Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Hobby Update - More "Garden of the Damned" details

Yesterday I shared some work I'd done on a graveyard over the weekend, which I'm calling "The Garden of the Damned". This evening I did a little bit more to it, but with just a little work on some details I think it looks a lot better.
So what did I do?

1. Dry grass. A few tufts of dry grass effect, pushed into watered-down PVA glue. Simple but looks good! (In the example below, note that the glue isn't dry yet, but it will dry clear.)
Tufts of dry grass added to the tomb.

2. Horizontal rails added to the railings. The railings look a lot better and more authentic now compared to just having the posts. I haven't added rust to these yet, but they will blend in once I have.
Cross pieces added to railings (foreground)
3. "Freshly" laid graves. I sprinkled some dark brown flock with a little green onto some PVA glue painted in the shape of a grave in front of some of the headstones. This adds some visual interest due to the dark colour and also some "atmosphere" (I must remember to add a skeletal hand too!)
Freshly dug grave effect in front of headstone.
Earth effect in front of headstones adds some variation to the board.

Watered-down PVA glue before adding brown flock.
With these simple details I think the overall impact is much better! I hope you agree!


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Update - Garden of the Damned

After yesterday's Necromancer update, I started today determined to do more on my scratch-built graveyard. I originally got going on this as I thought it would be useful for Frostgrave or Warhammer, and also because my local GW didn't have a Garden of Morr in stock (which is a lovely looking terrain piece - in a depressing, haunted, sort of way!)

Here's what I did (and then more photos):

  1. Very quick and dirty Russ Grey drybrush on gravestones.
  2. Made metallic railings from cocktail sticks:
    • Grabbed 30 cocktail sticks from the kitchen drawer...
    • Painted cocktail sticks with Leadbelcher (metallic).
    • Clipped off sharp ends of cocktail sticks (Approx 5mm - don't throw them away!)
    • Poked post holes into the board (to seat the railings.)
    • Made a rust wash
    • Painted rust wash then Drybrush Ryza Rust.
    • Filled post holes with glue and then pushed the cocktail sticks into the holes.
  3. Took the sharp end of the cocktail sticks and glued them to the top of the tomb before adding more rust. 
  4. Said "Voila" and had lunch.
There is actually a bit more I'd like to do, like add some dry grass effects, and maybe some details (skeletal hands coming out of the ground?). Also, the railings look weird without cross pieces, but for now, here come the undead!


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Vampire Counts or Frostgrave Necromancer

A quick hobby update today on a recently completed model, a Vampire Counts Necromancer from Games Workshop.

I don't currently have a Vampire Counts army, so this may seem like an odd model for me! However I recently visited Games Workshop in Tokyo with a view to seeing if there were any models that would serve in games of Frostgrave, and this fellow fits the bill. He could be used as an NPC creature/ Vampire, or as a Necromancer Wizard or apprentice.

He is quite a simple model to paint.
Servants of darkness in a fantasy setting tend to be outfitted in muted colours (Here a dark red and black) and if you stick to that idea it keeps things easy. Other than two main colours (black and red), the only others you really need are a brown and a bone/ skull, as well as some flesh tones.

I said I don't have a Vampire Counts army, but I do have some Tomb Kings that I started putting together. Both to keep the possibility open of using this guy with them in Age of Sigmar, (and as a possible Necromancy-themed warband in Frostgrave) I used the same red. As a reference, here are some of the Tomb Kings. I think they will go together nicely:

Writing this post is motivating me to do some more bits and bobs on my scratch-build graveyard this weekend...


Friday, May 20, 2016

Top Tip - Painting Rust.

This blog started as a way to keep myself motivated to paint large numbers of Skaven and hopefully, to also help other new Skaven players. One way I have tried to do that is with the "How to paint" blog entries, and I hope that some people will find them useful. Another thing I can do is to share any tips that I learn(ed) along the way as a beginner.

I'd like to focus today on something that might be easy to do for the beginning painter, but which makes the final product look a lot better on the tabletop.

CC0 Public Domain Image
This very simple technique adds a lot of character to an army. ANY army that is composed of the (un)dead is a good candidate for this, but it will also add a lot to armies that represent decay, evil, or cunning (or just a lack of discipline). Case in point, Skaven, but other likely candidates include:
  • Nurgle
  • Anything Chaos(y)
  • Tomb Kings/ Skeletons
  • Vampires
  • Poorly armed peasants
A quick Google search will give you lots of techniques for creating rust effect on your models, for all desired levels of mastery. Companies like GW have created rust effects (Ryza Technical Paint) that you drybrush on and these can look good too (Modelmates have another I think). Scroll down to the bottom to see some examples of this.

