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!


Orthesian Herald: session 5 – The Flickering Eye

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

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

First steps into the Nomads
Pleasant tidings

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

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

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

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

Our journey to Gangue was over.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twin-linked bolters

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

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

Dakka dakka dakka!

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

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

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

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

Tips for pros: fire kills Orks dead.

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

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

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

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

The aftermath

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

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

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

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Orthesian Dynasty Armsmen

Prepare to repel boarders!

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

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

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


Through service comes loyalty

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

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

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

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

Whaddya lookin’ at? Back ta work!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I tried out a few different ideas within the same scope

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

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

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

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

And one final one, because I couldn’t resist

Meanwhile, on the Bench: completed Longshore Brassnecks

I’ve had a lot of fun painting these guys. Normally, muscle-bound knuckle-draggers aren’t my jam – I swerve from barbarians and fighter-types in any roleplaying game – so I didn’t think the Goliaths from Necromunda would appeal to me.

Boy was I wrong.

I got the Necromunda set for Christmas and I had such a great time assembling the two gangs that I couldn’t wait to get stuck in to the painting. I knew I wanted them to be multi-role, usable both in  Necromunda and as goons for our games of Dark Heresy or Rogue Trader.

The Longshore Brassnecks were the result – beefy gangers who show off their prowess by hauling cargo around without the need for lifting equipment, and running security for the point defense guns of Mercy. I liked the idea that they made their furnace plate armour out of spent shell casings from macrocannons (if there is such a thing…), so the armour would be painted to look like battered copper.

I think they came out rather well, and I left two models back for the inevitable campaign amendments or new recruits. As much as I’d LOVE to buy another box set of these guys, holding two back for spares seemed like the more prudent idea. Plus, I fancied trying my hand at a lady Goliath, but that’s a project for another time…

squad goals

First up is the leader, Musgrave. He’s armed with a power hammer, stub cannon and a fighting knife for those delicious extra dice in combat. Sure you have to split your attacks between the weapons this way, but I reasoned it was better to roll more dice at a problem and increase my chances of hitting with the hammer in the first place.

I picked the bulkiest armour, head and shoulder pads for him too so that he would stand out, and slung a stub cannon on his back to make use of that 3+ Ballistic Skill. I did a little conversion work on the power hammer too, swapping the head for the Renderizer gave it the heft I was looking for.

Next is Zastava, a Juve armed with a stub pistol and a spud jacker. As one of two Juves in the gang, his job is very simple – run around and be generally irritating.

He originally had a knife rather than a pistol, but there were so many moments in our test games when he found himself behind cover not able to do very much. Even with a 5+ Ballistic Skill it’s better than nothing, and opens up his tactical options a little bit. I’d rather get one shot at 5+ than no shots at all.

The pistol is from Zinge Industries, as the core Goliath box set sees fit to only furnish you with two stub pistols…

The other Juve is Gat, wielding a brute cleaver rather than a spudjacker but his role in the gang is still the same as Zastava’s. His stub pistol is from Zinge again.

Next up is Roth, armed with a Renderizer and a stub pistol. He had a little conversion work done to him too – swapping the head round with Musgrave’s power hammer so it’s slung over the shoulder instead of wielded two handed. The pistol had to be swapped round with the combi-plasma pistol arm too.

Considering the work that went into him, he’s not actually played in any games yet, he tends to get left on the sideline. Poor Roth.

Next up is my boy Sturm, the Champion of the Brassnecks and very dear to my heart. I’m not sure why the rivet cannon gets such a bad rap among the community, it’s been a pleasant surprise in every game we’ve played so far. Granted, the 9″ range can totally hamstring your plans, but Sturm is a Champion armed with a spud-jacker – he’s got two Strength 5 WS 3+ attacks he can throw out if you think charging him is a good idea.

Opponents tend to underestimate the Goliath ‘heavies’ into thinking that just because they have a heavy weapon they’ll be a pushover in close combat – something Sturm has used to his advantage more than once.

Attaching the spud-jacker was easy enough – the hand that was holding it was carved away with a craft knife. I tried my hand at a bit of object source lighting on the rivet cannon and although I’m not super pleased with how it came out, I’m glad I tried it!

This is Vektor, the cheekiest of the Brassnecks, known for his tendencies to pull off trick shots with his grenade launcher or bounce missed shots round corners much to the frustration of opponents.

He comes with an axe and stub gun too (in a holster on his back), as we’ve played enough original Necromunda to know the importance of a backup weapon if you’re the heavy.

Up next is the dark horse, Pounder. When we were making the gangs as a group, we didn’t really know how silly the combat shotguns were until one of did a double-take on the character sheet halfway through the test game and pulled out the flamer template.

He’s great for in support for keeping a whole bunch of people pinned, and every now and then one of those Strength 2 shredder shots actually does something!

He has a stub gun as well, because let’s be honest – why look excited about one weapon when you can look excited about two?

Finally we have Ruger, a humble support ganger with a stub cannon and fighting knife. The theme for this gang was BIG GUNS, as my aforementioned aversion to muscly brutes hitting stuff meant I decided to take them in a different direction. Their job was to haul big munitions to use in even bigger guns, so it was only reasonable they took a liking to big guns themselves.

After running a game or two, I’ve realised just quite *how* much I like the stub cannon, and there will be several more gangers being equipped with them after this!

