Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Game Day & Benefit for Sean

Our friend Sean Atkins, owner of Brainstorm Comics in Chicago, was recently diagnosed with cancer, so mark your calendars for Sept. 12, when you'll have a great opportunity to play games, buy stuff and support Sean at his upcoming benefit.

The event -- which will feature games run by several Chicago Skirmish Wargames club members -- starts at noon Saturday, Sept. 12 at Brainstorm Comics, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave., Suite 321 (that's the third floor of the Flatiron Building). They'll have raffle tickets for $1 (drawings held every half hour) as well as demos of board games and miniature games. Also: baked goods!

Email Matt at matthewsears81@gmail.com to buy raffle tickets or if you have any questions about the benefit. If you just want to support Sean, click here for his GiveForward page. Otherwise, if you're in Chicago, we'll see you on Sept. 12!

Necromunda Campaign: Lower Wacker Hive, Session #3

Last month, while Josh and Pat and were playing The Dogs & The Dust, Ian and I put together a Necromunda game. Ian's Delaque "Spectres" faced off against my Van Saar "Fjord's Folly."

On the right flank, Fjord led half his gang across a viaduct.

On the opposite side, the Spectres advanced through some ruined habs.

The Delaque didn't stay in the habs for long, and with the support of their heavy stubber, they quickly seized the center of the board.

Unfortunately for them, the center of the board was also prime pickings for Gunborg and his hunting rifle.

Back on the right flank, the Spectres and the Folly battled back and forth. Eventually the Folly pushed the Spectres back.

Though the Folly were successful, it was a somewhat hollow victory. Injured juve "Ove" was captured by the Spectres and promptly sold to slavers. Despite Fjord's Folly's ongoing string of bad luck, I'm continuing to enjoy this campaign. The rules, opponents, figures, terrain and scenarios have all been great! What more could a gamer want?

-- Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Fully Painted: Flesh Mutants and Sci-Fi Objective Markers

A couple of months ago I was on a big STALKER kick -- playing the game every evening and browsing some of the excellent, inspiring work that folks are doing on the tabletop to bring this oddball genre to life.

Along the way I uncovered a pile of Sedition Wars Strain figures that I had acquired from Karl last year and promptly forgot about. I decided to give them a quick and dirty paintjob so they can serve as mutants and/or rad zombies for my post-apocalyptic games.

I used just three colors for the figures -- flesh tone, army drab for the pants, and a couple spots of yellow to highlight the weeping sores on the bodies. Then, of course, they got the dip, which brought everything together nicely. They won't win any awards, but they don't look half bad for an evening's work. You can see more pics of the mutants in action in our recent battle report.

Along with the mutants, I also finished off a half dozen resin objective markers. Originally designed and sold for Dystopian Wars, the markers are like little mini-dioramas with all sorts of nifty details, perfect for sci-fi or post-apocalyptic games.

That's it for now -- back to the workbench!

-- Patrick, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Frostgrave: Battle in the Ruins

Last week I found time to try out Frostgrave, the new skirmish game from Osprey that's currently burning up my internets. I mean c'mon -- the game recently got its own sub-forum on Lead Adventure Forum, and you know they don't just give those out like peanuts.

The game itself has a fairly narrow focus. It's all about wizards leading bands of soldiers, mercenaries and treasure hunters into the ruins of a once-great city in search of priceless loot. The official flavor of the game envisions the city as snow-encrusted and crawling with all manner of frigid beasties, but I'm already committed to my own ruined fantasy terrain set, which is not snowy but works just fine in a pinch.

In fact, I was very pleased to see how well our terrain meshes with my new cobblestone battle mat. It's a printed fabric product from Cigar Box Battle Mats, featuring scattered turf poking up through a field of cobblestones. The turf happens to match my own standard flock pretty well, as you can see in the pics.

We set up a basic three-player scenario. Karl brought his liturgical warband, with Bishop Stuka playing the role of soothsayer wizard and leading a band of pitchfork-wielding peasants. Josh fielded a pair of wild druids (witches, in the game) backed up by mercenaries and thieves. I went with a necromancer leading a group of thugs and men-at-arms.

(Side note: Frostgrave assumes fairly human-centric warband composition, with typical soldier profiles such as "thug" and "tracker," but it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to add a little more flavor to this baseline treatment. You know: a band of elves escorting a mage into the ruins of the ancient library, or a wight sorcerer leading some skeletons on a smash-and-grab at the old mausoleum.)

We deployed 9 treasure tokens (3 for each player) per the game rules. We played on a 4x4 foot table, a bit larger than the recommended 3x3 tabletop, but I thought it wouldn't matter since we were playing a three-player game.

The game began with each warband filtering into the ruined city and angling for the closest treasure tokens (represented by barrels and chests in these pics).

