Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Space Crusade: Warhammer 40K's Poor Cousin? - Part 1

Image property of Milton Bradley and posted under Fair Usage

When GW decided to team up with Milton Bradley to come up with the board games Heroquest and Space Crusade, they really had something potentially massive on their hands. They managed to invade that seasonal trench of marketing that makes so much profit every year and at the same time elevate themselves and their products out of the crowd of rpg manufacturers and actually break into the mainstream. Suddenly it seemed as though everyone had either one or both of the games and was in love with the plastic miniatures that filled the boxes. Now you might look at the stuff that was packed in there and wonder what passed for quality at the time, but you have to remember that most of the kids who got their clammy little hands on them had never seen anything of the like.

I was lucky enough to have both of the games and still have most of the miniatures in various tins and boxes hidden away in my study at home. Some of my first experiences as a GM were from behind the screen of the Heroquest set and in some ways that game has fared better with the passage of time than Space Crusade. Perhaps that happened due to the fact that GW were so successful in breaking into the mainstream that the subsequent generations that took up 40K and adored the newer space marines were quick to distance themselves from the more primitive offerings in the older game. Some people openly deride them and seem to have nothing but scorn for those dogged little marines, but they have their place in history all the same.

When I was starting out collecting there was something to be said for the fact that I had twelve marines and three sergeants right there waiting for me in the Space Crusade box. That's one entire 10 man squad with some marines left over right there and so they formed the first part of my space marine army and have been there ever since. I love to think that those marines that have been with me from the start are still there, making up the numbers in the background alongside the generic marines from the 90s. And so taking into account my own nostalgic love for these marines, I wanted to post something on the miniatures from the Space Crusade box and some of the ways in which I have tried to use them in my modern collection of marines.

The sergeant was of course the most iconic and impressive of the marines that graced Space Crusade with the best choice of weapons and the most bling on his power armour. Although I always though that the white colourscheme on the box was striking, I could never bring myself to use it. Over the years I've used this type of miniature as a sort of testbed for whatever techniques I was trying to master at the time. In this case I was experimenting with aged gold effects and sculpting basic additions from modelling putty for the loincloth, which when combined with a sword from the chaos warrior sprue to replace the somewhat tame version on the original, gives the miniature a different character to the standard Space Crusade sergeant. Of all the marines in the box, this is the only one that I will snap up if I come across it in a bits box as the guy is just very useful and a nice simple miniature to modify and paint.

In one of those strange but welcome coincidences that happen only every so often in this hobby, the plug weapons that came with the Space Crusade marines are an almost perfect fit for the modern solid marines. Here the addition of a bayonet to the bolter just adds a bit of variation to the marine.
Dull, wet and cold weather? Fear not, with the Space Crusade heavy flamer, it's always barbeque season wherever this marine goes! Hope you like your heretics well done.

Here's one for all those old-school gamers who hate the tubular rocket launcher; one that looks and feels like the ancient RT era monstrocity with a dirty great big ammo clip. Am I the only person who thinks moounting that clip on top and at the front of the weapon would mean it blocking your line of sight and also over-balancing the damn thing? Ah well, who cares.

And finally on the catwalk today we have boring 90s marine sporting the "Emperor Knows" cannon which due to the fact I threw away all the non miniature related elements of Space Crusade, I have no idea what it's supposed to be.
Anyone have a clue, because I don't?

In part two I'll be looking at some of the other miniatures in the box including the dreadnought and something that looks as though it was in the idea cupboard when GW went to raid it a few years back. I might even let some of the actual Space Crusade marines in on the act if the ugly little brutes behave themselves and don't break the camera lens with their horrible visages.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Book Review: Space Marine Battles - Rynn's World

Image from Black Library posted under Fair Usage

Rynn's World is one of those terms that has hung around the 40k setting like a misasmal memory of the earliest days when squats roamed the universe and marines were no taller than the average burly man down the pub. Perhaps the most iconic of the covers that ever graced the Warhammer 40k rulebook, the image of the Crimson Fists in their heroic last stand against the full weight of an orc Waaargh (typing that feels so stupid) should have made for one of those marine titles that makes a fan eager with anticipation.

So perhaps I shouldn't have been suprised to find that this one would suffer from the cardboard marine syndrome that seems to affect most of the Black Library novels on the subject not handled by the more reliable authors in their stable. When done well, a marine novel excellently juxtaposes the mythic nature of the astartes in the eyes of common men and the reality of the god-like but often flawed beings inside the powered armour. When done badly you have a plodding tome in which the humans are either fawning or pathetic and the marines either rabid killers or indecicive types more given to self-doubt and contenplation than heroics.

