Welcome to another annual novella by yours truly. I don’t write “Road Through” articles like our fearless leader Rob Jones, but instead seed those personal narratives, microdose-like, through my own Imperium Magazine reviews. Should you not want to browse through some 30-40 of those nuggets of autobiographical games journalism, you can instead stay here, where I will be gazing so deeply into my navel that I will see what I had for lunch the day prior. This will follow much the same format as my previous year’s recap, with a month by month breakdown of my travels and misadventures, and many, many pictures of painted models.
Join me now for 2022 by the numbers. In this 12 month period, I:
- Acquired 311 models
- Built 141 models
- Painted 123 models
- Played 57 miniatures wargames over 9 game systems, winning 34 of them
- Completed reading or listening to 4 Black Library publications of fairly consistent quality
- Attended 3 major events
- Caught Covid-19 at 1 of said events
- Recorded 18 episodes of my podcast, The 40k Badcast, plus:
- 4 additional episodes for our Patreon subscribers
- 16 episodes of our Taco Bell review podcast, The Torko Borko Reporko, also on Patreon
- Wrote or contributed to 87 articles right here on Go On Hammer Dot Com. Yes, I am double dipping on Badcast posts here, and yes I am including my two as-yet unpublished articles that may never see the light of day.
Now, I did approach this year with three main hams-related goals: Play an average of one game every week, paint more models than I acquired, and paint 200 models. You will see that I have failed 2/3 of those objectives, thanks in no small part to the deluge of models I received through Imperium and Goonhammer at large for review. 200 models is my general “norm” for painting, but this year was packed with big centerpiece models, tumultuous career changes, and a heaping helping of Bad Brain Chemicals, so I’ll follow my therapist’s advice and give myself some compassion right from the get-go for failing to hit a semi-unrealistic goal.
What better model to begin an exceptionally inconsistent year than this old Empire Regimental Mascot for Warhammer Fantasy Battle? My dear friend and Goonhammer contributor Dylan gave me this characterful old weirdo for Christmas in 2021, and I thought it a fun way to begin a new year full of new opportunities. I have a hefty square-based Empire army that, someday, I will write an Army Showcase for, but I had an easy breezy time knocking out this classic sculpt. There’s something refreshing about painting a normal-ass bear and a weird guy instead of some high fantasy centerpiece model ripped from He-Man’s personal menagerie. Speaking of…
The ancient Greek aesthetic shared by many of the more recent Stormcast Eternals models captivated me, and this model in particular is the one where I was truly sold on the range back in 2021. Hades and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey awakened a Greekaboo urge I had not indulged in since playing Age of Empires for the first time in 1997, but I delighted in channeling a Spartan scheme for my custom Stormhost, The Undying Phalanx. Expect to see a few more of them as this article continues. This model in particular broke down into a number of easy subassemblies, and after the misery of painting not one but two Chaos Chariots in 2020, it was a reminder that some chariot models can actually be enjoyable to paint. My, how far we’ve come.
Going back to my good friend Dylan, he gave me these ruins in 2014 or so when our gaming group, Dorkamorka, was closing up shop. Some years later I assembled them on some Masonite bases he cut for me, and dolled them up to match my Empire army. Years later still, I finally painted the damn things. They’re a little small for Age of Sigmar – you can fit maybe two Stormcast models inside – but they’re characterful set dressing for the clashes of gods and monsters you might see in a typical 2000 point game. They painted up quickly with some washes and drybrushes, and I got reacquainted with the masses of load-bearing green stuff I had used to assemble them years prior. They’re not Citadel-level kits is what I’m getting at.
Funnily enough, I played a few games over the year where this post-human artillery piece hung out inside one of those buildings, taking up the entire ground floor. My dad gave me a few Stormcast sets for Christmas, endearingly and mistakenly calling them “Sigmars”, and I excitedly cracked into them one after another for a good chunk of this year. My cat Esmeralda was sick around this time, and while she made a full recovery and is back to her (screaming, affectionate, rotund) self, I painted these Gryph-Hounds with black fur as a sort of tribute to bring her good health. I am not a religious person, or even a particularly spiritual one, but symbolic gestures like this seem to work out for me, as they did here.
I have been attending Saturday night hobby hangs over Zoom, then Discord, over the past two years and change. These are largely attended by members of my old gaming group and Goonhammer’s finest, and many of these get rowdy. On a particularly intoxicated occurrence of this weekly ritual, I attempted to grade the “mouthfeel” of a number of models. The Khorne Hound in Magore’s Fiends scored the lowest, and I would not recommend repeating my mistakes. I was feeling the desire to paint a “squad” of something, but wanted a change from the Stormcast I had been working on, so I knocked out this Warhammer Underpants warband that had been hanging out in my backlog for a year or two. I have some plans for a grand unified army of Chaos involving all the sundry Chaos mortal factions in Age of Sigmar, but this is it for my Khornate units at time of writing. I found the models reasonably enjoyable to paint, with their oodles of trim being curbed by the small batch size of the warband. The Khornedog was especially fun though; I love painting volumetric highlights, and the pale skin of this bad doggo was enjoyable. I eventually acquired a box of Bloodletters I intend to paint the same way.
I have a tendency to batch paint characters with units, and this was my first time indulging that dark impulse this year. It helps that I have an easily replicable scheme and an established process for painting this army, which you can read here. Fun fact: most Goonhammer contributors only write How to Paint Everything articles so they can remember how they painted their own models. This is how the 28mm heroic scale sausage is made, dear reader, beautifully and laden with micro and macro-plastics. These particular models were not especially challenging, but the larger lads would come in handy game after game. Their Warscroll is also home to my favorite bit of rules writing in Age of Sigmar:
“Each model in an Annihilators with Meteoric Grandhammers unit is armed with a Meteoric Grandhammer.”
