Corehammer Fest 2016: worth spending six sodding hours on the train

Have you ever wanted to see a fat bloke with a gammy leg do a three-mile dash, in the dark, at least half on unlit footpaths and the last mile uphill? Tough, ’cause I’m not doing it again.

The Corehammer Fest was a top day out despite my phone deciding to mute its alarm because it was too early in the morning, even though I’d deliberately set an alarm for too early in the morning on account of needing to be up too early in the morning. Attempts at planning and prep and arriving suave, chill and generally in control were therefore wasted as I was already a sweaty wreckage before the first train to Stockport had even arrived. I’d brought my Advanced Fighting Fantasy books, expecting stand-in DM duty after Nate lost his voice, and my SAGA Revenants on the off-chance that I might actually get to play a game with them.

Rumour has it that the North West Gaming Centre was formerly a foetid factory floor, magnet for catpissmen and Kippers, and in essence a gaming venue of the old school – which is to say the shit school, in which dysfunctional adults put up with dingy conditions and unadulterated nonsense because they don’t expect or demand anything better. I am delighted to say that the North West Gaming Centre is definitely not like that now: Element Games have done a nice job of making it into a gaming venue of the new school, which is to say ‘well lit, well ventilated, well supplied for terrain and beverages, staff are nice, and catpissmen are conspicuous by their absence’.

(Apropos of nothing: next time I get into an argument about Inclusion and Gaming, remind me that “wanting to get more birds into RPGs” is not the same thing as “creating an inclusive space in which all are welcome”, because I feel no obligation to include catpissmen, bra-droolers, nobbers and spods in my utopian elitist gaming scene. Fortunately, the morning’s exertions hadn’t left me too smelly – normally I’d consider the prospect that everyone was too polite to mention it, but this is Corehammer, nobody would be too polite to mention gamer funk.)

Room full of top lads (and a couple of top lasses)

Wild In The Streets

I’ve had models for Wild In The Streets since last year, when Chris Kohler was nice enough to send me a batch to review. I built them, and then left them in a drawer for ages. This was a mistake, as Wild In The Streets is actually quite a good game. It’s a short, sweet urban brawler, where each player brings a handful of crusties, edgemen, skaters, goths or other yoof culture types and they smack each other about. For reasons. Apparently this is life in California. I made up the numbers for a four-way demo and was landed with the goths. For reasons.

Deployment. Everyone shuffles their models’ stat cards together to form a deck. You flip cards from said deck and deploy in that order, anywhere on the board that’s more than a double move from anyone else.

I went first and stuck a death rock girl in the middle of the board to control the space or some such. My other death rock girl and Dave, the Vanianesque leader, are cowering beside the bin on the right.

Turn one: As before, shuffle the stat cards into a deck, flip cards from it, play proceeds in that order. Models can stand still and throw something, move and throw something less accurately, or run and not throw anything at all; at the end of their move they can fight anyone in contact with them. Mechanics are basically opposed d10+stat rolls. It’s very elegant.

Here we see one death rock girl pegging it behind a car and throwing eyeliner pencils at drunk punks, while Dave and his other lady friend get mobbed by straight edgers.
Goths getting beaten up. Grave injustice. A-ha. Turns out goths aren’t very good at fighting, but they’re quite cheap: cheap enough that you can afford to sneak in some special equipment and event cards that mess with die rolls, stats and actions for the next card to come out of the deck.
Judicious use of home-made whizz sees Dave and his young lady successfully escape the melee and take out the drunk punks on the way, only to be chased down by some yob with a scarf. Pretty much game over as I’d run out of events and everyone was down to one wound. The edgemen finished each other off and I slunk off to the catering table. Nice nachos too.

Verdict: lightweight, casual, anarchic game, perfect for an event like this where you might have four or five people kicking around. Really easy to get the hang of and refreshingly non-spoddy. I’ve dug out my goths and murder cult girls and they’re next in the painting queue.


