Saturday, 20 June 2020

Brave Companions, not those ones...

And thus, my party of brave companions for Rangers of Shadow Deep is complete!

Rangers of Shadow Deep is primarily a narrative based solo wargame, and this is how I selected my crew:

My Ranger is actually a Paladin from the kingdom of... somewhere, I haven’t chosen a name yet. Potentially the kingdom that just got eaten by the Shadow Deep (Lorenthia?) - the narrative that I imagine for her is that she had a vision of terrible things happening, a mighty darkness spreading across all the land, all that jazz, and so was dutifully sent off on a crusade to smite and purge the darkness. In reality, whilst her vision was in fact sent from the gods, and correctly foreshadowed actual terrible things about to befall the kingdom, opponents of hers in her home land politically outmanoeuvred her and arranged for her to be sent out of the kingdom, where she wouldn’t be able to interfere with their self-serving politicking. The joke is on them though, as not long after she gathered her companions and set out to smite the unworthy, the Shadow Deep consumed their entire kingdom, leaving few survivors...

So, how did I choose this Ranger, and how did I spend my points? Honestly, I just wanted to use this mini, and the backstory flowed from that! I gave her a bump to movement (to reflect her elven parentage) as well as a boost to fight, to represent her taking a generally hands-on approach to punishing the wicked. +20 Recruitment Points, as I intend to primarily play solo, and three points spent on skills, because, well... I want her to be able to do some stuff? 

Getting distracted slightly, there’s an interesting argument to be had about optimising in Role-playing games - whilst it can be interesting to overcome your statistical shortcomings, in a heroic adventure if your stats don’t support your ability to do the things you intend to, it isn’t much fun (essentially, if you don’t have good enough stats that you consistently fail at every task you attempt, it isn’t particularly fun or heroic. On the other hand, I tend to roll really badly when playing D&D, leading to my highly skilled adventurer falling off of all sorts of interesting and exotic things...). 

She got a spread of skills, but zero points in Pick Lock, Stealth, or Traps, as such subterfuge is not for a follower of a god that I still haven’t chosen a name for...
With the remaining points, I took the spell Heal, as I envision that being a suitably holy ability for a paladin clad in shining armour, and the ability Hand of Fate (as a reroll is exactly what you get when you’ve got a god looking out for you). For the final point... I’m not sure, currently. At the moment I have Focus written on the sheet, to represent a ‘divine inspiration’ type skill (I’ve been listening to ‘The World Tree Burns’ actual play D&D podcast a lot recently, and a character in that did something similar, communing with Wotan to temporarily gain proficiency in alchemy, which inspired this choice). However, on the other hand I see my paladin as very much the smiting type, so I may take a more combat oriented skill to start with and save Focus for a future level up reward, to represent her gaining the ability through her ongoing dedication and service to her holy patron...

Equipment wise, I was led by the model - heavy armour, sword and board. Popular opinion on the internet is that heavy armour is too restrictive in ROSD, and she’ll promptly drown, but I’ll take my chances! She also took a Holy Icon, because Paladin. Originally I was tempted to take a throwing dagger, to represent some sort of single use smiting power, but decided in the end to break my usual WYSIWYG tendencies and give her a bow, as we’re going to need to shoot some bad guys (and her companions are generally lacking in ranged abilities...)

For her companions, rather than a group of hirelings or a military unit, I saw them as more of an adventuring party, and so she is accompanied by:

Finneas Proudfoot, Halfling Rogue
(Thank you random website with lists of example halfling names for that one)

This was actually the first miniature that I decided I wanted to use for my Rangers of Shadow Deep project (because... just look at him! Everything Westfalia Miniatures make is brilliant, but this is really the cream of the crop) which turned it onto the theme of an adventuring party rather than the standard royalty appointed ranger group. Admittedly, I also considered several other options (the Witcher! Game of Thrones! Samurai!) before finally settling on this one... 

Whilst you might not expect to find a dastardly villain (in the eyes of the law, really he’s more of a loveable rogue to his friends) like this accompanying a holy avenger, I imagine she justifies it as turning his ‘unique skills’ to a higher purpose, and maybe even redeeming him along the way... Finneas, on the other hand, is entirely happy to go where the money is, as long as there is food to be had and ample opportunities to keep his hand in with a little lockbreaking and light burglary... I gave him survival for his additional skill, after some musing, as it references food preparation in the description, and the mini has a sausage or two to hand after all!