In this case though, I'm going to show you a DIY Rust wash

What you need:

One or two colours:
x1 Brown (e.g. GW Mournfang Brown. I used to use Calthan Brown.)
x1 Orange (I used to use Blazing Orange. The closest GW orange is now called "Troll Slayer Orange") I don't think anyone has the old colours now, but if so, here is a conversion chart.

If you don't have that though, even just an orange will work.

What you do:

  1. Mix 25/75 Brown/ Orange, very, very watered down (or just the single colour) 
  2. Brush onto metallic areas so the wash collects in crevices, around joints and nails etc. 
  3. Immediately after applying, dab or wipe away excess using a tissue, leaving the rust wash gathered around the metallic area where rust would probably occur.
TIP 1: Before starting, have the tissue(s) ready, because you will have to work quickly. The longer the wash is left, the stronger the effect.
TIP 2: Twist the tissue into a point, so you can wick away or dab away precisely.

OPTION: Using a very fine brush, paint rusty streaks downwards onto the metal, to show where the rust has washed down or accumulated through exposure to rain.
Rusty streak.

Here are some other examples of how this can turn out:

Rat Ogres (armour):

Warplightning Cannon blades (front)

For comparison, here are some examples using Ryza Rust on some Tomb Kings skeletons from last week or so. I've only just started using this, so I haven't mastered it! I think it will look better if you stipple it on, rather than use drybrushing. Multiple stipplings will look better.



Saturday, May 14, 2016

Pillars of Eternity: Fantastic!

Wednesday March 16th 2016 was a good day in roleplaying games for me.

After well over 80 hours, I finally managed to finish Pillars of Eternity ("POE"), surely one of the best (if not the best?) isometric RPG games in recent history.

In a world where MMORPGs seem to be the heavy hitters, there is something refreshing about diving into a single player game, selecting your party of stalwart adventurers and misfits, and leading them on a journey of discovery where you get to make every choice for your group.

As there are lots of high-quality reviews on the web, I'm just going to make a few points here...

"You must gather your party before venturing forth..."

Hearing this classic phrase the first time I left a party member behind and tried to leave a map in POE made me smile. Not only did it take me back to 1998 and Baldur's Gate, but it confirmed again for me just how much hard work and love went into creating this game. Obsidian deserves a lot of credit for the excellent work they have done with this title. I for one am very grateful that their Kickstarter was so successful! 

Now that's a successful Kickstarter...

From start to finish, POE is a quality experience. 

Right out of the gate, character creation gives you this impression. You are free to choose from a wide range of races and classes, and while the standard fantasy tropes are there (Elves, humans, dwarves - or similar) it is nice to see some original races appear too. You get to choose your religion or any god that you want to follow, as well as their backgrounds. Naturally all of this affects your stats and outlook on life as well as providing potential bonuses with various weapon types.

That doesn't mean that you are stuck on a particular path however. The game provides a large variety of weapon types, and although classes favour certain weapons, that doesn't mean you can't use others. Leveling up gives you the opportunity to specialize in certain weapon sets throughout the game. A priest can specialize in the "Ruffian" weapons skill (and the 4-5 weapons that encompasses) just like an assassin. It was refreshing to have a wizard in the party who had some skill with a rapier.

The impression of quality initially created continues throughout the game in a number of ways. As far as I know, my game wasn't affected by a single bug. Voice acting was good where it existed, and the interface was usable and generally quite efficient.

Great story, with satisfying depth...

...is the heart of any great RPG. That is as true now as it was 20 years ago. Even if Pillars is a quality experience, it wouldn't be as good as it is if the story wasn't up to scratch, so I'm happy to report that it IS good. Also, there is depth here in both the combat and roleplaying, giving you sufficient challenge, but always plenty of options to tackle them. 

That depth is furthered by an interesting array of NPCs who you can choose to join your party. Sure, no-one quite matches up to the lovable madness of Minsc in Baldur's Gate (not to mention Boo) but some of them are up there. You'll find some enjoyable side quests and personal stories to explore on their behalf too. One mark of a good set of party NPCs is how difficult it is to make a decision about who to have in your group. In POE, that can be a difficult choice from both a roleplaying AND tactical perspective and I found myself arguing with myself on many occasions who to take into my party.

