Monday, 30 December 2019

Two More Frostgrave Solo Missions

We're three missions in now, and I've enjoyed them very much. The second single-player game, "The Weapon Shops of Isher", involved running across the board, stealing two treasures from a vault, and running back out again. Easier said than done, as a horde of gnolls (once again, nobly portrayed by the undead Romans) and a huge gnoll warlord (portrayed by a troll) poured in. In fact, they poured in rather faster than anyone expected, because I misread the scenario. Glurk and his kleptomaniac friends escaped, but not before Roger the Archer and Nobby the crossbowman/dwarf were killed and the thug brothers so badly wounded that they missed the next game.

Sir Vaylance and his dwarf friend get a surprise

The third mission, "Dog Days", involved the warband travelling to the edges of the board to destroy four crystals. Until the crystals were smashed, magical hounds (or bloodletters of Khorne, in my case) kept appearing and piling in to fight. This game involved some real swings of luck, including a moment where Snow White the treasure hunter tried so ineptly to destroy a crystal that she fell on her face and suffered seven wounds.

This little fellow killed three demons, somehow

Overall, I've really enjoyed these missions. Frostgrave is a great system, and seeing the characters progress is entertaining. As far as I can see, there are two main problems: firstly, the d20 involved can lead to some wildly differing rolls, which means that the safest way to proceed is often to bunch up groups of very skilled soldiers to gain the biggest possible bonuses for supporting one another. Actually, even this tactic is still vulnerable to bad rolls, but it helps.

Secondly, while the constant respawning of villains is effective and makes for close-run games, it does get a bit samey, and the satisfaction of racking up a row of dead monsters at the side of the board (I assume other people do this too) isn't there.

Perhaps standing on the spawning point wasn't the best idea

But overall, it's a lot of fun. The system is slick and easy to grasp. The games are the right length and have the right level of challenge and variety. Also, I've realised that each game introduces a slightly different mechanic for future use. In that way, the adventures in Perilous Dark are a kind of tutorial for people wanting to write their own.

So forward Glurk and his merry band - on to their next adventure!

Saturday, 28 December 2019

"Writhing Fumes": A Frostgrave Single Player Mission

[Cate-Blanchett-as-Galadriel voice]

A thousand years have passed since the mighty castle of Prince Abulurd the Crass fell to the forces of darkness. Not for centuries have the halls rung with the sound of song, laughter and percussive belching. Generations have grown up in the shadows of the great walls of the keep, but all have shunned the ancient castle. For it is said that, when the night is deep, and no moon rises above the battlements, the idiotic king and his eternally-inebriated minions still walk - well, stumble.

But now, who has come to disturb the ancient ruins?

Glurk the Simple and his mighty band of warriors, that's who! His strange features fixed in a grimace of hopeful idiocy, Glurk gathered his brave comrades around him for a voyage into the unknown. Bold explorers like Magic Sally, the Thug Brothers and Porridge the Cyberdog gathered to venture forward and uncover the secrets of Abulurd's castle. First, however, they'd have to break in...

Roger the Archer, Sir Vaylance the Vigilant, Glurk, Nobby and Porridge the Cyberdog

This was the first mission in the single-player Perilous Dark expansion for Frostgrave, named "Writhing Fumes". In it, the team basically had to run across the table, smash open a door and rush off the board. Of course, it was complicated by weird smoke-creatures (in this case represented by the trusty Infelix Legion of Flavius Flava) and two huge ballistas (in this case, two huge ballistas).

It sounds simple, but really became very entertaining. Much like the game of Hardwired I played a few weeks ago, the continual flow of villains onto the battlefield made for a rising level of difficulty and urgency. It wasn't helped by the fact that I forgot the rule about pushing enemies out of combat, meaning that my men were permanently struggling to evade the grasping hands of the undead.

The heroes run away, heroically

Three of my warband bit the dust, including Roger the Archer, one of the thugs and the noble hound Porridge. Luckily, all three healed up for the next game, despite being overrun by skeletons, and we were able to escape with a single pile of treasure. It turned out to be 80 gold coins and the Grimoire of Elemental Ball. Glurk promptly blew the cash on hiring noted treasure hunter Snow White, and will make use of the grimoire as soon as he's figured out what it is. Overall, a tense and exciting game!

