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The State of the Hunt, Week 29/2018: Hot weather and heavy armour

Posted in 40k, Blood Bowl, Conversions, Inq28, Inquisitor, Orcs & Goblins, state of the hunt, Totally worth it, WIP with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 16, 2018 by krautscientist

A bit of a transitional post for today, as I don’t have any completed models to share with you at the moment — that’s what I get for touting my own productivity in my previous post, I suppose ๐Ÿ˜‰

But anyway, both the warm weather and various other distractions have kept me from painting anything lately. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing any hobby-related work, though: At least I have some WIP impressions to share with you! ๐Ÿ™‚

I. The Long Watch:

So far, my Primaris-based true scale Deathwatch killteam numbers four completed members, as you will probably remember:

Thanks to several bitz drops, I have been able to start work on the next two members of the team. First up, I wanted to include a Watch-Brother from the Castigators, a fourteenth founding Ultramarines successor, and Commissar Molotov’s own DIY chapter — given Mol’s role as the doyen of the INQ28 movement, I felt this would be a nice little shout out to him ๐Ÿ˜‰

So far, my Deathwatch conversions have been an attempt to convey the character of the Marines’ respective chapters through the actual conversion, and I did have a rather nifty idea for the Castigator, if I do say so myself: Seeing how the chapter icon prominently features a hand holding a whip, and given the fact that the Deathwatch seem to be all about crazy weapons nowadays, I thought it would be cool to get a little creative with the model’s equipment ๐Ÿ˜‰

Take a look:

The model is based on one of the Primaris Lieutenants from the Dark Imperium boxed set that I was able to snap up on ebay — the pose was quite perfect for what I had in mind, and it was really easy to replace the model’s power sword with the whip from the Necromunda Escher sprue — it’s a good thing we actually get two of those whips in the Necromunda boxed set ๐Ÿ˜‰

I wasn’t quite sure at first whether or not the whip look would work, but I do think the Marine wears it rather well: The bigger scale makes the weapon look a bit more plausible, and the model’s dynamic stance definitely matches the weapon.

Apart from the weapon swap, I only really added a bit of additional gear to the model’s belt and swapped in a Deathwatch backpack and shoulder pad (replacing the stock shoulder pad did take a bit of careful sawing, though, as the pauldron and arm were one bit). I also really wanted to have one member of the squad wear an Mk. VII helmet, for that classic mid-to-late 90s Space Marine look, and I still had a vintage metal Deathwatch head in my bitzbox, so that seemed like the perfect option to go with.

Commissar Molotov also kindly offered to send over a custom Castigators shoulder pad, although I am pretty much committed to freehanding the chapter icon onto the right pauldron — how much harder than an actual lion head can it possibly be, right? Plus it would save me the hassle of having to saw through another Space Marine arm ๐Ÿ˜‰ I would really like Molotov to name this fellow, though!

That’s not all, though: Thanks to a supply drop from fellow hobbyist Augustus b’Raass, I received yet another Primaris Marine, which allowed me to start yet another Watch-Brother, a Lamenter this time around. It felt like my kill team still needed someone with a massive gun, so I decided that the role would fall to the Lamenter. After doing a bit of research on the matter, I bought the model for Rodricus Grytt (from Kill Team Cassius), because it would give me both the weapon, backpack and Deathwatch shoulder pad I needed in one go.

So the biggest part of the conversion was to make Rodricus’ arms fit the Primaris body — something that actually turned out to be surprisingly easy, with just a bit of tweaking:


I did have to carefully cut off the right upper arm from both the “donor” model and the Primaris Marine, though, in order to make it all work together — I only really had to do this because I wanted to be able to replace the stock Primaris shoulder pad, however.

