at Home and On Campaign

at Home and On Campaign

30 August 2016

The Ultio Expedition: Ep 6, The Fight for Ankori Colony and Event Report

Pack a lunch folks.  This post is huge! There's the story and then the behind the curtain description of
23rd Armored Cavalry War Diary
1st Division / 290th Combined Task Force
(Spc Bont, Reporting)

This is the official chronicle of Alpha Troop, 23rd Armored Cavalry for the Ultio Expedition. While this chronicle includes some information about the participation of other units of the 290th Combined Task Force, it is limited to providing context to the actions of the 23rd. It is certainly not complete and may possibly be inaccurate in some respects. Please refer to the relevant Imperial or Kingdom of Colores documents for more information about the larger campaign.

Ankori Colony, Ultio System

The  23rd Cav, debarked unopposed on Ankori Colony.  We were quickly reunited with the other 2 units of the 1st Division, a force of Grey Knights under XXXX and Strike Force Gallia Aquitania of the Ultramarines commanded by Captain Constantine.

Fighting was already heavy for the local forces, and after a quick conference with 290th High Command, the Divisions were assigned in the following manner:

1st Division (Our Assignment)
There is a team of scientists whose knowledge of the Warp Anomalies is critical to the war effort. Transit to the research complex, rescue the scientists, and return.

2nd Division   
Attack the through the Warp Anomaly to Lost Hope and establish a beachhead on the Chaos Homeworld

3rd Division
Proceed to the Ankori capital, industrial sector.  The local forces are being pushed back.   Restore the situation, and if possible go to the offensive.

Mission 1: Recover the Warp Anomaly Research Team
Speed was critical so the plan was made on the move to the battlefield.  We would be approaching the complex from the south, and from the recon of the 141st Strike Wing, the enemy would arrive almost the same time from the north.

The Grey Knights would be responsible for recovering personnel from the western building,

and the Ultramarines would do the same for the eastern building.

The 23rd Cav would form a fire support line and cover the operation. The close combat battle inside the buildings was screened from the 23rd view, so the mission became fire interdiction to keep the Chaos units from accessing the doors.

The 23rd Cav was successful on the western side in inflicting huge casualties on the enemy infantry and Maj Guiscard’s personal Punisher vehicle killed a large demon, referred to as a “Bloodthirster” among Imperial units.

On the eastern side, the Vanquisher Platoon failed to destroy 2 enemy tanks, resulting in heavy casualties among the Ultramarines.

Mission Tally
Although only 3 Scientists were recovered, this included Senior Scientist Longinuius. This was a marginal success.
Losses from the 23rd were 2 Punishers.

Strategic Picture
2nd Division was pushed back through the Warp Anomalies
3rd Division stopped the Chaos advance

Mission 2: Breakthrough
Following the 3rd Division’s victory in the Ankori capital, the 1st Division was assigned to open a breakthrough corridor. 

The 23rd Cav executed a screening mission on the “left” of the battleline, while the other elements of the 1st Division attempted to attack through the city and open a corridor for successive units to exploit.
Urban fighting is not the preferred environment of a Tank force, and the mission for the 23rd was a difficult one. The Troop undertook a fighting withdrawal from an enemy force that was composed of extremely powerful, but slow moving, constructs. It was almost impossible to inflict casualties on the enemy constructs, but as long as we could keep our distance, we were safe.  When close, they were deadly, as we learned at great cost.

Mission Tally
4 Punishers and the Recovery Vehicle were lost.

Strategic Picture
2nd Division was successful in retaking the lab complex
3rd Division results were unknown at the time of this writing

Mission 3: Evacuate Civilians
Due to all of the fighting with the enemy around Ankori Prime, the fabric of reality began to tear and fray. The city was becoming toxic to humans above and beyond the already  extreme danger of an active combat zone.  The order came down to aid civilians fleeing the city.

Again the 23rd found itself in a dense urban environment.  This time however, the tanks were protected by the close proximity of space marines and the firepower of vehicle mounted heavy weapons was used to full effect.

