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

Thursday, 22 January 2009

What a difference a day (or two) makes

Well, I've been able to put two good nights of painting in now and this is how it's shaping up.

The base colours were done with a mix of GW foundation paints and Tamiya Acrylics, with shading using inks and aa black wash and highlights drybrushed. Evrything was then toned down a bit with an overall wash of GW Devlan Mud. Next step will be to 'muddy it up' by drybrushing a light brown.

Then, if I have time, I'm going to sort out a short section of dirt track as a base.

No hurry...

Like many gamers, I have a bit of a problem... I'm constantly picking up cool looking models that inspire ideas for projects... Then getting distracted by the latest shiny new object and don't get around to painting them.

In an effort to get myself going and work through at least some of the backlog, I've joined a Facbook group, the 'Sheffield Irregulars' (look them up, there's some real talent on there!). One of the good things is the setting of competitions, paint a model to a specific theme by a set date. Given that my colletion of unpainted plastic, lead and resin covers everything from fantasy, medieval Europe to SF, I figure that I'm going to find at least one possible project to suit most topics.

The challenge for December and January was to paint a vehicle. Now this suited me fine. with my Aeronautica Imperalis stuff being pushed along by the requirements of the campaign I've been playing against Matt, I decided to concentrate on another current interest of mine, 'Fast and Dirty', an excellent set of free modern/SF rules (with the feel of Stargrunt but much simpler). I have a collection of 28mm SF vehicles from Old Crow, most painted, but some still in need of TLC, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to get at least one done.

Looking at what was there I decided to go for their Gecko Scout, which had been languishing in a box, undercoated but unassembled. "2 months" I thought, "plenty of time to add detail and paint!".

How wrong I was! Once work, Christmas and the various oher little derailments life entails had taken their toll, I found myself on Wednesday night facing a deadline of Sunday. Oh, and I'm busy most of the weekend too..

Here's progress so far...

Here's the basic model with detail and stowage added using items from GZG, Old Crow, Tamiya and ods and sods from the 'bits box'.

And as a comparison here it is next to the slightly larger, unconverted Goanna scout, which I painted a while ago with a quick 'olive drab' utility scheme.

So, I have 3 nights to complete. Will I make it? Well, lets just see...

Monday, 12 January 2009

Interval (let's all go to the lobby)

Well, another exciting game! The advantage in a Bomber Intercept mission is that it's easier to predict where the enemy is heading for, which allowed my escorting Thunderbolts to get in position for an effective first salvo.

However Matt once again showed that he's an experienced gamer by refusing to be rattled, executing a bit of flawless formation flying as his aircraft pulled half -loops to come in behind my bombers... which were no longer there, having played the Power Dive card and dropped several altitudes (a move that Matt admitted he hadn't seen coming)! The bomber taking down a fighter was just the icing on the cake.

However Matt's persistence meant that, although I got the victory in the end, he kept me down to only a single campaign point. Enough to keep me in the campaign, but there's much more to do, and I'm running out of planes quicker than he is...

The Curwen Incident 2 - Intercept

Game 2 – Bomber Intercept

Tau- 5x Barracudas
Imperial – 4x Thunderbolts (sqn ldr 'Cardinal') and 2x Marauder Bombers (call-signs 'Hatchet' and 'Broadsword')

Conditions: Daytime, thick cloud below altitude 6.

The disastrous ambush had been a massive blow to the Imperial force. Irreplaceable aircraft had been lost but, perhaps more importantly; the Tau had gained a massive propaganda boost. The Imperial command needed to find a way to take back the initiative and show that the Tau could be beaten before morale plummeted and the Commissars took matters into their own hands.

Knowing that the Tau fighters, with their Blacksun filters, could outclass the imperial fighters in the cloudy conditions that looked likely to prevail, the commander knew that something was needed to draw the aliens out into the open where they could be engaged to the Navy’s advantage, a classic Rue de Guerre…

In a misty dawn two Navy Marauder Bombers and four thunderbolts took to the air, their ramjets shattering the silence. Reaching maximum altitude, two of the Thunderbolts matched the bombers movements while the other two flew racetrack escort patterns. To the Tau scanners it would look like four bombers and a pair of escorts, an easy target.

[The imperial flight waits to draw out the Tau - Photo by Matt Otter]

“Red flight, this is Cardinal, doghouse has five bogies inbound on our position, 12 o’clock low, signature suggest Barracuda fighters. Escorts stand by to engage, Hatchet and Broadsword, execute plan alpha on my order.”

