This summer was an interesting one for me. At the end of May, my wife and I welcomed our third child into the world. In July, I defended my dissertation and successfully earned my PhD. And then in August there was the Goonhammer Open. In an ideal world GHO would have been a nice, relaxing endcap to a very tumultuous summer. Of course in that ideal world I would not be an overenthusiastic moron who committed to producing a ton of terrain for the narrative. I am, however, an overenthusiastic moron and so my summer was about as busy as one can get. Folks from last year might remember that I managed to paint a bunch of craters for GHO. This year I took on a little bit more.
- A Sector Mechanicus board that would fit on a 44″ x 30″ Skirmish Mat.
- Enough Zone Mortalis pieces to provide a 36″ x 36″ table for a battle inside a ship.
- A planetary defense turret to serve as a centerpiece for a narrative event.
As insane as that sounds, it was actually a lot of fun. The ratio of effort to reward is extremely high when it comes to painting terrain, and a few simple techniques can result in a lot of very high quality work. It’s also extremely satisfying to be able to hang out with your friends and watch them enjoy playing on something you worked hard on.
The first order of business was to find a suitably massive turret to serve as the centerpiece of a narrative campaign. After doing a brief search online and even dabbling on an attempt to design my own, I settled on this model by Forbidden Prints. It looked cool, it looked big, and it was already sectioned and scaled for a filament printer. It wasn’t until I printed the first piece that I realized just how big it actually was.
The footprint of that monstrosity is roughly two feet square, and it took seven spools of plastic and an entire month to print. For those who are curious the print was done on a Prusa Mk3S+ using a 0.6 mm nozzle, 0.15 mm layer height, and Hatchbox PLA. The 0.6 mm nozzle was essential for making sure enough material could get deposited to print in a reasonable amount of time, while the 0.15 mm layers meant that the layer lines weren’t too visible. Painting it would have not been possible were it not for the efforts of Michael, Norman, Joe, and Quinn. Using sponges, craft paint and Rub n’ Buff wax metallic paint they finished the entire thing in a couple hours. I highly recommend using sponge painting for all terrain, but especially printed terrain as it’s more likely to obfuscate the layer lines.
Getting the Zone Mortalis and Sector Mechanicus tables done in time taught me quite a bit about the powers of sponge painting, Rub n’ Buff, and oil washes. The techniques were something I had already discussed previously, but at a scale that I had previously never considered. I ended up checking the weather every day to find exactly when the relative humidity would fall below 65% so I could prime and varnish, and fortunately the heat proved very helpful for drying the oil wash. The sun also warped some of the 3D printed fortification pieces which required re-printing, so remember to keep your PLA out of the sun after you’ve spray painted it.
The Zone Mortalis floors started with a brown metallic primer, Rub n’ Buff Pewter on the floor sections, a gloss varnish, a black/brown oil wash, matte varnish, and then finally Rub n’ Buff Spanish Copper on the raised sections. The walls were also primed in a brown metallic and then sponge painted using craft paint (Mondo Llama Cherry Jam and Hot Chili Pepper, courtesy of Target). The metallic sections were Rub n’ Buff Silver Leaf, and I also sponged on some metallics and orange to add some weathering and variety. After the same varnish, wash, and varnish process as the floors I used Rub n’ Buff Antique Gold on the raised pipes on top. Each step only took a few hours to paint every piece, but I’m extremely happy with the end result.
To be honest, I don’t recommend purchasing a Zone Mortalis board. In addition to being exorbitantly expensive, the floor tiles are prone to warping and the pieces don’t really lock into place as well as I would like. This is likely due to tight tolerances between the wall sections and floor, which means that in order to keep things together you really will want to glue at least some the walls down. If I had to do it again I would suggest a wall system that works on a neoprene mat, like products from Skirmish Mats, Dark Fantastic Mills, Gamemat.eu, or Promethium Forge. The actual Zone Mortalis pieces seem better suited for making 3D structures that complement the Sector Mechanicus line.
The Sector Mechanicus table turned out really well. The biggest challenge with terrain like this is making sure that you have plenty of smaller pieces that you can use as bridges between the large center pieces. I think two levels is about the limit for what is viable for SM in terms of transportation and playability. I have seen some boards with three (like the amazing terrain at the Games Workshop in Springfield, VA) but I wouldn’t want to transport it.
