Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Undersea Adventures!



Many months ago, I noticed that Reaper miniatures had released a new ‘zombie shark’ figure, and I wanted one. I just couldn’t quite figure out how I would use it. I began to think of various ways I could cut the figure to get it ‘half on the surface’ so I could use in Ghost Archipelago games, but the more I thought about it, the more it just seemed like too much effort. Plus, I’d probably just end up destroying the figure in the process.

Then one day it occurred to me that if a scenario was set under the water, I wouldn’t have to cut the miniature, I’d just need to mount it on some kind of base. Of course, if I did that, I would need a bunch of other undersea creatures…and some new terrain…and a new mat…and new rules…

And so I set-off on a new miniature project. Oddly, I didn’t start by buying the zombie shark. Instead, I bought a pack of ‘vicious fish’. I figured this would be the best way to start my undersea bestiary, as they are sort of the ‘lowest common denominator’ monster, in the same way that skeletons are in Frostgrave. Anyway, this pack really let me go crazy with the colours, which is a nice change, as most of the figures I tend to paint are more on the drab side.


I also painted up a couple of Frostgrave magmites which I’m going to use as bottom-feeding creatures.


I got a new mat from Cigar Box battles. After a good bit of thought, and much consultation with my team of gaming experts, I decided to go with a desert mat, which is serving as the base for the photos. This is somewhat ironic, a desert mat, serving as the base for undersea adventures, but I figure in the clear waters of the Ghost Archipelago, it’ll make a great sandy bottom, especially once I decorate it with some cool terrain.

Now, I must admit, the virus has somewhat interrupted my plans, and I’m now more painting ‘whatever I’ve got’, than ordering new stuff at the moment. But I’ve got a few other undersea things to work on, and I’ll definitely continue working on this project!

Friday, 27 March 2020

Frostgrave is Free!!!




I have been talking with Osprey Games about how we can help out with all of the people who are currently stuck at home, either by government order or because they are helping by self-isolating. It seems like this is a time when everyone could use a little solo gaming! I suggested that we give away Dark Alchemy, since that has 3 solo scenarios… but that only helps people who already play Frostgrave.  So, in the end, we just decided to give away the Frostgrave rulebook too!

Right now, you can go onto the Osprey Publishing website and download both the Frostgrave Rulebook and Dark Alchemy as FREE PDFs using the code: FGV2020.

But that didn't seem quite enough for what is likely to be a long lockdown, so we are also giving away the first section of Frostgrave: Perilous Dark, which includes 3 more SOLO scenarios, as well as some advice on creating your own solo scenarios.

So, if you’ve ever wondered about the game, but weren’t sure, here is a chance to give it a look! You can even try it out, solo-style, by using the scenarios found in Dark Alchemy and Perilous Dark

And don’t worry – Frostgrave has always been a game about using whatever miniatures and terrain you have – no need to buy anything new to start. So, have some fun, roll some dice, fight some monsters and see if you can survive. Then hop online to the Frostgrave Facebook Page, Board Game Geek, Reddit, Lead Adventure, or any other wargame hangouts and share your stories and your pictures, so we can all share in the adventure.

Good luck!

P.S. Play Dark Alchemy first, Perilous Dark is much harder!

Drichean Princess




I have been taking my time assembling my new Ghost Archipelago crew, really scouring the internet to find figures that really excite me. Well, I saw this one, and knew I just had to have her. She comes from the Wargames IllustratedGiants in Miniature’ line of limited-edition figures. You can order one from North Star. The figure actually represents a historical figure, but I didn’t want to know too much about her, as I wanted my own story.

What is most immediately noticeable about this figure is that she has a baby on her back! Certainly unusual for a wargaming piece, but wonderful in its way. This immediately got a story forming in my mind.

I haven’t got a name for her yet, but she’s a Drichean princess who has been banished by her father after she had an illegitimate child. Captured, and nearly killed by a group of Tribals, she was inadvertently rescued when Cassandra and her crew came crashing through. Cassandra took an immediate liking to the na├»ve, but tough, princess and figured that her knowledge of the island could prove useful. Thus, she was invited to join the crew.

