Monday, 24 October 2016

Ex Astris, Scientia (Despite The Boxes): Starfleet Academy, Season 1 Mid-Report

Welcome to my life
It's been a while since I posted, but then to be honest it's been a while since I did much fun.  It's chaos at thw Quailcave which has finally relocated from a flat in Glasgow a house in Glasgow.  I am now a home-owning nerd and one whose possession had to be placed in boxes.

You've seen my possessions, ladies and gentlemen.  Its a lot of boxes.

The new house is warm and dry with fully functional kitchen and bathroom.  Apart from that, however, it's a bombsite.  Redecorating has taken longer than expected and inevitably nerdity suffers because Sister Superior wouldn't be impressed if I put off painting the feature wall of the bedroom to go paint a Knight Titan's heraldry.

Though that feature wall paint will get some nerd use later on.  She says "feature wall", I say "Martian landscape"
In the long run it's gonna be worth it.  The new place is bigger and with an extra room taking over the dining room & study roles, the Nerd Room will be purely a lair for my silly projects.  A garden with shed offers a great place for spray-painting, casting and other more smelly/messy projects.  Sister Superior's parents have even offered us a larger dining table, meaning the existing one is about to become surplus to requirements and could easilly become a more permanent painting/play space.

For now this is all in potentia.  Right now I just live in chaos.

And not sexy chaos or cool chaos.  Just "where the hell are my Traveller notes" chaos

Still, after all the chaos we were glad to get some normality back so our RPG nights have resumed after a couple of week's hiatus.  That means I can now give a midway report on our current roleplaying game - a game set in Starfleet Academy during the same period as our other Star Trek game.

Four weeks into series 1.

Effectively this is the Deep Space Nine to our Next Generation - a spin-off show set in a static location that allows for a different style of story-telling than the traditional Enterprise hops from planet to planet every week" model.  Our game is set back on Earth, at the main Starfleet Academy campus and focuses on a single dorm inhabited by an odd-ball mixture of new and experienced cadets.

This was initially a bit of a tough sell to some of the group since it sounds like Dawson's Creek with lasers and nerds, bless them, don't usually get drawn into high school drama type proceedings.  Frankly, most nerds hate high school with a passion and treat it as a dark time where tyrants ruled which shall never be spoken of again - which is why my copy of Alma Mater remains unplayed.  To the typical nerd, it's about as enjoyable a prospect as a Schindler's List LARP.

...Apologies for the rather grim analogy there, but I suspect there's a few readers that are still sorta nodding along.

That said, Sister Superior was more into the idea because she has very fond memories of Saved By The Bell even if her own teen years sucked.  Furthermore the reason that an Academy setting appealed to me was the fallibility inherent in the premise - rather than being Picard, Spock, Dax or other super-skilled experienced characters these will be 17-22 year olds who aren't fully formed yet.  I'm sure we all have memories of things we or our friends did as younger people which seemed totally fine at the time but, on reflection, were majorly uncool - but sometimes we only learn by trying and failing and those shit moments of our past can be key parts of what make us people.

A Starfleet cadet game isn't going to be as grim as DS9's war arc - I don't think we'll be doing any Ben Sisko getting off scott-free with war crimes type stuff - but it does allow for players to mess up big-time because even in the utopia of the Federation, teenagers and students will be total idiots

This but with more aliens and less 90s fashion.
So, all the students are sharing dorms and will be somewhat flawed.  Who are these guys?

Monday, 12 September 2016

Moving House & Recent Nerdity

Living in boxes
 So I have been absent for a while for which I must apologise, but not much nerdity has been happening.  You see, Sister Superior and I are moving house - to be exact, we're buying our first ever place and we have been going through the packing and paperwork associated with that.

The flat is a bit of a riot as a consequence and much of my wargaming and boardgaming stuff is in boxes - RPGs are next on the list.  Combine the fact that the spare room has stopped being "the nerd room" and started being "the place we keep boxes in" and I imagine you can see why not much has been getting played or painted in the Quailcave.

