Sunday 28 December 2014

Xmas Goodies

This year, I wanted to have some hobby goodies to enjoy on xmas day, so I stashed away a couple of recent ebay purchases for just that purpose. These books are the latest additions to my growing library of rules that I have never actually played (I will get round to it one day). The Saga blister contains an Anglo Saxon warlord and was a gift from gaming buddy Matt.

The Raven rules were a complete surprise discovery posted on a forum. I thought I was familiar with pretty much every set of fantasy rules available as I have spent a fair amount of time researching alternatives to WHFB, but obviously I was wrong. In my defence, they were written nearly twenty years ago and never took off in the public imagination. I did find a couple of reviews, explaining how they were quite possibly the worst rules ever written. Naturally, this intrigued me and I bought them. Having flicked through, they are badly written, but there's a nice old school vibe to the artwork and I'm sure I can find some little nuggets in there somewhere.

The Godslayer rules are quite the opposite, a product of the recent cult of kickstarter. The slip folder contains two books, one a lavish background product and the other a rulebook. Again I have only had a brief flick through, but already I can see it's a beautiful production, one that I am looking forward to getting to know in the new year. I will give more detailed overviews in the new year.

Sunday 21 December 2014

Wargaming Terrain Mat from a blanket

I have wanted a portable gaming board for some time. A few years back I bought one of the plastic boards from GW, painted it up and flocked it and had a few battles on it. But it was very heavy and not really portable, the two foot squares in a zip bag still take up a considerable space in your cupboard. In the end, I sold it because it was too big for my small space, but of course then I had no playing area. I had high hopes for a kickstarter terrain set with one foot square tiles, but that was delayed by over a year and the storage solution originally promised never really materialised, so eventually I got a refund. Back to square one again.

I started to look around at what other gamers did, there are many blogs out there with different solutions, different materials and different price points. My main criteria were it had to be easy to set up and take down on my dining table, easy to store and (preferably) low cost. I was very impressed by some of the battle boards seen at show reports, especially those made from teddy fur - shaved and painted it can look very realistic. In the end, I went for the much simpler option of a fleece blanket and cheap poster paint.

The first photo shows the blanket on my dining room table, it's a 5x3 table rather than the more common 6x4 battle board,so more suitable for large skirmish games like Saga, but that's okay as that's what I play more of these days. The blanket is actually 5x4 and of course they can be bought in various sizes. I got mine from ebay for a mere £6, a brown coloured one to give me a basic earth colour backdrop to work on. It's quite cheap and thin, not really that good as an actual blanket I would have guessed, but perfect as a lightweight battle mat. I sprayed one side with dull yellow for a very simple desert/arid set up. The other side I painted with cheap poster paint, a tube each of green and yellow gave me many shades to work with at a cost of just £5. I applied the paints using a scouring pad, these can be picked up really cheaply from supermarkets, or pilfered from your kitchen cupboard. Adding in the spray can paint, I reckon the whole thing cost me about £15 and two or three hours of hobby time.

The second photo gives a more accurate rendition of the colours. I have deliberately made it lusher on one half, the more muddy half can be the location for a village, or damp ground, or whatever. The third photo shows the simple arid/desert side - anyone with a blanket and a spray can achieve this mottled effect. The paint has made the blanket a little stiffer, but it's still compact enough when folded to throw in a drawer. Now that I have a backdrop to work to, I am going to work on a few other terrain bits - my tree bases and my dark ages village. Then all I need are my two sons to volunteer to play toy soldiers with their sad old dad and my xmas will be complete.

Friday 19 December 2014

Orc Brute

The orc brute from Avatars of War, a figure I painted up for a competition over on the WAMP forum. It didn't place in the top three, but then the guy who finished third offered me part of his prize as he thought I should have placed higher. That was a really nice gesture on his part, and my consolation prize was another Avatars mini to add to Mount Unpainted.

I tried quite a few new methods on this figure. On the skin I painted wet in wet blending for the first time, after viewing the excellent Painting Buddha videos on youtube. On the rock I lifted something from my photography hobby - dual toning. Instead of shading and highlighting with black and white, I used blue as the shadow and a yellow as the highlight. The rock is actually a piece of bark from a tree (picked up from the forest floor I hasten to add). The gnarled shrub is the stalk from a tomato, dried and painted.