Orthesian Herald: session 3 – Into the Throat

You near the warp translation point and notice a distinct change in attitude among the crew. They become hushed and pensive, going about their business without a word. Lit candles appear on the shrines at every corridor junction, and fresh wax appears dribbled across the Aquilas on all the airlocks. Red-robed Technomats scrutinise bulkheads and paneling with scanner-skulls for faults invisible to the un-augmented eye and morose war-hymns drift through the air-recyc vents across the ship.

Moments before translation, the ship comes to life.

Petty Officers on the bridge begin issuing orders to Deck Chiefs across the vessel, their consoles filling with green runes as deck crews report ready. The vessel shudders as massive adamantium shutters unfurl across all viewing ports across the ship, sealing up the guns and gracefully sliding down over the great observation windows of the bridge.

As the last light of Haimm’s baleful suns is shut out, emergency floor lights wash the bridge in a deep crimson. Tech adepts intoning in binary light candles and incense around the captain’s pulpit, flocked by clusters of illumination servo-skulls. Ministorum priests chanting hymns of salvation move up and down the rows of crews at their stations, their heads bowed in prayer.

The timbre of the plasma engine shifts up several octaves as power is sucked from the rest of the vessel and channeled into the arcane and impossibly powerful warp drive. You feel the collective psyche of every void-hardened crewman, rating, armsman and officer take a physical breath in. They hang on your word, Lord-Captain.

Taming the void

Our third session picked up exactly where we left our valiant crew; boldly sailing towards the warp point of the system of Haimm, ready to make their first proper warp translation into the Throat and the Nomad Stars beyond.

As everything was being explained about warp transit, I also posed the question about what might constitute a ‘good luck’ gesture on board the ship. All captains observe some kind of pre-warp ritual, be it excessive hymns, confiscating any items of chance from the crew (like cards or dice) or even blood sacrifice.

It was fairly quickly decided that the ‘good luck’ ritual would involve a massive salvo from the macrocannons and blaring out war-songs from the multi-band broadcasters out into space – not to pray to the Saints for luck or hope that the warp might grant them safe passage, but to angrily and loudly warn anything that exists beyond the veil of reality that the Unbroken Resolve was coming through, and you’d best get out of its way.

Just a normal warp jump, nothing to see here – courtesy of Fantasy Flight Games

The energies of a thousand suns are expelled from the warp drive with a terrifying ethereal screech, tearing a hole in reality and hurtling the vessel through it.

The whole ship issues a guttural, primal roar as the impossible forces of the Empyrean bear down upon it. Millennia of human ship-building and the thin skin of the Gellar Field are all that protect every soul aboard the ship from being torn apart in a fraction of a second by the raw unholy energies of the warp.

You feel as though a bucket of ice water has been dumped over you, soaking you to the skin, and you can feel the tell-tale scratching at the corner of your consciousness as the malefic entities of the warp probe this new intruder into their realm.

The ship settles into its route, navigation of the vessel becomes re-routed from the controls on bridge through to the navigator’s chambers. Translation into the warp is complete.

The horrors of the warp

I wanted to play up the terrifying, unknowable nature of warp travel – it’s closer to 17th century sailing than Star Wars hyperspace or Star Trek warp speed. Every moment spent before, during and after such transits are fraught with peril, and no matter how much preparation you do, nothing can prepare you for one really bad warp transit roll.

We have a slightly homebrewed version of warp transit, partly from the Core Rulebook and partly from the expanded rules in the Navis Primer. The Core rules were a little too simple, and the Navis Primer too complex, so we compromised in a middle ground. We use the following;

1. Determine duration of passage

GM comes up with a duration, Navigator makes a Navigate (Warp) test to get a close estimate. A Detailed chart (either made by the players or purchased separately) provides a +20 bonus, a Basic chart gives +10.

2. Locate the Astronomican

Awareness +10 test, every DoS adds +10 to any further Navigate (Warp) tests and vice versa. 3+ Degrees of Failure indicate the Astronomican cannot be found, imposing a -60 on the Navigate (Warp) test for ‘Chart the course’.

3. Consult the instruments

For players: cross your fingers. This shit is a secret GM roll.

For the GM: Navigate (Warp) +10 test to detect any phenomena or turbulence on the journey ahead, granting a +20 bonus to any rolls on the Warp Travel Encounters table during the ‘Translate and steer the vessel’ stage if successful.

4. Translate and steer the vessel

Navigate (Warp) test (-60 if the Astronomican cannot be located) with modifiers for Route Stability.

If the test is failed and a ‘9’ is rolled on either dice, the GM fucks with their final destination.

Roll once on the ‘Warp Encounters’ table for each 5 (3) days in the warp. +20 on each roll if ‘Chart the course’ was successful.

5. Leave the warp

Navigate (Warp) -20 test. Failure indicates the ship is off-target and could land dangerously close to a planetary body or the incorrect side of the system.

We also use an expanded warp encounters table, growing it from a potential dozen to a more meaty 20 potential encounters. I’m a sucker for a good random encounter table, and it’s available on Dreadquill here.

As we don’t have a Navigator player character, we have an NPC navigator called Mahd’Naz, who has Navigate (Warp) and Awareness at 55. We agreed that as players we will take it in turns to roll for the hapless NPC rather than let the GM decide, as not only can the players use their Fate Points for a more favourable roll, but it’s way more fun to put the players’ fates in the players’ hands rather than me making a bunch of rolls in secret and telling everyone how much trouble they’re in.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on whose side you’re on) their first translation resulted in only a minor Gellar Field breach, causing mass hallucinations for a fraction of a moment and earning all the players a bunch of Corruption and Insanity points. This would serve as a convenient introduction to the warp, and make players wary about willy-nilly warp jumps in the future.

