Friday, September 11, 2015

Into The Ruins

To say the least, I have found the setting of Frostgrave to be inspiring. I've painted more things for this game than I can say for a lot of others. Each of my two main Warhammer armies has a single painted figure. I already have 2 for Frostgrave.

There is something about a magical, snow-bound city ruined by the sins of arcane excess, that captures my imagination. I imagine the city as a lost Atlantean ideal, powerful in its time but now crumbling and forgotten, and filled with all manner of demons, undead and weird beasts leftover from bygone days. With that in mind, I really want to start building on my terrain collection to suit that feel.

Most of my terrain is pretty generic, so I already have a few ruins, the odd wizard's tower and of course my dungeon terrain to draw from. Ambiance is everything though, so first I had to find a good backdrop for all that terrain. I settled on a 4'x4' Alpine F.A.T. mat from Frontline Gaming.

It's on the bigger side for Frostgrave but it has the perfect bleak, grey look for what I envision. It looks really snowbound and the rocks could be hidden streets. I love these mats. I have two others, one for X-Wing and I just picked up another for 40K. They are vivid, durable, non-slip and come with their own carrying case. A bit pricey, but worth every penny in the end.

While I was buying things, I also found this pair of beauties:

They are pre-painted pieces from War Torn Worlds, which makes their terrain out of recycled tires. They are flexible and durable, which is a big plus because I'm starting to have to stack terrain in my cabinet. The color scheme is little light, but they do the trick quite nicely.

Next I settled in to paint a piece that I figured I would ignore forever. I picked up the Dragons Don't Share set from Reaper's second Bones Kickstarter with the intent of never painting it but imagining doing do until the day I died. Howeve, the ruins were so perfect that I had to get some paint on them at least.

The color is just my dungeon blend on a larger scale. I learned the hard way that Bones doesn't take spray primer well, so the piece is a little tacky, even with a couple extra loads of paint on it

And the top comes off for convenient model placement:

The set also has a set of crumbling stairs made up of a couple pieces for modularity:

But the whole thing fits together if you want it to be one big piece:

I have two notes on this piece. First, you may notice a big gap in the above picture. That is because there is another piece of ruin that has a huge dragon perched on it. I could not bear to tear the dragon off, but it would also look weird with a live dragon always attached to it. If I had another copy of that piece though, I would add it in a heartbeat. Second, for some ungodly reason the top portion with the stairs came in two pieces, both of which were very warped. All of my best efforts with a heat gun were for naught, but I found a solution. I filled the crack with my new favorite basing material, Golden pumice gel. On a piece like this, you'd never know the difference and it came out perfect.

Finally, I wanted to add a little weird and ominous to my Frostgrave, so I set to scratch building. You see, a while back my wife found a little resin pond super cheap online and bought if for me on a whim. I think it was originally meant for fairy gardens or something, but it is a bit out of scale as a pond. It has been floating around for while, always waiting for a project, and I finally found one.

I stuck it to some foamcore, cutting out a place for it to sit down into to lower the height of the walls a tiny bit. Then I filled it with clay to get rid of dead space, plus some more clay around the edges to blend it into the base. Then I used a mix of skull piles from Ristul's Extraordinary Market and spare Games Workshop skeleton bits from ages ago to make it look stuffed to the brim with bones. An old vulture from a Tomb Kings screaming skull catapult completed the look, plus some texturing with the ol' magic pumice gel.

The idea is that it's an old well or decorative pond that has been filled to the brim with dead bodies, possibly from before the city froze. But maybe they are unlucky adventurers after all, and who (or what) put them there in the first place...?

That's all for now. I'm hoping to add some larger ruins at some point to give the table a little more height and choke things up a bit. For now, though, I think it's a good start.

Happy gaming!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Frostgrave: The Night Before

The icy wind rattled the old knight's armor, and Amuron Owlkey looked his brother's way. Though almost ten years his senior and grey of beard, Amuron knew Hadrian's slouch was not one of frailty but of thoughtfulness. Sitting on a frost-bitten log, the knight sat staring into the fire, his blue-grey hood drawn up over his head. Nearby, Hadrian's sword lay next to him on the log and out of the snow. Snow which covered every tree, rock and inch of ground in the clearing they had chosen to camp in.