River Wind
(Name stolen from the barbarian in the D&D game that I played in before lockdown)

A Savage, to dole out the beatings to anything that might stand in the party’s way. I chose a barbarian rather than a savage purely because I preferred the paint job on this mini over any of the barbarians I have with a single handed weapon! His additional skill points went to Swim, which inspired the name (as the character in our party that was the inspiration is a barbarian from a boating tribe, who is a keen swimmer)

Brother Eoin
(A name I liked, rather than a reference, unusually)

Another crew member picked because I liked the model, originally painted way back during the original (and only) Week of Mega Power, back in the heady days of 2012, before having children when I could dedicate an entire week to just painting miniatures! He was chosen as an arcanist, as I imagined the paladin pulling together her crew to cover a variety of skills that she herself isn’t as proficient at, allowing them to prevail through almost any situation, rather than just bringing a cadre of bloodthirsty warriors to attempt to punch out the Shadow Deep (although don’t worry, the paladin herself won't shirk from applying sword based solutions to most problems). His additional skill points were put into Armoury, as I imagined him being a faithful follower from their holy order that has accompanied her on many a crusade, tasked not only with lore based responsibility but also the maintenance of her armour and weapons, themselves relics of their order.  

Five Trees Falling
(Yes, the name is a Thursday reference)

We’ve got a rogue for the sneaky sneaky, an arcanist for any mysteries, and a tracker for any outdoors type activities! This mini is the only one that was painted specially, as mentioned in the previous post, as it had the right equipment! While ROSD isn’t strictly wysiwyg, I figured I was less likely to forget what equipment she had if I could just look at the mini... and so, she was plucked out of the queue of undercoated Wildling miniatures that live on my painting desk (narrowly beating out the Frostgrave cult tracker, which whilst beautifully posed would have been yet another male mini). She got Survival as her additional skill, as I see her as an outdoorsy type, living off the land.

Jarreth Eisteddfod, the ladies favourite, Prince of Mages, Chosen of the Falling Star
(A magical forename with a Tripod song referencing surname, and then plentiful titles that I imagine he has awarded himself)

The last member of the party is my jeggings and headband wearing wizard. Originally I wanted to include an owl familiar for my Paladin, but the allure of having a Jim Darkmagic-esque wizard was too much to resist! I imagine that he’s something of a new hire, having talked himself up in the local taverns, and now it’s time to prove himself... Plus, I can always acquire a winged companion the first time the Paladin gets a Recruitment Point increase on levelling up, which I imagine narratively as being a reward sent from her god to accompany her on her ongoing adventures... I took him as a conjuror, although I believe there are a number of more specialised magic users in the Temple of Madness expansion... He got Read Runes as his additional skill, as I imagine that despite him being mostly bluster and self-promotion, he is actually trained in the use and understanding of magic...

And that’s the party! All I need to do now to be able to play the first scenario is paint some peasants. And finish painting the buildings. And fences. And make some bushes. Paint some barrels. Make some trees. Maybe make a mat... coming in 2022 at this rate...

Friday, 19 June 2020

A spearwife without a spear tip...

...does that make her a staffwife?

I finished the final miniature needed for my Rangers of Shadow Deep party, the Tracker:

A lovely Frostgrave sculpt, that I really messed the face up on but after a few more passes I liked how he rest of the model looked so didn’t want to strip it and start again! Lockdown has been tough, I think I need to get some new brushes...

This miniature was originally purchased to be a Spearwife in my Wildling project, but was plucked from the queue of undercoated miniatures to get a slightly brighter paint job than she would have otherwise! I’m especially a fan of the various beads sculpted in her hair, which add a splash of colour - I probably would have stuck to neutral bone and wood colours has I been painting her solely as a Wildling, but I added some pops of gold, blue and green instead, imagining that she’s acquired some pretty beads and trinkets on her travels.

Finishing her takes the Tally to:

17 vs 68 = -51

Thinking about it, she’d also make a nice dnd Ranger, so I’ll include her in the Classes project too!

Coming next: the whole party!

Monday, 15 June 2020

Eight legs, how many watches?

Continuing on the theme of ‘my laser like focus to complete the miniatures I need to play a solo war game of Rangers of Shadow Deep’, I finished painting some giant spiders: 

Sculpted by Mark Copplestone, these gribbly little beauties are gross in the best possible way - I tried to give their abdomen that mottled, gross pattern you get on some spiders. Also: see their glinting, multitudinous eyes, which you wouldn’t believe there are four different colours on (not counting undercoat and grey dry brush) to look at these pictures. 

One thing I like about this sculpt is that you can get a variety of poses with a little careful bending:

(I even managed to only break a single leg being a bit heavy handed, which was carefully glued back on!)

