Meanwhile, on the Bench: Elysian Commission part 2

In what is increasingly sounding like another unwanted Jason Bourne sequel, the Elysian commission is taking shape. Two ten-man squads have been assembled and painted, with only another two ten-man squads left.

Tiny fiddly resin friends

This batch has been a weird milestone for me. Not only because this is the first time I’ve painted Elysians in almost ten years, nor about how much of a pain these kits are to assemble (you darn kids and your Easy Fit models! *shakes walking stick*), it was absorbing the news that Forgeworld is discontinuing the range. A strange feeling of simultaneously opening and closing a door on a past life playing 500 point battles of Warhammer 40k with my schoolyard chums in the shed at the bottom of my garden.

Regarding Forgeworld’s business practises though, who knows! Internet rumours are whirling (naturally), people seem to be split between “They don’t make enough money so are being canned” to “GW are doing plastic Elysians! Tell your friends!”.

All I know is these tiny resin bloodsuckers (RIP my fingertips) suddenly became way more valuable overnight. Damn my eagerness to sell a few months ago!

Nothing much else to add about Batch 2 other than roll on with the album. Batch 3 will have photos of the whole commission, but for now enjoy these guys.

Squad 1

Squad 2

Squad 1 and 2

Orthesian Herald 9 – Claws in the Dark

Last week our Explorers received an icy reception down in the underdecks of the ship…

The Underdecks

It is dark and deathly cold – your breath crystalises in the air and the tears freeze in your eyes. Frost has rimed on the walls. The source of the leak is 50m ahead through a tangle of tight corridors.

Your corridor is blocked by a frozen fountain of ice spilling from a ruptured water line. An armsman moves forwards to turn off the valve and stem the flow.

The ice comes to life!

Frozen claws shoot from the wall of ice and snatch the hapless armsman. They pull him back into the ice wall, eviscerating him as the hooked hands pass through his body like an egg slicer and back into the wall.

Roll for initiative!

An Ebon Geist materialises through the wall of the access corridor, our party’s first encounter with daemons and the debut appearance of our first armsmen models. The Captain, Astropath and Voidmaster were all absent, as the Captain figured this Routine Checkup could be handled by the Missionary, Arch-Militant and Explorator so I padded the numbers out with a few armsmen minis so those players would have something to do in the brawl.

Rather than let them be nameless mooks, the players do the one thing you should never do with The Help – name them. Meet Krud, Felicity and Kettlehead.

From left to right; Felicity, Kettlehead and Krud

This turned out to be an ill-fated debut, as the first thing that everyone was required to do after rolling Initiative was make a few Fear 2 checks…

All according to plan

Kettlehead and Felicity immediately collapse in puddles of their own vomit, taking them out of action for a few turns. Krud decides discretion is the better part of valour and flees the map. We cross our fingers for him, but he consistently fails Willpower checks and is never seen again. Sorry, Astropath player – I guess you’re sitting this fight out after all.

Von Gunn is ahead of the party at this point, as he spotted another of the geists in a chamber at the end of the corridor, following a trail of blood and ice.

They’ve gotta pass those Willpower checks to Snap Out Of It some time, right?

Freeman waves his power axe around at the frozen geist, discovering that power weapons are really, really good against unarmoured targets, but might as well be farting into the wind when it comes to dealing with denizens of the warp.

The geist then performs its party trick again – dematerialising and fading back into the wall, popping out further up the map.

Unfortunately for the daemon, Von Gunn’s twin bolt pistols don’t care for the anarchic un-laws of the immaterium and when it poked its shifting face of madness and misreality through the bulkhead, Von Gunn neatly slotted it in what presumably the face would be, destroying its grip on realspace and banishing it back to the warp.

Rallied and ready to take down the final abomination

Freeman, Lyoness and the two armsmen finally rally and join Von Gunn in the end chamber as the final geist phases through the bulkhead guarding the conduit.

This geist is cursed with a streak of excellent dodge rolls, and survives Von Gunn’s banishment bullets. Lyoness gives it a lick from her flamer but it shakes off the worst of the damage. The armsmen bounce some rounds off its daemonic skin, and everyone makes a note to give them a participation trophy when we get back to the main decks.

