Apr 8, 2019

Warhammer 40,000: Beakies!

Since we don't actually have space in our apartment to play Warhammer, our campaigning season is restricted to the months when we can make use of our summer cottage. Therefore, I'll be doing a series of posts on modelling and painting while I wait for next summer.

**

First, some Space Marines. Last summer, I found these guys stowed away in the attic, and after a little light cleaning with a soft toothbrush, they were fit for service.


They are what I think was originally a 1,000 point Space Marine army in 3rd edition Warhammer, which is the last time I played 40k before last summer! We're bringing them into the Imperial army as a Vanguard detachment to represent the Marines who took part in suppressing the Ignatian rebellion. I originally painted them up in the colors chosen for the rec.games.miniatures.warhammer chapter; we'll be fielding them as Raven Guard successors.

Punishers Space Marines

Tech-Marine

I had an old Tech-Marine model I made back in the day, but to be honest it was kinda boring. So I made a new one.


The body and backpack are from an old Devastator Sergeant; the axe, servo-arm and head are from Zealot Miniatures. I'm really happy with this model!

Sternguard Veteran Squad


With an Imperial Guard battalion detachment already finished and plans to upgrade it to a brigade underway, we decided that my old tactical Marines would be more useful as Veterans. The other option would have been to field them as Troops choices and take a patrol detachment, but a vanguard detachment gets the Imperial army a command point, and it feels more in character to have the Marines be a small elite force bolstering the much bigger Imperial Guard formation.

Vanguard Veteran Squad


By the same logic, my old Assault Marines were upgraded to Vanguard Veterans.

Terminator Squad


Our third and last elite choice is some Terminators. The 1993 Space Hulk video game was such a formative influence on me that there was simply no way that any Space Marine army I collect wouldn't have Terminators in it.

Vindicator


I have always unapologetically loved Vindicators. The reason my original 500pt army existed was that I realized I could fit a Vindicator and a Whirlwind into that amount. Obviously I hate that the 3rd edition ordnance template, i.e. the pie plate, is gone, and the Vindicator just isn't what it used to be. I hope we'll have a chance to find out what its current incarnation is like this summer.

Whirlwind


Full disclosure: I love artillery. Space Marines don't get a lot of it, which made it all the more important to get a Whirlwind. Again, I desperately miss the ordnance template, but I'm trying to think positively and remember that these days, I'm on the receiving end of this thing!

**

So now we have almost 700 points of Space Marines to add to our Imperial army! Marines are in kind of a weird place; on the one hand, they're the most iconic representatives of Warhammer 40,000; on the other hand, they really are kind of boring. But we have good reason to be grateful to 8th edition: because nothing is as unimaginative and boring as Primaris Marines. Also, I want to complain: wargear choices for characters are more restricted in 8th edition than they were in 3rd, which means I can't use one of my favorite conversions:


Yes, a Librarian with lightning claws and a jump pack. If I remember correctly, in 3rd edition psychic powers like Smite were basically shooting attacks, so there was no point in taking a gun for a Librarian because they'd be using Smite anyway; hence the lightning claws. They're off some miniature I can no longer name, but it was a kind of dwarf with a single claw that our friendly local gaming store had on a clearance sale when they moved, so I got two and stuck the claws on an Assault Marine.

**

I've still got some old and new loyalist miniatures to go through, and I'm also working on something new for the Ruinous Powers!

Apr 1, 2019

Let's Read Tolkien 55: The Black Gate is Closed

Before the next day dawned their journey to Mordor was over.

As commanded, Gollum leads the hobbits to a hollow where, at dawn, they can see the Black Gate that bars the northern entrance to Mordor. Heavily fortified and completely impregnable, it's clearly hopeless for them to enter Mordor this way.

Frodo, however, is determined to try, but Gollum tries to talk him out of it with the promise of an easier way into Mordor, through the valley of Minas Morgul to the south. Hilariously, when challenged by Sam, Gollum has a Trump moment:

"Sméagol has talked to Orcs, yes of course, before he met master, and to many peoples: he has walked very far. And what he says now many peoples are saying."

