Necromunda thoughts

Hey everybody,

I’m fresh from reading the anthology Uprising, so thought today that I’d come along and talk a bit about things in the Underhive!

The book is a little uneven, as with any anthology really, and is mainly built around the novella Low Lives, which is a tale of a conman in the ash wastes. The various short stories that make up the collection often feature the gangs from the miniatures line, and three of them actually involve some of the named characters that you can buy in glorious Forge World resin! I thought that was pretty neat. There are a lot of Orlock stories, with one Escher, one Cawdor, one Van Saar, and one Corpse Grinder Cult. Although the Escher story is more about the Palanite Enforcers and Servalen.

On the whole, I did enjoy the book, although I did only give it three stars on goodreads, mainly because where the stories weren’t so engaging, it became a chore to get through them.

I was also disappointed there were no Delaque short stories (though they are in the Van Saar tale, as the faceless pursuit).

I mean, it was okay, and I do enjoy getting to experience the Underhive in print, as well as plastic! I was very disappointed, though, by the fact that none of the stories really dealt with the idea of the Uprising as detailed in the Dark Uprising boxed set. Having the Enforcer on the cover also felt a bit like a red herring…

But never mind!

I’ve been fairly productive on the Necromunda front as regards the actual game, I must say!

I’ve been chipping away at the Delaque gang for a while now, and they’re definitely coming on, at last! Still got quite a bit to do around the weapons and bionics, but in the main I think it’s going fairly well!

I’ve built up a few more Van Saar, too! I’ve made good use of the weapons upgrades, but I have yet to actually start painting them. One step (or gang!) at a time, I guess!

I’ve also been working on building the Gang Stronghold up since Christmas, of course, and I’m very pleased with how it’s taking shape so far! Everything is fully modular, so each section of wall can be moved about to fit any kind of configuration, which is something that is nice! I’m not sure if I should try to glue things to make it a little more solid, particularly the corner piece at the 90-degree turn, but I think I’ll wait for now, and maybe play about with it all a bit more. The floor platform at the corner I mentioned can be supported with one of the many struts included in the set, so it doesn’t seem too bad.

I’m really excited to see how it fits together with the zone mortalis stuff from Dark Uprising, as I have a lot of the platforms left over, somehow, but they are all fully compatible, so it’ll be really interesting! I recently picked up another box of the stairs and platforms, so I’ve got a lot of plastic available to me now, for sure! It does look really good, I think, with the corner stairwell I’ve attached in the above photo, but I’m sure I could combine things to come up with yet more permutations!

I don’t think I’m about to create something quite as wonderful as the stuff being put out by Owen Patten, or Leonard Dime (Rapid Tabletop), however, but it should be nice, and allow me to create some very cool looking battlegrounds!

Excitingly, I’ve also managed to get another game of Necromunda in shortly after Christmas! I built up a Sector Mechanicus board, using the Kill Team boards and a bunch of terrain that I’ve had for years, and once more pitted my Van Saar against my Delaque! (We’re still locked down here, and my wife has no interest in 40k games, sadly!)

It was an absolute joy, I must say! I didn’t play with the additional rules for Sector Mechanicus boards that were published in the Book of Peril, mainly because I am still trying to keep the core rules clear in my head! I think I need to work on making a sort of ‘rules primer’ that will help in these situations, because I spent far too long flipping back and forth in the rule book.

During the game, I was controlling both sides equally, but wanted the Van Saar to come out victorious, as I still think of them as my first gang, and all. Well, it seemed like that dream would come to nought as the Delaque gangers were picking them off with ease. I rolled so many Out of Action results this game compared with last time, it was untrue!

Things looked really grim for Van Saar, despite constantly winning the roll off to act first each round. In the fifth or sixth round, they failed a Bottle Test and barely managed to make it through, passing the subsequent Cool check to act normally. And that was really the clincher, as the Leader was able to dispatch the remaining trench coats from his lofty perch with ease, but it absolutely came down to the last man standing!

Such an epic game!

