The Hellpittsburgh Squeakers

I told you there was content coming that wasn’t about the Horus Heresy, didn’t I? Well, I assure you – I am a man of my word! Today, I want to talk about my new Blood Bowl team, The Hellpittsburgh Squeakers.

 

A Brief Backstory

This is something of a passion project for me – I’m a long, long time fan of Skaven, and when Blood Bowl was originally announced, my plan right off the bat was to build a Skaven team of my own. See, the trouble with loving those backstabbing, whiskered bastards is that painting some 100 odd 5-point-a-piece Clanrats is something of a soul destroying endeavour – that, and the cruel reality that Skaven have yet to be properly realised in Age of Sigmar as an army (at least in the traditional Hordes and Mutants and Warmachines sense) – makes the prospect of building and painting an actual Skaven army somewhat less than appealing. Unable to bring myself to waste 10s, maybe 100s of hours painting a doomed army, I decided that the only thing for it was to settle my urge to collect a Skaven army with a Skaven Blood Bowl team, lovingly and carefully built using every Blood Bowl sculpt at my disposal and given the honour of bearing my favourite colours. At least, that was the plan.

In this hobby, nothing ever seems to pan out quite the way I envision it originally. Sometimes, you can have grand ideas for your next project, only for some all-important life-consuming new release to drop in your lap and completely change your direction of travel1. In this instance, that release was Warhammer 40,000 8th Edition.

Yes, that bloody game really threw a wrench in a lot of my plans, but I’m not going to go into all that again. Where this tale becomes relevant to the Squeakers lies in the colour scheme – as I was scrambling to put together my first little force for Warhammer 40,000, my brain kept coming back to this colour scheme that I’d dreamed up for my (then theoretical) Blood Bowl team, and all I knew was that I wanted to execute it sooner rather than later. And thus, the Autumn Walkers Renegade chapter was born (and later sold for something far sillier).

 

Farewell, old chums

 

So, my animalistic need to get this colour scheme out of my system was satiated – handy, as all of a sudden I found myself incredibly busy – Warhammer 40,000 led to an interest/obsession with the Horus Heresy, while my first experiences of Age of Sigmar tournament play rekindled my drive to finish my Maggotkin army. I was suddenly trying to keep up with 40K, finish a new Age of Sigmar army and start a brand new Horus Heresy legion. There was, simply put, no time for Blood Bowl, and this was put on the backburner.

Eventually though, I’d get through the bulk of these projects, and I found myself with a little time to pursue other hobby interests again. This was fortuitous, as I’d just received a copy of Blood Bowl 2016 for Christmas off of my Amazon Wishlist from my fiancé and her mother. Aw, thanks, you guys!

Of course, as we know, Blood Bowl traditionally comes with Humans and Orcs in the boxed game – not Skaven. This is a somewhat frustrating fact, as there is not presently (nor do I imagine there will ever be) any means of purchasing the game itself – rules, rulers, counters, board, etc – separate from the miniatures. Sure, you could get it parted out marginally cheaper on somewhere like eBay, but the savings are usually minuscule – to the point where if you want even one of your guest teams to be Humans or Orcs, then you’re cheaper just getting the retail box.

I’ve never been particularly enamoured with playing Human’s in Blood Bowl – I got enough of that in the Campaign mode for Blood Bowl II on PC, and, frankly, the Humans are just too much like an actual sports team to be exciting to me. Still, I painted mine up as the Reikland Reavers, picked up the plastic Ogre to add a little muscle to the team and called it there – they’re not exciting, but when you consider that Blood Bowl is a 2-player game that can be transported as easily as any other board game, the Reavers really do make for a pretty good demo team to show other people the ropes.

Where I really started to have fun though was with the Orc team. God damn, I love those new sculpts! Now, don’t get me wrong – the new Human team looks great too, but the Orcs just look great. The Blitzers and Black Orcs look great and unique and easy to differentiate from the Linemen (something I can’t say for the Blitzers on the human team) and the Throwers look wonderfully dynamic. I wasn’t too long finished painting my Ironjawz warband for Shadespire too, and had picked up a bit of an appreciation for painting green flesh. I wanted to go the extra mile on these minis, and did a little work on reposing them, as well as putting in some headswaps with 40K Orks to make sure every miniature was unique.

