Friday, 22 March 2019

Rangers of Shadow Deep: Temple of Madness

Temple of Madness, the latest supplement for Rangers of Shadow Deep is now available.

You can get the PDF Here.

The Kindle version will be released tomorrow.

I am awaiting proofs on the print-on-demand edition. All going well, this is about two weeks away, although delays are possible.

So what’s included? First-and-foremost a new 4-scenario mission for Level 5 – 15 Rangers. This mission makes extensive use of notes so there is lots of ‘hidden’ information for the players to potentially discover.

The book also contains expanded rules for magic, most notably increasing the number of different spells available to Rangers to 30, as well as new Heroic Actions, companions, and equipment. Nothing that changes the game in any fundamental way, but really just giving players a lot more options when dealing with magic.

Plus lots more awesome artwork by Barrett Stanley!

Titanomachy


I have just learned there is a lost epic of the Titanomachy (the war between the Greek gods and their predecessors the Titans).

Once again, I am filled with rage towards the guy who ignored the ‘No Smoking’ sign in the Library of Alexandria.


Friday, 15 March 2019

Sgt. Kalem Vickers (Operation: Last Train)


I have finished my first volunteer for Operation: Last Train, Sgt. Kalem Vickers. I built him out of pieces from several places. The legs come from Anvil Industries. The toros, arms, and weapon are Forge World, and the head and grenades are plastic Games Workshop pieces.

Sgt. Vickers is a member of the 144th Horvex Urban Light Infantry regiment. During the battle of Isiks City, the 144th suffered an appalling 87% casualties. While the regiment wasn’t officially disbanded, all of its remaining able-bodied soldiers were transferred to other units. The 144th became a paper regiment containing only those soldiers from the unit that were too badly wounded to quickly return to active service. Among those was Kalem Vickers.

Having lost a leg during the battle, Vickers received a quick, military-grade replacement. However, even with modern technology, new-limb integration takes time. Now ready to return to service, Vickers finds himself without a home. Seeing Operation: Last Train as an opportunity to perform one last useful service as well as the only way to remain in the unit he loves, he volunteered immediately.

Twice commended for cool-thinking under fire, Vickers has a reputation as a master of small-unit tactics. He is also qualified to drive most military APCs. With his new bionic functioning at 98% efficiency, he is once again able to move quickly through an urban battlefield.

In game terms, St. Kalem Vickers is a member of a Light Infantry Unit and equipped with a rifle.

I gave Vickers a pretty simple paint job. I want my first few figures to be relatively normal-looking sci-fi soldiers, so I have a core that I can use for any game and not have them look too outlandish together. The green and grey provide a nice contrast (even if you can’t see that much of the armour from the front) and this is helped by the bionic leg. I put two decals on him. His unit number can be found on the decal sheet in any of the Cadian box-sets. The little skull and cross-bones on his left should comes from the Robotech Tactics box set.

All-and-all, I’m pretty pleased with my first volunteer!




Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Silent Death - Introductory Scenario


Having painted up all of the little ships required to play the first introductory scenario in the original Silent Death box set, I decided I would give it ago. So, breaking out my new Cigar Box Battles space hex mat, I set them up and got ready to fly.

The first thing I noticed is that the scenario didn’t use torpedoes. While this makes sense for a starter game, it’s a bit of a shame as torpedo usage is one of the real tactical nuances of the game. Oh well, I’m just getting back into it.

On one side we had 4 little Pit Vipers. Super-fast, decent armour, puny weapons. On the other side, a pair of Thunderbirds. Fast, but low-armoured. Decent armament, but lacking the torpedoes which often make them a great choice in points matches. Before playing, I figured the Thunderbirds held the advantage.



The game started with the initiative roll, which was won by the Thunderbirds. If I had to pick one weakness of the game, it would be initiative. Basically, someone has to move first, and that poor fighter then becomes the primary target for the turn. It’s an issue also seen in Battletech. Actually, it is an issue that was brilliantly solved in X-Wing with its innovative movement system.

So, turn one saw a Pit Viper take a heavy hit, stripping it of shields and leaving it limping along. It was destroyed the next turn, while a Thunderbird took minor damage. However, then things went sour for the Thunderbirds. On turn three a Pit Viper got a lucky shot that destroyed the weapon on one T-bird. The T-bird was destroyed a moment later. After that, the remaining T-bird lost the initiative in three straight turns and was brutally hunted down and destroyed by the remaining Pit Vipers.

