Painting Day

Every now and again, I have a ‘painting day’ with a few friends.  We all pile down to the office and, well, paint stuff!  The idea is to provide motivation to actually get armies painted (not something I need myself, as all I need is a good film and a flat surface to get me painting over the weekend – but it is fun doing it with friends).

So, that is what we have been doing today. I was joined by Kat, pictured here;

Today, she worked steadily on an Exorcist tank for her Battle Sisters.  Just this and one more squad, and she should be ready for her first small-scale skirmish games of 40k!

Anyway, I was working on terrain today (had an idea I could also get some Tyranid Warriors and Ork Stormboyz done, but ’twas not to be).  Normally, I hate working on terrain, so the painting day seemed like a good time to tackle a few projects.  On the other hand, I love having decent terrain to play on, so it is kind of a Catch 22 for me normally.  However, needs must, and I have grown tired of fighting over the same field in Kent for the past couple of decades. . .

I have been steadily plugging away at a ruined 40k city for some time now, and managed to blag their Cities of Death box set a while ago.  That, added with the limited run of the cityfight battlemat they did made for a good starting point.  Today, I finished off the new Shrine of Aquila.

A big model but simple to do – undercoat black, drybrush Codex Grey.  The golden aquila was started in the current Shining Gold, but I changed it to two coats of the original Shining Gold, which was a much softer metallic colour. A quick glooping of the magic Ronseal mix, and the ruined shrine was done!  This is how it looks on the cityfight table at the moment.

If  I say so myself, this table is getting quite funky.  The smaller, lighter grey ruins, by the way, were given to me by a German manufacturer whose name escapes me at the moment. However, they come all ‘pre-painted’, ready to just drop on the table.

There are enough ruined buildings to run a cityfight battle, according to GW’s rules – but that frankly is not good enough for me!  I want a real Stalingrad type feel to this table, so more buildings, and more of the tall ones are in order!  This table is already good to fight over (had some wicked games of AvP on it already), so it is now a ‘non-urgent’ project.  I’ll add buildings as and when I come across them.

The next project was the Dark Angels Fortress of Redemption.  A great model this, a real centrepiece for a Planetstrike table.  I wasn’t actually going to do a Planetstrike table, but this fortress changed my mind.  Still not likely to play many Planetstrike games but it is there if I need it, and the local games club might give it some use too.

My photographic skills (or lack of them) are quite apparent here – the flash has washed out the wings of the dark angel – I’ll try to get a better picture at a later date.  Anyway, a nice, impressive model and, given the final size of the piece, actually quite good value at £60.

The fortress done, I figured ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ and grabbed the GW Moonscape craters that have been sitting in the office for the better part of a year, I think.  These really were a 15 minute job (my favourite kind, when it comes to terrain).  Undercoat black, and then progressively softer drybrushes of Scorched Brown, Bestial brown and Bubonic Brown.

So far, this is how the hastily conceived Planetstrike table is looking.

The GW battlemat is very good (no creases in either of the ones I have yet, and apparently machine-washable), but is clearly not right for this table.  I’ll have to get round to giving Total System Scenic a call sometime soon, and get some boards that are more appropriate.  A nasty, muddy brown would work best, I think.

Your eyes might have been drawn to the fortress in the background of that picture. Here is a better look.

This is a seriously cool piece of terrain that someone (whose name I have forgotten – sorry!) did for me in excahnge for just one hundred of our English Pounds. As well as the obvious bunkers and gun emplacements, the chap threaded the entire model with fibre optics, running off a normal PP3 battery.  When switched on, this thing lights up nicely, with targeting sensors in the guns, panels in the command centre, and it even has contacts between the three seperate floors of the main structure to carry current to more fibre optics on the upper levels.

Unfortunately, the PP3 was dead when I pulled this thing out of storage today.  When I get hold of a new one, I’ll get some more photos of this fortress, and give you a proper guided tour.  Not my own work, naturally, but very inspiring stuff!

My next terrain project is to completely cover a table with alien/exotic jungle, complete with ancient ruins.  Suitable for Warhammer fantasy, 40k or, well, any science-fiction game, really.  I already have all the components needed, and just need a weekend or two to put them together.  Stay tuned for that one – it will be a good ‘un.


