Friday 24 May 2019

A cannibal

The marvellous Mutants and Death Ray Guns rules from Ganesha Games make provision, in one fo the supplement, for "cannibals". They're represented as tougher than normal humans, but they're restricted to primitive weapons. I thought this fellow and his ilk might fit the bill.

This one's a test - I might add some warpaint or tattoos.

He'd also pass muster as a Fomorian, I think.

Monday 20 May 2019

The Fantasy Trip

Last year, I found my curiosity piqued by The Fantasy Trip and looked into a couple of the retroclones. I resolved to get hold of it when it was republished - in part, because I couldn't remember if I'd ever played the minigames on which it's based: Melee and Wizards. Steven Jackson Games were popular as lunchtime diversions when I was at primary school; we played Car Wars and OGRE quite a bit, but I'm not sure about Melee.

Having bought the Legacy Edition of The Fantasy Trip, I'm still not sure. The rules seem familiar, as do some of the counters. But it was a long time ago - and if we did play it back then, we played Car Wars and OGRE much more. I never owned any of them, and I do remember designing some grid-based combat games shortly after I moved schools - possibly to recapture the counter-and-grid thrills of those lunchtime sessions.

Anyway, the kids and I played four games of Melee over the weekend. It's terrific. I'm planning to use it for most RPG sessions with the kids and their friends from now on, simply because it'll make combat encounters so much more compelling than the various D&D clones we've tried. Whitehack will doubtless remain a go-to for small, focused groups, and I'm playing Tunnels & Trolls with some old friends next weekend, but for dungeon-crawling with the kids, The Fantasy Trip/Melee appears perfect.

So why is that? Well, the sheer amount of decisions to be made - formalised in the game as options - gives a tremendous range of outcomes. I can't think of any one-figure-per-player skirmish game that offers quite so many options in combat situations.

And yet the game is very simple. For Melee (the TFT combat system as a freestanding game), characters have three stats: strength (ST), dexterity (DX) and movement allowance (MA). You design your character(s) by deciding the balance of their ST and DX and then choose whatever weapons and armour you like.

And that's where the real genius of the game comes in. It combines a reasonable amount of realism with a tremendous amount of game balance. Strong characters can take and hand out more punishment: ST acts as your hit points, and allows you to use nastier weapons) But DX decides who attacks first - and the higher your DX, the higher your chance of landing a roll. Armour absorbs damage - but also reduces DX and MA.

So sufficient ST to wield a grisly weapon like a two-handed axe will impair your DX when you initially assign points between them - and heavy armour will impair it still further. But you will be appropriately tank-like and able to deal terrible damage on those rare occasions when you hit.

Alternatively, you could choose high DX to allow you to hit quickly and often. But against heavily armoured foes, you'll be relying on lucky shots to get through the armour.

You can see how this is perfect for gladiatorial combat: secutor v retiarius, or whatever.

And then you've got the hand-to-hand option - grappling, essentially, in which no weapon larger than a dagger is useful, but a dagger is very useful indeed. That creates a whole extra dimension. If you're determined to grapple with a foe, you'll probably want to drop your main weapons and draw a dagger - but there's a chance that they'll be able to do the same when you close, or even just clobber you with their main weapon and step back.

It's a fantastically elegant combat system. There are certainly lapses in realism; I suspect armour wasn't quite so constricting/slowing, at least initially, and of course many strong people are very dextrous too. YOu don't need to be terribly strong to use a two-handed sword or battleaxe; a two-handed sword isn't usually twice the weight of a regular sword. And the weapons list has some oddities (a pike axe?). But for a balanced game, it's just right.

Incidentally, while the RPG rules (In the Labyrinth) give a whole list of real-world weapons that might fit into the various categories, these make very little sense. The glaive and the naginata - essentially the same thing - are in different slots, for example. None of this matters, though - it's very easy to look at a miniature and decide that its big fantasy polearm is the very quintessence of pike axe.

After an initial one-on-one run through the rules, we played three lizardmen against three orcs, then a couple of games with two burly, armoured hobgoblins and a smallish giant against five orcs: two heavily armoured types and three skirmishers (two with javelins and one with a light crossbow). Both times, the orcs won, because they were able to surround the unsupported giant and pierce it with many weapons. There was something of the mammoth hunt about it, which seemed quite appropriate.

We're eager to play more, and to try the wizard rules. There are printable hex papers of appropriate size available online, so drawing out some floorplans on those will be no more onerous than drawing them out on traditional grid paper.

The labyrinth beckons ...

Monday 13 May 2019

Yet more Orcs of the White Serpent

A couple more conversions and kitbashes. For my thoughts on animal-headed goblins, see here!

Saturday 11 May 2019

Two more White Serpent orcs ...

A gunner and an axeman join the tribe. These were two unpainted ones; I plunged a few of the half-painted batch into the Biostrip this evening (and converted another couple).

Wednesday 8 May 2019

The Orcs of the White Serpent raid again!

Almost five years ago, I got back into miniature painting to paint up a big batch for my son's sixth birthday (to go with the Song of Blades rules: the most enduring birthday present so far!).

I got about 60 done for the big day, but many were uncompleted - including most of the "Orcs of the White Serpent": some heavily kitbashed Mantic orcs. I managed to complete just three, kitted out in red armour.  Those were the only ones built straight; the converted ones were started, for the most part, but only about half-completed. They've languished in a drawer ever since.

I've decided to strip them down and give them moodier, rougher (and quicker) paintjobs. This fellow, who was one of an unpainted trio, is a test. He's rough, ready and pretty messy, but that's all I'm aiming for with these (the Mantic bodies are quite hard to make sense of, given all the overlapping clothing, armour and leather).

Here he is with his three completed predecessors. I might leave these as are, but the half-painted ones are destined for the Biostrip.

These are some of the half-finished ones, waiting to rise (and raid) again:

Sunday 5 May 2019

A quick broo

A palate-cleanser after the gnolls (though broos are hardly cleaner ...). Just drybrushing and washes over base colours. No dung was rubbed into his hair, but I'm sure he'll take care of that himself.


I assembled my last remaining Frostgrave gnolls last night and gave them a very quick bash with the brushes, along with a big Reaper gnoll to act as a matriarch.

I've tried various hyena-like schemes on gnolls before, but here I went with the Monster Manual's prescription:
Gnolls have greenish gray skins, darker near the muzzle, with reddish gray to dull yellow mane. 

 That's probably just a Gygaxian attempt to describe hyena colouring, but it gives a distinctive template for underworld monsters, so I went with it.

I painted these fellows very quickly, though I used a three-stage process on the armour and weapons to get them good and rusty. Everything else was just blocked in, drybrushed with silver-grey and then washed with an appropriate colour. Then I used some silver-grey to highlight the odd edge or spot here and there.

The Reaper gnoll is much, much bigger, but makes a suitably sizeable matriarch; I like to assume that gnolls have the same sort of sexual dimorphism as hyenas.