Regarding the details, I chose some bitz with teardrop symbols to match the Lamenters’ inconography. As for the helmet, I have a funny story to go with that one: Having tried, half a dozen times, and unsuccessfully, no less, to sell Commissar Molotov on this particular helmet for his true scale Lamenters Watch-Brother, I realised that the only way I was going to ever see this helmet used in that capacity was to build my own Lamenter — so here we are ๐Ÿ˜‰

In order to add to the bulky look created by the helmet and massive weapon, I also added some additional armour plates to the model’s hip, although they are not all that visible in the above picture — trust me, though: They are there ๐Ÿ˜‰

As for the pose, I would have preferred something a little more grounded and stable, but I only had the one Primaris Marine to work with, so I did the best I could. Given his pose, the Marine obviously isn’t in the process of firing his weapon, but rather seems to be lugging it from point a to point b. So what do you guys think: Does he work better looking straight ahead like this:

Or looking off to the side, like this:



I also tried having him look towards the barrel of his gun, but the model ended up looking very unbalanced that way, plus it would also obscure a lot of the detail on the faceplate. Anyway, would love to hear your feedback on this!

In any case, many thanks to Augustus b’Raass, of course, for sending over the model for the conversion! Cheers, buddy! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

II. Golden Girl

Ever since the recent release of Age of Sigmar’s 2nd edition’s starter box and the accompanying models, everyone and their mother have been going crazy over the new Nighthaunt models (and some hobbyists, like the ever-inspirational Jeff Vader, are already having a field day with the, admittedly very nice, skeleton-ghost thingies).

However, nobody’s been talking about what must be the entire release’s single coolest model: The female Stormcast Eternal coming with the Easy To Build Easy To Build Stormcast Sequitors:

Seriously, I love this model! It’s almost perfect, really: The pose, the very cool face, the clean lines. I don’t care much for the weird mace head, but that’s Stormcast Eternal weapon design for you. Anyway, I knew right off the bat that I wanted to turn this lady into an Inquisitrix — my first Inquisitrix, actually, something I have wanted to do for a long time, ever since seeing PDH’s brilliant take on Naeve Blacktalon.

So here’s what I have so far:

 

Like I said, I really love this model, which is why I have decided to keep the conversion fairly subtle for now: I merely replaced that weird He-Man-style weapon with something a little more 40k (a thunder hammer from the plastic Mk. III Marines with an eagle head from the Imperial Knight Questor) added a holstered pistol at the hip and an Inquisitorial rosette and replaced the design on the shield with an Ordo Malleus-style heraldic device (quite a bit of work, that last one):

I am actually a bit reluctant to add too many more gubbins to her: Much of the model’s coolness comes from its very clean lines, mostly created by juxtaposition of the static pose and the flowing robes, and I don’t want to ruin that by overcluttering her. A bit of extra gear on her belt, maybe, but don’t expect me to go crazy on the grimdark bitz. In the end, I am pretty confident she’ll look perfectly at home in the middle of an Inquisitorial warband.

If there is one problem with the model, it’s that this girl is tall — almost freakishly so, and even moreso when using the elevated base the model actually came with — a veritable plinth, that one. She is just as tall as a Primaris Marine, and that’s not counting the base.

So the first thing I did was to drop the base and go with something a bit less vertical — the very cool readymade base that came with the Primaris Marine Augustus send me seems like an excellent standin for now. As for her actual height, I guess I’ll be able to get away with it because she’s an Inquisitrix: The Inquisition definitely has the kind of crazy tech at its disposal that could allow for all kinds of body augmentation. It would arguably be more of a problem if I wanted to turn her into, say, a Sister of Battle, for instance.

 

III. This is going to sting a little…

There’s also another addition to my Blood Bowl team, as my friend Annie gave me a very cool model for my birthday. This delightful little Kromlech goblin nurse, who will be the Orkheim Ultraz’ medic from now on:

Expect to see this little guy painted sooner rather than later! And a heartfelt thank you to Annie for – another – lovely contribution to my team! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

IV. In closing…

Before I wind up this post, I want to elaborate about one of the aforementioned distractions that have kept me from painting. Some long time readers may remember that I am a bit of a video game fiend, so it’s probably not too surprising to learn that one thing keeping me from painting at the moment is…a video game:

I have been slightly addicted to playing Hollow Knight for the last couple of days, and I only really bring this up because I am fairly confident that quite a few readers of this blog might enjoy the game just as much as I do: It’s a 2017 indie action adventure that has been receiving quite a bit of hype recently, after being released for the Nintendo Switch. I bought the PC version last weekend and have been unable to tear myself away from it ever since. For those of you a bit familiar with videogames, it’s as though Dark Souls had been reimagined as a sidescrolling Metroidvania…with bugs (the animals, mind you, not the technical gaffes). It’s highly addictive, incredibly atmospheric, and also very cute and very creepy at the same time. If that sounds like it might be your thing, check out the game here.

