Sunday, 27 October 2019

The White Queen Walks!

I've finally finished my Knight Tyrant, the White Queen! In this post I'll show off a few pictures and talk about some of the conversion and painting ideas I used. Alternatively (or additionally, if you so desire) I have a background piece which can be found either in the side bar or right here. It's a bit horror-tinged, appropriately for the season.

In short though, if you're too busy (or jaded, you sour old veteran you) to read that, the idea is that the White Queen is an initially noble Knight which has fallen to the sin of Pride*. Accordingly, it looks beautiful and pure with only a few subtle hints that All Is Not Well**.

Since the White Queen has no House, its chest-scroll proclaims 'Salvation'
So, on to the modelling stuff. Having decided that I was going for 'pretty' as opposed to 'soul-shreddingly horrifying' for the Tyrant, I hit upon the idea of making it look almost like a fairy-tale castle, with lots of flags, bunting and pennants. To this end, I first drilled holes in the tops of the turrets for the Siegebreaker cannons and inserted a couple of flags from the Drukhari Raider kit. Initially I was going to use the robe parts from Shalaxi Helbane as weapon banners, but it became apparent that they were so long that they'd make transporting the Knight extremely hard and would also fall in an odd way. Instead, I used a couple of pennants from the Witch Elf kit on the arms and attached the Helbane robes to the legs of the Knight at the hips.

This side's banners read 'Honour' and 'Defender of the Weak'
I also added some of Helbane's jewellery on the carapace, the chest-plate and the loincloth, using Green Stuff here and there to add extra little balls to the beaded ropes where they didn't quite fit. In addition to these details, I also decided to add lots of sculpted armour plates to make the hull of the Knight prettier.*** In order to do this, I used some moulding material and took casts of the back of the mirror from a Cauldron of Blood and the floor of a Seeker Chariot, which I then pressed into wet Green Stuff on the pauldrons, carapace front, and armoured hood. To these I added a couple of Doom Sirens I'd taken a cast of some time ago, and a cast of the Slaanesh Icon from the legacy CSM command sprue, which was added to the right leg and left shoulder. 

On this side, the banners read 'Virtue' and 'Praise and Worship'
To cap things off, and make the thing look just that little bit weirder, I took a cast of Helbane's face and pressed it onto the Knight's head without the mask on it. After a couple of tries, this came out cleanly enough that I was able to fit the head jewellery from the kit into the slot in the face before gluing the beaded ropes from it to the inside of the hood. I also took a cast of a Daemonette's face and pressed it into the Mechanicus symbols on the twin reactors and the back ends of the weapons. The hull was further accessorised by replacing the railing with spikes and trophies from a Raider.

The Daemonette faces are a bit twisted and distorted, but this seems completely appropriate.
To paint the thing, I left the fully-assembled carapace off, allowing me to remove the arms and work on them separately. I also put a couple of magnets inside the dome of the leg fitting, and two more inside the body so that the Knight could break into two at the waist for transport. A small Green Stuff socket prevents the model from sagging forwards at the waist, which it otherwise liked to do. I sprayed everything apart from the top of the carapace with good old Chaos Black, doing the carapace itself in Wraithbone, before painting the armour panels and banners with more Wraithbone. From there it was a case of laying in the metalwork, using drybrushing on the gold to bring out as much of the moulded detail as possible. The white was based with Apothecary White Contrast paint and the pink with Volupus Pink before conventional paints were used to highlight the pink and smooth out the white. As always the white could be smoother, but that sort of thing is why you're reading this here and not in White Dwarf.

I'm well aware that the pink-tipped Shieldbreaker missiles look like lipstick, but that amuses me so I'm keeping them that way.

For a few special effects, I painted the inside of the sculpted Slaanesh runes pink, then filled the hollow with water-effect gel. Though it's very hard to see in the pictures, I painted a bloody hand-print on the cockpit glass and covered it with a couple of thin layers of Water Effect before adding a final highlight and lowlight to the glass, which was then varnished with 'Ardcoat to give the impression that the print is on the inside. It sort-of-works when you can see it past the shine. 'Ardcoat was also used on the various lights and gems, as well as on the eyes and lips to add some life to them.

