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Subject: Back to the Grimdark Future - Ork Marauders vs. Robot Legions battle report
Last time I did any Sci Fi hobbying was picking up but never fully completing the Dark Vengeance boxed set at the start of 6th edition. I had moved country, left behind my awesome 40K group and was not enamoured of the new edition.
Over the past few years I have been modelling and painting for fantasy roleplaying games, and I have pretty close to what I would have dreamed of as a kid for that sort of gaming - full sets of fantasy monsters and heroes, and a cool dungeon tile set with furniture and all that.
The destruction of the Old World means I have moved away into creating my own setting that incorporates much of what I love from Warhammer into a world that also stuffs in all my other favourite things and some of my own creations.
In the course of this I got back into wargaming with One Page Rules Age of Fantasy, a stripped down version of Age of Sigmar that has alternating activations and encourages DIY approaches to list building and miniatures selection. And while looking through their stuff, I found Grimdark Future, their knockoff 40K with a similar mentality.
Pouring over the lists, and then looking at some blogs like Skinflint Games blog on getting back into the hobby, as well as thinking back to what attracted me to 40K originally, I decided to set about reviving my love of the grimdark future. I had also recently gotten into Stars Without Number, the old school sandbox Sci Fi RPG that could easily slot in as a stripped down 40KRPG without effort. Freed from the need to keep track of whatever GW is up to, I can focus on what I really like about the universe, edit out the bits I don’t like, and make it a setting that is suitable for wargaming and roleplaying.
Broadly, I want to focus on small forces for a variety of different factions so that I can loan them out to friends or family for games, as I am not interested in participating in “Pick Up Game” culture any more.
As I go I am reimagining the setting in ways that make it more appealing to me and easier to make my own stories happen in the way I want.
Last year I bought a bunch of start collecting sets, and I decided to start with Necrons, because they were the ones my wife was the most interested in. They are also very Sci Fi, and easy to paint!
I don’t love the background for Necrons. I always thought it was a bit silly that this ancient alien race made robots that look like human skeletons, and it is an obvious hold over from the old Android models. So I decided to rewrite the background for my games.
Essentially, the necrons are an AI based entity or entities that infect other AIs and take them over. The humanoid Warriors are the Men of Iron from 40K background, the old android slave race used by mankind in the past. Some have been modified with advanced nanotech and strange materials (the Triarchs and Lords) but the mass of grunts are possessed androids. This is why AI is heresy in most human civilisations, and why all tech has manual overrides and back ups that makes it clunky and retro-looking. The more insectoid necrons are the servants of an ancient race that may have originated the AI, and they sleep on tomb worlds just as in normal 40K until signals wake them up and they go out to reap the living. I prefer this background because it keeps the Lovecraftian elements of the Necrons while explaining why the necrons themselves look like T1000s rather than something more interesting. I also think a malicious, alien AI is a fun sci fi concept and allows for cool roleplaying scenarios for Stars Without Number. It also helps to explain the lack of AIs and make using AIs a risk reward problem for my players.
These pictures are recent, but I actually painted the minis a while ago! I will go into the terrain they are posing on shortly!
Warriors and Immortals were fun to do, just simple paint jobs with basic edge highlighting on the weapons. Scarabs are such little cuties, I hope I can find more of these old ones! Despite painting minis for over 20 years this is my first time edge highlighting…
The Annihilation Barge was the last thing I painted. Doing all the edge highlighting was time consuming, but ultimately I am well chuffed with how it came out. I think the Command Barge looks cooler, but I decided to stretch this kit as far as I could.
Lords are fun, and fun to paint as well. Quite pleased with the lord on the 40mm base, his buddy from the Command Barge is fine too.
After finishing the Start Collecting I have added a couple extra boxes to each of these to bulk them up to what I feel is a good game size for Grimdark Future. These Triarchs were a bit trickier, both to assembly and to paint. Not 100% happy with the posing on all of them, it is always my kryptonite, but the paint jobs came out okay.
Wraiths are my favourite necron models, these were great fun to build and look great, but boy am I glad to be done with the edge highlighting!
And finally the Spyder. I need to magnetise this little girl onto her base, but I love the model and the concept behind it.
This message was edited 5 times. Last update was at 2021/01/31 13:09:49
Of course, if you want to game in the Grimdark Future, you need minis and terrain! I already have space marine, necron and ork miniatures, so my first priority was a set of terrain to play on.
