Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Classic Mini Boxed Sets: RAFM's Shadows & Steel Box #3: The Iron Brotherhood (1985)

This will be the first in a series of posts highlighting some of the old school mini boxed sets which cast such a spell over me in my youth and which I still enjoy as a wizened old toad today.  Boxed sets produced by manufacturers in those heady early days of the hobby had a charm we don't see as much nowadays when we buy most of our stuff online and much of the sort of attractively illustrated packaging which used to be so necessary for retail success has vanished.  Many of these colorful little themed boxes, each seeming to offer a self contained fantasy world are stacked on my shelves now, and I thought I may as well share them.
The Iron Brotherhood was the third in the Shadows and Steel line of boxed sets, which appeared around 1985, sculpted for RAFM by a talented young artist named Bob Murch.  Bob is better known now for his work on RAFM's Call of Cthulhu line and his astonishing Pulp Figures series, but his early work on sword and sorcery subjects is no less enjoyable.  Each of the four Shadows and Steel sets contained a little warband of six or seven figures, with D&D compatible statistics for each character, a small tactical map and a roughly sketched campaign world in which you could unleash your little gangs of psychopaths upon each other.
Box contents as shown on the back label.  The campaign setting was a haunted vale reminiscent of Bram Stoker's Transylvania and inhabited by the Vampire Lord Tandaloor and his cronies.  You could play as the vampires or as one of the three bands of apparently equally evil and derangedT adventurers seeking to storm Tandaloor's castle and make off with his valuables.

The more of sets you bought, the more details of the background story and the gaming environment you got.

The evil Champion Zakasar, leader of the Brotherhood and his lion Tamurlane.  
Anybody named Tamurlane is just bound to be evil.

Bob obviously had fun cooking up the details of the characters and the campaign setting.
Two foot knights.  I based the warband on GW 25mm bases as I figure they were just barely big enough to be passed off as Warhammer chaos guys.
Trerok Toungefire, Zakasar's right hand man.  The shield on Trerok's hip seemed out of place at first...no way a guy could swing that sword and carry a shield. Later I decided Bob must have put the shield there as a counterweight to the giant sword which would otherwise have Trerok tipping over onto his face all the time.
Drakar Dubledeath the Warband's resident berserker, one of my favorite models in the set.

 The set came with a little cardboard double-sided tactical map showing the courtyard of Vlad Tandaloor's castle on one side and his tomb on the other.
The maps were about 7"x11" , not too big, but just big enough to fight two warbands on if you didn't have appropriate terrain.
Two important components of any warband...the standard bearer and the sorcerer.

The evil wizard U-Huri Simak...sounds like some kind of unpleasant tree....
and standard bearer Galgulum.  Really seems like he should be sitting on a horse behind Thulsa Doom in a snow-clad Spanish forest, but I guess I'll take him as he is.
 Probably the piece de resistance of the set, this extraordinary little devil is named Armadillicus...
I need a real Armadillicus of my own to walk past the neighbor's window of an evening, to sit on the stool next to me at the bar, to watch my stuff while I'm playing a game at Enfilade, etc.  Hey I can dream, can't I?

 "Kill, Armadillicus, KILL!!!  YAHHH HAAA HAAA HAAA!!" 
 Armadillicus' handler, named Beatrice by some sadistic parent.
The Iron Brotherhood assembled and ready to take on the Vampires of Tandaloor...or whomever!  Yarrr!!!!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Rogue Trader: Dead Men Space Marines Terminator Squad

From a manuscript discovered in the depths of the scriptorium, The Emperor's Palace, Terra

To: His Excellency, The high Inquisitor Josephes T'Resque
From: Yacobe Scrivenius

In certain appendices to the Liber Haeresium, one finds what appears to be a partial catalog of those units and fragments of units which were disbanded and reformed as Battle Group Omega. Personnel and equipment strengths (where known) are also listed. The designations of long lost regiments and the descriptions of their pitiful condition at the time of their annexation to the Battle Group provide a vivid impression of  desperate nature of the fighting in those darkest days of The Horus Heresy...names and faces lost in the dust of ten thousand years. 

A fragment of this roster appears below:

240 Cavalrymen of the 60th Montanya Rough Riders, dismounted, their mounts having all perished in the 'siege of Callyx VII' fighting as infantry
77 miscellaneous personnel, all that remained of the 224th Cassiopeia
2,000 guardsmen without officers or NCOs, raw recruits hurried through the Imperial Guard Infantry school on Cillia VI and shipped to the Battle Group just before the school was overrun
640 gunners of 97th Jennovan Artillery, their guns lost on Storr Valln IV, fighting as infantry
1,900+ men of 'Van Dern's Legion' (?)
Some 76,800 men of Planetary Defense Forces and several Imperial Guard Regiments all hailing from the Valia system, led by their Supreme Leader Luppolde Voldredd, a name we shall see again in this dossier
12,462 men of the Jennovan Planetary Defense Forces, evacuated in the final hours before their planet was destroyed. 
706 men of the 21226th Penal Battalion. To this unit the scribe attached the Imperial designator "X", meaning that it's personnel should be considered expendable.
1,600 or so convicted thieves, heretics and perverts of the 'Mundt Penal Legion', led by one Major J. Wankeldirkler, late of the Mundt Planetary Defense Forces.  This unit and its commander were branded with Imperial Designator 'XX' meaning that they were not only expendable, but that their rapid expenditure was actually considered highly desirable by the Administratum. 
89 staff officers and support personnel, all that remained of the 160th Harkanni
1,881 training cadre and cadets of the Imperial Guard Armor Officer's Candidate School on Hrassk, evacuated before the school was overrun. These troops are listed as having 62 serviceable tanks, mostly obsolescent training vehicles salvaged from the loss of the school.
28 officers and men of the 616th Suprema, all that remained of their regiment.
415 naval Personnel, survivors from the loss of the ships Angelique and Pallita, fighting as infantry.
19 men of the 14th Soledad, all that remained of their regiment.
56 men of the 77th Permskaya, all that remained of their regiment...

