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Grimdark video games?!

Posted in 40k, Inq28, Inquisitor, Pointless ramblings, Totally worth it with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 26, 2017 by krautscientist

Hey everyone, something a bit different today — I hope you’ll appreciate the variety, even if it means a lack of new painted models. So what is this about?

It’s very common for hobbyists to talk about their inspiration: Whether it comes down to creating conversions or narratives, most of us will inevitably build on influences and concepts from many different sources, such as film, art, literature or personal experiences from RPG groups. To wit, the entire 40k universe itself is based on so many different influences, and has grown into a massive, unwieldy, eclectic and brilliant mixture of a thousand references, ranging from 80s pop culture to every SciFi and gothic cliché ever.

Today’s post, therefore, will deal with yet another possible source of inspiration when it comes to get a feeling for the kind of narrative that would work in the 40k universe, and the kind of characters that would populate such a narrative. And while I draw lots of my own hobby inspiration from the aforementioned media (with sources as diverse as David Lynch’s Dune adaptation, Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan & Gormenghast and Charles Dickens as some of my favourite influences), today I would like to talk about another possible influence: the wonderful world of video games.

Now some of you may remember that I am a huge video game nerd. It’s a medium that I have been endlessly fascinated with for a very long time now, and it continues to interest aesthetically, narratively and professionally .

I could wax poetical on the many fascinating, obscure or downright grotesque features that turn digital games into such a riveting subject for me, but that’s not really the focus of this blog. So let us rather focus on a couple of games that have influenced my hobby life by inspiring characters, narratives or just a general style in my own hobby work.

Before we begin, however, a disclaimer of sorts: By no means is the following collection of titles and influences an exhaustive collection, nor is it intended to be. It’s also very possible that you know each and every one of those games, so the post could turn out to be old news to you. And finally, to be fair, this post has also been simmering away in the back of my head for quite a while now, so be warned that it may actually have moved away from actual 40k a bit, dealing – at least to some degree – more with games and game series that I find inspiring, period. That being said, if you enjoy 40k and Inquisitor and all that, and if you are interested in visually and/or narratively interesting videogames, the following titles might be worth a look. And who know: Just like me, you may even get an idea for an army, a conversion or an INQ28 retinue out of it. So let’s take a look:

 

I. Legacy of Kain series

It seems weird to me that the Legacy of Kain series seems to have become almost a bit obscure by today’s standards, when it used to be a rather common household name in video game circles – and even a veritable system seller – during the late 90s and early 2000s.

The series’ development history is rather complicated and convoluted, with different developers and teams adding their own perspective to the series, and acclaimed video game writer Amy Hennig (possibly best known for her role on Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series these days) ending up with the task of somehow binding it all together into a semi-coherent overarching narrative.

Fascinating as those tribulations are, however, I don’t even want to get into the details here. Suffice it to say that the series started with Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (basically “The Legend of Zelda” with vampires), which was followed by Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (basically “Tomb Raider” with Vampires). The series deals with the vampire Kain and his rise (and fall) in the gothic world of Nosgoth, and it introduced both a pretty interesting cast of characters as well as a very distinct look and feel. Just check out Soul Reaver’s intro movie:

One of the series major narrative arcs deals with the conflict between the – seemingly completely amoral – vampire overlord Kain and his fallen former lieutenant Raziel, turned into a twisted wraith at Kain’s behest and now out for revenge — although things turn out to be much more complicated than that, as the series’ narrative is just about as convoluted as its development history. It can be a bit overdesigned and wordy in places, but it’s well worth checking out for yourself!

So why does the series appear on my list? There’s the very grimdark setting, for one: Nosgoth is a very dark and gothic place, where everything’s gone to hell in a handbasket because the man destined to be the world’s saviour refused the ultimate sacrifice – his own life – electing instead to become a depraved, immortal vampire emperor, ruling a failing empire. If that isn’t grimdark, I don’t know what is.

