Tuesday, 25 April 2017

LuchaScores: Outrageous

Things I like: Manga. Wargames. Cyberpunk. Lucha Libre.

Things I have read recently: Infinity: Outrage – Kenny Ruiz, Victor Santos

No luchadores (alas!), but a stonking good sci-fi military Manga set in the universe of Infinity. Infinity is a sci-fi wargame setting from Corvus Belli that incorporates a heavy dose of both Cyberpunk and Manga influences – Ghost in the Shell meets Apocalypse Now meets a touch of Cowboy Bebop meets the Takeshi Kovacs series from Richard K. Morgan – and avoids playing too heavily into the generic tropes. Yes, we have a classic Americans-in-Spaaaace faction, but they're a somewhat old-fashioned force thanks to having colonized an isolated planet along with Cossack, French and Scottish settlers, making for a strange multi-cultural force... with werewolves. By contrast, the major high-tech power in the galaxy is a nation with heavy Oceanic, Brazilian, Indian, and Scandinavian influences... and a number of religious orders. It's balls-to-the-wall crazy, and massively fun.

However.

I really don't care for the game set in this universe. It's not that I don't recognize its quality – it's massively popular for a reason – I just can't get on board with it. So, when I saw that Infinity was going to put out a Manga, I was very pleased, and promptly pre-ordered it. The book turned up today, along with a limited edition mini (also very nice), and was rapidly devoured.

Art-wise, it's gorgeous. Classic Manga lines, but with a slightly European comic influence in presentation. Action sequences are clear yet dramatic – there were a couple of instances where I had to double-check that I'd identified the correct character amongst all the gunfire and chaos, but these were few and far between.

My immediate concern with tie-in fiction is that it can all-too-easily descend into a game of getting in as many references as possible, in order to satisfy as many existing fans as possible, and we did have the early "getting the team together" scene, which featured iconic troop types from a number of the game's usually rival factions. Despite this, it doesn't play out in that way at all, and while the various characters each get some screen time and a chance to show off their specialties, there's a deeper story at work behind the slam-bang action sequences.

It's a relatively short read, so the plot cracks along at a decent pace, but doesn't feel rushed except in a couple of places (which, in fairness, are not massive faults, but which could have been a bit more developed to the benefit of the plot). I do wish it was a bit longer, though. The ending, while satisfying enough, is a little predictable, and feels like the start of a series – it's got quite a 'prologue' feel to it. If a series does come from this, I will not be complaining!

4 Luchas

Monday, 24 April 2017

Scuttle, Scuttle

So, hot on the heels of Dirty Frank come his minions in the form of the first ten (of twenty) Wretches. These guys are simply the Hobbit goblins with a brown-ish paint-job. No conversions, save to remove a whip from one of them and to remove the slotta tabs.


I'm not a huge fan of the models, to be honest – the aesthetic is spot-on for what I'm after, but the sculpts themselves, being single-piece, leave a little to be desired. There are certain vague elements, especially around the ears, hair, and shoulders where distinction is rather vague, to say the least. Still, they paint up quickly enough, and are meant to be pretty grimy and grotty, so they'll do.

The little guy (far right in the above pic, and left below) is tiny – had I not got a couple of additional models on the Goblin King sprue to round out the mob to a full twenty, I'd have cherry-picked my favourites, and run with just ten.


As of press time, the Choleric Order of the Yellow Bile comprises:


To come, 10 more Wretches, a couple of cult leaders, and the faithful cult members. After that, I think a little break... if only to restock on brown paints!


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Dirty Frank

I always like to have a big model as a centrepiece in my warbands, if at all possible, and for the growing Choleric Order of the Yellow Bile, my recent Plaguetouched just weren't cutting it in the size stakes, so I went looking for a big, pestilential model...

The existing Nurgle options from GW aren't my cup of tea, not to mention being more than a little pricey! They were also a little too big and over-the-top – I needed a troll or ogre, rather than an immense demon. I discounted all the not-Nurgle options from various companies for similar reasons.

Having decided to include some Hobbit Goblintown goblins in the warband, I took another look at the Goblin King model. Turns out, what made me hate him in the movie (alongside oh-so-many other issues) was what made it work for me in this context – he's big, deformed, and liberally covered in pustules without being too excessive (I wanted something a little less plague-ridden to act as a halfway house between the demonic troops and the forthcoming human cultists).

