Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Drones of Sector 7G (Illustrated)

A couple of weeks ago Old School Terminator of Dark Future Games posted an interesting piece entitled "How Do You Pick Units? How Do You Build Your Army?" In it he examines the thought process that he goes through when planning out an army, offering up his Tyranid army as a very thorough example of how it works in practice. I find these trips through a gamer's list-making mind fascinating and informative, in addition to highlighting for me just how different people's approaches to army building can be, and indeed to the game itself. OST hoped to start an open discussion on this topic and asked for additional examples of this, so I thought it might be interesting (well, for me at least...) to do the same for my new Imperial Guard army that is just now getting underway.

In OST's case he studies the attributes of his favorite few units from the codex and then develops a theme for his army around those key features, selecting additional units that will allow his to play the style of army he envisions and to meet specific strategic needs. I admire his clarity of thought and his careful consideration of the impact his choices have on his army's tactics and overall performance. My own approach to building an army is perhaps somewhat more... quixotic? Keep that in mind as I do not mean to present this an example of good army-list building technique but really more as a contrast to the well-reasoned approach of someone with tactical acumen like OST. So with that caveat, let's being:

The Drones of Sector 7G
Sometime during the summer I began to think that it would be fun to put together and paint some models to go with my 40k terrain project, named "Sector 7G" in honor of that part of Springfield Nuclear Power Plant where Homer Simpson works. In one episode Mr. Burns points to Homer and asks who he is, to which Smithers responds, "One of you drones in Sector 7G." From that little exchange came the idea of putting together a squad of servitors and so that I could eventually let them wander around the table in scenario games blasting away randomly at nearby targets and being a nuisance for the competing armies. They'd be my drones and I'd have another Simpsons reference in my gaming nonsense... hooray, mission accomplished!

I call the middle one "Grimey."

I was quite satisfied with having a handful of zombie-like, cyborg workers run amuck on my table and left it at that for a while. It eventually occurred to me though that if I'm going to have a bunch of servitors, why not include a Techpriest to lead them in their efforts to repair 7G? Thus was born Techpriest Enginseer Smithers, as well as the realization that I could take the joke even further and put together a Springfield power plant-themed army to represent the workers and defenders of my Imperial manufactorums. I've been trying to find a way to get excited about the Guard again after several years away from them, having previously played a conventional Infantry Co. style list with LRBT platoon in support, and so even the most tenuous of connections to the Simpsons proved to be enough inducement for to me start a new army. Ever one to beat a joke in ground, especially bad ones, I was off to get my Codex to see what other things could be twisted to my silly plan.

Techpriest Enginseer Smithers

With the themed I'd chosen, I would obviously have to somehow include Mr. Burns himself in my army. After searching through a lot of potential models, I settled on using the Astropath from the Imperial Advisors pack. I think he has a suitably frail yet sinister appearance for playing the role of Mr. Burns. I don't want someone as important as Monty Burns to be just a mere astropath, however, so I promoted him to Primaris Psyker and thus he can appropriately be the leader of my army. Maybe in the 41st millennium Plant Manager Burns would be a psyker, though I prefer instead thinking of his powers as representing his control over the Sector's automatic defenses (Lightning Arc) and the dread he inspires in others (Nightshourd). Also, as my opponents are likely to recognize the model as an Imperial astropath, I'm hopeful that it will be easy enough to explain that he's just a simple counts-as Primaris Psyker.

Plant Manager Burns

Next up for consideration was the section of Troops, from which I elected to employ Penal Legion squads. These guys will provide the labor force needed to keep 7G humming along despite the massive damage it's suffered, in addition to being responsible for defending the plant in times of danger. I didn't want to worry about the command structure that you get with Infantry Platoons, nor did I feel the grunts of 7G befitting of the prestige and myriad special weapons available to Veteran squads. The independently functioning nature of Penal Legion squads seemed like a good way of portraying the various work details, each lead by a Crew Boss but otherwise with nothing special about the members of the squad. The deployment options gained from being Scouts should help them get to their job sites faster, while being Stubborn should let them demonstrate their tenacity and commitment to their work.

