Thursday, October 20, 2016

More Painting & Latest Craft Store Find

Hi Everyone,

Thought I would post a few more painting shots. 
These are the base coats with the eyes for three figures, one of which, the orc shaman, you've already seen.  The one on the left is an evil wizard/necromancer and the one on the right is a warrior priest summoning some magic effect ... or signaling for a touchdown, whichever you prefer.

The Wizard has the standard cloak I usually do but I wanted him to have a metal skull cap on his head, similar to the one worn by Merlin in the classic Excalibur movie from the 80's.  These are all base colors and you can see that for all of them, I chose to do a black eye base.
Here is the finished evil wizard.  The eyes are done by just putting two white dots into the large black oval.  The cloak is the dark brown color I like so much as a base tone, but in this case because his cloak is so dark I painted the base coat black, and used the dark brown (the "Soft Black" color) to fill in as the color of his cloak.  This is a good example on a human figure the technique of leaving some of the darker undercoat color showing through when you use a lighter tone over top of it.  It is done on every part of the miniature except for his face.

Here is another angle.
Finally, here is the evil warrior priest finished.
He is pretty straightforward except for his eyes.  I wanted him to appear to be looking up, so I used the same technique for the eyes that I use on the zombies.  The white part is not just two dots but a crescent shape so that it looks like his pupils are all the way up in the top of his eye, which they would be if he was looking up to the sky summoning the power of his god.

Here is another angle.
The mace on his belt is just cut from a tile spacer.

Finally, Michael's, at least the ones where I live, are carrying a new line of wooden craft parts that have different "wooden people."  I've not seen these before.  Also, they have this pack that has a male and female wooden person, a hut, and a tree.  Unfortunately it is about $4 and I would never use the hut for anything I don't think, but I really like the tree.  I took this picture at the store and it didn't turn out as good as I hoped, but you can see the people and the tree okay in it.  These people are a nice size and if I was starting over or wanting to do a really large army, I might opt to use these.
The hut looks like an ice cream cone, but the tree (which is next to it but is upside down) is actually very nice, this picture does not do it justice.  You can see one of the "pawns" or "wooden people" in the upper left of the package.  Unfortunately, I don't think you can but the trees in a pack by themselves (like a four pack or something).  I only saw the trees included in this package, and it is cost prohibitive to pay that much just for one tree for me, anyway.  But it is a very nice tree.

-- Matt

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Otyugh Update

Hi Everyone,

So here is my otyugh figure side by side with the pre-painted D&D counterpart.  As you can see, the scale is nearly identical in terms of actual area taken up by the figure, which is one of the things I try and go for.  I'm also happy with the general appearance of the otyugh at this point.  I cut tile spacers to make the "teeth" at the end of two of the tentacled arms.  There is just one tile spacer per side, though, so essentially it is a thinned down long straight piece of tile spacer that I then cut a jagged edge on to look like teeth.  Individual teeth would probably look better, but would be really fiddly and would be more likely to come off the figure with handling.  I will paint on the other teeth in its maw because there just is not enough space to put teeth in there.  I can't make the mouth any wider because as it is constructed now, the bottom of the lower jaw already is just mm from the table top.  I also think I will paint on the spikes, but I did entertain using toothpicks or other wooden pointy things cut to size and glue them on.  I still might do this, I haven't decided.  I will need to decide this before I paint it.  The issue is how likely I think they will be to break off with use.  Obviously, I don't want that and if that is likely, it's not worth going for the 3D spikes, better to just paint them on.
I also have a base done for him and painted already, but I will only glue the figure onto the base once it is painted.  He is such a low ground clearance figure that painting the underneath of the figure would be next to impossible if I put it on a base first.

I went with the tapered plugs for his arms, ending each in a split egg with its bottom filed down so that it is flat, making it look like it attaches to the tentacle.  Although the tapered plugs do not give it a smooth look, I think they will actually add to the segmented tentacle arm look once its painted.  But we'll see.

Hope you like the otyugh!  Tomorrow I'll post something else, haven't decided yet what, either a painting example again or something else.

-- Matt

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Painting a Variety of Figures

Hi Everyone,

Knowing that Dale would be away from his blog for a few days at this time, I have been hard at work doing some painting so that I could have some stuff to post while he is away.  So here is some of the stuff I've been working on.  I'll save other things for later in the week.

