Heroes for Wargames

cropped-bnfm.pngFor the past several decades the above piece of art has sort of been burned into my memory, in fact it was almost the banner image of this blog. Growing up in the 80’s I spent a lot of time in RPG books having not really gotten into minis wargaming yet. With the RPGs came painting minis for characters, npc, monsters etc. Seeing me into this, my parents bought me a book about the miniature hobby filled with beautiful examples and gaming history. For the longest time, and up until a few weeks ago, I thought the above illustration was the cover of the book. Several months ago I went to go find this book having gotten rid of my copy long ago. Well, I thought the book I had in my youth may have been the one on top here.

review_fm1Looks right. However, finding a few copies to preview, the pictures and layout of these titles is much different than what I thought I was remembering. My book had plenty of text. The above series are basically showcases for the Golden Demon winners in ’88, ’89’ and ’90. Also, there’s pictures of Blood Bowl and Dark Future minis in those books…games that came out after I had received my miniatures painting tome.

Well, I was able to track my old book down and find a great copy for a sawbuck. That art piece that had been lodged in my head for a few decades wasn’t the front cover of the book…it was the back

hfwI’ve been reading through the book the past few nights and it’s amazing how so many of the incredible pieces of art I’m still recalling. I must have spent hours pouring over this thing as a kid because looking at it now it’s as familiar as if I read it last week. Before we look at a few items inside, that cover still causes me a bit of confusion…Is that warrior riding something or just has an ornate shield? Is that a proto-genestealer in the foreground? Is this a book for Role Playing Games or Wargames?

Heroes for Wargames was published by Paper Tiger in 1986, again, before I got into miniature gaming (which began a few years later with Blood Bowl 2nd Ed and Dark Future) and is basically a Games Workshop house title in all but name and publisher. The inside is filled with pictures of GW board games (like Warrior Knights and Judge Dredd), early Warhammer campaigns (The Tragedy of McDeath and Battle at Orks Rift), history of gaming, painting and diorama tips, and all sorts of early miniatures and concept art. It’s more ambitious in nature than the above three Golden Demon books which seem to only focus on painted minis. Check out this acknowledgement list:

ackAlso included is a forward by Ian Livingston and Steve Jackson (founders of GW) and many of the models I believe are from the collection of Bryan Ansell. This book was compiled with a who’s who of the Oldhammer Guard. There is even a feature on the Games Workshop studio with many of the artists, sculptors, and painters working their craft.

studioI can’t run down every page and article, but I want to mention just a few things. First, during the time I originally had this title, like I said…I was into RPGs. At the time Ral Partha was the line I followed and collected knowing little of GW. Well, when Blood Bowl 2nd Edition hit my eye drifted to Games Workshop and their Citadel supported games. I wanted a skaven team but before I had enough cash for a full team, I bought some miniatures to use as coaching staff…my first ever official Citadel miniatures. It happened to be the two skaven in the following concept page.skavenThat horned skaven wizard became the coach of my team and my favorite non-BB skaven miniature to date. The three armed skaven mutant worked his way into my Advanced Heroquest game as a main antagonist. Incredible to see these sketches 30+ years later.

One other thing I want to mention is the character a lot of the minis in the book have. Character and whimsy that clearly draw many players into the Oldhammer scene. Check out the minotaur below. He’s not your modern bad@$$, highly armed and angry minotaur. He’s more like Joe Sixpack…your average Monday Night Watching, beer guzzling minotaur. Just looking at that model his background and character leap out at you. This beer bellied fella is not the antagonist in some maze…he’s out and about because his nagging wife yelled at him to get off his stump and go get some eats for the kids. What a great model.

minoAnd the dragon…it may be hard to tell, but he has a fairly surprised look on his face. A face that’s more muppet gargoyle, than fierce Smaug. I’d love to get my hands on that guy as well.  I don’t feel like I see dragons with unique character like that anymore. Much like current minotaurs…they’re mostly bog standard fierce creatures. Oh, how many mounted Citadel miniatures are posed like that Adventurer above…nearly every one of them in the 90s near as I recall. Classic Citadel mounted with raised weapon pose.

This book really is great, and perhaps the best coffee table book on the hobby that’s out there. Sure, the models and techniques within are many decades removed from being current, but the history is rich here and it’s well worth a read. Oddly enough, I may still end up tracking down those Golden Demon books simply because they do feature some Blood Bowl and Dark Future work…the two Games Workshop titles that got me into this mad hobby.