I have a fairly nice Dark Ages set, but I wanted something a bit more sci fi than deciduous temperate woodland. Jungle trees always look a bit more exotic and spacey, so that was the first thing I did. Just a bunch of aquarium plants and some fake sprigs from wedding stuff for the big trees. Very happy with how this came out, super easy to make (literally just gluing and flocking) but I think it looks quite nice! I am especially happy with the trees, because it is difficult to find affordable solutions for that!
Here they are with some Gatormen for scale and context:
Exotic Flora is one thing, but my favourite images from the Grimdark Future are those of ash wastes and hive cities, from my days as a kid reading 2000AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine with the Mega Cities and the Cursed Earth. 40K seemed to me to come directly from that tradition with the descriptions of the Hive Cities on Armageddon in the old 2e starter. A Hive City is probably an impossible project for scenery, but I think the most important element to evoke the feeling of a hive is verticality. Hive battlefields should be full of walkways, gantries and towers, sprawling upward with almost the same density that they sprawl outward. Wargaming battlefields are always just a tool for our imaginations, so you only need a certain amount of vertical layering to evoke a much more complex Hive or City surrounding. With that in mind I brought up this excellent video from Wyloch about making tower and walkway systems.
I was intimidated to start this for ages, but this summer I was at home like all of us and got to work on it. It is long and tedious to do, but I can say it is within the skill level of any crafter because I am not usually good at precise measurements or straight lines and I managed. The whole thing is just chipboard, sprue bits, cross stitch mesh and soup cans, which is awesome!
Here are some shots of the cardboard set up:
As I was working on it, I had a thought. If I make lots of wall sections and some wall sections that are “gates”, I could make this into a huge rampart for a hive wall! Dramatic scenes in Warhammer fiction often occur with troops waiting on top of the wall of a Hive. Again, in the fiction these walls are a mile high and so on, but to evoke them on a battlefield, six feet of wall is pretty decent I feel, especially with towers along the length. I used to play a three game scenario with my best friend as a kid using the old 2e ruins to make a “city wall” which we would then take turns storming, fighting through the “city streets” to the bunker at the heart over three games, swapping sides to see who would win. So this hive wall is a sort of homage to those games.
A side effect of all the walls is I can also make a version of the Whiskey Outpost from Starship Troopers!
I decided to go for a pretty bold red colour scheme. I was dubious about this, but red is the traditional colour of the mechanicum, and I thought rusty metallic or grey would look a bit washed out on the table. I wanted to have rust and weathering, but I wanted a secondary colour as well to make it really pop. So I went with red! I painted all the silver and red in one sitting along with the concrete sections of the walls.
You can see in the last two pictures, a happy side effect of having so many extra walls is I can use spare walkways and walls to make blocky warehouse buildings for line of sight blocking. They look pretty good I think!
It took me about two solid months to get to this stage, and I was a bit burned out at that point and took a break. But I think this set is really well worth going for, and even given I had to order the chipboard in specially, the whole set cost me under 30 euros to make!
This set could be used for a fairly bare bones game on it’s own, but I wanted to make a few pieces that would give my battlefields a sense of space. From the 2e starter and then ADB’s excellent Helsreach novel I always loved the idea of the huge docks of Helsreach and the vicious battles that raged for that hive, with the crane workers sealing themselves into their cranes. I grew up beside a port town and my first jobs were all working down on the dockside. So I wanted to make some shipping containers, because they are classic LOS blocking terrain, and a crane to move them around. Just these pieces will give the feel of a spaceport or dock without much extra effort!
The crane is a cheap 4 euro digger I found in Mueller. I hacked the bucket off and added some details to it to trick the eye into thinking it is more detailed than it actually is. The barrel, tarps and jerrycan are all from a Tamiya bits sprue, I used some bases for the magnet on the crane, left over cross stitch mesh for the grating and some chain. I wanted to leave most of the surfaces flat, because you can fit a full squad on this crane as is, and I would like it to be playable scenery, so there is a bit of a compromise there. My wife insisted the wheels stay on, so they are still there. Painted it up with cheap craft paints, Ochre, black and silver, did some basic weathering and sponged on some rust and gave it a grimy wash. Really happy with how it came out!
