September 2010


This is a Tau Devilfish troop carrier.

And this is a Hammerhead tank.

And this is a different Hammerhead setup, with different main, secondary, and drone weapons.

Now the magic trick is that they’re all the same model. Really, you can build these guys with just one Hammerhead tank model. How so?

Well, a few guides on magnetizing weapons, found here, and some tricks you learn after a dozen years of model making. So, while painting my first Devilfish APC I put together this beast that can pass for any combination of Hammerhead or even a plain Devilfish if needed.

Here you can see all the parts.

Here’s a few conversion work. The commander hatch was pinned to open (I have finished one Tau commander and two Drans, and will be converting at least another Tau soldier). Also the back door was magnetized to open and close safely.

While taking the pics for this I noticed the Ion Cannon didn’t seat straight. So I went back to the work table and added tiny bits of balsa wood, watching my millimeters and ended up with this, that fits perfectly.

Now to define the paintjob on the Devilfish, and then to paint this guy (and all of its parts) and a Skyray, a missile launcher artillery-like variant of this guy I’ve got built already. I was placing an order for another Devilfish when I started to build the Hammerhead, and soon realized I should get a Hammerhead instead. There’s really no point in not getting that model if you’re willing to go the extra mile to convert it into a modular tank. Oh yeah, some infantry coming along as well.

Here you can see the commanders that will go in the hatch, a Tau and two Drans. Those little 1,5cm metal washers were lifesavers, the fit perfectly. Also, the hatch hinge.

I’ve heard a lot of comments about many Warhammer 40K vehicles. I have differing opinions on many of them, but it’s strange what happens with Tau. The only vehicles I’ve ever heard passionate discourses about how awful they are, how awkward the look, how cartoony they seem, is the Tau range of vehicles and tanks. Like with so many things, the differences between the “40K crowd” and myself are evident.

For me they’re without a doubt the most beautiful models in the complete 40K universe. When I painted some Drantakhs for The Guild’s sniper build it became apparent that they needed vehicles. I’ve even got a few tank commander models as a gift with one order, guys cut in the waist to fit them in a vehicle. The Dran range has no vehicles of its own. And somehow the Tau tanks seem to fit with them. Yeah, Tau troops are nothing like Drans, but I think the vehicles fit the Dran even better.

So here I go. A devilfish is the first step. I don’t usually like movable parts in my models, but damnit this thing is just beautiful. The parts you see here, minus the gun droids and the tank commanders, will be painted separately. I’ll do the interior, and yes, I will leave the hatch, rear door, front machine gun and engines movable. Don’t know why. Maybe cause I can, and I want to point them in different directions during my games. They are that gorgeous. Let’s see if I can come up with a nice color scheme based on the already painted Drans.

You probably don’t know this, but I host an online forum. It’s called Salgan al Sol, and it’s about RPG design. It’s in Spanish, and it’s pretty much the only place where you can talk seriously about RPG design theory with regular, and smart human beings. It’s a place where there are no flame wars, where an interesting answer can be cooked for weeks before answering in the thread the first thing that comes to mind, and simply a place for friendly, but informed, talk.

Wargames-wise I have no knowledge of this kind of places. I know there are places or publications out there concerned about wargame design, but they’re mostly concerned about historical accuracy and simulation, abstract experimental games and stuff like that. That does not appeal to me. I always thought I could find a place to talk about wargames, with the “game” in mind before any other thing. To illustrate my point, I compare the progressive roleplaying games I enjoy so much with rules like Crossfire from Arty Conliffe, or Two Hour Wargames’  stuff with their revolutionary system. AT-43 is also a great game, as is the highly experimental War of the Ring (it was, in fact, testing grounds for the new Warhammer Fantasy, though that game remains mostly traditional in most aspects).

Now you probably see why I was so interested in playtesting Gruntz. The game however is taking some strange turns, with people (I won’t say playtesters, since most in the yahoo group never played the game once) changing basic stuff like the turn sequence and the designer focusing on optional rules for future releases. The base of the game is still pretty solid, and most importantly fun. This has sent me in one of those drives to design my own rules. I’m still fighting with myself, seeing if I’ll use Gruntz just as inspiration (amongst other games) or as a basis for my game.

Though this post was not to share this, but a comment made in one of the many blogs I read everyday. The whole post is quite interesting, but it has some pretty amazing gems spread in there, hiding behind the rules commentary. I especially like this paragraph:

This is as subjective a matter as one can imagine but more and more I find myself drawing away from contrived solutions to wargame design and towards “natural” ones. In essence it comes down to the difference between a mechanism that eventually gives the right result with one that has the right feel. Of course, ideally you want one that does both.

Since instinct and expectation are linked to past experience and knowledge it is not possible to determine definitive intuitive solutions but by observing the reactions of gamers at conventions and club games and listening to my inner voice, I have found a few trends.  Some of these are the result of past experience of rules but others come from our understanding of how the world works and are the sorts of things new gamers expect even if they have never played a wargame before. Here are a few that I have decided were worth trying to incorporate.

a) Immediacy. Things seem to make more sense when results follow directly  from causes and can be linked visually. Perhaps I should say that they make more sense emotionally.
b) Reciprocity. People like to fight back when attacked.
c) Visibility. Particularly if using miniatures, what you see is what you understand. (again emotionally)

There’s so much in there. I specially enjoy insight from the actual game, from someone observing behaviors in the table rather than just reading through a set of rules. This is taken from this post in Battle Game of the Month. In any case a good read, so go check it out.

This is an Imperial Guard Valhalla squad I painted for Gruntz. These guys were a gift from a friend a long time ago. They were half painted, some with no bases, and overall in a bad state. I found them in a drawer these past few days while looking for some sci-fi stuff to add to skirmish gaming and Gruntz playtests. They literally came back from the dead. And now I want to paint some more!