Wednesday 16 December 2015

Sword and Spear

I've been hearing lots of positive things about this relatively new ruleset. So... My copy arrived in today's post.



The rules appear to offer a twist on the igoyougo command system, with units activated in a way not dissimilar to the dice in a bag mechanism of Bolt Action. More details are available on the publisher's website. Time for a read with a test game to follow...


Saturday 28 November 2015

Paint Table Update

It's been a while but time for a few updates on the painting front. First up, some very angry monks for SAGA...



Along with a Warlord Priest. Upgrade, downgrade or sidegrade - you decide.



If your SAGA warlord isn't likely to see any melee, then the Warlord Priest can be a good option.

My Anglo Danes have been expanded and I now have an Anglo Saxon warband for SAGA. They may sound similar, but it's a whole different battleboard.



Another point of warriors, along with an Anglo Saxon warlord...



But... I recently bought an Athelstan figure, together with a standard bearer. In SAGA, Athelstan allows units to be upgraded to carry javelins, Dane axes or bows. So... The new warrior unit together with an existing AD warrior unit + Norse Gael Dane axe warriors + angry monks and of course the levy slingers of doom gives me a whole new Anglo Saxon warband! Here's the man himself...




This is my first attempt at a banner for SAGA (LBM of course) and I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. I decided not to weather the banner too much - it is after all the King's banner!


Monday 16 November 2015

Hail Caesar Mega-Mashup

On Sunday the Friday Night Fire Fight Club held its first Hail Caesar Mega-Mashup. We arrived at our usual venue at 9.30 am and played a Roman (and allies) VS Macedonians (and allies) battle. Here's the table before the divisions were placed (we didn't have enough sheets of the same colour to cover the whole table - think of it as autumn!).



The game included 5 Roman divisions managed by three players fighting against 2 Macedonian divisions & 2 Late Egyptian divisions managed by four players. My Celts acted as Mercanaries and each general had to bid for their services (value from 1 to 20). The highest bidder won the services of the Celts, but the looser could take the winning bid and use each point spent to force their opponant to reroll one order per division per turn. The Romans won with a bid of 10. That meant the Macedonian General could force 10 orders rerolls.

Each general set their division up on opposing sides in the middle of our 14 foot long table, with Commanders rolling a d10 to determine where their forces were placed.




Mighty Kyle played a Roman division and ended up next to his general. Two other Roman units found themselves marooned at one end of the table with the Macedonians and Egyptians located near the other. And my Celts?



Well, the Celts found themselves sandwiched between a division of Macedonians and a division of Egyptians - complete with elephants of course!

The Macedonian General used the order reroll to successfully keep the two isolated Roman units at bay. The Romans managed a maximum of one move per turn. Each time they rolled two or more moves, they were forced to reroll. This effectively kept them out of the game. The Macedonian general's division was broken by the two opposing Roman divisions (one played by Kyle). But another Roman division was broken by Egyptian heavy chariots.

As for my Celtic sandwich...



Towards the end of the game, things were starting to get a bit tight! A large Celt warband with supports found itself facing Macedonian pikes to the front whilst being charged by an Egyptian elephant to its left flank... But, the Celts managed to hold on, breaking the elephant and one unit of Macedonian pikes, leaving the remaining pike unit shattered.

At about this point the Egyptians realised their Macedonian paymasters might not deliver the goods (being one shattered unit away from total collapse), so decided to make off with the loot. As the two unscathed Roman divisions finally arrived at the battlefield the Egyptians had already legged it.

A really great game. The random placement of divisions ensured that things didn't go quite as expected. Introducing Celt Mercanaries spiced things up no end. On paper, the Romans clearly had the upper hand. But the two isolated divisions were effectively out of the fight. Whilst things didn't quite go to plan for the Macedonians, the Egyptians were happy to make off with the loot. I was just happy that my Celts didn't get completely squashed!


Monday 2 November 2015

Iron Bridge Gorge

Just returned from a pleasant weekend away at Iron Bridge. Lots of historical interest, but not really wargaming related. Iron Bridge is a World Heritage Site due to its associations with the Industrial Revolution. The bridge and associated museums were interesting, but the kids were really there for the Halloween fun at Blist Hill...



