Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Review: Guardians of the Flame(The Heroes)

Well. A few weeks back I completed a review of the first three novels from the Guardians of the Flame series. See my original review here. I have more recently finally finished the next two novels from the same series dubbed 'The Heroes'. As I gave a review of the first part, I think it only fair to continue that trend and review each of the novels as I continue through these classic books.

The Heir Apparent: This novel takes off several years(?) after the conclusion of 'The Silver Crown' as Karl is now more than simply the head of the Bieme nation, but now is the Emperor of the entire Holton/Bieme area which has been renamed 'The Empire'. It is hard to understand how this occurred, but the assumption is that the warring nations came to a forced truce due to the involvement of Karl Cullinane and his Home warriors.

During this novel though the Heir, Jason Cullinane, is involved in his first actual fight and gets scared and runs. As he ran he feels a need to not return as he is concerned of being seen as a coward. His only way to rectify this situation is to eliminate the biggest threat he knows of, Arhmin, a Master Slaver which Jason's own father failed to kill. To this end he travels to Pandathaway and hires on as a 'slaver' with Arhmin as the Slavers try to set a trap for his own father who has left The Empire ona mission to distract the slavers from chasing after Jason.

This mission is the the Mellawei coast and the Sword which can protect its bearer from magic. The idea is that if the slavers know Karl is going for the sword, they will chase after him instead of looking for Jason giving the Empire and Home searchers time to find him.

The Warrior Lives: This is book 5 of the series and continues the story immediately after the conclusion of The Heir Apparent. During this story, it is unclear if the Hero, Karl Cullinane, has fallen or not as there are rumors that he still is around and has taken the fight straight to the slavers. The slaver guide is afraid of everything as they try to eliminate this new deadly threat, while Karl's son Jason, the Heir, and his friends embark on a quest to find the truth regarding karl and also bring Walter and Ahira back home.

Without giving away too much, the young Heir does find his friends and the truth about his father. Additionally, they encounter a monstrous beast of unknown origin which elludes to the next novel and the concerns of the creatures coming out of an area called Faerie.

Overall these are both good novels and is worth another read. I am glad I have tracked the series down as usual and look forward to the remaining books in the series.

Friday, January 23, 2009

AI: Aircraft Recovery

Recently I obtained 2 Orc Fightas and 2 Imperial Thunderbolts in a trade via bartertown and decided that I wanted to redo their paint jobs. Actually, only the Thunderbolts were painted, but the Fightas needed a little TLC due to shipping issues and so I decided to redo everything.

Above are shots of one of the Thunderbolts prior to any work being done.

As such, I really wanted to try out a technique I found on FTW about using liquid Gesso as a primer. Now the directions on FTW showed how it could be applied over existing paint, but I decided to attempt to strip the existing paint first instead. As this is my first time working with resin, I wasn't fully certain that my normal stripping methods would be safe for it. I decided to go ahead though and use some Simple Green, which in my experience seems to be the mildest of stripping agents.
After soaking in a bath of Simple Green for 1 hour I then used a Sonic Care toothbrush and lightly scrubbed away as much paint and primer as I could. As you can see, the results were very good, but there were still a number of areas that paint still clung to. I decided as the Resin seemed fine to go ahead and give the model another bath for another hour.

After the second bath I did the same process of scrubbing again and more paint did come off, but there was still a little residue. Also I noticed some blotchy patches of area that I think are from super glue that got smeared on the model during it's original assembly. Hopefully this will not be a problem after my primer goes on.

Well, I decided to move forward and try out the Gesso. I have never used Gesso before, but chose a Clear Gesso and added black acrylic paint to tint it. Benefit one was the Gesso in clear was $2 cheaper than the White or black versions. I also chose to glob in on as suggested in the end of the FTW article. Here are some shots after the Gesso was applied.

As you can see, I laid on on pretty think to make sure to get solid coverage. I was VERY hopeful that the Gesso would shrink up as it did in the original article. After 2 hours of drying time here is the final result.

