Meanwhile, on the Bench: Ash Garrison Enforcers

The planet of Syracuse is the biggest, most sprawling planet our plucky Dark Heresy acolytes will have been to so far in their illustrious crime-fighting careers. It is here they will finally meet their Inquisitor (after 4+ years of real life campaigning) and mingle with other acolytes of the Onus Region Conclave. They will receive their orders, be given a direction and then sent off to the arse end of the planet, Syracuse Magna, to pursue a lead on the potentially apocalyptic Samarra Dynasty.

We’ve already seen one of the factions of Syracuse magna, an organised crime syndicate called The Undertow, and now we’re having a look at their lawful (if not moral) counterparts, the Ash Garrison Enforcers.

A ‘Remedial’ team armed with lasguns with a long rifle or grenade launcher specialist attachment

Ash Garrison Enforcers

On the rest of Syracuse, the Ashigaru PDF, or Ash Garrison, comprise of mercenaries and family members of the Great Houses, refining their martial skills with polearm and lasgun to serve in the largest standing army in the Onus Region. The Ash Garrison are called upon as loyal foot soldiers to tackle uprisings, gang warfare or noble squabbles, and some are shipped off to deal with far away threats where their combined arms tactics of rifle and spear makes for a formidable threat against any foe.

They are intended to support the local laws of Syracuse Magna, maintain order and deal with such common crimes as murder, smuggling and extortion, while the Adeptus Arbites (in theory) deal with crimes directed against the Adepta, such as petty heresy, slaving and corruption that contravene high Imperial Law.

In Syracuse Magna, the Provincial Enforcers are divided, corrupt and unsubtle agents of punishment and social control, and most are little more than state-sponsored extortionists. Their power is granted by the Daimyo and the Quorum, and by extension, they are sanctioned by Magna’s dissolute and corrupt nobility. At their core are the Mandato, a feared secret police force of torturers and killers that exist purely to maintain the Daimyo’s power.

Clad in vulcanized storm coats and conical helmets to deter the worst of the weather, the Ash Garrison are well-equipped and brutal in approach. They operate in 4-man teams, either ‘Disciplinaries’ with stun sticks and laspistols or ‘Remedials’ with lasguns. Remedial teams can be accompanied by either a grenade launcher or hunting rifle.

A four-man “Disciplinary” team armed with stun sticks and lead by a fearsome Mandato officer

Creating the Ash Garrison

The concept art folder and mood boards I had assembled for Syracuse are extensive, and in my travels I stumbled across this rather excellent piece by Keith Thompson and knew I wanted to recreate that flavour in my own foot soldiers.

Doing some digging around, I found these rather excellent heads and shoulder pads from Puppets War that I tacked onto another order, with little thought as to how I was going to assemble them later. Like a big dumb idiot I didn’t order enough shoulder pads either, so although the intention was for big samurai-style shoulder pads on each style, I didn’t read that “x10 shoulder pads” meant literally that, and not “enough shoulder pads for x10 models”. So, lopsided shoulder pads were going to have to happen.

One of my real life comrades was putting an order into Victoria Miniatures  and I figured that was a great opportunity to bang the last nail into the coffin of this project, and had a quick browse through their wares. After taking a few quick screenshots, I bashed together this image to give me an idea of what my Enforcers were going to look like.

I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to get the shoulder pads to work with the moulded capes, but that was a problem that Future Me would deal with. I’m a big fan of the Shogun: Total War games, and have always had a soft spot for the Matchlock Ashigaru units for their aesthetics, so I was going to try and capture that as best I could.

I was 99% convinced I was going with back banners as well, then remembered my utter contempt for painting freehand back banners, and justified it by saying that the Magna Enforcers weren’t as fancy as their upmarket noble brethren in the posher provinces, so wouldn’t have back banners.

Just need a few servo skulls and some Imperial Eagles and you’re away

And then the parts arrived! I had to be strong-willed to not dig in to these as soon as they arrived, as I had a bunch of work I needed to do for Mother of Mercy. With that out the way and some suitable recovery time later, we’re back in the action and assembling cool models.

Is there a better sight?

For their bases, I wanted something a little less dingy than the Undertow, but still equally run down. I opted for a pack of the rather splendid Sector Imperialis bases from Games Workshop, justifying it that I could use the 40mm bases for Inquisitor as well. With the addition of some broken lollipop sticks for wood, and some water effects after they’d been painted, I was hoping to go for a run down manufactorum or derelict fish factory look.

Assembling the masses

Putting the majority of the Ash Garrison together was surprisingly simple. The Victoria parts, as disparate as they were considering I ordered the most awkward combination, went together rather pleasingly. I made a note to pin them through their toes to their bases, as as bouncy as resin is, I didn’t have much faith in my superglue keeping them attached.

The arms and guns slotted together quite nicely, although in once instance I wasn’t entirely sure how the pose of a pair of arms was intended, as it never seemed to match up to the weapon or body whatever I tried. Cue hacking, filing and putty-work and it didn’t matter – it bends to my will.

The first model assembled

Initially none of the models had shoulder pads or thigh guards. I knew this was on the cards, but I didn’t want to start carving parts of my minis away until I had put together the whole team and figured out how I was going to approach this. As I was building them, I knew I wanted to have a range of weapons (similar to the Undertow) for different circumstances and challenge levels, and that was how the idea of different fighting teams came about.

The Disciplinaries were a pain in the butt. As rad cool as the stun sticks from Victoria were, they were extremely bendy and many needed a date with the hair dryer to get them looking less like boomerangs. On top of that, the handles are very thin – not thin enough to be able to remove and replace with a length of brass pole or paperclip, but not thick enough to be able to pin in place. Most had to deal with having a fraction of a millimetre drilled into the hand and base of the shaft and hope I don’t drop them in the future.

And weirdly at this point I  began to notice that many of the left arms didn’t have the little extra shoulder pad, it seemed the ‘melee’ arms were missing them, but the rifle arms all had them. I resigned myself to knowing I was going to need to get the putty out again before this project was over.

After assembling all the bodies, I realised I was going to have to figure out a way of attaching the shoulder pads and doing a little extra on the bodies to being the whole aesthetic together. The masochist in me wanted to sculpt an entire armoured skirt over the trench coat legs, but if I had already trimmed the back banner plans from my list, then this “good idea” could also go and sit in the garbage where it belonged. Nope, I needed a more cunning, time-sensitive solution to this plan.

Very cunning

Cue montage. I snipped a bunch of thick plasticard down into strips and stuck them together with plastic glue, taking care to be liberal with the application but leave one side as mar-free as possible. It all needed to be bonded together for when the inevitable hacking and shaping was to take place, but it still needed to be pretty at the front.

Once it had dried it was a fairly simple, if time-consuming, process of slicing off the desired amount of thigh guard and filing the back down into shape so it would fit against the model snugly.

The first attempt

Although it took a bit of time to prepare each thigh guard, I was happy that the time was well spent, as it allowed me to maintain a consistent look across all the models without hours spent prodding and poking. It was also nice to not have to be concerned about the time-sensitive drying process of modelling putty, which is always a turn-off for me as I know if I have to put the project down (for such weaknesses as human food or waste expulsion) I might come back to a hardened putty and have to restart the process from scratch.

I was happy with the thigh guards – they helped draw the aesthetics together of weird future trench soldier and feudal Japanese plate armour. I wasn’t overly sold on the theme until I started to see several of them together, and along with the cute pointy hats from Puppets War I was really starting to enjoy how they were coming along.

Another issue present was the shoulder pad conundrum. It turned out it wasn’t much of a conundrum, I just didn’t want to address the obvious solution – cutting and filing down parts of the cloak to allow the shoulder pads to fit on the arm more snugly.

Big vulcanised coats to protect them from the shitty rain

Some went on better than others and some needed more encouragement. They all went on eventually, and I think it works as a blend of 40k and ancient east asian aesthetics. I was beginning to feel thankful for my shoulder pad ordering blunder at this point, as I was enjoying the single pad far more than when I draft-built some with both shoulder pads. It gave the models more freedom for poses, and gave it this wonderful lopsided asymmetric look that 40k is infamous for.

