Saturday 31 December 2016

Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago (2017)

Wind Warden by Dmitry & Kate Burmak. (c) Osprey Games
There is big news for the world of Frostgrave in the second half of 2017. Most people already know about the two expansions: The Frostgrave Folio and Ulterior Motives. Now, rumour is starting to spread about a new game called Frostgrave:Ghost Archipelago. That’s right, not an expansion, a new game. (You can read the official blurb by following the link, but the 'cover' shown there is just a place holder).

Back in the early days of Frostgrave (all of two years ago), my editor (hi, Phil!) asked me how I might want to expand the game, suggesting that I might use the same rules, but set the game in an different environment – such as the Sandgrave and Junglegrave that I have seen jokingly used by some players. Initially, I wasn’t that keen on the idea, figuring it would just be new scenarios and monsters, both of which I could do just as well, if not better, in the Frozen City.

As it has turned out, the game sold well enough that I was able to do several expansions set in the Frozen City that have included loads of new scenarios and monsters, along with other material. However, I never completely forgot about the idea of a new setting.

Then one day, while I was washing the dishes, everything just came together in my head. I realized, that changing the setting wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to expand the world of Frostgrave further, and, more importantly, give players a new and different gaming experience. Suddenly, I was no longer thinking of an expansion; I was thinking about a new game with familiar mechanics.

I always knew that if I used a new setting, it must be one that combined pulp and pirates, a setting that allowed me to bring my love for Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert E. Howard together on the tabletop. Then, the Ghost Archipelago appeared in my thoughts, just the way it reappears every few centuries in the Southern Ocean in the world of Frostgrave. A dense maze of shifting islands, the Ghost Archipelago is covered in the ruins of lost civilizations that are hidden deep in the jungles and rocky mountains. More than one intelligent race calls these islands home, and scores of deadly animals hunt in the swamps and forests.

So, I had my setting, but I still had two major questions that need answering. Why would anyone go adventuring in such a deadly place, and what kind of characters would the game focus on. I knew that if I wanted to make the game distinct from Frostgrave, I would have to push spellcasters down to a supporting roll, but what would take their place? It would need to be some kind of equally powerful group to capture the limelight!

Thus were born the ‘Heritors’. Here’s a little bit about them from a draft of the book:

Over two hundred years ago, the last time the Ghost Archipelago appeared, a group of adventurers discovered a pool of crystal clear water somewhere in the labyrinthine depths of the Lost Isles. Everyone who drank from that pool was filled with a mystical energy, a power they could call upon to perform superhuman feats. After these adventurers returned, they all became legends in their own time. Some became great heroes, others notorious villains. Ironically, despite their incredible strength, speed, toughness, and other superhuman abilities, nearly all of them eventually died violent deaths.
            Before their deaths, however, most of the adventurers who drank from the Crystal Pool sired offspring. Their children inherited many of their parent’s abilities, as did their children’s children, and so on. These descendents became known as ‘Heritors’ for they had inherited some of the power of the Crystal Pool. Yet, with each passing generation, the abilities of the Heritors became slightly less, and every time they used their mystical abilities they suffered from a pain known as ‘Blood Burn’.
            Today, most Heritors are nine or ten generations removed from their ancestor that drank from the Crystal Pool. While the abilities that they inherited still set them apart from the general population, those abilities have grown unreliable, and the pain that accompanies their usage quickly grows unbearable. Thus most Heritors use them sparingly and only in short bursts when they are required.
            No one knows how many Heritors there are in the world, but the number is probably in the high hundreds if not the low thousands. A few are well known warriors, but most choose to keep their abilities hidden. Regardless of where they are, or how they choose to use their abilities, all of them felt a great tug when the Ghost Archipelago returned. The Crystal Pool calls to them, tempting them to come and drink from its waters and gain the powers that once belonged to their ancestors. Many have so far been able to resist this call, but many more are already making their way to the Southern Ocean.

So, there you have the basic premise of the game. There is a lot more to it obviously, and over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be sharing more.

The best news, I think, is that all of the major players behind Frostgrave: FantasyWargames in the Frozen City have returned to work on this game with me: my editor Phil Smith; Dmitry Burmak, who provided all of the gorgeous artwork, this time accompanied by his equally talented wife, Kate; Nick and the gang from North Star are once again working with Osprey Games on a range of miniatures, Kev Dallimore will be supplying his painting and photography skills, Stewart Larkin will be leading the layout and design work. There is no doubt it will be a beautiful book, so there is plenty of pressure on me to make sure it is a good game! 

