Saturday, June 17, 2017

Complete Imperial Assault Galleries


After almost 3 years of painting and writing about miniatures for Star Wars Imperial Assault, I've decided to compile all my galleries, battle-reports and assorted debris so that other fans of the game can access them with greater ease. As I did with my Talisman miniatures, I've created a permanent menu on the left ------------------------->




Here's what you'll find there...


The complete painted miniature galleries for Imperial Assault:

The Oldenhammer after-action battle reports for the Imperial Assault skirmish game:

Conversions, homebrews and other variant miniatures for Imperial Assault:

Essays on Star Wars:

Oldehammer-in-Toronto elsewhere on the web:

Other inspirational Imperial Assault painters:



I hope you find something that interests you! Thanks for stopping by!





Friday, June 9, 2017

Zombie Bosses - Abominations for Zombicide Black Plague




We all have bad days, but can you imagine waking up every day as a morbidly obese zombie? They way people judge your eating habits? The dietary imperatives? The stigma? These were my thoughts as I painted the miniatures in the "Zombie Bosses Abomination Pack" for Zombicide Black Plague. The core Black Plague set contains one beefy zombie leader or "Abomination" -- but with this expansion you get three more: the Ablobination (pictured above), the Abominotaur and the Abominatroll.





After painting all sorts of miniatures for Saga Revenants and The Terror of the Lichemaster, I was on a real zombie jag, and I started casting around for another game where I could use a few dozen Dark-Age undead. It didn't take me long to find Zombicide: Black Plague. And to know the game is to love it... it's fast, bloody and unpredictable. It plays well solo, and is just as fun with 4 or 5 drunk friends. It's also one of the best games I know for naturally breeding a sense of story. Every session seems to generate its own drama: last stands, sudden break-outs, cowardly escapes.


The zombie bosses add a new peril to this sense of drama. They are enemies that are not so much to be fought as to be avoided at all costs. Indeed, they are often unkillable. Their power within the game is nicely mirrored by the miniatures themselves: they are gigantic and ripple with active, unbounded violence. Every muscle in the Abominotaur's body is coiled in one wrenching blow. And the Abominatroll moves with a wonderful sense of speed -- he is sprinting so quickly that his tongue is flapping behind him like a pennant (see the picture below).




All these Abominations also all have a real sense of affliction. Their bodies are boiling with tumors and in places the skin lifts right off the muscles in gooey sheets. Spikes and bone spurs shoot through their flesh and limbs become grotesquely swollen. Games like Descent have made me quite skeptical of the plastic miniatures one generally finds in board games, but I have to say that these figures from Cool Mini or Not are top notch.





Although the smallest of the three zombie bosses, the pi├Ęces de r├ęsistance is the Ablobination. The level of realistic anatomical detail in his sculpture is impressive and unsettling. His skin alternates between saggy wattles (as in his left arm) and chubby, almost baby-like curves (as in his knees and buttocks). 

I had a ton of fun painting him -- the acne, the gore spilling out of his mouth, the cellulose, the varicose veins, the weeping goiters. 






I hope you are disgusted!




Thursday, June 1, 2017

Vikings versus Zombies - a Saga Battle Report


"Malevolent eyes watched the Northmen fill their ship with stolen gold. They had come from the frozen North, these reavers and raiders, slaughtering the priests of the Nailed God. What they couldn't know is that here the fat priests had built their refuge on a place of older, deeper magic; a place dedicated to Donn, the Dark One, Lord of the Dead."




In order to test-drive my new "Revenant" faction of zombies for Saga, I recently hosted a game for two friends of mine. Konrad (a police officer) took command of the Vikings of Gaukur Trandilsson, and Matthew (a defense counsel) led the Revenants. I was to act as referee, bartender and official photographer. What followed was an evening of slaughter and tactical daring worthy of Ragnarok itself.

For our battle, we chose Get to the Longship, which is the scenario included in the Saga Revenants set. A Viking warband has raided a defenceless monastery on an isolated island. What could be more right and proper? But unknown to the Northmen, the rites of the priests had been keeping back an ancient pagan evil. Freed from these holy constraints, the Necromancer and his walking dead rise and attack the nearest living things -- in this case, the loot-encumbered Vikings.


Gaukur and his reavers

In this battle, the Vikings must escape from the pillaged church (at the North end the board) back to their longship at the South end. (Because I lack a longship, we symbolized the escape by requiring the Vikings to cross a tidal river). They get victory points getting their units off the board, and extra points if they make out with special tokens representing their looted treasure. But the more loot a unit carries, the slower it will move.

