2015 The Year of Hobby: Update Two

A shot of Vikings and Saxons on a raid

The opening moves as the Vikings and Saxons close on the little old lady’s house intent on her little piggies…

Last week I played my first game of Open Combat for 2015. Carl of Second Thunder brought over his band of Viking nutters in an attempt to steal honest Saxon livestock, which we would obviously take into ‘protective custody’ first. And the little old lady that owned the farm, just in case.

It was a very close game in the end. Carl’s Vikings were a tough bunch one-on-one, but I had the edge in numbers and combined shooting actions took their toll. At one particular juncture, Viking Ulf was about to counter-attack against my warband and my bowmen opened fire with the immortal words, “Now, I just need to roll three sixes and he’ll be dead…”

Three dice showing sixes

Nothing more need be said.

Let’s just say Ulf wasn’t going to be a problem. However, even with my bowmen firing more like MG42s than peasants with pointy sticks, the majority of the livestock was in enemy hands and I had to go and get it back, which didn’t end too well. Eventually my warband was broken and left the old lady and her livestock to an uncertain fate.

A miniature Saxon warband

You can take our lives but you’ll never take our piggies! Except these ones. You’re welcome to them, you big, hairy, scary foreigners.

As well as all that (including assembling the lovely Saxon hovel from 4Ground and flocking the 2’x2′ board seen in the pictures) I have also finished painting my first few World of Twilight miniatures – Fubarnii light cavalry. I’ve kept things pretty simple, with base colours, a drybrush and then Army Painter strong tone. It gives them a different, subtler tonal feel to a lot of the models I’ve painted before.

Twilight knightsThe big question (well, medium question) I face whenever embarking on a new range of miniatures – what basing materials should I use? I’m a bit of a flockaholic, custom-mixing pretty much all my bases, probably a reaction to the days back on White Dwarf when I was faced with endless armies with Goblin Green bases. Anyway, for my Fubarnii, I have settled on a nice wildsy-looking combination of Citadel ‘Scorched Grass’, with Army Painter Ash Grey and Brown Battleground.

Anaryal basingI’m working on some more 4Ground buildings (getting my technique perfected before tackling the brilliant Norse trader shop I have – http://www.4ground.co.uk/Default.aspx?page=268&pid=727) and I’ve started on some World of Twilight Devanu using inking techniques to give them a different look to the Empire models. Look out for the next update and share what you’ve been up to in the hobby in the comments (links to blogs and FB pages welcome!).

Published in: on March 11, 2015 at 12:10 pm  Comments (2)  

Meeples & Miniatures – Episode 141 – Open Combat Kickstarter

Originally posted on Meeples & Miniatures:

Download Episode 141

Welcome to episode 141 of the Meeples & Miniatures Podcast

ep141
In this show, hosts Neil Shuck & Mike Hobbs chat to Carl Brown and Gavin Thorpe of Second Thunder about their Kickstarter project to produce a print edition of the Open Combat skirmish rules

We hope you enjoy the show

You can find out all about the kickstarter here

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Published in: on March 11, 2015 at 10:45 am  Comments (1)  

Questions, questions, questions…

batman-riddler-theme-339434-1-s-307x512It used to be the case that your favourite author was probably a distant figure, dispensing their pearls of fictional awesomeness from a mysterious ivory tower in the wilderness of Imaginationland. If you really, really liked them you might send them a letter via their publisher, and would probably receive a reply. You might get to talk to them at a signing and you might be able to read an article or interview if they were famous enough, or you followed the industry ‘zines.

These days the interwebs have changed all that. Sure, an author can sometimes get away with being all lofty and unapproachable, but for most of us we need to get our faces out there as much as our words. People want to read, but they also want to interact. At its heart the internet is a tool for discussion, whether that’s about a fictional world, a particular author or even a specific book. It gives authors a global reach that would be hard to achieve any other way.

I started this blog, as many writers to do, to keep in the practice of laying out words on a regular basis when I didn’t have any commissioned work lined up. In the not-too-distant future it will be retired as I unveil a wonderful new website with all the twirly bits. The new site will have a blog too, of course. And hopefully a decent searchable archive at some point when we find the time to put it together… It’s important to me that I have this place where I can share my thoughts, even if it is on a sporadic basis these days.

Goodreads logoAnd now you can directly ask me questions through my Goodreads profile. I always try to reply to direct contacts, even if it takes some time when I’m in the mental and emotional throes of a project, so if you want to know what’s happening with a book, ask about a favourite character, query a plot point or perhaps something else, this is a great way to do it. And while you’re there (or on Amazon, Google, etc), please share a rating or review of your favourite books – not just mine, it really does help the authors you want to support.