Thursday, 26 December 2019

A Granary for Frostgrave

On Christmas Eve, as I was desperately buying presents and cards for people, I went into the local art shop and bought another little wooden birdbox for a few pounds. A while back, I used one of these to make a fantasy cottage.

This one was smaller and more solid: too small, I thought, to work as someone's home. I decided that it would work as a granary for the little town. That meant that it would have no lower doors, to prevent rats getting in and eating the crops inside. I used my standard method of putting on timbering with coffee stirrers and tiling the roof with bits of card.

I also used coffee stirrers to make the planks for the upper door. The metal bars on the door were made with strips of plastic cut from a blister pack, and the lock was made with a bit of wire bent into an L-shape and some bits of Green Stuff. I added a ladder and a spade that I had lying around to hint at the function of the building.

And there it is. The base is a bit thick, but maybe that's to keep the rats from tunneling up underneath. Here is the granary in the little town. In a typical scene from the period, we see an evil dark lord and his henchmen demanding grain as part of their plan to conquer the world, while an idle youth looks on.

I'm hoping to try out the single-player campaign from the new Frostgrave book, Perilous Dark, so the more terrain I can get, the better!

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

The Top Five Horses Of Wargaming

Everybody likes horses, and it's a poor wargame that doesn't include some sort of cavalry. One thing that wargaming companies cannot agree on, however, is how big a horse actually is. Sizes range from the diddy ponies that the Empire knights and Warlord Romans ride, to the yak-sized things that Brettonian knights use when they run out of coconuts to bang together. Here, then, are my top five (horses, not coconuts):

5. Archeon

Archaeon is the Abad'un of Warhammer Fantasy Battle: a chaos lord who leads chaos lords. Back in the good old days, he used to ride The Steed Of The Apocalypse, which looked like a horse that's taken steroids, grown spikes and acquired really weird hooves. Arguably the most metal of the horses featured (although see below).

Sadly, when Age Of Sigmar reared its ugly head, Archaeon's mighty horse was replaced by this goofy-looking thing, which sums up a lot of my complaints with AoS.

4. The Green Knight

The Green Knight is a mystic character for the Bretonnians, who materialises from the forest and is exceedingly difficult to kill. He has the Arthurian look of the Bretonnians and is basically a cool idea. While his sculpt is very old, the way his horse is rearing up, and the intricate barding, make it a rather good horse.

4. Marius Leitdorf (featuring Daisy)

Marius Leitdorf was a nobleman of the Warhammer Empire, and made a change from the usual stern-faced tedium by being a lunatic in a hat that would shame a 1970s gangster.

His horse gains points on account of being in an interesting pose - she seems to be shying away from danger (or perhaps turning) rather than charging into it - and having a name: Daisy. Daisy had the same profile as all other warhorses, but stands out for personality. And headgear.

2. Robohorse

Another pick from the Empire: this time it's the horse-shaped mechanical steed that the Empire engineer can take. My rulebook tells me that it's formally called "Meikle's Equine Effigy of Dynamic Locomotion" and was invented by Frau Meikle, the first woman to be allowed to join the Imperial School of Engineers. Despite having a mane and tail made out of leaves, it looks properly mean. The only reason the engineer is riding it is probably because it told him to come with it if he wanted to live.

Unfortunately, it doesn't quite make the top spot because it's not alive and it reminds me too much of this:

1. Prince Rupert

Prince Rupert of the Rhine was a noted cavalier in the English Civil War, and led the king's cavalry in several battles. He is a Warlord Games model, and while Warlord's humans are sometimes a bit basic, they do know how to make a good horse. As luck would have it, I bought this model recently and will be painting it soon. This particular model was painted by Scott Merrifield.

