Tuesday, November 21, 2017

"No, not Black Leaf! No, no!"

I've been gaming for a long time. While I stick primarily to wargaming these days, I cut my teeth in the early eighties with Dungeons & Dragons, the grandaddy of fantasy gaming. Today fantasy RPGs are going through a bit of a renaissance, and while not entirely mainstream they've become an accepted, if somewhat geeky hobby.

The early days of D&D were a bit different as American mainstream culture didn't seem to know what to make of tabletop role playing. Always a niche pursuit, the game's growing popularity drew increased attention which grew from disinterest and dismissal into an increasingly bizarre and panicked fervor. Beyond shunning and ignoring a fringe subculture the mainstream didn't understand, the rising "Satanic Panic" that gripped adults who feared their children were being lured to eternal damnation by strange, many-sided dice lead to a number of shrill screeds against the game that was "corrupting the youth of America."

Jack Chick

Surely you've seen this, right? During the early 80's, Jack Chick (evangelical cartoonist and annoying busy body) produced rafts of misguided comic book pamphlets to save the souls of anyone who failed to adhere to his particular interpretation of the Bible. Naturally, a game in which players could learn honest-to-God spells like "Otto's Irresistible Dance" had to be thwarted at all costs.

His anti-RPG comic "Dark Dungeons" recounts the tale of a role playing group adventuring using the Dark Dungeon rules.

Somebody really should be stacking dice here.

Look at the size of those miniatures! Those have to be 54mm at least, unless the party is facing a clan of Hill Giants or something. Also, Debbie in the pigtails is pretty cocky. She casts "Light" and declares the monster blinded? Uh, hello Debbie, I'm pretty sure the DM needs to roll a save first.

Marcie you spaz, you knocked over Debbie's Pepsi!

This is my favorite bit. It's stuck with me ever since I encountered it decades ago. First off, "Black Leaf" is a great name. So evocative, so old school! I honestly love it. Second, Black Leaf's player Marcie's reaction. So great! So over the top! Look at the speed lines coming out of her head, she must be totally wigging out, whipping her head back and forth in disbelief. "Guys!" she must be silently pleading with her eyes, "Delay Poison spell? Anybody?"

Debbie the magic user has had enough of Marcie's fits. I'm guessing "Black Leaf" is the just the latest in a long line of Marcie's dead PCs, each accompanied by one of her overreactions. Debbie has had ENOUGH. It's the only explanation, otherwise the other five members of the party could probably pool their cash and get Black Leaf raised.

"No, no!"

I've lost my fair share of player characters, and even more tabletop wargaming units, heroes, spaceships, and minions. Inevitably while I'm moving the fallen figure off the tabletop to it's resting place within a foam storage carrier a tiny voice in the back of my head mourns for it sarcastically, "Black Leaf, no!"

I got a kick out of putting together my Undead Astronaut shirt recently, so I've spun up another commemorating the untimely demise of one of tabletop gaming's fallen heroes:

These will be available on Amazon for a few months if you'd like to join me in a memorial to poor tabletop sportsmanship. And just in time for the holidays!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Elder Thing by RAFM

Over the last few months I've spent my scant free time working (and reworking) a set of rules I've been writing up. I was jonesin' to put paint to lead though and figured a one-off figure would be a nice break from staring at a word processor.

I plucked this "Elder Thing" from RAFM's Cthulhu line, intending to prime it white and do a series of quick ink washes to pick out all the gribbly details on the critter's torso. "This will be a great mini to post to the blog for Halloween!" I optimistically thought. With Thanksgiving arriving in a few days and this post just going up, you can perhaps sense the trouble this miniature gave me.

I read "At the Mountains of Madness" years ago in which the Elder Things make an appearance. I don't recall much about the story, but I do remember that author H.P. Lovecraft had been inspired by the recent discovery of prehistoric crinoids which influenced his description of the alien "Things" that menace the Antarctic explorers of the story.

Fossilized crinoid. Creepy.

