Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Sons of Sigmar, stand ye steady...

Well, it's been a while! I'm venturing off the beaten track of 40k in this post, and exploring some of the army cases piled up in the garage. Today, at the insistence of Geoff, who you may know from the Independent Characters and Combined Arms podcasts, I'm showcasing one of my Warhammer armies - the Empire, in this case.

Now, full disclosure - I haven't played Age of Sigmar, although I was still at GW when it was originally being planned and designed. This isn't an article about Warhammer Vs Age of Sigmar, or anything like that. I think the Old World needed to be refreshed, and frankly the result of GW Vs Chapterhouse made it inevitable. I think the execution was poor - GW continually struggles to have the courage of its convictions in many ways - but the act of actually ending the world was necessary and a Good Narrative Thing.

But that's by the by, because we are swooping down into the Empire of Sigmar, to the frontier province of Averland - home of Black Fire Pass, famed for its horses - and its capital, the mighty city of Averheim... via a massive stack of foam:

Firstly, why the Empire? Well, when I initially began the army it was in response to the 6th edition of Warhammer - the Empire and Orcs starter set, and this edition of the army book:

As these things do, it sat on the back burner for some time, until the excellent batch of new plastic kits started to be released, the ones that are now Freeguild, and this edition of the army book:

There's something enduringly heroic about mere humans holding the line against the horrors of the Warhammer world - not merely holding, in fact, but actually doing fairly well, on the whole. Yes, of course the great Chaos incursions are coming more frequently, and yes, there are Orcs in the mountains, Beastmen in the forests, Bretonnians just across the borders and Skaven in the sewers, but all this means that the average State Trooper is a veteran soldier, trained and experienced and ready to defend against threats from almost any direction.

Even Averland, which is a relatively peaceful and prosperous province, is nonetheless a frontier on more than one front - and that sense of grizzled stoicism is something I wanted to try and get across in the army.

So, no more ado - on to the models! As is often the case, I tend to begin an army with a character or two. Or more than two...

Based on the excellent Ludwig Schwarzhelm model, this conversion of Luthor Huss began the army properly - a devout servant of Sigmar that was the first of quite a few warrior priests. And Arch-Lectors. And a steam tank war altar...

 Why all the Sigmarites? Well, faith is one of the Empire's lynchpins. Faith, steel, and gunpowder. Also because I wanted it to be a relatively 'contemporary' army, clearly rooted in a particularly dark period in the Warhammer world (namely Archaon's great invasion, the Storm of Chaos). As such, a veritable choir of warrior priests seems only right and proper.

The other founding idea of the army grew from a skirmish campaign played back in the day. Many (many, many) moons ago, while I was still at GW, a staff campaign was played that was broadly Path to Glory+; a lone hero and a band of faithful retainers. For me, this was a great opportunity to dust off some old, and beloved, WFRP characters. We've all got those recurring characters, right? The ones you play at a formative stage, the ones that stick in your mind and keep popping up in different places, right? Well, for me, there are two of these. Well, three, but more about the third one later...

Ernst van Kneillinger, sixth and youngest son of the noble van Kneillingers of Averheim; a flamboyant, arrogant, dissolute wastrel in his youth, who fled the family estate in disgrace, and who has fought through many different trials in his life to eventually re-emerge back in Averland as a decorated commander of Karl Franz's armies. The painted model on the left is my original conversion of him for the army, while the slightly more devout version on the right is also significantly more Averlander-y thanks to the brilliant Marius Leitdorf model that was released comparatively recently.

Bultitudes Loke, anointed Templar of Sigmar and Witch-Smeller Pursuivant; a grim and pious fanatic who will stop at nothing to eliminate the hidden (and not so hidden) threats to Sigmar's Church and Empire alike. He's on the left here, accompanied by his two equally dour and devout acolytes, Solomyn (centre) and Mathias (right).

