Friday, August 4, 2017

Fictional Histories: Christopher Hollowell

Fictional Histories is a Fine Art project that seeks to analyze the world of tabletop gaming and looks to use the voice of the hobby to tell the stories of the men and women who engage in the hobby community. This work was among 4 others that were displayed at the Gatewood Gallery in May of 2017. 

This is the third of those pieces presented in the show, here showcasing an interview with one of my long time friends and opponents Chris formerly from "Sippin' on Paint Water" now contributing to the blog-o-sphere through Gloria in Morte. Chris is a skilled painter and modeler, the resident "how did you paint that?!!" guy of the group so to say, it's not uncommon to see intricate unit badges on the sleeves of 15mm soldiers, or to look at his host of carefully converted Death Guard with horrifying disgust. While his recent move has taken his forces appearance on the blog to a reduced regularity, we still find time on occasion to throw tiny plastic warriors into pitched battles. When I talked to him about the most memorable moment in gaming for him he pointed more towards a time period, a stretch of time around the release of 6th edition 40k, that spanned around a year where the group of us began entering into the 15mm generic sci-fi scene. I chose to capture that time period by looking at one of the absolute earliest battles between the two of us, the Battle for Sellas

Christopher Hollowell

I can't speak to any one person's reasons for playing a tabletop game, or becoming more involved in a wargaming community. I do think that it has something to do with a sense of camaraderie or  shared interest in a creative outlet. I think it's good in general, more people means more money in the hobby, a broader variety of interests to fuel the hobby's expansion. I think we'll see more and different ways that people choose to integrate it into their interactions with others, especially in a digital way.

I've had some long term projects, I've had large projects, but I think the single best gaming experience had to be when I started into 15mm sci-fi as a genre of interest. It's got less to do with science fiction and collecting lots of cool and affordable miniatures, and more to do with my exploration of that community as a digital presence and in a more real way with my close friends who started into that process at the same time. It allowed me to experience it as an individual, as part of a small group and with a sense of belonging to a sort of hobby diaspora.

so you would say like the PGCC and the stuff we did as part of that rush in the beginning was more rewarding because it was entirely our thing. like because it was crafted entirely from our small group it held more significance than it would have if we had moved from mainline 40k play to like infinity or something

Yes, not because the bigger games lack value, or good game design, but more because there is a certain amount of organic enthusiasm and creativity in something that is less polished. 15mm sci-fi is more of a sandbox setting for gaming, there are rules but no one set is king, there are great minis but the companies that make them don't have add budgets or marketing just a product that gets people excited and wanting to share it with folks who like it as much as they do. It might not be the best formula for long term success, but it is earnest and engaging in a way that something more established can't be.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Jornath: A Valley of Iron

"Hurry up lads, this one's going to start stinking soon, and it'll attract the Ork hounds"  spoke Sergeant Arading, stepping over the slumped bulk of the alien warrior laid out in the middle of the small room. his scout squad, barely visible in the dim light-spill peaking through sections of torn metal siding, and wood slat. The faintest movement could be discerned from the gently swaying edges of camo cloak, brushed by the salty air pushing across the Kulian marshlands.

"Potential HVT's spotted at Northwestern corner Brother Sergeant" whispered Scout Mildarien, looking through the scope of his M40/A1 out across the massive city of scrap metal buildings. In the open area below the scout's hide, Mildarien could see a great commotion stirring. A handful of Ork trucks and IFV's had arrived, from deeper into the Exclusion Zone, kicking up a storm of dust and engine smoke as they roared into the compound. As the convoy came to a stop the roll gate on a nearby workshop rolled up, a hulking beast surrounded by a handful of warriors and a swarm of greenskin runts strode out on bionic legs. 

"Tärz Scruntkicka, visual confirmation attained at distance 680 meters, elevation negative 40 degrees on bearing two-four-zero." Mildarien reported mechanically, training his rifle on the Ork leaders head.  Scruntkicka, is master over a warband of alien slave masters known as Runtherders and lords over a section of the Exclusion Zone known by the Ork as "Da Stabheels" reportedly the highest concentration of Gretchin in the entire zone, though almost no operations teams have returned to give a detailed ground analysis of the area. It is strange to see the beast so far from home...

