Friday, January 26, 2024

Pass in Review: Corvus Blackstar Shuttle for Warhammer 40K

(Image from: Warhammer 40K Fandom Wiki)

 A couple weeks ago, my wife and I made a trip up to The Wizard's Keep Games in Kent, WA, which I've never been to.

In fact, this was a momentous occasion for me for a couple reasons.

First, it was the first time I entered a game store in over 4 years.  This was due to my failing health, lung transplant, and on-going recovery.  Up until now, my only outings have been to medical appointments.  The level of chronic pain and fatigue was too much for me to do anything else. 

Second, I was meeting a local gamer who became open to do commission work.  When he posted a pic of his own works in progress (WIPs), and announced his availability, I jumped on the chance.  So we met there, and I gave him nearly two dozen figures to paint--Northeast Woodland Indians for the French and Indian War (F&IW), or American War of Independence (AWI).

The Wizard's Keep is easy to find for those of who live in Western WA State.  The store has a good stock of games, and plenty of game tables chocked with terrain.  There are numerous banquet tables for card games, one of which was occupied by a group playing while we were there.  My wife even bought a couple of family games there.  She almost outspent me.  Almost. 

After, meeting with the figure painter, we wandered around the store, and I came across the pre-owned section.  On the top shelf, I found two assembled, and painted Corvus Blackstar Shuttles, for Warhammer 40K, or Xenos Rampant.

According to WH40K grimdark lore, the Corvus Blackstar is used exclusively by the Imperium's Death Watch.  I don't have any Death Watch, or any other "run-of-the-mill" Space Marines.  However, I do have an Inquisitor and acolytes.  From what I've read, Inquisitors can requisition what ever they need.

And my Inquisitor just so happens to need a Corvus Blackstar Shuttle.  Maybe two.  If the second shuttle is available the next time we visit The Wizard's Keep, I plan on buying it.  

Until I acquire the second shuttle, here’s some views of the one Corvus Blackstar Shuttle I currently own.

Right-side oblique view: 

Left-side oblique view:

Left-side view:

Right-side view:

Rear view:

Front view:

The only difference between this model and the one I left on the game store shelf, was the hatch cover was lavender colored, instead of orange.

Like all of my WH40K figures and vehicles, I hope to make use of them someday. 

(Image from:  Warhammer 40K Fandom Wiki)

Monday, January 8, 2024

Pass in Review: British Royal Navy Vessels for Cruel Seas

(Image from:  Italaeri's Models, RN Vosper MTB)

 A few months ago, I had my Cruel Seas Royal Navy (RN) vessels painted.  

My vessels were painted by Joe Keister, of  North East Miniatures.  He does excellent work, but has taken a break from commissions due to his wife just having their first child.

I added the ensigns, but I also had to repair the "spindly bits," the masts and antennas that took a beating during shipment.  

To differentiate between identically painted vessels, I alternated between using the white and red ensigns.  It wasn't until all the ensigns were glued, a friend informed me the white ensigns were used for commissioned vessels and the red ensigns for commercial vessels. Oh well.  I’ll the vessels flagged as is.

Skytrex has taken over the helm in producing this game series. There’s several additional items I’d like to order, but they’re continually out of stock.  At least when I check the website.

So for now, my collection is complete.  Here’s the vessels representing His Majesty’s Royal Navy:

1. The armed trawler, which I had painted different color schemes.  The darker one represents an older ship from World War I, pressed into service for the Second World War.

2. Three Vosper Motor Torpedo Boats (MTBs), Early Models…

3…and Three Late Model boats.

I found very little information on these vessels, but they look like fire support ships.  I had to do some modifications because, I lost the packet containing most of the gun and bridge crews.  Fortunately, I had spare bridge crews, but I needed to make ad-hoc mortars, set in the bows’ gun pits,  using spare air intakes. 

8. Two Fairmile B Rescue Motor Launch (RML) 529s.  I had these painted in two different colors.

The black-hulled vessel is suppose to represent a Royal Air Force (RAF), Air-Sea Rescue Launch, similar to the model below.

