh gave me the perfect skin tone I so desired.

Test model done

It took a while to settle on colours other than green – they needed to still be colourful but not distract from the overall greeny-ness, and had to give me enough wiggle room to have some radical glam-rock hair colours without a clashing of colour palettes.

The greys and dark purples worked really well with this brief in mind, and it was only after putting the base coat over all the gang that I realised I had inadvertently picked the Joker’s colour scheme for my poisonladies.

Why so serious?

I was also experimenting with a new rust technique. Start with a solid base of a dark brass and give it a liberal wash of Nuln Oil. When that’s dry, stipple on some orange with an old brush, then roughly highlight any edges with a bright silver.

Easy peasy to do, and the bold orange works very nicely with the acid green colour scheme.

First colours and washes on

I left all the hair until practically the end. I wasn’t sure what colours they were going to be, and I wanted everything else to be pretty much finalised so I could work out what would complement or clash.

Also because I’m a barbarian who holds his minis with his hands instead of using a mini holder, the tops of models tend to get a little wear and tear as I paint them, so I tend to leave those til the last.

This one does not photograph well

The kit was nicer to assemble than the Goliaths – fewer preset options that needed tearing apart just to edit. Without any real games under my belt, I just went with Rule of Cool for most of their equipment.

I did manage a few conversions though, most notably the twin autopistol ganger had a hand swap to allow her to hold two autopistols, and the leader had an arm transplant to give her a plasma pistol. Nothing particularly exciting but they were different enough from the core box to pass muster.

All in all I’m very pleased with how they came out. They were a chore to finish – I was very close to giving up on all that green a NUMBER of times during production but I’m glad I stuck with it. It was only when the black rum went around the base that they looked truly finished, and I think they look absolutely stunning on the browns and reds of the Necromunda board tiles.

Game on!

Orthesian Herald 11 – Secrets of Cilice

Storm-ridden Cilice Prime is circled and shrouded by swirling clouds and hurricanes. Beneath the storms, the peaks and valleys of Cilice’s jagged surface form a stark, beautiful landscape that was once dotted with the proud structures of a colony founded under the authority of Rogue Trader Van Arkiel.

There are is very little life recorded as native to Cilice bar its simple fungal life used in the production of Cilice Gyn. Continual gales carry the harmless spores far and wide amidst lightning and frozen hail.

Landscape of Cilice – (artist Emanshiu)

This was to be our first game not at full party strength. The players for Von Gunn and Lyoness couldn’t make it this session, but they gave their blessing to go ahead and investigate the planet. Last session Von Gunn got pretty badly banged up, so we figured he would be back on the ship recuperating. Lyoness would be tending to his wounds and helping herself to the rubbing alcohol.

The Captain, unwilling to do too much without his bolt pistol-wielding murder-machine and ultimate anti-daemon tool, agreed that this would just be a ROUTINE CHECKUP on the planet.

With the decision made, the remainder of the party boarded an Aquila lander, along with a Junior Astropath called Fez, our two heroic armsmen from the Geist Incident Kettlehead and Felicity, plus three additional armsmen to make up the numbers.

Of course they needed names, so they were dubbed Cram, Thud and Oggy-Bong.

Zilla, Captain, Freeman, Gil + Junior, Kettlehead, Felicity and 3 armsmen – Crad, Thud and Oggy Bong. I had been assembling these guys between sessions, knowing we would need more armsmen reinforcements at some point. There’s a Meanwhile on the Bench article if you’re interested in their construction.

From left to right: Crud, Thud and far right is Oggy-bong (las-cutter guy didn’t come)
Port Van Arkiel

As you descend through the howling winds and driving rain, you make out a large cluster of structures on the equator of the planet, built into a mountain and across an natural arch rock formation high above a valley below. The structures resemble a space port and dotted evidence of industry – this must be the colony of Arrogance

Strangely, the surrounding golden valleys are also strewn with massive installations – huge, fortified palaces set deep into the mountains and overlooking vast areas of cultivated land. It’s clear that civilisation here flourished outside of the colony.

The constant storms imposed a -20 to any Pilot (Fliers) test that Zilla was required to do. It’s just as well they took the fancy ship rather than the hovering brick, as Zilla scraped a few passes on the way down.

The space port is built on a great arch of stone, whittled out of a mountain by the howling winds. You set down on one of a dozen landing platforms for heavy barge landers, suspended on carved columns of stone hundreds of feet in the air.