One thing caught my eye in The Museum of the Gorge. A 1/150 scale model of the River Seven and local 19th Century Industry. Photos don't really do it justice, but here's a taster.



The sheer scale of the model was truly impressive.



With an incredible attention to detail.






Time to pick up the paint brush and get back to those monks...


Monday 19 October 2015


Now that is some serious figure painting!



Read the story behind the diorama here.


Wednesday 14 October 2015

Next Up on the Painting Table

Now that SELWG is behind us it's time to start thinking about a new project. Of course there's lots to choose from: Celtic chariots, robotic mummies and all sort of old Citadel lead for Frostgrave.

Whilst putting the SELWG table together I had an idea for a two part scenario that starts with the Vikings disembarking from their ship and attacking the Monastary. My idea was to have a Homeland type scenario with the Monastary defended by a Saxon warrior priest and a motley group of Angry Monks, with a few levy from the local village and perhaps a single point of local militia (warriors).



I've made the base for this figure using one of the Basius II pads that I received earlier this year through a Kickstarter project.



If the Vikings win they then have to head back to the longship as per the Revenant scenario. Since there will be casualties I need to balance the game, perhaps with the number of Revenant units determined by how many monks have died, or perhaps giving 'killed' Vikings a % chance of discovering they only suffered a minor injury. We'll see.

I didn't have time to complete the extra figures for Sunday's event but I'm still keen on exploring the idea. Since John Fry is organising another SAGA day in November I also thought it would be fun to turn my existing Anglo Dane warband into something more ecclesiastical. I suspect I'll get thrashed with them, but it should still be fun and I will at least learn how they play against different warbands.

I also have another project In the pipeline that will require additional painting.

We now have four different warbands (including the Revenants), each of which has seven available points. I thought that it would be fun to liven things up a bit by introducing a bit of uncertainty into warbands. A recently published fan made ruleset attempts to do this by randomising which warbands will play (link). These rules work best if players have access to several different warbands (ideally six). Since that is a bit of a tall order, I thought I'd try to adapt the system published in Neil Thomas' excellent One Hour Wargames.



Using the random warband generator means that a single warband can be used - with varying numbers of hearthguard, warrior and levy units selected by rolling a d6. I've put together provisional lists for my Anglo Danes, Vikings and Norse Gaels but need to paint up a few extra units to make the system work. The Revenants won't really work for this (since they consist of only a single troop type). I'll post more details once we've given it a go. Painting up extra units is something I'm doing anyway, since I intend to use each of the SAGA warbands as the nucleus of a Lion Rampant retinue. Any excuse eh?!


Sunday 11 October 2015

SELWG - The Aftermath

Fantastic time today at Crystal Palace. We managed to run four full games of Get to the Longship. In the end it was two wins to the Revenants and two to the Vikings.



Sadly no photos of other tables or bags of loot - just too busy! I think it's the first time I've been to an event and not bought anything!! I didn't even eat my sandwiches until I was driving home. Adam from the club bought me a Celtic Cross and gravestones as thanks for the lift - thanks Adam (and big thanks from Kyle for the Greeks)! Thanks also to everyone who stopped by and said nice things about the table, the Viking ship seemed to go down well. Finally, it was great to finally meet Ray Rousell from Don't Throw a One!

Next up is Cavalier in 2016 - see you there.


Saturday 10 October 2015

Dark Clouds Gather...

Somewhere close to the coat of Kent in the 9th Century, monks awaken to a fine day and prepare for their daily chores. In the distance an eerie mist rises above the creek. Suddenly the head of a great serpent appears and harsh cries shatter the morning peace. The terrified monks gather their precious relics and frantically sound the alarm. A small group of poorly equipped warriors scramble to the monk's aid from a nearby village.

But it's too late the Northmen have landed!



The heathen raiders rush towards the Monastary, brandishing both axe and torch.




The Monastary is set ablaze and it's wealth plundered.



Defenceless villagers are dragged from their homes and the Northmen start to feast and drink and count their loot...

But as night falls something stirs.

Something long forgotten is woken by the smell of blood and death.



