Tuesday, November 17, 2015

New Chicago Skirmish Wargames Forum ... Join Us!

Things have gotten a bit sparse here on the CSW blog of late, but never fear -- we recently launched a new forum and have moved much of our discussion and content posting over there. Check it out!

Big thanks to CSW member Josh for kitbashing this forum for us...we're particularly pleased with the rotating image header, featuring pics of members' painted minis!

We'll continue to post highlights to this blog, but the bulk of the game chatter, photo galleries and related talk will take place on the forum. It's our hope that you'll browse the forum, and maybe even join in the discussions from time to time! See you there!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Fully Painted: Pig Iron Sci-Fi Infantry, and More

A couple years ago, I got my hands on a big ol' box of gorgeous sci-fi infantry figures from Pig Iron Productions. Now, if you know me, you'll know that I'm a sucker for anything by Pig Iron. The gritty, near-future aesthetic of the figures aligns perfectly with my sci-fi wargaming interests. I've already got a big skirmish army built from Pig Iron's Heavy Infantry figures, as well as a hefty group of the totally awesome Kolony Ferals.

This new lot -- offered up by fellow club member Karl after one of his many bargain-hunting transactions on ye olde Internet -- included 30+ Kolony Militia figures. These guys have greatcoats and gas masks and military gear, and they look fantastic everywhere I've seen them. The militia guys were unpainted, and they sat in a box at least a year while I fiddled around with other projects.

I finally got started painting them last summer. My goal is to do small groups in different paint schemes, so they can be used on their own as warbands, or as squads in a larger army.

Here are the first two groups. I'm not sure what to call them -- either half-squads or reinforced fire teams, or something similar.

And just for fun, here are a few more sci-fi figures I finished up recently.

This guy is from from Ratnik Miniatures (via Lead Adventure Miniatures) ... he is called an "assassin," but he could easily work as a squad leader, sniper or forward observer.

These are a couple female troopers from Hasslefree Miniatures. I really like them because they don't have the typical ostentatious armor and crazy proportions that characterizes the female form in most miniatures. Their armor and poses look fairly functional and realistic.

And lastly, we have three character models perched atop some really amazing resin bases that I picked up at the Games Plus auction last year. The resin bases were unpainted, unlabeled and I have no clue where they came from.

The figures themselves are (from left): Pig Iron Kolony Militia, Reaper Chronoscope (trying to be a Gears of War guy) and Warhammer 40k Vostroyan (some of my favorite recent 40k sculpts).

Studious blog readers will note that a few of these guys have already hit the table in various battle reports this year. They're not particularly new -- this is just the first time I've gotten them all together for some decent photos!

-- Patrick, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Cleared to Engage: The Mystery of the Atom

Last week Josh and I got together to try out Cleared to Engage, a fun, fast-playing ruleset written by P. Todoroff and hosted over at his blog Stalker7. As you might surmise, the intent of the ruleset is to provide a basic framework of rules for running sci-fi, post-apocalyptic and/or cyberpunk skirmish games.

These are Todoroff's homebrew rules used for most of the games featured on his blog. CTE lacks a points system or premade character profiles, but that was no problem for us, as we relish the challenge of crafting scenarios. We were eager to try the rules out! I set the scenario in the Derzhensko Exclusion Zone, which is one of several homebrew settings we've used for our sci-fi and post-apoc games. Here's the scenario outline:

The Lure of the Atom
Location: Derzhensko Exclusion Zone
Area: Unsecured Perimeter K-18

The Zone’s porous perimeter has been compromised by a group of ex-military scavengers, trespassers and adventurers. The goal of the expedition is a single unexploded atomic bomb -- a relic from a past era, when such weapons rained down from the skies. Could it hold the secret to the Zone’s existence? The explorers must first get past the defenders of a small settlement nearby. These hardy folk have spent years rebuilding some semblance of a society in the ruins of the Zone, and they are unwilling to watch their hard work get destroyed by invaders.

