Sunday, 6 October 2013

Elderblossom War - Prologue

In the grounds of the imperial palace in Kingswater, there is a bell. It is a small bell, a leaden bell, of particularly un-noteworthy appearance. Among all the grace and splendour of the imperial grounds, all the mother-of-pearl, the marble and the sweeping elegant roofs, this bell and its tower are unlovely in their iron ordinariness.

The tower is old, almost as old as the bell. Its stones are a brownish grey, the slopes of its tiled roof simple, and its sides mossy. No-one goes near the tower, except when a member of the royal family dies (may they live forever).

Long ago, before there were Emperors in Seven Isles, or kings of glens or lochs, the bell was forged. Men say it was made by Hidayo the smith-god, but monks say that the bell is beneath such divine craftsmanship. One hundred and thirteen Emperors (may they live forever) have had their passing marked with seven tolls of the little bell. Uncounted princes and princesses of the blood have been honoured with one, three or five.

 The Emperor's great-grandfather Odinato is the only one not to receive seven strokes of the bell. He was lost at sea on the passage to Aniran, leading a fleet against the Enemy. All men know that the Emperors (may they live forever) have the power to control the winds and tides, so Odinato (may he live forever) cannot have been drowned like a mere ship's monkey. Though no man knows where he now lives, even Emperor Ragesuni, all men knows that he will live forever, doing the gods' work.
Emperor Ragesuni (may he live forever) has long been sick. Confined to the Imperial Palace these last six years, he is wracked with pain, drawn and pale and losing his hair in the comfort of his bower. As his hands are carved to talons clutching blood-spattered handkerchiefs, his heart and mind have stayed the course, driving the Seven Isles as only an Emperor can. The doctors long ago bowed their heads and delivered the Emperor (may he live forever) into the hands of the monks. None of the knowledge born of medicine or chirurgy could compete with the all-conquering will of the dying monarch.

Masoya Teyuma holding court.
Recently, to ensure the success of his son Yosima's reign, he engaged his beautiful daughter Ishunē to Masoya Teyuma, heir to House Masoya, third strongest house in the Empire. With the support of his in-laws, Yosima would become the most powerful man in the Empire not only in law, but in fact. But the wedding has not yet taken place, and so the Jasmine Throne stands precariously alone, with neither father nor son reigning from it as an Emperor must.

The throne is itself an artefact of ancient times, as are many things in Kingswater. It is said to have been spun from the scent of the jasmine tree by the Tengu before it earned the ire of the gods, and crystallised by the birthing cry of the first Emperor, Suneshima. In the centre of the Imperial Palace it stands, on rock rather than wooden floors, the centre and icon of kingship in the Seven Isles. Indeed, the palace and the city of Kingswater grew up around the throne.

The lake island of Kingswater is connected to the mainland by a great bridge of marble and ironwood. That bridge leads to the main road, which itself leads to the Imperial palace, as an artery followed from the body leads to the heart. And in the Imperial palace, among the riches and wonders of three and a half thousand years, the masterworks of every artisan and architect, there is a little grey-brown tower. Within that plain little pile there is a little iron bell, inscribed faintly with spirals of forgotten letters.
The bell is ringing. 
May the Emperor live forever.

This is the start of the story campaign using Craig Woodfield's Ronin that will begin as soon as I have painted the models for it. There will be four main Buntai warbands: House Masoya (Bushi), Bandits/Rebels (Bandits) the Imperial Order (Sohei), and House Jiryaki (Bushi). The storyline is mapped out, so I just have to hope that the games don't scupper it!

On a personal note – I'm genuinely gutted not to have been able to post for so long, but personal things can dig deeply into hobby time. As can other hobby things – check out MW367!

That said, I hope to pick up again soon – if you have any Ronin/Elderblossom questions, please do ask them in the comments.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Quick and Dirty German Elites

The core of this is a second Crossfire company from the Battlefront Open Fire boxed set. That company is made up of:

Company Commander
2 HMG stands
3 Platoons (Platoon Commander, 3 Rifle stands)
2 FOs for offboard artillery/organic mortars

with an SMG squad from Battalion backing them up.

This is supplemented with a load of extra stands to help convert this Crossfire company into two weak platoons for IABSM. They are extra men for HMG and Panzerschreck teams, and an extra Crossfire platoon should I care to buy all three squads panzerfausts.