 

Turghallz Toofspittaz, da ‘ardest boyz in da league!!1

 

Overall, I was really happy with these guys. They’re a lot brighter than my usual style of painting, but they were an absolute blast to work on, and I’m pretty proud of my fairly unique colour scheme – the idea was that they sort of looked a bit like a gummy smile with broken teeth, but whether they successfully evoke that imagery or not, they look bright and garish and exciting like a fantasy sports team should, in my opinion. I think that the 40K Ork headswaps worked better in some instances than others – the Thrower, and the Black Orc I was particularly happy with, but the cartoonishly large heads on some of the linemen don’t quite work as well as their contemporaries’ more modern, proportional designs, but hey, they’re all unique and that’s what matters.

So, I finished my Blood Bowl starter set, and both teams sat quietly in a box, stacked neatly atop my Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower box set (which equally has never actually been played) until eventually my gaming club started showing some interest in taking up Blood Bowl again. This was great news, and I broke out Turghallz Toofspittaz for a few games against somewhat more seasoned players.

I had a blast, and Blood Bowl is definitely a game who becomes a lot more fun and exciting the better grasp you have on how your players – and your opponents players – are likely to perform in certain situations. As my understanding grew, I had more and more fun, until I realised just how stunted I was playing an Orc team with only 2 Blitzers and 2 Black Orcs. This was problematic, as momentum was increasing and talk of getting a league going at the club was brewing, but ForgeWorld still haven’t released a Booster for the Orc Team. See, the plastic Orc Blitzer and Black Orc models are both.. very specifically posed, and there’s not really a whole lot of room for conversions and changing up the poses, and I feel as if I’ve exhausted the possibilities for uniquely poses with just the two plastics that I have. I’ve heard of folks using Ironjawz Brutes as their Black Orcs, and I imagine that Savage Orruks would also make great Blitzers, but both of those circumstances would involve essentially ‘throwing away’ my existing Blitzers and Black Orcs, or dealing with wildly inconsistent styles in my team. None of these options particularly appealed to me, and so I decided to retire Turghallz Toofspittaz until such a time as ForgeWorld finally get around to releasing the Orc team booster2.

So, you’ve got a League coming up but you lack the sculpts you need to properly draft the Orc team you really need to play.  What do you do? Why, start a new team, of course!

All the stars were suddenly in perfect alignment. I was getting games of Blood Bowl regularly, and wanted to a team for league play without any duplicate poses, that had enough miniatures released to accomplish this while still fielding a remotely competitive player lineup. As this was not possible with my Orcs, and I had little interest in expanding the Reavers, this meant it was time to build a new team. Fortunately for me, I had already taken care of the majority of my ‘must-do’ hobby for an impending Age of Sigmar tournament, I was reaching the end of my 10K of Space Wolves backlog (with only 6 Jetbikes and a Kharybdis Assault Claw remaining at the time of this blog post) with only trivial hobby needing done in time for my next event. It was time to start a new team. It was finally time to start the Hellpitsburgh Squeakers.

 

 

The Hellpittsburgh Squeakers

So, here they are – the Hellpittsburgh Squeakers3 – having finally made it from my imagination into reality. There’s so much I want to say about these miniatures – from the sculpts, to my choice of colour scheme, to my subtly different approach to basing these guys compared to my Orcs and Humans, to the mini conversions, reposes and kitbashes I did in order to ensure every miniature in this team was unique. Let’s start with the miniatures themselves – the sculpts.

