Monday, 20 March 2017

Cocky Hedge Knight

The most exciting news (for me anyway) to come out of GAMA this past week was the announcement that there will be a Song Of Ice And Fire miniatures game released next year with miniatures by Darksword Miniatures who already produce an excellent looking George R.R. Martin line of figures.

I have used a few Darksword models in the past for Forstgrave and had just finished another for a character for a D&D game.  I needed a traditional 1st level fighter miniature which in this particular case meant; chainmail, sword & shield.  My two choices on hand were Bronn or the Cocky Hedge Knight, I went with the Hedge Knight as he was slightly more heavily armoured.

The figure was perfect for what I needed (his shield is on his back) and he very much has the feel of being based off old Jeff Easley artwork.  In addition one of the things I like about the figure with Game Of Thrones in mind is that the face and head look like a younger version of Ser Allister Thorne from the TV show.

I've got 2 more player character models to get done for this game and then hopefully we're off to the races.


Sunday, 19 March 2017

Review - Curse Of Strahd (no spoilers)

Once again I'd like to share my opinion on a new version of a gaming product that got it's initial launch 20+ years ago and look backwards before looking forwards.

In the now ancient times of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (that's what the first edition was called) most adventures featured a setting (dungeon, castle, town, etc) stocked with fairly static monsters and traps that although they could be challenging felt very artificial.  What I mean by "artificial" is that monsters would basically sit around in their fixed locations waiting for player characters to come along and interact with them and doing nothing that made any sense outside of some basic responses to PC actions.  I actually remember DMing one published adventure where my group fought and killed some orcs guarding a chest and when they opened the chest they found magic armour and a magic sword inside it, prompting one of my players to actually wonder aloud "if the orcs had magic weapons and armour, why didn't they use them to fight us?".  I literally had no answer for that question.  In the midst of all these fun but somewhat dry adventures was released AD&D adventure module I6 Ravenloft.

Now I'd like to say that I carefully researched my purchase of this module back in the day back that would be a total lie.  I bought it because it had hands down the best cover art of any AD&D module up to that point (still hold up really well) and I really liked the idea of a little horror in my fantasy game (something I still haven't outgrown).  I couldn't believe how lucky I was to  buy an adventure for some fairly superficial reasons and then crack it open and find I had TSR's first quantum leap in adventure design in my hands.  Ravenloft did two things that were so completely different as to change my perception of what an RPG module could be:
1.  There was a fortune telling mechanic that meant key items and events would happen in different places everytime you played the adventure (so it could be replayed multiple times by the same players).
2.  The villain had complex motivations and tactics that meant he would move around, retreat, harass the PCs and basically behave like the DMs personal character rather than a pile of stats and rules to be murdered at a fixed point in the game.
These things elevated Ravenloft from being just another adventure to feeling like the most epic and grand adventure to date, in spite of the fact that it was only 32 pages in total including all the additional fortune telling mechanics and magic items.

I6 kicked off a franchise within a franchise getting it's own full campaign setting for AD&D 2nd Edition, being licensed out to White Wolf to produce a full line of books under the OGL for d20 D&D, being adapted and updated in the Expedition series towards the end of the 3.5 run, being produced as one of the D&D board games during the period 4th Edition was the core rules set and now finally Curse Of Strahd for D&D Next/5th Edition.  I have had great affection for every Ravenloft product with the exception of Expedition To Castle Ravenloft and I was really excited when Curse Of Strahd was announced.

What's interesting about my perspective on Curse Of Strahd is that I went into it with fan-boy excitement levels but had not yet forgotten my last Ravenloft purchase had been my most personally disappointing.  I didn't know what to expect and beyond my Player's Handbook this was actually my first D&D Next/5th Edition purchase.

I am overwhelming satisfied with Curse Of Strahd and can't imagine any DM would feel differently!  This iteration of the classic adventure keeps all the things that made the original I6 so popular (random changing placement of key items, actions for Strahd based on his motivations and the player's actions, compelling NPCs, etc) but really expands the experience that makes this version even more useful and re-playable than the original.  In addition to Castle Ravenloft and the village of Barovia that have always been present Curse of Strahd now populates and describes the entire province that they exist within.  There are 14 fully detailed and mapped encounter areas outside of the village and castle each of which could be played as a single stand alone game session even without playing through the main adventure.  The production value of the book is amazing with fantastically detailed maps (which are also available for purchase online for use on virtual table tops) of the new areas and the original 3D maps of the castle being retained and use for Strahd's lair.  You could easily run an entire campaign using just this one book (with some slight modifications and padding) and the world itself feels very lived in.  I'm currently running my first group through the adventure, they are 2-3 sessions away from completion and I'm already thinking about when I'll be running it again.

Having talked about how much I like this module I do want to call out a few things that could use improvement.  The module is rated levels 1-10 and although it does scale across that range it would be very easy for a group to wander into somethings that would be way over their current level early on.  There is also a lead in adventure called Death House which is in the main book and also available as a free download on Wizards Of The Coast's website that is intended for levels 1-3 but I found the final encounter was beyond the abilities of low level characters unless they had the correct mix of abilities and I had to modify it to not TPK the group.  In hindsight my mistake was not allowing the party to level up mid-way through the Death House to give them a better shot at the final encounter.

