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.

+++

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

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Ladies and Gentlemen, start your (daemon) engines!

Maisey: I know I have said this before, and I know I’ll be saying it again at some point in the future, but as of right now the Thousand Sons are done. Yes done. Completely. 100% totally farm fresh done. 5pm Friday afternoon type done. Take the turkey out of the oven because it’s done done. I’ve reached a very healthy 1750 pts worth of stuff. I was actually aiming at 1500 pts but I had a slight misunderstanding around the way 8th edition calculates points. So now being clear that nothing comes for free anymore I’ve arrived at 1750 pts. Which to me is a very solid core of a collection.

It's always hard getting everything into a single photo, but you get the idea.
The latest and last things added to the army, beyond what we’ve seen here before, is a huge pile of worthless cannon fodder glorious Cultists, 30 of them to be exact, more Tzaangor, a pair of Helbrutes, and a rather large Forgefiend. I do have some reasonings behind these choices.

Introducing Nuterhek...
Firstly the cultists, I’ve always seen Chaos Marines being rare and powerful, especially with the Thousand Sons, so it never felt appropriate to have huge numbers of marines, but the bulk of the forces being made up of cultists, summoned daemons, and auxiliaries like the Tzaangor. Cultists also gives me a third troops choice to fill out the minimum requirements for the Battalion detachment giving me a tasty 3 additional command points. This approach kept the painting aspect fresh as well meaning that each unit was different and I didn’t have that looming dread of having to paint another batch of 10, 20, 30 later that comes with other factions (I’m looking at you Imperial Guard).

... and Un-Nefer

The daemon engines, the Helbrutes and Forgefiend, where another easy and thematic choice. Even pre-heresy the Thousand Sons used large numbers of psychically controlled Automata and dreadnoughts to help bolster their lower than average numbers. Post-heresy it feels natural for them to have daemon infused Automata and Helbrutes (which I still tend to refer to as dreadnoughts).

The Forgefiend Ammit
 and with his alternative weapon options.

Ok, maybe not completely done.

There are things that I want to add in the future, like I know I want to have a pimped out land raider totally worthy of the glory of Tzeentch, but that involves a whole bunch of conversion kits, parts, and work that I cannot afford and don’t have time for right now. I’m not the greatest when it comes to conversion work. In fact I’m terrible at any form of sculpting and scratchbuilding. I’m fine with making things fit but I just don’t have the vision to create new. I know that this is something that can be learnt and it comes with practice but it’s too far outside of my comfort zone for me to start.

Both Helbrutes have magnetised left arm options, when you need more long ranged boom.

I do have a longer term plan for the Chaos, as I’m very much into them right now and they have become my go to army for 40k games. I’m enjoying playing with them and it feels good to be bad. With 8th edition’s detachment rules, I can have multiple detachments from different factions all working together. I can have some Daemons and some Fallen and some renegade Imperial Guard and some (more) cultists and some renegade Astartes and some… you get the idea. This is me learning to embrace the whims of the hobby butterfly but keep it all loosely tied together and coherent.

Look at it's cute little tail!

So what is next on to the paint station? Well, I have a Platoon of Bolt Action Afrika Korp to be getting on with, also there is some Vampire things that need doing. I’ll have a sit and think and let us just see where the hobby butterfly leads me next.

Maisey

Monday, 13 November 2017

Freehand letter painting tips

Preamble, context & inanity

Charlie: Being a renowned glutton for punishment, I recently put myself in the position of having to freehand twelve names onto some Battlefleet Gothic ships. Why did I have so many at once? Because we're in the run-up to the finale of the Scyrian Expanse campaign, and the Imperial Navy's flotilla needed serious reinforcements.

Such blank. Many base.

The first hurdle, of course, was to come up with names for all twelve ships. Even the escorts. They might be puny so far as the game is concerned, but naming them makes it mildly harder for the players to get callous about casualties, and improves immersion.

