Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Superhero Wargames Armies - 5 Ideas

I don't need to tell regular readers of this blog that I love both superheroes and miniature wargames. I like them both so much that I'm pretty much never content to only keep my superhero miniatures in my Superhero games and am constantly finding ways to force them into everything I play. I actually got started gaming supers when I tried to turn a bunch of Heroclix into an Ultimates/SHIELD army for 4th Edition 40k. You've probably seen my Guardians of the Galaxy in Frostgrave and my Wakandans in both 20mm and 28mm, those on the Lead Adventure Forum may know that my Firefight Plague army has Marvel Zombies characters in it and I have a range of Golden Age supers for Secrets of the Third Reich. I actually have an entire WWWII Latverian army for SOTR that I really need to finish the last touches on and post up here at some point.
Even I have to draw the line somewhere though, as I know that I'll never settle for a "small" army and every option to be accounted for, even army-specific objectives, NPCs and other fun little affectations. Already I'm adding elements to my Annihilation Wave to fill them out for Firefight Veer-Min and the amount of Skrulls I have (see below) grows steadily because I just love them so damn much as villains. To that end, the end of not making every superhero army I think of, that is, here are five ideas I have rattling around my head that I really don't want to make, but probably will at some point. To sweeten the deal, I'll even throw in miniature suggestions to get you started in the right direction and because this is the kind of thing I think about all the damn time! 

The Catholic Church (from Hellsing)

Concept: I find that Hellsing has a couple of problems that routinely make things not enjoyable for me; a character whose power is so overwhelming that they can never be in peril and a focus on a character that is clearly not the protagonist of the narrative. Also, Captain Britain and MI-13 does a vampire invasion of Britain way better than Hellsing. What is really cool though, and stuck in my mind, was the army that the Vatican bring to help rescue/subjugate Britain. The anachronistic image of hooded priests with pikes and muskets is brilliantly contrasted with their deploying in Bell "Huey" helicopters. There is also the "Iscariot" organisation, an elite force of assassins that hunt the enemies of the Church without mercy, even including suicide bombers and specialised vampire and mage hunters. Also their leader is in a perspex "Pope Box" suspended from a helicopter bristling with speakers so that he can proselytise during battle. 

Execution: The visual impact of the army is pretty neat, ranks of hooded infantry, iconic military helicopters, flying pope box and assassins in vestments create a contrasting but unified aesthetic. In army building terms, there is core infantry, transports, elite unit[s] and a centerpiece commander, all the basics one would need to get something playable for SOTR, 40K, Firefight or similar. Should other units be needed down the track to fill out the army, ultramodern (or even anachronistic) Swiss Guard could find a place as well as clergy "armed" with holy relics or even exorcists filling in for "psykers" or marksmen.

Miniatures: There are plenty of cultist miniatures that could form the basis for the infantry here, but with the need to swap arms for muskets and pikes, the Reaper Bones sets look about the best value for money and the limited sculpts won't hurt with the "rank and file" look of the core forces. Similarly, there are more than a few priests, bishops and deacons floating around miniature ranges that the Iscariots are only a couple of weapon-swaps away. There are plenty of Huey models, in plastic and die-cast, that would work fine with the exaggerated scale of Reaper; at the risk of inciting a "scale-debate", I'd be looking at 1/48 examples.

Skrulls (Marvel)

Concept: I could write an essay on the Skrulls; their history, religion, politics, sociology and genetics have all been covered in detail over the decades, creating a rich civilization that is both recognisable and utterly alien. For example, skrulls are born male or female, like humans (yeah, gender is a spectrum, but let's not get into that here), but hard-wired gender forms no part of their sexuality other than reproduction (which, it seems, two "female" skrulls can do happily). Being shape-shifters, there is no physical attraction between skrulls, they use scent to determine desire and then change their form into something their lover finds attractive. After a major cataclysm and collapse of empire, the atheist, rationalist society turns to magic and an ancient, heretical, monotheistic religion as a last resort to stave off extinction. Holy shit that's pretty deep for a comic book "little green man" alien. 

Execution: The great thing about decades worth of continuity is that there is plenty to pick from when building an army. Skrulls have used rayguns, flying saucers, mechs, magic and super-powers over the years, not to mention the variety that their inherent abilities provide, just look above at the winged skrulls or the moment in Drax Reborn where Piabok hides as a squirrel to reconnoiter. All of the Super-Skrulls, Power Skrulls, Skrulltastic Four and the team-mash-up Super Skrulls of Secret Invasion should be more than enough to cover any kind of special unit or character that a game requires. 