Damnit, Atmosfear is an awkward shape

"But why don't you do some gaming at someone else's house", you may ask?  Well, sir, that would be because if Sister Superior was busy trying to arrange home insurance or chuck out old clothes while I'm playing at spacemen then she would probably be... unimpressed.  Not to mention that clambering over the boxes of packed stuff to dig out Dreadnoughts and Hobgoblins would probably be considered unhelpful.

No, I'm afraid realistically not much Warhammer related stuff has happened in the last few weeks nor will it happen in the next week either - not at least until the final switcheroo happens mid October.  Until then I need to be productive and not shirk my duties in front of Sister Superior.

That's me, that is.
 It'll be worth it in the long run, of course.  As well as owning the property we will also have slightly more room.  It's three bedrooms rather than two, which means the nerd room can be a dedicated nerd room while the third bedroom can be a study or possibly even a glam room for my better half.  There's a garden shared with only one other house, a big change from the six to sixteen families I've had to share outdoor space with for the last decade.

But best of all, there's a loft and a shed.  A real garden shed, ideal for spray painting!  Loft space ideal for terrain storage!  Truly this is a nerd dream and continues my transformation into the dad from Friday Night Dinner.

Martin Goodman was the first time I empathised with a father, not a son, in a TV show.
 Anyway, I do have some stuff you haven't been told about.  I haven't spoken about the last few games of Anachronista 40,000...
Killerating things on this rather pretty urban terrain

...nor have I spoken about my thoughts on Chaos Space Marines finally getting a new rule book....

Well, I say "new".... but that's a comment for another time!
...but instead let's focus on where I've been more productive of the last few weeks, which is roleplaying.  What have my Thursday night crew been doing in our imaginary lands?


Thursday, 28 July 2016

Fandexes & House Rules: Playing Wargames With "Unofficial" Rules

It is a truth universally acknowledged that inside almost every player of games is an aspiring designer of games.

It's a rare gaming group which does not include people who produce their own house rules, even if they're fairly minor - "the player who won the last game goes first this time" or "players can discard their hand once at the start of the game and redraw".  Hell, some people don't even realise they're playing house rules - you can have a good laugh asking people what the rules to Monopoly are.

Roleplaying games are particularly rich territory for this.  As long as there's been forums for nerds to communicate they've swapped their custom classes, monsters, traps and spells.  Dragon Magazine and the fan press of D&D's early era survived on fan submissions of their house rules; the 90s internet saw Usenet users swap ideas and consolidate them into text file "netbooks"; the 2010s and the growth of ebooks sales saw people commit their personal creations to free, cheap or "pay what you want" PDFs and EPUBs.

I'm sure you guys and girls can solve these two riddles without breaking a sweat.

With roleplaying this is fairly easy because there's something of a hierarchy in rules creation/amendment.  If as a dungeon master I decide I want to use Elements of Magic-spellcasting or Time Wights in my D&D campaign, then I don't really have to answer to anyone - I just start to include it. (And in the latter case I did, albeit changing them from time travel to alternate universe beasties and calling them Crisis Wights.)

Sure, I would probably still talk through any amendments I made to Mutants and Masterminds with my group but if I decide to be a dictator and amend the grappling rules off my own back then the players are likely to shrug and accept that's my prerogative as a referee.  A full-on player revolt is unlikely unless I'm doing something really weird, like "replacing dice with a KerPlunk based mechanic".

Probably still a better ruleser than Old World of Darkness though.

Wargames, however, are a bit trickier and Games Workshop wargames more so....

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Justice League Beyond - A Peak Behind The Source Wall

Not pictured: a six-armed Indian battlesuit, a spirit of nature and a time travelling French performance artist.
 The latest RPG campaign I've been running has been a block of Justice League Beyond using the DC Adventures / Mutants and Masterminds rules.  Regular readers will know, and comic fans can maybe guess, the theme of this game - a near-future world in which the Justice League have reformed after an absence of some years and the next generation of superheroes have taken up the mantles of the previous generation.

We're 10 weeks into this game with just our final three part finale to follow - albeit with a week's pause because a group visit to the cinema to see Ghostbusters is happening this Thursday instead of dice-rolling.