Bemoaning said lack of names to Curis, he suggested a few, including:

Hepatitus Alpha
Alphaherpes
Aedidas Traksuet
Aeileen Comon

Feel free to use those gems for your own ships/tanks/three door hatchbacks. Personally I resisted the temptation, and chose... others.

Having picked my names (most of them mercifully short) I got stuck in.


Freehand lettering: tips and tricks

Anyone who reads this blog (or has eyes) knows I'm not a competition painter, so these tips won't take experienced painters by surprise; hopefully they'll be helpful for people of intermediate skill and below.

Side note for beginners: anyone with a steady hand can paint letters given enough practice. Just make sure you have a brush with a decent point, and you know how to use a palette to control the volume and consistency of paint on your brush. There are plenty of videos on youtube explaining how to make a wet palette, and almost any non-porous surface can be pressed into service for a more bog-standard palette (as the long-suffering ice cream tub lid on my paint station will testify).



Thing the first: basecoat the area
As with my freehand painting tips, I suggest you paint letters on an area of flat colour. Painting on an area that has only been basecoated allows you to use the background colour as an eraser, which makes tidying up your text significantly easier than correcting a mistake made on five blended layers of amazingness. In this example, my background colour is... well... black.

Thing the second: pick the mid-point
It might seem reasonable to start painting at the start of the text, but actually, you want to start in the middle and work outwards. This ensures the word is placed where you want it on the miniature. Just count how many letters and spaces there are in the text, and paint the middle letter first. In the case of my example above, the middle character was actually a space, so I marked it with a small line.

If you've got a lot of letters, it might also be a good idea to put down a line of regularly-spaced dots for each letter to make it easier to keep the size of the letters consistent.

Thing the second: make sloppy letters
Seriously, don't be tidy, just mark out where everything is going. Get the shape  and spacing right before you start tightening anything up. Counter-intuitively I find doing things this way to be significantly more efficient than trying to be neat and tidy from the get-go.

Thing the third: tidy up the shape
Use the background colour to erase any mistakes. The great thing about doing this is that it becomes very quick and simple to get right angles and other shapes which can be tough to do precisely with a brush. If you look closely in the third image above, you can see a few drying lines of black paint which had been used to sharpen up the top of the N.

Thing the fourth: embellishment and detailing
This is the stage where I add serifs onto the letters and any other embellishments. You'll be alternating between your font colour and your background colour, blocking in a serif then sharpening it using the background colour.

Once you've finished the letters, you can start highlighting things if appropriate. I didn't use any highlighting, since the text is on a flat surface rather than a cloak or flag or whatever. 

+ + +

Hopefully that's been somewhat useful. Here be the fruits of my labours:

The finished reinforcements

The new cruiser squadron

The flotilla in its entirety

One time, I started extending a tape measure in the same room as Jack, and this
freaked him out so much that as he fled the table, he knocked over a pint of water
inches away from my girlfriend's laptop. Suffice to say, the above moment was
one in which I avoided any sudden movements.


Monday, 6 November 2017

A Series of Unfortunate Dice Rolls

Charlie: When someone tells me that they're unlucky, I assume it's confirmation bias. Some people seem oblivious to all the times they've been fortunate and bemoan all the times they aren't, failing to notice that things average out over a long enough time span.

Le sob.

That having been said, a universe of infinite possibility means that some people will be luckier than others, and some people... some people will be Maisey.

I've been gaming with Maisey for just over a decade now, and when things go wrong for him, it tends toward the ridiculous. So now, because it amuses me, here are my favourite top three Maisey dice fails. If you've had similar tales of woe, please brighten Maisey's day and share them in the comments.


Third place: the noble veterans

Losing a squad of terminators is painful. Losing all five in a single shooting phase is even worse, but at least the enemy usually has to use up their snazziest guns to get the job done, or win through sheer weight of fire. Even before terminators gained an extra wound with the coming of 40K's 8th edition it would take an average of 180 lasgun shots to bring down five terminators.

So what killed Maisey's terminators? A single platoon of guardsmen? One good shot from a plasma cannon? Maybe a freak psychic power?

Nope. It was a gaggle of gretchin.

With grot blastas.