And it’s such a great game, too! Playing solo like this is fine to scratch the itch, of course – if gets me rolling dice and playing with my plastic – but this kind of game had so many epic, cinematic moments in it that could easily form part of campaign legends, this is really where I miss being able to play with friends! Hopefully we’ll begin to see an end to the restrictions by the time my gangs are painted, though, and I can be bringing news of my campaigns in the Underhive to the blog!!

The Lost Realm

Hey everybody,

I’m not sure if I’m actually going to reinstate the whole Tuesday-game-day thing in 2021, but hopefully I can write more about my games here as the year goes on! We’re now in Lockdown #3 here in the UK, where staying home is pretty much the new way of life for us, so what’s better than playing loads of games, right?! Today, I thought I’d have a bit of a ramble about my latest endeavour, playing through more of the Lord of the Rings scenarios that I’ve never explored. Given that the game ended last year (well, went on hiatus), I’m probably a bit late to this party! But it’s among my all-time favourite games, and I want to devote more time to it.

Lord of the Rings LCG

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might have noticed a slip here – I’ve long thought of Lord of the Rings LCG as “my favourite game”, even when it was curb-stomping me, and even when I wasn’t playing it regularly. Now, however, I’m much more into Arkham Horror LCG as being a better overall game experience, though I come back to Middle Earth for the nostalgia trip!

Anyway.

Over Christmas, I decided to make the effort to play at least one full cycle from one of the five or six later ones that I’d never taken the time to explore, and settled eventually on the Angmar Awakened cycle. This one begins with The Lost Realm deluxe expansion, which brings the game into the north of Middle Earth, and explores the area to the north of the Shire, in the Lost Realm of Arnor. Hence the name!

There is a very strong Dúnedain theme developed across the player cards of the cycle, where the main focus is around engaging enemies. It was recently pointed out to me that this theme was telegraphed from way back in the core set with Son of Arnor, which I find pretty neat.

As the cycle moved on, and certainly as further cards came out in subsequent cycles, we’ve seen the Dúnedain theme become quite strong, rewarding players for engaging multiple enemies (although, I have to say, there are few defensive cards associated with the trait than I’d like!) It’s almost a high risk strategy, which sort of brings me to the next new thing in this cycle, Valour. A lot of cards have two effects, labelled Action and Valour Action. The Valour Action can only be triggered if your threat is above 40, but usually gives a much bigger effect – such cards have effects like ‘ready a character you control’ for the normal Action, and ‘ready all characters’ for the Valour Action.

But let’s talk about the quests in this box!

There are three, of course, and they’re all pretty middling difficulty, if I’m honest. I think this is due to the new Side Quest mechanic introduced in this cycle – cards that are shuffled into either your player deck, if it’s a player side quest, or into the encounter deck, and which act as an alternative to the main quest going on. Obviously, they depend upon being drawn to have an effect (although the second scenario, The Weather Hills, does instruct you to set one up in stage 2B), and having one (or more!) in play can make things extremely difficult!

Side quests are almost like extra active locations, in a sense – progress is placed there instead of the ‘main’ quest, and completing the quest does not advance the quest deck. Player quests can have some powerful effects, whereas encounter side quests can bolster enemies in play, so need to be removed!

The first scenario is Intruders in Chetwood, and serves to set the story up. The heroes are helping the Dúnedan Rangers in clearing out some Orcs that are marauding through Bree. In many ways, it’s similar to scenarios of the past – we have the objective-ally Iârion whom we need to keep alive, in a scenario full of enemies and nasty effects, some of which can trap him.

The Weather Hills is a bit more brutal, as we pursue the Orcs into, well, the Weather Hills. However, it seems that there is foul sorcery afoot! There is an objective card in play that collects tokens when enemies are defeated and, when flipped over, acts as something of a timer for the quest.

We pursue the Orcs into the old border fort of Amon Forn, where we discover the remnants of some depraved ritual having been carried out. Rescuing at least some of the prisoners from Bree, we take them to Fornost and have a chat with Aragorn, no less! But then – the sun goes down, and all hell breaks loose when Thaurdir, the spokesman for the prisoners, turns out to have been an undead wight!!