I'll share more when I can!

Tuesday 20 December 2016


In my last painting post, I mentioned the trouble I was having with my eyes when it came to painting miniatures. While I still need to look into reading glasses, I have made some good progress with my new 'super light' in place. In fact, I decided to challenge myself and paint one of the smallest, most finely detailed miniatures in the Games Workshop Middle-earth range: Bilbo on a barrel. [For some reason the blog is displaying the image at slightly lower resolution. Click on the image for a clearer shot.]

Of all the thousands (yes, I'm pretty sure its thousands) of miniatures I have painted, this has to be one of my favourites. It's just a perfect.

It's probably also one of the most useless wargaming miniatures ever sculpted, which for me just increases its charm. In fact, I liked it so much, I've decided to go ahead and paint all of the dwarves that came in set as well. Honestly, I think the scene in the movie is ludicrous, overdone, and generally a missed opportunity, but the miniatures look good!

While we are on the subject of Bilbo the barrel-rider, I think Tolkien's own painting of the scene is one of my favourite pieces of his artwork. There is just one thing about it that has always given me pause. In the painting, Bilbo is very clearly wearing shoes! (or boots). How did Tolkien come to forget such a central fact about his own creation?

Thursday 15 December 2016

Star Wars: Rogue One

I won't give a full review as there are plenty online, and it is very hard to talk about Star Wars: Rogue One without spoilers. I will just say that it has a lot of good points and a few bad ones, but, in the end, it just isn't what I want from a Star Wars movie. Others mileage will certainly vary.

Also, see my thoughts on Prequels in General.

Sunday 11 December 2016

Irony Update

A few hours after writing the last post, I turned on my super lamp and the bulb no painting tonight. Tomorrow I go in search of an R7S, 118mm blub. Dang it.

Age Comes On Apace...

I haven't felt much like painting lately, but I did manage to finish these three Minas Tirith guardsman and a Frostgrave treasure token (the rune stone on the right). The photo, unfortunately, is a tad overexposed, which is ironic, considering what I'm about to say.

Over the last year, I have been having difficulty painting. The truth is, I just don't see as well as I used to. It's not a big deal on most miniatures, but those with finer detail (which includes most of GW's The Lord of the Rings line), I'm having real difficulty seeing that detail well enough to paint it.

For most of my life, I have been blessed with above average eyesight (apparently to compensate for my terrible hearing and sense of smell). However, having turned forty this year, it would be surprising if I didn't 'see' some decline. So I went to the optometrist. Apparently, my vision is still above average, at least as far as forty-year-olds are concerned, and I don't need glasses; though I am considering getting myself a pair of low-powered reading specs for small font.

I briefly experimented painting with magnification, but it seems to cause as many problems as it solves, and takes some of the enjoyment out of it. So, instead, I started experimenting with light... and soon made a major discovery. I didn't have near enough light when I paint.

Once I stopped and thought about it, I realized that my 'painting light' has slowly decreased over the years. I used to have a dedicated paint station, near a window, with a specific lamp for painting. Then, I immigrated to country that doesn't receive near as much natural light; I lost my painting space near the window, and I lost my dedicated lamp. Oh, and then European legislation outlawed the old light bulbs and made us all replace them with much dimmer energy-efficient ones. At each step my eyes could handle it, but added all together with another ten years of age thrown in, and it was too much. A few nights ago, after I finished painting these Gondorians, I took my super bright light from the living room into the kitchen. It has both a general lamp and a directional lamp. I cranked both up to full power. I bathed that room in light! And what a difference it made. I could see again! Okay, not like I could when I was a young man, but good enough that I could happily paint even most of the fine detail.

Yes, probably I'm just an idiot for not realizing this sooner, but hey, I've had a lot on my mind. Anyway, I'm a happy painter again!


For those wondering about the title of this post, it is a phrase from the poem 'Solomon Kane's Homecoming' by Robert E. Howard. Howard didn't write much poetry, especially later in his short life, which is a shame, because he certainly had a talent for it. You can read the whole poem here.