MOTB: Necron obelisks

Finished product first!

As part of a recent scenery purchase from a local terrain company, I also snagged some obelisks from Wargame Model Mods’ weird and wonderful Necrotech range. I’d been meaning to do some proper weird alien terrain as a palette cleanser from all the underhive grime I’d been building, and these looked just the ticket.

Getting more for your money

I wanted enough to reasonably scatter across a 6×4 board, and one pack of Obelisk blocks would give me plenty to litter the tabletop with. They arrived in a series of neat little bundles, already punched out.

They fit together very pleasingly, and I was surprised at how big they were. I didn’t get much of a sense of scale from the original images, and even the smaller blocks were quite imposing against a 28mm guardsman.

I hadn’t read the description properly and didn’t realise that half the panels had no detail on them – presumably so you could stick them together into a mega-block like the one advertised.

I wasn’t going to do that with this set (although I may do one in future), I wanted as many individual blocks as possible to have as much variation on the tabletop, including some half-buried in the ground.

I’d need to come up with some clever trick to detail the plain panels I had.

The kit came with an assortment of smaller flat spacers for gluing the obelisks together into a mega-lith, but for me they would be extra panels to fill out the flat surfaces.

By taking two detailed panels and cutting them up, I could arrange those cut out pieces across four plain panels. With some help from some spacers, I now have four detailed panels!

As an absolute mad lad I also own an MDF bits box, filled with the weird inserts and offcuts from MDF sprues that I use for detailing and greebling. They came in perfectly handy for this task.

I picked out a collection of necron-looking bits that would give me some nice clean edges to show up the colour scheme I was planning.

All the main blocks were assembled first to get an idea of how much flat space I needed to cover. And then a terrible thought struck me. What if I could make one block… into two?

Several intense hacking minutes later and I’d made four bits of scatter out of two obelisks. I wanted them to look sunk in the sand, either abandoned or just being unearthed.

I stuck them to some round bases and smeared a load of pre-mixed filler around the join to look like a buildup of sand.

Some of them got extra smaller blocks added on top to imitate the obelisks at different stages of decay. It was also at this point that it really hit home how big all of these were going to be, and how tricky they would be to paint…

And that was all of them assembled! A thoroughly enjoyable kit to build and very modular, especially if you’re a hobby sadist like myself who likes to squeeze more content out of their kits.

The only thing I’d like to see moving foward is the option to purchase either/or when it comes to the non-detailed plates. Perhaps an option to upgrade/replace to fully detailed plates so you can build 16 obelisks out of the box, as currently you can only “technically” build 8 fully detailed obelisks, with the other 8 being blank.

Great if you want to build a chunky obelisk with only a handful of outward facing sides, but a fully detailed plate option would be ideal!

Absolute tool

Every artist has their “aha” moment when it comes to new tools. Mine came during this project. Specifically, “Aha, I should have bought an airbrush (and pracised with it) a year ago, because holy dicks this would have been a breeze”.

Instead, I gave myself RSI and several grumpy weeks of not being able to paint anything. Note to future self – when your wrist starts to hurt – STOP PAINTING.

Lines upon lines upon lines

I am so glad I persisted however – the overall effect is exactly what I’d hoped. I must have spent at least an evening on each block, repeating the same recipe over and over. Extremely satisfying to paint, so much so that I found it easy to get carried away into the wee hours and cramp my wrist…

  1. Generous undercoat in matt black, two or three coats in some places. MDF is thirsty for paint, so I did a few passes (letting it dry in between) to make sure it was fully saturated.
  2. Thicc line of Caliban Green
  3. Thin line of Warpstone Glow
  4. Tickle the corners and fill the shapes with Scorpion Green.

The last paint is OOP, but moot green didn’t cut it. I wanted an acidic, almost fluro yellow/green for the final stage to give it a proper glow.

The bases were textured paint, then undercoated with Zandri Dust and drybrushed with Bleached Bone, topped with cheeky grass tufts.

The colours for the base were decided before I bought the battlemat, and given they’ll most likely be deployed against this background, I’m tempted to go back over the bases and darken them down a bit to match. A project for another time, I think!

Megalith

I mentioned previously about making a huge obelisk rather than multiple smaller ones, and it’s something I’m genuinely considering for the future. For now, my existing kits can be bundled together fairly convincingly to create weird looking structures.

And, naturally, it works great at 54mm scale. Perfect for Inquisitor!

Standing Stone-Vation

Not much else to say on the painting – simple scheme, tedious to apply, but looks ace when it’s done. I bet it would have been so flippin’ easy to do with an airbrush too. Oh well, I know for next time!

On with the scale shots.