Finally, there is literal depth, in the form of a hack and slash super-dungeon that seems to go on forever (you can enter and leave at will though), and access to other mini games. If you choose to, you can even take on castle management and maintenance for your stately home, taking it from shambling moldy pile to gleaming castle of dreams.

So, if you have any kind of interest in roleplaying, tactical combat, fantasy storytelling (and have a PC, MAC or Linux OS), you owe it to yourself to at least consider giving this a go. 45 US Dollars for the Hero edition (base game) doesn't sound cheap, but you get an amazing amount of gameplay and value for money out of your purchase!

Good stuff!


Monday, May 9, 2016

Frostgrave First Game Thoughts...

Firstly, some positives to the game that I took away (I've only played two games though, so these might change!) Basically, Frostgrave benefits from all the positives of being a skirmish game. In addition, it has some mechanics that (coming from a background of WH40K and Fantasy) I really came to appreciate over the course of an afternoon.

Simple Warband Sheets:

Remember making a character sheet in your first RPG? This is a similar, but much simplified process. Choose your wizard type and their magic spells, then spend your gold on hiring and apprentice and soldiers for your warband.
Neither my opponent nor I had really got to grips with the wizard types or 80 spells available before the game, but in short order we had playable warbands with 8 magic spells for our wizards that worked quite well, and a selection of expendable underlings to do our bidding die at our behest.

Image Credit. Critical Miss by Scott Ogle. CC by 2.0


Yes, the humble but iconic D20. What a blast to pick these up again - and you only need two! Rolling these took me back many years to playing D&D in the school library with my friends. As did that sense of horror when I realized that somehow my opponent's green dice was better than my red dice when it came to rolling natural 19's and 20's!
I think his dice must have been made of warpstone...

Speedy combat:

The combat system is quite simple and elegant. Roll off on a D20, highest score wins AND is also used to resolve damage. There are a variety of modifiers used in combat, but these are quite easy to get to grips with as they are:
  • based on weapon types, which are grouped into some simple categories.
  • based on supporting models in the combat (you get a bonus if you have a friendly model in the combat that isn't currently engaging another model)

Simple Magic that still offers tactical complexity:

Magic is similar to combat. Roll a D20 against the casting difficulty of the spell. Only just failed? Sacrifice some health to boost the spell.

I mentioned earlier that you have access to 80 spells. That isn't QUITE true.
Your wizard has a maximum of 8 spells on their roster. Three chosen from your own discipline, three from an "aligned" school, and two from a neutral school. You don't get access early game to spells from other magic schools. However, this  choice of eight still gives you plenty of room to put a lot of thought into what spells you might take, and how they could complement each other or the rest of your party. The diversity of Wizard types (ten) also means that there is likely to be a type that matches your "style" (Elementalists are good for explosive, ranged magic. Thaumaturges are generally healers and protectors etc.). You'll find the standard fantasy wizard types, but also some more original styles that specialize in manipulating time and other aspects of the world around them.

Plenty of "Story" Moments:

A small game space well-stocked with buildings, random creatures, fast, dice-based combat, and the prospect of treasure means that we regularly had those "memorable game moments" that make a board game fun.

Take this guy, my nameless rat-man thug ("Thug no.3") in the foreground with the treasure chest:
Lowly thug (foreground) hiding from evil killing machine (werewolf, top right)

He is nearly to edge of the table with his treasure, but a random creature - a Werewolf! - comes on via a dice roll, right in the middle of my table edge. Not only that, but the werewolf then moves in a random direction, finally ending up here in the same room as me... what the hell!

in combat, my Infantryman becomes a surprising mix of combat god and champion can-opener...
...here you can see him at taking on my opponent's heavily armoured Knight, and slaughtering him while only having a couple of points of health left himself.

Rat man in blue rips apart heavily armoured Knight.

just as my Man-at-arms thinks he has snuck up to some treasure hidden in the old pub...
...the opposing wizard casts his Crumble spell to collapse the elevated walk-way and tumble my soldier to the ground...

...Bah, CURSES!

So, lots of positives then. Were there any problems or issues?

Kill, Kill and Kill some more?

Why would that be a problem in a skirmish game?
Well, despite the focus on treasure and retrieving it, in the rules-as-written the last warband standing gets all the treasure that remains on the table. ("The player with figures remaining collects all of the treasure still on the board").
In a standard (non-campaign) game, this seemed to mean for us that it made sense to just try to slaughter everyone else. This negates the need to go after treasure and haul it across the board, especially as by getting the treasure off the board you lose the warband member who was carrying it for the rest of the game.
Sure, the combat was fun, but without that aspect of husbanding your time and team around getting treasure the game felt a bit "empty" and one dimensional.

