Wednesday, December 29, 2021

A Helluva Gift? Jenny's Demon Cabal

    Cobbled together from various sources, Jenny's cabal for Reign in Hell was painted as a present
My days of painting miniatures for other people are mostly over. Well, at least for payment they are! Doing it as a, that's something I'm inclined to do from time to time. A year or so ago, I painted a Viking warlord stand for Saga for Jim Beegan awhile back (in thanks for his support of Saga in at the Dragons Guildhall in Beavercreek, OH). And leading into this holiday season, I offered to paint Jenny's demons for her Reign in Hell cabal as part of her Christmas present. She quickly agreed before I changed my mind, so I got started right away hoping to finish them in time for her to unwrap!

    Jenny's Demon Lord (Goristro from WizKids) towards over the table at 5" tall
I painted them in four batches as there were 11 figures (the demon lord was HUGE, and easily the largest "miniature" I have ever painted). She gave me free reign (no pun intended) to paint them as I like, but I still ran my ideas past her to get her input. We agreed to go with a dark, reddish skin for her demons. It is kind of the classic demonic look, and would be easy to do with the colors I already had. The skin started out as a dark red craft paint, followed by a Howard Hues Middle Eastern Flesh dry brush. Finally, I did a brush-on highlight of salmon-colored craft paint for the last three batches. A final black wash gave it a nice, dark reddish look and using the same basic skin tone for all the miniatures really pulls the group together.

    I loved the cool wristbands on this figure - for his silver armbands I added in my own symbols
Jenny picked up most of the figures (Armored Demons, Slaughter Fiends, and Devout) from a vendor at CincyCon 2021 who was selling them almost as flea market items. They were already primed and based -- obviously figures he had never gotten around to finishing. She picked up the Spine Demon as a 3-D print from Game Junkie Studios, another vendor at CincyCon. Both the Demon Lord, Corpulent, and Mephit were bought off the shelf Dragons Guildhall and were resin printed miniatures, as well. Other than maybe the Devout and the Mephit, they looked like they all belonged together. It was my job as painter to tie them all together into a coherent looking group for her Judges themed cabal.

    The Demon Lord presents a horrifying visage, and I was really happy with how he turned out
The final figure I painted up was the Demon Lord -- or "Goristro" from WizKids' D&D Nolzur's Line. I know most of these resin miniatures claim to come pre-primed, but I don't necessarily trust that. So, I spray-painted him with arcylic black and then went over him with a 50/50 mixture of black paint and water to give complete coverage. His skin was done as above, with the spines done in a light yellow parchment color with white highlighting. His horns and hooves are done with a slightly dark base color. Although many of the other miniatures in the cabal were given tattoos, this figure has a hairy look to it, so I did not give him any. Instead, I decorated his silver armbands with a series of "demonic symbols" -- literally, that was my Google Image search that I used! I used a mix of metallics on him as I did with most of the other figures, as well. I thought the copper wristbands turned out particularly well, though I can take credit for the incising. That is part of the miniature itself.

 Not sure of the manufacturer, but these four Armored Demons were the first of the cabal I painted

The first batch I painted up was probably the most time-consuming. The four winged demons she planned to use as Armored Demons for her cabal had a LOT of detail. The armor pieces on the arms and waist were very intricate and time-consuming. I started out with the flesh, of course. They were my "test batch," so to speak, and I ended up being very happy with the dark red look. Next, I did the very-involved armor. I painted all of it with a base coast of Iron Wind Metals Steel. This is a dark, almost black metallic color. Jenny was hoping my painting would help her to be able to tell the four miniatures apart. In Reign in Hell, demons can improve their stats from game to game (or get worse). So, I gave each a different metallic color -- copper, gold, silver, etc. The next step was the extensive bone and claw parts of the miniatures. This was done, as mentioned above, in a craft parchment light yellow with white highlight. Finally, I painted the sash around the waist in different colors, each decorated with symbols or other decorations. I should probably have taken a close up of one, but didn't think about it until writing this post.

    My guess is these two minis are "savage orcs," and will be Slaughter Fiends in Jenny's cabal
The second batch was the quickest to paint up. These were two of Jenny's "flea market" purchases at Cincycon. I believe they are "Savage Orcs" to use Warhammer categorization. There was significantly less detail on these minis than the Armored Demons. The horned spines coming out of the head of one of them meant they fit in well with the rest of the cabal's look. I used my Micron pen to give them tattoos after the skin was finished. Their claw weapons I painted as bronze rather than bone to fit in with the cabal's metallic theme, too. The photo of them also gives a good look at how I did their bases. I added a large piece of coarse ballast as a big rock, then covered the rest of the base in fine ballast. I went over this with my 50/50 black paint and water. Next, I dry brushed the surface Medium Gray, washed the big rocks, and then added in lava streams. These were just painted on -- first in dark red, then bright orange, finally with dots of bright yellow. The tufts are "Fantasy Pink Foliage" I'd picked up on a whim in a store awhile back. I thought their reddish look would go good with the lava and Hell theme.