I look forward to answering your questions soon.

Published in: on February 24, 2015 at 5:22 pm  Comments (3)  

The Dead Return

The cover of Stille! Untoten!

18:07, 24th March, 1945

“How long’s he been muttering like that?” asked Mayhew from halfway down the basement steps.

The SS officer was sat on a rickety chair amongst broken boxes and torn sacking, speaking quietly, without pause. His gaze was fixed on a nondescript point at the centre of the cracked plaster ceiling. Urbanski knew some German – being the son of Poles had some advantages – but he couldn’t recognise a word the Nazi was saying.

“Just started, sir,” reported Lucky. “Thought I’d better tell you.”

“Shut your hole, kraut.” Mayhew put a hand on his pistol holster and descended a few more steps. “Save your confessions for the Colonel.”

The German stopped for a moment, looked at Mayhew with a sneer and then continued murmuring as he returned his gaze to the same point. The lieutenant undid his holster and took another two steps but the sound of a gunshot from above made everyone jerk with shock.

“What?” Mayhew dashed up the steps, Urbanski close on his heel, Lucky and another paratrooper behind him. “Who the hell is shooting?”

More shots rattled out from across the house.

“It’s a counter-attack, Lieutenant!” came a reply from the remains of the lounge at the front of the house. Ramsey and O’Gara were at the large bay window, their rifles poked through the shattered panes of glass.

“There’s near enough seven thousand Brits and nine thousand boys from home in this neck of the woods, there ain’t no damn counter-attack.”

Moving to the window, Urbanski could see grey shapes moving through the rubble of the buildings. They seemed disorientated as they stumbled over the broken bricks and tiles but they were definitely Germans. Looking to the right he could see more converging from where the machine gun nest had been.

As he looked back across the street, the sergeant saw an enemy soldier staggering from the ruins opposite. Shots rang out from above and the German jerked left and right, feet scraping in the dust and stones.

The man kept walking.

“What the hell?” Urbanski stepped up next to Ramsey and fired a burst from his Thompson. At this range, just twenty yards, he couldn’t miss. The bullets hit the soldier square in the chest, knocking him backwards.

“See, that’s how…” Urbanski’s words trailed off as the German continued shuffling towards the house.

In all the excitement of Christmas, you may have missed an exciting release. Stille! Untoten! is an anthology of adventure, horror and undead. It features a story by me, Rise of the Secret King, from which the above extract was taken.

You can see the full Fringeworks press release here, and you can order the collection directly from Amazon.

It was great fun to write, and I find the challenge of creating a story inspired by a theme is very rewarding – it helps to define the edges of a project from the start. I’ve been working on more original fiction which will be seeing print this year and hopefully after. This  is where self-publishing, digital and small press publishing are at the sharp end. The variety on offer in terms of reading and submissions opportunities is fantastic.

Raus! Untoten! Anthology cover

The first anthology contains stories from the likes of Graham McNeill, Scott M Baker and David Thomas Moore.

It’s certainly a part of the industry as both a writer and reader I’ve been getting more familiar with. My reading time is quite curtailed at the moment, so novellas, anthologies of short stories and graphic novels have featured more heavily in my leisure time. On the professional front, the chance to try out different ideas, worlds and themes is too tempting to pass up.

If anything, I would love to write a lot more short fiction outside of the Black Library, but it’s hard to allocate work time to it when I have advance-paying, commission-earning projects waiting. There are a growing number of outlets in small press and digital, and I would recommend any writer wanting to be published should seek them out, study the guidelines and start submitting stories. Not only is the experience invaluable, of writing but also the submissions and editorial process, but being able to call yourself a published author helps on any covering letter for that ten-part megaseries you have always wanted to write.

The discipline of writing short fiction also improves your writing in the longer form. It forces a writer to make dramatic choices, to keep characterisation and description tight, and make dialogue do a lot of heavy narrative lifting.

Using submissions themes also ensures that you read around different subjects and styles and it’s good to think in terms of multi-genre these days. Having a simple concept that has to be explored in a concise narrative, from an exterior sources, helps develops the creative muscles and habits you will need to come up with stories on a regular basis. Even if you’re a bit gun-shy about submitting, having a few practise stories under your belt based on real guidelines from actual publishers will shape your thinking and process.

And there’s no time like the present. While you’re surfing the web looking for all those submissions opportunities (follow publishers on Twitter, Like them on Facebook, join forums, etc. to get the latest announcements) why not have a go at this writing challenge laid down by Chuck Wendig – I will hopefully find some time and be posting my story soon!