How many gretchin, you ask?

Ten.


Second place: the mighty sorcerer


Normally this character is known as Phanek, but for now let's call him Squawkums McFail. He was involved in a raid on some ork-held ruins whilst in search of a MacGuffin, and Maisey was getting frustrated at how many things hadn't gone his way that turn. "Right," Maisey announced, "I'm casting Smite on those orks; I just want to get something killed this turn."

For the record, the orks were retreating. This was just an evil sorcerer venting his frustration on the nearest smiteable object.

Naturally, Maisey rolled snake eyes for the psychic test. No problem, he thought: we have command points in 8th edition for this exact problem! He re-rolled one of the dice. Another 1 popped up. Right then, miscast it is... so Squawkums inflicted three mortal wounds on himself which, since he was already injured from a previous miscast, took him out of play. Clap clap.

This would normally be the end of it, but we were playing a campaign with a very simple unit persistence rule: roll a D6 when a model's taken out. On a 6 it's fine, on a 5-2 it misses the next game, and on a 1 it's dead.

I think you can guess what Squawkums rolled.

There are times when Maisey's ability to roll 1s is so potent that even he is reduced to helpless mirth for the better part of five minutes. Credit where credit's due: he had at least managed to kill something that turn.


First place: the elite sniper team

Way back when Maisey was first getting into 40k he was immediately attracted to the Imperial Guard (that's the Astra Copywritarum to any young'uns reading this). Something about the poor bloody infantry's fatalism, and the boomy-ness of the tanks, I think. There was one fly in the ointment: he was constantly missing. A 4+ to hit might as well be a 6+ if you're one of Maisey's minis. As his frustration mounted, he flicked through his codex in search of something more dependable. Something that would be impervious to the malice of the cubed betrayers.

Then he found it: regardless of the model's ballistic skill, sniper rifles always hit on a 2+.

Perfect! Maisey immediately bought six snipers plus six spotters, lovingly painted them up, deployed them for their first game, and with a vindictive grin declared his first target, dice in hand. If nothing else, I knew I'd be taking some pinning tests.

We watched as six dice dropped from his unfurling fist. They tumbled across the table, spinning and bouncing between ruins and guardsmen.

They settled.

The universe paused for a moment.

Maisey stared in disbelief.

Stunned, I reached for a calculator, taking refuge from my befuddlement in statistical calculations.

He had achieved the nearly-impossible: six ones.

I love you, man. You're 1 in 46,656.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Total War: Warhammer 2 review

Charlie: What a coincidence. Total War: Warhammer II comes out, and I go suspiciously quiet for a month.

When the first Total Warhammer came out it re-lit my enthusiasm for Fantasy Battle and made me paint more Empire soldiers, which was no mean feat given the funk Age of Squigmar left me in. Total Warhammer II has done it again; it even made me get out my dusty case of dark elves and think seriously about renovating them.

Despite there having been more than enough reviews of the game by now, I feel compelled to throw my own hat in the ring, even though the fine folk at Creative Assembly will almost certainly never read this. Since the main thing I have to offer as a reviewer is being a long-time Fantasy Battle player, I'm going to answer these basic questions:

Is it a faithful recreation of the Old World?
What have they changed/added compared to Total Warhammer 1?
Is it worth buying, given how recently we had the first game?

Faithfulness to the setting

So, firstly, its faithfulness to the Warhammer Fantasy setting. If you've played the first game, it will come as no surprise to hear that this one is bang on, and it's nerdgasm-inducing to see some parts of the setting brought to life. Allow me to illustrate my point with pictures.

The Anvil of Vaul

The docks at Lothern
As with the first game, though, scenery is often my main bone of contention. Just as often as the scenery is excellent, with crazy attention to detail (right down to little alchemist's bottles on a side table outside an elven tent in the corner of a massive battlefield) it can also be preposterous (the giant skull-shaped mountains are back!). It also often looks too big relative to the people on the battlefield, with many of the trees looking... surprisingly large.