But there’s more: Kain’s dealings with his vampire lieutenants and their ultimate fates remind me a lot of of 40k’s Daemon Primarchs and Traitor Legions: There’s a gravitas and a sense of lost grace here that should seem very familiar to anyone who likes 30k and 40k. There’s also a fair share of purple prose (and some truly excellent voice acting) to be had, so if you want to get a feeling of what a Chaos Space Marine might feel like after millennia of corruption and simmering regret, the Legacy of Kain series provides some very good inspiration on that account!

After several unsuccessful attempts at reviving the series in recent years, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see another entry. The games available so far still tell a (fairly) complete tale of hybris, revenge and redemption, however, and are well worth your time, provided you are prepared to deal with a bit of technical clunkiness (in the earlier games in particular). The entire series, minus the first Blood Omen, is still available via GOG.com, among others. The games cost about 5,00 Euros a pop, and if the series’ premise interests you, I recommend you just snatch them all up: I played nearly all of them back to back, a couple of years ago, and it really helps to get a grip on the rather complicated storyline. You can also read up on the games on Nosgothic Realm, an incredibly expansive fansite.

II. Primal

Like Legacy of Kain, Primal used to be a fairly high profile release back when it first came out in 2003. A Playstation 2 exclusive developed by Sony’s own Cambridge studio, Primal was a fairly ambitious project with incredible production values for the time. Not all that many people seem to remember it these days, which is a shame, especially since it has some rather interesting connections to Games Workshop — but we’ll be getting there in a minute…

The game’s basic premise seems clichéd enough: Perky goth chic Jen is nearly killed by a daemon who just happened to infiltrate a gig of her boyfriend’s Nu-Metal band (I swear I am not making this up!). With Jen’s boyfriend abducted, she finds herself transported to the fantasy dimension of Oblivion, which consists of four realms. The forces of order and chaos, respectively, seek to establish control over these realms, and Abaddon, Lord of chaos, has come dangerously close to toppling the precarious balance of power.

So it falls to Jen, accompanied by adorable gargoyle helper Scree, to travel to the four realms, learn how to transform into different demon forms and re-establish the balance between chaos and order.

Mechnically speaking, Primal is one of those third person action adventure the early 2000s were so very fond of (think Tomb Raider with less climbing and more character interaction). If that doesn’t sound like much to write home about, it’s important to point out that Primal’s production values, its narrative and its pretty excellent cast take the whole affair into some rather interesting directions, so it’s far more interesting than its rather cookie-cutter premise would led you to believe.

There’s yet another reason why Primal would be interesting for every discerning fan of GW’s various IPs: Travelling the game’s world, you cannot shake a general feeling of …familiarity. Take the game’s four realms, serving as its massive levels, and their respective inhabitants: There’s Solum and the Ferai (totally not slightly more lawful-neutral Khorne-worshipping Beastmen), Aquis and the Undine (totally not victims to some kind of slightly Nurglite plague), Aetha and the Wraith (totally not Slaaneshi vampires) and, finally, Volca and the Djinn (totally not worshippers of Tzeentch). The latter, in particular, seem rather GW-ish in design — to the point where the Djinn would make for excellent Tzeentchian champions or daemon princes, as you can see in this video (starting at 11:40, in case YouTube’s timecode widget refuses to work):

Those similarities are far from coincidental, however, as Primal’s lead artist was none other than Mark Gibbons, one of GW’s most prolific artists and illustrators during the early to mid-90s. You know, the guy who did pieces like this:

Artwork by Mark Gibbons

His touch is very noticeable, and there is more than a little vintage GW in the character designs and artwork as well as the art design in the game proper:

What’s more, while the four realms and their inhabitants clearly recall GW’s chaotic factions, the whole idea of of four discreet realms in the game also somewhat recalls the realms that now appear in Age of Sigmar, even though AoS didn’t come around until fairly recently.

An emulated version of Primal is still available on the PlayStation Store (both for the Playstation 3 and 4), and it’s very much worth the price of admission: It may be trying a bit too hard to be edgy and grownup for today’s standards. and it may not be great literature, but the main characters’ banter makes them genuinely endearing, and the production values are still great, even from a modern perspective. And if nothing else, it’s a fascinating example of Mark Gibbons creating something that should feel more than a little familiar for longtime hobbyists, albeit in a different medium and for a different employer.

