Thursday, 17 August 2017

Of Elves And Dwarves

It is starting to look like I am not going to get my five figures done this week and if I do it will be only by the skin of my teeth. Instead I have been prepping figures. De-flashing, putting them on bases along with some sand and covering them with primer. The plan is to get a load of figures ready for the next month or so of painting. What I went looking for was some elves.

Everything I paint for fantasy games has a focus on the dark age, well almost everything. After yesterday's post I got to thinking about what Norse elves and dwarves look like. Dwarves I guess are easy. They are just stubby, heavily bearded northmen. In Norse mythology there are two types of elves, light and dark. There isn't too much to be said about them anywhere. Black elves might even be dwarves.

Elves of all kinds are rare. Other than light elves being "luminous" and black elves being "blacker than pitch" and them being a little bit god-like (at least associated with the Aesir), the sagas have little to say about them. You have to look for wider germanic mythology for any more details. This makes it clear that they are human-like. In this era it becomes clear that elves are just as likely to shag you (and have children with humans) or make you, or your animals, sick. The early middle age era gives them an association with alchemy.

So no blond hair, pointy ears, associations with bows and longswords and a haughty attitude. Damn you Tolkien. Basically I have nothing to go on. There good elves and bad elves. If there is any difference it's going to be down to a style of miniature and a paint job.

As part of what I am doing with the figures I am looking for another project. One thing I don't have is much on the way of elves. There are probably about twenty wood elves in the collection. These I guess will do well enough for light elves although I might get around to doing something about that.

The black elves (and I use the word black rather than dark because I don't want D+D cookie cutter elves, all that pale skin, white hair and spider riding) I was going to use are the old Harlequin Miniatures which are now owned by Black Tree. High elves are just another RPG construct born out of Tolkien but the first load I got cheap on eBay. But I was still struggling with a paint scheme. I looked up dark elf miniatures and most seem to have a like like a cross between angst ridden teen/goth (black and purple) with a little bit of bondage gear (corset and thigh length boots). Or all in all not very Norse.

As the search continued I found a picture of the dark elves from Thor: A Dark World. This was a really stupid idea but given the picture this might be a bit of a give away.. By the fourth or fifth picture it started to sound more like a good idea. Basically black with some bright metallic stuff going on (well I am not really sure what to call it, it's like a silver with a sepia wash). I was thinking about using black as the skin tone (black as pitch) but I thought that might not look so good when painted. If I painted by High Elves like this, it might just work.
This is what angst ridden teenagers should look like, in my head anyway

I might do a bit more thinking about the dwarves but I have loads of these already. Maybe that is tomorrow's topic.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Dog-ri-la Or How I Learned To Stopped Worrying and Love Basing

My other half is away for a few days and I was expecting to go out for the day but decided against it when the weather started to look a little bleak. Oh good said I, a day where the kids will be playing and I can get on with ever I want to do. Computer games and painting figures. Now that I have some varnish I thought I could get on with a bit of finishing off and painting.

I really wanted to do some painting. Whilst surfing I have seen a few people who keep a tally of what they paint for the year. Although I am keeping track of what I do, keeping a list of what you have done seems a little too like Bridget Jones' Diary for me. anyway, I think that The New Cruelty demands I paint.

So after a few hours of playing Civilization (having played it till 4a.m. the previous night) I thought it was time I did a bit of painting. Just as soon as I sat down the dog started going a bit mental. This has continued throughout the day. My other half chose a dog breed that is essentially a bit clingy as well as being big and energetic enough to need a lot of exercise. So that is how may day has ended up. My life has been all about creating dogtopia. I have thrown and kicked more tennis balls and dog toys in one day than I have in the last month.

Although painting has been off the cards, no chance of doing any fine detail work, I still wanted to do something. So I splashed a bit of ink on some basis and sprayed on some varnish. Then I spent a bit of time putting on some flock and scatter. And here we are. Whilst I am planning to go out tomorrow, I expect to get another coat of varnish on them and then I can put them away until needed.

As I was scanning the work bench I realised I didn't actually have that much prepped and ready to go. Four Human catchers and six linemen, four goblins and and ogre and that was about it. Pretty much all the figures on the bench are now painting. So as I couldn't paint maybe I could sort out some stuff for when the Blood Bowl stuff is done. So I worked out what I wanted to do next.