The 23rd set a free fire lane the length of South Avenue. The enemy was swept clean,

but by the third wave, the holes to warpspace were too numerous and large…

Mission Tally
While some civilians escaped, far too many were lost to the battle and the enemy.
2 Punishers were lost

Strategic Picture
2nd Division failed to hold a Warp Projector
3rd Division was successful in establishing a beachhead on Lost Hope

Mission 4: Defend the Warp Projectors
The establishment of a beachhead on Lost Hope by 3rd Division was a major victory. However, with the loss of one of the few Warp Projectors to breach and stabilize warpspace passage, our hold on the Lost Hope beachhead was tenuous. As the 2nd Division passed through to Lost Hope to relentlessly continue our attack, it fell to the 1st Division to defend the last Warp Projector.

The enemy’s approach to the facility was long, but had good cover through a scattering of worker slums.

The 23rd established a gunline to engage the enemy at max range and through the course of the engagement, fell back into the main complex.

As the enemy closed to close combat range, elements of the 23rd were overrun, but the attack on the facility was thwarted.

Mission Tally
5 Punishers Lost, including the Command Tank (Maj Gusicard wounded)
Warp Projector Facility Held

Strategic Picture
2nd Division expanded the foothold on Lost Hope
3rd Division completed civilian evacuation of the Ankori capital city

The 23rd Cav (with the support 141st Strike Wing) was an essential component of the 290th Combined Task Force and vital to the success of the forces of civilization.  The 23rd Cav was withdrawn with the 290th after fresh Imperial formations arrived.  Major Guiscard will recover from his wounds.

The war for the Ultio System continues.

Apologies, but there is simply too much to describe and too many people to thank for this incredible weekend to do the event description justice.

Having said that...
Let me thank the Narrative Guys
That is Glenn Boswell on the left and Dan Grandquist on the right. They (and their crew!) ran the most fun and interesting miniature event I have ever participated in. (Hmmm, that sounds really milquetoast... )


The dry mechanics of the event are thus:

1. There is a back story that sets the stage (see the previous Ultio posts)
2. There is an online map campaign that begins about a month before the event and these results set the boundaries for what is at stake and what is possible from the back story going into the event.
3. There are 4 battles of 3v3 players over 2 days for the event, and each battle begins with a briefing of what each side is trying to accomplish for that round based on success or failure from previous round. And there is a 1v1 Narrative event running in parallel that contributes to the story as well.

The Briefings:

These guys give a back story and big picture before every round of games, and they take the time to explain that each player is responsible for eveyone's fun. And if at a table of six players you cannot spot the guy who is violating that rule....
....take a look in the mirror and do a quick check

The "Hounds of Abbadon" and the "290th Combined Task Force" get together for a post DEATH WAR AND CARNAGE picture (BTW, those "Hounds" are some of the best people I have ever rolled dice with!

So, thanks to our Opponents:
Josh and

You were all gentlemen and women and thanks for all the games!

On the side I played with, our club membership managed to put a team of 9 players called the "290th Combined Task Force", to face off against an established group of 9 Chaos players (seen above) called the "Hounds of Abbadon". Now, when we first heard, "established team"  a little paranoia took over and we all individually started thinking about strategies and army lists, and ...and ....and .... and then we took a breath.

After some communication (one of the many things at which Dan and Glenn EXCEL) and some feedback on list construction, we homed in on the spirit of the thing and built lists with stories and names and the things we thought were cool.

If you ever get to go to one of these, throw away any concerns about power lists, and bring the list you want, full of heroes ready for a desperate battle for civilization. DON'T PLAN! No really, just let go. Spend the energy enhancing your army as a vehicle for the story.

The 290th held no strategy meetings. The most planning we did was to split ourselves into 3 "Divisions" of 3 players, and even that was mostly pre-ordained because we had 2 father/son pairs and some established gaming buddies. (Now that I think about it, we did more planning around getting an order of custom made "club dice" that had little Texas flags with "290" in the white field in place of the 6)  During the online pre-campaign we didn't even email each other about where to attack or concentrate our efforts.  Anarchy sorted it all out, and by the time of the event, the battle lines all organically made sense. (ironically, a nice example of applied Chaos theory)

Of our 9 players, 3 had never played in an organized event, and 3 others had only started playing again during the past year after long absences (I was one of them). Over 60% of our overall team was inexperienced in the current rule set. OTOH, we got a big rules knowledge boost by playing all those games during the online campaign.  (Further evidence of the sneaky machinations by Dan and Glenn to make a better event)

But my FAVORITE part is that only one of our 9 players had a Chaos Marine codex, and none of us could even remember playing against Chaos Demons. We went in almost totally blind about our designated enemies.