I knocked out yet more terrain in January, this time of the 41st millennium variety. I have a distinct memory of listening to the Cast Dice Podcast’s interview with Rick Priestley as I painted this, and I recommend that particular episode strongly. I had built and primed this terrain back in 2019, if not earlier, during a terrain building day with Dylan. That fella casts a long shadow, and not just because he is particularly tall. I had long ago acquired a box of The RZA-pattern ruins after winning an Age of Sigmar tournament at Alpha Omega Hobby in Quincy, Massachusetts, a store I would heartily recommend visiting. I arranged the ruins on this base and built it out with bits from the Sector Imperialis Large Basing Kit, the 8th edition objective set, and Prometheum Relay pipes over some diamond plate textured plasticard. I now realize you can’t buy any of these things direct from Games Workshop anymore. Painting this involved holding it like a serving tray and spinning it around to get to all the details. I do not recommend this wrist-destroying process. I use it regularly in my games of 40k now, as it’s a more than usable piece of ground-level area terrain with plenty of space for a squad or two to hang out.
February was a lighter month than most, seeing me only paint one solid brick of Vanquishers. I was able to host a lot of 40k at my house in this period, building my local group and learning the ropes of all the Templars I had painted late the year prior.
Around this time, the fine folks at Hachette Partworks reached out to me asking if I would like to review their US release of Imperium magazine, and I gladly accepted. If you have not been following along with my review series, it’s a monthly box of goodies that are pieced out week by week, with the intent of teaching a new hobbyist how to build, paint, and play games of Warhammer 40,000. I have genuinely enjoyed reviewing these magazines, and will be nearing the halfway point by year’s end. It is my hope that they’ll reach out to me again for an Age of Sigmar equivalent, and not just because I like receiving bushels of models every month.
My output began to slow as I took a new job working at one of Bend, Oregon’s okayest breweries. I did the job a literal high school student was doing, and not as well as he could. Here I would make friends with new people and be treated as furniture by customers for the minimum possible wage I could legally be paid in Oregon. It was a lesson in humility that I learned much from, even if the cost to my physical and mental health was not insignificant. However, late this month a certain game called Elden Ring dropped, and with it, my productivity.
March can best be summed up by an interaction with my brewery coworker Coop. He is the third person I’ve worked with named Coop, with the first two typically being referred to as Coopums and Coopums Twopums in order of appearance. This third Coop (Throopums? Whatever.) looked up at the TV at the brewery we worked at, which was airing a commercial for the then-new Uncharted movie. Unblinkingly, he stared at the television and uttered a sentence that will live on in my mind forevermore:
“Nathan Drake in Elden Ring. That’s what’s up.”
This perfect time capsule of March, 2022, will be one of the positive memories I associate with that brewery I fortunately no longer work at. Coop’s uncle played Warhammer so we’d talk about it occasionally between his trips to smoke weed in the walk-in.
I was hoping to have this tank finished in February, but my Army Painter primer decided it would be cool if it became hydrophobic, so everything on this model took 2-3 more coats than it reasonably should have. I’m not exactly thrilled about AP products at this juncture. I was excited to get this big honkin’ tank ready for the US Open in
Seattle Tacoma. Fortunately, it was able to prove itself on the tabletop in quite a few games, well before it started disappointing me again as the year went on.
Hosting games at home is something I missed dearly, and I only started being able to do so again in the Spring of last year. My home gaming setup would also go through a few changes as this year went on, evolving from a crammed kitchen table situation to a Transformers-esque conversion of our living room into a gaming space, before reaching its final form which I will detail later.
I had an itch in my mind to paint a unit of running assault Hellblasters, and a specific conversion for the Lieutenant from my inaugural issue of Imperium. I was, as always, inspired by John Blanche’s Black Templars piece from 3rd edition, hence the yellow guns. I want to go back and paint some hot rod flames on them, but that will have to wait.
April is the month where I got to feel like an honest to gum Games Journo as I got to preview Chaos Gate: Daemonhunters for Goonhammer. Expect more about this game later on, but it was cool to be in preview events with folks from other major video game news outlets. What started as watching developer presentations became playable previews before finally getting to grips the finished game. More on that later though; this is a chronological retelling of the year’s events and I’m not about to get nonlinear with my narratives.
Sword Brethren are one of those units where the quality of the models and the quality of the rules have a harsh disconnect. The models absolutely own, even if I had some challenges lining up the seams on their capes. Their rules, however, put them somewhere between Vanguard Veterans and Bladeguard, somehow being less versatile, durable, and dangerous than either. They are, in short, not a good unit. I used them a lot anyway. April was a month of painting highly detailed suboptimal units as I prepped for the US Open in May. More than anything, I had one stupid bit I really wanted to pull off.
Irrespective of their performance on the table, I’m pleased that Imperium fortuitously delivered the exact unit I was looking to paint, right as I wanted to paint them. Flamestorm Aggressors are, at this point in time, not especially great. The flipside is, there is a Black Templars stratagem called Heretic’s Pyre that treats flamers as blast weapons for 1CP, or 2CP if the unit is in Gravis armor. I’m no mathemagician, but 6 Aggressors with Flamestorm Gauntlets each getting 12 automatic hits against a unit of 11 or more models would equal a guaranteed 72 hits. Even at S4 AP0 that is going to wear something down. With this dumb gimmick in mind, I went through the agony of edge highlighting half a dozen of these idiots this month and immediately got a game in where I was able to try it out. After unleashing 72 hits on a unit of 20 Necron Warriors, they killed 19 only for 12 of them to get back up. My dumb gimmick was foiled immediately, but the die had been cast and the bit had been committed to: these guys were coming with me to Tacoma.