They were painted as follows over a black spray:

1. Wetbrush GW Astartes Battlegrey.
2. Paint skin Vallejo Basic Skin Tone.
3. Paint boots and webbing black.
4. Paint helmets Vallejo Dark Sand.
5. Drybrush guns Vallejo Gunmetal Metal.
6. Paint wood & helmet stripes Vallejo English Uniform.
7. Paint grenades and anti-tank weaponry GW Kommando Khaki.
8. Paint HMG belt ammo GW Shining Gold.
9. Brown miracle wash everything.

Nice and easy and only a few hours work. The bases were done in the same way as the Quick and Dirty Airborne - I just haven't found the grass I want to put on them yet. And here are the photos, bad as they are!

WWII Pulp Figures

These are all things I have painted, and here they are for your delectation: 21 zombies, “The Count”, Oberst Scharlach, two German officers, American Eagle, Steel Soldier, Commandette. Johnny Commando, Faust and Mr. Hyde.

The zombies and officers were pretty quick: a wetbrush of GW Astartes Battlegrey for the uniforms, tidied up with Chaos Black for boots and webbing, with Vallejo Gunmetal and English uniform for their weapons. Skin was Basic Skintone for the living, GW Rotting Flesh for the rotting. Lots of GW Mephiston/Baal red gave the zombies a hungry look.

The Count and Oberst Scharlach (Red Skull to you and me) were both sprayed black and given GW Skavenblight Dinge boots and shirts. Incidental details were picked out on metal and then skin was either Mephiston Red or Space Wolf Grey depending on if they were scarlet-faced or a thousand year old vampire.

The heroes were painted up in a variety of silly colours from my paint box, and everyone was finished off with brown miracle wash, apart from Steel Soldier, who received a black wash instead.

American Eagle: GW Ultramarine Blue, Mephiston Red, Ceramite White, Vallejo Basic Skin Tone
Steel Soldier: GW Ultramarine Blue, Mithril Silver
Commandette: Vallejo US Field Drab, Basic Skin Tone, Chocolate Brown, GW Catachan Green
Johnny Commando: Vallejo US Field Drab, Chocolate Brown, Basic Skin Tone, GW Catachan Green
Faust: GW Tallarn Flesh, Baal Red Ink, Skavenblight Dinge, Chaos Black
Mr. Hyde: Vallejo Basic Skin Tone, Chocolate Brown

The models were all from Rebel Minis.

Fight At The Crossroads!

It is 1944. The villainous Oberst Scharlach has been instrumental in delaying the Allied advance from the beachheads. American Eagle, alongside elements of the valiant 101st Airborne led by Sergeants Stone and Black, has come to kidnap him from the farmhouse he is staying at.

Little do they know that the farmhouse is in fact occupied by a squad of the fearsome Heldjager, and that Oberst Scharlach is waiting to close the trap with some of his blasphemously animated zombies...

As the Airborne approach from the south...
...Hauptmann Schengel checks the back door.
The Allies seized the initiative to begin with. Sergeant Black moved his troops up to the drystone wall opposite the ominously silent farmhouse, and Sergeant Stone moved his squad out of the treeline to take a commanding view of both roads. Disdaining such caution, American Eagle marched straight up the road, determined to take Scharlach into custody with his own gloved hands.

American Eagle hides from no man.

As he louched his way past a window, one of the Heldjager saw his crimson cloak flying in the wind, and with a cry of Achtung!, they leapt to their defence.

They reached the windows and a storm of fire came from the Airborne, shattering glass and bone alike as it tore through the first two to take positions. The Nazi return fire was ineffective, but they were undaunted by their casualties and settled in for a brutal firefight.

Using his amazing super strength, American Eagle leapt over the farmhouse, ready to smash in the back door and seize the Oberst. The Airborne, vulnerable as mortal men are, stayed in position to rake the Heldjager with fire. Things were heating up now, and though the Airborne's fire was surprisingly erratic, they were accounting for more and more of the enemy – who were giving as good as they got.

Hauptmann Schengel put down the radio receiver with smug satisfaction and then flinched as the back door to the farmhouse was kicked into a shower of splinters, the battered doorframe silhouetting the dramatic form of American Eagle. With a snarl, the two men leapt at each other as a muted howl came from outside.

The first zombies arrive.

The zombies were coming from two ends of the T-junction. The Airborne were torn – did they save their skins or the mission!? Sergeant Stone knew what to do! Leaving his men to cover the house, he ran down the field towards the zombies firing his Thompson from the hip. Ignoring the single man, the Heldjagers fired on his squad, routing them – but not before Johnson's 1919 unknowingly tore through the remnants of their first fire team.

Stone draws the zombies' attention, in cover from the Heldjagers.
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, the Eagles fall back.

Black's men were too close for subtlety. They turned their weapons on the newcomers as one, destroying half the horde in a blaze of fire as the Heldjager kept up the pressure.

