Thursday, 5 December 2019

The "Bug-Out" Bag

Hi folks,

Australia has learned the hard way just how murderous a bushfire can be. In my 38 years on the planet, I have lived through some pretty nasty fire seasons. We have all watched the nightly news report the loss of hundreds of homes, livestock and human lives. About 12 years ago, our fire danger rating signs were modified to reflect this more accurately, by including a new risk category: catastrophic.

A few weeks ago, for the first time since it was introduced, my local sign was dialed up to the new rating. The advice from our local Rural Fire Service, which is only 200 m down the road, was pretty sobering: if a fire starts today we probably won't be able to save you. Being in a fairly exposed location (below), we followed our plan for these conditions by preparing the house as best as we could, and then evacuating early.

Not all heroes wear capes; wifey clears dry leaves out of the guttering

Among many other things we would prefer not to have reduced to ashes, that meant leaving behind 25 years worth of gaming material. As part of our plan we each packed a single "bug-out" bag of things we wanted to save, the night before things got really sketchy. It was an interesting learning experience for the kids, having to think carefully about what is really important in life. It was also interesting to consider which pieces of my collection actually had sentimental value to me. Perhaps unsurprisingly, anything that linked back to my gaming past and good times with friends took precedent.

Let's take a look at my bug-out bag:

I haven't actually; I am rubbish with heights. Wifey used to work there, hence the reason she was on the roof instead of me!


I packed the new box with a couple of maps, record sheets and the cardboard cutouts. It would be more than enough to keep the game alive; you don't need miniatures to play BattleTech. I also packed my old school source books, campaigns and rules. You can get these digitally, but each one of these physical copies has a story. For example, I first saw the book on the far left at a second hand bookstore in Sydney. My mum wouldn't get it for me, even though it was only $10 and I was so upset (though I didn't let it show [much] at the time). A few weeks later we went back and I looked for it again, picking it up with my pocket money. That rulebook kickstarted Joel and I playing BattleTech at school, which, in the grand scheme of things, ended up being a very big deal.

Warhammer 40K

Too many miniatures to save if I was in a rush, I decided to again go for rules instead. Like my BattleTech collection, these all have a story to tell. They would allow me to play 2nd Edition, no problems. Insurance would hopefully buy me something completely new; I don't think I could paint the same stuff again if it was destroyed.


I have included the family favourites, including Kodama, which I played in Beppu with Joel and his Dad a few days after his wedding, and his travel copy of Cathedral, which Penny absolutely loves. Both are treasures.

Magic the Gathering 

I grabbed 5 Revised Edition decks that I have been using to teach Oscar how to play. These cards are the oldest and the crustiest, but also the ones we all used to love laying with at school on the concrete, outside the library, on hot summer mornings. They may be in new boxes, but the dirt on the card edges is 1995 vintage.

I added to this my own personal Revised Edition collection decks, with some Fallen Empires mixed in. The first I call Lonely Mountain, which includes a Shivan Dragon, Dragon Whelps, Goblins and Goblin Grenades. I constructed this deck on the excursion bus one year at school, swapping heaps of my other cards away cheaply to get the red cards I wanted. I slipped in an original rulebook, with my mate Shivan on the front.

To round out the MtG collection, I included my Minotaur deck, which I built after swapping away everything in Year 10 and starting from scratch. Instead of being a power-deck, it focused on a goofy theme, which has shaped my gaming attitude ever since. I also chucked in there my "Justice" deck. It is a green and white (mainly) Shadowmoor deck; think twisted old school fairytale with elves and cute little Kithkin things. It also includes a Hand of Justice card, which used to be one of Joel's favourites. It was stolen by some jerk at school, but I won another copy playing ante and gave it back to him. When he passed away, I took his MtG collection and split it into decks to share with many of his mates. I kept this card for myself, though.

Hand of Justice, top left.


I never thought I would own a single Pokemon card, but I play it with the kids all the time now and we have a really enjoyable collection. With custom sleeves from Kyoto, I was not going to leave these behind,

Lone Wolf

And finally, the one piece of gaming material that I can say started it all, Book 15 of the Lone Wolf saga: The Darke Crusade. The story of this book has already been told here, It was life shaping.