So, it is clear that the Gesso shrunk up as expected. I see it appears a bit grainy which I don't know if is normal, but I think it is OK as when I paint the model I think that will get covered up and may help grab up the paint as it is applied to the model. I plan to try out the Gesso without stripping on my other Thunderbolt to then compare the two to see if there was really difference.

Have any of you all ever used Gesso yourself? I am curious what results you got and was the final result grainy similar to what I got? Let me know.

EDIT: I completed the Gesso on the other Thunderbolt. Can you tell the difference? It is the one on the right. It is a little darker, but coverage as a primer coat I think is acceptable.

Here are a couple closer shots. You can see some of the old red paint peeking through. Still I think these will look great once I get the Electric Blue paint I am planning for them.

FANFILM Review: Damnatus

What is that you say? A Warhammer 40k movie? That cannot be true, but it is!

So, this movie really doesn't exist, at least officially, but it is by far and away one of the best made fan-films I have ever seen. I do not know what the official reasoning was for Games Workshop to not allow the fan-film, but they did place a stop on the makers from releasing it. It is too bad too because the film is actually very good.

I have seen a number of fan-films, including comedies such as 'Troops', which if you haven't seen it you really should if you like Star Wars as it is great, to more polished films such as those in the 'Animatrix'. Troops was a phenomenal short film(I think it was like 10 minutes), and the Animatrix stuff was helped in large part by studio involvement. But the Damnatus film, and I DO mean film as it clocks in at nearly two hours of story and film, is purely awesome. This is because of the amount of effort on the story, the set design, costumes and characters.

Story: The overall story is one of the Inquisition involvement in a Chaos cult. The Inquisition engages the assistance of on site mercenaries that soon find themselves embroiled in a plot that is really beyond their ability to handle. I don't want to give too much away, but the story is very well thought out and planned for a serious feature length film. 4.5 of 5 stars!

Set Design: WOW.. I mean WOW. the work done on the set designs is great. It really does provide a feeling of HUGE hive cites with 100s of levels to them. From the bright upper levels to the lower murky, creepy, levels. It is great. This is accomplished by both real life sets and artwork that is melded together for a seamless design. 5 of 5 stars!

Costumes: This is again in the same category as the set design. You can see serious involvement in the details that make each costume feel authentic to the style that is Warhammer 40k. This doesn't look like a bunch of kids working on a small budget with a handy-cam, but a serious studio style budget and plan. 5 of 5 stars!

Characters: Another big win here. I know that is no surprise, but it really does create people you can really like. You feel concerned for them in dangerous situations and are surprised when one falls. It also provides a feeling of the game itself where an elite unit of specialists can overcome insurmountable odds to attain victory. Honestly, this movie's characters have me itching to play 'Dark Heresy' now. 5 of 5 stars!

So overall I would give this film 4.75 of 5 stars. It is a great film, and really did deserve for everyone to see.

Last thoughts, if you happen to get a chance to see this, or have see this film, count yourself lucky! I would love to hear your thoughts on the movie and how you would have reviewed it as well.

Monday, January 12, 2009

BATREP: LotR - Fiefdoms

On Sunday last weekend I took a trip to the SPL(That's Secret Pirate Lair) which is hidden away in the deserts of Arizona. This trip was for the purpose of testing out my Fiefdoms army against a new opponent army. Most of my games have been against a relative few different armies, and with the upcoming Gather in the Desert(GitD) event I felt it was important to get some experience against other army types.

This game we played a variation of the Capture the Prize mission. Normally the mission involves getting the prize and then removing it off your army table edge. The variation we played changed the requirement to removing the prize off the opponent's table edge! This new requirement makes it a much harder event as you need to hold off your enemy which still maintaining enough force to punch a whole through the enemy lines.

My army was of course(Fiefdoms). My list was my GT list and included Imrahil(mounted), 7 Knights of Dol Amroth(mounted), 12 Knights of Dol Amroth(foot), 8 Men-at-arms of Dol Amroth, 4 Axemen of Lossarnach, and 12 Rangers of Gondor. This gives me a pretty elite force at 44 models. The primary concern is my hero support which only includes Imrahil. Don't get me wrong though, Imrahil is a powerful hero!

