Saturday, March 23, 2013

Make me give 'til it hurts

Henry Hyde, the editor of Miniature Wargames with Battlegames Magazine, is an ardent supporter of the Combat Stress Appeal. In the UK, they call Combat Stress what we in the US refer to as Post-Traumatic Stress. One of his most effective means of raising funds for this worthwhile charity has been auctioning 28mm figures of soldiers painted by some of the foremost artists in the field.

His most recent auction is for a lovely figure of an Australian Special Air Service trooper set during the Vietnam War. Rather than bore you with the details of the figure, read them for yourself on the page for the auction.

As some of you know, I am a veteran of the US adventure in Afghanistan. While there, I was a Security Forces squad leader in Herat province and then later a mentor to an Afghan National Army Kandak (Battalion) in Farah province.

Our correspondent, shortly after "mentoring" near Shewan, in Farah province.

I won't bore you with any war stories here. Those have a cover charge.

It doesn't have to be a Shiner Bock, but it helps.
Anyhow, PTSD is a hot-button topic, often not understood fully by those experiencing it. Even more shocking is that those professionals that are supposed to be diagnosing and treating this condition often don't understand it themselves. The less I say about politicians and their understanding of PTSD, the better.

The fact remains that we have a long way to go and too far short of resources to understand, diagnose properly and treat PTSD. Combat Stress Appeal is doing great work in the UK. I was thinking it would be great to bid on the figure to raise funds for this noble cause. I then realized I can also do something special and be somewhat of a multiplier for Henry's support of the Combat Stress Appeal.

Henry, that handsome devil.

After a talk with the missus, we have decided that whatever the SAS figure auction raises, we will match and donate to the Wounded Warrior Project. There will be some exchange differences, but that's ok. It's something we should have done earlier, but never have.

The Wounded Warrior Project is an analog here in the US to the Combat Stress Appeal. I know some dudes with some troubles and luckily, there are ways for them to get help. The Wounded Warrior Project is multi-faceted in that they help vets overcome physical as well as psychological difficulties as a result of their deployment.

So, why am I telling you this? Simply, the more you bid, the more we give. I would challenge you to give what you bid (whether you win or not) to either Combat Stress Appeal or Wounded Warrior Project or any veteran charity of your choice. I hope the checks we all write are hefty.

Share your stories of giving to veterans' charities in the comments below. If you are a veteran and need help, please contact any one of the veterans' charities out there. You are more than welcome to contact me offline also.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Marines have arrived

My beakies arrived from Blighty today. The photo I posted earlier does not do these figures justice. They are much, much worse than the photo would have one believe.

No big whoop, they're going into the Simple Green here in a moment.

Actual size of container may vary.
Also going to dunk a number of insurgents. I hope they get along. Pics soon. I promise.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I apologize for the delay. And a question for you.

Progress on Helsreach is at a standstill for a moment. I had a long drill this past weekend with my National Guard unit. Now there's a renovation crew reconstructing my bathroom. Don't worry, its destruction was a planned event.

Now for the question. What was your favorite aspect of the Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader book? The book, mind you, not the rules. As far as I'm concerned, the rules themselves are almost unplayable. I'll be using different rules for playing in and around Helsreach.

Obviously, my favorite aspect of the book was and is the section on Helsreach. If I'm not mistaken, Paul Bonner did the art for the section. He also did the art for the majority of the Imperial Guard articles to appear in White Dwarf issues 109-111 or so. Great stuff. I've already described other reasons why I like the section.

How about you? The wacky scenario generator? Adrian Smith's chaotic, illustrations? The mercenary getting gutshot by an ork?

Let us know in your comments below.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Figures preview

I took a bunch of pics of my insurgents, but I'm not happy with the results. I'm going to redo them and the Rhino pics with some better lighting. In the meantime, here's a preview of some of the figs that will be rising up in Helsreach.

These were among the original dudes my folks got me.
Best. Christmas. Ever. 
Oh, I also acquired 22 beakie Marines via eBay for a song. Here they are, per the pic from the sale.

Simple Green is in order. Of course. I'm fine with that.
So, I got some work to do.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

My problem with Grimdark

I played a ton of 2nd Edition Warhammer 40,000. I definitely played more 2nd Ed. than any of other versions combined. The box had a rather large banner exclaiming, "In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war." Thus the term "grimdark" was born.

In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only codex creep.

For the uninitiated, grimdark means a setting that is dark and edgy, even nihilistic, perhaps. The setting of 40K, even in its RT-era form was dripping with grimdark before we knew what it was. The imagery in the book, especially that drawn by Ian Miller with its jagged, black forms, medieval Space Marines and vicious Orks with Stahlhelms all lent credence to that.

"Bandersnatch Squad has taken Objective Jubjub most frumiously! Execute Battle Order Callou, variation Callay!" 
The early descriptions of the Emperor of Man and the daily tithe of 1000 human souls is of course at the heart of grimdark.  Rick Priestly's introduction cements the nihilistic intent of the setting with the reminder that the armies of the Imperium campaign on thousands of worlds with casualties in the millions. "After all, the universe is a big place. And no matter what happens, you will not be missed," he admonishes.

The path of grimdark is unrelenting. The release of the Realms of Chaos books were even more instrumental in layering on additional coats of grimdark. Now, whatever threats alien races posed to the Imperium of Man, they were insignificant compared to the threats posed by the gods of Chaos and their exploitation of inevitable human weakness and general entropy.

