Friday, 20 November 2009

Failures and patience

I have not got very far with VALIANT, apart from realising that the design I have is only ever going to be a box. I need some form of maleable plastic really. I think the bow is and the conning tower are going to be really important. If I can get them right, I can pretty much just mount them on to a more basic chassis.
Anyway, what all this has taught me is that I ned more patience, and will have to wait for more money. The whole project is going to take much longer than I expected. My writing is currently of greater importance to me, since I don't have the cash for models! I am going to be trying to work with the Black Library in the New Year.
Hopefully I will be more active after Xmas. Ballbreaker.

Friday, 23 October 2009

My navy dropship project

VALIANT: Vertical Aviation Lander for Insertion of Assaulting Naval Troops
"Oi Guardsman! it's not a dropship- it's a landing craft."
"Looks like a dropship to me, Chief."
"If it was a ship I'd be on better pay, mate. And I've never dropped one of these things yet."

So that I or this blog doesn't dry up waiting for a digicam or some extra cash for more minis, I have decided to start working ahead on a plan I 've had for my Armsmen. Basically, my fluff/GW fluff means that the Navy get no ground vehicles, so they are going to have all their armour in the air. However it makes sense that mass landings are unlikely to use Valkyries for every surface deployment but use heavy transports instead. Landing craft, like the amphibious LCVP barges seen in the Second World War during the Normandy landings were a natural if obvious inspiration.

Even today, a LCVP is still the most efficient way of getting men ashore apart from using helicopters. In WH40K helicopters are basically Valkyries so if I wanted something in the place of LCVPs.... I had to think sci-fi.

Forge World already makes the Gorgon superheavy transport, but this is ground armour - a tank. What I need is an aerial 'dropship' for my landing craft. My idea is that it comes roaring down from orbit in a cloud of jetblast as it slows its descent, within the landing zone, the dustclouds and fumes clear as the naval infantry assault enemy positions directly. No plodding along, treading tank tracks over barbed wire and trenches. My navy landing craft is not meant to move horizontally, but vertically- smack down on the enemy position and then once the cargo has disembarked it acts as a stationary armoured firing position, comms relay, med evac station... even a refuelling depot for Valkyries and VTOL flyers. Basically a forward operations base that can support an entire naval infantry 'platoon' and its air support.

As you can see Forge World's Gorgon is basically a landing craft with tank tracks. I took my aerial lander to the design stage swapping the tank tracks for engines or turbines that would allow a VTOL, but the thing just looks like a dropbrick than a dropship. The open-topped part of the landing craft was something the Gorgon inherited from the LCVP.

Open-topped dropships can be seen in the game Killzone, it is more of an aerial take on a kind of ATV four wheel buggy. Personally, I don't see the science in open-topped sci-fi dropships, it sure would get cold and windy coming through the atmosphere on one of them!

With a close-topped dropship in mind, I realised I was after something with an upper deck- possibly a landing pad. It also made me realise that if I wanted to avoid the look of the dropbrick I would need something more aerodynamic. The vertical drop means that I don't want wings so much as a boat shaped streamline. And so I have begun to lean more towards a u-boat look. It really suits the feel of the Imperial Navy recalling the Soviet and German navies of the Second World War. So I need a hybrid between a LCVP and a u-boat, avoiding the rectangular heavy look of the tank that the Gorgon has.

My main features are a rear conning tower for the commanders to direct fire and communications once the dropship has landed and committed to the battle. I want downward facing turbines along the sides where the Gorgon tank tracks currently are. I want a peaked prow like on a ship to give an aerodynamic look, this means that two landing ramps will fold down at 45° angles rather than a single forward facing ramp. I always thought an open frontal ramp was a bit of a design flaw anyway, since enemy fire could wipe out the men in the hold as soon as the ramp was dropped. Two angled ramps at least gives the guys inside some protection. If I want to be able to game with this thing, I have to form it around the Gorgon rules, I reason, so I am keeping the weapons load-out of the Gorgon (which is quite meagre): four heavy bolters, and four heavy stubbers. I loved the idea of having shooting galleries for the heavy bolters over the engines on the sides, and then a kind of submarine deck gun for the heavy stubbers which would be more or less a quad gun. It would give a cool powerful central armament focus, and a bit of a Anti-Aircraft look to the lander.