The rest of the journey was uneventful, and they were instructed that they were going to make a routine stop a few days into transit at one of the many rest stops in the Throat called the Battleground – a stretch of void with no significance other than its relative warp stability and its massive collection of battered warship corpses from a long-forgotten war, picked clean and floating adrift in a great cloud of jagged debris.

Wolves in the darkness

At this point, our prescient Astropath was tugging on the Captain’s shirt sleeves and reminding him of one of his visions – “Wolves lurk in the rest stops”. The Captain agreed to take it under advisement, just in time for a Bridge Officer to report a distress beacon coming from a nearby wreckage cloud.

It was a standard automated distress message from a verified pilgrim transport called the Penitent Traveller. Our Missionary, Lyoness, had heard of such a transport from her Ecclesiarchy days, and confirmed that it was likely a truthful distress beacon.

They were totally unresponsive to vox hails and knowing it would be a trap, the Captain gave the order to take the Resolve in slowly, keeping a very close eye on the long-range augers.

It’s a trap!

In a shocking display of salience, the augers pick up the energy signatures of two Raider-class plasma drives flaring into life. Although it was clearly a trap, our canny Captain and his band of eagle-eyed auger-monkeys managed to spot danger before it dropped onto their heads. It was time to roll for initiative and begin GLORIOUS SPACE BATTLE.

As this was everyone’s first foray into space combat, things would be a little slow as everyone gets to grips with how it works; it is at once familiar to ground combat yet very different. The turn order is the same – everyone takes turns based on Initiative order and can perform a limited number of actions (called Extended Actions in space combat) in their turn. The big kicker is that everyone on the ship will go ‘at the same time’ (each turn in space combat is about half an hour in-game time rather than the 10-ish seconds per turn in ground combat), so the team have to get to grips with what they’re good at and what they can do to help.

In this scenario, the teacakes were playing the part of particularly dense clusters of ship wreckage – very dangerous to fly through but extremely delicious. Not all the scenery made it to the end of the battle.

Ships must always move (even if just a little bit) and they cannot come to a complete standstill, as they’re massive megatonnes of ceramite and plasteel hurtling through space – that momentum can only really be redirected, never stopped. Part of space combat I enjoy is the pirouetting of vessels around one another as they try and manoeuvre into the perfect position to take advantage of their weapons or evade an enemy’s firing arc.


We are also using the community-driven changes to ship combat called MathHammer. The tl;dr is that ship armour now counts against each macrocannon hit, but armour is reduced by 12 to account for the change.

This means that combat is less reliant on a single massive alpha strike that glasses an enemy ship in an instant, and more on battles of attrition. It makes it easier for lesser ships to do progressive amounts of damage on larger ships, and allows players to better estimate how well a combat is going.

It gets pretty messy at this range
Battered and bloody

The battle started with both raiders heading directly towards the Unbroken Resolve, blasting away as soon as they got within range. This initial salvo from the Wolfpack raiders caused the most damage to the Resolve during the fight, and immediately reigned in any bravado anyone might have been feeling at that point.

One raider swept round trying to get behind the Resolve, the other going toe-to-toe. This turned out to be a bad move, as a combination of point blank macrocannon volleys from the Arch Militant and a particularly well executed hit and run from the Captain and Voidmaster left the raider crippled and its plasma drive on fire. It limped away into the debris field as the second ship swung in for the kill.

After seeing off the first Raider, attentions were now drawn to the mystery third party on the field: a small blip on the augers that had, up until now, been unidentified. It had been following the Resolve steadily and relentlessly, but wasn’t big enough to appear as a manned vessel.

After some panicked last-minute scanning, it was revealed to be a homemade Leech Mine from the Raiders – designed to follow specific plasma drive signatures and latch onto them, draining them of power. After realising it would be too small to reasonably shoot (and there was a more pressing target), the Enginseer fashioned a decoy out of obsolete parts he found in the cargo hold, programmed it with the plasma drive signature of their ship and fired it out into space. The gambit worked, distracting and neutralising the leech mine and allowing them to concentrate on the final raider.

Some fancy shooting and scary psychic powers from the Astropath damaged the second raider enough for it to withdraw, and with the Resolve sitting at less than 30% Hull remaining, the Captain decided not to pursue. It was time to see what the Penitent Traveller had in store.

Cargo cult

They discover a few hundred pilgrims on board the broken transport ship, left alive by the pirates but starving and desperate for rescue. They had been heading to the Nomad Stars to answer the call of a crusade called by someone called Brother Espin. There used to be almost ten thousand when they arrived, the pirate raiders butchered them down to the bare minimum to appear as life forms on a prey-ship’s augers if they scanned the Traveller.

They agreed to join the crew of the ship, buffering the worst of the damage to the Resolve’s crew population and earning the crew a few brownie points with any members of the Ecclesiarchy they might bump into later on.

The best fighters among them pledged their swords to the Missionary, the person responsible for encouraging them to join on a new ‘crusade’ of sorts, kickstarting her retinue and giving her a dozen maniacs with chainswords to call to her service should she need them in future…

There was nothing left to loot from the Penitent Traveller, as anything of value had already been stripped by the pirates.

Satisfied there was nothing else they could do in the Battleground, the Captain gave the order to finish the jump to the Nomad Stars. They would not be arriving in the greatest of conditions to make another warp jump straight out to Gangue, so there was going to be a slight diversion to the nearest port to repair and resupply – Mercy.