Would the Tau take the bait once they realised they faced four escorts? The two genuine bombers had been sent up to sweeten the deal, and as the Tau fighters pulled into a V formation in the cloud layer, it was clear that they thought it worth the gamble.

[The Tau formation closes head-on - photo by Matt Otter]

Closing with each other at phenomenal speed, the Imperial Thunderbolts met the Tau fighters as they climbed out of the cloud layer. Skystrike missiles and cannon shells blew one of the Tau aircraft from the sky and damaged two others. Racing past each other, the remaining barracudas executed a near perfect formation half loop to come in behind the Marauders…

“Marauder flight, execute!”

At the order from Cardinal, both marauders poured power into their four ramjets and dropped their aircraft into power dives. The rapid drop in altitude left most of the barracudas well above and out of range as they came out of their loops, and facing two Thunderbolts that had pulled wing over’s to protect the bomber’s rear.

In the event, one of the Barracudas did manage to get in position to take a shot, but proved unable to hit the rapidly diving bomber. Unfortunately in trying to line up his shot, the Tau pilot flew straight and level a moment too long and found himself barely having time to eject as the imperial bomber’s rear and dorsal turrets shredded his aircraft end to end. A second barracuda fell to the escorting Thunderbolts.

With three aircraft down, the Tau flight leader gave the order to disengage. However they did not leave without exacting some measure of revenge, downing two of the escorting Thunderbolts, including the flight leader Cardinal, in a final exchange.

As the two forces turned and headed for their respective bases, the Tau nursing damaged aircraft, it was clear that this fight was going to be fierce. The Imperial trap had worked, the Tau could be outmaneuvered and beaten, but the cost had been higher than hoped; with two more Thunderbolts lost the Imperials had already lost half their fighter force. However although Tau losses had been less so far in the campaign, crucially they were running short of their Blacksun equipped aircraft.

As the weather closed in further, blocking all flight operations, flight engineers and Earth Caste technicians stripped down and repaired aircraft; and the respective commanders, human and alien, retired to their bunkers to plan their next moves.

Seconds out, round two!

Well, that went well then… Interestingly this was almost a mirror of the last time Matt and I played the Ambush scenario, when his tau ambushed my imperials, who turned the tables and won a clear victory. Looks like having the initiative and numbers is no guarantee!

At the end of the first game things hadn’t started well for my imperial forces, I’d lost an alarming number of my costly fighters for little gain and Matt had his first 2 Campaign Points towards the 7 he would need to win. Deciding it was time for a change of tactics I decided to take a defensive stance for the next turn. With the upper hand, Matt chose offensive tactics and we duly rolled up a Bomber Intercept mission. I was quietly confident, as I’d done well in this mission before.

We rolled for weather, and had thick cloud up to altitude six. This gave Matt’s Blacksun Filter equipped Barracudas an edge, so I’d need to try and draw him out, luckily I knew he’d have to go after my bombers. And so the idea for the story started to come together…

Friday, 2 January 2009

The Curwen Incident - Game 1: Ambush

Scenario: Ambush (Imperial Attacker)

Tau- 5x Barracudas
Imperial – 4x Thunderbolts and 2x lightning’s

Conditions: Daytime, low cloud below altitude 4.

In the event, it was the imperial forces that made it planetside first, by a bare week. Lacking the resources to prevent the Tau from landing, the meagre navy escort had to limit itself to harassing their Tau counterparts. Crucially this meant that neither side was able to conduct orbital bombardments of the planet before they had to withdraw to deep space.

The Imperial ground commander used his slight advantage to set up listening and radar posts to forewarn of the inevitable Tau attack . Sure enough, within mere days of the Tau landings, raid warnings came in of 5 Barracuda fighters probing the Imperial defences. 4 Thunderbolts and 2 lightnings scrambled to ambush the unsuspecting Tau in a pincer movement.

With the Tau approaching in the cloud layer, the inexperienced imperial flight leader order the two flights to converge too early, putting them right into the fire arc of the Tau fighters climbing from the cloud. The Tau were quick to capitalise on the mistake, rapidly downing both Lightnings and 3 of the Thunderbolts. Although the remaining Thunderbolt scored some payback by downing two barracudas, it had been a disastrous first engagement for the Imperial Navy (tempered only by the pilots following their bail-out drills perfectly).

