Posts Tagged ‘Utopia’


Hunk of junk

December 21, 2013

I’m currently building up the setup for the next game of Utopia, which means I’m painting and creating yet more generic-ish scenery. In addition to the corky mountains mentioned previously, I’m working on a crashed shuttle.

The crashed Aquila lander (shown here painted by the talented Rob Jedi) that was included in the 2004 WH40K box – yes, that was almost ten years ago – has always been one of my favourite terrain pieces, but somehow I just never got one. Once I decided I wanted one, it didn’t take too long to add it to my collection. LAF member Anpu supplied me with one for the mere price of p&p. Bless those Swedes.

I have long wanted to do some weathering, as I think it’s simply dead fun. I had a fun time with the powerloader three years ago, but I haven’t really had anything to work on. I have especially been wanting to paint something white and then weather the hell out of it. This basically decided that the lander would be mostly white. I wanted a nice, brighter colour to contrast with it, and inspired by the lovely District 9 art book (hint: an excellent Christmas present for any scifi enthusiast, if you’re looking for a last minute find) I settled for a nice bright orange.

What then followed was a regular painting of the piece, and the proceeding with the fun – namely the weathering. I used several techniques, mainly drybrushing and bamboo skewer painting. In case you’re not familiar with the latter, it involves snapping a bamboo skewer and using it as a paintbrush. Snapping the skewer results in plenty of uneven bristles pointing in different directions. Dipping those bristles lightly in paint and painting with them results in very natural looking scratches of varying thickness. I also used different washes quite liberally – they can be interpreted as dirt, oil, soot or whatever tickles your fancy.

I painted the base to match my Zuzzy mat, and it’s a nice fit. I’ve still got three more pieces to paint – it’s actually a five-piece kit but the smallest piece is missing. I’m really happy with the way it’s turning out, and it should make a nice centrepiece for the next scenario! Anyway, enough with the talk – time for some pictures. You can click on any photo to open a larger version in a new window.










Utopia #9 – Old friends

November 16, 2013

When we left off a whopping four months ago, the 16th were in the process of storming Conner Industries’ research center 13 on the asteroid DH-3. The operation was going swell right up until the moment the squad realised they’d walked right into a trap. The forces of the Outer colonies had decided to crush one of the vaunted UTOPIA squads in a display of force and cunning.

The 16th was unfazed, though, and did their best to set up defenses. A search of the station armory (with the help of some defected security guards) revealed three brand new, unused automated sentry guns, which were quickly placed at critical locations. In addition the troopers hauled a few small shipping containers into the corridors to provide cover, and prepared to receive the attackers.

The sixteenth prepares

The sixteenth prepares

First to enter the installation was Pvt. Johnson of the Outer colonies 3rd Heavy infantry. He barely had time to step into the first corridor, when the sentry turret opened up and quite literally tore him apart. The demoralising start stalled the assault completely as the Heavy infantry leader Sgt. Mancala ordered a more cautious approach.

The new approach proved more successful, aided by the sentry gun misfiring. Having sat in their crate for years, they simply hadn’t been field tested and the squad could only curse as the gunfire suddenly died down. The troopers pitched in with their own firepower, with Lt. Fender and Pvts. Lau and Abdul pouring pulse rifle fire and grenades down the corridor.

It was tough going for the attackers, with trooper after trooper falling. However, the Outer colonies had committed to the mission, and a steady stream of reserves kept pouring in. Metre by metre, the attackers were pushing forward and taking the corridors. The grenades fired by the defenders served the attackers as well, with drifting smoke obscuring the advancing Heavy infantry. When another of the sentry guns died to the sound of electric fizzing and popping, things were starting to look worse. The 16th had something to look forward to, though: a hail from their dropship, the Apache Owl let them know that help was on the way. Would it reach them in time?

Heavy infantry advancing behind smoke

Heavy infantry advancing behind smoke

Four security guards had joined the 16th after it became apparent that they were not about to be rescued. However, it was quickly becoming clear that they were ill-equipped for the situation. While they did their best to guard the corridors with their few semi-automatic rifles, they were completely failing to do damage to the attackers, much to the frustration of the sixteenth. The Heavy infantry was getting closer and closer and were already at a distance where they could lob grenades at the defenders.