With a nod to these underwater origins Elder Things, I thought a mix of blues, purples and pinks would suggest the colors of tropical coral reefs and the sea creatures that make their homes there as well as looking suitably otherworldy.

Getting that balance of shades proved trickier than I imagined. I used washes, inks, drybrushing, airbrushing, and repainted the whole thing three times before I was satisfied with it. And of course I missed my Halloween deadline, but self-prescribed timetables are no use if you aren't happy with the result, right?

I've used the creature in a few playtests of my rules where the creature has devoured a number of hapless security guards and military police. Who knows, maybe my rules will be ready by next Halloween!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

October Update

My blog has been dormant since our trip to Historicon this summer, but I've kept a number of plates spinning in the meantime.

Facebook Profile

I've been playing Star Wars Armada and Blood and Plunder at our weekly game sessions, and posting about them on my Twitter feed. I realize there's a whole segment of people who don't cross-pollinate between multiple social media platforms, so I've just set up a Facebook page to repost my tweets to. I'm hoping to also connect with like-minded gamers who don't venture beyond the closed loop of Mark Zuckerburg's platform and as another place to talk about games.

Dead Astronaut

Even spooky vampire girls love it!

With Halloween approaching I've had spooks and spectres on the mind. For fun, I adapted the "Undead Space Explorer" logo from my home brew sci-fi space marines for use on a t-shirt. I made this for myself, but these are available on Amazon in all their ghastly glory if you're interested.

Generic Police / Security Officers

"Lawmen" by Crooked Dice Games. Some of these guys are really packing some heat!

I needed some pretty specific law enforcement figures for a game I'm working on, but wanted to be able to use them in future scenarios vs. rioters, zombies, Russians, etc.  Crooked Dice Games' "Lawmen" had the best sculpting with a variety of weapons and heads to tailor the figures in exactly the manner I needed. I've painted them in some fairly generic tan uniforms, but will need to pick up some more in the future for the classic "boys in blue" look. Recommended if you need to bulk up the law enforcement on your tabletop.

Behold, My Hubris

The bulk of my hobby time over the last few months has been dedicated to noodling through my own set of rules. Like many of you I've toyed with writing my own game (nearly from the first time I picked up a set of dice), but this summer I decided to focus on bringing a set of rules to completion. They're still in an embryonic state, but I've learned quite a bit undertaking this project. It's been an educational process and I've developed a deep respect for any author who has managed to pull their ideas together into a cohesive whole that strangers around the world can understand and conduct a game with. I've got quite a way to go, but I'm looking forward to publishing a free PDF of a final min-game in the future to gather criticism.

With the bulk of writing a first draft out of the way, I'm eager to get back to rolling dice and painting up figures soon. I feel as though I've been completely out of contact from the hobby scene (my apologies if I haven't visited your blog lately), and have a lot to catch up on. So, any new developments in the world of hobby gaming? Clue me in!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Historicon 2017 - Saturday

Sometimes you join a participation wargame and its not quite what you'd hope for. Tons of downtime, unclear goals and rules, fiddly minutia that leaves you feeling every minute of a four hour run time.

But then there are other games that are just magic. Check out photos and a report from my Historicon experience after the jump, in which I lucked into not one but two of those killer games that leave me counting the days to the next convention.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Historicon 2017 - Friday

I finished up some work after lunch, packed the family in the car and crept down 95 to Historicon, arriving just before registration closed. Despite my late arrival, I managed to snag a spot in a game and check out some of the great looking games nearby. Pics after the jump.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Blood and Plunder: First Thoughts

With my jungles finished, my lanceros painted and my Spanish dwellings ready to be raided, one of my usual gaming buddies Chris and I finally got some of our forces from the Blood and Plunder kickstarter on the table.

Being our first game we stumbled through the rules, but were able to dig in enough to get a good feel for how the game plays. Buckle your swashes and join me after the jump for our initial impressions.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Making Jungle Terrain

My game group is eager to get started on some Caribbean pirate action with Blood and Plunder, but we're sorely lacking in appropriate terrain. We assembled some Spanish style resin buildings, but the pine trees, oaks and other temperate vegetation I have just won't cut it for swashbuckling adventures across the Spanish Main.