I've chosen to use Kolony Militia heads from Pig Iron as a way of suggesting the faceless, anonymous regard in which Plant Manager Burns sees his workers. On the subject of modeling, I would like to note that I am gluing on grenades despite Penal Legionnaires not being armed with them. I foresee possibly wanting to adapt this collection sometime down the road into a more traditional mechanized veterans type of army and therefore would like to keep my options as open as possible concerning WYSIWYG. That way, whether working for now at Sector 7G or on some other battlefield in the future, I expect these minis to be versatile enough to serve me for years to come. Here then are the first of the Blisstonian* 9th Volunteers:

Work detail, Blisstonian 9th Volunteers

At about this point my wife asked what I was up to and, upon hearing of my plans for another Simpsons 40k project, pointed out that I had overlooked an important asset available to Mr. Burns... his hounds. She insisted that during a game Mr. Burns be able to "release the hounds," or else my army of cartoon references would be an unmitigated failure.

Of course! She was right and I thought it was a great idea but was initially unsure as to how to do that with Imperial Guard. My first idea was to go with a squad of Rough Riders as Burns' hounds, modeled using Chaos Warhounds and sporting a variety of comical laser guns and rockets. Something about this didn't seem right, especially as the models would have a much lower profile than a normal squad of Guard cavalry. I then pictured Burns sitting next to one of his dogs, which somehow stirred within my mind the image of a fire-belching IG sentinel. I liked that and decided Plant Manager Burns would have Sentinel squadrons as his hounds. Initially I was leaning toward Armoured Sentinels, but after playing around with some various lists I now believe I will most likely build them as Scout Sentinels. This is partly due to the Scout variants being cheaper in points but also because I now really like the Pig Iron heads and want to also use them for my vehicle crews.

Release the hounds! Well... build the hounds, then release them!

I've mentioned before that I had ordered the Manticore/Deathstrike kit just because I really liked the model and thought it could be fun to use in scenario or narrative gaming. At the time I had no intention of including it in an army, but I saw this Drones project as a great excuse to make use of the Deathstrike Missile Launcher which I'd already assembled some months ago. It's a highly unpredictable, one-shot gimmick in which to invest precious points, hence why it's probably one of the least deployed weapons in the Imperial Guard's tabletop wars. But the doomsday quality of the Deathstrike seems to me like just the sort of thing Plant Manager Burns would want to have at his disposal. I concede that it is really more of a Hank Scorpio type of thing, but I believe Burns40k would also see the value in a weapon of such destructive potential. One should be enough at a thousand points but when this army grows any larger, I'd like to include more of them.... Kaboom!

"Exxxxcellent."

Casting about for more ways to expand on the army's theme, I recalled Mr. Burns' preference for the "personal touch you only get with hired goons." Therefore to act as his bodyguard, keeping Burns safe from xenos and disgruntled employee alike, as well as to give his authority some extra muscle, I've chosen to include a Storm Trooper squad equipped with the army's only pair of special weapons. I had tucked away enough of the older style of storm trooper miniatures to make up a full squad of them and was happy to see that their gas mask faces appeared to be a good match for the Pig Iron ones I was using on the rest of the army.

Hired Goons

I would like to have a way for those Storm Troopers to get around the battlefield more quickly and the IG Valkyrie has got to be one of the coolest kits ever released by Games Workshop. Mr. Burns is conveniently known to ride in style so for this army I'll be including an IG bird to serve as his limousine, but one that is armored and flying because it's the future! Even if it's guaranteed to get shot down every game, this is one of those units I really want to play around with as it just looks like a fun model to have. When I get back to expanding on Sector 7G, one of the first terrain pieces I plan on adding will be a landing pad so I don't think a single flyer would look terribly out of place in this collection. Also, should things turn against Plant Manager Burns, I'm sure he'd appreciate being able to make a speedy departure.

