Thursday, 16 June 2016

Miniature giants, part one: Khador warjack

I try not to be distracted by new, shiny things, but when it comes to certain miniatures, I have about as much willpower as a three year old in a sweet shop. Except in my case there are no responsible adults dragging me away, and there might even be a paycheque in my pocket, begging to be misappropriated.

So it should come as no surprise that over the last 30 years my miniature collection has come to resemble a Games Workshop store. A Games Workshop store without the display cabinets full of finished models. Just boxes and boxes of unpainted toy soldiers, sitting sadly on shelves, hopelessly sighing 'pick me' every time I choose to randomly abandon whatever I was doing and flit to a new project that probably won't see any real progress for at least two more years.

In my collection of unpainted miniatures there are a whole bunch that aren't affiliated with any of my armies. And among these, one of my especially strong weaknesses* is particularly evident. It's an interest which has manifested itself in at least one other project visible on this blog.

Giant robots.

When I say giant I mean bigger than a man. So the category ends up being quite broad, including anything from a man-sized war droid (as they tend to be slightly larger than their human counterparts, take this guy for example), to the gargantuan walking forts of Battletech, Manga and the Adeptus Mechanicus.

I've just finished painting the first of this arbitrary collection of unaffiliated bots, so I'd like to share it here.

It's one of the original metal Khador Warjacks from the game Warmachine by Privateer Press. I don't own any other miniatures from that game system, but I decided on a little backstory all the same.

He and his Warcaster were cut off from their lines during a scrap in which batterings were liberally handed out by both sides. The Warjack's left pauldron was struck a crushing blow which thrust torn metal down into the shoulder joint, rendering the entire arm useless. Forced to make a tactical withdrawal the two Khadorans holed up in a barn for the night where the Warcaster was able to remove the ragged remains of the pauldron, free up the arm, and effect repairs using the meagre resources at hand.

Or, if you don't like that, try this: Originally I bought the model thinking I could somehow integrate it into my fantasy Chaos terrain project. It was after reading China MiĆ©ville's excellent Bas-Lag trilogy, set (at least partly) in the vivid and enchanting steam punk city of New CrobuzonWithout going into too much detail, the series introduces two ideas relevant to the above character. The first is of rogue sentience forming among broken machines in a scrap heap, and the second involves a specialist thaumaturge (wizard) who is able to pull together random inanimate materials to create short-lived ambulant creatures known as golems. My twisted take on this results in the above robot, anachronistically given life by a freak accident (no doubt involving Chaos), haphazardly drawn together from discarded junk, stalking the streets of the cowed and ruined city.

At some point I'll probably also have him turn up in my Warhammer 40,000 city, Kruenta Karoliina Arx Rotunda. I reckon he'd make for an interesting encounter in a game of Necromunda or 28mm Inquisitor. I can almost feel a backstory forming as I write this. But it's probably best to save that, and use it for one of the other robots in my collection. After all, when it comes to them, I clearly need all the encouragement I can get.

*You're probably not supposed to describe a weakness as strong. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Mischief, thou art afoot

Today I need to get something off my chest, I need to vent. I have been the victim of plots perpetrated by the forces of Chaos. Two different events, both of which are related to the writing of this blog.

The first incident took place during my attempt to write an earlier entry. The one about Gshtaad the Abomination. It was meant to be a profile of my homegrown Chaos God, acting as an introduction to my old Chaos Warrior miniatures.

But before I wrote it, I knew I wanted to start with a longer, more complicated entry, discussing my thoughts on Games Workshop's Chaos Pantheon. This was to be my argument for why I felt it was okay to invent a new god, and where this fictional deity would slot into the existing Warhammer mythology.

But I couldn't keep this piece short and it started to become a bit laboured. And not just laboured, it seemed to be a story that didn't want to be told. Midway through writing, when I was talking about the Chaos Gods appearing in both Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, I realised I needed to discuss the relationship between these two games before I could go any further. So an additional post had to be written. Then, as I was writing the additional post, more ideas sprung up, meaning a single extra post was not enough. I had other things I needed to say, so I ended up having to write yet another entry.

But I never set out to write either of those two posts. Several thousand words just kind of appeared within me and forced their way out. I really only wanted to talk about the Chaos Pantheon, and its potentially missing Gods. 

But eventually I got back on to that story and started to make some decisive progress. In fact I was almost in sight of my goal, having written about three quarters of the article, when my computer's screen flashed ominously. Everything I had written so far disappeared before my eyes, and while I was messing with apple z an autosave overwrote any chance I had of retrieving an earlier copy. No matter what I did I couldn't get the article to come back. It wasn't saved anywhere else, and I was powerless to undo the damage.

