Siege Strider: I hate painting horses

Yep, it’s true. The one thing that annoys me about miniature painting is painting horses. I’m not good at it and I don’t enjoy it. So, last year, when Privateer Press announced that their new releases for Khador would be chariots, I was initially a little disappointed, because that meant I would have to paint up some horses.

Fortunately, the part of my brain that thinks of dumb conversion ideas rescued me from this fate and decided to instead deliver me from the frying pan of painting horses and into the fire of expensive, possibly ill-conceived conversions.

I’m not sure where the inspiration came from, to be honest, but one of my miniature painting weaknesses is that once I get an idea for a conversion in my head, it’s hard to shake it until it’s done. So, Siege Strider it was. And, since I’m a glutton for punishment and a completionist when it comes to my Khador collection, I needed to make two Siege Striders.

Supplies

Of course, the first thing I needed to do was source the parts. Basically, this a kitbash of two boxes, the Siege Chariot and the Storm Strider. I used the legs and lower body of the Storm Strider, combined with everything but the horses on the Chariots. Also, a random assortment of plasticard sheets and tubes, which are very useful when doing these very mechanical conversions.

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I ended up using a few different glues and putties. I used brown stuff for general filling work, but switched to milliput for areas that I was going to need to sand to make smooth, flat surfaces. Finally, I also used a bit of “sprue goo” — that is, some plastic sprues dissolved in Tamiya Extra Thin — to fill gaps and glue together pieces of plasticard that weren’t quite coming together perfectly.

Finally, I got a pack of rivets and bolt heads from my local hobby shop. These are made by Meng primarily for automotive dioramas and come in various sizes. Simply shave them off the flat plastic piece they come on with a scalpel and glue them to the model. The advantage to this over doing something like dots of glue is that you get a uniform rivet size, which is close enough to what makes sense, especially when you need to add 263 rivets…

The Chariot

While the legs were the most important part of this conversion, there were a few things that needed to be done on the chariot. First, since we aren’t going to need wheels on this thing, I filled in the wheel wells with putty and plasticard and sanded them smooth, after which, I continued the line of rivets along the bottom of the side all the way across where the wheel well was.

I was left with the area where the axles for the wheels go in, and while I could have removed them as well, I decided on a different approach. I scratchbuilt a series of tubes out of plasticard tubes, putty, and those Meng rivets and connected them to the outriggers. The ends of the outriggers were cut off and replaced with some more tube stock, modified to turn them into exhaust pipes. With that done, I removed the attachment for the tow bar and filed that area smooth, and added a thick piece of flat plasticard to the bottom where it attaches to the legs.

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Modifications to the chariot. Note the wheel wells and scratchbuilt exhaust system.

Apart from that, it all went together in a pretty standard fashion, with some cleanup on the resin parts and some pinning. For ease of painting, I left the driver, shield, and gun in separate sub-assemblies to be done later.

The Legs

The legs were from the Storm Strider, but they had to be heavily modified to remove some of the Cygnaran influence. Cygnar models tend to be very rounded and often feature plasma conduits and electrical doodads. Khador has a more utilitarian feel, with more sharp corners and boxy shapes and tends to resort to raw power more than fancy electro-weapons. While most of the legs could have passed for any of the main Warmachine factions, the feet of the Storm Strider were distinctly Cygnar.

So, the first thing I did was shave and file off the little electro-pimples, because those just don’t fit in Khador. With those out of the way, it was time to scratchbuild some armour plate to go overtop of the existing filed-down feet. I started by playing around with some paper and cardboard, cutting and folding until I figured out the shape that I wanted. Once I got that sorted out, I made a template out of cardboard, from which I could cut out pieces of styrene. These were then scored and folded along the edges and roughly glued together using sprue goo.

Once I had the basic shape of the armour, I used plenty of putty and glue to attach it to the legs, covering up what remained of the rounded parts. I also made some covers for the top part, again out of plasticard. All this plastic origami ended up giving me the basic shape if what I wanted, and after backfilling it with milliput, I was able to file and sand down the rough edges to get the shape just right.

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Left, leg after electro-pimples filed off. Right, leg with armour plate overtop, and some sanding and filing done to smooth it out.

From there, I had to add some surface detail. So, I printed off some Khador symbols and traced them onto a piece of plasticard, then cut them to shape. Finally, I festooned the edges with rivets to add that Khador industrial feel.

With the feet done, it was just a matter of pinning and gluing everything together. I also had to scratchbuild some pipes, pistons and tubes in between the center section where all the legs come together and the body of the chariot in order to raise it up so the legs nicely clear the body.

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Ready for the paint booth…

Painting

With all the conversion work done, it was time to paint. For this project, I chose to paint in sub-assemblies, with the legs, body, driver, gun and shield being separate parts to be joined later. I did a zenithal prime with black and white Stynylrez, then sprayed some sections in pink, masked off a couple feet and a couple stripes, then brought out the purple. As usual, highlights and shade colours were applied to accentuate the contours of the model, using the same colours as the rest of my Khador army which I have discussed many times on this blog. From there, it was a matter of brush painting all the rest, adding weathering, and putting it all together.

Conclusions

Did I mention that I don’t like painting horses? Well, I don’t, and thanks to some scratchbuilding and some crazy ideas, I ended up with something unique and cool. And, with some of the spare parts, I was able to make a couple neat terrain pieces that can be used in narrative scenarios or simply to spruce up your battlefield.

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Paintlog: Pink and purple potpourri

So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted some of my painting progress so this may be more of a paintdump than a paintlog. However, I’ve done a lot lately that I figure is worth sharing.

Man-O-War

This past June, Privateer Press released a lot of Khador Man-O-War models, which, as you might have guessed, immediately emptied out my wallet and filled my backlog. I’ve discussed these models previously, as I batch sprayed them with the airbrush then got to work, starting with the tankers and then moving on to the medium-based infantry models.

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Anyways, as mentioned in a previous article, I like to do alternate-gender conversions for some of my Khador models, both to represent the contribution of the daughters of the motherland, increase diversity in my army, and put my own little subversive spin on things. Though, between Sorscha, the MoW Bombardier Officer, and some of the fluff in NQP #05, that may be less of a subversion and more of an accurate description of the Man-O-War corps.

IMG_0727.JPGAs a result, Atanas became Atanasija and Dragos became Dragana. Both were done using bald heads from Statuesque Miniatures. For Atanasija, I kept the hat from Atanas and attached that to the head and in both cases I sculpted the hair on with brown stuff. When it came to Dragana, I did a side-swept undercut, allowing me to add in a couple scars to represent the rough and injury-prone life of a Man-O-War, particularly one as renowned for bashing in the skulls of dirty Cygnaran invaders as her.

Atanasija, Dragana, and the standard bearer were all glorious models: nice and big with plenty of detail and some interesting textures to paint. I would go so far as to say that they have pushed aside the Greylord Forge Seer as the best model in Khador.

IMG_0726.JPGWhen it came to the standard, I knew I wanted to freehand something on there but I wasn’t sure what. After mulling it over for a few days, I eventually found inspiration from a slightly unusual source: the flag of the Republic of Angola. Replacing the machete with a hammer created something that had an air of Khadoriness to it. The Man-O-War Bombardier Officer, as one of the few new releases that isn’t actually a named character, was done up in a pretty standard paint scheme, albeit with the double pink shoulder pad to represent the fact that she is an officer, and some hazard striping on her weapon because believe it or not, when you combine a chainsaw and a grenade launcher, you get something that is actually quite hazardous.

