Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lighting the Way (to Better Basing)

Hello again, gaming friends. I'm afraid this installment will be a little light (heh) on actual projects, since I have acquired a new and time consuming job that is very hard on the feet, along with a nasty cold. Time spent lying down is not time spent gaming or painting I'm afraid. But I did find time for a little project that was both simple and fun.

In our current Pathfinder campaign, our group has been joined with a fun and rather useful ally. This ally is a lantern archon named Laurel-Marshall Carancros Latuch. Once a mighty hobgoblin commander (for the good guys; hobgoblins are good in our setting) during the Ogre Wars, Latuch was killed in battle and his spirit sealed away in a small sphere for a couple thousand years. Now reincarnated as a lantern archon, he lends our group support as well as...ahem..."critique" of our battle plans.

Not having any suitable models I decided to build one and this is what I came up with:


After all that build-up, he doesn't cut that imposing a figure, but that's really not his fault. He is, after all, a glowing ball of light. But at least he was incredibly easy to make. Our glowy friend here is just a bead on a flying stand attached to a base. I left the bead silver, gave the rough edges some touch-up and then based it. Dead simple and fits quite nicely. The base was the most complicated part.

And speaking of bases, I wanted to share my new way of basing. This is a method that has existed for a while now, but I wanted to give it a little shout out because I'm a big fan.

You see, aside from a brief affair with green flock in the early 90's, I have always been a glue/sand/paint baser. I have always liked the gritty texture, flexible color scheme ability and relatively natural look it provides. I also hate the amount of drying time and the way sand falls off while you're trying to paint said sand. I've tried dozens of tricks to try and reduce the time and make it less tedious but to no avail. Then I found this:


Like I said, it's probably no revelation to many hobbyers, but I stumbled across this stuff in a craft shop and picked it up. I'd heard of texture gels before and this one was definitely the right price, 8 oz for $10. An amount like that lasts a long time, especially for someone like me who only paints a few figures at a time.


It comes as a fairly thick goopy paste. It is better applied with a small sculpting tool than a brush, since it needs to be spread and the texture will kill brushes pretty quickly. It still has some drying time but after about an hour it looks like this:


The medium shrinks up and leaves all of the nice grit detail fully visible. It also dries firm, but not rock hard. None of the grit falls out when painted and it doesn't require any sealing before painting. In fact, since it is a medium, it readily sucks up paint and covers up very well. You get a nice evenly covered base that is solid and easy to work with. It also can be built up or used to fill gaps in rocky pieces if you so choose. I recently used it to add some diseased areas to some Nurgle BFG ships I intend to paint "someday".


It really has a lot of great applications.

For comparison, let's look at some of my bases in various forms:


On the left we have our pumice gel, the middle is sand, and the right is Games Workshop Stirland Mud, which I bought in fit of masochism. They are all painted and static grassed in exactly the same manner. As you can see, the pumice gel looks almost identical to sand and S-Mud, but with about half the hassle of sand.

S-Mud, by the way, is essentially the same as the pumice gel, but with color already added and approximately 8 times more expensive (Golden is about $1.25 an oz and GW charges $4.00 for 0.4 oz, or $10 per oz). The grit is also smaller, so I had to add a wash step to painting and the drybrushing isn't as pronounced. It also only lets you skip one step in the process. I really can't recommend the stuff. I'm glad I only invested in one bottle.

I'm in love with the pumice gel though. The biggest drawback I could see is maybe trying to base an entire army at once. That could get tedious really quickly and the drying/sealing time of sand could be a nice break. But for someone like me that only paints a few miniatures at a time, it's a godsend. If you can find some, you should definitely pick some up.

That's it for now, fellow gamers. Happy gaming!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

15mm Scale(s)

For a long time I have wanted to get into 15mm gaming.

If you have been doing 28mm gaming for essentially your entire gaming career, this can be a difficult thing to get into. A significant portion of your gaming investment goes to waste. Your terrain is almost all the wrong size, unless you imagine your little soldiers as fighting their battles in a land of giants. And your 28mm miniatures are titanic next to their smaller brethren. You might find one or two humans that could be hill giants, skeletons that could be bone giants, some rats and spiders that could be, well, giant rats and spiders. You see the common theme. Unless your collection is fairly scale generic, you can't use much.

I'm lucky in that, a while back, I made a small gaming board for Lord of the Rings skirmish, but it also doubles fantastically as a cave themed 15mm skirmish board for Song of Blades & Heroes. Add in a few rocky outcroppings and smaller ruin pieces and you have a nice underground (or ash waste) playing surface.


So that's terrain sorted, as least until I get inspired and build some more pieces. I do have a green grass board the same size, but I'd be pretty much just using the same pieces on that, plus a couple smaller trees. And the board is very old and showing some large bare patches in its outdated bright green flock. My goal is to someday refurbish that board but for now we'll stick to the underground.