I added a couple of small transfers to the banners, but other than a few slogans I didn't add any extra details to the armour panels. I prefer the pure, clean look and my freehand skills largely suck.**** The metal was finished with Grey Knight Steel, both because the blueish metal fits in well and because it probably annoys them a bit.

Overall I'm very happy with how she came out. Stay tuned for some War Dogs some time this week, and don't forget the background piece if you're thirsty for more right now...

*Yes, Pride. You thought all my Slaanesh stuff was only about the Lust, didn't you? Admit it!

**Or less subtle, if you're not an innocent Imperial citizen who doesn't know what the Rune of Slaanesh looks like.

***And also to avoid having to paint too much insignia. Yes, we've got some Sloth going on here too.

****Also, Sloth again.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Phoenix Rising- Interesting bits and drunk GW..

With the release of the new Phoenix Rising book I spotted a couple of things that don't seem to be getting a lot of discussion. One is an intriguing bit of lore, one is a classic 'drunk GW' moment, and one is either a screw-up or a hint of things to come. Oh, and there's another probable Fulgrim sighting but of course there is. (We'll say no more of him other than to mention that it's in the sidebar of page 14.)

I'll do my best to avoid spoilers but the first one is a bit tricky, so skip the next bit if you've not read the book yet and want to go in clean.

SPOILER: Yvraine's Guests
At one point near the end of the story, Yvraine receives a visit from two people, one an Aeldari carrying two slim swords and the other a human woman described as wearing black power armour and having white hair. Obviously this sounds like a Sister of Battle, but the woman is also described as having a powerful psychic presence. Given that Yvraine has already met Inquisitor Greyfax, who could just about fit that description otherwise, it seems to me that there's only one person this character could be (assuming they aren't new.)

Ephrael Stern. She was last seen, at the climax of the Daemonifuge strip, opening her own personal webway portal in the company of an Eldar (as they were then) called the Pariah, on her way to the Black Library. This is technically unconfirmed but if it's anyone else I'll eat my socks. This would be a pretty big development given how long ago Daemonifuge was, and points to interesting times to come if it's not a one-and-done- and of course, the Sisters of Battle are coming soon and are involved in Psychic Awakening.

Drunk GW #1: Ynnari characters
This one is a pretty classic example of one hand not seeming to know what the other is doing. In the interests of spoiler avoidance I'll keep my terms of reference vague, but during the Phoenix Rising story Yvraine is joined by several other named 40k Aeldari heroes who fight alongside her against a powerful enemy. At least one of those is portrayed as drawing Strength From Death in the way Yvraine has taught them (in fact, they do it during an earlier incident in the book too.)

Then we come to the Ynnari rules, which once more require a Ynnari detachment to have one of the three Ynnari special characters in it in order to gain the YNNARI keyword. They also specifically prohibit any other named character being in the detachment. And yes, the character in question has rules in the book and no, they don't have an exception in there.

This seems to me like an obvious screw-up, though I have no idea if they'll bother to fix it. Personally, I also think it's a bit sad that we still have to use the Triumvirate members to field Ynnari detachments, since it limits options in a way that I don't think is needed and makes the faction feel very small.

Drunk GW #2.. or is it? Focus Will
This last one seemed at first to be an obvious mistake, an example of sloppy rule-writing and poor proof-reading at its most egregious, and put your hand up if that would surprise you. No? Well, there may be another explanation.

We're looking here at the Focus Will power from the new Runes of Fortune, which are 'minor' powers that a Craftworlds PSYKER can use to replace Smite. Focus Will is worded as follows:

"If manifested, select one friendly <CRAFTWORLD> PSYKER within 6" of this psyker. Until the end of this phase, when a Deny The Witch test is taken for that model add 2 to the total."

The emphasis here is mine. Obviously, as written here the power does nothing- you  don't Deny The Witch in your own Psychic Phase, and the effect ends as soon as the phase does. I thought initially that the power was meant to last until the start of your next Psychic Phase (making it a handy boost for a Farseer) or, more tenuously, was meant to raise the difficulty of Deny The Witch against a power cast by the target Psyker by 2 (in which case it's terribly written.)

