Thursday, November 21, 2013

72. Piles of Bones

Yes, I participated in the Reaper Miniature Bones Kickstarter last year (and for that matter, I backed the Bones 2 Kickstarter too; hey, I'm sick, I need help). Overall I'm happy with the Bones figures, mixed with a tiny bit of disappointment.

The Bones plastic is better suited to large figures, yet most of the basic figures (in the Kickstarter) are human sized.  They have decent detail on the human-sized figures, but metal is still better.

I totally understand that this is a great way for Reaper to get new blood into the hobby.  Relatively speaking, it's a very inexpensive way to provide miniatures to new painters.  (The Kickstarter was a super-duper inexpensive way to get a lot of figures; that's partly why I backed it.)  I've seen many postings on forums (fora?) from newby painters, all excited and a-quiver over painting their first miniatures.  This is a Good Thing.

The Bones figures, however, IN MY OPINION, do not merit my spending the usual way-too-much time per figure that I usually do on them.

One last thing I am not happy about is the fact that they are not prime-able. Supposedly they are not meant to be primed, and in point of fact this works fine if that's how you paint anyhow:  straight unwatered-down paint on the Bones.  But that's not how I paint; that's never how anyone has ever painted in the whole history of acrylics ever.  I've been painting miniatures since 1988, and I've always always always diluted the paint with water.  It's how I was taught.  It's how the professionals did it; it's how they still do it.  I don't know how to paint without diluting the paint.  I don't know why you'd want to paint without diluting the paint first.  But if you water the paint down, it won't stick to the Bones.  And if you spray prime it (again, as I've done since 1988 on every figure I've ever owned) it becomes tacky.

The only thing I was able to figure out to do was to use Reaper Brush-on Primer first.  This allows me to use my tried-and-true technique of thinning my paint, but it DOUBLES the amount of time needed to work on a figure.

Accordingly I decided to paint them as quickly and simply as possible, while still aspiring to a high enough standard that I won't hate the end result. Here, then, are those results of the first two batches of Bones that I have painted.

I went with the more useful (to me) generic dungeon monsters first, as well as those that required the least amount of detail work.

If you click on the pictures, they will expand to fill your screen with  gloriously-mundanely-painted Bones.
First up is my personal favorite, the Owlbear.  I love this sculpt, and I tried to get the eyes to match the crazed feel of the pose.  The Monster Manual describes the Owlbear as having "bestial madness in its red-rimmed eyes," so, yes, there is a bit of red there too.  I did want his eyes to stand out though, so went with the yellow.
Next up, a majestic Griffin.  One thing I did to speed up the mass-batch painting was to use the same colors over and over again on all the figures.  I don't really expect most of them to turn up at the same time in a game, so having similar colors won't really be too noticeable.
An "Eyebeast" (aka Beholder) on the left, and the Owlbear again.  I'm not sure why I didn't get a solo picture of the Beholder.  These are excellent examples of where Bones shines:  larger critters with normal details.
Moving on to the smaller beasts, here we have (L to R):  a Rust Monster (Reaper calls it an "Oxidation Beast"), a Bat Swarm over a tombstone, a Hell Hound, and a Mimic (again, Reaper calls it a "Mocking Beast").  The only information I could find about the Hell Hound in the Monster Manual said it had glowing red eyes and a soot black mouth.
Vermin!  (L to R, back to front):  Dust Scorpions, Spiders, Scarab Beetle Swarms, Fire Beetles, a Rat Swarm (yes, it came with two but I somehow missed the 2nd when digging them out of the box), and Spider Swarms.
Rats!  Extra large (and "dire" to judge by their eyes).
Skeletons.  If I ever become an Undead abomination, I hope I'm a skeleton archer:  that way the bowstring won't hurt my arm when I shoot!  I didn't take time to straighten (or otherwise adjust) the bows.  It's Bones.  It is what it is.
Some dressing for your naked dungeon:  two Candelabra, a sacrificial Altar, a (healing?) fountain (aka the "Well of Chaos" per Reaper), and a tomb (currently empty, called "Vault and Lid").
This is a slightly closer view of the fountain and the inside of the tomb.  The water is glossy, although it's difficult to see here, and the rose in the coffin is part of the sculpt.
I forgot to mention that the dungeon-y floor and walls above are from the Legendary Realms Terrain Kickstarter I mentioned in my last post.

