Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Game Review: Akrotiri

Hi folks,

Akrotiri is a fantastic little game for two players that combines some of the best game mechanics from my favourite games.

My wife and I came across Akrotiri quite randomly, when we were trolling through a boardgame website looking for something new. It looked to have a lot of elements from Carcassonne with the added bonus of being a dedicated two player game. We had found with two player Carcassonne that you could happily play your own game without having much interference from the other player. You stay on your side of the board and they stay on their's. If you are feeling particularly feisty you can get in the other players space. Akrotiri’s board is designed that you have to get in the other players grill, whether you intend to or not. Only the best Minoan will rule the Aegean!

Modern excavations of the Akrotiri ruins

Akrotiri is primarily a tile placing game, with each tile depicting part of an island (or islands), a terrain icon and shipping routes. As they are placed, tiles gain two resource blocks which can be gathered and sold at a price that changes depending on the supply in the market. Players also receive map and goal cards at the start and during the game. These are special objectives that relate to the excavation of temples or provide points depending on the arrangement of the tiles. More on that later though.

Strategy: when you place a new tile choose which resources you place strategically to increase the profit of your next trade. This works particularly well if you can block the other player’s access to the newly placed resource blocks, through isolated shipping routes.

The start of the game, showing the island of Thera (Santorini) in the center of the board. This is where resource trading and map buying occurs.

Players place the tiles in arrangements that benefit them, much like you would do in Carcassonne, to create islands that are surrounded by advantageous terrain icons, gain access to resources and create shipping routes. They can then move their ships along the established shipping routes to gather and trade resources with the main island, Thera.

Resources change value based on their supply to the markets; a touch of Power Grid perhaps?

The money that they earn can then be used to fund archaeological digs, using maps that each player either starts with, or purchases during the course of the game.

Money, money, money...

When you excavate a temple on an island, you must prove that it is there by matching the map you have with terrain icons that surround the island you have chosen. The maps come in three different difficulties, which effects their cost, number of terrain icons required as proof and victory points value. This part of the game feels a lot like Ticket To Ride, as you create routes to get where you need to go and try to collect the right combinations of landmarks to complete your maps. As you excavate temples the number of actions you are allowed to take increases. You also gain access to more goal cards.

Strategy: you can spend an action to choose the nature of the next terrain icon you place (“Consulting the Oracle”). The game is balanced enough that you don’t feel that this is always the best use of an action, but by consulting the Oracle you virtually ensure that you can fulfill your map requirements more quickly.  Just do it before the other player takes the island that you want...

I just excavated the black temple at the top using the map shown. Can you pick the landmarks I used to prove it was there? If you can, you will have a good idea of how the game works.

Once a player has excavated six temples the game ends within one player turn (depending on who went first). The points for excavated temples, goal cards and money remaining are calculated and the winner determined.

Strategy: Try to set the pace when excavating temples by excavating some easy temples. If you fall behind, your opponent has more actions than you, which just compounds the problem. If left too long, they can cut you out of the game completely!

I need to excavate two more temples to end the game, using one medium and one easy difficulty map. Unfortunately, all of the islands I want already have white temples on them...

Good things about the game:  Akrotiri is aesthetically pleasing and the playing pieces feel weighty and well made. Gameplay is smooth and having several sources of victory points to keep on top of ensures you don’t know who has won until the end.

The bad things about the game: Game-wise, nothing is bad. Finding a copy isn’t easy, though. We found stock online for about $50 AUD, which was going to be shipped from a shop in Japan. Thankfully our good mate KuriboGoomba was heading to Japan and sourced a copy for us.

The game takes about 45 minutes to play, though we have stretched it out to two hours with the aid of chocolate and tea. Of the four games we have played, three of the games have been right down to the wire (one or two points making the difference). In the last game wifey trounced me ;-)

The end game from across the table. Wifey has excavated all six of her temples, hauling in 18 points from excavations alone. Add to that points for left over money and her goal cards (to the right) and she ended up on 32 points.

I hope you get a chance to play Akrotiri! It really is a great little game, with simple rules but intricate strategy once you get the hang of it.

See you across the table,


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Ravenwing: Veteran Sergeant TO-DONE!

Hi folks,

One down, four to go! This guy took a little longer than I was expecting due to the conversion work on the thunder hammer and combi-weapon, as well as the added detail on the robes and face. As usual, I made the job even longer by adding a little novelty objective marker, because who doesn't want to play polo with a Black Legion helmet and a thunder hammer.

The thunder hammer was converted from a veteran Dark Angels power maul, with a simple head swap. Some poor terminator is going to have to do without. I thought about painting a glow effect on the thunder hammer but went with the simple option.