In the final showdown, Freeman charges the foul warp-spawned abomination, and Kettlehead plucks up the courage to join him. Nothing says ‘back to the hell-pocalypse from whence you came’ like a club and a huge pair of brass balls.

Give the man a hand!

Eyes suddenly widen around the table when the Ebon Geist quite comfortably pulls the Explorator’s arm clean out of its socket (NB: Toxic and Warp Weapon are brutal combinations). Kettlehead keeps contributing, but the geist is eventually put down by Von Gunn now his firing line was clear.

With all the geists cleared up, the way is clear for a repair crew to come down and de-ice the life support conduit. Freeman is bundled away to a discrete med-bay where his arm is glued back on.

Everyone breathes a sigh of relief and goes back to patching up the ship and each other. The final few days of warp are blessedly free of incident and Freeman’s turbo-constitution gets him healed up in a few days. Krud, unfortunately, is declared too insane for active duty and is carted off to the brig.

A few days later, the translation alarms sound across the ship. It was time for the most welcome (and most dangerous) part of the journey – returning to realspace.

cairn

The system of Cairn is deadly still, like the eye of a storm. Long-range augers show nothing except a single ball of rock orbiting the guttering star. After less than a day’s stellar travel, you can see the slate-grey planet of Cairn through the viewport of the bridge.

Your scans all come up empty – there is no atmosphere and no signs of life – it is totally sterile. Gravity is slightly higher than that of normal and there are low levels of radiation, but a sealed void suit would provide adequate protection.

At the north pole of the planet is a bizarre multi-coloured mountain that your sensors do not read as a natural formation. 

It is a mountain of ancient flags, totems, standards, keepsakes, votive icons and other trinkets, piled on top of one another over the millennia

The oldest have been bleached by the sun – slate-grey and sheet-white, scattered around the base of the mountain. As you look further up, they become more colourful as the ravages of time have had not affected them as much yet.

IMAGE: EDDIE BAUER ALPINISTS ADRIAN BALLINGER & CORY RICHARDS

Inspired by stories of the top of Mount Everest littered with the detritus of past conquests, what if we took that to 11? A planet having nothing but flags, trinkets and tokens of devotion that after almost a millennia of travelers visiting the system has become an actual mountain.

What started as a friendly rivalry between two early explorers in the early years of the Nomad Stars, each returning to the worthless rock to ‘reclaim’ it from the other, quickly spiraled into myth and legend.

Now it is used as the most common entry point into the Hatchling Worlds, and all travelers and explorers since then have planted flags or left memorabilia on the surface of Cairn as a good luck charm to help them ward off the surging currents.

a mountain of flags

This was intended to be a quick stop-off on their way to Cilice to build a bit of the universe and provide a quick skills-based detour. The crew were going to scramble to the top of the flag-mountain and plant the Orthesian flag for good luck. This transpired as a couple of different encounters they needed to overcome, knitted together with some narrative of clambering up a mountain made of effigies and pennants.

Here are some of the notes I used to run the encounter;

  • Take a Climb +30 test to climb the mountain or hot-drop from a lander with an Agility test to get to a suitable planting point. If failed, the character takes D10 falling damage +1 for each Degree of Failure, ignoring armour. This gets you ‘close enough’ up the mountain to plant your flag. (I suspected ‘close enough’ wouldn’t be good enough, so on with the more dangerous encounters…)
  • To get to the summit requires a Climb test. It is more treacherous than the base, as the flags and standards have had less time to settle and lie scattered and loose on the surface.
  • Awareness (sight): You spot some unexploded munitions on a plateau ahead – some kind of anti-personnel mine. Disarming them requires a Demolitions -20 or BS -40 test. Failure on either causes it to explode. Could go around the plateau, but it is a treacherous climb around the base of what seems to be a set of huge metal fingers the size of a hab-block
  • Explosion damage: 2d10+4 X damage and everyone must test Agility or be caught in the avalanche and take 2D10 falling damage +1 for each Degree of Failure

It started well, with Lyoness falling out of the lander onto the Explorator. Off to a flying start, they both decide to stay at the bottom of the mountain with the astropath, sipping on Lyoness’ personal stash.

princess bride have fun storming the castle gif

The Captain decides to turn this into a propaganda exercise and tasks Zilla with getting some heroic aerial images from the lander.

