Thursday, 11 January 2018

Green Stuff Moulds - A solution to missing bits!

It never fails does it. You do something "clever" like gluing your Land Raider together leaving the tracks off to paint separately. Then, the hobby butterfly wanders off, gets wasted on Buckfast in a alley behind an off-licence and starts painting Orks or something. Then, years later it sobers up, looks in it's boxes and goes "ooh, a Land Raider!" only to discover...


Yeah, I was missing a section of track. Now I contemplated a range of options for solving this ranging from the impractical (fairy godmother) to the expensive (bits sites will sell you a whole track run for about £8). I certainly didn't want to leave an ugly gap or not use my (how much are Land Raiders these days... good lord) £45 kit. So... solutions: well I could fabricate one from plasticard. But that's a hell of a lot of time and engineering to pull off. My scratch building fabrication skills are "neophyte" at best so probably not that. Then I remembered an old dodge we used to use back when moulded shoulder pads were a lot rarer than they are now: Green Stuff Moulds.


Now I am not an expert on this in any way, so we're learning by doing here. You can learn from my mistakes. For starters I wrapped a painting tile in tin foil to give me an easily removed surface to work on. I busted out my ribbon of green stuff, chopped off a lump a bit bigger than the part and set to mixing. Once it was nicely mixed, I smooshed it out onto the tin foil.


Next, I have to stop it sticking to the part. You could use a bunch of things here, olive oil for example, but I tend to use WD-40. Because it isn't a proper lubricant (it disperses water, that's what the WD stands for apparantly) it cleans off fairly easily but puts a layer of "sticky-be-gone" for just long enough. I squirted a bunch into a dropper bottle ages ago and use it when I need slightly more precise application than "those four square inches over there". Finally I summoned up the bravery and pressed the part into the blank.


And here is the result, and my first mistake. Wait a little longer before removing the part from the mould, see how it has dented a little on the left? That'll cause problems later but not too many. I'd also like to note that I learned this lesson on day one. Why? Because we'll be in day two later and I'll forget it already... sheesh. Anyway, speaking of "day two", I now left it overnight to cure and harden and we'll be back to check it out.


Above: a possibly unnessecary picture... illustrating my mixing up a nice pad of green stuff roughly the thickness of the finished part and then jamming a WD-40 re-lubed (few things are made worse by lube) mould down on the top and giving it a firm press. I peeled off the mould to reveal:


Not too bad. That left side screwed me but that was easily fixed by pressing down with the knife to redefine the edges. The result is pretty good. Here's where I make my next mistake. The same mistake I made yesterday. Sheesh once more.


I was worried about the green stuff curing hard before I'd cut it out so got on with cutting out the outside edge to release the cast. Had I stopped there then there probably wouldn't have been a problem. But oh no, I had to go ahead and start pulling away the excess from the still soft cast. Head-desk. So cue a bit of reshaping and re-squaring. Learn my lesson better than me. Cut out to be sure, but wait for it to mostly cure before you remove the excess. It'll be fine. Oh, and remember lessons from a mere 24 hours previously.


But even with those problems, the results are good enough that I don't mind at all. It'll disappear into the track links and won't stand out enough to cause a problem. This link is the one at the back that disappears into the track guard so it'll never really stand out. So there you go! We're Learning With Jeff and figuring out how to replace lost bits. Doubtless, the minute that I superglue this into place on the tank I'll find the errant link. Hope this was helpful/inspirational, more shinies soon.

TTFN

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Samalut IX Campaign: the Raven Guards' report

Charlie: Today we have a guest post from Tom, the other player in the Samalut IX campaign. I understand he will also be posting in the comments section with his out-of-character thoughts on the campaign. If you enjoyed Jeff's after-action report from the Blood Angels, this is a chance to see things from the perspective of the Raven Guard. Commencing inter-legion bants in 5... 4... 3... 2...


+++INCOMING TRANSMISSION+++
+++TRANSMITTED: Salamut IX; Achernar Sector
+++RECEIVED: Deliverance; Segmentum Tempestus.
+++DATE: 4.942.117.M42
+++TELEPATHIC DUCT: Adept Mae Zerbe; Sable Sword
+++REF: RGV/ 4e978830e745
+++AUTHOR: Captain of the 5th Aremis Yiraka; Master of the Marches.
+++DESTINATION: Kayvaan Shrike; Master of Shadows; Chapter Master of the Raven Guard.
+++SUBJECT: Summary of learnings, Salamut IX intervention.