Following these, I tackled the "translucents."
Team Fire (L to R):  Medium Fire Elemental, Large Fire Elemental, a Burning Sphere Spell Effect, and a Wall of Fire.  I tried very hard to highlight the figures without obscuring the translucent quality of the plastic.  I like the concept of the translucents but the execution left me a little cold (kind of funny since these are fire and all).  I felt they needed something to help them out.  They were almost too translucent, so much so that you couldn't really see the figure!
Team Spook (L to R):  a Spirit, the Night Spectre, a Banshee (Labella DeMornay by name), a Grave Wraith, and the Ghostly Summons.  To darken the green I used some old GW Green Wash.
I don't have any better pictures of the translucents because they are very difficult to photograph!  Either the camera won't focus on them well, or you really just can't see them.  So you'll have to make do with these; sorry.

You may very well think you have seen these greens and reds somewhere else, and you'd be right!  Specifically, I very nearly copied and pasted my painting technique straight from the Reaper Miniatures forum, which you can see here.  Scroll down about halfway and you'll see what I mean.  I'm not afraid to admit when I steal someone else's good idea.

Also, as an FYI, nearly all of the paint I used for everything seen here was Apple Barrel or similar craft paint.  The quantities I needed were so large that I didn't want to "waste" my expensive Reaper paints that way.  Job's a good 'un!
A Reaper Bones skeleton battling the Large Fire Elemental, for scale comparison.  Really, though, who can hurt the other?
A final glamour shot.  Team Fire led by a very old Ral Partha wizard gives battle to an even older RAFM ghost-chick who is now leading Team Spook.
For what it's worth, the dungeon terrain seen in the Fire and Spook pictures is from the Dwarven Forge Kickstarter I backed.  I went for the unpainted tiles. What you see here are the results of my painting the tiles in a manner similar to what Stefano Pokorny from DF talks about in his instructional videos.  No, I did not buy Pokorny Paints or brushes.  No, I will not buy them.  No, I don't need such a goober making videos like that.  No, Stefano, you are not the first person to ever drybrush something.  Good grief....

Anyway, the painted portion is obvious, and the upper walls are the unpainted tiles just piled up to hide the rest of my table.  So you can see the difference pretty well, in case you're interested in buying some yourself.  I'll have a full blog post on the Dwarven Forge tiles once I finish painting them all, at some time in the future.

Thanks for looking, and happy Bones-painting to you too!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

71. More Kickstarter Goodness

All at once in the last few weeks I've received a number of Kickstarters that I backed.  For the longest time, nothing; then several came within days of each other.

First, my Legendary Realms Terrain Mega-Dungeon.  I'll never be able to make my own from Hirst Arts molds, so I ponied up the money (big money too) for someone else to make it for me.  Pre-painted, made from resin.  The quality is about what you'd expect from a small company that got completely SLAMMED by orders from their Kickstarter, and hasn't truly done all that well in getting things out in a timely manner.  I count myself lucky to have received mine when I did.
Two big boxes, very heavy.
They were packed very carefully:  pieces inside other pieces.  There is no way I could ever replicate this for storage or similar.  I'm not sure how they figured it out.  Unfortunately, because painted side was touching painted sides, there was some rubbing during transport and some (not much but some) of the paint was removed from some of the pieces.  It's nothing I can't fix with a simple drybrush, though.  And to LRT's credit he offered to replace any pieces damaged or paint-damaged for free.  I did not take him up on his offer, although I was missing two hall pieces and have yet to see them.
Here's another view of the inside of the box.
Here you can see some of the detail of the castings, as well as the rubbing that occurred during shipping.  It's nothing a little black/grey drybrushing won't take care of.

