Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Worlds: you gotta break 'em down to build 'em up

The release of 8th edition Warhammer 40,000 earlier this month, brought with it a huge update to the background material. Possibly the biggest change since records began*.

In the new storyline the Imperium of Man has been torn apart by a vicious Warp Storm, the suitably ominous-sounding Cicatrix Maledictum, cutting off half the galaxy and giving traitors, heretics and the like the chance to really step up their game. As a result no Imperial planets have escaped unscathed and much of what's left is unrecognisable.

Although it's all still grim and dark

At first this seemed like a bit of a blow, similar to what Games Workshop did with Warhammer Fantasy Battle and the release of Age of Sigmar – tearing it down in order to build it back up from scratch. The kind of shocking changes that leave you slack-jawed, quietly mouthing "but, but... I liked that."

However, as with any upheaval, the trick is to see the benefits.

If you've ever tried reading this blog and following my skittish course through the hobby, you might be aware that I often have several models on the go at once. These can be in many different stages of progress, from odd-shaped bits of cut-up plastic to half-painted miniatures only a few licks of paint from completion.

Although this approach is practically useless at getting any serious armies finished, it is excellent for keeping me entertained and enthused. As soon as I get bored with a project I can put it to one side and try something else, without too much self-recrimination. At the end of the day the main reason I model and paint tiny toy soldiers is because I enjoy modelling and painting tiny toy soldiers. Maximising that enjoyment just makes sense.

With the major changes to the background story, there's a way my skittish approach can be used to my advantage. I can update my tiny corner of the WH40K universe – the Acheron Subsector – not just to keep it relevant, but to throw the spotlight on some of the unfinished factions on my desk, bringing the most fitting ones to the fore and building the unfolding story around them.

Using the background section from the new rulebook as my guide, I've put together a rough outline of what I think has been happening in Acheron, prior to the arrival of any new forces.

1) The Medean Warp Cluster has become far less stable. For a while Warp Storms flared and raged around it, and when they eventually died down it looked significantly larger and more livid. On ships travelling in nearby real-space, several astropaths and navigators were said to have inexplicably, and in some cases violently, lost their lives.

2) The Ork taint has risen in at least two systems within the subsector. Although still brutal, their behaviour has sometimes been described as erratic, like they were preoccupied, or could sense something that humans couldn't.

3) Contact was lost with some of the deep space defence platforms positioned on the major shipping routes. It was as if they simply winked out, one by one.

4) Cults of dubious nature have sprung up in the more densely-packed hive cities throughout the subsector (including Kruenta Karoliina Arx Rotunda in the Ancora Binary System). As the cults have grown in size, civil unrest has turned to fighting in the streets. In many cities, in an effort to contain the disruption, House security forces and other pseudo-military organisations have been seconded to the Arbites. Some officers have reported seeing strange and unnatural creatures among the rioters.

5) Squads of corrupted vessels have been spotted at several locations within the subsector. It is unclear as to whether there are multiple fleets or a single, highly mobile one.

6) Imperial ships bound for, or expected from some of the fringe systems have not shown up. Astropathic contact with those same systems has gone null. At least 7 inhabited planets are currently feared lost.

7) The local Astartes garrison, belonging to the Storm Guard, is thought to have engaged an enemy on multiple fronts. In their last contact, a priority beacon, they stated they were taking heavy casualties. Nothing has been heard from them since.

I'll be trying to explore this story further as I paint and model my way through the next few evenings, attempting to fit some of my forthcoming models into the unfolding narrative. In the meantime, with no new miniatures presented here, my Addiction Challenge score hasn't changed. Hopefully I'll have painted something by the next post, otherwise this number isn't ever going away.


*Otherwise known as 1987, when Rick Priestly and Games Workshop released Rogue Trader**.
**And thousands of young kids were strangely captivated by the idea of collecting diminutive, little fighting dudes, most likely unaware that they were entering into a hobby that stood a good chance of sticking with them for the rest of their lives.

Friday, 23 June 2017

When the battle's lost and won

Following straight on from my previous post, here are another three models for my Addiction Challenge. I'm on fire!

But before I congratulate myself too heartily on this small victory, it's worth noting that, in real terms, the number of models I said I'd paint has barely even been dented.

It's also worth noting that none of these miniatures are the new Primaris Space Marines or Death Guard models that everyone else is talking about. This is because I got my copy of WH40K 8th edition last night, so at my current rate of progress it should be at least another three years before I have anything painted and ready to share.


The Necromantic Ternion of Gshtaad, otherwise known as the War-Locked, is a trio of hexmasters affiliated to the small Chaos warband I showed back hereTheir original names have long since faded into obscurity, to be replaced instead by the arcane monikers they claim were handed to them by Gshtaad himself during a series of dark and impressive rituals involving much nudity, dancing, intoxication and human sacrifice. The usual kinda thing.

It is, however, far more likely they chose the names themselves – simply because they thought they sounded mysterious, foreboding, and maybe even kinda cool.

The Thaum-Augur

The Lorn Hierophant

The Reticulator

Obviously that depends very heavily on one's definition of 'cool'.