I had one last occurrence hit in April: the return of my podcast, The 40k Badcast. My cohost Dan had taken a 2 month break to acquaint himself with fatherhood and his new child. I will admit I was somewhat rudderless in this period, with my newfound work at one of Bend, Oregon’s mid-tier breweries proving to be difficult and unrewarding. With my dire professional outlook and with no bimonthly reminder that yes, I exist, and yes, I am of some value, this was not by any stretch my finest of hours.
I had time to squeeze in just a single more model before heading out, and it was an Impulsor to carry my Sword Brethren around in. I had been told Impulsors were useful and I should paint some, and it only took 18 months for that information to sink in. After the hydrophobic Repulsor Executioner, this was downright pleasant by comparison, and it broke down easily into subassemblies. It has since been used in more games than it has not.
The US Open Seattle was a salve for the soul, even if its location was somewhat misrepresented. Calling it the “US Open Seattle” whilst holding it in Tacoma would be like having the “US Open Boston” in Wilmington, or the “New York City Open” in Newark. Nomenclature aside, it was the first major event I had gone to without my 40k Badcast cohost Dan, my partner in crime for the past 6 years. Despite the absence of my louder half, I never felt particularly lonesome as I was joined by a multitude of Goons Whomst Hammer, plus friends new and old. If you want to read my full thoughts on the event in a similarly lengthy post, I do invite you here to do so. Event writeups like these are by their nature time capsules with a limited shelf life, so it would warm my heart if you could revisit this particular snapshot of my Warhammer career before it is forgotten. Should you pass my coverage by, know this: I won the trash panda award for being the biggest dirtbag:
On my return, I was positively jazzed to get back to painting Templars, and I knocked a bunch out.
Why would I need a Company Champion when I have the Emperor’s Champion? I turned this event exclusive Champion model into a Bladeguard Sergeant (A Sword Brother’s Big Brother) and started working on some Bladeguard after seeing Jack’s Black Templars list. The big challenges with Bladeguard are their tedious (but cool looking) tower shields and coming up with unique heraldry for each of them. This is where I’ll tell you to read my old heraldry article, because these retrospectives are nothing if not excuses to stroke one’s ego until it chafes.
Another conversion I had rattling around in my head was this simple headswap for the Bladeguard Ancient. He painted up quickly, as he’s just a single dude mostly covered in robes. He has appeared in many games, and done next to bubkis in most of them, but his heraldry at least looks nice.
Lastly, Complex Games sent me a lovely care package containing a code for Chaos Gate: Daemonhunters. This was part of their influencer outreach program, so by that logic I’m an influencer now. That’s one more thing I need to explain to my parents, I guess. The box had Castellan Crowe, a cute little artbook, some paints and hobby supplies, all in a neat Inquisitorial wrapper. I had written up a big article on this box and all its contents, but since it wasn’t something the general public would be able to get their hands on, we killed the review. It was the right call, but murdering one’s darlings is seldom an enjoyable experience, especially for said darlings. I also totally don’t keep my weed in there now.
This box also contained the Steam key with which I would review the final game. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of going through the campaign, leveling up my guys and solving the tactical problems each scenario involved. Even trying to play as much as I could, I was only able to finish the game come July, so our review was by its nature incomplete. I am disappointed in myself for not finishing the game in time, but at 54 hours and change, it just wasn’t going to happen. Goonhammer is, after all, a passion project by dozens of us and none of our full time jobs, despite what people may think. Even at this point when I was working 20 hours a week at a brewery, I just did not have the time or energy to churn through this 40-50 hour game. For that, I apologize.
Templars were still very much where I was pouring my hobby energy, with Bladeguard being what excited me most. I mixed and matched the pair of Indomitus sprues I had, plus the multipart Bladeguard kit, Templar upgrade sprues, and the Champion from May to make a pair of characterful squads. I still feel like I should add a dude each to bring them up to 6 men a piece, but I like the idea of running two pairs of 5 in Impulsors with characters. I also might repaint their swords to be more interesting but that’s a problem for 2023 SRM; this article is about the soon to be destroyed 2022 SRM.
Imperium magazine kept sending me Assault Intercessors, and I kept using their bodies for more Templars. I now have a rather large slot in my bitz box of the easy to build Assault Intercessor arms that I will likely never find a use for. I fortunately had enough leftover arms from my Crusader squad the year before that I was able to make a suitably Templar-friendly unit of angry guys with chainsaw swords. Painting rank and file infantry is my favorite hobby activity, so even if these guys do little that my Crusaders don’t, I enjoyed the experience.
This marked a combo breaker after 3 straight months of painting Black Templars. Much like the Assault Intercessors before, I had been sent a bevvy of Munitorum Armored Containers through Imperium and I wanted to see just how fast I could knock one out. The above took maybe 3 hours of washing, wiping, drybrushing and sponging. These containers and crates are some of the most useful models in all of the Games Workshop wargaming ecosphere, and for as little as I generally enjoy painting terrain, their versatility always makes them an appealing choice for a palette cleanser.
This is where my year started to get busy and bittersweet in equal measure. I was finally able to leave my minimum wage job at a brewery to enjoy gainful employment doing contract video and animation work for a major insurance company. The irony of this switch is that in this new position, should I take a somewhat lengthy bathroom break, I can literally be paid more to take a dump than I would in multiple hours ricocheting around a brewery like a pinball, cleaning up spills and being berated by customers. I don’t mean to brag with this, but to merely outline what a raw fucking deal service jobs are, and what a humbling experience working one can be. Changing jobs is always going to take up a lot of time and energy, but you wouldn’t guess it based on my output this month. Turns out feeling worthless for 6+ months isn’t good for that hobby mojo either.
July also saw me flying across the country for a funeral, the first I’d been to since the pandemic started. I won’t get too far into it here, but the declining health of loved ones is unfortunately very much the background radiation of my 2022. Maybe my jumbled up thoughts and feelings are why I couldn’t stick to a theme this month, maybe the emotional whiplash of getting a new lease on life just in time to watch someone else’s end threw me for a loop, but that’s the hand I’ve got and if I won’t play it nobody will.
