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!
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