Thursday, July 23, 2015

Terrain for Mattias, Part 1: The Negotiation

There's a lot of painting talent in our club. One member in particular has a very unique style that I like a lot. Mattias's approach has a palette and look that is quite unlike most other painters. You can see it on his less-than-accurately titled Amateur Hour blog.

When it came time for Necromunda, I really wanted him to paint my Eschers for me. I simply don't have the skill to paint these amazing miniatures in a satisfactory way. However, knowing his schedule, and my inability to pay him what his skill would deserve, I knew I would have to make a big offer.

I convinced him to accept two Macross models, a mess of custom terrain and use of the Eschers in the our Necromunda campaign in exchange for him painting up a 14-member Escher gang. In a few weeks we should be able to see the entire gang (his starting warband is already finished, and some are in this post), but today I will present my half of the bargain.

The rocks are seat cushion foam, torn by hand and then painted black with drybrushes of brown and bamboo.

A few of them have tunnels running under them. The piece near the middle with the monster on it was cut from the piece in the upper right with an electric carving knife. It perfectly matches and can be used separately or together to make a taller piece.

I hadn't though much about it, but Mattias showed me how they can be combined for some cool looking formations.

The buildings below are made with my typical methods of Dremeling away any sections I don't want, then covering the resulting openings and details I don't like with corrugated cardboard and sci-fi bits, plus lots of additional greebling. These first two in particular have lots of nice junky bits in the receptacles. Feel free to ask any construction-related questions in the comments section.

The first two buildings are similar in style, both based on Thomas and Friends railway buildings. I've painted them similarly and made them into a sort of recycling center.

I'm particularly proud of the spot on the back where minis can be placed in a lookout.

This second piece is more like two buildings on the same base.

I've cut away the chute that once connected them and put a dumpster in between them. A few bits on the other side implies a covered trash compactor.

This third building is a stock model from Dust Tactics Airfield Quonset Hut Accessory Pack with an added smokestack.

I really think that 28mm wargamers owes it to themselves to buy a box of these. About $20 will get you 4 incredibly useful buildings that can fit into any setting from 1941 through the far future. They even have opening doors! I've also found them useful as roofs on top of Dust Tactics Warzone Tenement buildings.

The final building is a converted Fisher Price toy.

I removed a window to allow access to the upper story and added a bit of machinery inside.

I also removed a variety of other parts and bracing from the boom and bucket to make the area accessible to miniatures.

An added shelf makes the upper first story window a nice lookout.

I was so happy with this one that I didn't want to let it go, so imagine my joy at finding another one at the resale shop a few weeks ago! I'm eagerly awaiting the completed Escher gang, though I will have to wait until the end of the campaign to take possession. When they're ready, I'll post them up and you all can judge if I made a good bargain.

-- Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Grimy Jewel Campaign: Session 1 Report

It's summer in Chicago, which means we're getting our annual fantasy campaign underway once again. A vibrant fantasy campaign has been a hallmark of CSW since its inception back in 2010. As in years past, we're sticking with Song of Blades & Heroes as our primary ruleset, though some games may be played with other rulesets such as Kings of War and Open Combat.

We decided to set this year's campaign in the city of Vildeburg itself. Dubbed "the Grimy Jewel of Qaarra," the medieval city of Vildeburg is home to all manner of warbands, each one plotting and scheming to gain profit and advantage over the others.

Ironically, though, our first session took place, not in Vildeburg, but far afield in the foothills of the Valkenwrath Palisades. See, one of our members has apparently had enough of Chicago's bitter cold and endless snow, so Mattias (of the excellent Amateur Hour blog) will be relocating to sunny Hawaii in a few short weeks. To send him off in style, we quickly threw together a scenario featuring a full-scale incursion of Qaarra by an invading force of pale, dead-eyed warriors from the Wyrdwold.

The Wyrdwold, of course, is Mattias's homebrew setting, into which he has poured voluminous amounts of creativity over the course of many months and years. It was a real treat, then to see him deploy a huge force of diverse miniatures from his Wyrdwold collection onto our battlefield for the scenario.