I’ve heard the stock Judiciar model referred to as “Covid Skeletor” due to his stupid masked skull head. I’ve painted this model twice now, and both times I’ve done a headswap on this Guts/Auron-style swordsman. His big flat-bladed executioner’s sword is also based on real executioner blades from the middle ages, which is pretty neat. I’ve used him in lieu of the Emperor’s Champion in many games where I don’t have an HQ slot to spare, and he too is a cruise missile that walks like a man.
I am a glutton for Gravis-pattern punishment, and with these guys, I nearly completed my second set of Indomitus. I still need to paint the bikers and I have some plans for the captain, but Eradicators are often effective for my Ultramarines and I needed more heavy support choices. I still hate highlighting their stupid moon boots.
As part of my ongoing attempt to ape Jack’s Black Templars from
Seattle Tacoma, I painted up Brother Thiccums the Redemptor Dreadnought. He’s the last model remaining from the army box I gushed over in 2021, and I was happy to finally put that set to rest. I did paint both weapon options in case the gatling cannon is ever good again, but my favorite thing about this dude was adding an old Empire Knights shield for a tilting plate. I love heraldry and mirroring it in multiple locations is so fun for me. Insisting on the repetition of that imagery very much makes it feel like it belongs to that individual and isn’t just a random smattering of colors and NASCAR sponsor-esque decals. You can tell a story that way without writing reams of fanfiction.
I have been playing Dungeons and Dragons over Discord, DnDBeyond, and Google Drawings with my wife, our friend and occasional Goonhammer Contributor Cody, and a few other friends every Sunday since June 2021. During these sessions, I am typically working on some models, and with 5 minutes to go before one particular session, I scrambled for something – anything – I had ready to paint. I had found this pair of Necromunda weirdos who I’d built and primed on a whim some time before, and I gladly knocked them out in 2 nights. I still haven’t had a chance to use them. They’re probably dating. The doc is inspired by AIM scientists from Marvel Comics, while the gang lookout is inspired by my friend Peter and his outdoorsy park ranger fashion sense. This “Petercore” model was also inspired by the Rebel troopers on Endor’s moon from Return of the Jedi, again something that’s very Peter.
I’m assuming it was just hell of humid this late into Summer, so I was continuing my search for whatever I had primed. I had an idea to use Contrast for the gold trim on my Iron Warriors and was excited about the new Chaos codex, so I painted up the trio from Blackstone Fortress I had built and primed back in 2019. I largely had a good time, even if I don’t like the Chaos Lord’s stupid tubes. I would try and carry this momentum over into a How to Paint Everything: Iron Warriors article that still hasn’t been published. I would also try and carry this momentum over into painting some of the Shadowspear and Dark Vengeance Chaos Marines I’d had since 2019 and 2012 respectively. I would again be foiled, defeated by trim, teeth, and amorphous fleshy details. They remain in my closet of in-progress models, where they will likely remain for the rest of my days.
This month was too much. In addition to a new job and various projects for Goonhammer and my own podcast, I had the NOVA Open over Labor Day and a lengthy trip back east to visit my family to contend with. There were 6 days between those two trips, and they were different kinds of draining and nourishing. I live some 3000 miles from many of my loved ones, which even as a weirdo hermit can be trying at times. I really do love living out west and find Oregon to be several orders of magnitude more kind and beautiful than New England, but I unfortunately couldn’t pack up all my friends and family and bring them with me. Maybe I’ll win the lottery and start a commune.
Oh god that’s how cults start isn’t it
It was my pleasure to review the Hexbane’s Hunters set for Warhammer Underpants, and in doing so reuse a scheme I worked out for one of the heroes from Cursed City. When the new Cities of Sigmar range launches, I will be in deep trouble. I did not review the cards or how the warband plays, as I am so far removed from playing this game that I can’t in good faith comment on it. I’ve been wanting to give the prebuilt deck format a try as I do not have the human hard drive space to keep collectible cards in mind and build decks for this or any game. It’s a shame as I really love how Underpants plays, it’s just counter to my vibes-based approach to wargaming.
My wife and I’s dating anniversary is in August, and this year I offered to paint her a model of Marais and Niblet, respectively her character and Tressym familiar from our aforementioned Dungeons and Dragons campaign. She designed the model in Heroforge and I had a joyful evening painting her miniature up. Heroforge’s 3D printed models aren’t going to give Games Workshop a run for their money anytime soon, but it’s a fun application to play with and offers a load of customization options.
Lastly, I wanted a new character model to lead my army at the NOVA Open at the end of the month. I had purchased this Gravis Captain from Modern Games, my FLGS, as a pick-me-up after a particularly rough day at my old brewery job. With a headswap and some Templar candles, I made him appropriately Black Templar-themed, and my old Marshal Dietrich Donnerschlag had officially crossed the Rubicon Primaris. He was my old Teeth of Terra captain in my smol bean Black Templars, and it was about time he got an upgrade and some personal heraldry. With that, I was off to the NOVA Open.
NOVA is, in many ways, my home for wargaming, and the origin story of this stage in my Warhammer hobby. It is a well-documented phenomenon that when 2 or more white guys sit down together, one invariably suggests “we should start a podcast”. Back in 2016 at my very first NOVA, this scenario played out with Dan Boyd, the brothers Sniffen, and myself, sitting at a table by the foodtruck lot outside the Hyatt Regency hotel. These conversations continued afterwards between Dan and I – him being a professional audio engineer, and myself being no stranger to voice acting and voice over work. We had the equipment, we had the expertise, and we had the drive, and we recorded our very first episode in December of that year, for a January 2017 release. What started as two dudes yukking it up has become a staple of my own hobby, social circle, and professional life, with the Badcast Patreon funding my Warhammer habit and opening up my world to whole new groups of people. It is impossible for me to separate the NOVA Open from this cornerstone of my life, and it is impossible for me to write about it without coming off as equal parts self-congratulatory and saccharine. I am proud of the big dumb thing I’ve built with my big dumb friend, and I am privileged to split my time between the Badcast and Goonhammer for contributions to the hobby paratext.