The hobbits spend most of the day sitting in the hollow, with Frodo trying to figure out what to do. At one point, they're disturbed by a column of Sauron's soldiers marching by. Gollum reports that they're black southerners, which prompts Sam to ask if they had an Oliphaunt with them. When Gollum asks what that is, Sam recites a poem that seems to describe an elephant. Frodo is cheered by this, and decides they'll head south and attempt Gollum's route into Mordor.

**

This is a very short chapter where nothing much happens; one of the few points of real interest is our first encounter with southern men in Sauron's service.

"Dark faces. We have not seen Men like these before, no, Sméagol has not. They are fierce. They have black eyes, and long black hair, and gold rings in their ears; yes, lots of beautiful gold. And some have red paint on their cheeks, and red cloaks; and their flags are red, and the tips of their spears; and they have round shields, yellow and black with big spikes. Not nice; very cruel wicked Men they look. Almost as bad as Orcs, and much bigger.

Tolkien was, by our standards, very much a racist, and it's hardly a coincidence that in Middle-earth we find noble men from the north and west as the good guys, fighting the deluded and primitive easterners and southerners; Mordor may not be the Soviet Union, but it is most definitely the evil Orient. The black men marching to Mordor are very clearly described as evil, and compared to orcs.

Still, it's instructive to compare Tolkien's description of the southerners with some of his more hysterically racist contemporaries. Start with H.P. Lovecraft, two years Tolkien's senior, in The Horror at Red Hook:

It would not be the first time his sensations had been forced to bide uninterpreted—for was not his very act of plunging into the polyglot abyss of New York’s underworld a freak beyond sensible explanation? What could he tell the prosaic of the antique witcheries and grotesque marvels discernible to sensitive eyes amidst the poison cauldron where all the varied dregs of unwholesome ages mix their venom and perpetuate their obscene terrors?

Lovecraft shared Tolkien's ideas of pure blood and race, but again, it's worth remembering both that Tolkien's protagonists are of mixed descent themselves, and that he never expressed such a shrill horror for the racialized Other as Lovecraft did. Similarly, nothing in Tolkien's writings even remotely approaches the leeringly racist caricatures of the slightly younger Robert E. Howard in The Vale of Lost Women, or Conan the Barbarian's defiant white supremacy in that story:

"I am Conan, a Cimmerian, and I live by the sword's edge. But I am not such a dog as to leave a white woman in the clutches of a black man -- If you were old and ugly as the devil's pet vulture, I'd take you away from Bajujh, simply because of the color of your hide."

Again, this is not to make excuses for Tolkien's racism and orientalism, but to put them in their proper context. Read alongside his pulp contemporaries, it's worthy of note that Tolkien very rarely engages in the sort of abjectly racist exposition that they deployed. You might argue that it was his Christianity, but even the most cursory look at the history of racism will disabuse anyone of that notion.

**

Next time: cooking.

Mar 11, 2019

Blood Bowl: Turboleague, part Deux

Back in 2012 (geez, really?!), we played a season of Blood Bowl. I coached a High Elf team, the Tor Achare Titans. The league was eventually abandoned; after the last game, the team with the most points was Braga's Brutes (Orc), with a 5-1-0 record, who were declared Hellbird Turbocup champions by default. My High Elves were second, going 3-3-0.

All in all, it was fun enough that I think we should do it again. I've even got bleachers and everything. Last time, we tried to have a very organized league, with everybody signing on beforehand to play a home-and-home series with everybody else and so on. What ended up happening is that people just sort of gave up on the whole thing, and we never did finish it. So this time around, I'm thinking of a far more flexible format, that can handle anything from just a couple of casual games to a full-blown league with multiple competitive teams. This is what I came up with.

