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.

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!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Twisting Catacombs Kickstarter

As you all know, I am a huge dungeon crawl fan. This blog was originally conceived to follow my 3D dungeon project, which despite little-to-no progress of late, is still ongoing. I painted two very boring doors the other day. I still have to expan with a couple more rooms, but what a dungeon really needs is lots of furniture. Rooms are essentially a series of squares and rectangles, but furniture is what makes it look alive and lived in. Even a small table gives it a story. Is it a dining table? A card table for Three Dragon Ante? Someplace to lay bodies for experiments? It's all in how you use it.

I have some furniture, but most is dwarven styled and not very generic, because it comes frome Games Workshop's Mines of Moria set. I also have a couple random pieces from Reaper Bones and one table I made myself. So I was really excited to find a Kickstarter campaign for some extremely nice furniture at an incredibly reasonable price.
Twisting Catacombs has a perfect array of basic dungeon furniture. My ideal, of course, is what was provided in the old HeroQuest board game and is the core of my own Deep Dark Dungeons rules where scenic features are concerned. So obviously I was drawn to the Classic Dungeon Dweller Pledge.

Great stuff, isn't it? And there's a ton of other items as well, including some very unique pieces. The only catch is that there are only 3 more days to get in on this! If you have a dungeon that needs dressing, Twisting Catacombs is the perfect way to dress it up. So check it out, pledge and then set up a miniature orc tea-party when it arrives.

Happy gaming!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Relic Knights First Impressions

Recently I went to the first annual Vermont Comic Con. The con itself doesn't warrant a report. It was small, few guests of importance and while there were a lot of great costumes, there were also some dreadful ones too. I'm not complaining. It's the first year and it was bound to be a small show. I just don't think it needs a blog post.

That being said, one of the vendors there, Brap's Magic, had a demo of Relic Knights going and I just happened to be wandering through the gaming area at the time. I didn't see much, but I was instantly hooked.

And, honestly, how could you not be?
Now, I am already a fan of Soda Pop Miniatures' stuff through Super Dungeon Explore. I own the first edition of that and went whole hog on Forgotten King, which I can't wait for. Relic Knights had been on my radar during the Kickstarter but I didn't take the plunge. I totally missed that it came out this summer. Since fortune had placed it in front of me, I decided to take the plunge and bough two faction starters for a little less than 80 bucks.

When I choose factions for games, I generally take a few things into account: looks, playstyle, relative power, etc. I also choose two factions for any game because I anticipate having to either play alone or teach others how to play who will never buy in themselves. I also like to have some variety of choice, since if I hate how one faction plays I have another to fall back on.

My reasons for choosing Cerci Speed Circuit as my main faction was neither deep nor carefully calculated.

Cerci is sort of the "fan service" faction and it has a lot of ladies with big boobs on fast machines or carrying around big wrenches. But most importantly to me, the lady on the cover in the white suit is Marie-Claude, the in-game representation of model, cosplay enthusiast and occasional Soda Pop Girl, Marie-Claude Bourbonnais.

She even has a cosplay costume for the character!
She is rather popular among Soda Pop fans and the company has worked her into their games. I also have the SDE version of her coming for Forgotten King and I'm so excited. Mari-Claude is one of my favorite cosplay ladies so it's great to get her in miniature form.

My second faction choice was more an effort to choose something opposite to the first. Cerci is good, fast, wears revealing clothing, is relatively weak in combat and has a lot of healing. I ended up choosing Black Diamond to counter all that.

Black Diamond are unscrupulous mercenaries, have lots of heavy armor, are slow-ish but have great ranged attacks. They don't heal but they have armor and numbers. While a few of the other BD members bust out the sexy gear, the battle box has none of that. Plus I also ended up with boxes that were green and purple, colors I really like, so maybe that was a subconscious factor.

I've had these things for all of 24 hours, so take anything I say from here on out with a grain of salt. These are my first impressions, so this is kind of like an unboxing rather than a review. That said, I have read the rulebook like 3 times now, so I have a little idea of what's going on.

