Tuesday 31 December 2019

The Death of John Stewart Walker

Over the last few years, I have been doing some low-level research into the history of my Civil War ancestors. One of my greatest discoveries was a first-hand account of the death of my great-great-great grandfather, Maj. John Stewart Walker, who led a company in the 15th Virginia regiment. The account is written by J. Staunton Moore, one of the men of his command. Although this account was written forty-five years later, and likely coloured by those intervening years, the few particulars do match up with all of the other facts I’ve learned.

The account is part of a larger piece about the battle of Malvern Hill, which was published in the Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume XXXV. (Reprinted by Broadfoot Publishing Company, Morningside Bookshop, 1991). At the point where this excerpt picks up, the 15th Virginia, along with the rest of its Brigade, has been called out of reserve and sent forward to take a Union position on top of a hill. 

‘…About one hundred and fifty of our regiment reached the base of the hill, in command of Major John Stewart Walker, formerly captain of the Virginia Life Guard, of Richmond (Company B), who assumed command as soon as Colonel August was placed hors de combat. Here we rested, under severe and continuous fire that did not admit of our raising our heads from the ground. As twilight was deepening into the shades of night, the word was passed down the line to prepare to charge the crest of the hill. Major Walker stood up with drawn sword and flashing eye and gave the command, “Forward, charge!” It was the last word this gallant officer ever uttered. He fell, and was dragged into a little branch which flowed at the foot of the hill and expired in the arms of his brother, Captain Norman Walker. Thus perished as brave a soldier as ever flashed his sword in any cause!’

You can see all of the research in my Civil War ancestors on my other blog: What Colour is Butternut?.

Monday 30 December 2019

Frostgrave Terrain

I saw a post somewhere recently that said that Frostgrave had ‘…a large buy-in.’ I must admit, I don’t understand that mentality. Apart from the rulebook, which is downright inexpensive compared to its competitors, the only major things you need to play Frostgrave are some miniatures and terrain. If you own any fantasy miniatures, you probably have all of the miniatures you need. If not, a single box of Frostgrave plastics can provide everything you need for two players to get started. I suppose, the major mental stumbling block for most people is the terrain, but it really shouldn’t be.

It is true, that compared to most miniature wargames, Frostgrave is best with a very crowded table. It really is ‘the more the merrier’, but that doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. Case-in-point. Here is my new terrain piece that I hope to take with me on the Frostgrave Tour. It is some discarded Christmas packaging that I spray-painted grey. Since I already owned the paint, it cost me literally nothing.

Just like that, I have a centre-piece model that covers more than a square foot-and-a-half of table space. I mean, it really looks like some super-crowded bit of city, and features all kinds of great positions to hide, or shoot from. All of the level areas are nice and flat and have plenty of room to stand a miniature.

But Wait! It gets even better. I can simply flip the whole thing over, and now I’ve got the interior of some strange building or temple complex. It’s like getting two great terrain pieces for the price (free) of one!

Okay, this piece isn’t quite a full Frostgrave table by itself, but it’s a real good start. I’m sure if I had tried, I could have easily filled a whole table with just items that were discarded on Christmas day… 

As an added bonus, the piece is generic enough that it can serve equally well for science-fiction games as for fantasy ones.

Don’t ever let terrain stop you from playing wargames. Sure, we may all dream of gorgeous tables with bespoke, highly-detailed, hand-painted terrain, but the truth is, you can have just as much fun with terrain made from trash.

Friday 27 December 2019

My Favourite Blog Articles of 2019

The year is almost done, but I have a few more words to add here on The Renaissance Troll. It’s actually been a big year for the blog. In fact, this blog is the 122nd I’ve written this year. Now, most of these fall under the ‘Hey, look at this mini I painted’ category, but actually, there was some pretty good diversity overall. I have just taken some time to scan through all of the blogs this year and pick out my 13 Favourites.

This was just a great experience, and a good reminder to myself to try and take advantage of the opportunities that are presented by living so close to London.

Sometimes, it is better to just cut your losses and move on to other things.

I am part of an amazing community of game designers, and this little project was just loads of fun.

Trying to understand life in my early 40s.

A look back at some of my history with Osprey Publishing and my first attempt to write set of wargame rules.

I major geek milestone.

I had this idea that it might be possible to combine playing games with doing real world good. I created a science-fiction wargame and used it to raise over a $1,000 for charity.

A bit of gaming writing I did for no better reason than it was fun.

Remembering an important moment from my childhood.

A miniature photo shoot that just makes me smile.

A rare blog about the challenges and difficulties of fatherhood.

Almost certainly the most important hobby blog I wrote this year. The ideas behind it have changed my relationship with miniatures and greatly increased my enjoyment.