The Shipping Containers were made by following Mel the Terrain Tutor’s tutorial. I should have accounted for the difference in size caused by the corrugation in several places, but overall I am very happy with how they look. They make for very easy line of sight blockers. I painted them up with Army Painter sprays and then some basic rust patches and a grime wash. The wash interacted weirdly in places, sorta pooled oddly, but I think it looks okay overall.
Lastly, I wanted some fences to delineate areas on the battlefield and provide visual interest. Wyloch has a great tutorial for these and I followed it exactly, except that I kept the base of the fence metallic. My reason for doing that is that I feel it means they fit better onto any kind of board with a metallic base, looking like prefab fences that are dropped down. Since I plan on having city, ash waste and jungle boards for my games, I want as many of my terrain pieces as possible to be base agnostic for interchangeability. These were dead simple to make and I think they look very effective, I would definitely recommend giving them a try! You can also see the wall and walkway "building" in this picture, and I piled the spare clips for the walkway system into piles of metal scrap here as well.
So, I might be getting a game in this weekend with my wife! I am gonna use my Orks, which I have had since I was a little whippersnapper, and she is going to use my freshly painted up Necrons, or Robot Legions in Grimdark Future parlance.
In my age of fantasy games I have been using “cards” which are basically google slides printed four to a page as hand outs and then cut out. Each card has all the stats and rules for the unit printed on it and a little picture to help people know what’s what. I am doing that to maximise accessibility, because I am introducing a bunch of non-wargamers to the game and I think cards really “chunk” the information in a decent way. Additionally, Grimdark Future uses alternating activations (yay!), which means you need some way to keep track of who has acted and who has not, particularly for bigger games. Flipping the card over is a really easy way to manage this. I see some people using markers for all their units but I prefer the cards because it keeps the battlefield cleaner. If you need markers you can put them on the card instead.
My flimsy paper prints were not very satisfying though so I have made a deck of cards from some decent colour prints of my card files, a gluestick and an oven pizza box (a distressingly abundant commodity in our household…). Cut out the cards into rough strips to fit them on the box,glue them on with a glue stick, then cut them off with scissors before cutting around the edge with a hobby knife. Not the neatest job in the world but I am satisfied. They are definitely nicer to handle than the paper cards and will last a lot longer. Probably should have used spray glue or some stronger glue stick but oh well. Gonna probably laminate them too, so they don’t pick up fingerprints and just generally last longer. If anyone is interested I can also put the PDFs for my files here for download. I currently only have cards for units I am going to use and factions I play, but it is easy enough to follow the template yourself in Google Sheets!
I don't have a printer sadly, but man, their designs are getting really good. Their robots have a general grievous look to them which is quite cool. The Saurians are also really nice. Prefer them to Saurus Warriors for sure!
Thanks! It was very time intensive, for sure. I started in August when I was on holidays and basically had to work on it up til Christmas to get it done. The good part is you can just tap away at it to get it finished, it doesn't need to be done all at once because it is quite straightforward once you have it ready. You can wear out your hand doing too much of it actually! I ended up with a big dent in my fingers from my craft knife.
The advantage of the set I think comes when you have done a LOT of towers and walkways so you can really take advantage of the modularity. I did 12 towers, 14 wall sections with 2 gates, 4 12" walkways, 4 9" walkways and 2 6" walkways. I still want to do a few ladders and maybe a couple more railings, but I am gonna take a wee break first!
Wyloch's stuff is great, he is basically the reason I got into Grimdark Future. I am not the worlds best crafter but all of his projects are accessible and I am very happy with the results.
As to the cards, I will have a look. If I can get those sorts of card protectors that would be the simplest solution, for sure. The cards are not "standard" playing card size though, but maybe I can find ones in the right size to use. Would save the hassle of laminating!
Great terrain! love the digger, and thanks for drawing my attention to the one page stuff, i've checked it out and it looks good. I've always known GW wasn't the be all and end all, as the first time I went to one of their stores, they were still selling other people's game, but I am getting back into the hobby and its good to know there are options, and people doing cool things like this.
Cheers Paddy! The digger was really fun to do. My first time messing around with a toy like that. I am looking forward to heading back to Mueller and seeing what else they have in a similar line!
GW minis and the setting are great, but I am mostly teaching newbies how to play these days and Grimdark Future is just so much easier to teach to a non-gamer. I love that they have lists for stuff like Space Dwarves and so on as well.
Still haven't managed to get the game I was planning in! Work, as usual, is the culprit. Painted up a bunch of daemons for Fantasy which can also be used in GF, but I thought double posting in both blogs would be obnoxious.