The whole game took about 15 or 20 minutes. And that is the great strength of Silent Death. It is very, very fast. Obviously if you add in more ships it slows down, and the use of torpedoes also slows it down a bit as ships tend to split up ttempting to dodge the torps. Regardless, even big games of Silent Death play out as fast as any wargame I can think of.

Despite not having played a game of Silent Death in twenty years, I remembered the rules almost perfectly, only having to check the book once. Looking at the next scenario, it is nearly identical, just using different fighters in another 2 on 4 match up. So, I think I’m going to skip the rest of the introduction and go straight to the main scenarios to get something a bit more meaty. First, I’ll need to paint up some more ships!


Monday, 11 March 2019

Operation Last Train: Drop 2

The response to my post about Operation: Last Train has been completely overwhelming. In the three days since it went up, we've already raised over £400 for Save the Children! My heart-felt thanks to everyone who donated, plans to, or shared the news. 

I'm still getting my volunteers assembled, but I did have a chance to write and test the second scenario. So, presented below is Drop 2! Once I have a few more written, I will add them all to the rules and post an updated rulebook.

Drop 2: The Canal

‘At 2300 hours the ship got eyes on a pair of survivors moving down an inset roadway. It’s basically a concrete canal. Although they attracted some bug-eyed attention, they managed to make it to an access hatch, here, and seal it behind them. We don’t know if it is just the two of them in there or if there are more.
            Now the bad news. Both the canal itself and the shoulder above it are too narrow to land one of our birds and even if we could get close enough to ‘chute, the bird would attract every bug for miles. So, instead, we are going to put down here. We will then make our way along the roadway to the hatch. I may station a couple of you up on the shoulder, but I’ll wait until our boots are down to make that call. There are several other open access ways leading off the canal, and we have to consider it likely that they are bug infested.
            Once we rendezvous with the survivors, we’ll escort them back down the canal to this stairway. The stairway leads to a flat area big enough to land the bird.
            Any questions? Alright, gear up. We drop in twenty minutes.’

Set-Up
This scenario is played on a 2’ x 3’ table. One short edge is designated the volunteer edge. The other is the bug edge. The entire table within 6” of the right-hand side of the table is considered one shoulder of the canal and sits 6” above the rest of the table. (It is not necessary to model this, just put a piece of string or something similar down to mark the edge of the shoulder.)
            In the side of the shoulder 8” from the bug edge, mark the point of the access hatch. Place 6 numbered spawn points on the table. One should be in each corner of the table, including 2 on top of the shoulder. Place one additional marker in the centre of the shoulder (so 15” from either short end) and the final on the table edge directly across from it.
            Four cars should be placed haphazardly in the canal. Feel free to throw any other industrial rubbish in to make the table more visually appealing. Place an ammo token adjacent to two random cars.
            Place 2 bugs adjacent to each car. Place one additional bug in each corner of the bug edge of the table.
            Place 6 volunteers within 1” of the volunteer table edge, including on the shoulder, if desired.

Special Rules
No volunteer may climb up the side of the canal. They may slide down the side, but cannot take a shoot action on the turn they do so. Bugs can climb the canal side up or down without any penalties.
            If a volunteer is adjacent to the access hatch, they may use an action (either move or shoot) to try and alert the survivors. Roll a die. On a 7+ the survivors have been alerted. Immediately place 2d6+1 survivors as near as possible to the access hatch.          Once the survivors have been alerted any volunteer or survivor may exit off the table via the volunteer table edge (treat this table edge as the dropship for the purposes of survivor movement).
            At the end of each turn, roll 2 six-siders. Place a bug adjacent to each spawn point indicated by the dice. If your roll doubles, an unexpected event has occurred. Consult the chart below, checking the double-number rolled, to see what event has occurred. Each event can only occur once, if an identical doubles is rolled again, ignore it for the purposes of unexpected events.

Unexpected Event
Doubles Rolled
Event
1
Car Explodes. A stray round hit the fuel cells one of the cars and it explodes. Roll a die for every figure within 5” of the car. On a 1-4 nothing happens, on 5-8 they are knocked over, on a 9-10 they are killed. If a figure is already knocked over, and gets knocked over by the exploding car, they are not killed, but remain prone.
2
Survivor. Place one survivor in the centre of the bug edge.
3
Ambush. Place four bugs next to random spawn point.
4
Adrenaline. One random player may draw an extra Heroic Action card.
5
Bug Underneath. Place a bug adjacent to a random car.
6
Army Training. One of the survivors turns out to be an army veteran with a rifle. If there are survivors on the table, replace one with a volunteer rifleman. If there are no survivors on the table yet, save this result until there is one.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Operation Last Train (Charity Wargame Project)

