Thursday, April 18, 2019

Oh, I Looked Over Jordan: A Soldier's View of Paradise

They'd been on Hecate all of three days on their most recent R&R and already orders had come down to move. Excercises, Angad grumbled to himself. Probably the ass end of nowhere out on Blanding or something. "R&R. It's really Redeployment and Repositioning" he muttered. Nevertheless, he mustered his squad and marched them to the shuttle.

As he rounded the nose of the venerable Starlifter he noticed APCs and brother Arty trundling up. And in the distance some half-converted field tractor from some forgotten moon's excuse for a museum. "Damn curious to see so much armor on the move too," he thought. He hadn't even been aware they'd brought the wagons.

Starlifters were a little leggier than the more usual Thunderchickens and Dragonflies. (Probably owing to the utter lack of things that go boom in a useful manner. Or things that stop the other guy from knocking all your organs out.) That couldn't bode well. But at least they usually didn't smell too bad. At least there would be seats. Would beat the Pinzgauer humping the Hippo.

. . . Well, so be it. They loaded up and off they went. After a surprisingly short journey of precisely one jump the shuttles were burning through atmo again. "Well that was quick. Of course, from Hecate that could be about anywhere . . . "

The air was fresh as he stepped off the shuttle. The temperature was remarkably clement. And . . . spires rose over the concrete shuttleport walls. Castle spires. "The Kaerites stars? Thalia, most likely. Damn peculiar indeed." The landing strip was a positive hive of activity as several shuttles disgorged their cargo at once. "Must be the whole damn regiment." he thought.

. . . meanwhile beyond the fourth wall,

Not a big piece of story here yet. Mostly just needed an excuse to show off some new acquisitions. The Logansport 1st has been building for a while, ever since PFC Bush found her way into the abandoned elf city in the dust on Moab. At first I acquired old IG in dribs and drabs along with other things. Recently I've gotten more systematic about it. I've been collecting this since Rhinos came three to a box, but I never managed to build my first until now. (I had a thing for Predators and Land Raiders. Don't ask. Both are lovely, but clearly I was a silly child.) Long story short: I'm finally building the IG army I should have built thirty years ago. And what better way to show it than a good old-fashioned deployment. The squad seen in the first few shots is new, as is the armor. In the last two photographs you can see them joining up with some of the previous unit members. There's probably a solid reinforced platoon now. Not a company yet, but a very strong platoon.

Anyway, thank you for reading along.

The Composer

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Land Sharks of the Tartarus Rim

The resort planet of Thalia, one of a trinity of idyllic worlds orbiting modest young suns collectively called the Kaeritas, boasts among its entertainments a big game preserve made to resemble a Medieval estate, complete with a turreted castle immediately adjacent to the shuttleport. It is at this manor that would be hunters and animal lovers alike generally begin their journeys. One of the more popular rentals is a converted Imperial IUC-4 utility skimmer, or "Yuk-4," most often called the "Land Shark" because of the teeth waggishly painted on the bow.

The shark boasts an added windscreen, improved passenger accommodations, an enhanced communications and entertainment system, and high-performance Belden F-type thrusters.

Of course, no craft can make up for luck if you want to spot some of the more popular attractions, like the wild grox mare pictured below.

Meanwhile beyond the fourth wall . . .

The skimmer was a fun little project made from bits mostly acquired at a convention two years ago. The new-model GW land speeder is probably self-evident. The F connectors off the coax jumper that gave it's life for the fuel truck are probably also fairly obvious. Perhaps less conspicuous are the bench seat out of a model pickup truck, the windscreen off a toy jeep, and the random . . . Tau? . . . plastic bit. (Same convention as the land speeder.)

The Grox is, of course, a grok from Krakon Games. While those are out of stock, the quite similar bullocks seem to be available. (And I approve of making two similar, but slightly different animals.) The castle glimpsed int he background is an Exin Castillos Gran Alcazar XII set I begged of my parents when I was young. The originals are out of production, but a new company, Exin Castillos New Generation, has picked up the name and appears to make most of the old bricks and a host of useful new ones. These have got to be about the most scenically satisfying building toys I've ever encountered. With just a bit of tweaking they're basically diorama quality. Fantastic stuff!

As always, thank you for joining me on this journey of the imagination.