The NOVA Narrative has been a marquis event every year, with gorgeous terrain provided by Chris Stover, a wholly unique level of camaraderie, and a fairly busy schedule of games, warlord meetings, and the highest possible quality hangs. I have written many, many words about this event, and came to the conclusion that it was entirely too much this year. I do not wish to belabor the point, but the schedule was overladen with full size games, with too little time between to do the various Crusade homework necessary for advancement. I believe this photo sums it up best:
Here you see a dozen or so of us, smiling, drinking, and enjoying the good times had at nerd summer camp. Then, in the back, in a red jersey and staring at a phone, is me. I was actively missing out on the friends I had come here to spend time with because I was too busy updating my Crusade roster in Administratum. The sheer mental load of Crusade, plus Stover’s own additions to the games we were playing had left me completely burnt out. I woke up each day to commence the Warhammer Death March, and found I was largely having fun in spite of the framework of the event.
My opponents were all gracious and enjoyable people to hang out with, and most were willing to throw the extraneous cruft of each mission out in favor of playing a simple and straightforward game of Warhammer. Even Stover caught on after a day or two that perhaps he had overloaded his own event with rules nobody asked for, and stated that we could ignore certain aspects of the games if we agreed with our opponents. Once he did this, the games were far more enjoyable and less exhausting, even if the event schedule was still jam packed.
My very real son and friend Rocco delighted the lot of us with a game of Street Fighter: The Miniatures Game, and I got to take Chun-Li to victory by button mashing, but with cards instead of a joypad. Honestly, times like these are the best part of hanging out at events. There’s a kind of social circle you develop when you go to cons time and again, and it can feel like not a moment has passed between you, even after months apart. That circle has only grown for me with the Badcast and Goonhammer, and I am grateful for the kindness and good humor that all these goobers bring to the table.
After NOVA, my enthusiasm for 40k had dwindled to probably the lowest it had been since 7th edition. I had fully been in ironic punishment hell for that Labor Day weekend, and wanted nothing to do with 40k proper. It was pretty much the exact inverse of the
Seattle Tacoma Open, which had instead bolstered my love of this game and setting.
Instead I turned my passions toward Necromunda. I taught a local gamer and new friend how to play, and was fortunate enough to review the Mauler kit with Dylan for Goonhammer. It might seem a smidge hypocritical to condemn Crusade’s bookkeeping while lauding Necromunda’s, and I don’t mean to handwave that by just saying it just hits different. Necromunda is a granular skirmish game with a bunch of drugged-up yabbos murdering each other over scrap metal, and as beefed-up as your guys get, they’ll still get shot in the dick, catch on fire, and fall into a dumpster before getting addicted to psychotropic tetanus. The game is built around that progression from the start, unlike 40k which continuously layers its complexity until the system crumbles under its own weight. One is an army scale wargame, the other is a narrative RPG-lite skirmish game with much more understanding for house rules and narrative play. Maybe I will write something in the future about how much Crusade kind of bites, especially for events, but for now you probably get my point.
I also got to review some Goliath goodies from Forgeworld. I was somewhat mixed on these models, but it felt good to paint more Beefs Slamjaw. Goliaths have been my gang for multiple editions of Necromunda now, and I delight in adding more bunches of muscle to the musclebunch. I enjoy reviewing Forgeworld models since they’re so often weird one-offs I might not purchase otherwise, so I get to come in with little to no expectations.
A listener had sent me Sergeant Castus, the battle-damaged Space Marine dude, many moons ago. A random dude with a chainsword was not going to make a difference in either my Ultramarines or Black Templars armies, both of which were more or less at capacity for Chainsaw Men. Instead, I took the opportunity to finally paint a Blood Raven. This chapter has been near and dear to me ever since I was a teenager playing Dawn of War, and I crystalized that affection when I made the Dawn of Awesome cartoons. Someday I’ll make an 8th. I usually only make them when I’m having a crisis of one sort or another in my life, and this year’s evidently wasn’t enough to warrant this effort. Back to the model, I wanted to leverage the diorama base to make a Dawn of War: Dark Crusade “Return to Kronus” narrative, and I gave him a Mk VII helmet to sell that. I figure this is a veteran of that war, back to finish the job with a plasma pistol probably stolen from the Imperial Fists.
Speaking of Dawn of War, I also painted up this Chapel-Barracks by Develain. He makes wonderful garage kits based on Dawn of War structures, and is a consummately talented hobbyist to boot. I was able to empty out a bunch of crap from my bits box and cut up a few corks to doll up the base for this terrain, which again was provided by Dylan.
At the end of the month, my wife and I took a trip to Portland to hit up IKEA. We had been shifting stuff around the house a lot, changing functions of rooms and reallocating spaces to other purposes. Among these was taking our living room up in the loft and putting it downstairs, taking over a largely unused sitting area. This better used the downstairs but crucially freed up the loft to be a dedicated gaming space.
This would involve a large wardrobe cabinet to hold my terrain and backlog, some shelves to hold my gaming books and accoutrements, and a space large enough to lay out my 6×4 Alpha Gaming Table from Firmer Terra. Said table can be stored in the laundry room when not in use, and as a result my home gaming experience is far more comfortable, with something like a 10 minute setup or teardown time. Before, a game would involve getting a table from the garage, moving a couch and rearranging the living room, running armies and terrain up and down the stairs, and it was a whole production just to roll some dice. One thing I’ve learned from my painting is that any barriers that you can remove will make you more likely to Do The Thing, and at this point I have the least friction between myself and gaming at home that I’ve ever had. I am extremely privileged to have the space, resources, and supportive partner to make this sort of thing happen, and I recognize that.