Burns' armored, flying limo

It would be reasonable for the Imperium to keep an eye on someone like Burns so to round out my HQ section I've included a Lord Commissar. Again I did not want to go with any of the infantry command squads for this particular army, thereby hopefully avoiding any confusion about Burns being an astropath. I do think however that a commissar could fit in nicely and monitor both Plant Manager Burns and those loaf-about carbon blobs of the Blisstonian 9th. The commissar with the plasma pistol and sword is another of my favorite models that I've looked forward to painting for a long time so he goes into the list-mix, too. Overseeing this entire operation will therefore be a stern and dutifully suspicious member of the Emperor's Nuclear Regulatory Commissariat.

Emperor's Nuclear Regulatory Commissar

Another individual whom I felt compelled to include in my army was a Homer stand-in of some sort. Fortunately I've got Guardsman Marbo to adapt to my purposes, and as GW saw fit to simply reverse the letters of one syllable, so shall I. My counts-as Marbo will therefore be known as "Safety Inspector Moher." While I still haven't entirely planned out this conversion, I'll probably end up using mostly Catachan parts and one of these tox-guard heads from MaxMini. I plan on replacing the usual demolition charge with a dangerously mishandled radioactive fuel rod. Thus in true Homerian fashion, Safety Inspector Moher will be both a champion of his fellow workers and simultaneously one of the greatest threats to their lives.

My inspiration for Safety Inspector Moher

By now I was pretty happy with the army lists I had drawn up and was ready to stop at the 1500 point mark. I thought the inspiration well had run dry and that I wouldn't be able to wring anything more out of the codex. I looked at some other heavy support choices and more elite options but couldn't see a good way to work any of them into my theme. I did not want to force anything in that doesn't belong and thought to myself, "Oh well, I don't need to fill the FOC completely." The list making was done, or so I believed until I remembered one last thing...

Lawyers! I have no doubt that Plant Manager Burns would want legal council while navigating the many byzantine layers of Imperial governance and the myriad perils that would entail. Burns' legal defense team will be played by the more bookish-appearing Inquisitor henchmen models and will be a counts-as Psyker Battle Squad for the army. I don't think it will be too hard for people to accept that their powers, Weaken Resolve and Soulstorm, represent the terrifying potency of such an aggressively litigious group of attorneys. I'm not too sure what to do about the unit's overseer, though I'm considering using either a Necromunda Enforcer or a spare commissar model to help keep the egg-heads in check.

The start of Burns' legal defense team.

And that was basically it... ta-da! As best as I can recall that was the thought process I went through in developing my plans for this project. So this time around at least there wasn't much worry given over to tactical performance or cost efficiency and instead most of my decisions were based on the visual and interpretive expression of my chosen theme. Along the way I wrote out a bunch of different army lists to see how the point totals were shaping up and am still tinkering some on the margins with the leftover points. Below are the lists that I'm going to be incrementally building toward for use in Sector 7G. Thanks for sticking with me through all that and indulging me in this narcissistic exercise. While I may have nothing enlightening to offer in all this prattle, at a minimum I hope I've explained how my army came about, one which I'm sure to most veteran generals would likely appear to be just an odd and hopelessly outclassed assortment of units masquerading as an army. I imagine the more cut-throat gamers will still snicker and roll their eyes, but you've now seen why I'm willing to put the effort into making this a reality.

And so at long last, the army lists:

Primaris Psyker
Techpriest Enginseer: 5 servitors, heavy bolter, mult-melta
Psyker Battle Squad
Penal Legion Squad
Penal Legion Squad
Scout Sentinel: heavy flamer
Total Points = 500

Primaris Psyker
Techpriest Enginseer: 5 servitors, heavy bolter, mult-melta
10 Storm Troopers: plasma pistol, meltagun, plasma gun
Penal Legion Squad
Penal Legion Squad
Penal Legion Squad
Penal Legion Squad
2 Scout Sentinels: heavy flamers
Deathstrike Missile Launcher
Total Points = 1000

Lord Commissar: plasma pistol, power weapon
Primaris Psyker
Techpriest Enginseer: 5 servitors, heavy bolter, mult-melta
10 Storm Troopers: plasma pistol, meltagun, plasma gun
Guardsman Marbo
Penal Legion Squad
Penal Legion Squad
Penal Legion Squad
Penal Legion Squad
3 Scout Sentinels: heavy flamers
Valkyrie Assault Carrier: multiple rocket pods, heavy bolters
Deathstrike Missile Launcher
Deathstrike Missile Launcher
Total Points = 1500