American Eagle and Schengel were tearing at each other like animals, wrecking the kitchen as they brawled. Neither man could quite get the upper hand, until the last three bloodied Heldjager scrambled down the stairs to observe the scene.

Stone's gambit now became apparent – familiar with the mindless, shambling bloodlust of Scharlach's minions, he was drawing them away to give his fellows time to act. Little did he realise that his squad was at that moment fleeing for their lives.

The zombies chase Sergeant Stone.

Seeing Scharlach on the hill, Sergeant Black made a desperate run across the road – only to be caught by the zombies! Unable to fire on them for fear of hitting their leader, his squad sought a new target and found it – the arch-nemesis himself, smirking on the hilltop! A rain of lead put paid to his wicked machinations... for now.

Sergeant Black is in trouble!

Busy smashing Schengel in the face, American Eagle did not notice the Heldjagers creeping up behind him. They were equipped with all sorts of evil weapons to deal with the Ami's “Heroes” - but some instinct warned him and their first shots went wide, only hitting him in the leg.

Sergeant Stone thought himself a goner when he first saw the zombies lurch at him, but their shambling lack of proprioception saved him as the lead monstrosity broke its leg in the field's furrows and he shot it in the head.

Black's men jumped over the wall and beat the zombies threatening their NCO to death with entrenching tools and rifle butts, as American Eagle's body came flying out of the farmhouse window to lie limp and bloodied in the road – the Heldjager's foul weaponry had done its work well. Whatever this “depleted uranium” was, high command would have to hear about it.

Enraged, the parachutists stormed the house. Schengel got a shot off with his pistol (which embedded itself in Black's lucky bible), but it was no use. Full of righteous rage the Americans killed the Heldjagers around him, and Black shot the captain in the back as he attempted to flee.

As they congratulated themselves, they heard gunshots and swearing from the east. Stone was still running through the ploughed fields, leading the zombies a merry dance. Steadying their weapons on casements they potted all but two, who leapt on the sergeant with unholy bloodlust. Luckily, the sergeant was a brawler from way back when, and with two quick swipes of his entrenching tool, the field was America's.

American Eagle coughed weakly in the road, bloody sputum running from his mouth – he was alive, but barely. But when Black and Stone checked the hilltop for Oberst Scharlach's body, no such relic was to be found...

Until next time, folks!

Butcher's Bill
Uncle Sam's Boys: 8 Airborne, American Eagle
Horrors of the SS: Oberst Scharlach, 10 Heldjager, 21 zombies, Captain Schengel

This is the first playtest of my WWII superhero game that I've put up here, and it was good fun. The battle seemed squarely the Allies' until the Heldjager did their job and put down American Eagle by bypassing all his special defensive rules. Of course, the fact that Black's squad overcame their previously shoddy die-rolling and slaughtered the Nazis in their turn is neither here nor there. In our last game, American Eagle fell under the spell of the wicked Count, and butchered his former Ami comrades – he's not doing well outside the comics!

Man of the Match: Sergeant Stone, for disposing of the greater part of a squad of zombies on his own.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Saga of the Battle of Getham

Long Egil sailed,
Far-roaming, foe-reaping.
To Britain's shores guided,
By Loki, for reaving...

Coming ashore at the mouth of the Trent, Red Egil forged inland. Unfortunately for him, the local lord was a canny warrior, and what's more – literate. Knowing how the Romans defended the Saxon Shore before his ancestors seized their land, he used the same tricks against the Viking invaders, forcing Egil and his Blackshields back to the coast.

The lord's son, Aethelfric, was sent with a warband to chase down the interlopers, but few were their numbers – so few, in fact, that Egil turned in flight to cut them down. The shieldwalls met on a misty, dewy morning by the village of Getham...

The battlelines swiftly advanced towards each other. The wood in the centre of the field slowed Aethelfric and his huscarls, and seeing this led Egil to swiftly advance his Blackshields against the thegns on Aethelfric's left wing. If the English could be defeated in detail, maybe some honour could still be saved from this debacle.
The lines close.
The Viking tide crashes home.

It looked like the Saxon thegns would be swept away, but these were hard men, hard as iron, and though shields shivered and spears shattered, they stood firm. They wrought red ruin among the foeman, and as they pushed them back they hacked down the last of those foolish hirdmen who had placed their trust in Heimdall rather than Christ.

The Anglo-Danes moved forward, striking at the black-shielded sailors before them. Distraught at the slaughter of the hersir, they sought Valhalla at English hands. They found it, though they dragged many a Saxon soul screaming with them.
The Anglo-Danes crash forwards.
Almost total casualties on the wing.

