Saturday, December 9, 2017

SE Asian Jungle Ruins: Staircases, Statues, & Columns

A row of statues of ancient warriors being slowly reclaimed by the jungle
Here are some more jungle ruins I created for my upcoming Furgrave (Frostgrave:Ghost Archipelago) campaign. I'm really happy with how they turned out.  I decided to do some research into what a temple ruin looks like when found in the jungle to get some ideas for small pieces to scatter here and there about the board. I pulled out a book I'd bought long ago about Angkor Wat called, "Angkor: Heart of an Asian Empire" by Bruno Dagens. This small paperback has a wealth of paintings, sketches, and photographs of the Cambodian temple complex when Europeans first stumbled upon it. I grabbed a post-it note, and began to leaf through the pages, writing down notes like, "Lion on pedestal," "Row of warrior statues," "Staircase," "Pools," and "Bridge."

This 1995 book by Bruno Dagens was the inspiration for this batch of terrain

Next, I went through the various boxes and ziploc bags of figures and terrain items, waiting for inspiration to strike. I had the Hirst Arts plaster terrain that my friend Tim had given me earlier this year, which included lots of stone pediments of various sizes and shapes. I got the idea to assemble a staircase out of these. On either side of the staircase, I would have a statue on a pedestal. Looking through my lead animals, I found a pair of Iron Wind Metals 25mm lions. They were rearing and striking out with a paw and looked perfect for the part. I needed to make the steps wide enough that my 1" figure bases could fit on them, so I pulled a bunch of pieces out and decided on three steps. I decided that the jungle had overtaken whatever the staircase led to and would simple glue on foamcore and set various plants into it.

Construction done on the ruined staircase
It took only an evening's work to assemble the staircase, simultaneously doing the other three pieces below. I used Tacky Glue to hold the plaster pieces together, and epoxy for the lions atop their pedestals. I like how building it up with various layers of the pavement pieces gives it a worn and deteriorating look. You can see the blue foam core, which I trimmed to a slop with an X-acto knife behind the statues. Once assembled, I spraypainted the entire piece matte black.
The finished ruined staircase - note the model railroad bushes (pink, red, yellow) glued into the ruins itself before flocking.
Since spray paint never seems to get into all the crevices of plaster or resin terrain, I coated the entire piece with a 50/50 mix of acrylic black paint and water afterwards. It sat out to dry overnight, sinking into all the recesses and shrinkwrapping itself onto the stone cases. This made it easy for the next step, which was dry brushing. First came a medium gray dry brush, then a lighter gray in highlight areas. Then I turned to the foam. I pulled out a handful of wire small trees and shrubs from the model railroad terrain lines out there. I poke a hole in the foam and then filled it with Tacky glue. The wire stems were inserted into there.
Another picture of the staircase - I love the way the lion statues on either side set off this terrain piece!
The ground flocking came next. I painted the areas that would be covered by grass with white glue, sprinkling on Brown medium railroad ballast. This was followed up by a 50/50 glue and water coating on the ballast, which was sprinkled with Woodland Scenic Turf Earth. The next layer was more Woodland Scenics blended green turf. Finally, various pieces of clump foliage were glued to the ruin, in cracks in the pavement, leading up the sides to represent the advance of the jungle, and onto various pieces of stone.
The two rows of warrior statues assembled
I really liked the idea of a row of warrior statues on an extended pedestal -- perhaps used to line a walkway to a temple? However, I had no suitably scaled SE Asian figures (all of my Ancient SE Asian armies were in 15mm). When digging through my various bins of unpainted stuff I found a bag of plastic figures of warriors from different periods from history. I think they belong to a board game called "Mythology," maybe? Even though they weren't technically Asian, I thought they'd look good as statues.
Squirrel adventurers explore a temple complex guarded by a row of warrior statues
Once more I assembled the pedestals using Tim's generously donated Hirst Arts plaster blocks. I decided to go with two rows of 4 statues. I would base them as two separate pieces so I could either have them facing each other in an entrance way, or create one longer walkway. I used the identical method to prime, paint, and flock the two warrior rows. I was really happy with how they turned out. Now, I'm thinking I need to make a row of paving stones to create an overgrown walkway alongside the statues to really make the piece jump out on the tabletop!
This was perhaps the easiest of all four of the pieces to assemble -- the wooden pegs make great columns, I feel!
Finally, I thought of creating some random groups of columns to show portions of temples or buildings peeking through the jungle. I had in my previously purchased boxes a half dozen wide, wooden pegs that look for all the world like fluted columns. I decided to take more of the plastic figures from the Mythology game and place them atop the pedestals on the columns. More Hirst Arts plaster pieces, and some smaller bits atop the columns, and this piece was assembled and ready for painting.
Looming from the jungle, a row of 3 columns marks the location of an overgrown building to be explored
Painting and flocking was done identically as above. I am thinking that it would be neat to have a number of these types of pieces for the tabletop. It would be especially cool to have some pieces with random, tumbled columns, or broken statues on the ground. Definitely food for thought! An added bonus is that I purchased nothing for these pieces -- it was all stuff I had sitting around in my collection, in various drawers or closets.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Frostgrave Warband: Badgers!

