Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Wrap Up

Another year draws to a close, and as usual I like to reflect on what I've accomplished over the last 12 months and set a course for the future.

I painted up quite a bit during the early months of the year, largely in part to my participation in the Analogue Painting Challenge:
  • 106 foot
  • 22 tiny Armada ships
But in March my interests shifted from painting models from the two dozen half started projects I'm "working on" to pulling together few projects towards completion. With enough Blood and Plunder figures finished to try some games, I knocked together some jungle terrain for our weekly pirate games. I also managed to make it to several games hosted by Joe (of Scrum in Miniature), a fresh faced neophyte to the world of wargaming who has taken to it like a duck to water. Though my painting slowed this year, between my Monday night group, the seasonal games with Joe and various attendance to various conventions I've played far more wargames in the last 12 months than any previous year

I also began working on a tabletop wargame system of my own, a process that has taken more time and effort than I had initially anticipated but I'm hoping to pull together into a finished product, even if it's for my own gratification.

Nearly done!
Despite not making the cut for this years Analogue Painting Challenge (grumble grumble), I'm still going to participate "on my own." I have a ton of figures primed and ready to paint, which will keep me occupied over the cold winter months. Next year I'm looking forward to completing my Blood and Plunder ships so we can move our pirate battles from the beaches to the high seas where they belong. My Monday group is already excitedly planning to take the plunge into Star Wars Legion, while Joe will be hosting a more regular series of game days. In all, 2018 looks to be chock-a-block full of dice rolling and mini-painting. Here's hoping we all survive it!

Happy New Year!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Dragon Rampant: The Battle of Four Armies

As my post Thanksgiving turkey coma subsided, I was able to roll my mashed potato filled carcass to my friend Joe's place for a four player Dragon Rampant bash. Join me after the jump for the details.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Holiday Game and Geek Sales - Black Friday 2018

It's the annual run up to the holidays, kicking off with the shopping frenzy just after Thanksgiving.  Black Friday. You know the drill: You've got gifts to buy for the lovable geeks in your life, maybe for a friend, spouse or child (or let's be honest, maybe picking up a little something for yourself).

I've got some ideas for you below, and I've rounded up all of the wargaming Black Friday/Holiday special offers I could find as well. Settle in with your eggnog and let's get started with a little digital window shopping.

Oathmark: The new Oathmark fantasy miniatures from North Star / Osprey have been rolling out, with dwarves available now and goblins shipping soon (preorders for the goblins are available until Dec. 6th, with a chance those in Europe and the UK getting the goblins by Christmas). Check out the "skirmish" special offer, one box of dwarves, one box of goblins and some limited edition metal figures for a low price. I really love the design of these goblins; departing from the GW-influenced gorilla on steroids greenskins. The dwarves also avoid the "beard with feet" silhouette that has become the default look of the stubby blokes from many vendors.

Blood and Plunder: Swashbuckling historic pirates duking it out over land and sea has been our latest passion at the game store. I've painted up my Spanish, am planning on tackling their frigate and sloop this winter, and have additional cavalry and artillery reinforcements on the way. Play is fast and intuitive, and uses and clever card based initiative to make each turn unpredictable. Even if you don't pick up the rules or figures, you have to check out the beautiful ships, useful in 17th and 18th century or even medieval-ish fantasy games that need some brilliant sea vessels to fill the ports and docks of the trade town.

The Wizard's Tower: Tabletop World doesn't make game terrain, they make art. Their resin buildings are exceptionally detailed, elevate any game in which they appear, and put all other terrain vendors to shame. Of course, they have a price to match, but they're worth every penny. This year's latest release is the Wizard's Tower, an imposing structure that could be the focus of an entire game night with the forces of evil assaulting the fortress tower of the noble sorcerer and his outnumbered allies. Tabletop World is running a special as well, with free buildings thrown in for orders of varying sizes.

Pandemic Legacy: This is THE game in my house, adored by all three members of my family. We recently wrapped up Season 1 after playing it for the last few years and are eagerly awaiting the newly released Season 2. Highly recommended!

$5 Off Any Book ($20 or more) at Amazon: Just use GIFTBOOK17 at checkout. Maybe Dracula's America? How about the Frostrgrave supplement Maze of the Minotaur? There's plenty of non-wargaming books I'm sure will make great surprises under the tree like Star Wars: the Blueprints (great as reference for building terrain for the new Star Wars: Legion), the recently released biography of Ulysses S. Grant, the Annotated H.P. Lovecraft, or go all out with the collected Star Wars Art of Ralph McQuarrie.

Game of Thrones Season 1-6: You must have that friend who can't or won't subscribe to HBO, or fell behind on Game of Thrones and never caught up, or absolutely needs to watch the entire series from the beginning. The Blu-Rays for seasons 1-6 are on sale for 70 bucks on Amazon, an all time low price. It's a steal.