    Jenny's 2nd-in-command Devout and winged Mephit - which probably look the least like the others
I quizzed Jenny a couple times to make sure she really wanted to use the figure she choose for her Devout, or 2nd-in-command. It was obviously a fantasy dwarf to me, brandishing two oversized double-bladed axes. She said the Judges cabal has an "Executioner" for its Devout, and she felt he'd be perfect. I was pulling for the figure that ended up being the Spine Demon, but it was her army! I decided to jazz him up a bit, though. I'd picked up an occult looking altar from Guardtower East at our monthly Saga game day the weekend before. I felt he'd look great standing atop the altar in the center of the pentagram. I did have to use wire cutters to snip him off of his slotta base (stupidly done AFTER I had painted him - thankfully, very little damage was done to my painting in the separation). I think he turned out great, as did the winged Mephit. Her equipment somewhat matched the other demons, and I gave her the same copper and steel metallic scheme. I was worried the green of her shirt might be too bright, but in the long run I think it turned out well. She had lots of detail, too, and was also very time-consuming. 

    Both of these 3-D prints are cool miniatures, but I enjoyed painting the Spined Demon on left more
The final two figures of her cabal are both 3-D prints. One was easy and fun to paint and the other not nearly as much. Which was which? The three-armed Spine Demon looks like a younger brother of the Demon Lord. That was part of the reason I wanted him to be the 2nd-in-command. Jenny found him at CincyCon 2021, too, at a small vendor's booth called Game Junkie Studios ( Maybe I preferred painting him because it was quick and simple? I gave him tattoos with my Micron pen, as well. He looks truly demonic. The other print was one Jenny plans to use as a Corpulent Demon. Sometimes, it was hard to tell what was what on this figure. What was skin? What was clothes? What were those things over its eyes?? I used faded colors -- beige, gray-green, and gray-blue -- for its clothes. With the skin coloring, I tried my best to tie him to his cabal-mates as much as I could, but he truly is a bizarre, different figure. Jenny liked how it came out, so I guess he was a success!

    Merry Christmas! Don't these guys look like they want to wish you good cheer and happy holidays?
All in all, both Jenny and I were happy with how her cabal turned out. Was it done in time for Christmas? Welll, yes and no. The only thing left to finish off by Christmas morning was the flocking on the demon lord. So, she could see her presents pretty much finished. And they are ready for the next time we play Reign in Hell!

Monday, December 20, 2021

Pups of War

    My pack of war dogs for Saga -- painted as various breeds
I have been playing Picts from Saga: Age of Invasions, lately. While planning on taking them to the upcoming tournament at Game Table Adventures on Jan. 15, I was looking into the rules for it. Surprisingly, mercenaries were going to be allowed. No "Legendary units or leaders," but mercs from any of the historical books would be allowed (in the armies that are allowed to take them, I assume). For the fun of it, I checked out which mercenaries my Picts would be allowed to take and was intrigued by the Molossians.

    Most of the figures are old Ral Partha (Iron Wind Metals now) 25mm miniatures
Molossians are a breed of huge dogs common during the later Roman empire. I believe every army in the book is allowed to take them as mercenaries, and the Picts were one of them. I am assuming this is to represent the local breeds of dogs -- not that Molossian packs were actually traded to as far-flung places as the steppes of Asia or northern Britain. Curious, I dug through my unpainted lead and found my bag of 25-28mm dogs. I had plenty enough, though none were huge Molossian-sized war hounds. So, what the heck, I decided. Why not?

I cleaned and primed seven of them (the handler makes the eighth figure in a warrior unit, and I would just use an ordinary Pictish warrior for him). While they were drying, I Googled "Dog Breeds of Scotland" to see what breeds might match the castings. Most of them were old Iron Wind Metals 25mm dogs. Some of the figures lined up fairly well with a Scottish breed, such as the Scottish Deerhound and Gordon Setter. Others were obviously other breeds, such as the bulldog miniature.

    The dog laying down is painted as a Gordon Setter, while the gray one a Scottish Deerhound
Since the only equipment the figures have is a collar (if that), they painted up rather easily. I did my best to match the images I found online, like I do whenever I paint animals. It's those little patches of lighter color or white that make miniature animals look right on the tabletop. I'm not sure if it shows up, but I even put a tiny, tiny dot of white on the black for their eyes. 

 I know the poses are a bit smaller than most 28mm figures, so I decided to create special bases for them rather than use my normal large squares from Litko. I pulled out the small green plastic circular bases that come with packs of Gripping Beast miniatures. Normally, I just give those to a friend, but the dogs fit perfectly on them. I gave them a circle of magnetic material first, then epoxied the figures onto the base and flocked them the way I usually do my miniatures.