My opponent was Tim and his Moria army. All I can say is, 'Fear the Horde!' His list included a Moria Goblin Captain, Moria Goblin Shaman, 2 Cave Trolls, 14 Moria Goblins with bows and another 55 Moria goblins with a mix of sword/shield, spear/shield and spear armaments. This was the largest army I have ever played against and it was a bit overwhelming.

The terrain was pretty basic with the prize buried in a ruin in the center of the table and a mixture of trees and hills over the remainder of the table. I won a roll off and elected to have the goblins setup first. This allowed me to see his layout and 'try' to counter it, but really, when the enemy is 2+ models deep in his lines and covers the entire 4 feet of table edge, there isn't much to exploit!

Having the only cavalry I was able to gain purchase of the ruin first and tie up the goblins long enough to finally dig up the prize and hand it off to one of my mounted KoDA, but in the end the toll of losses was too much. My dice failed me badly as I was unable to win many fights against the Goblin Horde and even when I did I couldn't kill them for nothing. My Rangers also were mostly ineffective as their bow fire was mostly wasted in Volley fire attempts which rarely succeeded in hitting, let along kills. Even when they could shoot with direct fire then many times failed to hit the goblins, which we started referring to as 'stealth goblins' due to their ability to hide from any missile fire.

In the end I was able to make the table edge but needed 1 turn more to actually leave the table. The goblins were broken and the only model able to catch the Knight disappeared due to its failed courage test, but time was called as I had to leave. Net result was 4 hours of gaming and a overall Draw. But the game was worth it completely!

Sorry there are no pictures of the event, there were some issues with the colors of the shots as the goblins were 'stealthy' and kept disappearing from the pictures.

I know this batrep doesn't have much meat to it, but I am curious what you all have done in match ups against such overwhelming numbers? I do note that I split my Cav and also engaged with them early which was a mistake. Hopefully I can keep from doing that again in the future!

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Ruinous Powers have taken hold

To start this blog post, I would like to first say that I have been gaming and collecting 40k models and armies for a good six or so years now. During that entire time I have been able to stay away from the Chaos cults, although I was known to dabble with C'Tan gods and even have seen an Ork uprising here and there. But the powers of Chaos were kept soundly at bay.

Not anymore! Through a successful large trade with someone out of the country, I was able to obtain a fairly large(2000pt+) Chaos Space Marines army. Additionally, these models mostly came painted and to what I consider a Tabletop+ standard, which is great for me. I really have too much to paint already.

The CSM army has a few options for HQ, including a CSM Lord, Sorcerer, Greater Summoned Daemon and a winged Daemon Prince.

The Daemon Prince shows a color style similar to the marines of the army. I am still trying to decide if I will be keeping that armor color(Probably as I don't want to repaint everything). Additionally the detail work is simply perfect. I do have some minor repair work to do due to damage during shipping, but a little greenstuff where the wings meet the back and some new paint should fix that up nice and perfect.

The Greater Summoned Daemon is actually a Keeper of Secrets model. It is also very well painted and includes some conversion work, including a loyalist marine being crushed in its claw.

Here is a shot of the marine, I think he may be a Black Templar, who is fighting to the bitter end. And it does look like he will have a very bitter end at that. ;)

For Heavy support models I got not one but six Obliterators which is enough to run a full cult HS list. It would probably be better having three sets of three, but two sets of three, or three sets of two will work pretty good also.

Additionally, I got 2 Predators with Magnetic weapons which will allow for alternate weapon choices. I didn't get any picture of the preds yet, but they are painted the s

Here is one of the three Rhinos I also received. It appears that all my traitor marines will be riding to battle, and in style! :) Overall the paint on these are well done and clean. I am very happy with the vehicle models as a whole.

Last is some shots of one of my CSM squads. The Sergeant is modeled using magnets for the arms which allow optional changes. Also the marines came heavily outfitted as a Melta army(I think I have two meltagun marines for each squad. This will provide some serious anti army punch will be good as I tend to be light it anti-armor units.

