Monday, December 19, 2016

Frostgrave Campaign

My local gaming group launched a Frostgrave campaign this month.  We have around 10 people participating, which is a great turn-out of active players for a campaign.  Most campaigns have a hard time even lifting off the ground, much less lasting for more than two games.  But it looks like this one is going to have legs.

We had two games of 4 players each.  Each player entered from a corner.  My warband entered from the lower right.

Each player may play up to 3 campaign games per month.  We're playing scenarios from the core rulebook.  I was hoping that we would play the story campaigns in the expansion books, but I guess that will have to wait for another time.  This campaign will end once a wizard earns and succeeds casting a Transcendance spell.  A wizard must learn all 8 spells in his discipline, before he or she is eligible to learn Transcendance.  Successfully casting Transcendance moves the wizard to a higher plane of existence, which ends the campaign as the departing elevated being says, "See ya, suckas!"

Troy played a warband of Dark Elves.  I almost played my version of that Dark Elf Sorceress, but I opted for my swamp-themed hags.

For the campaign, I generated a brand new party, temporarily shelving Old Man Tumbergrumbler and his Orc & Goblin crew.  For this campaign, I decided to still play Witches, but I went with a swamp theme, so that I could use a cool variety of figures that don't see much play these days.

Zoraida, the Swamp Hag
Plying her craft with her Voodoo Dolls.

As a matter of fact, Zoraida, a character from Malifaux, has never seen the gaming table.  To accompany her, I brought along some experienced friends from Malifaux, the Silurids.  For Frostgrave, the Silurids counted as Thugs.

"counts as" Thugs, for Frostgrave.

The game started with me on the back foot, as the enemy warband that I was destined to encounter first had a Level 6 Wizard, and I was a lowly Level 0.  On the first turn, the enemy Witch took control of my Swamp Thing (counted as a Bear, from my Animal Companion spell).  I was forced to massacre it with my own troops, before it spun out of control!

I am forced to backstab my own Swamp Thing, before it turns on my crew.

The cool thing about Frostgrave is that you can use a creative combination of models to form a theme.
Counterclockwise from top, I have a Swamp Thing by Reaper, a Saurus Temple Guard by Games Workshop, a Silurid by Wyrd, and a good old-fashioned Lizardman by Grenadier. 
This Lizardman is from one of my very first Grenadier box sets, from back in the early 80's.
Speaking of old minis, here is the Witch from the old set of miniatures that was made for the 2nd Edition of Talisman, the old boardgame by Games Workshop, circa 1991.  This paintjob goes back to around 1992.
For Frostgrave, this character is Esmerelda, Apprentice to the Swamp Hag.

My opponent aggressively bears down on my vanguard.
He cleverly camo'd his miniatures in pure white, to blend in with the snow.....
No, actually, they are <cough, cough> unpainted.  Am I playing Frostgrave or Warmachine?  ;-)

For taking out my Swamp Thing, I reciprocated the favor by having Esmerelda fart on a Voodoo Doll that looked remarkably like the enemy Apprentice (counts as a Poison Dart), sickening the Apprentice and reducing her meddling interference throughout the rest of the game.  Zoraida eventually took the enemy Apprentice out of her misery by breaking her Voodoo Doll in half (counts as a high-rolling Bone Dart!), earning an Apprentice-kill.

Shit's about to get real.
Our respective warbands met in a fierce scrum, and somehow my guys came out on top, despite being outclassed.  At this point, my opponent and I both were poised to vacate the board with 3 Treasures apiece, and I offered him a truce for the rest of the game.  He refused my olive-branch, however, prompting my Archer to put an arrow between his Witch's eyes as she peeked behind hard cover.

I ended up finishing the game with a healthy haul of 4 treasures.  Very respectable for a first outing by the Swamp Hag and plenty of money for upgrades!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Hobby Birthday

Ha, ha, I crack myself up.  Hobby Birthday, get it?

No?  Well, last weekend was one of those "milestone" birthdays.  So to properly celebrate, I hoofed it back up to D.C., to spend the weekend with all my peeps.  I managed to fit in a game-night (boardgames and Magic: The Gathering); a jam-night (playing music and playing party games); and an afternoon playing a miniatures game.  A jam-packed (ha, ha) birthday weekend full of fine friends and hobby goodness.

My rental car for the weekend.
As one friend put it, "the perfect mid-life crisis cruiser".
Mike Brandt of NOVA Open fame, who mastered guitar in just 6 months -- but who still needs to learn "how to rock"....

My buddy, Steve, of the Cheatin' Steve's blog, hosted a fantastic game of Chain of Command.