For tonight, I'm posting about a salamander (the evil elemental creature of fire, not the cute little lizard), an orc shaman, and finally a dungeon accessory piece, a statue of the elven god of luck.  I'll start with some "naked"/unpainted pictures and then show and talk about the finished painted piece.  I actually started the salamander and then realized I needed an unpainted picture of him, so he has a little paint on him by accident.
I put him with a finished human thief miniature for size comparison purposes.  His construction is interesting, especially because his body is made of an egg that I cannot find anymore (it is longer and skinnier in shape than the normal eggs you get from online wood craft parts suppliers).  These eggs I found randomly in a Michael's store one time, and they quit stocking them (they went on clearance sale) and I bought every package they had.  But it won't be enough, I like this eggs a lot, I'm going to have to find them eventually online somewhere.  Anyway, he has a split egg head, long and skinny egg body, an axle cap for the bottom part of his body where it first makes contact with the ground (because it has a hole in it gluing it to the base upside down so the hole points up allowed me to really anchor the body of the salamander in place by gluing the tip of the egg body into the hole of the upside down axle cap).  You'll see in another picture but there is one more axle caps that make up the lower part of his snake-like body ending in another split egg tail.  I used tile spacers to make the arms (really big ones) and hands, and his ears.  You'll see this in the next shot as well but I also used the large tile spacers, cut them in half so they are thinner, and cut them to make the shapes of his spiny back plates.  The tip of the spear is also made from a large tile spacer I cut to the shape I liked, poked a little hole in it, and glued the stick to it by jamming it into the hole.
You can really see his lower body here and back spines in this picture.  Notice how I placed the axle cap and split egg in an overlapping position to give the sense of a coiled, snake-like body.  At this point I was very happy with how he turned out, and was afraid to paint him for fear of messing him up.  That painting delay is normal for me on these monsters because it takes me a long time to figure out how to make them, and then after I do that I am afraid I'll mess them up when I put paint on them.  He literally sat on my painting table for about 3 weeks.
Above is the naked version of the elven statue of the god of luck.  The base is a 1 1/4" square piece with a 1" cube glued to the top of it.  I knew from the beginning that I wanted to put the elven word for "luck" on the front side of this block, but I would paint it on.  The body is a longer shaker peg (I can't remember the size, but it's probably about 2 1/4" long I would guess).  I cut the bottom off of the shaker peg so that I could glue it flush to the cube.  The cowl and head construction is the same as for the lich I talked about earlier (split egg with an axle cap glued hole-side down).  The arms are in a praying position and made from tile spacers.  The hands are separate tile spacers cut to shape and glued into position.  That's all there is to this statue!
The picture above is the base colors for all the figures.  Dark gray for the statue and the bases of the figures, dark redish brown for the salamander, and a color called Light Avocado from Americana craft paints for the orc's flesh.  I like it because it's green without being "too green."  Each figure has been painted twice.  One coat with the cheap craft paint always proves to not be enough for these fantasy figures (you can sometimes get away with one coat with the historicals).  But after two coats, the color as you can see is consistent and vibrant.
Here is the finished statue.  I just took a lighter gray color and literally made it up as I went, just painting a basic cloak look to her with a simple face (can't really see anything but her hair pattern in this picture).  The text is actually painted black first, and then the lighter gray on top of it.  The black makes the letters pop out more than if I had used an even darker gray.  The lighter gray color I usually only have to paint once, and that was the case here.  Here are some more pics of the statue.
As you can see, I only painted the text on the front.  Why?  Because I am free handing it, and because it is elven letters (which I have never painted) I knew there was NO way I could possible get all the sides to look the same.  So I only painted the text on the front side.  You get a better sense in this picture for the "draped" look of the cloaked body.  When you are painting something on a flat surface like you have with these figures, what you leave behind as unpainted space (in this case the dark gray color) is as important as what you cover up with the new color.  By leaving the darker color exposed, it creates the illusion of depth.
You can see her face a little better here.  I didn't want it to look too "human" because it's a statue of a god, so I went with lines with dots under them for eyes and just the suggestion of a mouth.  It is tilted back in this picture so that you can see the face better.
I have done a lot of orcs before, but never a shaman.  I knew I wanted him to hold a staff with a skull on the end.  In this case it's just a round bead that I glued to a small stick.  The figure is the normal orc construction with an axle cap head glued onto a shaker peg so that it looks like he is hunched over with the worst posture in the world.  The arms are tile spacers, the right bent at a 45 degree angle which is perfect for holding the staff, and the left is extended in a pointing/spell casting gesture.  As far as the paint job, nothing too earth shattering here except that I wanted him to have a fur for clothing, so I painted the dark brown color where I wanted it to be, and then just blobbed on into some of the dark brown area lighter brown to create the "fur" look.  I gave him some blue face paint for casting his spells and for appeasing his god.  Notice that the way I have figures "hold" things is to glue the object to the bottom of the arm.  The tile spacer arm is flat and creates a good area for the shaft of the staff (in this case) to glue onto pretty well.  Then I paint the fingers actyakkt on the object held to make it look like the figure is grasping the object (hands wrapped around the object).  Silly, I know, but I think it's effective.
The salamander I am going to do in stages hopefully so you can see better what I did.  I took the dark brown color and blocked out his eyes and mouth.  Then I took bright red and painted the various serpent-looking parts of the body, and the humanoid parts of the arms and hands, again painting the fingers onto the object being held to create the illusion of the monster holding the spear.  It is very important that you leave uncovered some of the darker color you painted onto the figure before the current color you are painting (bright red in this case).  This is what creates the textures and the folds in the clothing of other figures.  In this case, it created the segmentation of the creature's body and arms.  If you don't do this, you'll just have at this stage a monocolor red figure.  Not what you are going for, trust me.  As you can see, I've already finished the staff of the spear and put the base coat of medium gray on the spear tip.

