Monday, 11 December 2017

Monster Manual Advent Calendar - Day 11

Time to start getting into the 'weird' stuff; Umber Hulk

Today's addition to the Monster Manual collection is old school D&D stalwart the Umber Hulk.

The Umber Hulk is one of the strange creations from the early days of D&D that takes a fairly basic monster concept and gives it a slight twist.  The Umber Hulk is a typically brutish creature in the same vein as an Ogre or a Troll but adds in it's "Confusing Gaze" special ability.  The creature has an almost hypnotic effect on anyone who can see it's eyes, it can't actually control them but anyone looking at am Umber Hulk's eyes can become disoriented and somewhat foggy-headed.

This particular Umber Hulk model is from the new WizKids line.  I really like the figure and it held detail really well but there is one potential shortcoming with it.  The left mandible drops below the level of the base provided with the figure which means it used as-is out of the pack the miniature will not sit flat on a gaming surface.  Because my figures are all mounted on Games Workshop bases (which are slightly elevated to begin with) with a layer of plasti-card on top it wasn't an issue for me but anyone who like these things table ready out of the pack might be a little disappointed.


Sunday, 10 December 2017

Monster Manual Advent Calendar - Day 10

The Gorgon

The Gorgon is one of those extremely striking creatures because it blends the familiar and the unnatural.  In basic appearance it is an over sized bull which a party of armed adventurers might not find intimidating until you add in the fact that it's skin is some form of iron or steel.  The Gorgon is an actual living monstrosity and not some sort of mechanical life form so it's just generally kind of hard for players to figure out the first time they encounter one.

The Gorgon is one of classic role-playing's truly horrific monsters.  I always found that anything that had the an ability to take a character out on one or two unlucky rolls of the dice was always more frightening than something that was just tough and dealt a lot of damage.  The Gorgon has the ability to breathe a noxious green gas that forces players to save against its effect.  If the save is failed the affected character is petrified and begins to turn to stone.  There are a number of creatures with similar abilities but what makes The Gorgon so much worse is that ones foes are turned to stone it smashes them and eats the stone fragments.  So unlike other creatures where you have an almost unlimited amount of time to find some way to magically restore an affected character, with The Gorgon you only have until it gets hungry.

This particular Gorgon is Reaper's 'Brass Bull' model.  This is one of those large models where the Bones resin/vinyl really is the best choice.  The metal version would be heavy and cumbersome and probably prone to chipping given all the points on the model.  In addition this is a pretty big figure (the base it's on here is a 65mm GW base)  and at this size this miniature was only about $6.50 so a lot of bang for the buck.


Saturday, 9 December 2017

Advent Calendar - Day 9

Dire Wolf

Over the years one of the things I had struggled with is finding good models for Dire Wolves (or just wolves in general).  A ton of companies have made wolves over the years but for some reason they always strike me as much too small for Dire Wolves.  As an added irony most miniature companies (in my opinion anyway) scale their dog miniatures way too big which means that a wolf model comes off as even smaller.

About 5 years ago I found some pre-painted D&D miniatures of Dire Wolves that were PERFECT.  They filled a 25mmx50mm base and were roughly the same height and mass as a Games Workshop warhorse.  Those were fun but I need more and different wolves as well.

The Dire Wolves in Games Workshop's current range are a bit more like zombie wolves and although I really like their uniqueness they didn't fit with my image of a Dire Wolf for old school RPGs.  I wanted a giant furry but still living wolf.  Luckily for me Games Workshop actually makes exactly what I'm looking for in their Warhammer 40,000 range; the Fenrisian Wolves.

These wolves are huge!  They are slightly bigger than the pre-painted wolves I had from before but in addition they are far better sculpted and have much crisper detail.  I painted the first one in my traditional 'evil' wolf scheme but might try some wintery colours down the road on more wolves.


Thursday, 7 December 2017

Advent Calendar - Day 7


Today's entry is the flip-side of the coin versus my Death Knight from a few days ago.  There have been a number of Wraith models from various miniature companies over the years for RPGs but I've found pretty much all of them to be pretty underwhelming, Games Workshop went with a 'Grim-Reaper' take on the basic Wraith idea and I've always liked it the best.

