Terrain Talk: Mechanicum Industrial Sector

I want to recreate this illustration on my tabletop.

It’s from Kromlech, and shows off a range of their terrain from the Mechanicum: Industrial Sector line(hereafter MIS). The picture shows a maze like industrial complex, with untold levels and gantries connecting unseen levels. I say that I want to recreate this illustration because it’s great inspiration for what a claustrophobic gaming table could look like. Whether for Necromunda or Kill Team or as the backdrop for a game of Horus Heresy, this illustration and a potential table based around it screams narrative. It tells a story without even trying.

Part of the reason I dug up this picture is because I finally completed the Large Promethium Chimney that has been sitting in pieces in my hobby area for far too long. One of those projects where I had a moment and my brain absolutely needed to get this project finished. I’m glad to say that it’s done, and it’s making me want to revisit this line of terrain. The great thing is that it’s all so very modular and can be arranged in a thousand different ways. That adds a lot of value because it means the terrain setup can always change.

For the Promethium Chimney, I did add some ork glyph plates and some colorful ork graffiti here and there. It adds a little extra character, and the terrain piece is big enough to make an impressive centerpiece on a table.

The MIS terrain makes up a large part of my collection, and I think if I wanted to recreate the illustration above it would be a matter of getting a few more pieces here and there. It might also be possible to add thematic lighting using small LEDs for added atmosphere. Shipping crates and containers come in handy for extra cover and scatter terrain.

Speaking in praise of the MIS terrain: it is easy to assemble, very durable, very modular, and fits a variety of battlefields depending on how you choose to paint it. Take a look at the full range over at http://www.bitsofwar.com

Orks and Oddities

I’ve been working on my orks again.

I flit from project to project anyway, and a few months ago had a need to pivot from my Alpha Legion back to orks. I don’t even remember exactly what it was, but I tend to listen when that feeling comes up.

Since then, I’ve been done more work on a Battlewagon, a second buggy, and a lot of Ork boyz. That’s not to say that anything got done… but I’ve been painting anyways. I’m finding regular Ork boyz to be a slow process, because each Ork is covered in belts and buckled and straps. Even with a minimal color palette it takes a long time to finish each one. Right now I have maybe fifteen boyz all close to complete and ready for basing.

A lot of what prompted me to Ork again may have been the lure of vehicles, and the Max Mad: Fury Road theme that I’m going for with my Deathskulls. I like the idea of hordes of ramshackle trukks and buggies all careening toward the enemy, full of shouting orks,

I did finish my Killtank – a project that’s only been more than a year in the making. It sat, primed and partially basecoated, for a very long time, and what I got hung up on was the tracks. I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go and how I wanted to paint them. In the end, I copied what Forge World had already done. And they look great. I also tried to push the rust work and am proud of the finished tank.

A lot of this year has been a process of “finish the backlog”, or if not finish, then at least “paint more than you buy”. And that’s been good. It’s a good feeling to tackle grey plastic that I’ve owned for years and years, and have it get painted. We all talk about our Pile of Shame, and mine isn’t even as tremendous as some I’ve seen. It’s good to reduce that. Years ago, when I first began this Ork army, I went a little wild buying used minis and kits on eBay, and as a result I’ve got a collection of minis that continues to surprise me. Like the endless Killa Kans that I keep finding…

Oh, and I started a YouTube channel. Or rather, a second channel. That I’ve been uploading some hobby videos to – look for “Tiny Fish Hobby” when you search. Aside from the last couple of weeks where I’ve had an existential “What am I even doing?” crisis, I’ve been managing a video a week.

Forge World Has a Communication Problem

The Horus Heresy is an event that has long been a pillar in the lore of Warhammer 40,000. The opening pages of Codex Chaos for 2nd edition(the oldest reference I own and the book that first started my journey into Warhammer) describe how the traitor legions fell to chaos and turned on the Emperor of Mankind. The overview is a bit brief, but even here the key events are mentioned; the virus bombing of Isstvan III, the betrayal at Isstvan V known as the Dropsite Massacre, the confrontation between Horus Lupercal and the Emperor on Horus’ battle barge at the Siege of Terra.

