Friday, 7 August 2020

Entering the Blackstone Fortress

Questing in the dark

My progress with the core box set so far
I recently started playing Blackstone Fortress with a friend - so far we've only done a couple of delves into the fortress, but it's so much fun!  I've not enjoyed a pick up board game this much since Pandemic Legacy.  If you want a very narrative rich gaming experience with solid gameplay, this is definitely for you!

I definitely have a soft spot for legacy mechanics and Blackstone Fortress uses them thoughtfully without breaking the game.  I have managed to snaffle the expansions as well, but they're staying untouched until we've completed the base game content.  I picked up miniatures for the optional retinue characters as well, but again, they're waiting for us to finish the core box story.

In the mean time, I have been painting the miniatures and I have to say, I've really enjoyed painting them so far!  Each miniature in the set is crammed with intricate details - easily some of the most characterful sculpts Games Workshop have released to date!

I'm taking my time painting these miniatures, staying pretty true to the box art with my own little twists here and there!

The Asuryani Ranger, Amallyn Shadowguide surveys the hallways of the Fortress, noting the skulls of foul Ur-Ghuls littering the dark corridors which await her...
Imperial Robot UR-025 kicks aside an Ork skull as he advances implacably through the darkness
One could almost associate a hidden sentience with this ancient automata...
Sightless Ur-Ghuls skulk in the shadows of the ever changing shadow Fortress, just waiting to drag unwary explorers to their doom...  
A single Ur-Ghul is a deadly foe - a whole pack could mean certain death
A Spindle Drone scans the skull of a long dead adventurer
Silent extensions of the Fortress' alien will, Spindle Drones should not be provoked lightly...

Making 3D Blackstone Fortress Bases

I always like to add some additional character to my bases and these miniatures would be no exception.  I looked at several options, but eventually settled on doing it the hard way!!

If you're a lunatic like me and you want to replicate my bases, you'll need the following:

  • Very fine sand
  • Some small / medium gravel chips (between 2 - 4mm across)
  • Styrene in several thicknesses (I used 0.5mm, 1mm, 2mm, and 3mm thickness)
  • Some skulls (the Games Workshop skulls pack is the holy hobby grail)

Start by sanding the miniature bases relatively flat then glue the miniatures in place as they have tabs which you'll want to cover.

Next, cut some long strips of Styrene.  I cut several 15cm lengths of both the 0.5, 1 and 2mm Styrene, but only a couple of the 3mm thickness as I only use it sparingly.  I deliberately kept the width of these strips irregular (between 3 and 8mm) so that not all of the shapes would be the same size.

The main reoccurring shapes within Blackstone Fortress are triangles, so unsurprisingly, I would recommend cutting the Styrene strips into triangles of different sizes and angles.  You will need a lot of them and it will take a long time, but stick with it and keep the triangles very small as otherwise you won't fit many on the bases.

A note on alternatives: I have seen people 3D print similar bases and toppers, but they are expensive to buy or produce, the quality is generally poor at this scale because of the print grain and most of all, they seem a bit too regular to my eyes.  I know it's not for everyone, but this method does give you far more control over your basing and each one will be a unique 3D construction!

This is about half of what you'll need for the explorer bases.  I also cut a lot of the ones in this picture in half as they were a bit large when I started gluing them down
Once you have a nice range of triangles, start sticking them to the bases with precision plastic glue (liquid poly), trying to keep the triangles an even space and the same angles as one another as they are supposed to look interlocked.  I kept mine approximately half a millimetre apart.

Try to use different thicknesses next to each other as it will give you a nice uneven, stepped effect a bit like the giant's causeway in Ireland.

If you keep this in mind while making your Blackstone Fortress bases, you can't go far wrong
I'd recommend trying to get some of the 0.5mm triangles under the miniature's feet where possible as it will make them seem more like part of the environment.  Once you have finished the triangular jigsaw on each base, add one or two tiny patches of sand (a single spot of superglue is plenty) to each base along with one or two little gravel chips and a skull for flavour.  And that's it!  It takes effort, but it's pretty straightforward!

This tiny base only needed a few triangles and a smidgen of sand...
...whereas this greater possessed offered the opportunity for a more elaborate base!

Painting your Bases

Painting the bases is extremely easy - I have been base coating my Blackstone Fortress miniatures with a bone colour, but white would work in much the same way.  I'd recommend starting with a bone colour as it gives a nice, richer shade on the completed miniature.

Start by painting over the base colour with a 50:50 mix of Nuln Oil & Drakenhof Nightshade to add some contrast to the deeper recesses.

The 50:50 wash adds a little shade to the recesses and flat surfaces
Next, go over the entire base with a nice thick coat of Akhelian Green contrast paint.  You can do two coats for a deeper colour.  I have to say, I adore this paint - I have used it in so many different ways as it gives a beautiful colour over so many different base coats - it's magnificent over silver...