The storage boxes are full of stuff. If I started painting what is there it would probably take me a couple of year to finish them all off. So I selected what I thought I needed to do next. Then came the glue and the sand.

Despite my fairly chaotic approach to painting, there is a plan to what I do. According to the plan I need certain types of figures. Most of what I buy for fantasy games is fairly dark age in its appearance. The Viking Game is still my most worked on game and my most underplayed. Despite this I still want to paint figures.

For well over a decade my group gamed with about one hundred figures. This pretty much limited figures for player characters not to mention only have one set of monsters which were some late eighties GW night goblins. I swore to myself that this would not happen again. With my game I try to limit players to the human race and I have a few norse themed non human races, specifically dwarves, light elves (or they are wood elves) and dark elves (which are not GW type dark elves but actually high elves). What has put me off doing other races is the absence of figures for them. I have talked about this before here so I won't go on about it here. What I am trying to do though is to make sure I have a pool of suitable figures for player characters. Fighters are easy. As well as some mundane plastic Viking types and units of infantry, there is probably a couple of figure trays of figures suitable for figures. Some of these can do double duty as barbarians, rangers and the like. I have some female fighters but the plan was always to get some more, I just haven't got round to it. When the project was in full swing the only female fighters I could find were by Foundry and they were a bit too high fantasy if you know what I mean. The Dice Bag lady now has quite a few I could use.

Thanks to Frostgrave I now have over a tray of wizards and magic types. I could probably do with more female mages. By the time I have finished with the plan I dare say there will be two trays of mages. I am somewhat over achieving here.

Where I am underachieving is in bards, thieves and clerics. I have three bard figures in the sense of the skald or scop. There are a few other figures I have that are unpainted that have something like a mandolin and so don't really fit the plan. In the game there are christian type clerics, and those for druids and the norse gods. Whilst there are no thieves as such, there are plenty of shifty types. My painted collection of clerics consists of about five druids, eight christian types and maybe the odd figure that would pass as a norse man of the gods.

So in about two hundred words, here I am the next lot of figures on the desk is a bit of a mixed bag but there are a few more clerics and some thieves. There are few odds and sods. One is a potion carrier from the Frostgrave range which I think will do nicely as a norse cleric. There are a couple of Midlam Miniatures Clerics as well. The thieves are mostly Frostgrave again and some of these are actually meant to be magic users but with the right paint scheme they will fit the part. And a few other figures which are again all Frostgrave.

I realise that now has got this far. But if you have, it would be nice if you could leave a comment.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Best Roleplaying Experiences

I have spent a huge amount of my live either playing or plotting RPGs. My experience is that some games are most definitely better than others. Over time, I have decided that games that have a more streamlined ruleset with a simple mechanism works best. It has ended up with a list of five games, this is not an arbitrary figure, it is just happened that there were five of them.

Traveller was the third set of rules that I purchased. I have started with Tunnels and Troll and moved on to D+D (rather than AD+D) but I was always a sci-fi buff. Then I started to see Traveller in the games shops I went in and I quickly found this was something I wanted to get into. This was my go to game as a GM for almost all of my early gaming experiences and it still has a pull on me today. Over the  years it is the game I am probably most invested in, in terms of money and playing time. It has a random generation system for characters which is still, to my mind, one of the best systems ever and certainly the best around at the time. It favoured skills over stats which was hugely different to the other games at the time. The gaming mechanism, roll 2d6 and get above 7 (or 8 depending on the ref), subject to skill and situational modifiers. It was well supported and the game is still played in an essentially similar format today and has plenty of online support. Whilst I have run this game a lot, it was the campaign that Jim ran in his version of Traveller in a coherent campaign that has gone of for decades that was the best. My experiences of the newer versions of the game have not been good but this is largely down to the GM not the system.

Harn or Harnmaster is one of the few fantasy games on my list. The world is essentially very medieval. Elements of low fantasy are part of the everyday world (with magic and religion having detailed separate books) with higher fantasy elements beyond the fringes of society. Again it a random character generation system although you have some choices. The referee can give you a bit more freedom if they like. One of the best elements of the game is the combat system. You get choices of what you do in melee and ranged combat that you don't get in most games. This gives you more of a feel for being part of the action. The mechanism for skill checks is nice and simple but can give you a variety of outcomes. This can easily be played in any variety of genres. This is a game that is still well supported on line and there are more mids for this game than any other I can think of that function much like mods on modern computer games. I ran this for a short while but it was really the GMing of Mike that got me to love this game, he turned it into something that was a bit more high fantasy that was a truly memorable game.