Meanwhile Von Gunn has spotted some of the mines and decides the best course of action is Use [GUN] on [MINE]. Explosions go everywhere and a mini-avalanche threatens to bury our crew, but they hide under an overhang and the mines tumble past them.

The Captain struggles with the final leg of the journey, suffering more falling damage and vowing to put some points into Climb when they get back to safety. He tasks the Explorator with getting to the summit first so he can film the Captain getting their first. It’s good for crew morale, see.

They discover another flag at the top of the mountain but toss it to one side for the glorious Orthesian Dynasty flag instead. They all pose heroically in front of it while the Explorator’s servo-skull takes some action shots.

They all agree they will add in the sunbathers at the bottom of the mountain into the photo during post-production. Von Gunn also suggests to add punching some Space Yetis and biting the fuses off personnel mines with their teeth for added drama.

They head back to the ship, and the Captain is faced with the choice to have his falling damage treated by either a drunk preacher or a one-armed mechanic.

Orthesian Communications Guild

As they begin their travel back to the warp point for their final short hop to Cilice, discussions turn with how best to broadcast this work of art the crew have produced.

The formation of some kind of propaganda machine is in order, and already I can think of a few posters I want to mock up that might be found plastered to walls in the crew quarters or found around Mercy Longshore for recruitment. I also definitely want to have that over-dramatised image of the crew punching space yetis and eating explosives on the top of a mountain of flags with the Orthesian crest behind them. Would that I had the time and/or skill to do that. Perhaps it’s time to call in reinforcements…

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Explorator Eutropius

Finished product first!

On last week’s MOTB we had a look at Arch-Militant Hyde, the first of Lord-Captain Patroneus’ crew and the rivals of the plucky Orthesian Dynasty. This week we’re looking at the second crewman, Explorator Eutropius.

The crew in grey
How to build a techpriest

The first thing that struck me during this project is that, despite my passion for all things Adeptus Mechanicus, I had never assembled anything Admech-related in 28mm.

This was partially due to never having any parts – AdMech legs and torsos aren’t easy to come by unless you have a stash of them already. Luckily for me, one of our players had picked up a bunch of second-hand Skitarii rangers to use in the construction of his own Explorator. Using second hand bits that were originally intended for a PC to construct the PC’s rival? How delicious.

The easiest part was the head. I’d picked up some medieval helmets from Anvil a while ago and I still had one with the bionic eye, which was perfectly suited. The previous owner of the Skitarii had been quite enthusiastic with the ol’ plastic glue, so there was a bit of damage around the neck that needed patching up with green stuff.

Armament was quite tricky, I went through a number of different variations figuring out the ‘best’ combination. They all seemed so cool!

I opted for using some arms from the Tempestus Scions in the end, partially because I wanted to use that rad plasma gun and partially because it gave the model a bit more armoured bulk that the Skitarii rangers otherwise lacked. It went quite nicely with the medieval helmet as well, and I could already envision lots of lovely gold trim around the edges.

The melee weapon was the trickiest thing to settle on, again mostly due to the glut of options available for an Explorator. I wanted something deadly but also not necessary typical – something from the bottom of the AdMech cupboard of secret technology that doesn’t get much outing. After flicking through the 40k Codex for the Skitarii and Cult Mechanicus, I found a pleasingly harrowing weapon:

Transonic blades emit a low, insistent buzz that makes stomachs turn and eyes vibrate in their sockets. When they strike armour, these weapons will adjust their hostile sonic field to match its resonant frequency, quickly slicing right through it and turning muscle, bone and fat to jelly.

These brutal weapons don’t have any official rules for the 40k RPG line, but luckily for me some enterprising individual on the internet has already made some homebrew rules for them. I present the Transonic blade:

Melee, 1d10+4 R, Pen 4, Balanced, Transonic.