The Sable Sword is currently en-route to Deliverance for a major refit as we have taken heavy damage.  The hull damage is only a minor inconvenience, but without a functioning void shield generator we are unable to project the Reflex Shield and thus intolerably vulnerable.  A full report will follow upon our arrival but I felt it prudent to send a brief summary of our learnings from our intervention on Salamut IX.

Blood Angels
Salamut IX is an important agri-world in the Handrothian Cluster of the Achernar Sector, so when we received word that Salamut IX was under attack and needed assistance to hold out until Imperial Navy and Imperial Guard reinforcements could arrive, we made all speed to assist.  Along the way we learned that the 3rd Company of the Blood Angles Chapter were also responding.  Since they have a reputation for propriety, I deemed it best to announce our presence in advance to prevent some foolish upset were they to discover us later on.

>>ATTACHED PLANETARY DATA DOWNLOAD: Samalut IX<<
>>PROCESSING<<
>>DOWNLOAD COMPLETE<<

As we entered the system together, with system status and enemy disposition still unknown, the Blood Angels’ ship Sabre of Baal lit its beacons and announced its presence on a broad spectrum transmission.  This kind of behaviour I soon leaned would be typical of the Blood Angels.  We engaged Reflex Shields and dropped back to counter-attack whatever forced the Sabre drew upon itself.

Fortunately for the Blood Angels we faced Orks, and we detected the five capital ships and numerous escorts long before they detected us.  The Sabre of Baal rapidly shut off its beacons and dropped into low emission mode.  My initial appraisal of my ally therefore was that whilst they lacked caution, at least they were not entirely lacking in sense.

It was only when we started to plan groundside operations together that I learned that the 3rd company were operating entirely without scouts.  This at least explained their eagerness to communicate with the local Imperial forces, since without the ability to deploy scouts (or the skills to infiltrate the local datanet) they were entirely unable to gather intel on their own.  Curiously the Blood Angels claim to follow the Codex Astartes, or at the very least adhere to it far more closely than we do ourselves, and yet this would seem to be a contravention against its rules.

Fortunately the 5th Company is well named as The Watchful and we brought 35 scouts, equipped with Land Speeders for transport and led by Veteran Sergeant Khira.  When the Blood Angels learned that the Governor was a captive of the Orks, I was unconvinced as to the value of her rescue, however Captain Machiavi was insistent that it would help moral planet-wide and buy us goodwill.  I therefore had Veteran Sergeant Khira lead a mission to locate and rescue the Governor; this proceeded without incident.

Strategium display: Raven Guard infiltration units assigned to Tarno; other
units assigned to retake auspex relays 33 and 34.

Raven Guard scouts (bottom left) approaching the hab-block where Governor Singe
was being held captive.

The Blood Angels also seemed to struggle with the implementation of hit and run missions. They offered to assist in a raid on Ork-held imperial artillery around the besieged city of Tarno, but they were unable to infiltrate any units forward in advance for a surprise blow. Once the mission was completed, with a far stronger Ork resistance than anticipated, they simply fled the field of battle with no rearguard.  We took heavy fire, and the Stormeagle Kutcha was shot down protecting the retreat. The Blood Angels did at least divert their Land Raider to collect our downed pilot and passengers.  Techmarine Jadyr later led a mission to retrieve the Kutcha and had her flying combat missions again before the campaign was concluded.

The Kutcha picks up Squad Maun following a successful raid on captured basilisk
artillery...

...and is then shot down moments later by pursuing orks.

Despite a lack of tactical nuance, the fighting prowess and bravery of the Blood Angels cannot be questioned.  When we send the Damocles to coordinate an orbital strike upon an Ork army heading towards the city of Bacca the Blood Angels volunteered some of their Predators to act as bodyguard, and further agreed to hold station to gain a second shot in full knowledge that the entire formation was likely to be wiped out.  In the end both predators were destroyed, although the crew managed to escape on board the Damocles.

Whilst Brother Solaro was smart enough not to mention it to the Blood Angles at the time, he later noted that the Orks seemed to be particularly attracted to the bright red tanks with big guns and completely overlooked his (ultimately far more dangerous) Damocles.  During the escape the Blood Angel drivers also tinkered with his engines to gain more speed, and upon later inspection Techmarine Jadyr revealed that the infamous Lucifer pattern engines of the Baal predator may be nothing more than a deliberate gimmicking of the safety limiters on the engine overdrive function.
 
Raven Guard aircraft and Blood Angel tanks hold off waves of ork speed freaks
while the Damocles provides targeting data for strike cruisers in orbit.