The first product of the ideas in the above blog.

Thursday 19 December 2019

The Grey Shadow

About two months ago, I identified this figure as my new ranger for Rangers of Shadow Deep. I’m not exactly sure what I find so appealing about this miniature, but it really speaks to me. It’s a Reaper figure, sculpted by Bobby Jackson, and, unsurprisingly, it fits in really well with the official Rangers of Shadow Deep miniatures.

Despite having the figure for a while, I let a few other figures take painting precedence, as I knew I wanted to give this figure my A+ job, and I was waiting until I felt ready. Well, it took 3.5 painting sessions to get her finished, probably about 4 hours total, and I’m very pleased with how she turned out. I was initially worried if painting her armour as leather, instead of the metal that was probably intended, would work, but I think it has worked out great.

I'd also like to mention, I’ve been using an Element Games ‘Character Brush’ as my main painting brush these days, and I’m extremely pleased with it. Its point is as sharp as an 10/0, but can also paint more like a 0. Highly recommended. It’s really helped me to get great facial detail.

Anyway, the Grey Shadow is just the first of a new ranger warband that I’m working on. My plan is to actually have two rangers. That way I can either play solo with two rangers, or split the group in half if I’m every playing co-operatively. Well, that’s the plan anyway!

Wednesday 11 December 2019

Master Samwise Gamgee

Just a couple of months ago, I thought I had peaked as a miniature painter. I believed I was still painting miniatures to a  good standard, but my eye-sight is worsening, and I just didn’t seem to be approaching it with the same passion as in years passed. Then, I made some changes.

I started being more deliberate with my miniature purchases. I completely reviewed and revamped all of my painting tools and accessories, and, perhaps most importantly, I made a real effort to set-aside chunks of time where I could concentrate fully on my painting. I also started working on my technique a bit, being more willing to water-down my paints and paint that extra highlight layer…  Well, I now feel like I’m heading in an upwards direction again, and several of the last few miniatures I have painted I can confidently say are better than any that I have painted in years past.

For example, I have just finished painting Gus Greenweevil from Reaper Miniatures, sculpted by Bobby Jackson. Gus will be playing the part of Sam Gamgee in my Fellowship of the Ring.  I mean really – he’s a pudgy Hobbit, overloaded with stuff, including a frying paint, ‘rope’, and a dagger.  I kind of wish he wasn’t carrying a torch, but you can’t have it all.

In fact, it’s that torch – or more exactly the flame on top, which is the only part of the paint job I’m not completely satisfied with. The next time I paint fire, I’m going to have to research some new techniques. Still, it’s passable. I think the face is one of the best I’ve ever painted – helped by the broad, slightly cartoony features. Otherwise, it’s just lots of washes and layers.

For me, miniature painting is definitely about enjoying the figure I am working on to the maximum extent possible, more than the sense of accomplishment from getting loads of figures done.

Monday 9 December 2019

Rangers of Shadow Deep: Incinerator!

So 2019 has one more little Rangers of Shadow Deep surprise!

Incinerator is a new 2-scenario mission in which the Rangers are captured and force to fight for their lives and freedom in a horrific death trap. There is even a chance to pick up a new, unique companion along the way.

Out now in PDF, Kindle, and Print on Demand.

Friday 6 December 2019

Frostgrave for the Win!

In a truly unexpected event, Frostgrave has won ‘Best Rules 2019’ in the Wargames Illustrated awards! This is especially gratifying as the winner is decided by public vote.

Really, it’s pretty astounding that a game that has been out for 4.5 years, and that has a second edition on the horizon, would win such an award. Back then, I never imagined that people would still be playing the game many years later, much less hold it in such high regard.

I think it is a real testament to the community that has grown up around the game. It’s just so full of people who take a fun-first approach to the hobby.

Many thanks to everyone who voted for Frostgrave!

I don’t believe the full list of winners has been released yet, but I’ll be interested to see who is there!

Tuesday 3 December 2019

Rangers of Shadow Deep: Deluxe Edition

There is big news today for fans of Rangers of Shadow Deep. It has just been officially announced that Modiphius (makers of the Star Trek, Conan, and Fallout RPGs) will be producing a Deluxe Edition of the core rulebook for Rangers of Shadow Deep!

So, what is going to make this ‘Deluxe’, I hear you ask? Well, to start off, it’s getting top-notch production – traditional printing and binding, with a faux leather cover heat stamped with the artwork and text, and high-quality paper stock. The layout is being completely reworked, and the book will feature a dozen pieces of new artwork by Barrett Stanley. Additionally, I’m taking the chance to incorporate the character building elements (most notably the spells) from Temple of Madness into the main rulebook, so that all of the character building will be in one place. I am also updating or modifying a few of the rules that I, and others, have been playtesting. Finally, I have introduced a ‘challenge level’ for each of the scenarios in the book, which increases the difficulty of each scenario. This is for those that were finding the scenarios too easy for 3 or 4 players, for those who just like their games tougher, or for those who might want to play the scenarios again with higher-level rangers.

