"The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." — Gary Gygax.


[Read and Respond] False Machine on miniatures as an art form

The old question of “how many parts is too many parts?” has been hanging around my awareness of late, as has the old “plastic or metal?” dichotomy. Partly it’s painting all those little SAGA undead, which have despite their reluctance to stay blu-tacked to the top of a paint bottle, otherwise been fairly effortless to crank out, and which have about them an air of both reassuring solidity and blatant game-pieceness, exactly as planned. Partly it’s building all these second edition Orks, the uncomfortable halfway house between solid one-piece first-generation metal Citadel and the multi-part heavily posable plastics of the late Nineties and beyond. Partly it’s the old post of Porky’s to which I’ve already responded but never been sure I’ve truly grasped. Mostly, though, it’s this series of posts from False Machine’s Patrick which have been archived on HiLobrow. Of particular interest here are the first three posts, which I’m going to bounce some ideas off on a one-by-one basis.

  1. Completely enclosed in the palm of his hand

    The most triumphantly struck chord here is the part about what different models have to do (and I realise now what Porky was on about, I think). Small models often have to convince you that they represent something powerful and coherent; they need form and presence in order to do that. The larger pieces are the ones which can afford to be fiddly and busy and indeed have to be because they’re big enough that an absence of detail becomes apparent.This is why, for all their character, my Skeleton models are not actually as ‘good’ as the old Nightmare Legion ones and especially not as good as their metal contemporaries: they are fussy and detailed as individuals and they draw the eye down to the wrong scale, since it’s the unit as a whole that needs a clarity of form.

    By contrast, the Zombie Dragon that’s just arrived from Australia is a glorious piece of work despite its flaws (the bolt-upright rider, for instance), because it is large and noticeable and so needs to be detailed in order to avoid offending the eye. It operates under a different set of constraints. It’s like what I’ve been saying about paint jobs since forever: a model can impress alone, as part of a unit, or as part of an army, and your ordinary infantry don’t have to be individually impressive if they’re all rammed into a tight square. If anything, that might actually make them look slightly worse, since it should be the unit level that dictates their visual form.

    (Also, going back to a painting style that celebrates the sculpt feels even more legitimate than ever.)

  2. Small objects that can actually be handled

    The ethereality of elves and the mass of dwarves are interesting concepts. I’d add only that I think good undead models should look either extremely permanent, as in the lich or vampire or ancient ghost, or extremely disposable, as in the common skeleton or zombie who lives, dies, and lives again. The difference is that between a statue and a scarecrow, between ancient English oak and flimsy Ikea pine. However, this isn’t the revelation. The revelation is that I finally understand why a couple of things bother me so much, specifically the resculpting of the Malifaux Gremlins and the direction of the Hordes Trollbloods.

    Patrick argues that the goblin is a haptic homunculus: it has big hands and a big head and exaggerated sensory organs. We encode that kind of sensitivity to haptic feedback into a particular kind of grotesque and oversensitive creature and, true to form, goblins are easily personified as squealers whose skin and eyes are overwhelmed by the light and warmth of the sun, or as cunning little rotters who can feel their way along in the dark. Look at it this way: GMort’s helpfully given us a side by side comparison of the old and new Ophelia models and I hope you’ll agree that one of these looks much more ‘goblin’ than the other.
    If you sculpt her as this skinny, sprightly upright thing without the grotesque proportions of the haptic homunculus, she doesn’t look like a goblin any more, does she? Now, consider the Hordes Trollbloods in light of this.

    What do the comically oversized hands and chins connote here? Is it strength or is it haptic sensitivity? Are these things basically big goblins, with all the comedy and vulnerability to little things like having their senses stimulated that their proportions imply? I realise that slamming Privateer Press for making ill-proportioned models is a bit daft really, especially given where Patrick’s about to take us for the closing thoughts in this post, but when you compare these homunculi to some of the more restrained, older Trollkin you start to see the problem.