Disaster struck the attackers just as they were about to break through the defenses. The last sentry gun had malfunctioned, and Sgt. Mancala pulled the pin from a grenade and turned to throw it at the defenders, when the gun suddenly came back to life thanks to Pvt. DiGlaeser’s technical aptitude. Mancala hurriedly pulled back but fumbled with the grenade which fell at his feet, blowing up the sergeant and knocking nearby trooper Kaneda down. On the brink of breaking the defenders, the attack collapsed and the attackers pulled back, leaderless. With the Union of Terra fleet approaching, the defenders were suddenly close to winning.

Sgt. Mancala's grenade fail clears the corridor

Sgt. Mancala’s grenade fail clears the corridor

A heavy clanking announced a new turn of events. To the shock of the UTOPIA troopers, Pvt. Jane, MIA after the cyborg attack on Ryukyu Epsilon, had been brought back as a monstrous hybrid of man and machine. Apparently the Cyberdyne-Sendai corporation had managed to salvage more from the disaster than they’d let the Union know. The cyborg marched in, smashing Heavy infantry aside and stepping into the corridor. Lt. Fender and Pvts. Lau, Abdul and Dastevan stared eyes wide as the monster activated the minigun mounted on its right arm. The howl of the barrels was followed by a storm of bullets that tore up the corridor. Lau was hit twice and fell to the floor, while the rest ducked behind corners to avoid the onslaught. Miraculously, “Dog” Lau was still alive and unharmed, although scared out of his wits by yet another close brush with death. The troopers returned fire, but their shots ricocheted harmlessly off Jane. Lt. Fender could immediately see where this was going. It was time to abandon their positions and fall back to wait for extraction. Abdul fired another grenade down the corridor to slow Jane down and to provide them with some smoke for cover.

Cyborg Jane makes his entrance

Cyborg Jane makes his entrance

There was one man who didn’t want to retreat without a fight. Pvt. Krayten Dastevan was itching for combat and stood his ground in a branching side corridor, looking to not only engage Jane, but to engage him/it in hand to hand combat! Lieutenant Fender would have none of this. “Quit messing around, Dastevan, and haul ass out of there on the double!” he ordered. Grudingly Dastevan obeyed, but he did it too late. As he sprinted down the corridor, Jane spotted him and turned the minigun on Dastevan. Halfway through his escape, Pvt. Dastevan was cut in half by the hail of shots, spraying a nearby security guard with blood. The bullets tore through the last of the sentry guns as well. Jane spotted some more guards at the end of the corridor and stomped off after them. This enabled several of the 16th to sneak off towards safety.

Jane prepares to fire on Dastevan

Jane prepares to fire on Dastevan

The security guards fled, leaving Jane with no visible targets. The cyborg lumbered on and came face to face with one of the Heavy infantry troopers, who had been more than happy to hang back and let Jane clear the corridors for them. The minigun barrels whirred up again, but luckily rudimentary recognition protocols had been installed and Heavy infantry Pvt. Julian only suffered a case of soiled underwear.

Most of the 16th were fairly safely tucked away in a remote part of the research centre. Most, apart from Pvt. Lau. Lau had been too scared to stand up, and was slowly crawling down the corridor, hidden from sight by the shipping crate the squad had dragged up. There were two Heavy infantry troopers walking down the corridor, however, and it would only be a moment before Lau was spotted. Determined not to leave any more men behind, Lt. Fender ordered covering fire, and whether it was because of Lau’s uncanny luck or the troopers’ skill, the Heavy infantry was gunned down before they noticed the scruffy trooper.

The 16th huddles together

The 16th huddles together… Lau crawls towards safety

…as Lau crawls towards safety

Fear spurred the three remaining security guards on, and they fled from Jane as fast as they could, barricading themselves in a room to wait for retrieval. True enough, a moment later the Apache Owl landed on the roof of the installation with a pressurised dome and started cutting an escape hatch. The Outer colonies forces were retreating, and the day was won. Only one decision remained: “Wait for us!” cried the security guards. Jane’s minigun had just shredded the door to the room and death loomed. Eyes turned to Lt. Fender for the decision. To wait for the security guards would endanger the squad, but this was the call Fender made. The guards had helped out, and it would have been inhumane to leave them behind – besides, with Dastevan gone there was always room for new recruits. The guards escaped, but the delay meant Jane had one more chance to open up on the Apache Owl. Bullets punched through into the crew compartment, and one of the security guards lost his leg at the knee. The sixteenth had made it, but had suffered yet another casualty, bringing the tally up to 15.