 

So yeah, that’s it for today! Let’s hope I’ll be able to get something finished again before long — I’ll definitely keep you guys posted! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Until then, please feel free to let me know what you think about these WIPs! And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

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Grimdark Espionage Action

Posted in 40k, Conversions, paintjob, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2018 by krautscientist

Hey everyone, something a little bit different for today: Since I am currently waiting for the bitz intended for my next Deathwatch Marine, I thought it was time for a fun little distraction, and fondly remembering my Boba Fett repaint from a while back, I decided to delve back into the wider nerd culture for a bit — so what is this about?

This particular project was actually the result of several circumstances coming together to form the perfect storm: When I recently worked on the Celestial Lions Astartes for my Dethwatch Killteam, I noticed how much all the pouches and webbing on the Reiver armour reminded me of the gear worn by Solid Snake, one of the protagonists of the Metal Gear series. And then Adam Wier, of Between The Bolter And Me, presented his own, very cool Metal Gear-inspired model just the other day, and that really sealed the deal for me: I wanted to build and paint my own model inspired by the Metal Gear series.

For those of you not in the know, Metal Gear is a series of stealth-based games — and also one of the founding fathers of modern stealth games, really, at least were video game consoles are concerned. The games always feature a hard bitten veteran codenamed Snake (who is also the game’s protagonist in most cases, although it’s not always the same man). The task is usually to inflitrate some kind of rogue nation or military installation, fight against a special unit consisting of a collection of veritable carnival freaks, then deal with a walking nuclear tank – the eponymous Metal Gear – in order to avoid nuclear war. There are lots of highly entertaining (and often challenging) stealth sequences, and just before you get to fight any kind of boss, everything screeches to a halt while you and your opponent wax poetical about war, peace, love on the battlefield and the intricacies of nuclear deterrence for a solid twenty minutes. Yeah, it’s that kind of series…

Even so, or probably because of it, the Metal Gear series is one of my favourite videogame series. I love it because of everything – and in spite of everything – that makes it great and terrible: its brilliantly weird, Japanese take on western action films, its sometimes hamhanded storytelling. Its brilliantly quirky characters. If you haven’t played the series, and you have even the slightest appetite for Japanese video game quirkiness, I suggest you give it a spin. And if you’re already aware of Metal Gear, well, I think you’ll get an extra chuckle or two out of the rest of this post ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anyway, the first Metal Gear Solid was a massive blockbuster (and arguably a system seller) back on the first Playstation, and it still has a safe place in my heart, so I wanted to build a model based on Solid Snake, protagonist of the first couple of games. Here’s what I came up with:

On the face of it, it’s a really simple kitbash, merely using one of the Easy to Build Primaris Reivers and a handful of bitz: The Reiver armour is already suspiciously similar to a bulkier version of Solid Snake’s sneaking suit anyway, so I only added an extra pouch here and there and shaved off any parts that were too 40k — like purity seals. I also tweaked the gun a bit, to make it resemble the iconic SOCOM pistol wielded by Snake in the games.

As for the general look and pose of the model, I used some artwork by Yoji Shinkawa, the Metal Gear series’ art director, as reference material:

Illustration by Yoji Shinkawa

Of course the Primaris proportions are a bit wonky when compared to the sketch — where Solid Snake is fairly slender, the Primaris based version looks a bit more chunky. Which is why I decided to leave the backpack off, so as not to make him even more massibe. Even so, I think the combination of the pose, pistol silhouette and flapping bandana make the model instantly recognisable.

