Saturday, April 21, 2018

Rampanting the Dragon, Again

I need to start a project; I've got nothing really sitting half-finished (at least not anything I'm likely to pick up again), and I think having something to work on would help my stress levels.  I haven't bought the book yet for Gaslands, though I probably will, but my frequent opponent Tom has begun work on a Dragon Rampant army.  I have 24 points of undead but I'm not really feeling them; I decided to start a fresh army.

Last November I'd assembled a box of Perry War of the Roses plastic infantry, giving me a unit of billmen (Offensive Heavy Foot in Dragon Rampant terms) and two of archers (Light Missiles).  I'd picked up some foot knights with poleaxes (Elite Foot) and with just those, I could field either a Lion Rampant retinue for the War of the Roses, or a very mundane human force for Dragon Rampant.  I started brainstorming and playing around with list ideas over the past two days, and got the unpainted figures out of the closet.

The metal foot knights I'd bought were not good clean casts, unfortunately; they'd had a ton of excess metal and the butt-ends of the poleaxes were all malformed.  I did my best to get them cleaned up and presentable but ultimately I couldn't get them to a place where I felt happy with them.  They've been binned and replacements - six dismounted men-at-arms from Front Rank's War of the Roses line - ordered.

The next step was fantasy elements.  I started thinking about legendary or mythological creatures
from the British Isles, and hit on the idea of a Giant; I removed one of the units of archers from the list and added in a giant (treating it as a single-model unit of Bellicose Foot, with either the Terrifically Shiny Armor or Fear special rules applied).  This would be not only a hard-hitting unit that emphasizes the fantastic nature of the game, but also provide a visual centerpiece to the army, towering over the remaining troops.  I'm picturing the giant as having been rounded up and press-ganged into service; I think I still have enough pieces left over to make a couple more billmen to model prodding the giant forward on a big diorama base.  I selected Reaper's "Krug, Hill Giant" to serve as my brute, favoring the $8 Bones figure over the $40 metal version.  I'll probably have to put a steel pin in one of his legs to keep him from leaning and possibly do the same with his club to keep it straight.

I'm tempted to paint the giant as having Pictish-style tattoos; we'll see how ambitious I get when he's actually in my hands.

So my list at this point looks like this:

  • Foot Knights (Elite Foot, Leader) - 6 pts
  • Billmen (Offensive Heavy Foot) - 6 pts.
  • Archers (Light Missiles) - 4 pts.
  • Giant (Bellicose Foot, Fear, Single Model Unit) - 6 pts.

This puts me at 22 points, 2 points short of a standard game.  I could throw "Enchanted Weapons" on the Foot Knights, or upgrade the Archers with "Sharpshooter," which would make them activate (to Shoot) on a roll of 4+ on 2d6, or I could boost the Giant's armor to make him harder to kill.  Or, I could pick up some Halflings/Hobbits with bows and add a unit of Scouts.

Ultimately, I think I'm going to add a minor spellcaster, or "Wizardling" in game terms.  While a full "Spellcaster" costs 4 points as an upgrade and can cast any spell on the list in the book, the Wizardling costs 2 points and can have three spells, selected before the game starts.  Rather than the pointy-hatted wizard with a floor-length beard, I decided I wanted a more subdued-looking, utilitarian figure.  After doing some digging, I settled on an older figure from Reaper's Dark Heavens line of metal miniatures, #2306 "Lor Gorna of Kjord." I like the shorter beard, the simpler staff and the open book.  I definitely get a "hedge wizard convinced to help the army before returning to his hermitage" vibe off this figure.

I'm on the fence as to whether I want to add him to the Elite Foot unit as an adviser to the warband's general, or put him with the billmen to bolster them with spells like "Sharper Swords!" or "Stronger Shields!" If we end up doing larger game with higher point values, I'll probably separate him off as a single model unit of Light Foot, but for now he's mixed in with the troops.

So this is what I'm going to be working on for a bit.  The weather is finally nice enough to where I can spray-prime, so a dozen archers and the billmen are going in the priming box today.  Hopefully I can start painting tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A Pyrrhic Victory/Justice or Vengeance? (Frostgrave Mini-Fiction)