First thing to go was the excessively pointy crown – I don't see this guy as a leader as much as a tank (more along the lines of the cave troll in the Moria sequence in Fellowship of the Ring, before they started throwing trolls at everything...). This has left him with a rather odd circlet, but... meh. I'll cobble together some rationale at some point or another...

The real work, such as it was, lay in clipping away the big old staff/mace the model was originally holding. This necessitated a minor resculpt on his hand, to add in a couple of knuckles that were previously covered.

Painting, as with all the recent Nurgle stuff, was swift and simple – flesh, green/purple wash, drybrush with more flesh, paint loincloth, pick out pustules and warts, wash the lot. He's come out much darker than I expected, not that I dislike it, but it's definitely not what I originally had in my head. It does set it apart from the usual paintjobs I see on the model, which lean much more towards the pale. Still, minor niggles aside, I think he fits in well with the gang so far:


The four-day Easter break was productive – I got this guy finished, and ten of his goblin minions (to be reskinned as ghoulish troglodytes) painted. More on those when the basing is done and dusted.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Plaguetouched

I was really pleased with how the Plaguebearers came out recently, and set my mind to painting some more stuff in the same vein.

Enter, stage left, one box of Putrid Blightkings. I've had my eye on these for a while, but never really had cause to pull the trigger on getting them (a very un-wargamer attitude, I know – I once came back from Salute having spent just £2.50...). Still, I was on a roll, and I found a box dirt cheap on Ebay...

I also picked up the plastic Lord of Plagues, with a view to adding him in as a 6th model for a Dragon Rampant unit. That plan didn't come to pass: having built all 6 models, I dropped one (fortunately, my least favourite), and stood on it... its sword ended up in my foot, its arm broke off, and I cursed and threw it in the bin. Oh well, it's by no means my worst modelling accident. Five it is – at least this will save me having to paint up two more Plaguebearers...


Construction was straightforward, with the only real alterations coming in the form of a simplification of their armour – helmets were sheared down to plain metal masks, removing the horns and plumes, and the shoulderpads were chosen for simplicity, some having spines removed and replaced with drilled-in rust holes. I also chopped down a weapon or two, limited most of them to a single weapon, and carved a Nugling out of a stomach cavity. I'm not a huge fan of the over-the-top look, and much prefer the pin-headed, brutal anonymity of these guys.


Painting-wise, I followed a similar approach to these guys as I did for the Plagubearers, starting with a brown basecoat, which is now my preferred approach – the clarity compared to black is great, and it's much more forgiving in the nooks and crannies. Fleshtone were mixed – I threw in some Army Painter Barbarian Flesh and Necrotic Flesh (the latter was used for the Plaguebearers) and added a touch of ochre for a couple of the models. Everything then got a really sloppy wash of green and purple to add a varied and unhealthy hue to different body parts. Finally, I gave a few areas a little wash of watered-down Barbarian Flesh to bring the complexion back up to 'human' in parts. I think it gives them a really quite disconcerting part-human, part-demon appearance.



Slap on some plate metal, and everything else was a doddle – dark yellow for the cult robes, which will be continued on the cannon fodder (it also picks up on the larger boils on the Plaguebearers, tying – I hope – these two units together), boils and pustules picked out in cream, white and bright yellow, open wounds in bright red, and the weird spherical blisters in a dark pink. Wash everything top to tail and job's a good'un.


With a couple of exceptions (e.g. a tentacle mistakenly painted as a ragged length of loincloth, a skintone a little too close to the yellow of the robes), I'm really happy with these models. They represent a noticeable (for me, anyway) evolution in my painting, and were painted with a confidence that I don't normally have when it comes to painting. There's a long way to go before painting takes the place of kitbashing in my affections, but...

The Plaguetouched, berserkers of the Choleric Order of the Yellow Bile.

Next up for the Choleric Order of the Yellow Bile (in no particular order): the faithful (Frostgrave Cultists) and the wretched (Hobbit Goblins).

