Monday, August 20, 2018

The Ride of the Men of Goddodin

Lord Gwendawg summons his forces to meet the Roman invader
Messengers riding on tired steeds brought word that men were marching on Gododdin. It strained belief, but the word was they were Romans -- returned to Britain to claim it as their own, again. Lord Gwendawg, Shield of Gododdin, scoffed at the idea of the past coming to life again. Surely, they were another Briton kingdom claiming the mantle of Roman rule -- or another trick by the Saxons to seize yet more land. So, the good Lord Gwendawg called out his hearthguard, who mounted their steeds and put on their mail, his warriors, who shouldered their shields and struck their javelins against their oaken faces to show they were ready to repel marauders yet again. Calling up bowmen of the local levy, Lord Gwendawg marched to meet these "Romans," and send them reeling from the lands of the British kingdom of Gododdin.
Some of my 28mm Dark Age troops from various manufacturers, assembled as a Welsh Saga army
We had been talking about doing Saga as a group for months, and a number of our regular gaming group had bought the rules and were painting armies. I owned quite a few individually-based, 28mm Dark Age figures already -- Vikings, Picts, Saxons, Irish, and my favorite, Britons. So, when I received the new Saga rules in the mail I decided I would play a Welsh army, which is what they categorize those Briton kingdoms that fought against the takeover of the Saxons and later Viking invasions. Strathcylde has always been one of my favorite kingdoms from Dark Age Britain, but the Saga army lists stipulate all figures are mounted for this army. I own only 12 mounted 28mm figures, so that wasn't happening! The Welsh list allows you to mount your Warlord, Hearthguard, and Warriors at your discretion, though, so I chose that army.
The invaders -- Steve's Late Romans with their shield decals from a surviving primary source from Roman times
The local Saga organizer and gamer extraordinaire, Andy, had set up a Sunday morning/afternoon Saga day at Game Table Adventures in Newark, OH. We ended up with only four players showing up, so I matched up against Steve P, and Andy and Jim squared off. Steve is a veteran Saga player, but I am a relative newbie. I'd played the old rules twice, and this would be my first time with the new rules and lists. Steve chose the Late Romans, so we were historically off by quite a few centuries. However, it was a friendly, learning game, so neither of us cared. We set up the Clash of Warlords scenario from the back of the new rulebook. Both of us placed a number of terrain pieces -- marshes, rocky areas, woods, and scrub brush -- till Steve decided that my Welsh army would be able to make better use of the terrain and ended the placement phase.
The invading Romans on the left, Lord Gwendawg of Gododdin's army on the right
He deployed half of his army first, then I deployed my whole army. He followed this up with deploying the remainder, and taking the first turn, albeit rolling only 3 Saga dice instead of his normal six (by the deployment rules). Both forces had to spread out -- we weren't allowed to deploy within a Medium move of a friendly unit. Steve spread from edge to edge, while I massed more in the center in depth. Steve's force contained:
Late Roman Army
  • 1 Foot Warlord
  • 1 Foot Hearthguard unit of 8 figures
  • 3 Foot Warrior units of 8 figures
  • 1 Levy unit of bow of 6 figures
  • 1 Levy unit of Ballista
Facing him, Lord Gwendawg of Gododdin had brought:

Welsh Army of Lord Gwendawg
  • 1 Mounted warlord
  • 1 Mounted Hearthguard unit of 8 figures
  • 2 Foot Warriors units of 12 figures
  • 1 Levy Bow unit of 12 figures
The Roman ballista at top center has devastated both my archers and the Warrior unit in the rocky area to their left
Steve cleverly placed his ballista in front of my Warrior unit that was out in the open. He used his Saga dice rolls to fire off a couple shots each on two turns. Lord Gwendawg's men had never encountered such fearsome weaponry as the Roman ballista. Steve's rolling was fantastic, and my saving was abysmal. Five warriors were killed on the first turn, and five archers on the second (after I forced marched them to the center to cover the heavier units. Of my 33 figures, pretty much 1/3 were dead in the first two turns from what was essentially half of a Levy unit!
The first target of our advance - a small, 6-figure unit of Roman Levy archers in the woods
The Warrior unit immediately took cover in rocky ground, while the archers used two moves to fan out across the center (where they took it on the chin!). The mounted hearthguard moved up behind the archers, while the Warrior unit which had begun in the scrub emerged and advanced quickly towards the woods where the Roman archers were hiding. When we got within Javelin range, we tossed out missiles, causing five hits on the archers. My friends all laugh at my die rolling ability. However, what they don't realize is that I am not simply a bad die roller, I am streaky. When Steve saved all five hits that the archers took, that was the nadir of the streak. It would go up from there.
Gododdin's heroes leave the scrub brush and advance towards the woods, supported by the warlord and his bodyguards
 One of the really cool things about the Welsh army is that it has all kinds of great abilities on its "battle board" -- which simulates command and control. We had two very dangerous reactions -- Our Land, which allows me to move or charge in response to any enemy movement, and Guerrilla, which allows my troops to make a missile attack on enemy moving unit which comes within a Medium move (charge range, essentially). This made Steve very cautious, and his Warrior units lurked on the periphery of the battlefield rather than press forward.
The heroes enter the woods, and fight off the attacks of hearthguards to the left and warriors to their right
And then, the heroes of Gododdin strode forth. My Warrior unit which had emerged from the scrub entered the Roman archer's woods. Steve moved up his foot hearthguard and then charged them. I used my "War Dance" ability, and his fatigue for a second move to make it harder to him my warriors. The streak reversed itself, and my Warriors slaughtered his men who dared enter the wood to attack us. Steve lost six of his eight figures, while I lost only one. Steve's warriors then charged from the other side against the same Warriors. Much slaughter was done, but the Romans were driven back. On my turn, I rested my heroic Warriors, then charged them into the archers, who they drove from the woods in panic. One unit had devastated three enemy units.
After the charge of the mounted hearthguard and the warriors in the woods -- only scattered enemy remain in the center
Now, it was time for the ride of the men of Gododdin. My mounted hearthguard thundered across the field and slew the remaining Roman hearthguard. Meanwhile, the archers had been firing at the ballista crewmen themselves, and had succeeded in disabling its ability to fire. It needed one more casualty to be destroyed, but never again would it wound Gododdin's sons. The Warriors in rocks emerged and threw javelins at the Roman Warriors who had edged forward to support the ballista.
The end game -- only two Warrior units on Steve's right would be left to contest the field after the riders of Gododdin would slay the enemy warlord, and Lord Gwendawg revenged himself upon the ballista by killing its remaining crew
Here was where Steve made a fatal mistake. His first move was to bring his far right flank Warrior unit closer to the action. I used Our Land again and responded with a charge of the mounted nobles of Gododdin -- against his Warlord! Although it ended up taking us two turns of combat to slay his leader, this was the loss the broke the heart of the enemy warband. With only two units producing Saga dice (his two right flank warrior units), Steve conceded.
Sound the trumpets in victory! The men of Gododdin, and Lord Gwendawg - shield of the kingdom - triumphed!!
My heroes of the game were obviously the foot warriors who strode into the woods and defeated three enemy forces. The mounted hearthguards also were crucial to my success, slaying the remainder of his hearthguards and his warlord. My lucky streak changed from dismal to inspiring just when I needed it! It was a fun game, and I look forward to getting in some more games of Saga soon.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Two-Story "City Block" Building