Conspiracy X is another game I love. Born out of The X Files TV show, it is a much darker yet more real world tabletop version of the show. Players take on the roles (usually) of  real or game created government agencies who fight supernatural and alien threats to the earth. I have always run it as a conspiracy within a conspiracy with a lot of science and supernatural elements. Although I am working my way through the second edition books, I have only ever played the first edition so my experiences only reflect that. It's a points buy system which allows for a lot of skill and ability customisation. It does leave you with a feel for the character and what has turned them into what they are. The mechanisms just use d6 (which changes in the second edition) and a simple roll modified by skills, stats and situational mods is about all you need to know as a player. You start with a choice of profession that gives you a range of skills to chose from and the ability to pull strings in certain areas. From here you can buy skills, abilities and influence. Influence affects you about to pull strings and acquire a range of equipment from light revolvers to Aurora stealth planes constructed with alien technology. The players, as group get together to spend points to set up a base and can give it a range of facilities, support staff as well as vehicles and gear. One of the coolest systems in the game was the martial arts sections. Each form comes with a range of abilities (flip, disarm, break neck, punch, kick, haymaker, killing blow for example) with more skilled fighters having the ability to create attack combos of multiple moves. Sadly this has never been a popular game and has extremely limited online support. This was a game that I got off someone else but turned into into a few long running campaigns and a few shorter ones.

Savage Worlds is my current go to RPG game and has been for about five years now. It is a simple and streamlined system which as it says, cuts out the fat and creates a fast, furious and fun system. This still allows for interesting combat and competition between characters. Character creation is simple and this allows players to get into the game quickly. There is no character classes but you do get to pick a variety of edges and in some games you get to pick a race depending on the background. Skill checks are easy enough to do with a fairly simple mechanism using different types of dice. My reasons for choosing this as my go to is that they game is multi genre and is easy to convert to just about any background. There are so many fan created background that go along with numerous in house creations. Any system can be converted over relatively easily and any TV show, film or game can quickly be turned into a background. If it has a flaw then it is that the game is so simple. Unless you are a careful GM you can run the risk of monsters being a bit samey. This game is big enough to be heavily supported online and this has a lot of fan support. I have run a few campaigns in this system. My Viking Game uses this as does the Fallout Game. I have played in a huge number of different backgrounds with other GMs and loved pretty much all of them.

Cyberpunk 2020 is another blast from the past. It's a game that I played a lot during the nineties and even now I still think about using the system. Born out of William Gibson's books and other authors of the time. It predicts a time when man and machine are completely integrated and cybernetics , if not an everyday part of life is common amongst the military and the underworld. Hacking computers whilst a human brain is directly meshed within the network is relatively commonplace. Whilst style is at the forefront of what many characters become there is a fair amount of substance to character generation. There are a range of character classes, each with their own unique abilities. There is a random element to character generation but you do get to pick and chose some elements. Although clearly based in America, there are supplements that cross the globe and even into near earth orbit and Mars. Skill checks and combat operate through a fairly simple system but there is enough meat on the bones to make it interesting. This is an older system but does not really feel that out of date although many of the issues around technology seem to have been more than a bit optimistic. Although it was fairly big at the time it has not stood the test of time despite Shadowrun (essentially the same sort of game but with orcs, elves dwarves etc) coming back for edition after edition and initially at least, not being as good a system. Whilst there is some online support for the game and a new edition, it is perhaps not as well supported as some of the other games. Cyberpunk was another one of Mike's games and a twisted turbulent campaign it was lasting several years.

If you have any suggestions (that are not D+D because I just won't believe you :)) please tell me about them.

Monday, 14 August 2017

End Of The Week, Maybe A Little Late

As the end of the week has been and gone, I thought I'd better show you what I had been up to. The New Cruelty demands five figures per week and  that is what I managed. With a bit of effort I even managed a bit more than the five.

The main aim for the week was to finish some more Human Blood Bowl team players. When the week started, things were going well but I had a little injury time so things slowed up for a few days. I finished them off and gave the bases a couple of coats at the same time as painting the bases for the precious Human Team players and the seven Orc Linemen from the week before.