However, Age of Sigmar players and other smart people will probably have already spotted one other possible explanation- Endless Spells. Now of course, these don't yet exist in 40k, but if they're going to put in an appearance an event called the Psychic Awakening would seem to be the time to do it. So here we may have the first evidence that Psychic Manifestations or whatever they end up calling them are coming to a 40k table near you soon.

Either that, or GW messed up again. It could be either, if we're honest.

Friday, 11 October 2019


The nights are drawing in and I find myself with hobby time again! One of the more recent things I did with it was play some 40k, most recently against the new Iron Hands.


Now, I'm sure that those who think of themselves as wise old heads will be telling anyone who'll listen that it's too soon to declare the Iron Hands as the new top of the pile, but one can only truly judge these things by personal experience. The guy I played was a friend of mine whose Iron Hands I've played against several times before- to be clear, we're not talking about some kind of scene-kid or bandwagon-jumper here. He was also running models he'd had for some time and had used before, with the notable exception of the new Iron Father.* Unfortunately (for me) that includes two Stormtalons and a Stormhawk, as well as three Castellax Battle-Automata who were being Venerable Dreadnoughts because there's not much of a Heresy scene around these parts and he wanted to use his nice models.

For my part, I brought an Emperor's Children army with a small smattering of Daemons, deliberately taking some Noise Marines because hey, you're playing against Iron Hands so it's rude not to. You might now expect me to describe how the game went, and I would if we'd actually had one. But after a first turn in which any foot infantry model in my force that could shoot got deleted by the Stormtalons (whilst in cover) before my winged Daemon Prince got killed on Overwatch by a Stormhawk having previously lost only a single wound, it was pretty much over.** (Not only do Iron Hands Overwatch on 5+, they can improve this to 4+ with a Stratagem)

I also picked a bad day to try out my new Mutilators
To bring up the first point I'd like to address today, the Iron Hands supplement is utterly bonkers. Even ignoring the new stuff (like Repulsor Executioners) older models like the Stormtalons are amped up to extreme levels without the controlling player needing to do anything more than put them in the list and stay in Devastator Doctrine. (If you're not aware of why this is, in Devastator Iron Hands reroll 1s to hit with Heavy Weapons, ignore the penalty for moving and firing them, and still gain the additional -1 AP, so ignoring outside factors the Stormtalons hit on 2+, re-rolling 1s, with all their weapons at all times.) I've seen it said that the Iron Father doesn't do a great deal besides his 5++ save aura and repair ability, but he also packs a Heavy Bolter with an additional point of Damage, allowing him to sit there giving out his buff whilst still killing enemy infantry- and a 3-shot, S5 gun with -2 AP, hitting on 2s and re-rolling 1s and inflicting 2 damage per hit would be a useful model if that was all it did.

I've also seen the oft-repeated mantra used that one should 'play the mission' and avoid LOS to counter the Iron Hands. Unfortunately avoiding the fire of Flyers is extremely difficult even if the table is terrain rich, (not to mention Whirlwinds and Eliminators, who don't care about LOS anyway) I think, though, that this ignores the most important point- we don't play 40k to put our models on the table and then do nothing but hide from the enemy for five turns. Sure, if an army has a nigh-on unkillable castle blob that destroys anything it lays its gunsights on with contemptuous ease you might be able to outmanoeuvre it and 'win' that way, but outside of a heavily prize-supported tournament who really wants to waste two hours on that game?***

I've seen quite a few video BatReps featuring the Iron Hands already, and what strikes me isn't just that the poor sod playing against them is having to work extremely hard to put a brave face on the game (even often whilst technically ahead on VP). No, what strikes me is that the guy playing them is often either not enjoying himself, or is actually embarrassed by how little he's having to think.****

In this batrep, we see an Iron Hands player gradually realise what he has become.

Now, some people will tell you that this isn't a problem outside of tournaments, but I'm inclined to disagree. The problem is, as has been said by many other commentators, that in order to even begin to get a game out of facing the Iron Hands opponents have to bring nothing but the very strongest lists their Codex is capable of, even if their opponent is playing fairly casually. That has a toxic effect on a local scene, because players turning up at their FLGS in search of a casual game end up facing nothing but WAAC lists that were built on the off-chance that the local Iron Hands player might be looking for a game. That even sucks for the Iron Hands players themselves, who find themselves inadvertently transformed into That Guy even if they've been playing the army for a decade and spent most of that time putting up with a limited 6+ FNP and nothing else.

