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Friday, 24 October 2014

Preview of Adventures in Hyboria for Age of Conan!


Those who have followed Fire Broadside for some time might remember my review of Age of Conan a few years back (and new followers might as well, as it's a very popular article!). It is a game I quickly grew fond of but that never really seemed to take off in terms of general popularity in the gaming community. I speculated that it might have had to do with an unfortunate release date among other things, but it seems the main contributor was probably that Nexus went under and Roberto Di Meglio, Marco Maggi and Francesco Nepitello, the original designers of the game, kind of lost touch with it. There were rumours of an expansion that was designed and pretty much ready for production but since FFG didn't seem all that interested in it (Age of Conan often turned up in their sales) we all wondered if we would ever see it!

Now, on the game's five year anniversary (wooo!), Ares Games came with the very happy news of having bought the rights and the remaining stock of Age of Conan and would soon launch a small kickstarter for the expansion; Adventures in Hyboria. Of course, Ares is kind of Nexus resurrected and all of the original designers are involved. Happy days!

So let's get to the preview! Andrea from Ares contacted me after having read my original review and asked if I wanted to have a look at the beta files for the expansion and make a preview here on Fire Broadside. Thinking highly of the original and being curious about how Ares have intended to adjust the only thing that I found a little lacking in the game I naturally said yes. So what was lacking? Well, even though Age of Conan is very much a wargame taking place in the world of Conan and the legend himself is not the central focus, I still felt that his role could have been fleshed out a bit more. From a gameplay perspective it wasn't really needed, but with all the rich stories about the man I couldn't help but feel that his adventures could have been more thematic than they were.

Luckily for us Ares listened...

The main aim of Adventures in Hyboria is to expand the way Conan works from a thematic standpoint, however there are a couple of other additions that I would like to talk about first. Spies, Prisoners and Companions. So let's take a look at them all in order.

Spies

Each faction now get five spies to add to their arsenal of tricks. You get three at the start of the game and then one more at every Age Change phase. You place your spies at the beginning of your game and then again at each Age Change phase. You can't place them in friendly provinces, nor in a province where a Spy is already present. Once there they can provide the owner with an additional Contest Die if flipped from its ready side. So they're not overly strong, but I think they might help mitigating unlucky rolls, especially in the critical early game when one extra die can be the different between conquering a province or having your army decimated and lag behind the other players (like myself in our last game when I foolishly tried to pacify the Pictish Wilderness on my first turn!).

Each faction also receives five new Kingdom Cards that play off these Spies in different ways. For example, Stygian Spies can provide them with extra Strategy Cards while Hyperborea can use theirs for an extra Military Action. Although I don't think spies were needed specifically I do like what they bring to the game and I think they might help speed up things for those groups who want to get to grips with the each other earlier in the game. They are also Conan fodder as the barbarian is not overly fond of their deceitful ways. If Conan enters a province with a Spy the Conan player can try and kill it by rolling a number of Contest die equal to his current Mood (see below) and if a hit is rolled the Spy is removed and Conan gain experience.

Prisoners

While we already have the (awesomely named!) "Crom, coun the dead!" tokens in the base game
Adventures in Hyboria introduces the concept of prisoners of war. There are five Prisoner tokens for each faction and every time you eliminate an enemy Army, Emissary or Control token you get to take a Prisoner tokens corresponding to that faction. Prisoner tokens are then worth points at the end of the game, like Crom, count the dead!, but you can also use them during the Age Change phase to trade tokens with other players and if you manage to get some of your own colour they can be exchanged for Emissarys or Army units on a one for one basis.

Another addition that I think again will help speed up gameplay by giving players some extra "free" units. Not needed exactly, but nice nonetheless. Oh, and there are also a few new objective cards that involves Spies and Prisoners so they are fully integrated in the core mechanics of the game!

Companions

Now we start to get to the really juicy thematic additions to the game! With the expansion you add three extra Companion Adventure tokens to the pool and if you draw one you can immeditately trade it for a Gold or Sorcery token (yeah, right!) or you can discard it to draw from the deck of Conan Companions! There are nine in all (so it will take you a few games  before you've had them all in play) and they work like your other Play-on-the-table cards in that they give you some kind of perk that breaks the normal rules of the game. For example, Bélit can be used to place two Raider tokens in two coastal provinces and Balthus allows you to draw a new Adventure card for Conan. When used the Companion card is flipped but still provide a bonus of women, treasure or monsters at the end of the game.

I really like this addition as it brings more of Howard's tales into the game. Their game effects aren't super dramatic but they certainly can be useful and it's simply cool having all these familiar names around! Good stuff!


Now, let's take a peek at the meat and potatoes of Adventures in Hyboria:

The new Conan quest mechanic!

First off, Conan now has his own reference board where you track his experience and his moods. Experience is gained, not by reaching the destination of an Adventure card but by killing Spies and completing quests from the new Story cards I'll talk about below. Conan starts out as a Warrior, but by gaining experience grows to become a Mercenary and finally a General. Experience also has an impact on the value of women/treasure/monster tokens at the end of the game. It is no longer a flat +5/+2 but varies from +2/+0 to +6/+3. In addition to this, for anybody to crown Conan he also has to be at least half way on the experience track.