    This pair includes a brindle-patterned Mastiff and a Doberman Pinscher
I think they came out pretty good. Are they historically accurate for a Fall of Rome era Pictish army? Yeah, probably not! However, I think they'll add a spot of color to games of Saga and certainly will give my Picts another tactic to use in games.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Picts Out-Pillage the Huns

    Pictish raiders marshal their forces in a woods ready to snatch plunder from a Hun warband
Drust's raiders had sailed far to plunder the rich lands of Gaul. Other raiders were lurking nearby, though, and seeking to pillage the same farmlands as Drust's men. The men from the Orkney Islands had never seen such fierce and cruel-looking horsemen. They dashed about on their horses, nearly every man carrying a bow and sporting evil-looking scars on their cheeks beneath dark slits for eyes. "These must be Huns!" whispered one of Drust's commanders, having heard tales of them from prisoners taken in previous raids of Roman lands. Drust nodded and turned away, motioning his commanders to him behind the trunk of a wide, sturdy oak. "This is how we shall snatch the prize from these foul horsemen..."

    Jenny celebrates Yule in front of a festive tree as her Pagan Rus take on Karen's Vikings
We had eight players show up for December's game day at the Guardtower East in Columbus, OH. Half of the armies fielded were from Saga's newest release, Age of Invasions. Both Dave E and Bob B were fielding Roman armies, while Joe D had brought Huns and I was running my Picts, again. Also taking the field were Jenny's Norse as Pagan Rus, Karen's Vikings, Jim R's Normans, and Lowell's Anglo-Saxons. Joe and I squared off, and I was looking forward to seeing how the Hun's battle board played. Joe wanted to play an objective-based scenario to hone his skills with this army, so we picked Feasting and Pillaging from the Book of Battles

    Picts, after their first turn of movement, advance against a Hun warband in Feasting & Pillaging
Three objective markers representing loot were spaced evenly across the centerline of the table, with each of us deploying our armies a Short distance from our baselines. A large woods was on my half of the table, towards my left, and a smaller woods near my baseline on the right. On the opposite side, another small woods was in the Huns rear on their right. A large, gentle hill was on his left. Most players don't like being "Player 1" in Saga, but I found that it is a slight benefit to the Picts. It allows the player to place an extra piece of terrain, which is crucial to utilize the Pictish battle board to its best advantage.

    War dogs! My newest Pictish unit ended up never seeing battle, spending the game marking trees
Drust had swapped out one of his units of levy javelinmen for a "mercenary" unit of war dogs (Molossians from the Age of Invasions book). I wasn't sure if they'd be much use with the Picts, but I wanted to try them and see how they worked. As it turns out, it probably wasn't the best choice in a battle against an army with lots of archery like the Huns! The eight warriors (seven dogs and one handler) are only armor class 3 vs. shooting, so I quickly moved them into the large wood where they ended up never leaving. Doubtless, they found plenty of trees to mark! Also in the woods, and a key part of my battle plan, were the levy archers. They moved in on turn one and were able to shoot at enemies every turn afterwards. On either side of the woods, a unit of tattooed foot warriors advanced slowly forward towards the center and left hand objectives. On the right, a third unit of warriors and javelin levy marched past or through the trees towards the right hand objective.

    Bob maneuvers his Roman legion against Jim's encircling Normans in the first of their two games
As Player 1, I could have done double moves and seized all three objectives on turns one, at the cost of a fatigue on each unit. However, I had never faced the newest version of the Huns and wasn't sure what its battle board could do. I had yet to pore over the list and didn't really have a lot of study time before the game began. So, I played it cautious, and advanced only one move from my baseline. The archers, war dogs, and levy javelinmen all sheltered beneath the trees at the end of our first move. Joe responded by waving forward his mounted horde. Armed with composite bows and deployed in small units of six figures, they galloped towards two of my spear units and showered them with arrows. I had Sacred Tattoos, which provides 4 bonus defense dice queued up, but ended up not using it. Nor did I used Secret Ways, which allows a unit to redeploy near uneven terrain after suffering a shooting attack or charge. The attacks and damage seemed minimal, so Drust's Orkney men simply endured the scattering of casualties.

    After two turns of movement, the Picts on the attack, but also remaining close to the shelter of woods
On turn 2, Drust waved the archers further forward into the woods. This brought them within range of one of the horse archer units, which had pulled back after shooting. The foot bowmen unleashed their own volley, and three Hun horsemen fell from their saddles. In the middle, the center unit of warriors seized the first objective, each man burdening himself with as much loot as he could carry. There was an angry shout from the Hun battleline as the steppe warriors saw the barrels of fine Gaulish wine being taken by the northmen. A large band of 12 Hun mounted levy hurtled towards the Pictish warriors and charged into them. The veteran raiders closed ranks, interlocking their shields and thrusting their spears between them. In addition, I played Sacred Tattoos, which gives me 4 bonus defense dice. Joe rolled 12 attack dice, but with the tattoos and closing ranks, we suffered only two casualties. The mounted levy also suffered two casualties, so withdrew, leaving my Pictish raiders in possession of the wine barrels.

