Sunday, 21 April 2013

28mm Inquisitor Warband: Drake

Jeff’s last post gave me multiple hobbygasms. The Inquisition is cool, the Cetus sub-sector is cool, the concept of skirmish games is cool. The whole state of play is pretty boss sausage. That being the case, it seemed appropriate to introduce one of the warbands that will be taking part:

I painted Inquisitor Drake some time ago and haven’t had many chances to use him, but with the advent of our Inq28 campaign, that’s set to change. That being the case, it seems appropriate to flesh him out and give him more than just a name.

Inquisitor Drake

Inquisitor Aidan Drake was one of the acolytes of the famously intrepid (i.e. reckless) Inquisitor Aerdon of the Ordo Hereticus. Drake had two qualities Aerdon lacked: patience and subtlety, attributes that made Drake an excellent deep cover agent. Over time, Drake was given more responsibility, until he came to co-ordinate Aerdon’s intelligence network.

For all his achievements, though, Drake felt that he was forever in the shadow of Aerdon’s other acolyte, Benedikt Hirscht. Like Aerdon, Hirscht was more of a warrior than a detective. Once Drake had gathered all the information, pinpointed a target’s location and provided Aerdon with the enemy’s weak points, Hirscht would be dispatched to make the kill and enjoy the recognition.

Unsurprisingly to all who knew him, Aerdon died in the field. His final act as an Imperial Inquisitor was to give Hirscht a field promotion so that he might have the authority to bring Aerdon’s killers to justice. Hirscht, who had worked under Aerdon for only a fraction of the time Drake had done. Hirscht, whose idea of investigation involved a power axe. Drake understood why Aerdon had made such a choice – they needed a war leader, not a spy – but the implicit rejection bit deep. It was years before Drake finally received his Inquisitorial Rosette, but as far as Hirscht ever knew, theirs remained an ever-friendly rivalry; Drake knew better than to sour any professional relationships with his pride, and concealed his feelings behind a famously dry sense of humour.

Drake has since grown older and wiser, although he’s still prone to holding a grudge. After a brief phase of trying to operate more like Hirscht, he’s since learnt that his greatest strengths are, and always have been, infiltration and unobtrusive investigation. Most Imperial authorities never even know when he’s visited them. That said, there are times when Drake and his team have to ‘go loud,’ and when that happens, he feels it’s best to do it like you mean it. That’s where his warband come in.

2nd from left: Sera Jentiva (painting credits go to Jen)

Sera Jentiva was once a death cultist who tried to assassinate Inquisitor Aerdon. Always one keen to turn enemies into useable assets, Aerdon hit her until she stopped trying to stab him, locked her up, and spent a good few months giving her an existential crisis by way of pointing out the idiocy of her fundamentalist beliefs, after which she helped him track down the cult that dispatched her in the first place.

An expert at climbing or sneaking into places she isn’t supposed to be, she was soon assigned to Drake’s infiltration team, and has continued to follow him since Aerdon’s death. She’s somewhat more hot-headed than Drake (most people are), although he finds it useful having someone around to tell him when he’s being over-cautious.

Brother-Sergeant Elias of the Templars Errant

During the Iriax Insurrection, the citizens of the Templars Viridian homeworld rose up against their overly-strict masters and – with the help of some Black Legionnaires only too keen to assist – kicked the Templars off their own homeworld. It was one of the most humiliating defeats in the Imperium’s history, and left the chapter at barely a third of its original strength. During the retreat from Iriax, Brother-Sergeant Elias of the 2nd company was accosted by a marine of the 1st, who told him that the Chapter Banner had just been taken by the enemy not half a kilometre away, and that an immediate assault might reclaim it.

Having to choose between saving the lives of his men or launching a suicidal assault into the midst of the enemy, Elias chose the former. The Chapter’s survival, he said, counted for more than the Chapter’s honour.

After the evacuation, Elias was summoned to Chapter Master Gaius Octavian’s hall on the chapter’s flagship and told, in no uncertain terms, that he could either go and retrieve the banner, or face exile. Elias tried to reassert his reasoning, of the importance of preserving what little geneseed was left, but Octavian – a famously proud and recently humiliated man – would have none of it. Elias, disgusted by Octavian’s arrogance, chose Exile.