All in all the battle boxes are great deals. Like most starters, they don't necessarily have the best troops in them but you get pretty close to a minimum starting force and play just fine out of the box if you don't mind playing small games. Both boxes contain exactly 27 points of models and it would only take one more purchase to take it up to the minimum 35 point game size.

The box contains not only models but all of their stat cards, a play mat to track activations, an Esper battle deck (which everyone needs to play), essential game tokens and a rule book. This rule book isn't a page of quickstart rules but the full rulebook minus the fluff. It has REALLY tiny text and there are more than a few typos, but the rules are all there and it seems like a fun game.

The models themselves are good quality resin-plastic. The facial details could be a little sharper, so that might be a challenge if I ever decide to paint them. They were fairly easy to assemble, except for the Cerci Royal Wrecker. Never again. If you get one, my advice is to assemble the torso first, then the legs and attach together after. Mine is missing a piece because I couldn't fit it in after I glued the legs on. Don't repeat my mistakes.

I don't know much about the fluff but the general gist from the book is that a force called the Darkspace Calamity has devoured the universe except for one last galaxy. In this galaxy, there are people called Knights who can manipulate a power called Esper and have companions formed out of pure Esper called Cyphers. These Cyphers greatly augment the Knight's power. The most powerful Knights are Relic Knights, who a have found ancient Esper powered machines to ride into battle. During the Darkspace Calamity, these knights are trying to push back the encroaching darkness, but some are trying to help it or are taking advantage of the chaos.

The game itself plays pretty slick. You have a cadre of models led buy a knight (either relic or questing) and the two sides battle it out over objectives set at the start of the game. The most interesting thing about the game is there are no dice. Each character has a set of actions that are powered by Esper, which is generated by drawing cards from the battle deck. Each card has a primary Esper type, which is worth two points, and a secondary type worth one. You can either pay for an action, which then goes off automatically, or you can't. Some actions, like attacks, your opponent can use actions to defend against.

Players alternate activations in the order they set the game up at the start of the turn, meaning that the battle has a constant flow. There is very little downtime for either player. Movement is fairly unique in that all models have two movements, one before an action and one after. This means there is a lot of maneuvering going on, which helps give more tactical depth to what is generally a skirmish game with very few units.

Scenarios are also generated using the battle deck by flipping over a card for each player. The primary Esper type defines that players primary objective and the secondary type the secondary objective, as outlined in the book for each type. This means that both players will rarely be working toward the same goal and each game will be very different from the last. Games also take up very little space, playing on either a 3'x3' or 4'x4' board depending on game size. That said, you will need some space to line up activation cards and battle decks which are pretty necessary for game play, so don't get rid of those 4'x6' tables yet.

So in summary:

Things I Like

  • Marie-Claude!
  • Skirmish size
  • Diceless
  • Anime style
  • Tons of scenarios
  • Forlorn hope setting without any "grim-darky-ness"
  • Starters are a great deal
Things I Don't Like
  • Not a ton of fluff available outside of buying the main rulebook.
  • Details on minis could be a little sharper.
  • Game is highly reliant on tokens/markers with generic numbers on them, necessitating keeping notes. I hate note-keeping in miniatures games.
So obviously more pros than cons and I can't wait to try a few games out. I'm not sure that I will expand my forces out very much beyond the starters, but there are a couple models I think I will have to pick up based on looks alone. And it's hard not to fall into that "must have minimum 35 points" trap.

That's it for my initial thoughts on Relic Knights. Happy gaming!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Deep Dark Dungeons Version 1.1

I've had a few months to play around with my Deep Dark Dungeons rules and hammer out a few kinks. I've cleaned up grid movement a little, suggested lower points levels for campaign games to make things easier and added custom traps!

You can download the latest version of the rules HERE.

Remember that you will need both A Song of Blades & Heroes and A Song of Gold & Darkness from Ganesha Games to use these rules.

So, give them a test drive and let me know what you think. I'm still playing with things and maybe soon I can add another appendix say...magic items?