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

LuchaScores: Recent Reading

I've really been reading a lot recently. I mean, more than usual. I'm on a Fantasy kick at present (which is true for my gaming as much as my reading – I suspect an upcoming RPG campaign I'm running is the source of much of it).

So, just a few thoughts on what's been filling my fiction hole recently:

The Tiger and the Wolf (Echoes of the Fall 1) – Adrian Tchaikovsky

Now this is just cracking. A tribal saga set in the frozen north of a world that is dominated by clans that follow animal totems and a capable of 'Stepping' in and out of animal forms at will. The Wolves are tough warriors, whose priests are the few with knowledge of ironworking; the Horse are traders, whose influence rests upon their neutrality and their trading network; to the South, the plains tribes of the Lion and the Hyena (bonus points for any book that includes Hyena shapeshifters), the Serpent and the Crocodile. Oh, and there are 'Champions' who are able to take on the form of an ancient ancestor of their totem animal – the Champion of Crocodile, for example, can also Step into the form of what is implied to be some form of raptor (clever girl).

We meet various characters from a number of tribes, and it's simply a fun, exciting ride. Part Last of the Mohicans, part Apocalypto, part Werewolf: The Apocalypse, part Lawrence Makoare's The Dead Lands, which are MASSIVE touchstones for me. Parts of it feel like an RPG adventure, chiefly those chapters following the Champion of Crocodile on his journey north – meet a new character, who joins his gang; ambushed by another tribe, Character X challenges their leader to combat (these leaders tend to be Champions, making that concept feel a little prestige class) – but Maniye Many Tracks (the protagonist) is a superbly written character, who really evolves over the course of the story, and several of the supporting cast are fantastic, and I was casting them for an adaptation (as the author does himself – we agree on more than a few!).

All told, this has been a great read, and I'm really looking forward to the second volume, The Bear and the Serpent, in Summer (I may have to break my usual policy of waiting for paperback...).

4.5 Luchas

Kings of the Wyld (The Band 1) – Nicholas Eames

I snagged this based on the concept alone: Fantasy mercenary bands... as bands. Well, not quite – the idea of following a bunch of mercenary bards around is not for me, to say the least (in fact, the author seems to feel the same way about bards, given how many have been lost by the eponymous mercenary company over the years). In this world, mercenaries are rock stars – they swan around the place, slaying monsters, causing trouble, and debauching themselves with all manner of recreational substances and groupies. As elevator pitches go, this was fun, and the simplicity of the concept appealed to me.

It started well enough, with the classic trope of "getting the band back together" – the long-estranged members of the band all getting introduced, and some of the fun rock-and-roll parallels established – a Yoko-type ex-wife, problems with their former manager etc. Then it started to lose me a bit... At its heart, the band get back together to rescue the daughter of their front man, who is trapped in a besieged city the other side of a massive forest – the Wyld – that is the home/source of the monsters that are slain by mercenaries (although there are several that seem to fit in well enough in various mercenary crews and taverns – I'm not sure I caught the line that was drawn on that score). In any case, the band is finally reunited, and one expects them to head off on their epic quest. Except they don't. Instead, they seem to bounce around various cities before getting an airship (on a side note, I'm pretty sure these are described as rare in the first few chapters of the book, but by the end it seems that everyone has one) and heading out.

What saves it in these meanders is that it's undeniably fun. The characters are all quite entertaining, especially Arcandius Moog, the wizard, who is obsessed with owlbears (as is only natural) and has been surviving in retirement as a purveyor of gentleman's stimulants. Unfortunately, the story climaxes in an epic battle (the "Battle of the Bands" – gah!) in which the gang opens a portal from the annual mercenary fair to the besieged city, through which comes an ever more frustrating selection of puns and riffs on various bands (including Neil the not-so-Young or something – I almost gave up at that point).

I don't know if the book really knows what it wants to be – it could have been a fun dissection of the rock-and-roll lifestyle in a Fantasy setting (in the style of Pratchett's Soul Music), or it could have been a serviceable mercenary-focused military adventure (there's a vein of GrimDark running though it – cussin' and bloodshed). As a whole, though, it falls between two fences for me – pleasant enough reading, but the product didn't live up to the pitch.

1.5 Luchas