The Big Guys

I promised I would get round to some decent piccies of what I have been up to.  This weekend I had the big D&D campaign to kick off, but I managed to get some ‘big guys’ (Dreadnoughts, or Dreadnought-equivalents) done for three of my armies.

In the last miniatures-related post, I showed a (rather horrible) photo of an Ork Dreadnought I had been working on.  Here he is, all finished, and next to a friend.

The one at the back is the ‘current’ (for about two weeks, as there is a new model on the way) metal dreadnought for Orks.  The one in front is from 2nd edition 40k days.

I went with the 2nd edition Dreadnought because I have this thing that every vehicle in my Ork army should look different.  Meks don’t run things off an assembly line, and so every vehicle will be unique – there should not even be many common parts, hence my delaying adding more than one dreadnought to the army.

As a further example of this, here are the two buggies I have (the squadron is finished off with a trakked Scorcher).

The practised eye knows they are from the same kit, but one has been really built up, the other completely stripped down.  While the wheelbase and chassis is the same, the visual effect is different enough.

With the Battlewagons, I cheated a bit, as the main kit is too cool not to use twice.  However, a differenty paint job and the ‘bitz’ sprue is enough to seperate them.  One is fat and stocky (and well-armed), the other low down and streamlined (with a bloody great big roller at the front adding to the length and illusion).  The third Battlewagon is something I picked up unpainted on eBay.

Anyway, on with last weekend’s projects.  Next up was a Carnifex for my small-but-growing bug horde.

To paint, this is just about the quickest army I have at the moment (and that is saying something).  Inspired by the colour scheme in Imperial Armour IV, there are just four colours on most of my Tyranid models.  They get a base coat of Bleached Bone, then all the armour plates have a splash (literally!) of Camo Green.  If there are any really fleshy parts (tongues, tubes going into weapons, the brain mass of a Zoanthrope), then they get a coat of Dwarf Flesh. The whole lot then gets washed down with the ‘magic liquid’.

This is a mix of 2 parts water to 1 part Ronseal Walnut Quick dry Wood Varnish – a variation of the dipping method and, for this paint scheme, it works a treat, shading the bone, green and pink nicely (you’ll see me use this mix time and again on many models).  I finish up with pure white on the ‘blades’ of these creatures.  Ignoring drying time, you are looking at perhaps 10-15 miniutes work for each Tyranid model, pretty much regardless of size. The base takes longer to do (PVA glue sand to the base, cover with Scorched Brown, drybrush with Bubonic Brown and add patches of static grass – the base edge is rimmed with two coats of Bestial Brown)!

Finally, a new Dreadnought for my beloved (but Codex-starved) Dark Angels.

This chap is actually part of a  much larger project.  With some days off at Christmas (for once!), I set about something I have always wanted to do – the entire Third Company of Dark Angels.  All the squads, characters and their vehicles have been done, and I am in the process of adding Dreadnoughts.  I figure, as it is one of the main fighting companies, that I’ll have six of these overall (this one is the first).  That will also give me a decent variation for weaponry, Ironclads, Venerables and maybe a Siege Dreadnought. Once I have done all six, I’ll post some piccies of the entire company together.

Of course, then I might just start thinking that the Deathwing and Ravenwing would be quite easy to do as complete companies (I am already a third of the way to having an entire company of Land Raiders!).  And then maybe the Fourth company will need a look. . .

I digress – that is a topic for another time!

Oh, and as a last note, I posted some piccies of my Roman army at Warlord Games.

A New Campaign – Old School D&D

A bit topsy-turvy, this – I have some miniatures news to update you with, but I have just got hold of a decent camera, so I’ll have some pretty pictures for you within the next day or so.

Anyway, on with the roleplaying.  This weekend, we started a new campaign, Forgotten Realms powered by D20 3.5.

There were a number of ‘grand’ campaigns published for 3.5 D&D – Shattered City, Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, the Witchfire Trilogy, Drow War, etc, and I have been itching to run at least one of these for some time.  Of course, our regular gaming slot had been taken by up by Star Wars and the Dawn of Defiance campaign, so I hit upon the idea of playing less often but for longer – enter the plan for running games for eight hours on a Sunday, once a month.