Commander Aden Subatai stood before the Admiral’s door, hands clenched behind his back. To either side, marines dressed in half battle-armour stood sentinel, their mirrored faceplates revealing nothing. A light blinked from red to green and the door slid open with a soft, metallic rasp. Glancing at the marines, Aden stepped inside.
The Admiral sat behind a polished ebony desk that dominated the small stateroom. He gestured to an empty seat.
‘Commander Subatai, it is rare that any of my ship captains request a physical meeting. I trust that everything is well with your command?’
Aden met the Admiral’s gaze as he took his seat.
‘Yes, sir. The Falcata has weathered the journey well, and crew morale is high.’
‘Good. Then what brings you across?’
‘It’s Helos, sir,’ replied Aden.
‘Helos,’ repeated the Admiral with a frown. He tapped lightly on the top of his desk, and a holographic image of a planet sprang to life between the two men. The image rotated slowly, showing a grey-green world, key data displayed around it.
‘A dead world,’ said the Admiral. ‘Overrun with bugs. Scheduled for atmospheric burn-off in three months.’
‘With respect, sir, before the invasion, Helos had a population of nearly 7 billion. Our data estimates that even in a worst case scenario, there could be as many as 7,000 people still alive…’
‘Commander. How many planets have we lost in this war?’ This time, Aden said nothing. ‘In three months, the casualty rate will be 100%. I can’t divert this fleet in order to save a few lives that mean nothing to the war effort.’
‘Of course not, sir. But one ship. A fast ship, like the Falcata, could divert to Helos, pick up as many survivors as could be found, and then rendezvous with the fleet before it has completed its refit.’
The Admiral sat back slightly in his chair and looked up at the planet. ‘Commander, there are nearly 30 billion bugs down there. I cannot order men to go into battle against those kind of odds.’
‘Sir, the people still on Helos must be living in a nightmare. Desperate. Under siege. Likely starving. They know that no help is coming. They know they have been abandoned.’
The Admiral winced at Aden’s choice of words. ‘Let me give them one last hope, sir.’
The Admiral tapped his desk again, and the image of Helos disappeared. He looked directly into the eyes of his commander. 
‘Volunteers only. One hundred men, if you can find them. I’ll send a fast transport with you to carry any survivors you find. And you will be back with the fleet at the end of three months.’
Aden nodded.
‘You’ve got a lot of work to do, Commander. Dismissed.’
Aden stood and saluted.
By the end of the day, Commander Subatai had received more than 3,000 requests from soldiers and marines to join the mission that was already being called Operation Last Train.

What is Operation Last Train?

Operation Last Train is a game, an excuse, and a chance to translate wargaming into some real-world good. Let’s start with the excuse.
I love science-fiction soldier miniatures and need only the slightest excuse to buy them. I’m not one for painting armies, however. It just seems like such a shame, with the huge variety of science-fiction soldiers available, including numerous conversion bits, to paint up a hundred or more soldiers all essentially wearing the same uniform. I would rather collect my soldiers individually and feel free to customize and equip them in any manner I choose. Unfortunately, this doesn’t fit well with most missions that science-fiction troopers would be assigned. So, I came up with Operation Last Train, a mission carried out solely by volunteers drawn from numerous different regiments, each with its own uniform, equipment, and traditions. This is my excuse to make and collect all the soldiers I want, and not worry about why they are all thrown together for one mission.
Of course, if I’m going to play with these figures, I need a game. For that reason, I have designed a very simple set of rules, in which you build up your roster of volunteers, select a small handful for each drop, and then play out the mission on the tabletop. Because usually only six men are needed for each drop, I can thankfully start playing as I am assembling my forces, and don’t have to wait until I’ve painted all 100 volunteers! I have designed the game so that it can be played either solo or cooperatively with two people, but it wouldn’t be hard to expand the number of players if desired.
This is going to be an ‘iron man’-style miniatures game. Once a figure is killed during a drop, it is out and cannot be used again. It will be immortalized in my hall of heroes (and can, of course, be used in other games), but this is a desperate mission and the casualties hurt.
Wargaming is a strange hobby. We have fun recreating on the tabletop something that in reality is horrific, terrible, and tragic. I honestly don’t think there is anything wrong with this – in fact, I believe that my studies into military history that have gone along with my wargaming have made me more conscious of the true cost and horror of war. On occasion, however, I am made to feel a bit guilty about the hobby and its connection to death and cruelty. So, I decided that I would use my hobby to support the people that are doing their best to end, or at least mitigate, those horrors. For that reason, I am asking everyone who downloads, reads, and enjoys these rules to please donate £3 / $5 (the cost of a nice cup of coffee) to Save the Children via my JustGiving page here. You can download these rules in an easy-to-read PDF document here. And get a copy of the Roster Sheet here. Information of the work by Save the Children can be found here.
Furthermore, whenever I play a game of Operation Last Train, I plan to donate 10 cents for each civilian my band of heroes saves from the doomed planet. That way, my little toy heroes are really helping to do some good. I admit that it is a bit silly to connect the actions of toy soldiers on a table to helping to save and improve the lives of children in the real world, but, as living in Britain has taught me, doing silly things in aid of a good cause is a noble endeavour.
Operation Last Train is a personal project, and I plan to have fun and donate a little money whatever happens, but if anyone wants to join me, I wouldn’t mind the company. Just remember, this mission is for volunteers only. (I have also set up a FaceBook page where anyone who wants can join in, show off some figures, talk drops, and see if we can raise a little money).
So, go ahead and download the rules if you want. At the moment, it only contains one scenario, but I will be posting more here on the blog as and when I write them!