Amuron chuckled softly. Hadrian had always been the sensible one, the disciplined one. No one had been surprised when he had taken up the knightly order. He was a natural protector and Amuron admired that about his brother. It would also be something he would rely on very soon.

By contrast, there was nearly shock when Amuron enrolled in the colleges of magic. He had not taken it personally, since he knew his own impetuousness, his impatience and his quick (though short-lived) temper. But now, nearly thirty years later, he sat an accomplished wizard. In the snow. Staring at his brother.

Noticing Amuron's gaze, Hadrian shifted. He glowered out of his hood.

"Is something amusing?" he growled.

The wizard chuckled again, realizing he had heard him the first time. Amuron smiled broadly.

"You look cold. And troubled, brother."

Hadrian glowered harder, if that were possible, and pulled back his hood. The fire cast an orange glow over his snowy hair, almost returning it to the flaming red of his youth. Combined with his still-strong frame, he almost looked thirty again.

"Is she going to be warm enough?" Hadrian said, cocking his head in the direction of Amuron's apprentice. Elizabelle was setting up her tent, struggling a bit to get it raised. Though a few of the other men offered to help her, she refused. She was stronger than she looked. And she also looked very under-dressed, with her bare legs and low-cut tunic. Amuron chuckled again, knowing that was the provocation for his brother's comment.

"She knows the warmth charm as well as I do at this point," he said, smiling. "And it works very well. You aren't cold, are you?"

Hadrian stiffened at the implication. "No, I am not cold. I just don't know why you would bring this girl out here."

Amuron put on an exaggerated leer and leaned in toward his brother. "She has her uses."

The look on the old knight's face was priceless and the wizard nearly doubled over, his laughter echoing through the snow-covered rocks and trees. A few of the men looked their direction. Elizabelle still struggled with her tent, well used to her master's boisterous nature. When he finally recovered, he shook his head, smiling still.

"You know me better than that, Sir Owlkey. She is here because I will need her help and because first-hand experience is the best teacher. Those spells of hers will do her no good locked up in my tower. And she is harder than she appears."

Too hard, in Amuron's opinion, though she had right to be. When he had found her, it had been at the side of the road near-dead, with a good portion of her face burned by the thugs who had assaulted her. He had done the best he could to heal her, but healing was never his strong suit, and the scars remained. The wizard returned her to her farm, where her father promptly turned her out because she would never marry. So Amuron took her in, and so far he could not have asked for a brighter, more capable apprentice.

"We have done a fine job assessing who is cold and who is not," the wizard continued, "But you have still not told me what troubles you."

Hadrian's features returned to his glower. "I am not troubled," he grumbled out, "I am concerned. Felstadt is no place for grown men, let alone a girl of barely nineteen. Many wizards have entered the frozen city. Few have returned. Fewer still have returned unchanged. It is a dangerous place. I do not know if even I can protect you there."

Amuron's smile tightened, then drooped. "Having second thoughts about leaving the order?"

Hadrian's face softened, and it was his turn to smile, if slightly sadly. "No. The order can get by without me. The bonds of blood are stronger than any vow. Besides, what kind of brother would I be if I let you get eviscerated by demons?"

Amuron laughed again, stroking his thick brown beard. "Let us hope that most of the stories are exaggerated. I've seen demons at the colleges. They are not pretty. Well, some are, but they are the most dangerous ones. In any case, I think we will find more danger in other wizards."

"That is true," the knight agreed. "Avarice is always a dangerous thing. I still do not understand why you must go into the ruins. Gold and ambition have never appealed to you. Why are you risking your life in Frostgrave for scrolls and trinkets?"

Amuron turned thoughtful and it was his turn to stare into the fire. "I'm not," he said, his voice low and hushed, "They think I am." He waved a hand toward the handful of men he had brought with him. They were hard men. Strong men. Men motivated by wealth and the willingness to fight for it.

"That is another thing," said Hadrian "Can you trust these men? They are warriors, yes. But they are also thieves. Murderers. Blaggards. They could turn on you out there in the ruins."