Transonic: On the first round of combat, the weapon has the Razor Sharp trait. On subsequent strikes, it counts as having Pen 12.

Colours of mars

Unlike the conversion, the paint went on this guy with zero fuss. Bizarrely, as this was a straight-up loyalist Techpriest of Mars, his colour scheme was extremely easy to sort out. No mess, no fuss – bright red cloak, dark grey fatigues and a mixture of dulled silvers and ornate brasswork for the armour. In fact, the hardest part was the cog motif on the cloak (freehand can go suck an egg), which I didn’t handle brilliantly but hey – it’s finished!

Pretty much the whole model was painted to my lazy tabletop standard – a flat base coat colour followed by a heavy wash of something (mostly Nuln Oil in this case) and highlighting back up with the same base coat colour. If I’m feeling saucy they might get an edge highlight (like the red cloak) but usually that’ll be enough.

Picked out a nice bright green for the optics and screens and a lovely lightning blue for the plasma gun and transonic blade and he was done.

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Lord-Militant Assamar Hyde

Finished article first!

As our Orthesian Rogue Trader game gathers momentum, my eyes have been cast to counterparts of our seemingly unstoppable group of Explorers.

Where many of our players already have personal rivalries, either due to their backstories or in-game run-ins that have developed into feuds, none of them will have the same resources as a full-blown rival Rogue Trader Dynasty – House Patroneus.

A few weeks back I found myself dry-fitting odd parts of my bits box that didn’t have any other home – half a Commissar Gaunt, the overcoat from the Scions box set, that sort of thing. House Patroneus had already been established as rivals in name only by this point, why not add some flesh to those bones?

Fight fire with fire

The characters began to form as the models did. This MOTB is looking at the first to be painted, Lord-Militant Assamar Hyde, but the rest of the Patroneus crew is here.

It takes a Rogue Trader to stop a Rogue Trader

Each will get their own MOTB in turn, but this should serve as an appetite-whetter. I may add a few more in turn, as currently they are outnumbered by player characters anyway. Perhaps Lady Ash might find her way onto the crew… we shall see!

Assembling the Lord-militant

As you can see from the WIP shots, this guy really was cobbled together from random parts I found. I still had a bunch of part-painted Cadians from the Box o’ Bits and I found one with no hands or head who would serve as my shop mannequin.

I have lots of esoteric guns in my bits box, and when my internal brief is “The Gary Oak to our Arch-Militant”, it didn’t take me long to fish out a weapon.

This combi-melta is from some Space Marine kit (Blood Angels maybe?) and still had the hands attached. I suffer from a chronic lack of shootin’ hands (for this very reason) but rather than go rooting around for some poor schmuck to liberate a pair of hands from, I thought I would stick with the Astartes hands. It gave him this cool Iron Man vibe that made him seem real fancy.

The head was probably the hardest part to choose, as I have SO MANY cool heads that fit the 40k universe. Lots of old-school Warhammer Empire and Bretonnian heads always fit the bill, and I pulled out one with the fanciest plumage I could find.

He was starting to feel more and more like The Hound as a character, and this particular head nailed the aesthetic I was grasping at.

He needed accessories, but I didn’t want to go overboard. He could have had a fancy power sword or a big axe but that didn’t feel right. I settled on a few grenades and a whip that I decided would be some kind of vicious shock whip that he’d save for mutineers and traitors.

A great big animal cape (that I had immediately decided to try and paint some freehand wild animal patterns on FOR SOME HORRIBLE REASON) indicated he was a man of the stars and a trophy hunter. It balanced the model out quite nicely too, as with the massive gun it was starting to be very forward-heavy.

Trying some techniques

I had three colour techniques I wanted to incorporate in the model somehow. First was colonial British uniforms – very vibrant colours with white trim. Next was a deep brass colour I had found on t’internets that involved two (?!) washes over a metallic brass. Finally was some kind of freehand on the cape, which I’m still not sure why I thought would be a good idea.

First colours layered and washes applied. Looking good so far!

It was quite a broad colour palette, and using three kinds of metallics on the same colour scheme can be quite tricky not to make it look gaudy. Luckily, gaudy was what I was going for here, and after all the washes were applied over the base colours, I was very happy with how it had turned out.