The bloodied remnants of the mercenary company dragged themselves slowly through the drifting snow still eddying through the ruined city of Felstad.  Their leader, the diabolist who called himself "Belphegor," was feeling his age as he trudged forward, refusing to glance back at his followers; refusing to see the questions and fears in their eyes.  They'd beaten back that Enchanter's warband and seized a far amount of treasure on this first foray into the depths of the Frozen City, it was true; but they'd also left three of their own dead in the snow, their blood steaming as it pooled across the ancient cobblestones.  The brutish thug Big John had been peppered with arrows and fallen off a ledge, the sickening crack of his spine breaking echoing through the ruins.  The burglar Deladrin had likewise been shot down, an arrow catching her as she darted from one shadow to another.  And most distressing, the half-goat, half-man that bleated its name as "Black Phillip"...hacked into bleeding chunks by his own comrade, the knight Vaeloth - ensorcelled by a "Mind Control" spell, he'd been forced to attack his own fellows - including Belphegor.  The half-fiend's horned head hung in shame, his sword cast away somewhere on the battlefield; he dragged Black Phillip's heavy, two-handed axe behind him, leaning against his sister - the thief Tiviel - for both physical and moral support.  

As you can probably tell, my last game with Tom was a bit of a Pyrrhic victory! I think at the end of the game all I had left on the table was my Wizard, Apprentice and a Crossbowman, and during the recovery phase at the end of the game, three figures bit the dust for good, including, to my infinite disappointment, the Infantryman "Black Phillip." The goat-headed beastman mixed nicely with the humans and half-fiends and emphasized the "traditional diablerie" theme I have going with my Summoners.

But, the nice thing about a game like Frostgrave or Mordheim is that it encourages the development of a story through the medium of the dice.  And this set me up very nicely; three rounds stuck under a mind-control spell and forced to kill his comrades means the knight Vaeloth now has a vendetta against Tom's Wizard, which will change the way I run him on the table next time we meet.  And since, when it came time to roll up treasure, I discovered I'd found a "Banner of Courage" (which gives a bonus against spells like Mind Control) which I immediately equipped Vaeloth with - and that meant converting a figure to represent him carrying the Banner into battle!

Fortunately, Vaeloth was a Reaper Bones figure; #77120 "Vaeloth, Hellborn Paladin" to be exact, pictured in his original state to the left.  It was a simple matter to buy a second copy of the figure and slice away his sword (Bones figures lend themselves very well to conversion).  A 3" pin pushed through his hand provided the skeleton of a banner pole, and a little bit of Green Stuff thickened it out.  A spare banner from a Games Workshop Chaos Warriors box (along with a horned skull from the same) completed the Banner of Courage.  But this left Vaeloth without a weapon! So I cut away his right arm just above the elbow (at the edge of his scalemail sleeve) and cut apart a Chaos Warrior's right arm so that I had a gloved hand holding an axe.  A little bit of Green Stuff became the sleeved arm between the scale armor and the hand, and Vaeloth was ready to be painted.

I copied the color scheme from my first Vaeloth pretty closely, though I brightened his armor a little (drybrushing a bit more Tarnished Steel over the Blackened Steel base coat) and highlighted his red tunic a little bit brighter.  I kept the banner as simple as possible; an ordinary inverted pentagram in white (a color I haven't used in this warband) looks very striking against the dark red of the banner.  I still need to decide if I want to glue a grass tuft or two to his base, and then add snow flocking.

Belphegor weighed the pouch of golden crowns in his hand, mentally calculating how much of the treasure their last foray had brought in remained.  He'd hired a second crossbowman to help counter the archers he expected to encounter on his next trip into the ruins, and recognizing the value of a combination of skill at arms and heavy armor, he'd hired another knight, the albino Lady Cassiata; she had brought with her a pair of enormous warhounds.  He hoped the slavering brutes would make quick work of rival spellcasters. 

"When do we return to the ruins?" grated a barely-human voice behind him.  Vaeloth.  The armor-clad half-devil hefted the axe to his shoulder - he'd cut the haft of Black Phillip's battleaxe down so that he could wield it one-handed.  Its edge gleamed, freshly sharpened. 

Belphegor smiled thinly beneath his cowl.  "Soon, my impatient friend.  Your axe will taste blood ere long."

"When?" Vaeloth insisted.  "That wizard is still out there.  I will not allow him to control me again - I swear by the Pit! Black Phillip's axe will drink deeply his lifeblood - let me find him and exact justice!"

Belphegor could not help but chuckle.  "Justice, my friend? Or revenge?"

Vaeloth howled with rage, unable to refute the diabolist's suggestion.  Behind them, seated on a crate as she mended the straps on her shield, Lady Cassiata could not suppress a snicker.  The red-eyed woman made no attempts to hide her contempt for the half-devil's explosive temper and demonstrably weak will.  Vaeloth turned and snarled at her, and almost immediately her slim, single-edged sword was drawn and at his throat.  

"Settle down, both of you!" Belphegor demanded, allowing arcane energies to crackle between his fingers.  "Stop this at once or I'll consign both of you to the Pit.  Save your energy for Felstad.  We re-enter the city soon enough."