The wizard smiled again. "Trust them? Not completely, no. But they are loyal. More than a few of them owe me their lives. Others owe me debts in other ways. And they know I fulfill my promises. I don't need to trust them. They trust me."

Hadrian scowled again and Amuron laughed. "Besides, if it goes south, well, I am a wizard after all."

"You can't cast spells in your sleep," Hadrian growled, "Unless you have a charm against slit throats. But you still have not answered me. What are you looking for?"

The wizard looked into his eyes, an uncommon seriousness settling over him. "I don't know. Ever since the snows receded and the city rediscovered, wizards and treasure seekers have been braving the dangers there. The promise of gold and glory is enough for any man, and the knowledge there priceless for any mage. It is no surprise that some test their luck and risk their lives."

Amuron shifted, looking back into the flames. "But I think there is more to it. I think something is drawing those with magic there. More and more wizards are flocking to the ruins. I don't think they really know why they are going anymore. Something is pulling it. I want to know what that is."

The knight nodded. "Then, whatever it is, you are playing right into it's hands."

Amuron chuckled again. "Maybe so. For now we should get some rest. We will reach the outskirts of the city by early morning. Sleep well, brother."

The wizard stood, shaking some of the snow from his cloak and robes and began walking toward the camp proper. Elizabelle had finally raised her tent, and he intended to do the same to his, only with a little magical help. He looked back at his brother brooding into the fire, smiled then kept walking, hoping he had not doomed them all.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Brother In Arms

I am a huge fan of Hasslefree Miniatures. Every one of their sculpts oozes character and charm. I also believe they produce some of the finest female forms in the business. I have painted their cultists for Strange Aeons (among other things) and little Hayden the slayer for dungeon crawling. 

This past Christmas I received a copy of their Sir Olwyn mini. I love the way he looks wise and devout, a perfect experienced mentor knight. Truly one of my favorite figures Hasslefree produces. I had plans on using him as a PC for Pathfinder and had primed him up, but then never got around to painting him. Then I found Frostgrave and realized I had a perfect templar ready to go.

Meet Hadrian Owlkey, elder brother to my wizard, Amuron Owlkey.

Hadrian protects his brother among the frozen ruins of Frostgrave, even having renounced his knightly order to follow him on his mysterious quest. Hadrian isn't privy to all of Amuron's secrets, but trusts his brother implicitly. Is his trust well placed? We shall see.

Templars are expensive, so they may not be the best choice starting out, but damn does he make for a pretty model on the table.

Of course my camera refuses to pick up the highlighting on the cloak but I assure you it is there. You can see that I've based him differently than my construct, having gone for a dead grass look that I think I favor over the green in the dead, frozen wasteland that is Frostgrave. I may go back and rebase the construct so he matches the rest of my warband going forward.

Speaking of frozen wasteland, I have decided that I will end up getting a Frostgrave specific mat at some point when I'm feeling rich. I want one of Frontline Gaming's Alpine mats because I think it looks perfect and I'm leaning toward 4'x4' for my games. Plus the size would ensure the mat gets used for things like 40K as well, so it's not to tied to one system.

In the interim, I went to the local fabric store and picked up a yard of white fleece to use as a 3'x3' mat.

It's a little stark, but it does the trick and was less than six bucks. Really a bargain you can't beat. I'm also starting to look into some extra ruins to bulk out my Frostgrave. I'd rather not have to cast Fog all the time, so having some extra places to hide would be great.

Anway, that's all for now. Happy gaming!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Forays Into Frostgrave

I love skirmish gaming. I used to play Mordheim. I'm a huge fan of Song of Blades and Heroes. So I'm always on the lookout for new skirmish possibilities, and it's no surprise that I have run across Frostgrave in my internet travels. It had piqued my interest, but I hadn't taken the plunge recently until some players at my local game store started buying books and kind of forming a group. Not to be left out, I also bought a book and so far I'm hooked.

For those not yet in the know, Frostgrave is about a ruined, snowbound city filled with the treasures of a former magical empire. Each player gets a wizard, who hires a warband to travel into these ruins and find gold, magic weapons and spellbooks for glory and gain. These wizards then fight in amazing wizard battles while their minions hoof it with the loot.

Like this, but with snow.