I painted the figure using the same colours as the ‘official photo’, for the simple reasons that they looked great, and I’m not so good with coming up with colour schemes on my own.

For now, I plan to use her as a ‘standard crewmen’, but at some point she might get upgraded to a blade-dancer (from Cities of Bronze).

Another happy addition!



Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath




Fans of H.P. Lovecraft could probably identify this figure without the title, others might need help. It’s a Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath from North Star. It is cast is resin (thank goodness, cause it’s big!), and comes in about 4 parts – a few of the tentacles need attaching.

I had no specific need for this figure, I just wanted to paint it. That said, it should work great as a scar-bark in Ghost Archipelago, or some-kind of demon-tree in Rangers of Shadow Deep. Who knows?

A great figure, easy and fun to paint, I might just have to get another one.



Monday, 23 March 2020

Heritor from Hero Forge

This figure has a bit of a story attached to it. At the end of last year, I decided I would reconstitute my Ghost Archipelago warband. At the time I originally made it, I was really struggling with painting (because of a lack of glasses) and thus I was unhappy with some of the paint jobs. Also, some of the figures just didn’t excite me. So, I salvaged a couple, and then set off to recruit a new crew. One, the Stargazer, I’ve shown off already.

Well, all Ghost Archipelago warbands begin with the Heritor. I had gotten pretty attached to the concept of Cassandra (a.k.a. Big Red), but the figure just didn’t have the size and bulk I wanted. I looked everywhere for a suitable replacement, but couldn’t find anything. Then a friend suggested I check out Hero Forge.

I must admit, I’ve been curious about Hero Forge for a while. If you haven’t heard of them, it is basically a service where you can design your own figure, by picking various races, clothing, weapons, poses, ect., and then get it 3D printed. My friend even sent me a ‘quick build’ of my proposed figure. Well, I had a little play with the system, and found it very easy to use. There really is loads of choice, and if you want to dig deep into it, you can make all kinds of subtle changes to a design.

Now, there is one big drawback – it is pricey. For a single figure you are talking between $20 - $30… There’s no way I’d build a warband that way, but for a one off figure, and as an experiment, I thought it was worth the risk. In fact, I was so curious about how changing the posing on the figure would affect the printing that I ordered two copies of my Heritor in different poses. (An extravagance I slightly regretted, but turned out to be very thankful for, as shall be seen).

It took a little over two weeks for the figures to arrive, but when I opened up the box, they looked great! The detail was a little shallow in places, but probably better than most plastics. With the figure you see painted here, I honestly couldn’t have said that it wasn’t sculpted from the ground up. The other figure, which was in a crouched pose, was also good, although the way the leather straps hung over her skirt looked just slightly unnatural. Still, I would rate both figures as good. Anyway, I preferred her standing up straight, and striding forward, as it made her look more powerful.

I ordered the figures in ‘premium plastic’, which had the feel of normal plastic – but, as it turns out is a bit more brittle. The figure came on an integral base, but I wanted it on a GW base, so I cut/broke it off and re-glued it.

I took a lot of time painting this figure. For the most part this was an enjoyable process, just trying to do my best work. I must admit, the leather skirt-straps were a pain as the detail was shallow there, but most of the rest of the detail was sharp and fun to work with.

After several painting sessions, I had happily completed her. The next morning I blue-tacked her to some cardboard and took her outside to spray with sealer. Unfortunately, a gust of wind caught the cardboard, flipped it in the air, and landed figure-side down on the concrete. For a moment, I thought she had escaped unscathed. Then I realized that her warhammer was gone, neatly snapped off both above and below her hand (kind of astounding really).

After the anger and sadness passed, I started looking for ways to fix her. I couldn’t find the missing bit of hammer…then I realized I had an exact duplicate on the other figure I had ordered. So, I carefully cut off my newly-painted Heritor’s hand, and replaced it with the one from the other figure holding still holding the hammer. The wrist was too thin to risk pinning so, it was all glue and greenstuff. Thankfully, the surgery was a success. She now has a heavy ‘cuff’ on that wrist, but it’s not too noticeable.

