Wednesday, February 29, 2012

SO:KZ team Armored Might Wolves

The keen and studious might have seen these fine and nefarious fellows slip into the last post, in which I described the thinking behind themes like Armored Might, etc. Ho!

Last weekend, I met up with Frozencore Joe for some fieldwork on the 10 Killzone tables (yes, ten) that will be appearing at AdpetiCon come April. We have a lot of work to do yet, but progress is as progress does, and we felt it would be rude not to reward ourselves with a game or two of Killzone itself.

And so we did.

I will post more on that soon; however, with the finished (they are never, ever finished –but we will call them that until I can find time/gumption to address the remaining touchups and issues with these) models having already snuck onto the blog, it would be rude not to include a bit more thorough look. 

And besides, HOTPanda asked for a better peek at the bases. Ask and ye shall receive.

In fact, I will be making something of a “step by step” as I complete the last Lone Wolf model for this team. He has already been assembled from a wide assortment of parts, and awaits attention with decent measures of patience and manners -rare qualities indeed. 

A word or two on battle damage. I love battle damage. Funnily enough, Joe does not, and I suspect he was secretly pleased to give these guys the whatfor this weekend. For me, painting battle damage scratches two figurative itches with one fat finger.

First, the damage creates the characterful personality of these models –one which suggests this Special Operations team’s extended time in the field on mission after mission after insidious mission. As mentioned, I imagine these guys as “on loan” to the Inquisition or Knights or whomever for murky, ruthless purposes.

Second, the rough-and-tumble painting is quick and hides any number of painting sins. If I am not happy with a brushmark or blend here or there… dab dab dab, and rust/scored paint makes accident look deliberate. We should not forget that the secret theme of this team is “a virtue of necessity.” And so it is. This crowd was quick and pleasing to paint and look reasonably well on the tabletop, if I may say so.

Oh, and here is a better look the ice-encased bone and snow effect that I attempted on the bases -which, I might add, are rather disturbing. Well played, Secret Weapon

I feel obligated to mention that I am not pleased with GW’s snow effort (which seems really to be just white static grass?), but more fool me for using a product without testing the effect first. I rushed it, and I know better –tsk tsk. When I revisit the snow technique for the Lone Wolf, I intend to also revisit these bases… 

p.s. Vlad, I have yet to tick a single box on the achievements list. 
...more on that soon.  

Monday, February 27, 2012

Special Operations Killzone: Explained –THEMES

As stated previously, this series is designed to offer a peek behind the curtain, and to illuminate our collective thinking about the current state of Special Operations: Killzone as we run up to AdeptiCon.

During the process of revising the old, ambitious, but challenging version of Killzone in this last year, we stumbled square into a problem that, to my mind at least, seems utterly indicative of the tension fundamental to the fun and fluff v public stresses imposed on the peculiar nature of Special Operations in the 41st millennium. Killzone is, unerringly, a fluffy game –positively inviting characterful attention to individual teams, sportily indulging the desire to craft carefully small numbers of models, and yet also working extremely well when brought into the greater public sphere. Those basic impulses do not always sit well next to one another. Check the internet if you doubt me.

Also please note that I did not mention the word “competitive” above for a good reason. To be clear, Killzone can never be competitive as such. I mean, we have rewoven a game notorious for its intuitive approach to “balance” and then asked enthusiasts to play said game in a manner it was absolutely never intended. When played in the basement with your mates, these issues should never be a problem, see any Standard Bearer column to confirm; however, in the setting of a public event like AdeptiCon (even among players fully aware that they are playing a system in a manner it was never originally intended, nor designed to withstand) there are stresses of balance and propriety looming like an 8 foot bio-engineered monstrosity in the corner.

Themes, then, represent this tension writ boldly –as they attempt not only to partake sportingly in an already threadbare system but also to make it even more wildly evocative and, well, rich in vitamin fluff. Put simply, a “themed” Special Operations force ignores one of the “Standard Restrictions” discussed in the last post, and there are four basic themes:

Armored Might: This theme allows you to ignore the standard restriction and to field additional models with 2+ Armor saves in your team.

Death From Above: This theme allows you to ignore the standard restriction and to field additional Jump Infantry models in your team.

Behemoths: This theme allows you to field a Special Operations team composed entirely of models with 3 wounds. ouch.