    These guys aren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination but at least they look boss-hard. They don’t have the accidental sense of the goblin about them; they are wiry, their strength is connoted by the size of their weapons and their height rather than by exaggerated body parts that end up totally off-message. A range that can have both of these units fielded in the same force (and indeed will because the rules make it so) is going to look a bit off even if you happen to think that both these sets of models are entirely fit for purpose.

  3. God likes your backpack

    Kvetching about microphotography and how close-up photographs of extremely detailed hyper-realistic airbrushed paintwork is not really what miniatures are designed to enable is hardly a novel behaviour on this blog, but Patrick manages to articulate it at much greater length and with much more artistic justification than I do, and without the whiff of the false binary that always hangs around my protestations. Miniatures are designed in such a way that they can be admired from the front through lenses of exquisite precision but they are also, or should also, be designed in such a way that they can be identified from above and behind at a glance.

    This is why Space Marines have those backpacks and also why the squad numbers and insignia traditionally go on the shoulders; this is why I get lost when I have two units of the same dudes in a Warmachordes army; this is why my Zombies are greenish and my Skeletons more yellowish and why I now realise repainting my Zombies hasn’t ultimately done me many favours since now I have two units that are black/purple/offwhite blurs from behind. Goodness alone knows what I’d do with it… but if I had those metal Wights and Skeletons, the Wights would be recognisable because their weapons pointed forward, the Skeletons because theirs pointed upward, and the characters because they’d sit horizontally on their bases instead of diagonally. It’s a start.

    This is also why Orks, back in the old days, wore those backplates denoting their household identity. Even then it didn’t make masses of sense to me, but now I get it: it’s the fiction justifying (alright, inadequately justifying) the necessity for the models to be visually distinctive to the player standing behind them. All the lads with that symbol on that background are in the same unit, and the identifying factor is located in the same place each time. Oddboyz have banners so that the other Orks can find them but they also have banners so that the player doesn’t lose them and again, can easily tell who’s who by looking at the flags.

    That’s something to bear in mind, going forward.

A Cold Collation of Links and Things

As I lurch toward my twentieth nerd anniversary I am still picking up the old second edition Orks where they can be found at bargain prices. The cards and templates for second edition – well, most of them – arrived the other day. No card counters but as a former Warmachine and Magic player I am blessed with an abundance of beads and tokens. No flamer template either but I think the plastic one’s more or less the same size. Rulebooks currently reside on the (rubbish) Kindle with the exception of the Ork Codex, which could be had for a fiver and of which a decent scan was not forthcoming. Sadly – very sa-a-a-a-dly – I could still identify the original batch of funny-shaped dice I bought in ’95 among the collection, and the more recent special-dice-for-playing-Inquisitor-with ones to boot. I think all I need now is heavy weapons for the Ork footsloggers, a set of Sustained Fire dice and an Artillery die, unless Hark’s hidden the old one somewhere. Wouldn’t put it past the minx.

I’d take all this stuff to BOYL except a) hardly any of it’s painted and that’s not the Way and b) I’m entertaining someone better-looking than everyone in the Oldhammer movement (except me and possibly Curis) next weekend. Heigh ho. Maybe 2016. Anyway, here’s a bunch of things I’ve read/seen and thought were interesting. Enjoy.

An introduction to hnefatafl, and a musing on the use of gameplay as personal training for strategists.

Some of North Star’s wizards for Frostgrave, which looks like an interesting little game: a Mordheim-covered-in-ice aesthetic, and a sense that it’s like the Ars Magica of warband-scale wargaming.

A review of the Crescent and the Cross for SAGA, which I will get around to playing any month now.

A theory piece on game theory, movement, and perhaps why X-Wing is so damn popular. (Note: I am old-fashioned and like those ‘perfect information’ games where I have time for a gentleman’s half in between turns.)

A RISK/OD&D play by post with which I’m whiling away the time.

Saladin Ahmed and Joe Abercrombie on different societies in fantasy. Ahmed’s short stories in Engraved On The Eye are very good and I must read him in long form at some stage. I haven’t read Abercrombie but he seems pretty sharp.