I’m going to close this post with an image from this book that is a piece of concept art from John Blanche. The Slann. Gaming Games Workshop worlds for close to 30 years now and I’ve never owned or played anything slann related. Later this year, I’m going to rectify that with a project that I hope can be a nod to the characterful style of these 80s masters.

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Krokodil Tears – Dark Future Novel Report

n32930(1990 Original)

I recently finished off the second book in Jack Yeovil’s Demon Download cycle.

To be honest, this one took me a little longer to get through as it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for in a Dark Future tale. It’s not that it was bad, but there wasn’t too much in the way of Sanctioned Ops vs Gangcults vs US Road Cavalry action.

Krokodil Tears actually takes place after the events in the Route 666 Anthology, but prior to the previous book in the cycle, Demon Download. Last surviving member of the Psychopomps street gang, Jessamyn ‘Jazzbeaux‘ Bonney, is on the run from Nguyen Seth’s minions – a Californian surfer Op, a serial killer that’s a parody of Hannibal Lector, and some outer dimensional Lovecraftian beast. Jessamyn, herself a cyborg, ends up a vassal for some spiritual force becoming an ultimate weapon of sorts…Krokodil.

Jack Yeovil, again a pen name for Kim Newman, loves pop culture references, so there’s a lot to spot. In fact, my favorite chapters were the ones about media news outlets broadcasting events around the world. The actual story of Krokodil v Seth wasn’t as engaging and with its focus on demon action felt more like something from a twisted World of Darkness novel rather than what I was wanting to explore in the Dark Future setting.

I understand in the next book, Comeback Tour, Krokodil teams up with retired Sanctioned Op Elvis Presley, yes him, so I’m hoping we get into more road war there.

One thing that does jump out at me from the Dark Future setting, as told through these novels, is that there are no shortage of strong, female protagonists. In fact, the main characters of the setting (outside of Seth) are all female: Vatican hitwoman Sister Chantal Juillerat, former ganger turned spiritual warrior Jessamyn/Krokodil, and Sanctioned Op Redd Harvest. For the past 20 years, it’s felt like GW’s universes lacked leading female characters. I can only think of the vampire Genevieve in the Warhammer Fantasy universe from the early 90s…another character created by Kim Newman. I believe that at one point there were even going to be some Dark Future action figures with Redd Harvest leading the series. Artist Pete Knifton mentioned it earlier this summer on Auroch Digital’s FB page. Would have been neat to see.

51v48j1mpal(2006 reprint)

Note – The book has inspired me to resurrect the Psychopomps as an underhive gang the next time I play Necromunda.

Demon Download – Dark Future Novel Report

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Written by Jack Yeovil (Kim Newman) and published by Games Workshop in 1990, Demon Download is the first book in a quartet and continues the story that began in Route 666 anthology. Going into the book I thought it would star Sgt. Quincannon from Route 666, but it’s actually centered around other members of the US Road Cavalry. Well, actually the main character is a nun named Sister Chantal who I kept envisioning looked like a more well dressed Aeon Flux.

Anyway, Elder Seth is back and this time one of his acolytes is carrying around a demon in his gut that he uploads into Slim’s Gas ‘N’ BBQ, some gas station out in sandside (the desert wasteland). From there this creature possesses an interceptor, which it uses to drive to a hub in a rundown church in Welcome, Arizona..a well connected hub hosted by the Catholic Church. Much ensues in Welcome as the local priest, Father O’Pray, attempts to keep the possessed vehicle at bay. Unfortunately, the beast jacks into the hub and takes over the Fort Apache US Road Cavalry facility on its way to its objective in El Paso. If it can make El Paso all chaos will break loose between what’s functioning of the US of A and the countries of South and Central America. Sister Chantal and Trooper Nathan Stack attempt to thwart the demon before it gets out of Fort Apache.

I’m not sure how much background Newman was given on the setting, or perhaps how much leeway he was allowed, because there’s a slight difference in tone between the novels and the fluff in the Dark Future rulebook as I read it. Where the rulebook focuses on the ‘state of the world’ and has fun adverts from megacorps of dystopia 1995, Newman’s tale is centered around cultists, demons, and those fighting to keep them at bay. Very much a post-apocalyptic Warhammer Old World fighting against chaos rather than Mad Max versus the Humongous. The  ‘Dark Future’ title font isn’t even the same between the novels and game components. Not sure how this happened. Maybe GW wanted these tales to be more widely read and not just seen as game literature?