Fuck the haters, I'm giving this a go.  (Though I'm a little nervous at the way the african-american lady is portrayed in the trailers, which feels a bit more cliche-riffic compared to Winston.)

Ghostbusters is, as has been commented before, an RPG tradition around here and I'm at least partly going to nick some ideas for new ghost-busting equipment and to see if it inspires my ever-mooted present day adventure for my usually late 80s/early 90s set game, "Whatever Happened To The Glasgow Ghostbusters".

I thought it might be interesting to share some of my notes with you.  I made a sort of season plan in advance marking out what different stories I was going to do and what NPCs/locations/etc were going to feature.  By comparing these notes to the reality, we can see quite how a GMs plans can vary in the months, weeks or even days between having them and acting on them.

The magic is ruined!

There may be some very mild spoilers for my players in this article but I would have to say that it's unlikely to be anything they haven't worked out for themselves - I mean, the fact that our season finale was going to involve Arkham Asylum in some capacity isn't a spoiler so much as something I've been trying to hint towards for some time!

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Anachronista 40,000: Campaign Turn 3

Bad guys always have the best costumes
I haven't given you a campaign update in a bit.  The mentalness of British politics has distracted me - it seems we can't go five minutes without someone resigning from a major political institution and we're at the stage where transferring all my money into Warhammer figures might actually be the better option than keeping it as pounds sterling.

Racist attacks, economy crumbling, a female Prime Minister and Dangermouse back on telly.  Truly, the late 70s/early 80s are back in fashion.  Have I already missed a punk resurgence and if so do I have to hold out now for the Spandauu Ballet/Adam And The Ants equivalent?

I saw Debbie Harry in Glasgow a couple of years ago. 

...Still would.

Anyway, then, let's recap - our Warhammer campaign is an Imperial Vs Chaos affair and when you last read I had finally netted myself a victory in an two player versus two player game.  While the Imperials still felt the stronger force, their failure at Marpullium was a good day for me.

The campaign map at the start of turn 3.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Keep Calm And Blog On: A Painting Update For Chaos Dwarfs & Chaos Space Marines

Well it's all gone a wee bit weird, hasn't it?

My home country of the United Kingdom has had a rather big and rather surprising referendum result and as a politics nerd I've been following it, to the detriment of this blog which has had a few part-written articles on the to do list for a while.  Instead I woke up Friday 3am for the electoral count and fallout, continuing to hit Refresh on BBC news on an hourly basis ever since.

I could write paragraph upon paragraph about this turn of events, but it's not even vaguely what this blog is about.  This is a place about daemons, dwarfs, dragons, superheroes, holodecks, psychics and dice.  Real world issues stay off and do not interrupt.

Also, I think it would do me good to not think about it for the next wee bit! 

At least the Americans are seeing the bright side.
So let's catch up on what I've been up on the painting front instead and not even use the words Brexit, Farage, Eurozone, Constitution, Crisis, Denmark, Romanians, Neo-Fascist or Civil War.

Wait, that's two words.

Ach, you know what I mean.

A lot of drybrushing, the reverse of the usual "progressively lighter shades"

So you may remember I painted some Chaos Dwarf golems a wee bit ago.  You know, big lava looking monsters?  Neon orange with darker and darker shades over them?

"I could tell her they were gifts.  Yes, gifts from a friend in Edinburgh she's never met."
 You may also remember I got some more golems when I was in Edinburgh in April, as part of the alleged "weekend away for my anniversary with Sister Superior".  You know, when I got load of geeky things?  I told Sister Superior it was mostly a bargain and she didn't question it too hard?

Yeah, so if I'm going to get yet more unpainted bits of plastic I really need to paint them to justify the spend.  And paint them I did, with three more golems ready to roll giving me a unit of six silicate hard-men!

Friday, 17 June 2016

Knightfall: Chaos Knight Titan Progress, Good & Bad

Only part painted but still making it's debut.
In my last 40K campaign update you will have seen the part-painted Knight Titan, albeit only from the back, making it's debut on the table. 

However, I haven't really told you how it's coming along - last I mentioned it, I had assembled it but hadn't even undercoated it let alone done any sort "real" painting.
In the to-do pile for quite some time.