Finally, we get to one of my two favourite characters from the Iron Kingdoms: Kommandant Sorscha Kratikoff. In this case, I chose to stick a little closer to the studio scheme than I usually do as I thought she would look good in white and stand out on the tabletop if I’m playing her with a sea of Man-O-War. Howeer, I did retain the pink and purple from my standard army colours. As I was painting her, however, I noticed something interesting about her pose. If you place her flat on the base as intended, she looks to be in a pretty defensive stance, with her feet planted, her weapons at the ready, and her left leg further back to provide support. However, if you lean her forward a little bit, the pose changes. Suddenly, she looks more dynamic, as though she is rushing forwards. And, given that her signature spell in the game is literally called Wind Rush which allows her to make an extra advance, the decision over whether to go with the studio pose or the leaning forward version was kind of a no-brainer.

So, that’s it for now for the Man-O-War. I also have the chariots, but I’ve got some conversions that straddle the line between stupid and stupid-awesome rolling around in my head, so they will probably be a winter project anyways.

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Butchers

IMG_0888.JPGI’ve never been a big fan of the Butcher; guys who go apeshit and murder their own soldiers aren’t exactly sympathetic characters in my book, and when it comes to his little dispute with Sorscha over who murdered who’s father in cold blood, I have to side with my lady Sorscha on this one. Further, when I got into Warmachine, the competitive scene for Khador started and ended with Butcher3 and something about both his playstyle and the idea that if I wanted to seriously compete I had to play Butcher3 rubbed me the wrong way. So, I can say that none of the Butchers have gotten into my gaming rotation, and that may not be likely to change in the near future.

Regardless, I just have to get them all painted. I’ve showed off Butcher1 before, but my Butcher2 and Butcher3 were both interesting conversions that I did a while ago only to have them sit on my shelf for over a year.

IMG_0891.JPGFirst, Butcher3 was fairly straightforward. I had a bad experience with Nyss Hunters back in Mk.II, so naturally, I decided to incorporate pieces of Nyss and a Retribution wreck marker into the conversion. I decided that the dog on the sandbags would be playing fetch, so I added a bow in one of his mouths and an arm in the other. For the other dog, I used the base that came in the package for Butcher and threw on a sword and a severed head because, again, it’s the Butcher, so I have to crank up the gore. Finally, for the Butcher himself, I noticed that the way his left hand was posed, it would be quite simple to add some sausage links to show him feeding his puppies, which I sculpted out of a paper clip and green stuff.

Butcher2_2Butcher2 was more complex. I figured that it might be time for another one of my gender-bending warcaster conversions, but I quickly ran into a problem. If I wanted her to be tournament-legal, I needed to make her out of at least 50% Privateer Press parts. The problem is that, at least at the time I started sculpting, I couldn’t find any female models in PP’s line that had quite the Butcherly presence that I was looking for. Fortunately, a solution presented itself in a somewhat strange place: the Trollblood warcaster Grissel. I figured if I just filed off any of the lumpy troll skin protrusions and found the right head to swap out, then I’d just have to do a simple weapon swap and do some sculpting here and there to make her look more like a Khador warcaster.

Butcher2_2Initially, I ran into the problem of Grissel being so large compared to the average 30mm model that I couldn’t find a head that didn’t make her look like a pinhead. Eventually, I found something that worked – a 40mm scale head from Hasslefree Miniatures from their Kalee model. This larger scale ended up being close enough to Grissel’s size that it worked.

With the head on the body and the weapon swap working out, the next step was Khadorifying the model a little. For this, I needed to sculpt or scratchbuild a few things to make her look less trollish and more Khador. She needed a few armour plates here and there, such as the shoulder pads and the metal loin cloth thing, to cover up some of the most egregious Trollblood details. and give more of a Khador vibe. I would need to sculpt the cape and make it look like the one seen on Butcher and several other Khador warcasters, with the rectangular plates with three buttons or rivets at the bottom. Finally, I’d need to add one of those special coal-fired warcaster backpacks and some fur around it.

All of this I did with sculpting putties such as brown stuff or milliput and bits of styrene here and there. The only exception was the spikes on the shoulder pads, which were from the PP bits store; I believe they were from the old metal Behemoth model. It was also largely done in layers; a lot of the time when you’re sculpting, it’s much easier to get the basic shape in first, let it dry, then do a second layer to get the details.

After the conversion was done, these models languished on my shelf for a while as I never actually played any of the Butchers, until we started getting close to the end of my campaign to clear off my shelf of shame. There wasn’t too much special about the painting; it was mostly just using the same techniques, styles and colour schemes that have been the mainstay for this army. The one thing I did try was the use of Molotow liquid chrome markers and the ink from them to make the very highest highlight nice and bright. They seem to be useful for true metallic metals, though I’m going to need to play around with them a bit more to see if they are something that I would recommend. Particularly, I want to see how they react to brush painting and blending, and how nicely they play with other acrylic metallics.

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Escher Gang

In the past few months, I’ve been dipping my toe into Games Workshop games in the form of Necromunda, which a few locals have been running. Suffice it to say, it has been an interesting and positive experience branching out, and there are aspects of the game that I find liberating compared to Warmachine, even if there are also some issues that I have with certain mechanics.

The two things that have stopped me from jumping into any of the Games Workshop games before are that I don’t really want to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars into a second full-size army game, and that I haven’t yet found a faction in any GW game that really speaks to me aesthetically. I don’t like space marines, boxy tanks or gross nurgley things, and that wipes out a large portion of their line. I like to paint female models, and so many factions have a “no girls allowed” policy. And generally, if I don’t dislike a faction’s infantry, I despise their vehicles or vice versa. The blimpdwarves are okay, I guess, but apart from that, my impression of their style ranges from “ugh” to “meh.”

And then, they released House Escher for Necromunda, which is basically what happens when you give a roller derby team a bunch of guns. Between the mohawks, piercings, and cybernetic implants, GW basically nailed a lot of my tastes dead on with these models. I was immediately hooked, and picked up a box before I even knew anyone who was playing because I wanted the models so badly.

These were great models, though compared to a lot of other miniatures, they aren’t for the faint of heart. There are a lot of fairly small pieces; even the faces and heads are two different pieces. This allows for a lot of customization as once you get the legs and torso together, you can pretty much do what you want for the arms, face, and kick-ass mohawk. Fortunately, they are made of some nice hard plastic and clean up fairly easily, so you don’t need much more than your container of Tamiya Extra Thin to get to work and customize them to your heart’s content

When it comes to painting models like these — a somewhat rag-tag group operating outside of any formal military or anything like that, you want to give each model a little bit of individuality but also have something that ties them together. This goes double for the Eschers with their over the top punk aesthetic. So, I decided to take some common elements and put them in the same colour — their armour plates, chestpiece, and shiny leather boots. With those all the same, I had at least enough of a unified theme that I could go wild and make every model a different combination of hair, skin tone, and colour/pattern on their loin cloths.

As a result, I didn’t really do much batch painting on these. While I’m sure it would have been more efficient if I had, there was enough diversity from model to model that the benefits would have been minimal. Further, I just didn’t feel like it, preferring to at least get one or two more models fully painted before next week’s game.

One slightly odd thing I did was that I added a lot of brass to their guns; while extensive use of brass on guns isn’t very realistic as brass framed firearms went out of style over a century ago, I like mixing brass and steel on my metal bits and love the look of TMM brass with a nice deep purple shade.

Finally, I made myself a little display for them out of a few bits of the sector mechanicus terrain and some sheet styrene. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a nice little extra thing that allows them to have their own special place in my display cabinet.