The back story to that long-ago campaign was that as Ernst fled amid scandal and dishonor, Loke was tasked by Klaus van Kneillinger, the patriarch of the family, to drag him back again. However, as you can see the cast grew and developed somewhat from there. The Haus van Kneillinger developed close ties to the Colleges of Magic, which in no way had anything to do with my aim of having one of each type of wizard in the army:

The army also then started to develop a closer connection to the famed Nuln Gunnery School, and although most of the unbuilt artillery has long fallen by the wayside (aka has been sold on eBay) the engineers have survived:

Speaking of technological marvels, who remembers 'Titan' from Warhammer Monthly? And, furthermore, who remembers the 'crossover' issue where all the characters switched settings, and the mighty Warlord Imperius Dictatio became a mighty Steam Tank? I remember reading that as a teenager and being vaguely disappointed that the actual steam tank model wasn't that massive. This army was my chance to amend that, and, armed with a pin vice, plasticard, and a certain sense of trepidation, I embarked upon a quest to convert a double-height steam tank. Yes, back before the plastic one was released. M only explanation is that I worked in GW Retail at the time, and this sort of insanity was par for the course... either way, I think I pulled it off:. Behold - Pride of Averheim:

Not satisfied with the shrieking madness of a volley cannon in the hull, and a double-height metal model that you could probably use to kill a man, I went one stage further - as you do - and gave it a fully detailed interior:

"Yes" is the answer to your question. Yes, I'm actually massively proud of this. The Nuln contingent doesn't stop there, either - I have not one but two Helblaster Volley Guns, van Kneillinger's Rage and Howling Magrith. You can see them in the 'pile of foam' shot above, but of which I apparently didn't take any photos. One is the classic metal Helblaster, plus some additional crew. Like all good bits of Empire artillery (in the artwork at least), I wanted it to be served by a real crowd of disparate randomers and a lone actual professional in the form of an Engineer. Or at least a slightly mad Professor of Advanced Trajectorial Ballistics, field-testing some ludicrous theory...

Anyway. On to the infantry. Poor bloody infantry...

One of the enduring images of an Empire army is that of massive blocks of troops, maneuvering around the battlefield and holding firm in stepped lines like proper pseudo-Thirty Years' War/Wars of the Three Kingdoms fashion. The latter is commonly called the English Civil War, by the way - but you knew that.

Firstly, spearmen. A good, solid block of doughty spearmen, facing the hordes of Chaos without any shoes (in some cases). Specifically, the Averheim Spears - I like the idea of state troop regiments being named for the towns or regions they've been raised from (again, like proper Civil War regiments).

Then, a block of halberdiers, simply because they are awesome. The Averheim Blackshields are so named because, after a particularly bloody battle in which a majority of the regiments were slain, the survivors repainted their shields in sable both to mourn their fallen brethren and to honour Morr, the god of Death, and have borne a black banner from that day forth. Yes, you're right in thinking that this was reflected in an actual game.

Militia. Unsung heroes of the roster, for my money. Especially if they have a warrior priest to lead and buff them, and even more especially if you have fifty-odd of them... I have a massive block of them, inspired by an excellent scene in an older Black Library novel, in which a general puts out a call for volunteers in the face of a massive beastman incursion, and in response the entirety of a local tavern joins up en masse, using the inn sign as their banner. Here we have one of my favourite units, the Halfling's Grin Irregulars. This is a real smorgasboard of classic models, for those with an eye for such things. I deliberately tried to tick as many of the "Generic Fantasy Tavern" tropes as possible - the mysterious cloaked stranger, the cornered thief, the grizzled former state troopers, the highwayman cornered by a road wardern, the token urchin, the massively strong blacksmith, the barkeep with a club, the barmaid carrying drinks through the morass of drinkers, the drinkers themselves in various stages of inebriation, the helpful ostler who's loaded a cask of Bugman's Finest onto a barrow to 'refresh' the troops, and so on. There are a lot of photos of this unit, so bear with me...

I deliberately tried to pack it with character and little vignettes, and although this is actually the second version of the unit (the original was stolen by some little scrote back when I worked in retail) it turned out better when I had to rebuild it.

So from one extreme to the other - from militia conscripts, to elite veterans. Yes, that's right - Greatswords.

I love Greatswords.

