Saturday, December 8, 2018

Saxon Huscarls Unit!

Real life has been incredibly busy this fall so I haven't been able to get as much hobby time as I would have liked, but I finally got my first unit of Saxon Huscarls done for my Hastings game.  Here are some of my standard shots of them.


They are very similar construction wise to the previous Dark Ages infantry I've been doing but there are some differences.  First, I wanted to put some face masks on some of them to help me tell the difference between them and, say, the Norman allies.  I may also go back and paint some facial hair on them too, but I'm not sure I'm going to do that.  I also put a mixture of round and kite shields in the unit, which also makes it easier to tell them apart from the Norman side (I use only the kite shields for them).  I also gave them a greater mix of weapons with spears, swords, and two-handed Dane axes.








The face shields were easy, I just fashioned them out of paper and glued them onto the head.  The top part of the shield was a straight edge so that it would lay flush against the bottom of the helmet piece, and I creased the center so that it would have some 3D effect that is consistent with the way they were constructed, at least as far as I can tell from the pictures I looked at.


I also angled the shield arms a bit away from the body so that it looks like they are holding their shields out to accept a charge, the bottom part of the shield sticking out further than the top part.  It also keeps the shields from being perfectly parallel with the body, which is not very natural in terms of how people really hold a shield, at least for any length of time.


I like how they turned out, they are "regular" enough in their appearance to denote skill and training which of course would be a part of a more elite Huscarl unit, and "chaotic" enough in their weapon choices, shield types, and arm positions to convey their ferocity when in actual combat.


Now onto another Norman allies unit and one more Fyrd and I will have one entire wing for both sides finished!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Craft Paints, Gesso, and Dark Age Colors

Interesting that Matt has been working on his Dark Ages forces recently as so have I. I have a huge backlog of audio books to listen to and computer gaming has gotten stale, so it is time to cycle to other interests, like picking up a paintbrush again. And my subject: finishing off my 42mm Anglo-Saxon force for Saga. No pictures yet, but you can find their enemies, the Anglo-Danes, in older posts.

Matt and I have talked about, through this blog and emails, about craft paints. Matt swears by them and I, well, swear at them. I hate the lack of covering power and don't really fancy painting figures several times to get the color I want. Painting larger figures exacerbates the issue as your are painting more surface area, increasing the time and expense. The two things craft paints bring to the table, however, are color range and cost. So it is hard to completely discount craft paints.

Gesso is a compound of plaster of Paris or whiting in glue, often used as surface preparation for wood. I have increasingly been using gesso on my wood projects as it reduces paint absorption in the wood, thereby reducing the amount of paint required to color the surface. When mixed with color, specifically craft paint, it reduces the number of coats required to get the color you want. With some colors, one coat of craft paint and gesso is all that is required.

The issue with gesso is that it is itself colored, either white or black. So mixing it with craft paint changes the color. No matter how much of the paint you put in, it will never go back to that color if it has gesso – white, black, or both – mixed with it. So mixing becomes an adventure in and of itself.

Working on my Anglo-Saxons, I wanted to try and use more 'realistic' colors for the cloth, so I found a page with some yarn dyed with materials available during the Dark Ages in Europe.





I was actually surprised by some of the colors. Basically, by mixing modern, vibrant colors with white, and sometimes a little black gesso, you can achieve some pretty nice colors for a Dark Ages palette.

So I decided to give it a try. Start with a little blob of white gesso, add some color that is more vibrant than a color similar to the above, then start mixing. Add another color, add some black gesso, and so on. One of the things it does is make the color slightly inconsistent, as maybe a stray bit of color is not as thoroughly mixed as the rest. This adds a nice, minor variation in the color, whether it is on one figure in a large surface area or it is between two figures.


In the end you tend to add a little color to the previous colors, getting more variations in color, and allowing you to paint several figures with like colors, but not exactly the same color. This makes the figures less uniform. Your palette also ends up looking very strange, with colors you used completely obscured.

