Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Looks like we got ourselves a convoy...

One thing the 28mm SF market seems to be short of are basic utility trucks, which is just what I want for some scenario ideas buzzing around my brain.

However I do have a pair of Old Crow's excellent Provider flatbed utility vehicles. These are a commendably simple design, which made me wonder if I could scratchbuild a simple box section to fit on the back.

Here's one of the original Providers, which I've painted in a simple utility olive drab (mainly so I can use it with almost any faction in games!).

was added to the outside with the thinnest For this conversion I made a simple box using 2mm plasticard. The sides and rear were made slightly longer than the front and internal brace to create a small 'lip' that would hold the box in place without the need for glue, so I can swap between truck and flatbed as I need to. Panelworkplasticard I could find, to match the rest of the model and provide some surface detail. The rear doors were done in the same way.

Here's the detail of the 'box' construction.

Although not exactly needing any complex modelling skills, I'm still really pleased how this worked out. I made two pieces, one for each truck, and it only took a couple of hours work, spread over two evenings ( and most of this was cutting the notches in the exterior panels!).

Here are the assembled trucks.

Next job, painting!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Extra Solar Evolution via handwavium

When gaming, I'm one of those people who likes to have a background to each game, hence my interest in campaigns. I have a fair collection of 28mm SF stuff, which I want to use in games using the Fast and Dirty Rules (a great set of free rules, available here , and yes, I am biased as the author, Ivan, was kind enough to use some of my artwork inside it). Now being a picky sort of person I'm not entirely happy to use a ready made background, but want to gradually put together one of my own. I want a 'hard SF' style background, but obviously with enough 'handwavium' to allow for things like FTL. Not a 'grimdark' dystopian future, but one with enough plus lots of scope for friction and conflict to allow for different combinations of games.

Anyway, I'll be posting various bits of background here and there, the first is intended as an excuse for my little lead and plastic soldiers to fight it out on various worlds that look suspiciously earth-like, and without having to wear vacc suits all the time! Any comments or thoughts welcome!

Contrary to what many scientists had predicted, in Man’s rush to the stars following the discovery of a cheap, reliable form of faster than light travel, we discovered that the conditions to support life as we recognise it were far from scarce. They were in fact astonishingly abundant.

To many, this was seen as proof of divinity. Mankind had reached for the heavens only to find the benevolent hand of God had travelled before, sprinkling new worlds for us to conquer. For some, space exploration and colonisation took on a hitherto unseen religious dimension, the ramifications of which we are still dealing with today.

But for much of the scientific community the discovery of so many ‘human compatible’ planets was a fascinating mystery to be solved. What mechanism could be responsible for the emergence of life in such similar forms throughout known space?

What now appears to be coming clear is just how persistent and adaptive life is. On almost every world where significant amounts of liquid water have been able to exist for any length of time, there is evidence of life. Where conditions have been stable long enough for the most basic of recognisable organisms to form, it seems that, barring catastrophic disaster, complex life is almost certain to eventually follow. In fact, it would appear that even the simplest ecosystems demonstrate self-regulatory ‘behaviour’.

This is not to suggest that there is some sort of guiding hand behind all of this. As natural selection favours organisms best suited to their environment, so it would also naturally favour those that are able to adapt their environment towards increased stability (as humanity has arguably demonstrated for millenia). Thus, over time, simple Darwinian selection can be seen to not just adapt species to their environment, but also to adapt the environment, to the benefit of those species.

Not divine providence then, but a simple extension of evolutionary theory to encompass the wider planetary ecosystem. Worlds themselves evolve as well as individual species.

“So why”, I hear you ask, “do we see so many familiar shapes?”. In answer I would ask “why shouldn't we?”.

Quite naturally humans have tended to colonise those planets that most suit our preferred conditions in terms of temperature, gravity and atmospheric pressure and makeup. Given these preconditions it is inevitable that we will see similarities with terrestrial species. The shape of any creature that travels at speed through liquid water, or stays aloft in the air, is governed by certain principles of dynamics. Thus analogues of the ‘fish’ shape and the bat or bird wing can be seen on hundreds of similar worlds.