At long last, the oddities of WoW-RP are starting to make sense to me: the Scandinavian traditions around roleplaying are quite different from what I’m used to, and the EU RP servers have a lot of cool Swedes hanging around.

A different way of mapping space on the tabletop during RPG sessions – one less preoccupied with the nitty-gritty of who is how far away from whom and whether or not someone can reach a given point in one turn or two, and more on what’s in the space and how it can be interacted with, but it doesn’t totally abandon the idea of distance, radius, area of effect and so on. A nice compromise? I’ll have to try it out.

These are pretty. I want some.

[40K OSR] Bozgof Mekskar’s Warband

Choosing an Ork clan is always a tricky prospect. Although you get to cheat a bit by hiring mobs from other clans (unless you’re smelly Blood Axes), the primary clan is still going to supply your Big Mob, govern weapon options for your Nobz, determine the Oddboyz you have available in greatest numbers and set the range of Oddbitz to which you have easy access. The choice was more or less made for me, since the majority of the Orks of which I’ve just come into possession are Goffs – not that there’s anything wrong with solid, no-nonsense Orks who wear a lot of black and bring a rokk band into battle with ’em!

As for the army itself, there are some things I have to take (a Warboss, a Retinue, and a Big Mob), after which I have free reign.

Da Boss

I’m going to go all out and take a Warlord, since I’ll probably be playing 1500 point games most of the time. He’s getting power armour for sure, plus an assault weapon (cheap for Goffs), a kustom weapon (hopefully getting something that’ll make good use of his decent BS), and a bionik bit (for sheer character). I’ll also almost certainly be invoking the privileges of rank for that +20 on my wargear rolls, just to make sure I get some fun stuff.

Bozgof Mekskar
Goff Warlord – 121 points
boltgun, bolt pistol, power armour
– assault weapon (power axe)
– kustom weapon (kustom special missile launcher: 2 extra shots, -12″ range)
– bionik bit (spike arm)

That went well. Given that I rolled two decent close combat options I’ll pass the power axe down to one of the Nobz; a spike arm is more than punchy enough for me. The kustom weapon in particular is a minor masterpiece; I’ll take the chronically shortened range if it means I can throw out three frag missiles a turn at a Warboss’ Ballistic Skill. The bionik arm’s nice too, and probably a big factor in his continued dominance: if anyone wants to take over the warband they’re welcome to try, and all they need to do is win an arm-wrestling contest! His name is pretty lazy as these things go: I worked my way through the glyphs and spelled out “the Goff leader with the bionic arm” as best I could.

I have to take a Retinue as well, and I feel the best thing to do here is take advantage of the discount on Goff Nobz to sneak some decent characteristic profiles in, but keep the equipment fairly spartan to stop them eating points. I’ll take one more expensive Clanboss, though, to keep my Big Mob in order and stop them doing a runner at the first sign of trouble. He’ll have Boz’s old power axe and a bionik bit for character’s sake.

Bozgof’s Gang
Goff Nobz Mob – 86 points
Boss – boltgun, bolt pistol – 10 points
Boss – boltgun, bolt pistol – 10 points
Boss – boltgun, bolt pistol – 10 points
Boss – boltgun, bolt pistol – 10 points
Griznak – Clanboss – power armour, boltgun, bolt pistol – 46 points
– bionik bit (perfectly ordinary bionik leg)

Griznak’s bit turned out to be a boring bit, but at least he didn’t end up with a cranial rebuild or something. I figure he’s probably the former Warboss who Bozgof beat down on his way to the top; being Goffs they sorted things out in the duellin’ pit and are now getting on with business, Griznak being in command of the Big Mob who are used to taking orders from him anyway.

Goff Warbands can only have one of each Oddboy, and I figure I might as well buy all of ’em now. It’s easy to go overboard with these, especially if you’re taking a Shokk Attack Team, but I shall forswear the absurdly expensive gun with the ammo that costs at least 15 points a shot and can be killed before the blessed thing has fired once and keep my Oddboyz suitably sensible, cheap and efficient. My Mekboy is pretty important (for repairs and for controlling the Tinboyz I really want to try out) so he can have a force field (cheap for Meks anyway), my Painboy is just going to have a cheap bionik part for flavour, my Runtherd can afford to have nothing at all since he’ll be standing at the back supervising an artillery piece and the Weirdboy just has a force field to help him stay alive until he invariably blows himself up.