Lord Commissar: plasma pistol, power weapon
Primaris Psyker
Techpriest Enginseer: 5 servitors, heavy bolter, mult-melta
Psyker Battle Squad: 5 additional Sanctioned Psykers
10 Storm Troopers: plasma pistol, meltagun, plasma gun
Guardsman Marbo
Penal Legion Squad
Penal Legion Squad
Penal Legion Squad
Penal Legion Squad
Penal Legion Squad
Penal Legion Squad
2 Scout Sentinels: heavy flamers, smoke launchers
2 Scout Sentinels: heavy flamers, smoke launchers
Valkyrie Assault Carrier: multiple rocket pods, heavy bolters
Deathstrike Missile Launcher
Deathstrike Missile Launcher
Deathstrike Missile Launcher: dozer blade
Total Points = 2000

I've got about another week left of vacation and plenty still to assemble and prime before going home to the enveloping humidity of the South. I try to remain as flexible and open as possible so if anyone thinks of any Simpson references that I've missed but could include in this project, please let me know. As always, I welcome any and all suggestions, criticisms, angry muttering, et cetera. I know it was a lot to go through with the only reward being a few pictures of unpainted miniatures. Oh joy. Thanks again for letting me share with you my thoughts about this army... updates to come as things get painted.

*In episode #5F23 of season 9, “The Joy of Sect,” Homer joins a cult whose leader promises to take his followers away to the planet Blisstonia. Great episode, I highly recommend it.


21 comments:

  1. Hey Paps - thats a crazy army. This post truly shows how unique this hobby of ours can be. Well done for picking a theme and running with it. I think its a classic idea which you have pulled off really well. I look forward to watching you progress this further.

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  2. Genius. Very fun tribute, and should actually be very fun to play.

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  3. Thanks, guys! I can't tell you how grateful I am to hear from each of you as I really didn't know if anyone would have both the interest and patience to go through all of that... thank you.

    @ Rogue Pom - I'm very glad you enjoyed that tour through the army, this one is probably a fair bit crazier than my usual but I was hopeful that would make it a little more interesting. Thanks!

    @ sonsoftaurus - Thanks, I appreciate that very much! Even if it doesn't always work out the way I'd like it to, I do think it will be fun army to throw down with on the table. Hopefully it will be a fun to play against as well even if only for the novelty factor since I doubt there will be too many other similar guard armies running around. I'm really looking forward to the ticking-clock effect that I anticipate with all those deathstrikes counting down to launch.

    @ b.smoove - Hehe, I'm pretty happy with that one, too. Thanks!

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  4. Why not add a servo harnes to momty to help him move around since he is so frayle.

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  5. Nice to see someone not taking 40k so seriously, I hope to see it all painted :D

    Good luck and thanks for commenting on my blog a while back.


    Cheers
    E

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  6. @ Derina - Excellent suggestion, thank you! I really like that idea, I wonder if I could make something like that look good. You've also got me thinking about the possibility of setting up Burns so that he can ride in an exoskeleton or perhaps even on a giant throne like Inquisitor Lord Karamazov.

    @ E - Thanks, I appreciate that. Even though it may be considered heresy, I do enjoy taking an occasional break from the usual GrimDark with a little lightheartedness. I'm very happy to have come across your blog, I'll take this opportunity to reiterate how much I admire your painting... fantastic work all around!

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  7. Maybe do an alternate "far future" Burns with the head in the jar on robot body for when you want to run a CO command squad with Straken.

    TBH, I'm not really digging Smithers as a techpriest, but not sure of a good replacement. I think Smithers would be good as the Lawyer's Overseer, ready to dispatch anyone who gets any crazy Erin Brokovich ideas. Maybe Willie for Techpriest? He doesn't work at the plant in the show, but could be a good controller for some janitorial servitors, and would give you an excuse to go into "Willie voice" during games.

