Special Ammunition

6 months ago I took a leave of absence. My life was getting very complicated and things were reaching a critical mass that would have seen, amongst other things, myself explode like a poodle in a microwave.

Things are much better. Still complicated but I am happier. It’s taken a lot of reflection and a lot of changes many of which are personal and those closest to me will know what those are and the rest of you…well tough shit.

This site and my hobby – and the future of both – hung in the balance for quite some time. This website, once a source of great joy for me, had become something negative with the resounding screwing over I and it got last year. Equally my fixation on making it a success and its ultimate downfall cost me a lot. It cost me my health, it strained relationships, it impacted on my work performance – particularly during the aforementioned screwing over – and my hobby suffered too. It took a lot to reconcile all that and decide if I wanted the site as part of my life. The fact that I’m here typing suggests I do but I’m yet to full decide in what form that will take.

As for my hobby…like a fat chick fresh out of an LA cosmetic surgeons office, it’s looking pretty unrecognisable. Most of it has gone including items with obligations attached. I apologise sincerely to all those concerned, but promised content won’t be forthcoming. They were assignments taken on at a pretty difficult time in my life and I needed a cleansing of all the negative shit that had built up around the site. Which is why, beyond esteemed guest writers like the immense Gav Thorpe, you won’t see contributors on this site whilst it exists in its current form. Again, certain contributors had made promises, none of which were kept and rather than continually setting myself up for disappointment, I’m putting a stop to it all together. This does mean various series will not be concluded and, again I apologise for that also.

But back to my hobby. As I say, it’s all pretty much gone. I’ve kept my Games Workshop stuff, my X-Wing fleet, and the Terran contents from the Firestorm Armada box and that’s it. The rest was sold or given away. The reason why isn’t because my hobby had become my job. I’d love my hobby to be my job. It was because I had too much content to produce and not enough time or willing hands to achieve it. Whether it was ambition or ego (or both) I overestimated a great many things last year and it cost me.

So where does it leave this site? Well, I was amazed to find that despite being untouched since Christmas people were still visiting the site. That’s a very humbling thing. As for content, it won’t be every day. Hell, it may not be every week but I’ll be writing again. I’m also going to be writing about what I’m up to in the hobby with a smattering of whatever takes my interest thrown in. Essentially I’m taking the site back to what I created it for. To talk about my hobby.

I hope to still do the odd product review because I really enjoy them. Firestorm Games being the amazing people they are, stuck by me when they had every right to cut me loose so I’m looking forward to renewing our friendship. Equally there are a great many companies I’ve gotten to know over the years that I hope I can still support in some small way.

I also owe an apology to fellow #warmongers who expected to see me at Salute 2015. I had a ticket but the reality was it was better for me to stay away. Granted I had the worst cold I’ve had in years over the weekend, but to represent this site wouldn’t have done me any favours. I wouldn’t have been there to network like previous years – Mr McVey I still owe you that beer! – and I’d done no hobby to speak of. Plus I’d just got back from Houston, Texas (big up to the guys at Fat Ogre) so it’s not like I could dropped a wad of notes at Forge World like I normally do.

But the fact that all the Horus Heresy armour variants I bought at Salute 2014 – intended to get me painting my Ultramarines again – remain distinctly resin grey means that buying more shit I don’t use is a great way of putting myself into a flat spin again.

So. I’ll conclude with this: I’m back, at least in part. Thank you to everyone for the outpouring of support when I went on hiatus and after.

I’m working on a couple of Mordheim warbands at the moment so I shall be kicking things off with some stuff about them.

Until next time…

Mark of War Live on Kickstarter

mow logoYou may have noticed the other a day a little post go up on this site by a chap going by the moniker of Gav Thorpe, talking about a project he’s involved with called Mark of War.

Well it’s live on Kickstarter and in need of your support. For the uninitiated it’s – in a nutshell – a tabletop wargame on your PC, Mac or mobile device. ‘What’s the point?’ I hear you ask. And you’d be forgiven for doing so because it is literally a tabletop wargame on your laptop, right down to the dudes being mounted on bases.