If I was starting it again, I would go with a much paler skin tone, the intense green of this one is too much. Other than that, I think the balance of colours is quite good, something I continue to work on to improve.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Radagast the Brown x2

I am struggling to get motivated to paint at the moment, so I have decided to look through my collection at some older paint jobs. This is the first version of Radagast the Brown, released in miniature form only. There was no appearance in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, though there is a fleeting mention in the book when Saruman describes him as a fool. In this version, he's sculpted as a fairly classic hedge wizard/druid/man of the woods. There's also a passing resemblance to Gandalf. I reckon the sculptors were obviously knowledgeable of the book lore, I'm pretty sure it's stated somewhere that they all look alike.

I cannot actually remember when I painted it, must have been at least five years ago. It was obviously part of my "rock period", when all my figures were mounted on a rocky outcrop made from the cork of a wine bottle.

The latest version of the sculpt, from the Hobbit film trilogy, pays much more attention to the fool reference. I quite like the sculpt, though I was less keen with the film version. I actually painted this as a xmas present for my wife last year, she has a thing about hedgehogs so it's one of her favourite sculpts.

The woodland setting is a simple backdrop made from a wooden box, a few twigs and a painted background. I got the idea from the rather wonderful Gardens of Hecate blog, one of the most interesting and inspiring in the blogosphere if you ask me. I should really have an inscription in the left hand side, maybe I could add one this xmas.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

The Woes of Ivar Sveinson the Coward

Ivar Sveinson is seldom mentioned in the epic sagas, and for good reason. Cast out by his family with nought but a single ship and crew to his name, he sailed over the seas, to a strange island the locals named Mann, said to be home to fairies in the enchanted dells, and roamed by three-legged men. Ivar set these tales aside and established camp, the kingdom of Rheged lay but a day's sailing over the waves. Though rugged, windswept and rain -lashed, it offered rich pickings from the surly locals, or so Ivar thought.........

I would much rather have been able to start my tale with a more stirring title, such as the Saga of Ragnar the Brave, or Erik Bloodaxe, but it seems my story is going to be a little less heroic. Having rolled up my Dux Britanniarum characters, I had a poverty-stricken, cowardly Lord leading my force, with a bodyguard fond of riding horses (not much use to a seafaring adventurer). I also had a lustful noble in my retinue, dragging down the loyalty of my troops. Only my second noble had any decent characteristics, being big and strong and with the constitution of an ox. In terms of  troops available at the start of the campaign there are 2 units of elite, 3 units of warriors and a small band of bowmen.

Ivar and his men spied an easy target and fell upon a village, scattering the few farmers and making off with the cattle. But their trespass had not gone unseen, and Saxon warriors rushed to wreak their vengeance on the luckless invaders......

Right lads, let's get these three groups on to the ship
- hey, where are the sheep?
The scenario we rolled was a cattle raid. The vikings started on the north edge of the board and had to escort cattle down the length of the board to the southern end. They got a random head start, which turned out to be just one move. The Saxons arrived at a random point, the middle of the western edge, with a random number of units in their vanguard, for which of course Matt rolled a 5. As the viking player I would be victorious if I could get 2 of 3 "cattle" off  the board. If I failed to achieve this, the Saxons would be the victors. Each group of cattle required an escort, one group of men. I allocated my missile troops and two units of warriors, plus one noble, to this task. I would send these around a wood, away from the enemy troops and on to the waiting ship. The rest of my force (just 3 units) was to engage and delay the enemy. That was the hastily conceived plan.

Baa, Baa, Ha, Ha the vikings are taking a beating
Loki the Trickster God had his fun that day. In the form of a ram he lead the sheep into mischief, and a merry dance for the viking herders. He blunted their axes and steadied the shield arms of the Saxons.....

The cattle moved 2d6 per turn, the herders with them can move up to 3d6 so it should have been reasonably straight forward to keep the dumb animals in check. The accompanying noble, with his ability to activate a unit twice, would gee up any stragglers. Of course, straight away the sheep flock broke away from their captors and headed in the wrong direction. And the fighting troops bounced off the Saxons, with the champion taking a spear in the belly, to save his cowardly Lord. It went downhill from that point. The main combat became a stalemate, the sheep got away and the remaining herders were waylaid and defeated by a single group of Saxons. To add to the vikings woe, their finest noble was killed in a combat with levy troops (having the constitution of an ox did not help as I forgot to roll to see if he escaped the fatal blow). I decided to withdraw, the Saxons did not attempt to stop me, fearing more casualties.