I am not ready to declare complete success, but we will see after the paint dries on my Anglo-Saxons. I have the cloth parts done, but there is still a lot of work with the shields and the faces, so it may be some time before I get them done, especially as there are 24 infantry and 5 cavalry to do. I will be showing them later. But, I have come to wonder something else. How color-coordinated were they really back in the Dark Ages? Is it okay to combine colors that we would not combine today? Or are we, in the end, doing all of us for our eye?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Norman Cavalry - Whole Unit

Finally finished the entire unit of Norman Cavalry.  I had one base done a while ago, but ended up realizing that putting the cavalry on the same size base as the infantry made the cavalry units too bunched up looking, and also made it impossible in many cases to put them into base contact to their front or rear, which is obviously not idea.  So I rebased the one stand that I did and the three new stands that I just finished on double depth bases.  What I did was take two of the precut bases I use for the infantry (3 inches wide by 1 inch deep roughly) and glued them together to make one base that is double depth.


Here is the unit.




There are four stands of three figures each in a 2 x 2 stand formation.  I kept the spear position the same for all the figures (it's a lot easier that way even if not very realistic) but tried to make it so that they were not in perfect lines.  I also turned the horses heads in some cases from side to side just to break it up a bit.


I think they look particularly good from the front.


Here they are from the "shield side."


Nothing at all new construction or paint wise except that I used hot glue to glue the horses to the base.  Even after sanding the horses "hooves" piece (the split egg) a little flat so that you get more surface contact between the base and the horse, with the white glue alone it's just a little "wobbly" sometimes.  Being liberal with the hot glue does make quite a strong bond, and if there is extra glue sticking up on the horses legs I just painted it green so that it looks like grass.  No one is looking at the horses feet when they look at these figures anyway, let's be honest.  No reason losing any sleep over the place where the hooves come into contact with the base!


I'm most of the way through the build of the next unit, which is a Saxon Housecarls unit.  I've got swords, axes, and spears in that one with a little more variety in terms of arm and weapon position.  I'll also use a mixture of round and kite shields, so they should look pretty cool, at least I hope so.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Barrage! Recap Video from Little Wars TV

The guys from Little Wars TV ran some games and did a videography of Barrage! 2018.  They were nice enough to do a little interview with me and included shots of my wooden fantasy figures in the video summary for the convention.

They were fantastic to me and really loved the figures.  I am hoping that they ask me to do some tutorials for their channel.  Because they are a historical gaming channel, if they do ask me I’ll focus on my ancients.

They have a very cool channel if you are interested in historical gaming.  Very good production values, tutorials, and actual video of game play throughs.  Here is the link to the Barrage! 2018 video summary.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xOrqF_dczIs

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Barrage! Convention Game Report

Just got back from Barrage!  It is a two day (Friday & Saturday) local wargaming convention that focuses on historical miniature wargaming, but also has some other miniature games included as well.  For example, Zeb Cook of Expert D&D fame ran a Colonials period game but involved a Martian invasion with "walkers," martians, and flying monkeys.  There was also a "dinosaurs eat Nazis" game and several sci-fi games, both ship to ship combat and man vs. man Star Wars battles.  So my Craftee dungeon crawl game fit right in!  I ran three games starting at 9:00 am yesterday, and drove home very satisfied, but exhausted.


Here are some shots from the various games in no particular order.