Swift As The Wind: This theme allows you to field additional models that are Bikes, Jetbikes, or Cavalry/Beasts in your Special Operations Group (you must pick which exactly). Furthermore, any Bike or Jetbike model may add the Skilled Rider USR for an additional 5 points per model.

Any one of these comes off pretty saucy at 250 points. 

Initially, we worked out a series of costs and counterweights designed to offset the effect that breaking restrictions (if even only slightly) might have for a particular team. It was a morass. Every step we made to offset a broken theme caused another problem somewhere else down the line. We were sinking in this soup. The solution we found is wonderfully simple in its brilliance. We called it the “in for a penny, in for a pound” mechanism.

In short, if one wants to further break the game mechanism by opting for team that breaks a standard restriction designed to introduce a bit of balance, then one most embrace that break fully. For example, my “Armored Might” themed SW team has more than two 2+ saves… thus the entire team must have 2+ saves. While that might sound like a wild boon, it is also a very costly and serious impediment. In a 250-point team, I can bring about 6 models to the table. That’s rough, particularly as we have stretched mission objectives in manner that really taxes a team’s resources. Playing this team is extraordinarily tense, as their elite nature stands directly in the forefront, and I feel the cost of each model with each and every roll of the dice. Great stuff, really, and just the thing. At the end of the day, I can’t power game this list because its greatest strength is also a rather telling handicap. 

Likewise while playtesting, we were most concerned by the “Death from Above" theme, in which the entire team must be Jump Infantry. We were concerned that this might swing the game too dramatically; again however, we very quickly discovered –on the back of three consecutive maulings- that the boon is also an impediment. In other words, teams that rely entirely on “jump” also forfeit a broad number of other weapons options that make the team organization a very fickle monster in the field.

All of which is to say that the themes work exactly as they should, and that “balance” as an issue therein seems to have a kind of self-correcting equilibrium when a boon becomes a burden as well.

What a wonderful thing. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Special Operations Killzone: Explained –TEAM BUILDING

This series of posts, apart from getting the gears engaged as we spin into AdeptiCon and the Killzone events featured therein, is designed to offer insight into the machinations that formed Killzone into the hearty and robust mechanism that it is currently. More than simple promotion of the game itself, this series hopes to present a kind of RaI blueprint for how we got from the broad (and largely unmanageable) Kill Teams dynamic suggested in previous 40K editions and loosely suggested in the contemporary Battle Missions book (ahem: see bottom), to last year’s Special Operations: Killzone ruleset, and finally to the extraordinarily fun, rounded dynamic that we have conjured for AdeptiCon this year. 

This first installment covers some ground that might already be familiar to enthusiasts of Joe and Skarvald’s timely and sporting blog (Wolves for the Wolf God. Go check it out if you are unfamiliar), but the topic is worth visiting once more. Although the series might cover some expected territory, the idea –simply- is to discuss what on earth we were thinking.

For those of you not versed or familiar, there are a number of basic restrictions that act as the foundation for a standard team -250 points. These restrictions are essential and act as the leveling skeleton upon which all teams are built. There are a few simple guidelines that I will not discuss here for practicality’s sake –so please have a gander at the larger ruleset for the whole picture.

This first set of restrictions act almost exactly as they did in the original version last year. 

Standard Restrictions: a team may select a limited number of models with the following attributes:
0-2 models with a 2+ armor save
0-2 models with 3 wounds
0-2 models with 3+ invulnerable saves
0-2 models with Jump Infantry designation
0-2 models with Bike/Jetbike, and/or Cavalry/Beasts designation

So a valid team could have two Chaos Terminators, two Raptors, and two Chaos Bikers… and so on. This mechanism helps curb potential abuses and also keeps the spirit of Special Operations teams appropriately aligned –genuinely spec ops stuff, prepared for all situations. Likewise, these characteristics stack, so a TH/SS Terminator fills both a 2+ armor save and a 3+ invulnerable slot.

That solved the basic problem of potentially imbalanced team structures, but there was another lingering issue with armaments and upgrades. Thus the inspiration for a second set of restrictions intended to remedy a very complicated and troublesome problem; we wrung our hands about this one for weeks and weeks and weeks during the revision process. Previously, we had suggested that there could only be a limited number of weapons upgrades for participants in any given “squad”; however, this left quite a few armies with basic troops choices that already enjoyed a kind of MEQ upgrade equivalent (looking at you Eldar Fire Dragons). Without heavy redaction to each and every weapon option in each and every codex, our first stab at remedy would be ineffectual.  