Of course bravery must be tempered.  Whilst the five Vanguard marines charging across the field of battle towards the Ork lines was indeed heroic and noble, the fact that four out of five were casualties by the end of the battle is telling of the worth of such endeavours.  Nevertheless, I have highlighted here the moments where their heroism seemed to be more rash than rational, and for balance I must add that the Blood Angels have proven themselves to be honourable to a fault and peerless warriors.  I am told by those who witnessed it that Captain Machiavi taking on the xenos warlord and its retinue with his thunder hammer was a sight to behold.

Planetary Forces
As noted above, Captain Machiavi insisted on communicating and coordinating with the local Imperial forces.  Personally I felt there was nothing to be gained from such a manoeuvre, and nothing that happened on Salamut IX has changed my opinion.  The locals had very poor intel when we arrived, and their datanet was sloppy so what little information they had was ours for the taking. 
Even after rescuing the Governor, which I was assured would buy us goodwill from the inhabitants, the local commander Lord General Nayeli refused our request to divert troops to better defend her planet.  Indeed it seems she had been so afraid of losing men that she had not even scouted the strength of the Ork forced that were bottling her up in Apis.

Further, when we did manage to get PDF forces redeployed to garrison the Auspex Relay stations that we had recovered for them, they did not take our warnings about Ork Kommandoes seriously and the troops were subsequently wiped out to a man.  Once the relay stations were retaken yet again, further troops were more willing to listen to the advice of my Scouts who I sent to teach them basic concepts such as cutting down the trees to clear line of sight on the approach and other basic military strategy.

Imperial Navy
Whilst the local Imperial forces were somewhat wanting, I cannot fault the actions of the Imperial Navy reinforcements led by Vice Admiral Ortano. His arrival in-system was most timely and we immediately requested his aid in clearing out the Ork fleet, as it appeared that a bombardment of the capital Sathis was imminent. With his greater experience in direct naval combat I attached the Sable Sword to his command, as Captain Machiavi did likewise with the Sabre of Baal. Under his command the Sword took a fair amount of damage but he succeeded in destroying or driving off a numerically superior enemy fleet in a difficult situation.

Vice Admiral Ortano's flotilla approaches the ork fleet bombarding Sathis.

Orks
The motivation of the Orks on Salamut IX is still unclear.  An agri-world is not a typical target for an Ork invasion, with little in the way of enemies to fight or resources to capture.  Further we seem to have discovered a new kind of Ork, or rather a combination of two known types.  The stealthy Kommandos combined with the rocket-pack bearing Stormboys combined into units we dubbed the StormKommandos.  Discovering a highly mobile yet stealthy warband of elite Orks was like looking into some perverse twisted mirror of the Raven Guard.

Whilst they were first reported to us by the Blood Angels, once we learned about them I made it a personal mission to eliminate them.  In the final defence of Tarno I personally led The Unkindness in a decapitation strike, deploying from Thunderhawk to counter-attack their ambush upon the right flank.  The leader, apparently named “Bozzgit Kawsmash” I killed myself.

Daemon
Four days into the campaign my scouts investigated reports of some wildlife wiping out a town.  Whilst wildlife attacks would normally be a local issue of no bearing on the campaign, my concern was that it was some form of squiggoth.  The reality was much worse.  The scouts’ report clearly indicated some form of malefic entity.  Captain Machiavi and I agreed and gathered all of our Terminators and both of our librarians for a teleport strike, and I deployed a Stormhawk Interceptor to find it and coordinate the teleport strike.

The entity was powerful. After calling in the location, Stormhawk Fechín only made a single pass as the creature was airborne.  The creature received a full volley of ordinance and still nearly smashed the Fechín out of the air.  Nevertheless the strike force, led by our Librarian Nironen and Blood Angel Librarian Gabriel was successful.  Before it was banished completely, Nironen learned the creature’s name was “Baraqiel”.  Nironen has further intelligence upon this creature but that will be compiled in a separate report to the Librarius.

During this battle Librarian Gabriel was extremely badly wounded and subjected to a mental assault.  With the permission and support of Blood Angel Apothecary Israfael, Nironen did a deep scan of Gabriel’s soul to check for taint.  Whilst he confirms that Gabriel’s soul was untainted by the malefic, the nature of Gabriel’s soul was slightly worrying.  He reports a barely contained battle rage like some kind of feral beast desperate to be unleashed.