I feel I am making good progress at getting my Frostgrave project closer to the tabletop and our first game. Tonight I finished up another warband -- Splintered Light Miniatures 28mm Badgers. These are some really nice figures, I feel. Unfortunately, four of them were the same pose. So, I put my skills to the test on making them look different. I think I did a pretty good job at giving them the appearance of variety.
The Badgers' Heritor leader, left, and their spellcasting Warden (and familiar) right
 First up, are the warband's leader (Heritor) and its Warden (spellcasters). The leader is the guy on the left with the giant morning star held over his head. Although the lighting in my photo doesn't show it, his surcoat is a deep purple. I actually snagged this miniature from my friend Keith Finn in a trade because it looked like the perfect leader figure for this warband. Alongside him is my favorite figure of the warband (or should I say figures?). I love this Badger pointing as if he's casting a spell or about to hurl a blast of magical energy towards an enemy. What makes it all the better is the tiny, unclothed badger in a mirror pose. This small badger was a giveaway from David McBridge of SLM, tossed into a purchase I made at a convention. What better figure for a tiny familiar than this one? As soon as I got these figures out in preparation for painting, I thought I had to put the two of them on a combined base. He has magical symbols painted on his lavender tunic, with the largest one on the back (which you can't see in this pic).
A Badger archer and axeman investigate my newly-produced ruins pieces looking for abandoned treasures
One of the modifications I did to the figures was add a bow strapped to the back of one of the Badger Axemen. As you can see in this picture, I did a very medieval looking surcoat over the armor that the figures wore. Some of the armor I painted in bronze mail, the others in steel chain. I gave them a checkered pattern on their surcoat, which I thought turned out fairly well. You probably can't tell from these iPhone images, but there is highlighting in each square, as well. The other badger, in yellow and black, was also slightly modified. I converted his double-bladed axe into a single-bladed one. I know, not the most labor-intensive modification, but it does give him a slightly different appearance. Hopefully, with the different color schemes they'll appear less uniform on the tabletop.
I converted the spearmen on the right from the axemen on the left - I like how it turned out!
Finally, the most fiddly of my conversions -- the spearman. I snipped off his axe and added a spearhead to the top and extended the axe handle to the base. It is every so slightly crooked, but then again, miniature spears made from soft metal often end up that way as wear and tear from using the figures! I like how the slight lean forward of the pose looks as if he's resting on the spear, supporting some of his weight. The red, white, and silver pattern is fairly medieval looking, and I like how it turned out, too. His companion axeman in blue and yellow is the only one of the four axe poses that is completely unmodified.

