Sunday 26 September 2021

Back in the Saddle

My painting output always slows down in September. Mainly it's due to the new school year starting, but this year has had a wealth of other distractions, from gaming events to home improvement issues.

As ever, my route back in involves getting a couple of easy wins, and there are not many wins easier than Black Riders.

You might notice that these two are not GW models. Or at least they are not GW LotR models. I'm not actually sure of the manufacturer, and given the price I paid and the shinyness of the metal, I'm not entirely sure that they aren't recasts.

They aren't up to the same standard as the GW range, and there are some notable differences: wider hoods, lack of armour, and weapons.

Rather than try to ignore one of the major differences and paint the arms silver (which would have looked odd), I opted for doing them Matt black as an homage to the Black Riders in the Ralph Bakshi film.

However, I drew the line at adding the gleaming red eyes, but have done that on all of the horses, because they have red eyes in the Jackson films.

One of the two Riders also has a polearm, which is not only not film or book accurate, but also deeply impractical for cavalry.

I didn't bother making any conversions simply because this is all for the benefit of a single scenario in The Quest of the Ringbearer campaign.

Here they are with the official models, and there's a clear difference in quality and style, but at £7.50 for the pair, I'll live with it when the official models are £10 each. Cheaphammering does involve some sacrifices.

Just three more to go before Frodo can make his Flight to the Ford, but the hobbits still need to Escape from Bree and survive an Attack at Weathertop, so they might be a while.

More importantly, however, I'm making progress of another sort at last.

Acquired: 129
Painted: 168

Sunday 19 September 2021

Board in Brum: A Star Wars Story

It is a dark time for the Resistance. A string of defeats to the First Order has almost completely extinguished the last spark of hope in the galaxy.

Whilst the Resistance struggle for supplies and ammunition, out of nowhere, rumours spring up that the fabled KATANA FLEET has been found.

Desperate to prevent this mighty force falling into the hands of the First Order, General Organa despatched a strike team to pursue the rumours, but an old enemy is also on the same trail...

Yesterday I went to my first 7TV day in over 18 months. It was a tightly themed day focusing on all things Star Wars. There were Rebels, Rogues, Jawas and more Stormtroopers than you could shake a stick at.

Although most casts were built around the original trilogy (with a little bit of Rogue One and The Mandalorian thrown in) using Star Wars Legion figures, my cast was based on the newest trilogy, using much smaller Hasslefree and Terminator: Genysis miniatures (they are from a galaxy even further away).

Rey (Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight) - Star
Poe Dameron (Lando Calrissian) - Co-Star
Finn (Princess Leia) - Co-Star
BB-8 (R2-D2) - Co-Star
5 Resistance Troopers (Rebel Commandos) - Extras
Medical Droid - Extra

GAME 1 vs Mike

Rey, Finn and Poe (Chewie stays with the Millennium Falcon as he's a bit conspicuous) head to the Outer Rim planet of Reamma to locate reliable information broker Runa Dene.

Arriving, at the long abandoned Rebellion-era base of LX-Robynsun V. Whilst searching for Runa amidst the rusting hulks of obsolete Y-Wing starfighters, they hear the heavy clanking motions of what can only be armoured walkers.

Taking cover amidst the derelict hangar, Poe surveys the advancing forces with his macrobinoculars.

"How is that possible? That's not the First's the Empire!"

My first opponents of the day were Mike's AT-ST patrol, which I've cast in my own narrative as part of an Imperial Remnant force in search of the Katana Fleet. Theu were a rather intimidating looking (and hard to photograph) cast of:

General Veers - Co-Star
Stormtrooper Commander - Extra
5 Stormtroopers - Extras
2 AT-STs - Vehicles

(Due to Imperial supply issues and misread profile cards, Mike's cast was only 31 ratings, which might go someway to explain what follows.)