The game pitted a group of veteran stalkers, mercenaries and ex-military types (backed up by some rather frightful mutants straight out of the lab) against a ragtag band of dug-in settlers armed with mostly improvised weapons. The stalkers' objective was to reach the atomic bomb and explore its mysteries. Their secondary objective was to reach the water tank outside the greenhouse and restock their dwindling supplies.

The settlers' objective was to annihilate the mercs -- and as we saw in our game, a combination of poor terrain placement and the sheer lethality of "Cleared to Engage" helped the settlers achieve their goal quite nicely.

I deployed my mercs in the wooded perimeter outside the settlement, intending to use the "Snipers in the Woods" scenario rule to lay down withering cover fire while my guys advanced. I knew my weapons and equipment were better than the settlers' pitiful rakes and garden hoes. (That's sarcasm, of course. As you can see in the pics, Josh's guys were lovingly converted to hold all manner of nifty weapons, from a leaf trimmer to a stop sign to a pneumatic air gun!)

I advanced through the woods, sending two groups of guys toward the two objectives. In this pic, Floyd the Mega Mutant and Yadonovsky the stalker close in on the water tank, which is attached to the side of the greenhouse -- and critically, within range of the settlers' firearms!

A turn later, they arrived, taking cover behind the greenhouse before sprinting to the water tank.

Over by atomic bomb, another pair of mercs was advancing cautiously, using broken barricades as cover. Alas, they were ambushed by Josh's recon element, which had been forward deployed near some shipping containers.

Actually it looks like the recon settler killed the mutant berzerker and was then slain herself. Here's the pic -- you be the judge.

Alone and unsupported, Morsov (with the shotgun) darted across the street to link up with the stalkers by the greenhouse. He made it halfway before encountering some defenders. After a brief, fierce close combat, both figures killed each other.

In fact, that happened a lot. Every single one of our close combats resulted in both figures dying in the first round. I'm not sure if that was due to CTE's deadly close combat system, or some misunderstanding on our part. The result was a veritable killing field near the greenhouse! Here's an example of the carnage after three or four turns.

The results were similar over by the greenhouse. Ranged combat thinned the ranks, and close combat took care of the rest. Josh and I both slaughtered each other's figures with reckless abandon! Josh had a medic, which meant that he was able to revive a couple figures -- only to see them butchered a turn later by my guys.

When the dust cleared, I hadn't managed to secure even one of the two objectives, and Josh had decimated my fighting force. His settlers wouldn't be doing much settling anymore, though, as they had left more than half their number strewn about the streets as casualties. We agreed that Josh won the scenario.

CTE proved to be quite deadly, almost to a fault. We couldn't stop our guys from dying! Even the settlers, with relatively poor stats, were able to score hits when rolling buckets of dice with their machine pistols. Some of this came from terrain placement -- the wide open street was an absolute killzone -- but even figures in cover, such as my snipers in the woods, didn't last long once they started to draw fire.

We agreed to try out more multi-wound figures in our next game, as well as lower benchmark combat values across the board. The great part about this ruleset is that it is very easy to modify and tinker with. After the game, we were just brimming with ideas for possible tweaks and enhancements to better suit our play style and figure/terrain collections.

Hats off to Mr. Todoroff for crafting a fun ruleset that has energized our players. Doubtless we'll try this one again soon!

-- Patrick, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

A Harryhausen-Themed Stop-Motion Monster Warband

I have always been an avid fan of stop-motion effects in film. Once the bread and butter special effects in the age before digital animation and CGI, they are now seldom seen. I grew up on films such as “The Seven Voyages of Sinbad” and “Clash of the Titans” wherein actors hacked and stamped in stilted sword and shield combat with bone-dry skeletons, or fought giant scorpions and colossal bronze statues brought to life.

When I saw the models from the Fractured Dimensions Infernal Minions Kickstarter by Brett Zeleznik, I couldn’t help but notice that the Cambian Lord looked very similar to the character of Caliban from the early 80’s "Clash of the Titans" movie. Coupled with a giant scorpion model from Pardulon Models that I had acquired, I suddenly had the idea to build a "Clash of the Titans" Harryhausen-themed warband for Song of Blades and Heroes.