Launcher? I hardly knew ‘er

After assembling two thirds of the squad as stun stickers and lasgunners, I knew I needed a bit of variety and specialisation in there. Something to change up the game when they entered the field – some support weapons and an officer class.

The first (an easiest) was a trusty grenade launcher from the plastic Cadians kit. I’m not sure a project goes by where a grenade launcher isn’t added to a group of gangers, house guard or police force, they’re just so pleasingly versatile in the game. From a game balance perspective, these guys would only start turning up later in the escalation of violence. Initially all the Ash Garrison would be armed with flashbangs and smoke grenades, but as the riots step up, they’ll start issuing choke and frag grenades along with the launchers to help break up crowds.

“Boom. Headshot.”

The next specialist was a tricky one to decide on. I liked the idea of a suppressive weapon (like the heavy stubber of the Undertow) but decided against it as it would cheapen them when they did arrive. Flamers were out as well, as that was covered by the Undertow, so I had a dig about in my bits box and found a cool sniper rifle, again from Victoria but something from a previous order. I liked the image of the run-down rain-slick streets of Syracuse Magna being watched over by eagle-eyed snipers from different factions, daring the other to make the first move.

Part of me wanted to do something different with this guy, perhaps add some more camouflage, strip back their armour, make them appear more like light infantry. I decided against it in the end, partly because a) I was feeling hecka lazy and b) I wanted the models to be representatives of character the players would fight on the tabletop.

“Snoipa’s an honest job mate”

These were supposed to be specialists attached to riot squads rather than the pissing-in-bottles snipers that would haunt the doglegs and alleyways of Magna. They wouldn’t need models because, in my head, you would never get close enough to fight them on a battlemap. Those kinds of combats would be handled narratively, with just an indication of where the snipers were. I needed models to represent close-up brawls and add an element of visual wonder to our games.

The final model that needed to be assembled was some kind of leader. I had already established the Mandato, a secret police of torturers and assassins, but had no intentions to have models for them. After all, they wouldn’t be very secret if they had a battlefield presence would they?

I was struck with the overwhelming to try and convert a proper Oni/Samurai helmet. The Ashigaru conical helmets were fine for the footsloggers, but I wanted something impressive for the leader. I initially started looking for a daemonic/chaos head that could become a mask, but found the horns from a beastman and the head from a Tempestus Scion far quicker.

With a little bit of tubular plastic snipped from the end of a paint brush protector, the Mandato field officer had his helmet. While he stood, he would confer bonuses to his minions to help them avoid pinning, so he’s one to try and take out early into a brawl.

Wrap up and painting

I was dead chuffed with how they all came out in the end. From a piece of concept art and a very shaky photoshop mashup that I wasn’t convinced would work, to a bunch of converted minis that I like so much I’m looking for excuses to make more of them in the new year.

I’ve covered a bunch of different elements, giving them a variety of tools to help even the odds in battle, and injected some character into the different kinds of squads.

As for painting, I’m going to be leaning heavily on some Shogun Total War Ashigaru colour schemes, picking out a few that look good in green and beige. I have some Silver Tower minis to polish off first, but with the whole squad currently undercoated and drying as we speak, it won’t  be long before we see some painted minis on the Dreadquill news feeds.

Meanwhile on the Bench: The Undertow

Blackmail, extortion, smuggling and unadulterated violence are all part of everyday life for the unfortunates living in District XIII in Syracuse Magna. When corruption in planetary authorities runs all the way to the top, the only way to get what you need is at the barrel of a shotgun.

The whole painted gang

Next stop for our merry band of Acolytes is Syracuse, ‘the Grey Halo’, a tidally locked planet where only a thin band of habitability exists around its circumference, sandwiched between two extremes of temperature. A hive city exists in this habitable zone, a complete ring of urban sprawl that stretches from pole to pole. Unfortunately for our Acolytes, they’re not going to the nice part of town.

We’re off to Syracuse Magna, a semi-independent section at the bottom pole that for centuries has been in inexorable decline and decay. Corruption and dilapidation are the order of the day, the petty nobles bickering and squabbling over scraps while the rest of the citizenry band together to make the most of what little they have. One such band of economically-minded citizens are the Undertow, the city’s largest organised gang, and one of three factions taking part in the Syracuse Magna campaign.

Since catching the modelling bug for our campaigns (I honestly don’t know how it has taken me so long), Syracuse was always high on my list for having models for each of its factions. One of the exciting things (for me) is that these guys will provide an interesting change of pace for the players, as for the last two years we have fought servitors, assassins, heretek automata, xenos creatures, giant local fauna and genetic abominations.

The Undertow don’t have any fancy special powers, and their gear will barely be worth the rusty metal they’re forged from, but a combination of guerrilla tactics, ambushing, flanking, hidden snipers, punji pits, makeshift booby traps and lots and lots of firebombs will make for an interesting tactical challenge for our players.

All the models were one piece, minus the heads

I needed about a dozen, and the Kolony Feral models from Pig Iron miniatures fit the bill perfectly. They were ragged and grotty but not overwhelmingly chaotic or mutated, so you could still believe they were human underneath their protective rags.

I wanted them to look likely they were hanging out down at abandoned docks and near filth-strewn canals, so it was time to break out the balsa wood!

I think I’ve owned this balsa wood for ten years…

I enjoy a good urban sprawl base, but urban environments come in many shapes and sizes! The first challenge I noticed was that all the white metal minis had pre-cast bases, which presented a big issue if I wanted to mount them on balsa wood dockyards. I debated changing tack for something a little less woody, but decided in the end to commit to removing over a dozen pairs of boots from their pre-cast bases and filing them down to fit. Who needs fingertips anyway?

A decent fit, and pretty sturdy once pinned

The second issue that I hadn’t foreseen was more of an aesthetic choice. As much as I love these minis for exactly what I wanted them to be, I was a little disappointed at the weapon sculpts. I had a very strong aesthetic in my head, and the (again, pre-cast) guns were very lacklustre, and nowhere remotely to the scrappy gutter-forged shotguns and rusty revolvers I had in mind.

With my fingertips barely recovered from de-basing all of them, I set about with pliers and files to forcibly remove the default weapons for all these poor minis, trying to leave as much of the original hands behind as possible.

Cut cut snip snip ouch ouch bleed bleed

I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to fit any weapons in there but I was very much committed at this point, I had to make it work somehow! Luckily a couple of the ‘Specialists’ models didn’t need any work doing to them, I quite liked the bandaged sniper rifle and the makeshift flamer (although the missile launcher thing and heavy machine gun absolutely had to go), and the ‘Feral Blades minis’ were pretty much good to go out of the box.

Changing the launcher for something a little scabbier

The launcher and heavy machine gun were snipped apart and the bits box was raided for something suitably shoddy. I wanted them to be simultaneously deadly but unappealing to players. Poor quality heavy weapons that when used correctly and/or in appropriate numbers can really wreak havoc, but are so unwieldy, unreliable or dangerous to operate that they would never bother looting them from the Undertow corpses.

The flintlock pistol of Quovandius from the 54mm Inquisitor range had this weird archaic strapped-together look that suited me just fine, so the launcher was hacked down to its supports, sanded down and the gun glued on.

Dakka dakka dakka

The heavy machine gun was a lot of fun to build. I had nothing in my bits box that looked even remotely like what I envisioned in my head – something akin to the Crank Cannon from DH1ed’s Inquisitor’s Handbook. Something loud, rattly, shooty and, with any luck, killy. After hacking apart the poor gunner’s body to free him from his weird heavy weapon, the cannon was assembled from a heavily cut down Ork Shoota and the barrel of an Empire repeater handgun.