One of the things that attracted me to Rangers of Shadow Deep was the fact that I could play the majority of the missions using my backlog of fantasy miniatures without having to buy anything new, but these spiders were the exception to that, an odd hole in my collection...

As well as menacing my Ranger (well, Paladin, as you’ll hopefully see soon in a future blog post), they can do double duty for Dungeons & Dragons, although again they only get an appendix entry in the Monster Manual so don’t qualify for my Monstrous Alphabet challenge!

To give you an idea of scale, here is one of them menacing an under coated Captain Scarlet:

Not so big that you couldn’t boo it with a stick, but big enough that it would be a terrible nuisance when you’re busily trying to loot their forest...

Finishing these 8 doubles my number of painted miniatures this year, and takes the Tally to:

16 vs 68 = -52

Next: one last miniature to complete my companions for Rangers of Shadow Deep, then some scatter scenery, some civilians, then to make some trees...

In other news, we showed our daughter Princess Mononoke last weekend (side note - I didn’t remember it being that violent until I showed it to a 5 year old), and before the movie had even finished I was already considering starting a Japanese Fantasy project reskinning Rangers of Shadow Deep to Ronin of...

Last minute edit: I forgot, I actually acquired another miniature! Uncle Johnny posted this through my letterbox:

As I saw (on Scruffy Crow’s YouTube channel) some conversions using this old school monopods Chaos Warrior as a base, and fancied giving it a try!

This does, however, leave the Tally at:

16 vs 69 = -53

Friday, 12 June 2020

When I was your age, clearing rats out of a tavern basement...

...was a perfectly respectable way to start your adventuring career...

Swarms of rats! These resin beauties were from Anvil Industries, purchased originally with the intention of using them for Zona Alfa but also slotting nicely into my needs for the first Rangers of Shadow Deep scenario (as well as any potential future D&D games - they don’t get a full entry in the Monster Manual, so don’t count towards my Monstrous Alphabet challenge alas). The single rat is just in case we ever need a familiar or pet in a future game...

5 bases brings the Tally to:

8 vs 68 = -60

Coming soon: more miniatures that I need for the first Rangers of Shadow Deep scenario, and then presumably I should finish the scenery that I’ve been putting off finishing. I’m back at work now though, so hobby time is slightly reduced...

What’s not coming soon: Horus Heresy. I briefly imagined a future project which is a mini Horus Heresy campaign, with a number of small skirmishes affecting the force compositions of the final, epic-scale battle, but looking at the prices for epic stuff on eBay that’s been quashed right down for now...

Monday, 1 June 2020

The year of the plague (doctor)

Whilst it may have been a while since my last confession, do not think that I have been idle! Although admittedly the things that have taken up most of my time aren’t finished yet, so you won’t see the fruits of that this post...

My Salute order from Fenris arrived, and had a free miniature in, taking another point off of the Tally:

(I’ve also placed and received another order since that I apparently forgot to take any pictures of, but it was some walls and rubble, so no effect on the Tally)

The chum who waved Rangers of Shadow Deep under my nose was considering ordering a couple of Frostgrave sprues to try them out, so I offered to trade him one of my Soldier 1 sprues if he ordered a couple of Soldier 2, so I find myself in possession of this bunch of lovely ladies:

He also threw in Mad Donna, because my friends are generous to a fault. 

The box I delivered the week before:

I threw in a couple of interesting bits from the Barbarian sprues as well in case he fancied taking a barbarian companion for his own solo ROSD games...

At ten to midnight on the day that Partizan would have been, I found myself idly scrolling the Crooked Dice web store, and ordered myself a Captain Scarlet lookalike as it was on sale (which has led to me spending the last week or so of lockdown watching the original series while I do the washing up, and considering ordering a load more to do an entire Spectrum force, but I’ve managed to hold off thus far as I’ve only undercoated this first one so far!)

My order came with another freebie as well, tugging the Tally even further into the red (or should that be scarlet)...

Finally, I ordered a pack of Copplestone Giant Spiders that I’d need for the first couple of ROSD scenarios, seen here with Captain Scarlet for scale: 

They’re horrible, in a good way. I thoroughly enjoyed bending their little legs and mandibles around to get a variety of poses!

It hasn’t all just been me gingerly receiving packages at arms length from the postman though; having vowed to any gods that would listen that I would dedicate myself solely to finishing miniatures and terrain needed so that I could play the first couple of Rangers of a Shadow Deep of course the first thing that I’ve finished isn’t actually for that:

A plague doctor from CP Models, that I have no real need for but it caught my fancy, given the state of current affairs. Maybe I’ll claim it’s the first model in an Assassin’s Creed miniatures project that I haven’t started yet...