You can really see the importance of not painting over everything with the new color (in this case the new color is the bright red).  Leaving behind open darker spaces gives visual interest to the figure.  This is vitally important on the larger figures like this one, less so on the human-sized guys.

Over the red I painted some orange (you can still see some of it in this finished figure) and over the orange I painted some yellow.  In both cases, I did not paint over top of the previously painted color completely, leaving some of the old color still visible.  This is very, very important!  Are you tired of me saying this yet?
Final picture is of the salamander with some adventurers on a painted tile just to give you a sense of how bright and "on fire" he looks.  I'm pretty pleased with how he turned out.

Tomorrow, I'll provide an update on my otyugh figure.  I'll give you a little teaser.  He's not painted, but I did finish with the construction of him.  And yes, he's been sitting on my painting table for over a week because I'm afraid to paint him!  Until tomorrow ...

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Let's Get Minimal!

Have you ever purchased a new rule book for a new period that you have no figures for and then said: "Boy this is shiny and new. I wish I had two armie for this period so I could try these rules out!" Okay, I may not have said it that way, but I have said something like it. I think we have all thought it at one time.

If you follow my wargaming blog,, then you have probably seen a number of attempts on my part to solve that problem. In the past I have:

  • Created paper armies where you print and cut out paper figures and mount them to bases. Generally the figures are all side-view, so you have to play from the side, rather than from behind your troops, otherwise it does not look very good.
  • Created paper armies where you print groups of top-down figures and mount them to bases. These are essentially fancy boardgame counters. No reason not to use flat terrain too!
  • Created elaborate drawings using computer programs like Battle Chronicler to register the moves of the electronic versions of the counters I used above.
  • Bought and painted (or had painted) 6mm metal or plastic figures and mounted them to bases.
I was feeling a bit nostalgic last week and I created a few of the "Bead Knight" of my childhood. (See the post Let's Get Medieval and scroll down to the middle to see the results.) I brought back a lot of memories, but it also prompted a conversation with blog co-author Matt about how to solve the "ooh! New Shiny" problem by making your own armies. Yes, making miniatures takes time, but by making the figures a certain way, would it be possible to make the whole process, from start to finish (armies on the table), quicker?

The first part of our discussion centered around reducing the scale of the figure. By making the guys little:
The real beauty of these seems to me to be rapid construction and ease of construction, and the flat surfaces allow you to focus on what you want to paint for each figure and putting the signature detail there rather than worrying about all the little fiddly stuff on the smaller figures that no one sees on the gaming table even with highly detailed metal sculpts. You can see them when you hold them up 6 inches from your face, but on the table? All you really see is what you painted on your guy, which is the helmet, the covering for the horse, and the weapon/shield. The point of these wooden warriors in my view has always been less about making an equivalent wooden figure in detail compared to a metal sculpt, but instead to create a quicker to paint, lighter to carry figure that on the table in a gaming situation allows the person playing from 3+ feet away to say "those are knights" or "those are American WWII GIs" or "those are Macedonian skirmishers" or whatever.
The second part of that thought is that because the detail is not cast on the figure, there is a lot of incentive not to paint that detail. If you have ever painted old Scruby figures, you know what I mean. Scruby miniatures conveyed the shape, but rarely had cast details. So you could ignore the elements that would not normally be visible, like buttons. If the buttons are cast on, however, they will likely be wildly out of scale (in order to be visible) and will be noticed as not being painted when the figure is closely inspected as the detail casts a shadow.

Another issue with cast detail is that even when you want to paint that detail, say the shako cords or a metal device on a cartridge box, if you don't paint dead on "between the lines" you will notice it and try to correct. It is just human nature because when you are painting you are looking at the figure up close – probably closer than anyone else ever will – and these "flaws" leap out at you.

Without the detail cast on it is very easy to paint the detail where you want, how thick or thin you want, and how straight or rough you want. The non-uniformity of the figures then actually looks more realistic.

One set of rules that I wanted to try out, but had no armies for (despite having a number of DBA armies), is Dux Bellorum. They looked interesting, but later I heard that there was a flaw, but then others said that no, it was a great game. I wanted to find out myself. But how much time, effort, and money did I want to put into a period that I had no troops for, for a set of rules that may be flawed? Not much. So in comes the idea of making my own miniatures, using this minimalist approach.