#Squadgoals

The rest were coming together rather nicely. The combination of raggedy bodies and scrappy wood bases were giving the rain-slicked, grimdark feel I was hoping to achieve already.

Crappy shotguns ahoy!

Once the models had been hacked apart, attaching the shotguns was surprisingly simple. I was immediately reminded why I prefer working in resin than white metal, as the shotguns were so pliable to my commands and made the minute adjustments required to make them fit into the empty hands oh-so much simpler.

They fit almost too well in some cases

The shotguns had a mix of straps and bayonets, so it took a bit of jiggling to work out which combinations of weapons fit best into which hands. Many of the minis were carrying machine pistol-type things, so their hands were very close together. I *think* I just about got away with it on examples like the one above, but in some cases I had to admit defeat and change up the formula.

This guy was last in line for the weapon handouts

I wanted a mix of weapons rather than just shotguns. Dark Heresy has a very versatile combat system, and not only did I want a range of weapon options to throw at the players, but incrementally bigger and badder weapons to upscale the difficulty as the campaign goes on.

My second favourite kind of cocktail

The humble firebomb – cheap, lightweight, zero skill requirements to use and utterly devastating with the correct application. One firebomb can scatter a formation of battle hardened Acolytes, force them into cover or break their aim. Half a dozen firebombs tossed at Acolytes in quick succession can VERY quickly see people passing out, limbs cooking to a crisp and Fate Points being burned. It ignores armour, prevents you from doing anything while you’re on fire and regardless of any other effects, makes you slowly pass out from heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation, so you’re more likely to pass out first and then burn to death.Totally, utterly hilarious.

The completed bomb chucker

When it’s time to up the ante again, that’s when this launcher fellow will come into play. Very much like his firebomb-hurling brethren, he’s got a lovely big bag o’ bombs that he can lob up and over things from a very safe distance away, hopefully causing consternation among our Acolytes who might be getting a little cocky towards the end of the campaign.

You’re legally required to have at least one two-handed weapon thug in every gang

With a trim of their bases and some choice head decisions, the gang was ready! I wasn’t a fan of their overly-hunched poses, so many of their heads were pinned back a little big, so their necks needed some filling with green stuff.

Necromunda Scavvy Gang anyone?

With them finished and basecoated, it was time to apply a lick o’ paint. I had challenged myself to use the JGIDD method of painting (Just Get It Done, Dickhead) for these guys, as although I love pouring dozens of hours into my models, I had 13 mooks to paint and finish before either of the other two factions turned up, another two dozen models potentially! I needed something lean, mean and green.

Ready to hit the town

I already had the colour scheme in my head, they wore heavy green overcoats and muted tanned undergarments, so the hardest part (deciding on colours!) was over. I wanted them to look unified, as I’m a sucker for gang colours on fleek, but also subtly different from one another. Kinda like they all shop at the same dumpster, but add their own fashionable flair to their mook attire.

All the base colours were painted on – a dark green for the overcloaks, a tan leather for sleeves and face protectors, a pink flesh tone for any exposed hands, dark grey for the trousers/leg garments, a dark brown for the boots and a lighter grey for straps, bags and miscellaneous pouches. The guns were painted a dark rusted metal then stippled with a lighter metallic colour. The entire mini was then given a heavy brown wash and left to dry.

How’s that for a plot hook? ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

The overcoat was then drybrushed a mossy green with a final dainty drybrush around the hems and edges with a pale green. Every other colour was then simply highlighted again with the same colour used for the base.

Everything was done as quickly as possible to have them in a ‘ready’ state that I could come back to if I felt like it in the distant future. After the last debacle with getting models ready for game day, there’s nothing worse than spending the time to prep them, only to have it half finished for their big moment.

The Pew Patrol

The bases were drybrushed a series of lighter browns and the shoes tidied up afterwards where I had got a bit overzealous with my brush. The bases were looking a little plain, so I got some of Games Workshop’s rather excellent blood effect paint and splashed it liberally about hither and thither with a combination of paintbrush and cocktail stick. Anyone with bayonets or blades got a little dab as well to help make the weapons pop a bit more.

Unsure how happy I am with the water effects

The final part was to do something with the bases to make them look more like they were standing on the side of a dock rather than just on some scaffolding. Water is going to be a big theme for this campaign, so I needed my baddies to be suitably moist.

I picked up some Woodlands Scenics Water Effects to have an experiment. I am loathe to use resin, and I had tinkered a bit with PVA effects in the past, but I had read good things about this particular product. I wanted a semi-submerged look, and this one would apparently fit the bill.

I don’t think I made my layers thin enough

Gosh, I was not prepared for how thick it would be. It was like spooning hair gel onto the bases, not the smooth flow that you get from PVA glue. Applying this substance to my models was a nightmare, as it went everywhere I didn’t want it to go, and it didn’t settle anywhere like water should, but rather stuck to all the raised areas I couldn’t get a pokey stick into.

After much swearing and sticky fingers (phrasing?) and leaving the first thin coat to dry, I was pleasantly surprised with how it came out. Surely fine to spoon another one on, right?

Maybe their gang hideout is the abandoned glue factory?

I don’t know if it was an inappropriate use of the product (I found a more pourable version after I had already bought and committed to this one…) or I wasn’t applying the layers thinly enough, but I’m a little annoyed that it didn’t dry as clear as I had expected. It’s not the end of the world, just a learning experience for next time.

The whole gang

All in all I’m very pleased with how they turned out! It’s very rare I get an entire project done in two sittings, and the painting (which normally takes me the longest) was done and dusted in about two evenings. Lessons learned, fun had, and models ready to kick some Acolyte ass!

Meanwhile, on the bench: Zini Dynasty Armsmen

Our games of Rogue Trader often involve group brawls with up to a dozen armed crewmen from our own vessel repelling whatever the eldritch horror of the day has snuck on board and is sucking down our crew like capri-suns. Our captain also has a penchant for giving them names, which never bodes well for redshirts. Rather than use dice as placeholders, I ordered some minis from the very excellent  anvilindustry using their awesome 3d build-a-regiment out of all their parts combos.

The parts arrived quickly, assembled like a dream and had little to no flash on them at all. I picked up some lady heads from Statuesque Miniatures too, as despite all the praise I can heap on Anvil, they don’t include lady heads as part of their regiment builder. C’mon guys, it’s the 41st millennium here – women are equally expendable as men are.

I didn’t have any real plan in mind for assembly other than I wanted to have a good range of weapon and equipment options so I had a good selection of models to choose from when I needed to improvise something. For example, the Anvil specialist squad I ordered came with a variety of odds and ends, including a banner, medkit and bugle (!). Try as I did, I couldn’t make the bugle work with the scheme. In space, nobody can hear you toot.

This guy stands in as the generic medic – if we have a player go down, he/she will pop up and try and patch them up. Because of the heroic running pose, I figured they would also stand in for any macguffin-carrying NPC who needs to hotfoot the death star plans through the ship.

It paired quite nicely with this other specialist, who is carrying a kind of kit bag/satchel charge looking device in one hand, and converted to hold a 40k auspex in the other. I picked one of the Medieval Helmets with a bionic eye to give them an extra techy look and slung a rifle over one shoulder. A little bit of putty for the strap, and this little guy can stand in for any scenario that calls for a specialist, scanner, technical support officer, you name it!

The decision was made quite early on that the armsmen would use las weaponry rather than conventional solid projectile weapons. Firstly, las weaponry would be more robust in harsh void environments – they work just as well in a vacuum as they do in low or zero-G situations, and the ammunition can be recharged theoretically infinitely. Secondly, the Dynasty once made a lot of its money from arms deals with a once-powerful faction of the Adeptus Mechanicus, so the weapons they equipped their troops with generations ago are still functioning just as well (if not better than) modern equipment that would be within a reasonable budget. Why fix what isn’t broken, eh?


