Wednesday, 15 January 2020

A quick orc (or ork?)

I tried to get this orc done in an hour, after undercoating. I didn't quite manage it, but that was entirely down to drying time for the wash of Agrax Earthshade that I slopped over him at an early stage. Drybrushing and contrast paints did the rest.

This fellow's destined for some Pulp Alley and Galactic Heroes games as a primitive member of a batch of orkish desperadoes. But he's also a test piece for one of several Hordes of the Things army I want to throw together from various odds and ends that my son and I have lying around.

Using Hordes of the Things with 40K miniatures may not be the most obvious thing (although it has been done a fair bit before), but we love the game, and it seems like the best way of using up a lot of otherwise redundant plastic.

There's also a bit of fun to be had in building each element. And the sheer size of the 40K miniatures means that each base will hold only a couple of miniatures. I reckon a full 24AP ork army will probably involve around 20 minis in total.

I've started off by converting some Warhammer orcs into orks, chiefly through left-hand (and gun) transplants.

The bulk of the army will be ordinary orks, two to an element. Machine-gunners will be shooters - on their own or with ammo-toting goblins if I can find some. Some left-over savage orcs might form hordes (on the basis that their ferocity isn't enough to make up for their lack of high-tech weaponry) or might be converted too. Then there will be opportunities for scratch-building dreadnoughts as behemoth elements.

Meanwhile, space marines will form blade elements, with marine bikers as either riders or knights. Imperial guards might be hordes - or perhaps shooters or spears, if equipped with las-cannons. Genestealers and tyranids might get in on the act too, as beasts and hordes, respectively. Once all the 'scraps' are used up, I might allow myself the odd eBay purchase to add some more exotic elements - as long as it can all be done on the cheap.

Monday, 6 January 2020


Our big discovery of the holidays was Daniel Mersey's The Men Who Would Be Kings. It's similar to the same author's Lion Rampant and Dragon Rampant games, but it also differs in some interesting ways that go beyond period flavour. The rules are designed for nineteenth-century colonial warfare, but we played them using red-armoured sci-fi orcs as colonialists and pallid fantasy orcs as 'natives'. 

Those games went well enough, and the colonial orcs have since been equipped with a field gun. But I thought we could do with some more interesting tribal types for the high-tech orcs to fight. 

'Tribals' in The Men Who Would Be Kings are typically fielded in units of 16, and a normal force might conceivably have eight such units. So the numbers point to recruitment from the ranks of the owned but unpainted rather than new purchases. Looming largest in those ranks are various reptile and amphibian humanoids. I have quite a lot of the old Citadel Slann - perhaps enough for three or four units - and lots of lizardmen of various sorts.

Among those are these chameleon men, which I bought second hand a couple of years ago. They're from an out-of-production boxed wargame called Carnage, and came with some lizard-mounted cavalry (whose amphibian riders might work as Slann) and some crocodilian swordsmen. I think there are about eight of each infantry type and ten of the cavalry. The Men Who Would Be Kings has an option for playing half-size units ('Skirmish Kings'), so the two sorts of infantry would give me either a combined unit of 16 or two cut-down groups for the abbreviated version. Or they could just mix in with the many heterogenous reptilians I've amassed over the years: reptilian auxiliaries of the amphibious Slann.

I painted the first couple up very quickly last night. They're undercoated in black gesso, painted Vallejo silver-grey all over, then drybrushed white. All the rest is Citadel contrast paint, followed by some black lining and highlights only on the eyes, teeth and horns. If the rest prove as quick, I shoudl have that first unit of tribals done very shortly.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

This year's last ... (1/72 knights)

A dozen quick 1/72 knights to finish the year. They'll probably need a touch-up when the festivities subside ...

Happy Hogmanay to all!

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Peg giants - and Merry Christmas!

Inspired by the marvellous BluePeterHammer blog, I got my daughter some unpainted peg dolls for Christmas, along with a book on their construction and painting. Last night after we'd wrapped all the kids' presents, I decided to paint a couple of outsize pegs up as giants. I based them for Hordes of the Things, as behemoth elements. 

Both they and the raw materials have gone down well. My son has already built a Mandalorian out of a purloined peg, and both kids and I are going to put together a couple of full HotT peg armies over the holidays. 

They're not quite toy soldiers from The Nutcracker, but they're seasonal enough, I think.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, 2 December 2019

Guards! Guards! (1/72)

Rushing to the rescue or providing impediments to PCs: any fantasy city needs its guards. These fellows will represent the authorities in the big game of Into the Odd I'm running in a couple of weeks. When I've got 12 painted, they'll also form a unit of Heavy Missiles with Venomous shooting in Dragon Rampant - or perhaps I'll plunder The Pikeman's Lament for proper musket rules. 