Nothing But Necro
My job at the GHO was primarily logistics, which basically meant I got to drive all around the DC metro region in a U-Haul that was almost, but not quite, too small for me to fit inside (I’m 6’9″). Arriving to the event early, I was able to secure assistance to sponge paint the BFG (seriously guys I cannot thank you enough) while I did some last minute work on the SM pieces. The conference center staff was INCREDIBLY helpful and accommodating, and after the last pieces were painted and the crates uncrated I was able to settle down and focus on my three goals for the GHO.
- Avoid getting dehydrated and sick like last time.
- Have fun.
- Play Necro.
It turns out that the secret to “have fun” is to “do nothing” for the majority of the event. Where last year I was the ringer and played in nearly every narrative game, this year I showed up when I wanted to, helped where needed, and played Necromunda when it was convenient. Given my summer this was basically paradise.
Game 1: Greg’s ERCOT Rapid Response Team
I felt morally obligated to make sure that the first game on the Sector Mechanicus table was Necromunda, and Greg “Klobasnek” Narro was kind enough to bring his Goliaths for a 1250 credit skirmish. The ERCOT Rapid Response Team, detecting a threat to their bottom line in the ruins of a forge near the onset of the Ash Wastes, descended on the Murder Hornets for a dust-up. Lacking vehicles we still decided it would be fun to try out the Ash Wastes environmental rules, which is how we ended up with Visibility (12) and reduced movement from a roiling dust storm.
The Murder Hornets had the high ground and the reduced visibility was no match for Crabro, Destroyer of Worlds, and his multi-melta. Taking advantage of the high ground, the Murder Hornets were able to pelt the Goliaths with las fire and melta bursts while everyone struggled with move actions being Basic instead of Simple. In hindsight the Goliaths could have gotten a bit more movement by Charging every round, but they were stuck on the ladders and ended up bottling. What matters is that Greg and I had fun and the Sector Mechanicus board had been properly christened.
Game 2: Emma’s Escher Maws
After a relaxing breakfast in the hotel with friends, I was able to help Rob manage the beginning of the narrative campaign while he wrangled the GT for a bit. The biggest takeaway I had from this experience is that Rob did a phenomenal job of organizing the narrative and everyone was having a great time. Lunch involved a really nice meal at Summer House, and the area is extremely dog friendly so I even got to pet a wonderful pit bull. Don’t get me wrong, I love the NOVA Open, but it’s really hard to compete with tasty burgers, nachos, and petting awesome dogs.
My next game of Necro was against Emma and her Escher Maws. Emma is awesome and I’m really glad I got to play against her. The Murder Hornets returned to the dilapidated forge, this time to secure several rumored fuel caches that the Escher Maws were rushing to steal. Emma and I decided to play the Fuel Hunt scenario with just our gangers, and it was a lot of fun. The Ash Wastes were gentle and provided no environmental hazards, but the gangs still had to secure the loot and survive.
The Fuel Hunt scenario has players make a Loot (Double) action in order to see if a fuel cache has anything good in it. On a 4+ the fighters get fuel, and on a 1 the fighters find a frag trap. The Murder Hornets moved aggressively and secured four of the five fuel points… only for me to roll nothing but 2s. Meanwhile the Escher Maws, having clearly laid a clever trap for the Van Saar, rushed to the only real fuel store and won the game. That didn’t stop several of them from getting vaporized by Crabro and his multi-melta, who quickly developed a bit of a reputation among the other players.
Game 3: Drugs Are Friends and the Race to the Death
The next morning I slept in and had breakfast at Call Your Mother, a deli located a short walk away from the convention center. The weather was absolutely incredible for the entire weekend, which was a real reward after multiple days of oil washing terrain pieces in the Maryland heat and humidity. When I got back I arranged a game with Phil and his Escher gang, the appropriately named Drugs Are Friends. Neither of us had played the vehicle rules yet, so we took advantage of the pair of Cargo-8 Ridgehaulers that Rob had painted for the narrative event and tried a Bone Road Death Race. The backstory for this match was simple; there was a sweet jump at the end of the table and both of us wanted to make it. Neither of us did, but the game was amazing.
For those unfamiliar with Ash Wastes, certain scenarios use what’s called the “Rolling Roads” effect. At the end of every turn the board shifts, and anything caught within 8″ of the trailing edge is taken off the board. The game starts with Crabro wiping out half of the Eschers with a multi-melta shot to the transport bed. Screaming in defiance at the threat of her precious Ridgehauler being melted by an anti-tank weapon, the driver of the Escher Ridgehauler slammed into the side of the Murder Hornet’s vehicle and delivers a penetrating hit to the engine. The consequence of a penetrating hit to the engine is that the vehicle cannot move more than its Movement characteristic in a single turn.
