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.

Monday 21 January 2019

The Hounds of Doom are Free!

I have nearly finished up all of the figures needed for Rangers of Shadow Deep: Blood Moon. Here’s a big bunch of baddies, I recently completed. I admit, I didn’t spend a great deal of time on any of them – after all, my rangers are hoping that none of them remain on the table too long! The werewolves are Dracula’s America figures. The wolves, including the little wolf, and the giant rats are all from the Frostgrave range.  I could probably use another wolf or two, but I’ll wait until I’m at a show to pick some up.

Other than that, the only figures I still need are the two children that may appear. If anyone has a lead on good children models that scale to Frostgrave or true 28mm please drop it in the comments.

Next up, the terrain!

I did most of the painting of these guys while listening to Hood on BBC Radio 4 Extra. It’s a very unusual retelling of the Robin Hood story. Same basic setting and idea, but not all of the classic figures are playing the role you expect. All four episodes are now available to listen to online, for those in the BBC area, although the first one is only up for another week.  I have listened to the first three, so I can’t comment on the ending, but it’s been really enjoyable so far!

* The title of this blog comes from a poem by Robert E. Howard.

Thursday 17 January 2019

Love and Destroying Planets

My reading this week included two books that probably don’t share a huge readership…

The first was The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I admit, I am somewhat skeptical about any book that professes to share ‘The Secret to Love that Lasts’, but it came highly recommended, and, at less than 200 pages, it’s a quick read.  

Well…it’s actually pretty amazing. It completely overthrew most of the ideas I had about how I communicated my love to my wife, and it also helped me better understand what it is that I need to feel loved.  In truth, my marriage is a very good place right now, but I think book is going to be a huge help in keeping it there.

Strongly recommended for anyone in a committed relationship.

I followed this up by reading Cadia Stands by Justin D Hill. This is the Warhammer 40,000 novel that tells the story of the collapse of the Cadian Gate, that held the forces of Chaos at bay. It is a key turning point in the 40K universe, and leads directly to the current situation. More importantly, is a rollicking, fun novel that jumps from massed tank battles with 10,000 tanks down to individual soldiers holding the line. There is a load of creativity poured into it, and, once it gets going, the action pretty much never relents. 

Although the novel essentially stands alone (if you know the background of 40K), I am glad to see that Justin D Hill already has another novel coming out featuring one of the survivors.

I don't play 40K these days, and Black Library novels can be pretty hit and miss, but this is the best one I have read in while.

As an added bonus, I was able to get both of these books through the Kent County Library system. I had to request both books be sent to my local branch, so had to pay £0.80 each, but that’s a pretty good price for two good books! It's a wonderful library system and I'm am grateful to have it.

Thursday 10 January 2019

Visiting Beowulf

This past weekend, my services were required to help chaperon my wife and kids up to London to meet a friend. After the trip, I wasn't needed again for five or six hours, so I was left with a lot of time to kill in London. Now, lucky for me, our train arrived into St. Pancras which happens to be just down the road from the British Library, who are currently running an exhibition called Anglo-Saxons: Art, Word, War. 

I arrived at the British Library just after 10 in the morning. When I went up to purchase my ticket to the exhibition, they said the next available slot was 12:30! Guess I should have booked in advance. Well, thankfully, I had nothing better to do, so I bought the ticket. I spent the next few hours poking around the shop, the book store, and a couple of other smaller exhibitions. I investigated both caf├ęs. Finally, it was time.

Despite getting there on the dot of 12:30 the exhibition was already crammed, mostly with people lingering from earlier admissions, but also from other eager attendees. It is no wonder, really. The exhibition is stunning – eight or nine rooms crammed with artefacts. Mostly these were ancient tomes, but also included bits from Sutton Hoo (on loan from the British Museum), Alfred’s Jewel (on loan from the Ashmolean), and, of great excitement since I hadn’t seen them before, several pieces from the Staffordshire Hoard, including the famous bent cross! Glorious, glorious stuff. 

But really, it was about the books - scores, maybe hundreds of books. All of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles were there. The Domesday Book, which got a room to itself as well as a movie. Judith’s Gospel. The works of the Venerable Bede!