Wrapping up

What a wonderful little kit this is! Aside from some self-inflicted enthusiasm injuries, these have been a joy to build and paint. They’re ideal for all the games I play – Necromunda, Inquisitor, a few TTRPGs like Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader or Wrath and Glory, and they’re super convenient to store.

I’ve already got my eye set on some more obelisks for future projects, and I’ve got a large necron building from the same range that needs photographing, so watch this space!

I picked all these up from Wargaming Model Mods for under £20, so go toss come coins to a small independent business.

Let’s hear it for the humble obelisk!

MOTB: Twiglet tube silos

Finished product first!

Last week I put the finishing touches on a gang hideout in an abandoned chemical facility and I happened to have some snack tubes leftover from various Christmas indulgences. They can’t be recycled, but they can be reused, and with a few extra bits here and there, would look very nice in my weird chemical facility family.

The prototype

I made this one long before Christmas to use up some bits from the box and loved the design so much, I put off finishing it until after the inevitable holiday crispageddon furnished me with excess foiled tubes.

Simply put, it was just about finding interesting-looking parts that worked well with together. I talked about the design flow of scenery in last week’s Chem Silo article, and although putting it up on stilts looked cool and gave it the underhive water tower aesthetic I was going for, functionally it was a bit weak. The legs don’t provide much cover, the bulk of the tower doesn’t block much line of sight, and the whole thing was a bit wobbly.

Luckily for me, my partner had just finished up their subscription to Conquest magazine and had a bunch of random battlefield scatter they weren’t using soooooo……

I experimented with a single ladder to the ground and didn’t like it. Adding a platform with a railing meant models could be placed halfway up if they don’t get all their movement, and provides a modicum of cover at the expense of field of view.

Totally tubular

I was in love with the design, and ate many more baked snacks over the next few weeks. I had to draw the line at the number of silos I was going to make however – I already had boxes of scenery piling up in my bedroom, so I had to start being choosy about the volume of scenery I was making.

Three more silos built – this time of varying heights and playability. I wanted them to look of similar design but with slightly different purpose so should the need arise to have a scenario about poisoning water tanks or destroying fuel supplies, they all present different challenges.

Big shout out to this Gothic Upgrade Pack from MAD Gaming – you get a huge number of interesting buttresses, uprights and other greebling for your money. I had some for a specific hab project, but kept buying more becuase they’re so useful for sticking onto literally anything to make it look 40k.

Other features were made from bits of plasticard or random scraps from the bits box. I’m not the proud owner of an MDF bits box too after a particularly long and wood-filled pandemic spent hobbying, so there was a lot of spare bits to arrange in interesting ways.

Once everything was dry, it was time for a hearty dollop of my homemade textured paint – a mix of ready-mixed filler, modelling sand, PVA glue and a splash of poster paint for colour.

Once dried again, everything got undercoated in black, zenithal highlighted with a grey rattlecan, and key areas picked out with a rusty red colour from my local hobby shop.

A series of tubes

Painting was straightforward, and used the same recipe as the Chem Silo, the main difference being a lot more flat surface to paint. On one hand, it meant I got to experiment with masking tape and sponging on the red decal, but it also meant a lot of manual brushwork.

I’m sure there’s a technical name for the technique I use for walls and panels in this style, but it’s basically very heavy drybrushing. I get a natty old brush, wipe a lot of paint off it, and roll it round on the surface to create uneven, patchy layers. Over a dark-ish undercoat, it creates a nice weathered effect, looking like actual paint that has worn off over time.

I think this worked best on the tall silo, I went too heavy on the pair of medium silos and lost a lot of the texture around the corners of the panels. I tried to make up for it during the weathering stage, but it wasn’t the same effect. Shame really!

Glamour shots

On with some closeups, with our classic bickering couple to give a sense of scale and how the silos might be used in game.

Overall I’m happy with how they turned out. I’m a little disappointed that one of them came out much better than the others, something I only really noticed when I put them all together and started taking photos of them. I liked the effect up close, but it was only when arranging them on the tabletop I realised what I should have done.

Oh well, live and learn!

The family photo

MOTB: Chem silo scenery

Finished product first!

I recently discovered a local scenery company called Wargame Model Mods and put an order in over lockdown. They did some of the better mdf xenos scenery on the market, and picked up one of their (very reasonably priced) Chemical Silo to see what it was like. I had a few tubular buildings of my own built from Christmas snacks, and thought this would round out the collection very nicely.

pakidge

I barely had time to clear some space on my bench before it arrived. My house was soon awash with the blissful smell of lasercut wood once more.

Such neat little packages! Most of the components came pre-punched, bundled and baggied for ease of identification – something I’d not encountered before in my many years of scenery building. I’d ordered three kits – two of them filthy xenos technology – so I set the extra pieces aside while I worked on the silo.