There have been a few figures on the workbench for months. Some rats and a frost wraith for Frostgrave and a spirit of some kind from reaper. The rats have taken a few steps closer to being finished. The frost wraith is pretty much done.
The spirit was a bit of an experiment. This is a figure I have had for probably fifteen years. It was an impulse buy and it has never really gripped me. This has allowed me to experiment with it a little. Still a bit of work to do on this one.

My shopping trip yesterday saw me get some Blood Bowl Goblins. Whilst I have no immediate urge for a goblin team, some goblins are needed to cover all the bases on the Orc Team. I think I might do a Goblin team and an Underworld team at some point so these will do for that. Some special players and a few more goblins would be nice to finish that lot off.  So four Goblins have been glued up and based. Just need a Varag and the team will be all but complete.

My mind is turning to what is going to get done next. My mind is a little all over the place at the moment so I am not really seeing a next step. Whilst I am enjoying the Blood Bowl thing, the Goblins, the Human Catchers and the Ogre are not really doing it for me. An old fave of mine was a RPG called Conspiracy X, my mind is being drawn towards this. Some more fantasy stuff that would fit in the Viking game would be a possibility. The Frostgrave stuff I have done recently has been done because it was there, not because I have any real urge to paint. I was having a fling at Malifaux on eBay during the week. There are some figures I might tart up a bit. Still I don't have a clear direction for next week.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Games Workshop Sued And Matters Arising. Is It Really Fair?

Please go and look at this first...

This at least should give you some sense of perspective. In some ways it is funny. We all know that games workshop has been fleecing us for years. GW like a lot of companies that make miniatures, have gone over to making plastic miniatures rather than white metal (which is expensive) and resin (which is more hard work and not quite as good).  Most of us, I am sure, are pretty sure that money and not quality is at the heart of the process.

In my life I do prefer absolutes but when I look at this I am not sure if I am here to praise GW (faint praise is not all that damning right?) or to bury it (along with a myriad of other manufacturers).

One of the most shocking elements that has been revealed is that a model that sold for $20 actually costs $0.03 to produce. To be fair, I am pretty sure that this figure is not the actual cost of getting a product to market. Anyone who wears trainers already knows that most of them are made in a sweatshop in so poor third world country where the staff get paid $0.30 an hour and the trainers cost about a dollar and retail to close to $200 (sorry for the American money values but that is what has been quoted). When I used to play Flames of War I was disappointed that they went to using plastic but I was shocked when I found out that their production run was being shifted from New Zealand to Malaysia (I think). Malifaux also transitioned from metal to plastic.

We all know there has been considerable use of, let's call it the ideas of others rather than infringement of intellectual property. They are not the only company to do that but they are perhaps the most successful at it. Blood Bowl is my current fave miniatures game, to paint figures for at least. Setting aside the fact that some of the races are almost certainly the IP of others (orcs are certainly a creation of Tolkein) there was Monsters of the Midway (which I think the IP would now belong to TSR) which was an American Football based fantasy game (which also used IP races). Several years ago I recall a number of Blood Bowl based web sites being bullied by them. Likewise, people using the term Space Marine were also being pressured.
Is this a fair image? I am not so sure.
The guy behind it seemed to also be referring to Genestealers as infringing the copyright of Giger and Scott. Sure it is a big alien killing machine but there have been aliens before. Pretty much every has elements derived from elsewhere but I think that is something that detracts from the argument not strengthens it. There are a number of companies that use the look of characters from movies, TV and even games. TV has stolen things as well and computer games do it all the while.

This is just a list off the top of my head of copyrighted material that has come close to being infringed.

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, 2300AD, Alien, Aliens, An American Werewolf In London, Back To The Future, Battlestar Galactica, Battletech, Big Trouble In Little China, Blade, Cona, Dawn Of The Dead, Die Hard, Doctor Who, Dracula, Escape from New York, Fallout (has been ripped off many times but it ripped off multiple sources itself), Firefly, Flash Gordon, Frankenstein, Friday the 13th, Ghostbusters, Hitch Hikers's Guide To the Galaxy, Hot Fuzz, Ice Station Zebra (yes it is an old fim, and not a good one), Indiana Jones, Kick Ass,  IT, James Bond, Planet Of The Apes, Land Of The Dead, Left 4 Dead, Leon, Mad Max, Miami Vice, Monty Python, Night Of The Living Dead, Predator, Punisher, Rambo, Resident Evil, Roadside Picnic (that's Stalker), Scooby Doo, Scrubs, Sharpe, Shaun Of The Dead, Sinbad, Sin City, Sons Of Anarchy, Star Gate, Star Trek, Starship Troopers, Star Wars, Superman, Taxi Driver, Terminator, The Big Bang Theory, The Blues Brothers, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, The Fly, The Good The Bad And The Ugly, The Invisible Man, The League Of extraordinary Gentlemen, The Magnificent Seven, The Maltese Falcon, The Rocketeer, The Thing (film and comic book character), The Three Musketeers, The Walking Dead, The Ear Of The Worlds, The Silence of The Lambs, The Wizard of Oz, The Woldman, Tomb Raider, Traveller, Vikings, Warhammer 40k, X-Com, Zombieland and not to mention just about everything by HP Lovecraft. I could go on. And on. And on.