Here are some individual pics of the Sergeant, Meltagun marine and one with a back pole I am thinking of converting to a custom banner.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Review: Guardians of the Flame

So, with the object of providing greater content on my Blog, I though it may be good to give you all a taste of what I have been reading. I happened upon a series of books probably 20 years ago. The story was recommended by a friend who thought I would enjoy them as we were both gamers, mainly Dungeons and Dragons back then, and as the series was based on that, it was probably a good match for me.

The series of books was called The Guardians of the Flame and I actually obtained a compilation copy from my book club that packaged the three novels together as The Warriors. Well, to make a long story short, I read and loved the books and through an unfortunate moving incident, lost my copies of the novels. Recently, I have endeavored to find new, or used, copies of the books for me to read and enjoy again. As such I have succeeded and want to give you all a review of each of the books as I finish them. First up is a complete review of the first three novels, The Sleeping Dragon, The Sword and the Chain, and The Silver Crown.

The Sleeping Dragon: This story starts off the series by describing a group of friends who play a form of Dungeons and Dragons. Their group consists of college students and the game is mastered by a professor at the college.

The 'game' as they understand it however changes dramatically when they start playing one night to discover that they have been magically transported into the game world itself! This starts off a series of events that pit the players, now in the bodies of their characters, against the real life concerns of that fantasy world.

Everything gets further muddled as the have the skills and abilities of their characters, but the memory of their real life personas. This also adds intrigue as the characters, although have skills, have to concentrate on them initially to prevent reverting to their normal lives and making mistakes that their character persona wouldn't have made.

The author isn't careful with the characters either as it really is a no holds barred book in which anything can, and does happen.

Anyway, The plot of the Sleeping Dragon is that the players who are now in the fantasy world, need to escape which means they need to find the Gate between Worlds which is guarded by, yes you guessed it, a Sleeping Dragon. But it's not just any dragon, but The Dragon. The oldest one ever.

The Sword and the Chain : The second book in the series sees our heroes returned to the fantasy world. They are now 'stuck' there, or at least as much as you are when the only escape is by a no longer sleeping dragon.

Anyway, this book sees our heroes start to create a new life together as they also make a goal to fulfill a commitment to fight slavery in the fantasy world. This pits the heroes against large numbers of enemies, but also allows for some great character building as you come to understand the different characters and also new characters as they are introduced as part of the freeing slaves goal happens. You start caring for everyone and truly feeling for them when bad things happen.

Also this is the first book where we see how the main characters other knowledge is a benefit as they start to develop new weapons and fighting styles. Also industry starts to appear.

The Silver Crown: This is the last of the main series of books. In this book we see more of the politics of the world and even of the home environment the heroes have created. Also we see where the slavers have worked to even the playing field with regard to weapons. This has serious impacts on the world and the wars to come.

As industry is getting better, we start seeing how engineering or magic helps the common man even the playing field. We also see a constant struggle with the main heroes, and the inevitable loss of life that happens due to the war on slavery that they have started.

I don't want to give away too much from these books, as they are a GREAT read. I admit I am an avid reader, but I have been able to read all three of these novels in only about a weeks worth of time. If you enjoy fantasy, and you use to play Dungeons and Dragons, or are interested even a little on how these books turn out, I would wholly recommend you reading them. It may be hard to find copies of them as they have been OOP for some time, but check your used book stores for these wonderful little treasures. You won't be dissatisfied!

So, tell me if you have read these novels. I would really like to hear your impression of them. Also, what novels have you read that you would recommend for a good reading?

Dol Amroth for Gondor!

Dol Amroth for Gondor! This is the call of the mighty Swan Knights as they charge forward to battle the ever pressing hordes of Mordor. Led by their mighty prince, Imrahil, they have unmatched skill, instinct and courage.After last year's first annual Gathering in the Desert, I decided that I wanted to see an army brought to the table that I had never seen before. My choices were still pretty plentiful, including the Army of the Dead on the good side, and the new Black Numenorians on the evil side. With the release of the Mordor supplement, I was sorely tempted to go evil, but I couldn't keep the calling of the free peoples of Middle Earth from my mind. As such I decided I wanted to field either the Army of the Dead or a fully Fiefdoms army. I wanted to have ONLY models of that line in my list so I had to think how best to outfit my army to compensate for areas of concern. In the end, I decided that the Fiefdoms held the better overall list for my next GT army. (That isn't to say that we won't see me go crazy and play the Army of the Dead in 2010!)