An ancient being rises from the ground and starts to chant dark curses. The ground stirs and undead hands claw their way to the surface.



The dead have arisen and they now crave for fresh meat!

The Viking warlord quickly sobers.



He shouts to his men and they gather into a Shieldwall before the burning Monastary.



Telling his men to gather their spoils, the warlord looks across the marshes.



Will they be able to Get to the Longship?


Come along and meet us tomorrow at SELWG to find out!



Wednesday 7 October 2015


Looks like Studio Tomahawk's new game will be released at next year's Salute (2016 for you lot reading this old blog post ten years in the future...)

The game will apparently be featured in next month's Wargames Illustrated. Looks interesting...

Tuesday 6 October 2015

Five Days to SELWG!

Not long to go now. I've been burning the midnight oil painting the last few items for our SAGA participation game of Back to the Longship.

Almost all of the terrain and scenery is complete (including the river of course). Yesterday I finished the last of the Viking warband so we now have seven full points (including a priest). Today I finished painting the Revenant necromancer. He'll be varnished tomorrow morning before work and static grass/tufts applied in the evening.

On Saturday, I'll be setting everything up and running through a practice game with Kyle. He's played against the Revenants but not yet played them as his own warband. Setting the whole thing up will give me a chance to organise all of the items and (very importantly), pack it all away properly ready for the Sunday morning drive to Crystal Palace.

I'll try to grab a few photos of the setup on Saturday and hopefully will also take a few on Sunday. If you're going to SELWG stop by our table and say hello. You can't miss us. We'll be the one with the burning Monastary ;-)

Oh, there's one last item to finish...



Not sure what I'm going to do with all that rigging!


Saturday 3 October 2015

Frostgrave - Better with a DM?

We invited one of Kyle's mates over this afternoon for a game of Frostgrave. After our initial game earlier in the week I had a few misgivings. The d20 based combat system and 'grab the treasure & run' scenarios don't quite do it for me. But (and this is important), I really want to like this game. I can see that it has a lot of potential.
So what to do? I decided to try something slightly different. Rather than play a standard game or one of the supplied scenarios I thought it would be fun to put together my own scenario for the two boys to play with me acting as Dungeon Master. This would allow Kyle and his friend to play the game without getting bogged down in the rules (simple though they are) and give me the opportunity to watch them play and see if my concerns are valid.
The short answer is that the kids had a blast, thoroughly enjoyed the game and simply didn't care about the vagaries of rolling a d20. In my role as DM, I was able to add little extras to the game to keep things moving along at a brisk pace and ensure that uncertainties over rules etc didn't get in the way of the boys simply having fun. I was also able to keep certain things hidden from the players to introduce an element of uncertainty.
So, here's what we did...

The Road to Frostgrave
Those adventurers brave enough to face the perilous road to Frostgrave will find treasures a plenty...

The game takes place outside of the ruined city, where an ancient trackway crosses an old stone bridge.

At one end of the table is a small village. Various sacks and boxes are stored near the hovels. Outside of the village is a murky pond close to which is an area of boggy ground. A steep sided hill is located near the river on top of the hill is a large upright stone engraved with mysterious symbols. Several woods are located either side of the trackway.

The trackway crosses an old stone bridge before winding its way through marshland and then onwards to Frostgrave.
The rotting corpses of several soldiers and an old man with a long staff lie where they fell along the road. A severed arm still clutches a sword that appears to shine with an eerie blue glow... Only the old man is located on the far side of the river. His outstretched arms seemingly clawing for the edge of the road, whilst next to him is an open chest of treasure.

Special Rules
Players are heading to Frosgrave and to get there they have to cross the river and exit the table (ideally along the road, but it depends how fast they are running)! Players enter from the two table corners on either side of the village.
Of course nothing is as simple as it seems. Old bridges have stories of their own and the one in this game concerns a tortured spirit that haunts the bridge in the form of a wraith.

As soon as the first adventurer sets foot on the bridge, the wraith materialises and attacks! DMs should remember that wraiths are immune to non-magic weapons...
Clever players may realise that an open treasure chest on the far side of a bridge is too good to be true and rightly guess that the bridge may be trapped in some way. They'll enquire about wading across the river and the GM should inform them that since there hasn't been much rain, they can indeed cross the river with a half movement rate. Thinking they have outsmarted the GM the player may test the water with a soldier. As soon as the figure enters the river, the water around his feet will start to boil and a monstrous shape will loom before him...