Quality and quantity

I was impressed by the quality of the kit (especially for the price!), and the material was thinner and denser than other mdf kits from other suppliers. It made the whole kit much lighter than I expected, and the smaller pieces were much less liable to explode into dust.

The only real criticism I’d make is the instructions were a little sparse. It asked for certain named parts from the sprues (like walkway railings) but didn’t suggest which ones they might be.

There are three simililarly-shaped walkway sections – two of which I put the wrong way round. It was straightforward to fix as the glue hadn’t dried yet, but some clearer images on the instructions or website would be a very easy fix to this problem.

Internal workings

Removable roof you say? I’m a sucker for a good building you can put little toy soldiers in, so of course I’m going to assemble it with the optional removable roof. I laid down some textured plasticard to act as a floor.

All those little holes are for LEDs – you can spend a few extra gold coins on the webstore and get a fully-working lighting kit thrown in too. Nearly all their kits are designed specifically for moving parts or fancy wired lighting – how cool is that!

In my excitement, I fear I lost a vital piece of the puzzle. I must have misplaced a piece to use as the actual floor, so the plasticard just sat over a void in the base board. This isn’t particularly durable and sounds like a drum when you put a mini on it, so I reinforced it with bits of offcut sprue from the kit.

I had also taken it upon myself at this point to overcomplicate the task at hand. I had been sizing up different bits of plastic scenery to help blend this kit in with my collection, and although the kit came with its own mdf door, I had a neat GW pressure door from the (sadly discontinued) Rogue Trader Killteam set that looked perfect.

Unfortunately it meant hacking a huge hole in the side of the building and carving massive gouges from the door frame to fit.

When building scenery, I like to design with playability in mind first. Why would players want to send their gangers into/on top of these overly-intricate creations? Usually for buildings, it’s because they have windows or ports to shoot from, giving them decent protection from any return fire.

There aren’t any windows on this little hut and I didn’t feel like agonisingly cutting into the dense fibreboard any more, so a new plan was concocted.

I kept it open enough so objectives could be placed inside – it’s a secure enough location, and gangers might want to stash things inside. A couple of tubes and consoles gives a loose implication of the shack’s original purpose – perhaps some kind of monitoring station for whatever is in the silo? Whatever it is probably isnt working any more, and the silo has been repurposed by entrepreneurial individuals.

A few bits of plasticard stuck around help break up the flat wall panels and I installed a ladder to the roof.

After a lot of deliberation, I decided the main draw for the terrain would be a hideout installed on the roof. I’ve been obsessed with people’s conversions of turning GW containers into living spaces and wanted to do one myself. I found the container was the perfect height to match with the top walkway on the silos, and an idea formed.

Penthouse suite

I added some gothic buttresses from my personal collection to help blend it with some of my other buildings and fill out the dead space on the baseboard.

I’m generally not a fan of scenery on bases unless the base can help tell the story, so I planned to fill it with spare barrels and pipes to provide more cover and allude to what the site was once used for.

I built a little shack on the roof, furnished it with odds and ends from the bits box to make it look more lived in. I’ve mentioned playability of scenery before, and the key principle of that to me is flow – gameplay should be able to flow across the scenery.

Going with the flow

Height and cover are the mechanical benefits for using scenery in games like Necromunda, so you want to encourage players to seek out those benefits by making them enticing and interesting.

By building a walkway from the top of the container to the silos and adding a ladder to the roof, fighters can now traverse the entire structure without touching the ground. It would have been easier for me to stick a ladder on the outside of the building and call it a day, but that would relegate the building to a boring wooden box that serves only as a spacer for the diorama on top.

By building the ladder inside and adding a hatch on the roof, the fighters naturally have to enter the building to access the roof. This creates natural chokepoints and opportunities to use in-game mechanics – a rickety walkway, an open hatch, a lockable door. A ganger has sealed the hatch and is using the vantage point to pick off members of the rival gang – will they risk trying to unseal the hatch, or take the safer (but longer) route round the back to take her out?

Rather than just being a simple line-of-sight blocker, the flow of the scenery now creates interesting situations that sparks exciting narrative and (hopefully!) thrilling gameplay.

Finishing touches

Of course, no scenery piece is complete without lots of little details to make it feel lived in -some chimneys, an oil drum bbq, a sack, some candles on a crate, a mattress in the container. Some pieces are there to form cover, while others are just there for worldbuilding.

A piece of tissue paper soaked in watered-down layers of PVA formed the tarp over the propped-open container door, a neat little visual short-hand for “someone probably lives here”.

