Sunday, October 3, 2010

Making Tracks: Valhallan Basilisk

I am hoping to field an Imperial Guard Warhammer 40,000 army next May for G&G VI, and that means I need to start producing some tanks, sharpish.  This is my first attempt at a Valhallan track, the Basilisk, which is not so much a tank (no turret, you see) as it is a self propelled gun.

The Warhammer 40K universe is ostensibly a science-fiction one, with all the trappings like spaceships and aliens and such, but it draws quite extensively on history, both as it was and as we imagine it to have been.  Nowhere is this better illustrated than the Imperial Guard, the hapless, dime-a-dozen garden variety humans trying to defend the Imperium of Man from foul Xenos and heretics. While the far superior Space Marines, who have all the best elements of Dune's Sardaukar and Heinlein's Starship Troopers crossed with Iron Man, get all the glory in addition to all the best kit, the poor troopers of the Guard huddle in their flak jackets and slit trenches while armored vehicles that look almost a century old by today's standards rumble by.  With these simple tools, they are expected to secure humanity against bloodcrazed mobs of Orks,  Eldar grav-tanks and the chittering hordes of the Tyranids.  How can they possibly expected to do this?

1) There are lots of them, and
2) They can produce guns and tanks at an astonishing rate.

There are a number of different regiments of the Imperial Guard, and my advice to anyone starting the army and unsure of which one to choose is to look at your favourite war movie: 
Platoon/Guadalcanal Diary = Catachan Jungle Fighters 
Lawrence of Arabia = Tallarn Desert Warriors. 
Blackhawk Down = Cadian Shock Troopers
The Dirty Dozen = Schaeffer's Last Chancers
Stalingrad = Valhallan Ice Warriors
et cetera

To be honest, I am not that big a fan of the movie Stalingrad, but one of the models I have accumulated over the years is a missile tank that would look right at home trundling into Red Square on May Day in 1982, so I based my choice largely on that.  Plus it gives me the excuse to draw mock Cyrillic graffiti on my tank turrets and scenery.  There is nothing paricularly Russian about the vehicles themselves, but the foot-soldiers more than make up for it,with their greatcoats, slung blanket rolls, wedge caps and fur hats.

Anyone who has ever read a comic story featuring The Haunted Tank will no doubt recognize the inspiration of the Basilisk's main gun as the venerable German "88".  Originally designed as an antiaircraft gun, Rommel used these guns in an anti-tank capacity to destroy much of the British Eighth Army at range.  This later lead to the development of one of the most feared tanks of the Second World War, the Tiger, equipped with the same 88mm cannon.  (Sadly, there is no real 40K analogue to the Tiger, but the Vanquisher comes close, and it is on the to-do list.)

The Basilisk is not really a fighting vehicle per se, however, but is rather a self-propelled howitzer, designed to bombard the enemy from a good distance away (in game terms, up to 20 feet, which is a bit of overkill since most tables are less than 9 feet long) with its 'Earthshaker' cannon.

It is a very fun kit to build, not least because of all the doo-dads and accessories you can add to personalize your model, like tow cables, bedrolls, jerry cans, and backpacks and the like.  You can also raise and lower the cannon, and a tiny geared wheel on the starboard side of the gun obliging copies the movement in miniature.

I had also squirreled away a pair of metal crew before leaving Games Workshop, as well as a resin breech kit which together enabled me to depict the Earthshaker in the midst of being loaded.

This was only my second attempt ever at a camouflage pattern in this scale, and my first attempt at a winter scheme, but I am pretty happy with it.  The nice thing about a sci-fi background is that you can dream up an environment suitable to the most garish colour scheme you can come up with!  I have also taken a swing at some weathering effects, like a little dirt on the treads and lower hull, unlike my Space Marine vehicles which look like they drove to the battlefield direct from the showroom floor.

I hope to get better at lettering and also need to come up with some unit designations, but a Cyrillic letter and 3-digit signifier are as good a start as any.  Since vehicle personnel almost always name the track they crew, I have named the Basilisk Temerity (with a backwards 'R' for flavour).  It will probably be a while before I have enough other forces painted to field it, but hey, that's one down and four to go! 

Oh, and about 6 dozen infantry as well...

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