Each phase of Conans life (Warrior, Mercenary, General) provides a set of stats, Mood Wheel and a special die. The stats are Strength, Agility and Cunning and the Mood Wheel has numbers ranging from 0 to +3 and they are used when trying to complete a Story card. Each Conan die is unique and although most of the faces are beneficial, like additional hits, you can also roll Sorcery Banned (no use of Sorcery tokens for re-rolls) and Gold, which only only turns into a hit if you pay Conan one Gold. The respective Conan die now has to be rolled in all contests involving Conan which makes him potentially more powerful, but also slightly more dangerous to use.

Conan the Warrior?
Now, about the quests. As I mentioned mentioned above the slightly non-thematic, or at least bare bones, rules for Conan's questing in the base game has been overhauled. Even though Conan still plays largely the same role as before in the greater scheme of the game (marauding the lands causing havoc!) the actual quests and the character of Conan has been expanded quite a bit.

For starters there's a completely new Adventure deck. Mechanically it works the same as in the base game but thematically the deck is now more about Conan's general direction rather than a specific quest. Instead the quest part of the puzzle comes in the form of the new Story deck where each card represent an actual RE Howard story. So while the Adventure deck is drawn as normal the story cards are held in hand (one for each player) and can then be played by any non-Conan player after Conan has moved. Each card has the title of a Howard tale, some theme text and then the stat that Conan need to test to succeed and during which circumstance it can be played. Finally there's also a note of what Adventure token can be revealed (for the rest of the game) to allow you to re-roll a number of dice up to the value of the token.

Any non-Conan player can play a Story card after Conan has moved if he's then in province or area
specified by the card. When this happens Conan immediately receive the Experience points from the card (1-3) and get to try and complete the quest - if the Story card says Strenght then that is what Conan must use to do it. You roll a number of Contest dice equal to Conan's stat in question plus his current mood! You are allowed to advance the Mood wheel before rolling by paying one Gold per step, so basically pay Conan well and give him lots to drink and he'll be in a better mood and fight with more enthusiasm! You also roll the correct Conan die.

Three or more hits are considered a success and the rolling player get to take two Adventure tokens, keep one and exchange the other for Gold or Sorcery, as desired. A successful play of a Story card also triggers a round of bidding for Conan, which works as usual.

So to summarise with an example:
Anders is playing Turan and has control of Conan. At the start of his turn he moves him one step into Koth on his way to Stygia, as indicated on the Adventure card. Now Claes, who plays Hyperboria, gives a sly grin and plays the Story card "Queen of the Black Coast" that says "Play if Conan is inside or adjacent to Western Shem". "Conan joins Bélit, Queen of the Black Coast" he reads dramatically as he takes a look at the Conan reference sheet, and moves the Experience marker three steps. According to the Story card Claes has to roll using Conan's Cunning and since is still early years Conan has yet to leave his wild Warrior phase and his Cunning is a measly 1! He still has a lot to learn before he has the mind of a ruler of men. 
Fortunately the Mood wheel can help here and Claes pays one Gold to move it from +1 to +2 and ends up with a pool of three Contest dice and the Conan Warrior die. Rolling the dice Claes ends up with two hits from the Contest dice and the Gold face from the Conan die(!). Having spent his last Gold to advance the Mood wheel he mutters something nasty under his breath and he flips over one of his Women tokens, as mandated by the Story card, to re-roll two of his dice. This time Crom is with him and he scores the hits needed to succeed. "Take that, knave!" he exclaims triumphantly and reaches for the bag of Adventure tokens to claim his prize...

And that is Adventures in Hyboria in a nutshell! Except for the additional goodies that the Kickstarter is bringing in, some of which are exclusive and some of which will be in the retail box.

Initial Impressions

So what's my take on the whole thing? Well, with the Proto-Gamer demanding a lot of attention (she keeps reminding me that diapers don't change themselves!) I haven't had the time to actually print a mock-up and play a game, which I'm really looking forward to do when getting the chance! Still, I think I have a good enough grasp of the base game to have an inkling of how this expansion might impact the play experience, so here we go.

The base game is very tight and well balanced so I wasn't surprised to see that there aren't really any changes to the core mechanics, as none were needed. The addition of Spies, Prisoners and Companions are cool and flavourful and I think especially Spies will have an impact on how the game is played. Prisoners and their accompanying Objective cards are simply a cool little addition and then we get the Companions that start bringing in the theme big time!

The new Conan mechanics makes him a little bit into a collective rpg character that all(?) players like to see gain experience and go on fantastic adventures and strange journeys. I think going from a simple travel destination to a fully fledged experience system is very well done and while it really brings forth Conan as a living character I don't think it should impact play time negatively in any major way. It's integrated well enough to have you pretty much "roll on the fly".

The only thing I found a bit surprising was that you still bid on Conan using the little tokens from the base game! I would have loved to see the bidding mechanic integrated with the questing in some way, but at the same time I realize that it is very delicately balanced as it is and having a perfect marriage of theme and mechanics might be hard when it comes to this bit. Still, it was my pet peeve from the base game... what does those tokens represent in game? Perhaps I should ask Roberto. :)

All in all, I'm very happy that Age of Conan has been resurrected and with an expansion only a few months away! If you are happy with the mechanics of the core game and don't care all that much about the Conan theme (does these people exist?!) you could probably skip this expansion and wait for the big one, introducing a second map and two new factions. But if you care anything for the theme and want to see Conan's role in the game expanded, then there's simply no question of what to do - get over to the kickstarter page and kick it! And if you don't have the base game but think this sounds awesome (which it is!) there's a pledge level for you as well.

