[40K] A Series of Synchronous Events

It started, the way these things often do, on Facebook.

A chap on the Oldhammer community did proclaim a spot of bother with making up his very own Space Marine Chapter, and asked the peanut gallery to share theirs as inspiration. Naturally, I linked him to the Lightbringers and the Knights of Ashteth on this blog, and thought that was that.

Little did I know that the startlingly original connection between Dark Angels and Lucifer the Lightbringer had already been made by SEVERAL PEOPLE. We had a laugh about it, but it got me to thinking.

Among other things, the name ‘Harbingers of Skulls’ started to rattle around my anguished noggin. These superlative V:tM antagonists are intimately bound with the funerary rites, Cappadocian landscape and general air of morbid vengefulness which saturate the Lightbringers all the way down.

Apropos of nothing, I’d logged into Bolter and Chainsword for the first time in about eight years, to discuss Kill Team and matters pertaining thereto.

Bolter and Chainsword has a guide to writing Index Astartes articles. It’s long – and at first I balked at its length, but in places it’s quite insightful, or at least it reminded me of some Rules of Good Writing which I really should have applied to the Lightbringers in the first place.

As I came to re-inspect the article, I realised that they are, thematically speaking, crowded. There’s a lot going on – a lot of unique names, a lot of dark conspiracies, and at least one ‘plot hole’ regarding ancestor worship and the silence of Dreadnoughts. I think I realised this at the time and left it until I could be arsed thinking about it again.

Bolter and Chainsword also has a Space Marine painting tool, and I was idly playing around with this, wondering what a Lightbringer would actually look like in miniature. Gold armour was bearable in the Dawn of War painter but would look rubbish on actual models, so I began thinking about other colours.

The thing is, the Bolter and Chainsword army painted happens to use the old Citadel Colour range, including the Foundation paints, including Dheneb Stone and Charadon Granite. These were the first of my Foundations to go – I really liked the stony, dusty, almost ceramic look they had to them, and I also really like to emphasise the ‘ceramite’ part of Space Marine armour.

So, I got to experimenting with a few different variants on a theme.

spacemarine (3)

The first example, shown here, combines the original gold with a bisected dark/light stone scheme beneath. The locations of light and dark, the specific treatment of the eagle, and the odd deviations (such as the metallic wristbands) soon came to bear an ominous symbolic relevance. They also reminded me of the Harbingers of Skulls’ emblem: the bisected black and white mask, either superimposed on the antitribu ‘spike shield’ or not.

spacemarine (2)

The second example is a straight-up rendition of the dark/light stone scheme, divested of the last trappings of the Lightbringers concept for the time being. Almost as though the gold had been applied to conceal something, divert attention from an otherwise screamingly obvious set of semiotic clues as to the Chapter’s nature, origins and fate.

spacemarine (1)

While I was working on the second I conceived the third: an attempt at the more complex ‘quartered’ aesthetic. I’ve seen this look OK on actual miniatures; I’ve also seen it look less than OK in the hands of the cack-handed.

spacemarine

The fourth example is a variation on that theme with an attempt to bring out the ‘helmeted skull’ possibilities of the masklike Marine visage, and to make the shoulderpads more viable for visible insignia.

As I type this, that concept of ‘a clue to their origins’ resounds, and I’m reminded that the Bolter and Chainsword’s painter suggests Orkhide Shade as an approximation for Charadon Granite. Well – not strictly. It admits that the match is poor. “They’re different colours, but if you want to…” Of course, Orkhide Shade is an ideal basecoat for dark green armour, like what Dark Angels wear. Dark green also sits well with Shining Gold, which has a certain greenish hue to it (at least, my carefully husbanded third-or-so of a pot does). That’s where this fellow comes from:

spacemarine (4)

Anyway, THAT got me to thinking about having a quick scan of the old Lexicanium to see if the name ‘Harbingers’ was already claimed, in any of its forms. I knew the actual Harbingers Chapter were garishly coloured Space Brummies, but… oh ho. What’s this?