There are several different classes of wizard, like blasty Elementalists and evil Necromancers, but I went with an Enchanter. I did this for one simple reason: I can make golems. Of course there's the added benefit of being able to move treasures around and make magic items, but really it's all about the golems. 

Now, most people start with painting their wizard and maybe their apprentice first. Not me. I want a big stompy golem and I want it now. So I looked through my piles of miniatures and had a minor brain storm. I grabbed one of these:

I used to buy a ton of D&D minis back in the day, so I have several of these goofy, Ben-Grimm-looking assholes taking up space in a box. A little cutting, gluing and painting later and I have this monstrous beauty:

I wanted him to look less like a constructed beast and more like something dredged up from the ruins of Frostgrave on the fly. Hence the books and broken weapons. I also filled the gaps with my basing gel to make it look like he's held together with dirt in certain places, and a little static grass helps with that effect.

I'm really proud of him and he makes a great wall to block line of sight to my wizard and put the hurt on people who come to near.

Speaking of line of sight, I kinda noticed in my first (and only so far) game that ranged weapons are fucking awesome. So awesome in fact that I lost my whole warband and decided to start over from scratch. I also made the decision that I wanted to stop getting shot. To that end, I took the spell Fog, which makes 6" long, 3" high, 1" wide walls of you-can't-see-me that linger on the battlefield. 

Since I needed something to represent these but didn't want to get too fancy or expensive, I made these:

They are simply strips of thin card with a fog pattern printed on them, plus a couple of mini walls to help judge line of sight if there's any question that a model could be seen across them.

Simple, effective and if I find I need more fog I can just cut out more strips. No getting shot in the face for me.

Even though I got thoroughly housed and I have a couple misgivings with the ruleset (but that's a post for another time) I am still excited to get playing in earnest. The warband is small, so I'm hoping to get it done relatively quickly by my standards. 

If not, well at least my golem looks pretty.

Happy gaming!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Meow! HissssBOOM!

I have been a big fan of The Oatmeal for a while now. His style of humor just seems to mesh with my own in delightful ways. His sense of weird and truth (and weird truthyness) are everything I look for in comedy. And it doesn't hurt that his art is hilariously adorable. He is accurate about dogs, as well as cats and even grammar in a way mere mortals can only dream of being.

I guess you could say I like his work alot.

So when I heard that The Oatmeal was making a GAME on Kickstarter, I was intrigued. When I heard it involved kittens exploding, I pledged immediately. A lot of other people did too. In fact, people threw about 8 MILLION DOLLARS at him for the chance to meet their end via combustible feline.

The Oatmeal and his companions, Elan Lee and Shane Small, also did something that very few Kickstarter projects have achieved (especially one of this size): They delivered on time. They promised to ship in July, they shipped at the end of July and it just so happens that a few days ago I received my pledge. And now I'm here to share that with you.

A small blue box arrived with an adorable kitten and some big white letters on it.

I was mildly confused because it said it was shipped by Blackbox.

This box is blue. Not black. I expect better, dear sirs. I expect better. Luckily it got better. In fact, I received the best packing slip I have gotten in any package ever, and I doubt ever will again.

In fact all of the inserted paper materials have a delightful sense of whimsy about them.

Inside this blue (not black) box were two more boxes: My regular edition of Exploding Kittens and the NSFW edition.

A lot of fuss was made about the fact that a special addition was going to be made to the box, something that would surprise and delight us. At least in my case, they were correct. I could tell you what it is, but I think showing you would be better.


I spent a fair amount of time just opening the lid and giggling. I won't tell you exactly how much time, but I assure you it was inordinate and mildly disturbing.

Inside, of course, is the regular Exploding Kittens deck, a slot for a second deck and a little folded page of rules.

Lifting up the deck shows off the bottom, which has some lovely art of a litter box.

Lets not forget that I also got the NSFW Deck as well. The box is nice, but the deck will be going into that extra slot in the regular box for sure. It doesn't even have any cool art inside, just a plastic insert.

As for the game itself, well, it is not deep. Each player gets some cards, which do stuff and every turn each player can play those cards, then draw a card from the deck. If it is an Exploding Kitten and you don't have a Defuse card, you blow up and are out of the game. Last player standing wins. There are a couple extra rules, but that's the core of the game.