Turboleague format

Each coach has one team, generated as usual with a starting treasury of 1 000 000 gold pieces. The team with the most points on 23.12. is the league champion. The next season starts 26.12. Points are awarded as follows:

  - four (4) points for a win
  - two (2) points for a tie
  - one (1) point for a loss

Tiebreakers: wins, head-to-head record, touchdowns scored, casualties scored, fatalities scored.

Teams may play each other any number of times, but only the best two results against any single opponent count for the standings. There is no challenge system; no-one is ever obliged to play anyone. Teams may join or leave the league at any time during the season. Anyone may apply to join the league by contacting the commissioner (me); applications are accepted at the discretion of the commissioner.

The objective of these league rules is not to deliver a finely balanced competition, but rather to organize a series of fairly random pick-up games into a semicoherent whole.

We will be using the Competitive Rules Pack (CRP), which is available online. If someone wants to play one of the new teams (Chaos Pact, Slann, Underworld), I don't see why not.

**

Speaking of my bleachers, by the way, I found some fairly ancient space ork sprues with two bodies still on them, so:


Also, we ordered some stuff from Eureka Miniatures, and they were kind enough to give us a frog standard bearer as a free sample, so here they are, along with a member of the pirate lady gun crew:


**

I'll be playing dark elves myself, with a slight variation on the all positionals starting roster.

6 × lineman (420,000)
2 × blitzer (200,000)
1 × assassin (90,000)
1 × runner (80,000)
1 × witch elf (110,000)

For a total of 900,000 gp, meaning we can have two re-rolls as well!

This is, in fact, the same lineup that Mephala's Murderers started the last time we played; I think it's the best dark elf starting option if you want to try all the different player types, which is my main goal this season. Also, I did just fine with two blitzers when I played high elves.

For miniatures, I got a Shadowforge Miniatures Wicked Elf Gridiron Team. They're maybe not the most exquisitely detailed models you could get, but I like them, they've got character, and the pricing is very competitive.

The Sheogorad Saints

#5: Jenassa Samarys, runner
#11: Barenziah Targaryen, witch elf
#33: Raven Dren, assassin
#37: Fieryra Targaryen, blitzer
#44: Irileth Targaryen, blitzer
#50: Methulu Ienith, line-elf
#55: Aralosea Romori, line-elf
#69: Darane Mencele, line-elf
#71: Hlireni Indavel, line-elf
#73: Brelda Quintella, line-elf
#77: Endroni Dalas, line-elf

**

So here we are, ready to play a random number of Blood Bowl games! If and when we get around to it, I'll be posting game reports here.

Mar 4, 2019

Let's Read Tolkien 54: The Passage of the Marshes

Gollum moved quickly, with his head and neck thrust forward, often using his hands as well as his feet.

Gollum leads Frodo and Sam down through the hills and into the Dead Marshes. They move by night and rest by day, both to avoid detection and to suit Gollum's hatred of the sun. In the marshes, not only is their route and footing uncertain, but they're haunted by strange corpse-lights and apparitions of dead bodies below the surface of the water: the dead from the great battles of the previous war against Sauron. There's a moment of horror when a flying Ring-wraith passes near them, and Frodo begins to feel the malign will of Sauron more strongly as they near Mordor.

Beyond the marshes, the hobbits and Gollum arrive in a desolate wasteland at the foot of the Mountains of Shadow. As they rest, Sam overhears Gollum having an argument with himself, on whether to betray the hobbits or not. A sinister "she" is mentioned. The debate seems to come to no conclusion, and at dusk, Frodo commands Gollum to take them to Morannon, the Black Gate of Mordor.

**

The previous time Tolkien's war experience broke into the story directly was way back in the Hobbit, when Bard led a very anachronistic anti-aircraft defense of Lake-town against Smaug. Here, it's the titular marshes that are a memory of the bogs of the Somme. As Tolkien puts it (Letters, 226):

Personally I do not think that either war (and of course not the atomic bomb) had any influence upon either the plot or the manner of its unfolding. Perhaps in landscape. The Dead Marshes and the approaches to the Morannon owe something to Northern France after the Battle of the Somme. They owe more to William Morris and his Huns and Romans, as in The House of the Wolfings or The Roots of the Mountains.