I guess that is where the guys at Red Star comic got the idea for their Skyfurnace airships (see opening pic). I am not going for anything near as big scale-wise, but the look is pretty much what I want. I have a couple of A3 sheets of modelling card that I can start using to bulk out the chassis.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Test units

So I recieved all my parcels and I have done as much work as I can without doing any really hard work lol! I will greenstuff, base and paint all my guys later. For the meantime I will keep buying models and complete the actual figures I had in mind, then paint them all in the same phase later. So there will be not much more development there I'm afraid. Also you will notice that I haven't included any pics since all the damn digicams in the flat are crap (2 phones, a laptop and a PC webcam).

Anyway, the results are as follows- about half of the non-GW stuff I bought was pretty much way off scale-wise which is what I feared. I managed to get two decent minies from Reaper Miniatures though, and a third possibly if I do some heavy conversion to bring its stature into line. One of the Reaper guys is going to be in my Bolter-carrying 'Commandoes' for a later part of the project. But the other Reaper mini is a great sergeant or officer for my armsmen.

My West Wind Soviet Naval Infantry in greatcoats was my high hope for my 'Watchmen', but they are just too skinny to use for WH40K. Anyway, I think they will be useful as painting tests. But as I said, I will save painting for a later phase. Anyway as for the westwinds- I carved the hell out of one and tried to add Cadian arms and weapons but they are far too big in comparison. So back to the drawing board on that one. I still have a plan. Basically I need greatcoat infantry that can be easily modified with greenstuff and given IG bits, allowing me to use Cadian weaponry and bulk out a large force for very little cash. I think I have found what I was looking for, and the scale as well as the price is excellent... will document that when I buy them (if possible before Xmas) wallet willing.

So 1 pack of Space Marine sniper scouts and 3 packs of Cadians allowed me to make around 1 and half squads of Imperial Guard veterans that will count as NavSec Corsairs, tactical support armsmen. Shotguns, missile launchers, melta bombs, demo charges, plasma pistols, heavy bolters and sniper rifles etc... I think I will settle on two squads of these. They actually turned out with a Cadian flavour after all, I still need to do some more shaving off the Cadian shoulder pads but the body armour keeps the 'Armsmen' tied to that IG look. I am not sure if that is all that bad really. I think I may greenstuff the torsos, I'm not sure.

Anyway, for today I will finish off with giving you some concept art for the armsmen until I can add some decent pics of my work.

Monday, 5 October 2009

First Parcel

My first parcel has arrived. Three miniatures I don't really recall buying in the frenzy, but really glad I did. Reaper's minis are very good quality, a little bit fiddley compared to GW to paint and convert, but they are very classy. I think I have three squad leaders.

The 'adventurer' (given a new head and pistols) would suit either a commando or an armsmen leader, probably for the marksmen unit. The 'Intergalactic marine' is a bit tall really, dwarfing even a GW space marine, but I am still very happy with him, I think I will replace the Gears of War style skull on the chest with an aquila, and probably not change much else. He would be a good squad leader for my corsair armsmen. The 'mercenary' is just how I imagined my commandoes, although I had planned to buy Urban Mammoth's Viridian Marines, I think now I will just make my own from bits via a Polish WH40k bits site I found. The main plan is to have Space Marine Scout legs with shotguns, sniper rifles, you name it -and commisar/officer bodies, topped with bare heads that I can greenstuff berets onto. But that will have to be for another purchase... if my economy ever recovers.

For now, I think I should concentrate on the Naval Militia Watch unit, if they ever arrive from WestWind. I just got confirmation this afternoon that my Cadian packs are being dispatched so they may arrive within a week. I really should be patient with my armsmen units, since I can really make them look good if I buy those Polish bits, I could also then make several armsmen units as I had planned.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Imperial Guard Rules

So, I can't sleep again (0523 hrs here) and I have been using my insomnia to philosophise over getting my fluff to fit into the Imperial Guard rules. Looking at the 5th Edition rule book for the Imperial Guard, it really does suck that doctrines are gone in my opinion. I felt they gave a lot of character to a regiment. Anyway, there are a lot of options and potential with the freedom of the new rules.