Check out my method for creating dense jungle terrain after the jump.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Making Terrain Boards Part 7: Water Effects

I had some success with my foray into terrain boards last year, but I stopped short from finishing them, unsure how to proceed with the water effects the stream required for completion. I got some use out the boards, treating the muddy ditch as an inconsequential obstacle. A year and half on though, I knew I'd have to fill that ditch with an approximation of water so I could check this project off as complete.

Join me after the break to find out how you too can ruin your terrain boards!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Crew of the Astropolis

I finished up a few more crew members of the good ship Astropolis from the recent Kickstarter. I love these figures: big and chunky and full of character, and I'm eagerly awaiting the release of the next batch in the upcoming Kickstarter sequel.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Cold Wars 2017

I managed to get to Cold Wars for a day of wargaming. While only played a few games, I did manage to scope out a number of great tables, chat with gamers and raid the vendor hall. Check out my photo dump:

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Fighters, Lancers and Layabouts

This post originally appeared on the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge.

Like many of you, I jump from project to project and this week's entries represent miniatures from three of my current projects.

Star Wars Armada

One of my goals for the Challenge was to get my Star Wars Armada ships finished off. I play Armada regularly, and we're gearing up to try a campaign this Spring. I couldn't field unpainted forces, so I've steadily been adding paint to these tiny ships as a break from 28mm figures.

These E-Wings were recently added to the pool of Rebel forces, while the brown Moldy Crow is an older release that I've finally managed to paint up. I enjoyed adding paint to the Armada scale X-Wings, Y-Wings and other squadrons seen in the films, but these E-Wings (designed for the comic books) lack the character and detail of the classic ships.

I don't tend to play Imperials, but for those rare occasions that I do I'll bring these bounty hunter vessels since they are sporting fresh paint jobs. Bossk's Hound's Tooth is a big garbage truck of a ship that gets deadlier as it receives damage, while Dengar's Punishing One has proven annoying when I've faced it in enemy fleets.

Blood and Plunder

I've recently returned from a family vacation to Disney World, and a visit to "Pirates of the Caribbean" has fired my enthusiasm to complete my Spanish forces from the recent "Blood and Plunder" kickstarter. Hoping to get all of these figures done so I can get cracking on their ships and some terrain.


Finally, I completed just two figures from the Astropolis kickstarter. I have a dozen, primed and ready to go, but each is so unique and full of character that I wind up spending far more time on each individual which has slowed my progress. Unlike the weak sculpts and soft detail of the "Blood and Plunder" figures, these detailed Astropolis figs are a joy to paint. I can easily picture these two slack jawed wrench monkeys banging on the innards of some huge, decrepit space freighter.

I'm hoping to sneak in a few more figures before the deadline, but with the Cold Wars convention approaching, that may be too optimistic.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Blood and Plunder Pirates: Indios y Lanceros

This post originally appeared on the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge.

Just a handful of figures this week as I make the first dent into the Blood and Plunder Kickstarter package I received a few weeks ago.

After visiting the fort at St. Augustine and watching the first season of Black Sails, I decided to go with a Spanish crew to face off against my opponent's English sea dogs. I'm excited to get in some games of Blood and Plunder (their example game videos convinced me to back the project), and I was thrilled with the ships, dice, coins, cards and rulebook I got from the Kickstarter. The figures on the other hand aren't quite up to snuff.

From a distance I think they'll look great. I appreciate the variety of poses and ethnicities, but there's just something off about them. I'm chalking it up to the conversion of 3D renders to physical metal minis. I love chunky models like Mark Copplestone's, and I've even had some success with model's that were either created as 3 ups or 3D rendered (the Perry and Fireforge plastic figures for example), but these Blood and Plunder figures are both overly large and have a lack of detail. Features are indistinct, hands are tiny, and clothing ripples and wrinkles react strangely to washes. They're just... odd. Not terrible, but different from what I'm used to.