I was going to run the Drow War campaign, but some of the players had played at least the first part last year. I was going to run Shattered City, but wanted something ‘less Greyhawk’, if you know what I mean.

Humming and harring about this, I recalled a campaign I ran a few years ago.  Taking the characters up to around 18th level, it was set in the Bloodstone Lands (Damara and Vaasa) of the Realms and, dubbed the ‘Snow Vitch’ campaign, it created some pretty memorable adventures.  Long after the Wytch-King fell and Sir Gareth Dragonsbane was crowned king of Damara, an evil snow witch had come to power in Vaasa and, using mighty magicks, was threatening to bring a permanent winter to all the Realms (but it would never be Christmas, oh no. . .).

Last year, I picked up all four of the original Bloodstone adventures (H1-4).  It crossed my mind that I could wind time back somewhat, and have a right rollicking campaign. . .

So, the plan became; set the campaign in Impiltur (part of the Unapproachable East, just South of Damara), and have a nice easy start to get the players used to their characters.  Taking them up to 4th level-ish I would run The Sunless Citadel and The Forge of Fury.  Then I would get one of the ‘grand’ campaigns out of my system, Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil.

So far, so good.  Now, the Elemental Evil campaign takes characters up to about 14th level, give or take, and the first Bloodstone adventure, H1, starts at 1st edition 15th level.  Perfect!

However, my GM planning truly knows no bounds.  The original H1 used the old Battlesystem.  After some helpful gamers on EN World’s forums reminded me of the Miniatures Handbook, I was all set to run the huge battle at the end of that scenario with a full miniatures set up – over 1,000 painted miniatures played out on a 6′ x 4′ table! It would certainly be a game the players would not forget!

There were some issues  – the first was finding a set of miniatures rules that were easy and compatible with D20 (no way was I going back to Battlesystem!). The Miniatures Handbook took care of this.

Then there were the miniatures themselves.  Battlesystem recommended using a 10:1 ratio for models vs. actual people on the battlefield, which I have always hated in wargaming.  One to one is the only way to go, and if you need more people on the field, drop down a scale!  28mm scale was clearly not going to be the right one here, as most units in that battle have over 100 models a piece (yes, I did start seriously considering 28mm, God’s Own Scale, but I wanted a serious horde look for the battle, and I didn’t want to cut the number of combatants).  15mm was briefly considered, but a unit of over 100 models is still quite unweildy at this size.  In the end, it looks like 10mm is the way to go.

I placed an order with a couple of 10mm companies to see what their models looked like in Real Life – I’ll post my thoughts and a few piccies here when I get them. 10mm models usually come in strips of 5 models a piece, which are supposed to go two to a base (so a base has 10 man-sized models).  This requires some fudging of the rules in the Miniatures Handbook, but in practice it should not be an issue, given the rate at which normal creatures die on a 15th level battlefield. A spare coloured dice to mark any extra casualties before an entire base is removed should suffice nicely.

That just left the battlefield itself, shown here.

Now, being a lazy gamer, I was not about to make an entire board from scratch just to play this battle (I am quietly ignoring the fact that I am painting two complete armies for just one game, and an RPG at that. . .), but nor did I want to pay huge amounts of money to get someone else to do it.  Fortunately, I know the chaps at Total System Scenic, and they happen to be a local company who can make up boards and other terrain pieces to your own specifications.  They are very low cost as well, so that takes care of the lake, river, roads and maybe even the hill. 10mm buildings of a fantasy/medieval theme will be relatively easy to pick up, and I reckon I have at least a year before we get round to playing out this battle!

Anyway, that is the grand plan for the campaign. After H4 is done and dusted, maybe the campaign ends, maybe we carry on into Epic levels and have the players run their own kingdom. We’ll see.

This Sunday, we kicked off with The Sunless Citadel – I have probably run this adventure more than any other, for any game system. It really does have all you need to kick off a campaign if you are looking for that ‘quiet village guy’ start.