I'll be offering up this warband to my players to use in my Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago campaign. I definitely like how these figures look. They are some great examples of Splintered Light Miniatures quality poses and castings. Next up on the painting desk is some more terrain -- scratch-built ruins using the Hirst Arts block that turned out really nice!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Christmas ads for First Command Wargames

I had fun making these up -- Christmas advertisements that we plan to post on Facebook and other places. Hope you enjoy them!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Paleo Diet: Clever Use of Fire!

An idyllic day in Cave Man world...about to be shattered by man and his newest tool - fire!
So, we decided to try Paleo Diet again, now that we understood (or think we understand) the helpful benefits of fire when fending off the attacks of nasty beasts we are hunting. Each of the five players had two hunters and one dog. All of chose to have one of our guys armed with fire, while the some chose bows or spears for the other hunter. I decided to give a club a test, considering it was a +1 to hit creatures (the problem being you have to move into contact, unlike the spear which you can shoot at Short range and the bow at Long).
Objective Number One - a rocky outcrop with a pack of four sabertooth tigers
Keith set up a board with a rocky outcrop on one end -- the lair of a family of four sabertooth tigers. He said the predators had been snatching the tribe's infants and young, and the womenfolk had demanded we come back with their skins or no fun around the campfire tonight -- or any other night in the near future! Mike W and Allen were dispatch to tackle the sabertooths, while Joel, Mike S, and myself were to bring down some bison from a herd that had entered our hunting lands. The herd, we noticed, was being stealthily stalked by a shortnose bear and a pack of wolves. So, we would possibly have competition for the meat!
Objective Number Two - a herd of bison that had wandered into our hunting grounds (note the bear stalking them)
We're not 100% sure we're doing the reaction tests correctly, but the way we decided to play it was this:  (1) Hunter rolls his choice of 1, 2 or 3 dice to activate. (2) Any failures are immediately checked for reaction by the closest animals (two failures, two animals; one failure, one animal, etc.). (3) Hunter takes his successful actions, which the possibly triggers possible reactions. We had noticed in our first game that predators will not attack a hunter who is within 1 Medium with fire. So, as long as we don't get split up, our pair of hunters should be fairly invulnerable to attacks...right?
My two hunters, Og and Ugg (with fire) and their trusty hound approach the animals
Hard-luck Allen found out one flaw in our plan immediately. He failed on his first two attempts at activation, prompting the charge by two hyenas who were outside of Medium, but inside of a Long distance. Allen dispatched one and chased off the other, which set the tone for the evening. We were wildly more successful than our first attempt at hunting prehistoric big game. My group ended up being the most successful of them all. Keith had handed me two fairly troglodyte looking figures, which I named Og and Ugg. We snuck through an area of brush (flaming brand in hand), which scattered some woodland creatures and a startled the bison when we emerged from the patch of woods. However, Joel and Mike were in position and we began a game of ping pong, spooking the bison in a circle between our three bands which had surrounded them.
Dashing forward, Og and Ugg strike down a bison with their clubs -- meat on the menu for this evening!
On my next turn, I charged into contact with the first bison and ka-THUNK! Two clubs came down on it and bison burgers were on the menu for the evening! Og, Ugg, and their pooch proceeded to take down three bison. After the hound dispatched the third one, he began howling in celebration, which lasted for three turns (three straight turns of 3 failures on my dice -- ha, ha!). Meanwhile, Og and Ugg decided to go help Allen and Mike W with the sabertooths. We spooked a pachyderm off with our fire, then closed within a good "lope" distance (Long). On my next turn, I rolled two successes for activation, again. We charged in and thwacked the big cat (they're not really felines, are they...?) on its noggin. Both Og and Ugg hooted in celebration. Not only would they enjoy lots of good bison for dinner, but their women would be happy and they would be able to partake in dessert, too!
My hunters pummel a second bison into dreamland, while the hound drags down another
All in all, we were very successful as hunters this time around. No dead humans, though one hound was savaged and killed by a sabertooth. Perusing the rules afterwards, we began to wonder if we were doing it wrong. We were uncertain if the animals are supposed to test reaction after every activation our hunters take. So, if Og gets 3 successes, does he do one activation, then check for reactions before doing his next one? Keith said he would check the FAQ and find out. Otherwise, we are getting a good idea why man was able to become the dominant species!
Elated with our success, we track down and kill a sabertooth tiger, too -- Og and Ugg are unstoppable!