First of all, Skaven are among the privileged few teams to have gotten some ForgeWorld love, really early on; alongside a couple of star player options, they also had their Big Guy catered for4 and the all important Player Booster. Before I get into anything else, I just want to evangelise the importance of this booster for a moment. I know that there’s a lot of people out there – particularly, I imagine, those who only really play Blood Bowl and don’t engage with GW or particularly ForgeWorld in any capacity – who see those booster packs at £20 and compare them to the plastic kit at the same price and scoff. Well.. Yeah, I sympathise with that view point. At the end of the day, one plastic set has 12 easy to assemble miniatures, along with a decal sheet, a couple of coins, special balls and tokens and counters and all that good stuff on the sprue, while the booster has four measly models. I’m not really here to defend ForgeWorlds pricing – which, I believe, is certainly on the high side compared to other small batch resin miniature manufacturers – but the bottom line is that ForgeWorld do make smaller batch, hand-cast miniatures and these are more difficult and expensive to manufacture than quickly injection moulding a couple of identical sprues in the plastic kit, so you sort of expect the price to be comparatively higher to GWs plastic product – and hey, it’s not as if the booster is a necessary thing to play the game. If you want 4 Gutter Runners in your team and you’re perfectly happy to differentiate your team members with paint job, or you think you can do a better job with reposing or sculpting, then it’s perfectly reasonable to simply purchase two copies of the plastic kit. What the ForgeWorld booster does provide, however, is entirely different looking miniatures for those who want a little more variety in their team. In that regard, I think ForgeWorld knocked these sculpts right out of the park.

The ForgeWorld Skaven booster contains a Thrower, a Blitzer and 2x Gutter Runners. This means that, combined with a single box of the plastic kit (which contains two identical sprues, which each contain a Thrower, Blitzer, Gutter Runner and 3x Linerats), you’ve got completely unique models for both your 0-2 Blitzers, 0-2 Throwers and 3/4 of your 0-4 Gutter Runners, leaving you with only a single Gutter Runner and 3x Linerats to make unique. One of the Gutter Runners is, I think, arguably a little samey to the plastic kit, leaving you with one particularly fancy looking Gutter Runner, but the sculpts have unique hoods which tie both together and set them apart from the plastic kit. The Thrower is absolutely perfect, and the decision to have him holding the ball rather than repeating the tail-throw makes the models look thoroughly unique. The same can be said of the Blitzer – who evokes the same Stormvermin feel as the plastic one with a completely different stance (stabbing/slashing as opposed to shoulder slam). All in all, it’s a great booster and a played a huge part in keeping me happy enough that my rats all had a unique personality of their own.

I can’t say I’ve been playing long enough to really concern myself with Star Players at this point, but one other miniature that I absolutely had to pick up for this team was Glart Smashrip, an obese Stormvermin whose lifetime ban from the game due to eating a referee has recently been lifted.

This probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone, given my love of Nurgle, but I absolutely love everything about this guy. I love his chubby little cheeks. I love that he earned his lifetime ban from the game eating a referee. I love his characterful face and his big minging rat moobs. He’s great, and I don’t particularly care whether his rules are good or not – they’re irrelevant. He’s too awesome not to paint and field. I might pick up Hakflem and a Rat Ogre at some point (perhaps when I’m down at Warhammer World for a Heresy event on the 7th of September) for completion’s sake, but as part of this passion project, Glart was downright mandatory.

Alright, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about what I did to keep my team unique. I already mentioned that I used the ForgeWorld Booster to provide me with unique sculpts for the majority of my miniatures, but what about that one Gutter Runner and the 3 duplicate Linerats? Well, I did a few things.

 

My four Gutter Runners. Second from the left with a bare head and spiked fist from a Clanrat, and furthest right with a subtle tail repose.

 

First of all, any duplicate models received tail reposings. This was one of the more glaring signs of a duplicate to my eyes – they’re such a focal point with such a specific pose that you can’t help but notice when two are the same. Fixing these ranged from simple rotations at the root of the tail all the way to massive hackjobs. As much as it was frustrating painting those unnecessary seeming tail cuffs, I will say those were incredibly handy for getting a reasonable surface to bond the tail again when repositioning them. In a couple of cases, I also switched some weaponized tips around just to further individualize and break up any noticeable ‘pattern’. I’m pretty happy with one Linerat in particular whose tail was repositioned to be coming over his shoulder a little – a minimal little conversion that becomes the prominent defining feature of the miniature in a satisfying way.