Eight hours play saw the players create characters;

  • Sandrine playing Fo-Fo Lay, a Wood Elf Ranger
  • Kat playing Elethiel, a Human Paladin (gotta love having a Paladin in the party, if you are the GM)
  • Andy playing Zail, a Wood Elf Sorcerer
  • Nick playing Brosius, a Human Cleric of Helm (and son of the local town’s baker)
  • Angus playing Gelph, a Human Rogue

And then go on to pretty much complete the first level of the dungeon.  I reckon in the next session, they will pretty much sweep the second level before lunch (especially as they all levelled up and Kat now has 31 hit points on her Paladin – can you say Monster Bait?), and get a good start on the Forge of Fury.

They played pretty well, it has to be said.  There were glimmers of plans being made and actually followed, though we did have a constant repetition of Angus checking doors for traps.  That was fine, showed caution.  However, every now and then, Kat would insist on opening a door without consulting the rogue first, and every time she did that, a trap blew up in her face.

On the first level they made friends with Meepo and the rest of the Kobolds, recapturing the dragon for them in return for a key that let them into a secret part of the dungeon.  They promptly fled from the tomb of the dragonpriest, though Andy was pleading for the rest of them to show some nerve and at least open the sarcophagus.  However, one look at the size of it, and the massive dragon carvings on the side, and they all decided they would be better off fighting goblins.

They have found the body of the Ranger that went missing before them, as well as the signet ring of one of the Merchant family’s adventurers (I’ll assume you are at least familiar with this scenario). That said, both Nick and Andy were bitten by Dire Rats and contracted a hideous disease that has savaged their Constitutions (and Andy, playing a Sorcerer, was not exactly covered in hit points to begin with). They have now decided that the magic fruit that cues all ailments reported to lie somewhere in the dungeon must be found within 24 hours before they start really suffering from the disease. This means they are planning to hit the second level of the dungeon at full speed, with very little healing left and no chance of resting up for 24 hours to get hit points and spells back.

Should be interesting.

Anyway, that is for next month. Tomorrow we continue with Star Wars as the players try to make nice with a Hutt, and I’ll grab some photos this week of my latest ‘creations’ – a Dark Angels Dreadnought, an old Ork Dreadnought, and my bug’s first Carnifex.

Blasters and Chaos

Just a quick post for now, as I am just waiting for the players to arrive to kick off our mega-D&D campaign today (more on that later, along with the bits andpieces I got round to painting yesterday).

They did indeed manage to break into the Imperial prison facility to rescue the treacherous Imperial admiral, but at one point (fairly early on) one of the players started complaining – ‘are you sure this encounter is meant for 2nd level characters?’

Heh 🙂

Now, what had actually happened was that they had spotted a Stormtrooper patrol, and decided to head towartds the opposite side of the base.  One player then opened a door to discover the main communicaitons centre.  Now, that would have been fine – but then, in the same round, another player opens the door to the medical facility (where the Empire is conducting all sorts of mutation experiments on Felucians).  The ensuing blaster duels attract the first patrol they had spotted.

So, they were now actively engaged in three seperate encounters, all at once.

Sometimes, they really do make life hard for themselves.

They managed to fight their way through, eventually, though they took a real pasting doing it. Matters were not helped when their cheif medic was the first to go down, leaving only characters who barely knew what end of a syringe to use left to administer first aid.

Anyway, mission complete, and before we wrapped up, we quickly went through the briefing for the next part of the campaign.  This time they will be off to Cato Nemoidia to make nice to Darga the Hutt, who apparently has some interesting information for them.

I’ll also cover this ‘grand’ D&D campaign soon.  Been planning it for a while, and it is a good ‘un…

More Star Wars

We have another session of Dawn of Defiance on tonight – should be finishing the first part (a raid on an Imperial prison facility on Felucia), and then moving on to the second (messing around with Hutts on Cato Nemoidia). Got all the miniatures standing by (Star Wars is the only game that I actually like using miniatures for roleplaying), and after last week the players are really starting to get into things.

This Sunday sees the start of a brand new D&D (3.5) campaign, and I have some Big Plans for that one .  I’ll fill in the details on that a little closer to the time.

In other news, I have divided posts here between Miniatures and Roleplaying categories, found some interesting 15mm miniatures in the office that I had forgotten all about, and had a delivery from GW that included a Carnifex and my first Stormboy unit.