I think Joe gets credit for this one.

Weapon Restrictions: Killzone teams identify four basic type of non-standard and limited weapons. In any mission, a team may field the following number of non-standard weaponry:
0-3 Template - designated Template
0-3 Incisive - with AP2 or lower
0-3 Suppressive - with 3 or more shots
0-3 Heavy weapons - designated Heavy.

Once again, these characteristics stack, so a Lascannon fills both an Incisive and a Heavy slot. Likewise, models with variable weapons and weapon types count 1 for each available or potential characteristic (thus a Chaos Obliterator tallies 1 Template, 1 Incisive, and 1 Heavy regardless).

In this manner, we have addressed only the kind of weapon on the table, and thus circumvented the weapon upgrade consideration entirely -no more need for exhausting and encyclopedic examination of weaponry options for every single codex and sub-codex. The basic pricing of a basic weapon for any given race still operates in relation to all the others (for better and for worse), and in the same gesture potentially formidable weaponry takes the proverbial knee before upsetting all semblance of balance at such a limited points value. Result.   

With those basic guidelines, you have the heart of the matter.

p.s. Zone Mortalis… really? I’m tempted to believe, though not inclined toward vanity, that someone out there is paying attention. I mean...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Alas and Alack!

You may have noticed an image or two floating about the interwebs: Fenrisian wolves, each caught like a photo frame in mid lunge so that, if one flipped quickly through them, the wolves might jauntily present an early-cinematic illusion of actual movement. ahem.

In a word…


I adore the new models and will find it difficult not to order 10 (or more, let’s be candid) of them.

All of which makes me feel a bit the fool –having only just finished these two humble, and now entirely obsolete, representations of Fenris’ lupine offerings. I must hurry to get these poor sods some glory on the tabletop before retiring them to the bookshelf.

I am also quite smitten with the Tundarvulfs, but have no need (yet) and too many other hobgoblins knocking on my door. Alas. They are wonderful models.

The real Blue on the pounce!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

WIP: Space Wolves (2)

I would estimate that these models are now about 80% completed and, oddly, must confess that this is post is also a demonstration of terrible transgression –indeed, one of my personal cardinal sins. I have very nearly finished the bases before the actual models.

Treacherous. Shameful.

I know. I know. I never do this. The bases always come last. It’s a rule. It’s my rule at least, and I broke it. Unceremoniously. I had the time this weekend and just couldn’t keep myself from experimenting with something new. I was fully cognizant while breaking out the materials that I would be contradicting my own fundamental painting principles, but there I was overwhelmed with excitement and eager to try a new trick. I would like to blame the bases themselves (Secret Weapon has really created something particularly brutal, horrific, and compelling all in one go with these), but the fault is really my own self-control -lack of, in this instance. 

Here, I am talking about clear resin, actually resin and snow. I have only modest experience with each, and I just felt utterly compelled to see how the effect was going to look before lifting one more brush. In part, the problem stemmed from the way the models seemed to appear perched upon brittle bones that should not support them. Something looked odd without the resin. And indeed, all the anticipation for me sat roundly in the base because I had no idea if the experiment would actually work… and with that hanging in the balance, I simply could not bring myself to obsess about smaller, refined details until I knew that the greater disaster could and would be avoided. 

In sum, I ran the gauntlet and believe that the models have come through reasonably well. There was a peculiar bit of balancing involved in all this malarkey, as I was aiming for a seasonally soggy but currently frozen tundra appearance, and yet I did not want to cover all those disturbing skeletal details with either the resin or the snow. Moreover, I wanted the snow to look light and wispy (not unlike that which was falling in across the greater Chicagoland area this weekend) as if blown across the ice itself.

Thankfully, this also allowed me to keep the application of snow splotchy and loose, rather than wet and heavy like the snow I developed way back when for my as yet unfinished Valhallans (poor Valhallans).

The remaining 20 % of unfinished work all seems rather small, but fiddly, which is perhaps the reason I am avoiding some of it. There are touchups like the skin where it approaches the sergeant’s hair (agh. there are always touchups), and then there are the power blades that I have left because I have not yet realized what I want to do with them.

But mostly I need to rough these guys up a bit with some battle damage. They need to look appropriately weathered for a team that has been out on the hunt for generations at a time...