Scruntkicka stormed up the side of the lead vehicle in the convoy, a stolen dockyard hauler mutilated by the aliens into a form of combat support vehicle. Angry screaming floated up from the beasts, though the Ork language is not particularly suited to quiet civil platitudes in conversation this was clearly not a pleasant encounter. In short order a pistol shot rang out, slamming into one of Tärz's bodyguards sending him flying backward. Orks began to gather from around the area, dropping what they were doing to investigate the latest violent attraction.  Suddenly Scruntkick was hurled back by an unseen force, and in the dust, the bulk of a truly massive brute descended on him.  Tärz's legs proving vital in preventing his untimely demise, booting the bulkier Ork off. In the moment the hulking monster slammed against the back of his transport, Mildarien knew his identity.

"By the Emperor..." he whispered turning to Sergeant Arading.

"Brother Captain!" Sergeant Aerea shouted running into the chamber, where Captain Corporis was meeting with a Tech-Magos from Usamiljen Heights. 

"What is it, Sergeant?" said Corporis, irate at the interruption. This meeting was vital for upcoming Imperial Guard operations around the fortress, the mechanicus and Astartes needed to be on the same page, in terms of strike locations, logistics, and dozens of other factors that would pivotal to the delicate nature of what was to come. 

"A scout squad from the Dreadmare Companions has located Oilymaw in the ruins of the Holmtex Marsh Conservatory." spoke Aerea rapidly. 

"They are certain?" rumbled Corporis, already gripping his blade's hilt tightly. The list of adversaries to cross him and live was short indeed especially when it came to filth like the Orks. 

"Visual confirmation attained as of five minutes ago, Navy assets are on standby to level the complex. The beast is recruiting up followers,"  replied Aerea.

"Tell the navy to lock the area down, gather half the company and inform Tullos to prepare the Thunderhawks.I will cleave the beast's head from his shoulders!" Commanded Corporis, rage seething between every word. 

"BrOthEr CaPtAiN" intoned the Magos, in the harsh grating monotone of the mechanicus vox hailer.
"ThE CoNserVatOry CoNtAIns NuMeRoUs  XeNoS MeK WoRkShoPs| It WoUld Be a PlEaSuRe to CleAnSe ThE BlASPHEMOR FrOm ThE ZonE| My SkiTarII ShAlL AcComPany YoU|"  The Magos spoke curtly, turning with finality before Corporis could rebut the offer, the click of a dozen mechadendrite hooves the only word of farewell. 


One Hour Later

Ork small arms fire smashed against the side of the plastcrete wall. sending shards of rock scattering across his armor. Peaking out, Pugno hammered out two bolt rounds ripping the shooter apart in a spray of gore. "Attain that overlook brothers! More are approaching."  He ordered into the squad vox bead. They were in the thick of it here, much further to the north of the exclusion zone than they had been operating in since arrival. Here the aliens staged to hit Imperial Guard and Mechanicus positions at Usamiljen and Fort Behras. The strike force had been on the ground for fifteen minutes and only now was reaching the purported location of Oilmaw. It made him anxious, the Mechanicus assets were slowing down the advance, the Skitarii fought admirably but the press of Greenskins from all sides meant that the Sons of Medusa needed to continuously go house-to-house or assault dug-in fighting positions to free up Vanguard and Onagers to advance. Never the less, they had made it to the Conservatory Complex, with enough men to hopefully kill this particular beast once and for all.  

Pugno's battle brothers swept into the ruins of the Conservatory's processing wing, clearing the rubble choked rooms with precise bursts of bolter fire. The area had been turned into a sort of Inn for the greenskins, barrels of putrid purplish grog, naked light bulbs, fire pits and squig meat littered the ruin. The sight of alien habitation in Imperial buildings always filled him with revulsion, but ever since the company had faced Dwellers infesting Uriah I when he had been a scout, it made him nearly sick to see.  He considered setting detonation charges in the building before they left the operations area for a moment but pushed his personal feelings back down, resuming command of his team. Striding down the interior corridor, Pugno delivered a heavy boot kick to the metal door at the end of the hall. Sparks flickered from the hinges, and the door flew into the chamber beyond. A heavy slug smashed against Pugno's breastplate, as the Ork within let loose a torrent of fire into the door frame. Shrugging off the hit, Pugno ran into the fire, grabbing the beast by the neck and throwing it from the nearby open window, the creature toppling to the ground below with an audible snapping sound. 