The creation of this Deluxe Edition will mean that not only is the game more attractive and easier to use, but that it will be available to the trade and hopefully obtainable from gaming stores around the world. In fact, you will be able to order your copy, along with you official Rangers of Shadow Deep miniatures from North Star. (In fact, it might be worth holding on to see what deals they might offer…)

Now, I’m sure some people are thinking, ‘I already own the rulebook, do I really have to buy another one?’  The answer to this is emphatically ‘NO’.  At the same time the Deluxe Edition is released, I will also be releasing a free, small ‘Rules Update’ document. This will include all of the changes and additions to the game that appear in the Deluxe Edition (except the material in Temples of Madness).  So, if you are happy with your book, and the game as is, you can just download the Rules Update and see if any of the new material interests you.

What does this mean for the supplements? Nothing. Except for the material from Temple of Madness that has been drawn into the Deluxe Edition, there are no plans at the moment for Modiphius to release any of the supplementary material. All of the supplements (and the original rulebook for that matter) will remain for sale on DriveThruRPG.com just as they were. Also, I will be continuing to support the game with new material in the old format – in fact, look for a new mini-supplement coming next week!

Rangers of Shadow Deep: Deluxe Edition is due to release in early February 2020.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to answer.

Monday 2 December 2019

How to Write a Wargame: Idea to Publication

Have you ever wanted to write a wargame? Are you attending Adepticon 2020? If so, you might be interested in the seminar I will be running on Saturday morning!

How to Write a Wargame: Idea to Publication is a seminar I first ran at Dragonmeet last year. Since then, I have refined it, and expanded many of the ideas. Essentially, I’ll be talking through all of the steps in creating a wargame, from having that initial idea, creating mechanics to go with it, getting all of those ideas written up, and then finally how to get that sucker published! I want to examine not just the basics of what needs to be done, but also encourage the participants to think about why they make each decision for their game at every stage of the process. It’s a two-hour seminar, which I hope will leave plenty of time for questions and answers.

The seminar is at 8:30 – 10:30 Saturday morning. It costs $17 and is limited to 24 spaces.

The bad news is that this does conflict with Brent Sinclair’s Ghost Archipelago campaign day, which is running all day Saturday. So, I won’t be insulted if people want to attend that instead! But, I also suspect that campaign will sell-out almost instantly, and I don’t mind being people’s second choice!  Anyway, I’m hoping to make it over for the later rounds of the campaign, and maybe play a few monsters!

Registration for Adepticon opens up on December 8!

Tuesday 26 November 2019

Pumpkin Stems! (Frozen Trees!)

When we picked out the Halloween pumpkins this year, I was delighted to see that they had longer stems that normal. (We got them from a farm instead of the supermarket). Even before the pumpkins were carved, I had plans for those stems.

After Halloween, I dried the stems out on the radiator for a couple of weeks; then I went to work.

Actually, it wasn’t that much work. I glued them to a base, painted a few different shades of brown and grey on them, then sprinkled with fake snow.

I think they are really effective. Much more ‘organic’ looking that most commercially available tree stumps.

For the scenarios in the Frostgrave Tour next year, I’m going to need a couple of trees. Well, here are mine!

Monday 25 November 2019

Frostgrave Warband – Complete!

This weekend I finished painting up the last figure for my new Frostgrave warband! As I mentioned at the start, my goal was to paint each figure to the best of my ability. I painted each figure, one-at-a-time, and kept working on it until I felt I could do nothing more to improve upon it.  Now that I can line them all up together, I truly feel like my effort has been rewarded. I now have a warband that I can feel really proud to put on the table. Okay, it’s probably not going to win any painting contests, but I do think that people will pause by the table to appreciate it. More to the point, I think it will make any game I play just look that little bit better, which will make it just that little bit more fun.

The other thing that really pleases me about this warband is that I practiced what I preached, and used the miniatures I wanted for it, regardless of what line or company they come from. In fact, the figure/line breakdown looks like this:

4 Reaper Miniatures
2 Frostgrave Miniatures
1 Oathmark Miniature

Now that they are all read to go, I’ve got them a box of their very own. These little Chessex boxes are great for carrying small warbands. Okay, the cat-man barely fits, and takes up two slots, but it works. 