First, I set off for the local Hobby Lobby and purchased several packs of beads. You can see the product of maybe an hour's worth of labor as I was still figuring out how I wanted to build these new figures. (I will do a construction article next time, after I return from my business trip.) Basically I have a Saxon shield wall on the left and a group of Norman Knights on the right. Each Saxon figure consisted of two beads, one-half of a round toothpick, and a sequin for the shield. The horses are actually made up using six beads, and with two beads, one-half of a round toothpick, and the top of a flat toothpick for each rider.

There are 16 infantry to a shieldwall base (12 for loose-order infantry and eight for skirmishing infantry), mounted on a 3" by 1 1/2" wooden base. There are six Knights to a base, but there will only be five for lighter cavalry and four for skirmishing cavalry.

Of course, the key to minimalism is to paint minimally! I could not resist painting the eyes. I can paint eyes pretty fast and I think it does matter, especially with the horses.

As Matt was saying, the principle items that you eye sees are the distinctive or "iconic" elements. For a Norman Knight that is the teardrop-shaped shield, the helmet, and the spear/lance. Everything else is essentially de-emphasized (surcoat is a simple blob of paint on the front and the back) or unpainted (using the black gesso primecoat to act as shadow).

There are so many details that could have been added on or painted, such as horse furniture and tack, swords, rider legs, horse's hooves and ears, etc. but even with these close-ups did you initially notice that they were missing? Does it really matter now that you have been alerted to take note?

To me the idea of minimalism is not minimizing the detail you do paint, but maximizing the number of details that you don't paint.

These guys took very little time to construct and paint up. The only thing I would change is that I would construct them with Gorilla Glue-brand super glue, rather than with hot glue. These figures are just too small for wielding a glue gun and the strings get to be a constant pain to remove. Where hot glue comes into its strength is to fill gaps between parts. These can be painted with black gesso and then they become shadow.

While I am away on my trip I will definitely be sitting in the hotel room with a few bags of beads and some super glue, making my Dux Bellorum army. Then I can start painting them when I return home.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Let's Get Medieval!

I have been reading the rules to Lion Rampant, a set of medieval skirmish rules by Dan Mersey (of Dux Bellorum fame, amongst a number of other rules), and decided to build a "retinue" for it, figuring that it might be a bit smaller in size than one for Cross and Crescent, the Crusades version of Saga. It turns out that it is a little more for Lion Rampant.

A typical starter force for Saga is six points – with one point being either a unit of 4 Hearthguard, 8 Warriors, or 12 Levy – so about 45 figures including the Warlord. A typical starter force for Lion Rampant is 24 points – with a six point unit of Men-at-Arms (Knights) being 6 figures, a four point unit of Sergeants being 6 figures if mounted and 12 figures if on foot, and a three point unit of Yeomen being 12 figures – so about  66 figures.

So I decided to aim for units of 6 for the Men-at-Arms and 12 for everything else and this would allow me to use the units for either set of rules.

I wanted to start with the Knights (of course), and of them, the Warlord (Saga)/Leader of the Men-at-Arms unit (Lion Rampant). As I work through the unit I will show you the variations that I make of the figure, but this particular model, being the leader of your forces, had to be different than all the rest.

The horse is standard – three split eggs (front legs, back legs, and head), a large spool (body), and a small spool (neck) – and I have added foam pieces cut out with jagged-edge craft scissors to make the mane and tail. (You can see the scissor I am referring to in this article about experimenting with foam sheets.)

The figure is the typical "boy" pawn that I use, which is 1 5/8" tall. I completely cut off the "head" and replaced it will the top half of a spool. I also cut off a length at the bottom that represents the legs as I attached wooden "legs" to the side of the horse.

The lance/spear is a simple dowel – either 1/8" or 1/16", I forget – and I used a pencil sharpener to get the initial point following it up with a Dremel sander to make it a proper spear head. I may add a vamplate above the hand later. (I need to research when they came into common use.)

This view shows the horse's arse a little better, and the tail I cut out of foam. You can also see a bit of detail I put on the saddle. I simply painted a brown leather rectangle  on the figure's back and then added studs using a silver Sharpie. (I love the metallic Sharpies. I used them on the crown too and face too.)

I thought about using small wood rectangles to make the armor plates that protect the eye slits, but felt that given the small size it would be too fiddly. I simply used a fine, black Sharpie to define the plates, slits, and air holes in the helmet.

Here is a shot comparing the Knight to an old, very chunky, Citadel 28mm soldier. (I think he was from Heroquest.)

Tom Foss from Wooden Wars (Skull and Crown) was kind enough to send me one of his wooden figures that he cuts and engraves with his laser cutter. (Where is that "envious" emoticon?) and one of the things I was intrigued by was his use of layering wooden parts. I will go into more depth on the subject (probably after I come back from my business trip), but I wanted to show you a small experiment.