My own warband got a little bottled up at the outset, which took a turn or two to get sorted out.

My treasure hunter ended up scaling an overgrown tower to secure some treasure on the ramparts. A nifty aspect of Frostgrave is that, unless otherwise specified, all terrain is assumed to be scalable. That really helped reinforce the "treasure hunters!" part of the game, as any figure can climb a wall or tree or ruined tower in search of loot.

As he was scrambling up the sheer wall, Karl's bishop cast wizard eye, a spell which allows the wizard to place a token somewhere on the board, which can then be used to draw line of sight for spells -- effectively giving the wizard a secondary perspective on the battlefield.

Here is the wizard eye, hoving atop the ramparts while my treasure hunter investigates the barrel. I kept waiting for Karl to shoot lightning bolts out of the eye, but he didn't have any shooty spells, just buffs and debuffs.

Elsewhere, Josh's druid and apprentice split up to advance on two separate treasure tokens. This proved to be a good strategy, as Josh was able to seize both without much resistance.

Frostgrave uses d20s for combat and task resolution. While some have criticized the system as being too 'swingy,' I found it somewhat refreshing. The potential for a total blowout was real (especially when using the optional critical hit rule) but that's OK -- no one wants to spend hours and hours playing a skirmish game with 10 figures per side.

Eventually Karl and I met in the center of the table near some treasure tokens. He got there before me, though, so I had to send my warhound and apprentice racing ahead of the rest of my team to try and stop him.

My guys kept his foot troops at bay, but eventually he prised away the barrel and began dragging it off the board. Nearby, his guys tumbled over a shattered pillar to seize an other treasure token.

But shortly afterward, as they were celebrating an early victory, Josh's druid swooped in and eviscerated them piece by piece.

That knight on the left side of the picture was really hoofing it, moving as fast as he could (carrying treasure cuts your move in half) but he was no match for the swift druid spellcaster.

My attempts to stymie Josh's advance were starting to bear fruit -- I raced my man-at-arms up to a treasure token while my wizard perched atop a ruined wall, ready to fling spells if needed. They were opposed only by Josh's warhound ....

But he proved more than capable in taking down the armored soldier. (I think a natural '20' was involved...) That left my wizard alone and exposed. Before he could retreat, Josh sent in a mercenary, and a few lucky dice rolls later, my wizard was toast.

Shortly afterward, we reached our time limit. Everyone had secured at least one treasure token (and Josh made off with THREE!). Even though this wasn't a campaign game, we decided to go through the post-game stuff to see whether or not our casualties survived and to figure out what treasure we had dredged forth from the ruins. As you can expect, this involved lots of rolling on random tables to determine exactly what we got. It was great fun!

This is definitely the strength of Frostgrave -- the old-school nature of the rules, which seems to offer a game experience that is by turns zany and unpredictable, often at the same time! I mean, this game literally has wandering monsters -- yes, please! We also liked that you only need to track experience for your wizard ... everyone else is expendable, for better or worse.

As others have pointed out, Frostgrave's rules engine and campaign system seems easy enough to exploit, but we don't play that way at Chicago Skirmish Wargames. Our games are flavorful and narrative experiences first and foremost. There is plenty of room to hang your own house rules onto the basic framework of the game to correct any mismatched expectations.

Doubtless we'll play this one again soon!

-- Patrick, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Grimy Jewel Campaign: Session 2 Report

"My first thought was, he lied in every word,
That hoary cripple, with malicious eye
Askance to watch the working of his lie" 
-- R. Browning

Three bands of warriors approached the barrow wastes cautiously. Unbeknownst to the others, each had been approached in the city of Vildeburg by a gnarled stranger clad in rags. Filthy bandages were wrapped haphazardly around a withered leg, and the figure had crabbed and lurched toward them across the cobblestones in horrible locomotion. Yellow eyes turned towards them, and the slit of a mouth opened from his ludicrously aged countenance. "Heard ye of the Eyes of Silence?" rasped the grotesque. "Old Harba himself … he knows…"  Lured by rumors of wealth untold, the warbands converged on the ruins and barrow mounds the dotted the hills just beyond the High Road to the Wilderlands, just southeast of Vildeburg.

Game 1
Tim, Joe, and Jon rolled the "Gemstone Hunt," an objective-based scenario with the goal to take and hold treasure placed throughout the ruins during setup. The warbands quickly advanced towards all four of the ‘Eyes of Silence’ gemstones hidden within the ruins and cairns. Tim’s forces were known (and avoided) far and wide as "Rufus’s Enduring Expedition" quickly advanced towards two of the ‘Eyes’ on the western end of the map, while Joe’s mounted captain, knight, and men-at-arms moved to claim the jewels on the eastern side. Jon’s warband "Caliban’s Cursed" found itself split and arrayed against both Tim and Joe’s forces. 

