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!