I’ve also included three treasure tokens from Tiny Furniture. I already had these painted, but they are my favourite treasure tokens, so they are on permanent assignment to the warband. Finally, I put my glittery d20 in there. Actually, I have plans to replace this with a blue version if I can find one I like to better match the colours of the wizard and apprentice. (Perhaps this weekend at Dragonmeet!).  I also keep a 6” ruler in the box as I consistently forget to bring a measuring device to games.

Now that these guys are done and ready to go, it might be time for a new Ghost Archipelago warband…

Friday 22 November 2019


While I have searched for, and made-do with, other varnishes over the last few months, my heart was always yearning for Testors Dullcote.

Despite using it on over 100 figures, Testors has never fogged on me. It has never become too glossy. I seem to get the same even finish every time.

But it's more than that, there is something about it that actually seems to enhance my paint jobs. It seems to just slightly increase the contrast between layers...

Maybe it is all in my head, but I was extremely disappointed when my last can ran out, and I discovered there wasn't any to be obtained in the UK.

Thankfully, the ship has docked! And it seems to be available from numerous dealers.  Not wanting to be caught off guard again, I went ahead and ordered a year's supply (at least).  I got mine from NG Trains.  Now I just need to find a cool try place to store them.

It is a happy day!

Tuesday 19 November 2019

Wolf Rider

I recently received an ‘advance test sprue’ of the forthcoming goblin wolf riders for Oathmark. I admit, I’ve been looking forward to these, so I quickly put one together to paint. I didn’t have any of the official bases, so I just grabbed what was at hand.

As I’m obviously biased, I’ll just let the photographs do the rest of the talking. I believe the figures will be officially released early next year.

Monday 18 November 2019

Lt. Donald Ryan Harris (in World War I)

I was digging through some old family history files that my aunt had sent me, when I came across a few pieces about my great, great, uncle Donald Ryan Harris.  Along with with some great photographs, was this report he wrote of his last flight in World War I.

Report of 1st Lieut. Don Ryn Harris, of the American Signal Reserve Corps, Aviation Section, attached to the Royal (British) Air Force, who was obliged to land with his Aeroplane near Flushing The Netherlands on August 16th,  1918.

Flushing, August 16, 1918.

The formation of bombing machines from the 211th Squadron, Royal Air Force, left its aerodrome on the morning of the sixteenth of August, nineteen hundred and eighteen. I, though I am an American Officer of the Signal Reserve Corps, Aviation Section, am attached to the Royal Airforce and the 211th Squadron, and was part of the aforesaid formation, flying a DH9 bombing machine. The formation proceeded well inland towards Burges having as its objective Bruges Docks. There was a slight anti-aircraft fire at the formation from the lines all the way to Bruges but at that point a thick and well directed barrage was put up at us.

When just over Bruges my machine was hit in several places. (Several?) holes were torn in the wings and the lower leading spar of my right-wing shot through, also the cable that acts as the anti-drift wire. In addition a large fragment of shrapnel entered the radiator of my machine, which allowed all the water to escape. We carried on with the formation, dropping our bombs on the docks, two one hundred and twelve pound bombs, and also took the photographs we had been detailed to get.

Our temperature had risen past the boiling point by this time and all the water had escaped from our radiator. The engine began to miss on three cylinders, so I had James Munro, 2nd Lieut. R.A.F. who was my observer, fire the distress signal. We followed below the formation to the coast over Zeebrugge, but there the propeller stopped, and as the distance was too great to glide to our lines, I turned the machine towards Holland. We crossed the coast of Holland over Flushing, at the height of two thousand feet, firing another signal light to indicate our distress. Munro had thrown overboard his gun and ammunition pans to lighten the weight of the machine. I landed the machine in a potato field near Koudekerke safely and neither of us were hurt. The left wheel of the machine was broken however in the landing.

Here we were taken in change by the Dutch Military authorities and given our parcels. Tomorrow we got to The Hague to be interned.

(Signed) Don Ryn Harris,
1st Lieut. Sig. R.C., A.S., U.S.A.
Machine DH9 – No. L-7623, British Royal Air Force.

The back of this photo reveals that it was sent as a postcard from Donald to his parents while he was in Holland, where he spent the remainder of the war.

Wednesday 13 November 2019

For Gondor!

One of my goals over the next year or so is to actually play more wargames. While I spend almost every day working on games or painting miniatures, its actually comparatively rare that I actually play a game, just for fun.

Thankfully, I’ve already got several ‘events’ scheduled, where I’ll get in some fun gaming: The Frostgrave Campaign Day with HATE in January, the Frostgrave Tour in February, and Adepticon in March. That said, I also wanted to see if I could get in a few games closer to home.