    Tartan-clad Pictish warrior seize the first objective - a stash of fine Gallic wine
On my third turn, the the levy archers switched targets and whittled another unit of horse archers down to three horsemen. The warriors carrying the wine began to withdraw. They were able to move back an extra Short move with Swift as the Wind, almost reaching the shelter of the trees. On the right, Drust ordered forward the levy javelinmen. Using Scouts, they moved a Long distance and then hurled their javelins at another unit of horse archers, tumbling three more men from their saddles. Joe's saves against my shooting were below average all game long. Otherwise, he said afterwards he felt his dice were okay throughout the game. It was just my shooting he didn't seem to have an answer for. In addition to throwing their javelins, the levy javelinmen also rounded up a small herd of pigs. My third unit of foot warriors marched forward to support the javelinmen.

   The Huns do not relinquish the wine barrels easily, following up and harassing the Pict withdrawal
The Huns continued to send waves of horse archers forward to shoot at Drust's Pictish raiders, but their small unit sizes kept arrow storms from inflicting too much damage. I kept expecting the Hunnic nobles, his mounted hearthguard, to charge into the fray, but Joe seemed to be saving them. He was willing to send the mounted levy into battle, but was shielding his nobles from combat. Meanwhile, my successful pillagers continued to withdraw towards our baseline, moving one or two Short distances a turn. One of the Pict battle board's strengths is its variety of ways to move troops. Scouts is very effective, and with a Rare die allows two (one with a Common or Uncommon) units to move Long distance -- their move not being reduced by either terrain or fatigue. We agreed that the rules to Feasting and Pillaging prevented my units carrying objectives to exceed a Short distance, though -- even if moved with that ability. My warriors on the left charged and seized the third objective from Hun horse archers, and then hunkered down, ready for Joe's counter-attack.

    Second objective is seized - a herd of swinge - by Pictish javelinmen on the right flank
Surprisingly, it came not in the from of a shower of arrows from his the Hun levy foot archers sheltering in the woods, but in a charge from them! My six warriors (reduced by previous horse archery) closed ranks, expecting to easily repel the levy. Shockingly, the archers caused two casualties and saved all but one of our hits. Embarrassed, the spearmen withdrew from the surprisingly fierce steppe footmen. Seeing this humiliation of his warriors, Drust swore. A horn blast and their warlord's pointing and shouting attracted the attention of the Pict warriors on the right. They raced across the board using Scouts, and then charged into the jeering archers with Swift as Wind (which doesn't cause a fatigue if the move or charge ends within a Short of uneven terrain). Once again, the archers fought fiercely, but the attack of the tattooed tribesmen was more savage, and the archers dropped their loot and scampered back to the shelter of the trees.

    Pictish warriors seize the 3rd objective, taking it from a small unit of Hun horse archers
Once again, I held all three objectives. Using multiple moves, the warriors carrying the Gallic wine were able to exit the board, while the javelin levy edged closer to the shelter of the trees near our baseline. Once again, the Huns galloped forwards, firing arrows. The Hun battle board also has the ability to put fatigue on enemy troops, which Joe was also doing in attempt to slow down my Picts. However, with three different ways of activating my raiders for movement, I was able to frustrate his attempts to keep me from making off with the loot. On the fifth turn, Joe sent in the archers out from beneath the trees again. This time, my warriors repelled them -- sending them scurrying back to the trees. Frustrated, the Hunnic warlord sent in his nobles, who charged into combat shouting their fearsome war cries. This time, my Pictish raiders were beaten back, and they dropped the loot at they ran for the shelter of the large woods.

    Brave beyond measure, the Hun foot levy archers fought tenaciously for the 3rd objective
On my final turn, my archers used the last of the arrows in their quivers to target the enemy hearthguard. We scored four hits and the northmen celebrated when the enemy failed all four saves. On the opposite side of the battlefield, the levy javelinmen were able to sneak through the trees and off the edge of the table, escaping with their stolen herd of swine. Drust had yet to unleash his war dogs upon the enemy -- the pack was gathered on the edge of the treeline, growling at the enemy, hackles raised. However, he knew victory had been won by this point. He ordered the withdrawal of his raiders from the field, content with loot they had snatched from underneath the noses of the fierce steppe horsemen. The men of the Orkneys had stung the enemy more than once this day, and would sail home to boast of their victory.