Orks and Bugs

This weekend was spent tinkering away with a couple of armies – no ‘grand’ projects, just a couple of small additions.

First up was an Ork Deff Dread I have been putting together.  My aim for my Ork army is to make every vehicle radically different.  There is no point, for example, in me getting six Battlewagons if they all look more or less the same, just with different weaponry.  So, I have two GW battlewagons, one seriously tricked out with roof, ram and big turret, the other a ‘stripped out’ version with roller and flatbed – with different paint schemes, they look very dissimilar enough, but that is about as close as I like to get.  The third battlewagon in my Bad Moons force is a scratch-build I picked up on eBay. The idea is that jkust about everything Orks produce should be unique.

Dreadnoughts, however, have been a problem.  I have wanted a Dread Mob for some time, but the current model does not allow for much variation.  I have been chasing after one of the ‘Rogue Trader’ era Ork Dreadnoughts for some time on eBay, but they tend to go for more than I am willing to pay.  However, I did happen upon a 2nd Edition Ork Dreadnought – I must admit, I had forgotten all about this model, and that it was different from the current one.

I began by putting it together as per spec (which is actually a pain in the rear end, as legs and all four arms should be mounted in the clamshell body at the same time – I gave up, snipped off the end of the ‘plugs’ of the arms, and glued them in after the body was put together).  Then I remembered that I had some spare close combat arms, that I had actually taken off the aforementioned scratch-built battlewagon.

That gave me a four close combat weapon Dreadnought and, better than that, all four arms would be different, as the ones from the Battlewagon were from the current Dreadnought. All was well, except the close combat attachment on the end of one of the new arms had been removed by the battlewagon-builder in order to fit a flamer.  No matter!  Rooting around the bitz box, I located a spare tail from a Forge World Squiggoth (you get a choice to two).  I simply glued that on the end, and ended up with a unique Dreadnought, as you can see.

As it turns out, the iPhone is particularly bad at taking piccies of miniatures – I’ll sort that out for the next miniatures posting.

To complete my growing Dread Mob, I can still look out for a Rogue Trader era model, but GW itself has also come to my aid.  This model looks absolutely great and, again, will give a good impression of Ork uniqueness when matched with the others.

I also worked on some Tyranids this weekend – just a Hive tyrant and ten Ymgarl Genestealers.  The pictures of those turned out to be absolutely dreadful, but I’ll get some decent snaps done soon and talk you through the way they are painted.  They look good and are perfect for the lazy gamer!

Dawn of Defiance

As mentioned previously, we have been playing WotC’s Dawn of Defiance campaign for Star Wars of late.  In the party, there is a neurotic Duros Scoundrel, a lacivious Twil’lek Scoundrel, a human Soldier who hates the Empire with a passion but loves to wear Stormtrooper armour, and a human Noble who seems to have some ability with the Force.

So far, we are just approaching the end of the first part, The Traitor’s Gambit (just about to bust into the Imperial prison on Felucia), but I am already sold on the concept.

Free, downloadable campaigns – has to be the way forward. As anyone who knows anything about RPG publishing knows, adventures always sell in tiny numbers compared to more meaty sourcebooks and supplements (there are exceptions, but they are rare).  On more marginal games, it can be difficult to get your money back. However, if a publisher does them as free downloads, then he gets to support his game properly, but saves on the print costs.

So what?

Well, as a GM, you can suddenly start shuffling papers about and order them in the way you want during a game. No need to have piles of paper lying around with information useless to the current session – just take what you need.

The best thing though (and this is so simple, but true nonetheless) is that you can write on the printed adventure and make notes as you go without resorting to scrap paper that inevitably gets lost.  You can highlight important passages thatmust not be missed (that might otherwise lie buried in mountains of text blocks), jot down notes on maps, and keep track of hit points on the actual stats of characters, rather than the aforementioned scrap paper.  You can even ‘recycle’ the adventure when it is complete.

You would not do any of this with a book you bought and paid for.  But some print outs?  From now on, I think this is the only way to run a campaign (he said, about to embark on a new D&D campaign that uses nothing but books. . .).