Saturday, August 25, 2012

Best. Gift. Ever.

My birthday was actually about a week ago, but I have been meaning to share this:

Do I have the best wife in the world or what? Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go kick Mordor's ass...

Friday, August 24, 2012

Into The Deep Dark...

Recently I have been fiddling around with using Song of Blades and Heroes to create a good solo dungeon crawl system that fits my needs. I own a copy of Song of Gold and Darkness, but have found it too focused on two players. There are a lot of great ideas in it though, so with that along with Song of Deeds and Glory (for campaign/experience rules) and a generous helping of homebrew, I started my first real playtest dungeon:

The layout above is a testament to both the awesomeness of Dungeonstone's advanced set and my monumental laziness. I've had the set since March and it only has 3 colors. You'd think I'd be done by now.

Nevertheless, my heroes set off into the dungeon, paladin and rogue in the lead and the dwarf fighter taking up rearguard. Opening the door to the first room, the party is surprised to find a giant wolf guarding a fountain! It leaps forward to attack!

Turns out that fountain has magical properties that sustain the wolf, leading to a tough fight. The rogue is taken out of action almost immediately. Here's hoping there aren't any traps ahead. Eventually the wolf is put down, but there is no treasure to be had here. After the first casualty, the dwarf and elf take the lead to deal with tough fights ahead.

Is this place a kennel? The next room yielded more wolves (hooray for random tables!) tucked behind a patch of poisonous fungus. Also no treasure here either (boo, random tables!).

Luckily, wolves are dumb and charged across the fungus themselves. One is unaffected, but the other ends up with a face full of spores and a coughing fit for its efforts. The wolves go down quicker than the first and everyone makes it through the fungus unharmed, although the paladin had to stop briefly to sneeze a bit.

The door to the next room was locked, but teamwork quickly bashed it open in the absence of the rogue. Behind the door waited a crystal golem commanded by a wizard who was ready for trouble. The heroes could feel that fell magics had been cast here and the ground itself felt cursed.

The golem surged forward, but the elf quickly reduced it to sparkly rubble. An opening found, the dwarf charged in and hacked the now defenseless wizard to pieces. The heroes once again found no treasure to reward their efforts.

Pressing ever onward, the heroes move down the opposite corridor. Suddenly, dark shapes move out of the shadows of the intersection. An ambush! A couple of dark elf warriors led by a witch rush the unsuspecting heroes!

 In a flash of blades, the wizard is laid low! Now with no magical support and a flank attack, things look grim...

 But the paladin has no tolerance for such evil creatures. He quickly smites a warrior, then the witch, letting his comrades mop up the survivor.

The heroes almost make it to the next room before lumbering footsteps and scraping scales echo down the hall. A small (-ish) dragon has heard the battle and come to chow down!

 Dodging a gout of flame, the paladin and dwarf rush in. The paladin stuns the beast, letting the dwarf make short work of it. Who said dragons were dangerous?

 Finally, treasure! One bashed down door later and the group was staring at a huge treasure chest. It was quickly opened to find...10 gold coins. They fought a dragon for this?

 Obviously drawn by the scent of dragon meat (or looking for his now-dead pet), a giant lumbers down the hall. He hurls a couple rocks before getting hacked up and left in the pile that has accumulated in this intersection.

 The final room! The door swings open to reveal a tomb that will surely contain treasures of old. However, first the heroes will have to fight off a Chaos Mage and his bodyguard who have come to loot the tomb as well!

 With blinding speed, the elf ranger leaps forward and cuts down a Chaos warrior while the other villains stare in stunned silence...

 Giving the elf the opportunity to engage the mage himself, though not before the paladin finds himself ensorcelled. As the mage utters the final few words of the spell, the elf gruesomely disembowels him with his blades. The sight causes one bodyguard to panic, letting the dwarf hack him to bits as he tries to flee.

The final bodyguard foolishly holds his ground and is gutted by the elf. The tomb is opened and reveals 100 gold pieces! Finally, some reward! There is also a potion tucked beneath the old bones.

In the aftermath of the quest, the rogue recovers from his wounds, albeit having been looted for his gear while healing. Five gold pieces later he is re-equipped. The wizard is not as lucky and succumbs to his injuries. A new wizard is hired and reveals the potion found in the tomb to be a potion of speed. Healing potions are purchased and distributed to prevent future casualties.

I have learned a couple things from this adventure:

1) Tailor your encounter lists. While it is fun to have randomness, it makes a better story if you have a theme. It also means that you can use more of the figures you want. I ended up using a lot of unpainted figures because I rolled things I haven't gotten to yet. Granted, my dungeon isn't done either, but at least if I had made lists to suit my collection, I could have had more color.

2) The scenic features in  SGD are not necessarily the ones I want to use. I will probably come up with custom rules more suited to what I have on hand and more what I envision in a dungeon setting.

3) I may add at least a little treasure to each non-wandering encounter. Not getting paid for getting stabbed in the face sucks. Not a lot though. Like 1d6 coins or something to represent pocket change.