Miniatures: Obviously, Heroclix has most of the stuff you'll need, with generic sci-fi mechs and vehicles filling out the armour requirements. However, there are a lot more modelling and conversion opportunities than are immediately apparent. Scouting units can be made up of any old miniatures you have lying around, even animals or enemy soldiers, because they're really Skrulls in disguise. Need something between rank and file Skrulls and Super-Skrulls? Just grab some C and D-list heroes and transplant some Skrull heads on! Skrull infiltrator versions of Spolier, Prowler or Cardiac anyone?

The Universal Church of Truth (Marvel) 

Concept: A galaxy-spanning church that worships the miracle of life itself, corrupted by its own beliefs into a fanatical army of conquest is no new concept for miniature wargames, but the Universal Church of Truth has a few unique elements that make it stand out. What I like most about the UCT is the layers of organisation which exists within its ranks. From the hordes of fanatical faithful, to the cyborg-enhanced Black Knights, to the mighty Cardinals, powered by the faith drained from their followers. The spaceships have a "flying cathedral" aesthetic and there are cool characters like the Magus to build into the army as commanders and special characters. 

Execution: This army kind of works on ratios, say you want 5 of the super-powered Cardinals, then maybe have 10 to 15 of the Black Knights and 20 to 50 of the Faithful. This is really an infantry army, with waves of Faithful soaking up fire then having the Cardinals wade in and butcher whatever is left. This is not a subtle army with tricks and hidden elements, but the kind that rolls into the enemy without much expectation of the cannon-fodder surviving. 

Miniatures: Heroclix do make some of the figures, like the Cardinals and the Magus, but there are other options out there worth considering. Warmachine Menoth Exemplar Cinerators from Privateer Press would make great looking Cardinals whilst Games Workshop Kabalite Warriors and Chaos Cultists would be a good basis for Black Knights and Faithful respectively. The real trick with making the army stand out is filling it with different alien races, like the Church in the comic, when I had a go at the UCT I pulled all the different heads I had out of my bits box and populated the army with a variety of life-forms. That's the real fun of the army, getting the variety of aliens, but keeping the uniform look.

Abomi-Nation (The Venture Bros) 

Concept: Man, I wanted to make this army the instant I saw this episode. A militia or mutants, experiments gone wrong and monsters under the leadership of "Venturestien", trying to carve out a nation for their specific brand of dispossessed. Think Contras or Vietcong but made up of monsters and you're pretty much there. Just look at the picture! Smokey the Bear, McGruff the crime dog, Bebop, Man-Thing, Oompa-Loompas and more! How do you not want to make that army?

Execution: This is essentially a "partisan" army, or guerrillas, if you prefer, so the focus should be small bands of infantry with mismatched equipment, not big squads of regular soldiers. Think more along the lines of Rebs in Deadzone than Imperial Guard. A couple of funky characters and "big guys" could make the army fun and balance out play. Maybe the smaller monsters/mutants are some kind of scouts? Or maybe there's an aquatic unit like Creatures from the Black Lagoon? Perhaps something like the "Crawlers" from The Descent as an assassin unit? Plenty of scope to play with.

Miniatures: So many monster miniatures out there, I don't even want to begin listing manufacturers. Buying bulk Horrorclix off eBay would be a good start, maybe assorted fantasy miniatures with kit from plastic moderns. Studio Miniatures makes plenty of "Hollywood" monster miniatures, and the CMG Star Wars and D&D stuff has a few fun "big guys" to add a little punch to the force. Warlord sells separate sprues of weapons and gear to get everything looking a bit more paramilitary.

Black Lanterns (DC) 

Concept: I honestly didn't like Blackest Night all that much, but mostly from an art perspective, I found the constant barrage of Lantern ring-sling in bright colours distracted from a reasonably interesting story. For those not familiar with Blackest Night, check out Linkara's review on YouTube, it does a good job of covering the story. Basically though, superhero zombies with Lantern rings set on keeping all heroes that die actually dead, rather than constantly popping back to life. Not a brilliant concept like Skrulls or the UCT, but there's a lot of fun to be had here. 

Execution: Much like the Skrulls above, there is as much variety to the Black Lanterns as you feel like building in. Sure, you probably want a Nekron as the army leader and maybe a big Black Lantern Battery objective/HQ piece, but after that it's really up to you and how you're building the army. 

Miniatures: Yes, Heroclix makes several Black Lantern versions of characters already, but there's another way; buy a bulk lot of clix off the internet and a box of plastic zombies, kitbash and be done. There is a Nekron clix, but when I get around to putting him in my Ultimate Alliance games, I'm actually going to look at some of the Warmachine Cryx characters, just to make him stand out a little more, there are a few to choose from. If you need vehicles for the army, think about something like old "abandoned" versions of the Batmobile or the Bug, some rust, weathering and zombie drivers should work fine. If I were to do this army, I'd also find a way to work in the Marvel Zombies characters, because that's the kind of thing I do. 

Hope there's some inspiration there to get you started, any of these would be great to see on a table and may tempt a few people in your local group into painting some supers.

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