The parts went together with no trouble at all, and there was a huge variety of poses (including a left-handed rifle pose!) that really add to the individuality of the models, despite them wearing 90% the same outfit. It also came with a two-handed pistol pose, which I initially thought was too Operator for our gang of hardened space pirates, but after dry fitting it, realised it was too cool to leave out. A putty strap on the rifle helps cement the model as a ‘rifleman’ class, rather than one of the melee characters.

Speaking of melee characters, I also knew I needed a few models that bucked the trend of ‘fashionable space rapscallions’, and given the propensity for boarding actions and angry claw-armed gribblies, we needed a few ruffians in the collection.

I never saw boarding actions as pretty things, but rather grim battles of attrition in tight corridors in hazardous conditions, often with little or no air, gravity or light, so their weapons would need to facilitate that. I was sorely tempted by chain weapons or swords, but settled on some brutish clubs and maces in the end. They didn’t need upkeep or sharpening – a blunt mace is just as effective as a sharp one, and in tricky conditions you don’t want something that you need space to wield (like a sword).

I had enough parts left to build a single armsman, and I was at odds with what to build. My mind wandered back to the idea of the Space Bugler (toot toot) who had some kind of vox receiver built into the instrument and wired into the vox network of all the other armsmen, so they could literally toot in space, but there wasn’t anything in the lore (so far) to back that up yet, and I wanted to cover all my necessary bases before adding new things. Plus, it’s an excuse to buy more minis down the line if I still want to pursue it…

It was a toss up between a leader/sergeant type character and a standard bearer. I hate freehand painting designs onto things, and try and avoid projects that force me to do that to make the most of the minis, so standard bearer was lowest on my priority list. However, I didn’t like the idea of a sergeant for this group, as I wanted leaders to emerge organically rather than be forced upon the crew, or allow the players to nominate anyone they felt was worthy of a position of command rather than the model saying which was in charge.

So, alas, the standard bearer was born.

Painting

The first test model was completed after much pain and anguish. The Captain of our game picked out the colours and symbols and I did my best to incorporate them into a design.

I wanted a House that had been impoverished until recently, so their House Guard are still utilising old armoured space suits that they have tried to repaint and retrofit as a uniform of sorts. The teal armband with the upside down moon is the colour and symbol of the Dynasty, and the red/white kneepad with the teal chevron represents the renewed pact with an old ally, an arms-dealing Adeptus Mechanicus faction.

In their pockets on their backpack they carry handfuls of dirt from their recently reclaimed homeworld, which they scatter on the floor before a boarding action – never again will they allow the Dynasty to lose ground!

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Crimson Wake Reavers

Batten down the hatches, sharpen your boarding axes and say your prayers to the Emperor, the Crimson Wake Reavers have you in their sights…

This project was immense fun. The premise was simple; I need bad guys, and lots of them. From our games of Inquisitor to Dark Heresy to Rogue Trader, even making NPC appearances in the odd game of Necromunda, the Crimson Wake have generously given their lives time and time in the name of being good Bad Guys, and I felt I owed it to the little champs to immortalise them in paint and plastic.

This project is perhaps the first sizeable modelling project I’ve completed that had no parts purchased specifically for the job. I wanted around a dozen members of the void-prowling Chaos pirate group, the Crimson Wake, and I was fortunate late last year to get a few big plastic bags of decade-old tatty models that needed rehoming. The models were in pretty bad nick – outrageous plastic glue accidents, interesting conversion attempts, paint that looks like it was applied with a trowel, the works. The upside was the sheer quantity – if you were to buy those today you would easily be set back around a grand.

I cleaned up all the metal models, flogged them on ebay for some hobby funds, and set about salvaging whatever plastic I could from the mix; Imperial Guardsmen, fantasy beastmen, loads of classic Empire bits, Chaos models that I forgot existed. What could be saved was snipped apart and distributed among my bits boxes, ready for the grand assemblage.

I had eyeballed some parts that would fit together very nicely, and decided I was going to just dive straight in, randomly matching bodies, legs and heads together to make my Chaos Reavers. I only had one goal in mind; to make them as varied as I could to represent many different kinds of baddies that might pop up in campaigns; from bedraggled voidsmen barely showing any signs of Chaos taint that could be hanging around in spaceport bars holding valuable information, all the way up to Chaos pirate captains and bloodthirsty ultra-warriors kitted out in ancient armoured void suits from millennia ago.

Let’s have a little look at some of these goons.

This was one of the first guys I put together and still one of my favourites. He captures that haggard, salty seadog look with a bit of weirdness from the right knee downwards. Given the time, energy and money, I’d make a dozen more like this guy to populate the spaceports and rotgut taverns of the 41st millennium, but he’ll have to do for now.

The shotgun is from Victoria Miniatures, picked up for a massive Necromunda bits part order and I still had a bunch lying around.

This guy was another relatively normal-looking Reaver – I still wanted a few models that could just about pass as non-Chaos worshipping loonies. As I was assembling them, I realised that I was going to need some unifying features to make the motley lot look more like a motley crew than a motley mob, so I devised a rebreather system. Nothing says Space Man like a backpack with tubes on it, right?

Most of the backpacks were made from classic plastic Space Marine backpacks with some of the nozzles chopped off, and the rebreather mouthpieces were made from cut-down space marine heads, leaving just the front part of the mask. The head is from the Trench Irregular set from Anvil Industries. I rolled out some sausages of green stuff for the tubes, let them set for about 20 minutes, then rolled them across some corrugated plastic to produce the ribbing effect. Leave them for another 10/20 minutes and they were springy enough to keep their ribs, but pliable enough to be bent, cut and glued into shape.

Time to get weird! I started experimenting with plastic Chaos Space Marine parts. I liked the armoured aesthetic, but I didn’t want my Reavers to just look like space marines, I wanted them to have a flavour of their own, so this was my first foray into using just enough CSM parts to add that asymmetric weirdness without being overt.

It was also at this point I realised that the topless Chaos Marauder torsos would work just fine if I shaved the nipples off and painted it to look like armour. Parts for the parts god!

They were going to need some support weapons too, and I played with the idea of a rocket or grenade launcher for a while. The model looked very cool, but I couldn’t justify the use of long ranged anti-tank weaponry on close-quarters fighters. A nice Imperial Guard heavy flamer would fit the bill, and with an excess of weird pipes going into his rebreather and his ammo tank raises questions about what exactly is being fired from that flamer after all…

Moving on to some heavy hitters, this guy was assembled almost entirely out of classic fantasy Chaos warrior parts, with a heavy pistol from Anvil and a Nurgley-looking shoulder pad to complete the look. I really liked the idea that this ancient warrior of a thousand battles still has the best damn boots on the ship.

I was very much hoping at this point that a nice paint job would offset the goofiness of the whole crew, but that’s what Chaos is there for right?

This guy was actually one of my earlier experiments with a rebreather. I nailed the concept of the mouthpiece, but ran into a problem trying to attach the backpack – the shoulder pads I had selected for MAXIMUM 40K were overmaximum and nothing could fit on his back. I had a rummage round for something suitable, I think they are flamer tanks from some infantry kit? By this point I was really enjoying the mismatched void suit aesthetic – classic Chaos Warrior legs and left arm, Chaos Marauder torso and head, Khorne Berzerker right arm and a heavy caliber pistol from Anvil.

The felt I lacked diversity in the work force, and needed some more Definitely Chaos guys, rather than Suspiciously Chaos. I wanted someone who, when they arrived on the board, left no doubt as to their alignment. I had the flaming head from the Empire Flagellants that was kicking around my bits box begging for a body. Legs and torso were easy to assemble, but I wanted something weird and wacky for his armament. A Plaguebearer left arm was suitable gribbly, and there was quite tight competition for the right, eventually settling on the weird tentacle double arm from the plastic Chaos Spawn kit.

It was at this point that I decided I was going to have a Lot Of Fun(tm) painting fire, as I’d never done it before. Oh, my sweet summer child.