One of the great things about doing these weird kitbashes is I get to utilise colours and techniques I wouldn’t normally experiment with if I was building something to a brief or commission.

Then the tricky part. With references in-hand, I set about attempting a leopard-print pattern and was pleasantly surprised with how simple it was to do and how effective the technique turned out to be!

First I painted the cape an orangey-brown, giving it a brown wash and highlighting it back up again with a lighter brown to bring out the fur texture.

Then I splodged a dark brown on using an old brush that doesn’t hold its point much any more. They were arranged roughly symmetrically, but it didn’t hugely matter.

When that was done, I painted little black brackets round each brown dot, trying to leave a bit of gap and ensure some variance in line thickness.

What this meant was the quicker and lazier I painted my brackets, the better it turned out. This is my kinda freehand.

With everything in place, it was just a case of painting on my highlights and picking out smaller details and it was done!

Trooping the colours

The armour was Scorpion Brass with a Nuln Oil wash followed by an Athonian Camoshade wash, and edge highlighted with Scorpion Brass again.

The tunic was Screamer Pink with a Carroburg Crimson wash and highlighted with Screamer Pink again.

And he was completed! A great mini to assemble and I really enjoyed painting him. Expect to see the rest of his crew on MOTB in the coming weeks, and I think I’ll be starting a new Irregulars segment with some of the stat lines for these guys too but for now, watch this space…

Orthesian Herald: session 7 – A Brother’s Calling

Laden with loot and buoyed up from their first successful adventure, our Explorers cast their gaze back to the stars to determine their next heading.

My God-Emperor… it’s full of stars…

They had a treasure ship filled with plunder, and although they could make off with the most valuable items by hand, there was a good lot of salvage that needed specialist equipment to remove, and a whole plasma drive that needed something larger than a little 10-man shuttle to shift. So, it was with a heavy heart that they concluded that they needed to once again contact the obnoxiously happy Lombar the Architect.

They sent an Astropathic message to the Mayweather Choir, using the contact details provided to them by Lombar. They would offer unfettered access and survey results of Gangue Prime in exchange for Lombar salvaging the wreck of the Rightful Remit for the Orthesian Dynasty. A few hours later came the response – he’d take three weeks to arrive with a salvage fleet.

I’d be lost in space without youuu – (FFG)
What about those other balls of rock

With three weeks to kill, the crew decide to investigate the other two planets – Gangue Minor and Gangue Secondus – both outside the Goldilocks zone. By chance or cunning, they headed straight for the Plot Planet when they arrived in-system, and although weren’t expecting to find anything on these outliers, thought it prudent to double check.

Gangue Minor was first, a burnt-up cinder of a planet orbiting close to the dying sun and bathed in radiation. As they closed, they got their first taste of a solar radiation hazard.

Radiation bursts

  • Fluctuations happen every D10 days and can be detected in advance with a Scrutiny+Detection+10 test.
  • They can be avoided by leaving the zone, sheltering behind a celestial body, or insulating the ship’s augers with a Tech Use -20 test.
  • Any ship caught unprotected suffers a Sensors Damaged critical result and cannot send or receive vox messages. This cannot be fixed for D5 days after the surge due to the lingering presence of the radiation.

They arrived at Gangue Minor and had their sensors immediately blasted by radiation, preventing them from scanning the planet and rendering them more vulnerable to radiation. A very quick about-face ensues.

It’s a week’s travel to Gangue Secundus, where they find a frozen rainforest in the far reaches of the voids. It all looks idyllic and ripe for adventure until the scans come back.

Hazardous frozen spores you say?”

Beautiful but deadly. The crew have had their fill of deadliness recently. (Crytek)

The Captain makes the executive decision to stay nice and safe on board the ship and perform some extended repairs while we wait for Lombar to arrive. There might be adventure waiting for them on the surface, or there might be horrible spore-related death and injury. (GM’s note: it was horrible spore-related death and injury)

Lombar shows up after a few weeks in repairs in high orbit. He is predictably ecstatic and can’t thank them enough for the opportunity before they hang up on him. All their salvage and the plasma drive will be returned to Mercy in two months, held in a safe warehouse in Mayweather Mooring.