Meanwhile, on the Bench: The Ash Garrison

Over the last few months I’ve been assembling some rusty senpais in the form of the Ash Garrison Enforcers of Syracuse Magna. Brutal, corrupt and underfunded, the Ash Garrison attracts only the worst of the populace to help tread the rest into the rain-slick cobblestones of Magna’s streets.

The full troupe
Painting the masses

Assembling these guys was equal parts fun and complicated, with little regard for how they would look when coloured. I only had one colour requirement from their description in-game, they needed dark green vulcanised cloaks to protect them from the relentless drizzle and acid rain showers of Syracuse Magna. The rest I would have to make up on the spot. Great.

This is the painter’s equivalent of a writer’s blank sheet of paper

They were all undercoated black, which had the immediate benefit of pulling all the incoherent pieces together into one uniform whole. They were starting to look like a unit!

The immediate downside to this was the daunting prospect of adding colours to the test models to see what would work. Green cloaks were a given, but what about the rest?

I am quite taken with the Death Korps of Krieg aesthetic, as they spend a lot of their time around mud and rain, so I was going to use lots of neutral earthy tones for the clothes. I decided to try something a bit different for the armour and weapons and see if I could pull off a kind of rusty metal look.

Based black and blocked bronze

Base coats were added to the test models – a dark brassy metallic colour would form the base for the equipment – normally I’d go for a steel silver, but I wanted to go Full Grubby this time.

A nice grimy grey was applied to the overcoat, the cloaks blocked in with dark green, and the details were picked out with variant browns and lighter greys.

As the majority of the big areas dried, I splashed on a healthy amount of black wash to dull the colours even more (and do like 90% of the shading work for me because I’m a lazy painter).

Shout out to Agrax Earthshade and Nuln Oil for making all my work not look like garbage
Getting rusty

It was during this blocking and washing stage (read: literally watching paint dry) that I started to experiment with a rust technique.

I’ve used this technique for verdigris/patina on bronze before and the process was fun and straightforward, if a long-winded process. I know you can get fancy pigment paints and stuff these days, but I have a perfectly serviceable orange paint and plenty of water so let’s do this.

The process involved getting some really, really watered down orange paint (little more than paint-flavoured water) and blobbing it on willy-nilly across the exposed parts of dark metal.

Couple of rusty bois

It would seep into crevices and leave weird watermarks, but the more layers I did the more this began to turn into a cool rust effect. After the 5th-ish layer of orange, I did another few layers of a lighter orange, then one final layer of pale flesh colour in the centre of the worst-affected areas.

When I die, bury me with my washes so I don’t have to Git Gud in the afterlife

Fantastically, it was beginning to look like something I hadn’t quite anticipated – rust from water damage rather than just age. My damp senpai were turning into rusty senpai!

The final touch was to roughly pick out edges with a silver paint to give it some wear and tear. Holy smokes, what a difference that made. The rougher and quicker I applied the edge highlights, the more realistic it seemed and the better it looked on the tabletop.

Hardcore weathering action

With the majority of the models’ feature colours finished, it was on to the tidy up. The greys were highlighted with their original base colours again to keep the neutral tones, the gloves were given a little extra highlight to help pick out the fingers. Masks were highlighted up to white with a red visor to give them a terrifying appearance under their big metal hats.

I had left the shock mauls til last, as I wasn’t entirely sure how I wanted them to look. Perhaps it was time to try my hand at some origin source lighting?

OSL – Positively shocking

I avoid dabbling with origin source lighting (OSL) because a) it’s always an afterthought and b) painting new colours over pain(t)staking highlights gives me terror chills like no other.

I wanted the shock mauls to look zappy, but I wasn’t enthused about doing the usual lightning blue that’s associated with shock mauls, but not did I like repeating the red from the visor.

Sticking with the grimy colour scheme I opted for a poisonous shade of green, which when highlighted up had this wonderful effect of making it look pale and sickly. You can almost imagine them flickering and sparking like a faulty bug zapper in a meat shop.

An attempt was made

I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I started by applying some very thin layers of green to anything the light might get cast on, and slowly highlighting up to lighter shades of green on more prominent surfaces, such as the rim of the hat and edges of the armour.

Some other details on the body picked out too – belt straps and greatcoat buttons

I was genuinely surprised by how well it came out! As an effect, I’m definitely going to be trying it again in the future. I’m comfortable with the technical side of it now, I just need to get better at understanding how light falls on strange shapes and applying more paint to those areas. I’d say the biggest problem with the OSL on these guys is that I didn’t do enough of it!

The finished product

The final stages were detailing the bases. I’d learned a lot about water effects from my time with the Enforcers’ nemeses, the Undertow – I needed lots of thin layers of water effect, otherwise you end up with weird air bubbles and pockets of cloudy water.

A billion layers of water effect later (and I’m not 100% happy with it but sod it), the rusty senpai were finished.

Senpais in full force
Lads lads lads

As mentioned in the conversion article, these guys were split into two groups – Remedials and Disciplinaries, depending on how severe a response is required from whatever uppity nonsense the local populace are kicking off with that day.

The Disciplinaries are the first responders, armed with sizzling shock mauls and flashbangs, their job is to brutally repress any kind of sedition with shock and awe and to round up anyone who might be persuaded to part with some important intel on enemy movements.

Disciplinary squad on tour

They’re lead by a member of the rightly-feared Mandato – the terrifying secret police and interrogators for the Shogun that excel in rooting out sedition and extracting information from those slow enough to be caught by the Disciplinary snatch squads.

So tempting to make a whole squad of these guys
But holy crap, this guy was a lot of work to assemble
It’d be SO worth it though
Some closeups of the Disciplinaries

The rest of the troopers make up the second wave of Ash Garrison – the Remedials. If/when the Disciplinaries can’t scare the populace into submission, the Remedials are rolled out to reduce the population to a more manageable size.

