High Citadel: A Thriller Master at his Best

Desmond Bagley was once an extremely well known author thanks to his incredible skill at creating intricately plotted, realistic and distinctive thrillers by the dozen. However today he is coming dangerously close to being forgotten. This is a real shame because many his books are the equal of the Bond series or any of Forsyth’s thrillers. In style I feel Bagley’s books fall somewhere directly between the two writers I’ve mentioned. They possess that almost textbook style level of accuracy in the methods employed by the characters that are so well demonstrated in Day of the Jackal with a skill at creating interesting characters that is not unlike that possessed by Fleming.

For me, having read three or four Bagley’s in recent months High Citadel still stands out as this fine writer’s greatest achievement. In High Citadel Bagley expertly mixes a colourful caste of believable characters and his flair for a high level of detail and accuracy. Bagley manages to present a fairly unlikely story (it is fiction after all) but in such a realistic way with well researched background features that make the whole storyline seem plausible. It is always my belief that the best escapist fiction is far enough from reality to offer an escape while being realistic enough that you can imagine it happening.

The plot is a fairly simple one at least at the outset. A small group of civilians crash in the Andes and must fight off a group of Communist soldiers intent upon killing them. While one half of the group set off to escape over a chain of fearsome mountains while the rest of the survivors attempt to hold off the soldiers using ingenious inventions. The plot itself is the real masterstroke because it combines that fascinating improvisation of weapons, giving Bagley a great chance to demonstrate his full skill at the procedural novel style writing, with the gripping mountain scenes which read very much like the real mountaineering stories found in books such as Killing Dragons and 127 hours.

Bagley really gave himself the opportunity to let his full writing skill show with such an inventive plot. Reading his other books like the Freedom Trap you realise that when the settings are less exotic and there are less unusual background details to include it’s much harder for Bagley to really be on the top form he is in High Citadel. I think High Citadel is such a good idea for a story that an adequate writer could have quite possibly written a decent book using the plot but Bagley really adds an almost gritty edge of fantastic realism to the book,

Desmond Bagley, a master of gripping realism

An interesting feature I noticed was that there is virtually no characterisation of the communist villains. They are a faceless horde of enemies, more a threatening presence than real antagonists. This certainly makes them seem almost inhuman. This was a book written by a man whose politics could be considered… questionable. As with an awful lot of this era’s thriller writers Bagley definitely tended towards the right wing, although his political views do not influence the plot heavily as with some authors (Frederick Forsyth I’m looking at you!). Of course it was also produced at a time when the “red menace” was a genuine concern to the Western World. Really this is the biggest criticism I can level at High Citadel; the villains are virtually non-realised. This is a shame because it is constantly shown in any number of thrillers that well written multi-dimensional villains always improve a book.

This has less effect than you would think and all in all High Citadel is an expertly written, exciting and distinctive thriller with an edge of realism and for my money Bagley’s best book. This excellent, highly recommended thriller has recently been republished in a very nice new edition by house of Stratus and is available through Amazon at the following link or many other book sellers:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/High-Citadel-Desmond-Bagley/dp/1842320122

Thanks for reading. As always feel free to comment with constructive criticism and if you enjoyed this article it would be great if you gave it a much needed like. I’ll post again before the new year with news of any Christmas acquisitions. I’d like to wish you all a very merry Christmas with food, family and presents aplenty.

This is Frontline Armchair signing off.

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Battleground 2014 Wargames Show Report

Living in the far North it can feel like your miles from any wargames show but there is one local event which offers a fantastic slice of hobby for anyone in the area. Some of you may have heard of Smoggycon which was the current show’s forerunner. This year under a new title of Battleground and in a new venue, the Durham University Campus in Thornaby the show was on top form offering traders, participation games and a whole host of excellent displays displaying the very best Northern wargaming has to offer.

We arrived bleary eyed after an early start at Thornaby Station platform and, after getting lost and receiving help from a friendly student, we made it to the excellent Campus Sports Centre which this year played host to the show. Filled with a mix of excitement and apprehension at the potential effects of the venue change, we entered the enormous hall.

I’m thankful to report the show was brilliant, although the venue’s single room was slightly smaller than the three in Middlesbrough the organisers had somehow managed to fit everything and more in without creating a sense of claustrophobia.

First stop for me was the Ironclad miniatures stall. I’d ordered a number of the brilliant Sanwar sets from this top class company and happily collected them on the day. The prices were fantastically reasonable and the service was peerless with a very friendly and helpful stall runner. In a fit of excited new miniatureitis I painted up my Sanwar the same day.

With my In Her Majesty’s Name force secure I was then free to peruse the excellent array of other attractions on offer. Several stood out for me. First was a great display game of a Vietnam beachhead raid by American troops on a fortified Vietcong base. The base featured two large islands a seascape and expertly modelled jungle as well as a flight of no less than 5 Bell Huey helicopters on wonderful scenic bases and a huge Phantom jet which I can only presume must have been 1/48 scale. Seeing how great a board can look has spurred me on to begin work on my own board for IHMN.

