Dark Star GT

This past weekend I attended the Dark Star GT in Minneapolis, had a fantastic time, and want to tell you all about it!

I’d been working towards being able to bring 1850 points of Eldar to the table for this event for the last several months.  Part of my experience with this event was that accomplishment.  So much time was put into modeling, sculpting, and painting that I had not had much time to practice with the build… or the army.  To be frank, game one was the first game I had played with the Eldar since 2nd edition!

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Another huge plus to the event is that it was hosted at the Fantasy Flight Games Game Center.  This place is great, essentially a decent sized game store that has a great play space, awesome staff, food, and most importantly beer!  The surroundings gave the event a great feel.  It was a strength upon the event’s natural strengths… more on that in a sec.

I was a bit apprehensive about going to this event.  I have a great opinion of the people organizing the event, and I had faith that they would put on a good show, but I wasn’t sure what the player base would be like.  Turns out I had some fantastic opponents, all of whom I would gladly play again.

Game 1 – Knights of iron

My first opponent was Tim Flanders with his excellent ‘Knights Vigilant’ Space Marines base off of the Iron Hands chapter tactics.  It took me a sec to get my head into the game, but Tim was very relaxed and happy to have a relatively chill game, which eventually escalated into an exciting and close matchup.

Tim Flander's great looking Space Marine army
Tim Flander’s great looking Space Marine army

Much of the game was made up of isolated skirmishes on the flanks until the last several turns when a Terminator teleport assault forced my Guardian squads protecting objectives into the fight.


The right flank was a tarpit fight between the wraithknight and some Thunderhammer/Stormshield Terminators lead by the Warlord of the army, Abbot-Marshal Tancred (Terminator Chaplain).  Eventually the Wraithknight crushed the knightly terminator hero, ‘Slay the Warlord’ point for Xenite!  Unfortunately in the center of the table…


another giant mass of terminators teleports right in front of my line!  These guys were great examples of a common theme with Tim’s dice rolling for our game: Roll several 1’s for saving throws when hit by a fusillade of Shuriken fire, only to nail the 6’s needed to make the Iron Warrior Feel No Pain save!  Tim managed to do this a pile of times throughout the game.   The real problem was that these terminators were lead by Magus-Incantor Herod, the Knight’s librarian.

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Eventually he was able to charge my Farseer’s unit and call him out in a challenge.  I am not sure why I didn’t have him slink back to the edge of the unit (the farseer and I both knew what was going to happen), I think I was hoping he would tank enough wounds to keep the guardians on the nearby objective.  I guess this worked, but we each achieved the Slay The Warlord objective in this game.

My MVPs of this game, the Wraithguard managed to grab an objective in the enemy deployment zone which put me one point ahead at the end of the game!

Game 2 – Ryan Carlson’s award winning Necrons

Ryan Carlson did an amazing job with his Necron force!  So much so that he won best painted for the event!  Well don Ryan!!
Ryan Carlson did an amazing job with his Necron force! So much so that he won best painted for the event! Well don Ryan!!

We received a nice complement that our game was the best looking matchup of the weekend!  It was very cool to see our armies facing each other.  It was one of those great moments where I was pulled out of the ‘game’ aspect of things, and totally caught up in the story that our game was representing.

The game was set up lengthwise on the table.  The necrons who weren’t embarked in their space stations, waiting to be beamed down to the planet’s surface via his flyers, crept across the table towards my line of guardians who were hidden amongst some rock spires.

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Things became interesting when my vypers came in from reserve mid game, triggering a teleport attack from a Necron lord and his Necron Wraith friends in the back-field of my line!  This became a tarpit for some guardians who decided to lock them up in combat before they could do the same to them.  The Farseer and the Necron lord tried to kill one another in challenges.  I had hopes as I had gotten the lord down to 1 wound with a singing spear, but he caught up to me and doubled out the farseer’s t0ughness killing him outright.

"Target acquired."
“Target acquired.”

I made a dumb mistake which took the game from a draw to a loss.  I had it in my head to keep one of the guardian squads back to mind an objective, but with a lapse of judgement advanced them to put pressure on some recently arrived Necron reserves.  This gave Ryan the opening he needed, dropping off small scoring Necron warrior squads onto the objectives on my side of the board.  It ended up being a 1 point loss to me but again, a fantastic and very fun game.

Ryan’s army was gorgeous and he has a ton of talent, especially with an airbrush.  I drew a lot of inspiration from his work.

Game 3 – Battle Wagon Rush!  Chris Edstrom’s Orks

Chris had a lot of very sweet scratch built elements to his army.  This defense line is a great example of what he brought to the table.
Chris had a lot of very sweet scratch built elements to his army. This defense line is a great example of what he brought to the table.

Chris had an Ork army with a ton of character.  In deployment he dropped down 5 scratchbuilt battlewagons which were part of what gave his army so much character.  These came storming across the table at my line.