Whining about scenery notwithstanding, the tone of the world is spot on. The dark elves are vicious, kin-slaying bastards, the high elves are duplicitous, haughty bastards, the skaven are underhanded unpredictable sneaky bastards, and the lizardmen are hard bastards who don't speak English.

A lone skink foolishly gets in the way of the pain train.
Creative Assembly have come up with some nice gameplay mechanics to represent the vibe of each faction, which mean that, for example, the high elves are constantly nancying about with court intrigues and manipulating the other races through diplomacy and espionage.

In short, Total Warhammer 2 does very well with the setting.

If you think these hell pit abominations look grim, wait until you see their animation.
Really rather unsettling.


What's changed since the first game?

Naturally, this game is very similar to the first in most ways. It would be better to describe it as a refinement, and I'll try and outline the changes that come to mind (beyond the obvious 'four new races and bajillions of new maps'):


  • The new Vortex campaign adds real pace, structure and closure above and beyond that of the first game.
  • The Mortal Empires DLC (free for owners of the first game) is commendably ambitious, since it combines almost every Warhammer race on four different continents. I'm playing it in co-op with a friend at the moment, and the sheer scope of it is enjoyably dizzying.
  • Races can now inhabit any kind of location, but if it's not suited to their race they'll find it more expensive and tougher to maintain public order. This really opens things up, and means you often end up being torn between razing things to the ground and garrisoning it to prevent goblins/skaven/undead skulking back to the ruins later.
  • It's a small touch, but sea travel no longer causes attrition unless there's a storm in the area, which makes sea travel feel more real.
  • The game does a much better job of explaining its mechanics and interface than the first one did when playing the single-player campaign.
  • To my surprise, loading times are markedly faster in this game than the first; presumably they've somehow made things more efficient? Witchcraft, I'm sure.
There are other changes, including rites that races can perform for long-lasting campaign buffs, but those were the changes that had the biggest impact on me.

Malekith: so badass he slouches in his  dragon saddle as though posing for a sculptor.


Is it worth buying?

Obviously that's up to you; video games aren't cheap, but they're far cheaper than wargaming. If you enjoyed the first one and wanted more, this will continue to please you. The game's animators deserve a particular shout-out; I'm consistently amazed by the way things move in the game, even if people do get flung cartoonishly far when hit by monsters/chariots/artillery.

I've played the vortex campaign, had a great time, and am now fifty turns into a co-op Mortal Empires campaign. It's like playing the epic Warhammer Fantasy Battle campaign I always wanted to GM, and continues to bring a nostalgic tear to me ol' eyes given the baffling popularity of Age of Plonkmar. I shall leave you with a few more sexy images, and if you have any questions prior to buying it, I shall gladly answer in the comments.

~Charlie

Kroq'Gar goes hydra hunting.

Lothern Sea Guard watch as Malekith and his army approach in the distance.

Malekith screens his approach with some sacrificial harpies, who end up falling
out of the sky like hairy flappy raindrops.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Progress Reports and Confessions

Maisey: 2017 was going to be year of finishing things. For the most part that has been true. Looking back at my to do list from the beginning of the year and this is what I have actually managed to get done.
  • Orge Scrap Launcher. DONE
  • Bolt Action German veteran Grenadiers. DONE
  • Frost Grave warband, board, and scenery. DONE
  • Tabletop world buildings. DONE
  • Charlie’s Storm Eagle. DONE
  • Desert board scenery. DONE
  • Industrial scenery. DONE
  • Thousand Sons. DONE + More

What is still left over from that list?

Vampire Counts - This was meant to be a tidy up and finishing thing. Sorting out all those little bits and bobs. I’ve not actually started anything here, in fact I totally failed and ended up buying some more models. In my defence, I picked them up off a friend and it was a time limited offer, so I jumped on it. Also, we’ve not actually been playing fantasy at all, so if something is going to get bumped down the priority list it’s going to be the thing that isn’t being played.

Empire. Ok, this one shouldn’t have been there in the first place. All the models I had for the army were painted and it was just my need to fill up the carry case. Also I HAVE NEVER USED THIS ARMY. So why it was on the list in the first place I don’t know, so I think we can discount this one. Honestly, since this one has never been used maybe it should go up for sale to make room/funds for something else?