The idea simmered in my mind, and I picked up several models for the warband over the course of the next year

The Cambian Lord (Fractured Dimensions), who was to become “Caliban”

The resin Giant Scorpion (Pardulon Models) dubbed “Fluffy,” one of the most realistic scorpion sculpts out there. Many of the Reaper and similar scorpion miniatures are very unrealistic in proportion and form, and often end up very comic compared to the real thing.

An Abbot Dol Warrior (Fractured Dimensions), very similar in form to the Cambian Lord model. This figure was to become Grimus, a minion of Caliban. (I said themed, not exact to the films!)

A Demon Type V model (Fractured Dimensions), originally a six-armed figure with a snake tail instead of legs and two options for the torso. I also aquired a Reaper Bones Medusa, but eventually opted to instead use the demon model for “Medusa” even though it required some conversion. The PVC material in Bones figures is too flexible in small models.

A Demon Type IV model (Fractured Dimensions) using the helmet and trident option became a flying Warthog monster called “Oinkos” who has been the bane of my opponents this campaign season. While not really a proper fit with the Harryhausen monsters, this model had the same absurdity of form and was thematically a classic in it’s own right.

Skeleton Warriors (Wargames Factory). I looked at several models, primarily looking for the greek style sword and shield. While there are others out there that fit the bill including some produced by Reaper and Otherworld, the cost or materials were negatives. As an added advantage, the Wargames sprues contained the perfect bow and quiver set for the Medusa conversion!

And finally a Talos (Mierce Miniatures), to represent… well… “Talos” a very classic Harryhausen monster of course. I don't have a pic of this fellow just yet.

All of these sat unbuilt and unpainted on my desk until the SBH summer campaign approached, and suddenly I had a week to put together my warband. In three evenings, I assembled and based the entire warband. The Fractured Dimensions models were all very well cast with very few mold lines to remove. The Medusa conversion was very fiddly due to very tiny pieces, and I was forced to drill and pin the bow through the hand so that it would not get knocked off during game play.

Contrary to much of what I have read about the Wargames Factory skeleton models, they were actually very easy to assemble, and work with. The legs are thin, but sufficient to hold up the model, though there is some flex. On the fourth evening of this project, I finished assembly and basing on three skeletons, and painted the warband to a satisfactory tabletop standard, with all of the painting except for a basecoat on the Scoprion model taking place that evening. Talos was not completed at that time, and will be featured in a later blog post.

The detail on the skeleton shields was completed in a follow-up hour of painting.

Overall, while I may yet touch up some of the models, I am very happy with the completed result given the short time frame, and they look great on the tabletop as "Caliban’s Cursed." I created the warband as an "evil" team, allowing Medusa to shoot into combat, and used the standard SBH stats for the skeletons, Fluffy, and Medusa (with the addition of unerring aim to add a small amount of potency without making her overpowering).

Caliban, Grimus, and Oinkos all all received the mutant ability to represent the “Cursed” moniker. I have found it to be a flavorful (but negative) inclusion, since all but two of my mutation roles have been detrimental. I've been forced to use experience advancements to bring them back up to or near original stats.

Caliban was given the necromancer trait to raise more skeletons from combat casualties as the existing ones are destroyed. This is another skill that has proven very difficult to actually use in game. Oinkos has proven to be the brute of the warband. His big, flying, and long move skills make him dangerous in combat, and his primary use has been to quickly take objectives or as a mobile combat support which he excels at. His brutish capability has, however, been offset as the campaign progresses by the fact that fully half of the warband are undead or animals and do not take experience or advancement.

"Caliban's Cursed" has definitely been one of the most creative, fun to build, and fun to and play warbands that I have put together in a summer campaign!

-- Jon, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Friday, September 11, 2015

Bridges and Scuttles from O-Scale Train Cars

Over the past few years I've picked up a number of broken O-scale train cars, and I've finally put them to good use. Most of these damaged in some way, usually lacking wheels and trucks, but that didn't bother me since I didn't need them anyway. Aside from price, the main benefit to using model train cars is the great detail, which makes drybrushing a breeze. Check out those great rivets and ladders!