Essentially what I did – shown in the pictures of the left hand, above and below – is glue a small wooden piece on a shortened wooden arm. That allows me to add just a touch of dimensionality to the hand. (Note that I sanded a bevel where the two pieces met in order to make it look a little better. What can I say? I am a sander.)

Unfortunately (for my hobby), I will be going on a business trip for two weeks starting on Oct 17. So I will not be posting any articles until after I return. (The hotels complain when you get wood dust all over from sanding and get hot glue on the desk.) Matt will carry on for the both of us while I am gone. I may be able to finish my Sergeant-at-Arms before I go, but I am not making any promises. But if I do, I will be sure and post it before heading out.

A Blast from the Past

In an email to Matt (the blog's co-author) I was reminiscing about how it all started for me: making my own medieval miniatures as a kid. All I had was index cards, a LOT of beads of various sizes, white glue, scissors, pliers, and some old plastic sprue. From that I made Knights. They were my first miniature figures because that was all I could afford. (Sadly, I cast them all aside when I could finally afford Airfix figures.)

I decided to try my hand at making some of my old "Bead Knights".

I modified the design a little. I used a round toothpick for a lance (I have no idea why I did not think of that back then) and the end of a flat toothpick for the shield (I used index cards back then).

With the hot glue I can fill the gaps just as I did back in the day, but now it hardens much faster. No attempts to make arms or legs here; that will all be done in paint.

Here is a comparison shot with that old Citadel 28mm foot soldier. In terms of body mass, they are closer to 20mm or 25mm figures, but from "foot to eye" they are more like 12mm.

The more I look at them, the more I think this might be a really nice way to build a mass army. Very simple construction. Very fast to paint (because you really can't put too much detail in). I just might make an army of these, for nostalgia's sake.
Funny story (at least to me). When I showed my "Bead Knights" to other people – who happen to have large figure collections, much of it well painted – I always received a polite smile, but nothing else much. No one wanted to use them, of course, because they were "out of scale" with everyone else's troops. One day I read the article in Miniature Wargaming about Andy Callan's "Hair Roller Armies" and I remember remarking "why would anyone want to game with armies made from hair rollers?" One of the guys who always smiled politely when I was gushing about my Bead Knights snapped "why would anyone want to game with Knights made from wooden beads?" That was my first indication that not everyone else thought this was a cool idea.
But you know what? I still love the look of these little guys. Especially when you paint them up.

(Sorry the first picture is fuzzy. He was riding by too quickly.)

I wanted to recreate the Bead Knights of Yore as they were then. I had a limited selection of beads, so I used what I had. If I did it today, the crafter in me says that I would use a cone-shaped bead for the horses head and include a small bead to act as the horse's neck! I tell you, there is something enticing about the figure. I could see using figures like this for grinding out a mass ancients or medieval army because the scale forces you to paint only the most obvious items and leave the rest to the imagination.

One Last Thing

Way back when I showed the prototype of a Polish Winged Hussar. Well I ran across the unfinished figure and worked a little more on him.

You can see that the figure, in comparison to the 28mm figure, is just as chunky, but a little shorter. (It is harder to tell as one is mounted and one is not.) Construction is relatively simple, but tedious to work on. The figure is, from top to bottom, a mushroom plug (or button plug), a rounded top plug, and a spool. The tedious part is that the spool had a large about of wood removed in order for the rider to straddle the horse's body. Unlike with my Knight, the body and legs are all one piece.

Let me tell you right now that I make a lot of prototype figures, just for fun, never intending to make multiples of the figure. I just want to see if I can make something. This is one of those figures. Not only because it is a complex figure and it would take a long time to get a decent number of figures built for a single unit, but also because I would have no other figures that would go with it (especially at that scale). Finally, and probably the biggest reason: I have a large number of painted, 15mm Polish Winged Hussars already, and they go unused.

I will definitely finish the figure and paint it up though.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Technical & the Creative

Dale had asked me to do a post or two that focused more on the technical and creative side of making wooden miniatures, rather than just eye candy pictures all the time.  I think this is a good point.  So, I thought I would do a post highlighting a technical challenge that took creativity to solve.  I have two things to write about, one instance where I am pretty sure I solved the challenge, and another that is still in process, and that I have not come up with a solution yet that I am really sold on.

1.  Challenge with a solution

One of my favorite D&D monsters of all time is the Mind Flayer.  See below if you are not familiar with these terrifying and highly intelligent monsters.

And then what these baddies do to you if you can't stop them.
Of course, at some point I needed to try and make a figure of one of these fellows.  How could I not at least try!?