I had some Khorne Berzerker legs to hand from the Bag o’ Doom and wanted someone with a bit more momentum than the others I had assembled. Axe nice and high, bolt pistol from Anvil out front in a run ‘n’ gun pose, I really like this one for its simplicity. It was tricky to see the model come together with so many half-painted plastic bits, but I assured myself it would come together after they were sprayed. A horny head from the classic plastic Chaos Space Marines finished the ‘head first charge’ look I was going for.

One more ‘normal’ guy to round things off, as I had many armoured and voidsuited thugs who would not be out of place by the Captain’s side, but I needed another scummy-looking mutant who could skulk around in the underways and maintenance tunnels getting intel. I have a lot of possessed heads picked up over the years, so I was desperate to use a few of them up in this project, especially the weirder ones that would have no chance of being in anything outside of a Chaos group. A plastic Ork body, legs and arms from an ‘easy assemble’ kit suited the hunched mutie look I was going for. I shaved down some of the iconography, added a few pointy shoulder pads and a big double-barrelled shotgun and he was done!

And finally, the magnificent Captain of the group. I had originally never intended to make a leader, so my group would never associate the models with characters too much and make it easier to chop and change them about. Unfortunately, as soon as I put the Chaos Warrior legs with the Chaos Space Marine chainmail torso, I was already sold. The massive Berzerker head I’ve had in my bits box fit too well, and I was already reneging on my pledge to myself for the sake of a cool model. It didn’t matter, it came out far better than I’d hoped – a big bulky silhouette that should make players shudder when it thumps down onto the table top.

All in all I’m very happy with how they came out. I’ve had several games with them since, and they’ve never failed to threaten and entertain. There will be some painted pictures going up over the next few weeks, so keep an eye on us!

Meanwhile, on the bench: Sulphia “Sulph” Caliver, Naval Armsman

Sulphia Caliver, known simply as ‘Sulph’ to her comrades, is a veteran naval armsman sworn to serve the Yule Dynasty, an ancient and powerful Rogue Trader Household that has close ties with the Inquisition. She has served the Warrant Holder for many years, earning her trust and a place on her personal retinue when House Yule is called to serve the Emperor at the behest of the Inquisition.

She is a brute of a woman, decked out in heavy flak armour and carrying weapons that reflect who she is – vicious, reliable and heavy duty. In the confines of cramped voidship corridors and boarding gangways, you don’t need complex fighting styles or fancy weapons to win the day – simply cold steel and a strong fighting arm.

Some early WIP shots before she got her extra details added

The model started out life more as a guardsman, a simple kitbash with Sergeant Stone’s legs and Slick Devlan’s body. Back then she was a he, and he was equipped with a standard lasgun and the infamous shouty head of Sergeant Black. He was only bluetacked together, but there was something about the pose of a flak-armoured warrior barreling forwards that really appealed to me. There was a ‘leader’ assembled as well, reaching for a sword and wearing a very fancy bicorn hat, but that will be a MOTB for another time. I liked the momentum of the model, but I never had any motivation to do anything extra to him, and he sat in my Box of Shame for months.

Roll forward to the (relatively) present day, and this lot on ebay comes to my attention. It seems in my brief 54mm hiatus, 3D printing kicked off and suddenly my niche modelling hobby was being bolstered by fresh kits and awesome new weapons. You can get the full Dreadquill run-down of the kit here.

Fawning over the new weapons I was formulating all manner of impossible projects, when I surreptitiously pulled out a few old projects from the Box of Shame and dry-fitted some of the guns. The one that was eventually used is, to my understanding, intended to be a grenade launcher, but one of my friends asked if it was some kind of giant shotgun, and that turned the whole narrative on its head.

Shotcannons are described as much larger variants of a regular shotgun that fire a huge shell (nearly twice the normal size) and can lay waste to large hordes of attackers. They are considered ‘support’ weapons in boarding parties, and I couldn’t think of anything cooler or more appropriate for an Inquisitor character, someone who specialises in brutal boarding actions and carries a gun that can explode a man into a burst of shredded clothing and flesh. What more could a girl want?

With the new angle of ‘naval armsman’ rather than generic guardsman or bodyguard, the project motored ahead. First thing to change was the head, the shouty guardsman head wouldn’t cut it. I had an old open-faced head from the Lucretia Bravus model, one that I’ve never actually used in a model. I didn’t really like the silhouette, it was too sleek and elegant, a far cry from the chunky combat of the 41st millennium. It looked perfect on her though, and I imagined some kind of huge welding-mask-type shutter being propped open that she could slam down when it was Go Time.

The armour was a joy to sculpt. I’ve always been a fan of the Elysian Drop Troopers, and the padded fatigues on their arms and legs was an aesthetic I wanted to replicate. I tried to keep the size of the pads as close to the flak armour on the body to bring the parts of the model together to look a more coherent whole, like it was an actual uniform that had been repaired a number of times rather than a disparate series of armour plates slapped together.

All the accessories were umm’d and ahh’d over for quite some time. She needed at least one melee weapon, and I felt an axe or mace would be suitably savage. No fancy sword fighting nonsense here. I settled on a chaos marauder axe head and shaft, with the handle being replaced from a 40k power sword to give it a bit more of a futuristic feel, rather than wrapped leather.

There was a toss-up between backup weapons too, I felt compelled to try and give her a reload for her shotcannon but a) I couldn’t find a suitable part to represent a whole new drum mag and b) didn’t feel it was in her aesthetic to reload such a bulky weapon. I see her firing off as many rounds as she can before closing with the enemy, hurling the thing like an angry fire extinguisher and getting stuck in with axe and boot. A nice big revolver strapped to her thigh would fit the bill of backup weapon.

The last key element I wanted for her was a fully sealed combat suit. Her attire doesn’t scream ‘space suit’, but I wanted there to be some way of her surviving emergency decompression, low oxygen or chemical warfare. Her gear is primitive but robust, so she would need suitable breathing apparatus reflective of that. The original plan was to have a mouthpiece attached to her chest or breast, like Forest Whittaker’s character in Rogue One, so she could quickly mask up in the event of an emergency.

At this point though, her arms and gun were well attached to her body, and I could find no way of making a suitable mask to hang from that part of her without it looking cluttered and ugly. I had a root around in my bits box and salvaged an Imperial Guard flamer tank, some guitar wire and a heavily shaved-down 40k space marine helmet to form a rebreather. I figured she would unhook it from her belt and clip it into place underneath her boarding mask to form a fully sealed helmet. It won’t help you with any space walks, but it might just help you survive long enough in a pinch.

Then it was just adding gubbins – a few pouches here and there, a grenade on the belt and sculpting in some straps to attach it all together and she was done! The name is from an idea that on her ship of birth, the ship’s macrocannons were independently operated by different family units, each competing to who can have the faster loading solutions and fiercely protective of their family’s cannon. Each family unit would have names derived from ancient Terran warfare; Caliver, Bulletson, Sabot and Saker.

All that’s left is to come up with a colour scheme and mock up some stats for her. A full study will inevitably come along in the future, but my mind went wandering about how best to represent her signature weapon on the Inquisitor battlefield; the naval shotcannon.

Many among the Inquisitor community have adopted MarcoSkoll’s quite excellent Revised Inquisitor Armoury, as although the original rules are robust enough to play with ‘out of the box’, almost two decades of playtesting have brought up a few issues of variety and balance of weapons. Marco took it upon himself to rewrite the entire armoury with the benefit of hindsight, community feedback and oodles of weapon knowledge, so ranged weapons all have a distinctive flavour and punch to them.

Having a browse through, I noticed there was an absence of ‘stupid big shotgun designed to turn men into paté’, so I had a go at improvising rules for on one using the options that were available to me.

Naval Shotcannon

Using the stats of a full auto combat shotgun, with the large calibre and drum mag upgrades:

Type Range Firing mode Accuracy Damage Shots Reload Encumbrance Special Rarity
Basic E Sg/Sm(2/4) D6+2* 14 3 50 DM, Jam Prone UnCm

The special rules below have been factored into the statline above.