The aim of the mission was to search the objective markers hidden throughout the hangar to locate Runa Dene and then get him off the board edge. Each objective marker searched would make it more likely that the next one was the information broker.

The Imperial Patrol clanked into the hangar. They'd been told to locate and retrieve an agent fir interrogation. The commander had been briefed that the mission was vital to the resurgence of the Empire and its inevitable overthrow of the upstart First Order.

Rey stayed low behind one of the decrepit Y-Wings. She considered how far she had come from salvaging scrap parts from wrecks like this on Jakku, to being caught up in the Resistance and being trained in the ways of the Force by none other than Jedi Master Luke Skywalker.

Remembering her training, she calmed herself and waited patiently for the right moment to strike.

In the face of two Imperial Walkers, Poe and Finn ordered the Resistance Troopers to spread out and take cover.

These AT-STs might be obsolete tech, but they could still pack a punch and withstand anything the Resistance could throw at them...well, almost anything.

Poe thought he saw movement in the cockpit of a Y-Wing. Foolhardy as ever, he rushed up the boarding steps, in full view of the Imperial force, and found Runa Dene cowering beneath the canopy.

"Meesa glad you here!"

Both AT-STs swivelled their heads ominously in Poe's direction. However, before they could unleash their full firepower, a small figure dressed in white came vaulting and flipping towards one. A lightsaber flashed into life and sliced through the thick Imperial armour.

Making quick use of the distraction, Poe ushered the Gungan back down the steps and away from the fight.

Finn directed covering fire from the Resistance Troopers, bringing down several Stormtroopers that were moving through the hangar.

Despite the damage it had taken, the crippled AT-ST stepped away from the deadly lightsaber and focused on its mission.

The Imperial Commander saw an opportunity and caught Rey on the shoulder with a perfectly aimed blaster bolt.

The AT-STs closed in on their prey and opened up on the fleeing Poe. Amazingly, amidst all the destruction, Poe ride his luck and emerged only slightly worse for wear.

The AT-STs were met with a barrage of blaster Rifle fire from the Resistance. Finn ordered them to focus on the damaged one and the concentrated firepower finally penetrated it's armour and brought the thing crashing down.

Leaping through the rubble, Rey cut down the Imperial Commander as he tried to marshal his remaining forces.

Meanwhile, with the aid of BB-8, a limping Poe ushered Runa Dene to safety as the remaining Imperial forces ignominious withdrew.

Runa was able to give the Resistance definitive proof of the existence of the Katana Fleet, along with a datacards holding its location. The Gungan also revealed that she'd been part of an elaborate scheme to supply the Imperial Remnant with, which would potentially work to the advantage of the Resistance in the race to find the Katana Fleet.

GAME 2 vs James

Ironically, the datacards containing the location of the Katana Fleet were encrypted with old Imperial security codes.

Rey knew from her time on Jakku that they should be able access them via any intact Imperial vehicle, but they would be few and far between.

Cursing letting the other AT-ST escape, Chewbacca growled across the comm-link that years ago, in the haste to pursue fleeing Rebels, some Imperal AT-AT walkers had been abandoned on the surface of the ice planet of Hoth.

James was running an almost all 3D printed cast of Imperial Remnant, which I seemingly struggled to capture effectively with my photography (I think it might be something yo do with the white board). Suffice to say, they looked excellent.

Moff Herzog (Grand Moff Tarkin) - Stat
The Vizier (General Veers) - Co-Star
Mandalorian Bounty Hunter (Boba Fett) - Co-Star
Imperial Officer - Extra
Stormtrooper Commander- Extra
Stormtroopers - Extras
Stormtrooper Heavy Weapon - Extra
Scout Trooper - Extra

The goal this time was to get the character with the datacard (in my case BB-8) to either the base of the AT-AT or one of the remote points scattered around (you had to get to one in the opponent's half) to decrypt the location of the Katana Fleet, whilst simultaneously stopping your opponent doing the same.