As with the other bikes, the feathers on the back are a blend from Caliban Green to Blood Red (Evil Sunz Scarlet for the young folk). I have refrained from putting any of the feathery bling on the front of my Ravenwing bikes so far, as I am saving that to make the Black Knights look even more unique.

Like the other bikers, the sergeant's bike has a couple of low calibre bullet holes in it... nothing that would worry a Space Marine, I'm sure ;-)

After converting the thunder hammer I couldn't stop thinking about how much it looked like a polo mallet (or whatever they call it). To give the sergeant something to hit I pilfered a Chaos Marine helmet from the Dark Vengeance kit. The base is an old one from Scibor miniatures with a nice textured ruins finish. I like the way the design in the ruins channeled towards the lower part of the base, so I ran some Tamiya Clear Red down: the only good Black Legionnaire is a dead Legionnaire.

The next step with this squad will be to batch paint the four remaining bikes, as the marines themselves are already finished. Two of them will be equipped with old school grav guns, which I am excruciating over at the moment. I have a colour in mind for every kind of weapon glow except grav weapons! Maybe it's time to give purple a try...

See you across the table,


Sunday, 22 May 2016

A Knight's Tale: Paint Scheming

Hi folks,

A few weeks ago, Squareoky Stewart from the 40K Google+ community contacted me, with some suggestions about an Imperial Knight house that would go well with my Iron Snakes. That House was Feardraken. There isn't much of an official background for House Feardraken, which suits my purposes just fine. The small amount that was written about them, suggested that they come from an ocean world and have previously been tasked with fighting sea monsters. If you know anything about the Iron Snakes, this mirrors their background pretty closely.

A Knight Errant of House Feardraken

The colour scheme has a lot of components that work well with the Iron Snakes; particularly the contrast between warm/cold metallics and white/blue. I will be painting verdigris effects on the warm metallics and shifting/swapping out the white components a bit, as I am not a big fan of that big chunk of white above the head. With these little changes I should be able to pass this Knight off as a Freeblade previously from House Feardraken, who is now crusading around the Reef Stars with the Iron Snakes. That sky blue colour is also very Greek!

Greece: 50 Shades of Blue

 I had a look for some other examples of the scheme and came across some work by JustinSoli on DeviantArt. His Knights are very well painted with some great weathering effects; go check them out!

A Knight Warden of House Feardraken, by Justin Soli

As a little test, I decided to paint my Knights head. I have chosen the most Greek looking helmet in the collection:

Next I taped it up and gave it a two-part undercoat of black and white: black for the metallic bottom part and white for the Lothern Blue on top:

Here it is with my modified Feardraken scheme:

Not bad for a first go! Now I just have to translate that onto the larger pieces and incorporate some white armour with dark blue free-hand work. Easy!...

I am still waiting on some parts to finish the Knight off, which have a fair distance to travel. I also have to get hold of some transfers to see if I can reduce the amount of free-hand I have to do. In the meantime, I'm going to start the leg construction, the base design (one of my favourite parts of the hobby!) and explore some more background. Squareoky Stewart has already spent a fair chunk of his own time fleshing out the background of House Feardraken, which he has been kindly supplying to me. I'm hoping to add even more in collaboration, as well as piece together some short stories that will bring it all to life.

See you across the table,


Monday, 16 May 2016

Undertaking to Pylos: Part 1

“You are bathing in my killzone.” The statement broke the solemnity of the moment, but the giant with the deaths-head did not look away from the unfolding ceremony. “We do not bathe. It is the Rite of the Giving of Water.” The other giants were arranged in a semi-circle that opened out towards the foaming breakers, clad in the gunmetal livery of their Chapter. They each cradled a crested helm in their left arm and a double-looped serpent symbol coiled proudly on the pauldron above. They began drumming a dull, thumping, beat on their thigh armour, as the Apothecary amongst them unstoppered the lid of a copper flask. “What is that?”.

Thanatos did not answer immediately. Water dribbled from the flask into the sea and the brothers of squad Lakodeme began to sing the dirge of Bellerophon. Aesclepion returned the flask to a leather loop on his thigh armour and joined the semi-circle, adding his voice to the song. “Where were you raised, boy?” The young knight set his helmet down on the black gravel at his feet, where it continued to chatter with increasingly anxious vox transmissions. “Aecor. It is an ocean world.” He extracted his own flask from a niche in the carapace armour at his hip and sipped, as he gazed out over the waters. “We are no strangers to sea monsters.”