With pleasantries cut short and a heading chosen, it was time to plot the next warp jump back to Mercy.

Return to the sea of souls

It was 5 days in warp back to Mercy, which meant I would only get one roll on the expanded warp encounters table we drew up a few sessions ago. I’ll get them next time…

We got the Visitation encounter;

“Your officers report the crew have become unsettled, and during your rest periods you find yourselves visited by shades of lost comrades and family. These have a Fear 2 rating, but if you pass you may ask a single question of the shades about your future.”

Astropath Gil was visited by the ghosts of people he left behind on the penal world. They weren’t particularly helpful with regards to his interrogations about Fel.

The Captain was visited by Great Grandpappy Orthesian, who promised the usual shtick of fame and glory. The Captain was unimpressed by his unhelpful prophesizing.

Von Gunn was visited by the spirits of all those he’d lost in battle.

Missionary Lyoness and Voidsmaster Zilla somehow managed to sleep through the whole debacle. Strong wine in the sermons, we assumed.

Explorator Freeman was visited by the ghost of his legs, doing a merry little jig on his home planet without him. Exploration is a hell of a drug.

The rest of the journey was without incident, and barring a few near-fluffed Navigate (Warp) tests, the ship translated back into the Telos system.

A brother’s calling

The moment they entered Telos, they received a vox message stamped with Imperial codes. A missionary named Brother Espin requested to meet the Captain on board his vessel, the Sword of Saint Troubadous for a very special task.

Miss me with that quest shit. A shopping spree is calling!

The return to Mercy – (FFG)

The Explorers disembark and head to their various areas of interest in Mercy. Gil was the first to be approached with some exposition.

“Rumours travel quick in Mercy. During one of your visits to the seedier parts of Longshore, Gil is approached by a short, greasy man with thinning hair and a pot belly poking out from underneath a battered flak vest. His sleeves are rolled up, displaying a host of underdecks and penal tattoos, one of which you immediately recognise as your own penal colony you escaped from.”

The individual introduces himself as Leo Getz (no relation) because “whatever you want, Leo gets!”

I heard about some funny individuals trying to break into Telascos, and one of them matching your description, I couldn’t believe my luck! We convicts have to stick together.”

His proposition was simple: “I can be your eyes and ears! You look like you could do with more eyes and ears!” 

Gil stares back with burnt-out cinders for eye sockets.

Girl Virgant – painted by Dan Taylor

“Uh, metaphorically speaking of course. No offense intended…”

The proposition seemed fair enough – he would keep an ear to the ground in Mercy for rumours, in exchange for scraps from the Masters’ tables. Gil set him about looking up information about Lady Ash and the Fel Dynasty.

I could sense a rivalry starting…

Highjinks

Voidsmaster Zilla had a special request – are there any bars specifically for pilots? Well, not in my notes so probably n-

Oh, you’ve aced the Search check. I guess there is! Welcome to the High Jink. A revolving bar set in a spire high above Mercy Longshore. It gives great views of all the voidships moored here, and operates a strict ‘Pilots Only’ policy. Great for hobnobbing with other ship jockeys!

There he meets Free-Captain Acheron, a chartist captain looking for work after he was usurped from his contracted routes by thugs. They share drinks and talk shop.

Lyoness chats up the barkeep in Telasco’s, attempting to buy their most expensive alcohol and settling for their second-most expensive alcohol.

Freeman visits Guilder Parvik to pay for repairs in Archeotech as promised last time they were on Mercy. He instead hands over a suit of Xenos Demiurg armour. Parvik is apparently none too bright and takes it as Archeotech. This will definitely not come back to haunt them. Nope.

Chartist Captain Acheron – (1977manda, deviantart)
Sword of saint troubadous

They could put off meeting with their quest-giver no longer. The Explorers picked up a lander from their ship and headed over to see Brother Espin.