So, Cassandra is back, ready to lead a new crew into the Ghost Archipelago. Overall, I’m happy with my Hero Forge experience. It’s expensive, and the material isn’t as good for painting as metal, but if you’ve got a clear mental picture of a figure you want, for an RPG character, or for the hero to lead your miniature warband, it might be worth giving it a try.



Thursday, 19 March 2020

Time for Solo and Co-Operative Wargaming!

Games may seem trivial in a time of crisis, but they are anything but. Keeping our spirits high, continuing to smile and enjoy our hobbies, and having other, more enjoyable things to focus on, is going to be necessary to get us through.

I can't deny it, it is looking bad for the hobby at the moment. Adepticon and Salute have cancelled. Most wargaming clubs are going into hibernation. If you aren’t already in some kind of isolation, you likely will be in the coming weeks. Thankfully, the mail order places are still running at the moment, and anyway most of us have a pretty good backlog of painting to do. (Yes, even I, a wargaming minimalist, have a ordered in a couple extra boxes of plastic minis, just in case.)  But, for most of us, just modelling and painting is not enough, we need to play something…

It just so happens that I have written several solo and co-operative wargames, including fantasy and science-fiction...

The most well-known is called Rangers of Shadow Deep. In it, you create a ranger, gather a band of followers, and do battle against the forces of the dark realm known as the Shadow Deep. You can order the Deluxe Edition from North Star or Modiphius or pick up the PDF on DriveThruRPG. The basic game includes over 15 scenarios to play, but if you manage to make it through all of those, I’ve released four supplements with additional adventures: Blood Moon, Temple of Madness, Ghost Stone, and Incinerator! You can get all of them in either PDF or Print-on-Demand on DriveThruRPG.

If you are more of a science-fiction player, I wrote a solo game of soldiers fighting alien bugs on a doomed planet, called Operation: Last Train. I made the game freely available as part of a charity project I ran last year.  You can find all of the details about it here. There are three scenarios, and you can find some more fan created ones on the associated Facebook page.

If you aren't ready to dive into a new game, but you are interested in solo gaming... well, I've got something for that too! It’s called Frostgrave: Perilous Dark.  Okay, the book is written specifically for Frostgrave and includes ten solo or co-operative scenarios, but the meat of the book is ideas, tips, and techniques for designing solo scenarios for any skirmished-based wargames, even historical ones. You can get the book in print from North Star or Amazon or buy a PDF straight from Osprey.

I’ve also included several solo Frostgrave scenarios in past issues of Spellcaster Magazine.

Just because you are stuck at home, isolated from all your gaming buddies, doesn’t mean you can't get a game in. There are plenty of adventures that await! And if you don’t think solo wargaming can be as good as player-versus-player, you’ve never had a ranger down to his last point of Health facing a pair of gnolls, blocking the only exit…


Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Arcanist




Here is the latest member of my Rangers of Shadow Deep warband. I’ll be using him an arcanist. He's even brought his giant 'Book of Lore'. He’s another wonderful Bobby Jackson sculpt and fits in perfectly with my ranger, and the official Rangers minis.

I actually waited a long time to add this guy. I first saw him in Reaper Bones about mid-last year, but I knew I wanted him in metal. So, I waited several months for him to be released in metal, only to watch it immediately go out of stock in the UK. So, I waited, and a month or so later, he came back in stock, and I jumped on it!

I gave him the green/brown paint job to match the rest of the band. His shadowed face, and his broad robes given him quite a presence when standing with the other members of the band.

I am still in the market for an herbalist (sneak preview – coming in the next Rangers supplement) and a recruit, but haven’t identified figures for either of them yet, so I’ll probably swap over to my Ghost Archipelago warband for a bit.