Imperial_Harbingers

Imperial_Harbingers_Dark

Well bugger me. Small world, innit?

CURRENTLY PLAYING: ‘watch the installers install’. I’ve just replaced my ageing laptop with a garish piece of capitalism masquerading as a new desktop PC. In a terrifying moment of synchronicity, the old one’s lid hinge gave up the ghost within SECONDS of me opening the box containing the new machine. Anyway, that’s why I have time on my hands to sit around thinking about Space Marines today.

CURRENTLY HOCKING: some spare Scourge (DZC), Trollbloods (Hordes) and Orks (40K/Oldhammer). While I am by no means in a state of financial crisis, the startup costs for Hark’s Art Shoppe (inspect on Instagram, buy on Etsy, plug on Facebook) have put a limit on my purchasing power. Most inconvenient when one’s in the mood for Capitalism.

CURRENTLY CONTEMPLATING: all the various symbolic and narrative parallels existing between the Battle for Calth and Dark Vengeance starter sets (has it occurred to anyone else that the addition of a Terminator Lord to the Chaos army in DV would give a SUPERB before/after image of the same company, at the other end of the Long War, whittled down to a handful of Marines and an ill-maintained Dreadnought?) Also contemplating the building of small (emphasis small) armies from the Dark Vengeance set, expressing a moment of schism within the same Chapter? Dark Angels excel at punishing wayward Chaos Space Marines. Crimson Slaughter hate Dark Angels. All of these mechanical capacities fit into my existing design. Also reflecting on Kill Team and how a Kill Team force can almost, almost justify the use of Forge World components. Yes, they are expensive, but when one is only going to be building one or two squads of dudes, they are merely obnoxious rather than unaffordable in their pricing.

Recommendations, inter alia

[30/08/2016 21:01:07] Von: (I am currently Low on Cash and do not need to be thinking about Chaos Space Marines)
[30/08/2016 21:01:27] Von: (hell I don’t even know how to plan and manage a 40K army any more, what with all these Formations and Allies and shit)
[30/08/2016 21:01:54] Prince Charles: YOU DO NOT NEED MORE CHOAS MARINES
[30/08/2016 21:03:12] Von: YOU ARE QUITE CORRECT IN THIS
[30/08/2016 21:03:26] Prince Charles: VON
[30/08/2016 21:03:30] Prince Charles: YOU HAVE PLENTY OF SHIT
[30/08/2016 21:03:42] Prince Charles: PRIORITISE
[30/08/2016 21:03:49] Von: I KNOW RIGHT
[30/08/2016 21:03:54] Von: PRIORITIES ARE A THING
[30/08/2016 21:04:08] Von: that fucking Mammoth is sitting there waiting for me to Google ‘elephant toenails’

I don’t know where this whiff of interest in the Grimdark has come from again. Must be the Stars aligning or summat: I was in the right mood to reread the Night Lords Omnibus, replay a bit of Dawn of War II, and idly look at the Start Collecting Chaos Space Marines box and wonder if that and a bunch of Night Lords helmets off Forge World (the skull ones, not the stupid bat-wing ones) were a viable acquisition. I also binge read a few blogs.

(By the way, Jimmy, your Eldar army looked lovely, and I’m sorry for all the egotistical and derailing responses to your posts; upon rereading them now I am struck by a sense of wisdom, and a frequent “oh, I should have said this, instead of gabbling on about things I already understood”.)

This is the perfect opportunity for me to raise a glass to A Gentleman’s Ones, and to recommend – besides his excellent army logs and game reports for the Arrugginiti and Onorevoli Chapters – this post on inverting colour schemes and this one on bases and their power to unite disparate elements within a miniature or collection. As the man himself might say – glorious.

While I’m feeling recommendative (silence! it’s a perfectly cromulent word!), I should also like to draw attention to Gardens of Hecate, where work is put into that most neglected and ill-considered aspect of the wargame: terrain.