Way back in January 2015 I got the Knight Titan for my birthday, a figure I was very much looking forward to turning into an avatar of darkness.  Real life got in the way and it's been stuck in limbo for a long time, but I finally managed to break that in the last couple of weeks and get some paint on it.

First an undercoat of white went on the model, then some Tamiya pink spray.  Although I'd be painting over the pink, I figured that getting about the right colour on before that would help sell the colour.  The hue, along with some evil alterations, were going to be the main clue to my opponents that this was a force of darkness in front of them.

 So, click on for some pictures!

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Anachronista 40,000: Campaign Turn 2

When the metal is hot, and the engine is hungry...

Turn two of six of our Warhammer campaign is over.  This was a turn that only saw two games played, both of which I was involved in, but it also saw two firsts for me.

Well, three if you count "meeting Charles' new dog Rogue" as a first.  In which case it's three

Or four if you count "getting my shoelaces eaten by an animal" as a first.

In the case of my first game, it was with Charles and marked the first time I'd ever played with the Forge World Horus Heresy rules for playing in the grim darkness of the 31st millennium.  I'd built my Chaos Space Marines army to be capable of multi-tasking as a Horus Heresy army but I'd never actually given it a go - however, Charles had similarly built his White Scars to be dual-use.  Why not play out our battle with the Legion rules instead?

My army prepares for an unlikely assault.

Still looking after a weeks-old puppy, Charles was unable to leave his house so we played at his.  We considered the current plot in our campaign and drummed up an appropriate scenario - a sort of lightning raid attack, in which both sides wanted to end the game with units in the defender's deployment zone.  This would encourage the attacker to head forward and the defender to hold position.

We had assumed that the White Scars, being both dominant on the planet and traditionally a hit and run force, would be the attacker but the dice suggested that instead Charles would be defending.  Therefore my somewhat slow, stand-and-shoot army would instead need to be repurposed into a blitzkreig on enemy turf while Charles' bikes would have to pull sentry duty.

The White Scars protect a very nice pasta dish made by Charles and his good lady.

Charles set up terrain, using some of his fantasy bits and bobs as well as sci-fi specific pieces.  The white bits of paper marked the weird and wonderful results of our dice rolls for mysterious terrain with certain forests and ruins dangerous, slower moving etc.

On my side was Fulgrim the Primarch leading two infantry units, a standard issue Bolter squad and a "Kakophoni" sonic weapon unit - yes, even in Horus Heresy I take the Noise Marine option.  Supporting them was a Contemptor Dreadnought, three bikers, a heavy weapon team, two Rhinos, a Vindicator and a Land Raider.

The forces opposite were twenty Bolter marines in one huge squad, two squads of bikes of which one was lead by the army leader, a Land raider carrying a terminator squad bristling with lightning claws, some air support and a very pretty Sicarin Venator tank. Charles kept about half of it in reserve: only the two bikes squads and the Sicarin started on the table, everything else was going to have to come on later.

So how did that go?  And what was the other first for me?  Lots of picture follow!

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

One-Off Season, Spring 2016

With Star Trek over, a short season of three one-off RPG sessions followed.  Molly had returned from her work abroad, so she joined us to play again and also to run a session.  As usual my goal was to run at least one game I hadn’t played before, as well as cleanse the palette somewhat between our longer running campaigns with some different tones, genres and rules-sets.

First up was a new game for us and one which has been on the to-do list for ages. Starchildren: Velvet Generation is a game in which players are rock-and-roll-fugitives in a totalitarian future where art is controlled by the government, music is an underground rebellion and hippy aliens from a distant star have to come to help free us from our nightmare.  My standard issue explanation is “Ziggy Stardust meets 1984” – and with the passing of David Bowie at the start of the year, it seemed like it was finally time to play the game.