Full disclosure I actually painted this figure before the start of the month but after Darren suggested the idea so he's already seen the game table in an Age Of Sigmar skirmish game but I still think he'll get double-duty in fantasy role-playing games as well.


Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Advent Calendar - Day 6


The minotaur is another old-school fantasy monster that when I think about it I'm surprised I haven't painted before.
In addition to being a staple of D&D since the beginning it has also appeared in  various versions of Warhammer.

My first exposure to the minotaur in D&D was the awesome invisible ink solo adventure Maze Of The Riddling Minotaur.  The titular monster hung out in the centre of the maze as should be expected.

My inspiration for coming back to the minotaur was the most recent awesome cinematic battle featuring a minotaur.  I am of course referring to the mass battle in Anchorman 2.  This might mean that if I decided to do a ghost at some point it may well end up being the ghost of Stonewall Jackson.


Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Advent Calendar Day-5

Myconid Sovereign

Today my mushroom-men are adding a boss to their ranks.  In addition to being larger and tougher than the regular Myconids the Sovereign also has the ability to use fungal spores to animated fallen foes as spore-infested pseudo-zombies.

I think at some point down the road this could be a neat hook for an adventure as that sort of ability is traditionally associated with evil creatures.  It feels like it could lead to a traditional comic book style encounter where a (relatively) peaceful character is encountered but the protagonists mistake his intentions and their relationship begins with a fight due to a misunderstanding.

It feels good to be getting some truly different and distinct creatures done for my games!


Monday, 4 December 2017

Advent Calendar Day-4

Death Knight

It seems like tradition (for my anyway) that any advent calendar has something in it that is at least mildly disappointing, today's addition is unfortunately that thing for me.

I wanted to add a Death Knight and not finding any great actual Death Knight models readily available I turned to the Games Workshop's undead line and chose their fantastic looking Wight Lord model.  The Wight Lord hits (as a Death Knight) on everything I'm looking for; armoured, regal, conveys might beyond a skeleton, crisp excellent detail...but there was one REALLY obvious thing missing to me; he's not Lord Soth.

Death Knights have existed in D&D since the beginning but with the release of Dragonlance in the late 80s Lord Soth became THE Death Knight.  In addition to featuring heavily in Dragonlance  fiction and modules Soth was eventually dropped into my personal favourite setting Ravenloft where he got two more novel and another published module.  There are certain characters who become so iconic (if I say "wizard" don't we all picture Gandalf in our minds?) that even when there are other versions of that same character you somehow just can't move past the image of the 'alpha' version.

Although my plan from inception with this project was that these models would be used for D&D this might be the one figure I can't quite muster putting on the table and declaring what he is because I can't shake the feeling my players will feel and think what I feel and think.  If he fails to see the table as a Death Knight in any of my games I'm sure he can return to his intended purpose as an Age Of Sigmar hero where I can appreciate him for how perfect he is rather being hung up on my own image of what a Death Knight should look like.


Sunday, 3 December 2017

Advent Calendar Day-3

(couldn't put off the undead any longer)

Today I'm doing up the newest in a long (never-ending?) line of additions to my undead army; the humble skeleton.

Although animated undead have existed across fantasy stories forever I think I'm a product of my generation in that my first recollection of a skeleton that really stuck with me was Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion animated skeletons from his films based in mythology.
In the D&D games I've run over the years my players have traditionally found skeletons and zombies to be a truly alarming monster to encounter not because they are powerful (they certainly aren't) but because they begin to dread what greater undead creature might be lurking giving life to these mindless drones.

Although I already owned a ton of skeleton figures I had to get the Shadespire Death starter when it came out due to how unique and characterful the skeletons in the box looked.  This guy stood out to me as a piece I could both use to simply put a 1HD undead model on the table and into my game as well as being visually an extremely interesting model that would appeal to my players.

What do you think?  Is a new take on an old model appealing to most of you or do you prefer the feel of a "classic" model that brings you back to an earlier sense of gaming nostalgia?


Saturday, 2 December 2017

Advent Calendar Day-2

Myconids (Mushroom Men)

Today's entry is an old monster first introduced way back in the 1st edition D&D module Scourge Of The Slave Lords; the Myconids.