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Draconis Combine Thunderbirds!


Following on from yesterday’s post, I painted up a couple of Thunderbirds as the start of my ‘opposition force’.  Again I went with a basic colour scheme that has more to do with speed than detail. Still, I think it looks alright.

I gave these guy little Draconis Combine decals because they are one of the traditional enemies of the Federated Suns and because I had the decals…  They are so small, I think I managed to get one of them upside down, but you have to look very close to be able to tell.

The six fighters I’ve painted over the last two days give me enough to play out the first introductory scenario in the original Silent Death box set, and I’m hoping to give it a go tonight.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Federated Suns Pit Vipers


This year, in my gaming life, I would like to return to some of the classic games that inspired me, and additionally, actually make use of some of the books and games on my shelf. To start that project, I plan to play some Battletech, and, one of my all-time favourite games, Silent Death, a space-fighter game.

I’ll talk more about the game later, for now I just wanted to get some paint on a few minis so I could play with decent look ships. I started out with these four Pit Vipers. If you are in the UK, you can get these guys as part of a pack of fighters from EM-4. They are just about the smallest fighter in the game. Super fast and with decent shields, but very weak offensively and brittle.

I decided that I would try and paint my Silent Death and Battletech miniatures in similar colours so that I could use them all as part of one force if I wanted to. So, these pit vipers are painted in the same colour as my Firehawks Legion mechs. I even went so far as to add little decals of the Federated Suns (one of the major players in the Battletech universe.)

As opposed to some of the earlier mechs and fighters I painted, I went lighter on the washes this time, and I think it has paid off, with a subtler, nicer looking shading.

Now I just need someone for these guys to shoot at!

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Stars Without Number by Kevin Crawford


Stars Without Number is probably the best role-playing book I have read in decades.

Seriously, it is that good. If you are Game Master that likes to create your own worlds, factions, and NPCs, and have any interest in running a science-fiction game, you should really pick it up. Do yourself a favour and get the hardback print edition. I know it is pricey, but this is a book you are going to want to pull off your shelf again and again.

Why is it so good? Well, at its heart, Stars Without Number is a relatively simple OSR RPG. It’s a good system, with some neat ideas. The starship combat rules are especially intriguing. It has an
interesting setting that is purposely kept vague. What really sets this book apart though is the tools it gives to Games Masters. There is a chapter on creating sectors, which takes the GM step-by-step through creating a vast region of space and filling it with interesting and extremely varied planets. There is a chapter on creating adventures that is probably the best I’ve ever seen, with loads of mechanics for helping a GM at every step. It can be used to carefully craft an adventure or make one up on the fly. A chapter on creating unique alien races, a chapter dealing with transhumans, a chapter focused on Artificial Intelligences...

Probably my favourite section of the book is the chapter devoted to the various factions that play a major role in the campaign world. These can be planetary governments, mysterious cults, pirate fleets, mercenary organizations, anything. The rules for how they are created, how they function, and how they battle one another (literally and figuratively) is just one of the best pieces of game design I’ve come across. You could (and should!) lift this out to use in any game. In fact, you could easily use it as the meta-game to a wargame campaign. It’s practically worth the price of admission by itself.

Heck, the book even has some great rules for running mechs.

I had never encountered Kevin Crawford, or his work, before this book. That probably makes me late to the party compared to a lot of people (especially as this is the Revised Edition), but I will definitely be seeking out more of his works.