So, that's my guided tour (or canter?) through Wargaming Horses To Look Out For. It's nearly Christmas Day, and I'm going off to wrap presents and eat ham. Have a good Christmas, and in the meantime, here's a picture of one of my favourite horses that I made a while ago: the Tau Space Pony.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Chaos Marine Obliterator Conversion

For a long while, the Chaos Space Marines have had the option to use Obliterators. Obliterators are a sort of super-terminator, who have become one with their equipment and are able to spontaneously grow guns from their arms. Originally, they had small models, but about ten years ago, models were introduced that looked like this:

Hmm. I've got to say, this isn't a model that I particularly like. For one thing, the flesh tones and the multiple gun barrels made it look very busy. For another, the face isn't great. And for a third, more importantly, the pose of the legs is really strange. The legs and back are a one-piece lead casting - a huge lump of metal. It occurred to me that, if the legs worked better, and the paint scheme was more subdued, the basic model could work fine.

I hacked away at the legs with a saw, basically removing everything between the knee and the hip on both sides. Then, using wire and green stuff, I pinned the lower legs to the body and waited for it all to cure. After that, I got to work with more green stuff and sculpted the new thighs, to make the model more upright.

I actually didn't make many changes to the arms and chest. The model was given a new head, which I'd hacked off an Imperial missionary years before. The new head was screaming and had a beard, which I merged into the armour with green stuff, and which would represent the obliterator's head merging with his equipment.

Time for paint. I decided to paint the flesh colour as warping armour, to keep the model more subdued and to tie it in with the rest of the soldiers. I think that the raw flesh colour gets slightly over-used a lot in GW's Chaos colour schemes. The face was painted pale blue, washed purple and highlighted with pink skin, in keeping with the bare heads of the chaos marines. Overall, the model had the same not-quite-Black-Legion colour scheme that I've used for the newer bigger marines.

I think he's a great improvement. I intend to make two others, probably not in the same way, but to about the same size. I expect this guy will be the most human of them all - which isn't saying much!

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Oldhammer Chaos Sorcerer and Chaos Knight

I see that I've got at least two new followers! That's almost doubled the number of people who read this blog! Welcome to the roll of alleged honour!

As Christmas gets closer, and Britain enjoys its last week of functional democracy, what could be more festive than a couple of bright red mad people for Frostgrave? Not only are they in the livery of Father Christmas, more or less, but Frostgrave is snowy in the background literature but actually isn't in practice, just like Christmas in the UK.

First up is a sorcerer, who will either lead the chaos warband into Frostgrave or be its deputy leader. He is Azoth the Faceless, from the Heroes for Dungeonquest box from many years ago. I've not painted him in the same way as the original model, as I prefer my own colour scheme. His impressive helmet, magical brass skull and habit of shaking his fist at things mark him out as a true villain.

He was a real pleasure to paint. Some of these older models, lacking the detail and sharp edging of more recent plastic sculpts, make for very pleasant painting.

Next is a cavalry model from Gamezone Miniatures. They've produced some really good not-Warhammer style models, and their chaos cavalry are very decent. This chap was originally a drummer for a regiment, but I didn't put the drums on when I assembled him, so now he looks like some maniac about to go berserk with two maces as his horse charges into battle.

When painting this model, I used a technique from the Heavy Metal painting guide: to draw the eye to the right parts of the miniature, paint the rider in a lighter colour than the steed. In this case, I used a black undercoat for the horse's armour and a white one for the rider's. I'm not sure if this has really worked here, but I think he looks nice.

So that's another warband almost finished. I've got some crossbowmen for the undead that I could paint, and a lot of individual adventurers. I'm also planning to paint some Warlord models: I've got some very cool Civil War horsemen, and a group of samurai. But we'll see.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

More Fishmen For Carnivale!

This week, I finished off one of the models from the Carnivale pile. This guy is an Officiant of Dagon, the Lovecraftian fish-god whose minions seek to overrun the city of Venice from below. I'm not sure if this chap is meant to be part-fish, or whether he's just a crazy human who works with the cultists of Dagon, so I've painted him in the usual skin tones and given him a very slight glaze of green.

This photo was taken largely to show that he has two legs.

And here is the entire sordid family. I'm sure they would click their fingers like the Addams Family, except that probably doesn't work underwater.

L-R: Sirena, Eric, Fishgar the Bloody, Steve, Junior, and Barney.