The list goes on.

At the top of the list are the three Marine Chapters who, their planets overrun, their fortress monasteries destroyed, their geneseed stocks lost, formed the core of the Battle Group:  144 Marines of The Harvesters, 180 Marines of The Raven Watch, 204 Marines of The Death Eaters, all essentially written off as losses by the Administratum, even before they were killed.

According to the Liber Haeresium,  when Grand Master Coresh of The Harvesters assumed command of Battle Group Omega, he was given a month to organize, train and prepare it for battle.  This training period must have been cut short, for, as the appendices tell us, scarcely two weeks later elements of the Battle Group were already in action against traitor forces in the Ulmm and Klaster systems.  The Ulmm and Klaster fighting was savage and losses were heavy.  Incidentally, Grand Master Koresh seems to have wasted no time 'expending' the personnel of the 'Mundt Penal Legion'.  The Legion is reported as having been wiped out in the fighting on Saxe-Ulmm. 

In the weeks and months that followed, Battle Group Omega was hurled from one sector to another in a series of desperate and costly holding actions linked by dangerous and disorienting warp jumps. What is sometimes referred to as 'battle fatigue' must have begun to set in, even amoung the Marines, for after a time, a curious and perhaps heretical cult began to take shape which suggests an attempt by some of the Marines' spiritual leaders to come to grips with an epidemic of extreme combat stress.  The cult is generally held to have begun with the radical theories of the Librarian Henc Morgunn and the pre-battle sermons of Chaplain Willym Pil Grimm.  Both seemed to hint at the idea that it was possible for men to project themselves forward through time, from the pre-mission present, through the horrors of combat, to a peaceful place beyond.   Put another way, Pil Grimm and Morgunn seem to have been suggesting that the events or moments of a man's life occur simultaneously rather than sequentially, that a man's future is already his present, and his present already his past.
Although I believe this summary of the ideas of the great Librarian and Chaplain to be simplistic at best, crude and stupid at worst, we can begin to understand their motive in formulating such beleifs.  I consider the bland history of my own peaceful life.  Here in the dark I have pored over hundreds of pages blanketed with accounts of the struggles of the Omega men.  Battles often fought with the courage of despair against impossible odds.  The storming of the battlements of Rah.  The long retreat over the sands beneath the blazing triple suns of Storic IV, the doomed stand at the Haolean Gate. I try to imagine myself as a soldier in that time and place, amoung that company of the condemned. Could unbounded faith in the Emperor have always been enough to overwhelm such fear and disorientation?
Under the stress of preparation for battles in which the Omega men knew they would be at severe disadvantage and must sustain cruel losses, the thought that the mission was already over, and that a man was already safely back in his bunk aboard ship, or consigned to the peace of the grave, may have been a great comfort. The extreme conditions under which the Omega men were forced to fight, whipped back and forth through the terrors of the warp from one traumatic fight to the next, must have had a disorienting effect which could have made Morgunn and Pilgrimms' radical theories on the nature of time seem all the more plausible.
I make no claim to being an authority on the Spiritual beliefs of The Dead Men.  In attempting to gain some insight into the foundations and the workings of their cult, I have had to infer much and guess more, for only merest fragments of the writings of Morgunn and Pilgrimm are to be found anywhere on Terra. However, His Excellency will undoubtedly be interested to learn that there are references to at least one carefully preserved and annotated volume of their collected works kept under lock and key at the Marines' monastery on Ran.  Until such a time as this work can be accessed, much about these Dead Men must remain a mystery.
Some things are clear, however.  Amoung the personnel of Battle Group Omega, it was the men of the Terminator Companies who most readily embraced the cult of Morgunn and Pilgrimm.  Datafaxes from this period of the heresy show Terminator suits and vehicles emblazoned with slogans such as 'Time Enough', 'Tick Tock' and 'Dead Already'.  Its hardly surprising that the Terminators were the first and most enthusiastic supporters of Morgunn and Pil Grimm, for it was the Terminators who bore the added strain of having to teleport again and again into the most hardest and most desperate fighting on any given battlefield.  As the elite of their chapters, they were the best able to endure it, but there is no denying that it was amoung the Terminator companies that the ideas of Morgunn and Pil Grimm first took root and began to grow.  I have included a few datafaxes here showing Terminators of the Dead Men at a much later date, during the sixteenth scouring of the Death World Proteous, t the height of the Second, or Great, Genestealer war.
I am compiling some notes on the early history of the Chapter, post heresy, for you next, and in addition a more general history of The Wailing Reach.  I do hope that they may eventually find you, and that my efforts here bear some fruit. 

All my food and water is gone now.  It is only the work that sustains me.  I am mildly surprised that I have not perished already. Perhaps I have gained some lean strength from the study of these 'Dead Men'.  When I first took up this task, I was inclined to frown on them and their strange, seemingly heretical ideas.  Now, knowing so much more of their story, I find I admire them.  Even for men such as ourselves, who have given up all our years in service to The Emperor,  it is too easy to forget that our own sorrows are of small account compared to the burdens that were born up by heroes of old.  I still have much to do before I die, but I must lie down now, for just a bit.  As I do so, I shall imagine that this dossier has somehow already found its way into your hands, and that my flesh is already but dust upon this floor.
"Traitors!  Heretics! You are already dead!"