Deadman’s Dike tasks us with defeating the undead hordes roused by Thaurdir, though it is very much a ‘just survive’ type of quest. Thaurdir cannot be defeated, but if he doesn’t have damage on him equal to his hit points when the final progress token is placed on the quest, we haven’t yet won!

The story ends as Thaurdir escapes with Iârion captive, and we swear to his younger brother Amarthiúl that we will help to rescue him.

It was a bit odd for me to be playing a deck that included Amarthiúl from the start, although his hero card wasn’t released until the penultimate pack in the cycle! I’ve been playing two-handed solo, which is a completely new experience for me, and was actually a whole lot of fun – not least because I was finally able to experience both the Ranged and Sentinel keywords, so that was good! Whether it was helped by the fact I’ve been playing Arkham Horror in this manner for a while now, I found this way of playing really quite straightforward, and didn’t really get that confused by everything that was going on. The one concession I made, though, was to not pass the first player token.

The scenarios were really good, I have to say. I played the first one years ago, but don’t remember doing too well. However, aside from a miserable failure with the first Harad quest back in 2018, this box marks the first time in a long time that I have played “new” quests in this game! So that was pretty exciting to realise! There is a lot of theme in the scenarios, I think, and they don’t seem entirely impossible when playing with two decks, so that is nice! I was playing Standard mode, and still managed to make it through each one, at any rate – though I have read online that this was the first cycle that really tried to address the issue of scaling the game for 1-4 players, rather than assuming an optimum two.

At any rate, this was definitely an enjoyable experience for me, and I think it’s gone a long way to rekindling my love for the game, after the sound thrashing of the Ring-Maker cycle before it putting me off for years! As far as the Angmar Awakened cycle itself goes, I was a play-tester for that, so have played each one back in the day – albeit with cut-out bits of paper with text and no art! Not that I remember a great deal about it (it was 5 or 6 years ago, now), but I’m looking forward to going through the cycle in pursuit of Iârion, so stay tuned for more updates!

Mythos delvings

It’s been good to get back to the mythos! It’s been a couple of years since my last blog post that chronicled my Lovecraft reading by the light of the Christmas tree, and with this season’s glorious return, I’ve got quite a few good ones lined up!

To start with, I re-read The Shadow Over Innsmouth. This is the one that kinda started it all for me, reading weird fiction over the festive season. It also somewhat coincides with my recently discovered surge in interest for the Arkham Horror LCG, which of course is currently in an Innsmouth cycle. The story concerns an unnamed narrator as he is doing a spot of sightseeing and genealogical research along the New England coastline, and decides to visit the coastal town of Innsmouth, almost against the advice he is given. The atmosphere of the story is really wonderful, and I’d forgotten a lot of what makes this a great story. Sure, some of the foreshadowing is a little heavy-handed at times – the big reveal that the townsfolk are basically communing with the fishes can be guessed from very early on – but the attention to detail in the descriptions of the dilapidated town is very striking. Innsmouth certainly looms large in the mythos, and I feel as though this tale is one of the cornerstones of Lovecraft’s writing, much like The Dunwich Horror and The Call of Cthulhu, and needs to be read by everybody with any sort of interest in this genre.