Second, Gangfight Games expansion figures for their Western-themed game, Blackwater Gulch.  The Kickstarter was run by Game Salute.  I got in mainly for the non-Firefly figures, plus the overall number of figures for the price was decent in my opinion, and they are all metal figs so that's a plus to me.  And while they're Western-themed, they are generic enough to use for nearly any system outside of pure D&D fantasy:  pulps, post-apocalyptic, even some moderns.
The box.  Why do I take pictures like this?  I'm not really sure....
What it looked like upon opening.
Left to Right:  The Widowmakers, the single figs and dice, the Tranquility Crew, and Wilde's Rangers (and their Gatling Gun).

Third, I backed the Dwarven Forge dungeon terrain Kickstarter (and this was well after I had already backed the Legendary Realms one, too, but at the time it was starting to look like I might not ever receive the LRT dungeon).  My hope was that the pieces would match up and I could effectively (almost) double my dungeon size in one go, but it was not to be.  It's not that they don't totally match up, it's more like they almost match up and how close do you want it before it starts to look bad on the table?

The box.  Yep, there it is.
The contents upon opening.  Four boxes, two of each are identical.  I got two sets, you see.
Individually wrapped pieces, that eventually looked like...
Oh, and I got a bag too.  You can just throw the tiles in there willy-nilly, because, since they're "plastic" they're practically indestructible.
I realize I don't have a picture of the Dwarven Forge tiles all set up.  I'll correct that soon.  But since I got the unpainted set, there's not much to see yet.  Just black-brown plastic.

Lastly, I expect to receive notice any day now that my OGRE Designer's Edition has shipped.  OGRE was the first Kickstarter that I ever backed, and I went a little overboard, plus it led me down this primrose path of other Kickstarters.  Seriously, my bank account hurts....

Funny thing is, I began writing this blog post almost two weeks ago and I have YET to receive shipping notice.  This is due to the very strange shipping methodology SJGames has adopted.  Somehow they thought that sending the geographically-farther sets out first would get the game to all backers at the same time.  Well, I live only a couple hundred miles from OGRE HQ and this guarantees I will be among the last to receive it, while backers much further away have already been playing games with their sets.  Bleah, I say.  And yes, I think it is a stupid methodology.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

70. Arrrrr, Matey!

I finished painting some pirates.  Yar, me.  These are from the Reaper boxed set "Pirates of the Dragonspine Sea."  My box is cardboard, not the plastic one shown on the link, I've had it that long.

These did not really inspire me at all.  I started them right before I received my Bones miniatures, thinking I could knock them out quick-like.  But I stagnated with their uninspired poses and lackluster execution.  It was all I could do to force myself to finish them, but I cannot stand unfinished minis even worse!

I have no plans to use them in any game, although a couple of them could possibly double as fantasy swordsmen/women.  I do have some pirate-game rules, but have never played them.  What's more, I have no intention to.

I added into the mix "Maria Roseblade" from Reaper, since she's a pirate too, and I paint better in large batches.  *She* is an excellent sculpt, and has much fine detail:  fine the in sense of very detailed details, and fine in the sense of she's just a beautiful model.

The funny thing is Sandra Garrity sculpted both Maria Roseblade as well as all of the boxed pirates, including the girl with two swords.  The dates on the back of the metal base of the two-sword girl is 2000, and Maria Roseblade's date is 2002.  So, they were sculpted two years apart; I think you can really tell both the improvement in Ms. Garrity's abilities as well as the casting process Reaper uses.  What's more, in 2000 I wouldn't have thought Ms. Garrity could improve, because she was already just that good.  She is one of the best sculptors in the industry, in my opinion, and I have many, many, many of her miniatures (both painted and unpainted).  The only thing I can think of is that this was just another job for her that day; crank 'em out and get paid.