I will end this little unboxing with a selection of my favorite cards, first from the normal deck:

And then from the NSFW deck:

By the way, Smoke Crack With A Baby Owl is my favorite card. Of all time. In any game.

That's all for now! Happy gaming!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Star-Spangled Super-Soldier

I know I'm a little late, but happy Independence Day! Or I suppose if you're British you would call it Treason Day. But I'm not British, so I spent my weekend eating awesome food and watching explosions. Why?

Actually all that stuff was kind of just a sideshow for me because I spent most of my time finishing up a little project that was more than appropriately timed.

A couple weeks ago, something just short of a miracle happened. My wife showed interest in space marines. Or rather, I was looking at some space marine color schemes and she happened to see some Crimson Fists and said "Those guys look cool, you should paint me one like that." I asked her why she liked them and she said she liked the red and blue, and they reminded her of Captain America. Since she is a little bit of an ol' Cap fan, I decided to do one better. A few ordered parts and a rummage through the bitz box and I came up with this fellow:

Yep, that's a Captain America marine. I'm really pleased with the result. The shield came off a HeroClix figure and even though it's a little small, I feel it fits and doesn't overpower the whole model. I even left it with the original WizKids paint job because it looks good and I had no ambition to paint concentric circles.

I'm also really happy with the freehand star on the shoulder pad. It's the first real freehand I've done in a while so it was nice to see I still had it in  me.

The wife is also really happy with him, and since he's "technically" hers, that's all that really matters. I'm slowly trying to convince her that he would be good for beating me in 40k and have been hinting at having some "extra" space marines lying around she could use too, but so far she's not biting.

Anyway, that's all for now! Hope everyone had a safe and fun 4th of July! Happy gaming!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Tell me your secrets...

Hello again, readers. Sorry I missed May but things were hectic and I wasn't trying to rush the project I'll be showing off today. Maybe I'll get to a second post in June to make up for it. Maybe.

Anyway, a little backstory...

I started Warhammer 40k back in the halcyon days of Second Edition, when men were men, orks were orks and space marines were still barely restrained psycho-indoctrinated murderers for the good of mankind. My first choice of army was Eldar, because I loved the idea of space elves, shooting and OMG PSYCHIC POWERS.  However, one day I discovered the Inquisition powers, and hatched an idea.

Back then, each psyker had to start with at least one power from their primary discipline, but could then take as many tertiary discipline powers as their psyker level allowed. And the Inquisition powers had a power that could open a vortex in real space that would swallow up any model it hit instantly. Yum.

I had already been toying with the idea of using the 2nd edition box set marines as allies, and Librarians could get Inquisition powers as a tertiary discipline. I chose the coolest color scheme for my marines (dark green Dark Angels) and got a Librarian in terminator armor. After a couple games I was totally in love with Dark Angels and Librarians! With a level 4 psyker I had a 3 in 6 chance to pull the vortex power and I used it to great effect. And when the Angels of Death codex came out, I started using other heroes like chaplains and company masters, but a Librarian always made it in. That is, until 3rd edition hit and killed psykers, a tradition held for many editions after.

Fast forward to 7th edition. Psykers are meaningful again. They blow shit up like you wouldn't believe. Not taking a psyker is generally seen as a Bad Idea (TM). I also had access to the lovely Librarian from the Dark Vengeance starter. And here he is:

Though I stayed pretty close to the GW color scheme, I did stray a little. I have named him Codicier Bahram, and he always accompanies my Interrogator-Chaplain for that one-two punch of both physical and psychic torture for any Fallen they may find. He also has a penchant for Pyromancy powers, so I gave his force sword a hot, glowing metal effect. But enough rambling. Here are some more shots:

And a peek under the hood...

I also caught a pic of him in action (still only partially painted), challenging a hulking warboss. It's a cool picture, but it didn't end well for Bahram. But if you have to go, you might as well go in style!

That's it for now. I had a lot of fun painting this model. The detail is exquisite, and I want to paint more of the Dark Vengeance marines soon. But first I have a rather large and stompy project planned.

Happy gaming!