The Composer

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Free and Green

In the distant fantasy future that the Tartarus Rim inhabits the more green bipeds we know as "orcs" (or orks) have largely taken the place of the outsiders. They are the howling blue painted primitives charging the unholy Space Romans, the crazed witches in the wasteland that eat unwary colonist children. But reality is always more complicated than that. Maybe Caesar picked the fight with Vercingetorix for political reasons back home. Maybe the cowboys aren't exactly the good guys settling a fertile and empty land full of hostile natives waiting to ambush them. (Anybody see the contradiction here?)

So what if orcs aren't really bad? What if they're just different? (It's not easy being green, I'm told.) And what better way to illustrate that than with the most oppressed group of greenies, the greenest of the green, the greens even the other greens beat down on: the gobbos? Enter the "free grots." In the Lord of the Rings in Space as told by Jervis Johnson and Rick Priestly "grots" or "gretchin" are the smaller mostly slave race of the larger "space orks." But there are always outsiders. Freebooterz are orks that have decided to give up on the ties of tribe and strike out on their own. Free grotz are space goblins that have somehow thrown off their chains and made good. Good enough, even, that their former masters will occasionally hire them. (Assuming "bullet catcher" is a job worth having, that is. In canon the orks are pretty one-dimensional. Which . . . we're trying to walk away from here. Let's get at least to the level of cardboard.)

To add depth, of course, I'll have to manage to tell better stories. Which . . . yeah, that's trickier. Especially when it's so much fun having them as hyper-violent foils. And this is a war game, so they're still ready for a fight with guns and chainsaws and cute things like that. Which . . . is almost literally everyone, really. And those as aren't obviously packing can be assumed to be concealing. Or maybe they just break you with their brains. Or their ear judo. Or whatever. This isn't going to be easy. But it's a goal. And thinking from the green perspective will help. For which you need miniatures. Which brings me back to the point here: painting small things I like for complicated and sometimes contradictory reasons.

So the idea of "free grots" tickled my humor. I began a (very) modest collection of interesting space goblins. Lately I've added a few examples from outside the GW milieu: most notably a small selection originally from Grenadier and one from the Upstream Games House, best known for the Zombies of Karr-Keel.  (In fact, this one was given to me by the owner of that company, the great lord of Karr-Keel himself. And he's also a zombie. Sculpted by Kev Adams. No. Not Brian. He's not a Kev Adams sculpt. Or actually a zombie. I am, until I get my coffee, but I digress. It's the goblin. He's a zombie. Just like the dolphins on Plants vs. Zombies.  A goblin zombie. By the great master of zombies and goblins.  Perfect!)

Anyway . . . without further ado, let me introduce the newest free gobbo boys to join up with the band. (Ignore the corvid. He only looks like he's eating that poor sap's eye. It's a sign of affection, really. For a poor kid with a bad skin condition who really needs some love.) I digress. Again. 



Okay, that's thew world's longest post about two very small miniatures. But they're AWESOME miniatures. If you like zombies (and who doesn't?) then UGH's Karr-Keel clan is very much the way to go. (More later.) Sadly, Demonblade is presently unaccounted for. You can find them on the bay every now and then, but they're oddities these days.

So thank you for coming along on my journey of the greens. I hope you had fun. Maybe liberate these poor lovely miniatures from their plastic cells and give them the glory they deserve. (And realize that real people really are suffering real stupidities and horrors and deserve our sympathies even more than gobbos. Punch up, as it were, and not down. Hard to always get it right, but freedom and justice and equality are good quests. Free and green, boys and girls. Let's all be free and green.)

Until next time.

The Composer

Monday, April 8, 2019

Fuel in the Bowser

A friend of mine once related an aviator's saying which I think might be an apt introduction here: There are two things in aviation that are no use to a pilot whatsoever: altitude above the aircraft and fuel in the bowser. There's truth to it, of course: If you're dealing with a problem it's really best that you have altitude to burn between you and a suitable landing strip, which is to say below you. And of course any fuel in the bowser is not in your tanks. But all of the altitude starts above you and something like a bowser will always move the fuel at some point between your tank and the point of origin. So, rather like the sky above inspiring the young aviator to greater things, a big, fat bowser full of A-grade rocket juice can be a thing to inspire plots and players.

And for that reason I built me one. The contest over at the Emporium of Rogue Dreams might have had something to do with the timing, but given the box of toy parts sitting in my closet it was bound to happen eventually. What you see below was the sunk cost of a previous project. I could get rid of it, but . . . why?

Some of those toys looked like spaceships. Others looked like quite an array of ground vehicles. (A few even look like watercraft. Which . . . yeah, I'm mostly running games in places short on that stuff, but hey, maybe there's room for a ship washed up on the long gone shores of a now arid sea.