SE Asian Jungle Ruins

Splintered Light Miniatures with Hirst Arts ruins pieces flocked to represent overgrown jungle terrain
Earlier this year, a friend of mine, Tim Peaslee, very generously handed me a box of Hirst Arts plaster pieces of ruins, caverns, boxes, barrels, etc. I quickly painted up the boxes for this year's "That's My USAid!" scenario using my Wars of Insurgency modern skirmish rules. When I decided to begin my Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago campaign, I pulled the box back out and sorted through the pieces. I organized them by size and the full scale of Tim's generosity finally sunk in. There were a LOT of pieces, here!
A couple merged photos showing what I called the "Single Pieces" -- roughly 1 inch square
I decided to paint up some of them as broken down and overgrown ruins of various temples, palaces, or other stone buildings. There were three basic sizes, and at least two different styles within each size. There were what I called the "Single Pieces" -- small, square ruins pieces about one inch (25mm) square. First, I glued them to a square of styrene or bass wood. Then, I spray painted them flat black. Once dry, I went over the black thoroughly in a 50/50 mixture of glue and water -- my typical method for painting resin terrain. A dark gray then dark dry brush followed. After flocking the bases, I added Woodland Scenic clump foliage to show the ruins beginning to be overrun by the jungle.
The Double Pieces measuring roughly 1"x2"
The Double Pieces were about 1"x2" rectangular sections of crumbled ruins. One of the styles included the stump of a tree growing out of the wall. This was particularly appropriate since you see that time and again in SE Asian ruined temples such as Angkor Wat, in Cambodia.
The Large, roughly 1.5"x3" pieces
Finally, there were the Large Ruins pieces, which measured roughly 1.5"x3". There were two main styles, both of which had a tree stump growing out of them. I suppose I could have hunted and found a tree to fit on the stump and have it be a live tree, but I wanted to keep these pieces quick and simple. They did paint up very quickly. Just as much time was spent flocking the bases as was on prepping, priming, and dry brushing them. They did not take long to paint up, and felt they looked great. The clump foliage glued onto the stones themselves really give them an overgrown look.

Next up is another batch of ruins created with Tim's Hirts Arts. Here I will be assembling pieces to recreate a crumbled down staircase, gallery of statues, and section of columns with statues atop them. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

SE Asian Temples: Two Smaller Temples & a Stupa

Originally built for my 28mm Pulp campaign, these temples will find use in my upcoming Frostgrave one, as well!
This will finish out my SE Asian temples built earlier for my Pulp campaign. For the full thread on how I built them, please check out Southeast Asian Temples (actually, eight separate blog entries -- here's a link to the first):
I like how these scratch-built temples are mostly made from various bits and pieces that I picked up at the craft store.
These two temples are a great size. I can really see them coming in handy for my Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago campaign. Expect treasure counters to be located in them regularly!
The second temple, a twin of the first, with Pulp explorers posing in front of it for a photo op
Printed interiors look the part, I felt, and add that extra bit over an all black or blank inside

Round Stupa
A common feature of SE Asian archeological sites are these round stupas, that look for all the world like a giant, stone tea bell sitting on a platform. They are usually solid state with a relic of the Buddha inside. However, being a fantasy/Pulp piece of terrain they HAVE to feature a hidden entrance into the interior (where doubtless great treasure is secreted away!).
A round paper mache box, a craft food finial, some beads, stone spray and voila! A SE Asian stupa!
The upper portion pulls off of its base to reveal a hidden chamber!