I have three units of them - so nearly 90 in total. Firstly, a work-in-progress unit of the famed Carroburg Greatswords - with no particular connection to Averland, but I liked the idea of that parent unit, like the Guards, sending smaller detachments out to different garrisons to train, drill, and generally bully/inspire the locals...

Next, the obligatory unit of classic metal Greatswords that all true Empire players have - the famous Averheim Grail-Breakers, so named for their utterly intractable stand against waves of Bretonnian cavalry, in which not a backward step was taken. Again, this was an actual in-game moment of awesomeness, where the unit in question held almost to the last against an entire Bretonnian army, thanks to the amazing Griffon Banner magic item (pictured).

Finally, the infamous Goldswords - plastic Greatswords, for the most part - led by the third of those recurrent characters I mentioned, the doughty and horribly-scarred Gunter Hauskrieger, who was my favourite WFRP character. He survived for over a year with no Fate Points and a Fellowship stat of 1, in a game where ay stat reaching 0 represents death. There are many, many amazing tales of RPG heroism attached to his one-eyed visage, but being healed from certain death by an incarnate avatar of Morr, and also demanding that a terrified jeweler use a handful of his gold crowns to make him a golden eye etched with a twin-tailed comet spring to mind. The latter might not sound all that much, but by virtue of the afore-mentioned Fellowship stat (ie, in this case, being able to talk normally and not look like a terrfying ogre) meant that the resulting eye was slightly too small. In true RPG random style, the party decided that soap was the best lubricant (the eye socket having originally been emptied by warp lightning from the claw of a Skaven sorcerer), which resulted in little bubbles constantly forming at the corner of the eye...

Anyway, after adventuring around the Old World and amassing a sizeable fortune, Gunter apparently 'retired' from the roving life and became the de facto commander of the Averheim First and Last (onto the field and off it):

Remember I mentioned big blocks of troops being something I was a fan of? Well, here are the stalwart Grenzstadt Marksmen - I don't even know how many crossbowmen, complete with a couple of unit filler vignettes (blessings, drunken dwarfs - everyone loves an Imperial Dwarf - experimental crossbow rifles, and a dour quartermaster to issue weapons and quarrels):

I wanted to make sure that a certain amount of Imperial weirdness was represented - steam tanks and wizards notwithstanding - and so a small contingent of Mootland archers is present in the army:

Alongside both Pistolliers and Outriders - the latter gloriously led by a man with a saddle-braced Hochland Long Rifle. Because, well, why not?

Averland is, as I mentioned, famed for the quality of its horses, so a large chunk of cavalry was a thematic must. Oh and Empire Knights led by a Grand Master are amazing, you say? Oh, well, in which case...

The Knights of the Broken Sword and the Knights of the Bloody Shield ride to war:

Finally, for now, another little dash of Imperial weirdness. I was working at Forge World when the awesome Warhammer Forge range began to be developed, and had a bit of involvement in the Tamurkhan: The Throne of Chaos book. When the gloriously bonkers Marienburg Land Ship, and the lovely Manaan's Blades models were first being worked on, I decided that it would be great to add a unit of Imperial Marines to my army - the River Aver being a major trade through the Empire and beyond, and therefore likely to be patrolled and protected. Those of you with long memories might recall Paul Scott's Stir River Patrol, from a previous installment of A Tale of Four Games in White Dwarf, and I drew on that idea to start building these guys from handgunners, a duelist, and some Manann's Blades troopers:

That's it for now - thanks for sticking with me for this long-winded romp through the army cases of yore. Oh, and by the way - this army is for sale as well. Yes, I know, save the best 'til last. As with my Iron Warriors, it'll be shipped securely in GW cases plus copious packaging, and I'm after something in the region of £2,000 plus (fully insured and tracked) shipping. As well as what I've shown you here, the army also contains 10 huntsmen, 29 swordsmen, another twenty or so spearmen, the two Helblasters I mentioned plus a Great Cannon, Theodor Bruckner of Nuln (sadly with a broken lance), another ten or fifteen handgunners, and a block of 25 metal flagellants. If you're interested, drop me a line.