You'll notice they never quote that last sentence! For what it's worth, I agree with Tolkien: there's not a lot of either world war in the Lord of the Rings; Tolkien's ideas of war are far more Beowulf than Band of Brothers. But it really is difficult to read this chapter and not think of the mud of the Western Front. I was strongly reminded of Pat Barker's Regeneration.

From the Dead Marshes, the hobbits move on to an unmistakably modern industrial landscape.

Here nothing lived, not even the leprous growths that feed on rottenness. The gasping pools were choked with ash and crawling muds, sickly white and grey, as if the mountains had vomited the filth of their entrails upon the lands about. High mounds of crushed and powdered rock, great cones of earth fire-blasted and poison-stained, stood like an obscene graveyard in endless rows, slowly revealed in the reluctant light.

It's not entirely clear what kind of industry could have produced this kind of devastation. Some of its features seem very modern, like the oily sump at the bottom of the hole where Gollum and the hobbits camp. But Tolkien was, if anything, a committed anti-modernist, so the association of industrial waste and mining slag with evil will, for him, have been a natural one. It was no accident that Tolkien named the sin of opposing God's will the Machine. In a sense, as the hobbits travel toward Mordor, they're traveling through Tolkien's personal psychogeography.

Finally, at the end of the chapter, we have Gollum's debate with himself. In many ways, it mirrors Frodo's struggle on Amon Hen: Sméagol, like Frodo, feels the malign influence of Sauron, and while some of him wants to fight it, his fallen will can't overcome the corruption of the Ring. Unlike Frodo, Sméagol doesn't get a divine intervention.

Finally, on a purely practical note: how are Frodo and Sam's clothes not completely falling apart by now? Do hobbits wear denim?

**

Next time: poetry.

Feb 11, 2019

Warhammer 40,000: The Emperor is with the Battalion Detachments

By Method and discipline are to be understood the marshalling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure.
- Sun Tzu: The Art of War, I:10, Lionel Giles translation (1910)


Our first Warhammer 40,000 - Rogue Trader experiment was a success, so we're going to repeat it: this time with bigger armies and more players.



**

Because it turns out I have more Imperial Guard models than I thought, my first step will be to expand my patrol detachment into a battalion detachment. The minimum required is two HQ units and three Troops, meaning that my mini-army needs one more of each to make the grade.

165th Ophir Highlanders

Our new HQ unit will be Captain de Cleyre, an Ophir Highlanders Company Commander with a power sword and plasma pistol. The model is Ursula, fleet officer from Brother Vinni. As a senior officer, she can give orders to two units from her regiment per turn.


Therefore, it's time to bolster our army with an Ophir Highlanders Infantry Squad. The models are GW Cadians, with the Sergeant's and weapon team's heads from Statuesque Miniatures. Incidentally, since my opponent vocally complained about not being allowed to shoot into melee last time, we've decided that the Ophir Highlanders count as Valhallan Ice Warriors.


I also found some nearly untouched Imperial Guard heavy weapon team sprues, so the Highlanders also get a Heavy Weapons Squad. I didn't have enough Cadians to make the three heavy bolter teams I had intended, so for the time being two of them are deploying with a mortar team from the 113th Acheron Repentants.


41st Boye Dragoon Guards

During the same great miniature-sorting operation that netted me Commissar Zhukov, I was delighted to also find a whole squad of Mordian Iron Guard. I re-painted them in a color scheme based on the Swedish Life Guards regiment, following a visit to Stockholm last summer. For rules purposes, we're counting them as Mordians.