Here are coal and sand scuttles made from open-topped hopper cars. I used my Dremel 543 blade to cut off the bottom of the cars and smooth them out.

Then I glued in a cardboard bottom and added ballast. The coal is gravel painted black, drybrushed and then given a bit of magic wash for a coal-like sheen.

Done correctly, the ballast will bring the floor level up just enough to allow 28mm figures to take cover but still see over the edges.

I did similar work on two gondolas and a Fisher Price Geotrax bridge. I filled the molded-in tracks on the Fisher Price bridge with cement and gravel, though I probably should have cemented over the whole area. The odd melted section of the middle bridge one came that way, which is probably why it was so cheap. Looks pretty cool to me.

The black bridge simply had the ends cut off.

The red bridge was also shortened.

The Fisher Price bridge was actually meant to be used flat on the ground and had big chunks of ground detail molded on the sides. I cut all that off!

All three were simply spray painted, then washed and drybrushed with tan. The end result is a set of extremely useful terrain pieces for very little money. I've got a number of industrial terrain pieces that have buckets or spouts that will spill nicely into the scuttles. Likewise, sturdy bridges and gangways are an essential part of any Necromunda layout. If your local train store doesn't have a bargain bin, a quick search of eBay will show various lots of broken or outdated train cars that can be had for a fair bargain.

-- Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Grimy Jewel Campaign: Session 5 Report

"There are strange things done 'neath the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold…"
- Robert W. Service

The wretched Harba watched from the shadows as the his tales spun from straw... tales of gold and vast wealth filtered down through tellings and retellings down to the mercenaries, villains and adventurers who now searched the ruins in the valley below looking for plunder and treasure... but just as likely to unearth moldering artifacts and glittering gewgahs of fearsome uncanny disposition... better left in their grimy cairns and dungeons... laid to uneasy rest eons, and eons ago...

On a dark and... well… not so stormy night, five Chicago Skirmish Wargames members met in a... well… not dark and dingy basement… and split into two games of Song of Blades and Heroes. Michael brought forth his custom converted and based Mordheim-esque terrain buildings, and Tim set forth a farm with stone cottages.

On the first table side, three warbands blundered and crept through the ruins searching for rumored treasure.  The three competing teams were Michael’s warband ("The Debauched Ones" led by Samira the Salacious), Joe’s Men at Arms, and Jon’s "Calibans Cursed."

The scenario rolled was a treasure hunt, the goal being to find and spirit the treasure off of the table. All three warbands focused on the treasure hunt, rolling to score a 10 or higher (rather than a 12) for each terrain piece encountered. Given the focus, minimal combat occurred with only a few casualties on the board. Jon’s Medusae effectively removed Michaels mounted character from the round. Within four turns, the treasure had been located and removed from the battlefield. Samira the Salacious took the win, finding an extensive amount of money, a magic item, and several gems ...in suspiciously archaic settings of gold.

We quickly reassembled for another three player game. The scenario was a King of the Hill, with victory going to player with the most points of models on the hill at the conclusion of the scenario. We configured a tower as the ‘hill’ and a massive melee ensued outside one of the doors to the tower. Jon flew Oinkos, his flying warthog warrior, over to the tower to enter from the top, his scorpion and skeletons moved towards the base of the tower. Michael likewise moved his ogre and warriors to advance towards the same side that Jon was approaching. Tim moved in from both sides, and some of his models easily avoided the massive melee developing other side of the table. Jon moved a skeleton inside, and then melee began in earnest as each player attempted to delay the others from entering the tower.

Fluffy the scorpion climbed the tower wall using, his clinging and poison traits to attack very effectively from above his opponents. Tim moved a smaller portion of his force, including the assassin, toward the large melee, and further slowed Jon’s forces from entering the tower. Jon’s skeletons and Oinkos added their prowess to the melee, and with Medusa shooting into combat with nary a care for her own, they were able to slay several of Michael’s warriors, including the ogre.