In the same manner, an outer coating that looks and acts like fur is often found as an effective way of regulating temperature, even though the chemical composition of its constituent parts may differ widely from one world to another; four ‘legs’ commonly provide both stability and speed across a range of terrain (nature understandably having struggled to evolve the wheel and axle); whilst light sensors (‘eyes’ to most of us) naturally tend to be situated where they have the clearest outlook of terrain (and food), high up on the body.

Perhaps we should instead see this as evidence of the wondrous variety that evolution on our own homeworld has given us.

But the familiarity argument also misses the many other forms of life that have been discovered, both on earth like worlds and others, that do not bear such easy comparison to earthly species: parasitic, hydrogen filled ‘dirigibles’, that drift on air currents to find new hosts or ‘plants’ that migrate with the seasons.

In our rush to the stars we have learnt so much about the operation and evolution of complex natural systems on a planetary scale. We have gained undreamed of insights into the history and functioning of our own, beautiful homeworld, and we have reassessed its place in the galaxy. No longer a lone jewel in a dead universe, but part of an intricate web of evolutionary possibilities.

We are like an only child who suddenly discovers endless brothers and sisters, each unique and yet familiar to us, created from the same basic material according to the same laws yet in endless variety.

And yet there still remains that often asked, but to date unanswered question: “Is there anybody else out there?”. A question I shall address in my next lecture.

Extract from Professor Peter de Moyens inaugural Lecture to the Barnard’s Institute, Hope, Barnard's Star - 2119

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Painting a Gamezone Warrior Monk - Complete

"We thought our end had come. The enemy seemed an unbroken wall of iron, leather and wood. Then the priest rode out between the lines. He cursed and railed against the foe with the fire of ages past, told us we could not, dare not lose. Their arrows could not touch him, though they tried. We struck their lines like the very wrath of the gods and made history that day..."

Painting a Gamezone Warrior Monk 2

The Base

I wanted a base that was a bit different from my usual 'grassy' look. In my mind I had an image of a battle across a marshy wasteland. It also meant I could sink the horse's hooves into the ground a little to make it a bit more stable.

I started by undercoating the base black and, after a few tries, marking where the horse's hooves would need to go and where I wanted marshy pools, which were covered with thin plastic to provide a smooth surface for painting.

The ground was built up using fine milliput, leaving the plasticard uncovered for pools. A textured surface was added by stippling with sandpaper. Detail was added using bits from other models (the arrows), cork chips, garden twigs and old brush heads. Finally, the model's hooves were pushed into the putty to make hoof prints.

Painting was simply a scorched brown base, drybrushed with bestial brown, snakebite leather and bleached bone. Wet areas received several coats of gloss varnish before finishing with static grass.

Painting a Gamezone Warrior Monk 1

I've been spurred on to update this blog by my mate Matt, who has berated me for not posting anything for two months (has it really been that long?).

Anyway, I thought I'd do a post on a recent bit of painting I did for the Sheffield Irregulars July Challenge ( I'd picked up one of the Gamezone mounted Warrior Monks alongside some of their knights a while back but not painted him. But when I saw the challenge theme 'Hero', he immediately came to mind!

Normally I paint with gaming in mind, so I don't mind if the shading is a little bit unsubtle or if I take shortcuts. But on this occasion I decided to try and paint purely for display and see how I got on.

The model came in 6 pieces: Horses head, 2 body halves, tail, rider and rider's weapon (a socking great hammer in this case!).

I assembled the model in two parts, keeping the horse and rider separate. Assembly wasn't too bad, although it did remind me that assembling metals is a bit trickier than plastics! A bit of greenstuff was needed to fill gaps, particularly around the horse's neck. I didn't pin much, partly because there's not a lot of room to do it! The hammer was pinned to the rider, which was a bit fiddly due to the fine quality of the casting.

I chose a round resin base that I'd bought form ebay, as I thought it suited the movement of the model, with the horse's head turning and its tail flicking out.

There are a couple of tricky issues with this model.