Scourge Of The Slave Lords had encounters in a wet dark underground cavern that was meant to be a naturally occurring setting rather than a man-made or constructed underground tunnel system.  As such some creatures that would exist in that environment were introduced.  Myconids traditionally exist in the neutral part of the alignment scale which generally means whether they are hostile or friendly depends largely on the actions of the players playing the game.

On a personal side-note Myconids are one of the few creatures that have existed in D&D for 30+ years that neither I nor any of my gaming friends owned miniatures for.  That's not hugely significant but it just feels weird to me that after playing D&D for more than three decades with groups who play with miniatures that there was any monster that had been around this long that none of us had painted before.


Friday, 1 December 2017

Advent Calendar Day-1

When deciding on the first entry for my Monster Manual Advent Calendar I was initially planning on an undead model as I'm currently beefing up my force for Age Of Sigmar as well as painting some Shadespire miniatures, but in the spirit of following the Monster Manual I decided instead to kick off with one of the most basic and prolific D&D monsters; the Orc.

The Orc (along with the goblin) were the staple foot-soldier/bad-guy in Tolkien's writings and as such generally densely populated most old-school D&D campaign worlds and games.  In both role-playing art and miniature sculpting there have been tons of different interpretations of the image of the Orc but the one I've gone with today is a sculpt by Antediluvian Miniatures based on the look of the Orcs from the Dungeons & Dragons Saturday morning cartoon.

For you modern pop-culture types; this is what the kids from Stranger Things picture as an Orc when they play D&D. 

More to come.  Some expected "classic" monsters and hopefully a few surprises.


Thursday, 30 November 2017

Advent Calendar Day-0

Hi all,

After a long (2 month?) absence my buddy Darren has talked me into playing along with a paint plan/challenge/project he's doing over at his blog Metal Miniatures a 24 day advent calendar themed miniature collection.
Darren will be alternating back and forth between two projects, I've decided to do a single project all 24 days that will sort of follow something I had been working on before I stopped blogging a couple of months ago, 24 entries from the D&D Monster Manual.

The plan is to feature a new model for 1 Monster Manual entry per day from the current D&D Monster Manual from a variety of manufacturers.  Although there will be some horror and undead models I'm hoping to also use this to build my growing collection of classic D&D monsters as well.

Starting tomorrow, I'm back on the horse.  Can I post 24 days in a row?  I guess we'll find out together.


Monday, 25 September 2017

A new miniature based on an OLD game book

As I've gone through my recent nostalgia phase I've spoken a few times about my fondness for Fighting Fantasy game books.  I absolutely loved these books growing up and recently started combing used bookstores looking for them as a way to reconnect with some of my fun early gaming memories.

The most well known of the Fighting Fantasy books is still the first which was The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain.  Warlock is a fun book and set the tone for the whole series but for me personally my favourite of the original series was Citadel Of Chaos.  Citadel Of Chaos was a relatively short linear adventure but it did a really great job of building up it's antagonist Balthus Dire as a truly menacing adversary who was both a skilled warrior and powerful sorcerer.  In addition the art for Balthus Dire cast him as a sinister imposing figure.

In the U.K. Fighting Fantasy has waxed an waned but has never truly gone away.  In recent years this has given rise to a convention known as Fighting Fantasy-fest.  This con has authors and artists and other fun activities and this year Otherworld Miniatures designed a Balthus Dire miniature as a limited edition convention exclusive.  Once the con had come and gone Otherworld made their remaining stock available through their online store, they did the same thing a couple of years ago with Zagor (THE Warlock Of Firetop Mountain) and I always regretted I never got one so this year I decided to take the plunge and get myself a Balthus Dire figure.

This guy is everything that made old school Fighting Fantasy (and by extension old school Games Workshop) art cool.  He's foreign and exotic looking with patchwork armour and a wicked looking curved scimitar.  He looks faintly elven without actually being an elf which adds to his mystique.

I'm extremely happy with how this figure turned out and I used a colour image of Balthus Dire from an Advanced Fighting Fantasy RPG book as a reference which kept me from using my usual palette of blacks and reds for my villains.

I hope I'm not the only one who appreciates this throwback to what was for me a golden era of game writing and art.