    Hun horse archers try to prevent the escape of the Pict javelin levy with their stolen swine
Afterwards, Joe and I discussed how his army performed. I told him that I was planning similar sized horse archer units for my Mongol army. I was a bit concerned at how quickly his units were whittled to three figures (no longer generating a Saga command die). The Pict shooting is tough, though. When a full sized levy unit shoots and is augmented by using the Stalkers battle board ability, they generate nine shooting dice. Against armor 3, that should be six hits. Saves should be at 50%, which means my shots were not above average -- three losses is what should have happened. Joe talked about maybe increasing the size of his units in future games. On the other hand, I felt he was a little tentative in charging. He rightly sent the mounted levy into combat every turn that he could help them with the +6 attack dice Barbarians of the East ability. I just think he could also have charged with other troops and used some of the other melee abilities on the Hun board.

    Dave's Romans (left) and Lowell's Anglo-Saxons wage a close-fought clash that ends in a tie
Either way, this was not the best terrain nor scenario for an army of mounted horse archers. Mounted units trying to move an objective marker suffer a fatigue every turn. Joe could have taken one with the foot archers, but all in all, I felt he was at a disadvantage in this matchup. The Picts got the terrain they needed pluw were able to use their foot troops to take and move seized objectives back multiple times a turn. 

    Jim's Normans encircle and overwhelm Bob's Romans in hard-fought battle
Here are the results of the first round of battles (Jim R and Bob B were setting up for a second game when I left):

  • Mike D's Picts defeated Joe D's Huns in Feasting and Pillaging (no score tabulated).
  • Jenny T's Pagan Rus defeated Karen's Vikings in Feasting and Pillaging, 33-29.
  • Jim R's Normans defeated Bob B's Romans in Clash of Warlords, 23-18.
  • Lowell L's Anglo-Saxons tied Dave E's Romans in Clash of Warlords, 22-21.

    Battling beneath the northern lights! Pagan Rus and Vikings come to blows in the far, frozen north
With Christmas less than a week away, it was a small turnout with only eight players. Hopefully, we will have a nice tune up session in two weeks when we do it again the Sunday after New Years. It will be the last chance to practice before the Saga Tournament at Game Table Adventures, Jan. 15. I hear that a half dozen players are coming up from Cincinnati for it, as well as another half dozen locals in the Newark, OH, area are playing. It should be quite the clash, and I am looking forward to it! If you're looking to get in some good Saga games, come on out that Saturday and join us!

Thursday, December 9, 2021

New Post-Apoc Gang: The Bass Reeves

    The Bass Reeves - a black post-Apocalyptic force for my newest period that I am gearing up for
I have been intentionally taking a break from painting Saga miniatures lately. The pause may not last forever, but it did allow me to finish another post-Apocalyptic gang. These are figures from Foundry's Street Violence range. Most of them wear long "duster" style jackets, which remind me of what you see gunslingers wearing in stylized Hollywood Westerns. A couple of them had dreadlocks, which led me to paint them as black. That also inspired the force's name -- the Bass Reeves. Reeves was a famous African-American cowboy and was the first black U.S. Marshal in the West. I seem to have settled on painting seven figures up per group, which I hope will be enough to provide a good game in whatever rules I end up using (my own home brew or otherwise)!

    The figure on the right is my favorite - I love how his captain's hat and striped shirt turned out
 The first batch of two figures pictured above feature my favorite miniature in this group. I really like how the captain's hat and striped shirt lends him character. Stripes are never my strong point, but I couldn't imagine any color for a shirt other than the classic, stereotypical red and white striped sailor shirt. I decided to give all the poses jeans for pants in this gang. I postulate jeans would be standard apparel after the apocalypse for their rugged nature and common availability from looted stores or warehouses. For the duster jackets, I decided to use Howard Hues "Bay" horse paints color. It has a nice leather look to it, but was light enough to look like faded material. I dry brushed them khaki and washed them brown to give the jackets depth of color.

    My second favorite is the one wearing the Jamaican-inspired hair bag for his dreads in the middle
My second favorite miniature in this batch is the Rastafarian-looking guy who carries a boom box over his shoulder. Doubtless, it is playing Bob Marley or Peter Tosh for as long as the batteries hold out! I actually Googled "dreadlocks hair bag" for inspiration on what color to paint it. Lo and behold, a Jamaica-looking one popped up in my search and I had to adapt it for this figure. It mean more stripes, though! The miniature is a great casting and has a lot going on. He wears headphones, has rolled up sleeves, a vest, and of course, the boombox. Normally, I might look askance at such whimsy in my figures, but this guy was too good to pass up. Like the captain, he also has a great face. 

I debated whether I was going with too garish and bright of a color for the other dreadlocks-wearing figure to the left. I always picture Rastas in bright, garish colors, though, so I went with this bright green. I think it adds a nice splash of color to an otherwise dull-colored group. I honestly don't know what the piece of equipment is slung over his shoulder, though. I painted it in a brushed steel color, so it can be another boom box or whatever the controlling player decides! The third figure in the group has a gray suit jacket or vest on underneath his duster. He carries a high power sniper weapons of some sort. I like the variety of firearms these figures have. Not everyone carries an assault rifle or shotgun -- there is definitely an irregular aspect to their weaponry. This fits for a post-Apocalyptic force, of course.