Scatter Shot (Common)

“A very standard loading, a standard shot shell fires a small cloud of lead projectiles at the target. They have poor armour defeating capabilities and the projectiles rapidly disperse, but the effect of multiple projectiles impacting in the same instant can be especially effective against un-armoured or lightly armoured targets”.

Range E; D6+1 damage

*Multiple hits (1 hit per Degree of Success up to a maximum of 3 hits, all to the same location)

Large Calibre

+1 Damage. Gains Considerable Recoil rule . +5 EncPump Action, Lever Action, Auxiliary and Dual Magazine shotgun magazine sizes reduced by 1. (-1 to both Magazines on the Dual Mag)Semi-Auto, Auto and Bullpup Auto Magazine sizes reduced by 2.

Drum Magazine (DM)

A very easy modification to fit, as it’s a simple magazine swap. Weapons which can take this modification are marked with “DM” under the Notes column.

The weapon’s magazine capacity is doubled, Enc is increased by +5, the Reload stat by +1 and the weapon gains the Jam Prone special rule.

Meanwhile, on the bench: Serafin House Guard

This is the first of a new weekly segment, Meanwhile on the Bench (or MOTB as it will inevitably be shortened to), a section looking at the many conversions and unfinished projects lying around (read: being worked on) the Dreadquill studio. Rather than shy away from public attention and treat my growing to-do list with shame and disappointment, it’s instead time to revel in the bits and pieces that go on underneath the layers of paint and swearing that make up the Dreadquill minis.

This week we introduce the first plucky bunch of Serafin House Guard, “the Glailwroth Few”, for use in our games of Rogue Trader. They are highly trained and educated field troops adapted to the brutal confines of boarding actions and void conflicts of the Serafin Dynasty fleet. They are few and far between, an elite cadre of warriors sworn to protect the Dynasty and its interests.

I am currently involved in running two separate Rogue Trader campaigns, the Serafin Dynasty and the Zini Dynasty – the former being a more political/creed/religious game, the latter being a more exploration/piracy game. In the latter, we discovered our love for playing with minis rather than tokens (bottle caps, euros, scatter dice…) and as the Captain would drag as many merry men with her as she could to every encounter, it necessitated some armsmen models.

They were great fun to build (and a pain in the ass to paint), but it left us feeling that our Serafin game was also sorely missing out on some noble cannon fodder to escort our brave Lord-Captain with her on dangerous away missions. We already had some stats for them, we had built them using the Only War regiment builder, so it was just a case of finding some models that fit the bill.

The brief was, in quintessential Captain Serafin style, brief. They were noble-born, well-equipped and well trained. They belonged to quite an old Dynasty that prides itself on artisan weaponry, and ply the space-lanes in a strange old vessel that’s even older than the Dynasty itself. Pomp and circumstance was the order of the day, and the hunt for miniatures began.

My first port of call was the same supplier I got my other armsmen off, Anvil Industry. They have an incredible range of 28mm sci fi/modern parts that you can chop and change to create unique regiments of fighters, and even a neat 3d model builder so you can preview what the parts you ordered look like. Although there were some neat combinations, none of it screamed ‘fancy-ass toffs who could kick your ass’. The hunt continued.

Many other suppliers were discounted – I needed something ideally in resin or plastic to give me the conversion opportunities I would need, and none of them had that high-tech archaic look I was going for, and somehow I ended up coming full circle round to Forge World and their incredible Solar Auxilia range. I fell in love with the Lasrifle Section, I really dig the Space Colonists vibe they have going for them, which perfectly encapsulated the feeling I wanted for the House Guard. Unfortunately, common sense won out in the end, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t justify the price tag. Another project for another time, maybe.

I was about to bin the whole idea when I was in my local Games Workshop eyeing up the Tempestus Scions. They were neat, but not quite what I was going for, and th-OH MY GOD THEY COME WITH MOUSTACHE HEADS. Instant purchase. Turns out in my haste to overlook ‘normal’ Games Workshop models, I didn’t realise that the Scions also come with these dope-ass berets and hard-nut heads. To the bench!

The first guy assembled was the least converted. I wanted to get a feel for the kit before I started mucking about with it. I also had quite a strict equipment list to adhere to, most of which was only sparsely represented on the sprue, so I knew a lot of converting guns was going to have to happen. For this chap, I did a simple gun swap on his left hand. The straight arm was attached to a plasma pistol, not something I wanted on his loadout, and the regular laspistol arm was bent at an angle that didn’t work well with the pose.

Everything else was just adding gubbins from my bits box. I had a bunch of Adeptus Mechanicus backpacks from another project and they fitted perfectly. They further the House Guard from the original Scions models and add that extra element of techy-weirdness that I wanted to get across. The addition of the incense burners and other religious iconography helped further the idea that I wanted these guys to be devoted to their duty and to the God Emperor, so I went overboard on reliquaries, prayer tokens and purity seals. More is more, right?

Quite content with how he turned out, I moved on to a slightly more ambitious task: how does one make a Best Quality lasgun?

Shouty telephone man was born! I needed a vox operator as the regiment specialises in electro-vox warfare, and I couldn’t bring myself to convert one just for the sake of being different from the box version. After completion, it struck me how presidential he looked, but I couldn’t figure out why. With his right side completed, I just had to figure out how to make him hold what would become an awesome-looking Serafin las rifle.

One of my inspirations was the Vostroyan Firstborn, and after having a rifle through my bits box discovered a bunch of Empire Handgunner rifles. With a bit of careful chopping of the iconic lasgun parts (the muzzle, the charge pack), some careful gluing and filling with green stuff, the look was complete. Long, ornate, form-over-function kinda feeling. It even has a wheel lock on it, which excites me because I can’t for the life of me think why you would have that on there other than to add unnecessary parts to clean.

With the “look” of the lasgun down pat, I felt comfortable knowing I could recreate it on further models. Next guy I wanted to do was a generic “guy  shooting at something” pose. Holding a rifle in one hand is easy to convert, manipulating the arms and rifle butt to fit snugly into a shouldered firing position might be a bit trickier.

Yep, this was much trickier. In a strange flip-turn of events, the camera here actually hides the damage to the hands, wrists and right arm far better than you can see in person. The muzzle and charge pack swap were straight forward, but the left hand needed to be hollowed out completely to fit further up the rifle to make room for the charge pack in the same place as the first one I made. D’oy.

The right arm also needed a complete remodelling. The default hellgun stock looked radically different from the artisan wooden stock of the Empire handgun, and I’d lose a massive amount of the charm if I had to chop off the rifle grip and hand guard in favour of the easier hellgun option. Essentially both the rifle and the arm had massive amounts of painstaking scalpel work to shave each section down so they joined together as seamlessly as possible. Luckily after spraying, you didn’t notice the join at all, which I was quite chuffed with.

Oh yes, and it was at this point that I realised how fucking fragile the radio masts are on the Scion bodies, note the paperclip replacement.

Next I needed some ‘utility’ guys to round off my selection. I wasn’t sure what models I would need until we played some games, so I wanted to have as large a spread of options to choose from (and I didn’t want to convert up any more of those rifles unless I absolutely needed to).

This guy was straightforward – two arms straight off the sprue. He’s the medic, but would also double up as “House Guard NPC carrying the plot maguffin”. I love the weird Gears of War-esque pistol-chainblade thing he has. Although chainblades aren’t rare in 40k, I’ve never seen one on a pistol before, and I couldn’t quite place what kind of weapon it was. It has the middle and rear of a hellpistol, but not the barrel or muzzle. Who knows, it looked cool. Easy conversion, onto the last guy!

In my dismay I realised that electro-vox warfare also covered the use of scanners and auspexes, so I would need to convert someone holding one. The left arm was a straightforward lift from the sprues, and I evaded converting another rifle by using one of the holstered guns from the box set as well, just changing the stock to make it look a bit more appropriate. The Auspex was hard though, I couldn’t find any ‘open’ right hands, they were all taken up with holding weapons in some way or another. I made a note to look online to order some more to fill my ranks, but that wouldn’t help me in the short term!