I was inspired by the 1955 film, The Sea Shall Not Have Them.  I watched it on YouTube, but I liked it so much, I bought the DVD.

Speaking of purchases, until Skytrex restocks the items I want, then I’ll be moving on to other gaming projects to write about.

I'm certainly happy to see my collection complete for the time being.

Thank you for your support and encouragement.

Friday, October 27, 2023

A Sword for Ireland

(Image from:  Warfare History Network)

Most mornings I can’t remember any dreams from the previous night.  But once in a while, something so vivid and coherent will unfold, that it becomes hard-wired to my brain’s memory core.  

I had one such evocative vision when I was still on active-duty and stationed in Asia, over 25 years ago.

It’s stuck with me ever since.

I’m finally writing about it now because, I’ve been dabbling with AI to create art.

Now, through the use of, I’ve generated enough images to illustrate what my mind conjured up so long ago:

It’s sometime in the early 11th Century, and I’m standing near cliffs on the east coast of Ireland.  A striking, red-headed woman sits on a rock in front of me, with the breathtaking view of the cliffs and the sea to my right.  She’s wearing an elegant, full-length, green velvet dress, with a sword encased in a scabbard upon her lap.

She says,  “I’ve taught you everything I know.”  (This was regarding swordsmanship).

I reply,  “Thank you.  I finally feel ready.” 

“What do plan to do now?”

“I intend to join Brian Boru’s army and drive the Norsemen out of Ireland, once and for all.”

She rises from the rock, walks forward, and presents me with the sword and scabbard.

(Image created by author via

“Here then.  I offer you my family's sword.  I pray it serves you well." She draws nearer and drops her voice to a whisper.  "And brings you safely home--back to me."

Her eyes close, she parts her lips, leans closer, and…

(Image created by author via

...I wake up.

<Exasperated sigh>.  Another dream cut short, just when the situation becomes romantic or erotic.

Normally, this frustrates me every time.  However, on this particular night, I had a more pressing issue to deal with.  I couldn’t spare time moping about a curtailed kiss from my dream girl.

(Image created by author via

I sat up, got to the edge of my bed, let out another sigh, and asked out loud:

“What the hell was that all about?  Norsemen? Brian Boru? Who the f*ck is Brian Boru!? And yet, why does this feel familiar to me?”

Fortunately, I lived in a private room, so I wouldn’t disturb anyone with my whispered ravings, and my immediate need to conduct some midnight research.   

(Image created by author via

I was compelled to find an answer that very night.  Fortunately, it didn’t take long.  I turned on a light, and grabbed a book from my bookshelf, then sat down in my lounge chair.  (The internet was in its infancy back then). 

I found who I was looking for in the General Index.  There, on page 1590, was the following entry:

Brian Boru, King of Munster, 270, 315.

Okay then.  This guy was real and not a figment of my overactive imagination.  I wasn’t sure if this was a relief or not.

I turned to page 270, part of which read:

976 [A.D.]. Rise of Brian BoruHe steadily increased his power and domains at the expense of Irish and Norse rivals. 

Then on page 315, I found this:

As the 11th Century opened, Brian Boru was consolidating his position as the leading king of the several Irish kingdoms…One further Danish effort to reestablish themselves in Ireland was smashed by Brian at the Battle of Clontarf (23 April 1014).

(Image from:  Celtic Wedding Rings--History)

Well then.  Finding the answers I needed only deepened the mystery.  The additional research I’ve conducted afterwards improved my knowledge of Medieval Irish History, but of course, offered nothing in the way of a dream interpretation. 

(Image created by author via

True, I may have read something in-passing about High King Brian Boru, and then forgot about it.  However, I’ve studied plenty of military history since then.  And still, this moment has been the only time I’ve dreamt of an historical figure, or event.

So my questions remain:  How did I know who Brian Boru was?  How did I know that he was instrumental in driving out the Norsemen?  Is there some ancestral connection?

(Image created by author via

Some years ago, one of my siblings had a DNA test done.  Just over 40% of our family’s genetic origin comes from Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

Maybe, if my siblings and I pitch-in, we can conduct an extensive genealogy search to discover more about our family’s Irish ancestry.