Lanceros, spear armed Spanish troops

Indios, native islanders put to work
defending Spanish outposts in the New World.
Despite my reservations about the figures, I did have some unexpected success with some Vallejo paints. Using the paints and instructions from the Vallejo Leather and Wood paint set, the deck planking of the bases came out better than I'd hoped.

I also did a quick paint up of an Imperial Assault figure as we're sharing the burden of getting our game master's set finished up.

All told that's 8 pirates and 1 medical droid for 45 points by my calculations.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Medieval Archers

This post originally appeared on the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge.

I've had some plastic 5th edition Brettonian archers knocking around my lead pile for 20 years, but didn't have a reason to get them onto the table until I started playing Lion Rampant. I've been working on English army circa 1250-1315 and they desperately needed a missile contingent, but the monopose Brettonians didn't quite match the more dynamic modern Firefroge figures that made up my the bulk of my army.

Doing some research over the Summer I found that Front Rank's figures seemed to be the best match to Games Workshops old sculpting style, and had a variety of poses and equipment that would help break up the ranks of identical plastic Brettonians.

My English army uses a variety of red and yellow liveries for the knights and all of the troops they would have mustered. I don't believe soldiers would be fielding identical uniforms, as each was responsible for providing their own gear, so I'm depicting a rag tag look to these units, with some figures sporting more formal livery, while others making do with something vaguely red or yellow colored from their own meager clothing collection.

To help identify the units on the table I've grouped together figures into a red unit, a yellow unit and a neutral unit. Some of these figures are individually based so I can always mix the colors up if necessary, but in the end these are game pieces we need to keep track of on the table.

Red Unit

Yellow Unit

Neutral Earth Tones Unit

Three 16 man units give me 48 figures, which should give me a total of 240 points for the Painting Challenge!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Homer Jungle Statue

This post originally appeared on the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge.

With all of the responsibilities that come with being an adult, I haven't had a ton of time to paint over the last few weeks, but I did manage to steal a glance at this weeks theme challenge. I was pretty surprised to see it had something to do with "Homer Terrain". That was sure to be a unique set of entries, and I wracked my brain trying to figure out something that would stand out from the crowd.

Naturally, most entries will likely depict a terrain feature from one of Homer's epic poems. There were sure to be plenty of Trojan Horses, Gates of Troy, and Greek Beach Camps. I thought we might even see something pulled from the Odyssey (maybe a Cyclops cave or two?), but I decided to go a bit farther afield. I thought I could get a more liberal interpretation of the "Homer" theme for my terrain piece, and I considered doing Fenway Park, with a 28mm outfielder unable to snatch a "homer" as it sailed the Green Monster. That seemed beyond my skills though (and wouldn't really lend itself to a wargame), but I spotted a cheap plastic knick knack depicting Homer Simpson as a snack food Buddha. Inspired by his zen-like countenance, I decided to base my terrain on the toy. A perfect start for a conversion into a mysterious jungle idol, carved by some long dead civilization of peculiar lemon colored tribesmen!

I built a small dais from wood and foamcore, and gave the whole thing a stippled coat of spackle/dry wall compound to mimic the weathered stone of the idol.

A dark gray primer gave the whole piece a uniform, stone-like base to begin painting.

I used a variety of grays and browns, with the faintest hints of yellow, green and pink (no doubt remnants of the festive paintjob the idol once must have sported).

"Mmmmmm.... soft pretzel......"

I used numerous brown and gray washes to weather it, and added quite a bit of flock and tufts to represent the encroaching jungle foliage that will one day engulf the statue.

I don't like to take all of my wargaming so seriously, and plan on using this idol for some tongue-in-cheek Rogue Trader or Fantasy gaming. A unique subject for a unique category! Altogether, I was pretty pleased at how it turned out.

"None shall defile the Golden Emperor!"


"Home" Terrain????