You can't really read it, but this is the premise of the game.  Our group of heroes have been "sitting" on this scroll for several years after finding it in some long-forgotten tomb of an ancient wizard.  It describes a catacombs full of treasure and monsters, with the goal of the building of said complex to rid the world of "heroes" by baiting them into the catacombs because no "hero" can ever leave after entering.  This is an important clue for purposes of winning the game in the final room.  This is just thin craft foam textured by rolling balled up tin foil over the foam and then painting it with a dark brown and then a lighter brown to give it a "leather" appearance.  I printed out the "riddle" on parchment paper and glued it to the inside of the foam.  Then I punched a hole in the top of the foam with a hole punch and ran flexible leather through the hole, securing it with hot glue.  On the other end of the leather with hot glue I attached a metal skull that goes on shoe laces as a weight to hold the scroll closed.  I forgot to take a picture of this but all you do is roll the foam up in a tube shape and the wrap the leather several times around the middle of the tube shape which holds it closed.  The players were able to consult this riddle throughout the game for clues.
This group decided to not tempt the Kraken beast in the water and go through another opening in the room to continue their quest for the treasure.  That's the Burglar in front, female Priest and Fighter side by side, and Wizard in the rear.
End game for the first group of players.
As I stated in the play test last month, the entire dungeon and the contents of each area is randomly determined.  At this point in the turn, two of the heroes, the Priest and the Wizard, have entered the new area and explored.  When the first hero enters the new area a die is rolled to determine how many "encounter points" are in the room.  That is what the D12 there in the lower left corner of the new T-hallway that is currently being explored by the party represents.  Each time a character explores, the player rolls 1D6 and reduces the number of encounter points in the area by that amount.  As long as there are at least 1 encounter point remaining in an area, there is still something to be encountered in there (monster, trap, treasure, object).  So in this case, the next hero who enters will also encounter something because there are 2 encounter points remaining in this area.  In this case you can see that the first two heroes who entered the T intersection both encountered an object.  These can be searched if desired by they can also be left alone.  Searching results in either "nothing" or a trap or a treasure, so there is a risk-reward element to objects in the game.
This is from the second game and was IMO the most exciting of the three.  At the top of the picture you can see a closed doorway.  The Wizard use his "Wizard's Eye" spell which if successful (and the player made her roll so the spell worked!) all things in the room are revealed and placed in the room.  This is a great spell because by doing this she saw 1) that this was a dead end room which does not help the group get closer to the final treasure room, and 2) that although there was a treasure chest in the room, there was also a trap (the black spear tile placed next to the treasure chest) and a Medusa!  The players were all in agreement that there was no way they were going in there!


Unfortunately, the next area they entered had a lot of monsters in it!  Giant rats and a Demon!  And you can see that there is still one encounter point remaining in this area, which means there could be even more monsters!  Turned out there was an object instead and the party was able to handle these monsters.


This party then hit the Kraken room.  They decided they did not want to try and cross and doubled back through the T intersection and into the large Idol room.  You can see the unexplored opening on the right of the idol.  However, by backtracking they had to still see if they used resources (food, water, torches, etc.) while moving through the rooms they have cleared already to get to that unexplored opening.  This has the chance of causing the loss of resources which can eventually even cause the heroes to lose Life points.  So this was a tough decision for the players (backtrack vs. test the Kraken) but this was early in the game and the heroes had a lot of resources still so they decided to double back.  I think they made the correct call.


This is the second group of players again and they did run into many more monsters than the other two groups.  Here they are having to fend off both a group of goblins and a group of giant beetles.  The treasure chest sits in the center of the room taunting them.  The sundial (sundial in a dungeon!?) is an object that can be searched if desired.


This is the third group.  I just liked this shot because when there are no more encounter points in an area, that means there is nothing else to come across (monsters, treasure, etc.) in that area.  Therefore until the group decides to go onto the next unexplored area, they can freely move their figures anywhere they like in the explored area and do whatever they want to do.  In this case, all that was in this room was a treasure chest that was trapped.  The players knew it was trapped and the other three members stayed well back from the chest while the Burglar went in to disarm the trap.  She was successful!


This was an interesting room because of the objects they encountered, so I took a picture.  What has happened is that at this point in the turn, three of the heroes have entered (only the Burglar remains outside the new area, you can see her in the opening in the old area) and there is no encounter die on the area so everything has been discovered that is in here.  Again, these are objects and may be searched by the heroes if desired.


This was a nasty fight with a group of Giant Rats and Ratkin ("rat-men").  The monsters are determined randomly but I thought it was interesting that the two that were encountered in this area were both rat-themed.