III. Dishonored series

This next entry is a far more recent series: If you are even slightly into video games right now, chances are you’ve heard of the Dishonored series. It is also one of my current favourites. And it feels a lot like an Inquisitor campaign every now and then, but maybe that’s just me 😉

Dishonored is set in the Empire of the Isles, a setting that invokes Great Britain (in the first game) and its colonies (in the second game) during the early 19th/early 20th century, albeit with a twist: Much of the Empire’s culture seems oddly familiar, but Dishonored’s world also presents a strange and intriguing clash of fantasy, (steampunk) technology and magic. What’s more, there’s a very particular look and feel to the whole affair, ranging from the – almost painterly -realism of its character design (call me crazy, but there’s more than a bit of New Objectivity to be found in the games’ art design) to the general bleak atmosphere of the world, with decadent nobles scheming and vying for power, as disinfranchised smallfolk suffer under their cruelty. Dishonored’s world is very dark, but also quite fascinating. It poses some interesting moral questions and goes to some rather interesting places with them. The way in which the games explore the morality of nonlethal solutions to many of its problems is just one very poignant example.

From a gameplay perspective, the Dishonored games can be visceral, combat-focused revenge fantasies or elegant stealth games — or anything in between, really, purely based on your preferred way of playing. What’s so mechanically great about the games is how they accomodate your playstyle and choices and make the world adapt accordingly in many interesting ways. Like I said, it’s one of my favourite game series at the moment 😉

As for the series’ position on this list, Dishonored can also feel very Inqusitor/INQ28 at times. It would be easy to imagine Dishonored’s Empire of the Isles as a civilised world within the Imperium of Man, and as the setting for an INQ28 campaign. For instance, whenever I read Apologist’s incredibly cool world building for his “Death of a Rubricist” setting, Dishonored is one of the things I feel acutely remembered of. Plans within schemes are very much at the heart of the series, and if you are into Inquisitor and its particular way of storytelling and world building, you’ll take lots of inspiration away from Dishonored — in fact, the world building alone is basically worth the price of admission!

Dishonored 2_20161120161254

The series consists of two main games (Dishonored and Dishonored 2) and one major spin-off campaign for each of the main games. Dishonored gets “The Knife of Dunwall” as a nearly game-sized DLC, whereas Dishonored 2’s spin-off campaign, “The Death of the Outsider” was recently released as a standalone title. All of the games are available on PC, Playstation 3/4 or Xbox 360/One, and I would very much recommend to check out the entire series, starting with the first title. If you’re even a bit like me, you’ll want to explore every nook and cranny of this truly breathtakingly realised world!

And while we are talking about Dishonored, let’s not forget about…

III.b …the Thief Series

Because I would be remiss not to mention the Thief series, which seems like Dishonored’s spiritual prequel (and a highly acclaimed stealth series in its own right). Thief only makes this particular list by association, it’s true, but the main reason for that is that its world is a fair bit more medieval (and thus less 40k) than Dishonored’s. Even so, fans of INQ28 and/or Mordheim in particular will doubtlessly find a lot to like about Thief’s dark, steampunk-ish world. Just to give you an idea, when I read the description of Queen Mab during the opening chapters of Dan Abnett’s novel Pariah (the first and, alas, to date only entry in the Eisenhorn vs. Ravenor series), I felt instantly reminded of The City from the Thief series.

IV. Resonance of Fate

A strange entry, this one, mostly because Resonance of Fate is a JRPG, with all the baggage and strangeness that entails: Now Japanese role playing games clearly aren’t for everybody, as they tend to have a particular tone and feel, one that is often informed by the peculiarities of Japanese pop culture. Personally speaking, I have a long personal history of playing JRPGs, however, going all the way back to the 8- and 16-bit days, so I can usually stomach, or even appreciate, the weirdness inherent to the genre.