And who was kissing whom on the shores of Ireland. 

Friday, September 22, 2023

Pass in Review: Lord of the Rings Monopoly

 It must be more than half-a-century since I last played Monopoly.  And this was back when there was only one version.  The game debuted in 1935, and has spawned a slew of variant editions, starting in the late 20th Century.

One of my grandsons recently received a Boba Fett Edition for his birthday.  
Our respective grandkids are now advancing beyond the Candyland/Chutes & Ladders level of games.  So when I expressed interest about joining in the gameplay, my wife took this as a cue to buy me a Lord of the Rings Edition for my birthday.

The game comes in a hefty cardboard box, with cover art that evokes images of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings (LotR) movies.  The gameboard is matted and sturdy.  The money tokens are small, cardboard coins that come in 1 & 5 denominations, known as M .  It took me a while to discover just what an is.  It stands for "Monopole," which it seems has been the case for years.

Funny, I always thought it was "dollars."

Anyway, back to the gameboard.

Starting in the middle, there are a series of circles that track the progress of bearing The One Ring to Mount Doom from whence it was forged.  

The fringes of the game board is a colorful arrangement of locations using images from the LotR films, that players move their tokens around on.

 But beware, the Eye of Sauron, depicted on the two black 1d6s that players use to determine how far they go.  If a Ring Bearer rolls the Eye of Sauron, he must drop the ring where his playing piece landed.  Otherwise, the symbol is a regular "1."

The Ring Tracker Token advances up the slopes of Mount Doom every turn a player possesses The Ring.  

If a player loses The Ring, or gives it away, he has to pay the amount shown in the circle, and the Ring Tracker Token slides back to the bottom. 

The player currently bearing The Ring will be immune from paying rent, going to jail , or pay the fine if he lands on the Gollum or Ringwraith squares.  However he will be affected by Quest Cards, like every other player.  Quest cards often demand additional actions from the player who drew it.

Otherwise, the game is played like the original Monopoly; buy/selling properties, etc. 

The game can be won by the traditional means of bankrupting your opponents, or if the Ring of Power is destroyed.  The game ends immediately when The Ring is destroyed, and the player with the most money and assets wins.

Here's a look at the storage tray and rulebook:

A close-up of the storage tray containing the player tokens, buildings, currency and Quest Cards:

Instead of Houses and Hotels, players build Outposts (brown), or fortresses (white):

There are 9 player tokens, each representing a member of the Fellowship of the Ring.  From left to right: Gandalf, Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas, Gimli, Frodo, Samwise, Merry and Pippin.  However, the game is for a maximum of 6 players.

Here's a close-up of Frodo bearing The Ring, and Samwise:

What I found odd was the game using the traditional names and images for the corner squares--


--Go To Jail,

--Free Parking,

--and In Jail/Just Visiting.

I mean, there's free parking's available at the Black Gates of Mordor?  Who knew?

Now I must admit, I'm an immersion gamer, and found the lack of LotR-appropriate images to be a bit jarring.

So I set out to remedy this.

Using my Comic Life program and PowerPoint, I made alternate corner spaces from images I found online.  (Since the game already utilizes movie images, and I'm not selling this as a product, I should be okay with copyright issues).

Anyway, legalities aside, here are my corner spaces--

--Imprisoned (The Secret Passage), replacing In Jail/Just Visiting,

--Captured! replacing Go To Jail,

--The Gifts of Galadriel, replacing Go, where players collect 2  M , and 

--Hiding From The Enemy, replacing Free Parking.

On a lark, I added one final touch.

I thought the cardboard coins were a bit wimpy looking.  And fake game money is expensive.

Fortunately, I came across a company that made coins for half the price of their competitors.  (I'm sorry, I can't remember who they are).

So I bought two packages each consisting of about 10, gold, silver and copper coins.  They come in 3 denominations, 1, 5, and 10, marked in Roman Numerals I, V, and X, respectively.

I look forward to playing this game.  When I do, I'll be sure to write an After Action Review (AAR).

Na-Den Pedim Ad

(Elvish for:  Until we speak again).