Small squares of plasticard were stuck haphazardly about to simlulate repairs or access panels and helps break up large flat areas when painting.

Once it was dry, everything got a liberal dousing with my Secret Scenery Sauce. This is just an extremely low budget textured paint, consisting of PVA glue, ready-made all-purpose filler, a small dollop of black paint, and mixed modelling sand. I tend to shake off my cutting mat into my modelling sand after building things to help vary the size and texture of the particles too. Waste not!

Painting the silo

The entire piece was undercoated in matt black, with a zenithal grey spray highlight. Key areas were picked out in a rusty red colour (also rattlecan), such as roofs and walkways. I was working on some other silo projects alongside this, so I sprayed them all up at once.

It never ceases to amaze me how much a piece comes together ocne you’ve undercoated it. Painting it was straightforward, as I already had a recipe from the Mercy scenery I finished last year (but have not got round to photographing because I’m a monster).

Final photos
  1. Drybrush all raised edges with Dawnstone/light grey.

2. Tear off a little bit of sponge (rougher edges work better, I find) and sponge on some light brown around the edges of metal sections to emulate paint chipping. Concentrate it around areas most likely to be touched or roughed up. I use a pair of tweezers and a little cube of sponge about a half-inch thick, but I’ll use a bigger bit for larger scenery pieces. Repeat with a darker brown around concentrated areas to look like deeper chipping.

3. Paint blocks of colour – orange and silver for barrels, bone colour for the tarp, grey-green for the container, pale green for the wall panels, some yellow/black hazard stripes around key areas.

4. Liberal application of Agrax Earthshade, usually splashed into recesses and corners to create depth/dirt, but some bits get completely covered (like metals, boxes or tarps). The barrels got a wash with Nuln Oil, and the tarp got a second wash with Athonian Camoshade.

5. Once that’s dry, I get a mix of very watered down orange and apply rusty streaks where water from above would naturally pool. I used to do multiple extremely thin layers of orange, but who has the time for that?

6. Decals! I have a collection of little posters I’ve acquired from across the internet (usually by googling 40k posters) and made a few myself related to our own games, which will get a blog post of their own at some point no doubt.

I download them and print them out on regular paper. Once they’re cut out, I tear off a corner or two, scrunch them up real good, then paint some PVA onto the reverse and attach them roughly to the intended surface. The trick is not to make it look too neat – they look best when they’re folded over on themselves, slightly peeling away from the wall, and overlapping each other.

7. The final touch is some good ol’ Typhus Corrosion. This is usually applied with a big stiff paintbrush, and either flicked or stippled on to surfaces that are still too flat or boring. Typically posters get a little attention to help blend them in with their background.

And that’s it! It can take a few evenings of labour to get them finished, but having the recipe in place makes it easy to paint large batches of scenery without too much thought. I’ll be inevitably acquiring an airbrush in the near future to help me deal with some other bits of scenery, so it’ll be interesting to see how much this recipe changes once I’ve got the hang of my new toy.

Glamour shots

You’ve read enough words by now, time to roll out the pictures. Enjoy!

Two thumbs up

Overall, the Chemical Silo kit was a delight to work with. It comes with enough detail that you cansplash a few colours across it and use as-is, or you can fill in some of the gaps with other bits of scenery from your bits box to blend it in with your collection. There are loads of other kits with similar designs so you could easily fill a board with various factory pieces, silos, conveyor belts, etc.

If you haven’t checked them out yet, go buy some stuff from Wargame Model Mods. They’re a small company with a huge range of stuff (battery-powered mechanised scenery anyone?) and could absolutely use your Imperial Credits over some of the larger companies.

I had a blast working on this, and it sparked enough creativity that I wanted to see the project through as quickly as possible. I’m really looking forward to playing with it now!

MOTB: Crystals

The money shot

I’ve been banging on about the Gorgon Crystals campaign a lot recently, and for it I needed some battlefield tokens to represent the.. uh… crystals. I’ve mucked about with carving crystalline structures out of plastic sprue before, but I didn’t really have the fortitude to create at least half a dozen markers out of the stuff.

Cue Bad Squiddo Games! I’ve been following their stuff for a while now, and even picked up some of their Cargo Supplies and Food Supplies kits to build my market scene (which is still lying unpainted in a box somewhere…), and knew their set of crystals would be perfect.

p a c k i d g e

I put in the order and waited. Even though it was a busy post-Christmas period, it still turned up within days of me ordering. A++ service!

p a c k i d g e

The minis came out the blister perfectly – no mould lines in sight. The only tidying I did was shaving down one or two bottoms where they’d been clipped from their sprue. A two-minute job and it’s time to hit the spray.