    These guys have similar dramatic poses and sport goggles - which were a challenge to paint!
All of the weapons were painted Iron Wind Metals steel. I had realized recently that my newest batch of the color was noticeably brighter than it has always been. I was disappointed because I have always liked the dark steel look of it -- especially when dry brushed silver for things like chainmail. This new tone didn't have as much contrast with silver. So, I dug through my box of paints and found a half-used jar of the old steel color. About half of it had dried up and was unusable, but when I pried that out the remainder seemed okay. I asked Rich S of Iron Wind if its possible to get the "old recipe," and he said to bring that jar along next time we meet and he will match the color. The highlights of the weapons were done with craft paint metallic pewter. I think the two tone look of the guns really gives them a nice, weathered look -- also perfect for post-Apocalyptic!

The last two figures above have very dramatic poses, I think. They have a lot of character in their hair and faces, made even more interesting by the goggles either perched on their heads or around their neck. I wasn't 100% sure how to paint the googles, but decided on a light gray with sky blue lenses. I'm not fully sold on how they look. If I were to go back and redo them, I would have done a black line around the sky blue lens, at least. Otherwise, these two have very interesting shirts. The one on the left is loaded up with ammo pouches so much his shirt is invisible. The one on the right has a very unusual texture to it. So, I painted it a light, gray green and did a medium green wash over it to bring out the texture in the folds. I like the patch on the shoulder of his duster, so did that in bright reds and blues, wanting it to stand out. The skin for all seven figures was done with a dark brown base coat and dry brush of Howard Hues Camo Brown. The hair was painted back with medium brown hightlights. However, the final black wash I did over the figures seems to have hidden the brown highlights, unfortunately.

    Two Patrol Bots search the ruins for signs of humanity, continuing their war of eradication
Next up, are two poses of what I will use as Patrol Bots. These were 3-D printed by my friend Joe from the Thingiverse website. I love the retro look of these figures. I decided that I would mix in a gold-colored bot to go with the colored metallics I used for the Scout Bots. I really like how it came out, but then again, I like the robin's egg blue one, too! I know the prints are not as crisp as metal miniatures, but once you see the next two stages of large bots, you'll understand why I saved money going with these. Joe always gives me a good deal on stuff he prints for me. Of course, who knows? A day may come when I purchase my own 3-D printer...but it is not THIS day! Ha-ha! Anyway, I painted the bots the new Iron Wind steel color as a base coat, then added the gold or blue over it, leaving the steel in the joints and creases. The equipment festooned to the back of the bot was painted in contrasting metallic colors, and the gun was given pewter and silver highlights, as with the Bass Reeves, above. 

If you remember, my post-Apocalyptic world is modeled after the Terminator movies. The main difference is humanity is fragmented into quarreling and fighting factions. The machines have been seriously depleted in the Holocaust, and are more of a constant menace rather than an invading and organized horde. 

What's next? Well, I have decided to give Jenny a birthday present by painting up the demon models she bought for Reign in Hell. The first four Armored Demons are complete, but their bases are not done, yet. They will take priority on my painting table as I would like to finish the dozen or so figures up in time for the holidays. And her demon lord is a HUGE figure! It will easily be the largest miniature I have ever painted. So, look for some new demons in future updates. I've also laid out my next unit of Mongols for Saga to be cleaned and primed. See? Told you that my break from Saga may not last that long!

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Snakebit at Another Saga Tournament!

    Saga Tournament at DayCon 2021 - 10 participants waging war across forests and steep hill slopes
Okay, so I see how it is. I win at Saga more than my share on our game days. Tournaments, though, it appears that I am snake-bit. I am 2-3-1 in tourneys (Cincycon 2021 and this weekend, DayCon 2021). Both tournaments started out the same way. In round 1, I make a good battle plan, execute it, and pull off a pretty good win. Then, my dice take an absolute dump. Of course, I think I was pretty much doomed from the start with this tournament. My matchups were pretty poor for my Moors. The preset terrain averaged four to five pieces of very large uneven/dangerous terrain on every board. My army's strength is its mounted arm. When I razzed the tourney director about this, he essentially laughed it off and said something to the effect of, "Screw mounted armies!"

    Round 1's Desecration scenario against Joe D's Mongols after my first move (Moors at bottom)
As long as I am making excuses, I also feel that I faced armies that were not good matchups, either. In the first round -- which was the scenario "Desecration" -- I was up against Mongols who could both outmaneuver and out-shoot me. Maneuvering and shooting is what the Moors do. I felt fortunate to pull off a win in that game. Joe D is a great player (3rd place out of 16 at Advance the Colors 2021), but admittedly had only a few games with the Mongols under his belt. I have a lot of experience with the Moors -- after the tourney I still have a 13-4-4 record with them. Plus, the dense forests and steep hills we were battling over didn't do him any favors, either. 