Resonance of Fate is, on the face of it, very Japanese in many ways: It’s an eclectic combination of fantasy, cyberpunk, turn-based battles fought with guns (and almost ridiculous amounts of acrobatics) and classic JRPG tropes. What makes the game a definite candidate for this particular list, however, is its peculiar setting, Basel:

Basel is a multileveld city built around a massive central elevator. It was orginially constructed as a combined retreat for humanity and an atmospheric cleaning device, but it grew and became more complicated and essentially turned into a massive, sprawling city over the  centuries — a veritable Hive city by any other name.


And while Basel may look strange and far different from the hive cities of 40k, the game really does an excellent job of depicting a society that has developed around the basic challenge of living within a massive machine: Towns and villages are wedged into Basel’s open spaces, with giant cogs ticking away in the background. The strata of older cultures and settlements are clearly visible in many places, and most people have clearly forgotten the massive facility’s original use, content to eke out a living among its unknowable mechanisms. The rest of the setting confirms to this basic conceit: Instead of dragons and orcs, you get to fight modern bandits and runaway biological experiments.

Which is all a rather roundabout way of saying that, in spite of its copious amounts of JRPG tropes, Resonance of Fate can almost feel like a Japanese take on Necromunda. Which, in turn, can make it fascinating to check out for a fan of GW’s various 40k-related settings.

When all is said and done, however, Resonance of Fate is still a very Japanese game indeed, with all the tropes and quirkiness that entails. If you can stomach the occasional weirdness (the odd jokes, the dressup meta game, the weird gender stereotypes and the sometimes awkward pacing and dialogue), it’s a fascinating, quirky little game. The following video shows some of the gameplay, and I had an especially strong Necromunda moment starting at 6:26, with the heroes passing through the artifacts of prior civilisations while making their way from Basel’s highest level, the Chandelier, to the lower residential areas:

The fact remains that Resonance of Fate can be a bit of an acquired taste — even moreso, arguably, than mainstream JRPGs like Final Fantasy. You may want to take a look at the game’s prologue below to find out whether the general tone and style is for you:

V. Basically anything by Yasumi Matsuno

Yasumi Matsuno is a fascinating director and author because he stands for a very particular kind of RPG world and storytelling. Instead of fairy tale romps that end with the heroes defeating a mustache twirling demon lord to save the world, Matsuno’s games (and game worlds) are invariably steeped in realpolitik: They always deal with the politics going on in the background, the shady deals and painful sacrifices that keep kingdoms and empires going while creating tragedies for the protagonists. Unlike most roleplaying games, Matsuno’s titles usually don’t put you in the shoes of the idealistic hero saving the world due to sheer spunk and virtue: You just do your best while history – and politics – march on relentlessly in the background. And even if you should end up saving the world, don’t expect anyone’s thanks for it! Chances are, you’ll go down in history as a dangerous heretic…

There are also numerous shout outs to real world history: Tactics Ogre is basically a medieval fantasy version of the Yugoslav Wars. Final Fantasy Tactics (very much Tactics Ogre’s spiritual sequel) is basically the War of the Roses with dragons and Chocobos (it is also one of the finest strategy RPGs ever devised by man).

While all of Matsuno’s games are very much worth checking out, I want to point you towards some titles in particular, starting with Vagrant Story: a strange and darkly beautiful game that is one of my all-time favourites, and maybe Matsuno’s definitive piece of work:

Vagrant Story is a take on Western RPG and dungeon crawler conventions with a fascinating story about different factions trying to get their hands on the dark magics resting within the lost city of Leà Monde.


You’re cast in the role of one Ashley Riot, basically a medieval special ops soldier. Your goal is to infiltrate the lost city, rescue the hostages taken by a religious cult and prevent its members from claiming the city’s dark power for their own. You soon find out that things are far more complicated, however, and that there are more parties interested in Leà Monde and its legacy.

Vagrant Story is known for several things: Its incredible art design. Its dark and mature storytelling. Its punishing take on western roleplaying and dungeon crawling conventions. And, certainly not least of all, its acclaimed English translation by Alexander O. Smith, among others, adding an extra layer to an already incredibly elegant narrative.

I don’t even want to tell you too much about Vagrant Story, because it has to be experienced firsthand. It’s a punishing and darkly mysterious experience. If you enjoy deep, ambiguous tales and thought-provoking narratives, you should check it out. It’s quite a ride, indeed, and it can be had for a song on the PlaystationStore.