Oh, and although I've used a bunch of pics from Milnius Conan movie it's really not a good representation of the character. It's an excellent fantasy movie that seem to take place in during the Hyborian age, but it is not... Conan. Read the books for a much more interesting and nuanced character.

Now, I really need to get back to my Age of Conan painting project!


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Friday, 10 October 2014

September Releases for Infinity!



Alright, Operation: Icestorm is out and we're not back to the regular release schedule. It looks like there was some kind of slip up at CB HQ last month though as both Yojimbo and the Kotail Mobile Unit were either pushed back to September or never meant to be released in August in the first place. Whatever the case I'll simply copy and paste what I wrote about them then, for completeness.

If you wonder why I haven't really covered all the cool Infinity news coming out of different seminars and cons it's simply because of the new father duties. :)

Anyway, what do we have...


The Morats certainly are on a roll these days and the latest addition to their ranks is the imposing Karnak Gazarot. This guy is a Superior Warrior-Officer and certainly look the part with the commanding pose. I really like the Mk12 he's carrying and the albino face looks better than the red in my opinion. It's a solid looking mini but doesn't really do anything special for me. He's quite nice in game though with Strategos L1, NWI and a light flamethrower to go with the Mk12. Oh and he's linkable as well. Hehe!


Here comes the obligatory follow up to what you get in O:I - a box of PanO special weapon Fusiliers. The new ones are such a great step up from the old models that it's not even funny so it's good to have CB follow up with this set as quickly as they did. These are simply great and although I try to pick out a favourite I have a really hard time as they all look good! From a different angle the two women might look a bit too similar in their pose (maybe) but even so I think they've done a great job of diversifying two bodies into four models. Better than the Ghulam infantry we got a couple of months ago for sure. The only slightly odd thing might be the HMG that looks really small, similar to the new Yu Jing HMG. While I don't have a problem with it from a realism standpoint or anything (they really should be called light machine guns anyway), it does make it a little harder to pick them out on the table. Still... that's really nitpicking. Love this box! Missile launcher redesign looks awesome! Really can't wait for a similar update to my Zhanshi. :D


Here's a new troop type for ALEPH - the Dactyls! We saw some concept art for this back in April and the sculpt does not disappoint. You can immediately see that she's part of the Steel Phalanx and she fits the bill of lightly armoured support very well. Great pose and a face with lots of character. Someone on the forums mentioned that it's good to have a female figure with some abs, and I couldn't agree more - she looks like she means business! She also has quite an impressive stat line as the Steel Phalanx engineer or doctor she comes equipped with combirifle, either ADHL or Flammenspear plus two breaker pistols and D-charges. All for a measly 23~24 points. Yes please! Will have to procure when I get my Steel Phalanx painting going.

And now for the previously "spoiled" releases.

First up is Yojimbo! Look at him! Just look!! It's Toshirō Mifune on a motorbike!! This is a model I've been looking forward to for a long time. We already have Miyamoto Musashi (that's an homage to another great Japanese folk hero who have also been played by Mifune on film) but Yojimbo on a bike is even cooler. The mounted model and the bike itself looks great. Love the pose and the gear stowed on the back. The standing pose,
which is a bonus in a way as it wasn't going to be included originally, is not quite as impressive as there's something that looks a little off to me. However, this is nitpicking and overall this is just a great looking box that I'm going to have to get my hands on! Also, you can never go wrong with Krazy Koalas.



Then we have the Tohaa Kotail who looks really cool, but simply can't measure up to Yojimbo. Tough luck, pal! This is a new symbiont armoured, twin combirifle wielding, 6-4 moving, holo-projectoring and superjumping troop type for N3. Sounds reeeeeally scary if you ask me! The model also looks badass enough to live up to that nasty sounding profile, I have to say. The mask is pretty sweet looking and the gunzerker style pose fits very well. Nice addition to the Tohaa lineup.




That's not all though as this month also sees the release of the cardstock terrain from Operation: Icestorm - the Moto.Tronica Scenery pack. I've talked about this scenery before but basically, I think it looks great. Very well designed, solid blocking terrain that is easy to put together and dirt cheap to boot (10.25€ RRP!). Get two of these sets and you can go from no terrain to a full Infinity table in 30 minutes. I will likely get a couple just to have on hand for quick games, even though I have some mdf and plastic terrain lying around.




And that's it for this month! Of course, Yojimbo is still my favourite but since he got last month I'm going with the Fusiliers. Hehe!

Oh, and I'm sure you are aware that you can pre-order the new Infinity 3rd edition rulebook on Monday October 13th! If you pre-order before November 13th you'll get the special edition heavy Authorized Bounty Hunter. The book has also been split in two with one book for rules and one for background and setting. They're both softback which is a bit of a shame, but at least come in a nice slip cover. I still haven't invested in Operation: Icestorm and am going back and forth debating wheather I really want to start Nomads (yes) or PanO (not really), but the new rulebook is, of course, a must have!