Blue tack woes

Now, in my haste, I didn’t give them a proper soapy bath that you should always do with resin minis. This is to clean off any releasing agent to make paint adhere better and make them a little less slippy.

I was too proud and lazy to do this – after all – what’s the worst that could happen?

Turns out, the releasing agent is basically vaseline for blue tack. I had to hold them with needle nose pliers and superglue them to paint pots because blue tack wouldn’t even pretend to hold onto them.

I kept telling myself that yes, this was a far easier and more efficient method than just doing what you’re supposed to do.

Time for the pink

I knew I wanted a purple/pink colour scheme to add that alien quality I was looking for, but I didn’t know how to paint crystals. I knew there was something funny about the direction you blend colours to make them look like prisms, but I couldn’t even begin to figure it out. Time for a tutorial!

A cursory google provided me with this great tutorial on painting gems/crystals, and I just substituted the blues for pinks and crimsons to produce an effect I was really happy with.

It was, however, quite time consuming, and I was sick of the sight of pink and purple by the end of four very long evenings of painstaking wet blending. I’m glad I did though, because I think the results speak for themselves!

They’ll appear in plenty of Inquisitor battle reports over the next few weeks, and hopefully I can get more Bad Squiddo bits to paint up in the near future, so watch this space!

MOTB: Arcane ruins

Finished product first!

I guess there’s a theme with recent MOTBs, so it’s a good time to post ruins! Truth be told, I’ve had these ruins ready for quite some time, but having only just purchased a lovely new battle mat from Pwork Games it was a great time to get some photos done.

Out with the old

I must have owned this kit for over a decade, getting dragged around between uni, house moves and all sorts. A few years ago I had a weekend spare and I wanted to finally get it from sprue to battlefield.

Original box art!

I had a tiny problem – much of the kit had been lost to the annals of time I was missing at least one whole upright pillar, the top of the monolith and at least one bit of broken pillar. I’d need to get creative.

In with the new

Luckily my pals at Hobgoblin 3D had me covered. I’d been doing some work for them and I was paid in scatter terrain (can all my paychecks be in scatter terrain please?) and I found the dungeon brazier fit perfectly in the gap at the top. Result!

I’d been using it for practising painting techniques, so it wouldn’t matter if it was getting repainted.

They were quite impressive all assembled. I’d used a cheap readymix DIY filler and smeared it all over, giving the flat edges a bit of texture and tidying up some of the more heinous mould lines.

It was a shame I was missing a few pieces, but it’s supposed to be ruins so the mismatched appearance would be fine.

Weirdly the bits I was missing the most was upright pillars, and the ones I did have tended to be two of the same half, so they didn’t fit together particularly well. Plenty of hacking and filling was needed to finish them off, and the final upright was made from two chunks of ruins glued on top of each other. It ended up with a very wonky appearance… but ruins!

The final upright didn’t have a back half at all, and with not enough pieces to bodge together a second upright, the final freestanding ruin had to be laid down. I wanted to make it look like it was being reclaimed by the earth, and I had some more plants from Hobgoblin to fill the gap and make it a more rounded piece of scatter.

With plenty more filler applied and a long drying time, it was on to the undercoat!

All white on the night

I wanted to avoid doing MORE grey ruins – my collection of terrain was 90% drybrushed grey over a black undercoat which is incredibly dull to look at. I was looking at some tutorials for painting wraithbone structures for our Rogue Trader campaign at the time and I enjoyed how striking Seraphim Sepia was over a white undercoat, so the plan was set in motion.

All dressed up

They existed for almost two years before the gaming mat was purchased, and it’s such a lovely backdrop for these minis I had to finally take some photos!

The stone was painted with washes of Seraphim Sepia and Agrax Earthshade, with progressively lighter drybrushes of boney colours, finishing on an edge highlight of pure white.

I was playing with my latest new technical too – Nihilak Oxide – to do some patina on the bronze. This was just Warplock Bronze painted straight over the bits I wanted to be metallic with the Oxide dabbed messily into the recesses. With a bit of rag, I wiped it off the most prominent edges and that was that.

The downed ruin had some extra textures to paint, namely the ground and plant. I had another half a dozen plant bits that I batch painted at the same time (more on those in another post), so this was done to replicate that. Otherwise, the ground was a dark brown base with lighter browns drybrushed over the top, with a few select grassy tufts from Army Painter.

When they’re separated, the ruins take up a decent amount of board space. I doubt they’d ever be big enough to use as a focal point, but as some LOS-breaking scatter I think they perform quite well.

Plus, the big bonus is they appear to work extremely well at both 28mm and 54mm – something that is becoming (again) increasingly important to my collection!