Remedials with a sniper specialist

These guys will only be seen if when things escalate into a full-blown insurrection, and Enforcers become less fussed about taking anyone alive.

They also come with exciting grenade launcher options for frag, gas or photon flash flavours.

Remedials with a grenade launcher

A few more of the damp baes;

Kinda wished I had another ten of these guys to make a full squad
Your lips say ‘No’ but your eyes say ‘Pick up that can, citizen’

All in all I’m preeeetty chuffed with how they’ve all come out. I’m not sure I could done them better if I’d tried, and the fact I’m aching to make another dozen of these guys is a great indicator that I really shouldn’t. They will serve their purposes well in the sodden, rotting alleyways of Syracuse Magna in our upcoming campaign.

Speaking of sodden, rotting alleyways, watch this space…

Orthesian Herald: session 2 – The Last Bastion of Mankind

We are in Haimm, an ill-omened system on the edge of civilised space, far out to the galactic west of Holy Terra. Twin white suns blaze fiercely here, their titanic gravity wells doing battle over the shattered bones of celestial bodies from a bygone era.

You have been travelling for several months from another part of the galaxy to seek fortune and glory among the Nomad Stars, as part of the remit of your newly-inherited Warrant of Trade.

Captain Tassa Zacherie Aphesius Orthesian has gathered a crew over 20-thousand strong to pilot the flagship of the Orthesian Dynasty – the Unbroken Resolve – and a staff of five advisors, counselors and warriors to act as the Dynasty’s eyes, ears and fists. (See here for the full run-down of characters)

Your journey has been long, and although no warp jump could ever be considered simple, it has been relatively placid compared to the adventures that lie ahead.

Upon arriving in the system, your deck crew have set a course for the only inhabited body and safe harbour to resupply before venturing forth: Port Impetus.

You barely have time to warm up the plasma drive for several days of inter-system travel when a Vox Officer informs you of an incoming message, encrypted in your dynasty’s personal cypher. You hear an old man’s voice, cracked with age:

”My Lord, I am Aubrey Luther. You do not know me, but I have been waiting a long time for a member of your family to return. I bear a message and a gift from your Great Grandfather, Lord-Admiral Thaler Orthesian. I would meet with you as soon as possible in the Court of the Dead, the biggest market square in Port Impetus, at the coordinates encrypted within this message. It is a matter, I assure you, that promises great glory.”

The ill-omened system of Haimm
Introducing the setting and characters

One of the trickiest parts of starting a new game is setting the tone for the universe and introducing the key elements (in this case, the characters and their roles on the ship) in as little effort on the players’ behalf as possible.

I’ve never been a huge fan of ‘you meet in a bar, introduce yourselves’, as although that’s handy for getting a mental image of your co-players, it’s mostly just reading the descriptions off you character sheet. A combination of stage fright and unfamiliarity with the game world can make this an unsatisfactory introduction for new and experienced players alike.

Instead of asking players to react to each other, I wanted to establish their roles as head honchos on a ship of thousands of faceless goons by asking them to react to ‘typical’ scenarios they might find aboard their ship. They would be unique to each character, reinforcing that character’s role aboard the Unbroken Resolve and help the players flesh out their personalities by providing them with mini crises.

Captain: On top of your regular Captainly duties, you are presented with a report of goings-on that are worthy of your attention. You cannot be everywhere at once so these have been delegated to your senior officers, but you do have enough time between your important administrative duties to oversee and assist up to two out of the five reports if you deem it necessary.

The Captain was given a handout of what the other players would be up to, and he could choose any two to assist. I wanted to reinforce the idea that the Captain was a powerful character that can pretty much do anything, but the challenge is in prioritising what you should be doing. He ended up assisting the Astropath and the Arch Militant, with varying degrees of success…

Voidmaster Zilla: The course charted by your deck officers is the safest but not necessarily the quickest. There are a few errant gravity wells of larger celestial shards between you and Port Impetus that could be used to slingshot you to your destination at a much greater speed, but a much greater risk.

Pilot+Manoeuvrability test, if failed, it would have done 1 Damage to the ship plus 1 per Degree of Failure (minus armour). As it was passed, the travel time to Port Impetus was reduced by 1 day and the senior officers got a temporary +5 boost to any interaction tests on Port Impetus as rumours of their daring approach reached the locals.

Explorator Freeman: The Unbroken Resolve is a resolute beast, not coyed by the superstitions of men or the predictable rotations of celestial matter around a binary system. She has many hidden reserves of strength, and in this relatively safe system, it would be a radiant display of her machine spirit’s strength to increase cruising speed and burn brightly through the heavens.

A fairly standard intro for the Techpriest of the group. They needed to pass a Tech Use test to decrease travel time by half a day and had the added bonus of increasing the ship’s morale by 1.

Missionary Lyoness: Haimm is an ill-omened place, spoken of by voidsmen in hushed whispers across the sector. Something about the light from two suns that turns folks mad. These whispers are beginning to turn into self-fulfilling prophecies, and many crewmen are missing their daily prayers and break from their work schedules. They need a firm voice and presence to get them back in line and to reaffirm their faith in the Dynasty and the Emperor. 

When presented with an opportunity to bolster the crew’s morale and steel them against the dark, the Missionary instead instructed her staff to round up a hundred of the most recalcitrant crew and dragged them into the chapel, calling an emergency sermon for the remainder of the voidsmen not on duty.