The buildings of the port are wide, squat affairs, hugging the ground like limpets against the tide. Rain blasts across the landing platforms and the wind sails underneath, threatening to hurtle you off to to the jagged valleys hundreds of feet below you.

The colony of arrogance is built into the mountain – its spires jutting from the rockface like snapped bones poking through broken flesh.

Port Van Arkiel
No sign of life

The crew disembark. There was no transponder handshake, no automated acknowledgement of their arrival, and no delegation waiting to welcome them to the port. Nothing but the rain.

As they squint through the deluge, Zilla notices what remains of heavy lander on one of the adjacent platforms – the only sign of machinery at all on the space port concourse. The Explorator also whips out his auspex and runs a few scans – the source of the emergency distress beacon was also present on the space port, pointing towards a conning tower in the opposite direction.

The Captain orders two armsmen to stay by the Aquila lander and begin marching towards the adjacent heavy drop ship.

On an adjacent landing platform is the skeleton of a heavy lander, designed to drop large amounts of supplies and people, stripped of paneling and moving partsThere is evidence of a surprising amount of ornamentation and Imperial iconography, although much of it has been torn off or defaced.

After some investigation, it seemed much of it was stripped by hand, and there was evidence of teeth marks around much of the paneling. It was in a similar state to the carcass of the Stiletto Station from the previous session.

The cockpit has been stripped back to its bones – anything of material or technological value has been ripped out in a crude manner unbefitting of such a noble workhorse of a machine. The ship’s logs indicate it arrived here a few months ago, approximately the same time Brother Espin suggested his missionaries would have arrived.

Freeman set about claiming whatever was left in the cockpit, and with some good Trade (Voidfarer) checks found the black box of the lander. It was the voice of someone unfamiliar:

“… leaving some of the mercenaries and able-bodied missionaries to guard the lander ….. No signs of the colonists … Missionary-Superior wants to investigate … palatial estates … answers there … waste of time … nothing here … no sin goes unpunished in the God Emperor’s eyes …”

ThisSeemsFine.jpg

The team conclude this must have belonged to the Missionary that Brother Espin asked them to find. Given the lack of signs of struggle, they weren’t going to find any more evidence here. It was time to check out the distress beacon.

Cilice is not a place to forget your umbrella
The conning tower

You see a conning tower, sporting a wide metal dish and vox-spires at the far end of the space port, some 200 metres away across the rain-lashed concourse.

The building is a standard modular imperial hab-block, modified for environmental conditions. It, like every other building of Arrogance, looks like it has been here for decades.

The door is reinforced plasteel but its locks have been removed or forced a long time ago and now swings freely.

While some of the crew head inside, it was now our Astropath double-checked his Mind Scan ability, reminding everyone (including myself, damn his eyes!) that he can detect everything living within a kilometre radius. He rolls something disgusting and looks at me proudly.

Gil: “I see everything”

Well there goes the element of surprise I guess.

GM: “There are dozens, perhaps a hundred, of bestial minds closing in on you. Their thoughts are simple and primal, but you make out an absolute emotion that unifies them: hunger.”

Gil: “Huh.”

While this was resolving itself, Freeman and Zilla were investigating the conning tower.

Inside is dark, lit only by the bunker-like windows looking out onto the space port landing platforms. It is a welcome relief from the storm outside. 

Most of the vox-consoles have been ripped apart and stripped back – scavenged for Emperor-knows-what. The only thing remaining is an emergency transponder unit, crudely wired into the vox-spires and powered by a jury-rigged Imperial power pack. Behind it there are dozens more power packs, all burnt out. The one plugged in is new

Common Lore (Navy/War) +20 test revealed the serial codes match that of an Imperial heavy barge lander

Gil is about to alert the team to his brain-discovery, when their comm-beads crackle to life to the sound of a salt-of-the-earth armsman:

“My Lord! I swear I saw something moving in the rain… I… By the Emperor!”

As the sound of gunfire blossoms across the concourse I ask everyone to ROLL FOR INITIATIVE.

Ambush!

With the crew in the centre of the board investigating the conning tower, they realised they were being set upon from two sides by pale figures in the rain. With a sheer drop off the edge of the concourse, they were going to have to push through their assailants if they were to emerge victorious.

The rain imposed a -20 to all Ballistic Skill and Awareness tests, but that didn’t phase the crew much. They took up defensive positions and prepared to repel their attackers.

The figures in the rain are mostly human, although barely so. Their lean forms are emaciated sinew and lean muscle, stretched thin under leathery purple skin.