The second great game for me was an Italian Wars What if scenario featuring the Borgias against the combine armies of Venice and Florence. The game oozed period style and featured wonderfully painted knights charging Landsknechts and the awesome Perry miniatures Carroccio which I intend to soon acquire simply because it is a breath-taking model. The Independent Wargames group was, as I found with everyone there, a friendly and passionate group who like nothing more than sharing their hobby. I do have one gripe though, now I want to start playing the Italian wars as well! I wonder where that comes in my list of projects?!

The other real standout game was a participation In Her Majesty’s Name Game run by the Brompton Bankers club. The anarchist forces of the Brick Lane Commune squared off against the Metropolitan Police and a decidedly Germanic looking group of bounders using Mutton Chop Miniatures Freikorps. Excellent stuff! As you can see in the picture below the terrain was excellent and really showed how a small board can be used imaginatively and engagingly with superb MDF (I think) houses and a police Black Maria.

IHMN building IHMN Black Maria

Other excellent games included the brilliantly imaginative WW1 game which played the entire Western front on one board using tiny figures which must have been at most 6mm. The amazing thing was that whoever painted them had given the figures more detail than I can manage on 28mm figures. At the other end of the Spectrum was a 54mm version of an attack that formed part of the Battle of Waterloo. The game must have been a crazy undertaking to actually produce but the work was well worth the stunning effect of the massive figures in tightly packed ranks. A suitably Northern themed game was a Witch Hunter General horror scenario which featured an evil group of monsters assaulting Whitby during the English Civil War with only a bunch of fanatical Witch Hunters there to protect the town’s citizens. The board was superb with a mighty set of castle walls and old Mordheim houses. I’ve just mentioned a few but all the games were fantastic and everyone showed the huge level of work that must of gone into making them.

My one criticism comes in regard to the Flea Market, and this was in no way the fault of the Battleground organisers, but there seemed to be very little turnover at the flea market. The few sellers who were there weren’t really selling anything for my areas of interest but even so it would have been nice to have a little variation and a few more traders there.

This was however more than made up for by the fantastic selection of traders on offer. For me, beyond Ironclad miniatures, the second hand stall offering foundry figures for a pound was a highlight. Foundry, renowned for their services to capitalism are needless to say normally very expensive but great quality. I picked up 5 very cool Napoleonic era figures not for any reason in particular other than the fact that they are pretty fantastic looking figures.

I was amazed at the quality of Ainsty Castings terrain including the simply phenomenal gold mine setup they had on display at the show. Incredibly tempting. Witch hunter general had some good looking Civil War horror figures available and the Barghest caught my eye or though the actual model wasn’t on show so scale was a little hard to guess. I really liked the look of some of the Warlord games figures for the period and I know if I ever decide to do that sort of thing the company will be my first port of call.

My final purchase of the day was a last minute find on the Reiver Castings stall which was almost hidden between a number of wargames emporium stalls. The stall was stacked high with beautifully presented miniatures from a variety of under covered periods. I’m working on a VBCW game in 20mm at the moment but I’m extremely tempted by the huge range of 28mm miniatures for this what if period that the company offer. They also have Sino-Japanese troops, Irish rebellion troops and most attractive for me, British soldiers in berets with SLRs. I bought five of these for the Zombie Apocalypse game I’m working on, civilian militia with surplus army kit anyone?

So there you have it, my first attempt at a show report for the thankfully still excellent Battleground 2014. London can keep Salute, I’m pretty sure I’ve found the best show in the country. Thanks for reading.

This is Frontline Armchair signing off.

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Why I Love… Dr Syn

For those who haven’t heard of him Dr Christopher Syn, otherwise known as the Scarecrow, is a vicar… and a former pirate… and a master smuggler. He was created by Russell Thorndike and appeared in 7 novels, 3 films, 2 comics and a TV series as well as in one of the finest Radio Programmes ever produced where this series of hugely enjoyable novels were read by the consistently excellent Rufus Sewell.

At the heart of the series’ appeal is the concept of a vicar who by night dons the terrifying scarecrow costume and outwits the revenue men. This leads to brilliant storylines time after time. Thorndike is almost unsurpassed, in my opinion, in terms of a unique and excellent writer’s voice that manages to not intrude but rather add to the storyline and the whole sense of the piece. He has a great eye for where the writer needs to speak and uses the technique sparingly enough to enhance the plot.

All the characters are brilliantly drawn. Thorndike expertly creates an ensemble cast of personalities who at first appear to be irrelevant but are then unexpectedly part of the central storyline. It’s a world of arrogant aristocrats, tough soldiers, highwaymen, dastardly pirates and the shrewd master of the whole marsh The Scarecrow.

The first book sees Syn as a student, a skilled fencer and duellist who falls passionately in love with a young Spaniard, Imogen. They marry and live happily in the quiet coastal town of Dimchurch. This is all shattered when Syn’s dashing friend Nicholas Tappitt appears in town. He seduces Imogen and they elope together. Syn, heartbroken, sets out an international quest for revenge on the conniving pair. In the process he adopts the alias Captain Clegg and becomes the most feared pirate on the Spanish Main. He also meets a ship’s carpenter Mr Mipps who becomes his companion and faithful assistant. Syn and Mipps return to Dimchurch and adopt the personas of village vicar and sexton respectively. They are well liked and respected by all. After some of his “flock” are captured by revenue men he sets out to rescue them and so becomes their leader, dressed in rags and a luminous mask, known as The Scarecrow.