Companies do it because it is what we, the consumer, want. They are rarely perfect copies. That would be wrong. What they do is make something close enough to evoke the memories which is good enough for most of us.

American law is different to British law, I know that is kind of an obvious statement. But selling things is down to the profit motive. If you want to make money off something you buy it wholesale, if it comes with a caveat, well you have a contract. Compensation culture seems to be taking over again.

Third party retailers are almost always willing to undercut GW. I rarely buy anything other than paint from the stores directly because of this. So they defend themselves. They make a lot of money out of it but that is the nature of the free market and even with all that money, they don't always seem to be doing that well.

Saturday, 12 August 2017


Today I have been to Britcon. It's a smaller show with a definite emphasis on competition gaming. There are a few traders there and I was after a few things. The main reason for going was friends. Whilst it is a smaller show it does seem to have a good vibe. It's geared up for residential and these kind of events have a little more intensity coupled with some more friendly players. You get to know people.There were going to be a couple of people there, one was in a competition and the other was a volunteer on the bring and buy.

So I got a few things, varnish being the main one. Then I went on a trip the game shops in the city centre.  Did a bit of shopping here and there. Just a whistle stop tour really but as I don't get there very often it was a nice break.

Goodies wise, my main aim was spray varnish which I managed to get a couple of cans of at a good price. It was a day where I was after bits and most were not to be found. One of things I did find was some Army Painter inks. For a while now I have not been liking the sepia colour that GW do. The old one was much better so I thought the Army Painter might be okay. As I walked away with three different shades of brown ink at least I will have some variety. Whilst I nearly got some old Blood Bowl stuff I did walk away with a box of goblins because they were cheap. There a few other odds and sods but not much.

A few people were talking about Massive Darkness. Lots of figures for very little money etc. Somewhere along the line I have heard about it but I have not really had much interested. So I have come back  and had a look myself. Having listened to what what of the people I was chatting to was saying, there seem to be a lot of tentacles. Not sure that I can completely back that up but there are a lot of silly hats and implausible weapons. Like the latest Spiderman movie, I am sure that I haven't missed out on much.

Friday, 11 August 2017


Rats. Northstar rats in particular. Nice looking miniatures on line but lots of flash, so much so I still don't think I got it all and I will have to hide some of the undersides when I do the bases. These were brought because I don't have any medium sized rats I have plenty of smaller rats (which are ral Partha) which are about accurate size of slightly bigger and even the odd humanoid rat. I figure as well as a fantasy game they would do for Fallout or other post apocalyptic genres (anything that has use across multiple games is good).
Over time I have been a big devotee of the Frostgrave range. Whilst I don't own the complete range I am not that far off it. Here I went as far as buying three packs of figures because I liked the look of them so much. In hindsight, whilst the figures are nice, the castings are pretty poor which is unexpected as most of the Frostgrave stuff has been excellent.

They are still work in progress (and have been sat on the bench half painted for months) so no close up shots yet. As these get finished off. I would hope that they will improve. These are nice looking sculpts and fit my purposes perfectly although this may take a while. Rat wise I need a rat swarm and some larger ones still and all my rat needs should be taken care of.

I have had some more second hand malifaux stuff  through the post today. It wa cheap so I guess I can't complain but it did arrive a bit battered. Maybe I will move on to doing a bit more of that as time goes by.

P.S. Not sure what happened when I first went to post this but this morning I found the page full full of gibberish. A few unkind souls might say that there is nothing new there then. When I came back into the room the cat was sat next to the computer so I am guessing that might have something to do with it.