Tuesday, 28 July 2015

First of a new breed

I've been very busy recently, and, as the last entry shows, not much of it has been grim or dark. But in my spare moments I've still been racing to finish the first of my Adeptus Arbites 'Judge Dredd' style Enforcers. Last night I would have said he was complete, but on looking at the pictures this morning I'm not so sure. I suppose I'm learning that the camera can be a harsh critic.

I'm happy with the legs, body and head, but the arms look pretty messy. The perfectionist in me wants to start the shoulder pads again from scratch.

But then the perfectionist in me rarely gets anything finished. It's the pragmatist that sees me through, and he says the best plan is to press on with the other few Judges, hope my skills improve with practice, then either revisit the earlier ones, or try to fix it all with the paint job. After all, when I held this guy in my hands last night I was pleased enough to think he was done.

So that's a plan, then. 

Or is it? I found this great image of a bunch of dudes sitting around waiting to play Judges. It's got a really clear view of their uniforms, including one of the eagle shoulder pads. From looking at it now I can see that not only is my sculpting terribly shoddy, but it's also inaccurate. The eagle's head should be on the lower section of the shoulder pad. So do I ignore it, or do I fix it?

It's a dilemma for sure. And one that I think I'm going to leave for another time.

The Great British interlude

I was going to title this entry 'Please Ignore' but I figured that could have the opposite effect. It might end up acting like those deliberately misspelt 'Whet Paynt' signs, designed to get you to notice them. It could scream out to you, like a red rag to a bull, that the one thing not to do, the thing to absolutely under no circumstances allow to happen, would be to actually ignore this. 

And that would be bad, as I don't want you thinking this is a blog about Mary Berry.

But I thought I should quickly mention why I haven't posted anything recently. I've got to warn you though, my excuse may contain nuts.

In our house this week we've just had a birthday for one of the tiny people - and, what with him not having had many birthdays before, we wanted it to be special.

Or at least my missus wanted it to be special and I agreed to help out.

The tiny person is fascinated by farmyard animals (he's a tiny person, it's the kind of thing that fascinates them), so my missus got us making these.

She did most of the actual work, but I've got to admit I kind of enjoyed it. And I definitely enjoyed sampling the product at the end. In case the rest of this blog wasn't enough of a clue, I'm actually just a big kid.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Another small step

I stayed up late again last night, in an effort to make a little more progress on the test model for the Arbites.

At least I hope it's progress

I switched the Scout's arms out and replaced them with Cadian arms (but kept the Scout's shotgun and hands). My reasoning was twofold:

1. The Cadian arms come from the same kit as the torso, so they should match scale, and stop that chest armour from looking dwarfed.

2. The Scout arms had fairly chunky vambraces over the forearms and wrists. On the costumes in the Dredd movie this area is much less armoured.

However, having said that last point, I have no qualms about troops having subtly different uniforms. People have a tendency to customise stuff they use everyday, and even the strictest adherent to a uniform code may add or remove extra armour. Things get damaged, worn out, and replaced by newer models all the time so I actually like to mix things up a bit on my troops. It makes each and every one of them a character.

As well as switching the arms I've also started blocking in the extra pads with green stuff. 40K miniatures often seem to wear hard, solid armour, but the Judges' pads are clearly a bit more flexible. Leather and Kevlar-style materials seem to be quite prominent. This may work in my favour, hopefully meaning the sculpting work won't need such crisp edges and smooth surfaces.

It's early days here, none of this is ready to go, but it gives me a good idea of the overall bulk of the model. I'm generally happy with where this is going, but pretty daunted at how much work each of these guys will take to complete.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Waylaid games

Some good news for me. The new kits arrived in the post yesterday. After nearly a month of waiting I've finally got my hands on them. It's the sets I ordered for my Arbites Enforcers project.

Essentially I wanted the torso pieces from the Cadians, and the legs and shotguns from the Scouts, and then some of the bits 'n' bobs for detailing. I've got some ideas in store for the remaining parts, but I think that's a story for another time.

I also ordered two other kits. Mainly because they're among the most stunning looking models I've seen Games Workshop produce recently, but also because they seem to have a decent stash of cool bits for conversions. For a grown man I am alarmingly excited at the prospect of working with all these new children's toys.

More tiny bits of plastic

I bought them all online from Wayland Games. You usually get between 10% and 20% off the GW price, so I'd say it's definitely worth the wait.

I wasn't able to open them until really late last night, but I did manage to slap together the basic parts for a basic trooper. As expected he looks pretty basic. The arms and legs are a tiny bit too big for my purposes, but given the general scale issues surrounding this entire hobby, I might just have to ignore that. Otherwise it could quickly become a can-of-worms.

An un-opened can

So, to recap, the legs and arms belong to a Space Marine Scout, the torso is from the Astra Militarum Cadian Infantry box, and the head is from PuppetsWar. The next step will be to check some different arms and legs from other kits, and then see what level of green stuff patching and detailing I can get away with to achieve the final look. Once that's all done, and I'm happy with the test model, then I simply have to repeat it four or five times.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Building better worlds

Everything you have been told is a lie.