In conversation with Hawk Dave a couple of weeks ago (oh, the namedropping!) the great man happened to mention what a shame he thought it was that people didn’t spend model prices on terrain features. The reasons I detect behind this inarguable tendency are numerous. As Dave himself says, it’s not something you can actually play with. Adding something to an army feels more fulfilling.

I would add that terrain often has to be generic – it’s kept to the hills and woods level because that’ll work with damn near everything. When something like the Killzone tournament comes along, someone like Brian emerges to curate specific terrain for that specific environment – the rest of the time, what we generally want to curate is something that works with everything.

It’s an odd reversal of the trend toward the branded and proprietary that we see with miniatures and rules – and I think terrain has held out against that because, frankly, it’s something we had to do ourselves for the longest time, and so it’s taking longer for the Bought Kit to replace Termite Art as the standard practice.

I have a box of ‘scale’ hills and rivers that I should finish at some point. They’re huge. Tall enough to award elevation within WM/H, and broad enough that they aren’t dwarfed by the buildings, trees and some of the models on the table. Given that my kitchen table is a trifling 4′ x 3′, they almost dwarf the table; they imply something massive just off the edge, which is how I feel hills ought to work in the 25-32mm scale of my preferred wargames.

There’s another blog I wanted to recommend, but its name escapes me. It’s not Haute Macabre, but it’s something that feels like that: something arty and strange and a bit pretentious. The authors do a lot of kitbashing, play a lot of Mordheim, and carve out their own eloquent and erudite take on the shared universes of the Workshop. For the life of me I can’t remember what it’s called. That’s annoying.

Currently Playing… a spot of Dawn of War II and that’s honestly about it. I’m feeling a bit flighty right now. I ‘should’ be giving WoW a roll since Legion’s out now, but in honesty, I can’t be arsed. I have no intention of being sucked into the serpent’s coils again. It can wait. It can wait until it’s bloody well working properly, for one thing.

want to play some Black Crusade. It’s coming to the point where I might put up some sort of notice in the ‘Model Centre’ in town – it’s been a year, they’re still selling GW kits, it can’t be a total flash in the pan.

Currently Modelling…

SCOURGE

That’s a Scourge starter set for Dropzone Commander. I scored a bargain on the Facebook group immediately before taking a short break from Facebook (I realised I’d spent the best part of a day mindlessly scrolling up and down instead of doing anything worthwhile, and that I couldn’t focus for thirty seconds without popping open a new tab for the blue and white god: that’s an addiction profile if ever I saw one, and I’m not having that). There’s a set of command cards, which I’ve opened and sleeved, and a second starter force, which I’ve decided to sell rather than overloading on bread and butter at the expense of the full dining experience offered by the Scourge range.

I’m also painting the Mammoth. Finally. The armour is done, the skin is done, and some of the metal has received its basecoat, with metallic ink to follow. It stalled slightly while I thought about how I would be painting ropes (of which there are many), nails and  tusks (which are prominent) and the howdah (which is a significant detail). I’m still not sure about the ropes. Purple is technically my spot colour and is thus far absent from the figure, but I’m worried about it detracting from the gun barrels and fists. The nails and tusks are going to look suspiciously similar to the armour, but I think I can treat it like I do the skin on the infantry, i.e. worth a layer of Actual Paint besides the lazy man’s “slap ink on everything” that deals with the rest of the model.

Currently Listening To… the Sucker Punch soundtrack. Say what you like about that film, there’s a bangin’ set of tunes on it. This one’s my favourite.

Space, man… I always wanted you to go…

I find myself in the strange situation of having been to the Dropfleet Commander pre-launch event at the South Wales Gaming Centre and come away having spent no money on Dropfleet Commander. I do have a batch of four strange aquatic-looking spaceships  for the Scourge faction, but those were bestowed upon me for turning up and for buying Simon a pint.

scourgefleet.jpg
Scourge fleet. Most of those plates and tendrils are ‘posable’.