There follows the best swashbuckling tale ever written, all done in an incredibly stylish interesting way, brilliant stuff.

Finally I must mention Sewell’s unsurpassed talent as a reader, simply the finest man for the job out there. He appears to understand what Thorndike intended when writing perfectly and reads the book accordingly make it seem even more exciting, even more entertaining and even more poignant.

Yo ho! For the dead man’s throttle…

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IHMN South America: List 5- Los Predicadores

The leaders of the Catholic Church in San Pedrona are chosen personally by Lopez and are sycophantic supporters of the regime to a man. Many follow the dictator because they see him as their country’s one chance of stability free from revolution and oppression in an endless cycle. Cardinal Saquilla, a renowned authoritarian has watched with increasing fear the steady progress of revolutionary movements across the country and the amount of priests who have ignored their superiors and supported these activists.

]Saquilla has authorised the creation of a specialist force to not only show the church’s continued support for Lopez but also to hunt down and kill “rogue” priests. The officers are all devout Catholics and drawn from the armed forces. The normal troopers are a different matter entirely. Every private in Los Predicadores is a convict who was, before joining, marked for execution at the hands of Lopez’s gladiators. They have been brainwashed through a mix of native Que’echa drugs, hypnotic powers and brutal punishments to become unthinking, unfeeling instruments of the Church’s will. They are equipped with breastplates, helmets, robes in white and flamethrowers blessed by priests before battle and often attached to relics from a variety of militaristic saints which supposedly “improve” the effects of the weapon. The troops use their old skills that made them a violent nation’s most violent criminals mixed with a new found fervour to repeatedly decimate the enemy forces. Several members of the squadron also use flaming torches in close combat and others also use a variety of poisoned blades.

The commander of the unit, Colonel Santa Maria, was recruited directly from the Zeppelin Corps after serving two tours captaining the stealth airship Explorador over the Indian Ocean, famously capturing the Zanzibari Treasure Ship Dhana as it crossed the straits of Tanzania laden with emeralds and gold from the continental mines. He also led a raid on Rasputin’s research station in Siberia and served for several years as a pilot for the Cognoscenti on their international missions. It is rumoured that he has had an audience with a famous priest working in Zululand and was blessed by the man with immortality. Whether this is true or not is unknown but he has proved remarkably hard to kill.

His second in command is the infamous Boulevard Assassin, Pierre Le Jacques, enemy of Sherlock Holmes and executioner of more than 15 leaders across the world. He came to lie low in San Pedrona and was discovered by the Sigilo after he shot an overly inquisitive Police officer with his trademark air gun. He was set to face the typical execution for a police murderer, being savaged by crocodiles, but at the last minute Santa Maria stepped in and had him transferred to Los Predicadores. He still uses his formidable skill at marksmanship and his airgun, constructed by Straubenzee, the London based engineer who created weapons for Sylvius and Moran.

PL FV SV SP Talents Equipment Pts
Captain Santa Maria 2+ +4 +4 +0 Ld+2, duellist, fanatic Sword, pistol, breastplate 66
Pierre Le Jacques 4+ +1 +4 +1 Ld+1, marksman, hunter, fanatic Hunting rifle, breastplate, combat knife 61
“Saved” murderer 4+ +2 +1 +0 Fanatic, strongman Flamethrower, breastplate, combat knife 40
“Saved” Thug 4+ +2 +1 +0 Fanatic, tough Flaming torch, breastplate 32
“Saved” assassin 4+ +2 +1 +0 Fanatic, stealthy Dagger (poison), breastplate, pistol 40
Priest 4+ +1 +0 +1 Medic Lined coat, club 14
Guardian 5+ +2 +1 +1 Incense burner, lined coat 14
Martyr 4+ +1 +0 +0 Martyr, part of the crowd Knife, pistol 21

Options

A guardian may replace their reliquary with a military rifle (+2pts)

Any “Saved” murderer may replace their flamethrower with a military rifle and the strongman talent with the marksman talent (-2pts)

Any “Saved” may have the numb and/or antivenom talent (+5pts)

Any priest may take an incense burner (+7pts)

Any member of the company may take a cavalry horse (+9pts)

Figures

I would recommend the excellent Wargames Factory Shock Troopers as great models for The Preachers. Perhaps a head-swap with Games Workshop’s flagellants might give an even better look. Any fanatics would be perfect for the company as would Catholic priests from a variety of ranges.

This is Frontline Armchair signing off.

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Peaky Blinders Season Two Finale

This is a somewhat (by about 2 weeks) belated article on the finale of BBC2’s excellent Peaky Blinders Series 2. The following does contain a few spoilers so if you’re planning to watch it I’d wait till you seen it to read on. Anyway back to the programme. The second series of Peaky Blinders concerned Tommy Shelby and his gang of Brummie gangsters’ attempts to muscle in on the illicit horse racing racket controlled by powerful London gangs.

Series One was a great start. Its biggest issue was that it occasionally strayed into the dangerous world of Style over Substance. It was a beautiful looking piece but some elements of the plot were at times slightly weak.