Since putting together the bag, the bushfire crisis has worsened considerably. We have had a few scares, but nothing has come close yet. Some good friends of ours in Braidwood were on the news during a particularly close call; their house and horses were saved by the tremendous efforts of our rural firefighters (and luck). I have a phone app which monitors fires within a certain radius, which looks a bit like this today:

The smoke in the air is also a daily reminder of the unfolding disaster, which to be honest, is of such a scale that it makes my bug-out bag feel like a self-entitled daydream. If a fire comes up the gully it will be the last thing on my mind, the last thing I tuck under my arm as I make a hasty exit (the first thing being either a child or a dog!). Most of us here also have the dark feeling that this will be the new normal. It is hard to think about nice things like gaming possessions when the fireys are out there again, tonight, risking their lives.

The view outside my lab at work.

Charred leaves from a major fire ~ 50 km away, falling in our driveway.

See you across the table,


Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Iron Snakes: Squad Aegis TO-DONE!!!

Hi folks,

Squad Aegis has been on my mind for a very long time. Back in the days of outrageously good grav cannons, I decided to pick up some Centurions for my Iron Snakes. Upon getting them home, though, I pretty much did what I always do; throw competitiveness out the window in favour of some crazy conversion juju. The first combat squad I finished for Squaduary this year, armed with a combination of assault cannon, heavy bolter (for popping hellfire rounds), hurricane bolters and shields. I chose the assault cannon for these guys because I could imagine them hunkering behind the shield and firing a "spear" of tracers. This combination obviously isn't codex legal, but pffft. The shields were custom laser cut by ML Shields, after a really fun Facebook messaging sesson where I helped him design them.

The second squad took a little longer, being armed with heavily converted plasma cannons. Again, I could imagine them firing a "spear" of energy, which fit the theme I was running with. I managed to finish this second combat squad off last week, after chipping away at it for 6 months.

I imagined the Centurion with the helmet plume to be the sergeant, striding out and pointing the finger at some objective.

The next model is undergoing some kind of emergency plasma venting. I figured this may be a way to model a Centurion receiving aid from an apothecary, particularly where plasma weapons are involved. You can see the little portable heat sink on the base at the back, cleverly (perhaps) hiding the fact that Centurions are essentially mono-pose and I had nowhere else to put the damn power lines! There is a neat glow effect that I did for it, that I blissfully forgot to capture when I took these photos. I'll try to add an extra shot with the necessary angle when I can be bothered.

The final Centurion actually has my favourite pose of the whole squad. I don't know, he just looks... boss. I was going to make this guy a squad standard bearer, but decided against it; the banner looked too small.

I have a couple more Iron Snakes units on the paint table at the moment, as I try to add some Primaris punch to my list. After this effort though, I'm going to take a short break to finish a special project for my daughter. Keep an eye out for it!

See you across the table,


Friday, 15 November 2019

BattleTech: Clan Invasion Kickstarter

Hi folks,

A few months ago the makers of BattleTech launched a Kickstarter that would introduce the Clans factions to a new generation of players. The original release of the Clans was a bit controversial, due to the vast gulf in technology between Level 1 Inner Sphere Mechs and the new Clan omnimechs. Purists looked on them with disdain (and still do), arguing that playing a Clan faction was something you would do to make up for a lack of real BattleTech gaming skill.

In a straight up fight, a Clan 'Mech of equal tonnage will wreck an Inner Sphere 'Mech*. So, in our games, we never played a straight up fight with them; the Clan faction was always outnumbered (5:8 ratio seemed to be the sweet spot).  Clan players had to use every advantage they had just to draw even. For this reason, we had a fantastic time with them. I naturally gravitated towards the Jade Falcon clan, known for their bellicose nature and war-to-the-knife attitude; I guarantee I never had it easy.

So when the Kickstarter was launched, promising updated rules, scenarios, maps and miniatures, we pounced on it pretty darn hard. So did a whole heap of people, funding it in 7 minutes, eventually to the order of $2,500,000 US. I pledged at the Star Captain level and finally received my backer's survey today!