SE Asian Temples: The Forbidden Temple

Scratch-built SE Asian temple (warrior statue is from a pet store "lizard aquarium" section)
Here are pictures of what I call the Forbidden Temple. This is also a big temple -- the biggest part being the statue from the "lizard terrain" section of a pet store. To read the blog entries about how it was constructed, go to my blog post on it ("The Forbidden Temple"):
The friezes on the sides are actually are downloaded and printed out on a color laser printer from an Architectural website, and depict Angkor Wat
I called it the Forbidden Temple because it was the one I used in my series of Pulp games in which adventurers were looking for the Eye of the Buddha (found inside). It will see new action on the tabletop when I begin my Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago campaign soon.
Another shot of the paper friezes glued onto the temple's sides
The interior of the Forbidden Temple - also printed patterns

Monday, November 27, 2017

SE Asian Temples: The Big Temple

Three quarter view showing the entire temple
 Here it is, the grand-daddy of all my SE Asian temples that I have built (so far...?). I call it simply, The Big Temple. Creative, isn't it?
Detailed shot of the roof of The Big Temple
Photo of the interior of the temple with the printed architectural patterns

View of the entrance to the temple and the styrene brick pattern sheet and Hirst Arts blocks entranceway
Anyway, to read how I created it, you'll have to go back to the original thread from 2014: "Snowed In? Build a Temple!" It may seem strange that I am duplicating the finished photos here, but...sigh...there is a reason. My previous image hosting site, Photobucket, has decided to charge more than $400 for "third party hosting" -- in other words, "hot-linking." That's when you upload a photo to their site and link back to it on another, such as a blog. Why Photobucket is essentially committing business suicide, I don't know. No one that I know of will pay that ridiculous amount when there are perfectly sensible free options. Such as a Google blog!

New Warband for Frostgrave: Pine Martens

The Pine Marten warband using Splintered Light Miniatures
I am continuing my preparation to begin running Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago for the Sunday night gaming group. I am painting up warbands for the players using Splintered Light Miniatures' line of 28mm animals. This warband uses figures from their Pine Marten line. I have to admit, I had never heard of a pine marten before I bought the figures a number of years ago. Apparently, they are a type of weasel more common in Europe.

Each warband will consist of 5 figures, but I will usually be painting up a sixth one for some variety and player choice. This is half the size of a standard Frostgrave player force, but we have a pretty big crew on Sunday nights, so I am worried about games taking too long. Another local group ran a Frostgrave campaign with smaller warbands, as well, and everyone seemed to have a good time, I hear.
The Pine Marten's Heritor, left, and Warden.
The leader of each force is called a Heritor in Ghost Archipelago. He has magical powers, but is often a skilled warrior, as well. His family bloodline has remained pure tracing ancestry back to those that drank at the magical Crystal Pool, which explains his greater powers. The figure above on the left is the one I plan on being the Heritor (although the player who uses them is free to choose a different one, I guess). I gave his chain and plate armor bronze with gold highlights. The fur pattern is probably the one I think turned out best of the group. Meanwhile, the Heritor's assistant is a spellcaster called a Warden. These wizards learn elemental type magic -- based off of water, air, earth, etc. They are not allowed to wear armor or carry shields (but are free to use whatever weapons they choose). So, this figure with a halberd and billowing cloak worked great, I thought. It his hard to tell in the photo, but the cloak is painted in four bands of colors -- pink, burnt orange, red-brown, and dark brown. A wizard has to have a fancy cloak, right?
Two Pine Marten warriors -- one with a morning star and the other with an axe and bow strapped to his back
Next up is a group of ordinary soldier types. The SLM Pine Martens do not come with any archers or missile troops. I decided that I would modify a figure in this case as an archer in case players want missile troops. I thought about cutting off the axe, drilling out the hand, and then inserting a box. However, I am not very good at converting figures. So, I decided to simply glue a bow to the figures back. It is much more noticeable if I turn the right-hand figure around to see the backside, but I was happy with how it came out. The left-hand figure with the morning star turned out well, too, I thought. I especially liked how the pattern on his tunic looks.
Two more SLM Pine Marten warriors
There is not a lot of variety in the SLM Pine Marten figures, so you'll notice duplication here. The left-hand figure is a repeat of the axeman above, while the swordsman is the same pose as the Heritor. Although I love the SLM line of animals, that is one drawback of some of the creature types. Some have only a few poses, some more, some even less. So, it's probably a good thing that I went with the smaller warbands! I would have had to do a LOT more figure modification otherwise.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Going on a Paleo Diet