I also found a Mordian officer with a power fist, who was pressed into service as a Platoon Commander. Since the Mordian models are out of production and I don't see myself hitting up eBay for more, my Dragoon Guards will be fine with just a single officer. Incidentally, this also makes them a prime candidate for mechanisation, should I get my hands on a Chimera.


Officio Prefectus

Since I got my hands on an excellent Wargame Exclusive female Commissar model, how could I not include the beautiful and deadly Commissar Mironova?


Scholastica Psykana

Finally, I decided that we should expand our understanding of the game by incorporating psykers in our armies, so we can have a proper Psychic phase. To that end, the Imperial Gyard detachment got its third HQ unit, a Primaris Psyker. For the model, I bought a Fantasy Flight Imperial psyker.


The Imperial army contains the following units:

Lord Commissar Zhukov
Ophir Highlanders Company Commander de Cleyre
Primaris Psyker
Ministorum Priest Brother Malachi
Commissar Mironova
Boye Dragoon Guards Platoon Leader
Ophir Highlanders Conscripts
Ophir Highlanders Infantry Squad
Boye Dragoon Guards Infantry Squad
Chirikov Rad-Guards Infantry Squad
Ophir Highlanders Heavy Weapons Squad

**

What about my Chaos army, then?

Iconoclast Chaos Space Marines

Before I ruin it with my painting, I want to start off by pointing out that this Wargame Exclusive Chaos Dark Prophet model that I got to be my Dark Apostle is simply amazing.


I didn't have time to get her painted for our first game, but here she is now!


Now that the other side has a psyker, I'm also bringing a Sorcerer and giving them a combi-plasma. I'm still working on getting a suitable model, so for now, my Sorcerer will be proxied by Ezekiel.


Having done that, I could add another Troops choice to upgrade my Chaos army to a battalion detachment as well. Or, since I bought a box of them to make my Fallout World Eater, I could have some Berzerkers instead.


Frankly, a horde of chain-weapon-wielding lunatics sounds so much more fun that this was pretty much a no-brainer.

Derbe rebels

Finally, my Cultists. Last time, I had ten cultists with autoguns, and they were very unceremoniously wiped out by the Rad-Guards. For this instalment, I'm leaving them home and bringing my old Escher gang from Necromunda as Slaanesh cultists. They're equipped half and half with autoguns and autopistol-assault weapon combos, and two flamers.


Therefore, my Chaos army is simply my Dark Apostle, Sorcerer, Berzerkers, Chaos Marines and Cultists.

**

Our forces are ready! In the rustic surroundings of our summer cabin, we set up a 4' × 4' table with my old Necromunda terrain and a couple of new additions.


I got to divide the table into deployment zones, and decided on a split down the line of the river. I got the side to the right in the photo, and below is my deployment: the Marines would hold my right flank and shoot up anyone who made a grab for the objective on the bridge, while on my left, the Cultists would screen my Berzerkers' advance and then redeploy via Tide of Traitors.


Unfortunately, the Imperial deployment meant that my assault force would be advancing straight into the teeth of their heavy bolters.


The Imperial side got the first turn, and surged forward. On the right, the Rad-Guards secured the objective in the graveyard, and in the center, the Ophir conscripts and Dragoon Guards stormed toward the bridge.


The Imperial shooting damn near wiped out my Cultists completely, and I had to hit Tide of Traitors on my first turn. Luckily, there was just enough space to deploy them on the Imperial right, where they quickly overran the Heavy Weapon Squad and forced the conscripts to abandon the Dragoon Guards on the bridge and swing right to face the Cultists.


Meanwhile, my Sorcerer Warptimed the Berzerkers into charge range of the Rad-Guards, and killed several Imperials with his combi-plasma and Smite.


On my right, the Chaos Marines were getting the worst of a firefight with the two Imperial infantry squads, so with the conscripts drawn off, we charged the Dragoon Guards on the bridge.


The Highlander squad on the Imperial left used their Valhallan order to fire into melee, and managed to hit their own company commander with their lascannon! Miraculously, they failed to wound her.