Elias continued to do the Emperor’s work alone, coming to the rescue of isolated Guard garrisons, helping Arbites to crush gangland insurrections, and so on. It wasn’t long before his movements were being monitored by the Inquisition, and eventually, he was headhunted by Inquisitor Aerdon as a potential ally.

He has since been invited back to the now renamed Templars Errant by a Chapter Master who has seen the error of his ways, but Elias has no interest in returning to his brothers any more, fearing that his return might re-open old wounds the chapter needs to forget.

Instead, he continues to work with Inquisitor Drake, and slowly, in the presence of such a cerebral mentor, he is becoming less the indoctrinated killing machine, and more a man of reason and thought. Quite how dangerous it might be for an Astartes to contemplate his own beliefs is, of course, not without worrying historical precedent, and Drake keeps a close eye on the grizzled sergeant, knowing that the inflexible mind of an indoctrinated soldier is prone to growing pains in the first few steps down the path of greater knowledge.

Stohlbard Dragoons (the paint job here was a joint effort by Jen & I)

Inquisitor Drake uses Stohlbard Dragoons as marines on board the Trojan, his Cobra-class destroyer. If and when Drake needs to go into a situation guns blazing, the heavily armed and armoured Dragoons make an ideal bodyguard.

The Trojan carries an Atlas-class drop ship, an unusual vessel only just small enough to fit inside the destroyer’s cramped launch bay. Atlases are, in effect, a flying landing pad with space for up to four Valkyrie-sized atmospheric flyers clamped to its roof. The Atlas, with its heat-shields and space-worthy engines, will relay Valkyries from orbit into a planet’s atmosphere, at which point the gunships can take off and fly Drake and his team down to the surface. Unsurprisingly, Drake’s black Valkyries have no markings or insignia on them whatsoever.

+ + +

There you have it, folks. I hope that made for entertaining reading and/or inspiration for your own characters. If you have feedback or thoughts, I’d love to hear ’em!


Saturday, 13 April 2013

Inq28 - Welcome to Cetus

You have been told of the Inquisition; that shadowy organisation which defends Mankind and the Emperor from the perils of heresy, possession, alien dominance and rebellion.

You have been told the Inquisition are the ultimate defence against the phantoms of fear and terror which lurk in the darkness between the stars.

You have been told the Inquisition are the bright saviours in an eclipse of evil; purest and most devoted warriors of the Emperor.

You have been told the Inquisition is united in its cause to rid the galaxy of any threat, from without or within.

Everything you have been told is a lie!

These are the first words written in one of my favourite games that GW has ever released. Inquisitor was a sea change in direction and style in game design for them, a “narrative wargame” it had no points values, no missions and a bewildering variety of weapons and equipment – all of which made a difference to how your characters could perform. It was the most detailed wargame I had ever played – more of a roleplaying game really – and still has one of my favourite close combat systems, it can model everything from a fist fight to a clash of power sword vs. force halberd and do so all satisfactorily. It also came with the Eisenhorn series which was a massive inspiration and is still – I think – the best books black library have released. We played a ton of it back in the day and the freedom to expand the universe of warhammer 40,000 beyond the battlefield was intoxicating and inspirational.

But there was a teensy, tiny problem. It was played with 54mm models. Fantastic miniatures, lovely sculpts – for the most part – but the lack of a wide range made it tough to create much variety without prodigious skill. There was an even bigger problem too, scenery. We all had 28mm scenery but with the models being twice as large it meant that you needed a whole extra collection of scenery or go back to piles of books. Slightly dissatisfactory. Recently we have been debating a solution, drop Inquisitor from 54mm to 28mm.

Of course, it turned out that we hadn’t stumbled on to the last original idea; there is already a large and growing community of people playing what they call Inq28 (link follows through to a nice hub for Inq28 sites). We needed to get in on the action.

The Plan:

We are going to try a very different way of playing these sorts of roleplaying/narrative wargames. We are all going to be players and we are all going to be GMs. All of us are going to make a warband (roughly 3-8 combat figures) and ALSO, we are going to make a set of adversaries and adventures for the others to fight. We will have our very own sandbox and will populate it with bad guys, plots, schemes, cults and the like. Our Inquisitors will just be far too busy to investigate our own adventures. We’ll share the stories of our adventures and will build the sandbox into a nifty little setting all of our own.