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Returning to the Frozen City

*cough, cough!* Wow, it got dusty around here.  I apologize for the extended leave of absence; I didn't realize how severely my mojo had left me in regards painting.

Truth be told, it didn't really return until a couple weeks ago when Tom and I had our first game of Frostgrave together in over a year.  My Summoner warband, the Diabolists of Belphegor, made a return appearance, facing off against a newly-created Enchanter warband of Tom's.  I had tweaked my warband and spell-list a bit and felt a bit more confident going in. We had a great game, despite my Summoner rolling a "1" on his attempt to summon a demon - for the second game in a row! - and having the demon attack him.  At least this time, Belphegor was prepared and managed to kill the demon promptly!

Even more entertainingly, Tom managed to cast "Mind-Control" on my Knight, and keep him under control for a couple rounds.

At the end of the game, Belphegor had gone up two levels, found some decent treasure - including a Banner of Courage and two Potions of Invisibility - but lost Black Phillip, the goat-headed infantryman; Big Joe, a thug; and Deladrin, a thief.  Seriously, I rolled a 4 or lower on a d20 three times out of seven, leaving me with three permanently-dead warband members.  Ouch.

So I had enough spare figures painted for this warband that I was able to replenish my ranks for the next game without painting any new figures - except, I decided to convert a new representation of my current Knight, Reaper's "Vaeloth, Hellborn Paladin." Since Vaeloth is now carrying the Banner of Courage (to help protect him from future attempts at being mind-controlled), I wanted a figure of him holding a banner.  Fortunately, Reaper Bones are cheap and easy to convert.  I'll be posting pictures of him when he's completed.

In the meantime, here are some monsters and a piece of scatter terrain I've painted:

A trio of Ice Spiders - WotC preprimed "Phase Spider" miniatures from their "Nolzur's" line
A few more Imps (Reaper Bones Hordelings) since I toss them around like confetti now.
Reaper Bones "Bat Demon" to serve as a new Minor Demon for summoning purposes.

Maybe the repeated casting rolls of "1" are in protest of the old model I was using?
Reaper "Well of Chaos" to serve as a Well of Dreams and Sorrows for that scenario.  
Good luck getting to the Well, Tom!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Morale Failure

I've withdrawn from this year's Analog Hobbies Painting Challenge.  I'm feeling a bit demoralized regarding wargaming and miniature painting as a whole, and struggling right now to see it as being worth the time and money I'm putting into it.  The local wargaming "scene" especially, has me despairing a bit - seems like my options are either to buy, paint and play a game that doesn't particularly interest me, or play boring games of "our armies line up on opposite sides of the table and run at each other with no objective but complete annihilation" with people who either outright cheat or at the minimum conveniently ignore rules that would lessen their army's advantage.  I've met a couple good guys who wargame, but trying to work around schedules is like pulling teeth out of a chicken it seems. 

If there's one thing I learned from how little I enjoyed Age of Sigmar in the past year, it's that not wargaming at all is better than wargaming and hating it while you're doing so.  But then, it becomes very hard to look at the armies I've painted or am assembling for Dragon/Lion Rampant knowing that the local wargamers won't touch it because it's not 15mm WWII tank battles or supported by a chain of boutique retail stores catering to that game almost exclusively. 

So I've packed up my tools, my paints and the boxes of figures in various stages of assembly and prep, and put them in the closet for now.  There is, as they say, a season for all things, and right now doesn't seem to be my season for wargaming.  I'm sure the time will come again. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Good Mail Weekend

Gina and I celebrated seven years together back in November, and as an anniversary present she pre-ordered North Star's new Oathmark Goblins for me, along with a box of Fireforge Medieval Russians.  These are going to form the core of my Mordor-knockoff "Coalition of Evil" Dragon Rampant list, with the Russians standing in for Tolkien's Easterlings. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Iron Principalities, Session 20

Just a quick write-up for this week.

Dramatis Personae:
Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 5
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 5
Jaeger, Human Fighter 5
Mivahl Shimov, Human Fighter 5
Flora, Half-Elf Cleric 5 (NPC'd for this session)
Lasair Lightfoot, Wood Elf Rogue 5
Lakka Lightfoot, Wood Elf Rogue 4
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 5

When we last left our heroes, they were watching three giant "barnacles" on the ceiling of a ruined, alien temple dilate open and start to release something into the room. 