Steve knows how to set up a beautiful gaming table.
I'm playing the retreating Germans on the bottom half of the table. 
Steve is playing the advancing Americans on the top half.  (Guess who wins this game...)

This game was my first introduction to Chain of Command.  I was very impressed with the ruleset.  With 60 years of historical rule-sets rehashing the same ideas, I was intrigued with some of the innovations that Chain of Command offers.  I particularly liked the fresh take on deployment rules; the leader-influenced activation system; and the command-dice system, which allows you to influence key moments in the game in thematic fashion.

"We have 'em on the run, boys!"
I lost The Battle of the Hedge earlier in the game.

All of the individual mechanics are quick to resolve, and they fit thematically with what you would logically expect to happen on the battlefield, supporting realistic tactics.  Our only complaint is that, in aggregate, the rules are a bit "busy", and they require a bit of investment, before players achieve a smooth "flow" in the game-play.  But Steve and I agree that the investment is worth it.

"Hut, hut, hut,....."
"Come back to the villa!  We'll make our last stand here!"
How's that for a motivational speech?
Despite forcing a retreat of the American forces on the left flank, my Germans lost the Battle of the Villa.

So now that I have a taste of WWII-style battle, I'm ready to dress it up with some proper accoutrements:  werewolves, zombies, and walkers!

Here, I'm finally painting up some of my old DUST figures, in preparation for Konflikt '47.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Hobby update

I made good use of my visit to see my parents for Thanksgiving.  After about a decade of procrastination, I finally delivered on my Dad's wishes to paint some pilots for his model airplanes.  I spent an afternoon painting up these fellows, to be assigned to future jet aircraft.

My guess is that these guys are 1/72nd scale or perhaps smaller.

Last weekend, I cranked out the lion's share of work for these Dust models, destined for play with Konflikt '47, the latest craze within my gaming group.  I need to work on some details, and I need to add some outlining, but I'm pleased with how these guys came out for tabletop quality, with only about 3 or 4 sessions.

About 80% done. 
I came up with the color scheme.  I have no idea how I'm going to duplicate the gray-teal of the uniforms, when I have to paint another unit.

In other hobby news, my Kickstarter arrived for the Dark Hold Goblins roleplaying game.  My favorite fantasy race combined with one of my favorite role-playing systems, Savage Worlds.  My inner child is clapping his hands with glee.

Here are the goblins that come with the book.  It's a lousy picture, unfortunately, but I can vouch that the casts are incredibly clean.  The designs are fantastically characterful, and the minis are going to be a joy to paint.

Includes some random swine -- plus, pig cavalry!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Project walkthrough - The Hunter

This piece was my second entry for the Capital Palette 2016 painting competition at the NOVA Open gaming convention.
(I showed my first entry on this prior post.)

My idea for the base was to have a fantastical landscape of arches and columns, a la Roger Dean.  The rider was to be careening down a path that was integrated on top of one of the arches.  The overall environment was supposed to be arid, because the rider's garb and mount have a flavor of the Middle East or the drier regions of the Mediterranean.  But I also envisioned the mandrills splashing in a stream.   

Over the course of several weeks, I made occasional forays off the jogging trail to collect interesting pieces of wood that might serve as the arches.  I soaked the wood in  a bleach bath, in order to kill any critters buried in the wood, and then I scrubbed the wood and then let it set in the summer sun to dry.

I also purchased two gnarly wooden plinths from my friend, Caleb Wissenback of CK Studios.  I imagined that a natural bark on the edge of the plinth would complement the landscape I had in mind.

Several weeks were spent searching for just the right kind of interesting wood branches, roots, plinths, and plaques to make an alien-like groundscape.

I ruminated a half-morning trying to figure out how to fit together a composition that would work.  As it turns out, there were 4 criteria that turned out to be conflicting requirements:
  • The position and relative height of the hunter needed to ensure that the hunter was the focus of the piece.
  • The angle of the hunter needed to allow an easy view of the front of the model.
  • The hunter needed a sightline to one of the mandrills.
  • I wanted some 3-dimensionality to the piece.

And at the end of the day, here is the foundation for the piece.  One simple piece of wood on a typical, store-bought plaque!  All of that time collecting a variety of interesting, twisted wood and purchasing fancy plinths turned out for nought.  I had to settle for a compromise.

I was forced to compromise to this relatively mundane affair.

The sight-lines for the rider force the models to be roughly level.  Or, the hunter could be higher up, angled down for the chase, which would be exciting and closer to what I had in my mind's eye, but a lot of the detail for the model would be visible only from a very low angle.  Either that, or the spacing between the hunter and the prey requires more distance, which forces a larger base.  A larger base can dilute the impact of the miniatures, and a larger diorama just consumes too much space, for storage, display, and transport.