Saturday, 23 September 2017

It's starting to feel like after playing D&D for 30+ years I'm working my way through the Monster Manual

Tomorrow or Monday I'm hoping to show off my newest old-school fantasy figure, I'm just waiting for a friend to confirm they've received theirs so I don't blow the reveal.  In the meantime I got a few more of WizKids D&D miniatures done and it's definitely starting to feel like I'm basically collecting the Monster Manual at this point.

First up another cool multi-purpose model.  The Blink Dogs!
In D&D Blink Dogs are intelligent good monsters who have a limited teleportation ability.  They also feel like a nice counter-point to the Hell Hounds I painted recently.  In addition I've been planning to get back to Strange Aeons at some point (probably 2018) and I think I could also use these guys as Hounds Of Tindalos.

My next pair of models I can barely claim to have 'painted'.  I had a pack of the WizKids Ghosts sitting on my desk and I kept thinking I could just wash and base them and probably be reasonably happy with the result...and I am.

That's it for now.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll show off something that I think a grand total of a dozen people on the entire Internet will be as excited about as I am.


Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Getting some odds and ends done

I haven't been finding a lot of time to hobby lately with real-life and all.  I did however finish two of the characters I had started in my last post as well as getting 2 other figures I wanted to experiment with painted.

First up I painted the Frostgrave Crusader figure.   Although I am planning a return to Frostgrave in the next month or so I actually painted this guy up to try out the Relic Blade rules.  I'll be printing the how-to-play document and trying it out with the knight and the pig-men.

Next up is a cleric from the WizKids D&D miniatures line.  This is actually going to be my new wizard for Frostgrave with his apprentice hopefully arriving soon.

I also decided to try something new on the WizKids Hell Hounds.  I don't need them anytime soon, I just wanted to try something new.  It worked out pretty well, but unfortunately didn't photograph great.

These figures are supplied in clear vinyl.  I gave each figure 3 washes of Baal Red and then once that was dry dry-brushed dark grey and black over-top.  It turned out great with the red showing through and really catching the light, but unfortunately it just seems to photograph a somewhat muddy-brown colour.

Hopefully this gets me back on the painting horse.


Monday, 11 September 2017

The hobby A.D.D. it never really goes away....

I've referenced Hobby A.D.D. before and although I generally feel like I get quite a lot of stuff done there are periods where my attention span won't stay on one thing and I keep changing gears and starting new projects without finishing old ones.
So with that insight in mind I'd like to share the 5 hobby projects I started over the past 3 days, none of which are completed yet.


I've been talking for awhile about getting some new cowboys done.  I got my grubby hands on Dracula's America and even though I have a decent amount of stuff done from my recent binge of Warhammer Legends Of The Old West I can't bring myself to play a new game without adding at least some new figures.  These guys are the Earp (or Tombstone I forget the actual name) pack by Black Scorpion.


As part of my recent retro/nostalgia-gaming fix I got some of the Orcs by Antediluvian Miniatures.  These guys immediately take me back to Saturday mornings in the early 80s.  I think my gift to myself when I get all 5 of these projects done will be to get myself another pack or two of Antediluvian Miniatures.


Those Orcs need a boss, right?  I might be one of the few people of my generation who could never really embrace Optimus Prime as a noble hero because every time he opens his mouth to speak I hear Venger's voice.  Venger was the chief villain of the animated D&D series in the 80s and still holds up really well as a cool fantasy evil villain.


I'm planning a long overdue return to Felstad and much like the cowboys I probably don't need to paint new figures but I just wouldn't be me if I rolled up with the same-old-same-old.  The actual driver for starting these was digging through my unpainted fantasy figures looking for a knight with two-handed sword to try the free print-and-play intro rules for Relic Blade with my newly painted pigmen.


Almost a year ago I ordered a bunch of packs of modern/near-future survivor models with the intention of using them for This Is Not A Test as well as Last Days.  Unfortunately my experience in purchasing these models was not 'free of hassles' and when they finally arrived I had lost any and all enthusiasm I had for them.  (This was one of the customer service things I was up on a soapbox about earlier this year.)  It has literally taken me an entire year to even look at these miniatures again but once I picked them up I decided I really did want to get paint on them.  Oddly enough it wasn't until I looked at them up close I even realised who they were supposed to be.  I had ordered them thinking they would make good pseudo Division-style trained survivors but then when I cleaned and primed them I realised they are actually the two leads from Stargate SG-1.