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As the mounted orks stormed forward in their claptrap vehicles the Eldar fell back in good order but displaying abysmal accuracy with their bright lance platforms, even with psychic support from the Farseer.  I kept most of my army in reserve, this and the desperate defense of the Eldar in the face of advancing massed armor made this game feel very Flames of War.  Once my reserves came in I was able to bring some hurt to the advancing Orks.  A serpent strike of Wraithguard ended a mega-armored nob unit only to have them reappear at the opponents edge of the table!  The scenario had a ‘endless swarm’ like rule for infantry and monstrous creatures.  Later in the game the theme of the Wraithknight tying up expensive HQ units in combat and giving me Slay the Warlord points (WK gave me StW in my first 3 games!) continued as he dispatched the Ork Warboss.

I felt confident I had this game until disaster struck!

In case you were wondering, this is what disaster looks like.
In case you were wondering, this is what disaster looks like.

There was a 3 point objective on a landing pad in the middle of the board.  After knocking one ork unit off this piece of terrain, my guardians in a wave serpent landed on the objective, popped off ‘conceal’ and hunkered down to wait out the end of the game.  Unfortunately a battlewagon sitting next to the landing pad which I thought had a token group of meks in it barfed out a full Ork mob onto the objective, pushing the guardians off of it and destroying their sweet grav-tank whip!

By this point I had accumulated max bonus points from killing recycled units coming in from reserve which made the game a draw!

Game 4 – “I hear Hive Crones are good, what do they do?” Joe Krier’s Tyranids

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Joe’s list was the hardest most competitively oriented of all of them that I faced over the weekend.  He knew how to use it as well.  Joe described his recent history with 40k as being somewhat flier-centric.  His mass of tyranid horrors crept across the length of the table towards me while 2 Hive Crones and 2 flying Hive Tyrants swept out of the sky upon my poor space elves!  This game’s scenario had a large amount of tournament points tied around killing a specific model, chosen by each opposing player after deployment.  Joe and I both knew what to choose, and how to do the deed.  I chose one of his Crones (tons of shurikens vs MCs looked good in my theory hammer sessions) while he chose my Wraithknight which made me suspicious.

As the nid flyers screamed towards me I formulated a battle plan: spray each MC in turn with volume of fire, and then let more potent units finish the job, in this case the Wraithknight and the Wraithguard.  Joe obliged by parking both of his flyrants in front of the serpent with the wraithguard in it!  I had a chance here.  I could bag both of them with my distort template weapons if I could only ground one or both.  I unleashed every possible shot available (with the exception of the vypers who were busy failing to ground the target Crone) at the flying beasts, scored a respectable amount of hits, did several wounds across the two tyrants, and then Joe passed each and every grounding check.  Crap.  What happened next was obvious.  The nids landed and proceeded to eat each of my units in turn.  One of the tyrants had some freaky close combat weapon with the ‘instant death’ rule which chopped the Wraithknight down, the only time I lost him all weekend.  I was able to kill the target crone which made getting tabled by Joe a little more palatable.

We had a fantastic, very challenging game, and the two of us hung out to chat over lunch, talking hobby, tactics, and randomness.  He was a very good player and I’d like to take him on again.

Game 6 – More nids!  More Ryans!  Ryan Blackcloud’s Tyranid horde!

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This time the entire nid horde came at me en masse!  Two Tervigons spawned large units of gants while a crone and a flyrant flew over to hassle my line.  The flyers first as a distraction worked again as Ryan managed to nail every grounding check he made.  The tyrant which was perched on top of a tall ruined building in my deployment zone was one of my primary targets as the most VPs was to come from eliminating all the enemy HQs while not losing all of your own.  Eventually the flyrant assaulted guardians which were in the building.  The unit’s Warlock put up a great fight doing several wounds to the beast in addition to one done by a guardian!  Naturally the unit was wiped out in time, but revenge would be the Eldars as the flyrant was brought down by some scatterlaser fire.

This game was another nail-biter which I felt I had until a tardy Mawlock was able to pop up in my deployment zone gaining ‘linebreaker’ point, and contesting a table quarter which gave Ryan points to offset my HQ assassination by 1!!!!  Ryan was a super chill guy, and we had a super fun game.

I want to say thanks to Joe, Chris, Tim, and the Ryans for 5 great games that left me with the desire to play more!  I also want to say thanks to the Dark Star staff who did an amazing job with that event!  It was the tightest tournament I have ever experienced but also was relaxed and very inclusive!  Random people who came by to chat between games, introduced to me by my various opponents who were locals, were very cool and friendly.

My last comment on The Dark Star 2014 is to thanks the painting judges who gave me a ‘bronze’ in army appearance!  It was nice to get some props on the army which I have put so much time into.  I am excited to refine the paint work some more, finish up some weathering, and to eventually add some new units!

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Kingdom Death Interview & Kickstarter

I’d not discovered the site pins of war until tonight.  The content that drew me there is this interesting interview with Kingdom Death’s founder Adam Poots.  I’ve been following Kingdom Death for a while and some of what this interview reveals is very interesting.  Check it out!


The concept of a co-op miniatures game has appealed to me for sometime, and I had often wondered why there weren’t any out there.  Good for KD.