Battlefront II: There's been a lot of controversy around the release of the latest installment of the Star Wars shooter franchise, with many critics labeling Battlefront a "pay to win" title. Personally, it doesn't matter to me. I'm no where good enough to realize that my hapless stormtrooper avatar is being obliterated by a 14 year old with mom's credit card, or a 14 year old with superior reflexes. I enjoyed my time running around Battlefront I and experiencing my favorite movies from the inside, I can't imagine this larger and improved game won't deliver a similar time.

Roomba: Wait, what? How is this a game or geek gift. Guys, it's a robot. That actually does work. I mean, how much did the mouse droid actually accomplish on the Death Star? It delivered emails. Stupid. Roomba could kick the mouse droid's rear. Amazon has the 690 knocked down to $275. I love my Roomba. Both of them. You should get one.

Obscure Novelty Shirts: I nearly forgot to hawk my own swag. I've been experimenting with t-shirt design lately, creating shirts for my own amusement. Maybe you're also an ironic fan of old school anti-D&D screeds? or you really dig space helmeted undead astronauts? I admit, they're not for everyone, but maybe there's a special weirdo in your life who would like one?

Wargame Deals

Wargame vendors have also been publishing special offers. To keep everything straight, I've collated them into the list below (in no particular order).

Firelock Games

Starts: Now
Ends: Monday, November 27

  • 20% Off: with promo code jolly17


Starts: Now
Ends: January 5th, 2018
  • Buy 8, get 2 free: Buy any 8 standard £12 packs and get an additional 2 free.
  • Buy 16, get 6 free: Buy any 8 standard £12 packs and get an additional 2 free.
     List the codes of the free packs in the comments box when you place your order.

The War Store

Starts: Late Wednesday Night (Thursday the 23rd at 12:01 am)
Ends: Monday the 27th 11:59 PM
  • Discount code BF17: 5% off your order
  • Code PIPSHIP: Free shipping on Privateer Press orders of $100 or more
  • Code BATTLESHIP: Free shipping on Battlefront orders of $100 or more
  • Code GWSHIP: Free shipping on Games Workshop orders of $250 or more
  • Free Stuff: Sprues, paints, mini rulebooks and more

Gripping Beast

Starts: Now
Ends: ?
  • Festive Fun Blister: Themed blister containg limited edition fig, assorted foot. £20 worth of goodies
  • Saga: Version 1 rules are 1/2 price in preparation for Version II

Warlord Games

Starts: Now
Ends: ?
  • Tank Platoons: Selected tanks are 1/3 off.
  • Resin Vehicles: Buy 2, get one free
  • Figures: Buy 4, get 1 free
  • Gates of Antares: Buy 2 boxes, get 1 free
  • Dr. Who: Buy 2 boxes, get 1 free
  • Free Shipping: For orders over £50 / $30

Tabletop World

Starts: Now
Ends: December 31
Ships from Croatia

  • Free buildings: The bigger the order, the better the freebie
  • Free shipping: on orders greater than 250 Eur
Starts: Now
Ends: 9 AM Monday the 27th
  • Free Shipping: on orders over £25, €35 or $40
  • Hourly Deals on Friday: Check the site and social media. Highlights include 200 goblins for £69.99, 80 Enforcers for £39.99, etc. 
  • Mega Deals: Including Warpath Mega Force of your choice plus the rulebook collection for just £74.99, 100 Marauders for £39.99, Mars Attacks Stompy Robots finally make their return for £14.99, more
Starts: Now
Ends: Monday, November 27
  • Free Shipping: on orders over £15
  • New Releases: new releases all weekend.
  • Digital Rulebooks: Monday the 27th digital download deal
  • Combine orders with Ion Age too!
Starts: Now
Ends: Monday, November 27
  • Free Shipping: on orders over £15
  • New Releases: new releases all weekend.
  • Digital Rulebooks: Monday the 27th digital download deal
  • Combine orders with Alternative Armies too!
Starts: Now
Ends: December 20
Ships from Italy
  • 20% Off: Orders over €50.00
  • 25% Off: Orders over €130.00
Starts: Now
Ends: December 17
  • 15% Off: Lots of small scale sci-fi
Starts: Now
Ends: ?
Ships from Netherlands

  • Discount code: black im for 25% off Team Yankee, Tanks, Bolt Action, Achtung Cthulhu, Konflict '47
Starts: Now
Ends: Friday, Dec. 1st
  • 20% off all items
Starts: Now
Ends: November 27
15mm fantasy figures
  • 25% all orders
  • Free Shipping: on orders over  $75
  • Free werewolf miniature with every order

I'll try to keep the list of wargame special offers up to date all weekend, so if you come across a great deal let me know and I'll update this post.

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.