Lots of dry brushing to grubby him up as he stalks his way through the plague choked streets made this a relatively quick and satisfying paint job to complete, which brings the Tally to:

3 vs 68 = -65

What’s next? The miniatures needed for ROSD are half completed, so shouldn’t take much longer to get over the finish line. I’m about halfway through painting the buildings that I knocked up for the first scenario, but I find painting terrain much less entertaining than miniatures, so I’m jumping back and forth between the two currently...

In other news, after killing the blogger app, it seems they’ve now updated it so that it’s almost unusable in Chrome on my iPad. This post was brought to you by emailing the post to blogger as suggested by a quick google, that not working at all, and so flip flopping between various applications and drafts copying and pasting chunks, then doing it all again when none of the pictures worked. How is everyone posting? And if you’re also having to jump through these hoops, how do you deal with that frustration?

Monday, 4 May 2020

Doctor Aphra, I presume?

This year’s May the Fourth miniature is this Doctor Aphra expy:

Originally released for Rogue Stars, I thought she’d make a delightful stand-in for Chelli Aphra (it’s the goggles, more than anything else!), everyone’s favourite Archaelogist/downright awful human being.

I was tempted to try and add a flying cap too, but thought it would be a shame to lose the nicely sculpted hair - hey, people take hats off sometimes you know!

I read the entire run of comics she appeared in earlier this year, highly recommended for anyone that’s a fan of shenanigans, murder droids, and further shenanigans. There’s also a run drawn by Kev Walker, which is always a win in my book! As previously mentioned, she’s a terrible human being, and I love her.

The miniature isn’t an exact match for Aphra’s comic outfit, so I went for something evocative rather than an exact match. I’d originally intended to paint the jacket a reddish brown, with an orange collar to more closely match her comic appearances, but after putting on a base coat of Mephiston Red I was so enamoured with it I just carried on! I gave the collar a bit of orange detail though as a nod:

Also, she was painted over a grey undercoat, and between that and the delightful Mark Copplestone sculpt was an absolute pleasure. From this experience, I think I’m now sold on grey under coats over black, although even with the light box my pictures don’t quite show the colours properly, so here’s a wonky picture of me holding her a bit closer to the lights in the hopes of showing that I do in fact apply the occasional highlight to my miniatures:

Ah, you’ll just have to take my word for it!

If I see the murder droids that are her sometimes companions, sometimes foes in a bargain bin at a show, I'll grab them to keep her company, but for now she's flying solo, and finishing her brings the Tally to:

2 vs 56 = -54

Next: who knows? There are a variety of odds and ends on my paint palette, but on the other hand, I'm just about to start the Witcher series again, so I may get sidetracked making miniatures from that universe...

Friday, 1 May 2020

Virtual Salute 2020 and lockdown hobby progres

I didn't get to go to Salute last year, as it was to close to my son's due date (spoilers: he ended up being born nearly two weeks late, a good month after Salute!), and having only missed the show once in the last however long I was looking forward to going this year.

Alas, with everything going on the world it wasn't to be, but I thought I'd recreate the experience at home by spending the day ordering myself miniatures instead (thank goodness for enforced lockdown reducing our spending on frivolities to allow us to justify a treat like this!), occasionally tweeting using the hashtag #virtualsalute2020.

Whilst it's not the same (I did especially miss the picnic that my friend Joe normally brings), my children made sure that I was suitably sleep deprived to recreate the 'up at 5 to catch a coach' feeling, and so coffee in hand I placed some orders! Then over the next fortnight (as the postal service is understandably variable currently) parcels of joy started arriving on my doorstep!

First of all was a package from Anvil Industry:

Having been enamoured with Zona Alfa and seeing a lot of cool minis over on the Facebook group, I picked up some PMC type chaps as well as a load of guns, pouches and whatnot that should allow me to convert any number of modern miniatures (as I'd been struggling somewhat, as my bits box is largely fantasy and science fiction based, with a grand lack of AK47s). I also ordered their rat swarm miniatures after seeing them on Ash Barker (of Guerrilla Miniature Games) Instagram (and he was nice enough to respond when I asked him where they were from).

Next, was Bad Squiddo Games:

I have coveted this set of resin foodstuffs for a couple of years now, but generally at Salute by the time Annie's stand has quietened down enough for me to get in there these have sold out, so now was the perfect time to acquire them. They've already seen use, but as props in homeschool math exercises (as daughter didn't want to play a math game, but was perfectly happy to come to 'Daddy's generic fantasy shop' and work out how many pieces of stock had been taken by raiding barbarians...)

Seeing everyone else posting their parcels made me wish I'd bought a few more things from Bad Squiddo, but alas there are only so many hobby funds and I wanted to place orders with a couple of companies...