This may seem a bit odd but it actually has the stench of genius about it. Allow me to explain:

I’m blessed with 6 good friends, all of whom live locally to me, all of whom play the same games as me and are all, more or less, constantly up for getting together for a game. However wives, girlfriends, children, jobs, chores, the space-time continuum, amongst others, all transpire to see to it we all get together once a month if we’re lucky. Once a month for us to run three boards and have a chuckle. But at least we manage it. And we tend to see each other in smaller numbers more often than that for hobby nights if not games nights.

Now, thanks to Twitter and this site, I have friends a little further afield. Some as far as Canada and even Australia or even the Norther Wastes of Nottingham! Playing against those fine fellows gets trickier. Oceans have to be navigated, huge sums of money paid out on flights and hotels and that’s just to get me over there, we haven’t even factored in the exorbitant and nail-biting experience of checking an army of scale miniatures into the hold of a plane.

Mark of War allows tabletop wargamers the fun and frolics of playing a tabletop wargame anywhere in the world against anyone in the world. It’s not trying to replace the traditional wargaming experience but enhance it. It allows gamers to share an online wargaming experience which will only enhance their offline one as gamers will play more games. They’ll hone their tactics and, thanks to some very clever jiggery pokery, they’ll be able to customise their Mark of War armies which will only inspire gamers with physical projects.

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In the same way that films, books and TV shows inspire us, so too with Mark of War. It’ll give us ideas for our physical armies as well as adding to our experience as generals. And without the time and effort

But that’s not where it stops. The reason for Gav Thorpe once again gracing this site with his awesome presence is because he’s the man behind the world in which Mark of War is set. This means a rich and vibrant backdrop upon which virtual face will be kicked. It means immerse game play and a war that you actually care about winning. It’s the whole wargaming experience. They’re even using dice for crying out loud.

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Now there will be some who won’t be convinced. Who see this step in video gaming to be the final nail in the coffin of wargaming but that’s just not true. It’s the natural and obvious evolution from things like Vassal which I, personally, can’t stand. If I’m going to play a wargame over my computer I want it to look as rich and as lush as any gaming board I may build.

And whilst the screens are very much WIP, Mark of War is shaping up quite nicely. Whilst I did raise an eyebrow at red Orcs and yet more elves, I can’t fault the styling or the originality of the world that Gav has dreamt up.

MoWMap

Coupled with the desire of Warpforged Games to keep the experience as authentic as possible it really could be something of a paradigm shift away from games like Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft and Vassal who attempt to recreate the magic of the wargaming board and the fluff but never quite managing either.

Mark of War will not only allow you fantasy fisty cuffs but army building and customisation as well. I’m not sure how that’s going to work – whether or not the models will be built in a modular way to allow for ‘swapping out’ limbs etc. It’s the only area that I can see Mark of War falling short of the real deal. But an elegant army editor should allow for some pretty awesome colour schemes rather than the crude tool featured in Dawn of War all those years ago.

Either way, this is a Kickstarter to watch – and to back if you have the coin. Gav Thorpe isn’t one to lend his efforts or support lightly and that’s good enough for me.

Mark of War Coming to Kickstarter

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Friend of The Shell Case, Gav Thorpe has been a busy boy. Not content with penning novels of various types he’s also been working with Warpforged Games to produce Mark of War – a tabletop wargame for the PC & Mac. No I haven’t hit my head. The idea is that you can collect armies just like you would in the physical realm, but in the virtual world of Mark of War instead. And then you get to watch them knock seven bells out of each other. What’s not to love?

Launching on Kickstarter in August it looks the woeful Shadow of the Horned Rat only, you know, good.

Banner_GameplayI’ve lifted the Key Features from the website to give you an idea of the level of awesome involved in this project:

Game Overview   Mark of WarI think you’ll agree, it all looks rather groovy. It’s the answer that the ever-expanding and international community of wargamers needs. I’d love to play my fellow hosts on Of Dice and Men but in the absence of several thousand pounds to go and visit the only option up to now was Vassal. Which I hate. No offence to anyone who uses it but I can’t stand it. So Mark of War is very exciting indeed. Plus it’s a new fantasy world. Written by Gav Thorpe. Who has some experience in that area. So it’s going to be awesome.

If we’re very well-behaved he might even write something about the game for us.