Horus Rising was published in 2006, and marked the start of a long journey for thousands of fans of Warhammer 40,000. Dan Abnett’s initial novel in the series would detail the Horus Heresy across dozens of books and breathe life into characters that often, until now, had only been briefly described in the lore. The primarchs grew from names on a page to fully realized characters, tragic demigods in their own right. The final novel in the series, The Buried Dagger, was published in 2019. The next series, The Siege of Terra, is being published now and marks the final conclusion of the Horus Heresy in epic detail.

Horus Heresy Book One: Betrayal was released by Forge World in 2012(forgive me if I have this date wrong) and allowed fans of the Horus Heresy to recreate the battles and skirmishes of the Heresy on the tabletop. Betrayal gave players rules for fielding several space marine legions as full armies using what was then the 6th edition rules for Warhammer 40,000. This marked the beginning of a rule set that would become known as the Age of Darkness, and would several years later see its own separate rulebook. Successive “black books” followed, with Crusade being released in 2020 and containing rules for the last of the legions to be detailed – the Dark Angels.

These black books are works of art. Each is an oversized hardcover, leather bound, fully illustrated with full color pages. The lore in each is presented as a pseudo historical account of the events that took place during the Horus Heresy, and each book is accompanied by the game rules for multiple space marine legions, and often contains a campaign to play through as well.

Forge World also has an accompanying line of miniatures for their Horus Heresy line. Finally players were able to field primarchs on the tabletop; Horus in all his glory, Fulgrim facing off against Ferrus Manus, Alpharius stabbing a wounded and crawling legionary in the back.

The Betrayal at Calth boxed game was released in full plastic in 2016, and contained 30 MkIV space marines, 5 Cataphractii terminators, a Contemptor dreadnought, and two characters, all for about $150. It was an incredible bargain and many players immediately bought multiple boxes to jump start their Horus Heresy armies. It is safe to say that I wouldn’t be blogging about this today if I hadn’t also started my Alpha Legion at the time; starting a Heresy army was simply too expensive otherwise.

All of this is a long introduction to a point that I’ll get to shortly. Suffice it to say that I love the Horus Heresy as a setting, and want nothing more than to see the community grow and the game prosper and flourish.

The Issues

A few years ago, one of the lead designers of the game, Alan Bligh, unfortunately passed away rather suddenly. Since then, it almost feels like the design team for the game has slowly gotten less and less communicative with the players.

While the game saw a number of releases last year, including Crusade, new vehicle designs, and more infantry, the articles covering the Horus Heresy on the Warhammer Community website have slowly dried up. Looking back through the archive of posts shows brief articles in January, December 2020, October 2020, and September 2020(the release of Crusade and Lion el’Johnson’s model). Even then, these are short and to the point, often nothing more than a preorder notice with a small lore blurb as accompaniment.

What’s really lacking are articles that expand on the lore, discuss specific legions(a “faction focus”), showcase armies from either the designers or the players, or even designer’s commentary articles. A few years ago, and as late as January 2020, Warhammer Community did a couple of army showcases to show off Horus Heresy armies. To date, I believe these articles have covered the Alpha Legion, White Scars, and Ultramarines. In short, more content to promote the game and grow interest from potential new players.

Along with the Horus Heresy, Forge World publishes a number of other games under their “specialist games” heading, including Necromunda, Adeptus Titanicus, Aeronautica Imperialis, Blood Bowl, and the Middle Earth strategy game. Several of these games have now received “roadmaps”, effectively letting players know what kind of releases are coming up in the next half year or even further. A roadmap like this shows that there is still ongoing support for the game system, and lets players plan for potential purchases.

To date there has not yet been a roadmap for any Horus Heresy content, and there are still miniatures previewed last year that haven’t been released yet(Word Bearers praetors). In fact, we as a community don’t have any idea what releases we will be seeing this year, if any. There hasn’t been any word yet of whether or not there will even be a black book.