    Moorish noble cavalry prepare to charge into Mongol horse archers in Round 1
In addition, I won the dubious honor of being "Player 1" in all three of my games. In Desecration, I didn't get the usual jinx of only 3 Saga dice. Instead, I was not allowed to charge or shoot in my first turn. Grrreeeaatt! What do the Moors like to do? Shoot. What do you need to do to take Objective Markers in Desecration? Charge. Some people feel the creators of the scenarios are very inventive in the ways they screw Player 1. Of course, in this tournament with pre-set terrain, Player 1 got to choose which side of the terrain-heavy symmetrical board you could have as your baseline. That makes up for it, doesn't it? Doesn't it??

    Joe's khan urges his mounted heavy cavalry to charge into the Moorish javelin men
Still, I chose my side carefully, picking the one where I thought I could hide the objective markers from a direct-line, enemy mounted charge. I must have done a good job as the Mongols did not attempt a charge against enemy of them during the game. Shooting against them is worthless in this scenario from Saga's Book of Battles. I was able to move my heavy cavalry into position and end up charging and destroying two objective markers. That pretty much won me the game, as objective markers destroyed determines a cap on the number of victory points you can score for destroying enemy figures. My cap was 24 points worth, and Joe's was 10. I ended up winning 20-10. It was good to play the Mongols, though, as I am s-l-o-w-l-y painting this army for Saga, too. I had played them only once before. That appeared to be another common theme for this tournament. In my previous 58 games of Saga, I had played those three lists a grand total of three times.

    Oh, look! Another terrain-clogged terrain board...this time my least-favorite 'Claiming Territory'
Round 2 is where the wheels fell off what I thought was my finely-tuned, Moorish battle machine. The scenario was "Claiming Territory" and the clogged the tabletop again. I can now honestly say that Claiming Territory is my least favorite scenario on Book of Battles. I have played it three times and hated it three times. Why? You get no points for destroying enemy troops (or preserving your own). The only way to score points is to squat on one of the four objective markers on the board (you place two on the opponent's half of the board, they place two on your half). There is a chart that says how many points you get per turn of squatting - HEAVILY weighted in favor of bigger units. So, if you have an army that is mostly warrior foot, you're golden. This is your scenario and you should win it every time. With at least 3-4 points of warriors, you can min-max your unit sizes to outscore your opponent every turn. What's more, there is a cap on how much players can score each turn. So, once your opponent gets ahead, it becomes very difficult to catch up. Even if you manage to destroy the enemy's army in the end, it doesn't matter. They have those "banked" points. You lose.

In this game, I played Bob B's Byzantine army -- an army that I had never faced before. He deployed on top of the objective markers I placed, as he was 2nd player. I had to march up to the ones he placed. His 12-man Levy units could shoot the snot out of my troops that marched up to those markers. The Byzantine battle board has a Saga ability that lets him juice up his 6 shooting dice to 10+ dice with very little effort. Half of my army's points are in mounted hearthguard with javelins, who are only armor 4 against shooting. If I left them sitting in the open, squatting on the objective (which all have to be in open terrain), he would shoot them to pieces. Still, I had a battle plan. 

    Two participants, Joe M (left) and Bob B - whose Byzantines I faced in Round 2
However, the wheels fell off when it came to my dice. On the first turn, Bob's 12-man levy shot at my 8 warrior foot squatting on the objective in the middle of the board. He rolled 10 dice and got 7 hits (needing 4+ on 1d6). Ouch. Still, I should save 3-4 of those, right? Nope. I rolled 1 out of 7 saves (also 4+ on 1d6) and lost six of one of my warrior unit's eight figures on his first activation. 

He followed that up by charging in his warrior horse archers into the two survivors and slaughtering them. On my next turn, I went in with my hearthguard and a "Torrent of Iron" charge to take out the impertinent horse archers. I used their fatigue to raise my armor to 6 and yet the five remaining figures (I'd softened them up with shooting beforehand) still rolled three sixes. How many of those hits did I save (5+ on 1d6)? None. My dice were in a death spiral and kept getting worse. 

    Another photo from my first game against the Mongols - the "snow board" proved best for photos!

His 6-man mounted hearthguard charged my other warrior foot squatting on the other objective. We closed ranks to increase our save to 4+. He got 7 hits. We saved just one of those seven 50% chances, once again dropping from eight to two figures in one attack. Remember when I said the chart is HEAVILY weighted towards bigger units? I have one warrior unit gone, and another reduced to two warriors left to squat. My archers' ranks were being riddled by his shooting, too, despite the fact were were in solid cover. What's left to send out to squat on the objectives? My mounted javelinmen? So, I steadily fell behind on the squatting points, er "Conquest Points" as they are called.