Anyway, on to the pictures.  Click them and they will enlarge quite a bit.
Left:  #03131 Eric Swiftblade, Swashbuckler; Right:  #03130 Isabella Florentina
I wasn't originally certain whether the one on the left was a guy or a girl.  I finally decided it was a dude, and gave him a three-days' growth of beard.  The girl on the right is a horrible pose; I mean, who stands like that?
A rear view.  Seriously, Ms. Garrity, what were you thinking?
Left:  #03152, Peg Leg Pete, Pirate Cook; Right:  #03144, Captain Wilmont Silver.
If he's a cook, why does he have the treasure map?  And you've heard of Zorro, the Gay Blade?  Meet, Wilmont, the Gay Pirate!
I told you I was uninspired by these.  How else can I explain a yellowy-orangey pirate cloak with matching hair?  I was really just trying to see how bright I could get it.
Left:  #03164, Captain Hook; Right:  #03176, Blackbeard, Pirate.
How many Captains are running around in this crew anyway?  I am just terribly unhappy with the colors of Hook, but oh well.  Blackbeard is one of the better figures in the box, but by the time I got to him I was tired of painting the same coat colors; I could hardly think of new combinations.  Un-in-spiring.
Blackbeard I could probably find a use for.  Not a bad generic looking model; maybe for a leader-type.
Left:  #02645, Maria Roseblade (not included in the box set); Right:  #P10011G, Pirates Monkey Treasure.
The treasure pile is pretty cool, and it's solid metal so it's hefty.  And how can you not like a monkey holding the skeleton key; very characterful.  The treasure monkey was sculpted by Bob Olley.  Maria Roseblade is my favorite.  Did I mention that already?  I think I might have.
A rear view.  It really is a monkey because it has a tail....
Maria is such a nice miniature she gets her own solo picture.  I wanted to do her justice with a nice paint job (as much as I am able) so I worked on her color scheme and details the longest.  (In other words, I actually cared how she turned out, as compared to my feelings for the others.)
Here is an example of what I mean by "fine detail":  look at the backs of her leggings, and her belt.  Lots of hooks, loops and buckles.  Absolutely beautiful.
 Thanks for reading and looking at my pictures!  Until next time.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

69. Game Comparison

Recently I was able to play two games solo (which is pretty funny when you consider how my last post began...).  I've had a long-time attraction to the "Song of..." series of games from Ganesha Games.  Yet every time I play one I come away frustrated, and yet I keep going back.

I recently bought "Song of Blades and Heroes," and it's 3 supplements as PDFs during a sale on  I played a very simple 5-figures per side, Robin Hood-like guys vs Sheriff's Men-like guys, with no special rules other than what was built-in to the base figures:  Leader, Shooter (long), etc.

"SoBaH" recommends for 28mm figures a playing surface of 3'x3'.  I set up a 4'x4' table (that's the width of the grass cloth I use) and set the initial points at least six inches in from either edge, so the effective result was a 3'x3' area.  I had the Woodsmen enter from the left and split up into two groups, and the Soldiers enter from the right and similarly split into two groups.  The goal was to occupy the house in the center of the table, and drive the enemy off.

But, because I get bored with plain-Jane straight-up-the-middle battles, I decided to mix things up a little.  About the time I made contact in the center, I had an Ogre enter the table right in the middle, and then had the two former enemy sides join forces to defeat it.  (A fantasy Ogre, not the other kind.  :-)   )

After I played, I then set up the game again in the exact same configuration and played it using Two Hour Wargames' rules, mostly "Warrior Heroes:  Legends" but which I have heavily house-ruled to my personal use and satisfaction (sort of a conglomeration of all 2HW's skirmish rulesets plus some personal tweaks; a sort of Universal 2HW ruleset).  I attempted to have the figures in the same places in the same way as during the first game, then had the Ogre enter at the "same time," and had the two sides join against it again.  The outcome was the same, but it took a very different route getting there.