I’m not saying this tale couldn’t, or shouldn’t, take place in Dark Future, it’s just not what I was expecting. Sanctioned Ops, road gangs, etc are mentioned but more as dressing in the background. We do get mentions of Nurgle and Khorne though…

Another bit of disconnect is looking at the governing law enforcement. The GW police minis by Alan Perry have a sort of 1940s retro vibe. The US Road Cavalry in Demon Download look like they belong on horseback defending the western frontier. I like how Newman has them up like this as they are essentially defending the wasted frontier, but again, it’s just a bit different than the aesthetic of the game pieces.

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This all makes sense when reading Graeme Davis’ recollection on Dark Future. It seems it was an rpg setting developed by Jervis Johnson and Marc Gascoigne bolted onto a game of road combat that Richard Halliwell had put together.

No matter though, its a great read. We learn a lot more interesting tidbits about the world, but interestingly not a lot on how it came to be. It’s almost as if the world as we know it went a bit off the rails decades ago, say the 1960s, rather than just taking a hard turn in the 90s. Newman incorporates lots of pop culture references but with a twist and these are fun to spot. There is a bit with a horseman helping out Stack while stranded in the desert. I couldn’t make out who he was supposed to be though…Eastwood’s Man with No Name?

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I know this book was later republished in the 00s and I think the timeline was then advanced a bit, so maybe instead of 1999 it takes place in 2023 or something? I’m not sure. I also have no idea if Newman updated any of the pop references in the latter edition, if some GW ghostwriter did, or if there were no changes at all.

How will this impact my return to the Dark Future game? I do like the chaos tint so will likely incorporate a little of that in some future scenarios. Forces of chaos are definitely the big antagonist of GW’s settings, so it wouldn’t be out of place here. Again, I’ll probably not go overboard. I’ll also likely update the timeline and look of the US Road Cavalry compared to the General Custer look of these guys. Maybe a bit more armored a la Judge Dredd.  Or maybe use the colonial marines from Stan Johansen. Demon Download includes some battle droids employed by the US Road Cavalry. These droids are golden and nicknamed ‘Oscars’…from the trophy. I do like this and will see I can find some decent ones at 20mm scale when I hunt down infantry for this game in a few months.

Finally, the book sleeve fancies the tale as ‘Arcane cybergoth fiction set in the nightmare world of the near future’. I knew cybergoth was a subculture, but I don’t think it’s related to this book series. Well, I doubt it sprang from here. Despite my initial setting confusion, this was a fun tale and am looking forward to continuing the story of Sister Chantel and Trooper Stack…though if the mortality rate of characters in this book is any indication…they may not be long in the next one…

 

Route 666 – A Dark Future Anthology Review

Though I’ve owned the Games Workshop game Dark Future on more than one occasion in the past, I had never actually owned or read any of the novels. Well, as astute readers of my last post…you know I now have the complete collection.

Many of the titles are stand alone, but there is a series or two and we’ll get into those in due time. For this Dark Future book report series, I’m going to read them in order of publication. Starting with…

route666book

The book that kicked started the series is the 1990 anthology compiled by David Pringle. There are nine short stories here from six authors. All of these gents are more talented than I, so it’s hard to critique how well written they are. The critic’s role never really suited me, so I’m going to give loose impressions of each story. That’s still more than I’ve found on the net for these stories, so ‘ere we go…

Route 666 (Jack Yeovil) – Jack Yeovil, pen name for the esteemed Kim Newman, is an author I’m very familiar with through his Warhammer Novels Drachenfels and Beasts in Velvet. Two of the finest novels I’ve read set in the Old World. I’ve also read his Anno Dracula which I enjoyed quite a bit. Sort of a pre-League of Extraordinary Gentlemen tale where various literary characters interact beyond their own tales. Back to Route 666….This story kicks off the Jack Yeovil series of Dark Future books and, no surprise, is the strongest tale in this anthology. We’re introduced to Sgt. Quincannon of the United States Road Cavalry as he and Co. escort series antagonist Elder Seth and his flock to Spanish Fork where all hell breaks loose….literally.  We’re also introduced to Jazzbeaux of the Psychopomps gang who I believe we’ll see again down the road. Route 666 also begins the “maybe Dark Future is the beginning of the 40K universe” theories as it alludes to demons from the Realm of Chaos.

Kid Zero And Snake Eyes (Brain Craig) – Kid Zero, young ganger with the Low Numbers falls for Snake Eyes, a regular of The Underground who has a bit of a reptilian look having been experimented on by the GenTech Bioproducts Division (GenTech, the biodivision that cares…). Seem she has altered eyes and scaly patches of skin. This was a short tale on Kid Zero going rouge taking his crusade against the Corp and anyone in he and Snake Eye’s way. This was a fun little tale told in a campfire tale manner, and it highlighted that there is a society in this setting and it’s not all wastelands and highways.