Anyway, on to the build. As per all too usual, I failed to take any pictures of the actual toys used before starting in on them, but here's a roughly comparable set of unmodified parts:

The first step was generally laying them out and making them trucklike. Once that was accomplished I added a few parts to camouflage the more toylike features and create additional detail. From my bits bin(s) I fetched out a German 20mm flak gunshield, the ferrite core off an old power supply, and the sleeve from an old paintbrush. These became a bumper of sorts and an exhaust pipe and muffler.

Next I found an old coax jumper that was no longer needed and separated it into its constituent parts. With a few toy parts the insulation would become the hose while the dielectric would serve to pin things together.

The truck is, of course, almost comically large for the scale, so some ladders would be needed. These I made out of bits of styrene stock.

With everything added into place it was just a matter of painting the truck. I chose to leave the red and white checked sticker visible. It makes for a nice and worn rocketry badge.

For the basic color of the vehicle I chose a high-visibility yellow, though faded and dulled by sun and weather.

And I modeled the fluff off a local company called "Airport Terminal Services" that was once a subsidiary of TWA. Much as TRS, TransRim Spacelines, is based on TWA, TransWorld Airlines. but also suggests a now defunct but once pioneering computer company: Tandy Radio Shack, so too does STS also suggest a pioneering, but now defunct project: Shuttle Transportation System, the onetime codename for NASA space shuttle launches. The styling of the STS logo is loosely modeled on ATS. Where ATS has a stylized aircrfat flying away inside the A I put a stylized shuttle atop the T.

Anyway, while this is essentially a quick and dirty project (I think it took about three sessions) it should serve the purpose admirably. You can at a glance tell that it's a large fuel bowser for a rough-and-tumble kind of place.

And one bit of trivia: While it is usually the United States that hangs specific company names off generic products in the fashion of Xerox, Kleenex, or Google, it would appear that the UK did so in this case. Bowser seems to refer to the S. F. Bowser company, itself named after the gloriously Victorian sounding Ft. Wayne Indiana inventor Sylvanus Bowser, who is credited with inventing the automotive fuel pump. His company went on to manufacture pumps for a wide variety of liquids, which led to the term being used for fuel tankers first on airfields, and apparently more generally all liquid transport vehicle capable of final dispensation in places like the UK. (In then US we still mostly call them tankers or tank trucks unless you're around an airport. Odd bit of turnabout there.)

As always, thank you for joining me on this journey.

The Composer

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Good Steal

Genestealers. You cannot fail to notice a thing that loves you so much and wants to make you a part of the family. By Any Means Necessary. When Games Workshop turned the Lord of the Rings in Space into a more general Sci-Fi homage (and who wouldn't, really, given half a chance) it was perhaps inevitable that they should lean on the great works of the day. In Rogue Trader they gave us elves, dwarves, orks, and evil wizards. They mentioned ornithopters and laser swords. They had dusty waterless settlements, slaves, mines, and gangs of motorcycle punks. They even named a prominent setting after a half forgotten B flick. But they made only the most bare, passing reference to the crazed space bugs with a penchant for violent and involuntary cross pollination that were then taking the world by storm. It didn't take long to rectify the omission. (With a disco beat. Oh yeah, you know what I'm talking about Mr. Soul-Patriarch.)

Normally, Citadel seems to have entrusted one sculptor with getting a range started; with setting the tone and creating the atmosphere that would define it forever after: Bob Naismith gave space knights bascinet beaks. Mark Copplestone taught us the army of the future needed spats. Bob Olley gave dwarves giant noses and cigars and pirates a perennial hunch. Jes Goodwin gave elves shiny space chainmail and a dancer's poise. But when it came time for extra arms . . . we got the Olley hunchbacks and big noses, oh yes we did, but also Goodwin's dancers. I'm not sure I can think of another iconic sci-fi trope where two such different artists had such a dramatic impact so early. But you really can't have genestealers without both. And so far, my collection was a little wanting for the dancier hybrids. I have fixed that.

That Jes Goodwin fencer's pose is unmistakable. (Olley, to his credit, even seems to reference it in some of his more recent offerings in the style.) So it's a happy making moment to add a Goodwin genestealer to the cult. Welcome home, Mr. Goodestihl. The congregation has been waiting for you.