Okay, not everything. But probably a few things.

And almost certainly one of them was my fault.

In an earlier post I mentioned that the Imperial Denizens were my first stab at building non-combatants to populate a WH40K city. But on looking at my model collection the other day I spotted these two little guys, both of whom predate my denizens by at least a few months.

At the time I was never sure (and clearly none too bothered) whether they were robots, drones, or servitors. I think I decided they were essentially robots, but if someone pointed out that they contravened an Imperial decree banning automatons they could easily be upgraded to hazard-zone, sealed-servitors (where none of the organics are open to the elements), or downgraded to remote-drones (robots so stupid, they are basically just remote-controlled power-tools).

Both these bots were meant to be for use in the construction industry. The biped was a heavy-duty fabricator, sent into hostile or dangerous environments to aid construction teams, while the quadruped was an inspection model, used for checking and repairing seams and cracks on unstable or hard-to-reach surfaces and inside large-bore pipes.

They were inspired by a number of different references:

1) A scene in the movie Aliens. This film must be one of the most influential sci-fi movies ever made, and "A scene in the movie Aliens" probably appears on a huge percentage of modelling inspiration lists. In this case its the scene where the Colonial Marines first enter Wayland-Yutani's colony complex, Hadley's Hope. In the blustery street outside the sealed main doors, we catch glimpses of large, yellow, industrial machinery tucked into dark corners or under tarpaulins, covered in muck and dirt. It's the scene where Apone shouts "Hudson, run a bypass.The equipment looks vaguely like modern-day vehicles made by CAT or...

2) JCB. These were the diggers and excavators of my childhood. The kind of huge machines that a small boy would point at and somehow, excitedly equate to toys. As if these ugly, lumbering behemoths would be of any use whatsoever to a tiny five-year-old.

3) Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is less of an inspiration, and more of a reference I tried to incorporate into both miniatures. Can you spot it? It's said that the film's bad guy, confused computer HAL, was a forewarning of the potential dangers of the then fledgling computer industry. It's also said that the name HAL was found by simply dialling back the initials of IBM, the dominant computer company of the day. Can you spot the reference now? I'll forgive you if you can't, as my painting isn't exactly crisp, but both of these bots sport KDC logos. As well as being one step on from JCB, I've just decided that it also means Kruenta Demolition and Construction.

4) And finally the main inspiration for how these things actually looked was, if I'm completely honest, just the spare parts I had lying around at the time. The biped was essentially the Cataphract from the first Imperial Robot release in the late 80s or early 90s, while the quadruped was the original Ork Dreadnought from around the same time, knocked on its back, with its spare legs attached instead of the arms, and given a head made from a couple of Space Marine jump packs. A bunch of bits were added to both, and then my somewhat poor paint job applied. It was a long time ago, don't judge me. 

Or, if you prefer, go ahead and judge me. I might have something to help you with that in the next post.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Dredd. The man. The myth

Dredd never removes his helmet. Everyone knows that. It's one of those geeky facts that even grandmothers and serious journalists know.

So it could come as a surprise to find out it's not actually true. And I don't mean it's not true because Sylvester Stallone took the helmet off in his movie. It's not true, because the character of Dredd has removed his helmet in the main 2000AD strip several times over the past few decades.

The reality is that although the helmet doesn't always stay on, we never really see his face. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that John Wagner, Dredd's co-creator, said this is meant to represent the facelessness of justice. So not strong chin straps, then.

Back in the very early days, we got the following sequence. It's pretty much been ignored ever since.

The first time is always the most difficult

If it was simply that he never took his helmet off, it would somewhat undermine any sense of reality to the strip (outside of the talking ape gangsters, lizard-men assassins, crocodile-men mercenaries, rampaging dinosaurs, jigsaw diseases, outlandish plots and general ridiculousness, that is). I mean have you ever worn a motorcycle helmet? Never, ever taking it off, not for a second, is simply not an option. What if Dredd got a head injury? Or wanted to get some grit out of his bionic eyes? For that matter, how would the bionic eyes have got in there in the first place? And what if he just wanted to get a good night's sleep?

Here are a few more of the rare moments where we see him without his armoured head gear. Careful though, there's a spoiler at the end.

Okay, granted. He's only a kid

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Dredd's ear 

He sits at his desk without armour? Next they'll be telling us he doesn't wear it in the shower

And then there was The Dead Man. This is the spoiler I mentioned, a story that packed a powerful and unexpected twist. And, as it turns out, it's a story where we hardly get to see Dredd with the helmet on. Here are a couple of pages.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Dredd's eyes

As the late, great Terry Pratchett said “make a man a fire, he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire he’ll be warm for the rest of his life

This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list, just a few examples, but if you've got any other moments in mind, please feel free to post them in the comments, and I might even try to dig up an image.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Getting about the place

I'm still waiting for the bits to turn up so I can start work on my Arbites. It's been roughly three weeks since I ordered them, and I'm beginning to wonder where they might be. But while I wait I thought I'd post some more about the city project.