Even more worrying, one of the few remaining designers for the game, Anuj, recently announced that he would be moving on to a different company altogether. While I do wish him the best of luck, this loss leaves the Heresy with just a single designer for the entire game setting(according to Anuj’s own announcement).

I try hard not to be a “gloom and doom” type of person, but it’s baffling that there seems to be this resistance to telling us things, especially since it seems limited particularly to the portion of Forge World that’s responsible for the Horus Heresy. The other specialist games all get regular releases, content, and support. The community certainly doesn’t need top level company secrets or anything, but a short post on a social media channel letting the players know that their game system isn’t going to be dropped altogether would be helpful. It almost feels right now as if any excitement and support for the Heresy is resting largely on the shoulders of the community, and not on the company that actually produces the game.

If I had the chance to peek behind the Forge World curtain for a week and take charge, at the very least I’d make sure there was a roadmap of coming releases, along with some planned content to get more interest in the game itself. I know that this post may come off as whining, but it’s more than I’m frustrated by what I see as a problem with a simple solution. The Horus Heresy is a great setting, and the players who have invested in the game since Betrayal deserve at the very least to know what’s happening with the game and where future releases are going. It’s the very act of “not knowing” that’s causing issues. Maybe Forge World is in the process of restructuring the studio that works on the game and just doesn’t have any news to give. Whatever the case may be, I’ll keep painting my Alpha Legion and looking forward to being able to play games again. And above all, I’ll keep up hope.

Blood Angels? Blood Angels

In my last post I talked about building a small force of Blood Angels to allow for demo games of Horus Heresy. I’ve taken some time to put together what I think would be a good list for these kinds of demo games.

To take advantage of the Blood Angels special legion rules, I’ve given most of the tactical marines in this list additional chainswords; these marines will wound on rolls of 3+ in close combat. The smaller tactical support squad is armed with flamers, which should prove deadly in the close confines of a Zone Mortalis game.

Two characters are featured here. The Praetor leads and is armed with a thunder hammer and hand flamer. The Warmonger is pure killing power and meant to take on other Astartes and win. He can use his special ability to Deep Strike in one unit, allowing for a surprise ambush behind enemy lines.

Rounding out the small force is a Contemptor dreadnought armed with a Kheres Assault Cannon and a dreadnought close combat weapon. The assault cannon will force armor saves while the close combat weapon allows for taking on vehicles and other dreadnought.

I tried to create a force that was very different from my normal Alpha Legion lists. I think that this list can play very aggressively, especially in Zone Mortalis or Centurion games, and both characters will tear through power armor.

Like I’ve previously mentioned in an earlier blog, I want to try painting this force as Blood Angels with Alpha Legion armor underneath, using a chipping technique to selectively reveal sections of their true armor beneath the red.

I’m not sure yet when I’ll be able to tackle this project, but with a finished list, the first step is done. This list has 33 miniatures, which feels like a good number for giving demo games without overwhelming a potential new player.

If you’ve got any experience playing Blood Angels, or any thoughts on this post, please comment below, and thanks for reading.

Thoughts on Growing a Horus Heresy Community

Disclaimer: as of the time of this writing, the COVID-19 pandemic is still rampant, with vaccines slowly being rolled out across the United States. It’s been almost a year since my last game of Horus Heresy.

Several years ago I started a monthly “Horus Heresy Game Day” at my friendly local game store(Giga-bites Cafe, check them out, they’re awesome) and was able to frequently have a turnout of anywhere between 3-8 players. And that’s a great start. Everyone I’ve played against has been a great opponent and a huge fan of the setting. But maybe that’s not enough, and that’s what I’ll be tackling in this post. Bear with me.

Warhammer 30,000/the Horus Heresy uses a version of an older set of rules for Warhammer 40,000. There are some minor changes, but I believe this was an intentional choice on the part of the designers in order to allow for a more stable rule set over time. The rules are not hard to learn, but much like the current 9th edition ruleset for Warhammer 40k, there can be a lot to keep track of. This may be the first hurdle – teaching potential players a different set of rules.