The skull-face turned and, for the first time, Telemachus felt he had won the giant’s attention. It was not a comfortable sensation. “These waters are now consecrated with the sacred waters of Ithaka. Our fates intermingle. We will defend these shores as if they were our own, even unto death.” Telemachus considered this, taking a longer sip from his flask. “That may happen sooner than the Emperor wills, if you do not take your position in the defensive line. Any time now this beach is going to be crawling with xenos.” One by one the marines donned their helms and unclamped the combi-weapons maglocked to their chests. Blocky magazines of ammunition where slotted into hungry receivers and plasma coils were charged. “You may hide behind The Wall if it makes you feel safer, Aecorian.”

Either the knight missed the tone of dismissal in his voice, or he chose to ignore it. Thanatos was beginning to warm to the boy, it took courage to lecture a Brother of the Snake on warcraft, however misguided that may be. “There is only one place I feel safe, and it is not behind The Wall,” said the knight, gesturing towards the cockpit of his war engine. It was an impressive machine, bristling with ordinance and the promise of violence. “We have a saying in Ithaka; hives are not best defended by ceramite and rockcrete, but by the valour of their inhabitants.” Again, the knight considered this, eyebrows furrowed. At his feet, the chattering of his helmet became more insistent. “Do you not have walls on Ithaka?”.

The giant laughed as he hefted a spear from the gravel by his side. He pointed it towards the line of Iron Snakes, now forming at the cyclopean Sea Gate of Pylos. “These are the walls of Ithaka.” He strode up the black dune without turning back. Telemachus looked back out to sea and frowned; there was a disturbance on the horizon. The voices emanating from his discarded helmet were apoplectic, so he switched off his vox unit. Telemachus walked out into the foam and upended the remaining liquid from his flask, as the opening barrage ripped from armoured emplacements on The Wall.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

A Knight's Tale: The Unboxing!

Hi folks,

The posts seem to be racking up rather quickly at the moment, which is unusual for me. I also wouldn't usually post an "unboxing" article, as most of the boxes I open have been sitting on the shelf for years before I get to them! This one is special though, so I thought I would share.

Now, I know that Imperial Knights have been out for a while and every man and his dog seems to have one (...or five). I, on the other hand, have been living under a rock and have never seen one up close. So, you will excuse me if I go SQUEEE! just a little about things you are already fully aware of. It was also hinted that there may be something else thrown in the box... let's take a look:

1) 40Kaddict Google AdSense Winner Award

This is getting framed and hung straight up in the man-cave :-) Pictographic evidence of safe delivery of the Knight has been sent as charged. The Emperor protects.

2) Sprues, Glorious Sprues

Honestly, how much tiny detail can you fit on such a large miniature?!  The heads all look very cool, especially the new Warden and Crusader variants, but only one looks like it would fit in with my Iron Snakes. The weapons look terrific, especially that whopping great chainsword. I can see that aesthetic considerations are going to play a large part in how I build this thing, more so than rules. When I presented my 2015/16 To-Do list I wondered which project was going to rail-road me this year and take up all of my time; I think I found it.

3) Instructions

With so many finely detailed parts and moving components, the instructions are vital. Having said that, I already know that some of these are going to be ignored...

4) Proof of Addiction Cards

The next time someone asks "do you play 40K too" at my FLGS, I am whipping one of these out of my wallet. Time to share the love :o)

5) Wound Counters

Not that I'm planning to take any wounds... Seriously though, I don't have a printer at home, so these are brilliant. 

6) A Gretchin in a Pear Tree

Well, Christmas last year was stolen by my dog's eye injury. this more than makes up for it.

Next post I will be taking a very close look at the paint scheme I will be trying and I may even have a little test run of some colours.

See you across the table,


Thursday, 12 May 2016

A Knight's Tale: Perseus Intrepidus

Hi folks,

Today I received news that the Imperial Knight has arrived! I will be picking it up tomorrow and taking a selfie as confirmation of delivery, but in the meantime, I have been busy planning.

I decided pretty quickly that this Knight will be a part of my Iron Snakes force. I enjoy the distinct paint scheme that I have developed for them, which includes weathering and corrosion, as well as contrast between light and dark/metallic and chromatic. I am interested to see how I can extend all of this to something larger. Obviously, Imperial Knights aren't Space Marines and I want this to be clear in what ever I do with the Knight. I don't just want it to be an exact copy of the Iron Snakes scheme; but there should be some visual cues that harken back to them.  For people new to the blog, here's a picture of my Contemptor Dreadnought, to give you an idea of the kind of look I'll be aiming for (at least in parts).