Apart from the Slaves of Dagon, who I don't really like, I've got two fishmen left to do: a massive chap who looks very fat and blubbery, and a human/Deep One hybrid who looks strangely like an aquatic Terry Gilliam.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Sedition Wars Troopers - An Experiment With Contrast Paint

Ages ago, I bought a game called Sedition Wars: Battle for Alabaster. It was made by Studio McVey and was a bit like the old Advanced Space Crusade, in that each side had about twenty miniatures and fought a battle on a map with squares. Unfortunately, the rules were so complex and badly explained that it was nearly unplayable. The models were pretty decent, though.

I thought I'd have a try at painting a batch of the good guys (basically, humans in space armour) with GW's contrast paints. The main reason for this is that the models can be largely one colour and have plenty of bumps and creases in their outfits where the contrast paint could "catch". I used Black Templar, which is the standard black colour, over a simple white undercoat. I painted ten models.

The contrast paint works rather well on the bumpy armour, although the end result isn't black really as much as a dark green-grey. It reminds me of the Alien's skin. I added some colour with the visors (which have come out a bit too luridly blue for my tastes), red shoulder pads and a stripe of orange on each gun, presumably to indicate glowing power levels of some kind. The orange was also done with contrast paint over white, and I think it works well.

The contrast paint isn't perfect by a long way, and does create slightly odd shading in some places. But it looks decent, especially given the length of time it took to do. I think these guys will work well as henchmen and enforcers for some kind of cyberpunk corporation.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Cross-Town Arms Traffick - A Game of Hardwired

Things had gone moderately well this night. On the plus side, the team had stolen a disk of vital data from a heavily-guarded corporate lab. On the minus side, they'd driven into a bollard on the way out. Their ute was bust, and the crew now faced the city on foot.

"Yeah, mate, it's not going to be cheap to fix this."

If they were going to escape, they'd need a ride. And right now, the only working vehicle was the large yellow lorry on the far side of the town, whose hazard stripes and interesting odour suggested that it was some kind of dustcart. Time to get moving.

In the first turn, the heroes advanced into the town. Everything seemed quiet but, as they entered, a band of armed scientists burst onto the scene, furious about the loss of their data.

"We're not just mad scientists, we're bloody furious scientists."

In the next round, the team noticed the vengeful scientists approaching, and hurried through the streets, using the massive air purifier in the centre and the nearby walkways for cover. Three more scientists arrived, intent on investigating the effects of gunfire on the team, and three genestealer cultists showed up at the rear of the board, sensing that something was going on which might involve snarling and hitting.

Suddenly, mayhem broke out! Seeing the three angry scholars readying their weapons, Gary Grey-Hair lobbed a grenade at them. The explosion killed two of the mad scientists, and Gary quickly used his Ronin skills to pick off the third with his rifle. But the crew's triumph was short-lived. Four long-coated agents stepped over the bodies of the slain, hefting powerful machine guns. The Syndicate had arrived!

Turn four was upon us. The team rushed forward and Gary Grey-Hair went berserk. Together with Yves Yellow-Hair, he stormed into the local market, past a recruiting booth where the Church of Xenology had set up shop. Throwing his second, and final, grenade, he took out three more thugs. Not content with this rampage, Gary shot a fourth.

"Solve this for X, science-bitches!"

The survivors hit the deck and returned fire. In moments, both Gary and Yves were hit, the bullets slamming through their armour. Rose Red-Hair dashed forward to assist, but was caught in the crossfire and wounded too. Now each of Rose, Gary and Yves only had two dice to roll each turn instead of three, making them significantly weaker. At least their ride was in sight - but Billie Blue-Hair lagged dangerously behind.

Turn five began with the squad making a final desperate sprint for the lorry. Yves, Rose and Gary reached the truck and dived into the armoured cab, safe from harm. But Billie was out of range. She'd never make it in time. Desperately, she threw herself over the bar of the local hostelry and took cover as the shells rained down.

And rain down they did. The Syndicate's finest (or worst) did their utmost to kill Billie, firing off twelve shots. Several got through the cover, and one or two penetrated Billie's armour but, thanks to her Ronin abilities, she was able to avoid taking any damage. Phew!


Enemies were closing in from all sides now: serious troopers against whom the crew wouldn't have a chance. Billie leaped out of cover and dashed to the lorry. Scrambling on board, the team zoomed off (gradually) in their new ride. What they lacked in glamour they made up for in non-deadness!