The Movement characteristic of a Ridgehauler is 7″.
Remember what I wrote about how Rolling Roads clears the back 8″ every turn?
In a panic the Van Saar start to jump between the vehicles and try to hijack the Escher Ridgehauler. The Escher, naturally happy to get into close combat with a bunch of cancer-stricken nerds, pounce and the fighting is brutal. Crabro gets pinned but doesn’t fall from the side of the Ridgehauler, but he is doomed to fall behind. Both the Escher and Van Saar champions jump on top of the ride and fire their plasma guns only to have the overheat and kill the bearer. Only the Neoteks on their hoverboards have a chance to keep up, and then drop photon grenades in the face of the Escher driver to keep things distracted. The Escher driver is flashed and loses their following activation, which means by the end of Round 2 they will fall behind. Meanwhile the Escher Queen is shot off the Ridgehauler but manages to stay alive long and keep running. Both gangs bottle at the end of turn 2, but the Queen is far Cooler than the Neoteks and stands proud as the only model left. Victory to the Escher gang!
Neither gang moved more than 20″.
Game 4: Crabro Scars Everyone
Joey, Phil, and myself managed to get one last game in before we had to pack up and close out the event. One of my favorite parts of Necromunda is playing with amazing people who have gorgeous gangs. Joey in particular is immensely gifted, and every one of his Steelcap Skullsmashers is a work of art. To wrap things up we did a hive escape mission with Joey bringing 2500 credits of Goliaths and Phil and myself bringing our respective 1250 lists. The goal was simple; the Skullsmashers had gotten too good for the rest of us and had to escape into the Ash Wastes while the Murder Hornets and Drugs Are Friends tried to take them down. Joey took his whole gang, added some Ambots, and then got to work.
Unfortunately in the first round of combat Crabro continued to demonstrate why perhaps the combination of a 2+ BS and a 3″ blast template that knocks things out of action is a bit unfair. The opening salvo took out Joey’s leader and a few others, while the Escher and remaining Van Saar pelted the Goliaths with laser and plasma fire. The response was brutal, with several gangers taken out by ambushing Ambots and general mayhem, but the opening salvo was too much and we agreed to end the game early when it was time to pack up.
Perhaps next time I’ll give Crabro a rad cannon instead.
Just as with last year I had an opportunity to paint judge the narrative and the GT, and once again the quality of the submissions was incredible. On the narrative side Greg’s Necron army was stunning. The cohesive scheme, use of green highlights on the base to make it seem like the entire army was radioactive, and fantastic technical execution was inspiring. Among a field of extremely talented painters, he stood victorious.
I also want to give a special shoutout to Norman and his incredibly well converted Chaos Knight army. Every model was carefully customized with an amazing assortment of bits that was extremely well executed. The Ruinous Powers would be pleased with such adoration.
The GT side was interesting because I was asked to use the ITC Hobby Track scoring system. While I have experience using various rubrics in the past, this was my first experience with the ITC system and to be honest it wasn’t a positive experience. For starters there was no baseline point system; an acceptable army could start with 0 points or it could start at 100. Second I’m really not a fan of technique-based rubrics where you get points based on how many different things you apply. Not every army needs Object Source Lighting, weathering, Non-Metallic Metals, and free-handing. Players should not feel compelled to convert and use green-stuff if they feel the original models meet their needs, and as a judge I don’t necessarily know what is or isn’t converted. Similarly display boards can be a problem and players shouldn’t be penalized for not being able to bring a board on the plane. With that in mind I did my best to use the ITC approach as follows.
- Every army got 69 points. They were all nice.
- The top 10% (top 4) were given a more careful review, and points were applied per the rubric.
- My top two selections were examined by two other experienced paint judges, and the winner selected by majority vote.
The top painted army in the GT was Charles Furby’s Death Guard. The picture below doesn’t do it justice; this army was immaculate. The attention to detail, the use of colors in what could easily be a mottled and grimdark army, the themes in the basing, it was all amazing. I look forward to seeing more of his work.
I also wanted to highlight Andrew’s gorgeous T’au army. I love the color scheme, and it features a lot of really nice free handing on the drones.
The Long Drive Home
The weather seemed just as sad as I was that things had to end, and after saying my goodbyes and dealing with logistics we got hit with rain. I got to enjoy a drive home along the DC Beltway in a U-Haul with windshield wipers that were conceptual at best. Fortunately I made it home in one piece, my mind already swimming with thoughts about next year.
One way or another, there will be Necro.
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