Fans will be happy to know that the second series remedied that in a big way. It kept the distinctively astonishing look and aesthetic style that was so successful in the first series but added one of the best and most well executed plots I’ve seen on screen in my lifetime. Where the action was sadly limited in series one series two added some hugely inventive set pieces including the fantastic fight between Tommy Shelby and an army officer in the finale.

Series 2’s other brilliant feature was a superb ensemble cast featuring a great set of characters and actors. For me as a life-long fan of Christopher Nolan’s Bane Tom Hardy as a foul mouthed and excellently observed Jewish Gang leader was a highlight.

For me the finale took the series to new heights of greatness and is, in my humble opinion, perhaps the best single TV episode I have ever been lucky enough to see. I really can’t overate the perfect balance of drama, intrigue, aesthetic brilliance and solid action. I’ve already mentioned Tommy’s assassination of the officer. The fight between the two was phenomenally choreographed and nail bitingly tense. The crowning glory of this episode was the final sting in the tale twist. Watch it.

Thanks for reading this slightly short and very late article.

This is Frontline Armchair signing off.

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IHMN South America: List 4- Society of Thule Expeditionskorps

General Hector Muchava is a political survivor. He has survived two coups with his position and fortune virtually intact. He does, however loathe Lopez and his regime and has begun plotting to seize power for himself. To this end he has enlisted the aid of the Society of Thule and Prussian ambitions in South America. Now an elite group of commandos use his vast estate to launch attacks across the Americas.

Muchava, on a supposedly pleasurable tour of Europe visited several European courts, including France, Austria-Hungary and Ruritania. He was met with the same lack of interest in each until he arrived in Prussia. Kaiser Wilhelm was enthusiastic about the project and ordered the immediate creation of an expeditionary force to fly to San Pedrona post haste. It was pure coincidence that, at the same time, a particularly brutal commander was landing on German soil once again after almost 25 years on the Dark Continent.

Kurt Kramer, whose actions in German West Africa has earned him the nickname “Metzger”, butcher, is perhaps the most evil man to currently walk on this earth. Since his sixteenth birthday he has proven himself unmatched in the fields of oppression, fear and cruelty serving with first the Prussian army then the Society of Thule. Kramer was also useful for his unusual heritage, he was born in Morocco to a Spanish mother and was only German by his father’s blood. This meant that his actions were entirely unaccountable to the Kaiser.

Kramer was immediately despatched to gather his commando squadron. From Marseilles to Rome to Budapest to Istanbul he searched until sixty foreign mercenaries were ready for transport to San Pedrona. These men were ruthless and skilled to a man, experts in combat, firearms and subterfuge. They were given non-descript beige uniforms along with all manner of disguises and flown by stealth zeppelin to Muchava’s estate.

Their first operation was the destruction of a ship acting as a communications post for the American Secret Service that was resting in the docks of Val Verde. Using a stolen yacht they pulled up alongside and leapt on board. Most of the crew were massacred and only the captain was spared. He was taken back to the estate for interrogation. After three and a half hours Kramer extracted every drop of information and reported it straight back to his masters in Prussia.

What followed was a stream of sabotages, raids and kidnappings across the Americas. Occasionally the force carry out a mission for Muchava and it is in small increments that the power hungry general is working his way up the political tree until he is ready to make his bid for power.

Kramer’s second in command, a Cameroonian tribesman known only as Tree, is a hulking presence on the battlefield. He uses a large spear and shield in battle along with an archaic muzzle loading rifle engraved with all manner of tribal patterns. He speaks little but is unsurpassed at close ranges or at tracking his prey.

“Dr” Paso, a Spanish-Cuban mercenary is an expert with explosives. He blends shamanic rituals with modern grenades and bombs to create a truly destructive formula. It is Paso who is responsible for the spate of bombings and sabotages that have plagued Texas in recent years. Paso holds a particular hatred for American soldiers as his parents were killed by rogue US troops in Cuba.

Francois “Biggs” Harfleur is a machine gun expert recruited from the Force Publique. He uses a stripped down Vickers machine gun loaded with softheaded “dum-dum” rounds for maximum damage.

Patrick O’Connell is an Irish criminal is on the run from the Ulster Constabulary after six violent armed robberies. He has an almost supernatural aim with two pistols and wears a Patent Kelly Suit bought from an underworld dealer in London.

Philippe Kateb was recruited from the docks of Marseilles by Thule agents and requested a transfer to Kramer’s commando unit. He is of Berber stock and strong as an ox. His gift with horses in particular has often been admired and he has become adept at rustling San Pedrona’s small mountain horses for transport.

The other troops are from a variety of sources ranging from dissident Bosniaks to French Foreign legion deserters. They are largely equipped with German equipment and San Pedronan uniforms. They have recently battled the Guardia Republique and various Enforcement units while on internal missions, sowing the seeds of anarchy for their sponsor, Muchava.