Arrayed against Mattias's Wyrdwold warrior (roughly 1,000 points in Song of Blades & Heroes parlance) were three allied warbands: Josh's Dark Mariners, Terrence's Nameless Orcs, and Karl's Holy Warriors. Their job was to stymie the advance of the Wyrdwolders, who were pouring out of a spectral, half-glimpsed cleft 'twixt a pair of ethereal hills that served as a portal between the Wyrdwold and Qaarra.

In this pic, the Nameless horde surges over a bridge while the Dark Mariners negotiate a river in the background. Karl's holy warriors are on the far right, also about the cross the stream.

Here's a closer look at the Dark Mariners. These are newly painted, from the DeepWars game line.

Just a mess of tentacles and spearguns, wherever you looked.

In game terms, this was a pretty big game. Karl, Josh and Terrence fielded roughly 1400 points among them, and Mattias's faction received one free random monster at the start of each turn, to represent oddities from the Wyrdwold slipping through the astral portal and wreaking havoc on the opposing warbands.

On the first turn of the game, Josh's siren cast a weather spell, and a fearsome rainstorm began scouring the battlefield. As it happened, a fearsome rainstorm soon swept into Chicago, so we were able to do a little live-action roleplay later in the evenings as everyone ran out to their cars. But in the game, the rainstorm had a few measurable effects: it reduced line of sight and limited all shooting to the shortest range band. This proved important during a few key engagements!

Here's a glimpse of the battlefield as the lines edged closer together. In the mid-ground, the gigantic beast with its fists upraised is a scarp dweller from the Wyrdwold, newly arrived and mad as hell about it.

And in this pic, two mounted warriors crashed into the Dark Mariners' line in a glorious cacophony of clanging metal and slishing tentacles. In the foreground, missile troops pour fire into the periphery of the fight.

Karl's holy warriors got a bit mauled in this game. What do you expect from a group of barefoot peasants led by clerics and paladins! Here they are advancing toward a truly gruesome skirmish line of demons and mutants. That octopus is probably fleeing as fast as his little tentacles can slither.

Here's another look at the battlefield. Individual fights were breaking out all over the map as the warbands tried to flank and out-flank each other.

Oh yeah -- either Mattias or I killed Josh's siren a few turns into the game, so there was no way to turn off the rainstorm spell. It continued to rain uncontrollably for the rest of the game! OK, more pics of the action. I lost track of what was happening at this point. Maybe you can piece together the narrative from these pics.

As you can see from the pics, it was a wonderful way to spend a few hours, and a totally fitting send-off for Mattias. As it turned out, his hollow-faced raiders were driven from the battlefield, back through the thrice-cursed gateway and into the Wyrdwold, where they will presumably lick their wounds and sulk mightily.

This was an odd scenario for our first session. Next game we'll hew a bit more closely to our theme for "The Grimy Jewel." For now, I'll just leave you with one final pic from the game, showing the eventual fate of Karl's bishop guy.

Until next time!

-- Patrick, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Friday, July 10, 2015

Fully Painted: DeepWars Dark Mariners

I picked these fantastic DeepWars Dark Mariner miniatures up at Adepticon in 2014. I started painting them right away, but never finished them as other projects came up. However, Pat has been pestering me for a while to finish them, so I decided to make it happen. These guys were an excuse to use all sorts of fun colors I never get to use normally.

This is the Vanguard Captain. He is a fun, dynamic sculpt, and has a really weird weapon. I tried to use a small color palette with common themes to bring the group together. All tentacles are purple with pink suckers. Shells are goldenrod. Armor is mostly tarnished brass.

This is the Annihilator Biomech. It is one of two resin models in this group. I painted the "power crystals" on his arm in a glossy teal with layers of iridescent medium to make them sparkle a bit.

Here is the Cephalid Scientist. The crystal on his staff is painted the same way as the others, and he also has a weird gun.

The is the Siren of the Deep. It's another fun, dynamic pose -- probably my favorite model in this group. I pinned her so that she appears to be floating over the base.

Here is a close-up. I really love the way her face turned out. You can also see a hint of the metallic purple base coat that all these models started with.

This is the Raider Cavern Crawler. I really like this guy too...he is just so creepy.

The Cephalid Scavengers are basically little crab thieves. I think the Cephalid Scientist can conjure them for assistance.

Here we have the Vanguard Marine, with (you guessed it) another weird weapon. I think this is my least favorite sculpt.