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  8. Great episode reference! That's one of the options I was initially considering for Burns but decided to go with the Astropath model just because I wouldn't have to do any conversion work or building him from scratch. I could even make a cyber mastiff with Smithers' head, though I'm not sure what he'd count as in the game. I'm still planning on making a teddybear BoBo to use as an objective marker for this army.

    And you know, I'm also not entirely happy with Smithers as a techpriest. It does seem like a bit too much heavy lifting and dirty-hands type of work for him, but I figured since he's Burns' right hand man, maybe it'd be alright for him. His father seemed like much more of the technical sort, I think they have the same job at the plant... so maybe? I like the idea of him being the Overseer for the team of lawyers, that feels like it could be more appropriate for him. The other guy I thought of for the job of techpriest was Frank Grimes, Jr. since he's a mechanic after all, and I thought it would be funny to think of him as secretly hating Safety Inspector Moher for some offense against FG, Senior. Awesome idea for Willie, though. Janitor servitors is just too funny!!

    Thanks for all the ideas, I appreciate it!

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  9. Duff Man as well? For a bounty hunter/ priest and not forgetting the 3 cops as arbites.

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  10. Nice! Duff Man as a priest would be really cool... certainly good for keeping up morale! Duff Man as a bounty hunter, or perhaps a Rogue Trader, also sounds really good and would fit in well with the allied contingent I'm planning on making with the rules from either Codex: Witch Hunters or Daemonhunters, though probably the former of the two book. The other Simpsons-themed force that I am ever, ever, ever so slowly working on is a counts-as Blood Angels army called the Stonecutters for which I originally thought of making an allied Inquisitor Marge. (I plan on adding green stuff to the hair of one those female inquisitors from the WH line of models for the requisite tower of hair to do Marge justice.) I think it would be a lot of fun to make Springfield's police department a part of that contingent as a squad of arbites... awesome idea, thank you so much!

    I really appreciate all your suggestions. At some point I'm going to post the background I've been working on for the Groening Sector of Segmentum Pacificus and l should be able to work in all of these ideas. Thank you, you've been a lot of help for me!!

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  11. Yes, indeed she was... seems like including the arbites in her inquisitorial contingent would be a perfect fit. I'm really excited about these possibilities, thank you again!

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  12. I like that a lot! I hadn't planned anything yet for either marine scouts or Principal Skinner but now I'm going to have to include Scout Sergeant Skinner in the Stonecutters force. Works great, especially since Skinner was a Green Beret sergeant in the army.... Woo-Hoo!!

    Oh yeah, and if I make two squads of Marine Scouts, the other sergeant can be Armin Tamzarian. ; )

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  13. http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=trunk+monkey&docid=165770363080&mid=AE11EB851AA319008AB4AE11EB851AA319008AB4&FORM=VIRE2

    sorry to highjack but this I nearly wet myself laughing at.

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  14. No need to worry, Derina. You're always welcome to post anything you wish, especially something as funny as that. Wow that's hilarious. Thanks for pointing out to me Trunk Monkey, I really appreciate you taking the time to do that. Reminds me of how much I want a helper monkey to do my bidding. I actually have planned out a way to include Mojo in my Stonecutters army to go along with Captain Home. I've kept that little tidbit under my hat until now but thought you might appreciate it. Thanks for all the help with the ideas, and for the humor as well!

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  15. Do you think we should make up some house rules for the Trunk Monkey 40k style?

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  16. Absolutely! Maybe some sort of anti-infantry, defensive vehicle upgrade? Or perhaps it would be more fun to make our friend an elite infantry model that can be deployed in a special way like Guardsman Marbo, but restricted to within 6" of a friendly vehicle. Hmm.... I'm going in for some dental work this morning so I'll try to occupy myself by thinking more about Trunk Monkey 40,000. A perfect distraction for me, thank you!!

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  17. Lets move it over to my Iron Warrior blog shall we?

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  18. Cool, I'd be happy to. I'm sorry I haven't gotten over there as much lately, I've been neglectful of updating my blog lists but will be addressing that soon. I'll be sure to add yours so that I don't miss anything more.

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