1. There is an awkward gap between the rider's hands and the reins which, unless you paint the rider glued on the horse (which I didn't want to do), means filling the gap after painting. Not a major issue but a bit of a nuisance.

2. The dynamic pose, with the horse leaning quite a way over, means that there is not a lot of depth to the hooves to pin them to a base (only two of which are in contact anyway). It's not a model that's going to take a lot of rough handling, so probably more of a presentation rather than gaming model.

I should say that neither of these issues should put you of what is a great model, provided you have a bit of experience to cope with them.

Both parts were spray undercoated with GW chaos black (all painting notes refer to GW acrylics), with any gaps filled by brush.

I started by basecoating all the main colours: boltgun metal for the armour, scab red for the robes, Tallarn Flesh for the, umm, flesh, and Scorched brown for the horse.

With the armour being one of the main features of the model, I wanted to make a good job of it. My normal armour technique is to drybrush up to silver from a black basecoat, fine for massed units but no here. Rebecca Hubbard of the Sheffield Irregulars had posted a good link to a tutorial on armour which I decided to use as inspiration (

I wanted a dull finish, with a hint of patina to show age, but not looking uncared for. Being too lazy to mix my colours I fell back on the GW washes (great product!). I gradually worked up through Devland Mud, Ogryn Flesh and Gryphonne Sepia to Badab black, using the washes like paints to work into the recesses. The edges of any metal pieces were finally highlighted with chainmail and mithril silver where they would have rubbed over time. I'm not entirely happy with how it's gone on the parts of the horse armour, the line of black is too distinct, but overall I'm happy.

The robe was washed with purple for shade and red for depth, then highlighted with Mechrite Red (foundation paints, another reason to thank GW!). The flesh had an Ogryn flesh shade and Elf Flesh Highlights, while the horse itself was shaded with badab black and highlights worked up in various mixes of brown.

Detail like the robe edging and reins were done with a mix of 0.1 drawing pen, fine brush, an much cursing and repainting!

Next - Making the base

Sunday, 21 June 2009

A Higher Authority - Turn 5, Troop Insertion

The Navy transports had brought Commander Hood new hope in the form of the new fighters being prepped out on the airfield. However they also brought with them a new threat. Displeased with performance so far, Central command had dispatched a senior political officer to 'inspire' the troops. Commissar General Van Voor had a reputation as a hardliner and old school commissar, given to lengthy speeches on doctrine and harsh summary justice and, in terms of tactics, an advocate of throwing men at the enemy until they run out of ammunition.

Despite the Commander's protestations that the new fighters should be used in aggressive Combat Air Patrols combined with bombing raid against key installations, Van Voor insisted that a flight be assigned to escort him in an inspection of the front line between imperial troops and the Tau. Protests from Hood and his staff that this would put him into the firing line in skies largely controlled by Tau Barracudas were met with thinly veiled threats to the Commander's competence and future career. With much reluctance, Hood had little choice but to agree, managing only to retain a small skeleton force of fighters to defend the main airfield from attack.

The Imperial force came in high, the fighters keeping close to the Commissar's Valkyrie, the plan was simple, the Thunderbolts would try to keep the Barracuda's busy, while the lightnings flew close escort, trying to clear a path. If threatened the Valkyrie was to dive into the low cloud cover for safety. As Auspex picked up the signatures of 7 Tau Barracudas on a head-on intercept, confirmed by ground observers in the Imperial lines, the pilots switched of safeties and increased power.

Imperial fighters escort the commissar's transport

Tau fighters skim over the frontline imperial bunkers

Charlie was the first to engage, his Thunderbolt engaging a Tau Barracuda at long range. Although his shots were accurate, so were the alien pilot's, the exchange leaving both aircraft damaged but still flying. As the side rapidly closed, the Imperial pilots had plenty of firing opportunities but just couldn't capitalise on them (ie: my dice rolling was appalling!), whether this was a result of poor maintenance by the overstretched groundcrews, or Van Voor's threats being screeched over the comms net was a moot point. The Tau suffered from no such similar problems though, downing first the Thunderbolts of Flash Harry and Arrow, then Chuck's lightning. None of the Imperial Pilots made it out, perhaps it was better than whatever fate the Commissar was know doubt cooking up for them.