Other than that the only things I would call out is that you really do need a balanced party to succeed in this adventure (not necessarily a criticism).  There are times where if your group is primarily social they will fail, and other times where if they are primarily combat focused they will fail.  The irony in this for my current group being that two encounters that were supposed to be nuisances turned almost lethal as the result of a few bad die rolls.

To summarize I highly recommend Curse Of Strahd and if you can find them the deck of Tarokka Cards and the DM screen for the adventure produced by Gale Force 9 are well worth adding in as well.


Thursday, 16 March 2017


Since the release of Age Of Sigmar Games Workshop has been steadily adding to the Sigmarite and Khorne ranges introduced in the game.  At first when they came out I was pretty excited about the Sigmarites but as time wore on I realized I didn't actually have a need for the figures and I wasn't playing Age Of Sigmar enough at the time to start a whole new army.  The Khorne figures lingered on the periphery of my consciousness as I generally preferred the figures and could easily see introducing the more savage lightly armoured figures into a fantasy RPG.

One of the things I'm really appreciating about Games Workshop's releases for their main games lately is that they are functional over more than one game.  So today's addition the Khorne Slaughterpriest is in fact used as an option in three different current game systems; Age Of Sigmar, Gorechosen & Warhammer Quest.

The Slaughterpriest is an amazingly well textured and detailed figure.  In addition to his cross-system functionality he would make a pretty great villain for a fantasy RPG.

I managed to get in my first two games of Gorechosen with him (he did not do well), and really enjoyed his theme and look.  It feels like I'm more likely to play Tzeentch than Khorne when I circle back to Age Of Sigmar but I may start using him to explore the Silver Tower soon.

I finally caught a break on the weather so Pig-Men (and 3 D&D models) should be seeing some primer later tonight!


Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Experiencing technical difficulties....

This has been a very frustrating week from a hobby point of view.

Last Friday I got some more amazing Wrath Of Kings Teknes models and also got back from a road trip and got ready to work on some buildings I'm doing for another project and ever since I got everything prepped the weather has made it impossible for me to prime or spray ANYTHING.  And so here 6 days later my pig-men sit still waiting to see some paint...

I'm going to work on some floor plans tonight for some new buildings I'm doing (interiors and exteriors) and will hopefully also finish 1 model I need for a game tomorrow afternoon but other than that I'm in a bit of a dry spell until the weather co-operates.

So I can finally say I've found a downside to working quickly though my models.  It means when I can't prime I don't have a pile of primed or half-painted stuff just hanging out on my desk.


Saturday, 4 March 2017

Grot Scutlings

Last night I finished up my Grot Scutlings for Silver Tower.  The idea behind these guys is that they were once normal grots (goblins basically) who ventured uninvited to the Silver Tower and then were transformed into goblin-spider hybrid creatures by the warping powers of Tzeentch.

I really like the idea behind these figures and they are decently executed but to be honest they feel a little out of place (like the skaven that comes in the game) and I think the space on the sprue could have been better used for more twisted Tzeentch creatures.

That leaves me with three more small batches of figures to paint for Silver Tower (Tzaangors, Acolytes & Familiars) and then there will be heroes and individual character-style monsters to paint.


Thursday, 2 March 2017

The horrors....the horrors.....

For the first time in over a week I got to sit down today at my desk and make a concerted effort to get some painting done.  Today I consciously decided to go a bit off task for reasons that in hindsight I feel either shows my evolution as a hobbyist or my lack-thereof (it's a question of perspective).

The running joke with most miniature gamers is that they buy WAY more than they paint.  A few years ago I made a conscious decision that I was going to get away from that stereotype and not only work through my backlog but also stop buying miniatures at a faster rate than I know I can get them done.  For the most part I think I've been pretty successful at this with a few small exceptions.  However this past weekend something happened that challenged both my willpower to stick with that plan and my general interpretation of how I stick to it.

When it was released last year I got a copy of Warhammer Quest Silver Tower from my FLGS Lords Of War here in Oakville.  The game looks brilliant and the models are great but I haven't actually played it, or even planned to play it yet so I wasn't really in any great rush to start painting models for it.  Fast forward to last weekend and Warhammer Quest Shadows Over Hammerhal was released.  I want to buy it (I REALLY want to buy it) but it's hard to justify given that I had another huge Warhammer Quest box set just sitting in my office collecting dust.  So a smart person might have thought 'I don't need that new game, I've got something perfectly adequate right here' but that seemed like quitter talk to me.  So instead my inner-monologue convinced me that if I can power through most or all of the Silver Tower set in a week or two then I can justify the new game box.

Fast-forward to today and I got my first 10 models from Silver Tower done and my next 16 models 50-75% done.  At the rate I'm going I should be able to  have most of the antagonist side done by Monday.

Today's project was Horrors.  The concept behind the horrors is neat as the idea is that you start off with a Pink Horrors and if you "kill" it it actually splits into 2 Blue Horrors...and then if you "kill" those they split into 2 Brimstone Horrors.  So basically its one of those nightmare scenarios where the more you kill, the more you have to fight.

I really enjoyed painting these models.  They're right in my wheelhouse in that they are heavily textured without being overly busy on the detail side so a single wash and highlight can do 90% of the work for you.  Given how much I enjoyed painting these and how cool the Tzangors and Kharic Acolytes look I may have to consider doing a Tzeentch army at some point in the not too distant future.

I'm really looking forward to trying the game out, hopefully in April as March is a stupidly busy month for me already.