...which is also my code word for making yet another virtue out of necessity. With the battle damage I am really just covering up a whole host of mistakes and moments in which the look has not quite come together (blending and general sloppiness in particular) with scaring and other deliberately messy devices. How I love the forgiving nature of battle damage and its ability to make errors seem calculated or at least worthwhile.

The wolves are a wargear upgrade for the soon-to-be-built Lone Wolf. The black and white one was inspired by my dog Blue. You’re my boy Blue! 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Letter In -Special Operations: Love

When the slog gets a bit grim, the work stack looms, and the season dire, along comes the kind of letter that absolutely makes it all worthwhile. There’s some tremendously cool modeling and painting glory on display here –just my thing- a genuine monstration of what a motivated hobbyist can do with a modest serving of gumption. Dare I say it... Glorious!

[oh, and for those diligent playtesters from December and beyond –we have not forgotten you! We ran face first into a series of delays with the token production but hope to have the matter resolved… soon? I have all your addresses and you will get your hard-earned swag as soon as I get my grubby hands on it. Do not despair. Glory beckons. Soon...]

Back to the good stuff:

Hello Brian,
I hope that this email finds you well. I wanted to tell you that I've really enjoyed your latest blog posts about the blogoverse. There is a lot of inspiring hobby material floating on the web and your blog has become one of mine. I also loved your post on the Chaos Terminator Lord, it most certainly is a fantastic kit.

I also wanted to send you a pic of the Blood Ravens Killzone team I just finished painting and share with you a recent Killzone story. Last Friday night, I wound up meeting a friend at the local comic shop where we'd planned to play a late-night game of 40k. Instead, we found the shop overrun with Magic card players camping out for a midnight release event for the latest Magic expansion. Those players were taking up the 40k table, but we managed to get them to let us have half the space . . . perfect for a Killzone matchup. While we were pulling out models, and looking up the Killzone rules on a laptop, a girlfriend of one of the Magic players wandered over and asked if she could join us. We said, "Certainly" and turned it into 3-way matchup.

The game ended up being my Blood Ravens, the buddy with Eldar, and the girl who'd never played 40k before with Grey Knights. The table was set up as a ruined cityscape and we rolled up a kill points scenario. When the game started, the new girl promptly wiped the floor with both my friend and I. I managed to kill one of her Interceptors, but the rest of her team remained unscathed . . . mostly because my friend and I went for each other first. It was still a fun game though, and my friend and I will definitely be playing again. The girl enjoyed 40k and the pretty painted models. Overall, I think I made one new convert to 40k and two converts to Killzone. In fact, my friend and I have been discussing how cool it would be to build some modular space hulk terrain for Killzone . .

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy getting little stories like this from your blog readers.

Craig [Glorious]

Saturday, February 11, 2012

WIP: a virtue

Once upon a time, I posted a WIP update every Sunday here on the Ones. Admittedly, I was rather green and rather fresh out the blogging box back then. I also only had one baby to mind in those days –they do take the hours out of a day. In sum, I had a lot more work to show on a weekly basis than I do now.

More than anything, however, I must have made a mental shift somewhere along the line and only just realized in these last few weeks: somehow I started to think a bit too much about the posts on this site. I convinced myself that I should only really show my completed or very nearly completed (though not necessarily best) work. That is a mistake, I believe in retrospect, not only because it limits what I can post, but also because it suggests that this is all something akin to serious.  

So here is the first of a new regular series of posts about my work in progress, much of it crude, sloppy, hasty, and otherwise representative of the crunch my hobby feels these days. But that is the simple beauty of this grand experiment.

These Space Wolfish Terminators are part of an “armored might” themed Special Operations team. As participants in this theme, they must all have a 2+ save …which is Killzone’s clever way of hamstringing abuses while still leaving the door wide open for players that like a good theme.

I like a good theme.

I have only fought once with this list before, and lost on missions to FrozenJoe’s formidable Dark Eldar list. Still, I had enough fun that I wanted to take a genuine bash and model up the force properly …for the sport of it if nothing else.

A Virtue of Necessity:

One thing. I was absolutely not about to spend another penny for this team. Not one.

And so, as one does, I worked with reasonable diligence to make a virtue of necessity. You will have noticed by now the generous dashes of Grey Knight (and other non-wolf) material mixed in with these hardened killers. They are a desperate kit bash. I did not have enough Grey Knight pieces to make more than one proper from head to toe, and the same could be said for these Wolves.

