Friday 28 December 2012

New dwarfs from Avatars of War

Avatars of War have posted a WIP photo of the dwarf thunder warriors. As ever, the sculpts look top-notch, lovely detail on the armour scales. Note that the figure is kneeling, very nice touch and makes it easier to assemble regiments of shooters if some of the front rank are kneeling. 

According to the accompanying note, the components will be compatible with other Warcast kits, so if you really wanted to you could have kneeling warriors! Maybe a wounded warrior stumbling to the ground, that would make a nice addition to a regiment. 

There are also some early WIP shots of a sorceror and mounted lord of pestilence, if you are interested you can find these on the forum

Monday 24 December 2012

2012 - the Best Bits (part 3)

In this final part of my look back at the year, I am going to be rambling on about the minis and games that I have spent many an hour gazing at longingly on my laptop screen. If I had unlimited cash and time, I would be writing reviews of the actual products. But such is life, I don't have unlimited amounts of either, so think of this as my letter to Santa.

Dystopian Legions by Spartan Games has sucked away a lot of my web browsing time over the past few months. The sculpts look top notch, the free quickstart ruleset seems decent, but it's the whole concept that really grabs me. It's a 32mm game set in a Victorian era, with a steampunk/historical feel to it.

This picture from their website illustrates why it has me drooling over my keyboard so much. There's a Britannian trooper with the famous red jacket and stylised pith helmet of the Zulu Wars era, hefting a flame thrower. There's a couple of Prussian infantry with the characteristic pickelhaube helmet of World War 1, one is armed with a tesla rifle complete with electrified bayonet, the officer has a mechanical arm. The American trooper wears a cap reminiscent of the Civil war period, while holding a machine gun. And striding out in front is some kind of power armoured robot! And that's just a small selection from the four initial factions' infantry. Add in steam powered bikes, jump packs, armoured vehicles and dozens of other units, it really does look like a superb range of minis.

It's the blend of historical detail and steampunk imagery that has gripped me. I have always liked historical gaming, but truth be told the minis have never been too exciting. With a few notable exceptions, many historical figures were sculpted a couple of decades ago, times and technology have moved on, so they look (ahem) dated. These Dystopian Legions figures tick so many boxes for me, they are lovely sculpts. Another attraction is that the game is skirmish level, so there are lower numbers of high quality figures to paint. I can't believe I have resisted this game for so long, I think I keep telling myself that I will wait and see what the next release is before I plunge in. If you feel inspired to investigate further, head on over to the Spartan games website, there's a special offer on starter sets for the holiday season.

It will be no surprise to regular readers to see Avatars of War here in the review of the best of 2012. I have a number of their metal figures leading my dwarf, chaos and orc and goblin armies, there's even a regiment of their first plastic set, the dwarf berserkers in my collection. If I had continued to play fantasy games at the same rate as previous years, then I am sure I would have bought some of the new warcast sets - the chaos corrupters and the harpies being my particular favourites. It's only a switch from playing Warhammer to Saga that has meant me not buying from this fine range. The recent release of dwarfs has had me considering if I should start a dwarf army from scratch! I won't of course, I have put too much time and effort into my GW collection of dwarfs, but they are starting to look a bit tired and, well, redundant, next to the new kids on the block. I am only human and will surely be unable to resist for too much longer.

Finally, I have recently discovered a little gem that perhaps deserves more attention. Relics by Tor Gaming is a fantasy skirmish game with a slightly lighter touch than all the grim dark stuff around. If the idea of ragdoll puppets fighting evil dwarfs encased in mechanical armoured suits is appealing, then you should investigate further. The sculpts have a certain whimsical appeal that you will either love or hate. There is a decent range of minis covering four factions, while the free to download rules appear to be reasonably straight forward but with some very nice ideas. I looked at them as an ideal way to introduce beginners to wargaming, but with something of interest for even a crusty old gamer like myself.

That's just about it for my highlights of the year, from a gaming perspective at any rate. If you read this Santa,  remember me on your travels.

Saturday 22 December 2012

2012 - the Best Bits (part 2)

In the last post I looked at some of the less well known companies (and a blog) that had caught my eye in the past year. In this post I am looking at two more kickstarter projects that have really taken off, raising considerable sums of money, the first almost reaching the million dollar mark, while the second became the most successful campaign of the year. Each project caught my eye for a different reason and had me reaching for my poor, battered wallet.
Studio McVey is a small company with a massive pedigree. Most older gamers will recognise the name of Mike McVey, for all the painting work he completed at Games Workshop in the 1990's. For the past two or three years, Studio McVey have been producing high quality resin boutique miniatures, so are familiar to painters but perhaps not to gamers. That all changed in May when the kickstarter for Sedition Wars was launched. High quality plastic figures, great artwork and top production values in a boxed miniatures game.