The two games played very differently.  One of the biggest differences is the range of shooting weapons:  bows and crossbows.  SoBaH abstracts all weapons a great deal more than 2HW does, and the ranges are much shorter (which makes sense if you're playing on 3'x3'; and to be fair 2HW also recommends 3'x3' for a playing area, which I personally think is too small).  In 2HW on a 3'x3' table, the enemy is within range of most weapons after one move; not so in SoBaH.  Also, the Group activation of 2HW compared to the individual activation of SoBaH makes for a different feel, and a much faster game.

Come to think of it, that might be the biggest difference between the two:  the speed of play and how fast things happen.  In SoBaH your movement distance is very short compared to the table size and you can only move one figure at a time.  (NOTE, there are optional rules for moving groups of figures, but I didn't use them, as I was just trying to get a feel for the basic rules; so my final assessment may be colored by that fact.)  In 2HW you can move groups of figures, or single figures, and the distances are greater, so you close into combat more quickly.

Also in SoBaH, depending on how many dice you "spend" to activate a figure you may be able to move and shoot/fight, or only move, or only shoot/fight.  Your opponent gets to react to being attacked in a very basic way, in that he gets to roll when you attack; the deciding factor in determining if the attack is successful or not is the comparison between the two rolls.  In 2HW, every figure can move and shoot/attack every time it is Active, but when it does so it triggers 2HW's claim to fame, the Reaction System.  This means that the opponent figure gets to do something every time, too, ranging from attacking back, to ducking out of sight.

SoBaH ends up playing much more like a traditional IGOUGO style game, as compared to the interactive, back-and-forth feel of 2HW.

Below are some pictures of the games in progress, with pertinent commentary to help understand the tactical situation (that just means, I'll be talking about what you see).  My final thoughts are at the end of this post.

This is SoBaH after two turns.  SoBaH has a provision that if there are no enemies closer than two "long" measures away you can make one normal move without rolling.  So essentially I could have just started here instead.  Originally, each group began in the trees on the sides.  What's more, the turn sequence was the Woodsmen first, then Soldiers second; then back and forth.
The Woodsmen moved into position, and then the Soldiers moved as you see here.  They successfully occupied the house.  I was particularly interested in seeing how melee-armed figures versus bow-armed figures would play out.
The Woodsmen knocked one soldier down but he got up and advanced to the road.  The leader of the Soldiers attacked "Robin" and knocked him down.  And then....
Here comes da Ogre.
I have 22 pictures of this combat.  One for each turn, or when something significant happened.  Mostly the humans piled on, attacking individually, and either knocking down or pushing back the Ogre.  Even with the bonuses of more than one attacker, they couldn't roll dice well enough to put the creature down permanently.
Until, at last, when I began to despair that the game would ever end, and un-named Soldier completed the killing blow.  I'm not sure how many turns it took but it took a long time.
After this, I had no desire to continue the game of Woodsmen vs Soldiers.  Instead I set up the 2HW version, in exactly the same starting positions.  I attempted to get them to the same places as in the SoBaH game for when the Ogre arrived, but as you will see it didn't work out quite the same way.
Here we see the 2HW game several turns in.  "Robin" and the crossbowman both need to reload, as each as fired at the other.  In SoBaH I don't think either side was even in range yet.
So, one of the Soldiers attempted to run, triggering an In Sight test... which one of the Woodsmen successfully targeted him, hit him and sent him Out of the Fight.  (I later learned -- in Q&A with Ed at 2HW -- that I had skipped the Soldier's 'Duck Back' opportunity, denying him the chance to escape, but I played it how it felt right at the time.  C'est la vie, or in this case, C'est la morte.)  This caused his partner to Duck Back out of sight.  This then caused the figures to be out of position with regards to the Ogre entering.
Cue the Ogre.  More of the Woodsmen had Ducked Back earlier.  Charging across open ground is a good way to get dead in 2HW games.  I was afraid if I tried to duplicate the positions any further I wouldn't have anyone left to fight the Ogre.  So 'ere 'e comes!
Coincidentally enough, the Ogre was the only one to Activate.  The green die is for the Woodsmen, the red for the Soldiers and the Black for the Ogre.  Both Leaders were Rep 5, the men were Rep 4, and the Ogre was Rep 5.  Purest chance to roll it that way on the turn he arrived.  Bad luck for the humans...or so I thought.
The Ogre advanced to within charge range of the Ducked-Back archers (Ducked-Back from the sight of the Soldiers, not of the Ogre).  The 'sixes' showing were for their In Sight results at the Ogre appearing, meaning they rolled no successes at all (my own way of showing that).  The Ogre declares his charge into melee.  This is going to be brutal, I thought.  The Soldiers are too far away to help, and these are mere Woodsmen.
Cool action shot.  "Raaarrrggghhh!"
This is after the Charge into Melee table has been rolled on.  One archer has scored 2 successes more than the Ogre, the other only 1 success more.  So they get to fire their arrows at the Ogre (luckily they were not unloaded).  What could possibly go wrong?
Huh.  How about that.  The poor mean Ogre never even made it into combat before being taking Out of the Fight.  Well, that was quick.  Even though he had the Hard as Nails attribute, it apparently doesn't apply to OoF results, only OD results, so OoF he stayed.  I decided to finish playing out the scenario to see which side would win.
Here's an overview of the carnage.  Lots of red OoF markers, and grey OD markers.
A close-up of the main battle area.  I won't go into the details, but "Robin" is Obviously Dead, as is the "Sheriff" and all but one each of their men.  The Reaction System makes it much more difficult to take chronological pictures, because so much happen in one turn; you'd almost need a picture of each Reaction, and this blog posting is far too long already.  It's ironic because the game plays much faster, but the reporting of it is much slower.