As the fighting intensified, the Valkyrie's un-named pilot corkscrewed through the centre of the dogfight, desperately trying to avoid being brought down. Despite at one point being completely surrounded by three Tau Barracudas, the transport was only damaged and, as it broke free, even managed to damage one of its attackers, which overshot into the fire arc of the Valkyrie's lascannon.

The surrounded lander miraculously escapes destruction

The situation at turn 5, the Valkyrie is about to show it has teeth!

As if the embarrassed at a mere transport getting a hit, the imperial fighter pilots started to hit their stride as Charlie took out one of the Barracudas. Although Sum Yung Gai took damage, both remaining Thunderbolts and the Lightning were able to break free and regroup. As they closed in on the Tau again, first one Barracuda fell to Cardinal, then another to Sum Yung Gai. But this recovery wasn't to be enough; Cardinal fell to a circling Barracuda, although he ejected safely. Reduced to less than half strength, the Imperial forces had little choice but to try and disengage.

Both trailing smoke, Sum Yung Gai and Charlie try and disengage

In one final twist, Commissar Van Voor finally made it to the front lines, plummeting to the ground in the burning Valkyrie which had, despite the valiant and unsung efforts of its pilot, finally succumbed to the circling barracudas.

3 points to the Tau made it, at 7 points to 2, an overall campaign victory for Matt's Tau.


With only three fighters remaining, and two of those damaged, it was clear that the game was finally up for the Imperial forces on Curwen. Facing no realistic threat, tau aircraft hammered the thin imperial defence lines. Railgun equipped Tigersharks split open bunkers like ration packs, while Barracudas strafed trenches and fire warriors and drones dropped amongst the bewildered defenders.

Of the pilots assigned to Curwen only Cardinal would survive. Picked up wounded by the last evacuation transport with a group of guardsmen, with whom he'd fought a desperate struggle to break out from the encircling Tau.

His career in tatters and future bleak, Commander Hood made the only honourable choice remaining. Taking the remaining undamaged Thunderbolt, he was last seen leading the heroic, desperate, but ultimately futile defence of the evacuation fields.

Curwen Campaign - More, more, more...

And so Matt and I found ourselves back at Warhammer World in Nottingham for more aerial combat goodness and the next stage of our campaign. After a brief wait for a table things got underway. Both of us chose to go on the offensive, one d6 later the result was in: 'Troop Insertion'. Would I get my revenge for the last game by blasting Matt's Orca out of the air? Would I 'eck! The random roll left me having to escort my single Valkyrie across hostile skies. The weather was interesting, with thick, low cloud at level 1, but clear sky above.

It's fair to say I had a sense of foreboding; I've found that this is a tricky mission for the imperials, as the slow speed and relative vulnerability of their transports (max speed 3, hits 2, compared to the orca: speed 5, hits 4, and more capacity, meaning more Victory points), mean that you have a long time to protect something easily destroyed, that can't easily get out of the way!

Oh well, nothing for it but to do my best. As a medium campaign the game should have been 200 points, however with my available roster and models I could only field 155pts. Luckily Matt independently took the decision to only field 152 points of his own forces, keeping a reserve in case of further missions.

Imperials: 4 Thunderbolts (call signs Charlie, Flash Harry, Cardinal (ace), Arrow); 2 Lightnings (Sum Yung Gai (ace), Chuck) and the brand new unnamed Valkyrie (informal designation 'cannon fodder')

Tau: 7 Barracudas, one a night fighter with Blacksun filters.

At this stage the campaign points stood 4-2 in Matt's favour. With a massacre (3 points) he could gain enough to win the campaign in one game...

Friday, 19 June 2009

Decision time

Been a bit slow with posts recently, but hopefully that will change shortly! Matt and I will be picking up our ongoing AI campaign tomorrow at Warhammer World at Lenton. Just to recap, I'm currently on the back foot, having taken heavy losses but (thanks to a lucky die roll) with reinforcements on the way.