During every event we would have at least a few people coming by, curious about what game we were playing. As the event organizer, I was always happy to answer questions, and was quick to point folks to the Facebook group for our local 30k scene. What I wasn’t able to do at the time was offer any kind of demo game. In hindsight, having the ability to hold a day or afternoon for demo games would have been a good idea, and the past few days I’ve been considering this.

The best way to go may be the “Centurion” format created by the guys over on the Eye of Horus Podcast. It’s intended to recreate more infantry heavy battles of the Heresy, and focuses on troops rather than on vehicles. Combine this with Zone Mortalis, or at least a stripped down version of Zone Mortalis, and it might work really well to teach new players. Leaning into this, a 1,000 point Blood Angels army is what I’m looking at. The red armor of that legion will contrast very well with my Alpha Legion metallic blue/teal, and so will their combat-focused legion tactics. While I haven’t taken the time yet to create a specific list, I’d like the focus to be on infantry and tactical squads, perhaps with a single Contemptor dreadnought and a terminator squad as well.

Right now the pandemic means, for me at least, no gaming at all. I’m hopeful that there will come a point where some form of normality will resume, but until then I’ll be at my painting table, working on my miniatures. If nothing else, it gives me a lot of spare time to plan for that day when I’ll be able to show an interested new player the fantastic setting that the Horus Heresy represents.

Thanks for reading! If you have any thoughts, leave a comment!

Additionally, if you feel like throwing a bit of support my way, I do have a Ko-fi over at: http://ko-fi.com/greyedout

This Week’s Hobby Update

In this update, I’ll be covering what projects are on my hobby desk at the moment.

Alpha Legion

I’ve finished the four veteran legionnaires carrying combi-meltas and a variety of grenades and combat blades. Each one now has transfers, though they do still need a final varnish. This project took a long time to finish, but once I was in the final stretch I was very happy with them. They’ll look great as an addition to my Alpha Legion.

Several other veterans are built, each carrying a chainglaive from the Night Lords upgrade pack. I’ll be counting these as regular power weapons, but I love the way they look and the weapons add some great character. I also have a new praetor to work on with a chainglaive as well. Inspiration for these was shamelessly borrowed from OmegonEdge on Instagram.

The Sicaran Arcus that has been sitting in a box for over a year was recently unburied and examined. This will be A Project, and take more focus than maybe I have right now.

Contemptor Sciurus is ready for primer as well. He was armed with double chainfists, which it turns out are redundant in the rules, so one will probably count as a regular dreadnought close combat weapon.

Lastly, I have more Mk6 marines to complete; six are in the “paint all the trim” stage with another huge batch cleaned and ready for priming. These may get their own write up at some point, because working on these brings me right back to twenty years ago. And Rhinos 04 and 05 – I number them in succession order because why not? – need final details before they’re complete. I’m determined to get these finished, because I wasn’t smart enough to do so when I first worked on them. By final details I’m referring to very minor details, like the pintle-mounted bolters, or the side doors on 04 that need airbrushing and decals.

Terrain Building

A good portion of my Tabletop Scenics and Death Ray Designs terrain is almost but not quite finished, and like a lot of Alpha Legion, needs final details before it’s complete.

I have a large Promethium Chimney that I partially built and then set on my floor. It ended up getting knocked around a lot, which was when I found that mdf wasn’t as durable as I had thought, at least not for huge structures. It’s now in many pieces, and what I may do(eventually) is turn it into an ork-claimed terrain piece. The structure will need a lot of rebuilding and reinforcement, and I think I have a way to do it.

The Deadbolt’s Derelict set is finally almost complete after about two years. A lot of the smaller wall sections need more chipping, and so do the last six or so columns. But this will be relatively easy.

Final Thoughts

One of my tendencies when hobbying is to get deep into a project and then abandon it for something new when I get distracted – a strategy that isn’t conducive to getting things finished. Maybe putting my thoughts down like this will help organize the process somewhat.

Origins of the 73rd Harrowing of the Alpha Legion

The 73rd Harrowing was founded through veils and shadows, coming together strand by strand as if part of a giant spider’s web, vast separate elements drawn to each other piece by tiny piece.

