Thursday 28 May 2020


I am happy to report that everything seems to be on the upswing for me at the moment. I’ve had a really solid week of writing, and I have made significant advancements on a couple of projects. I’ve been reading up a storm, having finished Ghostmaker, the second Gaunt’s Ghosts book as well as Big Magic: How to Live a Creative Life, and Let Go of Your Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (best known for Eat Pray Love). This second book was a quick, enjoyable read. It’s not really aimed at me, since I’m leading a heavily creative life already, but for those who would like to bring more creativity into their lives, especially if that creativity is writing, it might very well be worth a read. My wife also really enjoyed it.

I have also gained a bit of speed with my painting. My most recent conquest is Borok, the gnoll-minotaur hybrid from Frostgrave:Perilous Dark. I must admit, I have always been really pleased with the concept of Borok as a mid-level bad-guy for Frostgrave. I was thrilled that he got some great artwork in the book, and even happier when Bobby Jackson turned that artwork into an amazing miniature!

Saying that, I don’t think Borok is my best work. I got the colour choices just slightly wrong. They work, but they probably could have worked better. Also, as the first serious painting I did after my illness, I didn’t feel that I had quite all of my brush-control back, so some of the detail is a bit sloppier than I would like. That’s only true on close examination though; he’ll look great on the tabletop. 

The other nice thing about this figure is that he also works great for Greviks, the man-beast who appears in Rangers of Shadow Deep:Temple of Madness. Always nice when a figure can do double-duty!

Tuesday 26 May 2020

Frostgrave: Second Edition – Rumour Mill 1

While the virus has delayed Frostgrave: Second Edition, it hasn’t stopped it. I can confirm that the book is currently ready for print and on-track for its new release date on August 20th! As that is now less than three months away, I figured it is time I started opening up about what’s coming in the new edition. So, consider this post the first of several over the coming weeks.

The first news comes right at the beginning of the book. The new edition has a foreword written by none-other than Shane Lacy Hensley – the man responsible for the Deadlands and Savage Worlds role-playing games! Shane’s writing and game design have been a big influence to me over the years. His efforts to make role-playing much more miniature friendly were a big factor in my own attempts to include a lot more role-playing elements into miniature wargaming.

Long before I wrote Frostgrave, I submitted a proposal for a little Savage Worlds adventure. Shane replied to me, encouraged me, and ultimately helped me polish up, what became Rise, Alabama! One of my first gaming publications. While Shane and I mostly fell out of touch after that, I continued to buy and read a lot of his works, and, as it turned out, he did the same, picking up Frostgrave

I am seriously proud that he agreed to write the foreword.

Now, one of the biggest changes to the new edition has already been revealed – the switch to aRu-Mor as the series artist, and I have shown off a new piece of her artwork above. Once again we have the Sigilist, who we’ve previously seen on the cover, in her more natural habitat – a library! Of course it is Frostgrave, so it is a frozen library, but there you go.

One of the things I really like about this piece is that it illustrates one of the new spells that the Sigilist school is getting in Second Edition. The spell is called ‘Bridge’ and it allows the spellcaster to create a bridge or staircase made out of a scroll (or in this case books). This utility spell should allow explorers easier access to high terrain and a way to potentially move from one high spot to another. Of course, the enemy may not want to set foot on a Sigilist’s bridge…

So, that’s all I’ve got for today, but I’ll be back soon to talk about creating Wizard and Warbands in Second Edition!

Thursday 21 May 2020

Easy Wins and Altered Expectations

Having physically recovered from my illness, and thankfully regained much of my clarity of thought, it was time to start working on the lethargy, malaise, and anxiety that have dominated the last month. Now, some of this stems from the UK lockdown, and will probably not be fully resolved while all of society remains in such an acute state of uncertainty*. But, there are measures I can take that I believe will make a real difference to my general happiness and peace of mind.

First-and-foremost, I started painting again! Painting has been one of the key forms of relaxation (and dare I say meditation?) throughout my life. Even as little as twenty minutes in a day can often make a real difference to my sense of calm and accomplishment. Knowing that I was in a delicate state, I deliberately selected an ‘easy win’, and broke open a pack of Frostgrave chronohounds. I knew that painting these guys would mainly consist of dry-brushing and washes, neither of which require too much concentration. Despite that, thanks to the amazing sculpts by Jason Wiebe, they look terrific.

I think the concept of an easy win is an important one, especially when you’ve been down or are struggling. If I had started with a big complex model, I’d have probably given up in frustration, but since these were easy, I saw them through, and got a nice sense of accomplishment that will help guide me into the next project.

I’ve taken the same approach to my reading. Instead of pulling one of the big, deep, non-fiction books off my shelf, I instead started re-reading The Gaunt’s Ghost series by Dan Abnett. This remains my favourite military science-fantasy horror series of all time. Last year, the 16th book in the series came out. I don’t know if it is the last one, but it certainly wraps a lot of things up, and the series could happily finish there. Since it has been about 15 years since I read the first one, I thought it was probably time to go through them all again.  They are not demanding books, and having read them all before, I was able to blast through the first one and am deep into the second. Easy wins! Now I feel like I’m getting back in my reading grove.

So, my hobbies are going well, but I knew that I would also need to take a very hard look at my work. In truth, I probably expected way too much from myself this year anyway, and current circumstances have certainly made my start of the year goals unobtainable. So, I took down my list of writing projects from the wall, and I crossed out everything that wasn’t actually necessary. Essentially, I chopped my to-do list in half. I then created a new list with only those core items and put it back on my wall. Now, the list that used to sit there accusingly looks manageable. If things go well, I can always add back some of the other items at a later date. 