The Revenants, on the other hand, simply get points for slaughtering their opponents. Below you can see how I set up the terrain:




The Vikings of Gaukur Trandilsson 
(4 point Viking warband)

1 Warlord
4 Berserkers
4 Hearthguard
8 Warriors (with 2 loot tokens)
8 Warriors (with 2 loot tokens)


The Revenants of Gottskalk the Cruel
(4 point Revenant warband)

1 Necromancer
12 Revenants
12 Revenants
12 Revenants
1 Grave Pit (which can transform into one unit of 12 Revenants)


Sensing danger, the Vikings emerge from the church and form into a battle line




Deployment

One of my favourite things about Saga is how claustrophobic the game becomes. Although were were playing on a table measuring 48" by 36", it seemed much smaller, especially since both warbands decided to deploy in the centre of the table. The only thing separating them was a low hill crowned with a couple farmsteads. Although they were so close, this terrain would force both armies to break up their lines of battle.


The Revenants swarm the bridge


Strictly speaking, the Revenants had the first turn, but they used this move to do nothing but gather Saga dice and ready their special powers -- so I've written the report as if the Vikings had the initiative.






Turn 1 - First Blood


Sensing danger but unsure of what they face, the Vikings advance cautiously into the central farmsteads. They catch sight of the seething mob of corpses and are struck by "Bowel Loosening Terror", one of the special abilities that the Revenants can trigger using their Battle Board. This gastrointestinal assault requires the Vikings to choose between becoming fatigued or empowering the Necromancer with "dread tokens", which he can use to trigger other Black Arts (I love the way one side's special abilities in Saga often force the other player to make ugly choices). 








On his turn, the Necromancer perceives a weakness in the Viking line: a unit of warriors isolated on the eastern side of the village. He launches one of his units in a surprise attack by triggering "Winged Death", a special ability that transforms his slow-moving shamblers into very fast zombies. Three of the eight warriors fall in the swift assault, but they fend off the ravening monsters.


The Viking Warriors are rushed by sprinting zombies but hold their ground


Now it looks like the tables have turned. One of the units of Revenants is battered and isolated. How will the Vikings capitalize on their advantage?



Turn 2 - Warlord at Bay

Seeing his chance, the Viking Warlord takes command of the nearby Berserkers and charges the lone Revenants. However, by triggering Bowel Loosening Terror and fatigue, the cunning Necromancer holds the Berserkers back so that the Warlord goes in alone. Nevertheless, the mighty Viking Lord invokes Heimdal's blessing and strikes down 3 more Revenants.



Hoping to bring down the Warlord, the Necromancer casts another unit into the fray by invoking Winged Death. These surging undead inflict horrible wounds on the Warlord, and only the sacrifice of 2 nearby Berserkers keeps him from falling under the weight of numbers. But even with this desperate defence, the Warlord is pushed back and further cut off from his men.

Gaukur the Viking Warlord is mobbed by Revenants

At this point in the game, both sides seemed vulnerable. The Viking Warlord is cut off from his men. But the Revenants have been running into the fight in piecemeal fashion, and are getting defeated in detail.




Turns 3 & 4 - Hold the Line!


The next two turns passed quickly as both sides attempted to consolidate their position. The loyal Hearthguard charged toward their leader and cooperated with him in wiping out one unit of Revenants. At their side, the two remaining Bersekers fare much worse -- they plunge into the second unit of zombies but only destroy one due to the Necromancer's lucky saving throws.



As the Vikings rally, the Revenants pull back to the river, hoping to concentrate their depleted forces. From the crest of the bridge, the Necromancer uses his mystic powers to slay a couple Viking Warriors from afar. He's the only unit in the battle with any missile attack, so he can make the Northmen pay if they keep their distance.

The Vikings rally! Perhaps the crowing cock on the right gives them hope,


With all their loot intact, it seems like only a short distance and a few zombies stand between the Vikings and a quick getaway.

Marching forward with the stolen booty loaded onto horses.



Turn 5 - The Mouth of Hell

Sensing victory, the Warlord and Viking Warriors rush toward the bridge, but in their exuberance, they fall just short of attack range on the weakend Revenants. This blunder leads to the climax of the battle. The Necromancer had been accumulating Dread Tokens all game long and now uses them to open "The Gates of Hell". He moves the Grave Marker into the Warriors and transforms it into a new unit of Revenants, symbolizing an eruption of new zombies out of the ground.