The river is enchanted and protected by a large construct.
[I painted this old Citadel water elemental sometime around 1988 and this is the first time it's been used in a game!]
Of course pesky kids think they are smarter than wise GMs and as soon as they hear some befuddled old git muttering about low rainfall and wading with only a half movement penalty, they'll know that something is afoot.
[It was at about this point in our game when the two boys started to encourage each other to cross the stream. A smug DM even heard one of them say 'We should be helping each other not fighting"]
There are spells that allow figures to leap (and possibly other convoluted ways that smart ass kids will come up with for getting across the river without using the bridge or getting their feet wet).

A wise DM will have on hand a second large construct, this time in the form of a wind elemental that materialises mid-air and immediately attacks.
[yes this old Citadel figure was also painted in the late 80's]
Hopefully by this time the players will have stopped trying to outsmart the DM and start searching for something that can kill a wraith!
Some players may feel that battling past elementals and killing undead spirits with a pilfered magic sword is quite enough excitement for one day. However, the DM should simply smile and suggest that a thudding noise can be heard in the distance. Nervous players will by now be sufficiently unsettled that their wizards will be legging it over the bridge to escape with their plundered loot. As soon as the first figure crosses the bridge...

[remember Blood Rage? The figures are very nice! And will be even nicer once they are painted!!]
A frost giant appears from a random table edge and rushes towards the lead wizard.
Whether the DM allows the frost giant to reach the wizard depends on how tidy that particular player has kept their bedroom during the week.
[in our game Kyle used a previously summoned demon to engage the giant in melee giving the rest of his warband time to escape. Clever move!]

Treasure and Experience
The DM places 10 numbered tokens face down at suitable locations on the village side of the river.
[in our game the ten tokens were numbered 1 to 6; with several low numbers and only a single 4, 5 & 6 present]
Players are told that locations with tokens can be searched and treasure may be found. Each time a player's figure searches a location with a token, the token is turned over and the player rolls a d20 (or two d10s if you prefer...). The number on the token is added to the roll. A score greater than 20 reveals treasure. The first treasure found is a magic sword (+1 to hit). A score of 16 - 20 reveals a creature that immediately attacks. A score of 15 or less reveals nothing. DMs are advised to secretly roll for encounters before the start of the game. These can then be quickly produced from a covered box without interrupting the flow of the game. Creature encounter levels should be mostly low, with a few higher levels to keep players on their toes.
[I found it very satisfying that in today's game both players started to fear 'the box'!]
If the magic sword has not been found, it is always revealed when the last token is searched.
[To spice things up, GM's can consider revealing a creature alongside the magic sword...]
Whilst players know that tokens could be treasure, the only definite treasure item is the open chest. To get to it players must cross the river...
Experience is awarded as normal. In addition wizards gain the following experience:
15 experience points for their warband finding the magic sword
25 experience points for their warband killing the wraith
10 experience points for escaping with the magic sword.

Friday 2 October 2015

Frostgrave - First Impressions

The bandwagon has rumbled past Brady HQ and we've jumped onboard! In other words I've recently bought a copy of Frostgrave.



I was (very) late to Mordheim. It came and went during my 20 year gaming break. The concept sounded intriguing, a skirmish game set in a ruined Warhammer city where bands of adventurers searched and fought for treasure. Kyle and I both put warbands together and a mini campaign was suggested at Friday Night Fire Fight Club. It soon fizzled out... Running campaigns is difficult at the best of times, but with Mordheim... The rules are all over the place. Perhaps it's because I had to download PDF copies (the game lost support from GW long ago), but there seemed to be an awful lot of looking things up... My head hurt after a game. Actually my head hurt during a game. Kyle's Dwarfs got stuffed on their first outing and he quickly lost interest. But I still thought the concept was intriguing. It just needed to be a bit (lot) simpler. Perhaps simpler is the wrong word. Games need to flow.