The picture below is the "naked" (unpainted) version of the figure so far.  Nothing too earth shattering in terms of it being that much different than my usual figures until you get to the most important part of the miniature, that being the face tentacles, with a second challenge about trying to do a cowl on the cloak like is in the first picture above.  I used the standard upside down milk bottle shape for the body, standard tile spacer arms cut to the shape I want (outstretched three-fingered hand, etc.), and a round bead for the head.  In the first version of this attempt I used the same rounded cap for the head as I used for the Human Wizard (male) figure (the one in orange) that I've posted several pictures of.  But the head was just not right.  It was too big.  I decided I liked the bead better.  I even toyed with using the split egg shape, which actually would probably be better for this figure, but it's just too big.  I may do one the same size as the lich I did using a split egg for the mind flayer's head and see if I actually like it better after all.  But I digress, the challenge, again, for this figure was the face tentacles and, to a lesser degree, the cowl.
I've already painted the base just so it won't be distracting.  The cowl turned out to be the easiest solution so I'll tackle it first.  I knew I wanted to use a tile spacer if I could.  Wooden half circle shapes like that when you try and cut them by hand never turn out good.  But with the really large tile spacers, if you take one of the points and cut it off the spacer, you essentially have the half rounded shape with straight sides.  Then just cut around the edges making a thin version of this half rounded shape.  Do that twice, stacking one on top of the other, and you have a pretty serviceable cowl.  Now, I could have gone crazy with the cowl and made it all ornamental, but I want the person looking at the figure not to look at the cowl, but to STARE at the face tentacles.  So I didn't want the cowl to be so over the top to be distracting. 

It is a little tough to see in the picture, but I again used tile spacers to make the tentacles.  But how I did it was to make two "V" shapes, one wide, and one narrow, and then glue the narrow on on top of the wide ones having them meet at the base of the "V."  Then once that dried I glued it to the face of the miniature.  This was not too tough because since the bead is round and it is sitting on the flat "bottom" of the milk bottle shape, there is room to squeeze at least a little of the double V tile spacer tentacles into the gap between the round bead and the bottom of the mild bottle shape.

Because the figure is unpainted, I hope it makes it easier to see all the things that went into the construction, and how simply it all fits together.  Not simple to think of, took me a while actually, but once I hit on the tile spacer tentacles and liked how they looked, I was happy with the shape of the miniature.  Now, time will tell if my paint job does this construction job justice!

2.  Challenge with no solution yet, but some ideas

One of my favorite non-humanoid shaped D&D monsters is the Otyugh.  Stocky body, three legs, three tentacles, two tipped with a maw with teeth and one with eyes, and a big mouth full of lots of teeth on the body proper where the "head" would be.  Here is one of my favorite images for one of these terrors.
What is nice about this particular monster is I already own a D&D prepainted miniature of one that I really like (not so much the paint job, but the shape of the mini I really like).  So I planned to use the D&D miniature as a model for mine.  This sounds silly, but honestly already having a miniature done to scale with the basic parts already there to see and copy is a real asset when making one of these wooden figures.  I'm usually working from a drawing or photo, and that's a lot harder than having a 3D to-scale miniature in my hand while trying to make a Craftee version of the figure.

But, try as I might, I literally have been trying to come up with a way to do a Craftee version of one of these guys for at least 4 months, I met with failure after failure.  I sometimes could get the legs right, and then the body was wrong.  Other times I could get the head like I wanted it (open maw and all) and it ended up being too weak structurally because I was trying to glue half eggs to half eggs rounded side touching (not enough contact area to make it strong enough for anything other than a display piece, which is not what I'm going for).  Eventually, though, I've finally gotten the legs and the body done in a way that I like.  I found a giant ladybug precut 3D piece available on line at a place that just sells wooden craft pieces and just decided to lay it on the table next to the actual D&D mini.  Then it just started to take shape, and here is where I am right now:
You can't really see the back leg of my miniature but it's there.  Now, we are to the challenge that I haven't solved yet ... the blasted arms.  Here are the ideas I'm floating around.

a)  Axle caps ending in a split egg.  This actually should look pretty cool.  The axle caps when you glue them together allow you because you are gluing the flat side to the rounded side to alter the angle of the arm pretty effectively.  Pros = easy to do, no new pieces to cut.  Cons = I'm more than a little worried about it being too brittle.  That's probably 3-4 axle caps and at least for two of them a split egg glued on the end.  I don't think that will "travel well" and I am fairly certain that the arms will break off either through play or just being transported around.  But this solution would look good and it might be worth a shot.

b)  Necklace beads ending in a split egg with a piece of very thick wire stringing everything together.  This is I think a very good solution.  It would even allow me to move the tentacled arms around a bit if I wanted to.  Pros = less likely to break, will have a good look to it too.  Cons = I really hate drilling into pieces and trying to glue wire into them.  I've done it before and it's a pain.  Although this figure is quite large and would be a perfect candidate for this type of construction.  Also, I have to be very careful with my wire choice, these arms will likely bend all the time (through transportation and play) so the wire has to be very tough.  I do not want an arm to break off.