Organizing my backlog like this also helped me put things into perspective. As an ex once told me upon first entering my apartment:
“You have a lot of shit.”
I’m glad I was able to put it all in once place, making it easily readable and accessible. A backlog can feel insurmountable when you don’t even know where all your stuff even is. Much like finding a crumpled up $20 bill in your old jacket pocket, it can be an unexpected delight to find a gift from your past self to your present self. I have twice now found a Land Raider, new in box, that I never remembered acquiring. I do not want to repeat this occurrence. With this new, highly visible system, plus the pull-out drawers with plexiglass fronts for my terrain, lost hams should be a thing of the past. This should also help me find what I no longer want, which I can then offload to willing buyers or trade partners.
I turned 32 this month, gathering friends new and old together for what is as close to an ideal day as I can articulate. I got to break in my newly relocated and redecorated dedicated gaming space, throwing down for a game of Age of Sigmar with my buddy Cassidy. My Stormcast smoked his Orks, and a rotating cast of friends came and went before making the journey over to a local food truck lot and beergarden. It was the kind of celebration I had dearly missed over the previous two years of the pandemic, humble as it may sound.
Despite being burnt out on playing 40k proper, I still had and continue to have a deep love for the universe. The Elucidian Starstriders had been rereleased from the Kill Team: Rogue Trader box nobody bought, and I excitedly purchased and painted them in short order. I stuck them on Necromunda bases in the hopes to use them in some sort of wackadoo scenario down the line, but more than anything it means their basing reinforces their starfaring narrative. I intended to use them in a game of Kill Team with my friend Forest shortly after, but as they didn’t have rules in the box or online, I had to settle for using my Imperial Guard instead. I was cut to ribbons by his Corsairs, but had better luck a week later with my Black Templars Intercessor Kill Team against Ian’s Chaos Marines. I’ve only played the game a few times now, but I enjoy it and find it to be a viable alternative to my normal sci-fi gaming flavors of 40k and Necromunda. But what if – hear me out – there was a fourth flavor of science fiction tabletop wargaming?
In October I picked up the Battletech starter set from Guardian Games in Portland, with the understanding that I could finally rope my lifelong friend Ben into rolling dice for the first time since high school. We had spent many nights stomping around Mechwarrior 5 and grew up with Mechassault and Mechwarrior 3, and he had since found his way down many many loreholes for the game of armored combat. We had a run through the introductory scenario and had a ton of fun, both hungry for a more complex and nuanced experience than the barebones intro game. I found painting the mechs to be a refreshing change of pace from Games Workshop models. While the plastic is softer and the detail is shallower, they take washes and drybrushes extremely well, and a smidge of weathering powder and sponging really take them to the next level. I settled on these two schemes as I wanted an obvious red team and blue team. I’d say “good guys” and “bad guys” but it’s Battletech, nobody’s ever the good guys.
My last model of the month was also a showcase for drybrushing, zenithal priming, sponging, and Contrast. I had an upcoming Imperium review that contained some Manufactorum Ruins in it, and I needed a photo to illustrate the models therein. This is a recurring challenge, as some units will be ubiquitous in our media library, while others are wholly absent. Some more obscure kits aren’t even sold on their own anymore, yet they still find their way into my mailbox each month. While no part of me wants to paint a Necron force for illustrative purposes, terrain is always welcome in my collection, and it’s something I never feel the pull to buy. Fortunately, by following some of our own hobby tutorials and putting my own spin on them, I was able to knock this ruin out in a couple days. I’ve since used it in Kill Team and 40k proper, and its size makes it a versatile structure for either.
The rest of October I spent with my wife in Utah. We hiked around Arches and Canyonlands national parks, spending a night in the latter. While Arches is definitely the more iconic of the two, you can see it all in a day, even the more arduous paths that involve scrambling up near-sheer rock formations. Canyonlands, however, is genuinely vast, and you can really get lost there if you’d like. It’s also a dark sky reserve, so when night falls you can see space forever, unimpeded by artificial light. I am, by all accounts, an indoor cat who very much does not enjoy camping, but it was worth it to make those hikes and spend some time with the person I care for most. I also read the Warhammer Horror short story collection Maledictions. It was okay.
Now, during the previous month’s birthday get together, Cassidy asked to see an Ork vehicle kit that was still untouched in my backlog closet. I handed it to him, he put it behind his back, and handed me a new in shrink Be’lakor, with a jovial “happy birthday” to herald its arrival. It took a smidge of mental preparation, but I painted the big blue meanie, and I am exceptionally happy with the result.
While I have been playing Age of Sigmar since the first General’s Handbook, I’ve never gotten one of those big honkin’ centerpiece models that dominate the tables and narratives of the game. This was my first, and I’ll be honest – aside from the wings, I had a blast with him. There was a realization around the second layer of skintone on this guy, and it was a simple one: he’s just a big guy! This massive centerpiece character model was functionally no different from an upscaled infantry model. Getting over that got me through. I watched the Warhammer+ Citadel Masterclass on the Eldar Avatar to nail down the flaming sword, and I can safely say this is my favorite thing I painted this year. Of course, I wasn’t done.
Battlemechs have become my new palate cleansers. Quick to paint up, with few extraneous details and little cleanup necessary, they let me make meaningful progress in a short burst of time. Video rendering? Time for a drybrush. Work meeting? I can absolutely get some washes down. Half an hour before I need to go to do something? That’s enough time to block in some colors. By painting a lance at a time I can give the part of my brain that likes seeing numbers go up the rush of chemicals it needs to feel good about itself. I’ve especially taken to painting them after laborious models as it feels good to knock out a unit’s worth of models in 2 or 3 hours.