To come to the meat of the problem though, I fear GW have backed themselves into an extremely dangerous corner here. We're approaching Chapter Approved time, and traditionally the response to an army being obviously overpowered is to increase their points values. Unfortunately, however, since the Iron Hands rules were added in a Supplement, there's no simple way to do this without punishing people playing other Chapters.***** Should they go the other way, making everything else cheaper (I'd like my 12 point CSM and 180 point Chaos Land Raiders, Chapter Approved Santa), the effect is still the same. On the other hand, simply removing some of the extra rules the Chapter gets is going to greatly annoy people who bought the book. One possible solution might be to add, say, a 10% point 'tax' on Iron Hands, but this sets another dangerous precedent- that of actively saying than one Chapter is 'better' than another.******

Of course, it looks like the 40k rules and background are heading for another big shake-up with Psychic Awakening and this is a game constantly in a state of flux, so it may be that all these concerns will look quaint in the space of a few months. But I can't help thinking that the new Supplements are going to prove hard to swallow for those who aren't lucky enough to get a good one.

*I've nicknamed him Ferrero Rocher, and I'm determined it's going to stick.
**There was more to the game than that- I killed a squad of Tacticals with Possessed!- but it was mostly a sideshow.
***On the other hand I managed to spell 'outmanoeuvre' right first time, so now I feel like an Ultimate Spelling Wizard.
****The gender choices here are accurate based on the videos I've seen. We really need more ladies doing BatReps!
*****Admittedly, unless the local scene is very strict about paint schemes or they really, really like another Chapter, that'll be about one person.
******Of course this is basically true at the moment, but it'd be a big thing for GW to actually come out and say it.

Friday, 12 July 2019

The Hellforged Leviathan Walks!

I've been working on this scary fellow on and off for the past week or so, and I think I'm finally ready to call him done!

Lord Ghôrax Skullborn here is a Hellforged Leviathan built mostly from the Redemptor Dreadnought kit. I think he's possibly a little bigger than a proper Leviathan but when you're calling something a 'Leviathan' being too big shouldn't be a major issue.

Here he is without the Green Stuff and a few of the last few parts. The most significant areas of conversion were the body and the Grav-Bombard. The body is basically made from cut-up parts of the Redemptor's own sarcophagus- the sawn-off cap of an old permanent marker makes the barrel that the head (from the Skulls box) sits in. The Leviathan's larger shoulder blocks were made using the carapace plates from a Warlord (I had these spare since I built mine Loyalist)

The Grav-Bombard was made by removing the barrel from the Redemptor's plasma cannon and adding basically all the wheels from the Cauldron of Blood (I've now bought two of that kit just for bits). After this shot was taken I trialled several possible centre-pieces including the emitter from a Tellyporta Blasta and the end of a Dark Talon's Rift Cannon, but settled on the end of a Leman Russ searchlight. The gribbly teeth were horns cut from Chaos Marine helms.

Over on the other arm, I simply used an assortment of Ork Kan Klaws, as well as the later addition of a Meganobz chainclaw, to make a suitably evil-looking weapon.

Here he is with most of the Green Stuff on. A lot of extra details were added too, including chains mostly taken from the old Marauder Horsemen kit, a couple of Chaos Knight shields, the ends of two Immolator flamers and an icon pole made with a combination of a Bloodletter banner and the old Khorne CSM icon. This slots into a hole in the top of the hull for transport. On the subject, the Redemptor kit has an odd overlarge slot in the bottom of the torso to meet the peg on the legs, which is presumably for posing but means it won't hold together unglued. I filled the slot with Green Stuff, wet the surfaces, and shoved the peg into place in the right pose before removing it, making a much more snug socket so he can come apart for storage.

Probably the most interesting aspect of the Green Stuff work is the various skulls, icons of Khorne, and twisted face-things, including the rather fun Daemon face representing the Hellfire Reactor. These were made by blatant cheating. I have some moulds made up, taken from the AoS Chaos Bastion floor, which allow me to press masses of twisted skulls into Green Stuff. Since the mould is bendy I can do this around curves, but not all the skulls will come out clean, making it ideal for a Chaotic look. (I used waste Green Stuff to add more skulls to the base with the same cast) The little runes of Khorne are similarly made by 'branding' the model with a small icon cut from the CSM Khorne command helm, and the reactor Daemon is cast from the backpack on the same sprue.