This revelation has placed some other information in a new light.  The Blood Angels volunteered to retake Auspex Relay 34 alone, but when Veteran Sergeant Khira was patrolling the site later his assessment was that there were more Blood Angels deployed than were accounted for.  Our current working hypothesis is that the Chapter may suffer from a much more severe variation of the Sable Brand.  I believe it is in all our best interests that, if true, this does not come to light. Veteran Sergeant Khira removed all traces under the pretence of a precautionary sweep for boobytraps.

Raven Guard
I am well satisfied with the performance of the men of the 5th.  We lost four scouts and three marines; their Corvia will be returned to Kiavahr.  Unfortunately all three of the Marines were from the elite Sternguard unit, Squad Maun.  Sergeant Maun’s men are the best of the 5th and regularly take on the hardest assignments.  In particular their stubborn defence of the right flank in the defence of Tarno when overwhelmed by Kommandos was heroic.  The fact that most of the squad actually survived underneath piles of Ork corpses even after the Kommandos were purged by massed assault cannon fire elevates their actions to those of legend.  Chaplain Bran has already recorded it for submission to the Chapter honours.

The scouts also performed admirably.  Their intelligence gathering skills were the pride of the Chapter as they demonstrated again and again their ability to slip in an out unnoticed and recover valuable intel that neither the Blood Angels nor the PDF were capable of.  They also worked well supporting and directing local resistance forces in Tarno, and coordinating the defences of the auspex relays.  Finally they proved themselves in direct combat, standing shoulder to shoulder with their power-armoured brethren.  I am recommending the surviving scouts of squads Aajz, Oradias, Gherith, Zeed, Koryn and Binalt be recognised as full battle brothers.  Squad Syras performed acceptably but still require more battlefield experience.

The ork vanguard approaches the astartes line in Drover Square during the last
stages of the Battle of Tarno.

Ork infantry and walkers advance behind the vanguard while lobbas (centre right)
provide light artillery cover.

In Summary
The Salamut IX campaign was a success, and it could not have been so without the Blood Angels.  For all that I may find their methods simplistic and crude; they are very effective at what they do.  The sheer stopping power of an entrenched line of tactical marines backed by tanks is quite a sight to behold, and together we held the line.  For my part I look forward to being able to field more tactical squads once the scouts have been initiated, and I may even speak with the Master of the Forge to see what tanks we have available for deployment.

On the other hand I hope Captain Machiavi has seen the value of our more cautious approach to battle, and he did admit to me that he was hoping to add some scouts to his battlegroup; although I fear that may be slightly more to do with the envious looks he gave our Land Speeder Storms and their potential to rapidly deliver scouts into combat than their value in intelligence gathering.  Likewise I believe he was rather taken with our aerial units and the ability to deploy the firepower of a tank wherever and whenever we like. 

See you on Deliverance, or if not, good hunting Kayvaan,
Aremis Yiraka

P.S. Governor Singhe requested permission to raise some statues to the Raven Guard and the Blood Angels.  I saw no harm in it so I acquiesced.  From the tone of Captain Machiavi’s response I understand this is quite normal practice for him. 


+++TRANSMISSION ENDS+++

Friday, 22 December 2017

Salamut IX Campaign: After Action Report

Jeff: Get yourselves a lovely hot cup of tea, settle down and enjoy the tale of the campaign to save Salamut IX (Blood Angels point of view). Five days of gaming makes for a lengthy report. But I hope a fun read. I've put in the comments my thoughts on the experiance from a player's perspective so if you want to skip all the in character stuff and get to my thoughts, head comment-wards. Otherwise, I turn you over to Captain Ioannis Machiavi:



+++INCOMING TRANSMISSION+++

+++TRANSMITTED:  Salamut IX; Achernar Sector
+++RECEIVED:  Baal; Ultima Segmentum.
+++DATE:  3.942.117.M42
+++TELEPATHIC DUCT:  Adept Maude Schumacher; Sabre of Baal
+++REF:  BAIII/53616c616d7574
+++AUTHOR:  Captain of the 3rd Ioannis Machiavi; Master of Sacrifice.
+++DESTINATION:  Commander Dante; Lord of the Host; Master of the Blood Angels; Regent of Imperium Nihilus.
+++SUBJECT:  After-action report Salamut IX.
+++THOUGHT:  By His blood are we made. In His name do we serve.

Master, I present the initial after-action combat reports of 3rd Company operations in Salamut IX against the ork. Primary objective: To prevent the fall of Salamut IX for up to an estimated week for Imperial reinforcements to arrive.