A final size comparison with an as-yet un-photographed mini – a Demeten Hastati. Again, more on those guys in a later post. The ruins make great cover!

Very happy with how it all came out! For a weekend’s worth of work, I got something striking and practical for the tabletop using bits that were just gathering dust. I’d been meaning to shoot them for some time, and with the new battlemat arriving, it was a great opportunity to use them as a backdrop for some other minis too.

Watch this space…

MOTB: Ryza-pattern ruins

New year, new scenery! I’ve had a quiet spell for hobbying over the past month or so, the time I’d usually spent painting is time I spend buying cheese, eating cheese, or planning how to get 12 people round an 8-person table to eat cheese.

Luckily past me grabbed loads of photos of projects I hadn’t showcased yet, so I’ve got lots of material to work with while I get back in the hobby groove.

Older and ryza

I acquired some of the Ryza-pattern ruins completely by chance, having been decidedly indifferent to them when they were announced. When a sprue was included in Conquest magazine last year, not only did I get one for free from someone who didn’t want it, but the price of them dropped through the floor on ebay the week after the issue hit doormats. Crazy how nature do that. I figured two sprues were better than one (and could get reasonable coverage on a table) so I picked one up for about £6.

For my sins, I took absolutely zero WIP photos. Imagine then, if you will, the above and below photos but TOTALLY NAKED. They were uncomplicated to build – the only assembly required being where two sections slotted together. The hardest part was cleaning the darn pieces up – one of the ruin sections has no less than 28 points of contact with the sprue, so that was a LOT of plastic nubbins to clear up.

All painted up

As with all my scenery schemes, the technique I used was far too complicated for how they came out. Everything got hit with a black undercoat, then a grey zenithal undercoat. The ‘panels’ got a pale flesh drybrush with a sepia wash, and the ‘uprights’ got a boltgun metal drybrush with a brown wash. These got a rough edge drybrush with boltgun metal again to make them look chipped and worn.

The red horizontal sections were mephiston red, black wash and edge drybrush with a lighter red, and the yellow and black stripey cables got a black wash as well. My two favourite technical paints were then liberally splashed on afterwards – Blood for the Blood God and Typhus Corrosion to mucky them up a bit.

They’ve already been super handy in games of Necromunda to expand the pool of scatter and cover terrain, and they scale up well to 54mm too which makes them double-useful for my nefarious 2020 plans!

For now though, simply enjoy these unbesmirched images of good, wholesome background terrain in its natural environment.

MOTB: Asteroids

Finished product first!

Big rocks – mankind’s oldest foe. As much a threat to planetsiders as to voidsmen, and despite space being really really big and really really empty, they do have a tendency to turn up in space battles quite a lot.

Given our Rogue Trader campaign is heading back out into the wilderness, we’re likely to come across all kinds of really big rocks. Why not put a few together?

I wanna rock

I’d recently acquired some cork for basing materials. When it comes to cork, a tip I received from a local hobbyist was to pop to Wilko and buy a few place mats and tear them up rather than pay loads for ‘hobby’ cork. It all comes from the same tree!

This was a quick turnaround for construction, so for all my shame I was unable to get any WIP photos of them pre-primed.

Cork is lovely to work with – you can simply gouge chunks out of it with any implement (even fingers) to create great texture. The smaller rocks were made from scraps from the larger ones, carefully vetted to avoid any flat edges.

For the big lads I glued a few slabs of cork together until they were an inch or so thick. Once thoroughly dried, I set about carving huge chunks out of them to create more realistic shapes. Again, great care was taken to avoid any obvious flat edges or glue marks. You can kind of see the ‘grain’ of the cork in the top left asteroid of the photo above, so I was keen to avoid any more of that.

In action!

The support struts were a mix of cocktail sticks for the thicker rocks and lengths of paperclip for the smaller ones. I bent a right angle at the bottom of each paperclip so there was more surface area connection, then padded it out with green stuff anyway. I build for table-play, not dis-play. Aha.

Finally, I applied plenty of textured paint into the nooks and crannies that still had grain on them.

Celestial bodies

Painting giant space rocks was, you’ll be surprised to hear, incredibly straight forward.

Primed black, drybrushed grey, then washed with Nuln Oil. Another few lighter highlights were drybrushed on, ending in almost pure white at the very top.

I did actually (for once!) look up reference images, as I couldn’t remember if asteroids were brown or not. (They’re not)

Finally, using the end of a cocktail stick, dabbed some white dots in a random pattern to simulate the infinite vastness of space (and break up the dodgy sanding job I did on the bases).

Very happy with how they came out! It’s definitely a technique I’m going to replicate in the future. I notice TTCombat has a new ‘modular space station‘ kit that is awfully tempting – perhaps some space stations built into asteroids? Or perhaps.. *gasp*.. a scale model of Mercy?