Pvt. Dastevan - KIA

Pvt. Dastevan – KIA

Man oh man, am I happy. After four months of inactivity, I had my doubts about the survival of this campaign. A much shorter delay has killed games before, and Utopia is my beloved pet. I was super happy to see that my fears were for nothing, as we quickly got into the groove again despite one of my three players dropping out at the last minute due to illness. After the first few rounds the players again remembered their characters and their personalities, and we once again got to grips with the rules. The game was as cinematic as before, and after the game we heaped praise on Flying Lead by Ganesha Games. The simple mechanics allow for quick and easy modification, and we came up with a lot of special rules on the spot, such as grenade explosions clouding the corridors with smoke, sentry guns and their malfunctions and Jane’s programming glitches – there was a very real chance of Jane actually firing on the the hapless Heavy infantry trooper, and when he was swatting aside the Outer colonies troopers, sheer luck stopped them from being injured.

That’s pretty much exactly one year of Utopia behind us. The next scenario will once again be something completely different. This one was a great opportunity for me to field my lovely new Pig Iron Heavy infantry and my cyborg Jane conversion. Now, what should I paint next…


The Faithful Departed

November 2, 2013

As it’s All Saints’ Day in Finland, I figured I’d make a themed post. The Utopia campaign is still ongoing, despite a long break. In fact, we’ve already scheduled the next game – ten days from now.

The campaign has seen its share of heroes and anti-heroes – some more memorable than others. In this post we remember the valiant and somewhat less valiant troopers of UTOPIA squad 16 that have given their tiny lead and plastic lives in service of the mighty Union of Terra.


Sgt. Salt Brauer was the long-time leader of the 16th, who went from a washed-up alcoholic to a hero of sorts. MIA on Ryukyu Epsilon after cyborg attack, presumed dead.


Cpl. Diego “Ding” Rodriguez came from a privileged Latin American family. KIA by a cyborg on Ryukyu Epsilon.


Cpl. “Ace” Wembley was a cynical alcoholic. KIA by an insurrectionist on the Alpha moon of Kessler-11.


Pvt. Bedford was a tough British radical feminist. KIA by a Predator on Triton-4.


Pvt. Bjornssen was a mild-mannered Norwegian tech expert. KIA by an insurrectionist on the Alpha moon of Kessler-11.


Pvt. Ghillian was a young female technician, known for her retro music collection. KIA by a Predator on Triton-4.


Pvt. “Hellion” was a young punk rocker and smartgunner. No one knew her real name. KIA by a security guard on the asteroid DH-3.


Pvt. Hämäläinen was a dour, effective Finn, who kept to himself. KIA by a cyborg on Ryukyu Epsilon.


Pvt. Iljutsh was a former Russian truck driver, on the run from the mob. MIA on Triton-4 after Predator attack, presumed dead.


Pvt. Jane knew his military doctrine in an out – a real hero. MIA on Ryukyu Epsilon after cyborg attack, presumed dead.


Pvt. Kenny was a former pro football player. None too smart, but deadly with a flamethrower. MIA on Ryukyu Epsilon after cyborg attack, presumed dead.


Pvt. McSorley was a heavy weapons specialist with a genuine enthusiasm for shooting things. MIA on Ryukyu Epsilon after cyborg attack, presumed dead.


Pvt. Trill was a happy-go-lucky technician. MIA on Ryukyu Epsilon after cyborg attack, presumed dead.


Pvt. Wu was an excellent sniper with the squad’s most impressive kill count and a knack for off duty trade. KIA by a cyborg on Ryukyu Epsilon.

The Union thanks these individuals for their service. More will surely follow.


Killer elite

October 9, 2013

With the little time I’ve been able to devote to hobby activities, I’ve unsurprisingly been working on some more Utopia related minis. While my painting work on the Pig Iron Heavy infantry (see the previous two posts) continues, I’ve also done some converting. You know how it goes, “I’ll just take a look at this plastic kit…hmmm..oh, this gives me an idea!”

This time the kit in question was DreamForge Games’ set of Eisenkern Stormtroopers, produced by Wargames Factory. Like the major part of my current scifi stuff, I picked these up at Salute this year. After finally opening the box, I was struck by the quality of the set – crisp castings, not too many mould lines and so on. Like I remarked when I bought these, I’m not keen on the whole space nazi look. Luckily I had a bunch of extra Pig Iron System trooper heads, so a few quick headswaps later my Stormtroopers had an all new look. 

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

I think the end result is pretty nice! They look lean and mean, the Pig Iron heads work a treat and I can easily imagine them being elite, high-tech troopers – you know, cloaking technology and the like. I also gave one of the troopers a heavier weapon taken from the Defiance Games UAMC set. In the marine set the gun is a support weapon, so I think the Stormtrooper using it as a heavy assault rifle emphasizes their bad-assery. I gave the trooper some shoulder pads as well to make him bulkier – he’s the team “heavy”.