The Marines wiped out the Dragoon Guards on the bridge and gunned down their officer as he tried to charge them. Meanwhile, the Berzerkers crashed through the Rad-Guards and butchered almost all of the conscripts. Their Champion duelled Commissar Zhukov and won, only to be cut down by the Ophir company commander. The Primaris Psyker blasted three Berzerkers dead with Smite, only to be killed himself by my Sorcerer. All the Berzerkers were dead, but they nearly destroyed the entire Imperial center. Khorne cares not whence the blood flows!


What the Berzerkers left standing was gunned down by my Marines and Sorcerer, or overrun by the Cultists. Above is Brother Malachi's heroic but short last stand.


Finally, all that was left was the Highlanders infantry squad on the Imperial left. If they could hold out for one last turn, the Imperials would have enough victory points to win. They survived my Cultists' shooting and my Sorcerer's Smite, but a charge from the Chaos Marines finished them off. Slaanesh prefers the blood to flow from the other guys.

**

So, Chaos was victorious, bringing our lifetime record to 1-1. What did we learn?

As the Chaos player, I've again been reminded that Imperial firepower is horrible. My Cultists were, once again, practically wiped out. Even my Marines do worse than I'd like in a stand-up firefight, so clearly our army needs to get stuck in as fast as possible, and outflank the enemy line. Tide of Traitors was absolutely brilliant for this; next time, my opponents will be expecting it, but it's still amazing. The Berzerkers were also great, destroying the conscript horde and generally smashing right through the Imperial center. Of course they all died in the process, but what more can a Berzerker ask for? More Statuesque female heads arrived in the mail, so I'll be making them a proper Champion for next time.

Incidentally, the once per battle FAQ limitation of Tide of Traitors seems to strengthen the case for a massive unit of Cultists. So while I'll be bringing back my shooty ten-model Cultist unit to camp on an objective and bring the army up to battalion detachment strength, I need more hive gangers!

My proxied Sorcerer was a delight, Warptiming the Berzerkers into charge range, Smiting the Imperial psyker dead and inflicting several casualties with his combi-plasma. The only problem with Warptime was that it also made sure that the Berzerkers charged way out of my Dark Apostle's buff range, even with Voice of Lorgar. Still, I think she was worth having around just for the extra Leadership that stopped all the Cultists from running away in the first turn!

All in all, I'm very happy with my little Chaos army. Imperial firepower and numbers are still scary, though, and I'm going to keep on looking for ways to outflank them.

**

Next time: the off-season.

Feb 4, 2019

Let's Read Tolkien 53: The Taming of Sméagol

"Well, master, we're in a fix and no mistake," said Sam Gamgee.

Leaving Rohan, Gondor and the war behind for the moment, we start Book Four with Sam and Frodo making their way through the hills of the Emyn Muil: a broken, barren landscape that drops toward the Dead Marshes. Beyond them lies Mordor and Mount Doom.

The hobbits find the going tough, scrambling up and down gullies and hillsides. A sheer cliffside nearly defeats them, but they use the elven-rope Sam was given in Lórien to descend. Obviously this means they have to tie it securely at the top of the cliff, and as Sam bemoans the loss of the rope, he gives it a tug, and it comes tumbling down.

As Frodo and Sam rest a little distance ahead of the cliff-face, they see Gollum climbing down it like a monstrous spider. With their elven-cloaks on, the hobbits ambush and capture him. They contemplate killing him, but Frodo recalls his conversation with Gandalf on this exact topic. Instead Frodo makes Gollum swear by the Ring that he will serve the hobbits. Gollum promises to guide them through the marshes to Mordor, and they set off.

**

This is, in a sense, a two-part chapter. The star of the first part is the landscape, in as excellent a piece of geographical prose as Tolkien ever turned out, harking back to the hobbits' travails in the Old Forest. I thought Frodo's refusal to see that the Lórien-rope is basically magic was odd and slightly out of place, but maybe that's just me.