Goff Mekboy – 30 points
– force field (refraktor)
– boltgun, bolt pistol

Goff Painboy – 30 points
– bionik bit (teleskopik legs)
– 2 bolt pistols

Goff Weirdboy – 70 points
– force field (konverter)
– boltgun, bolt pistol

Goff Runtherd – 25 points
– boltgun, bolt pistol

Boz doesn’t have much patience for Oddboyz and their faffing about: the ones in his warband are given simple, straightforward jobs to do and told to get on with it. Grot-Thug cops the worst flak since Boz has no patience at all for Gretchin and as far as he’s concerned they belong well out of his way unless they’re wired into a Dreadnought.

My Retinue, as a whole, is going to set me back 362 points, plus the Rokk Band and the Battlewagon that I get for free. That’s nearly a quarter of my points at 1500 and probably enough to be going on with for now. Next up are the Big Mob, since I have to have it, and the Oddbitz, since I can and I might as well.

Da Big Mob

Unlike some Ork players, I don’t believe in faffing around with tiny little mobs of five Orks on foot – not for my main-line fighting mobs, anyway. I like units that have some staying power, units that don’t break and run the first time a Space Marine sneezes at them, which means units that are a squeak over the ‘break points’ for taking Leadership tests due to casualties. Mobs of seven, or ten, or thirteen, or sixteen. Sixteen’s pushing it a bit but a Big Mob of fourteen Boyz means I can take up to seven in my other units and that’s enough to catch some flak and not bog off. Being Goffs means I can take Skarboyz, as well: extra Ballistic Skill for my heavy weapons and a few extra Wounds so a few more bullets can be soaked up.

Griznak’s Lot
Goff Big Mob – 168 points
9 Boyz with two bolt pistols
2 Skarboyz with +1 BS and heavy bolters
3 Skarboyz with +1 W and two bolt pistols

The Big Mob will be rolling up the battlefield, closing into bolt pistol range and then hunkering down to unload everything, under the influence of the Rokk Band for maximum dakka. I foresee them moving more often than not so I didn’t want to spend too much on expensive heavy weapons. The little mobs can muck around carrying the more specialised guns; in fact, I have a plan in mind for those already.

Before I add any of those small mobs, though, it’s time to invest in some Oddbitz. The Squig Katapult has a nice Goffy model with ‘orns on, so I’m ‘avin’ that; I’m very fond of Dreadnoughts and seldom build an army without them, so I’m ‘avin’ one; and I have two Marine Tinboy models and a Mekboy’s allowance to use up, so I’m ‘avin’ them. Easy as pie.

Squig Katapult – 50 points

Ork Dreadnought – 50 points

2 Marine Tinboyz – 150 points

I’m scraping 800 points of stuff now: just over halfway there and I only have one mob of good solid ordinary Orks. That won’t do. For my next trick I plan on acquiring some more Goff mobs; these will have some fancier heavy weapons and probably more defined battlefield roles.

Urblad’s Lot
Goff Boyz Mob – 152 points
4 Ork Boyz with boltguns and frag stikkbombz
2 Skarboyz with +1 W and boltguns and frag stikkbombz
1 Skarboy with +1 BS and heavy plasma gun and frag stikkbombz

These Boyz are a covering fire mob: they find somewhere high up and relatively safe, point their guns downfield and give it their best shot. If necessary they can clock up the heavy plasma gun to full power and take a crack at any tanks wandering around, too. In the event that anyone does get near them they have a nasty surprise up their sleeves, too; they’ll pelt the unfortunate target with frag bombs at point-blank range.