This third party ran into a major shortage of resources (food, water, etc.) problem very early in the game.  At this point they just finished off the Giant Rats and Ratkin, but the area was a dead end.  They would have had to backtrack through several old areas to get to an unexplored opening which would likely have caused some of them to lose Life because of the group not having very many resources left.  They decided to look for a secret door, found it thanks to the Burglar, and revealed the next area.  Oh no!  It's the Kraken room!  Now they have to decide to either test the Kraken or double back and likely lose Life because they lack resources.  They decided to try and get through the room to the other side avoiding the tentacles (the heroes cannot kill the Kraken).


Made it!  They were the first group of players to ever test the Kraken, and although the Wizard took some damage, they made it!


Final group's end room with the Troll.  We ran out of table space so we had to move this room away from the rest of the catacombs.  For the second and third group, I tried a new puzzle that is related to the riddle on the scroll.  As they progress through each room, a tile drops from the ceiling.  Each tile has a letter on it.  Once you have all the tiles, you can spell "No Hero."  This is related to the clues on the scroll which state that "no hero ever leaves."  You place the tiles in that order in open spaces that are at the bottom of the Troll statue in this room (the Buddha is standing in for my Troll statue).  If they do not solve the riddle, one of the party then turns into a Troll that must be slain.  When that Troll is killed, one of the remaining party members then turns into a Troll.  This continues until either the Troll kills the last party member, or the last party member kills the Troll.  If that happens, though, that last party member then turns into a Troll.  This is the curse and magic of the Trollstone Catacombs that keep it all going.  However, if you put the letter tiles into the bottom of the statue in the correct order to spell out "no hero" the party can escape, with the treasure.  In the Troll's sleeping chamber is a huge pile of treasure that I jokingly said had a sign sticking in it that said "401K".


The Barrage! convention was as fun as always.  The Hawks put it on every year, they are very organized and the community center space they use is reasonably priced, which means the fee for attending is very reasonable, and the space is larger even than they need so there is plenty of space and it is not cramped at all.  There are some game vendors there, they provide food you can buy if you get hungry while playing, and are just a good group of gamers.  I think the three games were successful and I'm pleased with how it went.  I noticed some ways to make the game more challenging, but this is a convention game and I wanted the players to be successful and have fun.  I'm already looking forward to next year!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Skaven 2.0 and Skeletons ?.0

Thought I would post some pictures of my second attempt at making some Skaven, and whatever attempt this is for the Skeletons ... I've done so many renditions of skeletons that I have lost count!


Here are the Skaven:


These are quite a bit different construction wise than the previous attempt.  The heads are the same, but the bodies are the "goblin" body (a tapered bead for the torso and a split tapered bead for the shoulders).  I also added a bead as "pantaloons" between the torso bead and the tile spacer feet.  I also focused more on the paper elements of the figure, whether that is the leader on the far left of this picture with the double cloak, or the foot soldiers with their leather armor including a "stylish" leather helmet made for a long rodent head.


Here is another picture from a different angle:


Better look at the paper armor and double cloak in this picture.  They are a bit taller than the last version, but I like these a lot better.


And now ... again ... skeletons.  I just haven't been happy with my attempts so far because they are just not "skinny" enough.  With these I decided to stick with most of the way I did the skeletons last time, but for the legs I cut the tile spacer differently so that it is narrow and long rather than making them look like they were knocking their knees together.  I also did not cover up/fill in the hole in the bead I used for the head and instead left it open hoping that it would make the skull look less chunkier.  Here are some infantry figures.


The one on the far left of the picture is the easiest to see what I did differently.  The legs look a lot better IMO than the last version I did.  I also stuck with one way of doing the spine, which is a split bead for the pelvis, then a small bead on top of that, and the rib cage/tapered bead glued to that.  Simple and effective, although I did have to hot glue it first and then reinforce all the joints with white craft glue for strength.  But I do like the way they look.  As you can see I also added some tattered clothing to some of them.