In creating my army, I felt it best to throw caution to the wind and field the mighty Imrahil as my leader. I could have chosen a lesser hero, or even a standard captain, but felt it may be helpful to have Imrahil with his additional might and fighting score. Not to mention his amazing banner like affect on Dol Amroth troops! Additionally, I wanted to use mounted units this tournament and so chose to also mount Imrahil on his steed! Here are some shots of my finished model.

Along with Imrahil, I gave him a large phalanx (seven in all) of mounted Knights of Dol Amroth, or MKoDA for short. With the MKoDA taking a large portion of my army list points I had to think of how best to further outfit my army for the long haul of playing in the GT this year. To give an idea of the MKoDA details, here is a close-up shot of one of the riders. There is a group shot of the entire unit with Imrahil at the top of this post!

As mounted troops cannot always be the only units in an army, strong foot models are needed to help shore up the lines of battle. I chose to field a large contingent of Knights of Dol Amroth on foot, or KoDA for short, for this purpose. The KoDA have a solid Defense and also a great fight skill which will enable them to win most fights that are 1-on-1. Here are some pictures of my finished KoDA.

One of the failings of the Fiefdoms list is spear support. Don't get me wrong, they have models, but they are not cheap and the models they do have lack the superior defense that the KoDA have. As such I felt it best to mix my support models and chose to run eight Men-at-arms of Dol Amroth and four Axemen of Lossarnach. The Men-at-arms have the benefit of pikes allowing them to double support which can be helpful in tight circumstances and also gain the banner effect benefit from Imrahil. The Axemen don't get the benefit of the banner, but they get the duel role of playing spear support and also getting to wield a 2-handed weapon if needed. This is a huge help when I have the opportunity to mass attack stronger enemies where I can mix and match my combating models. Here is the pictures of both the Men-at-arms and the Axemen. If you notice, I deviated from the standard white sash colors and chose a blue consistent with my knights to help tie them into the rest of my models colors.

Last for my army is bows. Having played last GT with a Grey Company army list I know the virtues of the bow and additionally the benefits of the Rangers of Gondor over Gondor warriors with bows. The higher fight and better shooting help greatly making their lower defense of 4 easier to swallow. As my rangers are meant to be part of my Dol Amroth army I have painted them also in blues, with grey cloaks. This helps them fit in nicely with the Dol Amroth knights. The color scheme was inspired by the rangers of the Morthond Vale.

One thing to note on the details is that I have decided to string all the bows. I think this adds significantly to the design and style and helps truly set apart these rangers other bow armed models I have fielded in the past.

So,what do you all think of these models? This army was the fulfillment of about two months of effort in assembling and painting the models. C&C is always welcomed! Let me know what you think and also, if you are planning to attend GitD, what army lists are you bringing?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year 2009

So 2008 has now passed us all by and it's 2009 we all have to look forward to now. For me this new year is going to be a growing experience. Single income family while my wife continues her education will be new and something I fully look forward to! Typically, the new year brings many things to everyone's lives by way of resolutions. In the past, I chose to view a resolution as just another thing to fail at as I rarely kept my resolution longer than a week or two. This year however will be different.

My resolution for 2009 will be more regular Blog updates with more varied content. At this point I have discovered my time is very limited for my hobbies, as I have so many now, and so I plan to expand my Blog to cover more of my hobbies. This new content will include my take on things such as miniature tabletop gaming, video games and even books I read. I have a very cyclic nature for my time and one month may play and model exclusively for LotR, where the next I don't touch gaming at all as I delve into my novel collection for more reading and the next month all I do is stay up playing the Xbox.

Stay tuned as I work toward keeping my resolution this year and also bring more varied content for us all to discuss and comment on.