Vanquished vikings trudge back to the ship
The jeers of the Saxons and bleating of sheep ring in the distance
And so the Woes of Ivar Sveinson began. While his men nursed their wounds and lamented the loss of the best among them, his foes named him the Coward, the viking bested by sheep. The saxons retired to their mead hall, feeling they had seen off the inept invader.......

The result of the raid was a four point victory to the Saxons. Just one more victory point and they would have been rolling to gain renown for the Lord. As it was, they recovered from their wounds in just one month, gained a bit more cash and gained a couple more warriors to their cause. The vikings gained nothing at all and would need two months to recover from their losses. They would also have to roll up a new noble and champion to try to bolster the pathetic Ivar Sveinson. Surely things could only get better?

Monday 8 December 2014

Blood Rage

This came out of the blue, I spotted it over on facebook. It's very early days yet, I'm not even sure if it's been announced. There's a short video to view, which shows it's a board game with some very nice looking minis. And I mean, VERY nice indeed. Art by Adrian Smith too, it doesn't get much better. That's all I can say for now, if vikings and Norse mythology is your thing, then head on over and take a look.

Link to facebook page.

Here's a couple of images from facebook, hopefully the authors will not mind me spreading them around.

Saturday 6 December 2014

Dystopian Legions French Legionnaires painted

The first batch of the Dystopian Legions figures painted, though it took me a lot longer than I expected. I suffered a major dip in motivation at the beginning of the month which has put a real dent in my plan to have all the figures from the starter set painted by xmas. I do think these are the most complex of the figures in the set to paint, hopefully the next lot will be progressed at a better pace.

Now that they are fully painted, you can better see the quality of the figures. The casts are good and the sculpting detail is very fine - one of them has a tiny cigarette dangling from his lip. The faces in particular have very shallow detailing, though excellent facial hair. The bayonets are a little clunky, I should really have filed them to a finer point before I painted them, but that's a minor quibble. For me, they are a lovely mix of realistic proportions, fine detail and steampunk flavour.

Enough waffle, here's some more pictures so you can judge for yourself.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Dux Britanniarum Campaign

One of the main reasons for me picking up Dux Britanniarum is that it includes a campaign system. While I enjoy throwing down a few soldiers and rolling dice on a casual basis, I find that a good scenario adds so much to the experience. A linked series of scenarios is even better. Hopefully, DuxB will give all this.

The book covers dark ages warfare in the age of Arthur. The Romans have left Britain, their successors (the Romano-Britons) are facing threats from Saxon invaders. The campaign system includes a character generator for both forces, careers for your chosen Lord, raid scenarios, battles, force development, etc. There's just one problem in all this - we don't have any figures from this period. But we do have plenty from about two centuries later, in the shape of Saxons and Vikings. So we are going to use the book but jump forward in time - in our campaign the Saxons are now rulers of Britain, with Viking invaders launching the raids. We can easily tweak any references as appropriate.

The first decision of any campaign is to decide on a region in which to base the campaign. There's no place like home, so we have decided to fight the Invasion of Rheged. It's a part historical, part fantasy campaign. The year is 808 AD, vikings have established a settlement on the Isle of Man, a base from which to launch raids on the mainland.

The aim of the campaign is to gain/defend territory. The region of Rheged is split into seven provinces and to win the campaign the vikings will have to conquer all of them. The Saxon aim is to build defences in these regions to make it more difficult and/or to drain money from the Vikings so they cannot sustain themselves in enemy lands. Each lord progresses throughout the campaign, attracting more followers and agents.

The campaign is fought over years, each split into months. After a raid is fought, a number of months will elapse before the forces are back to combat strength. More raids and battles see the revenues expand, which is spent on more troops, defences, upgrades and so forth. The year starts in March and ends in October, then there's an end of year process and the cycle begins again.

In order to make it more likely that we reach a conclusion, we will be fighting for seven campaign years. At the end of AD 815 we will see which of the two rulers has fared best. Hopefully that will be achievable and should give us plenty of good games, but not drag on too long and be adandoned as so many campaigns are!