I was one of the many thousands who pledged to the project. The biggest attraction to me was the sheer quality of the sculpts included. As the kickstarter progressed and these were increased in quantity, it just got better and better. The other components seem to be high quality too, but the game is a mere add-on in my eyes.The minis will be useful in a whole range of other games. It's the hard-sci-fi look that I like and I have already started to look around at rulesets that might be fitting for the minis. There was a slight disappointment recently when shipping was delayed from China, but it's admirable that the McVeys have sorted out the problems and the box should be here early in the new year. Something to chase away the post holiday blues.

The biggest success (in purely monetary terms) was the Reaper Bones project. I sat on the fence for a good while on this one, but as the number of minis grew and grew, I eventually caved in. While the sculpts are not up to the standard of some other ranges, in my eyes at any rate, there is something to be said for the sheer range and size of the goodies involved. Given my new-found desire to explore more gaming systems of differing genres, I figured having a couple of hundred extra figures to choose from would not do me any harm.

Some of the minis will almost certainly be used in my fantasy armies, while others may well be useable in the Sedition Wars setting. There are also dozens of classic dungeon adventuring style minis, I just need to find a ruleset I can use. For any that lie redundant after all these options are explored, there's always ebay - well, I will probably need more funds for the kickstarters of 2013!

That's it for the wallet-draining section of the review of the year. In the next post I will be looking at the oh-so-tempting minis that I have not bought, but which have teased and tempted me throughout the year.

Thursday 20 December 2012

2012 - the Best Bits (part 1)

As we approach the holiday season and the end of the year, it's traditional  to look back at the past twelve months. There's enough bad news around at the moment, so let's keep it upbeat and concentrate on just the good stuff. Here's a rundown on the hobby releases that caught my eye, the stars of 2012. Some of them I have bought/committed to buy, others are on my to do list.

If you had to summarise the past year in one phrase, you could do worse than go for something like "the year of the kickstarter". I think the first I heard of the concept was back in May when Sedition Wars was launched. Since then, it seems a new crowd-funding project is launched just about every week. There have been some very high profile projects launched through this financing method, but I wanted to start with some of the lesser know projects.

Imbrian Arts is a company I discovered back in 2011, when I stumbled on some sculpts based on Arthur Rackham artwork. It turned out that the sculptor, Jody Siegel, had his own company offering a small but very interesting range of minis. Just last month he launched a kickstarter project to expand the range and introduce a gaming system. While some of the models are from staple fantasy fare such as goblins and undead, I think you will agree that these are totally unique and jaw-droppingly nice! There's a few days still to go on the project, so go take a look.

The Massive Voodoo blog is a collection of painters from Europe (mostly Germany I think) that has grown significantly over the past year. The rate at which the guys pump out prize-winning painting is phenomenal, but it's a very down to earth site with plenty of tips, videos and just pure entertainment. When an art book was announced a couple of months ago, I jumped in happily to lend my support and am eagerly looking forward to the new year when I expect the books to ship. For me, this is the number one hobby painting site on the web.

Copplestone Castings is a well-established company that has recently caught my eye, as I look around at the growing range of alternative games and minis. The range of 15mm fantasy figures is intriguing, I was particularly blown away by the dwarfs. There are hints that a game is in development, but there is scant information on this that I can find. Still, there are plenty of other games out there that the figures could be used in, though that deserves a whole topic in itself.

That's it for the first part of my rundown of the stars of 2012. In the next post I will be looking at some of the bigger kickstarter projects.

Monday 17 December 2012

WIP ghouls and (yet another) necromancer

As I mentioned in my last post, I am painting the goblins from The Hobbit box set to use as ghouls in my Vampire Counts army. Here's a work in progress shot of some of them. This is the figures at the clean stage, they are still to be rusted, grimed and bloodied. I have been taking pictures at each stage, so I will put up a tutorial when they are finished.

I have also started work on another character for the Vampire Counts army, based on the Malifaux Zoraida the Hag figure. I have swapped out the hands for a staff and summoning pose, as I intend to use it as a necromancer, even though I already have two of those. Still, a coven of three witches has a nice classic feel to it, so why not? In any case, this model could, at a push, be used as a vampire character.

Progress has been hampered by a nasty cold, but I am over the worst of it now so will hopefully have them both finished within the next week or so.