How desperate does humanity have to be to rely on these guys? Seriously...

Left to Right
Robert, Me, JR. Derek, Colin, Jonathan, Nathan, David and Gerry

If you're an Oldhammer guy, it has the whiff of "Stillmania".  If you don't get the reference, this post is going to be long enough, follow this link to airbornegove26's excellent blog:
He is a Stillmania FANATIC and even has an interview with former White Dwarf / GW guy Nigel Stillman himself about the philosophy.

The TL:DR version is
1. Build a list that fits the background (resist all temptations of gameyness)
2. NEVER Change... practice with that list
3. The only surprises any opponent should ever have from you is your tactical deployment and moves
4. Then the victories all belong to you

Thanks to all my fellow gamers for the recognition. I won the Grand Prize!

... and lastly, (and most importantly to me!) thanks to all of you for making the experience so great for the younger players.

This handsome guy is mine (luckily, he gets his looks and brains from his mother)

He still hasn't stopped chewing Mom's ear off three days later.

24 August 2016

The Ultio Expedition: Ep.5, ON TO ULTIO!

290th Final Embarkation
Muraleous System
Forward Staging Base Fury

The Kingdom of Colores contingent is in the final staging area.  The 23rd Cav is currently transferring from bulk cargo freighters to the assault transports.

The 141st Strike Wing with the 7th Frontier Fleet is covering the embarkation from orbit.

Major Guiscard's Command Tank is the last aboard, ensuring it will be the first to hit the ground to face the enemy. And to the shock of everyone, his tank is flying the banner of the 290th's predecessor and parent, the original and legendary 77th CTF (see LINK).  Those colors have been cased for a decade, and since the death of one of its founding commanders, Admiral "Crash" King (see LINK), no one thought they would fly again.
This is the largest deployment of troops in Sector Six since those heady days.
The flag flies.  The men go wild...
The 290th Combined Task Force will arrive in the battlespace in approximately 24 hours.

24 hours and I'll be in Austin with my boy for Wargamescon and the Narrative Team Event!

21 August 2016

The Ultio Expedition: Ep.4, Ankori Colony

As a run up to the Narrative Event at WargamesCon, the Narrative Guys are running an online campaign for the participants.  It is interesting because the two main factions, the 290 Combined Task Force (us) and the Hounds of Abbadon (them) live far apart.  So our confrontation is indirect. Our games on the table must be played against members of our own side with one player representing the opposition. For the 290th, we don't decide who is representing the opposition until the game is over, and then we randomly dice for each side. It removes any temptation to hold back while playing the bad guys.  You don't know if you are the bad guys until the win/loss is determined. It reminds me of the "America's Army videogame.  Every player sees themselves as the Americans and the opposition as the terrorists/mafia/ badguys.

The campaign objective is to control the Warp Anomalies. Control of a Warp Anomaly is established by occupying all of the surrounding hexes.

After a couple of weeks of battle, the map looks like this:
I can't possibly report on all the battles, but I can tell you that our guys have played and reported battles from all over Houston: our FLGS Goldmine Games, our clubhouse, our houses, and the Bayou Battles game convention last weekend.

Here are some beauty shots:

Bayou Battles

the Dark Mechanicus are even coming in from the ceiling!

Thanks for looking!

16 August 2016

Draw LOS through THAT, dammit!