Sunday 30 November 2014

Dux Britanniarum first impressions

Dux Britanniarum is a dark ages skirmish game/campaign system that has been around for a couple of years. It's been on my radar for a while, so recently Matt and I set up for a raid scenario. We had previously tried a test game to get familiar with the mechanics, but that was a few months back so had forgotten most of them, but as we got into the game it slowly came back to us.

The rules are relatively simple. Combat troops make up the bulk of the two opposing forces and are classed as elite, warrior or levy. These are generally fielded in groups of six, which can join together into larger formations. Each group/formation is activated by a noble or lord. These command figures have varying levels of command, which determines how many activations they can perform and how far their command reaches. When a group/formation is activated, it moves and/or fights. In combat, troops can be killed, or shocked. Kills are self explanatory. Shock has a cumulative effect on the unit, that gradually erodes their combat capability, forcing them to withdraw or even turn and flee the battle.

Shieldwall on a hill, a DuxB deathstar!
There are no unit stats! Movement is by dice roll so no need for a move stat. Better troops roll more dice in combat and are harder to kill, so no weapon/melee/armour stat. The shock mechanic determines how long troops stick around to fight, so no need for a morale/leadership stat. It's pretty clever stuff for such a simple mechanism.

Having sung those praises, I did find the rules a little bit vague at times. Combat is an easy mechanic but it does take a bit of careful reading to understand how the units interact. There are several diagrams, but our first combat was not covered by any of them. There is a table of contents but no index, so I did spend a fair few minutes flicking around trying to find some information. There's a useful reference sheet on the back cover which I suspect will be all that's needed after a couple more games, but it does not include the force morale table which is central to the game. As units flee from combat, nobles take wounds, and maybe other circumstance, the morale of the force is affected. When a force morale reaches zero, it has lost all resolve and withdraws from the battle. It's probably the biggest table in the book, so should really be in the reference section.

White dice as shock markers, a temporary measure.
That minor gripe aside, it feels like a very solid ruleset. The basic mechanics are really rather impressive and give a good feel to the game. Troops move and act in a way that feels "right" - this is always going to be a personal thing for gamers of course, but it ticks a lot of boxes for me. And that's before we get to the scenarios and campaign system. A very promising system, I am looking forward to playing more games and will be covering more detail in future posts. Time for me to go and research some suitable names for my characters.

Thursday 27 November 2014

Anglo Danes

These are not strictly Anglo-Danes, they are Gripping Beast Saxons with a few Wargames Factory bits to convert them to use great weapons. They are basically to remind me to use great weapons on the Anglo-Dane lord and his bodyguard. I made and painted them very quickly, I only rarely play this faction so didn't want to spend too much time on them.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

More thoughts on War of the Ring

I have posted recently on my impressions of the War of the Ring battle game. In my first post I talked about the overall flow and ease of the game, in the second post I pondered the addition of characters and magic. In summary, the game is quick and easy to play - the rules are simple and there's just one chart in the whole book. Crucially, the game interleaves all phases, so players are involved far more, there's very little downtime. The rules scale up to big battles too - this photo is a game we played at the weekend, pooling all our figures into one mighty conflict. There are around 50 companies on each side in this game, a company is either 8 infantry or 2 cavalry models. It's probably the biggest game I have ever played in, not a bad achievement for four nerds in a basement!

Of course, not everything is perfect. The game does have a few flaws, at least in my eyes. Combat resolution is an example. When combat is completed, the winner is determined purely by number of casualties. There are no other modifiers to this result. The loser rolls a single die - a 1 can lead to the unit being removed, a 2-5 can result in extra casualties and the unit is disordered, while a 6 means the unit fights on with no ill effects. There is no account taken of the margin of victory in this roll either, whether you lose by 1 casualty or 21 casualties, the roll is always the same. The net result is that invariably the loser sticks around for another round of combat, until he is wiped out. Opposing forces tend to meet in combat, fight for two or three rounds, until one grinds the other into the dirt. There's no fleeing and pursuing as per Warhammer. While this solves many rules problems (fleeing units seem to cause so many rules problems), it does feel a bit static and in need of some modification.

The other area of concern I have is morale. There are no rules for morale in the game. There's no panic tests, no psychology, the only concession is that when the final company of a formation falls to half strength, it is removed from the board. In a big game like the one we played, with formations of 6 or 9 companies, this can seem a bit unrealistic. There are terror causing beasts in the game (trolls, ents, etc) but a failed terror test merely results in the unit losing fighting capacity. Psychology/battle fatigue are not really represented in the game as it stands.