My heart though was set on seeing one specific work, and I missed it the first time through. I had to ask a security guard, and he walked me through half the exhibition. There, in a little corner, given no more standing that any of the books around it, was Beowulf. The only surviving manuscript of the only Anglo-Saxon epic poem. How less rich would the world be if not for this collection of papers that were slightly singed in a fire some centuries ago… 

I saw Beowulf, and another little geek dream came true.

The exhibition runs through February 19, so if you are in London and have any interest in the Anglo-Saxons, Beowulf, or really old books, you really must go. It’s not cheap at £16 entry, but it is seriously worth it. It is an utterly unique collection. My advice though – book in advance! If you can't make it to the exhibition, you might want to consider picking up the exhibition book. It's a pretty incredible tome itself! 

For those who might be wondering, my favourite translation of Beowulf remains the one by the Irish poet Seamus Heaney. It’s not the most literal translation, but for me, it captures the spirit like no other.

Wednesday 9 January 2019

Turn Counters

A lot of the scenarios I am writing these days call for the player, or players, to keep track of turns. Unfortunately, in the midst of a game, this isn’t something I’m very good at doing. So, in hopes of getting better, I made myself a couple of turn trackers that can double as small pieces of terrain.

I made one to use for Frostgrave and other urban/ruined settings, and another for Rangers of Shadow Deep and other more rural games.

For both of them, I started with a little ‘casualty marker’ from Warbases. These can be turned to display a number from 0 – 12. I then glued a figure on top of each. The statue of the woman is  a Reaper miniature. The blackbird on the branch comes from Warbases, in a great little pack of ravens.

Both got a quick paint job and some simple basing and were ready to go.

In truth, even with these on the table, I will probably forget to use them, but they please me none-the-less!

Tuesday 8 January 2019


If you love Rangers of Shadow Deep, Frostgrave, and paper, it’s your day!

First up, after a bit of trial-and-error, the hardback version of the Rangers of Shadow Deep core rulebook is live. It is exactly the same as the paperback, except with a heavy, thumpy cover.

Next up, Rangers of Shadow Deep: Blood Moon is also now available print-on-demand. It’s a thin one, but makes for an attractive little supplement, much like a classic RPG module.

Finally, Issue 4 of Spellcaster is also available, for those that want to make sure they have the full set in print edition!

I love the flexibility of PDFs, but for me, nothing beats paper. 

A New Battlefield

Check out my new mat from Cigar Box Battles! It’s the 6’ x 4’ ‘Mixed Ground’ matt with 1” hex overlay. (You can get it without the hexes or with 2, 3, or 4” hexes). 

I thought this would be a great mat to lay down for games of Battletech and Ogre. Actually, I like it so much I might even use it for the occasional miniatures game where I’m feeling lazy and can't be bothered to use a tape measure.

Some of the members of my Firehawks Legion are testing it out in the photo. As you can see the new battlemech bases are a bit bigger than 1”. Still, I don’t think the difference is big enough to cause an issue.

Looking forward to getting a game in on this sucker!

Monday 7 January 2019

Buzz, Buzz

Okay, I admit it. When I wrote Rangers of Shadow Deep, I included ‘giant flies’ in several scenarios without having the slightest idea where players would get such miniatures. I wasn’t worried though, I’ve noticed that miniature gamers, especially those attracted to more open-ended games like this one, are infinitely inventive. I have since seen several suggestions to use for giant flies, but the most popular seems to be this set of ‘joke flies’ on amazon. Since I needed some giant flies for my Blood Moon set-up, I ordered a pack.

So far, I have ‘painted’ six of them, which is probably all I will need for Blood Moon. I say painted, but the only thing I actually painted were the bases. I painted up and flocked some bases, and then I just glued the flies on top. I haven’t otherwise touched them with a brush. It just didn’t seem worth the effort.

So here they are menacing a new ranger I recently painted.

Anyway, if you are looking for flies, these are recommended. Actually, if you can bring yourself to do it, it looks like you can get the same flies for several pounds cheaper if you are willing to buy plastic poo at the same time. Personally, I'm kind of glad I paid the extra few pounds for less... [It has been pointed out that the cheaper ones are only 10mm. The more expensive are 15mm.]

