You’d be forgiven for thinking that these images were generated by an AI mashing up a Warhammer 40k cartoon with claymation, but no, those are real wargaming models. Part of the indie wargame Astrabellum, you can join the game’s Patreon to get access to 3D printer files for the minis and a digital, beta rulebook, right now.
According to a Patreon post introducing the game in January 2022, “Astrabellum is a science-fiction tabletop wargame set in an alternate past…” which “draws its inspiration from mid-20th-Century science fiction”. So the Venus of Astrabellum is “a beautiful world of purple jungles under a yellow cloudy sky” instead of a broiling death cauldron. It’s an upbeat tone from a more optimistic era of sci-fi. Thus unlike the constant wars between the Warhammer 40k factions or the crushing autocracy of the Imperium of Man, in Astrabellum, “the people of Earth joined together under democracy, and rejected any notion of authoritarianism or bigotry.”
The models are all 3D designed and use bold, solid shapes for vehicles and infantry alike. The walker in particular resembles an Adeptus Mechanicus Onager Dune Crawler or Star Wars Imperial AT-AT, as seen through the lens of a BBC children’s TV show from the 1970s – that uncanniness made us initially misread the photos above as Warhammer 40k AI generated minis. As Astrabellum is an entirely digital wargame, from minis to rules, you’ll need a 3D printer, or to use a 3D printing service, to get your cartoony army to the table.
As well as the bold, simple shapes of the vehicles, the models have an extremely stylised paint scheme. Answering questions on Reddit, Astrabellum creator Lockedupsafe explains: “The tank is [painted with] plain colours with a blackline – no edge highlighting, that’s just a result of a bevel on all the edges and the bright lights of the photography setup.” It’s a bold and unusual approach to painting miniatures, but it certainly makes these weird creations stand out.
There hasn’t been any movement on the Astrabellum Patreon since March 2022, but the creator is still active and posting updates on Reddit and Instagram. According to a December 12 post to Instagram, “Astrabellum has been quiet for some time, but work has been continuing behind the scenes”, and a relaunch is planned ”in 2023”.
We’ve seen some incredibly interesting Indie RPGs in the last couple of months that fit into niches the big games like Warhammer 40k and Warhammer Age of Sigmar overlook. Necropolis28 answers the question “what happens when Warhammer meets Dark Souls?”, Turnip28 is a grim Napoleonic wargame with a root vegetable obsession, while Full Spectrum Dominance has the aesthetics of a classic, 90s RTS game.