 

Four linerats, featuring a weapon swap (left) and a major repose tail repose (second left).

 

I don’t have as many Skaven bitz in my (otherwise embarassingly large) bitz box as I’d like, but I did have a number of leftover Clanrats from my Skaven army project5, along with various bitz and pieces from my Stormvermin and Warp-Lightning Cannon and whatever I had on hand was employed on these guys. I gave my duplicate Gutter Runner a bare head and viscous wrist knife to differentiate him from his plastic twin, replaced a Linerat’s weapon with a Clanrat knife (upping the ante a little from knuckle dusters, but Skaven aren’t exactly known for playing fair now, are they?), and gave one of my Linerat subs a gas mask from a Warp-Lightning Cannon crew member. In retrospect, I think it would have been really cool to have a representative from all four of the major clans in this team – a missed opportunity, but one I might return to whenever I decide to add a Rat Ogre6. Beyond that, I did a few subtle arm reposings much like I did on my Orc team, and gave my plastic thrower a Stormvermin champion’s pointy finger arm – although that particular kitbash was less out of necessity and more out of really wanting to use a cool bit I stumbled upon.

 

The final two Linerats, as well as my two Throwers. The Linerat in the Gasmask looks a lot better in person – his head and arms evoking a stubborn sort of bulldog look – but I just couldn’t find the golden angle to photograph him at.

 

As for the paint jobs.. I’m quite proud of these guys. Being a relatively small project from start to finish (compared to, say, an army of the bastards), they took long enough that I could visibly see my processes improve and speed up on the last few rates, but was small enough that I could get through a good number of miniatures individually, putting an above average amount of effort into each. Being the same scheme as my Autumn Walkers chapter, there was a good amount that was familiar to me that I could improve upon with my accrued experience (blending to the harsh orange highlights on the brown cloaks, or improving the opacity of the orange highlights for two examples), together with some things I’ve really worked on and improved lately such as flesh7, and some new challenges on these guys – such as trying to represent fur on the flatter areas of the minis.

As for the scheme itself.. As I have said a few times now, it’s the same as my now defunct Chaos Space Marines, and it’s an amalgamation of my favourite colours and tones. I love browns and oranges, and anyone familiar with my miniature painting will know I love big, in-your-face edge highlights, and that’s really the crux of this scheme. To break things up, I have cream tabards and cloth where appropriate and mustard yellow shoulder pads to really complete the autumnal colour scheme. Brass, it seems, is also something of a go-to for my metallics and trims no matter what I do, as I like the way it looks aged or grubby with a messy edge highlight of a middling silver. Normally, with Skaven, I’d go for a pink tail rather than blending into the flesh, but I felt like the yellowish Cadmium Skin that I used on the flesh just really worked with these guys and gave them a sickly jaundiced look, and the pink popped more as a sort of spot colour for the ears and nose. It also clashed a little less harshly against the yellow capes on the Gutter Runners, and the like.

 

My Blitzers, alongside star player Glart Smashrip. One notable difference on these minis in particular is that they’re the only rats on my team with black fur rather than brown, in reference to the defining physical characteristic of Stormvermin.

 

This isn’t a tutorial or anything of the sort, so I won’t bother getting into the nitty gritty of what paints I used, or whatever, but I will say that as always, Nihilakh Oxide and Typhus Corrosion were great for adding a little extra colour to the brass, and texture/grit to the silvers. I didn’t want to go as crazy with Blood for the Blood God as I did on my Orcs, but these are vicious little bastards, and so I did add a proportional amount to different minis depending on role – Blitzers, for example, would have a whole lot of blood spatter, while Throwers were completely clean of it. Linemen would have a little bit, and maybe 3/4 of the Gutter Runners had some. I sure do love me some Citadel Technical.