Of course next I need some warbands. Like I said, I've been wanting to do something like this for a long time. Like years. Like a couple years ago when 15mm.co.uk was offering some of their lizardmen as a free sample. For the cost of shipping, I got 10 or so lizardmen, of which I have painted up five.




I also added a Reaper cobra familiar as a giant cave cobra. Buying it as a single piece actually cost me as much as the lizardmen, but I needed a small point filler. They aren't the most detailed, but I like these guys because they have a sort of Gorn/Trandoshan/Godzilla rubber-suit quality to them. They are quite charming.

You can find their warband roster right here.

Next I needed a suitable nemesis for my cave-dwelling lizardmen, a nemesis that also frequented the underground tunnels of the world. My answer came when Splintered Light put out some warbands of their dark elf line. Suitably painted they make some excellent Drow.





And Drow them up I did, with traditional dark armor, purple cloth, black skin and white hair. These guys were fun and super easy to paint, as were the lizardmen. At the smaller scales, drybrushing and washing goes even further than on 28mm, I think. I'm very pleased with the result on both warbands.

The dark elves also have a roster by the way, which you can find here.

And of course I cant leave off without giving you and action shot in their natural environment:


I have so enjoyed painting up these warbands that I have taken the liberty of picking up a couple more. Ral Partha Europe has a line of Blighthaven warbands, and I have purchased the dwarf and beastman packages. I can't wait to get them painted up, but lets face it, at my pace that may be a while.

In the meantime, though, happy gaming!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Bits & Bobs

I've had a bit of free time lately (read as "unemployed") and while I haven't done much in the way of big projects, I have had the chance to knock out a few mini-bits to enhance the games I play. I want to apologize for the photography here and in the last few months. The lighting in my new game room is atrocious and I'm trying to find a better way to do things. Right now these are taken in a small spot on my desk with my painting light.

The first thing I made up were a few treasure/magic item counters. Ostensibly they were made for use in Song of Blades & Heroes but they could also be used as generic objective tokens or to mark dropped equipment, or just as setting enhancers.



I had a lot of fun painting these up. The enchanted skull is may favorite and I think the freehand rune on top came out nicely. The shield is my least favorite because I really couldn't think of anything to make it seem really magical. I went with green, glowing eyes and another rune, but honestly it feels too subtle. Still, I'm happy with my work.

Next came a set of super-generic objective counters. It's just a set of scrolls based on pennies, and I didn't feel the need to spruce them up too much. They do the job though.


Finally, I wanted to add a couple of spell effect markers to my D&D adventures.


The ball of flame is a Reaper Bones orange translucent flame. It's going to be used to show the position of our gnome druid's flaming sphere spell, but it could also be used for a campfire or brazier in a pinch. Being orange already, I just drybrushed yellow, painted the base dungeon-y and called it finished.

The other marker is for my barbarian/cleric's spiritual weapon, and it is a scratch built piece. It consists of a Warhammer skeleton hand mounted on a paperclip. It got drybrushed for a ghostly effect and to give it some more character, I added a fallen branch to the base. The branch is a leftover Warhammer dryad arm. I'm really happy with how it came out and can't wait to use it to smite some foes!

And I will end things with an action shot...


Happy gaming!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Little Goblin Ingenuity

One thing I like to do is occasionally paint a miniature I wouldn't normally lay a brush on. Since I make my miniature purchase decisions, it doesn't happen often. But a ways back when I was starting to play in my current Pathfinder campaign, one of the other players brought a mini and wanted to know if he could borrow some paint. I have a "no lending" policy, but I did offer to paint it for him.

And after several weeks of busy life and procrastination, this is how it finally came out:



The model is some sort of goblin tinker, which is good because the player is playing a goblin tinker. I have no idea what company it is from and I honestly keep forgetting to ask. It is resin though and the detail is great. It also came on a little sprue with this guy:



The little robot servant actually came with two of the same arm (left) but it needed a morning star, so I found a little extra Warhammer bit and attached that. After that is was a simple metal drybrush and some washes. Both are small sized so they got stuck on pennies.

I'm really pleased with how the goblin came out and the robot is passable.  I'm especially happy with the detail on the goblin's face. And so is the player, so I guess that's what counts.

That's all for now. Happy gaming!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Shadows of Brimstone Unboxing

December has been hectic as always so here I am posting at the end of the month, trying to say I made posts monthly in 2014. I'm still 4 days away from the new year, so I think it still counts. Anyway, I do have a purpose for this post beyond just shoring up the numbers. And to that point I just have five words for you:

Wild west Lovecraftian dungeon crawl.