"Overlook attained, move up under us Visus" breathed Pugno heavily.  

"Roger! Squad Rubro moving to your location!" came the crackled reply over the strike force vox, hardly audible, through the staccato feedback noise of weapons fire. The scattered mobs of four or five Orks firing from windows and alleyways, or suddenly appearing from doorways brandishing bulky close combat weapons, had started to shirk away from the strike force. Chattering fire still barked from across the operations area but it lacked the roaring gusto of earlier.  

"This begins properly soon brothers. Check weapons, reload and give me sight lines down that street." Pugno ordered, reloading his bolt rifle and taking a moment to properly assess the commanding view the second-floor overlook offered of the combat zone. 

Crashing through the streets to their direct west the Mechanicus Dragoons struggled with a rolling tide of Ork gun trucks. One of the metallic cavalry men thundered towards the Squad's building, trailed by a duo of green skin vehicles.  Two rockets whistled towards the dragoon, one slammed against the electrostatic shielding of the rider's casement, the blow staggering the walker and sending its legs flailing as they simultaneously try to keep upright and turn on the attacker. The second projectile spiraled out of control into his squad's building, filling the hall they had just cleared with white hot metal and smoke. 

The Dragoon, leveled a massive archeotech pistol towards the alien outriders, sending a yellow searing bolt of energy lancing outwards, piercing the back right of one of the vehicles and sending a gout of flame shooting out from the ramshackle buggy.  "Brother Sergeant! The beasts approach en masse, your orders?" spoke Brother Auternus, turning slightly from his position at the window. 

"Prioritize leaders, neutralize the locomotion capabilities of any war machines that get within range if possible." Pugno ordered, turning from the Dragoons plight and fully rejoining the battle, underway in earnest.

"Damn this rabble!  Continue forward brothers!" Captain Corporis yelled through his vox hailer. He was beyond eager to get this debacle over with, the trouble with honor debts is they are typically hard won. The servants of the Omnissiah were stirring the pot more than a purely Astartes strike force would have, the size and pure firepower of a Skitarii Cohort were attracting even more greenskins to the location; granted it was spreading them across a wider area but the Skitarii fought methodically.  Nevertheless, Corporis knew the importance of including the members of Usamiljen's keeper's in a battle. The Imperial Guard had been hard pressed in the past year with a string of tactical blunders, massive strategic misteps, and nearly disastrous Ork counter-offensives. While his Astartes could win any raid they were sent on and damage the alien war effort acting as the scalpel they were, the war must be won by soldiers of Jornath.

Corporis drew his blade taking a handful of swings he thrummed on the activation switch. The size of the Warband bearing down on them with furious vigor was mighty, it would take careful skill and precise shots to see their quarry brought low. The strike force was wasting no time in pouring enfilade fire down onto the charging aliens, explosive bolt rounds, conversion beams, and stubber rounds laced across the iron faces of the Ork vehicles in a carnival of light. The lead Ork IFV a converted dockyard hauler bristling with guns and covered in glyphs aimed straight for Corporis and his command team. 

"Brothers, our quarry approaches prepare yourselves!" commanded Corporis to his squad. A handful of his brothers in venerated Cataphractii armor took position behind him,  the heat of a dozen power weapons was tangible to him, even through his armor. The adrenaline of a worthy fight approaching came over him, doubled in its potency through the violent joy of potential revenge coming within reach.