That's all for now. Maybe on my next trip into the dungeon I'll bring you with me again. *winks*

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dem Bones: Time's Almost Up!

I know this is kind of 11th hour at the moment, but Reaper's Bones Kickstarter has less than FOUR DAYS LEFT!

If you are a lover of miniatures, I urge you to pledge. This project will add a huge selection to a line of cheap, durable, high detail plastic miniatures that will help make adding minis to your RPG sessions, warbands and armies extremely affordable. The minis market needs this cheap option, not only to let new players have access to basic models at reasonable prices, but also to challenge those "premium" miniatures companies who say they can't make quality figures for cheap. Reaper is one of the biggest in the business, so if they can do it, so can others! We want our cheap minis!


If you a TRUE miniatures lover, you are going to want to pledge at the $100 Vampire level. There are currently 182 miniatures ( and more coming) offered at this level. That is 55 cents a miniature! There is absolutely no better deal out there at the moment. Even if you can't use all the figures, they still make cheap gifts and you can always trade 'em. Not to mention all the sweet add-ons you can unlock at this level. Dragons, giants, antediluvian terrors, all can be yours for an additional fee! Pledge already, damnit!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Plague And Pestilence

This one is a mini that I have had for a while and painted up about a year ago. Its a limited edition Chaos Sorcerer that was given out with White Dwarf magazine as a subscription bonus. Since I am a lover of all things Nurgle, his patron god was pretty much already decided.

Two things are missing from this miniature. The first is a horn, which can be seen by the hole in the side of the hood.  I left that off intenionally, because I wanted the Nurgle one-horn look and the hole looked good to me as-is, so I never bothered to fill it in. The second is a third hand, just below the outstretched one. I honestly lost the little sprue that had the two alternate hands on it. So instead I painted up the remaining bracer like a scroll and mad it look like it was being grasped in a tentacle. I think its nice and subtle.

I did my best to give the skin a corpse-like feel and to make the whole model look dirty. I am especially proud of the boil on the back tentacle. The boil is just paint-work and has not been raised at all with green-stuff or putty. I left the skin around it fleshy so it could look more sore and aggravated. The metal got a dingy, not quite rusty but dirty look. I also made the ground look scorched and unhealthy

Overall, this is one of my favorite miniatures. It inspires me to do more Nurgle miniatures in the future. Since I have a whole Warhammer army full of Papa Nurgle's followers, I have no shortage of willing subjects. In addition to serving as my Chaos army's sorcerer, he has also made appearances in my HeroQuest games (as a Chaos Warlock) and most recently as the villain in a Song of Blades and Heroes scenario. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Short, Sweet and Deadly

Hasslefree Miniatures makes some of the best female beauties in the business. When I saw their new female dwarf slayer named Hayden (a possible nod to a certain diminutive cheerleader on that show that had the super powers; you know the one) I had to have her. Hayden is the first female slayer I have encountered, and certainly has the most appealing dimensions of any female dwarf I've ever seen. So, I bought her and painted her up:

I went with blonde mostly because it felt more "Hayden" to me, and added blue tattoos to break up all the skin (and there's quite a bit). Some close-ups of the tats (that's an "a" not an "i" you pervs):

This was my first time really painting extensive tattoos. I definitely need more practice. I aimed for a mixture of pseudo-Celtic swirls mixed with some Norse/Germanic symbols.

She also has a pretty nice caboose for a tiny little dwarf lady. At some point I would like to pick up the *ahem* resin version of her. I always enjoy painting up Hasslefree's stuff and I am definitely planning on more in the future. Their dwarf line in general is pretty amazing, so I may give her some more heavily armored backup down the line.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Favored Enemy: Dungeon Command

For this installment of Favored Enemy, I'm going to take a look at Wizards of the Coast's new miniatures game offering, Dungeon Command.

This won't be a true Favored Enemy column, since I have only played two games so far, but since it is new and I'm fairly excited about it, I wanted to give everyone else a look. Like all FE posts, this won't be a true review. I'm just going to ramble on about what I like and don't like (so far) and you're going to sit here and read it. Or go to a different website, because I suppose that's an option too. But I hope you don't. Please stay?

Anyway, before I left on my honeymoon, I cleverly pre-ordered both of the initial sets of Dungeon Command and, lo and behold, they were waiting for me when I got back. I may have squeeled like an 8-year-old girl when I collected our mail, or at least that's what my wife says. But since I'm the one writing this, I definitely did not. It was more like a 13-14 year-old girl at least.

The two sets I got were Sting of Lolth, a drow based set, and Heart of Cormyr, which centers around adventurers of various human and demi-human races. Each contains a pre-determined set of 12 miniatures and some pre-constructed decks of order and creature cards, along with dungeon tiles to play on and loads of tokens and counters.

Upon opening the box, I was impressed with the artwork and box quality:

The box cardboard is thin, but unless you really mistreat it, it should hold up just fine. I also liked that the box had a little latch built into it. They definitely intend for you to keep using this box to carry your miniatures, which the inside box set up also shows:

As you can see, the tiles sort of "lock" into place over the inside tray, and do a marvelous job of keeping everything in place. Even after turning the box completely sideways , nothing shifted. I haven't been brave enough to turn it upside down, but I can imagine only a couple pieces escaping, and the latch ensures that it will never spill open.