If you play 40k (and unfortunately I do), long gone are the days when a simple flocked template and a few trees from a model railroad manufacturer would block LOS.
… a long time ago I used to get paid to interpret / manage /deal with GW’s ridiculousness…

I’ve been free of those people for well over a decade, so… (to quote my 13 year old) …


On the other hand, I like a challenge, and my woods templates needed some love.  I accepted the constraints that the new templates would have to be literal and actually block true LOS.  I was also motivated by observing that model railroad trees are not perfect and have their own scaling issues.  The trunks are too narrow, and although they are taller than infantry and vehicles, they really are almost never tall enough.

So here is my solution…

The trunks are of 2 kinds, some are wooden dowels,  1” in diameter (I used my dremel  router to carve irregular “bark” textures), and some are blue foam trunks carved with a box knife.  The trunks vary in height averaging about 6”tall.

After that, I simply stuffed blue foam carved rocks and cheap craft store vegetation in between all the trunks to about 3” tall.  Then a combination of floral wire and 3”-4” wooden disks were glued to the top of the trunks to make a frame for the forest canopy and lichen was glued to the frame.

Not the cheapest build I’ve ever done, but with the help of the 40% Hobby Lobby daily coupon for one item each trip, and just stopping every day on the way home from work, I managed the costs pretty well. (my wife’s opinion is vastly different)

10 August 2016

The Ultio Expedition: Ep. 3, Friends That Fight Chaos Together, Stay Together

Intelligence & Signals sealed compartment of the Imperial Destroyer “Emperor’s Hand”

Major John Andre, Imperial Intelligence
The data we are collecting from these warp anomalies on Ankori is incredible. If we can manage to set a sensor line completely encircling even one of them, we might be able to predict a breach almost anywhere.

We need more troops. Where are the forces that the Kingdom of Colores promised?
 I’m not sure our approach of reconciliation to Colores was effective Sub-Ambassador

Sub Ambassador Sulla Tigh
Give them time. They are a passionate people, they will come.

Major Andre
Isn’t there a proverb that is phrased something like “Ask me for anything but time”?

Signals Officer
Ambassador, incoming transmission from Kingdom of Colores ship “Passereaux”.  It reads,

“Dear Sub Ambassador Tigh,
Thanks for the invitation to the party.  If it’s alright with you, we’ll skip the reception line and get right to business.  Where do we land and who do we fight?
Sincerely Yours,
KC Ambassador Sophie Blanche-Andres”
SA Tigh
Outstanding, send her coordinates to where Blackwood and the Knights of D’Ley are operating.  Sync up their communications and they can handle operations between them.

Ambassador/Agent Sophie (her background is HERE) and her combat team are landing north of anomaly 5.1. Waiting to contest the space is a contingent of the Karmesin Brigade. 
Team Colores
Amb/Agent Sophie - Team Leader
AJ Quest -  Scion Officer
Dr. Applebeck - Psyker
Scion Fireteam

Karmesin Brigade Force
Kommander Helga - IG Officer
Reich’s Berzerker - Chaos Marine
2 Veteran Squads

The Colores forces must place monitoring equipment at key geographic points that resonate with the nearby Warp Anomaly. If they can place beacons in at least 3 of the 5 locations, the Colores forces will win.  The Karmesin Brigade must prevent the Colores victory conditions.

The Colores Team may deploy anywhere on the table, but may not make any attempts to place the sensors until turn 2.  The Chaos forces will all come in on Turn 1 from a random board edge.

The Battle
The Colores Dropship lands in the middle of the 5.1 coordinates.  The locations suitable for placement of the sensors are all around.  The team disperses to cover more ground.
The enemy comes in force from the east.

Due to a lucky deployment for the Colores Team, placement of 2 sensors is completed without opposition. The third however, looks like it will be more of a problem.  AJ Quest is facing almost all of the enemy by himself.
He is wounded in an exchange of fire with Helga, and the Berzerker charges in

...but he somehow rolls away from the Bezerker’s charge and unloads a full clip into him

And boots up the last sensor, completing the mission!
I have been holding off on this post until my miniatures from the Colony 87 kickstarter arrived and I could paint up "the Recordist".  I have known I wanted him to play the part of the Imperial Intelligence Analyst since I first saw him months ago. He's everything I imagined him to be. I hope you like him.