The star of the second part is unquestionably Gollum. I still think that Bilbo's initial encounter with him is some of Tolkien's best writing, and certainly Gollum is one of his most memorable characters.

Seeing Gollum as an addict has become the default interpretation of the character, but I have to say I'm quite uncomfortable with it. For starters, there's no particular indication that this was something Tolkien intended, but more crucially, Gollum as an addict doesn't really fit into Tolkien's scheme at all. In a novel about sin, corruption and the Machine that attempts to defy god by cheating death, to say that Gollum is "an addict" is like saying that the Iliad is about being horny. Sure, it is, but isn't this a bit trite?

We learned about Gollum's past and the fact that he used to be more or less a hobbit way back in Chapter 2 of the first book. This underlying similarity is highlighted in this chapter:

For a moment it appeared to Sam that his master had grown and Gollum had shrunk: a tall stern shadow, a mighty lord who hid his brightness in grey cloud, and at his feet a little whining dog. Yet the two were in some way akin and not alien: they could reach one another's minds.

What connects them isn't just their shared background and their experience of the Ring: it's corruption. Fundamentally, that's also what Gollum represents here: the ongoing corruption of the Ring. I don't think it's accurate to say that Gollum is "addicted" to the Ring; rather, he's been corrupted by it. For mortals, the ultimate boon of the Ring is immortality: Bilbo's longevity, but even more so Gollum's. According to Appendix B of my edition, Sméagol acquired the Ring in the year 2463 of the Third Age. Frodo and Sam capture him in March 3019. He's over five hundred years old.

"A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness. -- Yes, sooner or later - later, if he is strong or well-meaning to begin with, but neither strength nor good purpose will last - sooner or later the dark power will devour him."

This is how Gandalf descibed the effect of the Ring in Chapter 2, and it's crucial to understanding what the Ring is in Tolkien's theology. The Ring circumvents Mortality, one of Tolkien's three capitalized theological points. It is, therefore, a Machine: a thing created to defy God. Such a thing exists because of the Fall, and is dangerous because of the Fall. Even Gandalf is subject to the Fall and therefore corruption; mere mortals like Sméagol and Frodo all the more so. Gollum is living proof of the Ring's power, and of its corruption: he's lived for half a millenium, but at what cost?

The description of Frodo quoted above harks back to Frodo's conversation with Galadriel in the Mirror of Galadriel.

"I would ask one thing before we go," said Frodo, "a thing which I often meant to ask Gandalf in Rivendell. I am permitted to wear the One Ring: why cannot I see all the others and know the thoughts of those that wear them?"
"You have not tried," she said. "Only thrice have you set the Ring upon your finger since you knew what you possessed. Do not try! It would destroy you. Did not Gandalf tell you that the rings give power according to the measure of each possessor? Before you could use that power you would need to become far stronger, and to train your will to the domination of others.

What is Frodo doing with Gollum in this chapter, if not training his will to the domination of others? It's not clear if he understands it himself, but he's definitely being corrupted by the Ring. After the Mirror of Galadriel, this is the second significant stop on the way to the Fall of Frodo.

**

Next time: swampwalk.

Jan 21, 2019

Blood Bowl: Bleachers

The thing about Blood Bowl is how it brings everyone together in a joy of death. You have Orcs, Dwarfs, men and even Beastmen sharing the same stadium, and all desperate to see blood-curdling violence.
- Jim Johnson, Blood Bowl II


I quite enjoyed Cyanide's Blood Bowl video game back in the day, despite its many bugs and absolutely hideous AI. A sequel came out in 2015 and was available for something like €15 last year, which I think is an acceptable price to pay for a Games Workshop-based video game. In this case, it's a great deal: while the AI is still very bad, it's not nearly as ludicrously incompetent as it used to be. No longer will an AI team start its turn with an AG 2 player attempting three dodges and going for it in order to assist on a block, and even though I don't have the faintest idea how I can possibly get the achievement for an interception as the AI never, ever throws the ball, they occasionally even manage to score! Some twenty games in, I still hadn't lost, but I'd had to settle for a draw twice, and even ended up in overtime in an elimination game. All this made me want to do an offline Blood Bowl project as well; since I already have several finished teams, I started thinking bigger...