Published in: on January 19, 2015 at 8:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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2015 The Year of Hobby: Update One

As I mentioned before Christmas, I’m launching myself into the toy soldiers and gaming hobby with a bit more gusto than previous years, thanks to some work on Open Combat and also a big Kickstarter delivery. Apologies for amateurish camera work, but I will get some better pics when stuff gets finished.

Sunday evening I assessed my hobby supplies and looked at the projects to hand.

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This was my paints collection last week, most of it dating back not to the previous range of Citadel Colour, but the range before that! They were mostly from a mega-paint set I acquired not long before leaving GW and a good number had dried up. Some are a bit thick, but not beyond redemption – the benefit of water-soluble paints is that you can resurrect old pots pretty easily; most of the painting advice these days is to thin paints a little anyway, regardless of the manufacturer.

So after the cull (performed to the tune of Alison Moyet’s lesser-known hit ‘All Dried Out’) I got out the new additions. These comprised a combination of Army Painter tools and paints for Christmas presents thanks to Warlord Games’ wish-list function, with the addition of a few paints I picked up in Games Workshop Derby, along with some ‘liquid green stuff’ to help smooth out any assembly imperfections.

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Feeling like I had everything ready, I gathered the current works-in-progress.

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1. A selection of classic Undead and Imps as inspiration for some Open Combat warbands and rules.

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2. Warlord Games Red Army, to go with some World War II rules I’ve been working on for the last three or four years… I have British Paras, German Fallschirmjager and American Airborne already, but it wouldn’t feel right without some Soviets.

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3. Playtest for models for an in-progress ‘future sports’ game. Like the WWII rules, I have a bit of a personal opus of a future sports game that’s been bubbling around for several years. These players are ‘converted’ sky surfers from the Mongoose Judge Dredd range. And by converted, I mean they’ve had the weapons cut off and the limbs bent a bit – not the most difficult modelling project ever undertaken. (PS All I need to do next is find a use for twelve sky boards without riders…)

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4.Normans and Saxons – these are Gripping Beast models. I used to use an adapted version of GW’s The Lord of the Rings rules (proxying for Gondorians and Rohirrim respectively) but these days I’m playing Open Combat with them instead.

IMG_0822The Norman knights, led by Duke William. The keen-eyed will see that their steeds aren’t those that come from Gripping Beast, andperhaps not strictly true to the Norman style, but they are plastic and therefore lighter. A no-prize for anyone that comes up with the correct identity.

I’ll be writing a couple of articles about the warbands, so these are my first priority. They just need a little bit of attention to make them stand out in photography a bit more.

5. And there’s this box of Twilight: Chronicles of Anyaral miniatures to get started on. More of them in a later post, plus updates on the Twilight forum hopefully.

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So I made a start on the knights. I need a brighter silver to finish off the mail and make it stand out, but a couple of ink glazes and some highlights have certainly made a difference.

IMG_0827 IMG_0828I’ll be giving the infantry a similar treatment, and then I’ll make a start on the first forces for Twilight. A good start, and I shall keep you updated. And just for some extra inspiration, I broke out the reading material while the inks were drying.

norman books

What’s your hobby vow this year?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on January 13, 2015 at 4:47 pm  Comments (3)  
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Raptor Competition Winner and Early Plans for 2015

Welcome to the hallowed halls of 2015. Just before Christmas I set a challenge:

My latest audio drama Holder of the Keys had a line removed during editing. The line was “We checked it twice.” I want you to tell me where in the audio the line was originally.

IMG_0361The real trick was remembering that this was an Advent story, and despite the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium I tried to sneak in a bit of Christmas cheer. Those that work in a retail environment in particular may have heard this particular refrain many times over the seasonal period:

He’s making a list, Checking it twice; Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.

So Holder of the Keys in my original draft included the following:

Your cowardice needs no confirmation. We have a list of those that held true and those that fell. We checked it twice.

IMG_0360Congratulations to Vladyslav Obniavko from Odessa in Ukraine for getting the answer right and being first out of the virtual hat. A signed copy of Raptor will be heading his way as soon as I get my samples. Other News RavenwingI have just delivered the new draft of The Unforgiven to the editors at Black Library, so that is on track for release this summer. In other Dark Angels news I am starting to plan my next Horus Heresy novel, which will turn attention from the Lion’s exploits on the Eastern Fringe back to Caliban. as well as catching up on the ongoing fun with Corswain and Calas Typhon of the Death Guard. Early days yet, but concluding the Legacy of Caliban for Warhammer 40,000 has put me in the ideal spot for some Heresy-era politics and battles! Master of Sanctity novel coverWith the conclusion of the Dark Angels I’m left to pitch some ideas for my next 40K series to the editors. I was intending to step away from the Space Marines for a bit of a non-superhuman-killing-machine breather, but after introducing some Consecrators in a cameo at the end of The Unforgiven, I might develop some of those characters a little. Either that, or I might return to the Imperial Guard/ Astra Militarum. I haven’t written for the poor grunts since the days of the Last Chancers and a lot has happened over those years. It’ll be nice to get back with one of the old regiments perhaps. Bear in mind that I have some more Eldar novels on the way – no official release date yet but I can give you a small visual clue as to the subject of the first one… There will also be an accompanying audio drama. 99800104025_AsurmenNEW_01 So, what do you folks think I should write next?