I’m really looking forward to this Kickstarter launching and the fully completed product at the end of it. And for anyone worried that we’re at the raggedy edge of progress, here’s a reassuring view for those of us that remember White Dwarf from when Mr Thorpe appeared at the fore of an army or two…

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Either head over to the Mark of War website or like their Facebook page to keep abreast of developments.

 

Path of the Renegade – A Review

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A twisted alternative to the Path of The Eldar series, Path of the Renegade provides enough insight into Dark Eldar society to avoid it being left in it’s cousin’s shadow. I love Gav Thorpe’s ‘Path‘ series and not just because he’s a fellow writer on the site, focusing on the Craftworld Eldar, it provided the closest view of how they thought and functioned – albeit tough going at times.

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Path of the Renegade, in contrast, is a far more accessible and entertaining (if shallower) blast through the home of the Dark Eldar. Still, it manages to provide enough thoughts and insights into the Dark Kin to make it more than fast food in book form. The book stars a number of characters* all of whom are cruel, selfish, manipulative and vain – which makes them perfect for a book set in Commorragh! The main plot of the book takes it’s starting point from the Codex, namely to become ruler of Commorragh, Aserbul Vect had to topple a lot of Noble Eldar families, many of which still remain plotting their revenge. The head of one such noble family and orchestrator of one such scheme is Yllithian, who has survived as long as he has by scrupulously hunting down and killing any relative that may potentially be a threat to his position. Path of the Renegade follows his perspective for most of the book, as he manipulates, bullies and coerces others into helping him with his plan, to unite the houses of old under the leadership of a legendary leader. The only challenge is avoiding Vect becoming suspicious…

Andy Chambers weaves the multiple narratives and perspectives together well throughout the book, each chapter building the tension slowly. Parts of the book seem to be constructed to bring to mind the Italian Canto, which is perfect considering POTR’s melodrama and range of characters who act out the extreme ends of the emotional spectrum. You can certainly see he had a lot of fun writing such characters, whose actions are so despicable but over the top it becomes rather funny. Yet Chambers’ pulls off a delicate balancing act, weaving titbits of Dark Eldar life and society into the proceedings, which help explain just how a society of sociopaths functions so efficiently without consuming itself within a matter of decades. It’s touches like this which raise the standard of the book and banish the old internet meme of the Dark Eldar being ‘Hell Raiser knockoffs’. I have heard that the book is the first of a planned trilogy like its Eldar Path cousin and there was clearly some thought put into this, with events being set up that won’t pay off until at least the next installment, including a cliffhanger so good I screamed out loud in frustration, so annoyed I was at where Chambers had left the plot. That the book affected me that much though shows how, despite initial impressions, Chambers’ own Path series has sunk its claws into . Just as well the next book is written, or I may have started petitioning Black Library to hurry up and launch it!

What this means is; the book comes highly recommended from me. If you’re a fan of the Eldar at all, upgrade that to ‘buy it now’.

Path of the Renegade is available from the Black Library in e-book and physical formats.

*I hesitate to call the characters of the book protagonists, because that would imply they have redeeming qualities.

What Kind of Year Has it Been?

The Shell Case has had its third Christmas and 2014 will see the site turn 3 years old. It’s been an eventful 2 and a half years and that certainly goes double for the last 12 months.

So, to repeat the question: what kind of year has it been?

A very mixed one.

In March I became a father. Whilst being a dad is awesome it inevitably had an impact on The Shell Case in so much as I couldn’t write as much as I wanted or as often. I did my best but inevitably I lost readers, some of which never returned. Between my time being hammered more than Charlie Sheen and some truly twatish comments on the posts I did put up I seriously considered closing the site. Until Erin (@sixeleven) suggested that to take the pressure off writing a post a day – which I was doing and then some – I bring in contributors.

It was a painfully obvious solution to the problem and have the added benefit of discussing topics and parts of our wide and varied hobby that I have no experience in. Bringing in contributors has seen mixed success with the initial team signing on and then almost immediately leaving again after they realised that when I said 1 article a week I actually meant it. We’re not quite there yet as all our contributions are a little up and down (mine included) and I’m still on the hunt for a couple more talented people to round off the team, but progress is being made and we’re slowly clawing our way back to where we were. And hopefully beyond.