Here's another fun little cheat. The World Eaters icon here is just an Ogre belly-plate with a little Earth sculpted into the middle of it.

Meanwhile a look on the other side shows the true ludicrousity of the Grav-Bombard, as well as the little hanging Khorne icons pinched from a Khorgorath after I converted five of them to make them all unique some time ago.

I did a fairly standard paint job after all that. After a black spray undercoat, dry-brushed up with Leadbelcher and Administratum Grey, I had to immediately splodge loads of Blood For The Blood God into the depths of the bombard to coat all the little spoke-things of the six wheels that make up the barrel. I also added some water-effect acrylic gel for bulk. Once that horrible mess had dried, the rest of the process was quite simple. Towards the end, I noted that the eye-sockets were too deep to paint a glow effect in, so after basing them with blue I filled them and the power-plant chimneys with more water effect before painting over the top with thinned-down paints. It doesn't really add any special effect, but does get the colour where it needs to be.

Anyway, think that might be my most detailed WIP post in a long time! Now let's hope he can actually make some 4++ saves and live for more than one turn...

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

New beginnings..

So, today is an exciting day for me! Not so much for you. Unless of course your day has been very exciting, in which case great!*

Anyway, the point is that I've launched a new website, which will be specifically for the books of the Thelenic Curriculum and my writing in general. I'll add a link to there on the Landing Page, which will gradually become redundant.

What does that mean for this site? Almost nothing! I'll still do my usual hobby-based posts on here (look out for a tasty new Khornate Leviathan this weekend) but I'll also still do writing-related stuff on here. Mostly, it just means people going to the link will now be redirected to the new site rather than here, so won't have to put up with me ranting about the Assault Phase when they're looking for my books. The new site is also much more mobile-friendly, so if you've been meaning to read the short stories but couldn't find them on your phone due to Google Blogs being a bit janky, head on over to the new site.

Going forward I'm even going to be buying some ads! Anyway, if you're curious, head on over and take a look and maybe buy a book or two. Or even review one you've read, if you're a true superhero to authors everywhere.

*Unless it's 'being shot at' or 'being chased by a lunatic with an axe' exciting, in which case I hope you survived.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

New Keeper, new paints, and some thoughts.

I finally got my new Keeper of Secrets finished! There are so many gems on this thing that looking on the box you can see where GW's official painter lost the will to live and just did some as metal bumps. I did more than they did, but on the other hand my gems suck.

When the new Keeper came out I was presented with a bit of a problem. Since I already have not one, but two models that I use as Keepers (and which are finally about the right size!) there didn't seem a lot of point making another stock one. On the other hand the variant Keeper, Shalaxi Hellbane, didn't appeal to me visually (though 'it' has nice rules. More on 'it' in a moment.)

The solution, I decided, was to go full-on with magnets, allowing the regular Keeper to have Shalaxi's weapon options. This also allows me to field a Keeper with options like the Ritual Knife and Shimmering Aegis which I don't have on the older models.

More gems than an animated pop-group with an inexplicable movie
The Mammarian Heresy
Now, there was one area in which the new Keeper was, to my eyes, a bit deficient. For reasons known only to them, GW persist in making Slaanesh models with only one breast. Not only that, they've doubled down recently by referring to Keepers and Heralds as 'it', rather than 'she'. I find this a bit irritating, since the other Greater Daemons are all still unambiguously male. Not only that, but only Arnold J. Rimmer is ever going to be pleased with having just one of the things and that's not an example I want my legions of excess following.

As an aside, I entirely take the point that as physical manifestations of warp entities Daemons don't really have a gender at all, but again, all the 'male' daemons apparently do. I personally think that Slaanesh daemons manifest as whatever those watching find most alluring- basically a glamour- so for me that means two dumplings on the plate. I do plan to make some oiled-up Chippendale-style Noise Marines in future, but I'm hoping we'll see a new Emperor's Children book and Noise Marine models soon.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that I ended up sculpting in her left (as she would view it) breast, as well as the corset-thing that goes over it. I made it with Green Stuff, and as usual with this sort of project I did it in two stages, the first being the 'structural' stage where I got the basic shape about right, and then, once this had set, the 'detail' stage where I smoothed it out and added the clothing. Trying to do the whole thing in one go tends to lead to pushing the thing out of shape whilst trying to detail it.