Now, I realize that not everyone can modify their workload quite as easily as that, but I think everyone who has been affected by the virus, especially if they’ve gone into lockdown, needs to alter their expectations. They need to alter their expectations for what can be accomplished in a day, what they will accomplish in a month, and what they are likely to accomplish in a year. Businesses need to alter their expectations of what their employees can accomplish, even if everyone can do their job from home. At the moment, everything is just a little bit harder, everything takes a little bit longer, and the days are just a little more stressful

As someone who makes a majority of their income as a freelancer, I have to be a self-motivator. While a little bit of stress can be helpful for this, it is a very delicate balance. As soon as my expectations become unrealistic, the resultant anxiety interferes with my ability to get into the flow, and my work suffers.

So, if you can, take a little time and see if you need to alter your own expectations. If you can’t do it with your job, see if there are other aspects of your life that can be cut or reduced. Wisdom is in subtraction. And if you are struggling in certain areas, see if you can set yourself up for an easy win.  

*For example, if things continue as planned, England will be opening schools to some classes on June 1st.  This actually includes my daughter’s class. However, my wife and I have decided that our daughter will probably not return to school at this time. Thankfully, we are in a position where we can make this decision, as my wife isn’t working at the moment, since she is looking after our pre-school age son. I realize not everyone is in a position to make such a decision, even if they wanted to.  For us, we just don’t believe that the measures the school will have to take to make it a safe environment will be overly conducive to learning. Also, there is no way the school can actually handle all of the students coming back and have social distancing in place. Frankly, they need some of the students to stay home if they can.  Obviously, this is a situation we will continue to monitor.

Friday 15 May 2020

Illness, Stress, and the Wargames Designer

It’s been over three weeks since I put up a blog, and, truth be told, it’s been a pretty bad time. Soon after my last blog went up, I started to get chills and then developed a fever. These chills and fevers would plague me for the next four days. I don’t know if it was ‘the’ virus (thankfully there was no cough), but it was pretty bad. When the fever and chills finally abated, I was left with a host of odd aches and pains and a tremendous fatigue. For the next week-and-a-half, I would wake up around 8AM, go to bed around 8PM, and do not a lot in-between.

Then, as my physical strength started to slowly returned, my mental state kind of collapsed. I became listless and disinterested. After a couple days of this, I realized that apart from whatever virus I had, I was also suffering an acute bout of stress. It seems funny that you can be highly stressed and not realize it, but there you go.

What follows is just a list of my own issues during the lockdown. I fear it reads a bit like a list of complaints, but I really just mean it as an example. The truth is, now is not a ‘normal time’, and most of us are probably suffering in some way or another due to it. It may not look like it as we paint miniatures and watch Netflix, but when we are suddenly torn out of our routine and thrust into a different mode of life, stress is inevitable. It’s obviously going to be worse for some than others, just as the hardships are greater for some than others, but whatever your situation, your stress is valid. Recognize it, try to understand it, and then, hopefully you can start to address it.

When this lockdown started, I honestly didn’t think it would affect me that much. I mean, I’m a writer, I work from home anyway. Most days, I only left the house to go for a bike ride or to pop down to the grocery store.

Fool that I was. Of course it has affected me, majorly.

For starters, my wife and two young children have been locked down in this small house with me. My wife has been amazing throughout this strange time, but even at her best, it is not possible to keep two little kids from popping into Daddy’s office, or from screaming, or crashing pots, or whatever. Also, the pressure on her is immense, so there are times that I have to go to the rescue or give her a break.

Now none of this is conducive to creative work…or any kind of work really. Since the lockdown started, my productivity (even ignoring when I couldn’t work due to illness) has dropped noticeably. Inevitably, I have fallen significantly behind where I hoped to be at this point in the year. Why anyone should be expected to produce at the same level during this times is mystifying.

So work is going down, home life is harder, and many of my natural stress-relievers are gone. Thankfully, I can still get out and cycle – but my infrequent trips to the library, the cafĂ©, and the gaming store are all gone. The gaming conventions, which not only were fun, but always helped recharge my enthusiasm for my work, have all been cancelled.  Heck, I don’t even know when I’ll be able to get my next can of Chaos Black Primer!

Also lost to the virus was a trip I was planning to take to see my parents, back in the USA. I have never felt farther from ‘home’. I didn’t get to see my family enough before, and now I don’t know when the next time will be. That’s a thought, I just have to keep at bay as much as possible.

And then, amidst all of this, my new game, Oathmark launched. It is the largest, most complex, game I have ever worked on. Any time a designer launches a new game it is going to be stressful (the same as any creative who release their work for potential review and criticism). There is going to be a flurry of reactions, questions, confusions, etc. This is a natural part of the process – though it can be a difficult one. To do so at the same time that much of the world seems to be falling apart, has made it double-difficult. Thankfully, I’ve had a lot of great support from my colleagues at Osprey games, as well as numerous friends and fans.

So that’s me. I’m feeling better physically, and I have at least identified my stresses and can start to process them and see if there are ways that I can mitigate their affects. I think everyone would probably be advised to set aside a little time to examine their own potential stressors and see if there anything that can be done to relax a little more.

For me, I think one important thing is to get back to painting, when I can. I haven’t really done any in the last three weeks. The figure presented on this page is one I painted months ago, but never got onto the blog for some reason. I assembled him from bits from numerous different companies (a no-prize for anyone who can identify them all!) and painted him up as a volunteer for Operation: Last Train.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, cut yourself some slack. It is a stressful time.