As for basing.. Well, I like static grass. I feel like I do enough drybrushed texture bases in The Mortal Realms or the 31st/41st Millennium, so I like to stick to a basic grassy base in Blood Bowl. A quick layer of Vallejo Brown Earth before priming, and then I paint the whole base Beastly Brown. I do like to differentiate the style of grass and turf between my teams though – while the Reikland Reavers got some classic bright green GW static grass from back in the day, Turghallz Toofspittaz were given some Gale Force 9 ‘Winter Grass’, over a darker earth to show represent a poorly kept pitch. For the Squeakers, I fancied something in between, eventually settling on a dark, rainy pitch to evoke the start of Autumn and shorter, overcast days. The static grass blend was made from a combination of that Winter Grass and some Gale Force 9 Dark Green grass to get a kind of mixed temperature that was a little darker, but with grey or dead patches – mostly because I felt the dark green grass that I had was a little monotone, really. Once this dried, I painted the pitch marking lines on the bases (as is the Blood Bowl tradition) and added some final touches – individual leaf litter pieces from Green Stuff World, each tinted a marginally different Autumnal colour using Reikland Fleshshade, Seraphim Sepia, Athonian Camoshade and Yellow and Red Citadel Glazes. Once all of that dried, the final touch was adding a few blobs of Vallejo Still Water over to create little puddle patches from where the rain has fallen. This particular aspect doesn’t carry over so well in photography for whatever reason, but it’s there and I think it works well enough.

Alright, so there you have it! The Hellpittsburgh Squeakers, in all their sneaky, conniving glory. It feels great to have finally executed this scheme on the team I originally envisioned it for so long ago, and it’s a nice full circle tribute of sorts to my lost-in-the-warp Chaos Space Marines that got me started on all this Warhammer 40,000 madness – as well as being completely ready for League Play!

What’s next on my plate? Well, I’m a little all over the shop at the moment. I have a couple of little extras I’d like to do for the team – I ordered another pair of score markers from a bitz site to give me a consistent looking dugout (as opposed to two fists, and two coins) that I’ll need to paint up, as well as the coins from the box but I don’t expect any of those will take me too long. I’ve got anywhere from 5-20 Plaguebearers to build and paint for an Age of Sigmar tournament in a couple of weeks, as well as some preparations and tweaks to do on my Vlka Fenryka for a narrative weekend at Warhammer World (yaaaaasss!), but nothing huge. My next major steps will be building and painting my 6 Legion Jetbikes along with my Kharybdis Assault Claw in order to produce that 10,000 points showcase post, provided that nothing major pops up to derail that. We’ll see. As always, I’ll be posting moment to moment updates on my Twitter and making long-winded rambles right here!

 

As always, thanks for reading and happy wargaming!

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Case in point – the 2000+ points of Skaven I ended up doing for Age of Sigmar anyway, like a damned fool. I have been meaning to write a blog post here about that army, but I haven’t found a way to photograph my Clanrats that really captures them yet. Watch this space.
2 And the fact that the – admittedly awesome looking – Orc Cheerleaders pack was prioritised for release before the Orc Team booster is absolute madness to me.
3 The name itself being a pun on the American Football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the infernal breeding pits of Clan Moulder.
4 Admittedly, it’s something of a controversial sculpt – ForgeWorld seem to have a real thing for depicting their Skaven as hairless, for whatever reason. On top of that, the pose is.. a bit too dynamic, in my opinion, given it’s role as the lumbering, dimwitted muscle of the team. I suppose the plastic Ogre for the human team is in motion as well though? Ahhh.. who cares; I’m going to end up buying it anyway.
5 Did I mention I actually went ahead and did a Skaven army yet?
6 Which would give me a representation of Verminous, Skyre, Eshin and Moulder. Probably not a big ask to kitbash a single Pestillens Linerat, no?
7 Something that I’ve made great strides on since I first started my Space Wolves legion – I’ll explain more of this when I finish and write about my 10,0000 points.

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