The Resistance moved as quickly as they could across the surface of the ice planet. Chewbacca had told them that not only did vicious predators stalk the waste, but also they needed to get back before nightfall, when temperatures became deadly.

Upon sighting the frozen hulk of an intact walker, BB-8 ignited some previously unrevealed thrusters (possibly of Mandalorian design) and jetted over to the base of the AT-AT and made short work of slicing the data.

However, from her vantage point atop an icy outcropping, Rey spotted advancing Imperials. It could be that they were just here by coincidence and were just salvaging the walker for their cause, but it seemed unlikely. Either way, BB-8s work would leave a trail the Imperial Remnant could follow. They couldn't be allowed to claim the AT-AT.

Employing the services of a Mandalorian bounty hunter, the Imperial Remnant forces closed in on the AT-AT from a different angle. Scanning readings showed that someone, or something, had activated the frozen hulk.

Moff Herzog smiled, not only would he secure the location of the Katana Fleet to aid the resurgent Empire, but it seemed he would also be able to add an AT-AT to his master's war machine.

Suddenly, blaster shots rang out. Herzog and his Stormtrooper escort were frozen in place as the Resistance sprang their ambush and, moments later what appeared to be a Jedi vaulted down the hill towards him.

"Zis is not good. Our ensusiasm has outweighed our discretion."

The Mandalorian, who was still feeling the effects of what appeared to have been a bad batch of bacta, crouched down behind the foot of the AT-AT and traded blaster fire with Poe Dameron and a Resistance Trooper.

The ambush on the right flank suddenly took a turn for the worse as a malfunctioning blaster rifle engulfed a Trooper in flames.

Sensing an opportunity to break out of the ambush, an Imperial Officer led the way towards the safer flank, followed by the Mandalorian.

Seeing an opening, a Scout Trooper rushed to a position where he could get a clear slicing signal to the AT-AT antenna and took a reading on what the Resistance had been doing. It would take time to decipher exactly what was relevant, but the Imperial Remnant now knew the location of the Katana Fleet.

Emboldened, the bounty hunter strode back towards Poe and unleashed a gout of flames, driving the ambushes back. The tide could be turning.

The Scout Trooper pushed on into a crevasse, taking down another member of the Resistance.

The Stormtrooper Commander pushed up the hill to where Finn and another Trooper were pouring fire into the Imperial lines. However, he was unable to strike a telling blow and was brought down by Finn.

Driven back by the flames, Poe shot down the Mandalorian, who moved too slowly to get to cover.

Rey put her lightsaber to the neck of Moff Herzog.

"Call off your dogs. Enough people have died today."

Herzog relented and the Imperial Remnant retreated. Both sides had the data they needed and the race was on. However, unaware of this, Poe ordered a delay so that the team could blow up the AT-AT and deny it to the enemy forever.

Rey took the delay as an opportunity to salvage some weapons and tech from the walker that could help the Resistance in the future, before the strike team boarded the Millennium Falcon and made the final hyperspace jump to find the long lost Katana Fleet.

GAME 3 vs Simon

Shortly before reverting to realspace above the desolate and forgotten world of Neo-Gosis, the warning systems of the Millennium Falcon suddenly go berserk.

Crashing out of hyperspace, the crew catch sight of dozens of Republic Era Dreadnought Class battleships hovering eerily above the barren planet. The Katana Fleet. Of greater concern was the presence of a single Imperial Star Destroyer.

Struggling to believe what they were seeing, the strike team realised that they had been beaten to the prize. To few to wrest control of the fleet from the full crew of a Star Destroyer, they had only one option: set the automated systems of the Katana Fleet to explode before their slave circuits could be reconnected to the Star Destroyer and spell doom for the galaxy.

In a running theme for the day, Simon served up even more Stormtroopers, however this time they were led by an eminently suitable big bad fory day: Grand Admiral Thrawn himself.