Overall, I like the game. The phases order and movement rules are particularly good, combat is easy to understand and resolve, while magic and heroes can subtly alter the dynamic. With a few tweaks to combat resolution and some kind of psychology rules, it would be an even better game.

Thursday 13 November 2014

Iron Scorpion: a little progress

The French Legionnaires are underway proper now. I have painted up a test figure. He's stood at the back checking his (unpainted!) rifle. With my recipe scribbled down I have started to base coat his comrades. It's not much to show really, but it does illustrate the direction I am headed.

The weapons and metals still have to be finalised, but these should not cause too many problems. I might tweak the red of the shoulder pads. And I have still to decide on a base - desert as per the starter box, or my more usual grassland. I am hopeful of a more substantial update in the next few days.

Monday 10 November 2014

Iron Scorpion under way at last

Progress has been slow on the Iron Scorpion painting and assembly, not helped by a week's holiday. But now that I am back at home I am raring to get underway. A squad of French Legionnaires is my first painting project. As usual, I started with a white primer, then washed so I could see the details. In this case, the palette will be predominantly blue so I have washed with a blue/grey colour, but wiped it off the trousers and flesh with a damp brush. This really shows the level of detail on the figures, better than the renders on the back of the box. I love them even more now.

For the palette I have narrowed it down to two sources. The first is a purely historical picture, from the Putty and Paint website. This is a French Foreign Legionnaire and you can clearly see the influence it has on the sculpts, and the reason I removed the blue wash from the trousers. This pretty much nails it for me - blue coat, white trousers, grey boots, with small flashes of red trim.

However, just to muddy the water a little, I have also been looking at some concept art for the upcoming PS4 game The Order 1886. There are plenty of trailers on youtube, it looks visually quite stunning and I have been looking at this image, wondering if I should go along this route. The female on the right is of most interest, again blue coat, white trousers but with a darker red as a lining of the jacket. Maybe flashes of gold trim, the epaulettes of the shoulder pad and other brocade could be painted this way.

For the weapons I want a steampunk feel rather than historical, and this fits the bill perfectly. The soft gold and copper trim should contrast very nicely with the blue of the uniforms. More updates soon, I am really fired up for these figures. It would be nice if I could get the majority of the French and Antarctica troops finished for xmas, but at the same time I want to take my time and paint them to a high tabletop level. The first test squad will give me a better idea of how long it will take.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Making cheap wargames trees part 3

In this post I am not really making trees, but the magnetic bases on which the trees will stand. If you remember from part 1, the trees are based on 2p pieces, so I needed something with this size holes. My first port of call was the excellent warbases and I found that they did indeed make terrain bases. There are a number of sizes of base and hole to choose, though a 2p sized hole was not on their list. This is not a problem, if you ask them they will happily make the holes this size for you at no extra cost. You can also buy integrated "bottoms" too, but I don't need them.

My tray "bottoms" are simply strips of magnetic sheet superglued on to the mdf bases. I took the opportunity to use some of the offcuts I had accumulated from making movement trays. As you can see I did not attempt to cover the whole underside of the base, just enough to ensure each hole has a magnetic piece beneath it. When the glue was fully dried I simply trimmed off any excess. And that's it! I then flipped them right side up and added a little texture using small stones and sand in the usual way. I set them aside to dry overnight.

The next stage was to seal the texture. I mixed up some water and pva, to which I added a drop of detergent. Then I coloured this mix slightly with some earth colour. I applied this all over the bases with a big nylon brush - these can be picked up cheaply from art and discount book stores and are very useful for terrain work. Note that I have plugged the holes with (non-magnetic) 2p coins here, to prevent too much paint getting on to the magnetic sheet. After a quick blast with a hairdryer I applied a few more splodges of thinned brown craft paints, again picked up from bargain bins along the way to use in terrain projects. I kept this a bit random, though darker in the centre and around rocks was a general principle.

After another blast with the hairdryer it was time for the moment of truth. I knocked out all the non-magnetic coins, a couple had to be prised out as a little paint/glue had managed to seep in. This was easily removed with a bit of tissue. Then the magnetic based trees were popped in for the test. Two of these three trees actually stayed in with the base held fully upside down, the bigger (and thus heavier) tree survived at a 90 degree angle. Not bad at all, perfectly adequate for gaming. There's still a little work to do on the bases with regard to flocking and such like, but hopefully you get the general idea on how it all works.