Next was Crooked Dice:

Essentially, the Militia 2 set that I didn't order on their Birthday, as well as some other odds and ends, including some X-Commandos that I thought would make good stalkers for Zona Alfa with a head swap and some additional gubbins from my Anvil order. Also included was a freebie of a guy holding a crow, which was nice!

Then came Mantic:

As soon as I'd heard that Salute was being postponed, I panicked a little bit, as I hadn't ordered this last year when it was originally available, as I was going to get it from them direct at Salute. Thankfully (after a week or two of tweeting at them whenever I could) Mantic found some stock at the back of the warehouse that they made available to order (and were nice enough to message me to let me know that it was going live so that I didn't miss out). It's a lovely sculpt, so I'm incredibly happy that I was able to get one.

Then came CP Models, who wouldn't have been at Salute but I had been meaning to put in a little order with them for a while:

Some fungus faces (for the long postponed The Last of Us project), Mei-Lin the ex-Statuesque Fembot (for cyberpunk), a Batt-Ball player that I've had my eye on for a training droid for a Scarfworld introductory scenario, and a plague doctor, as a sign of the times. They also threw in a freebie set of alien heads, that I'm sure I'll be able to find a use for.

Still to come is a little order from Fenris of some scenery bits, but there's no miniatures in it so it won't affect the Tally!

Salute wasn't the only thing to affect the Tally though...

As previously alluded to, but not actualy posted about on the blog thus far, I placed a a little Crooked Dice order on their birthday:

Mostly for that cyberpunk girl with a robot arm, which is essentially the perfect sculpt for my feelings towards the genre (I walked out of the cinema after watching Alita filled with a desire to play a game where you buy robot arms). Word to the wise though - although you can't tell in the pictures on the webstore, the miniature has very prominently sculpted nipples, which is an ... interesting choice. Maybe they're also a cybernetic upgrade? I may give them a little file before I undercoat her lest they draw attention away from her aforementioned sweet robot arm... 

As well as this, Uncle Johnny (who lives not half a mile down the road from us) was after a 1/48 scale US Army helmet to put onto a smaller scale miniature to see if it looked better than the existing oversized one, so daughter and I dutifully used our daily exercise allowance to go for a walk and slip the following into their letterbox:

Obviously, as Uncle Johnny is far too generous by half, he left a bag of treats on the doorstep for me:

He'd previously asked if I fancied a sprue of German Infantry when I had bemoaned my lack of non-fantasy miniatures to kitbash bandits for Zona Alfa, and due to hating the idea that I might finish the year with the Tally in the positive he stuck in a whole box! I may have to take just the one sprue and post the rest back through his door to keep the hit to the Tally down... There's also a load of small Star Wars helmets on display stands, as apparently he ended up with a load of duplicates whilst filing gaps in his collection...

So. all in, the Tally stands at:

1 vs 56 = -55
(I only counted one sprue of the germans)

Don't worry, if you know what time of year it is you'l know that there's going to be at least one point put on the other side of the scale very soon...

Due to being furloughed from work during the ongoing lockdown, I've also managed to get some hobby time in. Not much mind, as most of my time is spent homeschooling, cooking, or doing one of the seventeen loads of washing up we apparently produce daily by all being at home, but some nevertheless.

Firstly, I've been sprucing up some Mantic ruins to use for Zona Alfa:

It took a long time to green stuff away the connector holes, but after a couple of weeks doing a little here, a little there, they're now finally ready for painting.

Then, a buddy messaged me about Rangers of Shadow Deep, and I thought 'a solo wargame that I could play using miniatures I already have? that sounds doable' so I find myself making a village:

(the eagle-eyed among you will notice that this picture was taken moments before I realized that I'd stuck the wall on upside down - I only noticed because the gap in the thatch didn't align with the doorway, not the fact that the door didn't touch the ground...)

Whilst technically I would be able to play RoSD sooner than ZA, as I have to paint all the miniatures for ZA, whereas RoSD I can mostly fill the ranks with the generic fantasy miniatures I've painted over the years (although sidenote, I apparently don't have any giant spiders, which is going to be an issue with the first narrative arc of the campaign that comes in the main rulebook), scenery is another matter, as I don't have any rivers, or bushes, or trees, so I'm going to have to make some generic fantasy terrain! To that end, although I have most of the material I'd need, I made some of my own flock:

Sawdust plus paint, simple! Given how much I want to make (and also doing it quarter of an hour at a time means fairly straightforward tasks can take days) it looks like lockdown will end before I get a solo game in, but who knows...