Eventually, I'd love to be able to build an entire damn Blood Bowl stadium, but I'll start with a single component: some bleachers. Working from the 6'×4' playing surface I've got at our cabin, I have a plan for a modular Blood Bowl stadium, and the simplest part is a 20cm×30cm set of bleachers. So that's where I'll start!

**

The components I'm using are:

- one sheet of 2mm thick balsa wood, 100mm × 1000mm
- one square dowel rod, 8mm × 5mm × 1000mm
- one square dowel rod, 5mm × 5mm × 1000mm
- one round dowel rod, 5mm × 1000mm


First, I used a craft knife and steel ruler to cut the balsa wood into three 300×100mm pieces, which were then each split into four 25mm×300mm pieces. I then glued 25mm pieces of 8×5mm rod, short side up, to the underside of each piece, so that a 5mm rod would fit in at the 50mm mark from each end:


What we have here is, if you like, a single bleacher, standing exactly 10mm tall. For this stand, we'll need ten of them. I'll mostly be trying to build my spectators out of plastic models, but if you're going to use a lot of metal figures, I'd reinforce these with a dowel rod lengthwise under the bench.


Then we stick them together! I've tried to get a 5mm overlap, to leave 20mm on each bench so the models will fit, but I mostly eyeballed it; after all, these are lower stands for a Blood Bowl stadium, they're probably built by the lowest-bidding goblin contractor!


Then it's time to reinforce the whole thing with the 5mm×5mm rod:


Finally, add supports cut from the 5mm diameter rod.


And it's finished!


I intend to glue this to a plywood sheet when I start building my modular stadium, but for now, it's done!

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As I got started painting, I remembered that my original idea had been to use the leftover balsa to make a backboard for the highest bench, so I did:


I started by spraypainting the whole thing white and applying a coat of Cavalry Brown.


I then painted the tops and sides of the benches with a cross-grain coat of Mahogany Brown, to add a little depth and make them look slightly weathered.


And that's it: some spray varnish and they're done.


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Stands are nothing, of course, without fans. Just as I was finishing my bleachers, the first batch of spectators arrived from Oathsworn Miniatures.


First up, Evil Reginald. He's a Starling Rogue, who I've painted up to look like Reginald from Nedroid was doing Shakespeare in the Park. Only the first part of that was intentional, the Shakespeare thing just kind of happened.


His feathers are Medium Blue, pants Neutral Grey, waistcoat Dark Red with Old Gold buttons, and the scarf is Orange Red. The base is Mahogany Brown, as is the dagger hilt and handle, and his talons and beak are Ivory.

Reginald will be joined in the stands by a Mouse Nun:


As well as one half of Reaper's Eastern Mouslings.


And an anime schoolgirl, because I didn't exactly know what else to do with her.


Here they are:


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My second set of spectators starts with a Squirrel Witch, busy hexing the opposition or whatever it is she's doing. A fantastic model! I'm also definitely a fan of the Drunken Weasel.


As I was working on a Beastman project at the time, I had some Gors and Catachan bits hanging around, which led to these guys:


This is how you go from a laspistol to a foam finger in just a couple of easy steps!


Last but definitely not least: an Oathsworn Pug Bounty Hunter.


All the Oathsworn Miniatures are very high quality, and a delight to paint. Highly recommended! Here they all are:


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That's it for now: I have a set of bleachers, which were easy and fun to make, with some spectators as well. Next time, I'll be mounting the bleachers on some plywood as part of my modular stadium project, and adding more punters! And I don't know, maybe we should also consider playing some Blood Bowl again...