The new Revenants add to their blitz by invoking their "Relentless" ability and the Vikings counter by crying for "Valhalla", which sells the lives of their own soldiers in exchange for greater slaughter on all sides. 

The Mouth of Hell yawns!

The resulting melee is a confused bloodbath. The Viking Warriors are wiped out to a man, but the Revenants also take 7 losses.





Turn 6 - The Dance Macabre

To revenge themselves, the Vikings unleash "Ragnarok" on their Battle Board, a costly power that lowers the armour of all enemies. Then they throw themselves into one final push.



The last Berserker kills himself and 3 Zombies. The Warlord makes a thrust for the bridge with his Hearth Guard behind him. And the closest thing the Vikings have to a reserve (the unit of Warriors attacked in Turn 1) march southwards in support.

Scenes from Turn 6: a Berserker's last stand and a Revenant's feast

The game now poised on a knife's edge. Most of the Vikings have been wiped out, but the formidable Warlord still stands with a few Warriors at his back. Can his ax cleave a path to the Necromancer through the soft flesh of the remaining zombies?



Turn 7 - Lord of Undeath

The answer to the question above is "No."



The Warlord wades into his enemies and hacks them down right and left. But the fallen just rise again as Revenants invoke "Why Won't They Die" on their Battle Board to replenish their recent losses. 

The last stand of the Warlord and his last Warrior

The undead surge forward and overwhelm the remaining Hearthguard. Fighting desperately, the Vikings only have their Warlord and one Warrior, facing off against a full unit of Zombies.  The Necromancer snipes and kills the Warrior from the top of the bridge, leaving Lord Gaukur alone. By using "Overwhelm", the Revenants are able to mob the Warlord and finally bring him down. 

The Necromancer wins!

Reflections

I'm consistently impressed with Saga. It's system of activation and fatigue gives players great flexibility to exploit errors or push individual units to heroic activity. And the Battle Boards (especially the Revenant's Battle Board) add a lot of flavour. Seeing the shuffling zombies sprint forward, erupt from the Grave Pit or rise from the dead was thrilling and thematic. But I also thought Saga was better for having a referee. The rules are sufficiently fiddly as to benefit from a neutral arbiter who can make snap rulings.

Konrad and Matthew played superbly, leading to a game with many tactical twists and turns. For much of the game, it looked like Konrad was in control. But when his final charge fell short of completion on Turn 5, I knew that trouble was brewing for the Northmen. All game long, Matthew's choice to take a Grave Pit instead of a fourth unit of Revenants seemed to be holding him back -- but when he was able to steer the Pit into the vulnerable Warriors and wipe them out in one ghoulish cataclysm, it was all worthwhile.

What's next for the victorious Necromancer Gottskalk? Stay tuned and see...







Thursday, May 25, 2017

Jawa Scavenger, Hera, Chopper, 0-0-0 and BT-1... the new Imperial Assault miniatures




Here are my painted versions of the new miniatures for Star Wars Imperial Assault: the Jawa Scanvenger (from A New Hope); Hera Syndulla with C1-10P "Chopper" (from the Rebels TV show); and 0-0-0 and BT-1 (from the Darth Vader graphic novel). With these figure packs, (and the upcoming expansion) we can see that Imperial Assault is shifting its focus from the original trilogy of movies in order to portray characters from the larger Star Wars universe of prequels, comics, and TV shows. Good move or mistake? 

What do you think?




Above we have 0-0-0 (aka Triple-Zero), the protocol droid that first appeared in the superb Darth Vader comics written by Kieron Gillen. I may sometimes moan about Imperial Assault's shift away from the original trilogy, but boy am I glad they released this miniature because 0-0-0 is a splendid character. Like C-3PO, the role of 0-0-0 is to provide comic relief -- but unlike his golden-coloured twin, he does it by mixing extreme politeness with sadism.



Painting 0-0-0 was a challenge because of his simplicity. Recently, Orlygg wrote about the problem with platemail, viz. it's boring to paint and to look at. This is also the problem with monochromatic protocol droids. Orlygg ended his post with a plea for innovative techniques, and so I decided to experiment with this miniature. I started with an undercoat of black and dry-brushed with Gunmetal, and then a lighter dry-brushing with Vallejo's Metallic Medium. So far, pretty normal. But then I applied a light glaze of black oil paint diluted with white spirit. For reasons that are not clear to me, this created an interesting stippled texture on the miniature which I find quite pleasing. You can see it best with a close-up of 0-0-0's tight buttocks:



I finished off his metal casing by applying some highlights of Metallic Medium. I also tried to add some interest to 0-0-0 by painting on a subtle red glow to his eyes, and a blue glow to his electrically charged palms.