That's a pretty exciting string of words right there. At least three of those words are my favorite things ever. And while I'm not the biggest fan of the western genre, I can appreciate a good gunfight. Moreover, I do enjoy WEIRD west stuff, so what I'm about to show you has me pretty excited.

YEEEEHAW!
That's right, my FLGS got in the retail version of Shadows of Brimstone! Right before Christmas I snatched one up as an early gift to myself. There are actually two base sets for the game, one set in a mine and the other in a swamp. I felt the mine was more western-y, so I got that one, but each set has different classes of character in it and I really want the preacher. I hope they put out a preacher add-on pack someday because I don't really want to pay $60-$85 (depending on where I buy it) for a guy in black frock.

Anyway, here you can see the back of the box with all its pretty pictures:



Opening it up, you get to see the sprues of plastic minis, all wrapped up in their baggies:


The sprue minis are interesting to me because this is Flying Frog Productions' first foray into more hobby-style miniatures. FFP's other games have more traditional board game minis: soft plastic, low detail and pre-assembled. But more on that later...

You can also see the card decks, and below the minis we have the rule books and game sheets:





As you can see there are four classes included, and the back side of each sheet has the gender-swapped version of the same name on the back, except for the Saloon Girl. Her male counterpart is called the Piano Player. But then maybe I'm not so sure...
 

Yep, the Piano Player is totally a woman in drag. Which makes sense. No self-respecting gunfighter is going to take a painted working girl into a monster battle. So she's gotta slap on a fake mustache to get in on the action. Or maybe he's just a really effeminate guy who turns out to be a total hard-ass when the tentacles hit the fan. Either way, I chuckled.

Under the sheets and cards we find bases, one of FFP's famous game soundtracks and dice:



That yellow die is the Peril die and is used to generate the number of monsters that appear in some encounters. Its faces number 3, 3, 4, 4, 5 and 6, so you can see tons of monsters pop out if you're made to roll it more than once.  It's also nice to see an eight-sider in there because those are rare in games that aren't based on D&D.

Lifting up the insert shows us the sheets of tiles and counters:


Punching out these leaves you with something that looks like this:


Yep each of those stacks of counters is a single type of counter, excepting when there were so many I had to make double stacks for the ones they includes ridiculous amounts of. May God have mercy upon your baggie supply.

Speaking of which, those three card decks you saw earlier? That was a lie:


Those decks break down into tons of tiny decks that you use all of to play the game. All of them. You might end up not using a deck simply because you didn't draw the right cards, but the chance still exists that you might need to draw from it, so shuffle all of those cards. Every. Game.

Back to the tiles, all of them are jigsaw ended so they stay together, and double-sided for when you travel through gates to other dimensions. They look very pretty when put together:


I set about assembling the miniatures, which could have been easier. Flying Frog really tried to produce good, multi-part miniatures, but their inexperience shows through. They weren't the worst I've had to put together, but the combination of lack of instructions, poor sprue vent placement and odd piece keys (with sprue vents poorly placed on them) made it slow going. Luckily I had a little help:

"Can I eat that one? I'll eat that one."
Eventually I ended up with these nasty critters:




And the intrepid heroes:


Now these are all nice minis, but they really could have been soft plastic board game minis. The details are already a bit soft and most of them are reasonably simple models that could have been single-piece cast. I know that FFP want's to push this game as a "hobby system" rather than a simple board game, but they ended up with minis that are neither showpiece quality or easy to get playing with right away. It was a nice try but I think they will alienate pure board game players and miniatures gamers will just supply replacement pieces from other companies that are higher quality.

That said, there is a great game in this box. The rulebook is a little scattered but the info is all there, and BoardGameGeek has an extremely useful rules reference sheet to help get you headed in the right direction. It plays well solo, and scales for between 1 and 6 characters, providing you have the other core to expand past four.

It plays as a pretty simple "place next tile and fight the monsters there" exploration game, similar to Warhammer Quest of old. There are 12 or so scenarios with special rules to make each different and a system of experience to have your character progress from game to game. You can even take trips into town for more adventures. With skills, gear, artifacts, mutations and stat increases, each character quickly becomes unique over the course of a few games.

I got to play an extremely short first game, subbing in Mick Francis for the gunslinger so I could have a pretty painted mini.


As you can see, the game takes up a pretty large space...


And after only two rooms, I hit the objective. Don't worry, I still had plenty of monsters to fight.

"All this for only D6 dark stone each?"
All in all, it was a blast, and I imagine longer games would be even more fun. Mick and the unnamed marshal have enough experience to level, so I'm sure I'll be planning another game soon. If you like westerns with monsters and exploration, you won't be disappointed if you pick this up.

Happy gaming!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Creating Quests For Deep Dark Dungeons

The rules for Deep Dark Dungeons have been available for a while now and I hope everyone has been having fun trying them out. However, I'm sure by now everyone is also sick of using the random encounter tables in the book and want to know how to craft their own encounters.