Obfuscate through the later years of the Great Crusade, no particular mention appears on Imperial record until after Horus’ betrayal, and even then never directly by name.

Pieces:

In the Avenor system, a resupply fleet carrying vital military assets suffers a catastrophic explosion as it navigates a small asteroid field. An investigation determines that the remaining wreckage in no way equals the mass tonnage of the full fleet, and at least one smaller vessel is completely unaccounted for.

Bariman’s Chapel, a small research outpost so named for the cathedral-like rock formation it sheltered under, is discovered barren and stripped of all material and personnel. No signs of violence mark the quiet corridors; it is as if the facility had never been occupied at all after completion. The nature of the research being conducted there is unknown.

On Blackpool, the 458th regiment of Lord Margate’s division faces unexpected resistance during a night march and sees heavy losses from artillery fire in the darkness. It is later discovered that the engaging foe was a friendly battalion who had received incorrect intelligence and falsified orders.

The military installation of Baratum suffers the destruction of its complement of Marauder bombers in a raid by Legiones Astartes of unknown designation. The assailants disappear like ghosts into the wind-scoured desert surrounding the base.

Pascal V, resistant to Compliance for almost three years, falls after heavily armored tank columns push through what was believed to be impassable terrain and breach the many meters thick walls of its last strongholds after hours of brutal barrages.

In a far distant system on the outer fringes, the derelict of an ancient battle cruiser is awoken. Strobes of blue melta torches continuously flicker along its pitted and scarred sides, damage suffered in long-forgotten battles repaired by servitor thralls. Finally, long dormant plasma engines flare as the ship begins to move, an escort of smaller frigates keeping close.

Gathering:

Imperial records on the 73rd Harrowing are fragmented, but scholars believe that the Harrowing may have been drawn from the disparate and the lost, elements at the fringes of the legion ready to be drawn together and forged into a sinister force. Able to work independently as well as a cohesive whole, the 73rd Harrowing is terrifying to behold in grainy pict-recordings, though there are few of these and all are datacorrupted almost to uselessness.

In at least one instance, vox recordings were discovered on a buried frequency channel heavy with feedback. The only distinguishable phrase is “Deceive and destroy.” It is thought to be the principle operating method of this particular Harrowing.

Untold fleets traveled galactic space even near the end of the Great Crusade. Vast navies sought new worlds for Compliance, bringing word of the Emperor to far-flung outposts of civilization. Communication via astropath and slow courier vessels was not always reliable. The hierarchy of command meant that the Legiones Astartes often could and did commandeer what they needed from Imperial military authority. More than one vessel or whole fleet may have found itself with new orders under the Alpha Legion.

Now:

Like the coils of the mythical hydra, the 73rd Harrowing works in concert to crush its enemies. A favored tactic is to use artillery barrages from hidden positions and mobile heavy support squads to disrupt the enemy and leave formations in disarray. Fast attack elements harass and distract before tactical squads move in, working in concert to capture important targets or eliminate remaining resistance.

Records of the 73rd Harrowing are rare, and often the case of seeking out overlooked incidents amidst larger military actions; an asset gone missing, a critical supply cache destroyed, delayed or falsified orders. Whether this Harrowing is the seventy-third of its kind, or a designation with significance only to the Alpha Legion is unknown. The individual know as “Armillus Dynat” may take an active role in the creation of these mysterious formations.

Imperial scholars believe that a “Harrowing” is created for a specific, short-lived purpose. That the 73rd has now existed in whispers and in the spaces between more concrete and “official” Astartes organizations for half a century or more speaks to some potential darker purpose.

Secret Approaches

The fleet drifts through darkness, a quiet menace with the air of an apex predator prowling ancient seas and oceans. Only liminally lit by the light of an old, old sun, several capital ships cut through empty space surrounded by a multitude of smaller vessels.

It has been a long time since the 73rd Harrowing has made an appearance, but now the time has come for the Alpha Legion to wake from hypersleep. We’ve been focused on orks for the early part of the year, but at some point a switch flipped and now the scope of the Horus Heresy is calling again.