>>ATTACHED PLANETARY DATA DOWNLOAD<<
>>PROCESSING<<
>>DOWNLOAD COMPLETE<<


initial auspex readings and complement of our vessels
Completed rendezvous with Raven Guard forces aboard the Sable Sword under Captain Yiraka within acceptable sidereal tolerances. Tandom jump to Salamut system completed successfully and in synchronicity. Initial approach in silent running. Established a force of five ork capital ships and an as-then unknown number of escort craft. Impossible to establish orbital superiority at that time thus operated on the basis of planetary appraisal and then hammerblow deployment of company to operate independently until assistance could be provided by the Imperium.

long range auspex pict capture of Ork fleet. Capital ships marked out.
Results of contact made with Imperial Authorities were most unsatisfactory. Governor Singhe was prisoner of ork forces in the besieged city of Tarno, her second was a nervous man unsuited to command and the General hadn't slept in four days. How this state of affairs was allowed to occur and then indeed how it was allowed to continue is beyond my understanding and care. The orks were demanding 100 basilisk artillery pieces for the Lord Governor's release. Unusual cunning but within parameters for established ork intellect. Secretary Shikoba and Lord General Nayeli were assured that her recovery would be a top priority for our forces.  Raven Guard scout units were tasked to infiltrate Tarno and identify the Governor’s location for extraction.

It is worth mentioning at this juncture that had we not been there the Raven Guard would have deployed with no communication to planetary forces of any kind. They remain, as they always have been, secretive to almost the point of obstruction. I should point out, however, that Captain Yiraka proved most cooperative and was open to Blood Angel doctrine. I know we cost him men and machines encouraging him thus. For this I do not apologise, but do appreciate and acknowledge his sacrifices in the name of allied tactics and the defence of humanity.

With the Auspex grid broken we had insufficient data on planetary approach to make useful dispersal of our forces possible, without data on enemy movements and strength it would be a blind drop into chaos. Captain Yiraka and I determined that we would re-take these relays with overwhelming force and gain us useful data to plan formal deployment on second pass.

Blood Angel and Raven Guard forces breach from boarding torpedoes.
Primary Far Orbital Augeries established that Port Damas had fallen. This was deemed an unacceptable risk to have operational above us during primary combat deployment. Terminator Strike forces from both chapters along with Brother Dreadnoughts Abraxus and Helios were prepared aboard deactivated thunderhawk gunships and manually ejected from both vessels on first pass and instructed to wait until T-1 hour of our second pass before assaulting to distract from our approach. They struck the auxiliary power generation substructure, slaughtering their way through an estimated 200 orks for the loss of two Raven Guard and severe damage to Brother Helios. Our returning vessels recovered the thunderhawks while preparing our next move.

Planetary deployment on second pass.
With the data from the recaptured auspex relays we learned we had a complex theatre to manage. The city of Tarno would, for the time being, be abandoned to fight alone. We had neither the numbers or time to embroil ourselves in urban guerrilla war against the ork. Instead we resolved to deploy our entire strength planetside and interdict two large northerly moving formations of orks to dissuade them from further such action. The forces moving on Sathis we felt to be manageable by the curtain wall guns and army units stationed within Sathis itself. Unconfirmed reports of orks in the forests caused us to recommend larger auspex garrisons although a lack of data means, to my shame, that these men were being deployed as canaerids in a mining facility. Their fate would tell us more than orbital scans ever could.

Raven Guard sortie flies over Blood Angel forces raiding an Ork column.
Forward Operating Bases were deployed, ours as a lynchpin between the cities of Bacca and Sathis. The Raven Guard FOB as a resupply and rearming facility in the largely untouched city of Apis. I am pleased to say that Imperial Air cover improved considerably on the restoration of the auspex grid. As we had suspected the orks in the west were indeed heading for Sathis and indeed were being reinforced. Worse, the Ork Capital Ships in orbit were moving over Sathis itself and readying themselves for bombardment. We also finally received the news that the Raven Guard scout formations had located Governor Singhe in Tarno. We needed orbital supremacy for the decapitation strike and teleport retrieval of the Governor. It was, I am sure, the Emperor’s guiding hand therefore that chose that moment to grant us Vice Admiral Laius Ortano’s arrival in system with his fleet.

The liberation fleet of Laius Ortano

There was now much to co-ordinate in little time. While ground forces moved to destroy both reinforcing columns of orks heading for Sathis, a rapid strike force was arranged to both cripple the ork artillery punishing Tarno and to distract ork forces so as to facilitate the governor's rescue. Aboard the Sabre of Baal and the Sable Sword, our terminators massed in teleportarum chambers to assist in the orbital battle and to be immediately available for deployment in rescue operations. As these engagements commenced, our vessels lit drives and joined Vice Admiral Ortano for the orbital battle.