So, bottom line, I haven't decided what to do yet.  But perhaps me "thinking out loud" about the process that I used/am using to put these two monster figures together is helpful ... or at the very least entertaining.

-- Matt

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Barrage Craftee Dungeon Crawl Game After Report

Hi Everyone,

Fresh off my trip to the Barrage gaming convention yesterday, I thought I would write up a brief after report of the game.  I'll just lead in by saying that I thought the game went extremely well, and it was so much fun that I ended up only remembering to take 3 pictures, even though we played for about 3 hours.

There were a total of 6 players, my maximum, with three of the players being gamers that I already knew pretty well, Chris, Mark, and George.  These three tend to be more inclined for historical miniature gaming, but they are also very adventurous fellows who will play and enjoy pretty much any genre of game.  There were three new players to me, Benjamin, who clearly loves fantasy gaming, and Ellen and her husband whose name I can't remember now, but I believe it was Michael.  These three all seemed to have fun as well as those three I knew already who knew what they were getting into with one of my games.

The players chose the following heroes:  Knight (Chris), Elf Ranger (Mark), Human Wizard (Benjamin), Halfling Burglar (Ellen), Dwarf Engineer (Michael), and Human Warrior Priest (George).  It was a nice mix of melee heroes, arcane heroes, specialists, and a ranged weapon hero (the elf obviously).  As part of the game the heroes begin in the town where they can visit different locations that can provide them with help (if they have a good interaction roll!) on their upcoming quest.  They all had very hot dice at this point and every single hero I believe had a successful visit.  The Knight visited the college and the historians there informed him of the location of a hidden door, the Elf Ranger visited the Hirelings Guild where he pooled the party's remaining funds and purchased the services of a Sell Sword to give some more melee potential to the group, the Human Wizard visited the Wizards Guild and acquired a potion of strength that he immediately gave to the Knight.  The Halfling Burglar visited the Thieves Guild who informed her of the location of a valuable hidden gem in the dungeon.  The Dwarf Engineer went to the Tavern and overheard a rumor about a secret trail that would provide the party safe passage to the dungeon (so they can avoid any nasty surprises on the way!).  And finally the Human Warrior Priest went to the Monastery where they granted him the use of a talisman that would provide the wearer a bonus to one attribute.  Interestingly, I think George forgot about the talisman because it never came into play during the game.

At this point the heroes set out to the dungeon and, because of the information acquired by the Dwarf Engineer, were able to arrive without incident.  The first picture below is of the early stages of the dungeon crawl part of the game.  Everything is randomly generated (as the "guide" in the game, I don't even know what the dungeon is going to look like or what is in each of the locations).  I actually allow the players to put the tiles down as they are revealed (through random card draws) and also put any objects in the room rather than doing it myself (sometimes I will place the objects but not always).  In games that I design, I'm big into providing players with lots of decisions to make, and also increasing as much as possible their physical interaction with the game pieces (figures, dice, and in this case the dungeon environment tiles).

At this point I believe the party was finishing off a small group of goblins in the room on the left in the rear of the picture, but the elf had wandered down the hall into the next room and was searching the the fountain for treasure.  The little halfling dressed in orange hiding behind the table is actually a "cook" who they randomly found hiding out in this room.  He joined the party and proved his worth.  Twice after this during the dungeon crawl the heroes became "hungry" which is a random event that can happen (called an "obstacle" in the game) and because they had a cook in the party, they were able to avoid any ill effects of being hungry. 

I was very pleased with several things during the game.  At this point in play testing the rules, I am just making a semi-educated guess about difficulty.  I want the game to be challenging without being too deadly (those of you who have played the old Warhammer Quest know what I'm talking about in terms of a game being too deadly).  The way the dungeon layout works is that you take the number of players and multiply this number by 4 and this is how many cards make up the dungeon deck.  So for this game there were 24 cards in the dungeon deck, which means possibly 24 different environments (hallways, turns, intersections, and rooms).  Somehwere in the last few cards is the card for the "goal room."  When the players uncover this room if they defeat the monsters in the goal room they have beaten the dungeon.  So they know that they are going to have to explore a lot of the dungeon before getting to the goal room as it is always going to be one of the last few rooms in the dungeon.  But they do not know exactly how many environments that is going to be, and no one, including me, knows what is going to be in those environments when the card is turned over.