Allessio Cortez and Pedro Cantor fall into each of these roles respectively as the orcs make amazingly short work of their homeworld and chapter; the former champs at the bit and the latter worries about what will become of them all. The reader is left wondering at the idea that these two are such close friends when they seem so starkly different and opposed. Meanwhile the pitiful humans dash around at their feet and generally get in the way while the orcs just want to have a laugh and kill everything twice over.

The shame is that the opening parts of the novel detailling the splendor of the Fists' fortress stronghold and the politics of the captains vying for glory started things out quite well. But then everything goes boom and the reader is left with a small band of marines trailing after Cantor and Cortez through the wilderness and wrestling with the problem of getting the job done or messing about with puny mortal survivors along the way. This resembeld far too closely the terrible tradition in modern fantasy for long and boring treks through the wilds to fill the space and pad out the book.

Even when reuinted with the remnants of the chapter, Cantor and his band still fail to really come alive as they track down the nasty orc warlord responsible for the whole mess. The baffling climax of the story comes when the showdown between Cantor and the orc Boss, who seems awfully keen on proving that he's tougher and nastier than the marine Chapter Master, ends when the orc cuts and runs by jumping into a waiting helecopter in front of his own troops. Great way to show you're the hardest greenskin in the galaxy: by basically turning tail and admitting defeat!

By the standards of the average Black Library novel, Rynn's World is just that: average. While I was not impressed by the standard of the writing, there's nothing to stop someone else with less exacting standards getting a kick out of the generous amounts of greenskin blood shed here. But it seemed to me that this title was pretty lightweight, printed in very large type and hyped up to be more than it was. Even the maps included to show the locationn of the events in the text were pretty bland and lacking in detail.

Not the worst book I ever read, but far from the best the Black Library has to offer.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Psychic Warfare: Librarians Part 2 - The Warhammer 40K Era

As with most of the marine range, the librarians really started to come into their own in the nineties when standard armour patterns, sculpting scales and iconography allowed the miniatures to excell in individual style whilst fitting in alongside the rest of the marine range.

This was the first librarian that I ever owned and back then, due to the fact that I was using the same colour for their armour as that of the standard marines, I decided to mark them out by painting their hair with peroxide stripes running through it. When I recently came to review the miniatures that I had and decided on new colour schemes for them, needless to say that seemed bloody stupid and it went into the ideas bin.

A fairly simple paint job here that highlights the basic ideas behind the scheme that I use for all my librarians. The armour painted with Mordian Blue provides a flat background to allow the detailling of the helmets and other metallic elements to stand out.

Another fairly standard librarian that shows the concept of the helmet and psychic hood that are meant to echo the use of a golden halo on religious icons. In retrospect I would probably snip off the spike on the top of this guy's poweraxe...seems, I don't know, too pointy to me.

The psychic hoods on most of these librarians featured an icon of some kind, usually an aguila or horned skull. But that bugged me for some reason, reminding me of expensive cars sporting big showy badges and too much bling. So they went the way of the peoxide stripes so that more attention is centred around the helmets.

This is probably one of the librarians that I'm most happy with due to the combination of the open-faced helmet and the F***ING wierd scrollwork on his staff. Again I think that removing the aguila from the top of the psychic hood makes the miniature more balanced rather than a mad riot of detail that detracts from the overall feel of the character.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

What's on the boil?

Sometimes I feel like the old RTB01 marines look at the side of their modern counterparts: battered, confused and always bending down slightly as if in need of a toilet stop. At the moment I'm an agonising one miniture away from having everything I need ready to put up a special post that I've been working on regarding Space Crusade and at the same time suffering from some kind of rather vile stomach bug that means I'm never more than dashing distance from the toilet.

In other news it seems as though Forge Wolrd have responded to the fact that there are so many people out there making Pre Heresy conversions and companies offering parts for "Steam Knights" and the like, that there's money to be made. To this end they are about to crap out a pretty impressive looking series of marine parts featuring earlier mark power armout components and weapons styled after the original RT era bolters and heavy weapons.

Seems as though there's still some love for the classic marines in the GW collective consciousness that goes beyond a paltry amount of bits on the standard tactical sprue after all. Of course the new parts are a more beefy version of the originals to be in keeping with the fact that modern marines are more like demigods than the rather more humble originals, but these more chunky versions certainly look nice.

I'll hopefully be able to post something more useful soon, but until then the toilet beckons.