 

PL FV SV SP Talents Equipment Pts
Kurt Kramer 2+ +4 +1 +2 Erudite wit, Ld+3 Bullwhip, SRC breastplate, Pistol 63
Tree 3+ +3 +3 +0 Tough, Ld+1, Impervious Brigandine, shield, sword, muzzle loading rifle 44
“Dr” Paso 4+ +2 +0 +0 Engineer, grenadier, Dragon breath mystical power Brigandine, Shotgun, bomb, combat knife, 2x explosive grenades 57
Harfleur 4+ +3 +2 +0 Strongman, hunter, marksman Brigandine, machine gun, combat knife 56
O’Connell 5+ +3 +1 +0 Gunslinger Patent Kelly Suit, two pistols 67
Kateb 5+ +2 +3 +0 Cavalryman, stealthy Brigandine, military rifle, large axe 32
Expeditionskorps Kommando 5+ +2 +2 +0 Bayonet drill Brigandine, military rifle and bayonet 22

 

Options

Any member of the company may take a horse (see bestiary, Heroes Villain and Fiends)

Any Kommando may take the fanatic talent (+5pts), marksman (+5pts) or tough (+5pts)

One Kommando in a company may swap their military rifle and bayonet drill for the hunter talent and hunting rifle (+10pts)

One Kommando in a company may be upgraded to a sergeant by swapping bayonet drill, brigandine and military rifle for a breastplate, +1 leadership and a carbine (+4pts)

Figures

Any figures representing German troops in West Africa would be perfect for the majority of troops in this company. In Britain tiger miniatures have a complete range for World War 1 which would still be brilliant for the period covered in IHMN. You could most certainly make use of any troops from the end of the 19th century as the idea behind the Expeditionskorps is composed of varied military personal, particularly French Foreign legion troops from sources such manufacturers as Artizan. Perry Civil war figures are great for representing troops in San Pedronan uniforms as you’ll see when I release the San Pedrona Army list.

Thanks for reading and as always sorry for the delays. I’ll hopefully return to the world of vintage thrillers to produce a post or two as I’ve been somewhat neglectful of that side of things recently. I’m also in the stages of writing a “why I love” article about Dr Sin and contemplating a piece on the Chaco War. Plus I’ll review the finale of the excellent peaky Blinders Series 2 and the first few episodes of both Gotham, the Flash and Season 2 of Agents of Shield. Good go that’s a lot to do.

This is Frontline Armchair signing off.

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The Enforcement Unit

As San Pedrona is dragged into a seething cauldron of human wrath, Lopez and his supporters desperately attempt to retain power. The dictator’s favoured response is the only thing he truly understands, force of arms. While the small National Guardia Republique can relatively easily guard against descent in areas of settlement they are too thinly spread to counter resistance in the small villages and jungle that form the basis of San Pedrona.

It was as Garcia led his peasant revolution in a broad sweep across rural San Pedrona that Lopez visited his Interior Minister Cauzo. Cauzo, a veteran of the Val Verde Police Force and the revolution that installed Lopez, was on a knife edge. After the successes of the various rebel groups arrayed against the regime Cauzo’s position as a member of the inner circle looked decidedly unstable. He called together his brightest commanders and spent a straight 36 hours planning a new organisation to combat the spate of revolutionaries.

Within a week’s time a motley assortment of street toughs, soldiers, sailors and police men were arrayed for inspection on Cauzo’s estate. There, veteran troops from the border trained them in the arts of terror, violence and brutality.

After six weeks of training 6,000 troopers swore allegiance to Lopez and the regime as the creation of the Enforcement Unit was announced in Val Verde. Travelling by Zeppelin to major provincial towns the black uniformed Enforcement troopers set up headquarters across San Pedrona and set to work.

Foreign newspapers were alight with tales of brutal raids on villages. Crops were burnt, houses pillaged and able bodied men pressganged. Small 20 man bands of troopers roamed the countryside spreading their message of terror wherever they went. Garcia’s army saw a major fall in recruitment as people became too afraid to join the revolution.

Cauzo was awarded the Presidential Decoration and was knighted for his services to the state. Lopez smiled on his minister’s work and increased the levels of conscription for the Enforcement Unit. Current membership stands at almost 10,000.

Most famous among these is the company of Capitan Revona. This squadron has become the arch enemy of Garcia and his army after their repeated success in the East of San Pedrona. The normal unit consist of fifteen handpicked troops. They are primarily armed with spiked clubs and Reichsrevolvers supplied by the Prussian army. Some also carry the licence built Krag Jorgensen rifles. Revona himself favours a Webley captured from Captain Napier of the Prince of Wales Extraordinary Company. He also uses a particularly brutal and unpleasant close combat weapon, the rostrum of a Sawfish. This 4 foot long strip of bone is lined on either side by a row of viciously sharp teeth that can gut and mutilate opponents with each swing. Revona has strengthened it himself with strips of steel and has butchered many enemies with the formidable and unusual weapon.

His second in command, Sargento Cuchillo, is a street tough from Val Verde. From his earliest memories he has been a knife thrower capable of amazing feats of accuracy with his characteristic all steel blades. He is half Que’echa and left his circus home when he was fifteen. By the time he was twenty he had carved out a bloody reputation as an enforcer and hit man for the gangs that run the city’s brutal streets. He was forcibly recruited but enjoys the chance to hone his aim and makes full use of his freedom to loot and pillage as he sees fit.

The raiders are responsible for destruction of rebellious villages and the burning of farms that fail to pay the required taxes. They are equipped with torches and even surplus grenades from the Army Research Institute.