Luckily from a previous Anvil order I had picked up a load of bionic limbs, and one of them was an open bionic left hand for holding rifles. A little thumb realignment surgery and (I think) cunningly hiding it behind the auspex was all I needed to convince the casual looker that he was holding an auspex with his thumb on the correct side. Result!

All in all I was very happy with how they came out. I had been given a vague colour scheme to work with – white, gold and ice blue, and I could visualise those working with the esoteric mix of high-tech and religious iconography that these guys are draped in, but that would be another job for another time.

If you wanted to use the Glailwroth Few in your own games, or you just fancied having a look, you can check out the stats, equipment and backstory for them here.

 

Shapeways 3D printed 54mm weapon comparison

A few weeks back I saw this pack of 54mm weapons on Shapeways and I impulse-bought a set for three reasons;

  1. 54mm scale sci fi weapons have not been commercially available for almost 9 years
  2. People who make these kinds of things need to be supported, so there are more of these kinds of things in the future
  3. I’d not had a rainy day in a while to spend my rainy day fund on

(Thanks to gpemby on The Conclave for the heads up and pointing me in the right direction)

I must admit, when I first saw them laid out on the forum user’s mat I was a little skeptical – many of them looked too big to work, even at ‘heroic’ scale. The pump shotty in particular looked almost 20% bigger than the vanilla Inquisitor pump shotty, and I thought it might look goofy in 54mm hands.

I did some dry runs with bluetack and I think the results speak for themselves. I am overall very pleased with the entire kit! I’m looking forward to dry-fitting some test models with some of these pieces (I never had an inclination to make a graviton gun-armed model until now…). Some of them are a little chunky for my tastes, the semi-auto scoped rifle and pump shotty for example, but it just means they have to be held by chunky hands rather than dainty ‘true-scale’ hands.

All in all an excellent pack, I look forward to seeing what the user comes up with in the future!

Blood in Golgotha Mines – Inquisitor Battle Report

Colonel Vaux blew warm air into his hands. It was dark underground, but at least they were out of the blasted wind on the surface. He looked back over his shoulder towards his Inquisitor. The man’s face was lit only by the dim green glow of his auspex, playing on his scar and making it look like a fissure deep through his skull. 

“There are six potential stashes. I’ve marked them on your dataslates.” The Inquisitor spoke flatly, as though they weren’t just about to kick down the door of a dangerous gang’s hideout.

Vaux heard the familiar clicks and muttered prayers of Guardsmen checking their weapons and reciting litanies of readiness. He did the same, sliding a fresh magazine of Kraken penetrator rounds into his bolt pistol. 

“You have been briefed on the crystals. I expect a full report when we convene.” With those words, the Inquisitor disappeared into the gloom ahead.

For this Inquisitor skirmish, two warbands clashed over possession of Chaos-tainted Yu’Vath crystals in the gloomy, frigid depths of the Golgotha mines.

The warbands

On one side is the warband of Inquisitor Tarrik Vanth, a radical Ordo Malleus Inquisitor with strong Xanthite beliefs – an ideology that espouses the use of Chaos to defeat Chaos. He is a battle-hardened Inquisitor, with a shoulder-mounted psycannon and a sword containing a bound daemon.

His comrades are all Imperial Guardsmen, recruited from across the subsector to his personal retinue. His second in command, Colonel Vaux, is backing him up for this dangerous endeavour. He is an eagle-eye shot and a dab hand with his power fist. Sergeant Honies the Medic and Trooper Gene Ric made up the rest of the warband.

On the other side were cultists of the Crimson Wake, devilishly cunning and deadly combatants dedicated to Chaos Undivided. They were lead by the Arch-Heretic Karo, a cunning combatant with several dirty tricks up his sleeve.

He was backed up by Gorthar, a Khorne-aligned pugilist and Mucus, an ancient warrior who has been battling with the Crimson Wake for longer than his three brains can remember. The final member is Tlashkala, a plasma gunner that was exposed to the open warp, twisting his flesh and turning his blood to plasma.

The battlefield

The game was set in the underground mines of Golgotha, deep beneath the surface of the fourth moon of Ulsvar IV. It was designed to be a checkpoint that had been overtaken by a gang, and they had used the tall sections as watch towers.

An overview of the terrain

The board was dominated by an excellent lasercut MDF kit from Wargames Tournaments. I have extolled its virtues before on the Dreadquill Instagram account, and no doubts will do a proper review of it on here before long, but suffice to say that it’s an excellent piece of terrain that can fill a board, and flat pack down to fit into an A3 box.

The rest was filled with a few tall towers joined by bridges and a few pipes and barrels for scatter terrain. The six loot tokens were scattered roughly in the centre of the board at various heights to encourage some Thrilling Heroics.

Like a bridge over troubled sewage

The mission

Both warbands had the same brief – end the game in possession of as many Yu’Vath crystal tokens as possible. We used red translucent Blood Bowl block dice to represent the discovered crystals.

Across the board there were six golden loot tokens, representing a stash of weapons and gear that the gang had secreted away that *could* contain the crystals. Both teams knew where all the loot stashes were, but did not know which stash contained crystals.

Starting positions and stash locations (North is the furthest edge)

Checking a stash costs one action, and the character must make a Sagacity test to see if they can identify any crystals in the stash. If they fail, they can spend another action to test again, with a cumulative +10 modifier each time they test (after a while they should get better at knowing what to look for!).

Once they pass the check, the character has correctly identified whether or not there are crystals in the stash. Roll a d6: on a 4+, the stash contains Yu’Vath crystals. On a 1-3, the stash is just worthless ration bars and shoddy smuggled small arms. Whatever the outcome, remove the stash token – it’s assumed the character tears the stash apart looking for crystals, and others will be able to tell at a glance that it contains nothing.

You can carry as many crystals as you like, but it costs one action to pick each one up. The winner would be whoever carried the most crystals at the end of the skirmish. If one warband was driven off, any crystals left behind on the board would belong to the remaining warband.

The conditions

The Golgotha mines are dark, and very little light trickles through the built-up machinery overhead. You need to pass an Initiative -10 test to be able to see anyone.

The battle

The Crimson Wake move in

Both warbands begin by attempting the stealth approach. The Crimson Wake have the most success with this, infiltrating North across the board from their South-East starting position without raising any alarms. Gorthar manages to surprise the ganger in yellow (pictured above top left) and tears both his arms clean from his sockets. Gorthar then helps himself to the ganger’s stash token, finding the first Yu’Vath crystal.

Vanth’s warband in the North West corner have less luck with the stealth approach, being spotted in the second turn as Trooper Gene Ric prats about at the top of a ladder. The alarm is sounded by an optimistic ganger, who finds himself torn to shribbons by a devastating fusillade of psycannon fire from Vanth on the lower bridge.

Mucus engages Inquisitor Vanth early on

Mucus had made excellent progress across the board, moving quickly under the cover of the ample terrain. He charges Vanth, and the pair exchange vicious blows that would have felled any of the other characters several times over.

Tlashkala blasts Sgt Honies full force with his plasma gun

Tlashkala and Sergeant Honies have a surprise encounter around the ground floor stash token. Unfortunately for Honies, Tlashkala is quicker on the draw, and splashes white-hot plasma across his body. Honies is critically injured but not out. Tlashkala is content that Honies is dead, and presses forward North to assist Mucus.

Tlashkala rushes Mucus’ aid

By this point, several turns have passed of causing brutal injuries to one another, but neither gaining the upper hand. Even with Tlashkala assisting, the two cannot seem to down Vanth permanently, but nor can Vanth cause a crippling strike on his assailants.