Friday 31 October 2014

Iron Scorpion figures initial impressions

I have made a start on the figures in the Dystopian Legions starter set. I love the aesthetic of the range, the merging of historical, fantasy and steampunk is perfect for me. The background looks interesting too, had a brief flick through the booklets included. So far, so good.

On the figures themselves: let me preface my comments by stating that I am not a fan of metal, my preference would be resin, plastic, pvc, then metal. The prepping is a chore that has to be got out of the way as far as I am concerned. There is no poseability as in plastic kits, it's just stick them together as shown on the back of the box. There are no instructions, so the back of the box diagrams are absolutely essential. The photo shows the French Legionnaires. They are very nicely designed and proportioned, none of the chunky nonsense that so many old metals suffer from. Cleaning is straight forward, the mould lines are very fine and, for the most part, easily accessible. Assembly is stress-free, one or two of the arms pieces were slightly twisted, but nothing too serious and the metal is pliable and bendable - note that when cleaning the barrels of the guns you have to exercise care that the thinner bits are not bent or snapped. The backpacks fit nice and snug on the models. As metals go, not too bad at all. I know that the Antarctica automatons are going to be a completely different story - a real scary story that maybe I should have posted for halloween, but more on that in a future post.

I am also making progress in deciding on the colour schemes. I have been collecting images to use as reference. The French will be blue, white and red of course, with the Marines a different blue and more metallics. I have collected a number of images from historical and steampunk/art sites, so have a good idea of the direction I want to go.

The palette for the Covenant of Antarctic troops is less easy to decide on. I want to avoid blue to easily differentiate from the French contingent. I am thinking along the lines of sea green and greys and whites. It will click into place at some point. I love this part of a project, researching background, colours and anticipating the painting. If only the prep was as enjoyable - le sigh.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Making cheap wargames trees part 2

In the first part I made the bases from pennies and paper clips, then textured them with sand and stones. While waiting for them to dry I made a start on the trees.

Some of the best wargames trees I have seen are made from seafoam, basically a dried twig! So I started to look around for something similar, but free (the seafoam trees are £20 or more on ebay). I also wanted something more conifer, less deciduous. Luckily for me, I have a huge buddleia bush in my garden, like in this photo, only mine is about twelve foot tall. The flowers have gone over now and it gets pruned back every autumn, so I snipped off a few of the dead flower heads. They are reasonably robust, twiggy things.

Flower heads trimmed from the bush

Bundled together to be dried

As you can see from these two photos, I simply bundled them together using elastic bands and clothes pegs, these are now hung up in my garage drying. After a few days they will be ready to be turned into trees. I had some pre-trimmed from a couple of weeks ago and worked on them. When they dry they lose a bit of their substance and become a little bit more ragged, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

I drilled holes in the stem, which are still quite soft though woody, to slide down on to the base "pin". To add foliage, I mixed up some pva glue, water and a touch of detergent in a shallow tray. The dried flower heads were dipped into this to give them a coating of the glue mix. Then I dipped the gluey twigs into some dark green flock, followed by a lighter green flock - one tone of flock looks a bit false. I then put the new leafy tree on to the base, left them overnight to fully dry.

The next task is to fix the flock on to the trees. For this I sprayed them with a hairspray, hopefully this will hold it in place. I have also read about spraying with diluted pva, but I went for the easier option. I have no idea if this will work, I can tell you better in a few months time after some gaming time, but I am treating them as disposable to an extent - if they fall to pieces/disintegrate, I can just rustle up some more in a jiffy. The total time to make the trees - trimming, drilling a hole up the trunk, dunking in glue and flock, hairspraying - is negligible, extended by drying times. It's about an hour to make up 15 to 20, enough for a few stands. And that's what I will be writing about in the next part, making a base for the individual trees.

EDIT (six months later): There's good news and there's bad news on these trees. The good news is that the hairspray technique work. The flock has stuck to the trees, so I can recommend this as a quick and easy way to stick foliage on to your terrain. Now that bad news. The vegetation is starting to crumble. It's too soft and does not last more than a few months. If you want a quick and temporary set of trees, it's fine, but they will start to fall apart after a few months. Ah well, the bases and the hairspray were sound ideas, but the cuttings need to be harder. I suspect old heather plants would yield some spectacular trees, anything that is quite tough would do. Happy arboreal hunting!

