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!