Here Loki proved his salt where Thor had failed. His weasel words and cunning fingers carved womanly terror into English hearts, and the survivors of that nightmare of steel and shield on Aethelfric's left ran like cowards into the hills.

Again the Vikings charged the English left, horns blaring in the morning light. This time steel burst red through gut and bone, and the unforgiving English fell back leaving their dead for the crows before the triumphant Blackshields.
The lines thin out.

Now Egil attempted to lead his uncommitted sailors against the huscarls in Getham Wood, but their hoarse bellows and the clatter of axe on shield intimidated the norsemen into hanging back. This encouraged the iron English thegns, and they charged home again, surprising the hersir and butchering them like hogs.

Egil was alone but for the dead, bellowing defiance as Aethelfric and his huscarls burst from the trees.
Red Egil alone before the English.

Though Egil struck one man a killing blow from his ancient sword, he faced the very lords of battle, and he was rent with many deadly wounds, from crown to shin.

Seeing their valorous leader dead on the field amongst the best of his brethren, the last of the Blackshields fled to their ships, little knowing that they lay smouldering, charred and black, on the English shore...

The reaving was Loki's,
Snake-spirit, wyrd-weaver.
Egil lay dead on a field of iron,
Rent chain, bucklers broken
His falling un-omened.

Butcher's Bill
Vikings: Warlord, 12 Hearthguard, 7 Warriors
Anglo-Danes: 1 Hearthguard, 12 Warriors

Half the Anglo-Danish army didn't even make it into play! A mix of crazy die rolls and impressive defensive abilities blunted the initial Viking assault, and after that there just weren't enough dice on the board for Egil's men to come back as the Lords of Battle strutted their stuff across the field. Intimidation and Hard As Iron are definitely going to be my go-to abilities in the club campaign...

Man of the Match goes to the Anglo-Danish Warriors who saw off twelve Hearthguard for the loss of only four of their own. 

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Quick and Dirty Airborne

Being a complete prat, I got Battlefront's new Open Fire boxed set for Christmas – and then decided to use it all for Crossfire. Trading away the German armour and the two Fireflies means I should get a couple of Airborne companies out of it, and a discount box of Wargames Factory Germans will round out the opposition – at least before I go on a PSC binge and create small forces for all the armies fighting on the Italian peninsula.

Anyway, the Airborne. The 32 Airborne in the boxed set left me one shy of the numbers I needed for a Crossfire company, so I snuck one of the Germans with plenty of scrim in among them – can you spot him? Happily, a Crossfire company is pretty much a platoon in IABSM or similar 1:1 games, so as my Airborne grow I'll be able to use them in more popular games too.

Here we have three platoons (LT, 3 squads), a Company Commander, an FO and a mortar team. The rear of each base has been marked with a company stripe, a battalion Ace of Spades, and then platoon stripes. Click for larger versions.
The whole company.

FO, Company Commander, mortar & a platoon behind.

The base markers.

An attempt at a close-up.

The quick and dirty painting guide:
  1. Spray black.
  2. Drybrush Vallejo US Field Drab
  3. Drybrush guns GW Chainmail
  4. Paint helmets Vallejo Brown Violet
  5. Paint skin Vallejo Basic Skin Tone
  6. Paint wood and boots Vallejo English Uniform
  7. Secret step: paint bazooka and mortar GW Gretchin Green and paint MG bullets gold/brass.
  8. Paint webbing GW Ushabti Bone
  9. Ink with black miracle wash.

Using the biggest feasible brush at each step means that the whole platoon probably only took an hour or three.

The bases were done late, since Warbases were closed over Christmas. The models were stuck on, and a mix of Wilko's acrylic Burnt Umber and grouting paste was applied, and drybrushed with Wilko's Nutmeg Spice emulsion. The edges were done in Wilko's Sap Green acrylic, and the white details using Wilko's White acrylic. I cannot recommend non-hobby paints highly enough for basing and terrain projects. At a conservative twelfth of the price of Vallejo or GW, you can really go to town with them.

Great paints aside, I was a little underwhelmed by Battlefront's venture into plastics. While on the most part they have an excellent level of deep detail, many faces and undersides are blurred or simply blocked out. Three of the models were broken before the box was even opened, and while glue saved two, one unlucky Parachutist is fighting with a very sawn-off rifle.

Still, Crossfire is back on the cards, and that should always be a cause for celebration!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Enter Mourne's Rangers!