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Sunday, 28 September 2014

15mm Mars Rebellion Update



Alright, it's been about six months since I posted anything 15mm related so let's check in with the my Mars Rebellion setting to see what's going on.

I'm having a bit of a revival thanks to two things. First is the excellent new NSL power armour troopers from GZG. While I like the design NAC power armour that came out last year, they are a bit too slim for my taste and when I saw the new NSL sculpts I knew those were exactly what the doctor ordered! Big and quite chunky (like the regular NSL troops) and with the head integrated with the torso, a design I think just feels much more realistic when you basically want a walking tank. They come with a nice variety of weapons and I think I might group mine in squads of four with one leader, one rifle, one missile launcher and either one plasma or heavy SAW. Should make for a powerful and adaptable unit! The way I envisage them you might have one or maybe two of these squads against a platoon or more of regular infantry! I want to play up the Starship Trooper angle. :)

EarthSec troops escorting some geologists during an MLA raid.

The other reason for the revival was that I got wind of Nordic Weasel Games' new ruleset No End in Sight (again, thanks Dropship Horizon!). While it is written to cover WW2 to "ultra modern" battles, which means it's missing the proper sci-fi elements like powered armour, the basic system seemed interesting enough to me to get it anyway.

It's aimed at the platoon level or lower, it's D6 based and detailed without being overbearing. There's reaction fire and pinning, with focus on disabling your opponent in some way rather than killing him. Point blank firefights (Assaults) are more deadly, and can be needed to really shift enemies from a position. Leadership is very important and as you play you keep using your leaders to give orders, allowing him to roll a die and give orders to that many troops. Giving orders accumulate Stress and sooner or later your leader will become exhausted and unusable until the next turn. It's a fairly fluid integrated turn system that I really find interesting. I'll write more about the game when I actually try it out later. Oh, and please check out the Dropship Horizon link for a better overview.

There will be a sci-fi version (possibly called No Stars in Sight) of the rules released at a later date which should include all the neat stuff that I want in my games, including some kind of EW/hacking which is pretty cool! When I talked a little bit to Ivan on G+ he mentioned that he was hoping to have it out within two or three months, but that is of course only a rough estimate.

Now as I've collected a number of different forces I've started re-evaluating how these fit into my little Mars Rebellion narrative. I recently painted the NSL similar to the EDF troops from Red Faction, but the UNSC I've painted already fill the role of strong armed Earth army so what should I do with the NSL? Well, I think I might model the whole situation a bit on how it's presented in Jovian Chronicles, where Mars is actually split in two. On one side (larger by area) we have the original Earth colonies where EarthSec (GZG UNSC), which is a proper military force protecting the interests of Earth and her colonies, keep things under control. On the other side would be the the Martian Union that would consist of a number of free settlers and private interests and would be protected by the UDF - the Union Defence Force (GZG NSL). I imagine these two main powers would be roughly equally matched in terms of technology and although Earth has in theory a lot more resources to pull from the Union has better contacts with the Nomads in the belt and a better understanding of Mars as an environment.

Then there are third party interests like the Mars insurgents, the MLA - Mars Liberation Army (Rebel Minis Sahadeen), that is classed as a terrorist organization by Earth but enjoys a more neutral status among the citizens of the Martian Union. While there's nothing official it is more or less understood that the MLA are supported by the Martian Union, bringing them weapons and supplies. Then there are the crusties... these don't really fit in all that neatly as I had planned for a completely human centric story. But! The models are so cool and brings in so many opportunities so I'll simply have to throw them in there in a kind of "alternate universe" version of the setting. I really like the District 9 way of presenting them so will simply rip that off entirely and have them as refugees that no one really knows what to do with. The fun thing about them is that they make for great jokers that can fill mostly any role, be it low level slum revolutionaries or a small core of well armed and equipped raiders!

So with the factions sorted let's have a look at the models...

Incomplete EarthSec platoon. Missing a bunch of regular infantry.
My EarthSec platoon is pretty much done. I need to paint some more basic infantry and I'm sure I'll add fun stuff for it in the future as well. But I have two tanks, three APCs, power armoured infantry, a couple of mechs and specialist infantry all done. What I really want to add though is a hover jeep or two as they could do with some light vehicles. And there are of course a bunch of new-ish hovertank variants from Jon that I'm not sure I can resist for all that long. :)


My first test squad of UDF infantry. More to come.
I've really only started painting the UDF and although I have a bunch lined up, primed and ready, I need to fill out their ranks with a little more infantry and, especially, a tank or two and some APCs. After some browsing of different manufacturers' sites and careful consideration I've decided to go with the South African wheeled vehicles from Brigade Models (seen here at right). The new 3D sculpted pieces really look great and the wheeled approach makes them feel different both from the hovering EarthSec and from regular terrestrial armies of today. I haven't quite decided yet if I should go with the Wildebeest APC that is available now, or wait for the slightly smaller Buffel that is in the works. Bigger isn't necessarily better, but I do like those six wheels! Oh, and then there's of course the powered armour I mentioned above and a few fanbikes on their way to me now.