With 100 points to spend on reinforcements I've decided to concentrate on rebuilding my shattered fighter forces (choices partly based on what models I have available, or I'd have been tempted to have more lightnings), and replacing at least some of my lost transport capacity:

- 3 x Thunderbolt Fighters with additional weapons loads @ 24 points (72 points)
- 1 x Lightning Fighter with additional weapons load (20 points)
- 1 x Vulture troop transport (8 points)
TOTAL 100 points.

The last transport leaves the landing field

So as the Imperial Transports thunder back to their waiting motherships on bright pillars of flame in the dark night, bonded tech-servitors and ground crew scurry around the newly arrived aircraft, testing systems and loading munitions. Around the scattered shelters the remaining aircrews smoke, play cards or try fitfully to sleep. Each one knows that the battle for Curwen is nearly over. With both sides near exhaustion, the final push to control the skies is about to start...

Ground crew load munitions

Monday, 25 May 2009

Music to Game by...

I'm sorry, I just couldn't resist it after seeing the link on TMP...


Monday, 4 May 2009

AI Tank Farm

I've decided my Imperial Fighter Squadrons need some more stuff to defend. Although it's not one of the potential targets that can be rolled up in the campaign rules, I decided that a discarded Coffee Mate tin would make a two great fuel tanks. They should make great scenery, plus it's recycling!

I'll keep posting on progress.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Review and Replacement

The chalk lines through the names of pilots and aircraft in the Imperial Situation Room told its own story to Commander Hood. There was little doubt about it, despite their own losses, the Tau were winning. With only three fighters and three bombers left, there just weren't enough aircraft to maintain the offensive without further replacements.

Fleet command however were able to offer a glimmer of hope. Analysis of the Tau fleet patrols had shown a pattern developing and a predicted 12 hour window to deliver replacement aircraft and aircrews.

- It's time to take stock again. What have I learnt:

- Even when fielding 75% of the points, the Tau can normally outnumber me with fighters
- I'm not good with escort missions, I need to make better use of formation flying
- My moves are getting predictable, Matt was able to predict my moves with worrying accuracy in the last two games
- I've underrated the Imperial Lightnings, their high maneuverability is a real bonus, plus they're cheaper than a Thunderbolt
- Achieving the objective is nothing if you lose too much doing it!
- That I definitely enjoy playing campaigns!

So, how do I spend my 100pts of reinforcements? I still have two standard Marauders and a Destroyer, so I should be OK for at least one more bombing mission. I have no more landers, so troop insertion missions are out (but my record on those is not good!). Fighters are the big need. I could replace my Thunderbolts, which can do both Ground Attack (but I also have that destroyer) and Air to Air, or should I go for more Lightnings? That would need new models though. Decisions. decisions...

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Secrets of Curwen - Turn 4, Troop Insertion

Although the target had been successfully destroyed, the air raid had cost more valuable aircraft than the Imperials could afford but the Tau were also suffering. Both sides started to lay plans for aggressive patrols to try and force the conflict to a head.

However, before Imperial Commander Hood could launch his offensive, an urgent communique was received from the Adeptus Mechanicus mission attached to the fleet. Orbital surveillance had revealed the ruins of a large man-made structure near the planet's northern pole. The terraforming had not taken in the area, which also showed elevated radiation levels. The Tech Priests believed that the structure may hold the answer to the fate of the human colonists and insisted on inserting teams to investigate or, if necessary, deny the site to the Xenos. Although the Commander little needed the distraction, particularly with the losses he had taken, standing orders gave him no choice but to comply. Cain and Able, the task force's two Valkyrie gunships, would insert the mechanicus teams and their Drop Trooper escort, under cover of the remaining Lightnings (Hans High and Sum Yung Gai) and four Thunderbolts (call signs Danny Boy, Cardinal, Wilf and Charlie).

As the Imperial forces drew near the target their worst fears were confirmed, the Tau had got their first and clearly understood the importance of the site, establishing a defensive position covered by Barracuda fighters and even the Tau Commander himself, in his Tiger-Shark command aircraft with it's escorting Drone Fighters.