They had escaped. The team stopped their vehicle to pose for a celebratory picture.

Ready to take out the trash.


So, that was my first game of Hardwired. I really played it to get the hang of the system and, frankly, I think it's pretty good. For a six-turn game using fairly basic rules, it flowed smoothly and had plenty of excitement.

The system is geared to making each turn harder than the last, and it does it well. To begin with, I thought it would be a doddle, but the arrival of the tougher minions in Turn Three, who not only can do two actions per turn but do them better than the previous wave, is a real notching-up of difficulty. Similarly, the wounds system is very effective in representing damage: if you take one wound, you lose your d10. Two wounds and you lost your d8. Your troops degrade in quality pretty quickly.

There were several points where I wondered how all the rules meshed together. I couldn't work out what the different sorts of grenade did, so I just treated it as a standard attack. Overall, though, I think it flows very smoothly and feel surprisingly convincing, despite the lack of complex rules (or maybe because of it).

I don't know how much replayability you'd get from Hardwired, especially given that the increasing waves of villains will make the opposition feel a bit samey no matter how you mix the game up. However, it is fun and provides for some quick, exciting play. It would be interesting to see how some of the more exotic elements, such as psychics and drones, affect the basic game.

Overall, it's a decent product. The rulebook is slightly rough and ready, and the rules are perhaps a little on the basic side, but that's to be expected. I think it was well worth the money I spent and I'd recommend it to anyone else looking for a fast solo game.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

A Team For Hardwired

So, the books for Perilous Dark and Hardwired have arrived. Perilous Dark looks more complex, so it makes sense to start with Hardwired. To play Hardwired, you need a small group of skilled operatives, who'll be facing off against a horde of minions. It's a dirty job, and it's going to need experts. Let's have a look at my crew of stone-cold killers, each of whom is as ruthless as a ninja whose just been dumped by his girlfriend. Who was called Ruth.

Anyone remember this?

Rose Red-Hair (these are code names, obviously, else it would be silly) is a Razor, ie a close combat specialist. This is inevitable in cyberpunk: after all, what does modern technology matter when you've got a fancy wetsuit and a samurai sword?

Gary Grey-Hair is a Ronin, the sort of fuddy old traditionalist who thinks that gunfights are won with guns. Oh well, each to his own. His cautious approach and use of ranged weaponry has saved him many times. The question is, what about this time?

Billie Blue-Hair is another Ronin. She's a calm, calculating mercenary, as cold as a dead penguin, and is the most dangerous person to wear goggles with a poncho since the Man With No Name went swimming.

Finally, we've got a man with yellow hair. Damn, what name alliterates with "yellow"? Yves! But that's pronounced "Eaves". Eaves Yellow-Hair doesn't work. I know - we'll use the French version. Good thinking, Toby!

So, Yves Cheveaux-Jaunes is the fourth member of the crew. He's a Sawbones, which is a Medic for you old types stuck in the 2090s. His main skill comes from being to enhance the others - and hopefully stick them together once they've been shot full of holes. He also has a spanner and a blanket.


So, that's my crew of subultimate badasses. Let's talk briefly - very briefly - about the game mechanic. Every turn, a model can do three things (you get a standard move for free). To do a thing, you need to roll 4 or more. The twist is that you get three dice - a d.6, a d.8 and a d.10 - and can only allocate one dice to each roll. In other words, you need to decide which activity you want to succeed the most.

The different character types are very similar, but each has a different specialty. The specialty allows the model a re-roll in that area. So, a Razor (the close combat chap) gets a re-roll when fighting up close. The Ronin (the marksman) gets a re-roll when shooting. And so on.

The enemy come in waves, depending on how far through the game we are. To begin with, they're pretty feeble, but as it goes on, tougher and tougher reinforcements arrive. So the plan is to get in, get out and hopefully not get killed. Quickly.

It sounds simple. It won't be.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

An Orc, A Troll, And Some Random Musings On This Blog

After the rather disgusting Chaos Spawn, I thought I'd paint something "nice": namely a war machine, an orc and a troll.