Preparation and planning:

Charlie and Maisey are currently hammering out the rules we’ll be using, there’ll be more on that later I have no doubt. I took on the challenge of crafting the bare bones of the sandbox. A small subsector of the Segmentum Pacificus called Cetus.

I’ve written a paragraph of flavour text for each inhabitable system in the style of a Navigator’s encyclopaedia with just enough information to tantalise as to the possible adventures available. Each GM will then flesh it out nicely as they write adventures, create settlements, NPC’s, histories and dread activities. Should be a laugh! Below is presented the Navis Nobilite guide to the sector along with some prettied up prop versions if anyone wants them! We’ve got parchment pages and also a computer printout at the bottom; I just couldn’t decide which I preferred so you got both! Enjoy:

Navis Nobilite reference document

Being a Gazetteer of the Cetus Subsector of the Segmentum Pacificus.

The Cetus (Kay-tuss) subsector is an oft-overlooked area within the Segmentum Pacificus - no great crusades or widespread conflicts have swept through the area since the The Macharian Crusades reunified the Segmentum. As a result it is largely ignored by the more bombastic histories. It is too close to the Halo Stars for Terra to truly trust it with the more important assets and too far from Hydraphur to be closely monitored. However, the unrest currently sweeping the Segmentum Pacificus is causing broad Inquisitorial scrutiny to be cast upon Cetus for the first time in centuries. Take caution when trading that you do not draw their eye upon you.

Systems of the Cetus Subsector:

All systems described in terms of their primary habitable world – named for the system, unless specified otherwise. Uninhabitable torrid inner planets, Jovian exoplanets and frigid planetoids are ignored unless specifically occupied to a significant capacity.

Cetus Major:
Cetus Major is the subsector capital and the administrative centre of the region. Its primary
habitable world is in the process of advancing from a Gamma-type civilised world to an Eta-type Hive world with the constant expansion of its largest city. As a result of the thirst for raw materials for building and to improve the docking capacity for spacefaring vessels, the two airless moons are being heavily mined, militarised and undergoing geoplasty to become a pair of giant orbiting space docks.

Once, Dheneb was humid, green and verdant. Now it is a dead world. Cometary impact triggered a global extinction event, and the planet is now a dusty rock. Nonetheless it possesses an atmosphere, and the lost forests have left staggeringly rich fossil fuel deposits. The mechanicum have claimed the Dheneb system for their own and the Administratum of Cetus Major are happy enough with the tithes of promethium to let them have it unopposed and unmonitored. It is for all intents and purposes a protectorate of Mars not Terra.

Sparsely populated agrarian world with extensive oceans and abundant sea life. Primarily engaged in exporting foodstuffs to Cetus Major and Dheneb. Particularly famed for its clams.

One of the many worlds named in honour of Solar Macharius. Simple Gamma-class civilised world, only point of renown is the gleaming Macharian Cathedral in the capital decorated with the embedded shell cases of a million regiments recovered from the battlefields of the Segmentum.

Were it not for the planet’s incredible mineral wealth, the Imperium would abandon Ariscone - it is infested with a silicon-based termite-like species roughly the size of a grox and utterly inimical to human life. The termite hives dot the landscape and the alkaline rain that sweeps the storm-wracked skies can turn the unwary to soapy bones. Mining and mercenary corporations run Ariscone and try to extract as much wealth as possible before the conditions and wildlife force them off-world. Most of the administration of the world takes place in the Ariscone Orbital, a large space station in geostationary position over the Northern Pole. It is a bustling and borderline-lawless place.

Baeten was a fairly ordinary, post-terraformed world before Ariscone was prospected. As the
nearest world to that hellhole it was ideally placed to take advantage of the vast mineral wealth being generated by the mining companies. Unregulated growth led to old plants and refineries being abandoned in favour of new ones. The industry moves on and leaves behind it the poisoned skeletons of factories, refineries and ore processing. Where the manufactorum guilds are in operation, Baeten is a thriving, Imperial world. The abandoned sectors – referred to as NoGo in the local patois – are sinks of poverty, gang violence and anarchy. Avoid.

Mira is the gatehouse to the Cetus Nebula. It is a civilised world trying to grow and develop but its extreme proximity to Mu-814 and the disruptive radiation pulses mean that it is harder to attract business.

Mu-814 is a pulsar called the Cetus Lighthouse. It can help to determine the truth of Empyreal Mirages on the route in to the subsector.