The big mech is missing, but apart from that these are all the MLA painted. Eek!
The MLA at the moment consists of three mechs and five or six infantry which isn't really all that intimidating (although the construction mech is big!). As my revolutionist faction have been split up into two, these guys will get the more improvised equipment and vehicles (as opposed to the UDF) so I'm thinking technicals and repurposed walkers. I have a feeling that the colonial rovers and civilian mechas from GZG will be common in their force. Perhaps also armoured cars or a captured tank. But mostly infantry with RPGs.


Crusty test paint.
Finally we have the crusties and they are so far the least painted force yet. I do seem to recall that the guy above did get four or five friends painted as well, but the rest are only primed thus far. Again, as a joker faction anything goes pretty much. I'll start with some infantry and civvies and then add some heavy weapons and crusty walkers. Not sure about vehicles in general, perhaps either super hi-tech grav vehicles or something like the four legged crab walker from GZG. I haven't decided yet.


Apart from the models there's the question of terrain of course. As some of you might know I have a Zuzzy mat that I got years ago, a small GZG shanty town and some other bits and pieces that would be more than enough to make a decent battlefield. The only thing that's missing is paint, which I have now ordered as well. Hopefully I'll have a nice red piece of Mars in my living room before christmas.

Oh, and to round out this Mars themed article: it seems like we might finally get a tv-series made from Kim Stanley Robinsons Mars trilogy. It's being made by Spike TV (?!!) which doens't really make me confident, but then there's a co-producer from Game of Thrones who's holding in it and Robinson will be there as a consultant, so who knows.

That's it for now!
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Monday, 15 September 2014

Mutant: Year Zero - English Release and Session Report Two

Mutant: Year Zero - Roleplaying at the End of Days.

Alright, now we're talking! As some of you might have heard Modiphius is publishing an English version of the excellent Swedish post-apocalyptic RPG Mutant: Year Zero later this year! After reading the game for the first time earlier this year it immediately felt like it would work perfectly well anywhere in the world as the setting is pretty much created as you explore. The whole idea is to start with a map of the city or area you live in yourself, put a grid over it and then simply start exploring its post-apocalyptic version! So I was hoping that it would someday be translated, and now here we are. The Free League has made a deal with Modiphius who will take care of the international distribution of the game.

For more discussions about Mutant: Year Zero there's a thread going over at RPG.net, one over att RPGeek, one on Reddit. Then there's of course Modiphius Facebook page and The Free League English language forum (which hasn't really taken off yet though).

The English version will not come in a box but as a hardback book with Zone maps of New York and London for $54.99/£34.99 or as a starter bundle (at left) with the book, maps, cards and custom dice for $79.99/£49.99. I'm sure the cards will be available as charts in the books and you could easily use regular D6 instead of the custom ones, but I still think the starter bundle is a no-brainer! :D


Now, after a long intermission let's check back in with our mutated friends living in the wasteland of former Stockholm...

Spoiler warning for some parts of the M:0 setting.

They had just completed a, more or less, successful zone expedition to bring some more of the old technology to the Ark to learn from. On their way they discovered some mysterious hooded individuals who left a healthy looking baby out in the wastes.

The old tech they had brought with them raised the Ark's tech level a few steps and during the community meeting they also decided to start working on growing some simple crops. After some discussion the Ark community leaders came to the conclusion that the people who had left the baby needed to be investigated. Who are they? How could they bear children when the mutants couldn't? Why leave them out to die? There were many questions...

Since the strangers had moved away to the northeast it was decided that another expedition would be mounted to discover their whereabouts and try and see how they lived and maybe make contact with them. This time Yorgos, Lorentz and Pommax chose to go out alone, hoping to move quickly with only the three of them setting out. They took the same route as last time going east, although going around a sector where they had discovered that the Rot was extra potent.


When they arrived in sector H16, which they had only seen from a distance last time, they explored for a bit as it was apparently Rot free. They found a large metal tube with many seats in it that lay broken in a clearing. Inside were many skeletons and once they realized that it had been an old vehicle of some kind they put a lot of effort into getting inside the control room. It took some doing, but they made their way in and found what Yorgos explained was some kind of miracle pills that you could eat instead of sleeping! As they started to move out they saw someone moving among the trees and immediately hid in the old vehicle wreck. It turned out to be another mutant, similar to themselves, called Skald. Except Skald moved around the Zone and traded water to other people. This was the first time they had met and spoke to another mutant and they spent the rest of the day talking to him about what he'd seen and experienced out there.

When Lorentz asked the water trader if he knew the strange robed people he said he did and had in fact just traded with them. Skald always met them at the shoreline just east of the wreck they were in but knew that they lived somewhere across the water. The mutants decided to tell Skald of their own Ark and invited him to add it to his trade route.

The next day they bid him farewell and continued east, toward the water. They passed another wreck later during the day that looked liked it had cannons sticking out of it. It sure looked interesting, but Pommax had spotted a number of Zone Spooks moving about in a nearby building and not wanting to tangle with them again they took the long way around. As they came to the shoreline there were obvious signs of activity, although there was no one around at the moment. After some discussion on how to proceed it as decided they were to construct a simple junk raft and use it to cross the greenish water. If the construction didn't take too long they would also try to explore the small island in sector F17/F18.

After scavenging for some good material Yorgos could quickly put a seaworthy raft together and as they set out he pulled out an impressive looking piece of headwear that he had taken from one of the skeletons in cockpit of the wrecked vehicle. He certainly looked like a man you should obey! At least while at sea...