Please don't let this one single blog, by a poor, pathetic solo gamer such as myself, deter you from buying and playing Ganesha Games' products.  They are worth the price of admission if for no reason other than the fantastic artwork which graces their pages, most (if not all) of which is drawn by the primary author at GG himself, Andrea Sfiligoi.  Even 2HW rules use some of his artwork.  Plus the writing style is much more in line with modern, well-written rulesets:  clear and easily understood.  This is all the more surprising when you consider that English is not the author's primary language!

And yet, when I play them, they just play so haltingly, so slooowly.  I keep coming back, thinking I must surely be doing something wrong.

I also own numerous rules from 2HW, and have finally nearly almost got my head wrapped around the Reaction System.  Maybe.  It's a love-hate relationship:  I love the way the game plays, but I hate trying to figure it out!

One of my biggest complaints about 2HW rules is that there is no single ruleset you can use to play all of their games (the free "Chain Reaction:  Final Version" is simply the core engine, not a universal set).  Each genre has it's own tweaks to the core rules, sometimes with many and multiple additions and quirks, so that while you might be familiar with one set of rules, when you go to play another you almost have to relearn the whole thing.  The newer sets are not as drastically different as the older sets, compared to each other, but even so there are many subtle changes between "All Things Zombie:  Final Fade Out" and "5150:  New Beginnings."  

That, and the writing style that sometimes leaves much to be desired when it comes to understanding what the rules entail.  I love Ed like an Internet brother, he is fantastic at customer service and delivers a really good product (PDFs are included in the print-version price, how cool is that?).  But sometimes I wish he would let a disinterested third party write his rules for clarity's sake.

So I've house-ruled all the various 2HW sets I own (which is not all of them by any means, and mostly skirmish-oriented ones at that) into my own version of a Universal Reaction System.  It's purely for me and solo play, so that I can jump from fantasy skirmish to dinosaur hunting to sci-fi squad battles, or a mix of the three.  That way I can play without taking too long figuring out the rules.  At least, that is my hope and my goal.  I find that I keep stumbling on situations that I can't easily resolve without a disinterested third party.

Thanks for reading!