So, last Friday night, I found myself in the gaming store, with a small force of Gondorians, preparing to hold back a Harad raiding part. It’s actually been many years since I played a game of the Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game (since before it was called that) that wasn’t a Battle Companies game.

It was basically a learning game for me and my opponent. I learned, right off the bat, not to put my Knight of the White Tower who was leading my force in the front rank, as he (admittedly, improbably) died to hail of poisoned arrows in a single volley. Although I fought the good fight, I never quite recovered from this and had no real answer to his heroic commander who tore up my lines.

We played a second game where my opponent switched to Dain leading a small group of heavily armoured Dwarves. Interestingly, I think he was so shocked by the easy death of my leader in the first game, that he hid Dain at the back of his force. This meant he was out of position when the lines clashed, and my spears and cavalry proved too much for even Dwarven armour.

It was a fun night of gaming. I had forgotten how tactical the movement phase is in the game. It also has a wonderful freedom of movement, since there is no such thing as unit cohesion. I’m not 100% convinced by the combat system, but overall, I do think it is a very good wargame, which I will likely play again.

Monday 11 November 2019

Strider! (Aragorn, Elessar, Wingfoot, etc.)

A few months ago, while painting one of the Rangers of Shadow Deep miniatures sculpted by Bobby Jackson, I noticed how close the miniature was to my metal image of Strider (a.k.a. Aragorn in his guise as a ranger). There were just a few issues with it. Mostly notably, I didn’t think it fit the character to be holding a severed head, but also, I thought the face wasn’t quite right, and probably he should be carrying a bow. I finished painting that figure, and promptly forgot about it.

A few weeks ago, I painted up my ideal Legolas miniature. That once again got me thinking about Aragorn, and I remembered that I had another copy of that Ranger miniature in my rapidly decreasing lead pile. I pulled it out and had a look.

I have never been a great figure converter. I generally find the process frustrating, as my execution rarely lives up to my idea. Still, since I already had a finished version of the figure painted, it seemed I had less to lose. So, I cut off his left hand (making a severed hand holding a severed head!). I then went to my plastic bits box to look for suitable substitutes. I tried a few different possibilities, and went back and forth for a while on whether to give him a bow or a dagger in that hand. In the end, I settled for a bow, as it seems more rangerly. The bow (and hand) comes from the Oathmark Elf Infantry box. I pinned it into place and used a bit of green stuff as well to hold it together. It’s not perfect by any stretch, but luckily, the extra green stuff, looks like a bunched bit of his sleeve that sticks out of the grieve.

I also glued a quiver on his back. In truth, a careful examination shows that there are no straps for the quiver, but that doesn’t bother me much.

I’m not going to lie, I was seriously proud of this simple conversion, but it also made me nervous. I now had a completely unique figure, and I fretted over ‘blowing the paint job’. Thankfully, there is something about these B. Jackson sculpts that really work with my painting style. I took it very slow, and really tried my best on every single element of the piece.

I started with the face, because that was the last element of non-Strider that concerned me. I did two things to that effect. I heavily shaded the inside of the hood, allowing the dark to just creep onto the side of his face. This had the effect of narrowing the face slightly. I then gave him a stubbly beard, which helped soften his heavy jaw. These combine to make his face less distinct, but that’s perfect for a shadowy ranger.

From there, I just picked an area and worked it, until I was happy with it. I’m usually a base, wash, highlight man, but for many parts of this figure I used five or six combinations of washes and water-down paint. The effect of this is most noticeable in the folds of his tunic.

I decided to paint him so he fit with my ‘Post Lothlorien’ Legolas. So, he’s got the grey cloak. He’s also got a green cloak clasp…the Elessar perhaps?

As a final touch, and a nod to the movie depiction of the character, I painted a little White Tree of Gondor on his left grieve. I always thought that Aragorn donning the dead Boromir’s grieves in the film was a really nice touch. My free-hand wasn’t perfect here, but it’s good enough to make me happy.

All-and-all, I think it might be my best ever miniature paint job, and I now feel like I’ve got a Strider figure that fully fits my vision of the character.

As I was doing it, I got all excited and though I would do the other 7 members of the Fellowship, but I’m not sure if I have found the ideal figures for all of them yet. So, instead, I’m not going to worry about it. I’ll take them as and when they come… of course I could also do the Grey Company…

Thursday 7 November 2019

Giant Tortoises in Ghost Archipelago

I recently painted up this Reaper bones figure and just needed an excuse to use it in a game. So I wrote rules for it in Ghost Archipelago. I'll probably put them in a future issue of Spellcaster magazine, but for now, here they are for free!