2020 has been a weird time, of course, so what better time to read some truly weird stuff? This year, I finally made it to another of the juggernauts of weird fiction: The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath! Man, this story is weird. I’ve read that it was never published or revised by HP in his lifetime, so who knows whether he would have made any changes or alterations had he decided to do so. At times, it is quite difficult to follow, as well – something I think he himself was quite concerned about. The premise is fairly simple, if a bit fantastical: Randolph Carter (a recurring character in HP’s writings, although I’m not sure he is fully intended to be) wishes to find the location of a beautiful sunset city that he has visited in his dreams, and so he decides to petition the Great Ones who live in Kadath to allow him to enter the city in his dreams. The whole story is told as Carter is dreaming it, and we go on quite the ride through the Dreamlands! Carter visits the forest of the Zoogs, who direct him to the city of Ulthar, the cats who live there being old friends of his. Finding the clue of a carving on a mountainside, Carter is abducted while trying to travel there, and is taken to the moon by the moon-beasts, servants of Nyarlathotep. The cats rescue him, and he travels to the mountain carving where he recognises the features as similar to the merchants of Celephaïs. However, he is abducted again by the night-gaunts, who take him to the Underworld where he is rescued by the ghouls, including one who was formerly Richard Pickman. The ghouls lead Carter through the city of the Gugs and back to the forest of the Zoogs, who are plotting an attack on Ulthar. Carter warns the cats, who in gratitude help him find Celephaïs, where the trail leads north to Inganok. There, Carter is again abducted and taken to a monastery in the Plateau of Leng, and barely manages to escape from the dreaded High Priest Not To Be Described. In his escape, he rescues the three ghouls who helped him through the city of the Gugs, and after a lengthy battle between the ghouls and the moon-beasts, Carter enlists the support of the ghouls and the night-gaunts in flying to Kadath, where he finds a pharaoh-like being who identifies Carter’s dream-vision as his own native Boston. The being reveals himself as Nyarlathotep, who tricks him into flying not to the sunset city but instead to the court of Azathoth at the centre of the universe – and then Carter remembers this is all a dream and wakes up.

Quite the ride! I don’t normally go into full synopsis mode for these mythos blogs, but I felt that it was almost a requirement here, for the depth of story involved! The Dream-Quest is told in one long narrative of around 100 pages, and like I said at the start, it is weird. I read it in sections over a couple of evenings, which is entirely possible as, while there are no chapter subdivisions, there are plenty of paragraphs which begin “The next day…” and so forth. There are so many allusions to other parts of the wider mythos, and names and locations that loom large for me as a fan of the board and card games based on Lovecraft’s work, that I found it quite exciting to be reading something that has been such an integral part of this world for so long.

It also helped that I found myself playing the Dreamlands expansion for Eldritch Horror around the same time, which is something else that has been put off for far too long now!

The story is quite interesting, to me, as it represents the sort of fantasy stories that were prevalent pre-Tolkien, with a lot of influence from The Arabian Nights. Rather than having fantasy equals orcs and goblins, and that sort of medieval feel to it, instead we have exotic locations and truly fantastical creatures. It’s a recurring theme of many of the stories in the Dream Cycle, and I suppose it interests me because it represents what is actually possible within the wider genre of fantasy. I feel as though I’ve been conditioned, almost, into thinking of fantasy in those realms of medieval Europe, so it is really nice to see beyond that, I must say!

Keeping with the Dream Cycle, I also read Celephaïs, a short tale of a man who pursues his dream of the imagined city of Celephaïs, to the point where his own life wastes away and his body washes up on the shores of Innsmouth. The man’s name is not given, though in dreams he calls himself Kuranes, and is a figure who also features in the Dream-Quest. With being fairly short, it wasn’t as weird as the novella!

Shorter still, What the Moon Brings is based off a dream Lovecraft had, and describes something of a surreal landscape, which looks different and “hideous” compared with the light of day. This theme of the transformation of the familiar into the horrible continues, as the landscape becomes more and more twisted. The ending is quite abrupt, making you wonder if the narrator has died.

The Crawling Chaos was a little disappointing, at first, but I think I’d misled myself with this one! The story is one of HP Lovecraft’s many collaborations, although this one appears to be mostly the work of Lovecraft, based on an outline described to him by Winifred V Jackson. The story is only a short one, and describes something of an out-of-body experience following an accidental overdose of opium on the part of the narrator. It reminded me a little of the scenes in Beetlejuice, where they step out of the house and the sand-snake-creatures are running amok. Considering the title of the story is most often associated with Nyarlathotep, I think I was expecting an appearance, but never mind! For completion’s sake, I also read The Green Meadow, the second collaboration between the two. Based on a dream related by Jackson, the story is said to have been recovered from a curious notebook of some otherworldly material, discovered in a meteorite but written in classical Greek. The narrator floats on a slowly disintegrating island towards a green meadow, discovering the dream city of Stethelos before the text disintegrates into illegibility. Not what I would call my favourite of Lovecraft’s stories, though it does have that dream-like quality that shares something with What the Moon Brings.