After spitting fire at her sermon and rallying the hearts and minds of those present, she flushed half of them out into space. This very quickly established a precedent of zero-tolerance attitudes to even the slightest whiff of insubordination.

Arch-militant Von Gun: A request for weapons-free has been submitted by both Battery Lords of the Prow and Dorsal macrocannon decks. It is no secret that they are in direct competition with one another for fastest reload and truest aim, and you suspect they are looking for the opportunity to blow off some steam after so many months of travel. The Dynasty’s macrocannon shells do not grow on trees, and they should be shown by example or by force that the pecking order exists for a reason.

What was intended to be a simple Intimidate test or playful shooting competition between the Arch-Militant and his subordinates turned into a pretty harrowing scene. The Arch-Militant wasted no time in immediately ordering both Battery Lords to be nailed to the macrocannon shells they wanted to use for target practice and were blasted out into space, accompanied by a dramatic speech from the Captain about getting ideas above one’s station.

Two terrified apprentices were promoted to Battery Lords in their masters’ absence, let’s hope that doesn’t come back to bite them…

Astropath Gil: The Astropath Transcendent receives an emergency vox broadcast on a fine-band frequency. You are requested ASAP to the junior Astropath’s chambers. As you enter you recognise the shapes of your four juniors in a huddle around the Astropathic organ in the centre of the chamber, clearly in distress. They are holding one of their number in their arms, fear erupting from their soul and madness babbling from their lips. The other three sense you entering, and bow their heads in deference. They quickly explain that during her shift as receiver, she tried to push her mind’s eye too far into the Great Warp Storms to see what lay beyond. She will be dead within minutes, but perhaps there is something that a more powerful, dutiful Astropath may glean from her prying before she succumbs to insanity..

This was an opportunity to use some of the Astropath’s extra-curricular abilities, and encouraging the use of telepathy (specifically the Mind Probe power) to glean information from people you might not get access to otherwise.

After I slightly cocked up the rules for Mind Probe, the Astropath managed to squeeze every bit of cryptic fortelling out of the dying junior;

Pass The journey through the Throat is surprisingly swift but utterly perilous should you stray from the path
1 DoS Wolves lurk in the rest stops, awaiting wandering prey
2 DoS Beyond the throat lies a flickering eye, that watches over the answers you seek
3 DoS Underneath the flickering eye lies a maze of light and a chamber of stars
4+ DoS It is a map in the heavens to a veil of ice and a beast with a broken back
I’m sure none of that will come back to haunt him.
Port Impetus – courtesy of Fantasy Flight Games
Port Impetus

Perched on the very southern tip of the Onus Region, Port Impetus stands as the gateway to the Nomad Stars and the vast untamed void beyond.

This is a place of desperate hopes and vain dreams. Port Impetus teems with a transitory population of traders, spies, merchant factors, pilgrims and missionaries amongst which move Administratum functionaries and minions of the mechanicus, all feeding on the riches that flow from the realms beyond the warp storms in the Nomad Stars. This is the last place the Imperium resides, the last bastion of mankind where the rule of the Golden Throne keeps the horror and possibility of the unknown at bay..

As the crew gather their things, I put heavy emphasis on the official, protocol welcomes they receive from all manner of functionaries, authorities and peers. This is the last civilised place they will see for a very long time, and I wanted to make the contrast with their first stop in the Nomad Stars a particularly jarring one.

They make no bones about heading out to meet Luther, the Missionary riding a sedan chair carried by oiled servants. On the front of her chair is the relic she gained as part of her Origin Path, something that the faithful citizenry of Port Impetus take immediate interest in and swarm her trying to receive her blessing and touch the relic.

They meet up with Luther, a knackered old servant of the Dynasty who has been waiting almost a century in Port Impetus for another Orthesian family member to arrive so he can fulfil his duty. He regales them with his exposition dump and tantalises them with the tale of the Righteous Remit.

Port Impetus interior – courtesy of Fantasy Flight Games
The riddle of the Righteous Remit

”In my youth I served as a deck officer aboard The Emperor’s Testament, a vessel belonging to Commander Karlorn and part of your great-grandfather’s fleet. During one terrible expedition we were caught in a violent warp storm and blown far off course.

”After we came to rest in a strange and uncharted system the ship’s astropath heard a faint message – a cry for salvation from a lost Imperial vessel.”

”At first we believed it was an old message (an echo in the warp, the Astropath called it), hundreds if not thousands of years old.”

”When we examined it, we discovered just what we had stumbled onto – an astropathic marker from the fabled treasure ship The Rightful Remit”

The Rightful Remit is an ancient treasure ship long ago swallowed by the shifting tides of the warp, a ship reputed to hold the entire wealth of a plundered world.”

”The story goes that long ago, an Imperial warlord discovered an ancient colony of man that had fallen to heretical worship and it was put to the sword, sweeping away a thousand years of civilisation in three days of fire and blood.”

”When the killing was done and the corpse counters began gathering up the detritus of genocide, the warlord marvelled at the riches he had won.”

”He did not trust his fellow crusaders to carry it away, so he set about filling his flagship, the Rightful Remit, from stern to prow. He tore out gun decks and launch bays, marooned thousands of his crew and stripped away the vessel’s innards until she was bursting with plunder. The warlord then vanished into the warp and from the pages of history.

”Free-traders, adventurers and imperial servants have all tried to find its resting place to no success, until Commander Karlorn and The Emperor’s Testament stumbled upon it by pure chance.