Cometh the afternoon I heroically volunteered to get Brinton warmed up for his title fight against Boxall. (Every time Boxall gets into a new wargame, Brinton has to beat him at it. It’s a Thing.) Brinton, like myself, had bought the Revenants thinking they’d sell out, and then done bugger all with them for months. (At least I painted mine. Sort of. Made an artistic statement, anyway.) Unlike myself, Brinton had played SAGA before. Quite a lot of SAGA actually. That said… well, this game was a bit of a learning curve for him too, since a lot of his Pagan Rus trickery apparently doesn’t work on the walking dead.

We’re playing the special Revenant scenario: Brinton’s warband have looted a monastery, farm or settlement and are making off with the treasure when oh no, the mists come down and the dead start to walk! The Revenants win if they slaughter everyone, the Rus win if they get themselves and their loot off the far side of the board. Eight Rus Hearthguard set up to break through on the right flank, another eight  Hearthguard plus eight Warriors and the Warlord go for a big push up the middle.
Revenants come through in waves: stacked deep around the Necromancer, with one unit on either flank to block attempts at escaping that way, and the grave pits positioned to barf out more Revenants on a flank that needs reinforcing/pile them into the middle.
Fanning out. Brinton discovers that the mobile deceased are actually quite nippy. I discover that having someone say “actually you can’t do that” to any unit’s second activation is a deterrent to shenanigans.
The Revenants’ first assault is blunted. I discover that the Revenant Battle Board allows one unit of the buggers to become a huge unit of Warriors for a turn; Brinton attempts to break through anyway and loses some of his skirmish screen in the process.
The Revenants on the left are about to get MULCHED by those Hearthguard; the remaining Revenants in the centre are about to make a suicidal charge so I have a full unit’s worth to raise from the Grave Pit. My Necromancer is about to disgrace himself casting evil dark spooky spells on Brinton’s Warriors and failing to even unnerve them.
Brinton is able to delay the charge of a souped-up Revenant unit into his Warlord, but he’s not able to stop a fresh unit being raised and placed to block off other escape routes. He does some counting on his fingers and concludes that he can’t really salvage this one; everyone’s heavily fatigued and he’d basically have to escape with no casualties to outweigh the points I’ve already accumulated. Plus Boxall’s free for their title fight.
I had the privilege to watch the potato-hurling Irish “gimp themselves to death” against Brinton’s Rus. Turns out the Rus’ gimmick is ‘never start a land war in Russia’ – quite a few of their battle board mechanics involve unpleasant weather happening to enemy units with Fatigue, which was devastating to a unit of Irish Hearthguard who’d tired themselves out trying for an early win.

Verdict: I thought I’d like SAGA and I wasn’t wrong. It does have That Thing That Modern Wargames Have, where it’s less a simulation of conflict and ‘true’ military tactics and more an arena in which rules interact. This doesn’t bother me in itself provided the rules themselves are elegant, straightforward and discourage nobbers and spods. SAGA goes out of its way to discourage nobbers and spods by allowing pre-measuring and sticking to a rigid set of pre-defined distances for everything in the game, and also by flat out telling players not to be picky moos. “If your opponent moves his figures so that they stay out of range of your bows, be content that they are out of range, do not fuss over a few millimetres here and a few millimetres there.” Direct quote. “Honestly, cover is very easy to determine in SAGA, so don’t complicate things that are stupidly simple.” Another direct quote. That’s you told.

Anyway. Yes. SAGA is definitely a ‘theatre of rules’ game rather than a ‘military simulator’ game, but my gamist/narrativist streak doesn’t really give a monkey’s about that sort of thing as long as I’m having fun and I understand why my blokes are fighting. I might have bought a box of plastic Foot Sergeants (for making Norman or Crusader infantry) from our friendly pewter crack dealer Annie, and dug out that metal Simon de Montfort from Salute last year (for being a Norman or Crusader Warlord). Apparently it’s my turn to trash Boxall next. Times are good.

The bottom line

Sadly that was it for me: the early morning and the running about had caught up with me, as had Nathan’s bloody diseases, and it was left for me to drag myself back to Stockport station, realise my phone had died, and resign myself to another, slower walk across Monmouthshire in the dark. Grand day out, nice to see the crew and put some people to some Facebook profiles and play a couple of new games, but maybe the next one could be in Cardiff, eh chaps?

[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.


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?



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…


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.