What strikes me first is that the Armsmen are going to be best representing Veterans as well as Heavy Weapons and Special Weapons squads. As for veterans, they carry shotguns and can have as many as three of their number equipped with sniper rifles or grenade launchers, they can also include a heavy weapons team. A heavy bolter team would nicely represent my shotcannons. I can also sprinkle my Marksmen between veteran squads and special weapons squads, even including some as one-off weaponists in infantry squads that are allowed a sniper etc.

Doctrines have been left to veterans alone, and these fit in nicely with my different unit types for the Armsmen. If I assign my own preferences of weaponry along with doctrines I can get the three NavSec armsmen unit types I planned-

Grenadiers, mix carapace with 3 special weapons of meltas, flamers and up tp one heavy flamer.

Forward sentries, mix camo cloaks and mines with 3 sniper rifles.

Demolitions, mix demo charge and melta-bombs with 1 heavy weapon team (heavy bolter or missile launcher)

Since one veteran squad counts as a single troops choice I can have up to 6 of these types of units, in theory.

As for the Watch, I could represent them as ratlings, giving them all low stats but all sniper rifles. However, since the ratlings are a HQ choice, I can only field three squads of ten of these. Which to me, doesn't really represent the feel of the Watch. Although it may be enough to be honest. Also, if I mix ratlings with veterans, I will have no opportunity to include my Field Gun Crews unless I console myself with one and relegate it to my Company Command unit. The best alternative would be having Field Gun Crews as the Heavy Weapons teams in a Company Command unit, a Platoon Command unit and any additional platoon heavy weapons teams. Within the Infantry Platoon I can include at least two units of 'Watchmen' and at least even two more units of armsmen under the special weapons or heavy weapons additional options.

So to summarise, it looks like I will field
1. one company command unit (compulsory HQ choice)
2. one infantry platoon (compulsory troop choice)
a) platoon command unit
b) 2 or more infantry squads
c) heavy weapons squad (up to 5)
d) special weapons squad (up to 2)
3. veteran squads (up to 4/5?)

These will be in naval terms
1. one commanding officer with 6 armsmen, officer of the fleet and master of ordnance-
a) one officer (either with HW/SW armsmen or a field gun)
b) watchmen (possibly with Armsmen carrying special weapons, possible additional field guns)
c) armsmen or field guns
d) armsmen
3. armsmen

For commandoes I could field them as commissars attached to squads. This would allow me
1 (attached to platoon command squad) and 2 or more (attached to watchmen).
Which doesn't really seem like the way I had them planned, perhaps 'Overseer' or 'Masters-at-Arms' armsmen would best fill this role?
Which would leave me with the Commandoes as storm troopers, having 'hot-shot lasguns' and very little variety of equipment. Although not perfect, it is a solution.
It seems to me though that the army overall lacks commissars and psykers, and a lack of armour is going to have me punished by heavy fire and close quarter combat.

As a final note though, according to the force organisation chart, I could potentially field 3 storm trooper units and 6 veteran squads backed up by 3 squads of valkyries (9 flyers in all) one for each unit. Although the HQ unit would be on foot unless I kept it very small and allowed it to ride in one of the air transports. Interesting idea. I would never have money for so many flyers though, and I feel that the fluff and my wallet would be better served by making my own dropship that would count as a Gorgon, and resemble a World War Two landing craft.

So my ideas are a little clearer now. I am realising that I am lacking a lot of bits and bobs though, and just to make up my units and officers I am going to need more models, weapons, arms and heads- all sorts. That is not to mention the fact that I need greenstuff, tools and paints! ...I am supposed to be getting up in two and half hours...

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Weapon Choices

So now I am itching waiting for the post.
I have already started filling up orders for even more bitz, planning ahead, but I should really wait until I see what the different minis I ordered look like and how they work together. Chances are that something is going to be amiss scale-wise, but I have to take the chance really since there are no Games Workshop options.

I have a dilemma of on the one hand making the army I want to see, and on the other an army that would actually be playable in WH40K rules with 'this counts as...', but since I have not actually played a WH40K game in years I have to be honest, I am doing this for fun. So I really should create the army I want to see.