Sunday 6 January 2019

Mechanized Infantry

It turns out, it is really difficult to photograph 6mm infantry, which is probably just as well as it is also really hard to paint 6mm infantry. All of that said, I gave it a go! Here are the first two squads of a mechanized infantry company that will support my Firehawks Legion Mechs.  (Actually, only one squad is actually pictured, but the other looks almost identical).

The infantry and APCs come from Brigade Models ‘Hammer’s Slammers’ line*. I like these because they are just a bit bigger than their other 6mm stuff and seem to fit better with the Battletech mechs. As you can see, they look great with a Locust looming over them.

* Saying that, I can't seem to find these specific minis on there, but similar ones are available.

Friday 4 January 2019

Auxiliary Companions

There wasn’t a huge amount of quiet time around my house during the holiday period, but I did find enough to paint up the four Auxiliary Companions I had made to use for Rangers of Shadow Deep: Blood Moon. If you’d like to read more about how these figures were built, you can read about that here.

I started by painting their leader, Nicholan. Since he comes from a wealthy, aristocratic background, I painted him in the standard uniform colours of the army of Alladore, complete with his ‘upper class’ red cloak. He doesn’t seem to have any eyes in the photo, but when viewed at true 28mm you can’t tell. I like this figure a lot and suspect he’ll managed to get into a lot of games beyond just the Blood Moon scenario.

Next up was Orla; she also got the standard Alladore colours. It’s great how easily the paint job can take these Frostgrave figures out of their cold environment and make them look at home in a more temperate climate.

Last came Covan and Seb. Since these guys are a bit farther removed from the standard army, I decided to play that up by having brown feature more heavily than green on both of them. That way they still feel like part of the same force, but more…auxiliary…

Once again, praise for the Anvil Industries heads that I used on the three men. While there is nothing wrong with the heads in either the Frostgrave or Oathmark boxes, it is nice to have some extra variety as a different head makes for a completely different figure and stretches those boxes even further.

Thursday 3 January 2019

The Chapel on the Cliffs by Joseph Crawford

One of my goals in the new year is to be a better supporter of independent/small press game publishing. There are a lot of talented and creative folks out there who are developing great stuff in relative obscurity and every little mention they get can make a big difference.

Recently, while checking out DriveThruRPG, I saw the cover for The Chapel on the Cliffs. Since I’m a sucker for a bit of undead art, I decided to take a closer look and very quickly ordered the print-on-demand.

Having now read all 40 pages, I can honestly say this is terrific fantasy role-play adventure. The adventure is designed for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, but could very easily be converted for use with just about any fantasy setting or rules system.

It is a low-level adventure, centred around an abandoned fishing village. There are lots of interesting locations to explore, some of which are directly related to the main plot, and some of which are not. What I really like about the adventure is its great mix of exploration/investigation and combat. Although there is going to be a lot of swordplay, it is basically impossible to succeed through combat alone. It’s been really well thought-out and developed.

In truth, with the book in my hands, most people wouldn’t believe it is a small press publication. The artwork is fabulous. The maps are terrific. The layout is great. Seriously, it’s just really well done.

At $11.95 for the print edition, and just a tad more to pick up the PDF as well, this adventure module is an absolute steal – especially for those who have fond memories of the Basic D&D modules of yore!

Wednesday 2 January 2019

Something Wicked This Way Comes…

Amongst my many little obsessions is pumpkin heads, especially evil pumpkin heads*. I don’t know where it comes from, or why it has stuck with me over the years, but it has.

A couple of years ago, either for a birthday or Christmas, my buddy Phil gave me a small pack of resin pumpkin heads, I think from Puppets of War (although I could be wrong about that). For whatever reason, these heads sat in my bits box for years.

The other day, I just felt really compelled to paint up a pumpkin head, so I quickly threw this guy together. Apart from the head, the rest of the bits come from the Frostgrave Cultists box. I gave him a skeletal arm as I thought I could paint it to look like sticks, which I think as worked pretty well.

In truth, I’m pretty pleased with him. In fact, I like him so much, I have decided that a full pumpkin-headed Frostgrave warband needs to be one of my little projects for the year. Of course, I’m going to need some special rules for that, so look for ‘Vegimancer’ rules coming later this year (possibly for Halloween).

* In truth the only ‘good’ pumpkin head I can think of is Jack Pumpkinhead from the OZ books…who is probably the most famous pumpkinhead of them all. The rest seem to be evil.