Hold on, what about Frostgrave? From the game's blurb:

"Frostgrave is a game of Wizards, battling through a ruined frozen city in search of magical artefacts."

The city may be frozen rather than smashed by a meteorite but...

I've read several online reviews and battle reports that are mostly positive. So I ordered a copy of the (nicely produced) hardback book and had a good read. I then gave the book to Kyle and he had a good read. We both concluded that Frostgrave is Mordheim Lite - and the 'Lite' part here is key.

Kyle has just moved on from primary school. His new school was supposed to have an after school Warhammer club. Kyle went along only to find that there was only one other student there... And nobody to run the thing. He wasn't too disappointed (he comes along to Friday Night Fire Fight Club with me after all), but I thought it a shame his new friend was left stranded by the lack of support. Enter Frostgrave.

So what are my initial thoughts?

It's cheap. My copy cost less than a tenner (inc postage). It doesn't require huge numbers of figures (a wizard, an apprentice and up to eight additional soldiers per warband) so there's only a small financial/time investment in buying and painting a warband. The gameplay is fast and combat/shooting simple. No tables to look up, just roll a d20 and compare results (with a few modifiers here and there). Turns are broken into phases (wizard, apprentice, soldier, beasts) with initiative rolls determining who goes first. But play moves quickly from one wizard to the other and then to apprentices etc. The action comes thick and fast so there's not much waiting around. There are plenty of spells for wizards to choose from and these really do influence the outcome of the game.

So, it's a cheap game that doesn't require a huge time investment with plenty of action to entice new players, especially younger players.

Are there any downsides? Yes. Quite a few.

Before reading on, remember I think the game achieves what it set out to do - create a simplified Mordheim like skirmish game aimed at younger players.

But the Frostgrave world is rather shallow. There's none of the lavish background that GW used to lovingly pour into Warhammer (before they blew the whole thing up - but I digress). There are no dwarfs. No elves. Or any races other than men. There are creatures in the bestiary, but they are a bit thin really. The stats for some creatures appear a bit odd to me as well. Zombies have armour 12, the same as greater demons. Really? Zombies are too hard to kill, whilst greater demons (in comparison) are not hard enough. Perhaps future supplements will flesh out the world and introduce other races. But that may introduce additional complexity that I suspect the author prefers to avoid.

There are several scenarios in the book that appear interesting, but they are perhaps a bit specific. Rolling randomly for scenarios means that the same ones are likely to come up. There's only so many times you'll want to look for treasure in the living museum I think. Specific scenarios can be fun but should perhaps be in supplements rather than the core rulebook. Additional scenarios are being published by Osprey (a cheap 3 scenario mini campaign is already available as a digital download).

The combat and shooting mechanism is perhaps too simple. We played 2 quick games tonight to test the rules. Who won or lost a melee seemed pretty random. Individual stats don't really influence scores very much. My Templar was hitting with +2 in melee... Against Kyle's newly summoned greater demon with +4. The demon (surely one of the most dangerous things to be encountered), only has a 10% better chance of winning the combat. Hmm. The spells are interesting but appear poorly balanced. Kyle's chances of casting a summon demon spell were the same as my chance to take control of one of his zombies. In our second game he managed to gain a demon, wolf and zombie without too much difficulty. Once spells are selected, they can't be changed. New spells can be learned during a campaign, but I suspect many games will be won or lost due to the initial spell choices.

We found that the game became very bloody, very fast. And perhaps that's all that matters.

I'll be running a game this weekend for Kyle and his new friend. Playing the game tonight made me realise that prerolling on the random encounters table is useful (to ensure figures are immediately available). If the kids take to the game I'll see about easing them into a short campaign. I can think of a few scenarios that would make good use of my new Battle Systems Fantasy Terrain...



Sunday 27 September 2015

Shoreline Completed!

Well, more or less completed anyway, there's a few other bits and pieces I'd like to do but time constraints mean I have to lock the shoreline down now for SELWG. Two weeks to go and I have the Necromancer and three points of Vikings to complete (base colours done, shading up next). I also have a few extra bits of scenery for the table that need highlighting and flocking. These are just for atmosphere though and won't affect gameplay. More on that once they are done.

So it's time for another test photo, to see how the river looks on my GW grass mat.