So in logical terms, if that is possible in a sci-fi game- I have considered that my Corsairs should be kitted out with 'shotcannons' which is written about in the Black Library literature of Armsmen. No GW models for these exist however, so I have decided to make my own. As a support weapon I plan to give the unit a missle launcher so they have more of a tactical support use. Which was the plan.

The Armsmen unit I call FirstWave will not be modelled anytime soon since I plan to use some expensive models there. However, I think they should just carry shotguns since they are a close quarter and assault unit, however to give the overall force a bit of punch against armour (something this force really needs) I think I should equip half the unit with multi-meltas and grenades so that they have a real unique sting.

Similarly, for my Watch unit I think they should receive shotguns, modded lasguns which I might fluff out as Shotgun Augmented Rifles, shotguns with extended range and lower impact. As support weapons it would make sense that they get Grenade Launchers, Flamers and Melta-guns. These being decent tactical and assault weapons for field or close quarter fighting. The range of the SARs if they make it to life, will be a rational argument for a light infantry unarmoured force.

So now, it's back to waiting...

Monday, 28 September 2009

My Mythology

This blog entry includes the only known artwork of Naval forces by a Games Workshop staff member, Jez Goodwin. The officer figure has now finally seen light as a model.

My idea for an official name for my Naval Infantry is based on the use of Latin as the language of the Imperium, as the Navy is called Aeronautica Imperialis, the infantry branch in my work is called, the Arma Aeronautica. So here is an outline of the fluff I have developed...

The Arma Aeronautica is the official term for the Navy Surface Combat Insertion troops, SCI which has given the appellation 'Sky Troops' due to these being airborne in nature, or 'drop troops'. Due to the laws and restrictions governing the military of the Imperium the Imperial Guard and Imperial Navy once split from the Imperial Army after the Horus Heresy in the fears that rebel forces could be too powerful if given combined abilities. Thus the Imperial Guard was prohibited from all aeronautical craft and command of ships, and reversely so for the Navy who were restricted from infantry forces. However, due to the development of demands and the requirement for military efficiency, various exceptions to these rigid rules have come about.

For example, the Imperial Guard uses its own aeronatical companies, of flyers and bombers best known of which are the Phantine Air Corps, furthermore the Guard special forces Stormtroopers and Grenadier units are typically deployed via airborne drops onto the field in dedicated craft such as the Valkyrie which are increasingly under Guard and not Naval command.

Similarly so, the Imperial Navy make use of boarding troops as well as drop troops, which are best known in the form of the revered Naval Armsmen. What follows is a full desciption and breakdown of the 'SKY Troops' organisation; the Arma Aeronautica.


Naval Infantry consist of three tiers of soldiery although only one is widely known, that of the Armsmen. However, these represent a single branch of the SKY Troops forces. Onboard ship the designation specialisation for infantry boarding response, secure control and protective assignment duties are the highly trained NavSec (Naval Security) branch. These are the Armsmen proper and hold the rank Armsman or Master-at-Arms, all officers are automatically required to hold some basic SCI training although some officers have specific specialisation as NavSec. NavSec provide disciplinary supervision onboard ship and on naval bases, perform guarding tasks such as at weapon depots, they also enforce officer rule upon the hardy masses of voidborn crewmen and pressgangers.

NavSec armsmen form several types of combat unit which can respond to all nature of Naval requirements for infantry.