The Sword of Saint Troubadous is a bloated, gilded pilgrim transport ship twinkling in the light of Telos. It looks like a hunchback baron cradling a hoard of gold. Cathedral spires extend from its spine and every inch is covered in stained glass, ornate gothic pillars and hand-carved statues of every Saint in the Imperial Creed.

Shuttles scurry about like insects feeding their queen

The hangar bay stinks with the raw musk of human existence – there are sleeping cubbies set into the walls, hammocks hang from the gantries high above your heads, and canvas shanties exist around the peripherals, despite the constant roar of shuttles dropping off pilgrims and supplies. You have no doubts the rest of the ship is in a similar situation.

They land in the hangar bay and troop out, waving flags and tooting their Dynasty trumpets. Freeman had even perfected a little dressage with his robo-legs.

An old man in rags and a long, scraggly white beard steps forwards. Half his head is metal plate, and votive symbols are braided into his beard. He would be utterly inconsequential and totally indistinguishable from the other pilgrims on this ship were it not for the dozens of hangers-on that follow in his wake.

Standard-bearers, weepers, singers, tall women dressed in ornate power-armour and strange-looking warriors carrying bizarre weaponry from far-flung parts of the galaxy all stand in his shadow.

He introduces himself as Brother Espin, and gestures for some hessian pillows to be brought over so they can sit down in the hangar and enjoy tea.

Any resemblances are purely coincidental and Espin definitely does *not* share the same Machiavellian aspirations, no sir.

He opens up about his reasons for contacting Captain Orthesian.

“I Looking to build a portfolio of pious individuals in the Nomads he can trust – the God-Emperor rewards the faithful, and the Orthesian Dynasty comes highly recommended

“There is a colony on a planet called Cilice, now long-abandoned after it fell to impiety. I know very little of the history other than its reputation of being a place that fell to sin. I sent an exploratory Mission six months ago to the largest colony on the planet, Arrogance, but I have heard nothing from them.

“My advisors tell me it was once a place of wealth and decadence until warp storms cut off their supplies. The colony withered and died, and nobody heard from them again. The warp storms subsided not too long ago, and there has been considerable interest in discovering what happened to the colony and, in some cases, looking to reclaim its riches.

“If the Imperial Creed is to spread to the Nomad Stars, it needs more footholds. If my advisors are correct, the colony of Arrogance once held a mighty shrine to the God-Emperor, and would make an ideal pilgrimage and foothold.

“I need a person of faith to travel to the Cilice system and scout it for potential hazards. Establish a beachhead on Arrogance and, if possible, find my missing missionaries.

“I have legions of the faithful to set up all the necessary infrastructure for the shrine, so do not worry about busywork that would be beneath your Warrant’s holy remit. Simply ensure it is safe enough for our approach and report your success back to me. The God-Emperor has seen fit to furnish me with much material wealth that our holy work has no need for, save to grease the wheels of progress. Serve Him by serving me, and I shall see you are handsomely rewarded.

“You are not the only ones concerned about Cilice’s spiritual wealth, there are others looking to reclaim its material wealth as well. Be wary, and be swift.”

I hear the weather’s lovely on Cilice – (unknown)

As the Captain was taking it all in (and the players were frantically scribbling notes), Brother Espin makes one final gesture. He wheels out a cart with two dozen sets of plate crusader armour and some weapons, in case the crew happened to have any pious ultra-zealots on board that could do with a bit of protection.

The Captain asked a few probing questions about the planet of Cilice, but Brother Espin professed to know very little, which is why he was requesting the services of a Rogue Trader. After all, if anyone would know anything about plying the unknown, it would be them.

They bid adieu and headed back to Mercy. They were going to need to do some preparation work – this expedition would take them the furthest into the unknown they had been so far.

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Orthesian Reinforcements

Reinforcements, m’lud!

Our Rogue Trader games have been going down really well, and the handful of armsmen I assembled for a warp incursion session went down a storm. The bits worked so well together, they were thematic and, most importantly, colour coordinated with the rest of the Dynasty. The only problem was that there wasn’t enough!