Sunday 26 October 2014

Another game of War of the Ring

It's been a few weeks, but I finally managed to get another game of WotR. This is my third attempt, I have read through the rules a couple of times and gaming buddy Matt has played a few extra games. Between us, we just about know the basic mechanics now. The rules are pretty simple and well laid out, so it's a good mass battle system to play if you like to spend your time moving units and rolling dice rather than poring through a rules book. It could easily be adapted to historical games if you skip the magic and tone down the heroic abilities. These are the two areas I am now trying to get my head round.

Heroes are split into two types - the generic unit leaders like captains of Gondor, and the individuals such as Boromir, Lurtz, Gandalf et al. They give a unit of troops a bonus in combat and a little courage boost, ensuring they stick around in combat for longer. All heroes have might points which they can use to modify dice rolls at a crucial point. The lesser heroes typically have just one or two might points to spend in this way. Greater (or so called epic) heroes have variable numbers of might points to spend, for example Saruman has three, while Boromir has six. Epic heroes also have more special rules available to them, more actions they can perform and greater boosts they can make, often to multiple units rather than just the one they accompany. Getting the best out of them is probably one of the key parts of playing the game, but I am still at an early learning stage for this aspect of the game.

Magic is simpler, though this player seems to be taking an age to decide which spell to cast! Wizards have a mastery level, 1 to 3, which determines how many spells they can attempt to cast in a turn (at the end of the movement phase). They have access to all spells in their lore, and some know spells from two lores. The spell is cast automatically, a single dice is rolled to determine the effect, with a roll of 1 being no effect, 2-5 average, 6 better. Once the spell is resolved, the caster can then try another if his mastery level allows it. To do this he must maintain his focus by rolling greater or equal than the focus level of the spell previously cast. The spells are subtle rather than spectacular, giving courage boosts or penalties, small bonuses in combat, shooting or such like. I played as Saruman and had a couple of turns casting three spells, but killed only a handful of Gondorians, though I did manage to shatter the shields of one unit, which would have been handy if I could have followed it up with a charge into them. As with the heroes special abilities, I suspect that getting the best out of the magic is to properly synergise with the troops on the field. More practise required I think.

Thursday 23 October 2014

Making cheap wargames trees part 1

Woods and forests are one of the essential elements of any wargames terrain collection. If you buy them, ready-made or in kit form, they tend be one of two designs. There's the mini christmas tree look to emulate conifer trees, or the toffee apple look to emulate deciduous trees. There's nothing wrong with them, I have a small collection myself, but they are a bit samey and far from realistic.

The problem with having more elaborate and realistic trees, is that they can be quite expensive to buy, or very time consuming to make. I want to make some reasonably realistic trees, but I want them to be cheap and quick. Is this possible?

I started with the roots, or rather the bases. I want my trees to be reasonably stable on the tabletop. The easiest way to do this is to stick several on to a large base, a piece of mdf, hardboard or plasticard is usually used. However, this approach can cause problems when little soldiers want to get in to the trees and they don't fit. For this reason, most gamers use removable trees. When the troops march up to the forest, just pop a few trunks to one side, march in, replace the trees and job done. So the trees need to be stable but also removable.

My roots are simply paper clips, bent into mini stands with one upright "pin" on which the trunk will fit. These are fixed to a two pence piece, the more recent ones are magnetic - it's worth testing this before you go further. You could also use a washer though these are not magnetic to my knowledge. I bent the clips using my fingers, you could also use a pair of plyers. I stuck them on to the pennies using green stuff, probably not the cheapest option. An alternative would be a hot glue gun, or maybe blu tac coated with superglue. Another option that might work could be a simple tack superglued on. But I just worked with what I had at hand.

The final stage in the bases was a coat of pva glue and a sprinkle of small stones and sand. When they are stuck on they look like this. If I was making just a couple of feature trees I guess I could take more time here and sculpt on some roots - the paper clips would certainly lend themselves to this idea. But these are quick and easy trees, so no time for that. Again, you could be more elaborate at this stage and add all sorts of extra to your bases, depending on your table theme and time you want to spend. For me, these are fine and will be primed and painted in part 2.
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