Caliban led a force of three skeleton warriors and another warrior (with a cursed visage like Caliban himself) into the western ruins and clashed against Rufus's minions. Broderick the Lightning Warrior and James the Gnome (calling him a lawn gnome to his face is not recommended) moved in and claimed the gemstone 'Eyes' before Caliban's Cursed could collect them. A fierce melee ensued -- Tim’s assassin Tindae struck with quick, silent slashes, and Niphrid the Autumnal Spellcaster summoned forth a Wall of Fear. Caliban’s mutant and skeletons shrugged off the attack with effort. Tim’s warrior Ebufurth the Caveman Berserker found himself surrounded by skeletons and was stuck down by the aptly named Slack-Jaw.

The skeleton Bonehead likewise dispatched Daichi the monk in a gruesome manner, causing much of Tim’s warband to disperse in disarray, with gemstones in tow. Caliban attempted to raise the berserker with necromantic arts, but was unable to do so before game's end.

On the eastern side of the ruins, Oinkos the flying mutant warthog was able to swoop in and gather both of the gemstones in the area over the course of several turns.

Fluffy the Giant Scorpion blocked ingress via a narrow path and faced off against Joe’s men-at-arms and crossbowmen. His armor deflected arrows and strikes alike for multiple turns and stalled forward advancement. Using Fluffy as a defensive front, Medusa hung back taking shots at billmen and knights while slowly advancing, but she was unable to pierce their armor.

Despite multiple knock downs, the scorpion only managed to slay a single billman in the broiling combat.  Rolling three failures on activation on his final roll ensured he was unable to remove any additional opponents and laid the foundation for his demise. Additional billmen and the mounted lord moved in each turn until the even the massive insect's reflexes were overwhelmed by multiple opponents.  Fluffy was severely damaged and slunk defeated from combat to nurse his wounds.

The same turn, Joe's billmen and knight were able to break through to Medusa. While shielding his eyes from her baleful glare, the knight was able to fatally pierce her scales, removing her as a threat

The end result found Tim in control of two gemstones, Joe with no gemstones but two kills worth seven victory points, and Jon with two gemstones and three kills totaling nine victory points, and leaving Jon in control of the scenario by only a couple of points. The giant scorpion will miss the next campaign round due to injuries, and Medusa will have to roll at the start of each game for how her "brain injury" will affect her performance during that battle. Should make for some interesting gameplay...

Old Harba's mad eyes gleamed with feverish guile watching the departing warbands. The Eyes of Silence loose again in the waking world?! "... Never ye mind the curse..."

Game 2
While the three-way melee was going on the other side of the table, Kevin and Karl faced off in an urban battle. The object of their game was to be the first to reach an alley in the center of town, read a vital clue and then deface the wall before the opponent could do the same. In this case, the alley was a small brambly patch between the local church and watchtower.

Though Kevin fielded some fearsome foes, victory would be mostly a matter of speed and maneuver. With a few lucky moves (or perhaps because the objective was next to a church) Karl's ecclesiastical followers rushed forward and filled the alley. Despite facing generally tougher foes, they managed to read the message and deface it before taking too many casualties.

For winning the scenario, they received the "Strange Map," which they can use in the future to modify an exploration roll. While exploring, they were ambushed but they fought bravely and slew an evil shaman. Unfortunately, luck was not entirely with them this week, and one of their angry townsfolk succumbed to his wounds. Though having lost two warriors, the Bishop's Crusade carries on in its quest to bring the light of truth to Qaarra.

-- Jon, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Monday, August 10, 2015

Fully Painted: Post-Apocalyptic Russian Scavengers

Earlier this year I decided to look into purchasing some select models from Ratnik Miniatures, a small-batch Russian manufacturer distributed by Lead Adventure Miniatures (and sold domestically here in the U.S. of A. by Cool Mini or Not). Imagine my surprise (and glee!) when I strolled over to CMON and saw that the entirety of their Lead Adventure Miniatures stock was on clearance!

I quickly pieced together an order, snapping up a half dozen packs of post-apocalyptic figures that I've been salivating over for years. Much of this stuff is inspired by the STALKER video games: lots of scrappy scavengers with gas masks and bandoliers and pieced-together military kit. Very heady, atmospheric stuff.

Anyway, the figures arrived and I set about painting up two batches of Russian scavengers, for a grand total of 10 guys. They're armed with simple 20th-century weapons -- no laser rifles here -- which fits perfectly with our post-apocalyptic games.

As an added bonus (and just to see if I could), I gave each guy a name, written in Russian along the base. Somewhere my college Russian professor is chuckling!

These guys already hit the table earlier this year in a game of The Dogs & The Dust. I'm sure they'll be a familiar sight on the wastelands for a long time to come!

-- Patrick, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

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