"Fething lunatics coming here like this!" Yelled Scout Sergeant Arading, sprinting past a gaping hole in the building. Chattering fire from an Ork emplaced gun lacing behind him.  "Sergeant why didn't they just let the Navy deal with the situation?!" asked Scout Mildarien, returning fire on the emplacement with precision fire from his rifle as the rest of the scout squad crossed the gap. "Them that come from the loins of Ferrus Manus don't exactly have a solid penchant for stealth or the simple beauty of killing something without it seeing you!" came Sergeant Arading's reply, even laden with combat stress it still came across as immensely sarcastic. Gallows humor was just one of the Scout's many glowing character traits.

Rejoining the rest of his squad on the opposite side of the gap, they slinked into the lower levels of the shattered conservatory administrative offices, the desks and countless collections of documents still littered the area, the greenskins had trouble eating or building much out of the materials. A boon to the scouts as they stalked through the low cover, past the hundreds of rushing Orks only meters away outside. Quietly the team slipped off into the drainage canals behind the conservatory, the grots they had slain on their entry still laid undisturbed, a good sign that the path ahead was likely clear of packs of roving squigs.  "If our friend Tärz is down this way then something queer must've happened down in the Stabheels. Let's finally get some eyes on eh boys?" whispered Sergeant Arading, in a much better mood now they had regained some measure of concealment and stealth...

"Purge the Weak!  Meet them now brothers! Cut your way to the target!" bellowed Corporis above the total deafening roar of the Ork's main body. As one the company veterans strode forward, their artifice blades glowing with luminous energies. The onrushing Ork vehicle had slid a halt, a heavy assault plank smashed into the muddy ground. huge Ork Nobs slammed down the ramp hefting massive axes high above their head. Then with a great roar, the Kill-Mek himself entered the fray. 

"I TOLD UZ I WUZ GONNA 'AVE LOADZ MOAR BOYZ!!!!" Oilymaw screamed as his retinue locked blades with the Veteran Astartes. 

"Changing!" Pugno announced swapping out his spent magazine for a new one. "HVT's located Sergeant, engaging the Company command assets!" spoke Brother Dyaxae frantically, a portion of his left arm bleeding profusely from a smoking crater in his armor.  "Close the noose! Auternus pick up Pumark and follow us closely, we shall join Squad Rubro and move as one to end this in short order Move brothers!" Pugno yelled above the din of clashing armies. The squad immediately set itself into action, Auternus hefting much of Pumark's bulk onto himself, the wounds the latter sustained barely even allowing him to limp alongside Auternus, though ever dutiful he still held his bolter firmly in his off hand. They made their way back downstairs to squad Rubro, the first floor was decorated in a carpet of spent shell casings and a thick haze of gunsmoke lit with the burst of weapons fire. Rubro turned his attentions from the directing of his squad for a moment to converse with Sergeant Pugno. 

"Whats the status of your squad Magna?" spoke Sergeant Rubro quite casually given the circumstances. 

"Pumark's critical but walking, and some minor hits across two others. Ammunition is at a moderate level, we are ready to get this over with. What about you brother?"  replied Pugno.

"Ammo's low, but the Emperor's watching us we've sustained no injuries. We are ready to make this charge." reported Rubro.  The collected marines stood for a moment in silence, to steel themselves for the fight, and prepare their combat knives. 

"Sons of Medusa!....  PURGE THE WEAK!!" Shouted Sergeant Pugno, slamming open the door and diving headlong into the tide of beasts. 

Dodging past the heavy ax blow of a Nob, Corporis found himself finally in front of Oilmaw, just as he tore the arm from Brother Gagar. The alien tossed the Astartes to the side with contempt, the Marine's arm flew at Corporis as Oilymaw launched into a heavy horizontal ax swing. Gagar's arm smashed against Corporis' armor, but the Captain was not so easily distracted, blocking the ax blow with his power sword.  The searing heat field, sending white hot slag metal dripping off the contact point with Oilmaw's massive ax. Not skipping a beat the alien brought its muscled right flank suddenly about to smash into the captain, sending him skidding backward a few inches. Again the beast tried a heavy blow from the right but this time higher, clearly in a motion to decapitate the captain. Corporis crouched under this sloppy swing and side stepping came up behind Oilymaw. Striking forward his blade lanced out piercing the Warboss's lower back. With blinding speed, Oilymaw lashed around smashing his clenched right fist into the side of Corporis' helmet, stumbling the captain for a moment.  He recovered just in time to watch the last nob's skull turn to paste as the crackling energy of a Cataphractii's power fist wrapped around its skull. Turning back quickly to face Oilymaw, he saw the beast holding the steaming wound in his back. 