”Karlorn chose not to pursue it there and then due to the damage sustained from the storm, but made a note of its location so he could return when his ship was at full strength. We returned to Port Impetus and left me here with the map for safekeeping while he went to find your great grandfather. He never returned.

“For a hundred years I’ve been keeping this memolith, waiting for one of the dynasty to return so I can fulfil my duty”

He hands them the plot macguffin memolith, but before they can pocket it, a cyber-hawk swoops down from the rafters above and knocks it into the crowd. Gunshots erupt around them, followed by a voice shouting “Stop them! Grab that memolith!”

A botched ambush

Roll for initiative! It was time to get our beaks wet with some fisticuffs. I’m a huge proponent of combat as early into a new game session as possible. It makes for good in medias res and helps players work out very quickly what their characters are good at.

Not pictured: dozens of citizens fleeing for their lives

The board was set up with lots of lovely laser-cut mdf scenery from TTcombat, arranged roughly to look like a busy market. The players were in the centre while the antagonist and her armsmen body guards dressed in fancy attire.

The fight served its purpose – to establish a hierarchy of combat prowess in relation to one another and introduce the pleasingly crunchy combat rules for Rogue Trader. It’s all well and good for your character sheet to have a pair of bolt pistols written on it, but with no previous knowledge of the universe or your place within it, it can be hard to grasp its importance.

When all your teammates are struggling to pin down opponents, placing shots between cover or grappling with foes in close combat, it’s easy see where your strengths lie when you can comfortably explode at least one enemy head per turn with your hand-held rapid fire rocket launcher pistols.

Lady Ash and her cadre of fancy armsmen

The combat went in our crew’s favour, despite the Captain sustaining a dangerous amount of damage from a fluffed Displacer Field check. The armsmen were only trying to pin down the players with grenades and suppressing fire so they could try and grab the memolith, which was working until the players figured out their plan and concentrated fire on anyone trying to dash for the memolith lying on the ground.

We were playing in a crowded market area, so there was an additional -30 imposed to any shooting actions for the first few rounds as the press of panicking bodies was so thick. I’d already decided that grievous misses would result in a poor bystander biting a bullet instead, mostly just a narrative device to help reinforce the reasons for the penalties.

What I hadn’t counted on was the Captain and the Astropath blasting away into the crowd with plasma pistols trying to get the foe that was scrabbling for the memolith on the floor. The half-incinerated bodies of “near misses” kept piling up. The port authorities weren’t impressed.

Another angle of Lady Ash – an Escher ganger model as a base
A brush with the law

The Boys in Blue arrived, cracking skulls with their shock mauls and ‘inviting’ the Rogue Trader and his crew to accompany them to see the Marshall. As a Rogue Trader, your fancy bit of paper works as a Get Out Of Jail Free card for most ‘minor’ crimes like manslaughter and destruction of property.

A typical Adeptus Arbites officer – courtesy of Fantasy Flight Games

The slap on the wrist from the Precinct Marshall amounted to; “I could prosecute you, but that would involve a lot of paperwork on both our counts, so could you just bugger off and not do it again, ta.” Again, I wanted to enforce the rule of Imperial Law versus non-Imperial space (when we get there).

They also managed to learn the name of their attackers; the armsmen were under the employ of a Rogue Trader called Hadarak Fel – another reason the Marshall was keen not to get involved. Two Rogue Traders actively brawling on Imperial soil is an administrative nightmare.

Cast off

So our gang of scallywags had a quest, a fight, a rival and adventure in their hearts and were ready cast off and fly out into the heavens.

One last thing before they went though – our resident quadruped techpriest decided to skitter away as everyone was boarding and find a quiet harbour console somewhere. It was being used, but he politely unplugged the poor servitor so he could engage HACKER MODE.

After a trawl through the files of ships at berth, he found a frigate called the Fel Hand. Without any other information available he couldn’t know for sure, but a Rogue Trader is definitely the kind of person who would call a ship a pun of his own name. With some techno-wizardry he changed the ship’s time slot for tomorrow, which would would have a knock-on effect on a whole bunch of logistics and delay the Fel Hand’s departure by several days. There are no rivalries like petty rivalries, eh?

And with that, the crew of the Unbroken Resolve sailed out into the inky void, ready to stare down the Throat and into the adventures that lay beyond.

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Conan the Unkillable

A rare Inquisitor update for this week’s MOTB; Conan “The Unkillable” – an ex-hive ganger turned mercenary and bodyguard for powerful people the Inquisition have interests in.

Conan started out life as most of my projects do – a pile of parts loosely assembled because I liked the pose, flow or combination, and then left in a tray or bits box for several orbits of the sun because it was missing the Final Piece that brought the model together.

A while ago I began porting some scum and villainy over from our Necromunda, Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader sessions – there are plenty of colourful, interesting gangs and organisations that we play with at 28mm, so why not try and bring them to 54mm?

Conan and TJ Razor

TJ Razor was the first, a member of the Pursers Grim, and then I wanted to bring over a member of the notorious Red Hand Gang – a ubiquitous Orlock gang that originated in our games of Necromunda and appeared in Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader ever since as the go-to miscreants.

The Red Hand Gang tattoo their left hand red as part of their initiation, and get subsequent stripes up their arm for every confirmed kill. This was the only brief – the character needed a red hand.

I like my bangsticks in Inquisitor, and with the creation of the Revised Armoury a few years back by the Inquisitor Community, they became a lot more varied and a LOT more deadly. I wanted to experiment with a character that ‘just’ had a rifle of some kind – I needed more regular mooks, but with a little suttin’ suttin’ that sets them apart from the regular rank and file.