Remember the idea was to have some river terrain that was relatively quick and easy to make but still looked good for our games. Well I'm pretty pleased with the result. Of course it will look much better with a Viking ship hauled up on the shingle bank.

Here's an overview.


In person the terrain is a little darker than my grass mat, but close enough for our purposes.

Last but not least here's one of the three marshes I recently made. These will be the main obstacle between the sacked monastery and the Viking ship.

Friday 25 September 2015

Blood Rage Has Arrived!

A sizeable box was delivered today... Inside was Cool Mini or Not's 'Blood Rage'.



That's a lot of stuff! Kyle's away at Scout camp this weekend so opening it all up will have to wait until Sunday. Really looking forward to trying this one out!


Thursday 24 September 2015

PayPal - Buyer Beware

My unfortunate episode with the broken figures has now been resolved. Previously I've commented on potential problems when using PayPal for purchases. Well I've learn't a few more things so thought I'd share my thoughts,

These photos illustrate the figures I was buying from a private seller (not a company).




£235 including postage (the deal included both sets of figures, a book and two lots of SAGA dice). I think you will agree the figures are nice. Painted to a very reasonable tabletop standard.

Unfortunately this is what arrived.




Many of the plastic figures were broken with missing arms and snapped spears. The metal figures were in an even worse state: broken, bent and very chipped.

Clearly not acceptable.

The seller thought they had packaged the figures to an acceptable standard. The exterior of the box was undamaged. Personally I would have wrapped everything within the box in bubble wrap... But that's neither here nor there, neither the seller nor PayPal disputed that the goods were not as advertised.

Using both direct email and the PayPal dispute resolution tool I requested a full refund. The seller made a claim against their local postal service and delayed agreeing to provide me with a refund until they had received feedback on their own claim. During this delay I contacted PayPal twice, using their recommended feedback form, requesting information on my claim. The auto response promised my query would be dealt with within 24 hours. But I didn't receive any response to my requests. Sorry, I did receive one email. A request for feedback on how I rated their response to my enquiry! Well since I hadn't received any response, you can imagine how I filled that form in...

After a week or so the seller contacted me to say the local postal service had given him the ok to have the goods returned. However, he also told me that he had been in discussion with PayPal who told him that whilst they were going to find in my favour they would only issue me a refund after I had returned the package - at my own expense.

I looked into this and it appears it is normal PayPal policy to only issue refunds after goods are returned. Fair enough, credit card companies typically demand the same. But PayPal claim they are unable to force sellers to pay for the return postage, despite it being a legal requirement (certainly in the UK and presumably across the EU). When I've received faulty goods from Amazon, they have organised a courier to collect.

So I paid for the return postage (nearly £30). The seller asked if I'd sort the figures to separate the plastic from metal. To be honest I was reluctant to mess with them too much (I didn't want to be accused of making the situation worse). However, I did wrap the metal figures in bubble wrap and added enough extra bubble wrap to the box to stop things bouncing around too much (remember - there was no bubble wrap in the box when it arrived). All at my own time and expense...

Once the seller confirmed receipt (politely, thanking me for the wrapping), the refund was made. However, the seller pointed out that according to PayPal the seller was not responsible for paying for the return postage. I politely asked to be reimbursed and, to cut a long story short, the seller offered to pay 50% of the return postage costs. Since my only other option appeared to be initiating a potentially expensive claim in the small claims court, I agreed. So after all that, I am out of pocket by about £15. I shouldn't be out by anything, but there you have it. It could have been much worse.

The message I want to get across here though is that despite PayPal claiming that they protect buyers, PayPal will only provide refunds after goods have been returned - at the buyers expense. Once the seller confirms goods have been returned, PayPal closes the dispute. PayPal will not help buyers to recover return postage costs. Heavy items sent by international courier can cost a fair bit to post and you the buyer will be made to pay with no guarantee that these extra costs will be refunded. Clearly this is at odds with the Trade of Goods Act.

Whilst I will continue to use PayPal when making purchases through eBay (who deal with return postage differently), until PayPal change their policy on return postage costs I will no longer use the company to make purchases of expensive items. I recommend that others do the same.