While the guards are Seven Years War Austrians from HaT, the next miniature is a Strelets bashi-bazouk. Although they've enjoyed a long afterlife as an insult hurled by Herge's Captain Haddock, the historical bashi-bazouks were irregular Ottoman soldiers paid only in plunder - a close analogue to RPG adventurers, in other words. Murderhobos especially: the bashi-bazouks were responsible for some heinous atrocities in various campaigns.

Bashi-bazouk chieftain (Jean-Léon Gérôme)

Bashi-bazouk (Stanislaw Chlebowski)

They also cut quite a dash, as the Orientalist paintings of Jean-Léon Gérôme and Stanislaw Chlebowski make plain. And they were always armed to the teeth. This fellow will work well as a PC or perhaps an NPC brigand. 

I also added to the dangers of the Underworld in this scale with a very quickly painted stone golem from Reaper Bones. A bit of a handful for either guards or adventurer, I suspect ...

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Into the Odd - the best RPG for kids?

An eclectic band of intrepid adventurers

We had friends staying last weekend. After introducing their kids to Song of Blades and Heroes last time they were up, I'd promised my kids that we'd do a bit of roleplaying with them this time. So, after a jaunt up the hill on Sunday, we settled down for a spot of dungeon-crawling.

I'd planned on using Whitehack or the Black Hack. Then I thought about one of the fantasy variants on Into the Odd. But then I decided just to use Into the Odd itself. And I'm very glad I did: it made for the perfect introduction to RPGs. 

Why? Well, the game's loose setting and brilliant character-generation system made for a very easy set-up. We rolled characters, and then the kids chose miniatures to represent them from the Cabinet of Shame. That gave us a space marine in corroded bronze armour, a 'space monkey' and an orc with an axe that fairly approximated the shovel in the player's 'starting package'. And that eclectic mix worked just fine as we laid out dungeon tiles and explored the underground complex I'd sketched out half an hour earlier.

The scenario was simple: the PCs were desperadoes, short of cash, and the authorities had put a price on the tentacled head of an evil sorcerer. So the PCs were raiding his underground fastness. No other background was needed.

And we had a blast. The new players grasped the concepts of ability saves on a D20 very quickly. And the no-messing combat (rolling damage, with no time wasted on fripperies such as rolling to hit) was equally clear - as were its risks. 

But best of all was the way that the players instinctively made use of their starting equipment (determined by cross-referencing a character's hit points and highest stat on a table of 'packages'). One character had a pistol, a smoke bomb and some wire. Another had a dog, a pistol and a shovel. The use of this limited gear led to all manner of interesting situations. Best of all was the final encounter with the octopus-headed wizard. The PCs filled the chamber with smoke, then dashed down the stairs to improvise a trip wire. They pulled off their rolls, swiftly dispatched the fiend and made off with this head. The dog, alas, did not make it out, but all of the PCs did, though only by dint of a couple of successful saves to avoid critical damage. 

I ran another session on Friday evening for my son and one of his schoolfriends (both RPG veterans). This time, we played through The Iron Coral, the introductory adventure that comes with the rules. With most of the 'dungeon' explored, both characters met a sticky - but undeniably fitting - end. This time, I was struck by the speed at which the game runs. We played it quite a bit last year, but I'd forgotten quite how quick and decisive combat encounters can be, and how much time that frees up for exploration and role-playing.

Of course, games in which combat is a game in itself can be tremendous too. We've played The Fantasy Trip a lot this year, and it's excellent - because every time there's a fight, you get an engrossing board/skirmish game to resolve it. And in TFT, every fight can be deadly for the PCs, which adds tension and suspense even if the party are just facing a few goblins.

For games in which all players are familiar with the rules, TFT is tremendous. And its rules are clear, logical and relatively simple, which helps. It's also perhaps the best RPF for very large parties, because the tactical aspects of fighting give everyone lots to consider as you go round the table.

But for smaller games in which the players are not familiar with all the combat options they can take and just need a sense that "fighting is dangerous", Into the Odd is very hard to beat.

And as an introductory game for kids, it's the best. Start with a pistol, a smokebomb and a length of wire - and watch as imagination does the rest.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

A snake in the ... sand

Giant snakes make for good wandering (or more accurately, lurking) monsters. This one's a Reaper Bones 28mm beast. No doubt he'll see action in various scales, but for now he's earmarked for 1/72 gaming. 

This was a ridiculously quick paintjob using GW's contrast paints over drybrushing. Nothing fancy, then, but he looks suitably generic - something that's useful for RPGs where the same threats might be encountered more than once in a given area ("The ruins are infested with serpents of great size ...").