Highly, highly recommended.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Bookhound


In the latest issue of Spellcaster Magazine, I introduced ‘Legendary Soldiers’ to Frostgrave, which are basically soldiers with special abilities that can be recruited by higher-level wizards. I think my favourite of these is the ‘bookhound’. Looking over my collection, I realized I didn’t have a good figure to represent a bookhound, so I made one.

This figure uses an Oathmark body, a Ghost Archipelago Crew head, and arms from the forthcoming Frostgrave wizard set. I wanted a figure holding a book, but who otherwise didn’t look particularly magical.

My small brush was starting to go as I painted this figure, so some of my black-lining isn’t quite as sharp as it normally is, but this is only really noticeable in photos, not on the actual figure. Otherwise, I’m really pleased how he turned out.

What I especially like about this figure is that I can use him as a thug for when my wizard is low-level, and then convert him to the bookhound should my wizard ever make it a lofty level.

While I generally like to focus on painting one figure at a time, I usually have a ‘back-up’ figure on the go as well. This is often some kind of bad guy that I’m less enthusiastic about painting, but want to get done. For example, gnolls. I generally paint these guys while waiting for a wash to dry on my primary figure. Always good to add another gnoll to the horde for Frostgrave or Rangers of Shadow Deep.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Rangers of Shadow Deep – In Progress


Having posted about what is coming to the world of Frostgrave in 2019, I thought readers might also enjoy hearing about what is in progress for Rangers of Shadow Deep. Now first, I just want to explain that Rangers is a very different beast than Frostgrave in terms of my work schedule. Since Frostgrave is published through Osprey, all of my work is scheduled 1 – 2 years in advance. Thus I have a much firm grasp of what is coming out in a given year. Rangers, purposely, has a much more ‘free form’ publishing schedule, which allows me to write to my own whims and publish when a given work is ready. With that said, here is what I am planning for Rangers of Shadow Deep.

Temple of Madness – this expansion has just been sent to the designer, and I am hopeful that the PDF will be available in March, with the print not too long afterward. This supplement is divided into two sections. The first section greatly expands the magic options for Rangers and companions. It increases the number of spells up to 30 and introduces new Heroic Abilities, companions, and equipment that are specific to spellcasting. The second half of the book includes a 4-scenario mission. It’s kind of a dungeon crawl, with a little bit of puzzle mechanics thrown in.
Temple of Madress is about 15,000 words long, which, by comparison is the length of some of the shorter Frostgrave supplements. That said, Rangers scenarios, especially ones with notes, are much more ‘word intensive’ than the Frostgrave equivalent. 

Ghost Stone – I have just finished the first draft of this expansion. I’ve turned it over to Barrett to start on the artwork, while I do some playtesting and editing. I have no target date on this yet, but hopefully a couple of months after Temple of Madness. When I started working on Ghost Stone, I thought I was working on a short supplement, akin to Blood Moon, but it ended up growing to about 17,000 words. It is also divided into two main parts. The first part is a 4-scenario mission in which players will need two different Ranger bands, one of starting level, one much more experienced. Each Ranger band will play in 2 scenarios, with all of the scenarios interlinking. Don't worry, this can also still be done solo if that is your preferred method of play. If Temple of Madness is a dungeon crawl, Ghost Stone is more like a war movie.
            The second half of Ghost Stone is a collection of 52 unique weapons that can be found, each with their own detailed description and potential abilities. Of course, Rangers will be forced to study these weapons in order to unlock their full potential.

Menagerie?? – I have just started working on this, and I hope it will be a shorter supplement. The plan is for this to contain a 2-scenario mission and a section that expands the types of animal companions that are available to Rangers. Like I said, I just started on this, and even the title is subject to change.

So, that’s where I am with Rangers of Shadow Deep at the moment. Hopefully this gives players something to look forward to. Please remember though, these books are all self-published, and subject to delay from major life events! Also, I will only put the product out if I'm happy with it. I'd rather wait and get it right, than have it out and regret something.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Failure is an Option


Back in Issue 2 of Spellcaster Magazine, I included an article called ‘Frostgrave Mech War’, which used the basic Frostgrave mechanics, but converted them for use with big stompy robots. I even included a scenario. Since then, I have dabbled with the rules off-and-on. I created new weapons systems and a bunch of new mechs. Last night, with my wife out, and the kids in bed, I decided to break everything out and have a play.

I devised a quick scenario which had four mechs and two tanks from my Firehawks Legion attacking a small base guarded by a pair of mechs. Those mechs would soon be reinforced by a motorized infantry company.