One of Yasumi Matsuno’s biggest mainstream games, set in the same world as Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story, is Final Fantasy XII, a mainline entry in the colossally successful Final Fantasy series.

Like Matsuno’s other games, FF XII is a triumphant exercise in world building, with a setting that seems like it could actually exist somewhere and wouldn’t wink out of existence the moment you switch off your console. Once again, there’s also a lot of background politics at play here, with history’s gears very much in motion while your band of heroes is gallivanting around the world of Ivalice.

It’s a rather interesting subversion of many of Final Fantasy’s classic tropes, as well as a fascinating look at what Matsuno can get up to with a bigger budget — at least partially so, as he had to drop out of the project late into its development. The game is still quite something, though! It’s still widely available on Playstation consoles, with a remastered version (“Final Fantay XII – The Zodiac Age”) released earlier this year.

FINAL FANTASY Ⅻ THE ZODIAC AGE_20170814193800

As for its influence on my 40k hobby, among many other things, let’s just say that I am still looking for a way of creating a 40k-compatible way of incorporating Final Fantasy XII’s Judges into my INQ28 setting…

 

Matsuno’s obvious love for the classic western pen & paper RPG finally came full circle with Crimson Shroud, released in 2012 as a fairly obscure download-only title for the Nintendo 3DS (at least in the west):

In many ways, Crimson Shroud mirrors many of Vagrant Story’s story beats (and much of its general look and feel): A small group of adventurers infiltrates the ruins of a palace in search of the eponymous artifact. There they encounter not only many vicious creatures, but also a dark and tragic story going back centuries. The narrative is both concise and nuanced, especially for a smaller digital release like this.

What makes Crimson Shroud truly captivating, however, are the lenghts to which the game actually emulates classic pen & paper roleplaying — to the point where you throw virtual dice to determine the outcome of most actions in the game and all the characters and monsters are displayed as actual miniatures mounted on their own small bases and placed within diorama-like backgrounds, making the whole thing seem like an actual tabletop roleplaying session.


If that sounds weird, it certainly is, and it’s not exactly easy to pick up and play. But everything that’s fascinating about a Matsuno game – such as the nuanced storytelling and excellent world building – also make an appearance here, creating a sublime narrative experience almost on par with Vagrant Story. Plus the game is a fascinating love letter to western tabletop gaming, as seen through a distinctly Japanese lense.

 

Honorary mention: Incubation

Okay, let’s treat this last game as a bit of an out of competition entry, but I still need to mention Incubation: Released in 1997 as part of the – then pretty successful (at least in Germany) – Battle Isle series, Incubation basically worked as the first really cool squad-based Space Marine game without even being a GW-licensed title.

Incubation probably seems incredibly primitive by modern standards, but back then, it felt like a revelation: I remember loving GW and 40k even back then and hoping they would end up making a game based on their IPs that didn’t suck — but it actually never came to that, at least not back then. But a German developer made a game about vanilla SciFi-troopers (totally not Space Marines) fighting against a slightly weird alien race (totally not the Tyranids), and after playing it, I kept asking myself why GW couldn’t have come up with that kind of game — or at least given the license to these guys…

Funnily enough, Incubation is actually still available as part of the Battle Isle Platinum Pack, but I couldn’t really tell you whether or not it has aged all that gracefully. I will affirm though that it felt like an excellent Space Marine game long before GW themselves got their act together on that front, and that’s enough to be included in this list!

 

So yeah, so much for my – entirely subjective and woefully incomplete – list of video games that have fed into my hobby over the years. I would love to hear your feedback, both on the nature of this post as well as on the actual choices I have made: Was this an interesting subject, in spite of only dealing with the actual hobby in a slightly roundabout way? And did I miss any games that should be included on this list? You are very welcome to contribute your own favourites!