They went to the small island first and discovered that although there were a couple of intriguing looking buildings further in there were many small floating bubbles randomly moving about around them. They looked kind of like some odd jellyfish with long slimy tendrils hanging beneath them. They didn't seem aggressive but when Lorentz decided to poke on of them with his great junk axe the tendrils quickly wrapped around it and smoke appeared where they touched and an loud hissing sound came from the metal as it dissolved! Lorentz quickly let it go as more of the hovering bubbles moved toward the axe and the party made a hasty retreat back to the raft, fearing the loss of more valuable equipment.

Arriving at the other side they again saw that the area was used by other people and they even found two small and old, but functional, boats pulled up on the beach. Further inland was a number of smaller wooden buildings and one large white building with a high tower - perfect for some scouting, thought Pommax! As the group moved toward the white building Lorentz spotted a person standing nearby it, with his back turned to them. They hid behind an overturned car and watched the stranger intently. He didn't seem to be doing anything though as he simply stood there. His position was slightly odd though as it looked a little bit like he was leaning, but they couldn't see anything to lean against. Pommax suggested they try to sneak up on him. After all three against one should be enough in case of a fight, right?

So the three mutants started to move cautiously forward and as they did something began feeling... wrong, and the further they moved the worse it got! Yorgos was the first to actually realize what it was and pointed to the shadow from the tower up ahead that had suddenly started moving fast enough for them to see; the sun overhead moved faster than they had ever seen before and suddenly they noticed that the man ahead was actually moving, just very slowly. He wasn't leaning, he was simply taking a step forwad in what looked like super slow motion! Yorgos wanted to get out of there but Lorentz and Pommax thought that they were already half way there and might as well go all the way.

They pressed on but the further they went the quicker the sun moved up ahead. After 20 meters the sun had set and risen for a new day, all in the space of seconds. Another few meters in and the world around them was blinking as the day turned to night at an ever increasing speed. The man ahead seemed to be moving faster and was turning around to face them. Although they could't understand his slowed down speech his arm gestures seem to indicate that they should go back and the look of desperation and horror on the strangers face made Pommax and Lorentz realize that pressing on further might doom them all. As they turned around and started moving back again the blinking slowed down as the sun started to return to its normal behaviour again. But they could now see people moving about further away at incredible speed! It was impossible to see what they were actually doing but it looked like the mysterious robed figures and the moved around the mutants, sometimes pointing at them.

The robed people didn't seem interested enough to wait around however and when the mutants had finally moved back far enough for time to reassert itself they were nowhere to be seen. They retreated to a nearby building to try and make sense of what had just happened. Although they had just experienced a few minutes it seemed like weeks or months had passed by! When they left it was early spring with drifts of snow still left here and there, yet now it was warm and the trees were green. Yorgos was the only one dared to guess what this was, and it seemed to him that the old people had probably tried to build time machines to stop the war or the plague or whatever it was that had caused all this. Except the machine had obviously broken down and was out of control. Best to give this place a wide berth...

After some deliberation they continued north-east through a forest of stunted yet very green trees. It was Pommax who first spotted movement in a clearing ahead and motioned for the others to get down. As they crawled forward they could see a small shanty with a pen next to it containing some kind of creatures. A large mutant walked among them and seemed to be feeding the noisy beasts. The group watched for half an hour as the mutant moved around the place and noticed that he had a collar around his neck that was attached to a long chain that disappeared into the small hut. As the warm summer sun started to set a group of five robed people approached the hut from a small footpatch coming from the opposite side of the clearing. They briefly exchanged words with the mutant, who bowed his head and seemed cowed by their presence, and then entered the hut and didn't come out again.

The hut was very small and when noone had emerged after a couple of hours it seemed obvious to Yorgos that there was some kind of hidden underground room beneath it. Lorentz wanted to simply walk up to the mutant and talk to him, but Pommax and Yorgos prefered a more stealthy approach. In the end they waited until the large man went to sleep among the beasts he was set to look after. "Fitting for a slave" Pommax commented as they approached the hut. The inside was filled with all kinds of junk and debris. Most of it consisted of gardening tools in various state of disrepair but Lorentz found a metal canister full of something Yorgos called petrol that could be used for fuel. Yorgos also soon spotted a large box that looked like it had been moved back and forth recently. Beneath it they found a small metal hatch that led straight down a concrete shaft. A metal ladder provided access and before the mutant in the pen outside could wakeup they had all entered the shaft and closed the hatch above them.

The immediate darkness around the three mutants was suffocating and they soon lit Pommax's lamp and continued down a concrete corridor that seemed to be angled further downwards. Having walked for a few minutes they could see that there was a little bit of light coming from around a curve in the tunnel ahead. Pommax quickly put out his lamp and stealthily snuck ahead to scout it out. The tunnel ended in a door further down that had some kind of old world lamp above it that washed the walls in a sharp blueish light. Next to the door stood a robed figure, leaning on an improvised spear. He didn't notice Pommax who retreated to update the others. What followed was a long, but hushed, conversation on how to proceed. Should they simply bum rush him? Or try to talk to the man? Or snipe him from afar? Could the simply kill the man in cold blood?!