What do you think, dear readers?


From the painting desk #24 – Ethnic diversity

September 22, 2013

Finished another three of Pig Iron’s Heavy infantry. I hate batch/assembly line painting, so I try to do my best to keep it interesting. This usually results in me adding different ethnicities in units. It not only makes the unit look more interesting, but also better reflects real world and my scifi visions. While WH40K’s Space Marines might be a race of genetically enhanced super-Aryans, I like to make my units a bit more multi-cultural. To illustrate, in 2008 Black and Hispanic members made up over a third of the US Army, and I think the diversity has been, is and will be on the increase.

Realism aside, it serves to break up the monotony of a unit wearing the same armour and BDUs. In the latest group of three, I picked three different skin colours. One was my regular caucasian skin tone, one a reddish mid-range brown and one a very dark brown.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

In my opinion the end result is quite nice, what do you think?


From the painting desk #23 – OPFOR

September 7, 2013

I’m slowly getting my painting groove back on, which means I finally finished a few models. They’re both Heavy infantry by Pig Iron Productions, a part of their mighty fine science fiction range. Like most of my scifi stuff, they’ll find use in my Utopia project. The Pig Iron minis will represent the heavy infantry of the Outer Colonies, a counterpart to the UTOPIA troopers the players are commanding.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

I used the casualty miniature to test the colour scheme. I wanted something very down to earth, so used a combination of browns and grays. In order to keep them from not looking too monotonous, I added a simple horizontal stripe camouflage. Another reason for the simple camo choice was that I wanted to keep these guys quick to paint. A lot of both models is painted using drybrushing and washes, with scratches in the armour and the camo adding extra detail. The casualty won’t be based, I just put him on a base to ease photography.

A special mention must go to the flag patches. To go with the typical “opposing force is always red” mentality, I was about the make the flag red as well. Luckily I decided to ask a non-gamer friend what she thought would look cool. “Maybe try green, with some yellow?” she said, and that I did. I love how it turned out, as the green really pops from the muted overall look.

The Pig Iron minis are a joy to paint. They have a lovely simplicity to them, reminiscent of Mark Copplestone’s work. As Mr. Copplestone is one of my all time favourites, this is high praise indeed.

As always, comments and critique welcome!


Utopia #8 – Assault on research center 13

July 7, 2013

The war between the Union of Terra and the Outer colonies was steadily grinding on. For their prowess in combat, the sixteenth had been given some generous R&R, sergeant Fender had been promoted to lieutenant and corporal Franz-Haugen-Ankerson had been made the new sergeant. Swartz and Bruce were still in the sick bay from being peppered with machine gun bullets in the unit’s previous mission. As a sort of reward, the team was handed an easy mission: Conner Industries’ research center 13 on the asteroid DH-3 was housing newly developed military technology. What’s more, the normally heavily guarded installation was going through a guard rotation and was sporting only a minimal security crew. A quick smash and grab of both research data and scientists was in order. The unit was joined by two new troopers:

Pvt. Brian Boru, a slightly unhinged flamethrower-wielding trooper with a tendency for pyromania and a faint aroma of gasoline always hanging about him.

Pvt. “Hellion”, a young female punk rocker. No one has an idea of her real nime, as she prefers her stage name. While reluctantly a part of the military, she tends to be good at it. Hellion wields a smartgun.

The sixteenth blasted their way into the station. The motion scanners detected a guard right outside their planned entry door. Springing into action, they opened the door – much to the guard’s surprise. The security officer hardly had enough time to register that something was happening, when he was grabbed by pvt. Dastevan and given a faceful of rifle stock. The unconscious guard was pulled into the entry chamber, and the team spread out into the corridors of the research center.

A lone blip on the motion scanner reveals a guard

A lone blip on the motion scanner reveals a guard

Waiting to breach

Waiting to breach

The sixteenth fans out

The sixteenth fans out

The unit was steamrolling through the installation. Boru, Lau, Leroy and Franz-Haugen-Ankerson headed for the infirmary, while Hellion, Fender, DiGlaeser and Abdul took the main corridor towards the data core. Dastevan being Dastevan, he stormed off in order to take down another guard, who was warily approaching, clutching his pistol. The gun wasn’t much help though, as moments later Dastevan pounced on him and knocked him unconscious in one blow – right under the eyes of a quickly panicking scientist, who was the next one to go down after a brief struggle. Dastevan was on a roll and enjoying himself.