While the melee ensued, Tim had subtly moved three models into the building. The final game turn was a rush to enter the tower. Jon successfully moved another skeleton and Oinkos into the tower. The scorpion, having dispatched his last opponent, scaled the outside of the tower but couldn't quite make it to the top. Michael was able to get a single character into the tower. Final counts saw Tim and Jon both with three models inside the structure. Once the dust had cleared, Tim’s force secured the victory.

That same evening, Tim and Karl played the Surprise Attack scenario with Tim as the defender. Most of his guys were spread across the board, but the monk and cavemen were reinforcements that would come in later. Karl was the attacker.

Karl quickly surrounded and overwhelmed Tim's piecemeal defenders. Tim’s autumn priest then used his wall of fear spell to break up Karl's warband and provide some cover while his remaining members regrouped.  This wall of fear had the desired effect, and slowed down Karl's attack enough for Tim’s monk to come in and help. With his leader surrounded, Karl chose to withdraw rather than risk his life. So, despite being very beat up, Tim's warband pulled victory from the slavering jaws of defeat. In the campaign resolution, Tim’s tourist died of his wounds, and his warband caught an illness after a botched role on the exploration table.  Karl warband came upon a cursed glade in their own encounter, but emerged away unscathed.

The second battle saw Bishop Stuka’s crusaders facing off against Joe’s Men at Arms. Joe was able to successfully sequester his leader within a stone cottage, while keeping his warband in range to be take advantage of his leadership and defend him from attack. This strategy allowed Joe to win through against the crusaders. As a part of the exploration, Karl’s crusaders sacked an Evil temple and escaped with a portion of the temple’s gold for their trouble before heading again down secret paths, with "secret tales, that would make your blood run cold." (Robert W. Service)

…Old Harba... he knows...

-- Jon, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

The Grimy Jewel Campaign: Session 4 Report

Here's the action from a recent session of our Song of Blades & Heroes campaign, written in glorious narrative fashion by new club member Joe!

In retaliation for last harvest season's peasant uprising instigated by Bishop Stuka's outlaws none less than Burggraf Wallenstein of Vildeburg himself dispatched Ritter Ludvig VonDraken to bring the holy man and misguided followers to heel. Ritter VonDraken's lads pursued the fleeing cleric to a questionable tavern on the edge of town.

"How many peasant hovels did we torch during the rebellion?" the knight asked the other armored horseman. Custrel Berndt Schnitzel only smiled grimly and nodded in response. "War without arson...is like sausage without mustard!" bellowed VonDraken. "Fetch your tinderbox, boy, we'll make up firebrands!"

The page-boy, Willi, rapidly set about the task, and soon every knight had a burning torch in hand. Confidently they marched directly towards the inn, except for Custrel Schnitzel. He galloped his horse on a wide left flank, flaming brand casting twisted shadows on the derelict houses.

Just as VonDraken and his three halberdiers passed under an arch, the Bishop sprung his trap!

Three outlaw knights rushed from the shadows and hacked VonDraken from his horse, and the rest of the Bishop's men poured from the inn like rats from a sewer. Some of the leaderless soldiers began to edge away...but not Berndt Schnitzel. The Custrel was no coward! He would show those bastards how to burn a building down! Just as Schnitzel rounded the corner, torch in hand, he noticed a glowing halo about the priest's head as the old fool kept babbling some prayer... The mounted knight's jaw went slack and as his eyes began to roll Ridley Boughdodger rode up and knocked the Custrel from his horse and into unconsciousness.

One of VonDraken's crossbowmen managed to send a quarrel whistling through Brother Roberto's robe, knocking him down. But when the henchmen saw both armored horsemen go down, things began to unravel. One of the crossbowmen, a weakling from Vildeburg no doubt, soiled himself and ran off crying. Willi fell back with the standard trying to rally the faltering warband upon him.

The Bishop's three knights, Sires Chopenblok, Dogget and Hakkenslosh, pressed VonDraken's halberdiers, knocking one to the ground. Being tough mountaineers from the Valkenrath Palisades, they refused to yield. "Spank me with your distaff again, granny," the fallen man jeered. "I seen yer mum's arse," shouted another. Junker Monika Frohlich, now in command, had seen enough. "Retreat, run like hell!" came the cry.

-- Joe, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member