Their eyes have become wide and furtive under the darkened clouds and barely contain the gnawing, piercing hunger in their wretched souls. They wear torn clothes and heavy rags, some seem to be dock officials, others are dressed in the heavy boiler suits of labourers.

The debased of Cilice – (FFG)

The armsmen, Freeman and Zilla all take one side, while the Captain, the Astropath and his Junior take the other. They open fire with a fusillade of shot and plasma, scoring hit after hit and blowing them apart in equal measure. These creatures were dogged, but they weren’t tough.

The problem became apparent during the second round. Plasma pistols can annihilate their target very easily on their Maximal setting, but leave you vulnerable the following round as they recharge. It was time to draw blades and engage!

Another thing became apparent very quickly – the models on the board were not the only enemies in play. As the horde was whittled down, more clambered over the lip of the concourse, or poured in from further away. Ammunition suddenly looked like it might become an issue.

The Astropath, try as he might, was struggling to hit anything after last game’s impressive fare. His Junior, on the other hand, was slotting fools left and right. At one point our Astropath was seriously considering casting Mind Cloud on his Junior just so he would stop showing him up.

For the Dynasty and the Emperor!

The Captain picked up an extra sword on Mercy a few sessions ago, and this was his first opportunity to actually use them, much to his delight. He wasn’t present for the Geist Incident, and the servitors on Stiletto Station were always too far away for him to engage. With a blood-curdling cry he leapt into action, leaping into the biggest mob and cutting a few down.

With a laugh of victory, he cried “Let’s see them get past my parry!”

And then the third issue arose.

The first pathetic swipe from one of the wretches hit, but before you make a test to Dodge or Parry, you have to make your Forcefield check if you own one. The Captain does own one, a highly amusing one at that, which has not come into play for quite some time.

The Displacer field activates at the broken fingernails of a starving wretch, blipping him temporarily out of existence and reappearing somewhere else. This time slightly further away from everything…

This continued for much of the battle – the Captain attempting to engage multiple opponents, only for them to issue a combat cuddle and he would bloop away somewhere useless. Utterly hilarious for everyone except him.

Speaking of combat cuddles…

Freeman runs into a spot of bother

Explorator “Legs” Freeman sprints off with something ludicrous like a 40 metre charge range and engages some of the hungrybois. He mocks them with his 11 damage soak, practically impervious to their broken teeth and sharpened bits of metal. That is until…

“Can you give me an Opposed Strength check please?”

“A what now?”

Turns out a good way of taking out a character with a lot of soak is to drop lots of enemies on him and get grappling.

This combat is unfolding not necessarily in my favour

Combat cuddle engage! The more pile on him, the more Fatigue he gets, the harder it is for him to break out of the grapple. Fatigue doesn’t care about your 11 Soak. It wasn’t long before Freeman was unconscious on the floor, being dragged away by hungry hands.

In the background you can just about make out a few downed armsmen. Although the wretches numbers were dwindling, they had a few prizes and were trying to flee with them.

Unfortunately Freeman is super heavy, so Zilla and Felicity manage to blast enough away to make the rest flee. The Captain and the Junior see off their side of the combat and rush to save Kettlehead.

R I P in pieces

In the melee, some of the characters were too busy prioritising targets near them that poor Cram is downed and dragged off by the wretches. The Captain issues an immediate moment of silence, and despite the crew’s protests that he’s probably still okay and we should look for him, declares Cram dead and he died an honourable death (hopefully).

The rest of the wretches flee, leaving their prizes behind. Gil snags one of them with a Dominate power, strutting him back and slapping some zipties over his emaciated wrists. While the horrid thing thrashes round like Gollum with a rope round his neck, they all scratch their heads as to what they’re going to do with him.

They bundle everyone into the back of the Aquila, stabilising the wounded armsmen where they could. They wouldn’t return to the planet again without the rest of the party.

Now what?

They throw the wretch in the Brig onboard the Unbroken Resolve, and Gil sets his Juniors on the task of Mind Probing him to break his primitive psyche wide open so we can have a good ol’ prod at it.

Meanwhile, the Captain issues a command to Zilla – hop in an Aquila and do a fly-by of the port and surrounding areas. He didn’t want to be blind next time they went down.

Zilla makes a pass of the colony, very very narrowly avoiding crashing in the storm by using ALL of his Fate Points. All of the wretches in the port had disbanded, and his flight augers (as blind as they were in the storm) weren’t picking up life signs.