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Upcoming projects

At the moment, I’m neck deep in Necromunda terrain, trying to get everything I have accumulated for the campaign nicely painted up. However, as I finish that project, I have a few things in mind to do next. First, of course, there is clearing off my shelf of shame. There are only seven models remaining: a unit of Greylord Outriders, a heavily converted Vlad3, and a customized Ruin that spontaneously disassembled after falling off my desk a few days ago. I also have a couple models that I’m planning on using as pets for Necromunda, as the real models don’t exist yet and even if they did, I’m not sure I want to pay Forge World prices for them.

In the stash, I have an Me-109B fighter kit that I want to do up in Spanish Republican colours, representing the one that they captured during the Spanish Civil War. I’ve been a little afraid of some of the small parts, photo-etch and cockpit details included in the kit, but I can’t keep avoiding it forever, especially not if I want to enter it in a themed contest coming up in February. Also, with the focus as of late being on banging out armies, it’s been a little while since I’ve done a display piece, so I’d like to work on either a small model or a bust once I clear my plate.

Finally, there is always finishing those probably ill-conceived chariot conversions. Or, I could just totally blow my new year’s resolution to manage the number of unpainted miniatures I own and totally splurge on sales from the likes of Reaper or Bad Squiddo, but I would never be so irresponsible, would I?

Oh wait, their miniatures come with free candy. Never mind then.

 

 

What I’ve been up to – Man-O-War new releases

So, I’ve had a bit of radio silence on this blog, and aside from some personal and family issues, people who know me well enough have some good idea of what I was up to and why my social life and wallet have both taken a hit over the past month or two.

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Lock and load… airbrush time!

That’s right; after a long wait, the new Man-O-War models for Khador released a month or two ago, and being a good son of the motherland, I had to pick up the full FA right away and start getting them painted. There’s been a lot of discussion online about the competitive viability of the Armoured Corps releases and what casters to pair them with. But, since I’m not actually good at this game, I’m going to talk about the most important part: the models themselves.

Tankers

The tankers are pretty cool and look powerful on the tabletop. The sculpts are sort of a cross between a Man-O-War and a warjack. They are mostly resin with a few metal bits, and they are not multi-kits, which is kind of a disappointment as I think these guys would have been prime candidates for a hard plastic multikit. However, the resin is pretty good. On both of these models, the head, body and legs are the same one piece, aside from a couple metal bits on the knees. They are distinguished by the weapons on the arms, as well as the big shoulder-mounted gun on the suppression tanker. They’re nice sculpts; I would say they are what you would expect for something halfway between a Man-O-War and a Juggernaut-chassis warjack.

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My tankers

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masking is fun… it’s even more fun the second time when your first layer of paint comes up with the tape

The shields pose the modeller with a couple questions. First, you’re definitely going to want to paint in sub-assemblies, and it can be a touch tricky to get the arms installed in a manner such that the shields line up correctly if they are being held together in front. Second, the shields cover up a lot of the model, so there are a lot of details that you won’t see as they’re being blocked from view by these big shields. On the other hand, they do provide the modeller with a decent-sized flat area which can be a nice canvas for some freehand. Personally, I used some 2mm Tamiya tape to mask off a hazard stripe pattern, then added some fun little subliminal messages in Khadoran runes to the effect of “Play it painted” or “3 Colours Min” before weathering. Additionally, I converted the arms on a couple of mine to repose the shields so that I at least have one or two where the detail underneath is a little more visible.

Aside from that, there were two minor issues I had with the sculpt. First, for some reason, my Siege Tankers weren’t quite up to the same level of quality as the Suppression Tankers, with more mold lines to clean up in some tricky spots on the legs and a couple air bubbles to fill. Since the issue is mostly confined to the legs, you can conceal any mistakes in the mold line removal process with mud and weathering, so it’s not that bad. Also, they’re far better than cleaning mold lines on the old restic MoW. The second issue with the models is that the shields themselves are paper-thin and you have to be careful not to damage them when you’re cleaning up the mold lines. However, there is a simple solution to that issue if you have share that concern or if you accidentally stabbed the tip of your hobby knife through the thing while trying to clean mold lines (not that I would do that) – take some plastic from a PP blister pack, cut it to an appropriate size and shape, and super glue it onto the back of the shield to reinforce it.

Solos, Units & Attachments

The Man-O-War Bombardier is okay. I mean, it’s a fine model and I didn’t have any quality issues, and the combination chainsaw grenade launcher is one of the coolest infantry weapons in the Iron Kingdoms, but it also doesn’t hugely stand out like the character models released – which is totally fair, because it’s a non-character model. Yeah, it’s a little plain compared to the other awesome releases in that it isn’t much of an improvement in the looks department from your average MoW mook, but it’s not terrible, aside from one little problem. It’s missing the small bandolier of rockets on the right shoulder that all the other Bombardiers have. This is a bit of a problem because it hurts the cohesiveness of the unit, and it just doesn’t feel right to see the officer without them. Typically, the unit leaders and officers are supposed to be a little more ornate on the details than the grunts, and without the bandolier of rockets, it’s actually kind of opposite as well.

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Bombardier Bombshell

Though, while I’m at it, I will touch on the conversion rules, as a lot of people are looking at the Bombardier Bombshell as a substitute and “is this tournament legal” keeps coming up. This is a cool model, and it’s one that I’ve used as the basis for a conversion a while ago, so it’s no surprise that with this awesome model in existence, people are going to want to use it to represent the most important model in the unit. However, since the Steamroller document specifies that the Bombardier Bombshell has to be used as a grunt, not the officer, and you can’t proxy in a tournament, doing so is technically not tournament legal. On the other hand, technically, anyone who makes a big issue about that is an ass, especially if it’s well-painted, because it’s such a cool model. Finally, if you really want to use her, I think there is a loophole. All you have to do is do a little conversion on her shoulder pads, making them a touch more ornate and looking more like the officer’s, and it’s now a conversion and not a proxy and therefore legal. Just don’t quote me on that if you get into an argument with a tournament organizer or one of the Wills at PP.

 

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Some of the new releases…

On the other hand, Dragos, Atanas, and the standard bearer are straight up awesome. Until now, the Greylord Forge Seer has stood out as clearly the most amazing looking model in Khador, but now he has some serious competition. Dragos has the heft commensurate with his character background as a big badass who dual-wields giant hammers, and has plenty of characterful details in the form of pelts, skulls, and battle damage. The ornate detail on Atanas and the Standard Bearers is just a wonderful touch, and I feel like it’s going to look really well when I finish it.

 

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Sorscha3. My first reaction when I saw the concept art was “shut up and take my money”

Kommandant Sorscha, aka Sorscha3 is great as well; they’ve captured the Man-O-War feel, but made some changes in proportion and design to make her distinct. With how the gun and the armour look, there have been a number of jokes at her resemblance to Samus Aran from the Metroid games, and I’ve jokingly inquired if I can use a tennis ball as a proxy. One thing I’ve noted as I paint her is that if you tilt her forward a little, you can really change the pose from one that gives the impression of Sorscha at the ready or slowly advancing to one that gives the impression of movement, as though she is running. I haven’t mounted her to the base yet, partly because for this model I’m preferring to paint her separately so I can get at all the tricky little places on the leg, and partly because I haven’t figured out my basing strategy yet.

