Wednesday 28 November 2018

The Frostgrave Tour of Tallinn, Estonia!

Have you ever wanted to play Frostgrave in an actual frozen medieval city? Well, now is your chance. I have teamed up with Geek Nation Tours for the first ever, Frostgrave Tour of Tallinn, Estonia! For those brave enough come along, we’ll be going to Estonia in the dead of winter to explore the frozen city of Tallinn, to walk through creepy forests at night, and to take part in a Viking re-enactment. We will also be eating some great food, visiting a spa, getting personal tours, and, of course – playing a LOT of Frostgrave!
            Now, if this seems a surprising turn of events – just imagine how I feel! About six years ago, I surprised my wife with tickets to Estonia, not realizing that Baltic States in the month of February are a little bit cold. As it turned out, it was an amazing trip, and incredibly inspiring. In fact, that trip went a long way to creating the Frozen City of Frostgrave in mind. I wrote about all of this in the introduction to the first Frostgrave fiction collection, Frostgrave: Tales of the Frozen City, and then didn’t give it a lot of thought.
            Then one day I got an email from Teras, owner and head-geek of Geek Nation Tours. Teras is a Frostgrave fan and a friend of Osprey Publishing, and we’ve had a chance to talk occasionally at shows. We even once got to play Frostgrave together in the epic Fury of the Frost Giants game at Adepticon! It turns out Teras had read the Tales of the Frozen City introduction, and it got a plan formulating in his mind. What if a group of people got together for a week of touring Tallinn and playing Frostgrave
            Well, in 2020, we are going to find out. Teras did a huge amount of research about the opportunities for fun and adventure in and around Tallinn, and, of course, he quizzed me about what I had done during my own exploration. He’s found a nice hotel, some great restaurants, and numerous cool experiences. He hasn’t skimped on the wargaming side either. He’s got mats and terrain to set-up in the hotel. He’s convinced me to write some new, specially-themed scenarios, and he’s even commissioned a unique miniature for tour participants based on a famous medieval Estonian alchemist!
            It’s going to be cold, so bring your boots and cold weather gear, but it is also going to be a unique adventure. I’m seriously looking forward to it, and hope some other people might join us! The trip is limited to just 15 places, though, so if you want in, book soon.
            You can find complete detail on the Geek Nation Tours website.

Monday 26 November 2018

Writing a Wargame: Idea to Publication

On Saturday, I'll be in London for Dragonmeet. If you have never been, this is a great little convention. It is mostly centred around role-playing, but has slowly expanded to cover some wargaming and board gaming as well. I have been for the past 7 or 8 years and it has been great to watch it grow.

This year, though, is going to be a first for me. For the first time, I will be running a seminar under the title ‘Writing a Wargame: Idea to Publication’. I’ll be drawing on my own experience from writing several wargames, including Frostgrave, Rangers of Shadow Deep, and Oathmark, but also from being closely involved in the publication process of numerous wargames from Osprey.

So, if you are attending Dragonmeet this week, please come and join me at noon in the seminar room!

Thursday 22 November 2018

Founder, Fighter, Saxon Queen: Aethelflaed

Books about figures from the Early Medieval or Dark Age periods of English history usually fall into one of two categories – a summary of the period in question with a specific name highlighted, or pure speculation. Interestingly, Founder, Fighter, Saxon Queen: Aethelflaed by Margaret C. Jones doesn’t really fall into either of these categories.

The first thing a reader is likely to notice about this book is that the main text is only 150 pages long. While this is pretty short for a book of this type, it is sort of a tacit acknowledgement that there is only so much that can be said about Aethelflaed, and I suspect, a stronger book for its short length.

For those not in the know, Aethelflaed was the daughter of Alfred the Great, and eventually became the de facto queen of Mercia (her exact position is complicated). In this position, she carried on her father’s work of fortifying towns, founding new towns, and slowly reclaiming the lands lost to the Danes. Despite her modern obscurity, the reconquest of England owes as much to her as it does to her more famous brother, Edward the Elder, and nephew, Aethelstan. I suspect this obscurity owes most to the fact that she doesn’t fit neatly into any line of succession.

Margaret C. Jones’ book covers all of the important facts about Aethelflaed’s life, such as can be gleaned from Anglo-Saxon and Irish sources, and covers her military, town-building, and diplomatic successes. More interestingly, it takes a solid look at what it meant to be a royal woman in this time period and how Aethelflaed broke all of those traditions. While there is plenty of speculation and guess-work as to the details, some of the key points are inescapable. Having never read a book that took this perspective, I must say I found it a delightfully refreshing take on the period.