I settled on sacrificing 3-dimensionality and the elaborate landscape, in favor of offering better viewing angles for the hunter and his mount.  Hopefully, the idea of having the one mandrill leaping from the log adds enough motion and interest to make up for the flatter scene.
Testing the arrangement and orientation of the essential elements of the piece.

These two photos show the two primary views that I want to work.
I want to ensure that there is "flow" and movement and that there is minimal overlap of the figures.
Triangles figure in the composition.  Maybe not to maximum effect, but I think they're close enough.

I used Apoxie Sculpt for the first time, to bulk out the ground and fill gaps.  I really like its consistency and workability, much more than Magic Sculpt, which I find a little too gooey and sticky.

Added a layer of Apoxie Sculpt.

Smoothed the Apoxie Sculpt and added brass-etched foliage while the Apoxie Sculpt was still workable.

Added some initial texture, some Milliput filler, and the molds for the water.  The molds are plasticard L-beams, held in place with poster putty and then seam-filled with a minimal beading of PVA glue.  I have no idea if it will work!

A piece of rod was left in place to preserve the position and orientation of the hunter's pin.  I kept jiggling this piece of rod while the putty was setting to ensure that the rod would not be permanently affixed in place!

This next series of photos describes the near-disaster of attempting to glue down a sandy creek-bed.

I laid down the sand, dry.  I plugged the slot where one of the mandrills needed to be positioned.

The plan was to pour watered-down glue gently over the sand and let it soak in.  Unfortunately, the glue just coalesced and "beaded" on top of the surface.  It even "rolled" down the slope!

My desperate real-time fix:  Step 1 - double down on the glue and fill the area, hoping to keep the sand below the surface tension of the pool.  Didn't quite work.

Step 2 - Soak up the mess.  Hope for the best.

Hmm...this *might* work...

Hunh.  Well, close enough.  First panic is over.  More panic to come...

Here, I add masks in preparation for airbrushing.
I try two different types of masking fluid.  The Vallejo masking fluid (green) is crap.  I throw out the bottle.  The Liquitex masking fluid (white) is awkward to work with, but it works.

Colored primer.

Initial shading.  The liquid mask worked.

A combination of airbrushing and brush-painting.

Flock it!

Alright, on to some fun stuff.  1st painting session.

2nd painting session.

3rd painting session.

Finally, I reach a point in the project that rejuvenates my motivation.  I can see the initial look of the piece.

I'm digging it.  The colors and composition match what I had in my head.

I add Milliput to the joins, to strengthen the joins and fill the gaps.
I'm nervous whether I'll be able to color-match the natural colors and textures of the wood and sand.

Success!  This success was a nice confidence-builder.

Not quite as precise, but good enough, considering it will be covered with water and wave effects.

It took me 2 or 3 sessions to melt different types of plastic.  I never did get the effect that I really wanted.  I'll need to experiment with some other types of plastic.  But I have to press on.  Too much time wasting.

Cool, man.  I'm liking it.  I'm not thrilled with the properties of the Woodland Scenics Water Effects.  As soon as I finished this part, I came across on Facebook a recommendation for Magic Water.  I'm going to order some of that and try it out for the next project that needs more controlled water effects.

The "frostiness" diminished, unfortunately.  It's probably a good thing, actually, since that's something you would want to control with paint or pigment.  But I liked this result, and I was hoping it would stay that way.  It didn't.

Going back in time a little bit, here was the second setback in the project.  The first pour of water effects seeped through this corner, soaking the flock and leeching the resin out of the mold.  Made a mess.  I had already cleaned it up here.  But what a pain.

When the resin dried, I extended the bank with some Milliput, in order to seal the corner.  I hoped that the first pour would have effectively "sealed" the flock that was sponging the resin.

Color-matching again.

Later, I noticed another side-effect of the first pour.  The resin found its way to the pink foam, which soaked it up, expanded, and separated the siding.  <Sigh!>


Here, I experiment with wave and cascade effects.  I was surprised that the resin retained its haziness in this case.  Definitely hard to predict the behavior of this stuff.  This was worthwhile practice.

Finally, I begin work on the piece de resistance.  First painting session.  Color-sketching.  Digging it so far.

I'm very pleased with the how the feather colors are developing, but I'm beginning to feel uneasy about how the colors for the bird contrast with the colors for the rider.  I have different visions for each element, but they're not going to work together.  I want a desert look for the rider, but the bird isn't supporting it, as much I love the colors of the plumage.

This view convinces me to neutralize the warm colors of the rider and the saddlebags.

I like this color scheme better.

Refining and sharpening the sketch.

There are some details that could still be worked, but I'm basically out of time.

And the final presentation.