 

Chariots

Image result for man-o-war assault chariotFinally, we get to the chariots. I was a little worried on this front for a couple reasons. First, they are sold by Black Anchor Heavy Industries, which is Privateer Press’ direct-order subsidiary for huge-based models. I was initially a little concerned on this front for two reasons. First, there are the well-documented concerns that the international WMH community has with BAHI and getting dinged with customs, currency conversion, etc. that raises the price of BAHI models. Second, I have seen some of PP’s large resin models suffer from quality issues as of late. That is not to say that PP’s resin models are bad; far from it. When the quality is there, they are great. But if you get unlucky and get a bad model, you can end up with a dumpster fire of mold lines, misalignments, and resin bubbles. Fortunately their customer service is great, but having to wait for the company to ship replacement parts internationally isn’t good for anyone.

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Pictured: Stupid conversion idea.

However, in this case, my concerns turned out to be not well founded. At about $85 USD, the models aren’t that expensive as far as BAHI goes. Further, they are multi-kits and you are provided with both gun and shield assemblies which appear to be relatively easy to swap out, so you only have to buy one kit to get both. Second, the quality was spot on. A couple of the horses had some small mold lines, but the rest of the twenty or so resin parts that make up two of these kits were great. And the horses don’t really matter to me because I have some stupid conversion ideas rolling round in my head.

 

Representation

I’ve been known to do a lot of gender-swapping conversions on my army, in part to balance out the gender imbalance, in part to represent the contribution of the daughters of the motherland, and in part because it’s a creative exercise in making the model very different while keeping the spirit and distinctive elements of the model intact. Man-O-Wars tend to be common targets for these sort of conversions, because due to their bulky armour, conversions are as simple as swapping out the heads.

But further to that note, I’m glad to see that we have a couple female Man-O-War models in this release in the form of Sorscha3 and the Bombardier Officer. I’m a big advocate of gender diversity in miniature gaming for a lot of reasons, ranging from grand political concerns about representation to the simple fact that the more diversity you have in a miniatures line, the more cool miniatures you have to paint and the more likely you will have at least something that everyone will like.

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Zarya: not your average video game girl… but still a badass.

Thing is, gender diversity means more than just the male/female ratio of your models. If you have a lot of female models in your line, but they’re all skinny white girls who are either lightly armoured ninja types or backline spellcasters, then that can be a bit of a problem. First, it undermines the goal of increasing diversity in a miniatures line. Second, there is a harmful stereotype in a lot of fantasy settings that women can’t be the tanky front-line paladins in full plate and are relegated to either sneaky roguish or backline support duties. A good example to counter this is Zarya from overwatch — she is a popular character is because she’s a big, physically imposing female character who plays a tanky role in the game.

 

I think Privateer Press has been doing a lot better on this front in recent years. I was a little critical of them in the past because while they had a reasonable number of female models in their line, a lot of them were kind of samey. They had plenty of high-DEF low-ARM models that fulfilled the wizard or rogue archetype, but not a lot of heavily armoured or really physically imposing female models (outside of the trolls, pigs and gators, who are all trolls, pigs and gators). Aside from the aforementioned questions of representation, from a practical matter, it made my still as yet unpainted Butcher2 conversion kind of tricky because it was hard to find a female model with the requisite body type from PP’s line to use as a basis for the conversion. However, there have been a number of releases over the past couple years that have filled in that hole quite nicely. Sorscha3, the Bombardier Officer, and Sofiya Skirova for Khador are all badass, and other factions have been feeling the love as well with models such as Gwen Keller and Beth Maddox in Cygnar, Cyrenia in Protectorate, and even Iona, the upcoming Circle warlock.

As a result, I think putting Sorscha3 in the Man-O-War suit was a stroke of genius. Not only does it expand the diversity of the line by adding physically powerful female models in Khador, but she’s one of my favourite characters and taking the lightly armoured, high def, extremely mobile Sorscha character and sticking her in this armoured suit really turns her on her head. Before she was teased, I was hoping that we would eventually get a Sorscha3 on a horse (Horscha?), but this is even better. Not to mention that it’s a welcome departure from the “this caster gets two friends” concept when some casters have gone epic as of late. Some people said it should have been someone like Harkevich instead who got put in the suit, but as much as I am a Harkevich fan, that doesn’t really make sense in the context of his fiction.

So, big ups to Privateer Press for this move to increase the diversity in their line through recent releases, and keep ‘em coming. Just don’t steal my thunder by releasing a Butcheress Mini-Crate before I finish painting mine.

Conclusion

Aside from the chariots, which are a little on the expensive side for those of us who don’t live in ‘Murica, these models should be considered a buy by just about every Khador player out there. I know a lot of column-inches in this article have been devoted to my tiny, niggling issues with them, but those are just that – small technical issues on otherwise awesome models that can generally be resolved with a moderate amount of modelling skill. Dragos, Atanas and the Standard Bearer are particularly wonderful models that rival the Forge Seer for the title of best model in faction, and the others are must-haves for anyone who likes steam powered badasses. And if you don’t, then shouldn’t you be playing Cygnar?

Hot Takes: Champions and Khador ADR

Privateer Press recently spoiled some of their changes to the champions format, including the Active Duty Roster. And, like any Privateer Press release, that means there will be a deluge of hot takes, questionable analyses, and not-fully-thought-through opinions. Remember how all the Cryx players thought Ghost Fleet was unplayable trash and their faction was uncompetitive about a year ago? Anyways, I couldn’t let this go by without offering my unsolicited and uninformed opinions on the new format and the new ADR roster for Khador.

Format changes

There are a few format changes for the Masters and Champions tournament formats. First, Divide and Conquer, the requirement that everyone must play all of their lists at least once, is no longer a thing. This is something that may have been necessary in the past when one could just rock something like old-school Haley2 to victory on the strength of one extremely overpowered list, however now that balance is a bit tighter, character restrictions on lists are gone, and outliers are typically addressed through errata rather than being allowed to linger for years, there really is no reason for it to continue to exist and I don’t think it will be missed.

Masters also no longer uses ADR, which means that Specialists are gone from the format. Specialists are basically a sideboard that you are allowed if you bring casters on the ADR list. I like the idea of a format with a sideboard, and feel that there are a lot of underplayed, niche units which are good sideboard choices (hello, Assault Kommandos and Kossites!), however the economy of free points in themes meant it never really worked out. Either you had to create various legal permutations and combinations of your lists with whatever specialists you were afforded, or you had to spend ten minutes futzing around on War Room to get your lists to work out before the game started because you changed out a model which in turn changed the number of free solos from your theme.

They also made a lot of changes to the Active Duty Roster, the most notable being that themes are now a part of it. In addition to being limited to certain casters, you must choose your theme force from a list, and you aren’t allowed to play the same theme force for both your lists. This is an interesting idea, because it makes the ADR a truly limited format by disallowing more than 10% of the models in a faction, and I kind of like it. Further, they are increasing the number of casters available to most factions from four to five, and decreasing the number available to CoC and Grymkin to three, because ADR restrictions didn’t really do much to already limited factions and that helps balance out the big advantage that the limited factions got in the format.

They also discussed in CID the removal of the 15 second minimum turn, which is something that I am agnostic on. I don’t think the 15 second turn is as necessary given the hard turn limit in the game, but I still am not sure it’s a good experience when you’re that low on time and people are just throwing down focus and slapping the clock as fast as they can. However, it’s not something that has affected me greatly; I don’t usually have a lot of clock management issues, and when I do, I’m usually already screwed in other ways and on the way to a loss anyways.