The highlight of the evening was Allen's spirited, but ultimately unsuccessful, battle with a sabretooth tiger
Keith has always has a penchant for the prehistoric, staging dinosaur hunt games for us over the years. With the release of Ganesha Games Paleo Diet: Eat or Be Eaten rules, he set up a game where we take on the role of cavemen from the same tribe on a hunt, trying to bring home the bacon. Each of us had 3 hunters and a hound, and we were dispersed around the table. Various giant and herd grazers were scattered across the table, along with 3 predators -- a pack of wolves, a giant weasel, and a sabretooth tiger.
My hunters -- two with spear and one with bow -- set out with our trusty hound to hunt some really big game
As it turned out, only the sabretooth got into the game. Keith's hunters fled from the wolves, and the weasel took one look at the firebrand that Joel's hunters were carrying and ducked off the table. Allen, who loves to see how things work in a game and will do things that are unwise on the face of it -- just to see what happens, moved his band to attack the sabretooth. I decided to go for easier kills, and climbed a steep hill to stalk a family of Macrauchenias -- which looked to me like a cross between a giraffe and a tapir. There were six of us players, and we all set out after the animals once the game began.
My hunters close in on a family of Macrauchenias, targeting the young one in the center
Paleo Diet has a clever game mechanism in which the animals activate either when players do certain triggers (such as moving within a certain distance, pelting them with arrows or spears, bringing fire within a Long distance, etc.). They also react on activation failures by the players figures. I proved my dominance at bad die rolling, once again. Deep into the game, I had managed to roll more "1's" than the other five numbers on the dice combined!
First kill! Our hound brings down the young one (don't be sad -- no actual animals were harmed in the staging of this game)
This led to a somewhat frustrating part of the game of closing with animals only to have them amble away. Luckily, we had surrounded the board, and pushing a herd away from you meant that they were coming closer to another one of us. I managed to close in on the Macrawhatevers and my dog brought down a baby one. Meat for the campfire tonight! This panicked the parents who fled further up the forested slope. With my horrible movement rolls, I knew I'd never catch them. So, I turned around to go for a herd of giant tapirs who had fled from other hunters to a position within range of my hunters.
Stampeding animals create a traffic jam as our hunters spooked them, making herds run back and forth across the board
Meanwhile, Allen bravely closed in on the sabretooth and engaged it in melee. He caused one wound on it, but had a hunter wounded, too, in the exchange. The sabretooth roared (causing morale checks) which caused most of his hunters -- except for the wounded one, oops -- back off. That unfortunate act of bravery doomed him and there was one less mouth to feed in our tribe. At this point, Allen decided the herbivores tasted better, anyway, and switched targets.
Six hunter bands meant for a slower-moving game than would probably be normal
It was a fun game, and could EASILY be played solo. The animals react entirely by rolling a table and triggers by the players. The game did move a little slow with six players (and each of us having 3 hunters and a hound). However, smaller groups or fewer players would solve that. Of course, a little less poor rolling (fewer activation failures) might make it go faster, too! Still, we killed a tapir, a couple macarenas, and one other beastie that I forget about. A fun evening, channeling our distant ancestors and their attempts to hunt enough to keep from starving, all the while eluding those that would eat us!
Another herd of animals flees towards us, providing my band with fresh targets