[Cain and Able Carry the Mechanicus Teams into the battle]

[The Imperial and Tau forces close on each other]

The human and alien fighters clashed ahead of the slow moving transports. Wilf was shot down after himself taking out a Tau Barracuda, while Charlie and Danny Boy rapidly racked up three kills against the Tau fighters between them. Cardinal had to hit the silk after his Thunderbolt took massive incoming fire, although Hans was not so lucky, plunging earthwards still at the controls of his burning Lightning. Sum, flying the second lightning, got the Imperial's first kill against one of the new Tau Drone Fighters since they were first encountered on Typha 4. However despite the Escort's best efforts the Tau were already closing on the Valkyries, damaging Able.

[A sprawling dogfight develops]

Danny Boy's victory was short lived, his Thunderbolt falling to a Barracuda. The damaged Able took out the Tau ground defences with rockets just before being downed itself, Cain being destroyed shortly after, but not before droppings its passengers within the target area.

Reduced to under half strength, the Imperial forces had no choice but to withdraw. Lacking air cover, aircraft to retrieve them, or the troops to hold the ruins against any Tau counterattack, the Remaining Mechanicus task force took the only option left to them, detonating the micro-nuke that they had brought with them in case they were unable to hold. The survivors set out back to the imperial lines on foot but, in the harsh environment, with no cover, their future looked bleak.

- Adding up the points, it was another victory to Matt's Tau, bringing the Campaign points to 4-3 in Matt's favour. Even though I had achieved my objective of landing troops on the target, once again I'd lost too many aircraft to maintain the success. Worst still, I was now down to only three fighters!

Faced with no real choice, I decided to spend one of my Campaign points on reinforcements, leaving the final score at 4-2. A lucky roll of six gave me 100 points to spend on any aircraft, but what to choose...

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Marauders over Curwen - Turn 3 Air Raid

Imperial aerial reconnaissance showed that the Tau had discovered and occupied one of the colonies former factory facilities. Hotspots on the sensor scans suggested that the Tau were on the verge of getting the facility active again. This was a situation that the Imperial Command simply could not allow, either strategically or politically so an immediate night-raid was ordered.

Two fully loaded Marauders, Broadsword and Hatchet, would form the core of the strike force, escorted by the two remaining Lightnings, flown by Hans High and Sum Yung Gai. The recon photos had shown the factory protected by a pair of missile platforms, so a flight of three Thunderbolts (Danny Boy, Flash Harry and Oily) would accompany the mission with a mixed armament of Skystrike and Hellstrike missiles to take on both air and ground targets.

Facing them were 8 Barracuda fighters, one of them Blacksun equipped, and two skyray defence platforms.

The imperial forces started at high altitude, the Lightnings flanking the bombers while the flight of Thunderbolts took the right flank. The Tau fighters meanwhile deployed in three flights.

[The imperial forces deploy]

The Marauders and their escorts, with limited options to maneuver, headed straight for the target. On the right two of the Thunderbolts headed for low level to attack the ground defences, while one stayed at altitude to intercept the advancing Tau, only to find that the Tau had successfully anticipated the move.

As the speeding aircraft met and missiles and cannon shells flew, both Imperial and Tau fighters took damage. The slow moving bombers soon found themselves surrounded by the superior numbers of more maneuverable Barracudas and Broadsword took serious damage, while the bombers' gunners were unable to draw a bead on the twisting, turning alien aircraft.

Despite this pressure both Marauders reached their targets and dropped their bombloads, completely obliterating the factory. But neither aircrew would make it back to base to celebrate, as both bombers were torn to pieces by the circling Barracudas.

[The factory burns under the weight of 48D6 worth of attacks]

Although Oily added to the swirling smoke by taking out one of the AA platforms with Hellstrike missiles, the Tau had clearly taken firm control of the skies, downing Oily and Danny Boy (who successfully ejected) as the Imperial Forces disengaged.

[one of Matt's excellent Tau AA platforms, the surviving one!]