Finally, they didn’t come out and make it official yet, but it’s been said during the CID process that PP is going to remove the painting requirement from Champions. This is probably a controversial statement, but I think it is good for Privateer Press to have a painting requirement on at least one of their tournament formats. It not only encourages painting, but it also means that people who like fully painted armies but aren’t good enough players to qualify for (and/or aren’t willing or able to travel to) huge national conventions like the WTC or Adepticon are more likely to have a chance at having a fully painted experience at smaller, more local conventions. The painting requirement was one reason why I chose to do Champions instead of Masters at the SOO, because it’s refreshing to have a whole day of fully painted games. However, I also think that a painting requirement and a limited format aren’t a great combination, as you could end up in a situation where players aren’t allowed to play their painted models due to the restrictions of the format. I think it would be a good idea to flip the painting requirement from Champions to Masters, or introduce a new format, or something so that painting requirements in Warmachine don’t go the way of the dodo. Dallas and the team at PP do a lot of work to promote the hobby aspect, and it would be sad to undermine that effort by eliminating all painting requirements from every official format and signal to the player base that it’s not important to at least aspire to play it painted.

Our Roster

khador_adr.jpg

Anyways, onto the Khador ADR roster. Our caster choices consist of Kozlov, Sorscha3, Irusk2, Butcher1, and Zerkova1, and we are limited to two themes: Armoured Corps, and Jaws of the Wolf. Of course, I only play one of these casters and Armoured Corps has a lot of new models that I haven’t fully examined yet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t spew my uninformed opinions out onto the Warmachine internet.

Kozlov

Ironically, for a caster who is supposed to be an Iron Fang, Kozlov is probably best in Armoured Corps. Fury and Tactical Supremacy are both excellent support spells for Man-O-War, particularly Shocktroopers, and I’ve been running him in Armoured Corps already with my patented “just take two of all the good models in the theme” list. Double Shocktroopers, double Drakhun, double Kovnik, and double Forge Seer, then season your battlegroup to taste. Once our new releases come out, I think that will open up a lot of new tactics and list builds with models that have previously been not that great such as the Demolition Corps and Bombardiers. Also, Atanas is going to unlock a lot, because the ability to move through your own models allows for a lot of options on the battlefield.

Jaws could potentially be interesting. Kozlov has some battlegroup support spells and his feat affects all models, including warjacks. The problem is that after spending three focus on upkeeps, and without any free charges or other forms of focus efficiency on the feat, he doesn’t have the focus to support a large battlegroup. However, PP has proposed allowing journeyman warcasters in Jaws of the Wolf, so bringing Andy1 and Sorscha0 and throwing a jack on each of them, plus perhaps one on a Forge Seer could solve some of those focus inefficiency issues.

Sorscha3

Sorscha3 is the latest iteration of Sorscha to be released in June, and she is my most anticipated model in a long time because it’s Sorscha in a Man-O-War suit and that is awesome. She grants Flank [Man-O-War] to her battlegroup, has a cost 1 jack support spell, Iron Flesh, and a cloudwall feat with clouds that hurt. I think there are a lot of tools here that could potentially be unlocked, but it’s pretty clear here that she’s a Man-O-War caster, so for my money, it’s Armoured Corps for her.

Also, she can take Beast 09 and Forge Seers can now cast Winter’s Wind on Beast. You’re welcome.

Irusk2:

At first glance, Irusk2 seems like he doesn’t really synergize with the themes available. He’s an infantry support caster, but his tools don’t seem to support Man-O-War as good as some others — I mean, how many Man-O-War can you fit in an Artifice of Deviation anyways? And with almost none of his kit doing anything to support warjacks, Jaws seems like a bad choice.

That is, until you remember that there is more to Jaws than just spamming warjacks. Irusk2 is a great infantry caster, and there are some interesting infantry choices in the theme. If you stack Battle Lust on top of the Kayazy Assassins’ minifeat, they can do a lot of damage with those little knives. Between Stealth, Tough, and Artifice of Deviation, they’re going to be difficult to remove on the way in. And just to add on an additional level of obnoxiousness, throw on Alexia1 so when they do finally kill one of your dudes, they come back as a zombie.

Butcher1:

I also think Butcher1 could be interesting in a combined arms Jaws list, if only because stacking Gang, Fury, mini-feat and Butcher’s feat on a unit of Kayazy Assassins allows for some truly hilarious damage potential on those tiny daggers.

I’m probably the only Khador player who has never actually played any of the Butchers (because I’m on Team Sorscha), but over at Avatar of Slaughter, Robert McCormick has been making some noise about Butcher1 in Armoured Corps, so… I dunno, go over there and read something from someone who actually knows what he’s talking about.

Zerkova1:

I don’t know, she… has a cloudwall, I guess? To be honest, I’ve only played Zerkova1 a couple of times, and I haven’t done particularly well with her. She doesn’t really help warjacks or help infantry hit hard, and she seems to lean more towards either Legion of Steel or Wolves of Winter as she would want to use the cloudwall to deliver something that packs a bit more of a punch and has a higher volume of attacks than Man-O-Wars.

On the other hand, countercharging Drakhuns through a unit of Shocktroopers behind a cloudwall seems legit, Ghost Walk could be fun combined with Demo Corps or Drakhuns, Hex Blast can more or less risk free take an enemy upkeep off a unit of Man-O-Wars, and Frost Hammer can be used to spray down single wound infantry jamming your Man-O-Wars without being so powerful that it can actually hurt the guys in the big metal suits.

Okay, I take it back, try her out in Armoured Corps.

My Pairings:

So, what am I going to run? First off, I’m definitely running Sorscha3 in Armoured Corps when she comes out, just because Sorscha is an old favourite of mine and Sorscha in a Man-O-War suit is straight up awesome. For a second list, since I’m restricted to Jaws, the smart thing to do would probably be a combined arms Jaws with two units of Kayazy Assassins and either Butcher1 or Irusk2. However, I don’t own any Kayazy Assassins and probably won’t want to paint 20 of them, and I’m also not particularly smart. Which means I’m going to wait for Sorscha0 to release and then make some sort of weird Kozlov Superfriends list, taking Kozlov and both Juniors and relying on his feat and the ability to stack speed buffs to hit hard and fast and be ARM 22 against melee. Because screw it, Cygnar shouldn’t be the only ones who are allowed to have fun with their juniors.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I am intrigued by the new format as I think it will be nice to have a truly limited format, especially for people who can’t be bothered to remember what all 1,200 or so models in the game do or are sick of worrying about the OP boogeyman of the week. For Khador, I think there are going to be two challenges. First is going to be our usual Khador issues with incorporeal and recursion. Fortunately, however, Ghost Fleet isn’t on the ADR so we don’t have to worry about basically autolosing if we didn’t bring mass RFP and mass magic weapons or because our opponent brought a Wraith Engine, so this may be less of an issue than it is in unlimited formats.

Second is the fact that we are restricted to two themes which are generally comprised of heavily armoured, low defense, SPD 4 models. This means that it’s very easy to end up in a situation where you have two similar lists that share similar weaknesses, which is not a good position to be in in a two list pairing. Further, these bricks of slow models could struggle into some of the very live scenarios that exist in a post-SR2017 world.

While this looks like it could be a problem and the first reaction might be to complain about being dealt a bad ADR following on an underwhelming CID because PP doesn’t like us as much as they like Cryx and Cygnar, I think this ADR could be an opportunity to force some exploration and creativity in list building. We could see some more experimentation with combined arms Jaws lists, as well as the use of mercenaries to supplement the weaknesses of Armoured Corps. Already, the wheels are turning for me regarding things like combining Kayazy Assassins with Butcher1 or Irusk2, or finding some mercenaries that may be useful as flanking pieces for Armoured Corps lists.

Now, to sit and wait until my next big order of plasticrack comes in…

“I painted that one-handed…”

So, as I mentioned in my last post, I recently suffered a fracture to my hand, which knocked me out of gaming and typing for about a month. The only silver lining was that as the pill bottles I use as miniature holders fit in my cast rather nicely, so I could still make some hobby progress. Assembly and major conversions were out of the question, but I was able to put a large dent in my shelf of shame.