In any case, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

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Wayne England – In Memoriam

Posted in 40k, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2016 by krautscientist

It’s only February, but 2016 certainly hasn’t been pulling its punches so far, with some spectacularly talented people sadly departed from this planet these last few weeks. Unfortunately, Wayne England is now among those departed, and I was very sad to learn yesterday that he had passed away, because he has been an all time favourite among GW’s artists for me: His very stylised, angular illustrations of heavily armoured – and mostly very evil – guys were one of the most effective gateway drugs for getting me in this hobby and played a big part when permanently roping me into assembling and painting little spiky plastic men. In fact, Wayne England’s work was probably just about as important for getting me into the hobby as the iconic illustrations by John Blanche, especially during my younger years, when the latter’s work sometimes just seemed a bit too trippy for me to grasp 😉

By the same token, some of GW’s publications – and indeed some stages of my own hobby life – will always be inextricably tied to Wayne England’s artwork, so in honour of this great artist, allow me to reminisce for a bit:

 

Army Book Realm of Chaos and the Champions of Chaos Supplement

These were the first chaos army books I ever owned, and I can still remember poring over Wyne England’s tableaus of jagged chaotic weaponry and armour in search of possible conversion ideas as a lad:

Wayne England artwork (18)

And his cover for the Champions of Chaos supplement was probably even more iconic (and also served as the cover for my first ever issue of White Dwarf, incidentally):

Wayne England artwork (17)

This bad boy really embodied everything that I loved about the hordes of chaos back then: He’s heavily armoured, faceless, spiky and utterly menacing – what’s not to love?

 

3rd edition Codex Chaos Space Marines cover

My first CSM Codex  — and the one iteration of the book that I think most chaos players would rather like to forget: This Codex was one of the first to follow GW’s somewhat questionable idea of radically reducing the Codices in scope (in order to be able to produce more of them at a faster rate). Alas, it didn’t end well, as the resulting books ended up feeling rather thin in more ways than one. But something that still stays with me is the warped, iron-toothed champion of the ruinous powers to adorn the book’s cover, once again courtesy of Wayne England:

Wayne England artwork (8)

In a way, this illustration actually serves as a perfect companion piece to the aforementioned cover of “Champions of Chaos”, with both pictures creating perfect avatars of the WFB and 40k sides of chaos, respectively.

 

3rd edition Warhammer 40k rulebook
This book ‘s background section has often been called one of the darkest versions of the 40k universe, and this is at least true when looking at the very dark, brooding black and white artwork appearing throughout the book. Wayne England created a couple of extraordinarily dark pieces, giving us, among other things, some very grimdark interpretations of the three monkeys,…

Wayne England artwork (20)

Wayne England artwork (19)

…a brilliantly creepy illustration presumably showing a Dark Eldar Haemonculus that had me marveling at how monstrous these guys seemed…

Wayne England artwork (21)

…a splash page perfectly capturing the Astartes’ duality between noble and righteous warriors and creepily inhuman weapons of mass destruction:

Wayne England artwork (22)

….and finally what may still be my favourite piece of Dark Eldar art, even after all these years:

Wayne England artwork (11)

 

2nd edition Codex Chaos

Actually published earlier than at least the two previous entries on this list, of course, but I didn’t own the book until well into the 2000s. It remains one of my favourite GW books ever, as you may remember. Of course I was delighted to discover some very cool Wayne England artwork in this book as well. Such as one of my all time favourite World Eaters:

Wayne England artwork (23)

I actually think Wayne England may also have been responsible for the original version of the various traitor legion symbols published in this book – at the very least, they seem to show quite a few hallmarks of his style. I still love these symbols and the amount of detail that has gone into them – Forgeworld’s treatment of the traitor legion heraldry notwithstanding, these older versions blow all of the newer interpretations out of the water, if you ask me.