On adding up the points, even though I had completed my objective by destroying (no, lets be honest, UTTERLY FLATTENING the factory), Matt had gained the victory and another Campaign point, bringing us even again. How had this happened? Quite simply, he had shot down too many of my planes, through a combination of successfully predicting my moves and coordinating his attacks. That said, the bombers weathered the attacks long enough to reach the target, and dealt out a serious world of hurt.

For my part, it was a mistake to commit so much of my force to attacking AA that caused little trouble (I could in fact have bombed from above its maximum range), which left my bombers vulnerable to the mobbing they duly received. I also coordinated my formations poorly and became predictable in my choice of maneuvers.

What this game did show was that achieving the objective is no good if the cost is too high, and this is one of the things I like about AI's campaign system.

After a break for lunch, we rolled for the next mission. With both forces taking offensive postures, seeking to deliver a killing blow, we rolled up a Troop Insertion mission, to be carried out in clear, daylight conditions. Initially the random roll had Matt's Tau down to carry out the landings but, as Matt's Orca was not yet painted and my Valkyries were, we decided to swap.

Would this turn out to be a fortuitous decision for me? Or was it to be a poisoned chalice?

Monday, 30 March 2009

Dark nights and Ion Beams - Turn 3, CAP

"As the weather finally cleared over Curwen, the temporary truce was ended by the ear-splitting roar of aircraft once again taking to the skies. Determined to maintain the momentum they had regained, the Imperial Forces commenced aggressive, round the clock Combat Air Patrols, testing the Tau defences.

It was on the third night of patrols that the Tau finally chose to respond, waiting until only two of Curwen's five moons was in the sky to maximise the advantage of their superiority in night fighters. In the freezing moonlit sky, Imperial flight leader Hans High vectored his Lightning and 3 accompanying Thunderbolts: Bishop, Danny Boy and Flash Harry; towards the five contacts racing towards them from the Tau lines.

[Hans leads the Imperial flight into action]

[A tau Barracuda lit by two of Curwen's moons]

Emissions suggested three of them were Blacksun Filter equipped nightfighters. With only Hans' Lightning carrying Infra Red sights, and outnumbered, the Imperial flyboys were in for the fight of their lives.

Both sides drew blood almost immediately, as Bishop downed a Blacksun equipped Barracuda at close range, only to be sent flaming to earth himself moments later. But it was Hans who would prove the victor as, in a twisting, spiraling dogfight he downed the two remaining Tau nightfighters, sending the rest scurrying for home."

[Hans pulls wide before starting his epic dive into the dogfight]

Despite all expectations the mission had gone well for me. Outnumbered and poorly equipped for the dark conditions, Hans with his missile and infra red equipped Lightning had come through for me. With 3 Campaign points for a major victory I had temporarily pulled ahead in the campaign but, with so few fighters remaining (having lost another) I had little choice but to spend a Campaign point to contact the fleet for reinforcements. Rolling up 50 points of fighters, I added two Thunderbolts with additional weapons loads.

With the Campaign Points now level at 3-2 in my favour, we rolled for the next game. In a fit of optimism I again went on the offensive, while Matt chose to play defensively again. The result, an Air Raid by Imperial Forces against a Tau held factory. As the Tau licked their wounds Imperial Ground crews loaded Marauder Bombers with High Explosives, aircrew tested turret traverses and flight crews plotted their approach runs.

Return to Curwen

This last Saturday Matt and I picked up our ongoing Aeronautica Imperialis Campaign ( during a day of frantic gaming at Warhammer World in Nottingham.

Just to recap, after two games Matt was ahead by one campaign point, having won the first game, an ambush, pretty convincingly (even tough I was the one doing the ambushing), although I'd pulled back some honour with a victory when he tried to intercept a bombing raid (although I'd then had to spend one of my campaign points buying two new Thunderbolt fighters).

As the new campaign turn started, my roster looked like this:

Although worried by my fighter losses I decided to take an offensive stance this turn, while Matt went defensive. The mission rolled was a Combat Air Patrol, to be carried out at night. Matt would be able to field more, and better nightfighting equipped aircraft than me, and it was a mission his Tau Barracudas have done well with in the past. This was going to be tense...