City Block MDF building by Sarissa Precision (28mm) with 20mm modern Africa figures
I decided that I need more buildings if I want to do a big skirmish set in a town. The great thing about 20mm as my chosen scale for modern Africa, is I can use buildings from all kinds of scales and they don't look too off -- 15mm, 20mm, 1/72 scale, and 28mm. I have scratch-built a number of my buildings, but it is very labor-intensive (and fiddly, working with foam core). So, I decided to try out one of the MDF buildings that the market is burgeoning with right now.
The unpainted, assembled City Block buildings from an image on Sarissa Precision's website
At Historicon 2018, I picked up three MDF buildings from Wargame Tools LLC. Terry Jones is a nice guy, and I bought my MDF container ship off of him a couple years back. As I was flipping through his inventory at Historicon, I noticed that he was carrying buildings from Sarissa Precision, as well as TTCombat (who made my freighter). I really liked one of the small, simple "city block" buildings and picked it up. I decided not to buy the extra story, which he sells, because I wasn't sure how this would turn out. This is mainly because I am not the biggest fan of MDF buildings, in general. I think they have a certain "flatness" -- or 2-dimensional look to them, sometimes. Plus, I've seen people through them on the table unpainted thinking they look accurate, but this definitely strikes me as wrong looking. I know that I can simply give the wood a texture if I like -- stucco or whatever -- but that would seem to work against the texture that is incised on them already. I also picked up two apartment buildings from TTCombat, but chose to build the Sarissa Precision one first.
The bare bones instructions -- note my two arrows I added pointing out "notches up" on the side pieces that I missed
I can honestly say that I have never had a building go together easier, and be better designed, than this kit. Although the instructions were very bare bones -- I missed one subtlety that more written text would have prevented. Luckily, it was not dry yet, and I could correct my mistake. It comes in three levels, including the ground level, the upper story, and the flat rooftop. I chose this building because miniatures could easily be deployed on top of the roof, and all the windows were "open" so figures could shoot through them. The biggest surprise was the simple but clever way the three levels went together. There were two rectangular tabs on the top of the ground floor and upper story, and these fit easily and snugly into the floor of the level above. I thought I was going to have make some modifications to make the roof and upper story come off easily, but I did not.
The building went together SO easily. I used rubber bands to add pressure and keep the walls square while drying
Once the three levels were glued together with Tacky glue, I left them overnight to dry. Then I sprayed them with Krylon acrylic black spray primer. Next, I had a decision to make. What color, and how to paint the walls? They were incised with laser cut lines to represent block stone -- like a limestone or travertine style office building. The reason I generally like resin buildings better is their cuts are deeper, and dry-brushing is easy. I decided to paint the base coat the stone a craft paint called "Raw Siena" -- a somewhat leathery brown that I hoped would stay in the crevices between the stones and on enough of the stone face once I dry-brushed its flat surface.
I REALLY like how the color turned out on this building -- I feel it has the golden glow of aged limestone
I let this dry overnight, too, and then dry brushed the stones Howard Hues Colonial Khaki. I shook my head as I completed each of the tree levels. I wasn't happy with the look. Like I said, not enough relief in the thin, laser incising. Oh, well, maybe when all put together, it would look nice. From that point, I began working on the details. I went with Iron Red (craft paint) for the wooden parts on the windows and main front door. I trimmed the edges with Dark Brown. The interior walls were painted a light gray. I decided not to wash the gray, as the black base coat showed through in an irregular enough fashion that it did not look to "cookie-cutter" sharp. After all the details were finished, I set it aside to dry.
Close up of the entrance of the building. I think it looks fine with 20mm figures -- even though it is 28mm scale
I had decided the previous night to try a brown wash on the Khaki dry-brushed walls, hoping it would settle in the crevices even more. In a bit of serendipity, it did an amazing job of "mellowing" the stone color to look like aged, golden limestone. The difference between it prior to washing and after were so striking that I was upset I hadn't taken a photograph the night before! After the walls dried, I painted the sidewalk out front (also thinly laser etched). I decided to use only two rows of stones for the sidewalk, and do the the rest as a kind of grass "tree lawn" in front of the building. I flocked it with my usual method and added in some tufts here and there to give it that 3-Dimensional look.
A look at the printed floor pattern I glued into place
I decided to dress up the floors of the two levels with a printed wood grain pattern. I simply Googled "Doll+House+printed+floors" and came up with a number of sites. I chose a pattern I found on Pinterest, of all places. Resizing it in Photoshop, I simply printed it off at the local copy place in color. I trimmed it to size and I think it adds a nice little touch to the building!
The top piece -- the roof section -- is flat topped, which I liked. I flocked the roof with mixed gray stone ballast
The final touch was to flock the flat rooftop. I have seen buildings that have a crushed stone look to the rooftop like this, and thought this would look better than just a basic paint. I like the way it gives texture to the building, too. I painted it black, then painted it again in white glue, pouring on Woodland Scenics Coarse Gray Blend Ballast.
A look at how the ground floor and the sidewalk in front of it -- this was the easiest MDF kit I've ever assembled!
All in all, I am VERY happy with how this MDF building came out. It makes me look forward to putting together the two TTCombat ones I purchased next!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Mice and Squirrels Tell Their Tales