To finish, this year I also re-read The Whisperer in Darkness. One of the towering greats of Lovecraft’s work, it leans more towards science fiction than the classic horror, although of course there are a number of elements of suspense as the story grows. It is also significant within the wider mythos for containing a great deal of references to ancient gods and creatures, and the like. It concerns the narrator, Albert Wilmarth, and his investigations into some strange sightings following the Vermont floods of 1927. He begins to correspond with a native of the area, Henry Akeley, who has witnessed the curious and horrible creatures that inhabit the wild hills of Vermont, and chronicles his ongoing battle with them as the creatures become aware of him. About halfway through, the tone of Akeley’s correspondence changes, and he invites Wilmarth to visit him. Naively, Wilmarth agrees and is quite shocked to find Akeley in poor health, though his host is able to whisper of the things he has learnt since he has called a truce with the aliens. Wilmarth is horrified to discover that the aliens plan to take Akeley back with them to their planet of Yuggoth (identified with the newly-discovered Pluto) and invite him to join them, also. In classic Lovecraft style, Wilmarth escapes in terror before the aliens get him, barely managing to keep hold of his sanity. Of course, we never really get definite descriptions of these things, but the story features a catalogue of names such as Hastur, Shub-Niggurath, Yuggoth, the Mi-Go, Hali, Carcosa, etc. There are suggestions that the Mi-Go are the alien, fungoid worshippers of Nyarlathotep, although everything is quite vague and it’s almost impossible to pin anything down for definite. It’s all for texture, with Lovecraft, and it works so well to promote that weirdness that we love him for. There is also a wealth of local colour thanks to Lovecraft’s visit to the state in the late 1920s. It really suffuses the latter part of the story, as Wilmarth travels to Vermont. This tale is rightly one of Lovecraft’s finest, even if Wilmarth is a bit of a gullible one!

Hobby Goals 2021!

Here we go again, folks! It’s a new year, and the time is right to go through some of my goals for 2021, so we can see what I can accomplish in the next twelve months. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I have on the books, and thought I would go through the inventory and see what I have to work through. So let’s get to it!

 https://www.instagram.com/p/CJb-xStHHRc/?igshid=11u1wvjkf55x4

I would like one of my main focuses for 2021 to be getting the Sisters into some form of playable shape. I’ve had the box since November 2019, of course, and was adding to it with some of the additional releases to come out at the top of 2020, but I’ve barely made any kind of dent in actually painting these models, so I really want to change that for 2021!

I’d drawn up a 500-point list back before the edition change, and everything has sneaked up to the point where I’m now quite a way over that! But rather than cut things, I’m planning to keep working to this until it’s done. 23 models shouldn’t be so insurmountable, I keep telling myself!

From here, I’m planning to expand outwards with Retributors and more Battle Sisters, as a start. I also want to get the rest of the contents of the box set finished up, although some of those feel like they’re a strange mix and I’m not all that sure how to integrate them into the rest of the army, but if nothing else, it will be good to have the whole thing finished off!

I’m very tempted to get the new Drukhari vs Sisters box coming out, but I’m holding back a little simply because I don’t really need all of the Drukhari side of it, having a massive amount of models for that army already. But another Immolator, and more Retributors, would be very nice – and I really want that Palantine model! I suppose that’s what is giving me pause, really; I’m sort of expecting it to be in the £80-£90 range from my FLGS, which would be about as much as the individual Sororitas kits would cost if you factor in the Palantine, so I’d essentially be getting the Drukhari half for free anyway. I guess we’ll see what happens in a few weeks when it’s released!

Speaking of Drukhari, though…

I recently took inventory of the dark kin that I have still to do things with, and was quite surprised at how many kits I still have! Top of the list for actually completing this year are Incubi and Drahzar, 5 more Wracks and the pair of Grotesques. I do actually need to treat myself to a third Grotesque soon, as that is the minimum unit size. Not a massive amount of models, this time! Other than this, then, I think I’d like to get some more models finished, like odd Kabalite Warriors that I have here, and perhaps another Venom or Raider. I’m not sure where I got to with the Scourges, either, so could do with taking a look there.