Owned for years, finally using.
I made up half-a-dozen pregens, all members of the same band: the players ended up taking a singer, guitarist, bassist, drummer and manager.  (The keyboardist, alas, was left on the shelf.)  The Singer and Manager were the eponymous alien Starchildren, very much with a Man Who Fell To Earth-esque angle of mysterious wisdom and powers but a lack of savvy and a predilection for addiction.  The end result is that Humans are still very much capable as player characters and I didn’t feel like it was The Starchildren And Their Sidekicks in play.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Anachronista 40,000: Campaign Turn 1

So much prettier than my models... <sob>

Week one of our Warhammer campaign saw three games take place of which I was involved in two.  I missed the opener – a two vs one game in which my partner-in-darkness Jamie had to muster his demons to resist an assault by 40K Dave’s Sisters of Battle and Charles’ White Scars.

A bitter struggle in which daemon princes and Contemptor Dreadnoughts marched into war, the first victory went to the Imperials but only just.  The final score was 10 kill points to 9 and with it the White Scars claimed the command base on Acanthus from Chaos.  (Though the forests and hills are now laced with small bands looking to fight guerilla battles.)

We at least gave Dave's HQ Saint Celestine a thorough killerating.

A defeat, even a close one, was not a great omen and so I had to head into battle and regain some honour.  40K Dave invited me to his house for a small “Kill Team” style skirmish versus his Sisters, and a few days after that I would fight Doug and his Dark Angles for the first time in a battle hosted at my house.  I have hardly played 40K recently so two games on the trot would be challenging, especially when Chaos Space Marines are not exactly considered top of the power curve.

The nature of the board meant they could only claim one hex from me on the planet we all shared – Germanotta, an icy world of petrochemical drilling and blinding snowstorms – but we came to a way of making it work.  Inspired by rules form the Horus Heresy rulebooks which propose fighting small skirmishes before a main battle, and then letting the skirmish determine a boost for the victor when it comes time to set up the larger game, the skirmish would be a sort of set-up fight for the Imperials.

Victory would let them be the attacker in the next game as they sneak through defensive lines; failure would instead see my army having advance notice of their arrival and letting me choose a different scenario that might play to my strengths.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Anachronista 40,000: Campaign Premise

The Mungo Sector at the start of the Anachronista campaign.  Purple and Blue runes mark the Chaos squares; Yellow, Red and Green logos mark the forces of the imperium.
The first fortnight of our Warhammer 40,000 campaign is at an end and with it the first of six campaign turns.  We're doing pretty well, with a fair amount of new painting and terrain making happening and three games ensuring everyone got to play at least once in turn one.  Turn two promises to have at least four games.

I'll share the events of turn one soon, but first: for the people interested in the background to our campaign, I'm going to reproduce some posts from our Facebook group which were used to set the scene.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Silk Anniversary - What I Did In Edinburgh

Sister Superior has a lot in common with Lois Lane, but I'm way more of a Plastic Man than Superman.

April marked the 12th anniversary for Sister Superior and I being an item.  We didn’t do anything really big on the day – instead, we waited until the start of May then went to Edinburgh for the weekend for a wee adventure.  Accommodation was booked, entertainment arrangements were made and disgustingly coupley moments were had.

A new story from the day we first went out - April 18th 2004.

The missus was working last Saturday and so couldn’t come to Edinburgh until she’d finished work – I, on the other hand, was free all day.  I went in a few hours ahead of Sister Superior, then, as an advance scout party whose primary objective was to drop off the suitcase and pick up some little odds and ends in the shops.

Of course, releasing me into a city unsupervised inevitably leads to a secondary objective: Visit the nerd shops and hunt interesting things.  With hours to kill and no-one to question why I was walking so far just for a toy soldier shop, I set on my way.

Naturally, I wouldn’t spend all my money at the start of a romantic weekend when I was on my own and visiting geek shops, right?

"I can just tell her it was... um... a bargain?"


Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Multiversity: A Reality-Hopping Superhero RPG Proposal

Cover Stars From Left To Right: Heroes from Earth 23, 5, 20 and 26

As part of my preparation for restarting my Justice League Beyond game, I’ve been re-reading some superhero comics.  I don’t buy many American comics anymore – I read a lot of DC comics between about 2003 and 2011, but I fell out of love following the New 52 reboot.  Still, I have a bookcase filled with graphic novels and individual issues so I’ve been getting myself into the mood by taking a stroll through masked mischief.