Giant Tortoises

Most of the islands of the Ghost Archipelago are so small, and so filled with difficult terrain, that mounts are generally useless, and boats work better for transportation. On a few of the larger, more open islands, however, tribal groups have domesticated riding beasts. One popular choice, especially on more arid islands is the giant tortoise. These slow, gentle creatures, may not be an obvious choice for either a mount or a pack animal, but on closer examination they do have several desirable features.
            Giant tortoises are incredibly long-lived, and most manage at least a couple of centuries. Thus, the work that is spent in the raising and training is paid off over many, many generations of users. Although slow, giant tortoises are capable of carrying significant weight over long-distances. They can manage this work in the punishing heat of the Ghost Archipelago and still only need to drink every few days. Finally, while they are of no particular use in battle, they are incredibly tough, and can survive nasty wounds, even when their thick shell is penetrated

Acquiring a Giant Tortoise

There are Tribal groups willing to sell giant tortoises, if they can be found. After any game, a Heritor may make a Will Roll (TN20). If successfully, he or she has located a tribe that is willing to sell a single giant tortoise for a cost of 300gc. If a Heritor wishes to purchase additional giant tortoises at a later date, he must make modifications to his ship to keep these animals. The cost for these modifications is 250gc, per tortoise. These modifications can be made while in the Ghost Archipelago.

Giant Tortoises in a Crew

Giant tortoises do not count against the number of figures in a crew. That said, a crew may contain a maximum of five. Tortoises never activate on their own. Instead, they can activate with, and move with, any crewmember that is adjacent to them, with the limitation that they can only activate once per turn. If a figure is riding a tortoise, see below.
            If a giant tortoise is killed, roll for its survival after the game as though it were a specialist crewman.

Giant Tortoises as Mounts

It takes one action to either mount, or dismount, a giant tortoise. While serving as a mount, giant tortoises follow most of the same rules as small boats, with the following exceptions:
·       They move on land, not water.
·       They may carry a maximum of three figures (see below)
·       Giant Tortoises may make two move actions (for a total of 4.5”) each turn.
·       Giant Tortoises can be directly attacked under the normal rules, but still never count as in combat.
·       A figure riding a giant tortoise can spend an action to attack any figure that is in base contact with the tortoise, and does not suffer -1 Fight.
·       Shooting modifiers, and rules for ‘boarding a small boat’ are handled as normal.

Giant Tortoise Carrying Capacity

A giant tortoise is capable of carrying up to 15 items. Alternatively, they can be used as mounts with every human-sized figure replacing 5 items worth of carrying capacity.
            Any member of the same crew that is on, or adjacent to a giant tortoise may take, or exchange, any one item carried by the tortoise.

Giant Tortoise Stats

The gentle creatures known as giant tortoises can grow up to the height of a man. Although they are slow and unaggressive, they are also difficult to kill. Their armoured shell is nearly impenetrable to most hand weapons, and even when struck in their softer parts, it takes a grievous wound to put them down.
            When shooting at, or fighting against, a giant tortoise, a player has a choice to make. They can either attack as normal, or they can state they are aiming to hit an unarmoured part of the creature. If this option is chosen, the player suffers -2 Shoot or -2 Fight as applicable. If they hit the giant tortoise, though, treat it as armour 12 instead of 16.
            Giant tortoises may never jump, climb a vertical surface more than about 4-feet high, or pick up treasure. They may never use items, but may carry up to 15.

Giant Tortoise
Armoured Shell, No jumping, high climbing, or picking up treasure tokens. Carrying capacity 15 items. May serve as mount.

For anyone having trouble reading the notes section on the table, it reads: Armoured Shell, No jumping, high climbing, or picking up treasure tokens. Carrying capacity 15 items. May serve as mount.

Monday 4 November 2019

Frostgrave Templar

Work on my new Frostgrave warband continues. Here is the group’s heavy hitter, a female templar wielding a seriously big axe! That is ‘realistically big’ as opposed to the ‘no human could ever lift that big’ that is overly common in miniatures. The figure comes from the official Frostgrave miniature line and is sculpted by Mark Copplestone.

I must admit, I was drawn to this figure as soon as I saw it. She just looks really tough. Painting was a delight, as the figure has nice distinct layers and details, including some very nicely sculpted earrings.

I didn’t originally plan to give her face paint, but my hand slipped while I was attempting to paint her eyes. I actually liked the look of this, so I went with it.  I must admit, in the photo, it makes her look like she is wearing a ‘classic villain mask,’ but this is mostly a function of seeing the figure at several times its actual size. Viewed live, the white eye dots are barely visible and really work.

I can’t wait to get her on the table (and likely watch her roll terrible in fights, as is the common fate of a warband's supposed ‘best fighter’).

Eight warband members down, just two to go!