Tyranids. These has been sold/donated to Em as she was far more interested than I was about doing some ‘nids. So that’s another one I don’t need to worry about.

Bolt Action DAK. Ah the Afrika Korp, I did start building them, then 40k 8th Ed came along and the priorities got changed around. So they are still there, but a lower priority.


Right, now here is the confessional bit. This is where I have utterly failed to stick to the plan, or at least have tricked and misdirected myself into believing that I can get new stuff ‘to finish a project’ when there is no need. THIS IS MY LIST OF SHAME
  • Dark Angels Interrogator Chaplain. When doing my Dark Angels overview I realised I never had a chaplain model, which is frankly a disgrace.
  • Necrons. These were part of the payment for the Tyranids. I had an idea for a cool purple and gold paint scheme for them. So these are now waiting for me to get that urge again. 
  • Space Hulk. Erm, yeah, I forgot that I had these. It really needs painting properly. Oops. So not new, just missed from the original list.
  • As mentioned above, some additional Vampire stuff. Vampires are my main fantasy army, so to me they will never truly be finished. I will always keep adding new units and bits to that massive pile of undead and never be complete.
  • Thousand Sons have now got a couple of Helbrutes (one finished, one awaiting paint) and a huge pile of cultists. This is mostly through gaming and the need for more that comes from gaming. I’ll come back to this in a moment.

I really shouldn’t be too down on myself. Looking back I’ve completed a load of little things, a new 40k army in 9 months, as well as A GAMING BOARD AND THREE TABLES WORTH OF SCENERY. So a significant chunk of stuff has been finished off. However, I’m one of these people who seem to hate themselves and have never done enough, or gotten things right. So sitting down and reflecting on what I have managed to complete to keep things in perspective. 2017 has been a good year for finishing things and there is still lots of year left for getting more ticked off the list.


As I mentioned above with the Thousand Sons and Vampires. When you are actively gaming with a collection you naturally end up thinking about what you were lacking in the last game, what you want more off, or just having it in the front of your mind that leads you to wanting the new things. With the Vampire, we’ve not been playing fantasy so they have gone completely unattended. Even with the occasional glance at the to do list and mentally telling myself that I should get on with them. Without the gaming there is no impetus to do it. The inverse is true with the Thousand Sons. I’ve been gaming with them, so the need to get new things for the project is somewhat overwhelming and using the little lie that I need a pair of helbrutes to get the project finished I’ve justified to myself the buying of new things. This has gone against the idea for this year, which I’ll apologise for. What I won’t apologise for is enjoying my hobby, and if having a blob of 30 cultists in with my Thousand Sons means I enjoy my hobby and my gaming more, then so be it. The getting things done plan came from a place where we didn’t have an aim or direction. The new edition of 40k has lit a fire under us and we’ve started gaming, putting together narrative campaigns, and generally enjoying our hobby again. So I don’t see the harm in changing the plan now that the situation has changed.


Monday, 25 September 2017

Captain's Log II

Charlie: back in June, we had the first episode of the Captain's Log, Jon's journal of his travels in the Scyrian Expanse. In this episode, the flotilla takes its first leap out into the Expanse... I'll hand you over to Jon without further ado.

The sub-sector map at the time of writing.





EXTRACTS FROM THE JOURNAL OF LAIUS ORTANO


Captain's log, star date 3.151.999.M41

Journal Entry: 787


After some minor shifts in gravity during our stay in the warp, Azaryah has translated us back into real space, on the outskirts of a binary star system. Our first step into the unknown expanse of the Scyrian sub-sector.

Curiously, against statistical odds, our long range scans indicate signs of life dotted across multiple moons and planets. There are also mining opportunities available. Most are not in hospitable environments. However, there is a small moon orbiting a gas giant that has a livable environment and is rich with minerals. Another moon close-by harbours life.

The gas giant, B5, is about a day’s flight away.







