When the plastic steam tank came out, I didn't much care for it. The details, particularly the decorations on the hull, are over-chunky and just look plastic as hell. It's a fun (if complex) unit in the game, but my dislike of the the kit with all the bells and whistles meant that I never really looked at the kit again.
|Original chunky bits ahoy! Credit: Games Workshop. Used for illustrative purposes only.|
Several years later, my friend John T burned out on a big Empire project and just straight up handed me a huuuuge pile of Empire kits, including a steam tank. He's a generous man. I think that was probably over a decade ago now, but every now and then I delve into the Cairn of Imperial Opportunity and pull a treat out. Now once you've got a mini, you start thinking about how to use it. The thing about this kit is that, as with so many GW kits, if you just don't glue half of it on it looks better. To my eyes, at least.
While I'm still not sold on the chunky filligree on the armoured skirt, or indeed the moulding on the turret, there are also a lot of charming details on this kit. For one, it has a fully detailed interior, despite the fact that you can't really see inside unless you take the turret off. For another, it has an optional lantern that hooks on the back and swings around, and I find this disproportionately adorable. I also really like all the wooden decking; basically, I start to really like this kit once you're not looking at the armoured bits. A weird thing to say about a giant pile of armour, but there you go.
Painting the wood grain
This was done with a flat basecoat of Vallejo Leather Brown, then loose, watered down lines of Citadel Averland Sunset following the direction of the wood grains (and freehanding it when the plastic moulding meant no grain was present). After that, thinned down lines Army Painter Skeleton Bone made the whole thing a bit more neutral. Finally, a recess shade of Reaper's Brown Liner helped add definition to individual planks.
The key to the wood grain really is to be fast and sketchy with it, rather than treating it like a painstaking highlight, or you'll be there forever. It's also a great way of adding texture to a flat surface - look at the flat ends of the little barrel on the roof. That's freehand, but didn't take much time so long as you keep your paint thin and your brush strokes fast to ensure smooth lines.
Painting conundrums: all silver, or state colours?
Going all silver is comfortably the most bland choice I could possibly have made. A nice racing green, or a red... hell, even a black lacquer could've worked. However, I went for silver so that this thing will look right alongside any of the three states I've painted troops for. It also removes any visual ambiguity about whether the thing is fully armoured, or if it's a primarily a timber frame with cloth cladding to hide the wood grain direction. It also helps tie into the lore for this thing, which is that it's not one of the original storied Steam Tanks, but rather a somewhat cheaper copy.
The lore: it's not a Leonardo original
Side note: Jon and Drew are still playing through the reconquest of Hochland. Their decisions so far have allowed more trade and mining to take place, and this is being rewarded by unlocking more resource-intensive units in the campaign. The steam tank was one of their first things in the 'yes please' list, but it's taken time for Count Ludenhof to make it happen.
Soon after Hochland had recovered enough from Archaon's invasion to begin retaking the eastern half of their territory, a disgraced engineer arrived from Nuln arrived in Hochland's new capital of Tussenhof. Miguel Spinoza introduced himself to Count Ludenhof as the man who very nearly recreated Leonardo da Miragliano's designs, and swore blind that with just a bit more funding and assistance, his patron would soon be the proud owner of their own steam tank.
Count Ludenhof, while suspicious, was eventually talked round by Spinoza. Moreover he was not unmoved by the Estalian's guilt at the lethal boiler accident that had forced him out of Nuln. He was sent off to Fort Schippel, far from any population centres, and told he'd be given nothing more than food, lodgings, and the materiel he needed to conduct his experiments. Full patronage would be given upon delivery of a functioning steam tank.
|Miguel Spinoza of Estalia.|
Laughing stock of the Nuln School of Gunnery.
Latterly of the Court of Hochland.
Wise to his earlier mistakes, Spinoza built a number of open-hulled prototypes that would enable crews to jump off rather than broil within. Occasional bangs and metallic groans echoed across the Weiss Hills as various self-propelled wagons were meticulously built, revealed to still have one fatal flaw or another, then melted down and remade.
After years of work, Spinoza did eventually produce a functional tank: the Impetuous. The count himself attended its initial demonstration. After an hour of perfect functioning, the Impetuous' boiler tank developed a leak, and the whole thing wheezed disappointingly to a halt. Spinoza became greatly depressed at the sight, and indeed the bitter laughter of the onlookers, but Ludenhof himself was un-phased. He'd just seen proof of concept, and told Spinoza to keep at it.
Some months and two false starts later, Spinoza was sick of the sight of his creation but was, fundamentally, successful. No longer willing to risk the disappointment of an illustrious name, he simply referred to the first reliable tank as Engine No.9. It was ready just as Hochland's armies began attacking the Skaven-infested fortified towns surrounding Hergig, and would be sorely needed.
One can never have too many core troops in a Fantasy army. Hitherto my Hochland contingent had 30 swordsmen and 20 spearmen, which felt a bit thin. 40 ranged troops felt great, as did the newly enlarged greatswords, but another line regiment felt like it'd balance things out. To that end, Drew and I sat down to batch paint 30 halberdiers, keeping the techniques as fast and basic as possible since Empire state troops are famously a right slog to paint.
We persevered, and the Suns of Hergig were born. The regiment was recruited in the current capital of Tussenhof, and comprises a far greater variety of people drawn to Hochland by the news that plots of land would be available in the east once the war was won. As such we painted a variety of skin tones into the regiment, reflecting the great variety of people who journeyed up the River Talabec in search of a new life, only to find themselves stuck in the camps and slums outside Tussenhof. When word came that a regiment was being founded to help finish the war, volunteers abounded, united both by collective purpose, and a powerful desire for the rations that come with military service. Jon and Drew decided on a design for the banner - a sun representing a new dawn for Hochland, in a field of red to commemorate what was lost.
The painting was done with as much drybrushing as possible over a brown primer spray to keep up speed; even so it took us quite a few sessions to finish all 30.
Von Raukov sends his regards, and his men
A further development in the Hochland campaign is that Count von Raukov has sent an expeditionary force to aid Hochland's military, since the Skaven-held city of Hergig has been impeding all river-based trade for years, and that's just as much a problem for Ostland as it is for Hochland.
In other words: Maisey has joined in the campaign with his Ostland army. This has resulted in my falteringly attempting Geordie accents for the Ostlanders to distinguish them from the more Yorkshire-adjacent accent I've been doing for the Hochlanders, and reader: my Geordie accent is not good. Perchance practice will make a Geordie of me yet?
Historically speaking, this seems unlikely.