PL FV SV SP Talents Equipment Pts
Captain Revona 3+ +4 +4 +0 Ld+2, berserker, terrifying, tough Two handed sword, carbine, pistol, brigandine 69
Sargento Cuchillo 4+ +2 +4 +1 Ld+1, Marksman Throwing knife, combat knife, brigandine 43
Captain 3+ +3 +3 +0 Ld+2 Sword, pistol, brigandine 32
Sargento 4+ +2 +2 +1 Ld+1, tough Carbine, bullwhip, brigandine 26
Enforcer 5+ +1 +1 +1 Tough Club, brigandine, pistol 17
Doberman-Mastiff 4+ +3 +0 +2 Tough Teeth (combat knife), Hide (lined coat) 20
Raider 4+ +1 +2 +1 Tough Flaming torch, brigandine 19

 

 

 

Options

An Enforcer may be upgraded to a soldier by swapping his pistol and the tough talent with a military rifle (+1pts)

A Doberman-Mastiff may be given leather armour (Upgrade to Brigandine) (+1pts)

A raider may take up to three grenades (any type) (+6pts per grenade)

Figures

Although they’re large and have a rather nautical look the very finely made War-machine Pressgang might be worth a try. Companies such as foundry produce some lovely Victorian thugs which would also fit in very well with an Enforcement company. I imagine them to be a motley bunch of criminals and second line soldiers so a real mixture of uniforms is fine, search your lead pile and see what you can find. The other source is some of the brilliant Perry Civil War miniatures, the more ragged the better.

Sorry this has taken so long to get posted up but I hope it’s worth the wait. There’s plenty more to come so as always, watch this space.

This is Frontline Armchair signing off.

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Kraftidioten- In order of Dissapearance Review

My local cinema is running its annual film festival. Normally I try to avoid the place at this time because they undoubtedly air a series of crappy French art-house dramas. However this year, flicking through the pamphlet, a particular Scandinavian comedy thriller caught my eye. This was Kraftidioten, a darkly comic, violent, suspenseful and above all highly enjoyable Scandi-noir that I would quite happily rate as one of the best films I’ve seen this year.

The film stars Stellan Skarsgard (remember him? The cardigan and shorts wearing scientist in the Thor films) as Nils, a highly respected snowplow driver and citizen of the year. However his fairly idyllic life is shattered when his son apparently takes a lethal overdose of cocaine. Nils refuses to believe that his son was an addict and sets off on a brutal quest for vengeance against the hilarious vegan gangster known as “the Count”. As Nils works his way up the hierarchy of the gang “the Count” suspects his rivals, the Serbs, are killing off his organization and the scene is set for a bloody gang war. After each death the film presents a somber black screen etched with the unfortunate’s name. This becomes increasingly comic as the body count piles up.

The Count is a hugely funny character as he is besieged on all sides by an angry ex-wife, rival gangsters, assassins and Nils’ own ruthless efficiency. This is counterbalanced by the fact that he is a ruthless murderer who delights in brutal torture. For me he stole every scene he was in and in many ways it was his film as much as Skarsgard’s.

Against him is the leader of the Serbian gang, Papa. His gang of Eastern Europeans offers some of the highlights as they wrestle in the snow and glide about on parachutes all to the entertainment of the audience.

Finally I must mention the superb setting. The snow-clad Norwegian landscape looks amazing, particularly in the brilliant establishing shots as Nils drives through the desolate tundra. This is supported by a pitch perfect soundtrack of lonely electric guitars that further add to this sense of emptiness and the immense futility of Nils’ job.

This offbeat, hugely funny but brutally violent Scandinavian thriller is unusual bit certainly worth seeing if you can find it at any local cinemas.

This is Frontline Armchair signing off.

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IHMN South America: List 2- The Cult Of Bechalack

For centuries the Crocodile Emperors of the Que’echa ruled what would become San Pedrona unchallenged. Using a winning combination of brutal oppression, powerful armies and heavy indoctrination to create a powerful empire and crush their rivals. At the centre of Que’echa society was the crocodilian god Bechalack, a vengeful and destructive deity who was believed to crush the enemies of the empire.

However the myth of Que’echa invincibility was crushed in 1581 when Portuguese conquistadores landed on San Pedrona’s coast. They ruthlessly pillaged outlying villages and the fleeing Que’echa brought back frightened rumours of “fire-sticks” and “men with the bodies of animals”. The conquistadores continued their vicious attacks into the interior of San Pedrona. They camped on the edge of the plain that would become known thereafter as Santa Maria. Unbeknownst to them Que’echa scouts had been following them since they entered the jungle. Now, hidden in ditches and foliage lay 5000 of the elite Crocodile Guard, a terrifying force of fanatical combat experts. As the Conquistadores made camp that night the light from their torches glinted of the flint clubs and blades of the Que’echa as they sprang from their hiding places and set about the invaders.