Captain's log, star date 3.154.999.M41

Journal Entry: 788

A mining outpost is currently being set up on B5i.

The life we have found on B5iii consists of extremophiles in a high pressure environment.

There is a moon orbiting a different gas giant, closer to the secondary star: B4iv. It shows signs of life and has a breathable atmosphere. Perhaps more complex life will exist there?

I must confess, I am rather taken with the pace of this mission. It makes a pleasant change from fighting Ork and Chaos fleets! To discover new life and help expand the Imperium, rather than destroy in defense of it, makes for a welcome change.

I have instructed Westcliffe to have Squadron 17 remain in orbit around the mining facility while the rest of the fleet continues to explore the system.






Captain's Log: Star Date: 3.188.999.M41

Journal Entry: 789

It feels good to write again. The Intemperance is currently undergoing extensive repairs in the docks orbiting Kaprun.

I am not sure where to begin.

The life signs we had detected at B4iv were not simple organisms. As we approached the moon we began to see green landmass and large oceans, and in the planet’s umbra was an unmistakable site. The cobweb structure of night-lights; cities.

We also detected radio transmissions and signs of conflict.

I sent a broadcast on all frequencies, announcing our presence in the system, and sure enough a few minutes later I was speaking with a lost human civilisation in civil war.

The notion of interstellar travel was lost on them.

There were two sides to the conflict: the Anshan Republic, an anti-psyker government who controlled the moon, and the Commonwealth, a society of surviving psykers fighting for their lives. The Commonwealth fleet had already sustained heavy losses but were pressing their attack regardless; at the time we had no idea why.

Anshan Republic escorts; names unknown; capabilities unknown.

Our sensor operatives noted that the torpedoes being fired from the Anshan vessels were somehow tracking their targets. This was remarkable, although it did concern me that there may be some form of artificial intelligence at work.

Orvan, the captain of one of the Commonwealth vessels, also told me that the Republic’s concerns over psykers were unfounded as they had sophisticated collars that dampened latent ability. If this was true, it could save billions of lives across the Imperium!

My resolve was clear: we had to find a way to re-integrate these cultures back into the Imperium, and in doing so, acquire the technologies they held.

The problem: psykers are a part of our society. But they are also treated, rightly so, with extreme caution and often executed. Striking that balance has allowed our Empire to grow and defend humanity against xeno threats. But how to re-introduce these societies into the moderate centrism of the Imperium when they both place themselves at ideological extremes?

Anshan Republic cruisers; names unknown;
main weapons: broadside batteries of homing torpedoes.

In a string of difficult exchanges with both the Republic and the Commonwealth, we learned that the Commonwealth fleet was attempting the rescue of two hundred psykers scheduled by the Anshan Republic for execution. I thought if we could broker a ceasefire we might have some hope of securing peace, and then later securing trade agreements with both sides.

Anshan Republic flagship; name unknown; weapon systems include homing torpedoes
and gunboats 1.5 times the size of thunderhawk gunships.

I called Captain Humbolt of the Republic and attempted to communicate our position on this conflict, extolling the benefits of psykers in allowing us to travel between the stars, form a galactic empire, and communicate across vast distances. But the notion of us having psykers onboard our vessels disgusted Humbolt and she ended the transmission mid-way through my retort.

Dogmatism is not a trait known for its willingness to engage in open discourse.

Hassiq tried to salvage our position, having had more experience at diplomacy, but he didn’t get much further. In fact, he seemed displeased at me for having told the truth about us having psykers! Perhaps that was a little naive.

My father always wanted me to become a politician, perhaps even a planetary governor somewhere in the Gothic sector. It was not something I remotely wanted growing up. I joined the navy as a compromise. “Gain some credentials,” he said, “and see where you are in a few years.” It seems I was right not to have any intention of becoming a politician. I would not do well.

In any case, I handed diplomatic duties over to Hassiq, feeling more than a little deflated.

After Hassiq reiterated to the Republic my points about a twenty thousand year old galactic empire (albeit with more emphasis on the extermination of psykers) the Republic agreed to a temporary ceasefire with the Commonwealth on the understanding that we would take the two hundred untrained psykers onto the Zenith, and use our own traditional means of dealing with them.