The board's center, with the cage containing the Satyr in the upper right, and Weasels and Pine Martens treasure hunting
I received two AARs from my players after our second Frostgrave game. For my write-up of the action, read Caged...Like Rats! I'd been waiting to see if any reports from the other five players showed up before publishing these, but it looks like that's all. First up is the Mouse's Tale, by Mike S. It is followed by the Squirrels report, by Joel.
The Mice adventurers, including the Warden T.B. at top, center

A Mouse Tells His Tale

Well, we headed into the jungle again. Hopefully this trip would show more profit than the last foray.  As we came upon a major clearing, we found a chest in a clump of bush. We sent the regular crewman back to the boat with it -- time enough to open it later. After doing this, we approached the clearing center. To our surprise, there was a Satyr in a wooden cage, guarded by jungle rats.
The Mice decided to ignore the "Weasel types" (Pine Martens and Weasels), who busily scooped up treasures
As we came closer we noticed some Weasel types in one direction and some larger rodents across from us. Well we had competition for the crewman. Our Heritor M.M., along with the archer R.M., decided to fill one of  the rats with arrows. Well, it seems more archery practice is called for! It took us several more shots than it should have. While they were about that I -- the Warden T.B. -- grabbed our infantryman Pynkie and headed out to flank the rats. I saw a weasel trying to scurry off with a chest and attempted a lightning strike, which failed to go off. As I continued the flanking move, we noticed the large rodents were having the luck. They were approaching the cage as we fiddled around.
Noticing the Satyr in the wooden cage, the Mice attacked the Rat guards, hoping to free him (central treasure)
I also noticed a wolverine-looking Warden headed for a clump of brush that had part of a chest showing. I sent Pynkie ahead as I tried a lightning strike. Well this one went off -- and did it ever! The wolverine's fur stood up, started smoking and he collapsed. I started moving forward to support Pynkie against a single crewman, when there was a loud cry in the distance. We decided it was time for discretion and headed back to the ship.

M.M. and the archer joined us as we returned, we caught up to the crewman Jerry, just as we got to the ship. Well, at least we didn't lose anyone like we lost Tom last time...!

A Mouse captive in a cage (one of the central treasures) guarded by Jungle Rats

Squirrels Tails

A howl off in the distance goes unanswered.  Those bushy tailed Bandits stepped into the clearing on our right and paused.  That was the signal Dukka, our leader, was looking for. He left the cover of the rocky knoll and paused ON the dead Jungle Rat in front on us.  This made the dead rats right rear paw twitch-twitch and started a chain reaction.  Red's tail went flick-flick-flick, Flopsy ground squirrel got nervous leg, I heard that thump-thump-thump from her hidden well behind us.
The Squirrel's allies for the game, the Bandits (Raccoons) advance towards the cage, discovering a treasure
Those Bandits looked at us.  We looked at the last two Jungle Rat guards. The caged mouse looked at the Bandits.  The Squirrels and Bandits cautiously advanced in unison.  The two Jungle Rats stood their ground.  Off in the distant a howl went up, a rally call that went unanswered again.  The eight of us got to the cage together, the Bandits paused, looked at the Jungle Rat guards.  The last two Jungle Rats looked at Dukka and bared their teeth. Dukka looked at the caged mouse, lightning strikes off in the distance. The caged mouse could not take it anymore and immediately fainted.  Before the Jungle Rats could move against us, a bushy tail bandits broke into the cage like the expert he was. The mouse slumped out of the cage into the bandit's paws as the Jungle Rats jumped on the adventurers.  The two guards were easily put down and before we left the cage we filled the cage with those two dead rats. The End
The tense scene as the Squirrels and Raccoons arrive at the cage and decide to cooperate against the Rat guards