Three months ago Lee and I, rather ambitiously, began A Tale of Two Armies. It’s been a lot of fun, if slightly stressy at times, to get back into Warhammer and actually do hobby and play games with any regularity. The narrative is developing nicely and as you’ve hopefully seen, Lee and I have been working hard to flesh out the entire thing. Check out our ‘Genesis of a’ posts.

I do have to extend huge thanks to Reece, Mat, Lee & Adam since coming on board. They’re all integral parts to the grand plan for The Shell Case and I’m not joking when I say this site wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. And to Jason, Ashley, Adam (again), Nate & John for agreeing to take part in my hair brained scheme to create a multi-national podcast. 10 shows in we’re starting to find our feet and the new year should bring some more exciting changes and possibly some TSC exclusive content.

I also owe a huge and un-payable debt to my sponsor, Firestorm Games, for supporting me these last 18 months. Again, without them I wouldn’t have been in a position to keep pace with our ever-changing hobby or have been able to run A Tale of Two Armies.

Thank yous also go out to Amera, Chris Wraight, Gav Thorpe, Nick Kyme, Sarah Cawkwell, Megalith, Studio McVey, Ainsty Castings, Avatars of War to name but a few. Getting to know you all has been a pleasure and your support of my humble site rather mind-blowing.

I’d planned on spouting on about the state of the hobby and all that had happened over the last 12 months but actually, what’s done is done. The next 12 months is what interests me with some big releases from the Games Workshop, Spartan Games, Megalith and many others. I can’t wait to get to Salute 2014 and go batshit crazy for the up and coming games. And I can’t wait for my daughter to sleep through the night so I have a bit more energy.

All that’s left to be said is to thank readers of the site, old and new, as you’re the reason I’ve pretty much given up sleeping. I wish you all a happy, healthy & prosperous 2014 with many toys, games and, occasionally, some painting.

#warmonger of the Year – The Results

Merry Christmas #warmongers. I hope you’re all having a lovely day so far.

The time has come to announce the #warmonger of the Year. The member of our community, voted for by the community, who has gone above and beyond the call of duty.

First, a quick note; thank you to everyone who voted for me, it was hugely touching but I wouldn’t feel right accepting an accolade that I set up in the first place. So I’m counting myself out of this one.

Just a reminder, the prize is signed copies of Games Workshop veteran, and friend of The Shell Case, Gav Thorpe’s critically acclaimed Crown Trilogy.

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No less than 12 #warmongers excluding myself received nominations but, as ever, there can only be one winner and that particularly lucky bugger is…Dave Wilkinson aka @docbungle.

Dave couldn’t be a more deserving winner. Ever on Twitter, Dave is on hand to lend #warmongers encouragement or advice – some of it is even helpful – and has been instrumental in forging the thriving community I’m proud to be apart of. He also set up #MiniatureMonday and his blog has entertained literally dozens of us for years.

A special mention goes to Hugo – aka @ichibanpainting – who came a very close second. I’m going to sort him out a little something as he’s also contributed an awful lot to our merry little band and it’s only right that he be rewarded.

Congratulations both, you do us all proud.

Shell Case Shorts 12

So we’ve finally come to it; the last (ever) Shell Case Shorts competition. It’s been a long and interesting road with some awesome entries and as we stare down the barrel of 2013 I’m really excited about the anthology which will be out in the New Year.

As it’s the last competition I did my best to make the prize as awesome as possible. And this month I’ve been helped along by the awesome Nick Kyme, Gav Thorpe and Sarah Cawkwell. A huge thank you goes out to them as they’ve already been so generous with their donations to The Shell Case in the past.

So this months prizes are; Tome of Fire and The Great Betrayal by Nick Kyme, Ravenwing by Gav Thorpe and Valkia the Bloody by Sarah Cawkwell.

UPDATE – The prize now also includes a signed copy of Battle of the Fang by Chris Wraight.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to add to this prize over December to give the Shell Case Shorts the send off it deserves.

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So, what do you need to do to win this pile of awesome? Well, here’s the rules…

Write a short story of between 3,000 & 5,000 words set in any established wargaming IP.