The orc is a very old metal orc who was in a battered state when I got him, missing his left arm and his weapon. I suspect that he originally was a bowman, but I made him a spear out of a paper clip covered in green stuff, and gave him a Frostgrave left arm with an ancient plastic shield. I really like these shields: the moon and the evil sun designs feel like classic Warhammer to me. 

Like the nude orc that I made for the chaos warband, there's not a lot of detail on this model for the brush to "catch", especially on the face. Still, he was pleasant to make and the shield was really nice to paint.

This is an old stone troll, from the "red period" of the early 1990s. I really like the design of Warhammer's trolls: they look menacing but also dopey and slightly comical. I went with a pretty standard colour scheme. I like using purple washes on models like this: it gives the impression of flesh rather than just rock. Likewise, I mixed a bit of pink into the highlights to suggest living skin, but I doubt it's very visible in this picture.

The war machine is a plastic Mantic trebuchet, originally made for their undead army. It had that cartoony look that's common to a lot of Mantic's stuff, which I don't really like. The only converting I did was to cut away all the skulls and spikes, and to put three shields on the cross-piece to cover up the hacking. The yellow-and-black quartered design has become quite common on my more heroic Frostgrave models: maybe it's the heraldry of the local lord.


Anyway, that's enough of that for now. I started this blog to chart my efforts to get better at painting, and to improve. I think, overall, I've done so: I'm very pleased with some of the models that I've made, and I think that the cyberpunk eldar, the ork commandos and some of the Frostgrave people are some of the best miniatures I've ever converted and painted.

However, it might be time to take stock a bit. I don't think I'm improving much as a painter now: I suspect that I've got as good as I can do, and that things like complex freehand will always be beyond me. Likewise, I'm not inclined to splash out for tools like airbrushes that I doubt I'll use all that often, or all that well. So I might have plateaued somewhat.

That feeling might just be because I've been feeling a bit down, recently, and I'm certainly not inclined to throw in the towel. This blog gets very few hits at all, but it's been fun to do. I have ended up with a lot of nice miniatures, some of which have even seen the light of day on the battlefield.

However, a lot of them haven't. So, I've ordered two sets of solo rules: Perilous Dark for Frostgrave, and Hardwired, a set of rather odd-looking skirmish cyberpunk rules. Frostgrave is reliably good, and I've got no idea how Hardwired will work out, but it looks interesting. So we'll see how it pans out. Watch this space.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

"Fun" with Chaos Spawn

Weird and pissed off.

From time immemorial (ie about 1988), chaos spawn have been an important part of the Warhammer Chaos army, not least because they're a good way of using up all the bits you've got left over from other projects. A while back, I converted one of the strange creatures from the Killteam Rogue Trader box, and that reminded me of some old spawn conversions that I'd done a while ago, and which were gathering dust in a cardboard box when they could be raising hell on the battlefield.

I dug the conversions out, re-based them, and gave them a new coat of paint on the flesh. I more-or-less followed a tutorial that I found here: HERE. It's probably not the most exact method, but it produces a pleasingly disgusting, but not too rotten, effect. Here are the re-worked spawn.

It's rather hard to explain what they are, but there are a lot of tyranid bits in there, along with some skaven parts. The overall effect is... lovely.

Here is a family photo.

Anyway, I actually find them quite gross to look at, so the tutorial obviously worked. I think I'll paint something cartoony and nice next: a knight, maybe, or a wizard. The spawn are going back in their box. Ugh.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

A Warlord for the Chaos Marines

It's been a busy week for the Hell-spawned forces of darkness and metal, as I've painted a warlord for the Chaos Space Marines.

Ages ago, I bought a job lot of damaged metal marines on ebay. The warlord is based on one of them: his body, arms and head come from the Dark Angels librarian Ezekiel, who came without his normal big sword. I gave my version a plastic sword from a chaos champion, and a backpack and wings from a Blood Angels honour guard. The sword represents a chaos relic called The Murder Sword, which sounds like a concept album by Nick Cave.

There was surprisingly little insignia on the model that had to go: I used some green stuff on the books he's carrying (he is a librarian, after all), but that's all. I mounted him on a bit of scenic base because he's actually rather small compared to the recent plastic chaos marines. I suppose he rules by fear - in an army of people who look like Darth Vader, he looks extremely Vaderesque.