Grand Admiral Thrawn (Grand Moff Tarkin) - Star
2 Imperial Commanders (General Veers) - Co-Stars
Stormtrooper Officer (Imperial Officer) - Extra
2 Stormtrooper Heavy Weapons - Extras
6 Stormtroopers - Extras

The mission this time was to fight for control of three objectives, the power control devices that could command the slave circuits of the Katana Fleet. Once one of these was rigged, there was a chance each turn that whoever controlled most could either destroy the fleet or take control of it and end the game.

Realising that time was of the essence, Rey leaped up onto the cliff where one of the control nodes was located.

BB-8 unleashed his thrusters again, burning them out so that they wouldn't work in the final movie, to do the same.

Poe led a team up towards the central node and then followed Rey to where she had caught a glimpse of the Imperial Remnant forces and their distinctive leader.

"Is that who I think it is?" whispered Rey.

"Grand Admiral Thrawn himself," responded Poe, "he was rumoured to be dead, but nobody really knew what really happened to him as the Ahsoka series hasn't been made yet."

Rey sighed, "We can't let him get control of the Katana Fleet. Can you imagine what that would do our continuity?"

Meanwhile, the Imperial Stormtroopers had spotted BB-8 and the Resistance operatives. A fierce firefight broke out. Finn clambered up the cliff to give BB-8 some covering fire.

"I have an idea," whispered Rey.

In a blur of motion, she kept into the air, simultaneously using the Force to lift Thrawn to the top of the cliff whilst somersaulting down to land beside a Stormtrooper Commander, who fell quickly to her lightsaber.

A surprised Thrawn looked towards Poe, who had his blaster drawn and aimed at him.

"An enemy will almost never be anything except an enemy," said the bkue-skinned Chiss Admiral, calmly, "all one can do with an enemy is defeat him. But an adversary can sometimes become an ally. We have a mutual foe."

Poe smiled, "I've read some of your writings, Admiral. What was it? 'Alliances are useful in some situations. In others, they are absolutely vital.' Just not in this case."

Poe opened fire and Thrawn slumped into a heap.

Meanwhile, Rey found herself facing an Imperial gunline. In a blur of action, blaster fire whipped towards her. Her lightsaber flicked out in rapid succession, deflecting shots away, but in her haste, she missed the commander taking careful aim and one shot grazed her thigh causing her to grimace in pain.

Realising she needed cover, Rey ran towards a rocky outcropping, where a heavy Stormtrooper was positioned and made short work of him.

Resistance Troopers tried to advance but were shot down by dug in Stormtroopers.

Others repeatedly failed to clamber up the cliff to get into a position to support the isolated Jedi.

Finn called out for his friend and ran down to help her, dropping a Stormtrooper as he went.

Imperial troops closed in on Rey. More blaster shots flew, but again and again she fended them away.

Then, quick as a flash, she was among them, cutting down the Officer and leaving them leaderless.

The Imperials retreated long enough for the strike team to use the control nodes to create a chain reaction causing the core systems of the Katana Fleet to overload, resulting in critical failure.

As Chewbacca flew the team away from the system, the detonation of so many ships engulfed the whole of Neo-Gosis.

Roll credits and rousing music...

Overall it was a great day and really good to catch up with people I haven't seen in person in a long time. Although fewer in number than usual, there were some stunning casts on display, and Board in Brum is a fantastic venue and had some excellent terrain set ups which I neglected to photograph.

I did feel a bit uncomfortable at how powerful Rey was during the day, and the 24" guns on the Resistance Troopers gave me a constant edge (even with me forgetting to use their Hide rule). I'm going to need to try to create a less effective cast for next time as I'm starting to get a reputation after the pre-pandemic Zombie incident.

The next Board in Brum day is pencilled in for February and there's a 7TV Apocalypse day in Darley Dale planned for November. If you are not a fan of uber-competetive tournaments, but fancy attending a gaming day, 7TV days are definitely what you're after.