Omnissiah protect us, for that would be a mighty construction project…

MOTB: Cathedral Assault

Our Dark Heresy campaign has made it to the planet of Syracuse -a dank and miserable affair perfect for acolytes tramping around in the mud and rot. For the campaign I wanted some epic set pieces, and even put together a game board to help build the mood.

It was time to return for another brawl, this time to defend an Imperial Cathedral (or what was left of it) from rampaging Undertow during a full-blown civil war.

The setup used parts from previous encounters, as well as some lovely houses from 4Ground to make it appear a little better lived-in than previous encounters. The cathedral came from the Kill Team boxed set I picked up when it was still circulating, and now goes by Sector Imperialis. It’s a nice kit that I went a bit overboard with, and I’m sure will get a write-up at some point.

I wish I’d taken more photos, but c’est la vie. The players were entering on the opposite end of the board to the Cathedral, with angry Undertow in the middle laying siege to the beleaguered Adeptus Arbites defenders (who did have a write-up for them done here.). If the players got to them in time, they would make valuable allies in the war to come.

The rain was bucketing down. Weather was a big part of this campaign, and nasty environmental effects include reduced vision and penalties to shooting. Not ideal for a predominantly ranged band of Acolytes!

The Undertow were out in force, showing that fancy equipment isn’t necessary to be a threat in such environments. Armed with reliable weaponry that won’t jam when dropped in the mud, firebombs filled with water-retardant chemicals and good ol’ fashioned shivs, they were more than a match for the players on the day.

They even set up a heavy weapon in the house across the street, ready to spit out a harrowing amount of lead if the Acolytes didn’t neutralise it.

The gang were joined by a temporary character, an ex-Zini armsman mercenary guardsman handy with a mono-club and with a penchant for explosives. The player would come to be a regular part of our gang in future campaigns, but for now we enjoyed having the extra muscle.

The house with the heavy weapon was unceremoniously lit up by the new guardsman, who had acquired a single-shot missile launcher earlier on and had been holding onto it for a special occasion.

On the players’ right flank, the Arbitrator had made a dynamic entry on a stolen dirt bike, ramping off a pile of debris and landing in the fountain for cover. It kept the Undertow at bay, but not for long. A criminal with a massive two-handed meathook charged up a set of stairs and bit deep into the Adept’s leg, dropping her into -5 Critical damage. It was at this point that we all realised how little armour the Adept was wearing – she still had on her starter set of armour that her career is given at character generation – a flak vest and some loose-fitting robes. In almost 6 years of playing with these characters, it had never come up that she might be under-dressed for the occasion of saving the world!

The mercenary handily finished off the offending criminal before he could finish the job of hacking off the Adept’s leg and swept round clubbing anyone she could find.

Many, many firebombs are thrown back and forth over cover. Some Undertow accidentally blow themselves up, but one particularly mean firebomb scatters over the heads of the tough frontline characters and directly onto the squishy techpriest who was patching up the near-dead adept at the back of the battle. Both immediately catch fire, the Adept passing out from excessive crispiness and the Techpriest doing everything in her power to avoid the same fate.

Meanwhile our damage-dealing characters had broken out into no-man’s land, identifying themselves to the Arbites to avoid getting shot and moving in to support. Everything, of course, is now either on fire or has been set on fire.

With the bulk of the criminals put down by a combination of Arbitrator and Scum, the injured support characters at the back of the pack gingerly move forwards through the fire and smoke.

They get ambushed by one last Undertow who had hid behind a ledge, who gets speared to the floor by an enthusiastic Cleric and choked to unconsciousness for interrogation later. You know what they say – it’s better to dive for the Emperor than live for yourself…

The team rendezvous with the besieged Arbitrators at the Cathedral and plot their final moves against the campaign’s villain(s). A very enjoyable battle to run and great scenery to play it on!

MOTB: Hab Block part 1

(Semi) finished product first!

A long time ago I found myself with a HMRC-related windfall which coincided with the release of a neat-looking kickstarter for a modular mdf terrain system. I was very taken with it, especially with the Gothic Upgrade pack making it look like the creepy hive city hab block from my dreams. I dropped some cash on the project and forgot about it for a year.

Fast forward past a house move and some postage misadventures and this (very) heavy box was sitting on my proverbial bench.

What’s in the box?!

Unpack the block

I don’t know why it surprises me how much mdf weighs whenever it arrives. I had a hundred and one other things that needed to be done that day, so I of course cancelled all my plans and tore into the package.

A tight fit

Lovely packaging, barely an inch of wasted space. It began to dawn on me how much assembling I was going to have to do.