Next up is BT-1, an assassin droid that can hide its weaponry in its shell in order to pass as a harmless astromech.




If anything, BT-1 is even more crazy and homicidal than 0-0-0. As with the Death Star itself, both were developed within the Tarkin Initiative as secret weapons for the Empire. However, BT-1's anti-social programming was so powerful that he killed everyone in the orbital lab where he was constructed, blew up the lab itself and jettisoned himself into space. The only surviving being who speaks BT-1's unique Tarkin dialect of the binary language is 0-0-0, so the two must travel together. 




The fact that the skirmish map included in the BT-1/0-0-0 Figure Pack is named "Tarkin Initiative Labs" is a nice homage to this backstory. 




Above we see the Jawa Scavenger. I have mixed feelings about this miniature. On the one hand, it's nice to see such a classic figure. On the other, the scale of the Jawa is out of wack with other miniatures in the range -- it's not just that he's too tall for such a supposedly small alien, but he's much too fat. He looks more like a hooded dwarf than a lean desert scavenger. But I suppose problems in scale are an inevitable problem when you employ a diverse stable of miniature sculptors (there are 4 different sculptors for these 5 figures).

On the Rebel side of things, first we have the droid C1-10P, also known as "Chopper". He's a highly kinetic droid, and I think this detailed sculpt by Niklas Norman captures his personality. It certainly shows him to be beat-up and patched-up.




In the same figure pack as Chopper comes Hera Syndulla, the Twi'lek pilot and the final miniature in this series.


Hera is captain of the Ghost in the Rebels animated series -- and if you listen carefully, you can hear her being paged at the Rebel Base in Rogue One, at which point she has apparently become a general. 

Hera is another manifestation of the challenges that Imperial Assault faces in rendering a diversity of Star Wars characters in miniature. As a cartoon character, Hera's facial features (and even body proportions) are a steep departure from real life models like Carrie Fisher or Mark Hamill. You can see Hera's original face from the animated series (on the left) contrasted with a more realistic illustration of what she might look like as portrayed by an actor (on the right).



The miniature sculptor, Gabriel Comin, has opted for a less realistic style that it more true to Hera's animated self. That's fine and well, but I don't think her big cheeks, triangular head and rounded body fit well with the rest of the Imperial Assault range. What about you?

In any case, I love Hera as a character, and was happy to get a chance to paint her, no matter what her proportions. However, her head tentacles (aka "lekku") were a particular challenge because of their distinctive markings, and I took a lot of time trying to get the pattern right...





Is it so wrong if I find her lekku attractive?



Friday, May 19, 2017

The Day the Vomit Died - an adventure in Mordheim




I just played my first game of Mordheim! Travis, the proprietor of the superb video blog Hot Dice Miniatures, invited me to his lair to film a battle for this classic fantasy skirmish game. Travis just posted the action-packed video of my orcs clashing with his Marienburgers, and I hope you enjoy the spectacle of two lads with high spirits and higher blood\alcohol levels going at each other hammer-and-tongs. But I warn you, it's not a happy story... for that day in Mordheim was the Day the Vomit Died. 

My orc warband derives from my 3rd edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle army, Krapfang's Backwood Bandits. Loyal readers may recall General Krapfang's adventures, including The Bridge over the River Sty and the Battle of Cold Crumpet Farm. Clearly, Krapfang has fallen on hard times, since he has gone from commanding an army of greenskins to leading a small gang of Mordheim thugs. I figure he was the victim of a mutiny -- not altogether surprising, given the fact that he was never a capable general or a brave warrior. 

After his ejection, what would be left to do but assemble a threadbare rump of loyal followers and bring them to the ruins of Mordheim, hoping to make a fortune gathering wyrdstone?