For this game, by the time the players had made it to the goal room both the wizard and the priest were out of magical abilities, a couple of heroes had used at least one of their two hero cards, and two heroes were in danger of dying due to low hit points.  So, that's pretty good, a sense of being able to lose the game I think was felt by all, but not to the point of creating a sense of hopelessness about winning, which is not what I'm after (thank you very much Warhammer Quest).  I think I might be able to increase it to 5 cards per hero, which might put it up a little higher in difficulty.  The party is allowed to make a camp once during a dungeon to recover some lost hit points and lost spell points, and this party did not make camp so that would suggest that it may have been a little too easy.  They were getting ready to camp, but stumbled upon the goal room and had to fight it out with the monsters there before camping (you can't camp if there are monsters on the board).  So increasing the difficulty just a little might be good, and increasing the cards from 4 to 5 per hero should do that.  It means having to visit more locations before getting to the goal room and each location has the potential to have a monster, trap, or other nastiness that will cause the heroes to use hero cards, spells, blessings, and hit points.  On the other hand, this particular group of players were very skilled and quite smart about this, so I'm not so sure that they are average in terms of how a typical group would play this game.  For example, they really did very little splitting of the party, which is often death in a game like this.  So 6 cards might be needed to raise the difficulty a little.  But next time I play this, I'll try 5 cards and see what happens.
This was one of those times when the party did split up a little bit, and it was almost disasterous.  The heavier armored heroes, like the Knight and the Warrior Priest, were in the back having to run to catch up to the action (you can see them towards the back there behind the halfling cook in orange).  Luckily for the party the Dwarf Engineer was towards the front and the Sell Sword hireling (he is one square in front of the halfling cook) was also there to provide some melee support.  I also rolled horribly and didn't hit anyone in this entire melee, even the Elf Ranger who is not all that well armored.  The door towards the top of the picture is laying down so that I could actually see what was going on in the square.  The left-most room I just decided was a torture chamber as it had a lot of orcs in it.  They were planning on torturing the halfling cook but he got away and hid in the room to the right of it with the bookcase, fountain, and table.  Lucky for him, the heroes found him before the orcs did!

Unfortunately I took this picture too late.  This was an interesting room in that there was an ogre in it, and there were giant beetles who were hidden monsters.  So the party rushed in to fight the orge, but on the monsters' turn the beetles just appear in the room (coming out of hiding) and attack the heroes with the ogre.  At the beginning of the game the Human Wizard summoned a monster (one of his spells) and happened to get a giant beetle.  We swapped out his giant beetle for a giant rat just so no one would get confused about which beetle was the ally, and of course I got confused anyway.  The monsters off the board are there because they have been killed and I was too lazy to put them back in the box until after the game was over.  The pillars mark the place of an opening that goes into another room, hallway, or turn.  There is no door, it's just an opening.

The funniest part of the game was the end.  The entire party except for the Halfling Burglar stuck together and finally found the goal room.  The Halfling Burglar wandered off to another part of the dungeon that hadn't been explored but contained a room that had three objects in it that had not been searched yet (each object can have a treasure).  While the rest of the heroes battled a group of zombies (half of which were banished to an adjacent room by the Warrior Priest) and a carrion crawler (the boss monster for this dungeon) in the dungeon's goal room, the Halfling Burglar searched the three objects, finding treasure in two of them.  There was also a door in the room that was locked.  Being a Burglar, she picked the lock and opened the door ... revealing a large room with a chest in it (oh goody!) guarded by two very large bugbears (oh @#$%!).  Being smart, she decided to run and, luckily for her, rolled a "6" on one of her movement dice.  In the game when the Halfling Burglar does this the hero is considered to be moving "stealthily" and cannot be seen by monsters, and therefore cannot be targeted or even pursued.  She was able to make her way back to the party safe and sound.  Honestly, halflings move slow in this game and had she not made that roll of a "6" and become stealthy, the bugbears would have seen her and likely caught her eventually.  She could not have stood up to a fight with them.  Chris correctly pointed out how many times in a D&D game that the halfling thief of the party wanders off on his or her own and gets into trouble.  Funny how that happened here too.

The heroes defeated the zombies and the carrion crawler, defeated the dungeon, and because they had the Elf Ranger in the party were able to find safe passage back to the town, so no nastiness occurred on their trip back to the town.

In terms of the reception of my little wooden fellows, I only received positive comments.  I think especially because they are fantasy miniatures, there is less concern about the "realism" of them and this allows people to just appreciate them for what they are, not what they are not.  I have run games at Barrage before with my historical ancients armies, and the nature of this particularly gaming club is very inclusive in every sense of the word, so although many of their members are historical miniature gamers, they always offer fantasy, sci-fi, and other "non-historical" games.  So I also think that this crowd in general is already predisposed to be positive towards these wooden miniatures.  Also, my historical ancients games that I ran at previous Barrage conventions had pictures that made it to the photos page that the convention organizers in the Hawks gaming club (the ones who put the convention on in the first place) put up as a post convention report in the past.  So I'm guessing that pictures of my fantasy guys and game will also show up on their page whenever they get around to doing an after action report.  I've included a link to the Barrage Convention page below so that you can see those pictures if and when they are posted:

-- Matt



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