Freebies!

an inelegant start

I can’t talk about the kit without mentioning the elephant in the room when it comes to MAD gaming – there were a lot of problems with the Kickstarter. They raised money in orders of magnitude greater than they (apparently) planned for, which caused massive backlogs of production. Their expected delivery time went up from one month to another month, to next month, to the month after…

I stopped following after the first few months – there was only so many times I could read “Hey so we’re delayed again because of [some other reason] sorry backers” before I got bored of checking in. They were on Pledge level 2 after the first few months, I was waiting for Pledge 6.

There were some issues with postage and an ill-conceived attempt to plug the next Kickstarter before they’d finished delivering on their already super-late current Kickstarter. If the product wasn’t great, I’d find it difficult to recommend MAD Gaming Terrain.

As it stands though, the product is well-made and extremely well engineered. I found myself genuinely daunted at the prospect of assembling it from the sheer volume of options available. As of right now, most of this stuff is also available to purchase from their local supplier too, and depending on how this assembly goes I may well be picking more up in the future.

If regular online shopping goes well, I will be back to recommend them whole-heartedly!

So many parts

There were a lot of sprues, many of which I couldn’t work out the utility of. The assembly instructions were very useful, but when it came to optional parts the rules were “Go nuts” or “Check out our videos on Youtube for ideas”.

I am unreasonably angry by such blatant abuse of hy-phens

I am loathe to watch construction videos – I don’t like scrolling through a 15 minute video of people talking about their product to get a grainy 480p flyby of the thing I’m looking for. Give me a big picture to pore over or give me death.

It’ll look pretty when it’s done!

I began to unpack in earnest, trying to work out the best way to approach the project. After several hours I came to the conclusion that there was no best way – I was just going to chunk through random sprues and pray it worked out.

Got Wood ™

I picked things that had instructions – namely the base hab blocks and the walkways. It was all straight forward and well-documented – I had no issues following the base instructions that came with the kits.

In fact, the only problem I encountered was boredom after assembling my millionth walkway – which I only have myself to blame for trying to build everything in an afternoon (and for ordering so much damn wood).

I had to enlist a few extra pairs of hands

Coming together

I love building complicated kits, and although they are a ballache or tedious (or both) to assemble, the finished article is very impressive. I’m a huge fan of kits that have enough detail on them that makes painting easier, as applying colour is something I find particularly difficult. These kits look like they’ll take a few rattlecans very nicely, and after they’ve been tickled with a drybrush and had a few details picked out, they’ll look amazing on the tabletop.

It’s starting to look like a block of habs

I also had an experiment with the Gothic upgrade sprues. I remember adding a few of them to my Kickstarter, as I’d prefer to have too many than not enough. I was endlessly impressed by the modular nature of the whole kit – everything can be attached basically anywhere, which is a nightmare for someone who hates having too many options.

I compromised by adding a few gothic buttresses and lights to a roof and one of the bases just to see how the kits worked. I was very impressed by how well they all stacked up on top of each other.

It was starting to take shape, and the prospect of making harder decisions with the resources I had was daunting. I also wasn’t sure I had enough magnets to see me through the magnetisation process, and I didn’t want to be caught short.

The plan of attack for this building session was to get all the core stuff assembled – let’s see how tall I can make this sucker.

“Citizens of Peach Trees…”

Turns out, quite tall. I already began visualising some daft things I could do with magnetised walkways coiling round the outside of this. It’s a terrible design for playing in, but it looks cool!

I was impressed with how well it all slotted together considering how slap-dash I was in assembly. I’m looking forward to having the whole kit together.

to be continued

This is where everything was left – all the hab pieces assembled with a couple of experimental Gothic parts added. Most of the walkways are tucked away waiting to have magnets added once I build up the courage to take them out of their box again.

The full spread

Overall I’m very impressed with the kit. I can easily populate a board with them in ‘unstacked’ mode, but it remains to be seen how much I can cover once I start layering them up. As of a week or two ago, MAD have started selling the individual habs on their store, so depending on how it looks like when I’m finished, it’s nice to know I can always pick up a few extras to round off my collection.

As for construction, perhaps Christmas will have a few spare days for me to bite the bullet and finish the project off. Watch this space!

 

Meanwhile, on the Bench: Celestine Wharf game board

The Celestine Wharf of Syracuse Magna (courtesy of FFG)

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

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

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

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

“WHO’S ASKING QUESTIONS ON MY WHARF?”

Finished product first!

an investigation on the wharf

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

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

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

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

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

Building the wharf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then it was on to building docky bits!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Showdown on the wharf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Boss’s minions take the high ground.

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

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

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

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

She then launched her coherent plan:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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