The weapon came from a burst of inspiration when trawling the Anvil Industries website for one of any dozen other projects and found the perfect rifle. I already knew the scale would work fine from previous experiments with Anvil’s line of space marine Exo-Lord scale weapons, and all the spare parts would make choosing the right gun for the job much easier. I know from experience that a dedicated sniper character in Inquisitor is boring to play both with and against, so although this guy was going to be a ranged support character, he was going to have a little bite to him with some fully automatic shootybangs.

Dr Seuss characters also have lots of confirmed kills

Putting him together was simple enough – he is pretty much a straight lift of the Talon Hive Ganger expansion with different legs. Try as I might, I couldn’t find anything else interesting to stick to the model except a backup pistol, he didn’t look right travelling heavy. I reasoned he’s got some brass knuckles in a pocket somewhere that would do in a pinch.

I knew from the get-go I wanted my 54mm gangers to be a league apart from their 28mm brethren, each having a certain trait that helps them play with the Big Boys. I wanted to have a ganger with the Regeneration trait, and after watching THAT scene from Luke Cage, I knew what had to be done. The pin vice came out and holes were drilled everywhere, touched up with some putty to make them look like bullet holes.

When it came to painting, I already had the colour scheme pretty set in my head – I had over a dozen members of the Red Hand Gang to fall back on with khaki green trousers and dark grey clothes – lots of lovely neutral tones to help offset the gang colours and make those red hands really pop.

For a skin tone I wanted a very pasty colour – for someone who spends their entire life away from the sun, they would never have developed much of a tan. I had also re-watched one of the Riddick films recently, and with the goggles Conan was wearing, I could really resist going one step further.

Good grief I hate painting white. This was doubly awful because I have the super-thick foundation white from Games Workshop, which is excellent when you want to paint over a dark colour (which is basically always) but the worst thing when you want to do a bunch of really really thin layers.

I called it quits after maybe the 20th or so watered-down layer of white – it wasn’t going to get any better than it was. I wasn’t a fan of the really chalky texture the skin had picked up by this point, but you’d have to drag me to my table kicking and screaming if you wanted me to strip him and do it again. F that N.

The base was finished off in much the same way as TJ – assembled from bits of weird sci-fi scrap from the rather excellent Chemical Plant box set and painted in drab colours to look like a forgotten section of space station deep in the bowels of Mercy.

And that was him finished! All that was needed was to draft up a character sheet for him including his heavy caliber autogun, regeneration and discomfort in bright lights and Conan the Unkillable was ready to hit the tabletop.

Conan got his first outing (admittedly only in a half-painted state) in a battle report “The Asus Prime Kidnapping”.

Meanwhile, on the Bench: The Wobbly Goblin Tavern

We’ve been working with the lovely chaps at Hobgoblin 3D for quite some time now, it’s been a joy and a privilege to watch them grow and paint their stuff.

They currently have a Tavern Kickstarter finishing on Friday 12 January at 23:00 UTC, and after getting my hands on it (and one or two late nights and sticky fingers assembling it) I can say it is absolutely worth the cash. You can get the deets on their kickstarter and drop them a few dollarydoos here.

Come, stay a while…

As part of their Kickstarter, they asked me if I wouldn’t mind splashing some paint around on a corner diorama to indicate what it might be like when it was finished and painted. I can never resist an invitation to a bar, even if it’s a tiny one.

The prints are surprisingly robust. I say surprisingly, because every piece has been dropped at least once, and if it was any other material it would be showing some wear and tear by now.

After getting to grips with the whole tavern when I helped the guys out with a photo shoot before Christmas, it struck me how bleedin’ big it was inside. The actual render was still very much a prototype, one of my main criticisms was that it didn’t have enough character – too many right angles and straight edges. They showed me the 3D render of what the finished article would look like and all my concerns were quashed.

It’s even bigger than the temple!

The sections inside are a nice grid, so it’s clear the whole thing was designed from the ground up with bar brawls in mind. With so many campaigns starting off in a local tavern, it’s a wonder there aren’t more tavern scenics built with the malicious intent of players in mind…

Taking interior photos of the assembled tavern

I used to have concerns with 3D printed terrain with the layering effect potentially making drybrushing a lot harder, but on the few sections the striations are noticeable, it only adds to the effect. An injection moulded flat surface would have no texture to pick up the paint, and this makes it quick and easy to add colour to a big model.

This project has definitely confirmed in my mind that I need to invest in a decent airbrush. Tools and techniques used for painting figures only scale up so far, and when I inevitably paint the whole tavern, I don’t want to be sitting there for hours drybrushing tiny bricks across a million different wall sections.

I also realised mere minutes before I was about to start taking photos that the picture frame hanging above the fireplace was still blank. I despise freehanding at the best of times, and when I’m on a tight deadline and just about to start shooting I despise it the most. Luckily my trusty PC Gamer was to hand, and we now have a very attractive portrait hanging above the mantlepiece of the Wobbly Goblin. Can you tell what it is?

Necessity is the mother of invention

Finally, no MOTB would be complete without a picture of my overly-expensive professional setup. I know, try not to feel too shamed in this opulent display of wealth and arrogance.

A £4 chef’s hat from ebay, a Bic biro and some bluetack formed the perfect diffuser for my bedside lamp, a 5 year old camera and some sheets of A3 paper masking taped to some cans of deoderant is all you need to get started!

I am stoked to see what they’re going to do with the range next, and once I get my hands on an airbrush you bet I’ll be attacking the next tavern they print out.

Check out the Hobgoblin 3d Raghaven Hamlet here.