So the Narrative Guys have set up a online campaign as a prelude for the Event at WargamesCon in a couple of weeks.  All the participants are furiously playing games because apparently our results will set the battle lines and missions.

We've never participated in one of their games before, so we have no idea how this will actually shape the setup, and that seems to have spurred even more excitement. This report is just one of the 3 missions between my kids and I.  I think my Club has played something like 6 or 7 more.

01 August 2016

Building Stuff...well mostly my Shuttles

Hello Readers,
Looking back through the older posts on my blog I noticed that in the first year or two, I would post a batrep / episode and then provide some “in process” shots and small building explanations for any new scenic elements at the end. Since I stopped doing that for some reason, this post will be a catch-up.

Design Philosophy
I wrote about it at length here LINK, but to sum up: Table space is at a premium, and I personally enjoy “bathtubbing” the heck out of the gaming surface.  I would be perfectly happy using 3 skyscrapers to represent a city in one part of the board, and then transitioning to a river and rural farms. But of course my “personal” preferences are tempered by my gaming group, the rules and scales we play, what caught my eye that day, and other random influences.

In the end, I usually gain some on the table footprint issue, and I usually compromise on the bathtubbing end.  A “city” table is a city, a “desert” table is an oasis and a few dunes, etc.

I’ll talk about flyers, since I just did a giant campaign with them (and you guys have been asking).
I will kitbash the heck out an existing model if a suitable model exists, like my 2 Ork fighters into Thunderbolts, and that process is relatively straight forward,

BUT if needed, I will start from scratch.

My main material is MDF
The good
1. It’s durable and strong for gross structure components
2. It does not show wood grain
3. It joins well with superglue and hot glue

The bad
1. It’s wood, I cannot cut it with a hobby knife
2. 3mm MDF sometimes looks a little too chunky

I MUST have 2 power tools to accomplish my builds
1. Small table saw
2.  Mounted Crosscut saw

A couple of months ago I acquired a Belt Sander.  It is a great addition, but my 3 shuttles (and ALL of my buildings) were completed without it, so I would classify it as a “nice to have”.

While we are on the subject, other “nice to haves” are:
1. A dremel with sanding wheel, cutter, and router
2. Mouse Hand Sander
3. Jigsaw
4. Hot Glue Gun (although superglue and accelerator work just fine, options are always good)

The Process
After thinking about how to describe my process, I realized I operate as sort of a manual 3d printer. I look at what I’m trying to build in MDF layers from the bottom up.

I’ll go through building the Shuttles as an example.
The shuttle’s gross construction was layered in MDF templates like this:
(Now, you will notice in the final models, I used wooden blocks for the payload and cockpit sections on 2 of them.  My instructions are written for the way I finally executed the build on the 3rd shuttle.  I should have done this for all 4.  The visibility of wood grain on the final product drives me crazy. My only excuse is that every build is a learning process, and it took me 2 tries before the dim lightbulb in my head went off.)

The downward wingtip canards were done just by angle cutting a thin strip of MDF, then using the crosscut saw to cut the correct length.

After that, I found 1.25” garden hose nozzles for $0.75 each at Home Depot for the engines.  They simply rest on the engine shelf and are superglued to hold them in place.

I built 4 of them and I wanted to vary up their appearance, so I used a couple of different configurations. I changed up the size and shape of the tails, on one of the shuttles the payload area is removable, one shuttle has two engines, and I used cardstock windows on 2 of them versus actual plastic bits for the windows on the others.

I am sure all of this could be done with foamcore or other hobby knife friendly materials. My method just happens to be where my hobby journey has led me.

I am not going to go into such detail on the Marauder build, but it was done using the same method. Gross construction is simple strips of MDF in layers, then griblies until it sags under the weight.  The main wing sits much higher to accommodate the 4 engines, and the cockpit is stolen from a Valkyrie. I am very happy with how there is an illusion of a complex (almost undulating) fuselage.  The dive (atmospheric entry) brakes are dozer blades from a Leman Russ sprue and I think they add to the heavy “brute force” appearance.

I hope this little tidbit triggers some ideas to help you with your own gaming environments. Let me know if you have any questions or if I can expand on any concepts.