Gonna try and clear out a few fantasy figures that have been sitting waiting to be done for a long time, but still working on terrain for Grimdark Future when I get time, hopefully will be able to update on that soon!
So no terrain, instead I decided to do some more nurgly dudes. I picked up these easy to build poxwalkers a while ago. I think they are really cool minis, and they have a lot of applications for post apocalyptic games or settings as generic mutants. I really loved the Lost and the Damned conception of Chaos from the Eye of Terror campaign with units of traitors and mutants supported by only a small number of chaos marines. My chaos marines are Word Bearers, so my plan is to have two big units of cultists as my main troops. I am gonna use the "Plague Walkers" rules from the Havoc Brothers Disciples list to represent mutants, and I plan on painting up a big unit of 20. These guys are a test of concept. I will probably pick up the bigger box, and then fill out the remainder with some conversions for a unit of 20 (the maximum unit size in Grimdark Future).
This pic shows the skin tone well. For some reason the green doesn't come through well in my other pictures.
Here are better pictures aside from the skin, which is a bit too green here.
I have painted them with orange work clothes, I kinda see them as an oppressed underclass, an indentured work gang, who have risen in rebellion along with the free workers and disaffected under the charismatic leadership of the Word Bearers. The orange work clothes are a unifying theme with them but I also went for a pretty unified skin and bone scheme. I know you can go crazy with weird tones on these models but I like the classic green mutant look and I think it will look better on the table this way.
I am planning on using some of my spare Forge Fathers Brokkrs to fill out the numbers up to 10, along with maybe some bare chested Wargames Factory Celts. Happy to have a few converted mutants, I think I wouldn't have enjoyed doing a whole unit.
If you want the cards I made for the Have Brothers army, I have attached them at the end of the post.
Finally got a battle in. The lighting for our game didn't make for the best pictures but I did what I could! My wife controlled the Necrons, and she was mostly interested in the Elite units. So she took: 1 Overseer 5 Eternals (Immortals) with Flux Rifles 5 Guardians with Shields and Hyper swords (Triarchs) 3 Robot Snakes with antimatter pistols (Wraiths)
I decided it would be interesting for our first game to see how an elite force like that did against sheer force of numbers so I took 1 Warboss (Represented by a Big Mek, because I had misplaced my Warboss somewhere) 20 Orc Boyz with two flamethrowers 20 Orc Boyz with Carbines and two Heavy Machine Guns.
The battle took place over an abandoned industrial zone on a human world. The Orc warband had arrived in system and detected no life signs but lots of energy signatures and metal, and the Mek leading them figured it was ripe for looting to outfit their ships. On arrival however, they found the charred skeletons of humans littering the city. The robots this planet used for labour had somehow rebelled, and wiped out their oppressors. These mechanical constructs were up to something in the centre of the city, and whatever it was was worth looting! Deployment: I kept to the middle of the board and so did the robots on the other side. We wanted to be able to use the stairs to gain the high ground for our shooting units.
First, I rushed my shoota boyz up the stairs. My wife responded by doing the same with her eternals.
Then I ran my choppa boyz down the middle of the towers under the walkways, hoping to use my superior speed to storm up the stairs and get to the eternals from behind. She responded by moving her Wraiths into position.
My warboss ran under the walkways toward the shipping container that the overseer was lurking behind.
Turn two started with the Eternals opening fire on the Orc choppa boys. Their guns fizzled and only killed a single boy. The boyz charged forward in response, attacking the Wraiths.
Unfortunately, the Wraiths proved more than a match for the poorly armed boyz (helped by me wiffing with my Ultra Claw) and they slaughtered a bunch of them, leaving the Orcs pinned, with Wraiths on one side and eternals above.
The Shoota boyz meanwhile continued along their walkway, taking some pot shots at the Wraiths and finishing the damaged one. The Warboss continued to run across the open ground.
Turn three started with the Eternals opening up, and rolling three sixes for their flux rifles. Each 6 multiplies into 4 hits, so the green lightning arced over the unlucky choppa boyz, killing all but one, who wisely decided to hoof it.
The shoota boyz opened up on the Eternals, killing one, and the Wraiths soared up to the high tower and walkway.