Published in: on January 6, 2015 at 3:45 pm  Comments (5)  

Christmas Competition

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Season’s Greetings one and all! I’ve finished off 2014 with some eldar rewrites, a short-notice Horus Heresy story about some Word Bearers and ready for rewrites to The Unforgiven in the New Year.
To celebrate the occasion I am offering a signed copy of my Raptor audio when it is released on CD next year. All you have to do to win is answer the following question.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/631/3187331/files/2014/12/img_0361.jpg
My latest audio drama Holder of the Keys had a line removed during editing. The line was “We checked it twice.” I want you to tell me where in the audio the line was originally – you’ll have to listen carefully but I promise it isn’t just guesswork.
To enter, email your answer to mechanicalhamster (at) gmail (dot) com – I’ll pick a winner at random in the New Year.
There’ll be a typical retrospective/ looking-forward blog post in Jan, but until then I bid you a fun Christmas holiday, a portentous New Year, and a prosperous 2015.

Published in: on December 24, 2014 at 4:15 pm  Comments (1)  

Halflings and Fubarnii and Delgon

I must start with a confession.

For the past few years my toy soldiering has dwindled and dwindled. Lack of time, falling out of the loop, not quite finding the miniatures and games that really caught my imagination, all of these things took their toll on my hobby muscles. It’s a common story. Real-life commitments often take over for a period. However, like many reformed hobbyists I speak to, I have never considered myself ‘out’ of gaming. It may have been some time since I picked up a brush in anger, or pushed a miniature across a tabletop, but I still have that ‘gamer gene’. Just as I go through troughs in my reading of sci-fi and fantasy, I still consider myself a genre reader. It never really goes away.

The Open combat rulebook

The Open Combat rules

Helping my friend Carl at Second Thunder develop the rules for Open Combat relit my fire a while back – the fact that you can play with a handful of whatever miniatures you like is a real blessing for those of us who know that it’ll be a long, long time before we get anything like a massed battle army painted. Buying some cool toy soldiers at conventions, starting to paint again, the wheels started to turn with much creaking and screeching and slowly the gears in the hobby part of my brain have started moving again. I will be blogging about my Open Combat exploits and writing some extra stuff for Second Thunder in 2015.

Hau'rax miniature

Available as a large-scale painting model and a smaller gaming piece.

Slightly more immediate but tangential, Voodooworx miniatures have released their first model – this charming Halfling warlord called Hau’rax. Sculpted by Lucas Pina Pinechet from original concepts by Wayne England, Hau’rax is a nice change from the normal Halflings we see. In celebration of this first foray into the world of Tir-Dagrau, I’ve written a short biography of Hau’rax which you’ll be able to read in the Voodooworx newsletter, and there’s a full 5,000 word short story coming soon too. It’s been great exploring this new mythical realm with Will from Voodooworx, inspired by a mix of celtic myth and modern fantasy, and wonderfully encapsulated in some great concepts by Wayne. I’m looking forward to writing more for this exciting range.

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A box of swag to be proud of!

Last but not least, a Kickstarter I backed last year has now turned up on my doorstep. I’m not that keen on backing miniatures on Kickstarter, I have to say. A 3D computer render is one thing, but it has no bearing on the finished production quality. While most mini Kickstarters have turned out fine, there have been a few that have delivered less-than-expected quality once production has kicked in. However, World of Twilight has been going for a few years already and has proven itself both in terms of delivery and quality. It first came to my attention whilst researching an article on ‘out there’ fantasy ranges for a blog post on The Shell Case. The KS started soon after and I had to put my money where my mouth is.

image2I’m looking forward to assembling my various warbands (I had to get something from each faction, obviously…).

image3The book is also beautifully laid out, with fine illustrations and painted miniatures that really capture the flavour of this lovely fantasy world. An obvious labour of love.

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I need to update my paints and other hobby supplies (good timing for Christmas) and I’m going to start on these lovely chaps in the New Year.