Dropfleet Commander, like its companion Dropzone Commander (previously discussed here), is Quite Good. Much like Dropzone, it owes something of a debt to Games Workshop skirmish games (Battlefleet Gothic, in this case), not least because Andy Chambers wrote the rules for it, but the relationship is one of direct ancestry and improvement rather than “it’s basically Gothic without any GW trademarks in it”.

Engagements take place in high orbit, or low orbit, or the actual atmosphere of a planet. There are urbanised ‘clusters’ on the ground  (yer actual mission objectives) unto which you endeavour to deliver troops and vehicles by means of carriers – relatively lightweight spacefaring vessels capable of atmospheric flight. These are escorted into the fray by frigates, cruisers and battleships – other vessels of varying size, most of which can’t go below low orbit.

Unlike its spiritual ancestor, it doesn’t feel like a naval warfare game that’s pretending to happen in space; pin that on the three levels of playable altitude (across which shots can be fired, though munitions travel more accurately toward targets at similar height). The range of scenarios and deployment types also offer alternatives to the ‘ship of the line’ feeling that Gothic was rather prone to at its worst, and the frigates are actually useful (especially the Scourge ones, nippy little shits that can enter the atmosphere alongside the carriers).

battle.jpg
Ben’s UCM fleet deployed for demo purposes. He won, because Simon doesn’t pay attention to victory conditions and how to secure them…

Dropfleet does have one major flaw, however: the means by which all the fun stuff like altitude, damage inflicted to ships and energy spikes (which make a highly active vessel easier to detect from a distance, extending the effective range at which they can be targeted) is actually tracked. It’s done on the models’ bases, which have pegs, holes and swivelling windows which allow coloured card inserts to be seen.

These would make a great UI for a computer game, but on the tabletop they are fiddly as all hell and difficult to manipulate or even see without picking the model up. When one has to pick the model up every time one wishes to change or check its game state, something is wrong. By midway through the demo game on which I sat in, I was scheming what would need to go on a WM/H style card and how such a thing might be laid out.

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Scourge fleet sprues. I have some of these to build and paint. At some stage. Eventually.

This aside, I am sufficiently entertained by Dropfleet Commander to consider giving it and Dropzone a go. I’m attracted by the cross-compatibility between the two games, with the objective areas of the Dropfleet board representing a Dropzone battle, and by the approach taken to releases and backstory advancements, with each phase of releases and accompanying rulebook moving the game’s timeline along by a mere 100 days or so. There’s space in the setting for one to make up one’s own planets and personalities and plotlines, and of course my wheels are already turning with regards scaling up and laminating a map of South Wales so I can infest Blaenavon with Scourge and blow up Barry Island.

Currently Playing – just completed VtM Bloodlines for the second time (the Malkavian ninja and the Tremere lounge singer made it through, the Nosferatu stopped being interesting once I had five dots each in Obfuscate and Potence and I never really mustered the enthusiasm for a Ventrue). Re=acquired Diablo II, because I vaguely missed jamming runes into weapons, but that may have been an Error of Judgement now that I’ve been spoiled by graphics originating after the turn of the millennium.

Currently Modelling – the last bits for the Skorne army (unit of Immortals, Extoller Soulward, Hakaar the Destroyer  – and I’ve even started painting the damn Mammoth, a mere six months after the convention at which it was supposed to make its debut). Also, this miscellaneous lot here:

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That’s Privateer Press Trollbloods (just the battle box, because I happen to like the models); Heresy Miniatures Zombies, Cultists, Blight, Flesh Golem and Werewolf (Blood Bowl team/WFRP encounters/Frostgrave warband); Wild in the Streets goth gang (only had those in the ‘to build’ pile for a year); SmogCon pirate captain.

Currently Reading – besides the rules for Dropzone Commander and Frostgrave, I’ve just reread Down and Out in Paris in London and Equal Rites. I keep looking with guilt at my non-fiction shelves and remembering how few of these books I’ve actually read cover-to-cover rather than raided for references at one time or another…

Currently Spending – more than I should, but I did make nearly £100 from flogging old Orks last week, so it’s fine. Nobody panic.