Speaking of the bandana, the most involved part of the conversion was actually to transform a fairly standard Space Marine head (from the old Dark Angels Veterans, I believe) into a suitable representation of Snake, complete with bandana and Snake’s glorious mullet haircut. I achieved the former by using a paper place mat (having already made some very good experiences with the material while designing the bases for my Ordo Scriptorum warband). The latter was sculpted with a bit of GS.

Here’s the reference material I used, the actual in-game model of Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty:

And here’s a look at the tweaked head, warts and all:

When it came to painting the model It was clear to me from the start that the head was what would make or break the model, and funnily enough, painting it instantly transformed it into Snake’s face. Take a look:

As for the rest of the model, I once again needed some reference material, since Yoji Shinkawa’s sketches are fantastic for setting the mood or creating a strong impression of a character, but they are also a bit too abstract to be used as something to base a colour scheme on. Once again, I decided to base my paintjob on Solid Snake as he appears in the first game (and its subsequent remake, “The Twin Snakes”), mostly because the Reiver armour matched that particular getup pretty well:

Here’s a look at a PIP version with most of the main colours in place:



It’s a fairly monochromatic colour scheme, certainly — not something I would have chosen for one of my “regular” INQ28 characters, but in this case, it was all about matching the official material. That’s also why I ultimately decided against adding any symbols or freehands: My original plan had been to add the logo of FOXHOUND, Solid Snake’s unit, on one of the pauldrons, in place of a chapter icon, so to speak, but it felt like a colourful area like that would actually have detracted from the rest of the model and the overall look and feel.

When it came to basing the model, I discovered that the new Sector Mechanicus bases were just the perfect choice: While they might be ever so slightly too bland for 40k proper, they seemed like a perfect recreation of the kind of military base surroundings Snake usually finds himself in. I went for a pretty simple, gunmetal look, with some suitable decals applied before the weathering for an extra layer of detail. Here’s the painted base:

And while this project was intended as a mere fun distraction, or a gaiden project, to remain true to the subject, I decided I might as well use it to teach myself a new technique. Now Metal Gear Solid is set in a military base in Alaska, and parts of the game actually play out during a snowstorm, so I thought it might be fun to include some snow on the base — which meant I had to experiment with making my own model snow — definitely a first for me!

I was lucky enough to be able to fall back on one of Ron Saikowski’s incredibly helpful hobby articles from the fabulous From The Warp blog, and chose the easiest recipe from the post: Just mix PVA glue with Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda) and just a drop of water. And while it took a couple of minutes to get the mixture just right, I ended up with a substance that didn’t just look like snow but almost behaved like the genuine article as well, caking and piling up like actual, miniature snow — how delightful ๐Ÿ˜‰

Here’s the same base with the snow applied on top:

I was even able to tease out some singular “flakes” and add smaller clumps of the stuff to Snake’s left leg, to tie him into the base a bit better — seriously, all of this basically took about five minutes and ended up looking so convincing that I was pretty much blown away!

But anyway, without further ado, here’s my – slightly 40k-inspired – version of FOXHOUND special operative Solid Snake. Age hasn’t slowed him down one bit:





I actually cannot stop grinning when I look at the model. It’s a weird little piece, to be sure, but I also think he turned out pretty well, dodgy proportions and all ๐Ÿ˜‰

A closer look at Snake’s face:



And, finally, another look at the model on its base:

Man, that was fun! And while I have zero plans to build any more MGS-related homages, I quickly realised that coming up with 40k versions of classic MGS trope can be a seriously entertaining thought experiment: Fellow hobbyist Bjorn Firewalker mentioned the brilliant idea an Imperial Knight serving as the eponymous Metal Gear! A Sicarian Ruststalker would make for an excellent AdMech-style Grey Fox. And it does, of course, make complete sense that Snake would be a Space Marine from a particularly cursed founding (referred to only as the “Pueri Terribili”).