Krapfang's Rump, an Orc Warband

Heroes

Krapfang Toothshyte, Orc Boss with sword, shield and helmet


Grogeye the Incontinent, Orc Shaman


Curtiss Blackdung and Clarence Blackdung, 2 Orc Big 'Uns with halberds


Henchmen

Sludgewit the Troll


Smarmy Spiteater, Goblin with short bow


Ragwort Toothshyte, Orc with axe


I've never designed a Mordheim warband before, but once I realized that the orcs could hire a Troll, everything fell into place. Krapfang's "cunning plans" always revolve around finding a big, hungry monster and then hiding behind it until the enemy is safely ensconced in its digestive tract. I rounded things out with a shaman, two elite warriors and some paltry missile support (in the form of Smarmy the Gobbo). Unfortunately for Krapfang, I had just enough points left over to include Ragwort Toothshyte. She is Krapfang's long-abandoned wife, and she's fastened to him like a hungry leech now that he lacks a phalanx of troops to keep her away.





We played on Travis' fabulous table (pictured above) representing the ruined outskirts of Mordheim. He scratch-built much of the terrain, including sprawling trees, plaster-cast towers and a vast mansion. Not only was it beautiful, but it was the best-lit wargaming space I've ever seen, which made photography a joy.

My opponents were a well-supplied band of Marienburgers named "The Yuppies" who were led by Knock-Out Ned, a fashionable warrior armed with two dueling pistols.




The Day the Vomit Died

We randomly determined the scenario and came up with "Chance Encounter", meaning that the two warbands stumble upon each other while they are both trying to escape from Mordheim with a trove of wyrdstone. There's no turn limit, and each side is trying to bash the other into a rout.

The Marienburgers set up first. Their vastly superior complement of missile troops (a hero with a bow and two henchmen with crossbows) occupied some ruined buildings with a wide field of fire. The rest of their forces fanned out, hoping to root out the orcs.


The orcs bunch up and hide

For his part, Krapfang decided that cowering was the best strategy. There's no way he was going to walk out into the open ground and get shot to hell. So he and his cronies hid in a darkened corner of the ruins, hoping to gank the Marienburgers one by one. Sneaking up on people is not so easy when you have a drooling Troll in your midst, but Krapfang was finally able to creep up on the Marienburger's left flank. As Smarmy ineffectually shot his short bow, Krapfang shoved the Troll forward, hoping he would pass his stupidity roll and mount a charge. 


The orcs continue to hide while Smarmy the Goblin shoots his bow

Things seemed to be looking up for Krapfang -- the Troll was shuffling forward, his shaman successfully cast "Ere we go", and the Marienburger crossbows had not found them. Hoping to overwhelm the enemy, he called for a general charge.

And that's when things went to pot. Sludgewit the Troll failed his stupidity check and forgot to attack the enemy, even as Krapfang and his orcs had committed themselves to an assault. In the building above him, the crossbowmen began to rain down bolts. And the Marienburg leader, Knock-Out Ned, surged forward to help his men.


Sludgewit forgets to remember that he is charging the enemy

The rest of the battle was one confused melee, as Knock-Out Ned sought to contain the orc charge with reinforcements and missile support. For his part, Krapfang was hoping to keep himself alive long enough for the Troll to wake up and save the day. 

And wake up he did! On the next turn, Sludgewit came to his senses and hurtled into the fray, facing Knock-Out Ned himself. Krapfang had every reason for optimism, because Trolls have one nearly irresistible attack: they can regurgitate on their enemies. A Troll's gastric juices will melt a fully armoured man like a wax candle. 

In the coming turns, as the orcs were gradually beaten back, Sludgewit puked again and again on Knock-Out Ned. But the horrendous attacks only succeeded in stunning Ned, or I would roll a 1 on the injury rolls and not even achieve that. There was so much vomit. But all that vomit was for naught.


A confused melee, as the orcs stun but fail to kill their opponents

Meanwhile, the Clarence Blackdung was felled by a crossobow, and then Krapfang himself was swept out of the game by two Swordsman. With Krapfang no longer there to prod him, Sludgewit had small hope of passing his stupidity checks, and would once again forget to fight. In order to save the rest of my warband (and the few pieces of Wyrdstone still in my possession) I voluntarily failed my rout roll and we ended the game.

It was a splendid game: fast, eventful and filled with disgusting gastrointestinal drama. If you enjoyed Travis' video of the game, you should also check out some of his other work, such as his tutorial on building a Mordheim band or his other Mordheim battle reports





For my part, I am excited about finally getting into this game -- it's no doubt the best thing that Games Workshop came up with after about 1989. And although Krapfang was knocked out of the game, he was not killed, so I guarantee: he will be back, and he will be as big a coward as ever.