The Akhelian Green immediately adds a nice turquoise colouring with the first coat
A second coat of this contrast paint deepens the colour
Once both coats of the Akhelian Green have fully dried, go over the whole thing with a couple of coats of Soulstone Blue.  This layer gives the base its pleasing shiny two-tone effect.

Two coats of Soulstone blue further deepen the paving colour and recesses while giving a beautiful surface sheen 
Once you've finished with the triangle paving, paint any skulls with screaming skull and a recess wash with Reikland Fleshshade.  Finally, paint the sand and stone chips with Eshin Grey, then lightly drybrush with Dawnstone.
Try to keep the chips and skulls to a minimum so as not to overwhelm the miniature 
And there you have it!  I'd love to hear from anyone that found this little guide useful in the comments below! :)

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Snapper and the Blowfish

Mechanical wonders abound!

The Court of the Fisher King
This week saw me finish two new units for The Court of the Fisher King; the Skorpius Dunerider Blowfish and the Sentinel walker Snapper.  The Court is really coming along nicely, with only 2 Skitarii squads, 2 more knights and the Knight Scions for 5 of the knights to go!  If I finish them in the next few weeks, I may even rewards myself with one last Knight and some Kastellan Robots before finally sealing the lid on this long-term project!

The Blowfish

It took a while to complete, but I have finished finished my Skorpius Dunerider, The Blowfish.  I am really happy with the final look of this miniature; I did make some small adjustments to the model including changing the crew and removing the long whip aerials, but in general, I didn't need to make too many changes to the kit.  The main build challenge was the base which was covered in a previous post - painting it was really enjoyable and I would highly recommend a Skorpius kit to any Mechanicus collector!

For a simple concept, this miniature took a lot of effort to complete!

The large resin base is a little excessive, but it is only meant for display, detaching from magnets within the hull when I want to remove the Dunerider
I'm really happy with the waves and spray on the finished piece - it really is skipping over the waves!
The split wake from the turbines works really well
The crew were intentionally all replaced with servitors - they won't get seasick like normal humans!
The Blowfish is painted in the same colour scheme as its Knightly companions
All of the servitor crew are armed with harpoons as is the custom with this force!
I really enjoyed painting this miniature; I really went to town with the rust and weathering! 
The rusted deck and internal hatches all showing signs of water damage
The sea base in all its glory - not the metal tipped flight stems which the hull magnets attach to
The two removable Servitors ever vigilant at their respective portholes
Grim and implacable, the Servitors exit the landing craft
Sacristan Nautolex hitches a ride
Even the Fisher King himself sometimes requires transportation!


Snapper was built shortly after The Fisher King but has sat unpainted for almost 2 years!  I finally finished him at the same time as painting the Blowfish.  Working on them both simultaneously allowed me to get them done quickly as I painted similar sections on both miniatures at the same time.

He may be the smallest walker in this force, but he's packed full of character!
From this side, you can see the front facing tazer on the main hull and the additional railing added next to the driver's hatch
Snapper has had his traditional Sentinel missile armament replaced with a multi-shot harpoon launcher!
The rear exhaust ports have filtration caps for underwater operations
Large air tanks fuel the harpoon launcher
Snapper's hull bears multiple yellow lamp lights like his larger Knight cousins in the Court

Monday, 13 July 2020

Imperator Build Mega Update and a Tyresome Pun!

Imperator - a giant will stand...

The torso as it currently stands - it's really starting to look like an Imperator even though it's still only basic shapes, you know exactly which titan I'm replicating!
Another week, another Imperator build progress post!  Since my last update, I've been working hard on this beast; I hope you enjoy the update!

Support struts, and surface detailing

I have now capped all of the main support struts on the torso and have also added exhaust vents to the ends of all four rear facing supports.

I really like the exhaust vents on the rear struts; they add some functionality to the these structural areas, reminding you that they are part of a large machine rather than just architectural supports.  This picture also gives a better view of the rear engine array and platform  
The central support struts have their styrene caps added in this picture - the other supports have also now been given the same treatment.  I carefully cut the styrene plates to the correct size, fitted them with super glue then sanded them flush at the joints.  All of them will be filled at a later stage
As the Imperator is so huge, there are a lot of flat surfaces which will require detailing.  It's one of my favourite stages as I can go crazy making piping, vents, switches and ports.  Here are a couple I made to go on the inside of the main rear facing support struts.  Once I've filled all of the structural elements, I'll be fixing little details like this all over!