Such silliness aside, the model is actually too blatant an homage to actually work as a character in proper 40k lore, of course. I already have Inquisitorial Operative Tybalt Renner as a more subtle shout out to the Snake archetype for that:

All the more reason, however, to just cut loose this time and have a little fun with a blatant homage to a video game character ๐Ÿ˜‰

On a related note, this article wouldn’t be complete without a shout out to Tale of War’s absolutely incredible “Snaker – the Last Soldier” model:

Unfortunately, the model is no longer available – for fairly obvious reasons, I suppose – and I missed my chance to pick one up — oh well, at least now I have my own – slightly dodgy – version of Snake, at least.

I also got a bit of a chuckle out of staging a classic Metal Gear Solid scene like this…

…with my new model. Take a look:

Anyway, that’s it for today! I would love to hear any feedback you might have about my version of Solid Snake! And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more! ๐Ÿ™‚

“METAL…GEAR?!”

The State of the Hunt, Week 51/2017: Gosh, is it that time of year already?

Posted in 30k, 40k, Chaos, Conversions, Inq28, Inquisitor, Pointless ramblings, state of the hunt, Totally worth it, WIP with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2017 by krautscientist

Well would you believe it: Christmas has managed to sneak up on me again! With so much to do and so little time left this year, the one thing I definitely want to achieve is to publish another round of my annual Eternal Hunt Awards, and I am currently gathering material for that and preparing the posts — wish me luck ๐Ÿ˜‰

Until then, allow me to address some assorted news straight from my messy hobby lab:

 

I. More grimdark games…

I would like to start with an addendum to my recent post about grimdark video games, mostly because I forgot to include two particularly striking examples on my list

The first is an incredibly 40k-ish moment in a game that is otherwise just about the least grimdark game you could possibly imagine:

Final Fantasy IX is, for the uninitiated among you, a callback to the series’ earlier, more innocent days, with lots of cutesy characters, talking animals, super-deformed character design and an all around cuteness that has held up remarkably well over the years. However, the game also features the regency of Lindblum, an industrious and advanced city state that basically looks like a hive:


Lindblum is a multi level city scape that seems like the love child of Victorian era London and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis…appearing in a Disney film — but then that’s Japanese JRPG eclecticism for you ๐Ÿ˜‰

Seriously, though: Given Final Fantasy IX’s endearing overall design, it should be no surprise that we are dealing with a rather cutesy version of a hive here — no gang wars or underhive mutants to be found. There’s a pretty spiffy theatre district, though:

Back when the game was first released, Lindblum was one of the most stunning locales ever to be featured in a roleplaying game. And its design is still lovely many years later — with the added bonus of actually giving us a decent impression of what a bustling hive city might actually look like…minus the Moogles and talking animal people, that is:

The other addition to my list of grimdark games is a baffling oversight, in retrospect, because it has to be the mostย  incredibly 40k/INQ28 game ever to not bear the actual license:

A postapocalyptic adventure game, Dark Earth is set centuries after a big cataclysm has managed to wipe out modern civilisation. The dust and grime from the earth-shattering cataclysm have managed to permanently clog the atmosphere, casting the whole planet into darkness. The sole remains of civilisation cluster around so-called “Stallites”, city states construced around areas where light is still available by scientific or natural means. It probably won’t surprise you at this point that those stallites share more than a passing resemblance with 40k’s hive cities, even though they are slightly more medieval than your average 40k hive.


The society presented by the game is fascinating, though — and oh so INQ28 in style: With everything within the city geared towards maintaining the life-preserving light, society has adapted and stratified accordingly, with a solar priest class and a warrior caste – the Flame Guardians – at the top of society. Dark Earth puts you in the shoes of Arkhan, member of the Flame Guardians, who gets infected with a creeping corruption while fending off an attempt on the high pristess’ life. With his body slowly beginning to mutate and reshape into a creature of darkness, Arkhan embarks on a frantic quest to uncover a treacherous plot that might threaten the entire stallite before his time is up. Cast from his upper class surroundings, he must discover the seedier parts of the city — a veritable underhive full of malcontents, paupers and cultists.