Paracus is a ghost world. Haunted, even, if you believe the rumours. Once it was a thriving Imperial Feudal world with designs on urbanisation and industrialisation. Then a contagion spread through the population. Panic and rioting killed hundreds of thousands. The Imperium evacuated the Ecclesiarchy and the Administratum and then placed the planet under quarantine interdiction. The interdiction is due to lapse in fifty years.

Cetus Minor:
Cetus Minor is at the heart of the Cetus Nebula and is the centre of the rimward cluster that makes up the furthest reach of the subsector. As a result, despite being a minor Industrial/Civilised world it has become an important administrative hub for the Rimward cluster and is considered second only to Cetus Major despite other worlds being richer or more suitable.

Agri-world, investigated twice for importing illegal xenosform crops.

Has no habitable worlds. One rocky exoplanet has a large Imperial research station investigating the Cetus Nebula for interesting and lucrative phenomena. It is hoped that it will rival the Piscean nebula where gaseous tritium and heavy metal dust clouds made the Rogue Trader Brassrick his unimaginable fortune. It is rumoured that it is also a long range listening post and intelligence gathering operation for the Ordo Xenos regarding the Halo Stars.

Penal Colony. The only habitable world is a dead rock with a barely breathable atmosphere. Rumour indicates that the high fatality rate covers the sale of prisoners to unscrupulous captains from Erydimae as either pressganged crews or as slave cargo…

Erydimae has made quite an industry out of being a waypoint for ships heading out into the Halo Stars; you will not find a better or more attentive resupply and dry-docking centre in the sector. Its labour, though, comes from alien and mutant ghettos. Cetus Minor turns a blind eye to the goings on there as the above-required tithes are welcome. Cetus Major, though, is starting to worry that minor abhuman missions and embassies are becoming settlements. A clash is imminent and inevitable. Tread carefully.

Rift is a garden world, the most rimward of the Cetus subsector and thus closest to the Halo.
Civilisation hasn’t advanced this far but the abundant animal life and the large carnivores that prey upon it are a common resource for hunters and rogue traders.

And that is it! Expect a lot more from this over the next year. Exciting times.


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Lessons from 2012 and ideas for 2013

Last year, the inhabitants of the Beard Bunker challenged themselves to produce a decent Warhammer Fantasy army in a year, and we all succeeded.  Um. Well. Some more than others.

If anyone's hobby won hard in 2012, it was Maisey's. In addition to this,
he produced a fine-looking army of Dark Angels as well. Fair play. Git.

With that in mind, this post is going to do two things:

1. To reflect on how a year-long hobby project taught me some stuff about self-motivation.
2. To give you a little taste of what to expect from the Beard Bunker in 2013.

I motivated this!

I’m not a very self-motivated person. For some reason, if given a choice between doing something constructive and having a bit of a sit, I’ll often choose the latter, despite knowing that doing stuff always makes people feel better. As such, things always get left to the last minute. Every. Damn.  Time.

The lesson: having one deadline a year away will not motivate me to do stuff right now.

The solution? Have multiple, smaller deadlines that lead up to the one big deadline that actually matters. Of course, these deadlines are just arbitrary dates on a page, so I’ll ignore them unless I incentivise them. How to incentivise them? For wargaming, nothing achieves this like an impending event. If there isn’t one, make something up. We could’ve done a gaming event where all of us participating in the campaign needed to bring 500 points, painted, to a weekend-long round robin to get a feel for our new armies. An event like that every three months, and you’ve got a much better chance of maintaining your productivity.

2013: 40K all up in this b****

A number of concepts for our 2013 project got floated about the Bunker until Maisey suggested 500-point skirmish armies for 40K. We all started thinking about how this was an opportunity to do a little smattering of those armies we liked but didn’t want to do a full-blown army for. And then, one by one, something humorous happened. Pretty much all of us said, “I might give Dark Eldar a go.”

At which point, it stopped being random skirmish armies, and started being a Kabal War. The added bonus? At the end of it, the Beard Bunker will be able to join up their cybergoth pixies to create a 2,500-point force of spankyness.

That said, a warband of sixteen-odd gothpixies isn’t exactly a year’s worth of work.