Laril Silverhand

IMG_2480.JPGI mentioned in a previous post that I had started on Laril Silverhand (03803) from Reaper. Well, I managed to finish her up. I didn’t quite go for the full-on dark moonlit night as I originally planned, but I do think the OSL on the sword does a good job of conveying the scene and the heat of the sword as it was just pulled out of the furnace. Reaper minis tend to be a touch smaller than what I’m used to from Privateer Press, but not too much; Laril here was perhaps 10% smaller than the equivalent PP mini.

Anyways, for this OSL, what I did was I started by basecoating the sword with Vallejo Metal Color Gunmetal Grey. This is the darkest silver paint I own, and the VMC metals are nice and smooth. For the sword itself, I applied layers of red and bright orange, blending them out so they smoothly transition from bright, hot orange to warm red to cold steel. On top of that, I did a yellow edge highlight along the edges of the blade to convey its shape. For the glow, I started by figuring out where the glow of the sword would hit her apron, anvil, arm, etc. Then, I applied the highlights as glazes, starting with red and working up to brighter oranges and yellows as we get closer to the sword.

Man-O-Wars

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Drakhuns with dismounted versions

With the Khador Man-O-War CID in full swing, I decided it was time to start putting a dent in to the large collection of assembled, primed, airbrushed Man-O-War models that were in my collection. Man-O-Wars are basically elite soldiers from the Khadoran army stuffed into steam-powered armoured suits which make them extremely tough and also occasionally malfunction and scald them to death. I decided to bang out two Drakhuns (cavalry models, mounted on the world’s unluckiest horses) and a Kovnik (officer with a flag).  The Drakhuns are dragoon solos for Warmachine, so each model comes with two versions — one mounted version, and one dismounted version which can continue the fight after being shot off his or her horse. So with two Drakhuns and one Kovnik, that’s five models total.

 

Now, these models are very detailed, including certain –ahem- anatomically correct bits on the horses. So they were a bit of a time consuming project, especially for someone like me whose style often involves a lot of contrast, a lot of picking out details, and a lot of heavy edge highlighting. To distinguish the two Drakhuns on the tabletop, I did a couple things. First, I painted one horse grey and the other brown. Second, I did a head swap for one of them. Instead of the standard helmet, I pinned the head from Alexia, Mistress of the Witchfire on there, which I had acquired from the PP bits store. I chose this head for two reasons. First, she’s got a cool angry expression on her face. Second, the motherland requires both its sons and daughters to carry on the struggle against the forces of Cygnar and Cryx, so I like to represent a bit more gender diversity in my army than is normally in the PP Khador line. With Man-O-War, since they are covered up by such big, bulky armoured suits, a simple head swap is all that is necessary to convert one into a Woman-O-War.

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Man-O-War Kovnik

For the Kovnik, I didn’t want to do a purple flag because it’s my second one and I want to be able to distinguish them on the tabletop. So, I went for pink, but I chose a bit different shade of pink for the cloth flag than I did for the armour, just to convey that they are made of different materials.

 

The other thing with these Man-O-War models is that some of the older sculpts are metal, and the newer ones are plastic. Which normally wouldn’t be a problem, except for the reality of scale creep in PP’s sculpts. The old metal Man-O-War miniatures are just a little smaller than the newer plastic ones, so to make them look a little more consistent on the tabletop, I elevated them slightly, using a layer of cork between the feet and the base. It doesn’t totally fix the scale issue, but it at least makes the models a consistent, uniform height which works out well at a glance.

Sofya Skirova

IMG_2501.JPGKapitan Sofya Skirova is a badass. Let’s just get that out of the way first. As an officer in the Black Dragons, the most elite pikemen in all of Khador, she has to be. On the tabletop, she has a lot of special rules which mean that she just does not die and can tough out a lot of attacks and get back into the fight.

She was one of Privateer Press’ December releases as part of their new plan of giving every faction a little something around Christmas. I’ve been waiting for her to come out ever since they spoiled some of the character art in No Quarter, however I think it may have been a bit of a missed opportunity there; when I first saw her art, I was hoping that she would be either the daughter or the wife of Lord Kozlov, our new battlebox caster, but that’s something that I can just headcanon.

In order to convey this badassery, I decided to do something special for her base. First, it goes without saying that she needs to tower over lesser models on the tabletop, so she needs a little height on the base. This was easily accomplished with a lump of air drying clay, as well as my usual use of acrylic artist medium for texture.

Now, height is good, but to add a little badassery, I decided to turn it up a notch and throw on some debris — a couple shields from her fallen comrades that I had traded for, as well as some Menoth bits including a warjack head that someone threw in with a sale (protip: never say no to free bits). These were, of course, weathered up a bit to indicate the origin of said bits, and really help convey the message that Sofya is one tough cookie.

Iron Fangs

IMG_2491.JPGWhile I’m at it, I also banged out the Iron Fang Pikemen that I had previously assembled. Aside from the hell that is assembling, converting, and magnetizing a whole unit of metal pikemen, I decided to do a little bit of an experiment on these guys. Normally, I wouldn’t use my airbrush for models this small, but I figured that perhaps I could save some time and get good results by airbrushing the purple on, including the shadows and highlights, then going back and brush painting the chainmail with some nice, smooth VMC metals. The other thing I did was use very targeted washes. As I’ve gotten better and better at painting, I’ve been less and less reliant on slathering a mini in Nuln Oil. That is not to say that washes such as Nuln Oil are not useful, but there are a lot of times where you want to be more targeted with them than just an all-over wash. Here, I pretty much just washed the metals and fur and for the rest, just kept the airbrushed or blended highlights au naturel. Overall, this gave good results, and given the amount of time I’ve saved, I am definitely going to be doing a lot more airbrushing on smaller miniatures.

Still on the bench…

IMG_2509.JPGI have a couple projects still on my workbench. First off is Karchev the Terrible, or Special K as I call her. You will note my use of the feminine in this case; a friend had commented on my habit on doing gender-bending conversions in my army and, well, one thing led to another and next thing I knew, I was grabbing a jeweler’s saw and a Statuesque Miniatures head. She’s a woman in a machine, an old warrior kept alive by life support systems, magic, and the giant steam-powered warjack that she was bolted into because reasons. I’ve got all the base coats laid down, and the shading done on the base and legs, so I’m probably pretty close to done, all things considered.

IMG_2506.JPGFinally, my take on Scale75’s 1/12 scale Mary Read bust is almost done, after a little mishap with the parrot that ended up with me needing to break out the sculpting tools. I still need to highlight the metals, do a bit of work on the parrot, and do some miscellaneous touchups, hightlights, and shadows here and there, but she is getting close to done. This was a really fun project, so much that I spent more money than I care to admit on Scale75’s latest kickstarter. I’m hoping to be able to make it out to HeritageCon in Hamilton in a few weeks, and if so, I’m going to definitely enter her into the figures category and see how I do. That is, as long as I can get her done by then.

Conclusion

In spite of my busted up hand, it’s actually been a productive month in terms of my hobby progress, and I’ve happily finished a few things that have been on my shelf of shame for way too long. Something about not being able to go out gaming or do much of anything is one way to ensure you will get a lot of hours at the workbench, though I still wouldn’t recommend breaking your hand as a motivational technique.