Here they are from a different angle:


And now for some bow armed skeletons:


Same as the regular infantry guys above, just armed with bow and quivers instead of hand weapons and shields.  I put a helmet on one of them (rear row, far right).  Didn't turn out as well as I had hoped, but it looks okay.


Here is a shot from another angle:
On that front bowman you can really see the effect of leaving the hole in the bead open.  I like it, I think it sort of gives him somewhat of a "jaw line" that is consistent with a skeleton.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Dungeon Crawl for Barrage Test Game

Some of my gaming friends and I got together yesterday for a whole day of gaming, 8 hours straight.  It was a lot of fun, but I'm posting about a part of the day which was spent test playing my dungeon crawl game for the upcoming Barrage convention at the end of September.  I'm sure glad I got a chance to test play it.  Most of it went very smoothly, but I did learn a couple of things about better ways to do initiative so that everyone is more engaged in the game, which is a real plus obviously.


Here are some shots of the game in progress.


It started off with a bang!  The first room was occupied by 5 skeletons.  Baptism by fire!


As usual, I was good about taking pictures at the beginning of the game, but not so great later.  The party found a magical pool in this room that provided them with one potion of attack I believe (improved the fighting ability of one of them for one round of combat).  Obviously they are preparing to go through the closed door to the right.


This later on, but I had it so that somewhere in roughly the middle of the dungeon they would come to a "special room."  This particular room is an underground river (very deep) that is home to a Kraken.  Luckily, the first hero into the room made her Observation roll so she could see the Kraken in the water before she had to move into the room (meaning that I placed its head on the tile).  The party had to decide whether to try and move past the Kraken (they could not kill it) or turn back.  The problem with turning back is that they have limited resources in the game (food, water, torches, etc.) so depending on how far they would have to backtrack to get to an unexplored door or opening in a room, they may have to try and cross.  They didn't have to go back very far so they just avoided the Kraken.


You can see here that they went back to the previous room and went through the closed door on the right to eventually end up in this room.  Had to fight a Naga but they did get a scroll as treasure.  The problem is that this room has no exits.  So they had two choices.  Again, backtrack to a previously cleared room that had an unexplored opening or door, or see if there is a secret door in this room.  The way the rules work they get one chance to find it.  The Wizard cast a "Find" spell and was successful.  Secret door located!


They can place the tiles however they like so they decided for ease that the secret door was in the back of the room.  This turning hallway happened to be the next tile.  They found another potion (little white thing on the right in the corner).


This is the final room (actually two tiles, the hallway with the alcoves and the room behind are revealed at the same time).  I won't go into the story but the two statues really matter and that is the troll (hence the name of the place, it's called "Trollstone Catacombs").  The party was successful and at the back of the room there you can see the treasure pile, or 401K as the players like to call it.  They retired and lived long, happy lives after living through the Trollstone Catacombs.


Again, the playtest was very successful.  Took less than 2 hours, played smoothly, and a couple of significant problems were revealed that I can now fix for the Barrage convention game to make it better.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

New Dungeon Tiles!

I have been working on how to run a dungeon crawl convention game that is sort of like what I ran a couple of years ago at Barrage:  light rpg with a boardgame/minis game feel.  I want it to be somewhat random, so that I can run the same game again and again but not have it be exactly the same so that people can play in it more than once if they want to.  The biggest stumbling block, frankly, is how to do the dungeon itself.  It obviously needs to be modular, but the ones I had before while modular, were a) too big in terms of how many spaces were on each tile, b) not uniform enough so that you could avoid situations when the dungeon build was impossible (such as having a hallway be too long because it goes into an existing room), and c) they looked more than a little on the boring side.  The tiles were flat pieces of thin wood with spaces painted on them ... <yawn!>.