"Whoa, what's that?" Came a voice at Lasair's elbow.  Turning, she saw Lakka, her third cousin twice removed on her mother's side, standing there.  Questioned as to his arrival, Lakka could only shrug.  [DM's Note: We had another player join us this week and he'd coincidentally given his elf rogue the same last name as our pre-existing elf rogue.  I rolled with it.]

The "barnacles" released their contents - three floating horrors, like beaked brains trailing jellyfish tendrils, into the room.  These were soon identified by the party as Grell - extradimensional monsters driven by an uncontrollable hunger.  Having eaten the brains of the cultists that had accidentally summoned them, the Grell had encysted themselves on the ceiling to await fresh food - i.e., the PCs. 

Kholark launched himself on top of the nearest Grell, while Lakka and Mivahl were quickly paralyzed by stinging tentacles.  Shrugging off the paralysis, Mivahl delivered a Shocking Grasp to the Grell that had attacked him, only to learn that these creatures were immune to electrical damage.  Regardless, the party soon made short work of the creatures, varnishing the floor of the temple with their blue-gray ichor. 

Searching the rest of the temple, they soon figured out that it was dedicated to a minor avatar of Yog-Sothoth, the Key and the Gate, Alpha and Omega, The Guardian of All that Is, Was and Will Be Again.  This piqued Dormammu's interest, given that he derives his warlock powers from pacts made with the Great Old Ones, and renewed his desire to see what was in the sealed box they'd found. 

What someone with the Eye might look like.
Breaking the seal, they found a roughly spherical, cut into facets resembling an insect's eye.  The sphere, in the light, scintillated in all the colors of the normal visual spectrum and three other colors that the party had never seen before nor had names for.  Mivahl recognized it as the Eye of Rhynn - an ancient and powerful artifact, literally an eye torn from the face of a Lesser Outer God vigintillions of years ago and cast into the multiverse, forever to be sought and fought over by wizards, said to bring power to any willing to tear out their own left eye and replace it with the Eye. 

No sooner had Mivahl explained the provenance of the Eye, then Dormammu was thrusting the Eye and a dagger into Sylvus' hands, urging him to cut out Dormammu's left eye. 

With his original eye removed and the Eye inserted, Dormammu got the unsettling experience of feeling the Eye rerouting blood vessels and nerve endings to nourish and support itself.  He soon realized he needed an eyepatch - he could only see out of one eye or the other at a time without experiencing overwhelming vertigo and disorientation, as the Eye does not see the in the same spectrum he's used to, instead presenting his brain with a thermal image of what's in front of him.  As his body attuned to the Eye, he got a sense of what it could do - X-ray vision for a cumulative two minutes per day with concentration, the ability to determine if someone is acting under magical compulsion, resistance to psychic attacks, and most excitingly, an ability to, once per week, fire an optic blast that mimicked a Cone of Cold spell.  On the down-side, that half of Dormammu's face is now a spiderweb of varicose veins radiating out from the eye-socket. 

The rest of the party's journey to the Groaning Keep passed uneventfully, and after burning away some Assassin Vines, entered without difficulty.  The party spread out, investigating the castle courtyard, where the remains of the skeletons they had defeated on their last visit still lay moldering on the ashen soil. 

Lakka and Jaeger entered one of the side-buildings lining the north wall of the courtyard, and soon stumbled directly into one of the undead knights of the Groaning Keep.  The knight swung its rusting longsword at Jaeger and then grabbed his face with a bony claw, its necrotic grip burning a handprint into Jaeger's skin. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Challenge Prep - Clearing Out the Project Box

In preparation for this year's Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge, first things first I needed to work on clear partially-finished figures out of my work-queue.  Which meant, tonight, finishing off three units for Dragon Rampant. 

First up, a Reduced Model Unit of Heavy Foot with an accompanying Wizardling for my "Men of the West" retinue for Dragon Rampant.  Spearmen are Conquest Games' plastic Norman infantry, while the Wizardling is the cleric "Diva, the Blessed," a special edition figure released by Reaper Miniatures for their 25th anniversary this year.

Second, a unit of Lesser Warbeasts (hounds, in this case) accompanied by a handler, again for the "Men of the West." Dogs are Reaper Bones (and far from my best work) while the handler is a Crusader Warlord that I received as a free bonus figure in my most recent order from Gripping Beast - who, I just realized, I managed to miss painting the strap holding his shield in place.  I'll fix that tomorrow.

Finally, Reaper Miniatures #03109 "Kouraneth, Evil Knight," who will be serving as the general of my "Coalition of Evil" retinue for Dragon Rampant.  Accompanying him is his beloved pet, "Lil' Pinchums," a metal scorpion, also by Reaper, that I dug out of my bits box to fill some empty space on Kouraneth's base.