Happy gaming!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Son of the Great White North

I haven't had much time for hobby projects lately, and posting the bloggings even less, so yeah. Recently, however, I was invited into a new roleplaying group for a Pathfinder campaign. Well I say new, but Jay, our GM, is a close friend of mine. Jay and I have been through many a campaign before, both run by him and as battle-brothers in quests run my others in our old RPG group. Most of that group is scattered to the winds these days, so it was a real privilege to get to adventure with him again.

This image was both awesomer and sadder before I got married.
I have always loved playing in Jay's campaigns because he has an impressive attention to detail, especially so in his Luth setting. He has run games for others in this setting, but I have never been involved in one, though I have heard the stories. I'm very excited to finally get to experience the world. So excited that I resolved to paint up a whole new character mini for the campaign.

Luth has a land filled with Viking-esque people called Oebriens, and the people of the Great White North stood out to me because some of them could talk to their dead ancestors. In game this manifests as being able to cast Augury a few times a week. I wanted to take it a bit further and make my character a barbarian so devoted to his ancestors that he gained divine magic. Thus Boros the Redhand was born.

Of course I went to my gigantic pile of Bones minis immediately. I found an amazing muscle-bound figure with a huge axe and a tiny head that was perfect.

I was able to get a surprising amount of detail out of the figure. I chose a red/brass scheme as a cue from the name Redhand and because the demon-faced axe reminded me of something and old school Khornate Chaos Warrior would carry. Overall I am very happy with the result.

I also couldn't resist writing up a short character history.

Boros Mikkelson, The Redhand (Barbarian 2/Cleric 1)

The Great White North is a harsh and unforgiving place. None know this more than the Oebrien barbarians who live there. Villages are small, food scarce and warmth scarcer still. However, this harshness binds the Northerners together, sharing everything they have with each other and inducing a friendliness that, while overbearing at times, can make outsiders feel welcome. Northerners enjoy life to its fullest, with feasts and celebrations all year long. Ancestors are praised, mead is drunk and everyone lives each day as if it could be their last. In the Great White North, this could well be true.

Because farming and raising livestock are so hard in the North, many Northerners turn to raiding southern villages to feed their families. This does little to endear them to the peoples they raid, but the Northerners try to take as little as possible to survive, knowing well how it feels to have nothing. Only the wealthiest towns and villages are chosen, with poorer families spared if possible. Of course violence is inevitable and the Northerners have become renowned as fierce and savage warriors. Many towns work out a system of tribute to avoid bloodshed and some even hire Northerners as mercenaries to protect them against other would-be raiders.

It is into this world that Boros, son of Mikkel was born, in a tiny fishing village called Sutvarsk. Boros was huge, growing to almost six feet by his fourteenth birthday. His father was an accomplished raider, teaching Boros the way of the axe and it was something the boy excelled at. It was not long before Boros joined the raids himself, earning his own name next to his fathers as the Redhand. His berserk fury on the battlefield soon caught the eye of a small band of mercenaries called the Blackblades and he quickly found himself roaming far from home to the southern lands.

Boros has developed a taste for the foods of the south and enjoys cooking in that style, even having gone as far as carrying cooking tools and spices with him. The Blackblades have no objection to this, of course, and enjoy many of the Northern dishes he prepares as well.

Boros is particulary reverent to his ancestors, and communes with them often in the way of his people. So strong is his connection to the dead that some say he occasionally converses with the Great Father himself, the one common ancestor that those from the Great White North claim all men are descended from. Only Boros himself can say whether this is true for certain, but lately he has shown the ability to call on divine powers to bolster his allies and heal the wounded. Boros claims none of this power for himself, saying it is his ancestors guiding and protecting him and his allies.

For now Boros travels with the Blackblades, but his visions seem to have him troubled of late. Who knows where is ancestors will guide him next?

Boros in Deep Dark Dungeons

Of course Boros will probably find himself in my own dungeon crawling games. The following stats will work for both Song of Blades & Heroes and my own Deep Dark Dungeons supplement to those rules.

Boros, the Redhand.....76 Points
Quality 3+  Combat 4
Cleric, Dashing

That's all for now. I hope you have enjoyed hearing about Boros and maybe soon I will be able to tell more of his adventures.

Happy gaming!