I had the good fortune to review the new Slaves to Darkness launch box for Goonhammer. While I haven’t yet written reviews of many box’s sundry models, I did write one for the star of that set: the Daemon Prince. You can read my full thoughts in that review, but like with Be’Lakpr, aside from the wings I had a pretty grand time working through this smaller than anticipated monster. I was also shown a comment on Reddit where someone got really angry that I joked about the Daemon Prince’s butt in my review. To this Redditor who will undoubtedly die mad, I have but one picture to speak my thousand words:
November also saw my final event of the year: The New Mexico US Open Grand Finale, or whatever combination of those 7 words actually is the proper name of the event. I detailed my journey here extensively, in an article likely longer than this one. This retrospective is more or less being written back to back with that trip report, and the event is garden fresh on my mind, so there is not altogether too much I can add to that narrative. The extremely short version is that the trip was cursed, the hangs were good, and Crusade is Too Much.
Events like this one, NOVA, and the
Seattle Tacoma Open are all reminders that the Discord usernames, Twitter icons, and Goonhammer bylines I see every day correspond to real, fleshy human beings in the physical world we inhabit. Most of them, it turns out, are pretty decent folks to boot.
Unfortunately, I was one of the folks who attended this particular event and ended up coming home with Covid. I hadn’t masked up at the event itself, only during my time in airports and aircraft, and I got whatever the most up-to-date variant happens to be. The symptoms were basically a sinus cold +1, with the added mental side effect of feeling consistently like I’d been hit in the head. If you listen to Badcast episodes from this period, you might notice I’m kinda slow on the draw a lot of the time, with a nearly audible dial-up tone buzzing as I my brain buffers a comeback. Compared to when I got it in February 2020 and was coughing myself to death for two straight weeks, it’s a marked improvement. From this point on I don’t think I’ll be going to any events unmasked. Even vaxxed up Covid’s not a good thing to have, and I’d completely forgotten that I was wearing a mask the whole time at NOVA, such the effect that had on my enjoyment of the event.
Here we are at the end of the year, our long journey around the sun finally coming to a close. On returning from New Mexico, I was feeling pretty okay about 40k as a whole, but less so about Crusade. Even with that event’s luxurious time limits, the power scaling, uneven nature of Crusade abilities, and use of Power Level really had me wanting to go back to more traditional Matched Play. Covid obviously put a damper on my plans to get out there and get games in, but left me with plenty of time to paint. For the sin of my hubris, I painted some of the most torturous miniatures in my entire collection.
I built and primed these guys before I even left Boston back in 2020; I believe they were a birthday or early Christmas present from my sister. I knew they seemed like a lot, but that my simpler scheme would help. If it did, it was not enough. The amount of trim and horns on these guys is absolutely bonkers, and they dare the eye to look in any one place for long. I stabbed myself frequently whilst handling them, and the only thing I found genuinely enjoyable about the painting experience was their lovely blended blades. I intend to go back and touch up some of my more boring power swords with the same technique. Once I figured it was basically the same as the volumetric highlights I enjoyed doing so much on cloaks and skin, it was an easy sell.
Much like my “blue team” mechs in November after Be’Lakor, I painted up more “red team” mechs this month after the absolute slog that was the Varanguard. I was having trouble getting tan weathering powder to stick when I varnished my mechs, so I instead applied some heavily watered down Karak Stone wiped away with a paper towel for a similar effect, before sponge weathering and chipping. These models are all about quick techniques.
Dylan again spoiled me by sending a set of the new Kill Team Kasrkin models my way, and I was immediately hit with a new philosophical nightmare. How would these new, close-to-truescale models fit in with my existing Imperial Guard projects? I’ve got a Valhallan army I painted in 2012-13, all made up of classic early-mid 90s metal models. I’ve got a platoon of Cadians of the same vintage that go with my retro Ultramarines. I’ve got the House Lakar Fusiliers that accompany my Knights. I’ve got an army worth of old Cadians and Catachans I painted in college that haven’t seen the table in over a decade. Not one of these armies will match the scale or modern aesthetics of these new Kasrkin. Here is where I make an 11th hour confession to you, dear listener: I have a disease. This disease dictates that I must collect and paint multiple iterations of the same armies every few years, or else I will probably die. This is certainly true of Ultramarines, partially true of Orks, and superseded on a technicality with my Black Templars, where one army just evolved into another. With these new Kasrkin in my lap, I had to execute a variation on a Valhallan theme, as I am drawn to the winter war aesthetic. Again, we’re going back to Dawn of War‘s impact on my youth, the Winter Assault expansion specifically. I don’t even like winter very much in real life. With these new models in hand, I needed a test scheme, and built a poor schmuck from my bits box:
I knocked out this Guardsman in a single 2.5 hour sitting, wash drying times included, and I’m pleased with the standard for the time spent. This model is slightly different from your average Cadian since his shirt ends at his belt, but the longer jackets of your average Cadian/Kasrkin and the trenchcoats of the 20 Death Korps of Krieg models I’ve got lying around will look good in this scheme. It’s somewhat based on the tan jackets, green pants, and black boots of WW1 Russian Cavalry uniforms, but with some more sci-fi appropriate white flak armor and red-orange shades. The brown of the gun casing evokes a wooden rifle, even though it’s obviously made of Space Metal, and I went with black leather for the belts and pouches instead of my reference’s brown leather for the sake of simplicity and contrast. I wanted color variation in the uniform, and I love to draw from history for my armies whenever I can, whether that’s referencing old uniforms or older heraldry. It’s important not to reproduce too much real world or external imagery here – the 41st millennium is its own rich setting and transplanting ideologies and nationalities (or even other IPs) to it 1:1 feels awkward at best and tasteless at worst. However, the GW design team is no stranger to drawing from history and pop culture to create its 40k-flavored pastiches. Hell, that new Rogal Dorn tank is a Matilda body with a Sherman turret and British Mk1 sponsons, not just a T34 with a laser cannon bolted to the roof. Even then, the new Cadians draw from WW2 US GIs as much as they do from Vietnam-era imagery or the Colonial Marines from Aliens (themselves a Vietnam war analogue), but they still have standard bearers and gorgets on their officers right out of the Napoleonic Wars. The Death Korps of Krieg have a German name, WW1 British boots and trousers, and WW1 French trenchcoats and helmets, with lasguns featuring a French Hotchkiss gun’s radiator. In other words, Warhammer’s a broad canvas, and I invite you to mix some colors together before slapping them down.