The book also covers all of the monuments to Aethelflaed, all of the commemorative celebrations that have been held in her honour, and even all of her appearances in popular culture. That all of this can fit into just one chapter shows just how obscure Aethelflaed has become.

All-and-all, a short, interesting, and delightful read that offers a really refreshing view on a time period that is completely dominated by Alfred the Great.

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Rangers of Shadow Deep – Print on Demand is Live!

For those of you who have been waiting for a print copy of Rangers of Shadow Deep to be available – the wait is over!

You can now buy a copy of the print on demand addition at RPGNow!

For those of you who have already bought the PDF, I have emailed a discount code, so you can get it at a reduced price. If you have opted out of RPGNow emails, then get in touch and we will sort out the discount.

I admit it, it is pretty special to hold Rangers of Shadow Deep in my hands as a proper, on-paper, book!

[We are working on a hardback version of the book as well, but this is proving somewhat trickier. Watch this space.]

Note, this is also a good chance to pick up the print editions of Spellcaster Magazine 1, 2 and 3!

Friday 16 November 2018

Titans’ Bane – Audio Drama

Last week I was in Games Workshop in Canterbury. I had a £20 gift voucher in my pocket, but no current miniature needs. So, instead of picking up more plastic to throw on the unpainted pile, I picked up a copy of the new Titans’ Bane audio drama. Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of listening to audio dramas while I paint, although normally I go for Big Finish Doctor Who.

I had read about Titans’ Bane in White Dwarf, and the description had caught my fancy. According to the blurb, the entire story is set inside a super-heavy tank. I wondered if the author could really pull off a story with such a confined setting.

Having listened to it (while painting, of course), I can say it is darn enjoyable. The story doesn’t have a huge amount of plot, perhaps being that it is only 46 minutes long, but the story, combined with some good acting, good music, and overall terrific production, makes for a very entertaining listen. It really does invoke the grim and gritty 40K Universe, but from an angle that has rarely been covered.

Definitely worth a listen if you get the chance.

I also picked up Horus Hersey: Shattered Legions to finish off the gift voucher. Nice to have a book of short stories I can dip into now and then. Only ready about a third of it though, so I’m withholding judgement.

Thursday 15 November 2018

Look, a Clue!

One of the slightly unusual things about Rangers of Shadow Deep is that many of the scenarios call for the use of ‘clue markers’. In the book, I don’t really talk much about what these should be, and, in truth, it’s not really important. As long as you know what they are, anything will do. That said, gamers should view this as an opportunity!

Like a lot of tabletop gamers, I have a tendency to collect little bits of scenery for no better reason than they strike my fancy. I tell myself that I can use them as ‘scatter terrain’, but when it comes down to it, I hardly ever do. Instead, these little pieces tend to languish, unpainted, on the lead pile.

The need for clue markers is the perfect opportunity to pull out some of these neat little items and paint them up. For example, I received this great pack of ‘piles of skulls’ from Tiny Furniture awhile back. At the time, I had no specific need for piles of skulls, but they just looked cool. Well, now they often serve as (rather grim) clue markers during my Rangers of Shadow Deep games.  

As an aside, I can honestly say that all of the pieces I received from Tiny Furniture were wonderful. The resin casts and sculpts were of the highest quality. You do have to order them from Siberia (literally) so you’ll have to be patient, but they are worth the wait. They also produce perhaps my favourite set of treasure tokens.

So start digging through the bits box and lead pile and see what neat little things you have laying around that really need to get onto the table. Now you’ve got an excuse!

Also, I don't think I've showed off the Rogue companion for my Ranger. Well there he is. He's made using parts from the Frostgrave Soldiers box. As befits a Rogue, he doesn't look too tough, but he's ready to explore and find some clues!

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Itsy Bitsy vs. Incy Wincy

One of the best parts about fatherhood is that you can steal your children’s toys. For example, for Halloween my son was given a bag of plastic creepy-crawlies. Since the spiders were obvious choking hazards (and perfect for 28mm), I confiscated them. Of course, not wanting to make the world worse by adding more plastic to the landfill, I decided to recycle them.

I gave them each a very quick paint job, just a base and a couple of dry-brush layers, and they were ready to go. Considering they are poor quality, I didn’t spend much time on them, and they were essentially free, I think they look darn good.

These guys are going to be a constant menace in both Rangers of Shadow Deep and Frostgrave!

As for the title of the blog - did you know that the famous spider-up-the-water-spout nursery rhyme features a different spider depending on if you are in the US or the UK? Yup, he’s Itsy Bitsy in the US and Incy Wincy in the UK. How does that happen?

Monday 12 November 2018

Day of the Rangers by Leigh Neville

I can still remember, when I was seventeen, seeing film of the bodies of U.S. Soldiers being dragged through the streets of some rundown African city. At the time, I had no idea what it was all about, and being a typical self-centred teenager, I never bothered to find out, but the imagery has stuck with me.