 

And all of this is really merely scratching the surface: How can I not mention the excellent illustrations for Kharn the Betrayer or Angron from the Horus Heresy trading card game, along with more excellent work from the same source (In fact, his work for the setting really managed to give the Heresy an epic and mythical quality, something that seems to be missing from the more codified, cleaner artwork of recent years)? Or the beautifully forlorn voidborn? Or the seminal Sons of Sekh art? In fact, let me just share just a few of my favourite pieces by Wayne England that appeared beyond the books mentioned above:

In short, Wayne England’s work has always been emblematic of GW’s style during some of my formative hobby years, especially when it came to portraying the forces of chaos. I remember reading about him participating in the Oldhammer scene a fair bit recently, and while that scene’s old school sensibilities don’t always fully agree with me, I was still very happy to see him make an appearance there. He also created a brilliant illustration for morbäck, depicting the latter’s Chaos Lord Korthalis a while ago. It’s an excellent piece of art with all the strengths of his vintage GW artwork, and Maxime must be incredibly happy to have received it – even moreso in the light of recent events.
Wayne England’s artwork still speaks to me many years later, and his trademark style added a layer of visual identity to GW’s publications that is sadly lacking from the newer books – and has been for quite a while.

My heart goes out to his family. And thank you, Mr. England, for all the wonderfully spiky evil guys! And all the best to you, wherever you may be now!

Here comes the cavalry!

Posted in 40k, Chaos, Conversions, Pointless ramblings, WIP, World Eaters with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2013 by krautscientist

Right, I promised you a more substantial update for this week, and I fully intend to keep my promise! So what is this about?

World Eaters riding juggernauts of Khorne, often referred to as “Brazen Knights”, are a bit of an ongoing dream for those of us who have pledged themselves both to the Blood God and the XIIth Astartes Legion. Even the fact that no rules for using such a squad on the table are available doesn’t stop hobbyists all over the world from building their own version of this Khornate cavalry. As a matter of fact, I myself also built and painted a test piece some time ago:

Jugger Knight (7)
My original plan was to add a couple of models to form an entire squad, but for some reason the plan fell by the wayside for a while, and then GW went and released their spectacular Skullcrushers of Khorne for WFB.

And of course, it didn’t take me long to pick up the kit: After all, it’s chock-full of fantastic Khornate bits and bobs to squirrel away for conversion projects: If you want to add some extra flavour to your World Eaters army, that kit is the place to go! Plus you get three juggernauts and their riders on top — what’s not to love?

Well, here’s the problem: So far, I had mainly been using pieces from the kit to spice up some Chosen and Biker models as well as building special characters for my army, such as my custom Warpsmith, Huntmaster Deracin, or even the supreme commander of the fourth assault company, Lord Captain Lorimar. The actual centrepiece of the kit, the juggernauts and riders, sat mostly untouched in my bitzbox while I squandered all the beautiful little bitz on different models 😉

But no more, because this last weekend finally gave me some time to build three Brazen Knights! Of course I do realise that this leaves me with even more unpainted stuff in my backlog, but I simply cannot help it — kitbashing World Eaters is just so much fun!

 

So what did I want to achieve? The Skullcrushers are fantastic models in their own right, but I did want to make them look a little more 40k: The body and legs of the Skullcrushers are very archaic and medieval looking, but they are also fantastically detailed (and, to make matters worse, a bit bigger than your standard Marine parts). So I wouldn’t cut them up in the attempt to make them look more futuristic, but would rather try to incorporate elements that are fairly representative of Chaos Space Marines, such as chainswords, power weapons, backpacks and CSM shoulderpads.

I also didn’t want to use the – admittedly really cool – lances that came with the kit, because those would make the models look a little too static and encumbered for my taste. I went for less cumbersome weapons, and since there are no official rules for these guys anyway, I was free to do as I pleased, with the Rule of Cool as my only guideline.

And, my last objective: I wanted to make each of these guys look like a true champion: Winning the gift of a daemonic steed from the Blod God is certainly no mean feat! So each of the models would have to look the part, impressive enough to serve as a Chaos Lord in any lesser force.

Now while the models were taking shape, I had yet another idea: Fellow hobbyist Brother Heinrich has been offering people to name models in his (fantastic) Night Lords army for a while now. I myself have been thus immortalised as a heavy weapons specialist in the Night Lords’ 15th company (more on that soon, I guess). And while I was working on my Brazen Knights, or Brazen Hunters, as it were, I realised that I too wanted to take the opportunity to honour some fellow hobbyists who have enormously inspired me in the past.