They had reasoned without the tactical genius of Manuel Fiero, leader of the conquistadores and victor across a thousand fields in his native Italy. He had used disaffected serf tribes slaving under the whip of the Crocodile emperor’s lash to beat the Que’echa at their own game. The very scouts themselves were being followed by these natives who wished to throw off the Que’echa yoke. Fiero had laid his soldiers armed with arquebuses at the centre of his camp, and, as the Crocodile warriors leapt from their hiding places, their gruesome battle cries were cut short by the gunpowder of the so called “fire sticks”. Only then did the heavy cavalry engage crashing into the Que’echa flanks and hacking down the unarmoured infantry. Fiero himself led a cohort of pike men into the melee and masterfully orchestrated his forces to drive back the numerically superior opposition. The Emperor Coatl watched in horror from his golden palanquin as his greatest warriors were effortlessly destroyed by these foreign “sorcerers”. Soon he was caught up in the rout and, as the story goes, a skilled Swiss marksman among the conquistador forces killed him with a shot to the stomach.

The remaining Que’echa leaderless and under the belief that their protector god had deserted them offered little resistance to the victorious conquistador forces. The remnants of the Crocodile guard headed into the mountains where it is believed they died from exposure and the harsh predators that haunt the lonely peaks. The conquistadores, driven half-mad by the stories of endless fortunes of gold soon had the Que’echa working as slaves to unearth the gold reputedly hidden in the mountains.

314 years later the Que’echa situation does not seem to have improved. Under general Lopez they are still being forced to search for the gold that eluded their ancestors. They live in heavily guarded labour camps where, until recently they have lived oppressed. That was until in 1894 a remote camp in the high mountains stopped its regular contact with high command. All investigators have not returned but their fate is clearly pointed to by the shrunken heads which regularly appear strapped to the gate of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples in Val Verde. More remote camps also stopped making contact and a similar pattern of events occurred until a full-scale military operation was ordered. Veteran troops from the Atlantic War journeyed into the mountains. The few crazed survivors talked about fanatical troops wearing the hides of crocodiles holding flaming swords and carving a bloody swathe through the San Pedrona army soldiers. Soon lowland camps flared into revolt as rumours of a new Que’echa empire high in the mountains spread like wildfire.

Lopez had tried to discount these ideas as the mad ravings of the insane but behind the scenes his generals are terrified by a figure known only as Crocodile King. This man is in fact the last descendant of Emperor Coatl who survived the battle of Santa Maria and oversaw the establishment of a city on the peak of Mount Alto. The forbidden knowledge of the Que’echa Black Priests was unlocked for the first time and harnessed to reequip the few surviving Crocodile guards with weapons of demonic power. It was under the current Crocodile King, a boy of only 17, that the attacks began. He is no longer content to bide his time as his forefathers have. Releasing the imprisoned Black Priest, Kamun, he has set his sights upon one goal and one goal alone; the conquest of the earth and the creation of an international Que’echa empire. If his current success continues he may succeed in his aim.

The Crocodile warriors that have carved out their ruler’s bloody empire are fanatics to a man. Only the strongest members of Que’echa tribe are chosen to serve in this distinguished unit and they are given the finest equipment and weapons available. Potential warriors must kill and skin a giant crocodile before being allowed to join and they wear this toughened hide into battle as a mark of their deeds. Many paint vicious patterns on their faces with skulls being particularly popular.

Those Que’echa who do not possess the natural ability to join the elite ranks of the Crocodile warriors serve as support units wielding swords, shields and spears strapped with explosives. Some also form the scout units known as chameleons for their abilities to blend into the natural flora.

The Black Priests were a long forbidden order of rogue sorcerers who were rumoured to conjure demonic spirits. Traditionally Que’echa rulers had shunned these evil beings but, in his endless quest for power, the Crocodile King has released the ancient being known as Kamun, a 500 year old immortal with almost limitless powers.

 

 

 

PL FV SV SP Talents Equipment Pts
Crocodile king 2+ +5 +0 +1 Ld+2, Up to 20pts of magical powers Crocodile sword, crocodile hide 52+
Kamun 2+ +2 +0 +0 Ld+1, Up to 40pts of magical powers, immortal Combat knife, lined coat 32+
Black Priest 4+ +2 +0 +0 Ld+1, Up to 20pts of magical powers Combat knife, lined coat 13+
Crocodile warrior 4+ +3 +0 +1 Berserker Crocodile sword, crocodile hide 28
Que’echa soldier 5+ +2 +0 +1 Sword, shield 10
Chameleon 5+ +1 +1 +2 Stealthy Sling
Que’echa spearman 5+ +1 +1 +1 Explosive spear, lined coat 19

Crocodile hide counts as a breastplate

Crocodile blade counts as a sword with a -2 pluck modifier

A sling counts as a thrown knife

An explosive spear is a thrown weapon which can be used any number of times in a game with the following profile

Weapon Range SV modifier Pluck Modifier Notes Pts
Explosive spear 6” +5 -1 Select a point for the spear to land all enemies within two inches are hit by the explosion 21pts

 

Options

Kamun or any Black priest may replace their knife with a ritual blade (sword) (+1pts)

Any Que’echa soldier may take a lined coat (+1pts) or brigandine (+2pts)

One demon may be taken. This can be a lesser or greater demon (See heroes, villains and fiends for rules)

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IHMN South America: List 1- San Pedrona Peasants Revolutionary Army

Iago Garcia, a wealthy, well-educated officer of the National Guardia Republique would not strike you as the most likely person to lead a revolution against the very system that he benefited from. Nonetheless it is Garcia that now marches at the head of a peasant army that seem set to march all the way to the capital of San Pedrona and place the dictator, Lopez’s head on a pike. What began as an ill disciplined rabble have become a military force to be reckoned through two long years of tough fighting.