Your work is your own but intellectual property rests squarely with the companies in question and is only used under fair use. I reserve the right to publish any submissions in a strictly non-profit capacity. All published writers will be credited accordingly.

Submissions should attempt to evoke the IP the story is based on.

All entries must be received by midnight UK time Monday 31st December 2012 after which a single winner will be chosen. Submissions received after this will not be considered.

1 submission per person.

Work believed to be plagiarised will be disqualified.

All submissions must be sent as a Word document attached to an email to theshellcase@hotmail.co.uk

[Any spam from entrants will result in disqualification]

Submissions must include the entrants name, a contact email address, Twitter name if applicable and the title of the story.

1 winner will be chosen and notified by email.

The winning entry will be published initially on The Shell Case blog and later in a free to download anthology.

No discussion will be entered into, my decision is final.

The prize may not be exchanged for its cash value or an alternative. However, I reserve the right to substitute the prize if necessary.

Good luck and have fun!

#warmonger of the Year

Last night I had a bit of an idea. And that idea was to do a #warmonger of the year competition. However, whereas normally I make you jump through hoops to win toys or signed copies of books, this time I’m asking you all to nominate your favourite #warmonger.

The person in the Twitter community that has helped you out the most or gone that extra mile. Follow the link below to nominate your favourite #warmonger (and no it can’t be yourself) and they could be in with the chance of winning a complete and signed set of The Crown trilogy written by Shell Case favourite Gav Thorpe.

And if the winner has a blog I’ll design them a little button as well so they can show off to all their visitors how awesome they are.

Nominations must be in by the 15th December and a winner will be announced on Christmas Eve (24th December).

Nominate now.

The Shell Case Shorts 3

That came around quick! But yes, it’s that time once more oh loyal readers! I give you The Shell Case Shorts part 3!

This month the prize is the first two parts of the The Crown trilogy penned, and signed, by Mr Gav Thorpe. If you want to know more about this critically acclaimed set of books you can read more in my interview with the man himself here

Rules, much like last time, are as follows:

The story must be based upon an established fantasy wargaming IP e.g. Warhammer, Warmachine, Freebooter, Uncharted Seas etc. Steampunk falls under Science Fiction so that’s out unless you can make a pretty compelling case to me prior to entering.

Your work is your own but intellectual property rests squarely with the companies in question and is only used under fair use. I reserve the right to publish any submissions in a strictly non-profit capacity. All published writers will be credited accordingly.

Submissions should attempt to evoke the spirit of their chosen IP – it doesn’t all have to be dragons and daemons. This story will make up the last story of the Shell Case Shorts Anthology in counter point to the science fiction story of the same length from February’s competition which will open the anthology.

Word limit is 5,000 words (+/- 10%).

All entries must be received by midday Saturday 31st March 2012 after which a single winner will be chosen. Submissions received after this will not be considered.

1 submission per person.

Work believed to be plagiarised will be disqualified.

All submissions must be sent as a Word document attached to an email to phil@theshellcase.com

[I received some lovely spam from one entrant last time, if this happens again offenders will be disqualified.]

Submissions must include at the top of the first page; the entrants name, a contact email address, Twitter name if applicable and the title of the story.

1 winner will be chosen and notified by email.

No discussion will be entered into, my decision is final.

The prize may not be exchanged for its cash value or an alternative. However, I reserve the right to substitute the prize if necessary.

Good luck and have fun!

Next on the Shell Case Shorts…

With nine days to go until the second Shell Case Shorts competition closes I thought I’d let you know what was coming for the next competitions running over March & April.

March will be a Fantasy based competition. Like February’s it’ll be 5,000 words all based on Fantasy wargaming IP. This story will make up the last story of the Shell Case Shorts anthology. The prize will be two, yes two signed books from none other than Gav Thorpe.

April is all about Origins. 3,000 words on the history of a Space Marine chapter, military regiment, faction etc, created by you for an existing wargaming IP. It can be Sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk, anything you like. But it must be an origins piece, not a story about them specifically. Consider homeworld/nation, doctrine, organisation, battle cry etc.

The prize for this hasn’t been confirmed yet but I’m on the case.

I won’t list Ts & Cs here but keep you eyes peeled for these posts, they’ll be going up on the 1st March & 1st April respectively.