Sgt. Franz-Haugen-Ankerson’s crew entered the infirmary to find a surprised young doctor. The doctor voiced his disapproval but quickly fell quiet after observing the dynamic duo of Boru and Lau – the first cradling a flamethrower with a manic gleam in his eyes and the second twitching nervously, waving his gun around and looking the medicine cabinets over with the eye of a true connoisseur. The good doctor was bound with zip ties and private Leroy started escorting him out at gunpoint.

The medic and the doctor - there's a difference

The medic and the doctor – there’s a difference

Everything wasn’t going to plan, however. While most of the operation was rolling along as expected, lieutenant Fender’s group didn’t have it their way. Private Hellion rounded a corner to take down a female security guard, who promptly proceeded to pistol-whip the smartgunner. Hellion took a nasty fall, smacked her head into the wall and fell unconscious.

The security guard surprises Hellion

The security guard surprises Hellion

With Hellion down, the guard quickly retreated to a better position. The security force wouldn’t go down without a fight, but with pistols and a few carbines against the UTOPIA troopers’ pulse rifles, flamethrowers and sharp sticks, it wasn’t promising. True enough, a moment later the guard saw her bullet glance off DiGlaeser’s body armour and she was taken down by DiGlaeser and Dastevan. Another security guard turning up had a similar fate, despite her carrying one of the security team’s two carbines.

Attempting to turn the tide, the security chief Hutchinson joined the fight. A long period of inactivity in the guards’ duties proved to be his demise, as his gun clicked empty when he tried to return fire against the troopers. In response lieutenant Fender shot Hutchinson in the face, killing him instantly. This left only one security guard, Smith.

Smith was definitely not going down without a fight. He had a good position at the end of a long corridor. He’d peek out and squeeze off a few shots with his carbine and then take cover behind a corner. Lieutenant Fender and trooper Abdul poured fire down the corridor but were unable to dislodge the pesky guard…

Officer Smith holds his ground...

Officer Smith holds his ground

…who responded with some accurate fire of his own. Both Fender and Abdul were knocked to the floor and sheer luck saved their lives as Smith’s rounds whistled down the corridor.

Fender and Abdul run into trouble

Fender and Abdul run into trouble

It wasn’t until Dastevan managed to flank the guard that he finally put down his weapon and surrendered. It seemed the fight for research center 13 was well and truly over, when suddenly the Apache Owl – the unit’s dropship – hailed them: “Lieutenant Fender! Things are getting rough out here – the fleet is moving in and they’re transporting in new troops by the boatload!” Things started clicking into place: the convenient gap in the guard rotation, the skeleton crew, the scientists with their ID cards saying “assistant” or “intern”…A TRAP! The research center’s intercom soon let them know, that they had a minute to offer their surrender before facing annihilation. The sixteenth tried to bargain with the lives of the scientists and the security personnel, but to no awail.

Not willing to play ball, the sixteenth immediately started checking their surroundings. After interrogating the personnel, it quickly became clear that an easy escape was out of the question. After a bit of persuasion and discussion, the surviving members of the security team offered to join the troopers in exchange for their freedom. After all, it had just become apparent that their well-being wasn’t a top priority for their superiors. This proved to be a good deal, as one of the guards remembered a long unused cache of weapons in the armory. After opening the crate, the troopers found five automated sentry turrets, which were sure to become handy very soon.

As Lieutenant Fender started giving out orders for the defenders, the medic Shaq Leroy went to check on pvt. Hellion, who still hadn’t waken up. Leroy was in for a sad surprise, as Hellion’s head had hit the corner of a loose wall plate, and the young punk rocker was long gone. It seemed the sixteenth’s curse was still going strong – apart from Franz-Haugen-Ankerson and Evans who had been in the unit from day one, no female trooper had survived for more than a mission or two, and many had died on their first assignment.

Thus concluded the first game of Utopia’s “season 2”, and the first part of our first ever two-part mission for Utopia, the next part will follow when I get some new minis painted up for the attackers. The game was great fun, and yet another very cinematic session that attests to the versatility of the Flying Lead system. It was also a great chance to break out my Space Hulk tiles for a change. While ‘Hulk is a grid based game, the tiles worked perfectly well with Flying Lead’s measurement system. I also used plenty of resin scenery bits from Ainsty, although all too few of them have been painted yet. It was nice to have the recently painted security guards on the table too.

As always, I’m happy the campaign is still rolling on, even with long gaps between games! Feedback welcome, as always!

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