Images by Matthew Otter

The Curwen Incident - The Forces


1x Tiger Shark AX 2-2 (commandship), Pilot Matt (Ace), 2x Remora Drone Fighters, Total 39pts

2x Tiger Shark AX 1-0, Advanced Stabilisation System, Target Lock, Additional weapons load, Total 29pts

2x Tiger Shark AX 1-0, Target Lock, Blacksun Filter, Additional weapons, Total 27pts

1x Orca Transport 16pts

6x Barracudas with Black Sun Filters 126pts (21pts each)

3x Barracudas with escape pods 60pts (20pts each)

4x Barracudas with additional weapons load 96pts (24pts each)

7x Barracudas 126pts (18pts each)

2 Sky Ray AA batteries 24pts (12pts each)

Total 599 points

Matt has taken a strong force of 20 fighters, backed up by some pretty fierce ground attack aircraft. In a twist, he has not equipped with many escape pods, having found that he ended up with more pilots than aircraft in the last campaign! Sounds harsh, but it was for the Greater Good. Blacksun filters feature strongly though, as we'll be using the bad weather and night fighting rules.


1x Lightning, ace pilot, ejector seat, infra-red targeting, additional weapons load 31pts

3x Lightnings, infra-red targeting, additional weapons load 72pts (24pts each)

1x Thunderbolt, ace pilot, chaff & flares, infra-red targeting, additional weapons load 37pts

9x Thunderbolts, additional weapons load 216pts (24pts each)

4x Marauders, chaff & flares, additional bomb load 120pts (30pts)

1x Marauder Destroyer, infra-red targeting, chaff & flares, additional weapons load 36 pts

2x Valkyries, jump troops, chaff & flares, additional weapons load 38pts (19pts each)

2x Hydra AA flak tanks 24pts (12pts each)

2x Heavy AA flak guns 24pts (12pts each)
Total 598 points

Fighters also feature strongly in my force, with 14 aircraft (not as many as the Tau, but costlier), but I have a slightly bigger bomber force. I've learnt from the last campaign to keep most of my fighters below 25pts, so I can get more in a game (as they're usually multiples of 25pts). This has meant some compromises as I now only have my lightnings equipped for night fighting (and a Marauder Destroyer for ground attack), and have dispensed with the Chaff & Flares (and their 6+ save against the Tau missiles) which is a risk. I've also gone or more AA than Matt, we'll have to see how that turns out!

The Curwen Incident - Background

Well, the AI campaign my mate Matt and I have been doing has come to an end. In an aerial dogfight of epic proportions, my Thunderbolts finally came good in the last turn but one, gaining me the points to win the campaign just before shortage of fuel would have forced them to retire.

Having been bitten by the bug, we immediately started another campaign. Switching to the winter themed terrain boards at Warhammer World (darn, and I'd just finished my Valkyries and terrain with a desert theme!), we decided on a medium sized campaign, and would try out the rules for weather and nightfighting.

With Matt having done a blog for the last campaign, we decided it was my turn to chronicle the exploits of our magnificent men (and beings) in their flying machines.

So, here we go...

“Administratum records show that Curwin was first settled by the Imperium during the Great Crusade. Of little strategic importance at the time, the colonists faced a harsh task with little support. Terrafroming was done the hard way, burning clear the poisonous local vegetation and planting with terran derived seed acre by acre. Their only contact was the census ships that would pass every few years.

Even these visits ceased during the chaos of the Horus Heresy. When the ships finally returned, they found the planet isolated by warp storms. Whether these resulted from the cataclysm of the heresy, no one knows, but regardless the colonists had to be abandoned.

Curwin was forgotten for many years, but the universe continued around it nonetheless. The storm locked planet saw the Tau empire expand closer and closer. It was the Imperial Cruiser Gladius, on a wide sweep of the imperial/Tau frontier, which first discovered that the warp storms had abated. A sensor sweep revealed that the planet’s terraforming had been completed and no obvious signs of chaos corruption, but of the colonists there was no sign.

Although of little obvious strategic importance, with no manufactoriums or organised food production, sector command quickly recognised the potential role of the planet for either side as a staging point for raids into the other’s territory. A small force was rapidly assembled to establish a presence on the planet and provide early warning of any Tau movement. With so much ground to cover, the force was to be well provided with Imperial Navy aircraft, alongside a regiment of guard to provide defence for the airfields and vital installations that would be established.

Unknown to the Imperium, their activity had not gone unnoticed by the Tau Ethereals. Their own scout ships soon confirmed the end of the warp storms and the Imperium’s intentions were accurately predicted. With the efficiency and co-operation so characteristic of the Tau, a similar force was prepared a despatched.

With major fleet and ground assets tied up elsewhere, the fate of Curwin looked likely to be settled by the actions of the pilots of the Aeronautica Imperialis and the Tau Cadres.”