We may still do random 500-point 40K side-projects (Jeff, for example, might have plans for his rogue trader, and my eye keeps drifting in the direction of the new Tau) but one thing which I’m really excited about is Jeff’s idea of some 28mm-scale Inquisitor-style stuff.  Each player makes a warband of, say, 3-8 characters and also designs and paints up a faction of antagonists (who’d have, say, 20 goons and a few big gribblies). Jeff is already figuring out a sub-sector map for us to populate with said antagonist factions, at which point delicious narrative-heavy goodness is ours for the enjoying. I’ll be using Inquisitor Drake, Jeff has his Inquisitor, and so on.

Inquisitor Drake's warband

Since I’ve mostly got my Inq28 warband mostly sorted, I might even finish the goon squad in time!

We’ve yet to set any deadlines on these, and it’s possible that some of us might not get involved in all three projects (500pt armies/Kabal War/Inq28), but there you have it. Which of these projects would get your hobby juices flowing the most? And whilst I’m at it, what sort of articles would you like to see from us this year? If you have thoughts on the matter, tell us in the comments!


Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Be thee a sporting gentleperson?

Jeff dropped some truth bombs in his last post. They concerned sporting conduct, and I’d like to elaborate on the theme, not least of which because he wasn’t the only one to have an uncomfortable moment of self-realisation during campaign week.

We wargamers all like to think of ourselves as sporting players. No-one wants to be remembered as a game-spoiling spoontard, be they competitive or non-competitive. But if I’m honest, sometimes my enthusiasm ebbs when everything’s going wrong, or I bitch about the unbalanced rules for that thing Jeremy Vetock wrote that one time, or (and this is a particularly embarrassing one) I get more lively when I’m winning the game.

I’ve spent years honing my painting and modelling skills. God knows how many conversations I’ve had about tactics, and army lists, and all that jazz. One would have thought that somewhere amidst all those years, I would’ve sat down and thought, really thought, about the skill of being a fun opponent. Well, now that I’ve done so, it turns out I’m not quite as stridently awesome as I thought I was.

Keen to fix this, I have assembled a bunch of guidelines. Hopefully they’ll prove helpful for others as well. I’m actually quite excited about this; if I stick at it, gaming is going to get even more delicious.

Also, sorry if some of these seem obvious or patronising. They’re all inspired by real-life failures I’ve either seen or actively participated in, so clearly all of these are fresh news to someone.

Before the game:

- Make sure you and your opponent know what kind of game you’re playing before you start. Are the army lists competitive or story-based? Will you be using the rules as written, or the rules as intended?

During the game:

- The appropriate response to an abysmal dice roll is "nooooooooooo!"

- Laugh at your misfortunes. Chapter Master just blown his own hand off with an overheating plasma pistol? Laugh. Regiment failed its charge by an inch? Laugh. Battle cannon missed a barn door only two inches away? It’s actually pretty funny, and your opponent probably thinks so too. They just need your permission to laugh with you. If you can’t laugh, because the pain of gaming with little toy soldiers just cuts so deep, then be comically angry instead. Or comically something.

- Avoid being a starch-arse and be forgiving if your opponent forgot to do something in the right sub-phase or whatever.

- Commiserate with your opponent when something goes wrong for them. Unless they’re laughing, in which case, laugh along with them.

- Are the rules for one of your opponent’s units totally broken? Maybe, but don’t bitch about it to them – they didn’t write the rules. Much better to come up with a cunning way of dealing with said scary unit next time.

- Compliment your opponent when they do something you didn’t anticipate. Preferably in the form of smack talk. I.E. “You sneaky bastard,” or “clever girl.”

- Don’t give up as soon as you think you’ve lost; make a last stand, or start a fighting withdrawal. Better to be Leonidas in Hades than a wet fart in the night.

- To quote Jeff, "Allow your opponent to win without feeling bad for God's sake! I always thought I did this but on the retrospective evidence of my memory I did not. That is not cool."

- Conversely, enjoy your successes. If your opponent’s going to lose a game, they’d probably like to feel that they have at least succeeded in making you happy. Just be sure not to cross over into smug or gloaty territory.

After the game:

- Gentlemanly handshakes? Standard.

"Bloody good show, Mr Johnson. Your Necrons gave me quite the pounding!"
"You're too kind, Sir Nigel."

- Friendly trash-talk and claims of “I’ll get you next time, Gadget!” are of course obligatory.

There’s probably a lot more things that could go in this list. What can y’all think of?