Anyway, that an some Undead for Open Combat should keep me busy for a few months (plus primping some Normans and Saxons and finishing some WWII Red Army guys for some rules Ive been tinkering with…). I’ll be posting updates here and, hopefully, on the World of Twilight Forum, and also you can keep track of what I’m up to over at the Second Thunder forum too,

So, what’s inspired you in the miniatures hobby lately?

Published in: on December 15, 2014 at 1:08 pm  Comments (4)  

An Old Friend Returns

Horus Heresy Merir Astelan

Say hello to Astelan.

This image appeared in the Horus Heresy CCG from Sabertooth Games (where he gained the first name Merir), based on the character I first introduced in Angels of Darkness more than ten years ago. Astelan has been a provocative and controversial figure since his inception, inciting both argument and inspiration amongst Dark Angels and 40K fans and stirring plenty of comment from other writers too.

Angels of Darkness novel second printing cover

Astelan’s testimony during his interrogation in Angels of Darkness has been a source of much debate, with some fans cursing him as an outright liar, others wondering if there is some truth behind the Fallen’s falsehoods. Whenever Lion El’Jonson and his gene-sons are involved, you can be sure that no matter how black and white a situation seems at first, there are shades of grey beneath.

The Tales of Heresy anthology coverI returned to him ten thousand years earlier thanks to the arrival of the Horus Heresy series, in the short story entitle Call of the Lion, collected in the Tales of Heresy anthology. In this episode Astelan tangles with another Dark Angels Chapter Master over the compliance of a world, witnessing first-hand the changes the Lion has wrought on the First Legion.

Master of Sanctity novel coverIt was too tempting to resist bringing Astelan back in my Legacy of Caliban series, so Astelan reappears in the 41st millennium timeline in book two – Master of Sanctity. Those of you that have finished reading the novel may or may not be left wondering if he will return in book three – The Unforgiven. You’ll have to wait and see!

Mast of the First audio drama coverAnd now we warp back to the days of the Horus Heresy, and can hear Astelan’s unfolding plans by virtue of the audio drama Master of the First. Astelan has always claimed to be a dedicated son of the Emperor, but trapped on Caliban amongst the resurgent Ranks of the Order under the command of Luther, where do his loyalties really lie?

Published in: on October 27, 2014 at 11:15 am  Comments (6)  

The Norman(ish) Conquest

I was able to take a day off writing book three of my Dark Angels trilogy (The Unforgiven) to squeeze in a couple of games of Open Combat with Second Thunder-incarnate Carl Brown.

I tried out an all-cavalry force of Norman knights against a warband of Saxons from my collection. Usually I go for a slightly larger warband, but the knights deserved to be tough and mobile, so the 150 Renown we had agreed on for the game didn’t go far (Renown is the points you spend creating your warriors).

An open combat game starts

The kitchen table is plenty of room for a game – I happen to have some bigger boards.

Without going into all the details, it was one win apiece. I didn’t quite use the knights as well as I could first game, and ended up getting slightly mobbed. In the second game I kept more compact and was able to get ahead and keep the momentum.

Carl gets out a tape measure

Carl checks line-of-sight for his archers. Most missile weapons have no maximum range.

The core rules contain some quick and easy cavalry rules to make them a little harder hitting but unruly. Essentially, you have to test for each cavalry model when activating them and theres a 1-in-6 chance of losing the initiative (which means your turn has ended!). I used a couple of leader re-rolls to keep things going.

Norman knights charge into Saxon archers.

The left flanks gets stuck in.

There are lots of areas where the rules will be expanded, and cavalry is on the list – getting off and on, the particular  pros and cons of mounted combat and so forth.

Carl has rolled a six.

A Solid Hit! That means a loss of FORtitude and a push back against William. Push backs are a really important part of the tactics in Open Combat.

Somewhat bravely it turned out, in the first game my leader, William the Conqueror himself, went straight for Carl’s leader. This proved to be a bit rash as spearmen rushed  to the Saxon chieftain’s aid and my follow-up knights were held up by a loss of initiative…

After both games Carl and I had a great chat about where the game is going next. There’re so many articles and micro-expansions on the list that it’ll take some time for things to take shape.  We chatted about magic, new scenarios, campaign systems. sample warbands, duellist abilities, scenario interpretation, and all kinds of cool stuff.

Be sure to have some games and let us know what you would like to see.

Saxon infanty surround the Norman knight

The counter-attack from the Saxons proves the doom of William. How different history would have been!

Models are from my collection, by Gripping Beast.

Published in: on October 22, 2014 at 7:10 am  Comments (4)  
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