Lorentz and Yorgos were still discussing the pros and cons of a surprise rush when Pommax simply muttered something under his breath, readied his bow and stepped around the corner. The man barely had time to react before an arrow buried itself in his eye and he toppled over, blood pooling beneath him. "There. Now let's go" Pommax said to a furious Yorgos and a stunned Lorentz. The dead man was perhaps thinner than most of the people in the Ark but he had no apparent mutations which seemed odd to the three mutants. Everyone in the Ark except the Elder had some kind of mutation, even though some of them were more easy to spot than others. He didn't have any possessions beside a flat round piece of old tech that Yorgos identified as an advanced key of some sort. After investigating the box next to the door and using the flat round piece the door cam open in a woosh and hot air blew in their faces.

In stunned silence they walked into a huge round chamber many meters high. They were walking on some kind of metal platform that ran along the wall of the chamber and in the middle was a large cylinder with a pointy top that reached almost all the way to the ceiling. Steam rose along the cylinder and here and there large tubes coming from the wall were connected to it. "Yorgos, what the hell is this thing" Lorentz asked but the Gearhead simply walked over to the railing and looked down. Below them the cylinder continued and there was at least one more platform like the one they were standing on below them before the chambers proper floor. Yorgos turned around, "this my friends, is what created the Zone. This is a terrible weapon of the old age that could wipe out entire cities. And it seems to be working".

Deciding that this needed further exploration and not seeing another living being they continued down a stairwell to the second platform and then down a ladder to another, smaller platform. Just as they were investigating the giant missile further the woosh of door was heard and three robed persons came through it, a tall imposing looking woman and two men. As the two groups spotted each other everyone froze for a couple of seconds. Then everything happened at once. As Pommax reached for his pistol the tall woman simply snapped her fingers and he suddenly burst into flames! Yorgos fired a quick shot at the woman but missed and then had a extremely strong feeling of passiveness come over him and he simply dropped the gun and lay down on the floor. With a shout of defiance Lorentz pulled up the petrol and threw it towards the trio but the container was heavy and the opponents far away and it simply landed with a loud clang at the bottom of the shaft. The big enforcer looked at his companions - Pommax was still smoking and lay motionless on the floor while Yorgos was slowly rocking back and forth, staring emptily ahead of himself.  The woman smiled as she started walking towards Lorentz...



And that's where we'll leave our intrepid trio until next time! Again, I really should try and shorten these things so I can get more of them out in a timely manner. Hehe! And don't forget to have a look over at Modiphius M:0 site!

Oh, and also, we're having a baby within the next day or two so if I don't respond prompty to emails or in the comments section that's why. :)
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Thursday, 4 September 2014

Original Space Hulk Terminator Squad Done!

++Terminator squad Raphael, ready to move out++
So... here's something you don't see in these parts every day; a squad of newly painted GW minis (I think the last one was four years ago)! Of course, newly painted doesn't mean new as these guys have been waiting patiently for their turn for 25 years. With it being an anniversary and everything, I thought I'd paint a squad of 1989 Space Hulk plastic terminators! Actually, that's an after construction... I don't know why I decided to start this little project. It might because my 10 year old niece is turning into a little gamer and I thought Space Hulk would be a fun next step for her. Then again, I have a bunch of the original metal terminators that I painted to a, shall we say, acceptable standard back in the day. I don't know! Maybe it's the Oldhammer thing finally getting to me or me needing to take a little break from all the beautifully detailed, but delicate, Infinity minis. Whatever the reason I got five minis taken off my mountain of lead.

Does this look familiar to anyone? Oh, and the colours are all weird in these shots. Bad lighting..
Although I played Dark Angels way back when (actually before Deathwing, so all my DA terminators were dark green) I wanted to go with the original Space Hulk look so painted these as Blood Angels. The aim was to stay true to the original box art, which is pretty much the only place you'll find these particular type of terminator models depicted, but as I painted I made several adjustments here and there to make the model look less of something Barbapapa would turn into and more like a terminator. The largest deviation is probably the white/yellow boarders on the shoulder pads, but it felt needed to give the models a bit of definition. I kept the hazard stripes on the power glove as that's probably the best bit!

The terminators in the 1989 Space Hulk all came with these large whip antennae, which hasn't been seen before or since, but is kind of cool in a way. I really couldn't see you trying to make your way through tight tunnels with a damn banner on your back, but a whip antenna? Yeah, maybe. It does look fairly goofy with all of them having one though, so I snipped them off at differnt lengths, leaving it intact for the sergeant and two nubs for the flamer and corporal to kind of signify some enhanced communications gear or something. It helps them look less uniform anyway.

3D Roleplay Hobby Game? Back in the day when companies didn't really know how to label stuff like this. Still the best Space Hulk cover to date though. 2nd edition was especially crappy!
During my painting sessions I kept thinking about how these minis were created. I mean... they look quite
different from the metal ones! At first I thought maybe these were some early prototype that was later refined when done in metal, but seeing as GW used metal minis on the back of the box and in the rulebook, as well as all the art that looks nothing like the plastic termies this was clearly not the case. So they were made by a third party contracted by GW as they didn't have the capacity to make plastic minis of their own back then. This of course make sense and explains some of the discrepancies. Some of them probably come from the demands of the moulding; like the drooping shoulder pads for example. But I still don't understand where the antennae came from or why the stormbolter looks like a shoebox with two toilet paper rolls glued to it! Especially since the box front art clearly shows them with the proper looking gun. One thing they did nail though, was the helmet! It's pretty much spot on and really makes all the other little oddities about them not look so bad. Thanks to the helmet it's unmistakably a terminator. I quite like the power glove as well as it's huge and kind of clockwork-looking. The gun hand though... jeez.