Shoulder sockets

The Shoulders of a titan take a lot of weight.  In the case of the original Epic Imperator, they hang from the underside of the main carapace with supports on the torso.  My Imperator would need to be designed to look as though the shoulder sockets were attached to the carapace, but in reality, as it is supposed to be detachable, they would only be physically connected to the torso.

I did a lot of pondering over the shoulder design prior to building them as they would need to be strong enough to take the weight of the gigantic arms, but also functional as I still wanted to be able to remove the arms and carapace from the torso for transports.

As I had already strengthened the torso around the rib area during construction knowing that it would be taking a lot of horizontal weight from the arms as well as vertical weight from the carapace, I decided to spread the weight over as much of the rib area as I could to ensure that the foamex wouldn't buckle.
The main shoulder sockets were made from three separate Foamex layers - a 5mm layer sandwiched between two 10mm ones.  The 5mm layer was pre-drilled with holes for five magnets in each socket prior to assembly.

After creating the main sockets, I then created a thick back plate which would be attached directly to the torso.  I shaped the back plates and the supports to mimic the Adeptus Titanicus 'T' symbol
After sanding and filling, I added surface detailing and styrene capping to the layered areas along with ports for the cabling which I had left spaces for within the armpits 
I had saved some spare Warhound cables for this very job - once I'd glued the shoulders into place, I heated and shaped the resin cables and glued them to the receivers I'd added to the reinforced rib area
Here's an underside view of the shoulder with the carapace in place - it all fits beautifully (phew!)
The shoulders also take a little of the weight from above, spreading it across the super structure
  I intend to add some more detail under the carapace at a later date to go around the shoulders, really tying it all together like the power plant which plugs in at the rear 
I constantly refer back to the original model to check the scale and shaping.  It was never intended to be an exact copy of this design, but I really am trying to stay faithful to the proportions and feel of the original design while bringing it inline with the more modern titan aesthetics already honed by Forgeworld

Leg Build

The Imperator's legs are another iconic area of the titan which I really wanted to get right.  When thinking about the legs, I wanted to include all of the elements listed below while still trying to keep the original design's distinctive silhouette.  It's not enough just to build a big robot with bucket legs; it had to look and feel like an Emperor class titan; capable of moving while still housing a battalion of Skitarii in each of its bastion-legs.

  • Must have a round footprint
  • Must have three large toes at 3, 9 and 12 O'clock
  • Must be able to transport troops in the feet
  • Must still be able to move convincingly
  • Must have large curved armoured shins
  • Must look cool!

With all of these elements in mind, I set about designing the shins and thighs.  Added to the design considerations would also be the structural concerns as the knees and hips would be taking the full weight of the titan and would be the weakest points on the whole structure.  They would need to be reinforced but still posable as I want my titan walking rather than stood static like the original miniature.
The first step was building the underlying structure for the shin guards.  Although the surface is currently flat and vertically straight, I will be sculpting the compound curves which form the shin guards once I have the legs completed, so for now, it's fairly blocky and basic
Blocky and basic does not mean small...
... or weak!  The shin is reinforced to ensure that it can take a bit of weight even though it's only actually going to be lending the legs a little horizontal support
I did a lot of sketching before starting to draw up a 1:1 blueprint for the legs
Once I was happy with my blueprints, I firmed them up accurately with a mechanical pencil, isolating the main structures from the surface details and noting which layers would be part of the load bearing structure
Next I used my front room window as a light box to trace the main leg sections onto plain paper to make a pattern which I cut out...
...and stuck to construction board to create working templates for the main parts.  Note that I worked out the thickness of the Foamex and number of each parts I'd need for the legs so I could easily keep track of everything

I used the card templates at this stage to mock up the leg and test both the scale and fit before I prepared to mark out the components
Again, I think it's useful to refer back to the original throughout the build process!
Although the legs will be considerably thicker than this cardboard cutout, you still get a feel for the silhouette...  
...and size of this monster!
For now, the main shin guard remains separate from the foot as I will need to be able to remove it in order to create the armour plating 
It does lock in place though!
I used the templates to mark out all of the leg components that I'd need to cut in order to make both shins and thighs
Once I'd cut all of the components (which takes a looooooong time...), I glued them together in their sub-assemblies and sanded them roughly so that I could test fit the parts
The parts look a little rough now, but they will be more thoroughly sanded and filled before the final assembly
And here is the first shin test assembly!
This things is so chunky!
This foot and shin isn't finished yet, but it already weighs as much as a warhound titan!
And to give you an idea of just how large this thing is...
A servitor guards the shin doorway!

A little AT snippet

Finally, I thought I'd show a little Titanicus terrain piece I made on a whim!
It's a tiny Adeptus Mechanicus tyre fitting yard!
It has a little service ramp, tyre pressure tank and a little shack!  There's also room at the back for an advert banner...

Behold, Adeptus Tyretanicus!