Well there you have it.  Nothing done, but a bunch of projects that are each one sit-down away from completion.


Saturday, 9 September 2017

Young Cleric

I feel like I've been all over the map painting-wise this last little bit and its pretty much time to stop pretending to have a plan and just accept that I'm going to paint what I want when I feel like it.

I've got three different projects sitting on my desk that I 'need' to complete but that didn't stop me from just painting a new character model for a sometime in the future D&D game.

This is the newish Young Male Human Cleric from Darksword miniatures.  This is one of those figures that again has a certain old-school D&D vibe but is sculpted and cast to our modern higher standards.  I like this figure because it captures the feeling of a low-level beginning adventurer rather than a high-level paragon type.

I'm not sure if/when this guy will hit the tabletop but its the kind of character I play frequently so having another option isn't a bad thing.


Thursday, 31 August 2017

Yet more and different Pig-Men

In addition to a possible Wonderland themed D&D game I've also started prep on another more classic or 'regular' style fantasy game.  I've collected up a bunch of pig-faced-orcs by my friend Ash also recently hooked me up with some actual Pig-Men for the Relic Blade skirmish game.  These are absolutely fantastic figures and fit me current vibe of 'old-school but new'.

Pig-Man #1 is armed with a sword and shield.  I feel like unless another piggy miniature comes across my path I'm guessing this guy will be the chief/boss/bully for this encounter.

Pig-Man #2 is equipped for two-weapon fighting.  As an aside I've always found it odd that two-weapon fighting is a popular option for PCs but few humanoid monsters come equipped that way.

Pig-Man #3 is carry a mighty two-handed battle-axe.  In addition to his axe he has a really well-textured belly plate.

I'm not quite sure how pig-men became my thing but looking at two other projects on my desk, apparently they are in fact my thing.


Friday, 25 August 2017

Reinforcements for Black Squadron Security

Following on my last post as an add-on to my Broken Contract game I did get a few of the Ash Walker figures.

Ash's background is that he's a member of Black Squadron Security (hence the gear and armour) but is sympathetic to the Breakers and may take their side (hence the absence of Black Squadron Security logo on his armour.

This is a great figure on multiple levels.  First up the sculpting is great with some great depth and texture.  The gear is not only suitable for Broken Contract but potentially many other near future games as well (he'll be the latest addition to my Peacekeepers for This Is Not A Test).  And he comes with multiple arms and heads so he can be assembled in various configurations.  In addition to the 'basic' model I assembled one with the riot helmet and taser-rifle.

A funny thought occurred to me while taking pictures tonight.  My friend Darren asked me a few posts ago to start including pictures of the backs of some of my miniatures.  For the most part I've never thought that was really necessary but this time out I'm including one.  For some reason the only scene that really sticks with me from Iron Man 3 is when Tony Stark is tied to a bed frame in a basement/dungeon and while insulting his captors he refers to one of them as "Pony-tail-express".  Painted my Ash Walker figure and it all came flooding back....

Alright, now maybe I'm painting cowboys...or maybe I'm not.


Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Review - Broken Contract

A while back I was posting some content for a miniature line by Breaker Press for their proposed future game Broken Contract.  That game then went to Kickstarter where it was successfully funded and has just recently shipped out.  I received my copy this weekend and decided to play a little show and tell.

First up Broken Contract is set in a dystopian future where a significant portion of humanity lives under "contract" (read as; legal slavery) to a number of mega-corporations using them in the most cost-effective manner possible.  The game universe is really well realised through it's art and fiction that has previously been shared through documents on Breaker Press' Facebook page and web store.  To give you a taste here are the front and back of the box my game rules and supplemental components shipped in:

In the basic scenarios for Broken Contract the miners (or Breakers) are basically trying to escape their life of enslavement to the FerrumSky corporation and obtain their freedom.  FerrumSky has employed the private security company Black Squadron Security to keep the miners in check.
The game mechanics themselves are very straightforward but allow for a variety of tactical choices once you start playing.  Attacks are actively resisted so you may choose to attack a specific way based on either your own strengths or your perception of your enemies weaknesses.

The rulebook is attractive and really well laid out.  Personally I really like some of the choices in the design of the book as it makes it feel like a real document in a lived in world somewhat reminiscent of some of the older better quality Top Secret modules.