Ancient Nestor

All of my Iron Snakes characters have been inspired by Homeric characters. When I thought about the impact of an Imperial Knight wading into combat next to a squad of Space Marines, I knew I would have to go beyond ideas gleaned from the Odyssey and the Iliad. I had to go beyond Ajax and Achilles, or even Odysseus (my Master of the Forge is called "Odyssean"). So I started re-reading this old chestnut:


Perseus is celebrated as a slayer of monsters in Greek mythology. The translation I have of his legend, tells of how he protected his mother from a dishonourable suitor, who eventually feigned defeat. Relieved that the man had chosen another women to pursue, Perseus was asked to provide a horse to act as a gift to impress the suitors new conquest. With no horse to give, Perseus said “..I will even bring you the head of the Medusa if that is your desire.” Apparently this was a common saying at the time, similar to “I would give you the moon and the stars.” The suitor seized the opportunity, however, and said “Great! Just what I wanted.” 

To aid him in his quest, Perseus received a sack for carrying Medusa's head safely. Zeus gave him a sword, which had the ability to cut through anything, as well as Hades' helm of darkness, which rendered Perseus invisible. Hermes lent Perseus winged sandals that allowed him to fly, whilst Athena gave him a polished shield. He used this wargear to cut off the Medusa's head, then returned to the suitor and turned him to stone for being such a jerk.

Obviously, there are a lot of ideas there for me to plunder. At the moment I am considering which aspects of Perseus’ story I can incorporate into the construction of the Knight, which parts will help me decide on the weapon load-out and which parts can be depicted on the armour as free-hand art or decals. 

I haven't sketched something for... something like... 15 years. I need more practice!

Of course, quick sketches on a page are a long way from the reality of painting images onto curved surfaces. The Medusa head on the shield, which will be this Freeblade's personal emblem, will be particularly hard. But that's tomorrow Marc's problem ;-)

See you across the table,


Sunday, 8 May 2016

A Knight's Tale: Google AdSense Competition

Hi folks,

I have always promised myself that, one day, I would get myself an Imperial Knight. I have very fond memories of using them in Epic 40K, in particular a Knight Castellan that punched way above its weight. I came very close to buying one for myself at Christmas, to the extent that I started throwing some ideas around on the blog.

Unfortunately, my dog Gypsy suffered an eye injury that required some major surgery. I spent my Imperial Knight fund on my kid's Christmas presents and a few months worth of pay on an artificial eye lens for my dog. She's upside-down next to me as I type this, snoring her head off; if her eyes were open she could see perfectly out of them thanks to the surgery.

Gypsy, offering her unconditional support as always...

As so often happens in this marvelous hobby, life gets in the way.

When Dave Weston over at Confessions of a 40K Addict organised his Google AdSense Competition, I was keen to give it a go as I love terrain projects. I was also fairly familiar with the templates he had on offer, but had never had an excuse to work on one: sooo many other projects! I also knew that I would be competing with a bunch of great people I have been blogging with (you know who you are...). I don't get to do that very often because, well, Australia is on the other side of the planet. Lastly, the first prize was an Imperial Knight!

My entry was a Dawn of War Thermoplasma Generator, which was great fun to build and gave me my first experience with LED's. Much to my surprise and joy, I managed to win the competition. A huge thanks goes out to Dave for running the competition, all of the entrants and all of the people who voted.

Sooo, according to the tracking information that Dave kindly supplied me with, there is an Imperial Knight on a plane heading towards me right now:

Wooo hooo!

That means it is time to get planning. Considering the amount of effort everyone put into the competition, I am feeling quite a bit of responsibility to do something special with this Knight. I'll be posting any progress under the title "A Knight's Tale", so keep an eye out for it.

See you across the table,


Thursday, 5 May 2016

Ravenwing Sergeant Progress

Hi folks,

The past couple of nights I have been working on my Ravenwing Sergeant. The model has a lot more detail and conversion work compared to the remaining four bikers, so he is taking a bit longer than I thought he would. So far I have painted the metallics, headlight, robes and feathers, though I think perhaps that the feathers need one more highlight.

I have only added carbon scoring to one side of the exhaust so far, as each glaze was taking a while to dry. I am very happy with the brown robes, having experimented on the Van Diemen's World Commissar I finished not long ago. This colour scheme is the reverse of my other Dark Angels Sergeants, which I think ties the two elements of the army together in a neat way.

I painted the OSL from the headlight to match the other bikes, though I still have to touch up the red light on the metallic parts; the reflection size there does not match what is on the black armour yet.

Next up I'll finish off the exhaust, tighten up the OSL and add some highlights to the black armour. That will be followed by the arms, which will include a thunder hammer, a base and a novelty objective marker; Chaos space marine helmet polo anyone?

See you across the table,