I wouldn’t encounter the Battle of Mogadishu again until I was in my late twenties. One Saturday afternoon I rented a war movie called Black Hawk Down. Two thirds of the way through that film I realized that my hands were aching. I hadn’t realized it, but I had been gripping the side of the couch for at least twenty minutes. To this day, that film remains one of the best, most intense, pieces of cinema I have ever watched.

The movie led me to read the book on which it was based, Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden, an excellent piece of war journalism.

Since then, I have maintained a real interest in the battle.

Well, a new definitive history has just been released. Day of the Rangers by Leigh Neville is an exceptional piece of military history. By drawing on the numerous written accounts, as well as extensive interviews with survivors, Leigh gives a very clear and concise account of the battle, mostly told through the words of the soldiers who fought it (Admittedly almost complete from the US perspective). While Leigh carefully guides the narrative and supplies any information the reader needs, he lets the soldiers speak whenever possible, and it brings an immediacy and an authenticity to the book that is impossible in most military histories. 

The book added significantly to my knowledge and understanding of the battle and has earned a permanent place in my library. It should definitely receive consideration for military history awards.

[Disclaimer: Although I no longer work on the military side of the company, I am an employee of Osprey Publishing, who published the book. Assume what bias you want, but I wouldn’t heap praise on the book unless it deserved it.]

Friday 2 November 2018

Rangers of Shadow Deep – Available Now!

A kingdom stands on the brink of destruction, as the vast realm called the Shadow Deep slowly swallows everything in its path. As the army fights to contain the tide of evil creatures teeming up out of the black clouds, the kingdom’s best soldiers, the rangers, must venture down into the shadows to gather information, rescue prisoners, and ambush enemy supply lines. It is a desperate fight against overwhelming odds, but every little victory brings another day of hope.
            Rangersof Shadow Deep is a solo and co-operative tabletop miniatures game, in which players create their ranger, gather companions, and play through a series of missions in their fight to hold back the darkness. If their rangers survive, they will grow in power and ability, and be sent on more difficult, dangerous and intricate assignments.
            This book also includes the first supplement for the game, Burning Light. In this mission, the rangers must venture to a ruined convent, searching for an ancient artefact. As they choose what order to explore the ruins, and thus the order in which scenarios are played, they must gather clues to the artefact’s location. But they must be quick, for the longer they remain, the more the forces of the Shadow Deep become aware of their presence.

By the creator of Frostgrave and Ghost Archipelago.

Now available as a PDF from RPGNow.

If you want to keep up with all the latest news for Rangers of Shadow Deep and share photos, stories, rules questions, etc. then join the Rangers of Shadow Deep Facebook group

Thursday 1 November 2018

Eye Demons in Frostgrave

The wild magic that swirls around the Frozen City often opens cracks to other planes of existence, and occasionally something truly horrific slips through. Although they are extremely rare, the monsters dubbed ‘Eye Demons’ are some of the most dangerous and feared of all extra-planar entities.
            All eye demons have the following demonic attributes (as found in Frostgrave: Forgotten Pacts): Demonic Strength, Levitation, Magic Sink, Mind Lock, Petrifying Stare, True Sight, Two Heads.
            Eye demons are all spellcasters. Every eye demons knows three spells: Elemental Bolt, and two more, rolled randomly on the table below. The casting number for each spell is 6. Whenever an eye demon activates, it automatically attempts to cast all three of its spells as one action if there are targets in line of sight. It will cast these spells even if it is in combat and does not have to roll randomly for the target of any shooting attacks generated. It will cast Elemental Bolt at the closest warband member in line of sight. It will cast its second spell at the second closest warband member in line of sight, and its third spell at the third closest. If there are less than three legitimate targets, it will start over with the closest. Eye demons never suffer any damage from failing to cast spells, but they may not empower them either.
            Castings these spells counts as the demon’s first action. Eye demons follow this priority order.
1.     Cast spells if a warband member is in line of sight. Use second action to fight if in combat, or move directly away from nearest warband member if not in combat.
2.     If no warband members are in line of sight, make a random move. If a warband member is now in line of sight, use second action to cast spells. Otherwise, end activation.
            A wizard receives +25 experience points if a member of his warband kills and eye demon.

Eye Demon
Elemental Bolt (6), Spell II (6), Spell III (6), Demonic Strength, Levitation, Magi Sink, Mind Lock, Petrifying Stare, True Sight, Two Heads

Eye Demon Random Spell Table
d20 Roll
Blinding Light
Mind Control (target becomes an uncontrolled creature)
Reveal Death
Steal Health
Strike Dead