Perhaps it has to do with the release of the latest campaign book, Crusade, or a desire to delve once more into lies and secrecy. Whatever the reason, the forges are lit and progress is being made. A full complement of infantry is getting decals applied, and more bases are ready for priming and airbrushing. A handful of new veterans equipped with combi-meltas are ready. More legionnaires in MkVI plate are on the painting table. And a new praetor will soon be revealed…

Part of our intention is to finish and complete the units that aren’t, while at the same time adding on where possible. One of the boxes on the shelf still contains a Sicaran Arcus that needs full assembly and painting, for example. And that Storm Eagle has been without paint for a very long time.

Cover of Legion by Dan Abnett.

The Big Haul

This is not a post where I show off a big hobby purchase.

This is a post where I talk about a theoretical “if I won a lottery” hobby purchase. Kind of.

I originally created this blog to talk about my Horus Heresy era Alpha Legion army. Sometimes I write about terrain for my games, or orks. Or hobby projects.

In this entry I’m going to be a bit selfish, and tell you, dear reader, what I want: I want a big haul. A big, joyous, resin Forge World haul. Of possibly epic proportions. It’s one thing to make a small purchase from a Forge World. Maybe a squad of infantry, or a weapon upgrade set. Or a single tank. It’s another to receive a giant box in the mail containing a year’s worth of projects.

Recently I found out two things. One, that Forge World sells virtual gift vouchers. Two, that these vouchers stack- which makes complete sense in hindsight. Part of what this does is makes it possible to slowly accumulate, over time, a bigger hobby budget just by virtually getting myself Forge World vouchers. This is where I admit that I’m a little greedy and have been dreaming of making a very big purchase for my Alpha Legion. By “big” I mean multiple things that my space marine army has been lacking; a Spartan Assault Tank, some jump infantry, a Termite Assault Drill, and so on. The very first “black book”, Betrayal, because it has a lot of background information on several of my favorite legions. I’ve included a helpful graphic:

The red is where I’m at right now, roughly. I could make all of these purchase piecemeal, bit by bit, but I think the fun would be in a bigger order. Again, “Big Haul” is the name of the game. I totally admit that is me wishlisting and going “Man, I would love to be able to buy more hobby things”.

I’ll get there one day. In the meantime, I’ll keep dreaming. But if you ever want to help out, well, I do make dice bags. And they’re pretty great. You can find them over at Greyed Out and that not only helps me pay the bills, it helps to further the hobby that helps me relax and find fulfillment and joy in creating.

Thanks for reading. See you next time.

Finding the Joy in Warhammer

The other night I went for an evening walk and started thinking about my hobby journey through Warhammer 40,000. I think I started in the hobby around 1997, so at this point it’s been roughly twenty three years. I’ve been feeling a lot of nostalgia for “Oldhammer” as it’s often known these days, and was trying to remember the last time I had that feeling of joy that comes with opening a new box of miniatures and starting a proper hobby project for the first time.

I feel like it’s been a while. Maybe it’s me, but these days I often get reinforcements for my army and the box ends up added to the Pile of Shame until I can get around to it. And that’s not ok.

I remember when I was still new to the hobby and every purchase or gift of a box of miniatures meant a lot. It was time to open the cardboard, pull out the sprues or styrofoam insert to sort through the pewter bits, and then spend a good amount of time working on and(hopefully) completing those minis.

At the time I played chaos space marines, and while I’m sure my memories are tinted with nostalgia goggles, I feel like I was better then about working on a single project and getting it mostly done than I am now. Now I often work on multiple projects at a time, which more often than not results in a lot of works in progress… and none of them finished.

I’m probably not alone in this, but I am curious how other hobbyists tackle their own projects and miniatures. If you’re reading this and have some thoughts, let me know!

I will say that I just started working on the next Battlewagon for my Ork army, and I very much felt that huge sense of enjoyment that I’m talking about here while I assembled it. (I get the same happiness from putting Rhinos together, actually.) The next step now is to keep focus and get the vehicle finished before I become a hobby butterfly and move on to the next shiny miniature.

Until next time,

Michael