So I decided to take a look at the tiles used in some of the dungeon crawl board games.  There are several on the market where you build the dungeon as you go and you never know how it is going to turn out because each piece of the dungeon is randomly determined.  This is exactly what I needed!  There are several out there, but the ones I liked the best were from a game called "Dungeonquest."  There are two versions, an old GW effort and an updated modern one, and both of them used the same types of tiles.  They are squares with a random number of exits coming out of the tile.  The thing is, though, that the exits are always centered in that side of the tile.  This makes building a dungeon really easy and you do not run into the "tile won't fit here" problem because all the tiles are the same size, same shape, and the exits are always in the same place.  Perfect!  Plus, honestly,  I think they look really cool!


So I decided to give it a go and make some out of foam.  However, I wanted these to be a little more intricate than the foam ones I have been making which are essentially just a piece of thick foam with the floor painted on them and in some cases I draw on a grid.  I wanted to use thick foam for the floor, thick foam for the sides, and thin foam for individual tiles.  This would be some work, but I probably won't need more than 30 or so total tiles for a convention game that lasts a couple of hours.


I've got 5 of them made so I thought I would share them with you, arranged into what an actual game might look like.  I also made some new doors, but what's nice about these doors and the way this game is you only have to paint the front side.  After a door is opened, it stays opened so you can remove the door from play.  Here they are:


The entrance is there on the far right, stairs leading down to the dungeon from the outside.  The rest of the pieces are all the same size (9" squares) with a border for each depending on the type of room or hallway it is, and 1 1/8" thin foam tiles for the "squares" of the board.  I of course added some dungeon "furniture" and heroes and monsters for looks.


Here are some close ups of the various tiles.  First is the entry chamber.
Next is the torture room complete with Naga.


Now for the Troll's treasure chamber.


And finally another overview shot of a section of several tiles of the dungeon.
Here is a shot of a constructed but not painted tile.  It makes it a little easier to see all the pieces.  This is a "dead end" room that has only one entrance (at the top).
The tiles are durable, light, and easy to transport.  Since they are all the same size I can stack them easily and they should take up very little space in a box when transported relative to how much space on the table top they take up.  The construction takes a little bit of time, but most of the time is waiting for the glue to dry.  Painting them is a breeze.


Although this might not be ideal for a traditional rpg situation where the rooms differ in size as do the hallways, for a convention board or minis based game, I think they will work very nicely.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Two New Monsters!

Sorry for the delayed update, but I was trying something new, new, new with a monster figure and I just finished painting it last night.  So that means pictures today!


I finished painting a Naga (snake with a woman's head in case you didn't know what that was) and a troll.  I know, I did a troll a while ago, but for this one I had a construction break through, and I wanted to try doing more with the hot glue gun in terms of "sculpting" the miniature.  Here they are:
The Naga is just the bead tentacle construction I've been doing lately with a simple round bead head and hair like I do for the character figures.  I like how she turned out, but nothing new construction or painting wise.

The troll on the other hand, is an all new construction.  Honestly, he was a test figure and I absolutely did not like him at all until I painted him.  So what's new you ask?

You can't really see it in this picture, but his torso is completely different.  I took two of the larger (I think they are 1.25") split eggs and glued them together smaller ends facing each other, but not overlapping completely.  It produces "shoulders" in the back and a "belly" in the front.  His arms and legs are the tapered beads, with hands a feet that are tile spacers.  His head is a split wren's egg (the smallest split egg available) with a small bead split in two for the two eyes.  The nose is also tile spacer, and the hair is paper.  He also has two "buttocks" that are made with a split bead as well (you'll see them in a later picture).  The arm muscles, mouth, facial contours, etc. are all done with the hot glue gun.

The Naga didn't look like much until I got the hair on her, then she really took shape.  I'm happy with the figure, but I think next time I'll go with larger beads to make the figure larger and more impressive.  This is a "young Naga" let's just say.
I went for more anatomical correctness, and most of the time trolls don't wear any sort of clothing, so this is "pants optional Saturday."


The two Fighters thought it was a good idea to bait the Naga and Troll forward so the Thief could get in a backstab ... but they are having second thoughts at this point!

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