I was planetside for the engagement, but Void-Captain Adeline has given her appraisal of the battle and I will summarise it here: Ortano’s tactics were superb. He committed in strength to the spinward flank of the engagement area in force. Imperial forces stripped the entire forward defensive screen of the orks before driving in to peel the bombarding capital ships from low orbit to allow their destruction and to protect the planet. Sathis reports that while the shields took multiple hits the city’s defences never fell thanks to this quick action. Our vessels engaged in the close-in, brutal fighting that we are made for while Ortano continued his sweep of the ork vessels. The Sabre of Baal came through almost unscathed. Sadly, we cannot say the same for the Sable Sword. I fear the Ravens do not practice a straight up fight as often as we do. Regardless, the Raven’s roost was still functional and we could proceed to phase two of the engagement.

Raven Guard airborne sweep in to attack Ork looted artillery positions.
While the artillery raid was conducted – peerlessly on our part I might add although I believe the Raven Guard took some casualties – our vessels moved into position over Tarno. Once the scouts signalled that they had the Governor in sight and the time was right, terminator forces assaulted, demolishing the orks and securing the governor. An astartes mortalis casket had been hastily repurposed into a crude protective container for the governor to shield her from the worst of  rigour teleportatis. With her recovered to the Sabre of Baal we tended to her injuries and then at her request returned her to the planet’s surface. My Sanguinary Priest Kyriakos Israfael spent most time with her and was impressed by her resolve and ability to adapt to what were some extreme circumstances. We now had orbital supremacy, the governor back in post and auspex coverage. Our war could truly commence.

Mid campaign dispositions.

Of course, as is always the way, this was the moment that the orks massacred the defenders of Relay 34 and knocked it offline again. Regardless, we had orbital track by this time and were more capable of acting independently of planetside auspex. With Tarno bleeding white, we attempted to access some of the forces corralled at as-yet un-attacked Apis to keep that fight going. We did not want Tarno to fall. At this time – and indeed throughout this phase of the war – Tarno was a tar pit in which the orks were trapped. We did not want thousands of greenskins free to roam wherever the whim took them. To my fury, not only did Lord General Nayeli refuse on the basis of fear of assault from the orks, she had also not undertaken any reconnaissance operations north of Apis to assess the level of that threat, considering it too great a risk. By this time I understand she had not slept for a week. Rather than wasting my time with a woman incapable of recognising mortal frailty we simply asked the Governor to set the Commissariat to force her to sleep and got on with the war ourselves. I want the record to show that the suffering of the people of Tarno was exacerbated by Nayeli’s cowardice and incompetence. Later, we would learn that the city of Apis could have defended itself against the orks hiding in the jungle even with the redistribution of forces we suggested. Her passivity is a disgrace to mortal soldiering.  

Blood Angel forces ambush an Ork armoured column
We moved to crush armoured ork forces heading for Bacca, with a combination of armoured column and orbital strike. Raven Guard anti-armour forces were largely needed to recover a downed Storm Eagle so this fell to us. At the same time we resolved to reinforce auspex 33 and retake 34. I assured the Raven Guard that we would handle 34 ourselves and thus found the opportunity to spend the five Lost Ones and the Lost Sarcophagus we had brought with us from Baal. Chaplain Raziel volunteered to lead the Death Company into battle and they dropped to Relay 34. We found we had underestimated the ork forces in the area. A large host of Kommandos reinforced by entire warbands of Stormboyz. This army was quickly dubbed Storm-Kommandos and engaged by our forces and orbital reinforcements. I am glad to say that all of the Lost found themselves the clalean death in battle that all of us could wish for. Although I regret that the explosion of the dreadnought’s power supply has left us with significant repairs before we can again spend a Sarcophagus. In orbit, at our request, Vice Admiral Ortano deployed his naval armsmen to retake Port Damas. We wanted the port operational again if we were to spend much longer here.

The Lost of the Death Company arrive to search for signs of life at Auspex 34.

Simultaneously to these actions, Raven Guard scout units deployed to the woods around Apis to do the General’s job for her. I am assured that her 2iC deployed sentinels to support immediately she was asleep. A welcome gesture but one that should have happened a week ago. Of course they found enough orks that the General doubtless feels herself prudent. I maintain that a ¼ to 1/3 redeployment could have been tactically viable and saved many Imperial souls in Tarno. A small detachment was also sent to scout troubling reports of a “large fauna” attacking villages with descriptions that better fit a maelific entity of the warp than a local predator. We were fervently hoping for a fanciful description of a large beast, but this was not to be. The scouts found evidence of a large, obviously daemonic presence. With no idea how this could have come to be on the world at this time we hastily pulled together a force of terminators and both Chapter’s librarians to assault the beast once the Raven Guard had eyes on the target.

