Mar. 25th, 2017

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So the other day I finished up Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer. This is the sequel to last year's Too Like Lightning which I rather enjoyed. So I was really looking forward to this.

Unfortunately, I think the series finally succumbed to the issues I noted in my review on the previous book. The book is a history of seven fateful days that changed the course of a human utopia. It is also, a lengthy mediation and discussion of Enlightenment-era thinking and personalities. The problem, as I noted in the previous book, is that the world-building and technology on display in the book mean that you can't just shoehorn 18th Century thinking as the power-behind-the-throne as it does here. The book's world, it's plot, and it's philosophical discourses all work at cross-purposes to one another and eventually you finally have to start asking questions the book doesn't really want to answer.

Let me be clear -- there is an enormous value to reading and understanding historical patterns of thought. I love history and I love listening to the thinking of people of the past. It's why I really enjoy Lapham's Quarterly for example. No matter what Big Topic you're thinking about, someone in the past has probably already had thoughts similar to yours and articulated it better, just as someone else probably was more articulate in tearing down that idea.

But those thoughts also existed in a certain context and you can't just wholesale dump them into a new context and expect everything to run smoothly (and yet, you can't also just blandly claim that the new context invalidates all the thinking of the past).

Anyway, with this book, people make a number of decisions that just don't quite hold up under scrutiny (outside of their Enlightenment context...maybe) and a couple of them are actively being assholes, but somehow the other major players shrug their shoulders and let them get away with it.

I dunno, there's a lot of really neat stuff in this book, but it's just doesn't fit together. Also, there'll be yet another book in the series. To it's credit, the book does end at a decent(ish) stopping point, but I'm in no hurry to pick up the next book in the sequence.

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So a year ago I got really interested in Gates of Antares by Warlord Games. I liked the figures. I basically liked the games system it was built on (Bolt Action) so I picked up the starter box.

Then I read through it and I was reminded why sci-fi rulesets are so problematic for me. Each race uses a different technology (or a different application of the same technology) to do stuff. But in the crucible of war, especially between two forces of relatively equal technical sophistication, either one type of technology would turn out to be better (a laser gun is always better than an automatic rifle) forcing both sides to use the same tech or there'd be no functional difference between them (so both laser gun and automatic rifle would be the same stats-wise from the game's perspective). This means there are potential balance issues and, of course, you're locked into a particular manufacturer's minis (unless you proxy them). I dunno...I got it and then kinda lost interest.

But I had a pile of plastic and felt like the minis were interesting enough to paint up so over the past couple of months, I have been. Let's look at what I've done.

First up, we have the forces of the Ghar, vicious little goblin-like creatures that wrap themselves in powerful, slightly unstable battle suits and wade in for the kill. You get six the in the starter kit:

Ghar Battlesuits

These battle suits come in two configuration. You have the Scourer Cannon:

Ghar Battlesuit -- Scourer Cannon


Ghar Battlesuit -- Scourer Cannon 2

For close-in work, you've also got a group equipped with a plasma claw:

Ghar Battlesuit -- Plasma Claw

The fact that a power claw is a viable choice for a military force, kind of underscores my point about wonky sci-fi rulesets. I'm not saying that close combat won't be a feature of combat in the future, but no one's going to have major formations of guys equipped with a can opener. Maybe if you're fighting in a space unfriendly to projectiles such as a ship in space. But then, assuming the suit fits in the hallways, you're not likely to think a plasma-powered claw is a good idea either. Still...they look pretty cool, I do admit.

So that's the evil aliens. How about the humans?

Concord Strike Force

These are the basic Strike Troopers for the Concord (human) force. Each squad is composed of five guys that includes a leader and a heavy weapons trooper with plasma lance:

Concord Leader and Heavy Weapons Trooper

And three Strike Troopers:

Concord Strike Troopers

But because this is the far future, these squads get some robotic assistants (and this, by the way, is one of the things that really drew me to the game initially, most forces have or can have various helper drones). These primarily consist of Spotter Drones helping to find enemies and direct fire:

Concord Spotter Drones

Your squad can also pick up some heavier Combat Drones with a plasma cannon for a little more support:

Concord C3D1 Support Drones

Oh and the second one on the left has a subverter matrix to hijack enemy drones (and again, this cyber-war component was another draw to this game for me).

Anyway, a typical strike squad will have the troopers and their spotter drone along with a combat drone and its personal spotter drone:

Concord Strike Squad

A rather nice looking group even if I do say so myself.

I took this opportunity to try and practice a couple of different painting techniques. In particular, I normally use a dip shader to shade/shellac the mini with maybe a hint of highlighting after. Here, I used some colored shades (black and green) and then tried harder to do more highlighting afterwards. I need to work with this technique a bit more, but I am pleased at the way all these guys came out. 

The Ghar probably could've used a bit more highlighting to brighten them up a bit, but again, it all came out pretty well.

This was also the first time I tried painting figures on flight stands. Honestly, I should've white glued the drones to a stick, painted them on that and then transferred them to the clear flight stands, but I was feeling lazy and masking the flight stand worked out pretty well.

The biggest experiment was detailing the lenses. The Ghar suits in particular have those glowing blue plasma cores and a face full of lenses. Usually, I paint those kinds of things black (or one other color) and let it go at that. I still can't paint eyes to save my life. But this time, I wanted to give the lenses a shot and I'm really happy with the way it all turned out. I'm hoping to keep working on these detail bits and improving those a bit. It doesn't take much and it really makes the model pop.

Anyway, these guys are unlikely to hit the table (at least not in a game of Gate of Antares) but I'm glad I got them painted. I got to practice a few different techniques and I really do enjoy painting these little dudes even if I'm not a Golden Demon.

Next up: a blast from the past.



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