The game started well enough. In the initial clash three mechs were destroyed, and the scenario seemed to be playing fine. But… the longer I played, the more I rolled the dice, the more I realized that I didn’t have a good handle on my own rules. I had introduced so many new variables that I no longer intuitively understood the mathematics behind what was happening. Without this understanding, my actions became increasingly random.

I ended the game halfway through and paused for thought. I realized that the original scenario I had written was very limited. It only includes two types of mechs with very specific objectives. I had thus been able to balance that scenario through simple trial-and-error. With all the new weapons and mechs I had created, trial-and-error wasn’t going to cut it. As a game designer, I should really understand the probability behind any action I take, if not exactly, then at least generally. Also, I realized that the rules didn’t have the correct feel to me. What makes sense for Frostgrave, what felt right in rolling dice in that game, just no longer felt right for a mech game.

Thankfully, I was really just working on this game for my own amusement, not for work. So, for the moment, I have decided to just give up on it. I think, if I want to do a mech game, I need to discard most of the Frostgrave mechanics and start from the ground up. That is more time and commitment than I want to give it right now.

Oh well, I guess it is back to Battletech.

By-the-by, that super awesome hexed game mat is by Cigar Box Battles and is highly recommended. 

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Heroes by Stephen Fry


Long-time readers will be well aware of my interest in Greek myths, especially that of Jason and the Argonauts. So, when Stephen Fry released his new book, Heroes, which retells all of the major Hero myths, I just had to take a look.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really expect to like it. Even before I bought it, I had judged it as a ‘celebrity cash-in’. This was unfair, and having now read it, I think it is also completely untrue.

The book is a very simple, clear, and adult retelling of all of the well-known Hero myths of Ancient Greece. For the most part, Fry has sifted through the various sources and constructed the best narrative he could find. In a few places the text comes across as irreverent, but then, the myths themselves are often irreverent. There are also a few instances of Fry’s silly humour, but not so many that they dominate the book. The book also contains a good number of footnotes, which Fry uses to discuss points of academia, to mention other sources or other versions of the tale, and occasionally to make a joke or offer a bit of commentary.

Having read it from cover-to-cover, I am left with a sense of real ‘honesty’. I think Stephen Fry wrote these tales down exactly as he would have told them over the dinner table, including any asides, quips, and comments he would have made.

I didn’t expect to like it, but now I have put the acetate on it, and added it to my permanent library. I will be going back and picking up Fry’s previous work Mythos that serves as the first volume in the series, and will be keeping my eyes open for a hinted, third book which will cover the Trojan War and the journey of Odysseus.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Frostgrave Plastic Wizards



There is a rumour going around that a plastic wizard set is coming to Frostgrave. Well, the rumour is true! I actually received a 'test sprue' a couple of weeks ago. It was just a sample, and there was still some cleaning to do on the mold, but I just couldn’t wait! There are so many fun bits on the sprue, I just had to clip some out and have a play. Here is the result!

My new wizard, Nicholas Nicodemus and his apprentice Porthek!

Nicholas is made completely out of pieces from the sprue, including one of the four bodies. I gave him a staff in one hand and gem in the other. The gem is obviously some kind of power stone. I also glued on a couple of extra potion bottles, of which there are many on the sprue. For his apprentice, I used a body from the Ghost Archipelago Crew sprue, just to see how compatible they were. The head and the arms come from the wizard sprue. I gave him a magic wand, as I figure you don’t get a staff until you’ve made ‘full wizard’. I also attached a couple a pouch, a potion, and a scroll as well.

Oh, and that little familiar/imp thing? He’s on the sprue too!















The Wizard Box set is due out March.  It will retail for £15 and contains two sprues. Each sprue allows you to make 4 spellcasters with loads of customization options and extra bits!

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Battletech: Shattered Fortress


I am finally caught up on the Battletech universe! Which isn’t to imply that I’ve read all, or even nearly all, of its history. Only that I have read the most recent sourcebook that covers the furthest point that the Battletech history has reached (The year 3150).

Battletech:Shattered Fortress is another great addition to Battletech’s historical sourcebook line. Like the previous volumes I’ve read, this one gives you loads of information and really makes you feel like you are reading about a complex galaxy, made up of numerous sovereign states, locked in a continual political and military conflict. It is a goldmine of scenario ideas.

That said, there are a couple of things I found odd about this book compared to the previous volumes I have read. First, I felt there was a common pattern to how battles were discussed in the book. It seemed that a vast majority started with an overwhelming attack, then an unexpected gain by the defender, only for the attacker to win out in the end. Okay, there are only so many ways a battle can play out, and this certainly wasn't universal, but it almost started to feel like a rhythm to the book.