In theory it was a good compromise, and it did at least bring the battle to a halt, but neither the Zenith nor the Intemperance had the facilities to subdue latent potential. We lied to stop the fighting, and a few hours later our lie resulted in a crowd of two hundred untrained psykers shuffling their way onto the cargo pads of the Zenith.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Battlefleet Achernar grows (a bit)

Charlie: Last week I revealed that  Necrons had cropped up in the Scyrian Expanse. To meet this new threat, Jon and Andy would need reinforcements, so I expanded the number of painted ships in Battlefleet Achernar from my effectively infinite supply of old BFG models. There is a particular joy in seeing a ship go from 'slap-happy brush fail' to 'ding!'

The expanded flotilla, with the  rogue trader cruiser Zenith in the rear.

I'm not claiming my BFG paint jobs are even in the same country as amazing, but good lord they're an improvement on their previous incarnations. I probably should've taken before and after pics... maybe next time?

Dem boosters.

As is customary in our campaign, every ship has its own background and captain. As some readers may recall, the players' ships even have fully fleshed-out bridge crew serving as the recurring background characters. This brings a bunch of faceless space ships to life, helping the story become more emotionally involving and/or stressful. I figure if a player doesn't care about a friendly NPC dying, I'm not doing a good enough job.


The Vigilant

The Vigilant

The Vigilant is an overlord-class battlecruiser, and serves as Battlefleet Achernar's flagship. It is normally stationed at Kaprun to safeguard the shipyards, but is deployed when Admiral Tryphosa leads the fleet against substantial threats. Given the rarity of its deployment, its crew are well-drilled but untested, as a full fleet deployment tends to happen only once in a generation. To mitigate this problem, Tryphosa has been known to treat the Vigilant as a "retirement home" for old sailors with combat experience, and seeds these knowledgeable types among the untested crew. The advantage for the veterans is that they effectively have a job that keeps them safe and docked around a comfortable colony with frequent shore leave.

The Vigilant's captain is Aldous Montague. He has mentored so many of Battlefleet Achernar's officers, including Admiral Tryphosa, that he is seen as a paternal figure. It is said that the ship's crew spend much of their extensive downtime trying to guess his age. Advanced in years and the subject of a great many romantic portrayals of navy life, the triple amputee is said to be both fearless and unkillable. Those who have actually met him say he now runs more on tired habit, and has only avoided retirement because he'd have no idea what to do with himself without the routine of life aboard a ship. In this regard, Montague is cut from much the same cloth as the other old sailors aboard the Vigilant.


The Seraph

This was originally one of the Dauntless models with torpedo tubes. It's been
converted to the lance version with a cut down nova cannon and some green stuff.

The Seraph is a dauntless-class light cruiser that has served Battlefleet Achernar since 993.M38. It was refitted with a prow-mounted lance in response to a surge in greenskin piracy in mid-M39. Her captain is Justyna Laerta, a famously blunt woman with little patience for courtly behaviour. She has captained the Seraph for five years now, and those who know her well say she has an excellent memory and an unrivaled attentiveness for those under her command. Her lack of diplomacy has stifled her career, and she is looked down on by more politically-minded officers who see her as someone with no social capital.


Squadron 25

I had to rush the lettering on these bases to get them ready for the game...
at some point I'll force myself to finish them off properly. Probably.

This squadron of firestorm-class frigates is led by Captain Nalani Makana aboard the Percheron. Makana's family used their wealth to propel her advancement through the ranks, and she is comparatively young for a squadron commander. She often comes off as cocksure and smug, though to the frustration of her rivals she is also a competent commander who benefits from an expensive education prior to her time at the Naval Academy. The other frigates in Squadron 25 are the Augeron, under Commander Salomon Bouchard, and the Andalusian under Commander Liselotte Prinsen.

Man, I love me some spaceships. Mercifully, this love can be indulged by two players who seem to keep coming back for more.