I probably need to inventory the actual force that I have! Back in the day, I had well over 3000 points fully painted, which should really get more outings! I think 8th edition put me off, to some extent, because I disliked having to force my list into Kabal, Coven or Cult. During the Index days, I enjoyed playing a mixed force, and I think 9th edition will be bringing that back, to some degree, so it’ll be interesting to see the sort of lists that can be done once the new codex drops!

What else?

I think I need to properly work out what I want to keep, from my Deathwatch, Tempestus Scions, Adeptus Mechanicus and Blood Angels forces (I know I’ve barely even started the latter!) I said back when 9th edition was landing, that I wanted to thin out a lot of the collection, and while I have taken some strides in that regard, I do need to try and be better! I’m thinking about wiping the slate clear with a lot of these small projects that have never really gotten off the ground, and just focusing myself where it matters! I keep getting suckered back in with the AdMech though, as I keep thinking how wonderful some of those models are! I might, therefore, just keep a token force to ally in with something like the Sisters, or the Grey Knights. While I’ve not really known what I want to do with everything, I’ve held off, but now I think it’s becoming quite clear that I ought to just cut down and focus on a few armies, rather than spreading myself so thin…

Larger collections of models include the Tyranids and Genestealer Cults, and I want to try and sort myself out here, as well. I’ve recently decided to thin out some of the Cult, as I was looking at far too many models there, but I am fairly certain that I’m not going to get rid of them as an army, as I love them as models so much. Of course, they were going to be my big army project for 9th edition, but that never really got off the ground, did it? I’m such a fan though, that they’ll no doubt be worked upon as time progresses!

The Tyranids were looking quite precarious at one point, but I enjoy those models a bit too much, also, so I think I’ll be keeping hold of those too – I want to try and play more with them, when that kind of thing is possible, as the couple of games that I have played with them were very interesting. Of course, I have the Grey Knights as a pure psyker army, but I do love the fact that the bugs have got a good mix, allowing for a nice balance during the game. Definitely need more time spent with the bugs, I think!

I also think that I had a fairly decent paint scheme for the Tyranids, easy to replicate across vast swathes of the things, but I did sort of stall back when my daughter was born, for obvious reasons! I think it would be good to get back into these guys, though, so hopefully I can make a bit more headway with these, too! It’s been nearly two years since my “Going Big With Tyranids” blog, but I think that will most likely form the jumping-off point.

I am in danger of making things a bit unbearable now, though – getting the Sisters army off the ground might turn into quite the task, after all, and I’ve not even mentioned the Necrons in this blog! At least the Sisters are the only project that has an actual list attached to them – Drukhari and Tyranids are just “paint up some random miniatures” for the time being!

Anyway, it’s probably time to enshrine some actual hobby goals for the year ahead!

Paint up the Sisters of Battle 500-point list (well, it’s a little more than 500 points, but the point stands!)

Finish up the Drukhari models – 5 Wracks, 3 Grotesques, 5 Incubi and Drahzar.

Paint up at least 2 Tyranid units, at least one of which is a big bug!

Continue rescuing Necron models – Triarch Praetorians, Canoptek Spyder, etc

Paint more Grey Knights! At least three more units, maybe a vehicle too.

Also paint more Chaos Marines! At least three units, and perhaps a bigger thing, as well.

Make a decision about the Scions, Deathwatch and AdMech models! Do I want to keep all of those Space Marines kits?

Paint more terrain – mainly for Necromunda, but also general 40k stuff.

In addition to all of this, I’d like to be less impulsive with buying stuff, and see if I can stick to only buying things that I want to actually use, etc. I’d also like to improve my painting, so I think I need to be better at doing it more often – not necessarily for the whole day, but try to do an hour more often in the week, than only one or two times in that week. I’m almost afraid to say this last one, given that we’ve just moved into full lockdown again, but I would like to play more often, and have more of a plan for when I do! I still tend to go in with the idea of “let’s see how this turns out”, so I think it could be good to get more of a game plan in place for when we are able to meet up with people once more!

So there we go! Let’s see where I stand this time next year!