It was my bad, for not keeping a backed-up copy of the article, but that didn't make the fact that I had to start all over again any easier to bear. Quite a few hours of writing and researching needed to be repeated from scratch, after a journey that had already ended up running into months.

The fault was entirely my own, so I did the only sensible thing open to me, and laid the blame firmly at the feet of the Chaos Gods.

Or their tentacles. Whatever.

Not at all how it happened, but a better image than the blank screen I was faced with

And it probably would have ended there, never to be mentioned again, had another event not unfolded just a few weeks later. This second story centres on the tribulations of constructing and painting a large terrain piece.

The piece in question was part of a modular town project I've been working on since I was at college. That means it's been ongoing for nearly twenty years. Except of course it hasn't been ongoing. It's been sitting on a shelf somewhere, forlorn and forgotten about.

The original idea was to build part of an Empire town that had been attacked and overrun by the forces of Chaos. The Chaos connection again.

It started out as a single model, but when I moved house it broke and I had to separate it into component parts. Then the colours that I had painted the first part in were withdrawn and a whole new range of paints released in their place. Then I moved again and the models went into deep storage for several years. When they came out they had suffered all kinds of damage. Eventually after all those years (and repairs and rebuilds and additions), I realised I had to just finish the project and draw a line under it. So I took a day off work and committed myself to finishing. I didn't finish. But I did enough to mean that I was able to wrap it up during the next few evenings. Eventually, a few weeks ago, I completed the whole thing. I reached for the spray varnish, but instead grabbed the black primer. A piece of terrain that I have quite literally been trying to complete for twenty years, got partially resprayed matt black at precisely the moment I thought I was crossing the finishing line.

And now, after repainting the damaged area and repairing the base, all those years after I first started, the terrain is finally complete.

But that's not quite the end of the story. There's an epilogue. Or maybe it's an epitaph? Because, with the release of Age of Sigmar a few months ago, in game terms the finished piece is now out-of-date. The Old World has been destroyed. The Empire and the Northern Wastes no longer exist. My little terrain project no longer has a place in the current continuity.

But I guess that's how Chaos works. Those pesky Chaos Powers. There's no order. No logic. Things happen randomly for no reason.

Or do they? Who knows? It's kind of impossible to tell when Chaos is involved.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Not just nutters, but psychopaths too

Nearly all my Chaos Warriors worship Gshtaad The Abomination. If you can't be bothered to read my post about him, he's basically a kind of halfway house between Khorne, the Blood God and Nurgle, the Lord of Decay, theoretically giving me the freedom to collect miniatures from both ranges, and integrate them into a single, coherent force.

But the boundary line between Khorne and Nurgle isn't the only one I've conveniently ignored for the sake of my Chaos Warrior force.

At various points in Games Workshop's history there have been Chaos Thugs, Chaos Marauders and Chaos Warriors - not to mention the uber warriors known as the Chosen. I always imagined these units, taken in sequence, formed a kind of career path for nasty bad guys. I thought a Chaos follower would start as a young nutter, in a pack of Thugs with little armour and equipment, getting bigger and better at fighting until he's collected enough kills, experience and gear to graduate to full-blown, armoured psychopath.

I therefore liked the idea that the demarkation line between Thugs, Marauders, Warriors and Chosen might not be so straightforward. It could be more blurred than the commercial miniature ranges have been able to portray. So some Warriors might not be in full armour, and some Marauders might not be bare-chested. I figured that the occasional hard-as-nails Warrior might even prefer to lead younger, less experienced goons into the fight, probably as an expression of his narcissism, but perhaps even as some kind of twisted, daemon-worshipper's take on civic duty.

Equally, some Marauders might be so blessed by their chosen God that they're way more muscular than the veterans who have spent a lifetime training and building themselves up. Hulking great youths, rapidly rising through the ranks, forgoing skill and experience in favour of sheer, mindless strength.

And you might also find troops who aren't super tough, dangerous-looking fighters. Instead they are skinny little dudes, press-ganged into the lower ranks, given ill-fitting armour and scrappy weapons, essentially just cannon fodder, desperate to unearth some hidden power before Darwin's selection process brutally removes them from the tribe for good.

So what I'm trying to say is that I actively endeavour to make my Chaos Warrior army as diverse as I can. To compose it from as widely dissimilar parts as possible. To achieve variance. Random variance. You might even want to call it Chaos.