Now choosing three people to be honoured in this way might seem a tad unfair — after all, there are many more people who have managed to inspire me and influence my hobby life over these last years, and each of them would be worthy of their own model. So for now, in order to keep things fair, I chose the three guys whose work has provided the most inspiration for my actual World Eaters army — after all, it makes sense that they should earn a place in the army they helped to shape, right?

Anyway, before I knew it, my three Brazen Hunters had been assembled. Of course they will need some more work and attention to detail here and there, but I am already pretty pleased with them. Let me introduce you:

 

Brother Hynnark:

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Since I knew that one of the juggernaut bodies would be charging forward aggressively, I wanted a rider to match that look, swinging his sword in a wide arc and aggressively snarling at the oncoming enemy. I think the finished piece captures that look fairly convincingly!

The sword came from the Bloodletters of Khorne, since I think their sinister, serrated Hellblades make for a perfect weapon for any champion of Khorne. The arm holding the blade was slightly tweaked in such a way that it looked like Hynnark was swinging his sword at his opponents while plowing through them on the back of his daemonic mount.

When it came to choosing a face for this guy, the bare head of the GK Nemesis Dreadknight pilot came in handy, since the cabling on the head made for perfect Butcher’s Nails. The rim of the psychic hood was carefully shaved down to make it look like the cables were emerging from the champion’s very head. And finally, a very cool plastic power fist from the mid-90s was used on the model’s other hand. I only ever had one of these in my bitzbox, and I thought this was a worthy occasion to use it!

Brother Hynnark was named for fellow hobbyist Brother Heinrich, whose brilliant Night Lords army is not only a constant source of inspiration, but who has also made me look at the individuals in the army in a new way. Cheers, mate!

 

Next up, Brother Rask:

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I knew I wanted to make use of the fantastic banner that came with the Blood Crushers, so Brother Rask became a favoured banner bearer of his god. To balance out the extra archaic element, I went for a chainsword in his left hand — the essential 40k weapon, if you ask me. The model also received a rebreather head as another piece of visual shorthand for the futuristic setting. I also like this particular head a lot, since it seems grizzled and scarred without being over the top.

The model was named for none other than the ever-inspirational GuitaRasmus, who owns some of the snazziest World Eaters on the interwebz and whose mindblowing kitbashes are a constant motivation for me to push the envelope on my own conversions instead of just settling for “good enough”.

 

And finally, a champion among champions, I give you Brother Garic the Hound:

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I really went all out on this model, making it look like Garic was issuing a challenge to an opponent. A sword from the WFB Chaos Knights made for a suitably impressive weapon, while the left arm came from the Raptor/Warp Talon kit, featuring one of my favourite lightning claws in the entire set.

Maybe you’ll remember that shouting head with the mohawk from my look at the Centurion kit. Even then, I was sure that it was the perfect face for a World Eater, and I believe this model offers pretty good proof of that!

Garic is my favourite model in the squad, and who better to choose as his alter ego than my buddy Biohazard, whose boundless generosity in exchanging bitz as well as ideas have made many of my projects possible in the first place. And his kitbashes, particularly his amazing daemon engines, are truly something to behold as well! Here’s to you, buddy!

 

So cheers, guys! I hope you like your new function in Khorne’s Eternal Hunt! And I hope you like the models I chose for you! As for the names, I tried to find a middle ground between the design sensibilities of my army and either your true names or forum handles. If any of you should want to come up with a better name for “his” model, though, just shoot me a message! Likewise, if you have any suggestions regarding what to add to the models, let me know as well!

 

In any case, these guys do need some more detail work as well as a couple of additional bitz. And there will have to be a Chaos Lord on juggernaut to lead the squad, of course…

Oh, and I actually think I may continue to name models in the honour of fellow hobbyists! And with a long list of spectacularly talented and generally awesome people to work through – PDH, TJ Atwell, DexterKong, migusla or Kari, to name just a few – I imagine this army will keep expanding for a looong time 😉

 

So yeah, here are my three Brazen Hunters together, ready for a new day of hunting:

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So what do you think? Was I successful in coming up with some badass models? Are they 40k enough? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section!

And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!