Was it a rush job? I'm suspecting this as, again, the terminator minis seen on the back of the box are all metal. Perhaps the plastic company didn't get the stormbolter art in time and had to go with their shoebox placeholder! Pure speculation, but I kind of like this explanation. And for some reason I kind of like the boxbolter as well. It's cool in a very minimalistic and... boxy way. Another thing I don't quite get is why didn't they make some kind of sergeant clip-on sword, like the did the flamer?! There are two terminators per sprue and each of them get a flamer as well. Seems like a wasted opportunity not to make one of those into a sword. Perhaps there wasn't time...

Five little termies, jumping on the bed. One fell off and hit his termie head. So sergeant called the medic and the medic said, no more termies jumping on the bed!
Backside... a bit less detail. Just a bit!
These were intended to be a quick little project so I looked around for some speed paint Blood Angels tutorials and mixed with my own ideas I used the following: Army Painter Dragon Red spray, Averland Sunset for the yellow parts and follow with a Strong Tone wash. Highlight with Blood Red then Blood Red with some flesh colour mixed in. Be liberal with the highlights and don't be afraid of making them too light as we follow it with a Red Tone wash to bring them down. Yay! Then it's just Vallejo MC Black+Basalt Grey+Pale Greyblue for the black bits and Natural Metal followed by Badab Black wash followed by Silver highlights and done! Oh, and the yellow parts were highlighted back up with Averland Sunset followed by Averland Sunset+Pale Greyblue mix. For the bases I simply cut out some car wire mesh into little roundles that I sprayed black, glued on and drybrushed metal. Certainly helps making these rather simple minis pop a bit more. So that's that, quick and easy but with a reasonably good result!

Now, painting these did give me this idea to paint the rest of my Space Hulk stuff. I'm not sure I'll paint any more of the plastic termies (except a librarian or two) but I did put all my old metal ones in the bath to strip the of paint. Although I'm not really into Oldhammer I am intrigued by it and I often find the juxtaposition of old, often fairly rough (but characterful!), minis coupled with modern painting techniques really interesting! The idea I have right now is to paint my metal termies (about 10~15 or so) as Blood Angels as well and then maybe, maaaaybe get the Deathwing minis from Dark Vengeance to give a bit of a modern flair to the game as well. Then there are the genestealers and hybrids of course. The painted ones you can see in the pictures I probably did 15~20 years ago so could perhaps do with a touch up or two - especially the bases. I know I have a Magus and one or two metal hybrids scurried away somewhere as well, which should be a nice upgrade to the plastic ones.

Oh, and if some kind reader out there has a Blood Angel transfer sheet or so that is not needed I'd be happy to takt it off your hands! Sure, their emblem isn't too hard to pull off free hand, but these are supposed to be quick minis!

"Guys! Guuuuys!?"
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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

August Releases for Infinity!


Infinity August releases. A bit wider than usual...

So this month sees the relase of Operation: Icestorm and the Infinity frenzy is reaching a new high! Well, it's technically released this month but I don't expect it in stores until early/mid September. Anyway, exciting times indeed! However, this is not all as we have a couple of other releases as well. CB is counting the two new starter sets (Nomads and PanO) as well as the two limited edition minis in Operation: Icestorm as separate releases as far as six a moth is concerned so that leaves to spots so this will be a short post. Now, let's have a look at...


...the Mercenary Yojimbo! Look at him! Just look!! It's Toshirō Mifune on a motorbike!! This is a model I've been looking forward to for a long time. We already have Miyamoto Musashi (that's an homage to another great Japanese folk hero who have also been played by Mifune on film) but Yojimbo on a bike is even cooler. The mounted model and the bike itself looks great. Love the pose and the gear stowed on the back. The standing pose, which is a bonus in a way as it wasn't going to be included originally, is not quite as impressive as there's something that looks a little off to me. However, this is nitpicking and overall this is just a great looking box that I'm going to have to get my hands on! Also, you can never go wrong with Krazy Koalas.


The "second" release is the Tohaa Kotail who looks really cool, but simply can't measure up to Yojimbo. Tough luck, pal! This is a new symbiont armoured, twin combirifle wielding, 6-4 moving, holo-projectoring and superjumping troop type for N3. Sounds reeeeeally scary if you ask me! The model also looks badass enough to live up to that nasty sounding profile, I have to say. The mask is pretty sweet looking and the gunzerker style pose fits very well. Nice addition to the Tohaa lineup.



And then there are these guys and gals of course! But since I talked about them last month I'll simply leave this nice group photo here and move along. Just remember that the Reverend Custodier and the Father Knight are exclusive to the Icestorm box and won't be in the respective starter sets.

So yeah... good month! Although my individual favourite model is the bike riding Yojimbo my by far favourite release is the Operation: Icestorm box. The Nomads in particular are making my knees wobbly! :D


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