Garcia’s crusade began in a small village. His commanding officer, a brutal colonel and fanatical supporter of Lopez’s oppressive regime, decided to wreak vengeance on the peasants after they had refused to pay him for his “protection”. He was about to set fire to the village crops when Garcia ran him through with his sabre. From there on the young officer’s course in life was set. Removing his boots he set fire to them and swore that as long as there were peasants too poor to afford boots in San Pedrona he would not wear them either.

A troop of hussars were despatched from the local garrison to deal with the upstart peasants but with the ferocity born of long years of oppression the peasants took up arms and defeated the troops. Soon they had taken over several villages and their message began to spread. Garcia became a symbol of freedom and liberation and achieved a folk hero status almost instantly. The peasant army achieved a major victory when they took the main town of San Pedrona’s Cachuaka district but their triumph was short lived. A full division of Guardia troops attacked with the help of sympathisers in the town and slaughtered much of the peasant army. Garcia and the battered remnants of his army fled into the mountains and set up a network of secret bases. From these they launch attacks at key military instillations and major cities, rebuilding their strength until they are ready to strike at Val Verde itself.

Iago Garcia, like most men of his class is an expert duellist and a fine shot. In addition to this he is also a superb orator and can inspire massed crowds to follow his crusade. He leads from the front sabre in hand and a battle cry on his lips. His uniform is battered and torn but it has become a symbol to people everywhere and it is sure to antagonise loyalist Guardia soldiers as they see him “defiling” their uniform.

Manuel is Garcia’s most loyal lieutenant and a giant of a man. He is a former slave of Lopez and was forced to fight in brutal gladiatorial combat for the entertainment of the dictator’s inner circle. He escaped and joined Garcia’s crusade. His hatred for the regime is as unmatched as his skill with an Edison arc truncheon taken from Commander Perez of the Enforcement company. He has been toughened by long years of slavery and is laced with scars that are barely hidden by his ragged clothing.

Pirot was a poacher but has now become a trusted soldier for Garcia. He favours creeping up on his enemies and releasing a deadly spray of fire from his blunderbuss. He is a wily tactician and lead small groups of skirmishers in vicious counter attacks when the main body of the force is pinned down. His enemies have learnt to fear him as he can pop up almost anywhere and release deadly accurate volleys into those unfortunate enough to get in his way.

The most elite troops in the peasant army are military deserters who have defected to Garcia’s cause. They bring an edge of professionalism and can also use some of the more exotic equipment captured from government convoys.

The greater majority of the army is composed of peasants. These commonly wield cudgels, farm implements or whips. They wear only simple clothing and are largely untrained. That being said the surviving peasants have been toughened by years of fighting and they are fanatically motivated. Some of the peasants use captured muskets in an attempt to bring longer ranged firepower to the army.

Garcia has ordered all horses from the local area to be pressed into service and his most trusted peasants have been taught the basic skills of cavalry combat. They wield captured pistols and sabres and are not afraid to charge right into the guns of the enemy.

Although the Church officially supports the regime many priests sympathise with Garcia’s cause and several have joined him, exhorting the peasants to greater acts of bravery and tending to the injured.

List

PL FV SV SP Talents Equipment Pts
Iago Garcia 3+ +4 +2 +1 Duellist, Inspirational,

Ld+2

Sabre, pistol, breastplate 58
Manuel 3+ +4 +0 +0 Tough, Berserker, Ld+1 Edison Arc Truncheon, brigandine 39
Pirot 4+ +2 +3 +1 Stealthy

Ld+1

Blunderbuss, pistol, brigandine, combat knife 31
Deserter* 5+ +2 +2 +0 Rifle, combat knife, brigandine 20
Peasant 5+ +1 +0 +1 Club, lined coat 7
Peasant Rifleman 5+ +0 +1 +0 Matchlock rifle, lined coat 10
Peasant Cavalry 5+ +1 +1 +0 Horse Carbine, sword, lined coat 19
Rogue Priest 4+ +0 +0 +0 Medic Pistol, combat knife, lined coat 16

You may only have one deserter and/or peasant cavalryman for every four peasants or peasant riflemen

Options

Garcia and/or one rogue priest in your army may ride a horse (+5pts)

Pirot may swap his blunderbuss for a military rifle (+3pts)

One priest in your army may take the inspirational talent (+10pts)

Any peasant cavalryman can swap his carbine for a pistol (-3pts)

Figures

I would advise any models from the various Zorro ranges released may make effective peasants. For the deserters particularly ragged civil war figures are best. A similar thing would go for Iago Garcia. A large model is obviously necessary for Manuel so perhaps the Disturbed from Tercio Creativo might be effective. At the end of the day the choice is up to you.

This is the first part in a series of company lists so watch this space and thanks for reading. Remember to check out the IHMN blog where many more downloadable companies can be found along with the latest new on Craig Cartmell’s various projects.

This is Frontline Armchair singing off.

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