Other than that, the only real modelling work that needed doing was adding magnets to the wrists and hands for swapping the weapons, which I did by drilling out a small recess for the magnets and then filling the gaps. As always, there's a thin layer of Green Stuff preventing the magnets making direct contact, which makes the options much easier to remove and lessens the chance of the magnets ripping free. In the end, I left the head and cloak off for painting as well as leaving the Shining Aegis in two parts (hand/ shield) for ease of access.

Someone needs to do one with Daemonette train-bearers

Which cloak to use was a matter of some debate. The cloak for Shalaxi represents 'its' (named character so I've got to) Cloak of Constriction, but I preferred the way the other cloak looked and hung off the wrists. Those hands which are meant to be used with it have a little hole for the cloak but test-fitting showed it didn't cause any serious issues. Likewise the arms are different for Shalaxi but I found the default Keeper arms worked fine and didn't cause a problem with the spear- in fact I prefer it levelled at it is here, rather than point-up as it is on Shalaxi.

Adventures in Contrast
Painting was a bit of an adventure since I waited until the release of the new Contrast paints to do it. The model was undercoated with Wraithbone (the brighter Contrast undercoat) and then painted with Apothecary white for the flesh, Skeleton Horde for the horns, and Volupus Pink, Magos Purple and Shyish Purple for the claws and robes/ clothes. I forgot to get a Black Templar for the black, but a couple of coats of Vallejo Air black did the deed. The metals were painted with conventional metals, over the air black on the claws and weapons, since painting them over Wraithbone really doesn't look good.

It's fair to say I had the odd.. issue with the Contrasts. On the flesh, the Apothecary white was great, giving a bluish-grey tint just as I like for my Slaanesh Daemons. On the larger, sweeping areas like the cloaks, though, I ran in to a lot of pooling issues and had some bother finding the right highlights. Nevertheless, the model responded well to my usual Nuln Oil Gloss wash and we got there in the end!

The other worry with Contrast is durability. I think Wraithbone is designed to allow the paints to 'slide off' a bit, to give the effect of making raised areas lighter in colour. However, it seems that makes the paint itself more vulnerable to chipping. I've transported this model once so far and whilst the model itself was chip-free, the Caliban Green around the base came off in a couple of places. I think the oil wash and the highlights have made the paint on the model resilient enough to cope with handling, but since the base edge got neither of those it might need a coat of Stormshield or similar.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

New crossover short that absolutely nobody asked for.

Every now and again you have one of those ideas that gets stuck in your brain and won't go away until you do it. This phenomenon is probably responsible for the deep-fried Mars Bar, the Bognor Regis Birdman competition, and many other things that probably shouldn't exist but do.

Into this crowded field of lunatic endeavours comes my latest crossover short story, "The Not-Quite Kidnap of Betty Hardin", which can be found either at that link or in the Crossover Shorts side-panel. In the story, the 13th Doctor meets the legendary Floating Outfit of 1960's Western author J.T. Edson. It's an everyday tale of mistaken identity, bandit kidnappers, and cybernetic killing machines from the far future.

Given that some people (often many of the sort of people who still read J.T.) decry the recent Dr Who canon as overly politically-correct and J.T. himself was as politically-correct as something that most definitely, certainly isn't, this wasn't exactly a match made in heaven but I consider everyone involved to be basically good at heart so I did it anyway. To allay any fears, this is not one of those really annoying revenge-fiction pieces where a writer takes a character they have it in for and does horrible things to them.

To finish with a little warning- while I've done my best to stay as close to J.T's style as possible, not especially hard since he's been an influence on my own to some extent, I should point out to anyone interested in his books that he was very much a man of his time regarding sexual preferences, gender politics and race (though all three topics could be the subject of some interesting discussion in this context.) If you do decide to check them out, You Have Been Warned.

At the very least have a look at that Wikipedia page if you're at all concerned!