Company of Iron: 28th Iron Valkyrie Heavy Assault Korps

Lately, it seems like more and more miniatures companies are moving into the skirmish game market, that is, games that require a lot fewer models than army-scale battles. With not everyone having the time and disposable income for army-scale gaming, reducing the barrier to entry in tabletop wargaming by having fewer models makes sense. Privateer Press is no exception, having released Company of Iron several weeks ago.

CoI is basically Warmachine/Hordes scaled down to the skirmish level. With no warcasters or large based models, the game focuses on solos and units, the grunts of the Iron Kingdoms who make up the majority of the armies, even if the warcasters and warlocks get all the glory. The game uses alternating activations rather than the I Go, You Go system in Warmachine and some of the rules have been tweaked in accordance with the smaller scale and alternating activations, but people who have played Warmachine will be able to pick it up in no time.

Anyways, I haven’t played it enough yet to write a detailed review, however I did manage to get a company painted up.  So, without further ado, I will introduce the 28th Iron Valkyrie Heavy Assault Korps…

IMG_2249

 

28th Iron Valkyrie Heavy Assault Korps

 

Commander:  Kovnik Aleksandra Volkov – Man-O-War Kovnik
Upgrade:  Ironhead Scrapper

Other Models:
Koldun Kovnik Olegna Yanova – Greylord Forge Seer
Sgt. Ilena Filippova & Pvts. Antonovich, Kotov, Petrova, and Yegorov – MoW Bombardiers

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Inside the dark interrogation chamber, Aleksandra Volkov clutched her side in pain. Her injuries were still raw, and though she had gotten a few bandages to stop the bleeding, she had been quickly arrested and whisked away by armed winter guards and thrown into the brig.

“Ms. Volkov, I grow weary of your protestations,” said the kommissar responsible for interrogations. “Perhaps if you cooperate, we may show some mercy…”

“Do your worst,” replied Aleksandra, still clutching her likely cracked rib.

The impatient kommissar raised his hand to strike, but before he could, he felt a powerful grip on his arm. “You are dismissed,” said the grizzled old voice, one that made Aleksandra look up in shock. She could see little more than the silhouette, but the heavy armour, bushy beard, and powerful voice could only belong to one man: Kommander Izak Harkevich, the Iron Wolf.

As soon as Harkevich released his grip, the kommissar scampered away, knowing his place.

“Ms. Volkov, I must admit, I’m surprised to find you here so soon after your repairs to Black Ivan,” mused Harkevich. Coming closer, the Iron Wolf leaned over and offered Alex a canteen of water, one the parched woman quickly accepted. “Now, why don’t you tell me what happened out there…”

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IMG_2253

Kovnik Alexandra Volkov, after trading her wrench for an axe

Aleksandra “Alex” Volkov grew up around warjacks and other heavy machinery.  Her father was a member of the Khadoran mechanics assembly, and Alex would often sneak into his shop after school.  From a very young age, he had her gradually progress from an assistant handing her tools to an apprentice mechanic in her own right.  Following her father into the mechanics assembly, she found herself attracted to the maintenance and repair of warjacks.  Eager to prove herself in the male-dominated world of the mechaniks assembly, she donned a steamsuit and volunteered for the heaviest and most difficult work available – that of a heavy wrecker.

 

Soon, she was assigned to Llael, the frontlines of the battles to defend Khadoran territorial integrity and protect the new Llaelese provinces.  She was sent to a maintenance and repair facility near the fron, working with other mechaniks to keep the mighty steel machines of the empire running.  It was here that she first felt a connection to the mighty warjacks that she would marshal around the repair yard.

Llael was rough.  Though she was not often in the front lines, she had seen komrades come back from the battlefield, wounded and dying. However, in spite of the grisly backdrop, she also found love during the occupation.  It was Oksana Fyodorova, a sniper with dozens of kills to her name. For months, they grew closer, becoming each other’s one point of light in the grim darkness of war.

One day, she had the opportunity to repair a unique black destroyer, equipped with a claw, some additional spikes, and a few other accoutrements, which had taken hits from Cygnaran gunfire.  As she made her repairs to its boiler and stacks, she felt a special connection to the unique warjack, and after a few days work, she had it up and walking around the yard again before it was returned to service. Through her repair of Black Ivan, her abilities soon came to the attention of Kommander Harkevich, the supreme commander of all Khadoran forces in the region.

However, a few weeks later, tragedy struck.  In a tactical retreat, Oksana was left behind and reported missing in action and presumed dead or captured in the face of an overwhelming Protectorate assault force.  In response, Aleksandra suited up and headed towards the front lines to find her, stealing some weapons from the armoury on the way out.

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IMG_2254

Koldun Kovnik Olegna Yanova provides arcane support

 

In the dead of night, Aleksandra frantically charged through the Llaelese countryside, looking for any sign of her lost lover. Oksana had been reported missing in action when her position was overrun. Alex knew that as a Widowmaker, one who dealt death from afar to the enemies of the empire, that if Oksana was taken alive, she would have had the worst punishments the Menites could deliver inflicted upon her.

But as she rounded a small outcropping, she heard a bloodcurdling scream of pain. It was what she had feared the most; there, up ahead, was a wrack with a female figure chained to it. As she got closer, her fears were confirmed; Oksana had been captured and wracked. Panicked, Aleksandra dashed towards her, desperate to get her down.

“Oksana!” she called out, the figure attempting to look down at the source of the shouting. “It’s going to be okay, I’m here…”

All Oksana could respond with was a scream of pain and a rattling of her chains.

“I’ll get you down, I’ll…”

“Halt!” On the crest of the hill stood a Protectorate commander, along with a couple cavalry and a dozen infantry. “Lay down your arms.”

Aleksandra looked up at Oksana, writhing in pain. Knowing there was no way to get her down, she offered her lover one last gift. Pulling out a blunderbuss, she took careful aim, closed her eyes, and pulled the trigger, releasing Oksana from her pain. As she dropped the weapon, Aleksandra looked back around at the charging Protectorate warriors. With fire in her eyes, she picked up her axe, promising herself she wouldn’t let them take her alive…

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Eventually, she did find her lover, chained to a wrack. She tried to save her, but with a Protectorate ambush force closing in, she did the only thing she could to ease the pain, and ended Oksana’s life with a well-placed shot from a hand cannon. In the ensuing brawl, she tore through wave after wave of Protectorate troops, until she finally collapsed near the Khadoran front lines and was dragged back to camp.

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IMG_2255.JPG

Sgt. Ilena Filippova.  Yes, that’s a grenade launcher with a chainsaw for a bayonet. Any questions?

For several minutes, Harkevich listened to Alexandra’s tale. Everything she said was corroborated by the few scouts and sentries who had seen parts of her rampage; the fanciful speculations of the kommissar notwithstanding.

 

“You have been charged with a number of military offenses,” stated Harkevich matter-of-factly. “Stealing military equipment, insubordination, unauthorized interactions with the enemy…” he paused for a moment. “Normally, you would be court martialled for these offenses and sentenced to hard labour, but one of my Lieutenants had witnessed you tearing through an entire unit of Protectorate troops single-handedly and nominated you for a medal. So…”

Harkevich slowly stood up from the chair across from Alex. He knew that revenge was a good motivator, and anyone who was crazy enough to take on an entire company of enemy troops single-handedly, and a skilled enough combatant to live to tell the tale, would be a good soldier. “…it’s either a court martial, or a new assignment as an officer in the Armoured Korps. Your choice.”