He headed over towards the surrounding area, known as the Golden Valleys, where there were a number of large palatial estates constructed outside of the colony – huge, fortified palaces set deep into the mountains and overlooking vast areas of cultivated land.

On the approach, warning runes blared across his console. Automated AA turrets had picked him up and locked on! A stream of heavy bolter rounds whizzed past the cockpit, and although it was still too rainy to draw a bead on his assailant, he decided discretion was the better part of crashing in hungryboi town in the middle of a lightning storm and pulled away, returning to the Unbroken Resolve.

A mind is a precious thing to waste

By now, the Juniors had metaphorically peeled back the layers of the wretch’s mind and were having a good old poke around inside his psyche. It was primitive, bestial and above all, hungry. It would be dangerous to stay inside it too long, as such a mind so far from sanity would certainly have consequences to a “sane” individual over prolonged exposure.

They do glean some interesting insight though, the wretch was part of a band or group salvaging the port. Despite it’s apparent degradation, it still retained some semblance of conscious thought – an overwhelming sense of religious guilt about its actions, and its loyalty to a leader called Glaw.

With all the cards on the table, it was time to draw the session to a close. They would regroup, resupply and rest up for next game, bringing their A Game (and a full team) to the next brawl.

+++++++

Next: Session 12 – Blood and Gin

Previous: Session 10 – Storm-wreathed Sins

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Battery Lord Kimbal

Finished product first!

This week’s MOTB is the third party member of House Patroneus’ elite staff, after Lord-Militant Hyde and Explorator Eutropius. They form the senior officers, advisors and bastard-hard combat group for Aoife Patroneus, the head of the rival Rogue Trader family to our own Orthesian Dynasty.

This is Battery Lord Kimbal, Master of Ordnance on board the flagship of House Patroneus, the Banshee. Although he has the highest honorific of Master of Ordnance and controls every weapon on the ship, he prefers his old title of Battery Lord from his time serving as master of a single battery of macrocannon.

I was putting off painting him as I found him the least interesting of the four characters, but I wanted to finish on a high with the Rogue Trader herself. I stopped dragging my feet and got to work.

Building a battery lord

As with the others, Kimbal started out life as nothing but some random scraps of purposeless plastic. I knew I wanted to use the coat that comes with the Tempestus Scions, but for some inexplicable reason I decided it would be really fun to not use the specifically-designed torso to fit into that fiddly overcoat, but to use a totally unrelated torso and somehow make it fit.

I had a few parts I definitely wanted to utilise, but not all the missing pieces of the puzzle. I found the head very quickly – after how pleased I was with Hyde I knew I wanted another Oldhammer Empire head, I believe it’s the Champion from the Empire Pistoliers set (read Freeguild if you’re coming to the hobby from Age of Sigmar).

The second part I wanted was the Imperial Guard hand holding the rangefinder from the heavy weapons team sprue. This guy was going to be more of a support character – while the Arch-Militant would be in charge of  actually shooting people, this guy would be marking targets and commanding orbital bombardments. I wasn’t sure how it would work in-game, but who cares! We’d cross that bridge if we came to it.

The rest of the parts were filler. Plastic Space Marine Scout legs and an old Space Marine torso fit the bill (with LOTS of cutting – there was barely half the torso left by the end).

I wanted a regal weapon in his off-hand – a bolt pistol seemed too crass. I have plenty of Space Marine plasma pistols in my bits box but not an awful lot of human-sized right hands. When I held it in place to test the fit it was too perfect. I didn’t fancy rooting around for another hand when I could quite easily say he had a bionic right arm. Sorted!

After some filler work on the coat he was good to paint.

The colour of gun

It was tricky coming up with a colour scheme for Kimbal. It sounds wanky I know, but sometimes you get a good feeling for a colour scheme before you start, and sometimes you are utterly uninspired and you just keep trying out different colours until something passes your “Yeah that’ll do” margin.

Unfortunately for this guy, it was the latter. I tried at least half a dozen different armour colours but they all ended up making him look like a beardy space marine.

I also wanted to keep him looking vaguely different to the others to emphasize his individuality, so I avoided doing anything particularly flamboyant with his overcoat. That, and the overcoat covers more than half the body, and I didn’t fancy freehanding something huge across his back for a model that might get one, maybe two outings.

For want of a better tenuous metaphor, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other with colours. Alternating lights and darks, keeping the palette from being too busy, deciding on a spot colour at the last minute.

He’s done and I can move on – 2018 is the year of Finished, Not Perfect after all!