I believe this Deepspawn Reaver was human at one point. He is huge compared to the other humanoids in this group. Scale creep!

The Octopod Biomech is basically an octopus with a gun for a head. Who wouldn't want to paint a sculpt like that?

Here's the other resin sculpt: the Cephalid Biomancer. Yep, it's another dude made out of tentacles. He has a shell hat and is carrying a little octopus pal. He reminds me a little of Orko from He-Man.

These two shots show some of the base detail. I chose to keep the highlights minimal, and added small areas of lightly blue tinged water to make them pop. Overall, I am very happy with these minis and I'm glad Pat bugged me until I finished them. Look for them on the table during our upcoming summer Song of Blades and Heroes campaign!

-- Josh, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Dogs & The Dust: Dead Man Walking

Last week we gathered at Games Plus for our regular game night. Due to the availability of tables, our merry band was a bit scattered, and tucked away in the back corner were Josh and I, setting up for a game of The Dogs & The Dust, the sci-fi ruleset from the paint-addled mind of fellow club member Mattias.

We've played it a few times now, each time exploring a bit more of the game's design space. With this game, though, we decided to try a scenario. It occurred to me that the default mode of play for TD&TD (scavengers looting a battlefield) is a perfect way to game STALKER (that peculiar, post-apocalyptic video game that is just ripe with tabletop possibilities). Here's the setup for our scenario:

Dead Man Walking
Derzhensko Exclusion Zone
Area: Akulinin Industrial Sector

Once again, the lure of loot and artifacts in the Derzhensko Exclusion Zone has proven too strong. Two teams, outfitted and equipped to scavenge and survive in the harsh conditions of the area, crept into the ruins of the Akulinin industrial plant. A fortune in decrepit loot was scattered around the facility -- if the two crews could survive long enough to turn a profit.

I schlepped a plastic tub full of terrain (plus my gorgeous Zuzzy mat) up to Games Plus and set up a compact little 3x3 foot tabletop battlefield. In the center was a sprawling industrial complex (terrain created by fellow club member Karl) around which were strewn six objective markers. Our task was to explore and secure these objective markers -- but a random encounter table meant that each objective could hold both plunder and terror in (un)equal parts. Here are a couple:

Josh and I deployed on opposite table edges. He fielded his Wreck-Age Reclaimers, and I was trying out my newly painted Russian scavengers from Lead Adventure Miniatures.

Each figure in my crew has his own name -- written in Russian, of course. Here are Igor and Pavel gearing up to explore the zone.

As the game began, Josh advanced his Reclaimers and seized the first objective. One lousy encounter roll later, he found himself surrounding by fleshy, wet, glistening mutants, the result of some experiment gone terribly awry.

Not to be outdone, Volodya the Russian scavenger poked around a heap of abandoned equipment and drew the ire of a pack of mutants as well, eager to devour his flesh.

At this point, we realized that the scenario could really benefit from a gamemaster. Combat in TD&TD consists of a series of opposed rolls, so it was really a lot of extra work to basically insert a third faction (the  mutants) into the gameplay without a third player to roll the dice and move the mans. I would finish my turn, then play the zombies while they attacked Josh, then he would play the other zombies while they attacked me, etc. Just a lot of dice rolling. Not a shortcoming of the game, more like an oversight in the scenario.

Anyway, back to the action. Seeing that Volodya was in trouble, Zhenya unlimbered his double-barreled shotgun and waded into the fray, peppering the mutants with buckshot.

While I occupied myself fighting off the mutant incursion, Josh was busy securing objectives. We rolled randomly to see how loot and mutants each objective would contain, and the dice were definitely in his favor. Here is an objective that spat out one measly mutant while accounting for a huge chunk of victory points.

Meanwhile, my guys were having trouble securing even one objective.

Eventually we got close enough to begin exchanging fire with each other (in spite of the mutants). The end came when the Reclaimers caught Igor, the leader of my crew, all alone out in the open. He was trying to jimmy the lock on these computer cores and didn't even see the Reclaimers coming. Oh well!

But it was all in good fun, since Josh and I had a fun game of The Dogs & The Dust. This was something of a milestone for me, as it was my first regular game night since becoming a father three months ago. It was great to get back in the saddle! You'll see more of me on the blog, too.

-- Patrick, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member