On top of filling Kruenta Karoliina Arx Rotunda with denizens, I also wanted to have a variety of different vehicles dotted around. I'd always liked the models produced by Old Crow, so they seemed like a good place to start. Their website used to be here, but Jez (who was very helpful back when I bought these) seems to have another venture on the go at the moment and has changed the site. If you want to see the old range you could try here, under Old Crow Products and then 25mm Vehicles. They are well cast and relatively cheap, so in my opinion a very good purchase. They come up a tiny bit small against GW models, but I quite like this for my purpose as it helps to reinforce the difference between the civilian and military roles. I want everything to look rugged and designed for harsh environments, but I guess I'm happy if the military stuff is even more so.

The three basic models I bought were the Trojan Light APC, the Gecko Scout and the Provider Transport. I did a little conversion work to the vehicles, adding a few of the spare bits from Old Crow's range and maybe the odd piece from my bits box, but the main change was the doubling up of the wheels on the two heavier vehicles, and the adding and extending of the front bumpers on the Provider Transport. I felt these minor tweaks helped to exaggerate that robust, hard-wearing feel I was after.

While I was working on these I dubbed the yellow Provider a Mini-6, after the Cargo-6, that Dan Abnett mentions in one of his Ravenor books. I imagine mine is a smaller, flat-bed version of the thing he describes.

I painted these a few years ago. I know almost exactly when I did it, because it was just after my first child was born. As an in-joke I put my baby boy's initials on the side of one of the crates on the back of the delivery truck.

I'm not sure his mum found it all that amusing; probably because I should have been changing nappies or preparing a bottle. But he has a younger brother now, and it's a parental absolute that one's kids are treated equally, so I'll have to prepare another crate with his brother's initials on it. It's my duty. And besides, you know the old saying: If they don't laugh first time, repeat until funny.

The Ancora Binary System and Kruenta Karoliina Arx Rotunda

Although barely a footnote on the Administratum's tithe ledgers, the Ancora Binary System is not without importance. This is due in part to its relative density of both primary extraction facilities and Imperial scholams, but more importantly its location within short passage of the Medean Warp Cluster.

This makes it a valuable waypoint for travellers both within the Acheron Subsector, in which it is located, and those approaching from further afield.

The system takes its name from the three planets whose circumbinary orbit keeps them within the habitable zone of the twin suns:

1) Ancora Prime is the largest planet and was probably the first to be landed, but has the most inhospitable conditions. Human life on this planet is strictly for the most tenacious.

2) Ancora Diluvium is a water planet where, during the shorter, more benevolent seasons, huge Imperial rigs work quickly to harvest the plentiful depths, rushing to leave before the climate turns against them.

3) Ancora Fornax, the smallest of the three, is able to support a diverse human ecology and is therefore easily the most densely populated. Many different industries and operations are in effect within its vast cities and as such it is the natural seat of Imperial governance in the region.

Although much of Fornax's surface is superheated by geothermal energies and too hot to comfortably support human life (at least without atmosuits) there are several areas of raised or shielded geography where temperatures are cooler. These have come to be thought of as the planet's continents.

One of the most populated continents is Natantis Maoris, a strip of land roughly 1600km at its widest point, but several tens of thousand kilometres long, running roughly East to West a few hundred clicks above the planet's equator.

There are seventeen major conurbations dotted along its length, running from Rutilium in the west to Kruenta Karoliina Arx Rotunda in the east. This latter city, known most commonly as Kru, is not the largest city on the planet, but is undoubtedly its cultural hub.

Unlike regular Hive Cities, Kru isn't a single towering behemoth, but a sprawling megalopolis, with several small hive spires spread out in an uneven circle over an area covering roughly forty thousand square kilometres. The land between the spires has long since filled with lower lying districts, performing all types of function, including manufacturing, residential, recreation, off-world transport hubs, and even some green space where organic foodstuffs are grown. Many of these districts have suffered cataclysmic weathering over the millennia, and have collapsed and been abandoned, while others may have recently been repaired or rebuilt to look gleaming and new.

Seasons are short, quick and irregular on Ancora Fornax, and these changeable weather conditions, combined with naturally occurring atmospheric impurities, and the oft harsh glare of the twin suns, mean that great swathes of the planet are regularly bathed in a rich, red glow - a phenomenon only exacerbated by the presence of large mining operations and their attendant pollution. 

Although the striking colour isn't permanent - it waxes and wanes with climatic conditions - it has nevertheless embedded itself in the psyches of the local inhabitants, and indeed those of travellers from further afield. Red folk, blood gangs, crimson shipping routes, blush wagers, and a myriad other names, terms and colloquialisms can be found throughout the subsector.

Kru has been described as beautiful, usually by people who haven't had to stay very long