Sanguinary Priest Israfael and Codicier Gabriel
This battle was brief but unbelievably violent. Our forces teleported down and engaged the beast – some form of shale-like entity calling itself Baraqiel according to Israfael. I would ask Codicer Gabriel but he languishes in a coma. According to Sanguinary Priest Israfael, the initial engagement was positive. Massive armament expenditure on target and grievous wounds inflicted by the psychic assaults of the Librarians. Then, almost faster than the eye could see, the beast was on Gabriel and had all but fatally skewered him as though he was a child. Apparently the beast engaged in some sort of psychic conflict with Gabriel attempting to consume him but our fierce brother held on. I am deeply indebted to Brother-Librarian Nironan of the Raven Guard for destroying the beast with the aid of the terminator corps. Brother Gabriel remains comatose and I would request that Lord Mephiston look at him as soon as we return to Baal and perform whatever psychic surgery is necessary to get this hero of the 3rd back on his feet. Captain Yiraka and I flew directly to Governor Singhe’s chambers to appraise her of this new threat and to sternly advise her to invite the Inquisition to inspect the world as we would certainly be doing the same.
 
Blood Angels forces trap a Speed Freak warboss and his retinue and destroy him

While this was going on, we assaulted yet another armoured column of Orks heading to Sathis and conducted a major raid on the rear echelons of the ork forces besieging Tarno. This was partially to cover the insertion of Raven Guard scout units to co-ordinate orbital and air strikes on Ork forces in Tarno and to ascertain needs of the defenders. We packed four drop pods with ammunition, food and medical supplies and fired them into pre-determined co-ordinates. The Raven Guards acquitted themselves well in this role and I fancy would have liked to have been fighting in this fashion from day one.
 
Major deployments to the west and harrying actions along the eastern flank

The final action of the day was a co-ordinated orbital bombardment of a massive ork force heading for Bacca. A Raven Guard Damocles was to pin point the strikes and we sent several predators to aid in this effort. Had they settled for a single shot we would probably have got away with all materiel intact. But the men on the ground elected to put themselves to the hazard for an additional strike on the orks. This exposed them to Speed Freak elements at the ragged edge of the army. We lost a Baal Predator and the command tank of the Predator formation. Our forces chose to scuttle them rather than let them fall into eager Deathskull hands. The Raven Guards risked their own lives to recover our men and ferry them out in the Damocles. In return our men coaxed some speed out of the engine and advised on Ork psychology to get the Damocles and the covering Stormtalons away clean from the engagement.

Entire companies worth of men and materiel form a thin black and red line.
Then, glory be to the Emperor we had the best news. Imperial reinforcements were early. Our ships had detected their signatures at system's edge. We had only to hold the orks for twelve more hours and only one place to do it: Tarno. Sathis, Bacca and Apis could all hold for twelve hours. Tarno would fall in three. We wanted the hosts of Orks pinned in their assaults not free to roam. As a result we relieved the defenders of Drover's Square, a weak-point in the crumbling Imperial line. We deployed the remainder of both our companies en masse.

The Orks assult on the entire front
The orks came in a great wave of armoured vehicles, walkers and never ending foot troops. Our deployment and firepower kept them at arm’s length for hours and might have lasted all twelve, were it not for a band of those accursed Storm-Kommandos that infiltrated the hab-block on our right flank and assaulted the roof simultaneously. Casualties on the right flank were horrendous and would have been worse had Captain Yiraka not intervened with his assault specialists. In the centre, weight of numbers eventually overwhelmed even our firepower and the ork warlord’s bodyguard pressed forward and assaulted us. I am proud to say that we carried the fight to him and that it was my hammer that smashed his filthy xenos carcass into lifeless jelly. Even as the orks' will started to break, contrails in the sky announced the arrival of Imperial forces. The relief of Tarno was complete.

A now deceased Warlord and his retinue

In the days following, we liberated the Tarkan Oil-Fields as the Imperial Guard relieved the towns. With this done, my Brother Captain needed to return to Deliverance; the Sable Sword was in desperate need of refit and he had suffered many more casualties than we had. Total Blood Angels casualties at around 18% with 7% fatal. Will need to request several of the new scout formations. I am dispatching the Sabre of Baal homeward to bear our wounded men and machines to be treated and fitted with whatever bionics are required. Once it has been rearmed I request its return to my charge. My company shall remain here to assist Imperial forces with the mopping up process. With none of the Lost in my charge any more I am the ideal Blood Angel commander to meet with the Inquisition also.