Here's what I'm hoping to get (remember, Kickstarter ain't a store, folks):

Clan Invasion Box Set

The new sculpts for these classic clan 'Mechs are fantastic, though I do wish the Timberwolf fuselage was longer. I doubt the new rules are going to be that ground breaking, but the MechWarrior and Alpha Strike cards will be very helpful. Any new mapsheets are always welcome, as are record sheets (though I can print these whenever I want).

ComStar Level II Command Unit

So... I don't know what the sculpts look like yet, but everything they have done so far is amazing. These 'Mechs would form the Command Unit of a new ComStar collection for me, which represent the main adversaries of the Clans during the Battle of Tukkayid. I already have a heap of Clan miniatures, so diversifying was definitely the way to go.

ComStar Level II Battle Unit

Holy. Moly. Talk about all killers, no fillers. This option has a bunch of great 'Mechs in it that I will thoroughly enjoy rocking on the battlefield. The Black Knight, in particular, was a "must have" for me.

Jade Falcon Fanboy Kit

This includes a challenge coin and faction dice.

Tukkayid MapPack and Campaign

Arguably the watershed moment in the Clan Invasion, I have an old and crumbling copy of the original campaign book. It has seen an epic amount of use over the past ~25 years. This was also a must have for me. As a free reward at my pledge level, I couldn't be more excited. The MapPack contains the following battlefields: Clan Wolf, Clan Jade Falcon, Clan Ghost Bear, Clan Smoke Jaguar, Clan Steel Viper, Clan Diamond Shark, Clan Nova Cat, and a bonus map set, the Deployment Zone.

Alien Worlds MapPack

I added these as a sneaky extra, after Catalyst removed one of the pledge rewards at my level and credited us the projected cost. Overall it set me back an extra $30, but any new mapsheets really are an awesome boon and these sound completely different to anything I have ever played on. The pack includes: Caustic Valley #1, Caustic Valley #2, Crystalline Canyon #1, Crystalline Canyon #2, Fungal Forest #1, Fungal Forest #2, Lunar Station #1, Lunar Station #2, Fractured Glacier #1 and Fractured Glacier #2, Volcanic Plateau #1, and Volcanic Plateau #2.

UrbanMech Miniature

This is a stretch goal reward and a bit of an in-joke. The UrbanMech is not a good 'Mech, but has a huge cult following. To lose to one of these is the height of shame, so to field one is really making a statement. When the campaign was picking up speed, someone suggested they should re-do the venerable old trashcan if some ridiculous milestone was made and wasn't that just a red rag before the bull. One of the champions of UrbanMech warfare on the BattleTech International Facebook group, who also happens to be a fantastic artist, helped to design the figure. This makes me giggle on the inside so much.

That's just the major stuff. In total I should be getting ~ 45 pieces of swag from this Kickstarter, which I won't post about in full. When they start rolling in, or we start playing the various digital scenarios, I'll be sure to feature them in a post.

Well bargained and done!


*unless you are playing against Joel. Then all bets are off and you get your butt handed to you.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

BattleTech: Black Widow Part 2

Hi folks,

After adding the red stripes to the Warhammer using green painter's tape as a guide, I went around adding some little details and battle damage. the searchlight was a major piece of detail and a major pain in the backside. Because it is recessed, large and curved, I couldn't do the whole length in a single brushstroke, I had to use one running forwards and one back holding the figure in two different positions. That made blending a nice glass effect really hard. I must have repainted it over ten times, but eventually you just have to let that kind of thing go. I'll do better next time!

The hourglass black widow markings on the centre torso were again marked out with triangles of painter's tape.

The Wolf's Dragoons symbol and spider on the leg were printed transparencies that I glued in place with varnish and then painted over very carefully. The spider looked particularly flat, so I messed it up a bit with some weathering.

To finish it up, I added some colour to the medium and small lasers (green and red), as well as some blue and purple for the PPC's.

To give the project some context I found a rad 80's picture of Natasha Kerensky and some info about the Warhammer BattleMech, and put together a little framed display to go with the figure.

Here is how it all looks on display!


See you across the table,