Alex looked up at the Kommander, surprised at the offer. “Sir, I’d like to become a Man-O-War…”

**********************************************************

Given the option of court martial for insubordination (among other things) or being impressed into service in a Man-O-War suit, she chose the latter. Under the watchful eye of Kommander Harkevich, she came to command the 28th Iron Valkyrie Heavy Assault Korps, a unit consisting of herself, Koldun Kovnik Olegna Yanova providing arcane support, and five Man-O-Wars equipped with Bombardier grenade launchers:  Sgt. Ilena Filippova, and Pvts. Anonovich, Kotov, Petrova, and Yegorov.

Hot Take: Steam and Steel

So, one of the things on the Warmachine internet that sometimes irritates me is how the moment something drops, we immediately get a whole bunch of hot takes and theorymachine, which immediately fills the echo chamber and becomes commonly accepted wisdom without any rigorous testing or any effort to really unlock what’s there. Sometimes these “hot takes” turn out to be accurate, but sometimes… well, remember how people said that Caine3 or Ghost Fleet were unplayable trash when they came out, and then all of the sudden Tim Banky won everything?

That said, now that I’m on the Warmachine internet and happen to be a loyal Khador player, I am now required by the Empress to offer you my hot take on today’s Insider, which is all about our Man-O-War, even though what I really really want to see is an Assault Kommando theme.  And a Vlad3 all the horses theme.  And Harkevich2… okay, now I’m getting greedy.

However, I will preface this by saying that I am, in fact, an idiot who is not very good at this game.  At the SOO this year, I managed to eke out a 1-4 record in whichever tournament actually required painted models.  A few weeks ago at the CCBB, I was knocked out of contention in something like 11 minutes, and more importantly, I got crushed in the painting competition by Will from Moosemachine.  Again.  Not that I’m bitter or anything…

img_1375.jpgFor a long time, Man-O-War were the unit that Khador players really wanted to love. Big burly men and women of Khador in giant steam-powered suits of armour, wielding either giant axes, giant hammers or grenade launchers with freaking chainsaws for bayonets, we all had the dream of crushing our opponents with an unstoppable tide of steam and steel, even if the models themselves bore an unfortunate resemblance to GW’s Space Marines if you squint a little too hard.  Unfortunately, throughout Mk.II, they were generally too slow to get to where they needed to be and didn’t really do what they needed to do when they got there, so you didn’t really see them all that much on the competitive circuit. While Mk.III brought the Shocktroopers up to a decent baseline with the release of the Officer, they were quickly overtaken by the rise of themes (aside from the Loud Chris Vlad2 list).

Today, with the sneak preview of the Armored Korps theme and some new models, we can see that starting to change. Armored Korps lets you take all the Man-O-War, Battle Mechaniks, our trusty War Dog, and a merc solo or unit.  The benefits are free models, better Repair on mechaniks, and Advance Move on models that don’t exist yet.

Okay, at first glance, nothing in is either unexpected or is anything to really write home about.  Free points is standard for themes and probably what we all expected, better mechaniks are good, I guess, but it just feels like between electroleaps, blast damage, and sprays, there are enough ways to trivially kill mechaniks that I can’t see this being gamebreaking.  And the final benefit is something that we aren’t going to see until 2018 when they start releasing the new models.

Speaking of new models, though, this is the real meat of the insider.  Bombardiers are going to get some CID love with a proposal to increase their range.  Further, they will be getting an officer which grants them some neat special rules, such as Clear Cut, Quick Work, and a Dual Shot minifeat.  This will hopefully make them as cool on the tabletop as “heavily armoured Russians wielding chainsaw-RPGs” sounds.  We’re getting a battle engine which kind of reminds me of the Gun Carriage and which, with Advance Move in theme, seems pretty legit.  Finally, we’re going to be getting Man-O-War Tankers, which it is safe to assume is a new name for the Heavy Man-O-War whose sculpts were spoiled at Lock and Loadtanker.jpg.

But when it comes to recent Man-O-War news, that’s not all!  In the most recent issue of No Quarter, the splash page showed off what is clearly Sorscha3 in a Man-O-War suit**, as well as a couple cool-looking MoW solos. With the hint in the insider that there is more to come, I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to say that the Demolition Corps are at some point going to get some much-needed help in the form of a Unit Attachment or Solo — perhaps they might get backswing back or something to that effect?

Sorscha3So, how do I feel about this theme overall?  I think it seems pretty good, but I’m not sensing anything at the moment that is going to light the world on fire — at least, not until we start getting a good look at the new Man-O-War releases slated for 2018.  The big thing that this has going for it is that it enables one to create a bricky Khador army that can actually score circular zones, as SR2017 and some boogeymen in the meta (Cryxian armour debuffing, POW 20-something Skin and Moans that chew through anything they get into) seem to be taking the shine off some of our jackspams.  A couple units of Man-O-War and a couple jacks in the battlegroup can score in some scenarios a lot better than an all-jack army whose only scoring piece for some zones is the caster.

As for what casters to take it with, I think Vlad2 is an obvious candidate because between Hand of Fate and his feat, he can turn a unit of MoW up to 11.  Will Pagani offered up a Butcher1 list in the Insider which seems solid.  Strakhov2 will surely be hilarious when you tell your opponent that your shocktroopers are ARM 26 with no-knockdown tough on feat turn, though casting Last Stand on a unit with relatively expensive models seems to be an iffy proposition.  The Irusks are always good at running infantry, and with Irusk2, it could be fun to throw Fire For Effect onto a Bombardier and drop a fully-boosted arcing fire 6-man CRA onto someone (and of course, managing to triple-snake the attack roll because you have somehow angered the dice gods). Of course, Sorscha3 is undoubtedly going to be badass when she comes out.  And even Lord Kozlov, our much-maligned battlebox caster, may get a new lease on life with a mob of Shocktroopers.

So, how am I going to Man-O-War?

Lady Kozlov, Viscountess of Scarsgrad (28 WJP)

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It’s totally not weird that I put in the effort to make a gender-bent conversion of Kozlov, out of Nicia and a random Iron Fang cape, right?


— Spriggan (19)
— Juggernaut (12)

 

Greylord Forge Seer (Free)
Greylord Forge Seer (4)
Man-O-War Drakhun (9)
Man-O-War Drakhun (9)
Man-O-War Kovnik (Free)
Man-O-War Kovnik (Free)
Saxon Orrik (4)

Man-O-War Shocktroopers (16)
— Man-O-War Shocktrooper Officer (4)
Man-O-War Shocktroopers (16)
— Man-O-War Shocktrooper Officer (4)
Battle Mechaniks (3)
— Battle Mechanik Officer (3)

Kozlov gets a lot of hate online for being kind of boring and not being number one at anything in particular, but I chose her because she’s got two solid upkeep spells for Man-O-War, and her feat synergizes quite nicely with Shocktroopers.  +2 SPD brings them up to a whopping 13″ threat range with the Kovnik, and Unyielding is not too shabby on a no-knockdown ARM-skewy unit with 2″ reach.  Forge Seers can help fuel the jacks when Kozlov is spending all her focus on her upkeeps, as well as take care of any pesky Gremlin Swarms.  Saxon Orrik is an obvious choice for a mercenary solo because he grants pathfinder, and the last thing MoW want is to be slowed down even more by rough terrain.

As for the battlegroup, if journeyman league games have taught me anything, it is that casting Fury on a Juggernaut is fun.  And the Spriggan is there because I just finished painting it, and despite being kind of expensive in terms of point cost, it at least has some synergy with Kozlov’s feat for the same reasons as the Shocktroopers.

So, final verdict?  It’s really too early to tell, given that the theme force includes a lot of unreleased models, but let’s just say that I’m probably going to be taking out the airbrush next weekend…

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**Sorscha3 in a Man-O-War suit is the most awesome thing that has happened in Khador in a long time, and anyone who has a problem with it is an idiot.