Friday 1 November 2019

Rolling Dice

My summer of writing magazine articles continues to pay dividends in this month’s Wargames: Soldiers & Strategy, Issue 105.

In this issue, I’ve got an article about 'Dice-Rolling Etiquette'. I admit, at first glance, it sounds like a pretty light topic, but actually, rolling dice is one of the most common elements of playing a wargame, and almost nothing is ever said about it. Over years of gaming, I have encountered many different dice-rolling approaches or styles that have significantly hindered my fun, or the fun of other players. Often, this isn’t intentional, but since the goal of the game is for everyone to have fun, I though it deserved a little consideration.

Otherwise it is a pretty varied issue, with a lot of stuff for the historical player, including articles on WWII, Ancient Rome, and a focus on Spain in the Napoleonic Wars.

It’s a classy mag!

Wednesday 30 October 2019

The Gateway

Everyone should have a ruined gateway in their terrain collection. They are just a great piece of scatter terrain. I ‘encouraged’ Frostgrave players to have one by making it a ‘red-herring’ in the Ulterior Motives expansion. Recently, when writing scenarios for the Frostgrave Immersion Tour, I wrote a scenario that requires every player to bring one.   

Of course, then I realized I didn’t have a gateway that fit well with my own Frostgrave terrain – so I set out to fix that. Rummaging through my stuff, I found a gateway that was sent to me by the guy who ran the Frost Collection Kickstarter a couple of years ago. I liked the piece, but the paint job didn’t fit with the rest of my terrain.

Having decided to repaint it, I thought I might also ‘spruce it up’ a little bit, by which I mean, make it creepier. I found a random animal skull and a bit of old chain in my bits box and glued them both on.

The painting process wasn’t the most exciting, except for the chain which is free hanging and flopped about as I applied the paint. There is actually something strange about having a terrain piece with a loosely moving piece! Anyway, after the paint, I applied a little bit of snow flocking and called it done. It is a simple piece, but I think its really evocative.

And, while I promise I won’t keep harping on about this, this is another result of the miniature clear out. As my miniature backlog kept growing and growing, I felt less inclined to do side-projects like this as they didn’t bring down the pile. That’s a real shame because little items like this serve as a nice break from the more intense concentration of miniature painting and make a real difference to the look and feel of a table.


Note 1: I have no idea if the items from the Frost Collection are currently available, but it includes some neat stuff, so might be worth dropping an email if interested.

Note 2: Looking at the photo above makes me think I should have painted all of the base-rims for my Frostgrave warband grey instead of brown...

Tuesday 29 October 2019

Knight of Dol Amroth

I wanted to show off this recently-finished figure because it is such a beautiful illustration of the point I was trying to make yesterday with my Deliberate Purchasing post.

This figure is one of the original, all-metal, Knights of Dol Amroth miniatures sculpted by the Perry’s for Games Workshop’s The Lord of the Rings game, and I think it is a stunning piece of sculpture. Despite the small role played by the Swan Knights in the book (and their disappointing absence from the movie), they have always been one of my favourite parts of the story. In a tale filled with heroes, these guys are the literal ‘Knights in Shining Armour’. They are the most elite warriors in all of Gondor’s army

And yet, despite all of that, this figure languished for years in my lead pile, gathering dust in its blister pack. Why? Basically, I was too scared to paint it. I knew it would be hard to assemble and difficult to paint. More importantly, I knew it would take a lot of time, and I didn’t have a lot of time. I had hundreds of miniatures to paint, I couldn’t afford to spend a great deal of time on any one…

Well, with the huge backlog of miniatures gone, this guy quickly joined the queue of miniatures waiting to be painted. Without the pressure to ‘get things done’, I was able to take my time, trying to enjoy every step. That’s not to say it was a complete blast (note to self, when painting a horse with caparison – paint the legs before gluing it together!), but instead of getting frustrated, I just took my time, savouring every little win.

I completely painted the horse first. I tried a couple of different decorative edges for the caparison before I was happy. Then I painted half of the rider before gluing him on to the horse to finish him up. I added the shield last, after many, many corrections to the white paint.

All-and-all it took me about 4 ‘sessions’, maybe 6 – 8 hours to get it from blister to finished model. If I was just going for numbers, I probably could have finished 3 or 4 other figures in that time, but I wouldn’t be near as pleased with myself.

I am proud that I have given it my all and tried to do justice to this incredible sculpt and to my love of the Knights of the Dol Amroth. I’m not saying that I’m ready to paint up four or five more right now, but I think there is a strong possibility that I’ll pick up another one down the line, and who knows, maybe one day I’ll have a unit. Or maybe not. I’m not going to worry about it. I’m just going to appreciate what I’ve got.