My first painting project of the year was finished yesterday, though the grunt work was done last year. This is a 1,200 point Flames of War US Rangers (Brittany) army from Turning Tide, and is comprised of six platoons (five rifle, one mortar), an FO for the guns out at sea, Lieutenant Colonel Mourne, two extra bazooka teams and three snipers.
Mourne's Rangers - the whole company.

I'm quite proud of this army, since it shows you what you can do for £25, maybe £30. The models themselves cost £25 in a sale this summer, and the material for the bases can't have cost much. The effect is however impressive, especially on the gaming table.
Lieutenant Colonel Mourne with his HQ bazookas.

Lieutenant Jupp's battered platoon.

Lieutenant Bailey's mortar platoon.

Captain Davies' men.

Lieutenant Kane's platoon.

Major O'Briain's platoon.

The company snipers: Jones, Vine and Carr.

Lieutenant Byrne's platoon.

The Rangers were done in a limited palette. First, they and their bases were sprayed black, and then each man was drybrushed with Vallejo English Uniform. This was followed by a coat of US Field Drab for their jackets. The rest of the colours were as follows:

Skin: Vallejo Basic Skin tone
Helmets: GW Catachan Green (with a Dark Angels Green ink wash for scrim)
Helmet Diamond: GW Mephiston Red
Gaiters: GW Astartes Battlegrey
Webbing: GW Fortress Grey
Rifles/SMGS: GW Chainmail and Bestial Brown
Bazookas/Mortars: GW Gretchin Green

When all the colours were blocked in, the models and their bases were given a quick coat of black miracle wash to shade and smooth things out.

The bases took the lion's share of the work. The models were superglued on, and then I used grouting paste to blend the integral bases into the fireteam one. This also gave them a more uneven surface. A few sections of chopped sprue were inserted at this point to mimic street paving, as well as occasional pipes and pieces of corrugated plastic.
Pipes and plastic iron.

Once the first stage was mostly dry, the top of each base was daubed in PVA. A mix of rough sand, railway ballast and chopped up plasticard was allowed to stick on top. At this point, a few bases also got extra detailing, like tyres, barbed wire or a bike.
Sand/ballast/plasticard mix.

After the Rangers had themselves been painted, each base was given a coat of Wilkinson's “Flintstone” grey emulsion. The bricks were picked out in a 3:1 mix of Vallejo Scarlet Red and Chocolate Brown, and the metals in Vallejo Gunmetal Metal. After the black miracle wash mentioned above, each base had its edge painted black with Wilkinson's black acrylic. The characters had their names painted on the backs in white, and just like that, the company was done.

I hope this inspires more urban-based armies. While this may sound like a hassle (and the bases are slightly time consuming), it's all easier to do than explain, and a lot of it can be done in front of the telly. I'll personally be reusing these techniques for my Fall of Celestine sci-fi project later in the year.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Moving Forwards, Looking Back

Moving Forwards, Looking Back

It's... been a year. A lot of things have happened, and I dare say I've learnt a few lessons. I'm sure I'll have to relearn them though, I never keep track of things like that. Life has been busy in almost every way – I even had my first hospital stay since I was eight with an emergency Christmas appendicectomy. Good old NHS.

But onto things that people care about. Last year I churned out a fair bit of kit: 226 2mm strips, 134 6mm infantry and 8 vehicles, 610 15mm infantry and 10 vehicles, 93 28mm models and one vehicle, 30 1/3000 ships and approximately a shedload of terrain, flats and game aids.

Going forward, I'm going to count a 15mm infantryman as a standard “one model”, and count other scales as fractions or multiples of the same. 2mm will count as a quarter, 6mm will count half and 28mm will count as two or three, just for relative effort. Cavalry count double for everything but 2mm.

Therefore, the number to beat this year will be 1099 models, 17 vehicles, and as much terrain as possible!

Luckily, I finished my first 121 infantry today, a Flames of War company of US Rangers (pictures on a brighter day, hopefully in action). 10% done already! There's quite a queue waiting for me too, including some relatively simple Warriors of Gondor – although the conversions I intend to do to make them Osgiliath Veterans will claim a lot of that time back.

I've played a lot of games this year, in a lot of different systems. I've joined the monsters that are SAGA, Flames of War and 40k and consolidated my collection of Too Fat Lardies games. I have a whole box on my shelf dedicated to decks for their various games.

In any case, thanks for reading to all of you – I've had well over 10,000 hits this year, and I hope to get into a more stable posting pattern in the next twelve months. Quick question for anyone who cares – do you want to see terrain making and painting posts on here too, or should I stick to the battle reports?

The A-Historian

Happy Holidays!