Monday, August 6, 2018

"F" Troop - More Post-Apocalyptic Figures

The two different poses of "Chem Soldiers" from Sgt. Major Miniatiures shown above
I decided to keep working on some Post-Apocalyptic figures, so chose another batch form Sgt. Major Miniatures to paint up. These are labeled as "Chem Soldiers," and are every bit as cool as the Blood Brotherhood ones I painted up earlier. My idea for this gang was to be an army unit that somewhat stayed together after the fall of civilization. They were a long way from home, so decided to try to make their way back. Discipline has fallen by the wayside to some degree, and equipment needs to be scavenged. Some prefer to wear the "NBC suits" (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical), though the likelihood of everything being in perfect working order is slim.
Each figure was individualized to represent scavenging of equipment
For their uniforms, I decided to paint their helmets and greatcoats a faded Army green. I have a craft paint that is a very faded light green, and used this as a base coat. Then I watered down a darker olive drab, and applied it as a wash, experimenting to get the right shading effect. There were two main poses in the packs -- one pack of four had gas masks while the other had a cloth of some sort over their lower face. They were all holding some type of sub-machine gun, it appeared. The gas masks were painted the dark olive drab, with the eyes and filters in steel, with a lighter gun metal color in the eye lenses.
Add caption
The cloth covering the lower face was individualized to represent the unit having to scavenge for equipment to replace their's as it wears out. The same was true for the packs and pouches. I used a variety of colors to represent them not having a reissue source for army equipment.  Each helmet was also customized with some sort of graffiti. This is, of course, inspired by images of U.S. soldiers doing the same overseas in Vietnam and other conflicts. I figure that with the world undergoing an apocalypse, it would bring out a very morbid sense of humor.
I added graffiti to the soldier's helmets and greatcoats -- like I figured might happen as discipline breaks down
It was a lot of fun adding the various customizations to the poses. Each pack of four figures had slightly different poses, but were the same basic equipment. This individualization makes them a more interesting looking unit. Plus, it will make it easier to tell them apart in skirmish games!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Circle of Mist for Ghost Archipelago

A Badger Warden summons a Mist circle for protection from enemies in Ghost Archipelago
Midway through our first game of Ghost Archipelago several weeks ago, my player controlling the Badgers asked, did you make terrain for the Mist spell? I was surprised -- I thought I had gone through the spells each crew chose for their warden thoroughly. I had Mist on the "nobody picked" list, so hadn't bothered to do one yet. Well, after the game, it was pretty obvious that I would have to fix that situation!
Step 1: Create a 4" cardstock circle and cut out the inner part to form a ring (then divide it into 4 pieces)
Fortunately, about the same time, a bottle of pills I opened had a large rectangular piece of cotton fiber. I saved it, and it turned out to be perfect for two of the correct, 4" diameter circles the spell casts. I decided that all I really needed to model was the other perimeter of the spell. The players could imagine the interior also filled with mist -- plus it would make it a heck of a lot easier to game it out!
Step 2: Trace the arcs onto a suitable material for bases, then flock them (here's my "first stage" of flocking)
I began by tracing a 4" circle on a piece of cardstock. I then traced a smaller circle inside of it and cut out the 4" diameter ring. Next, I divided the circle in fourths, since that was my plan. The arcs of each piece, when connected, would create the 4" circle. I figured it would be easier to adjust four pices to the terrain on the tabletop than if it was one solid ring. I took one of the arcs and traced it onto a sheet of magnetic material eight times. Here was where I made a mistake. I should have chosen thicker material. My magnetic material was too thin and warped when flocked, curling up on the edges.
Step 3: Finishing the flocking
I then treated the magnetic material exactly like I do the bases for my miniatures. I painted each with a mixture of brown paint and white glue. I immediately dipped it into a tub of Woodland Scenics Fine Brown Ballast. Once dry, I painted it with a 50/50 mixture of white glue and water, sprinkling on Woodland Scenics Earth Turf. Finally, when dry again, I applied full strength white glue, flocking it with Blended Grass from the same company.
Step 4: Pulling and stretching the cotton to the shape and length needed, then gluing it to each base with white glue
At this point, I took the cotton material (same as in cotton balls, except rectangular rather than spherical) and stretched it out to the thinnest I wanted it to be. It looked like it would be enough, so I made eight pieces of the same size. Then, I drew a thick line of white glue across the arc of the flocked material, pressing the cotton down onto the base and stretching it out to the look I wanted. It required propping it up against something so that it didn't fall over and lay flat. Once dry, I sprayed it with a quick burst of matte finish from each side. This tended to knock the cotton over, but I pulled it back up and it stayed erect. I did this twice for each piece. The spray coating gives it more consistency and strength so it isn't pulled apart. I'll instruct my players to pick it up by the base rather than the cotton mist wall, but it should be strong enough to last.

I liked how it turned out -- much better than a simple circle of white felt or something!