The Warboss charged forward to attack the Overseer, and both wounded each other in the ensuing conflict. The Overseer backed away, blasting the Warboss with light from his staff, doing more damage, but the Warboss held his ground. At the start of turn 4, the Guardians arrived. The Warboss charged the Overseer one more time, winning the fight by doing damage and receiving none, but the fearless machine was not deterred from it's objectives. The Guardians then charged in and sliced the Warboss up with their hyper swords. (I noted that the Ambush rule when applied to slow units means that Ambushing Slow units cannot attack the turn they arrive. That does not seem to be really considered in the price, so I have ruled that Slow units can ambush up to 8" away.)
The shoota boyz then opened up on the Wraiths, destroying one of them in a hail of bullets. The Eternals moved along the platform, firing arcs of lightning at the shoota boyz as the Wratih replied with it's antimatter pistols.
One the last turn, the Guardians flew up onto the walkway intersection. The shoota boyz charged in valiantly, but only downed two guardians for the loss of several boyz in return. The boyz morale broke and the fled.
A pretty convincing victory for the Robots! A few things helped that along, mostly me rolling poorly with my claws and a terrifying roll for flux along the way. Possibly, I should have used my Choppa Boyz better as well. But I was worried the Necrons would not stand up to the hail of bullets and attacks, but really they proved satisfyingly durable. The Flux rifles are really strong, and my army did not contain a lot of high AP or Deadly weapons to deal with the Wraiths, so they sucked up quite a lot of damage. A couple of Killa Kans or a Dread would have been useful to my army. But I really enjoyed the game, especially how the walkways played into both the visual spectacle and the tactics of it. My wife only likes to play with 4 units each, so a lot of the battlefield goes unused usually in these games, but I was really pleased with the visual spectacle. The alternating activation keeps things engaging and makes it feel like you have taken loads of turns even though it only went to Turn 5, and it "felt" like a game of 40K to me. My wife probably wouldn't be interested in playing a game with a lot more rules to learn, but she quite enjoyed playing this and was interested in playing some more, so I think that is the best possible selling point for the system.
Weirdly, when playing with armies where I painted both sides, I find myself rooting for both, which makes for a much more pleasant experience. I really enjoyed seeing all the necrons do their thing, as I had been thinking about their various abilities while painting them. So them vaporizing a whole unit of Orcs or the Wraiths being monsters on the field felt really cool to me rather than leaving me feeling negative. Mainly sad I couldn't bag the Overseer with my Warboss, but he is 30 points more expensive so maybe that is fair!
Next time we are going to try the Plague Demons, maybe against some Battle Brothers, but also possibly in Fantasy against some Eternal Wardens... Hope you enjoyed reading this!
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/01/31 13:13:12
Cheers! The pros are:
1. It's free
2. It's simple enough to teach non-gamers
3. It has lists for pretty much every GW force and a couple of extra ones like Space Dwarves, Space Ratmen and Dark Mechanicus.
1. It is very simple, so some might find it lacking in depth.
2. Balance can be a bit wonky, some units seem over or under priced sometimes.
Wow, totally slept on this one! Some really cool stuff!
Seeing that Wyloch modular set tempts me, but I just don't foresee having the time. Yours has come out really nicely!
Grimdark future, huh? Hmm.
As for your unit cards, with all of my handouts for D&D over the past few years, I've run my laminator as much as a grade school teacher
I wonder if they'll laminate ok being as thick as that with the packaging cardboard?
Subject: Back to the Grimdark Future - Ork Marauders vs. Robot Legions battle report
Cheers! Yeah, I decided to start a second blog for Sci Fi, not sure if that was the right call or not but I think I like better that way.
The modular walkways are awesome, but they are very time consuming to make. I had summer holidays and was stuck at home, and it still took me til November to really get them done. But the time I was doing the set of walls I was really getting tired of cutting chipboard! I'm all about modularity with my terrain though. I want everything to be modular to maximise the variety of set ups I can do. I dunno that it really needs to be like that since I'm not actually likely to play that many games any more.
Grimdark Future is alright. I'd say there are upsides to it and downsides. I really like it but if you've got a 40K community that is good nearby it's probably gonna be better to join that. Living in Germany but mainly speaking English sort of limits my participation in the local scene and I'm mostly gonna be playing with my wife or people from my D&D group who are all English speakers but never wargamed before.
I also just liked that it's a system that allows me to use literally my entire collection with one set of rules.
I'd say they will laminate alright. We've got a pretty heavy duty one. But I might not bother either, it's a lot of hassle...