The other strange thing about this book is that the decision of the central protagonist, the move that kicks off most of the battles, doesn’t make a lot of sense. Essentially, ‘The Repulic of the Sphere’ which includes Earth and the nearest stars, has spent the last couple of decades hiding behind a ‘wall’ which prevented outside ships from jumping into any of their systems. Thus, The Republic was essentially untouchable. The story begins with the leader of the Republic turning off the wall and launching an attack in defence of one of the galaxy’s major states. But no reason is given for this move – in fact, the reason is intentionally obscured. That would be fine, except that in every other case in the book, the motivations of the leaders are expressly spelled out by an omniscient narrator. It was a little frustrating to have everything clearly presented except for the motivation of the main protagonist. Especially as the decision looks like a terrible one, as the Republic is immediately assaulted from several sides, and loses almost every battle...

Also, the book ends on a cliff-hanger. Basically, someone is attacking Earth, but the book doesn’t say who. This struck me as a little bit gimmicky, and again didn’t fit with the feel of the rest of the book.

On the whole though, those criticisms are minor. Overall, the book is extremely well-written (in fact the standard of writing in Battletech is noticeably higher than most gaming books on average). The artwork quality varies throughout the book, but is never terrible, and some of the pieces are excellent. The book contains very little game material (one new mech and some campaigns), but this isn’t what I wanted the book for anyway.

In the final analysis, it’s a nice volume that I’m glad to add to add to my collection. I’m glad to see the Battletech universe moving forward again as its ongoing history is what really sets it apart from most other games. If you are new to the setting, there is going to be a lot that is hard to follow, but if you want to get into it, I think the best approach is just to dive right in.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Tigger vs. the Fox

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting at my desk, typing something really profound, when I glanced out the window and saw a large fox staring at me from the end of the driveway. I slowly reached for my camera, but as soon as he saw it, he ran down the side of my house.

I dashed to the back window, and saw him trotting across the grass. Once again, I lined up a shot, when out of nowhere, our cat, Tigger, leapt at the fox and chased him in circles around the garden. Eventually, he cornered him under the little fruit trees. I was just able to snap this grainy shot, before the fox bounded on top of the fence and down the other side. 

Tigger did not pursue.

Although the two never came into contact in this altercation, the fox was sporting a nasty claw wound on its flank (just visible in the photo). So maybe that had met before.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Forthcoming for Frostgrave

Sometimes I am so focused on ‘the next thing’ for Frostgrave, that I lose track of what is actually going on in the present and near future. So, for my own sake, as much as that of my readers, I thought it would be a good idea to take a moment and see what is coming up in the world of Frostgrave.

Right at the moment, there is a Ghost Archipelago Nickstarter going on. This is mainly for the new plastic Tribals boxset that is about to be released. I was lucky enough to get a sample sprue of these guys, and it’s lovely.  I especially like that you can choose to put masks on all of them. Tribals are a necessary accessory if you want to play the scenarios in Ghost Archipelago: Gods of Fire as many of the scenarios either use Tribal allies, or, in a couple of cases, actually have one player playing as a tribe. The Nickstarter is about to reach its first spend goal of a free Greater Cortiki figure for all participants.

Later this month comes Frostgrave: Wizard’s Conclave. This is the first Frostgrave book that is mostly written by people other than myself, and includes scenarios written by some of the ‘big names’ in the industry, such as Alessio Cavatore, Andy Chambers, Alex Buchel, Daniel Mersey, Andrea Sfilgoi, Gav Thorpe…and others!

Coming out soon after Wizard’s Conclave is the much-anticipated Plastic Wizards Box Set!!! I also got an advance sprue of these and… well, it is awesome. It’s all sculpted by Bobby Jackson and includes so many cool bits (potions, scrolls, a mouse, a spoon, an owl, just to name a few). I’ve already painted up my new plastic wizard, and I’m just waiting for permission to show him off.

In June, it’ll be back to the Lost Isles, with Ghost Archipelago: Cities of Bronze. This one is all about the Dricheans and includes some really big monsters and deadly scenarios. Better bring your experienced Heritors for this one, and maybe round up a few Drichean soldiers to march with you. I have just read through the final proofs for this one, and I’m extremely happy with how it has all come together. It also includes maybe my favourite piece of ‘Burmak’ art to date. It illustrates the scenario ‘Palace of Chains’.