Sculpting & modeling tips on Twitter

I will be posting quasi-weekly (occasionally I am away from the internet, yup) tips on things that I learned over the years about sculpting, modelling, and general hobby tips.  Follow me on Twitter, and keep an eye out for #SculptingModelingTip on posts.  If you have any questions about these tips, please feel free to message me here, or on Twitter!

Gamer’s expectations

One thing that I have noticed about gamers over the last several years is that their perception of what is fair, or right in terms of gaming vendors has become pretty dramatic.  If you frequent forums dedicated to GW games, you will find wailing and gnashing of teeth posts about everything from miniatures not being produced fast enough, to miniatures being produced too fast, and any number of conspiracy theories about how a particular faction is being given the shaft for whatever reason.  Anytime there is a new release, there seem to be as many comments that are negative about what isn’t being made, not updated, or how it was updated as there are displaying enthusiasm about the new release.

I’ve been noticing this in communities dedicated to other game systems as well.  Privateer Press’s forums were quite a sight when Hordes, and then MkII (which I think was an improvement to an already great game) were released.  I think that this happens when a game reaches a certain threshold in popularity, as is happening right now with Battlefront’s Flames of War.  BF recently released, as a magazine supplement to Wargames Illustrated, a booklet with forces for playing FoW in Vietnam.  In addition to this they have also released 18ish different items for the new time-period.  It seems that some of the people who play WW2 FoW aren’t too happy about this.  There is an impression that new releases for a different time period will limit how much is created for FoW’s traditional subject, the 2nd world war.  This is probably quite accurate.

I think it is important to point out that these complaints have been growing on the BF forums for some time now prior to FoW:Vietnam.  If it wasn’t Early War releases getting in the way of Late War stuff, than it was Market Garden-centric items holding up stuff for the Eastern Front.

Sometimes people’s issues don’t have anything to do with a certain time period, faction, race, or product.  They just want to have the marketing itch scratched, and to have something new to drool over, whether or not they will buy it.  I get as excited by NEW as much as the next person, but I don’t feel that anyone owes it to me.

At the risk of getting tangential, this all ties in with the way that gamers/hobbyists love to critique the business moves of the companies that they patronize.  It seems like every change that happens that isn’t directly related to a person getting shiny new stuff, is considered a bad case of falling-sky.  Recently there was a debate at Black Sun Games over the ethics of GW producing plastic models, considering that there are some people who like metals.  Despite the fact that plastic models are vastly more popular with average gamers, the individual who brought this up determined that GW ‘screwed’ the people who liked collecting metal models, especially ones that went out of print.  His perception seemed to be that GW had an obligation to keep producing models in metal, and not to stop casting older designs.  Usually these sorts of comments are relegated to the safety of the internet, where the consequences of ones comments are significantly less severe, so I was a bit surprised to have this conversation in flesh and blood.

This hobby gets people excited, and I understand that.  We invest a great deal of time, energy, money, and love into it.  There are occasions where game companies do some bone-headed things that drastically affect the ability of gamers to continue with their investment in that companies product (Chris at Garagehammer brought up a nasty example with the way that GW changed, for some reason, the way that units had to be based in Epic 40k, which caused some serious trouble for gamers with older armies).

My own rant about my expectations will end now, but I really wonder what some people would say if they could hear themselves while crying over their keyboards, several months down the road when the new shiny has become considerably more dull.

Brandon Kutka, 1970-2011

I wanted to let everyone who reads this blog know that we have lost a fantastic member of the gaming community here in Chicago.

Our friend Brandon Kutka died this morning from swelling of the brain which was brought on by previously undetected Leukemia.

Brandon, along with Tom Wright opened up Black Sun Games at a time when the city of Chicago was seriously lacking game-shops.  A great gaming community sprouted over time thanks to Brandon’s efforts to make Black Sun Games an awesome spot.

I met Brandon several years ago, shortly after Black Sun Games opened.  He was very enthusiastic about the store and getting involved with local gamers.  In the time that I got to know him we often discussed painting, collecting, gaming, and occasionally he was able to get games in with folks when the store duties weren’t keeping him busy.  Our time as friends was far too short.

Rest in peace, Brandon.

Man, this site blows without pictures… ;)

A month ago, in this post, I mentioned that I was working on a new set of chaos warriors. They are nearly done, and are looking pretty sick. Hopefully I will get some pictures taken soon. Several awesome people have been trying to help me out with this, but thanks to weather, and technology drama, new pics haven’t been made yet.

In addition to taking pics of the new warriors, the complete sculpt of the Demon Prince, I also have some new articles in the works. I am waiting on a delivery of this biz, which I am going to use to show some advanced basing techniques.

Boy… sad I had to sell the camera.

Its been quiet…

While I haven’t posted too much here lately, much has been going on in green monster-land. The US armored/armored rifles are well underway, and the chaos army project continues to plod on. I hope to post some more meaty posts, and tutorials in the not too distant future. I have painted myself into a corner with this blog somewhat. I tend to not post unless I have some images to go with the posts, and I am sans camera at the moment. John of Plastic Legions fame is going to come to the rescue by letting me use his photo set up to take some new WIP shots. Cruising into the new year, I also hope to get some new tutorials up. I have a list of suggestions from forum members at heelanhammer.com that I am going to continue to build from.