One series I re-read was the last DC comics series I followed: Multiversity, a universe-hopping tale in which characters from various alternate Earths end up drawn into a single plot and must ally together.  It’s told mostly in the form of one-shot comics set on alternate earths – so Mastermen is a single issue set on a world where the Nazis won the second world war, while Pax Americana is set on a Watchmen-esque world with only one true superhuman.   

Uncle Sam versus √úbermensch

Multiversity #1 and #2 serve as bookends to this concept, showing the setup and resolution of the problem including a lot of stuff about the nature of fiction and speculating that every reality’s story is told in fiction in other worlds, so characters in each comic are shown reading the other comics of the series.  And in at least one case, the actual comic they are currently in.

…Yes, it was by Grant Morrison.  How did you guess?

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Anachronista 40,000 - A Warhammer Campaign Begins

The Imperial Navy prepares to weigh anchor.

Sunday was the start of May and the start of a Warhammer 40,000 campaign being played with a few of my chums.  I haven’t actually played much lately so taking part was intended as a way to force me into getting some games in and hopefully recharging my Chaos Space Marine mojo.

40K Dave was the original organizer of this endeavour, inviting me and four other people to take part.  He sought my assistance at set-up because he didn’t know quite how he wanted the campaign rules to look – heavy or light, map or narrative – nor did he know how to justify it in story.  Being a roleplayer first and foremost this is something that he thought I would be able to help with, since he and I often swapped in-character messages before and after our games anyway.

Therefore I was asked to justify everyone using their armies, which included Space Marines, Chaos Marines, Chaos Demons, Sisters of Battle, Imperial Guard…

In the grim darkness of the future there are only bookmarks.

...and Horus Heresy Space Marion Legions.  Who only exist in a time millennia before the rest of the armies in question.

Nae pressure, eh?

Friday, 22 April 2016

The Voice In The Mirror: The Star Trek RPG Season Finale

One of many ace Mirror Universe scribbles on DeviantArt by Sean Peter Tourangeau

Our Star Trek game has had it’s end of season episode – which, as discussed last time, was the return of the Mirror Universe and the appearance of the I.S.S. Enterprise.  Not the conquered humanity of Deep Space Nine’s mirror universe, our encounter was with a loud and proud Terran Empire whose goal seemed to be turning the locals upon themselves before swooping in for the kill.

I briefly considered running the whole episode from theperspective of the I.S.S. Enterprise – having the players play their mirror equivalents exclusively and show them scheming against what they call the "Invert Universe" – but that was just a bit too bonkers a notion,.  I did, however, set the first scene with them playing their mirror versions which encouraged the players to set scenes using both sets of crews, jumping back and forth to deal with the misery the last scheme had inflicted on the opposition.  

There's more than a bit of the Crime Syndicate of America to my Mirror Universe - which seems fair since they're both early "evil universe versions of the main cast" stories.
This allowed us to follow the classic storytelling rule of Show, Don’t Tell when it came to the Mirror Universe.  Rather than have to deliver boring expo-speak or have extended scenes in which I nattered to myself, the players could discover how Imperial Starfleet operates by moving their dark reflections around in it.  Primetime Adventures is a game with some shared narrative duties so while I did do prep work on the Mirror Universe (including a timeline so I understood the history that had led to this invasion attempt) letting the players flesh out their own mirror versions gave them chances to quantify the mirror universe themselves. 

For example - While I had decided that Mirror-Kestra would be the Captain’s Woman for Mirror-Satlek and they’d have some sort of sexual relationship, it was left open enough that Sister Superior could choose the flavour of that relationship and whether it was consensual, abusive, political or whatever.  Similarly, I left her relationship with Mirror-Sakonna vague and up to the players to decide – is it funnier if their petty bitching in our universe became outright scheming and murder attempts, or if they were in fact best chums?