Monday 28 October 2019

Deliberate Purchasing of Miniatures

For several years now, I’ve struggled when it came to miniature painting. I found it harder and harder to motivate myself, and it seemed that too many of my painting sessions were ending in frustration. Don’t get me wrong, I was still pleased with a lot of my output, but I just wasn’t enjoying it as much as I knew was possible.

The problem was, I couldn’t figure out why.

The last time this happened, it was because I needed glasses, but I didn’t believe there was any physical issue this time around. So, I pondered. I do a lot of pondering. It’s practically a hobby in itself. I thought back to the times when I was happiest painting miniatures.

Eventually, I discovered the problem. I owned too many unpainted miniatures.

In this hobby we have an unfortunate tendency to glorify our hoard. Sure, we laugh it off, with jokes about ‘The Lead Mountain’ or the ‘Shelf of Shame (or Opportunity!)’, and yet we also revel in it, like Smaug on his pile of gold. We post photographs on social media, showing off our shelf that has more unopened boxes of miniatures than the local gaming store. We back Kickstarters that contain more miniatures than it is possible to paint before we die. And then we back another one. We spend more time lusting after the new and shiny than we do concentrating on and appreciating the miniature in our hands…

And that, I realized, was the root of the problem. I wasn’t concentrating on the miniature in my hands. Every time I picked up a miniature to paint, I would feel the weight of all of the unpainted ones behind it. I would paint fast, so I could get this miniature done and move onto the next one. I wasn’t an artist enjoying his craft; I was a human treadmill attempting to pump out painted miniatures as fast as I could. I wasn’t even painting the miniatures so I could play with them anymore. I was painting to remove the weight. 

In my pondering, I realized that I have been happiest painting miniatures when I had the least miniatures to paint. If I only owned a handful, then I would take my time on each one. I would savour them, doing my best to paint each one to my highest standard. When I finished, I would feel proud of my work, instead of relieved to tick another one off the list.

So I took drastic action. I counted the number of unpainted miniatures I owned. It was many hundreds. I then chose the 50 I most wanted to paint. I didn’t worry about what game they were from, what I would use them for, or even how much they cost. The only criteria was how much I desired to sit and paint them. Then I got rid of the rest of them. Sold or given away.

I’ve come up with a new system. I only buy miniatures if I plan to paint those miniatures RIGHT NOW. Seriously, if they aren’t going to be the next miniatures to come across my painting desk, then I’m not going to buy them. I’ll pick them up later, or not. In addition, I’m not going to buy more than 6 miniatures at a time (or one box if the box contains more than 6), and I am not allowed to buy any more until I finish painting those.

Does this sound like a harsh regime? It’s really not. Since I now buy miniatures in such small batches, I actually get to buy miniatures more often! Does it mean I spend a bit more on shipping? Sure, I guess, on a per-miniature basis – but actually since it so severely cuts down on miniatures I buy and never paint, I suspect I’m saving money in the long run. Am I missing opportunities for limited-edition miniatures? I guess, if that miniature is part of some huge kickstarter that comes with 100 other miniatures… but how much of an opportunity is that? Besides, there are so many new miniatures coming out, there is always something new and cool available.

I’m now down to thirty-something unpainted miniatures. My plan is get it below twenty and keep it there. I think twenty is a good number to keep in reserve, in case of a long winter storm (seriously, that’s about the only reason I can think of to keep any in reserve at all), especially if those twenty are all thoughtfully chosen so that I know I really want to paint them.

I am currently enjoying painting miniature more than I have in years, and I think my output on this blog kind of speaks for itself. In fact, ironically, since I'm painting more, I'm actually buying more.

Look, I make my living in the wargaming industry, and a small, but important part of my income comes from the sale of miniatures. People buying miniatures is good for me financially, both directly and indirectly. But I don’t believe that binge-buying miniatures is ultimately good for anyone. The cost in money is obvious, the other costs are harder to see, but just as real.

Each of us gamers needs to work out our own appropriate level of miniature buying. I mean, obviously, if you enjoy ‘Big Battle’ wargames, you are going to need to buy more, also if you want to play more games that have required miniatures. But, if you are spending more time thinking about which minis to buy, than you are enjoying the ones you have, then there is unhealthy disconnect, and it is probably time to step back and re-examine your hobby.

Most of us got into this hobby because we love the sight of painted miniatures on the table. Maybe it was a lone warrior holding a bridge against some orcs, or maybe it was a massive army of rat men and their associated death machines. These are the things that fire our imaginations!

None of us got into this hobby because we admired a shelf-full of unpainted, unassembled piles of plastic or lead. So why should we hold such things in value now?