And speaking of the tray, everything inside is marvelously organized:

Each miniature has its own cozy little hole to live in and all the cards, tokens and counters have a spot of their own. It makes the little OCD part of my brain very happy, though I am already scheming ways to separate the tokens up even further with little plastic bags and such.

The rulebook is well laid out and the rules very easy to learn. The book itself its more like a pamphlet or small magazine and I was interested to see that each box's rulebook had a cover unique to that set:

It is a nice touch, but hopefully they move to something more generic in the future. I can't imagine it is cheap to commission new art for each set and the contents of the rules are exactly the same otherwise. I wouldn't like to see art costs drive the costs of the game up (or kill the game) for something that's kind of unnecessary.

The game itself is very simple: summon monsters to your start area and they move around the board, square by square, and attack your opponent's creatures. You can collect treasure to boost your warband's Morale (which goes down as you lose warriors; reach zero and you lose, kind of like "life points"). Rinse and repeat each turn until someone wins.

Two things really stand out, however. The first is that you have a deck of Order cards, which let your creatures perform more and different actions than just the basics. The second is that there are no dice. This is very different from other D&D games, and especially miniature games in general. Instead, you tap a creature's card (much like in Magic: The Gathering) and you do damage automatically. It was kind of hard to get used to at first, but I really like this aspect because it creates a more puzzle-like game where strategy is everything. The Order cards introduce a little bit of randomness and can prevent damage, but you have a lot more control of how and when you deal or prevent damage.

Setup takes up a little more room than your average board game, but this won't be new to miniatures gamers. Those just buying in expecting a board game will find the space issue somewhat of a problem. Each person needing their own box to play, however, should be a decent clue that this isn't your average board game. Incidentally, the boxes are set up to provide a well-balanced sample game out of a single set, with the miniatures and cards split between both players using a smaller board set-up. It isn't a full game experience but it is a great way to learn.

Each box comes with a choice of two commanders with different abilities that affect your warband. Some provide more Leadership/Morale (which summons more creatures or act like "life points" for your warband respectively) while others give you bigger Order or Creature card hands, affecting your options during the game. Each commander also provides a special ability to shake things up. 

As you can see, the miniatures are pre-painted. They are pretty much the same quality as WotC's other pre-painted models in the past and many are re-issues of those same figures with different paint. They aren't terrible, but they aren't great either. They get the job done though. I would have like to see a little more variety in the colors and the drow are just plain too dark.  

The tiles are the same quality as other D&D tile products and are thick and durable. Best of all, they have puzzle-like hooks on the edges, similar to the D&D adventure board games, that keep the battlefield together during play. This is very handy if you bump them accidentally. The textures on the dungeon side are beautiful, but I am not entirely happy with the outdoor sides on the reverse. 

It's less about their looks and more about outdoor battles are handled. Aside from slightly different looks and terrain, there is little to distinguish them from dungeon battles. Hills are treated as walls, so even flying models can't move over them. It would have been nice to see hills be more like difficult terrain that provided a high ground bonus, since that would have at least changed outdoor tactics and given a reason to choose it over dungeons. There are even random magic circles and treasure piles scattered around for apparently no reason.

Ultimately, though, I find the game fun. It plays fast, allows for strategy unhindered by horrible luck and has fighting in dungeons, which always makes me happy. It has a lot of room for expansion, and there are two more sets announced this year, goblins and undead. In fact, you are not limited to playing a single faction out of the box. There are rules to create your own decks of order and creature cards, and there is some benefit to getting multiple sets, although for a casual gamer such as myself there is no real need. So far the sets seem very balanced, and play uniquely, with many options within the set itself. So far I am favoring Heart of Cormyr, as they are very much my playstyle, but maybe as I play more and get used to the drow I will change my mind. Or maybe one of the new factions will steal my heart. Time will tell.

There is one surprise in the boxes that I found most welcome: Each box has a small set of cards to use in the D&D Adventure System games. If you own Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Asahardalon or Legend of Drizzt, then Dungeon Command is a great addition. A small handful of the miniatures in each set are painted versions of ones in the AS games, and come with new cards so they can be used as new monsters for custom scenarios. The Heart of Cormyr set has the best addition, in my opinion, as it allows allies for the AS system heroes to encounter and get help from. It is a unique, fun addition that adds new rules instead of retreading the same monster/encounter ground. 

There is a lost opportunity, in that no AS scenarios using the new cards were included. As it is, there are no real guidelines for making new scenarios and encounter decks in the base AS games, so it would have been nice to see something added for the less experienced players who aren't quite comfortable with making new scenarios yet. 

Dungeon Command gets a big thumbs up from me and I hope you try it out. If you are still on the fence you can check it out by reading he rulebook here. The price tag is $39.99 per set, but if you look around you can find some good deals.