This group of pipes were received in an issue of Imperium, and there were no existing photos in the backend to illustrate them so away I went. I tried a Leadbelcher spray and Contrast approach, hoping that years after painting my Steam Tank, Leadbelcher spray would no longer be paint-resistant. My hopes were misplaced. I utilized every weathering trick readily available to me to knock these out, and while I’m not thrilled with them, terrain is terrain.
For my penultimate models of the year, I have another lance of Lyran Commonwealth mechs for Battletech. My friend Ben is enthusiastic about playing the full fat variety of the game of armored combat, and the tungsten-dense rulebook now sits on my coffee table. I acquired quite a few mechs this year, with another smattering of them arriving on and around the holidays, and they will continue to cleanse my palate going into the new year. I do encourage you, dear reader, to find some models you can just knock out quickly like these ones. It makes the dumb part of your brain that likes seeing numbers go up quite happy.
Lastly, I have the Catachan Power Couple above. I’ve had these models since they came out, overcome by the sheer novelty of Catachan miniatures sculpted after the Clinton administration. I mirrored the winter scheme from my test Cadian and I am quite pleased with the results. As for why these crop top-wearing bodybuilders would be in a winter environment is anybody’s guess, but the Imperium isn’t exactly known for sound logistics. These models were some of the most fun miniatures I painted all year, and if Catachans get a new range in the future, I will be in some degree of trouble.
I had a note in my painting log that said “If you start a new army, punch yourself in the dick”. I regret to inform you I earned this self-inflicted blow the moment I decided that no, these Kasrkin have to be in a wholly different scheme from my multitudes of Guard before them. Naturally, my scheme does not work with the existing primarily white transfer sheets Games Workshop packages with any of the Cadian Infantry Squad kits, new or old, and I had to go about designing my own. My graphic design background came in handy as I modified existing .svg files or created new graphics from whole vector-based cloth and arranged them on a somewhat standard transfer sheet size. I sized objects proportionally to the Cadian transfer sheet, and after an abortive attempt at home printing, contacted Bedlam Creations for some transfer sheets based on my print files. At time of writing I have not yet received them, but I expect to have them shortly into the new year and will be applying them to my Guardsmen posthaste. These means I may have a headstart on my 2023 painting, with a full complement of 10 Kasrkin ready to hit the “completed” column the moment those transfers show up in my mailbox.
Final Thoughts, The Year Ahead, and What Have You
Moving into 2023, I am again on uncertain ground. This specific job contract will have run its course with the arrival of the new year, and I will once more be on the hunt for a paycheck. I can’t say this is particularly fertile ground for a healthy and happy hobby life, but I’ve been here before, and in worse positions to boot. I won’t say this hobby is cheaper than therapy, but it doesn’t involve jumping through the manifold hoops of the US health insurance system, and that certainly gives it a leg up. I also don’t get to say “Bathe Your Blade in the Blood of Your Foe” anywhere near often enough in my own therapy sessions, so that’s points again to Warhammer.
This hobby has been hugely beneficial to my mental health over the years and through the woods. This is not just for the Friends We Made Along the Way, but for the time I can spend hyperfixating on tiny plastic spacemen without a care for the world outside my narrow cone of vision. Hours I spend laboriously highlighting the boots of yet another Gravis-armored chonker or lovingly blending the folds of a Stormcast’s cloak are hours where I don’t need to think too hard about what tribulations lie ahead or that dumb thing I told a girl I liked when I was 12. I can put on some music or jump into a voice channel on one Discord or another, make some demonstrable progress on a tangible object that I can hold in my hands, and eventually hold a finished piece of art that is mine and mine alone. What I’m saying is that Stanley Kubrick was trying to make a point in Citizen Kane when he showed the title character dropping his snowglobe.
The uncertainties of the future aside, I can at least state my intention for the year to come. Again, I would like to hit 52 games. An average of 1 game a week seems to do me well. Another repeat, I would like to paint more than I acquire, with an upwards goal of 200 models. This has been something I’ve been okay at until this past year, but Imperium and my work situation certainly made it a trickier notion. I want to win best painted at a major event and redo my display board. I twice came perilously close to winning painting awards in my events, and I chafe at always being the bridesmaid and never the bride. I understand my ego is wrapped up in that, but I don’t spend 6 hours per Intercessor because I don’t enjoy the recognition. My specific goals with regards to this are to build out a new Imperial Guard army when the new stuff begins to drop, and keep up with my Templars. There’s some upcoming stuff in Imperium I know would be a solid addition to that army, and I would bet real world dollars that some kind of new Marine unit will drop in 2023. Were I a gambling man, I would bet a similar amount of real world dollars that I will inexorably purchase it. Lastly, I hope to attend at least 3 major events once again. Adepticon is already booked and NOVA is going to be in the venue where Reagan got shot, so I’m excited about both of those. Should Games Workshop find its way back to the Pacific Northwest, I would gladly attend another US Open, but we’ll see what their schedule looks like whenever they get around to posting that. Both were wonderful events with friends, readers, listeners, and colleagues besides, and I would be thrilled to attend more.
With that I bid you adieu for 2022. See you next year, warhams.
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