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Heavy Flak Ahead

My mate Matt and I are about to pick up our Aeronautica Imperialis campaign, and I've got the bug to make some more scenery. Having made tank scrapes for my Hydra Flak Tanks ( I thought I'd do something similar for my heavy Forge World AA guns (basically Flak 88s). My original plan was for prepared, concrete bunker type defences but, after watching the D Day episode of Band of Brothers, decided to go for something a bit more of a halfway house.

I started by making a hexagonal template, slightly larger than the baseplate of the guns i'd be using. I used this to cut a suitable hole into slices of Pink Insulation foam (about 6-7mm thick, although it varied as I was using offcuts from another project), which were glued to artist's mounting card with PVA glue. The outside was shaped into a slope and the inside faced with thin balsa that had lines scored into it with a pin.

Th next step was to coat all areas except the balsa with PVA and cover it in sand. In all this stage took a couple of hours (including getting distracted by the telly). It was then left overnight to dry. Once set I started with a basecoat of burnt umber acrylic, the drybrushed up with various lighter browns and khakis (I used slightly different shades on the wood to help differentiate it) and finally glued on some static grass.

Overall I'm pretty pleased with how they've come out for very little work, so I've decided I'm going to do some connecting trench sections. As well as using these for AI and Epic, they'll also come in handy for my Great 6mm Game-in-a-Box experiment, more of which in another post sometime...

Do not return once lit.

The first of a few updates that will come over the next few days...

I've finally finished my Ogre for the Sheffield Irregulars painting challenge. I really enjoyed painting this chap. I made much more use of washes and highlighting than normal, and I'm pretty pleased with the result, especially on the face, which I think is quite expressive!

The challenge for next month is 'weathering', suggestions on a postcard please...

Thursday, 19 March 2009

FAD 4.0 Arrives

The latest version of my favourite platoon-level SF skirmish rules has now arrived! Fast and Dirty is an excellent set of absolutely free web-based rules written by Ivan Sorenson. They have a lot of the flavour of another favourite of mine, Stargrunt (focus on squad level fire, effects of coming under fire and pinning et), but are aimed to play a lot quicker. Now before I go any further I'd better admit to a little bias, as Ivan was kind enough to let me input some ideas into this latest version (most of which than had to be turned into something more workable!), as well as some of the artwork.

One of its best features is that they are incredibly easy to customise. A series of 'traits' allow you to tailor forces to create just about any SF archetype you can imagine, from soulless killer robots to zombie hordes, through bugs and genetically engineered supersoldiers. With the addition now of things like psionics, more detailed vehicle rules, and a task system to allow more of a role-play element.

There's even a basic campaign system included!

I'd heartily recommend it to anyone after a simple, yet comprehensive, set of rules for anything from WWII to hard SF style games.

You can download the rules here:

There's also a Yahoo group here:

Sunday, 8 March 2009

It points which way?

Almost done, I just need a good idea for the base now. And a name, yes, this guy definitely needs a name...

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

BANG! "Hur, hur hur..."

Undercoat, basecoats and drybrushing on gun barrel complete.

Normally I work on one area until I'm satisfied, so it's been quite interesting disciplining myself to completing the base coat before going on to the next stage.

March Painting Challenge

Been a while since I posted with one thing and another (including loss of broadband and incompetence on the part of my provider), so there may be a few one after the other!

The Sheffield Irregulars have now launched their painting challenge for March, which is to paint a model from a manufacturer you've not done before.

I wasn't keen on buying anything new (already have too large a mountain of unpainted lead and plastic), so I had a search through to see what I already had. In the end I turned up a couple of Ogres from the short-lived Marauder Miniatures. This was the company set up by (then) ex GW designers Trish and Aly Morrison. Although I'm going more by the spirit than the letter of the challenge here, as it certainly won't be the first ogre I've painted!

Anyway, here are a couple of pics of the basic model before I got started:

Monday, 26 January 2009

Done and very dusted

Well, I finished my challenge entry. I've weathered it to hopefully not look too battered, but to look as if it's certainly had to batter through the odd bit of shrubbery at the expense of the paintwork!

Here it is with an em4 trooper for scale