Saturday 8 December 2012

Alternate Uses for the Hobbit Goblins

As soon as I saw the goblins from the boxed Hobbit game, I thought "mmm, ghouls, or maybe plaguebearers". Now that my boxed set has arrived I can put my idea to the test. Here's a line-up, showing from left to right - plaguebearer 5th edition, plaguebearer 7th edition, goblin, mantic ghoul, goblin, GW ghoul, goblin. The last one is not really relevant to the comparison as he's a one-off tiny addition to the game, he's included in the photo because he is cute!

The Vampire Counts comparison works best, as this second photo shows. Body sizes, heads, weapons are all pretty well matched. I would happily include the goblins as ghouls in my army, it could even be possible to mix them in with the GW hunched over ghoul, though that might be pushing it a little far. The mantic ghoul in this picture I actually use as a zombie, just to complicate matters a little.

The comparison with the plaguebearers is less successful. My idea was to buy a box of the new plastic plaguebearers and mix in the goblins to double the unit size. The difference in height I don't mind too much, it's the scale difference in heads and weapons that are more jarring. Of course, these are old metal daemons, but I suspect the new plastic daemons are very similar in size. I won't discount the idea completely just yet, but it's a little disappointing.

Speaking of disappointment, I found out recently that The Hobbit film is to be split into three episodes. When it was first announced a couple of years ago there was talk of making two films, one to cover the contents of the Hobbit novel, and another to cover what happens between the end of that book and the start of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Very exciting stuff, I have been looking forward to the release all year. But now I find out that the first film covers the first few chapters of the Hobbit book, and the rest will be covered in two more films. What? The Hobbit with no Smaug? I was a little dubious when I saw the designs for the dwarfs, but this has convinced me that I will not enjoy the film, so I will be giving it a miss at the cinema. Shame. Shame on those involved for milking the franchise to the nth degree. Chopping a 200 page children's story into three films is too much. Rant over.

Tuesday 4 December 2012

A Winter's Tale Part 1

Darkness has come. For a few hours each day, the feeble sun clings desperately to the dim horizon, her weak rays of light and warmth powerless against the dank mists and damp clouds that now engulf the landscape. A great, grey slab of sarcophagus sky crushes all beneath. Rain has deluged the land for months, the roads are quagmires of mud and rotted vegetation. No birdsong in the bare branches, only the mournful cawing of murderous crows and rooks as they gather in the gloom, like undertakers around a coffin.

The locals struggle through each day as best they can. Crops have rotted in the fields, storehouses are empty, but for a few scabrous rats. Hunger is a constant companion. The roads and byways are virtually impassable, villages and hamlets marooned in a sea of mud and despair. The inhabitants shuffle around like zombies, searching for scraps of food, scavenging fungus from damp, dark corners, tearing bark from rotten branches, anything that might offer relief from the gnawing pangs of their shrivelled bellies.

For some, there is the possibility of redemption in the nearby forests. Drenched by impenetrable mists during the bleak daylight hours, by night the skies clear and the moons shine bright. Dead leaves crunch underfoot, brambles snag the unwary. The lifeless, dark trunks offer no comfort, no hope, and yet branches can be gathered and burnt for warmth, mosses can be scraped from stones to be added to meagre soups, lichens can be prised from rotted barks and devoured. Only the bravest would venture into these place. Only the brave, or the foolish, or the desparate......

Saturday 1 December 2012

Saxon Warband painted

It became a chore towards to the end, but the Saxon warband is finally painted and ready for gaming action. In fact, they were in action last night against Viking invaders in the first game of a mini campaign. Needless to say, the freshly painted boys lost their first game, partly due to an incredibly lucky dice roll by the Viking warlord, who saved 4 hits (rolling 5's and 6's) at a crucial stage of the game. In that moment, victory was cruelly denied the noble Saxons and they were pushed back, defeat just a few turns away.

The warlord and his retainer are made from Gripping Beast plastics, as are the armoured warriors in the main picture. These are fine plastics, with a reasonable amount of detail, and very easy to assemble and paint. When ranked up, sheilds held high, they make a very imposing sheildwall unit. I will happily make and paint more of these when the army is expanded.

The unarmoured warriors I am less happy with. These are Wargames Factory figures. The plastic is fine and no different to any of the bigger companies, it's the quality of the sculpting and odd poses that make them poorer quality. As wargames figures they are reasonable, but as painting/modelling projects they are less than inspiring. I have quite a few left, a dozen of which will be drafted in as missile troops. I have heard rumours that Gripping Beast will, at some stage, release unarmoured troops. Given the success of Saga and the lack of decent alternatives, I wonder why they are taking so long.

While we wait for better things to come, the (slightly wooden) Wargames Factory figures will continue to sell by the boat load.

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