Karo “assists” by shooting wildly into combat

Karo moves forwards and uncovers the second Yu’Vath crystal in the stash that Honies almost died to protect. He is also pretty convinced that Honies is dead, and decides the most helpful thing would be to fire indiscriminately at the combat with Vanth and two of his team “mates”. Luckily for everyone his shots go wide, so he snatches up the Yu’Vath Crystals and skirts around the skirmish looking for the final objective.

Moments before Gene Ric leaps two storeys to back up his Inquisitor

Meanwhile, Vanth’s allies have been scouring the rooftops for signs of further gangers or stash tokens. Vaux is utterly convinced that his Inquisitor doesn’t require assistance, and moves to gather the most Westerly loot stash. Trooper Gene Ric has less conviction, and dives off the gangway directly into combat, kicking Mucus in the head on the way down.

Gorthar climbs to the tallest stash

Since his run-in with the yellow-coated ganger, Gorthar has been resolutely clambering the outside of the central building, making for the stash token on the tallest building. He spies Vaux and Gene Ric heading his way and makes a quick getaway, narrowly avoiding detection. Discretion is the better part of valour, after all.

Vaux finds *another* empty stash

Vaux continues his mission, and the second stash he checks is empty as well. Gorthar in the background has uncovered the third and final Yu’Vath crystal. With Gorthar in possession of two crystals and Karo carrying the third, the Crimson Wake have technically won, if only they can get off the board in one piece!

Only three characters are not involved in the Vanth vs Mucus dogpile

At this point in the game, Vanth has been duelling with Mucus for almost a dozen turns and several in-game hours. Only Sergeant Honies (above, at the base of the central structure), Vaux (above, Westerly side) and Gorthar (above, halfway up the central tower) are not involved in the massive brawl under the central structure.

The tide of battle seems to turn as Vanth suffers the worst of his injuries and spends a few turns stunned on the floor. However, the fortuitous timing of Gene Ric’s aerial arrival has distracted the Crimson Wake reavers long enough to think that Vanth is dead, and give him a few turns of precious recuperation. Gene Ric battles on valiantly, armed only with his trusty short sword.

Vaux and Gorthar duel, but Gorthar takes his chances with the ground

Vaux finally eyes up a heretic trying to make off with some crystals down the outside of the central structure. He opens fire while stampeding towards him, desperate to turn the tables in his favour. Gorthar on the other hand, is weighing up his options. He has done the maths and concludes he would likely lose that fist fight, so he tries to disengage from combat and flee with the crystals.

It doesn’t go well

One tragic mis-step later leads Gorthar to go tumbling to the ground, just in time to crush the freshly recovered Sergeant Honies to death*. Gorthar staggers to his feet and makes a break for it, but not before Vaux can fill his head full of holes with armour-penetrating bolt rounds.

*At this point, it’s worth mentioning that Honies was not crushed entirely to death. He was crushed into unconsciousness, where he slowly but inevitably bled to death over the following few turns. Being crushed to death sounded a more heroic way to go out.

Karo unwittingly enters Vaux’s killing field

Karo has decided that the melee with Vanth is all done and dusted (both he and Tlashkala failed to realise Vanth was still alive, or even that he had pulled himself to his feet after Mucus brushed his teeth with a chain axe). He makes a run for the exit, but notices several Yu’Vath crystals on the ground and hungrily goes to grab them.

Unfortunately for him, Vaux still had a perfect aim lined up at Gorthar’s body, where Karo had now thrown himself. Vaux plugs Karo a few times but he leaps for cover, and Vaux cannot put the killing blow onto him.

A bloodied Vanth chases down the fleeing Mucus with his own chain axe

Meanwhile, Gene Ric had broken from combat intending to grenade whatever was left standing, but Vanth annihilates Tlashkala with furious psycannon fire. The combat has left Vanth with barely any health remaining and bleeding from every body part, but he had disarmed Mucus (literally) and chased the foul mutant down.

At this point, Vanth decides to pick up the remains of Mucus’ severed arm, still attached to revving chain axe, and plunges it into the mutant’s back. Some say these two lovebirds are still fighting to this day.

STRIKE FROM THE SKIES, BROTHERS

Vanth succumbs to his wounds, and strays into unconsciousness as his body (finally) runs out of blood. Mucus goes to perform a killing blow, but BAH GAWD OUTTA NOWHERE Colonel Vaux launches an aerial power fist strike straight onto Mucus. The attack leaves everyone (literally and metaphorically) stunned, and Mucus uses the opportunity to slink off into the darkness, deciding not to take his chances with the totally uninjured basejumping maniac with the power fist.

Karo comes round, and as Vaux is in the middle of reloading, sees his chance to make a break for it. He grabs the two nearest Yu’Vath crystals to him and disappears under the cover of the southern building. Trooper Ric makes one final blast of las fire at the fleeing Karo, but fails to make any difference to the outcome.

The conclusion

It was a hard-fought game, with Karo escaping with two Yu’Vath crystals and leaving one for Vanth’s men to scoop up in the aftermath of the skirmish.

Karo’s warband came off the worse; Karo barely escaped with his life, Mucus thoroughly battered with a mangled arm, Gorthar lying face down with a head like swiss cheese and Tlashkala had been used to repaint the local scenery a nice shade of Heretic Red.

Vanth’s warband was not so bad off, Vanth slipping into unconsciousness could be fixed with some field medics, and even though his face was almost severed from the rest of his head, it’s unlikely that anyone will notice much difference after he’s recovered. Sergeant Honies will be honored (and replaced), but the other two warband members seemed to emerge largely unscathed.

All in all it was an excellent game, with plenty of drama and excitement. At no point could I work out who was winning, as the power struggle seemed to change almost on a turn-by turn basis. Although Karo made off with more crystals, their warband indisputably came off worse, and would seriously struggle in a followup game.

Moving forward

There’s a few things I would do differently to run the game. The biggest would be to introduce a time limit of sorts when I feel like the game is running its course. Although I enjoy playing Inquisitor ‘to the bitter end’, when one player has to leave when the game hasn’t *entirely* resolved, it can be a bit of a rush to come up with an epic climax.

Playing again, about halfway through the game I could announce some kind of time limit (5 turns?) before the gang summoned reinforcements that would overwhelm the warbands, so they have to grab what they can and scarper. I think that would help keep the tension high, and prevent the game from descending into a battle of attrition.

Both players now have the bug, and after the tidy up we spent almost an hour eyeing up 54mm models for their warbands.

Will we see Vanth and the Crimson wake clash again?

Inquisitor event “The Wastes” – now with photos!

A routine augur scan of the world Eurone has picked up abnormal levels of both electromagnetic and psychic activity from within a region known as “The Wastes” – a non-fertile region of little use to the Imperium, officially uninhabited.

The region is largely uncharted, with few living outsiders who have any knowledge of the region, making it a dangerous prospect to explore. But nonetheless, The Wastes hold secrets that unchecked could devastate the Imperium of Man.

“The Wastes” was a one-day event run by members of the Conclave, the official Inquisitor online community, and we were honoured to be joined by the Lord-Remembrancer himself, John Blanche.

I took many (often poor) photos of the event, as Inquisitor is game of spectacle as well as story, and the increased scale of the models helps reflect that. Nothing draws interested crowds like a scratch-built 54mm scale razorback or sentinel!

Check out the full gallery here.

Expanded Warp Travel Encounters table released

We’ve all been there -you’ve been playing Rogue Trader and your crew is getting semi-decent at warp jumps and dealing with the harsh penalties the wild expanse throws at them. Either a jump goes off without a hitch, or you’ve played out the scant few encounters in the core rulebook so many times that translating into hell and madness becomes routine, and you’re often so busy juggling the rest of the game that improvising another new warp encounter is off the cards. Time to change that!

Here is an expanded table of 20 different warp encounters, appropriately balanced to the vagaries of the warp and definitely deadly if the dice gods are not smiling favourably that day. It will help keep your players on their toes whenever they’re traversing the Sea of Souls, and make them think twice about saying the fateful words “Oh that’s fine, it’s only one warp jump away.”

You can get the full table here.