"The Beast must not escape! Cut him off!" screamed Corporis into the vox channel. 

Pugno emptied the last two rounds of his clip into the nearest Ork boy to him, the greenskin carried sharply off its feet by the bolt rounds suddenly changing his momentum. Squad Aes, descended from the Ork habitation towers above, the first warning of the Inceptor's arrival was the falling bulk of an alien jump pack warrior smashing to the ground in a black pulp.  Soon the air filled with a hail of bolter fire scything down from the heavens, cutting down dozens of aliens with shredding small caliber fire, leaving a carpet of severely wounded aliens for Aes' squad to land on. 

"Rioght' letz leg it!" shouted a thunderous voice from amongst the throng of remaining Orks.

"Told uz Id get u boyz da good fightin' didn't I"?! shouted Oilmaw, clutching at his back, and surrounded by a half dozen retainers, including another monumental beast with metal legs, that Pugno wasn't familiar with.  It mattered not, he squeezed off a dozen more rounds into the direction of the group, missing or catching other milling orks in the crossfire. 

The beasts had lost momentum in their charge, well ordered Bolter drill and the withdraw of the key alien personalities had seen to that. There were still nearly a hundred beasts left milling around the Conservatory grounds in groups sizeable enough to seriously hamper their pursuit of Oilymaw. Corporis knew to press his advantage now and break the spirit of the Ork's before they could find renewed spirit for fighting.  

The cataphractii and the rest of the squads in the strike force pressed on keeping the pressure up in the center, as Skitarii Vanguard and Sicarian Ruststalkers hoped to close down the nearby adjacent avenues. 

Pugno, tried desperately to re-acquire the location of Oilmaw and Tärz, amidst the Chaos. On the far side of the open plaza, the conversion beamer of one of the Mechanicus Onager's obliterated the facade of a towering habitation building, burying many of their own vanguards to block any available pathway for the beast's to flee through.  Squad Aes, despite their jump packs, was finding the plaza a difficult to negotiate quickly to directly follow the targets, it was littered with combatants, smoking vehicle husks and piles of dead. Thinking quickly the Inceptors of Squad Aes rockets up as high as their jump packs would allow and found a perch above the square. Where they could see the path of Oilymaws' flight more clearly..

Corporis plunged his blade into the belly of the greenskin before him it died in a whimpering, wheezing pile he stood in a pool of alien gore. Then it finally happened, the Orks had lost their stomach for the moment and began to withdraw back to the nearby line of housing and market stalls to regain their number. It made him feel numb, He knew they hadn't caught their quarry today. But, the cost in alien life and territory may well have been worth far more than his personal feud. scattered gunfire still echoed across the square. and the rumbling of combat between the rest of the Magos' cohort and the Orks was still fully underway around them.  He had sent Squad Aes to follow Oilymaw with the aid of the Imperial Navy and PDF's terrestrially based fighter craft.  

In the end, the butcher's bill was high. Pugno looked over the field of twisted bodies now milling with Jornathii muster men and cohort infantry burying the remains and demolishing the hideous structures the Orks had constructed. The Skitarii had lost hundreds of vanguard in the subsequent holding actions needed to strangle wait for the Imperial Guard to arrive. While the Sons of Medusa had two fatalities, both from the command team that bore the brunt of Oilymaw's retinue, as well as nearly a dozen casualties, needing some form of medical treatment aboard the Strike Cruiser a crushing loss to be sure, but what more could a soldier of the Emperor hope for besides to die in glory for the Imperium...

Thanks for reading the most recent narrative battle report in the Battle for Jornath "living narrative campaign" if you'd like to know more about Jornath's history, its belligerents, read through the roster of former battles or use mission documents to play on Jornath yourself. Click...