Then in October, comes something rather different – Frostgrave: Perilous Dark. I am just putting the finishing touches on the manuscript for this one, which is taking a little longer than I expected as it is the longest supplement I have ever written. This supplement focuses on playing Frostgrave solo or cooperatively. It is part ‘how-to guide’, giving lots of suggestions, ideas, and techniques for designing your own scenarios, and part campaign, featuring 10 loosely-connected scenarios. And yes, this book includes guidelines for playing the game in a randomly generated dungeon.

Oh and if you missed the news, don’t forget that the Frostgrave Tour of Tallinn is happening in 2020. Okay, it’s still a year away, but people are booking now, so sign up if you want a place!

Monday, 4 February 2019

Anarch by Dan Abnett

I just finished reading Anarch, the 15th and latest book in the Gaunt’s Ghosts series by Dan Abnett, and it blew me away! Seriously, this book is the payoff for so much that has gone before. While officially it completes a four book arc, many of the plots it covers and brings to a close reach much farther back in the series.

This book really takes off about 100 pages in, and from there, the poor Ghosts are sent running in every direction. At one point, there are no less than 4 major incidents going on simultaneously. It is gloriously unrelenting.

For me, Dan Abnett is at his best when combining military science-fiction with horror, and this book contains perhaps his best example.

Heroes rise and fall. Old faces return, while familiar friends are lost. It is, at times, gut-wrenching and tremendously sad, but for every loss there is a gain, and for every villain there is a hero.

After being just slightly disappointed in the previous book in the series, Warmaster, this book brings the series right back to its greatest heights. Were it to be the last Gaunt’s Ghosts book written (and I certainly hope that it not the case), I would be satisfied.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Mahud Princess


Several years ago, I started on a major miniature project called ‘The Voyage of the Glaurung’, which was kind of a retelling of the Jason and the Argonauts myth set in Middle-earth. I got several months into the project, painted up a ship, and the crew, created a big back story…  and then Frostgrave published, and my life, especially the hobby part of it, went a completely different direction.

I doubt I will ever get back to the Glaurung now. It has been too long, the impetus is gone, and I have my own fantasy worlds to play and tell stories in.

While going through some old figures the other day though, I found this miniature which I painted for the story, but which I never showed on the blog. She never got a name, but I knew she was a Princess of the Mahud. In the story, she was going to sort of play the part of Medea – the only ally the adventurers would have in the strange foreign lands, and a possible love interest for our hero.

I wanted to show it off now, partly for completeness sake, but also as a little example of what a difference a paint job can make. The figure is actually Galadriel, but with the red robes, the raven hair, and the dark skin, the original source is almost forgotten.

This figure is also a rare example of ethnic diversity in my painting, but that is a topic for another day.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Armies & Legions & Hordes by Dave Taylor


If you are a science-fiction and fantasy wargamer, and you like big armies, then do yourself a favour, order a copy of Armies & Legions & Hordes.

You can order it right now from Warlord Games.

Honestly, it has been a long time since a wargaming book, of any type, made me smile so much, and filled me with so much enthusiasm for the hobby.

Ostensibly, the book is a guide to working on wargaming armies. It’s not about points values, constructions methods, or painting techniques, although it touches on all of those. Instead it is a book about the thought process, the motivation, and the time commitment that goes into painting a hundred figures or more. While Dave Taylor and a couple of guest authors share their insights on this, the end result is less about gaining wisdom so much as being energized to get stuck in!

Apart from the text, which gives plenty of reading, the book is crammed with fantastic photographs of Dave Taylor’s numerous and varied armies. Most of these are from Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy (and readers may feel a pang of loss for the Old World when seeing his Artillery Train of Nuln and Army of Morr), but also includes several historical armies and a few smaller forces from other sci-fi/fantasy games.

The book itself is just gorgeous. A4, hardback, super-slick glossy paper, 170+ pages, with a ribbon. The interior layout is very clean, making it easy to read the text and drool over the photographs.

I could go on, but really, you need to see it for yourself.

This is one of the occasions that I am so happy for the existence of Kickstarter. It allowed a man who has given much to the hobby to produce a beautiful book that likely would have never been published by a traditional publisher. Thankfully, if you missed the kickstarter, you can now order a copy.

I’m sure a few people are wondering if I know Dave Taylor. The answer is yes, but not well. I honestly can’t remember where we first met, possibly a few years ago at Adepticon, although maybe before that. We’ve long moved in similar circles. We first really spoke last year, when I had the chance to sit and paint with him for an episode of GMT’s Painting Li’lHappy Minis show. I hope that someday we will have another chance to have a chat as his love of the hobby is truly infectious.