  1. OVERSEERS The main role is that as outlined above, actual ship security also called Fleet Protection Mandate, which allows the assignment of infantry posted for this specific role, officially the designated unit will be termed Overseers. Overseers are typically referred to by non-Naval personnel as Naval Arbiters (police) or Naval Commissars (political officers as seen amongst the Imperial Guard.)
  2. FIRSTWAVE The primary function of NavSec within the SKY Troops is to offer a Special Operations role, and in the following three unit classifications, NavSec operate in a support role to Naval Special Forces whom we shall meet later. FirstWave units are the units that respond to boarding and breaching alerts during ship-to-ship fighting, but they also carry the same equipment and fulfil a similar role during surface combat insertion or 'drops'. FirstWave utilise protective armour, cutting tools and close quarter combat weapons. CAGE atmospheric armour suits fall under the FirstWave class, and are always deployed in concert. Assault Support
  3. CORSAIRS Formed into larger teams than other units, Corsairs provide a grenadier role on the battlefield wearing little or no armour and relying on special weapons, grenades and technological equipment. Considered seek-and-destroy units they are invaluable in boarding actions as well as surface combat insertion where they can provide much needed firepower. Tactical Support
  4. MARKSMEN Sniper rifles may seem an unusual choice for Armsmen in ship-to-ship fighting but the neccessity for minimising collateral damage when fighting onboard a vessel requires often more surgical devices than raw bombardment. Sharpshooters can pick off enemy targets without risking destroying valuable technology or rupturing a bulkhead or hull. The range of labyrinthine corridors and vast hangar decks are extremely similar to dense industrial or urban theatres of war on most planet surfaces and allow naval snipers to maintain a high level of proficiency. Snipers
  5. Master-at-Arms Assigned as single operatives, these NCOs give a much needed strategical backbone to the naval militia units such as the Watch and the Field Gun crews. They also stand as team leaders within the NavSec units unless a specialised officer such as a Sniper Captain or Corsair Captain is assigned to that unit. Infantry Branch NCOs

Apart from the Armsmen themselves the typical bulk of a SKY Troop deployment force will generally speaking be emergency conscripts drafted from surplus ships' crews. Not every Naval ship has a compliment of Imperial Guard, infantry and vehicle divisions who operate to full efficiency when ammassed in great numbers. Therefore when a planet or outpost has need of infantry forces during military emergencies, it is more often than not the Imperial Navy ships that are on hand. Rather than ferrying Imperial Guard forces or waiting it out, the Navy will deploy its own Arma Aeronautica forces and commit to the fight as best as possible in a Light Infantry and Airborne role until heavier relief forces such as the Guard can arrive.

Naval Militia & the Watch
The conscripted ships' crews are referred to not as Naval Infantry per se such as the trained Commandoes and Armsmen, but instead bear the temporary position of a militia. Formed into large ranked bodies called a Watch, these are in effect the equivalent of a platoon. Reinforced by Masters-at-Arms and a leading Officer of the Watch they can provide a basic wall of fire.

Militiamen also man the Field Guns of the Imperial Navy which are the only surface heavy weaponry available to the SKY Troops due to there being a Munitorum restriction on surface vehicles such as tanks, APCs and artillery. Field Guns are heavy operable mobile positions which are only transported on foot by the sheer grit, determination and skill of their crewmen. Field Gun Crews are considered an elite in their own right, performing intense drill regimes even when serving onboard ship in deep space. Under the instruction of the Armsmen and Commandoes, Field Gun Crews provide the only Naval unit that is solely dedicated to surface warfare. There are three types of NAVAL ISSUE heavy weapon:
  1. MACE Mobile Assault Cannon Emplacement.
  2. MAUL Mobile Assault Utility Laz. A combined multi-laz cannon
  3. LANCE Laz Assisted Naval Cannon Emplacement. A battle cannon with multi-laz fixture
Specialised artillery officers and NCOs (Masters-at-Arms) can be assigned to Field Gun Crews to maximise performance.

Imperial Naval Commandoes
The final tier of the Imperial Naval Infantry is the highest but least known, and is in fact one of the most secretive and elite organisations within the entire Imperium of Man. Dating back to the time of the Emperor, the Imperial Commandoes have operated as a special forces unit, assigned for most of their history to Naval ships to conduct recon, demolitions, rescue missions, infilitration, kill team objectives and deep strike runs into enemy territory mainly to augment Naval superiority. Relative to Imperial Assassins, Commandoes have a prolonged training regime supervised by the Combined Operations Executive whose members hold rotary positions and are made up of high ranking officials from a range of Imperial military organisations apart from the Navy and Guard (such as the Adeptus Astartes). The COE fulfils the Munitorum stipulations that the Commandoes must be given a watchdog community for fear of their infiltration by rebel or xeno agencies. The COE also serves in the reverse capacity of maintaining a wide-range of intelligence and cutting-edge training. The Commandoes open their training selection only to veterans of the Guard, Navy and Arbites and failure in such exercises means death, so extreme is the course that it is comparable to the Space Marines themselves.