I remain, as ever, your faithful servant and ready sword.

Ionannis Machiavi
Captain, Blood Angels 3rd.

+++TRANSMISSION ENDS+++

Captain Machiavi

Monday, 18 December 2017

Making an interactive campaign map

Charlie: I just finished running a five-day 40k narrative campaign, because nothing says top-notch adulting like spending annual leave on an epic wargames bender.

It was basically a roleplaying game where all the encounters were 40k battles. It was unclear to me if that would work in reality, but there was only one way to find out. I figured it was going alright when halfway through the campaign the players started saying things like, "when we do another one of these..."

When I was figuring out how to run this thing, a concept that occurred early in the process was some sort of interactive map. The idea was that threats and situations would be highlighted on it, and the players would then decide which of their units to send to each of the engagements. Obviously that meant the players had to be able to interact with it, and I had to be able to change things on it as the enemy reacted.

So then, today I'm going to go through three things:
  • How I done made the map.
  • How I done made it all interactive and stuff.
  • How I'll improve on it next time.


Thing the First: how I done made the map
The four word answer is: Google Earth plus Photoshop. If you're willing to indulge me while I put on a stripy top and a beret so as to wax lyrical about how maps fit into my "creative process" and facilitate the creation of a "synergistic multimedia experience," then keep reading this section.

I often find making the map is a good first step when creating a story world. This might seem arse about face, but I find making something visual often gives me more ideas. I started off with some satellite imagery (thanks NASA) being careful not to use an easily recognisable land mass (so, avoiding coastlines then...). Next, I dropped it in a bucket full of Photoshop juice, brought it up to a simmer, and stirred until I had it looking like part of a planet, with stars in the background and a tint for the atmosphere. If you actually want me to go into more detail about the Photoshop side of things, let me know in the comments. Technically, the attempt to make it look pretty is unnecessary, but I enjoy it. Plus if something looks like a toddler drew using haemorrhoids for crayons, I can't take it seriously.

The basic map

Having a map got me thinking about what sort of a world it might be. All that green said 'agri world' and all that desert said 'agri world with some climate issues.' This gave me the idea of having a pre-Imperial culture that had farmed so extensively that their main area of production ended up collapsing thanks to topsoil loss and subsequent desertification. That in turn gave me the idea of something valuable in the old capital that would be worth excavating. A few ideas later, I wrote everything down in the wiki we keep for our little corner of the 40k mythos.

Thing the second: y'all wanted some interactivity.
I'm not a computer programmer. I can't make a networked app that lets multiple people interact with a layered image with drag and drop functionality plus rudimentary text editing. But you know who can? Motherfudging Google, that's who. Enter stage left Google Drawings. I created icons for all the players' units, plus other icons as needed, such as the players' strike cruisers, enemy contact markers, and so on. I exported them all from Photoshop as .PNGs so as to maintain transparency, then created a Google Drawing, and dragged all the icons in. Every icon you see in the images below can be clicked and moved about at will by anyone with access to the file. These, in particular, are Tom's screenshots of the first campaign turn.




In case you're wondering, the E30 B45 type-stuff represents auspex readings; E means the amount of energy detected, i.e. vehicles, and B represents bio-signatures. Add them up, and you have the enemy army's power level in 40k 8th edition, plus a rough idea of how many lascannons you wish you had.

As the second day (in narrative time) began, a summary was added as a sidebar:

Note: the space marine units can't be seen because the players had put them in
their deployable FOBs (Forward Operating Bases). They were in a margin on the
left, like the strategic summary on the right.

The campaign had a specific sequence, with simple rules for injuries and persistent vehicle damage, but I'll go over that another time.


Thing the Third: what to improve for next time
The main thing was to increase the visual distinctiveness of the players' units. Right now, you have to use your army roster to know which unit is "Blood Angels Heavy Support Choice IV." The new convention will probably be squares for infantry, circles for characters, upward-pointing triangles for ground vehicles, and downward-pointing triangles for flyers. There's also something to be said for letting the players make their own icons; I made these as a stop-gap in case neither of the players had time, and sure enough, they were painting models right up until the moment of planetstrike.

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Right... hopefully that's of some use to anyone out there who plays map campaigns. If you're curious about other elements of the campaign, then the good news is that Jeff, Tom and I all have more posts planned on that front.

~Charlie