My decision to have multiple chaos sorcerers in such a small force grew out of an unshakeable desire to see three different characters, with different posture and poses, painted in different colours, all tied together by the of use of dirt, skulls, spikes, horns and the general tone of things.

In the end this meant they were ever-so-slightly converted from their original forms, with a few additions and removals to achieve the look I was after. Here's the obligatory work-in-progress pic for anyone who's interested.

The first two characters are simple Games Workshop conversions, but the metal chap, although sporting a few Games Workshop bits, is the Apprentice Mage from Andy Foster's Heresy Miniatures.

And here's my new score:


Hopefully more to follow soon.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Addiction, despair and a Chaos Lord of Nurgle

One hundred. That's the nice, round number that I somehow ended up choosing in a fit of unprecedented optimism the other day. It's a significant number that's going to have quite an impact on my life over the next few months. Probably even years. Maybe even decades*. Damn that optimism.

It was after ordering the new WH40K boxset, and the attendant 53 miniatures that come with it. I realised that I had just added a significant number of models to the hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of miniatures I have scattered around my home.

There are unpainted miniatures sitting on shelves, on my desk, in drawers, carry cases, blister packs, boxes and still unclipped on their sprues. It's quite possible there's a lifetime of hobby work awaiting my attention. It's a ridiculous backlog of unpainted, unprepared models, and I think it points to a fairly serious element of addiction at play within my collecting habits.

I'm probably not alone in this.

So after ordering the new WH40K and getting that tinge of regret you have when you've given in to a craving and done a bad, I thought I'd try to make amends.

I decided I wouldn't allow myself to buy a single new model or component** until I had completed one hundred models from my backlog. Yes, that's right, one hundred.

That was nearly two weeks ago, and right now I've still not got much to show for it.

Not much, but something. Enter one of the (seemingly) most popular Citadel models ever released: The Lord of Plagues.

Or, as I like to call my version, The Flesh Baron of Gshtaad.

I was lucky in that he was practically finished before I even set myself this challenge; he just needed a few minutes of work to complete. Fortunately my unspoken rules still allowed his inclusion, as anything that hadn't yet left my desk (at the time I started the challenge), no matter how close to completion, is fair game.*** But photographing old miniatures, or touching them up and calling them new, is a no-no.

I'll use this blog to keep track, and I'll try to be completely honest, showing a score at the end of any relevant posts. A score that currently looks like this:


Wish me luck.

*It wouldn't be the first time one of my hobby challenges stretches over 10 years.
**Tools and paint are allowed.
***In fact with nearly 200 models in various stages of progress on my desk, the aim of this challenge is very much to put a few projects to bed and clear some much needed space.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Into the Unknown: A Journey through Science Fiction at the Barbican 3rd June - 1st September

"We live in a world of science fiction.

"Once considered niche, science fiction is now all around us. The genre explores the mysteries of what is still to be discovered, and the power of human ingenuity to unravel them. Whilst doing so, it has created a rich iconography within the pages of novels and comic books and on the big screen, uncovering countless worlds, and revealing the hopes and threats of what lies just beyond our reach. This ever-elusive horizon and the will to approach it lies at the core of science-fiction.

"Depending on the period, the journeys taken by science-fiction can transport us to mysterious lands, cosmic expanses, megacities, virtual universes and within ourselves. As the real world seems to become smaller, science fiction fills in the blanks of the maps, looking for the next boundary to cross, and unveiling hidden dimensions. Today, science fiction's ever-growing corpus, wide-ranging in its themes and ambition, sometimes stills wears – ironically enough – its 20th century attire: lost lands filled with dinosaurs; swashbuckling space exploits to rescue princesses; spandex costumes to disguise the perpetrator of impossible but heroic deeds.

"As we begin to recognise the long-lasting influence of science fiction upon contemporary culture, it feels to be – alongside us – on the cusp of taking a bold leap into the 21st century, encouraging us to embark on a journey that is truly into the unknown."

So says the accompanying blurb to the Barbican's current exhibition on science fiction.

Yesterday, during a rare day off, while his older brother was at school, I took my two-year-old boy to see all the robots, spaceships and terrifying space alien props that make up much of this exhibit. It's jam-packed with models, drawings, films and books from over 100 years of science fiction – much of which would be easily recognisable to even a casual fan.

Here are some of the photos I was able to take in between cuddling my son and telling him that everything was going to be okay.

Some original Ray Harryhausen maquettes

Masks from Enemy Mine, Close Encounters and Species

Harvester bio suit from Independence Day

A Harkonnen chair by H.R. Giger for Alejandro Jodorowsky's unrealised Dune project

And a close-up of the headrest (for fans of servo-skulls)

Starfighter from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

Spock's space suit from the first Star Trek film

Twiki from Buck Rogers

Sonny from the movie iRobot and, behind him, Robot B-9 from 1960s TV show Lost in Space

Of course, these photos hardly do the exhibition justice. There were plenty of other interesting props and costumes throughout the exhibition, not to mention all the films, books and artists' installations dotted around the place. So if you're interested and you want to see it for yourself you could start by checking out the Barbican website here.