Being Goffs, they bring two Nobs to the field instead of any Oddboyz. This suits me fine, as those Nobz can each bring a vehicle along with them, and that means I can sneak in a couple of Wartraks and get some serious gunz into the army. I’ll go for Drillbosses since they have decent BS and aren’t too expensive in a Goff army, but I won’t buy them any fancy kit apart from their vehicles.

Urblad – Goff Nob – 15 points
Drillboss with two bolt pistols
Urblad’s Trak – Wartrak – 75 points
– lascannon

Rotgut – Goff Nob – 15 points
Drillboss with two bolt pistols
Rotgut’s Trak – Wartrak – 75 points
– twin heavy bolters

My third and final Goff mob are going for flexibility, able to either support the Big Mob up close or hang back at the outer edge of midrange. It’ll be a bit pricey but I think it’ll pay off in the long run.

Skargrim’s Lot
Goff Boyz Mob – 118 points
4 Ork Boyz with boltguns, bolt pistols and chainswords
2 Skarboyz with +1 Wound, boltguns, bolt pistols and chainswords
1 Skarboy with +1 BS, missile launcher with melta missiles, boltgun, bolt pistol and chainsword

My last two mobs are going to be smaller and shootier

Da Red Baronz
Stormboyz Mob – 90 points
4 Stormboyz with bolt pistols
1 Stormboy with multi-melta and bolt pistol

Da Baronz specialise in tougher than average targets, hence lugging around a multi-melta for blasting Dreadnoughts and tanks off the face of whatever planet they happen to be on. Boz encourages this sort of behaviour; they’ll either get themselves killed or they’ll grow up to be big mean Skarboyz who know how not to get stepped on.



Da Blue Macks
Deathskull Boyz Mob – 90 points
5 Ork Boyz with heavy stubbers

My first (and probably only) non-Goff Orks will be lugging some serious antipersonnel firepower around. Again, these are a support mob; they’ll find somewhere high up where they can prop the business end of their guns down, and make some serious abuse of the Following Fire rules to see what they can chew up.

Finally, I have a spare Runtherd model lying around and a Deathskull mob to justify his presence. He’s not getting any extra kit because if I stint on his wargear I can just afford an Imperial Rapier Laser Destroyer, thanks to his Deathskull discount, and that’s too much fun to say no to.

Deathskull Runtherd – 15 points
– boltgun

Blaggum’s Big Gun
Imperial Rapier – 75 points

And that’s 1500 points, on the nut! Can’t say fairer than that. I have a couple of artillery pieces and a shooty Deathskull mob to lurk in the background and lay down a nice barrage, a couple of flexible mid-size Goff mobs to play around with in midfield (plus my Warboss and his crew), and a big Big Mob plus some tough bits (the Dreadnought and Tinboyz) to lead the assault. My Weirdboy can run around on the flanks being annoying, as can the Stormboyz; they’re utterly disposable provided they get to fire that multi-melta at least once. The Wartraks are there for damage control, vrooming in to zap or dakka a key target that’s making a nuisance of itself.

In taking the warband to 2000 points, which is always an option, I foresee bringing along the Deathskull Painboy I’m allowed (and thus a second Dreadnought), adding a couple more Goff Nobz with some neat kit to the Nobz Mob, and probably a mob of Evil Sunz or Blood Axe Boyz so I can take another Mek. The other option is riffing through the Freebooterz rules and seeing what madness emerges. You never know; I might really jam it up and get a second Warboss or something hilarious…

Katie Metcalfe

Life, Passions & Creative Endeavours

The Girl With Cold Hands

Scandinavian Love & Living

For shadow dwelling women

Wyrd Words & Effigies

A celebration of the strange and shadowy, of the damned and unseen.

Alex Wrekk

DIY by default


"The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." -- Gary Gygax.

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Being a celebration of sexual freedom

Age of Dusk

Roleplaying, reviews and associated paraphernalia.

A Narcissist Writes Letters, To Himself

A Hopefully Formerly Depressed Human Vows To Practice Self-Approval

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for publicity, calls for submissions and more!


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Goth subculture as an identity constant beyond youth.

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Francesco Dimitri


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Celtic Cornwall

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Thoughts and rants from another angry woman


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