The book actually recommends using your own collection of miniatures to craft your own encounters but gives very little idea of how to do that. So I thought in this post I would do about showing how I set up a quest, complete with encounter tables.

To start, I begin with a map. The book recommends a minimum of 4 rooms, but honestly that's a very short game with very little action. It works if you have time or space constraints but not ideal. My sweet spot is around 6 rooms. Anything larger starts to get dangerous but can make for a great marathon. Larger dungeons are also better for stronger groups of heroes. With that in mind, I set up this dungeon.


Six rooms, all left empty to be filled with furniture as the game goes on. Doors, of course, will be set up as the heroes encounter them. Speaking of heroes, the next thing I need is a group of brave victims to tell me how tough my encounters will be. I chose to do a Low Level adventure of 160 points, as I wanted this to be the start of a new campaign. The heroes chosen are:

Dwarf Warrior (40 points) Q3+, C4 Short Move, Steadfast
Human Cleric (36 points) Q3+, C3 Lethal vs Undead
Elf Ranger (45 points) Q2+, C3 Stealth
Human Wizard (40 points) Q3+, C1 Magic-User 


Obviously it's a little over 160 but that's not so big a deal. The idea is to get a fun group together. Now I need a pool of miniatures to create my encounters. Since I have boatloads of monsters to choose from, I decided to restrict myself to the drow box set from Dungeon Command


Not only did this give me a bunch of nice pre-paints to play with but saved me having to make too many decisions on what to use. 

When designing encounters, I like to start with the Final Challenge. It gives me an idea of who my bad guy is and helps me work out the theme if I haven't chosen one. For example, if I had chosen an Orc warlord, my normal encounters would contain lots of orc and goblin warriors, with some champions, ogres or trolls for challenging encounters. In this case, I wanted the Drow priestess to be the big bad, along with a couple of big spiders. With no easy stats in the SBH books already, I turned to the SBH warband calculator.

The final challenge is 2/3 of the heroes' point cost so that works out to around 106 points. It should also contain at least one personality. No need to be too exact and it's supposed to be a challenge, so I chose one priestess and two spiders.

Final Challenge (117 points)
Dark Elf Priestess (63 points) Q2+, C2 Evil, Magic-User
2 Medium Giant Spider (27 points each) Q4+, C3 Animal, Clinging, Poison

The Normal encounters came next. Normal encounters are worth 1/3 of the heroes' point total and should be made up of multiple non-personalities. Single models can be used for strong figures but single models can be ganged up on quickly, so they should be played craftily or be a little stronger than normal. You can make up as many encounters as you want but I like to stick to 6, since I can put it on a handy-dandy D6 table. As long as you can randomize what shows up, feel free to use any method you want.

Normal Encounters (D6)

1) 2 Medium Giant Spider
2) Dark Elf Crossbowman
3) 2 Dark Elf Warriors
4) Dark Elf Warrior + Dark Elf Crossbowman
5) Shadow Mastiff
6) Dark Elf Warrior + Medium Giant Spider

Shadow Mastiff (48 points) Q3+, C3 Dashing, Free Disengage, Stealth

As you can see, I chose Dark Elves from the SGD book and added the Medium Giant Spiders from above. The only new model on the list is the Shadow Mastiff. All encounters are around 53 points, but once again not quite exact. You want fun encounters, not a math problem. 

Challenging encounters finish off our list. Challenging should be around 1/2 the heroes' total and generally consist of single, powerful models, which may be personalities. Multiple models can also be used though, if they number close to the amount of heroes or more.

Challenging Encounters (D6)

1) Giant Spider
2) Dark Elf Witch + 2 Dark Elf Warriors
3) Dark Elf Witch Dancer
4) Drider
5) Umber Hulk
6) Dark Elf Witch + Shadow Mastiff

Drider (82 points) Q3+, C3 Big, Clinging, Evil, Magic-User, Magic Resistance
Umber Hulk (82 points) Q3+, C4 Big, Distract, Heavy Armor, Stealth*

*If Song of Wind & Water is available, use Burrowing instead of Stealth (84 points)

Once again, I stuck to stats from SBH and SGD with a couple new monsters thrown in. All come out to around 80 points as well. When making encounters I try to stick with abilities from SBH and SGD because that's what the rules are designed around, but really any SBH supplement can be used. That's why Burrowing is given as an option for the Umber Hulk. The system is totally flexible, though some abilities from other books might be totally useless in a dungeon.

And that's it. It really is just that simple to create your own encounter tables and work up your own quests. You can even take it one step further and create your own tables for furniture and the like, Just make sure you are making fun adventures for yourself, using your stock of minis.

And if anyone wants all the tables above in a handy PDF form, you can get them right HERE.

Happy gaming!