Copyright Ross Downing 2009

WH40K's Navy

So what is there in the Warhammer 40,000 mythology to work from?

Well the Imperial Guard are the army, and apart from the other human military organisations too numerous to mention here, the Guard are the closest thing to the Navy. In fact, the boys at Forge World and Games Workshop have actual begun to release Imperial Navy models and a handful of infantry figures (a pilot, some crewmen and an Officer). So far most of these are merely amalgamated into Imperial Guard armies.

I have been inspired by the obscure and fleeting references, mainly in several Games Workshop sci-fi books that run parallel to the minatures, of Naval soldiers. This was the spark that gave me a loophole to project my entire run of ideas.

WH40K refers to Armsmen which are employed on Naval ships as guards, enforcers and 'in modern parlance, marines' used in boarding actions (not to be confused with human Space Marines, also a WH40K product). Apparently they are highly trained, in comparison to Imperial Guardsmen, use a shotgun-like ballistic weapon and some form of armour similar to the Imperial Guard special forces the Stormtroopers.

The new Navy models are stunning and already very popular with Imperial Guard players. Reffered to as 'flyers' these massive warmachines can 'swoop' in across the tabletop and scare the pants off the opposing player.

So popular have the Imperial Navy models become that infantry seemed natural to use with them and so the Imperial Guard droptroops and other figures have now been incorporated into the Imperial Guard product series, but still no sign of Armsmen or fighting naval infantry.

Naval figures have been limited to the 'Regimental Advisor' which represents Imperial Guard contact with 'eyes in the sky' orbital ships, as well as pilots. So these are all I had to go on to develop my own ideas.

Intellectual Copyright & the GW legal demons

In the mythology of WH40K, set in the year 40,000 (a mindboggling idea to me as a 12 yr old) and the human faction consists of several military organisations. The Dallas-like yarn of the story goes that the Emperor was mortally wounded during a kind of civil war with his possessed demonic adopted son Horus, who he in turn slew around the year 30,000. The Imperium from then on turned into a Gothic Orwellian nightmare (if it wasn't already) and the WH40K game has humanity pitted against a series of alien races including the demonic 'chaos' forces. The Imperial Army upon the death of the Emperor split into two, so the story goes, the Imperial Guard and the Imperial Navy.

Now although the Imperial Guard has been at the forefront of the Games Workshop mythology and product lines since the early '80s only very recently have we seen any Imperial Navy models or figures appear. Since their appearance struck simulataneously with my daydreaming of this project, I took it as a very cool coincidence and something that I should pursue as a writer, mainly commercially. I have since learnt that the Games Workshop do not really take kindly to external submissions, or rather they take rather mercileslly anything sent to them via email or post automatically by law becomes their intellectual property.


Any notes, e-mails, online messages or bulletin board postings, ideas, suggestions, concepts, designs, or other material submitted to any physical GW company address or to any web site owned or controlled by GW and/or to any e-mail addresses contained in or on those web sites ("GW Web Sites") will become the property of GW throughout the world and GW shall be entitled to use the material for any type of use forever, including in any media whether now known or hereafter devised. When you submit any material to any physical GW company address or any GW Web Sites, you agree, offer, warrant, and represent, both explicitly and tacitly (and GW accepts) that you are assigning all intellectual property rights in that material to GW and that GW has the right to use that material at any time entirely in its own discretion for whatsoever purpose including for commercial, promotional, and advertising purposes without any obligation (including any financial obligation) to you now or at any time in the future. You waive and relinquish any rights, including "moral rights," that may exist in any content to the furthest extent permissible by law and agree not to assert any rights over that content. We are afraid that in order to protect ourselves legally, this is the only way we can operate. If you are unhappy with this policy, then please do not post or send any material to GW.

As an aspiring author that leaves me pretty screwed. I cannot present them my ideas without losing them, but I cannot introduce my ideas without giving something away. After designing this new product line and working with several professional graphic artists from afar a field as China and the US to achieve it, I decided I would make my work public to gain interest so it wasn't just an intellectual dead-end, but at the same time retain my own claims and rights on my creativity. Read on for the fluff...