Theme to the rescue.

As I built these, I imagined that this particular Special Operations team had been “loaned out,” as such, to the Inquisition, or an elite branch of the Grey Knights, or whatevs. They have access, then, to some of this wargear and their Sergeant looks decidedly more Inquisitor than wolf, though not entirely so. In all, I picture them as not-so-distant cousins to the brutes that chopped up the Thousand Sons way back in the distant future.

I have one more model to make here, a lone wolf, with two fenrisian sidekicks, but I am very nearly out of wolf gear –so grey knight and chaos bits perhaps?

We shall see.

The bases are from Secret Weapon, and I intend to make some kind of frozen tundra ice flow theme to the base of trodden unfortunates.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

For the Love: Fantasy

The last post put me in the mood of reflection. While I try not to wallow in too much whimsy, too much nostalgia… I find myself doing exactly that in these posts more often than I might like to think. A keen reader might also note that these moments of reflectivity tend to walk in step with those times when I either cannot speak about current hobby projects, or when I have nothing real to offer on the hobby front (consider the heady and exhaustive nostalgia trip, for example, that immediately followed the birth of baby-number-two).

Thankfully, this case is more the former than the latter. In fact, I have far too much on my plate at the moment, far too much (see bottom).

These three gems represent some of my absolute favorites from a bygone hobby era. The Viking is a very old GW model that I once dreamed of using as a Chaos Marauder many, many moons ago, but who has landed in obscurity instead. 

Alas. It is an inglorious fate for an otherwise tremendous old codger model.  

I mentioned last post that you can often spot the era of my old minis purely by the basing and, in this case, you might remember a time when Marauder bases were slightly larger than the ones we find on mere mortals these days. Moreover, I hiked him up on this platform to accommodate his slightly diminutive scale –odd for certain.

The Elves are of the wood variety, but not that you would notice. Also OOOOP, these fellows were painted in days of yore to mimic the primary color bonanza that was mercilessly splattered on poor Teclis. I have never been certain why Teclis would be mingling with his under-civilized cousins, but one should never let these details get in the way. 
I was initially attracted to these models for the delicate simplicity of their pose, and that they are unique while clearly molded from the same foundational design. That is both clever and strong enough to carry the model despite the shortcut that might in other instances vex me considerably. In fact, I find the shortcut quite charming from this distance. 

In all, I miss these Bowiesque Elves and their Ziggy Stardust counterparts. I might be more interested in the GW elves if they maintained a bit more of this quirk, but I am merciful that they are not. The last thing I need is more projects...  

More on that come Saturday.

Friday, February 3, 2012

For the Love: Wizardry

I had one of those chats with Boyzilla the other day.

I am not always certain where he gets this stuff, one never can be I suppose: media, magazines, sesame street. Who knows.  …but in the middle of an entirely unrelated event he stopped, turned with an intensity that let me know this was a question of profound relevance, and asked “Daddy, what’s a wizard?”

He is two. Barely.

I suppose he has seen a picture of Gandalf floating about the place. White Dwarf one presumes? That explains part of it, but not entirely. It’s not like we read Professor Tolkien’s sleepytime book (also known as The Silmarillion) before naps.


I have rarely been more proud.

This collection of old wizardry was painted entirely for the love. As befitting the title, not one of these has ever seen the business end of tabletop glory. I expect none of them will.

Teclis, at the top there, is the oldest of the bunch -painted sometime in the late 80’s or perhaps early 90’s I think. I can generally gauge the relative date from the state of the base –like carbon dating but less interesting. I had absolutely no idea what to do with a base back then, so the matter was invariably left to fend for itself. From this vantage, that seems brutally unfair given the amount of work that went into every other aspect of the model. For the time, for me, this model was the very pinnacle of my ability. Indeed, there are quite a few tricks here that I genuinely do not believe I could repeat if I wanted.

…and some (looking at you, color scheme) I never would. Oh my.

The other two wizards were bashed out sometime in the early 00’s upon returning to the hobby after a 10+ year hiatus. I think what is remarkable here is exactly how much finesse and technique I lost in those years. Teclis is my favorite by far.

The mere thought makes me want to stop typing immediately and pick up a brush before I regress one inch further…