Thank you for joining me. May your gaming bring you joy and may you find your treasures without turning too much gold into lead. ;-)

The Composer

Friday, March 15, 2019

Dreadful Target

A bit more than a year ago I picked up a pair of strange resin robots on a friendly deal at a convention. I've no living idea what this thing is or who made it. There were two, with different propulsion variants: legs vs. tank treads. As per usual I forgot to take pictures of the process until it was done, so the before and after paint versions are not the same. I chose to build the version with the treads first. The picture below isn't the best but you get the idea. It's a sort of steam-punk mechanized unit in the usual upright anime sci-fi "robot" configuration; what we might in Oldhammer terms call a dreadnought. This one is a bit unusual for having the driver apparently looking out a large opening smack in the center of the largest mass of the thing. To approximately quote the Nigel Wood, who engineered the sale, "It's just so bloody ridiculous! The driver is poking his head out right in the middle where he's going to draw fire." I think this might have been followed by "I love it!" but I can't be sure. (I surely said something like that.)

But I have a soft spot for that sort of shenanigan:

The casting was decent enough: no funny bubbles or voids, but quite a lot of flash, as is common of smaller companies and older resin. Still, lots of character and that makes me happy. Of course, when it finally came to painting the thing I decided the "driver" didn't look remotely orky . . . er . . . precise enough. It's really quite flat and rather stylized. So I decided the head was a bas relief figurehead rather than the actual driver, and I almost serendipitously chose red and white target colors and a lovely quartered pattern, as you see below.

No oldhammer object is complete without some checks, of course.

Making the face sculptural rather than literal makes this miniature somewhat flexible. It could become a part of most any force, but . . . Let's be honest. He belongs with Doc Hobble and Mr. Burne's Delightful Dreadlies. (Dread Mobs are a real thing in Rogue Trader. Look 'em up. There's rules and even point costs, in that random "take a roll of this table" way.)

Anyway, he does look delightful, so it's only appropriate.

Welcome to the mob, Mr Targit. Please, have the honor of the next charge.

As always, thank you for reading along. I hope you've had half as much fun as I. And Nigel . . . thank you! :)

The Composer

Friday, March 1, 2019

Uncivil Servant

A year or two ago I backed a kickstarter by a company called Blind Beggar Miniatures. Like so many things I've purchased over the years the set of miniatures thus acquired is . . . not yet fully in paint. But slowly, bit by bit, it's getting closer. This is the story of one miniature in that set: They Mayor. Quite a few of the miniatures in the range seem to refer to a property called "Outlanders." As best as I can figure this might be related to a movie and its novelization from the late seventies or early eighties by the same name. (Could also be a novel and its dramatization. Not quite sure which way the two fall there.) Most of the miniatures have a sort of space western feel to them. There was quite a lot of that going around thirty years ago, and it's an ethos that appeals to me particularly. I'm not really sure who "The Mayor" is, or how he fits into the Outlanders story, whatever that might be. But he clearly has a rather ominous vibe, with his almost plague doctor like mask and his villainous tophat and umbrella.

He's clearly a rather affluent fellow, given his somewhat antique business garb, so I've decked him out in pinstripes and an ascot that probably refers to some lair where the children of similar fat cats grow into the maneaters they ultimately become. (No evil overlord is complete without a good evil overschooling, right?)

Like so many Blind Beggar miniatures the Mayor's details run a little to the softer end of the spectrum and the scale to the larger. Not everyone will appreciate this, but I feel it gives him a very nice comic-book kind of style that stands him well on the gaming table. Below you can see him next to another unusually tall and slightly ominous sort, in this case one of the Society of Intrepid Explorers from Curtis Fell's Ramshackle Miniatures.

And below you can see him with a variety of other upper crust sorts from various manufacturers: two leftmost from the Space Lords adventurers range now available from Moonraker, two from Ramshackle, our Mayor, and three from Colony 87.

 All in all, I'd say he stands in good stead. He's clearly a little bigger than some of the older models, but not so much so as to seem inappropriate. (We humans are, after all, quite variable in our own size and shape.) And his style of dress fits in quite well with the other sculpts, both modern and historic. And if his details provide a most interesting canvas for a painter to express themself.

Lastly, below I give you the Mayor with the other miniatures from the range: assorted civilians, colonists, aliens, and mysterious strangers wandering about the wastelands. Blind Beggar may be a bit of an acquired taste, but . . . I do believe I have acquired it. Lovely stuff.

As always, thank you for reading along. And have fun gaming out there, whatever miniatures and rules you care to use.

The Composer