Sounds like an Inquisitor campaign, doesn’t it? Indeed, the game’s scenario seems incredibly 40k in hindsight, if on a slightly more feudalistic level. There’s also a very distinctive look and feel to the game world: If you are into French graphic novels, you’ll find a lot to like here, as the game’s developer, Kalisto, is a French studio and certainly knows how to imbue their setting with the right style. The idea of Arkhan slowly transforming into a deformed monster also adds an intriguing, if slightly stressful, element to the game. All in all, I remember being quite taken with the game when I played it during the late 90s!

Dark Earth was originally planned as a series, and it’s readily obvious how much world building the folks at Kalisto did for the game and the planned sequels. Alas, it was not to be: A sequel for the Playstation 2 was cancelled without much fanfare. In an interesting twist of fate, however, it seems the world of Dark Earth did actually spawn a pretty successful (tabletop) roleplaying setting in its native France — and deservedly so, because the setting and general ideas behind Dark Earth were pretty fantastic!

Unfortunately, the game is not currently available on Steam or GoG (there’s a petition, though). You can – and should –ย  read up on the game in more detail over at Hardcoregaming101 (a highly recommended resource, by the way!), and there’s also a trailer giving you an impression of the overall style (and the badly aged CGI) here:

 

 

II. Digging in for Christmas

One of the best hobby moments of 2017 was when BubblesMcBub, whom I met during my visit to Amsterdam, sent me almost the entire Death Guard part of the Dark Imperium boxed set. In return, I promised him a couple of conversions, and I have been terribly neglectful about honouring that particular promise, due to a combination of laziness and RL reasons.

It goes without saying, however, that I remain committed to honouring our agreement, so the first model I have built for Bubbles shall make its way to the Netherlands, along with some odds and ends, later this week — and hopefully even in time for Christmas. But what kind of model are we talking about?

For starters, Bubbles wanted an officer for his Iron Warriors, and he told me he would like to see a Khornate Iron warrior to boot. No sweat, right? The one complication was that Bubbles’ Iron Warriors have a much cleaner, 30k-inspired look than the very baroque CSM I usually build, so I tried to dial back my usual style a bit.

So my task was to…

  • come up with a suitably imposing officer/champion
  • incorporating some classically Khornate attributes
  • at the same time, I still wanted him to clearly read as an Iron Warrior, so he needed to look suitably no-nonsense and slightly techy as well.
  • keeping the model clean enough to work with the rest of Bubbles’ army.

So without much further ado, here’s the model I built:





Personally speaking, I think I’ve hit a pretty good middle ground between “obviously Khornate” and “still fairly professionally Iron Warrior-sy”. And more importantly, BubblesMcBub seems to be happy with the model as well, which is what matters! So hang in there for a few days longer, mate! I’ll be swinging by the post office ASAP ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

III. What else is new?

In other news, I am also gearing up for some long-overdue hobby time over the holidays: I’ve picked up the wonderful new Necromunda boxed set and am currently salivating over those lovely gang sprues. Nothing has been built yet — although some Goliath bitz have already made their way into my 30k World Eaters collection. Anyway, expect to hear from my firsthand experiments with the new sprues soon-ish.

And even though my painting output hasn’t been all that incredible this year – at least where mere numbers are concerned – I think I might have one more model in me for 2017. This guy:



I am still rather happy with the conversion, and the model should also make for an excellent capstone for 2017 — seeing how the very first model I painted this year was another converted plastic Contemptor, Vaako the Immortal, a model I am still enormously proud of:

So yeah, let’s hope this all works out! If all goes according to plan, the first post of this year’s Eternal Hunt Awards should go live later this week — keep your fingers crossed for me ๐Ÿ˜‰ And I’ll make sure to put in some painting, in between all the sleeping and the eating. What about you guys, though? Any last minute chores or hobby commitments? As always, I’d be happy to hear from you in the comments!

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

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 clichรฉ 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 clichรฉd 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 theย  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 Leร  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 Leร  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 โ…ซ 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!