Ghost Town (Neil Jones) – Three Sanctioned Operatives defend a hideout hidden in an abandoned town. Wasn’t real memorable, but felt like an early 90’s Full Moon Features flick, so thinking of that was fun.

Duel Control (Myles Burnham) – Sheriff Jesse McHeath duels with a gang harassing New Carthage. Strong opening scene here of a gangcultist left for dead on the road. This tale also dropped a lot of corporation names from the rule-book, giving a strong tie to the setting.

Thicker Than Water (Brian Craig) – Two bounty hunter brothers, Carl and Bro, get caught up in a mission over their heads dealing with GenTech (GenTech, the biodivision that cares…) and a rogue experiment. I liked this one as it gave me some ideas for a proper game scenario.

Maverick Son (Neil McIntosh) – Blue Star Op, Joe Gold, gets sent on a mission to hunt down a former Op that’s now leading a fanatic cult. Despite the dusty, desert setting this was very much a Shadowrun tale…crooked ‘johnson’ and all…

Four-Minute Warning (Myles Burnham) – Three individuals hijack a televangelists’ taping and air all the dirty laundry of he and his wife. This was a good story and its inclusion is interesting. It had nothing to do with ops, gangs, V8s, or anything to do with life on the road. So, in that regard it felt completely out of place. However, it does seem like the sort of event that could take place in this world’s city and viewed on the telly. A good tale and a wake-up call that there’s more to the setting than highway dueling.

Only In The Twilight (Brian Craig) – Ever wonder what the story of Troy and the Trojan Horse would be like if it didn’t take place along the Mediterranean in the Ancient World, but in the dark future of the American Southeast? Wonder no more…and listen to  Homer Hegarty tell it.

Uptown Girl (William King) – Mr. King is the other author I was familiar with going into this anthology as I had read Trollslayer and a few other Gotrek and Felix stories. This story gave me a Escape From New York/The Warriors vibe. Sanction Op Travis has to retrieve a captive Gruber heir while avoiding several gangs, a rival Op, and general bad attitude populations. This one also felt like there was more to come of the story, but I don’t recall ever seeing any of the names in any Dark Future backstory mention so I doubt that’s the case. We’ll see.

So there you have it. A rodeo roundup of the tales in Route 666.

jazzbeu

(by John Blanche…is it Jazzbeaux?)

This post sponsored by GenTech. GenTech, the biodivision that cares…

 

Return to the Dark Future

Dark Future and I have an on-again, off-again relationship that goes back to about 1988. I’ve bought and sold the game twice, and the last lot (about a decade ago) I figured was the end. I had a complete set, White Line Fever, some of the pedestrians, and most of it was painted up. In fact, some of my older work can still be seen on the Future Highways site.

Well, in ‘The Great GW Purge of ’05’ that last set was released into the wilds. I had no Dark Future, yet the game and its setting continued to tickle the back of my skull. However, I convinced myself I moved away from minis games and into the quick ‘grab-n-go’ nature of the booming board game industry.

Ultimately, board gaming as a main hobby left me feeling hollow. A lot of buying and wishing I was playing more than I actually was.

So, about two years ago, I got heavily back into minis games because of the very active local Blood Bowl tournament scene. It felt like a rudder on a drifting ship was fixed. The minis hobby is what I should have continued to have been a part of all along. I enjoy the modelling and painting aspect as even when I’m not gaming I get to interact with the hobby via arts-and-crafts.

So, I scouted for another copy of Dark Future…

In a little over two months time I went from no future to a very Dark Future:

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You’re looking at:
* complete and unpunched box set
* unpunched box set only missing rulebook
* complete, mostly unpunched set with no box
* white line fever in shrink
* white line fever opened
* every novel written for the setting

I never thought I’d get back into it after letting my last collection go, now I’ve got more than I’ve ever owned (minus any infantry).

Got a few more DreadBall teams and a Blood Bowl team on my painting table, then I’m hitting this. I tend to go with my own colors and designs when painting, but with as many renegades as I now have I’m going to paint a large Maniax gang.

In 2017, I will begin the hunt for all the fantastic Alan Perry 20mm Dark Future character minis.

While you wait for painted shots…here’s a cool read with Graeme ‘WFRP’ Davis chronicling his involvement with Dark Future.

I plan to have future posts exploring the setting a little, some chop shop features with vehicles, and maybe some book reviews.

See you on the Dark Future highways of 1995!