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The Ambull: An Oldhammer-ish Painting Adventure

Combat Cards 4 Life, Dawg

One thing notably missing from current Games Workshop design principles is a cheap and cheerful "gateway drug".  It would be impossible to get a nerdy 13 year old into the hobby without a three digit price tag and (speaking very much from personal experience here) convincing random mates of yours who haven't tried the hobby before to play a several hours long game of Warhammer is a big ask.

Back in the Ye Olden Days things were a little difference. Citadel Combat Cards were an excellent little toy that I brought to the playground on many an occasion - cheap, quick and portable.  They were basically just Games Workshop-themed Top Trumps with some suggestions for more involved, complex games to play.  Every card had a picture of a gorgeous painted Citadel Miniature on them and individual Orcs, Space Marines, Ogres etc even had names - years later I can still remember some of those names.

Most of the creatures in the Yellow-bordered "Monsters" set are fairly classic mythological beasts like Ogres, Minotaurs, Trolls, Dragons etc along but there's a few odder examples.  Front and center is perhaps the strangest in the set, a 40K monster surrounded by Warhammer Fantasy beasties - the Ambull, a creature who I now have a painted example of

First appearance... and pretty much last appearance, if we're going to be honest.
First, some history.  The Ambull, a sort of burrowing ape/insect hybrid, makes it debut in the bestiary at the back of Warhammer 40,000 1st Edition.  A book which can't quite decide if it's a skirmish wargame or a roleplaying game, it assumes your battles will include a GM and features various animals & other non-combatants to use as complications to throw into a scenario.

One important thing to know about 40K is that, as surprising as it might seem to us know, Rick Priestly informs us that it wasn't initially considered to be likely to succeed.  Sci-fi games were rare and sci-fi figures in short supply so everything had to be made assuming that players would be mostly converting Warhammer, D&D, World War II and other fantasy figures to the task.  It became quickly apparent that wasn't the case but the bulk of the 1st Ed book was written under that premise - and the classic "Space Elves/Dwarves/Orcs" conceit was there as much for easy availability of figures as a stylistic conceit.  The Adeptus Arbites aren't just inspired by the Judges of Judge Dredd - GW were making figures of those judges, so including them was just common-sense.

The Warhammer rulebook, therefore, is filled with  creatures who are Expies of other things that GW was making figures of at the time - a lot of them D&D creatures, since Games Workshop had started supporting RPGs first and foremost.  The Ferro-Beast is a fairly obvious Rust Monster proxy, both in powers and insectoid appearance, while the Enslaver feels like a fourth hand recollection of what a Beholder looks like - round body, central eye, tentacles emitting...

1st Ed and 3rd Ed Umber Hulk art: spot the family resemblance!
The Ambull has similar roots.  The Umber Hulk, a somewhat B-List D&D monster, is the inspiration of this darling.  There's a clear physical and behavioural comparison, with a little bit of changing-to-avoid-breaching-copyrights thrown in.

Now, the Ambull is fun and all but it doesn't really fit the current Warhammer game style.  Random beasties running in, controlled by a third party, and fucking shit up is not really going to fly with someone raised on 2000s era Warhammer and it's mass battle, balanced points, quasi-tournament-conditions ruleset.  To be honest, not long after 1st Edition came out they already seemed out of place with how the game was evolving - in White Dwarf 99 there was an attempt to restyle them for use as trained beasts but it fell a bit flat.

Just a few months later and this article shows how quickly 40K was changing from quasi-RPG to wargame
So, that's the history over with - what about the pretty figure?

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Play Update: Space Hulk, Zombicide & Star Trek

So, I haven't given you guys a game-based updated in a wee while.  So, let's recap some board gaming I did a few weeks ago as well as current RPG and wargame plans.

First of all, let's talk Space Hulk!

Pretty Genestealers vs bare plastic Terminators.

My good chum Priestly Paul came round one day to keep me company while Sister Superior was away overnight at work.  We busted out Space Hulk and he even brought his newly painted Genestealer Horde to use.

We went to Mission 3, which involves two squads of Marines meeting up and handing off a robot to safely bring it out of the combat zone with sensory data.  Unlike previous Space Hulk games I had 10 guys on the table, including multiple heavy weapons.... Surely I would finally put in a better performance?