Lastly on the component-side Broken Contract also shares some conventions with some of the current design of popular miniatures-based board games.  Each character has a dashboard that can be loaded with cards representing various equipment and abilities which is handy because during play some gear can be stolen or handed off.
If you're an old-timey gamer like me the game also includes roster sheets for recording your warband in the more 'traditional' style.

From a game-play point of view the game hits a similar sweet-spot for me that This Is Not A Test hit.  The core mechanics are actually extremely straight forward and simple but some of the options for different attacks and defence as well as scenario specific objectives make the game very fluid without actually becoming overly complicated.  

If you like small scale miniature skirmish games that add-in some RPG and board-game elements Broken Contract is well worth it.  And it should be noted that even though they are a separate purchase from the game itself the miniature line that accompanies the game is full of terrific sci-fi figures that somehow manage to feel unique and familiar at the same time.  I highly recommend this game!


Sunday, 13 August 2017

Jaqar Thief of Vornheim and Space Pirate

Following the 5th season of the Dungeon Crawl Classics game I'm playing in it was definitely time for an update to my character model.

Jaqar started out as a Thief on the mean streets of Vornheim cutting purses and generally living the hard scrabble life of a downtrodden medieval peasant but after joining with a group of adventurers found himself magically transported to the distant Purple Planet where he fought an assortment of weird aliens and alien/human hybrids.

Our last season ended with the group finding a spaceship that due to a few lucky rolls and the addition of a skull-mask/cap Jaqar was able to figure out how to pilot.  As part of their change in scenery and circumstance the group adopted the uniforms of the former ship crew which were basically colour-coded boiler suits.  Jaqar took to wear an orange uniform but after some reflection on my part I realised he's been too consistently squishy to stop wearing his armour so he's thrown his studded leather on over top of his crew uniform (and added a shield) for the group's new journey to the stars.

Jaqar is made up of a bunch of different plastic components.  I started with the same bretonian body as the original model to represent his armour.  He's got the head from a Frostgrave Cultist so I could get a neat looking helm/mask, and a Frostgrave soldier sprue provided his new shield.  For his arms and legs I cut them off a Heroclix Arkham Inmate model.  To finish off he has a sword from the bretonian men-at-arms sprue and a backpack from the Warlord British Infantry for Bolt Action.  A lot of chopping and swapping....

And here's the original for comparison.

Overall I'm pretty happy with how he turned out.

It might be cowboy time now.......


Thursday, 10 August 2017

Very odd odds and ends

I've been grinding away on getting some units painted for my return to Warmahordes and making slow progress but in the meantime I've painted a few figures for some fun and somewhat different gaming endeavours.

First up I painted up one of WizKids female Halfling Rogue models.  After my Warlock Of Firetop Mountain post I decided to paint up a small female figure for Zoe to use when we play the board game.  She may opt out and decide to use one of her own figures but I thought it would be nice to get something done.  I've also now got this figure in my back pocket if I need an "Alice" figure for A Red And Pleasant Land.

For my next two I'm back to A Red And Pleasant Land.
A while back knowing I wanted to play through A Red And Pleasant Land I picked up Reaper's 'modern Alice' pack thinking it would work perfectly well.  Upon closer inspection the lack of any classic adventuring equipment and the fact that she appears to be wearing Doc Martens means it feels a bit forced for a D&D game (will probably end up painting her anyway though).  However the pack also came with an absolutely fantastic March Hare model.  He has a great whimsical look to him but he also has a somewhat serious facial expression that I think will fit well with the setting.

The other figure I've been struggling to find and get right for far too long is a Cheshire Cat.  Almost a year ago I picked up a pack of Hoarcats for Malifaux thinking they would be a good fit but it just wasn't quite right and without re-sculpting a lot of fur I wasn't going to be able to get the smile right.  The solution finally came to me in the way that things like this went 30-40 years ago when people were desperately trying to find weird miniatures to game with; I'm re-purposing a toy.  Disney make a line of small collectible figures called 'Tsum Tsums'.  For the most part their look and proportions are well outside of my ability to picture them as anything other than a tiny toy but for the otherworldly Cheshire Cat somehow it just felt like it worked for me.

Hopefully brush back in hand I can get some momentum going and start getting more done and posting more regularly again.

Wish me luck!