Monday, 16 March 2020

Spellcaster Ranger


I am slowly assembling my go-to Rangers of Shadow Deep warband, and have just finished up painting this figure to use for my conjuror. It’s actually a figure of Nesra, from the official Rangers line. After several years of painting fancy Frostgrave wizards, it’s nice to take a break and paint a more practically dressed spellcaster!


Monday, 9 March 2020

It's Not Easy Being Green!




In general, I dislike when people take childhood characters and put them in adult settings. I know it is all for fun, but mostly, I don’t find it funny. So, on the surface, a miniature of Kermit the Frog wielding a chainsaw should have no appeal.

But! While I’m sure this miniature was made with dark-comedy horror gaming in mind, that’s not how I see it. You see, I love the Muppets, always have. I think Jim Henson was a genius. I love Kermit the Frog…but as fans of Kermit know, that frog could lose his cool. In fact, he occasionally just completely flipped. Okay, not to the extent of grabbing a chainsaw and attacking people, but, consider if the source of his annoyance was a tree, or a log, or a piece of furniture...

I can honestly envision the scene where he comes flopping and flailing across screen, shouting his ‘aaaaaaaaa!’, with his chainsaw held high. All of the actual sawing would occur off-screen, possibly with saw-dust spraying into the shot.

Anyway, the figure was a gift. It made me smile, and I had fun painting it.



Wednesday, 4 March 2020

War of the God Queen by David Hambling

You don’t have to read The Dulwich Horror by David Hambling to understand and enjoy his new novel, War of the God Queen. But, as that anthology is excellent, and provides some interesting background and context to Hambling’s new novel, I highly suggest it. Here is my review of The Dulwich Horror.

For those that have already read it, or don’t plan to, read on…

Near the end of The Dulwich Horror, a band of Oxford graduates, living in London in 1927, take on the forces of Cthulhu. During that fight, one of the characters is swallowed up by the earth, and presumed killed. That is, the characters in the story thought she had died, and for that matter, so did I. I am very glad to learn that we were both mistaken.

War of the God Queen opens up with that young woman falling through time, back to some distant age, in some unknown part of the world, where nomadic tribesmen are engaged in a low-level war with cthuloid monsters.

What follows is less of a mythos story, and more of a very modern take on the early ‘planetary romances’ of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard. I almost hate to conjure those two names, for their writing is so at odds with Hambling’s. Where both Burroughs and Howard write stories involving brawny heroes with super-human abilities, Hambling’s hero is a classically-educated, ‘modern’ Englishwoman of the 1920s. Sure, she is athletic, but she is no warrior.

Inevitably, our heroine gets drawn into the war as it is both escalating and potentially holds the key to her return to her own time. But, despite her obvious intelligence and breadth of knowledge, that knowledge holds no obvious secret weapons. She doesn’t know how to make gunpowder, or steam engines, and even if she did, the low, Bronze Age technology of the people around her couldn’t make use of it.

Thankfully, she is soon joined by another group of woman pulled from various points in time – all but one from her past. Again, none of these women know any devastating military secrets, but each bring the interesting skills of their time and place. And this is the central premise of the novel – how these women, using what knowledge and abilities they possess, manage to change the society they are thrust into. It is a war story about organization, logistics, and intelligence gathering. Sure, there is plenty of fighting, and some gruesome deaths, but these are generally of less importance than the ‘big picture’.

This approach really works with Hambling’s writing style. His is not the break-neck pace of Burroughs or Howard. Instead, he writes with a slower, more considered, more mature style. It reads as though it is written by an Englishwoman of the 1920s. While parring this style with a weird-military-horror story is not an obvious approach, it somehow works.  It easily held my interest for all of its 370 pages.

Did I enjoy War of the God Queen as much as The Dulwich Horror? No, not quite. But, I did thoroughly enjoy it. Not only is it an interesting story, with an intriguing cast of characters, but it felt different from any of the ‘weird fiction’, I have read before, and that’s not an easy feat to manage these days. David Hambling is a skillful wordsmith, who I'll be keeping an eye on!