Kinda like my resolution to stop eating McDonald's.
Of course, another cause of the cancerous decay of Humanity came about in the form of the bio-weapons known as the Tyranid. Their infestation of human settlements (and Ork, and Eldar) via Genestealers was also implacable and unrelenting.

Essentialy there's no hope for anybody. It's one big shit sandwich and we're all gonna have to take a bite.

As the number of editions mounted, so did the depth of the grimdark. "Necromunda," a standalone game set in the 40K universe, has grimdark in the title. The idea of gangs fighting to the death over the scraps of the upper-class betters is quite bleak. The hive world of Necromumda is a microcosm of the larger 40K universe. Things are as good as they're going to get. There is essentially no hope for any of us. It's raw survival. Nothing more.

Raw survival means having all the catnip you can smoke.

I don't like nihilism. I want my heroes to have purpose. I don't like to be reminded of the cruel, cold realities of  the universe. Nihilism is antithetical to my being. Sure, there are descriptions of heroic actions. They're usually last stands. They usually end with "and then the entire regiment was destroyed by an exterminatus order from an Inquisitor who happened by."

It's just not for me. Even worse are the extremes that they've taken the Chaos and Imperial stuff. Skullz and spikez, skullz on spikez, spikez on skullz, it gets to be a bit much.

If you type "a bit much" into an eBay search, this is what you get.
One reaction to the grimdark is to make light of it in a particularly trollish fashion. I endorse this approach. I can only hope some fanboy has a coronary having to play against and maybe even lose against such a novelty force at a tournament. Tournaments are another thing altogether, best served in a separate blog post.

Bonus victory points for causing an epileptic seizure in the opposing player.
Another antidote to the grimdark is to play Tau, I suppose. They seem pretty optimistic on the surface. Plus they take design cues from anime, which is a good thing, in my book.

Prototype Tau models.
In some regards, Helsreach is my own safe haven from grimdark, without rejecting the 40K background altogether. I don't have to worry about corruption from Chaos or Tyranid infestations or piles of skullz and spikez and all that. I can play with old skool Space Marines and my band of ne'er-do-wells. Heck, there might even be a deodorant stick hover car in my future.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Who is this guy?

When I was in Afghanistan, I may have gone a bit crazy on eBay buying miniatures. Call it retail therapy in a combat zone. I didn't have a PX where I was, so I couldn't just buy magazines or books or sodas or anything, really.

One of the lots I purchased had three figures. Two were classic RT-era mercenaries. The third was this chap:

As far as I can tell it's not a Citadel figure. He is a mutant of some kind, with a third eye in the middle of his forehead. His pistol is a multi-barrel "pepperpot." He has "Three Eyes" on the front of his tab and "I.P.C. 1985" on the reverse. Any help in identifying this figure is appreciated.

Dom Skelton on The Miniatures Page figured it out for me. Evidently, this dude is a Judge Dredd mutant. So, Citadel, but not 40K. See here:

How about that? So, should I sell him on or keep him for the Helsreach project?

Friday, March 1, 2013


Luckily, the Space Marines won't have to thumb rides when they make it dirtside. As described in the ancient tome, Logan's World is in a corner of space lashed with unpredictable warp storms. As a result, direct Imperial scrutiny is infrequent and fleeting. As it is easier to move a group of Marines without their heavy equipment, a pre-deployed cache of vehicles and supplies await whatever forces are sent in to impose Imperial will.

The vehicle park near Helsreach has six Rhinos and variants in place. Four are standard troop carrier versions. One is a direct fire support version, armed with a las-cannon. The sixth vehicle is a command version with improved communication facilities.

The fire support variant is more than capable of dealing with what passes for armored vehicles on Logan's World.

The command variant isn't exactly spacious, but compared to a standard Rhino, it's quite roomy.

Rumors have it the warp storms are ebbing. The Marines will be coming soon.

Returning to Helsreach

Christmas of 1988, my parents gave me Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader. The illustrations in the book fired my 14-year-old imagination in a way few other things had before or since. In particular, a series of illustrations and accompanying text describing a settlement called Helsreach stirred images of a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than even Mos Eisley.

Fast forward 24 (!) years later and I long to game in that setting. I still have almost all of the Space Pirate, Adventurer and Mercenary figures my folks got me that Christmas, too. Sadly, the original RTB01 box of plastic Space Marines is gone. I only have parts of five or six of the marines remaining. I still have a soft spot in my heart for the old RT-era figure designs. It may be the nostalgia speaking, but they definitely don't make them like they used to.

The setting for 40K back then was open for adventure. Chaos was on the horizon, Grimdark was off in the future. It wasn't exactly a happy place to inhabit, but it wasn't covered in skullz and spikez. Space Marines weren't Space Nazis, Orks weren't green buffoons, the Imperial Army (!) wasn't a Human tide butchered in their millions. The Eldar were fruity then too, though. Remember Squats? How about a Zoat? Genestealers had a big gaping maw for a face.

Enough reminiscing, back to Helsreach.

I want to do some smallish games set in and around Helsreach. As I mentioned, I still have my assorted ne'er-do-wells, as well as some (not many) Imperial Army figures and plastic Imperial Guard figures. I'll need to procure some Space Marines from that era. The plan is to have the two sides be Space Marines against an insurgency made up of the aforementioned ne'er-do-wells with the Imperial Army/Guard guys as deserters.

Stay tuned for details.