As our team of brave Explorers are regularly taking trips in their Aquila Lander or their recently acquired pimped-out Taurox (keep your eyes peeled on the Orthesian Herald for updates on that one), they always have slightly more than three armsmen in tow. Plus I had a few more Genestealer Neophyte bits kicking about, and it would be rude not to use them up on my favourite kitbash to date…

(re)assembling the horde

The process was much swifter this time round. I had already settled on the design, so the only thing I needed to tinker with was weapon configurations and head options.

I’ll give ’em a taste of Imperial fyceline, m’lord!

First up was this rather handsome toothy chap. I’d picked this weapon configuration out for the first batch but was umm-ing and ahh-ing over whether to include the explosives or not. A few sessions later, given our high turnover rate of armsmen, a few extra explosives would certainly make things easier.

He’s a blast to be around

This guy had a tricky join – the shotgun wouldn’t sit at a reasonable angle with the holstered pistol, so much shaving of both parts needed to be done to let it sit comfortably. I also did a fair bit of damage to the front of the leg carving off the Genestealer Cult icons, which would be filled in later with green stuff.

Anyone need clubbing, m’lord?

Second on the bench is this piece of eye-candy, snaggle-tooth and all. I knew from the off I wanted another guy with a club ‘n’ pistol combo so the other chap would look less like a sergeant. The autopistol was pinched from the Necromunda Orlock box set, as you only get the one autopistol with the Neophytes box set.

You there! Being crushed by Imperial munitions is a punishable offence!

Armsmen are military police first and foremost, protecting the crew from insurrection and mutiny by breaking skulls at the slightest whiff of insubordination. I particularly liked the policemanofficer vibe this guy gives off – it’s some combination of heavy gloves, flappy trenchcoat and hat with a little shield on it.

[angry laser noises]
Perhaps my favourite conversion? I love love love the Bretonnian heads – I don’t think this project would have worked without them. Despite them being a 20+ year old plastic kit, and the body/leg combos are monopose and pretty dull, the heads are jam-packed with character I’ve not seen on another plastic kit since. They’re just so ugly. If I could have anything I’d like some ugly lady heads in there too, but a man can dream right?

A lot of fiddling was needed to reduce his arms down from 3 to Imperial-regulation 2

The gang needed a utility guy – someone who could painstakingly cut open a bulkhead while the players are fending off waves and waves of angry space denizens. It’s an important job, but pretty dull for a player, so best delegated to a loyal armsman with a big chunky backback. Guaranteed to only jam only at moments of extreme peril!

I had assembled a fourth chap as well, an adorable little mushroom-headed armsman whose neck is pretty well shrunk into his chest. For some reason I didn’t take any WIP photos of him, but he’s painted up all nice.

Trooping the colours

First is my squashed button-mushroom guy. I really liked the head on the Bretonnian sprue, but in my endeavour to shave it down to fit, accidentally removed more of the overall height than I’d anticipated. He looks like he’s receding into his gorget like someone with a scarf against the cold. That, or he was hit on the head by a particularly large piece of falling bulkhead and his spine has never really been the same since.

Did I mention how much I love the Bretonnian heads? Well I also love the accessories that come with the sprue too. I’m still trying to justify why there would be pheasants running around the Orthesian flagship just so I can use a few of them hanging off people’s belts.

I had the weirdest sense of deja vu working on this guy though, I couldn’t help but feel like I had painted exactly the same head before, just way bigger.

Yeah! Explosions! We’ve not currently had any explosive mishaps involving armsmen, but it’s surely only a matter of time. The belt accessories were pinched from the Escher box set – their strange gas grenade thing was pressed into service as a holder for more blasting charges by painting the interior tube section red.

I could have spent hours detailing the lascutter, there were loads of cool little bits and bobs that would have suited elaborate heat damage or object source lighting effects, but I persevered with my 2018 mantra of ‘finished not perfect’ so I could get these guys on the table. I particularly like the little axe and pouch (again, from the Bretonnian kit) on his belt. If the lascutter fails…

Squad goals

And finally, some group photos of the whole gang headed up by Lord-Captain Orthesian himself, painted by Dan Taylor. The Captain will get his own article soon, for now though, enjoy these guys looking like they’re about to drop the hottest war hymn album of the 41st millennium.

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

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!