Also, underlings, apprentices and wizards were dropping like flies in combat! This often came at the hands of a long range spell (Damn you "Bone Dart"!) or a lucky strong hit in melee. Once your wizard was out, you then felt severely restricted. Of course, this should be the case to a certain degree in a game that relies so heavily in the fluff (and field) on the wizards, but I was surprised how fragile everyone was!

To be fair, I think that these issues are specifically solved by playing a campaign game or scenario. You are actively rewarded for keeping your wizard in one piece and stand to gain more for each treasure token you get off the board. Soldiers and wizards also aren't automatically "dead and gone" (there is a chance of this though), but instead suffer injuries that affect their stats.
Alternatively, these problems can also be solved via some house rules, of which there are plenty all over the internet. (I quite like the look of these.)

I'm sure there are other things that will come to mind in future!


Saturday, May 7, 2016

The What and Why of Skirmish Games

Since getting back into miniatures wargaming a few years ago, I've focused most on "large scale" games like Warhammer 40K and Warhammer Fantasy. I've dabbled a bit with X-Wing, but I have never played a "Skirmish" level game in a fantasy setting. 
Until last week, when I got in my first couple of games of Frostgrave.

If you are new to skirmish games (like me) what is a skirmish game? and why would you want to play one?

What is a Skirmish game?

In contrast to fielding "armies", a skirmish game will usually focus on a small-scale action at the individual unit level. Depending on the setting this might be a squad of troops, party of adventurers (6-10) or platoon (perhaps 20 - 30). 

Why play Skirmish games?

I'm a big fan of wargaming, whatever the size of the battle, but my first foray into a skirmish game prompted the following thoughts:

Lower model count = Lower entry cost and faster gaming

A medium-sized wargame army might cost up to several hundred pounds to purchase new, unpainted models (this cost can be reduced of course by using ebay). A skirmish-sized army will usually cost much less, as you might be looking a just a handful of models. If you are already a wargamer with models from a similar universe (e.g. a fantasy or sci-fi setting), then you probably already have the models you need for yourself and a friend- no further investment in models necessary.
See here for a post on the models I used to make my first Frostgrave Warband.

Also, with less models can come less actions overall per player, significantly speeding up a game (once you have a grasp of the rules).

Less assembly = Less impact on your sanity

Some people will say that assembling a large army is the best part (next to using it) but it can be a real chore after a while. 
One unit of 30 models? OK. 
4 units of 30 models? Challenging!
(As an example, I spent a couple of days putting together some GW Tomb Kinds skeletons...talk about fiddly and infuriating!)

Less painting = More gaming

A "horde" army might be 150-200 models (Skaven are a good example). For an amateur, part-time painter (yours truly) who likes to only field painted models, that means hundreds of hours of painting time spread across evening and weekends. A skirmish unit of 10 models is going to be just a tiny fraction of that.

Smaller battlegrounds = More convenience, more action

Larger wargames might be played on a 6' x 4' table. Skirmish games can be smaller. Frostgrave plays well on a 3' x 3' or 4' x 4' space. With these smaller dimensions, movement is still important, but there is a good chance that in a short space of time you are going to be stuck into combat.

All this sounds good right? 
However there are some potential downsides. The main one IMHO is:

Terrain, terrain, terrain!

Depending on the setting, you might need to populate your gaming space with lots of scenery and terrain pieces. In Frostgrave, the action takes place in part of an abandoned city. This is a great setting and lots of fun, but it means you need lots of terrain pieces on the table to represent the alleys and spaces in a city.

Take a look at how my first game looked (and this might be called a bit sparse!)
My terrain selection for our first game of Frostgrave.
In the above picture, there is a mix of terrain:
Ideally, I would have a gaming mat with a winter city theme...but I guess I will have to wait for that!

This might not be an issue for all gamers. It is worth pointing out that depending on the setting and game, this may not be an issue at all! There are lots and lots of terrain options out there to suit all budgets, from pre-painted to papercraft, to ready to paint. However putting this together if you don't have a good amount of terrain already is either time consuming (possibly negating the saved-time benefits to having a small model count), or expensive, or both.

If you are interested in a Skirmish game, then have a look around. There is probably something available for every possible historical period or fantasy/ scifi setting! I found the rules and dynamics interesting compared to using armies, so in another post, I'll talk specifically about my first impressions of playing Frostgrave.

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