So, maybe you're sensing my futility here. The game was over by turn 3 when I scored 0 Conquest points, and had no legitimate means to get more. I did my best to attack and destroy his units, though. I destroyed one of his 6-man hearthguard units, his warrior horse archers, and 10 of his 24 levy. Half of his force were casualties by the end of the game. Yet, he won handily, 30-something to 9 points. Saga buffs can argue all they like, but in my opinion, Claiming Territory is a stupid scenario. It simulates NOTHING. Feasting & Pillaging simulates a Raid. Old Feud simulates two rival forces intervening in a civil war. Desecration simulates destroying enemy supplies. The Crossing simulates separate contingents attempting to rejoin in the face of an enemy advance. What does this simulate? A mathematician's idea of a fun scenario?

    Close up of Joe D's newly-painted Mongols, who also struggled with the terrain and went 1-2
It is essentially possible to design your force numerically to make it next to impossible for your opponent to win. In all the games I play, I feel you should win with tactics on the tabletop -- not at the recruiting depot! That's why I avoid Warhammer-esque games where you min-max an army list to take out an opponent in two turns. Give the players the bread and butter troops and let their tabletop tactics win, I have always felt. With Saga, your army's battle board will dictate what troops you should recruit, and perhaps even unit sizes. It shouldn't be the scenario doing that, though. Not all armies are able to do that kind of unit size min-maxing that Claiming Territory requires. So, I will never use that scenario as a tourney director. And if someone suggests it in a friendly game, I'll smile and say, "pick another."

My final game was The Crossing, which features a river running from right to left across the center of the board, with a bridge in the middle. Your army is divided into two halves in opposite corners. The tourney director was able to stuff only three large pieces on this tabletop, but it would be enough to once again disadvantage mounted armies. The river itself as a fourth piece was a huge disadvantage -- foot would have been able to cross it slowly anywhere, but mounted need to use the bridge to avoid extreme penalties. I was matched up against one of the nastiest armies in Saga -- the Normans, run by Jim Randall who loves this list.

    Moorish cavalry approach the bridge, desperately hoping to reunite with its infantry screen
The problem with Normans is that they are, once again, more maneuverable than my Moors. They also have a Levy Bow unit which can shoot two feet across the 3'x4' board. I call it the Norman Levy Bow Artillery Battery. Jim parked them along the edge of a massive forest which let them cover about three quarters of the tabletop. Still, I had a plan. I would deploy my heavy cavalry and warlord together and they would use our speed and Perseverance to dash across the bridge and behind the wall of my warrior foot and levy bow. To accomplish this, I needed to roll at least one common die (three of the six faces on the die) to play Horse of the Maghreb, boosting my movement. And I would need to roll at least one Uncommon (two of the six faces) to play Perseverance. Based on how my dice rolling was going, what do you think the chances are of that happening with my three Saga dice as 1st Player? Yep, you're right. Didn't happen.

Jim shot my foot to pieces, just as Bob had done in the previous game. His double-size, 8-man mounted hearthguard unit charged in with the vicious Norman battle board abilities and destroyed all of my archers. I hammered back at him, tossing javelins with both cavalry units as they crossed the bridge. The last unit charged in and wiped out the survivors. Maybe this game would turn out all right, after all! Jim's counter-attack was devastating, though. His warlord took out my victorious mounted javelinmen and then his mounted warriors charged in and eliminated my own warlord. 

    Close up of Bob's Byzantines shooting Moors to pieces as we attempt to "out-squat" the Byzantines
At that point, I knew the game was over. I kept hammering, though. I made a mistake late in the game and forgot to block off his warlord's path to escape to the other side of the river. On his next-to-last turn, he skedaddled it across the river to join his two warrior foot units and his artillery park, who'd remained motionless all game. For the fun of it, we figured out Survival Points, and he barely edged me 18-15. Adding in his bonus points for units within Medium of his warlord, he beat me eight katrillion to 15, of course.

And so ended another frustrating Saga tournament. Another snake-bitten day of playing Saga and having wild dice swings handicap my chances. This time, we threw in unfavorable terrain and matchups, too, for the fun of it...ha, ha! But hey -- we have game days coming up later in the month. I am sure things will be back to normal and my treacherous dice will act kind to me again. If this report is a bit short on blow-by-blow details of my battles, I apologize. It is hard to keep all the details of three back-to-back games of Saga clear in my head. Plus, the pickle of figuring out the unfamiliar enemy boards and what they might throw at me across the terrain-heavy battle boards sapped the time I would normally use to take photos and document the games. Hopefully, this experience will hone my Saga skills, though. What is the famous Conan the Barbarian quote? That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger!