Sunday, January 18, 2015

Painting Guide: Chaos Nurgle Marines

We're back with more painting, and this time it's (surprise, surprise) more about Chaos Space Marines. Some weeks ago, I started painting a bunch of Chaos Space Marines for a friend; it wasn't supposed to be anything super fancy, just make the army representable on the table and look good in a horde. Seeing how I've never done much 40K painting before, I hesitated to start out, seeing how this would be a bit trial and errorish.

I was pleasantly surprised when I started out on the Nurgle-theme. So I wanted to share this with those of you out there, looking for a beginner's guide to painting Nurgle themes. Keep in mind that this is a basic guide aiming to get started. There's plenty of opportunity for additional details later on, and it will ensure you an army that will look awesome as a collected force!

Here's an example of a group photo (messy, but it gets the message across) 

So here's a step-by-step-guide to painting Nurgle troops! In this care, we'll use an Obliterator as an example.

1) I gave him a white undercoat and washed him with Nuln Oil.

2) The armor parts were given a foundation of Knarlock Green, the flesh had a foundation of Elf Flesh and the armor was Ironbreaker and the rims of the armor was done with Sycorax Bronze. Yes, it looks like a mess.

3) The areas were washed down. The green armor areas were washed with Waywatcher Green glaze for that goodie green Nurgle color. The flesh was washed with basic Reikland Fleshshade (go nuts here) and the metal with Nuln Oil.

4) Then; add a layer of Athonian Camoshade on everything but the skin. You can add it to the skin if you want the skin to have a green taint too and appear rotten, but you risk losing some variety in the mini. Experiment and see what works for you!

When dry; add a heavy wash of Devlan Mud on the same areas and let it dry. Your model will have a nice, dark, dirty look.

Then; wash the flesh parts on the arms and body (not the head) with Carroburg Crimson. These parts will, in result, stand out as infected and bloated. Apply at your own leisure, but don't overdo it, since it adds variety to the model.

5) Time for highlights. Do a basic edge highlight around the feet and gloves of the armor with Knarlock Green. Do the same for the chest armor.

You can highlight a little bit on the bronze with Sycorax Bronze, but I chose to keep it very dirty. You can make it rusty too, by stippling a little bit of Bestial Brown on your brush and very gently dip it on the metallic surfaces too.

Highlight the flesh of the face with Elf Flesh, you can do the same for the flesh on the arms if you want. The model's owner wanted some clear red blood on it, so I added some Blood Red to some of the areas on the arms.

The metal parts were given an edge highlight with Ironbreaker, which also includes the weapons.

The red eye was simply done by a layer of Blood Red, added by a little dot of Blazing Orange.

The blue lamps were done with Hawk Turquoise and then a dot of Ice Blue.

6) You can do some great base effects by your own creativity. In the example below, I've used C1211 Realistic Water by Woodland Scenics, mixed with some Scorpion Green to make a river of ooze, in which a corroded corpse from my Vampire Counts bits was added for great effect!

Will post group photos once this is over with; hope I can help inspire some of the chaos painters out there : ) Let me know how it works out, and feel free to throw me a picture of your work if you try it out!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

"For I am kind!" - Starting Skorne pt. 2

So it's time for the second update on my Skorne progress. I did a single game this Monday against, well, another Skorne-list, which was just about as set up as my own by going against pMakeda. Needless to say, it wasn't a blast; not that I expected it to. It was my first game as Horde and Skorne at the same time, and luckily my opponent was very forgiving and helping along the way. It didn't change the fact, however, that I didn't have a single clue of what I was doing, pretty much moving beasts out of Xerxis' meager control area and provoking way more fury than I could possibly leach back and so on. All in all, it was one huge hell of a mess and rookie-game. But hey; I suppose we all need to start somewhere, right?

I lost big time, managing, ironically, to kill off a couple of his models during Makeda's feat turn. I have to admit, that's one really nice feat for sure.

So, licking my wounds, I went home and decided to at least do what I do best; look good while dying. Since Molik Karn was the first guy to bite the dust in the game (during to the Fenris-complex I so often end up in) I decided to complete him first. It was a nice change from the Chaos Space Marines, either way.

I went for a blue scheme for my Karn, greatly inspired by PaintVagrant on CoolMiniorNot. I'm actually quite happy with the outcome, I'll say. Even though I'm likely sticking with the ordinary red Skorne-theme, both Karn and Xerxis are supposed to stand out significantly from the rest. I ought to have taken pictures along the way, but none the less I decided to share the result with you guys and attach a few comments as to how I did it.

Preparations: I glued the mini together and drilled it. For glue, I'm a sworn believer in the Gorilla Super Glue that has yet to let me down. The green variant is especially beastly and settles swiftly and at one time, I tried rolling Karn across the table and only his banners broke off. So there.

I then sprayed and undercoated him white and washed him with Nuln Oil (yes, I use the GW range, sorry about that to those of you using alternative ranges : ( )

The Blue Parts: Staying true to the old rule of beginning from the lower layers and working your way up, I based the blue parts with Hawk Turquoise. I then washed them with Asurmen Blue and started painting the patterns on the shoulders. Anything goes here, really, just keep them small lines and you'll be fine. Then apply another small wash of Asurmen Blue and blend a highlight into the lines again with pure Hawk Turquoise. Then, make roughly a 1:1 mix of Hawk and Ice Blue and make an even smaller highlight within the lines. Then rinse and repeat the washing and this process till you're satisfied with the result. 
Notice; the washes will make the shoulders shiny. I didn't like that, so I applied some anti-shine spray to them afterward. This is rough on the paint though and can potentially bleach it all down to white, and goofy things can happen, so use with caution and in small, well-aimed bursts.

Use the same technique for the rest of the blue parts, mainly on the armor and the plates on the legs. There's not much skill involved here, just patience and a thin brush.

His eye was done the same way.

The Gold: There's a lot of gold'ish on this model because he's friggin Molik Karn. Once the blue part is done and entirely dry, paint over all the golden parts with Scorched Brown (again, patience is a virtue) – Let it dry and apply Sycorax Bronze. This metallic color is a bit odd to work with, since it often appears more thin than it actually is. You'll have to try it out in order to see what I mean. Apply this carefully and don't rush on the small parts on the shoulders and stomach.

When entirely dry, wash very carefully with Devlan Mud. You may need a couple of layers on the big spaces like shoulders and arms. Once entirely dry, do an edge highlight with Sycorax Bronze again and you're through.

The White: Apply another wash of Nuln Oil to the areas of white, such as the hair, rope and sword hilts. When dry, start highlighting it with Pallid Wych Flesh, carefully to keep the black lines visible. This can be a bit tricky around the hair, but if it goes out of control, Nuln Oil wash can easily tone it down. In fact, doing this a couple of times can get you a smoother blend. I could likely have done better on that part, to be honest.

The skulls are done the same way, except I washed them Flesh Shade and Devlan Mud afterwards, and did a highlight with Pallid Wych Flesh.

The Skin: Nothing too fancy. Pallid Wych Flesh, washed with Reikland Fleshshade. When dry, do a careful highlight again with Wych. Keep at it till your happy about it.

The Green Banners and his cloth-mask: I hate Molik's mouth. Sorry, PP, but I really don't like it. So I made a cover for it. For this I went for a basecoat of Incubi Darkness, followed by washes of Nuln Oil mixed with Lamian Medium 1:3 (this is pretty much the same strategy used for Nagash' robes) – Keep adding thin layers till it looks good. Make sure on the banners that you add a layer and progress down the banner with one layer at the time, constantly leaving a thinner layer above. In that way the blend will look awesome in the end. I didn't go for anything special for decoration on the banners, but you go ahead and make something awesome up.

The Swords: Ironbreaker, Nuln Oil wash and edge-highlight. That's it.

The Gems: Chaos Black for base, then a Red Gore base, showing a little of the black in the top right corner of the gem. Blend in a little Blood Red, empathizing the bottom left of the gem and repeat with Blazing Orange (just less) for extreme highlight. Then add a dot of Skull White to the top right corner and you're done. I added a thin layer of Gloss Varnish for style.

Basing: Ordinary base-stuff. Nothing special there. The rock is bought in a small pack of premade stones, but you can easily green stuff it. It's painted with Baneblade Bow and washed with Reikland Fleshshade. Since I want all my Skorne to fight in a desert, only a slight bit of vegetation is added. I was hoping for a cactus, but this may be added later.

Molik Karn is beyond doubt one of the most fun models I've painted so far, and I look forward to work more on Skorne. Hope this can inspire and help some of you out there! : )

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

"For I am Kind!" - Starting Skorne pt. 1

Happy New Year, everyone! Hope you all got well into it.

Not that much to show at the moment, but hopefully 2015 will be a much more busier year than 2014. To kick it off, we begin with some Warmachine painting. Or, technically, Hordes-painting. I've been at it for some time, deciding on my first Hordes faction, since I wanted my second army to be exactly that. Issue was, I didn't really like any of the horde factions initially. We have loads of Legion players in my community (surprise, surprise) and the Trolls were on a high for some time. I had some dreams about painting Legion in a different way or making something special out of them; yet I never really got into it. I love the design of Circle, but I understood the learning curve was pretty steep for them, meaning I started looking to the beat-stick faction of Skorne.

Now, my experience as a Horde player is limited; in fact I've only made it briefly through the primal guide and the faction book, and I understand that compared to Legion and Circle, Skorne is fairly limited in its competitiveness, at least on tournament level. Personally, I've always been of a casual garage-gamer and in it for the painting just as well.

I like moving up and hitting things in the head with full force. My first Fantasy army was Warriors of Chaos, I chose Khador because huge robots punching and mad men with cursed swords were fun and now I get to play a cultural mesh of oppressive beings that torture elephant-frogs for fun so they can beat other people over the head. There is also an undeniable appeal in the mix of Roman/Persian/Samurai themes; which has always been one of the reasons I love how PrivateerPress handle their factions.

I've decided to set out for Xerxis. Because, the name. And I'm very intrigued by his Fist-list of meat shields. Not entirely sure it's the optimal list for Skorne, but it seems like a good way of getting the hang of the ropes.

The issue with Skorne, painting-wise, is that their theme is very close to Khador and I have to go out and buy even more red paint. I'm not sure whether I'll succumb, try and find a different scheme or whatever. So I decided just to go at Xerxis, inspired by one of the first Google pictures I found of him. Black is great because it pretty much goes with anything. I also decided to give him burning maces, since there should be at least some hint of red on him, especially if I go with the main colors of the army. I know the burning effect is rather crude, but from a distance it actually looks....kind of okay.

From thereon, I'm considering the following list:

Tyrant Xerxis
Molik Karn
Titan Gladiator
Cataphract Arcuarii (Leader and 3 Grunts)
Cataphract Arcuarii (Leader and 3 Grunts)
Cataphract Cetrati (Leader and 5 Grunts)
Cataphract Incindiarii (Leader and 3 Grunts)
Cataphract Incindiarii (Leader and 3 Grunts)
Paingiver Beast Handlers (Leader and 5 Grunts)
Tyrant Commander & Standard Bearer

Not sure how it'll work out, but figure-wise, I really like what I'm seeing!

There won't be much painting of said army in the near future, however, seeing as I'm currently working on commission on a 40K Chaos Army which could take a little time. Will make sure to post updates about that!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Game of Thrones: Iron from Ice review

Up until recently, I used to be one of the non-believers of Game of Thrones. Not only that, in fact, I would often mock people for wasting time on it and ridicule their preference to such a degree they'd often stop mentioning said series in my company all together. Perhaps not the most mature move from my side, so I suppose Santa's skipping my place this year.

I didn't care much for the very premise of the series, mainly because I've always detested low-fantasy settings; partly due to the same reasons I avoid Sci-fi: they tend to turn way too depressive and....real. For me, escapism has always been about beating the laws of nature and do the very impossible, and when I heard how much misery could be pressed into a single episode of GoT, I frankly failed to see the appeal. Despite how many boobies they claimed to have.

I managed to avoid GoT entirely up until the end of the fourth season. That's a lot, yes. I suppose it started finding its cracks in, when I started on Breaking Bad and Walking Dead, that both flirt with the premise of sudden death and in general pull the carpet out from under your legs when you least expect it. So, when I finally decided to sit down and give GoT a slight chance (very convinced that this would be pathetic) it didn't take long till I was suddenly finding myself half into the third season, wondering where all that time had gone?

I could go on for quite a while about why I like GoT, and even more so, how that fact keeps puzzling me. It's a strange fatal attraction so many people share for these works that can mildly be summed up as narrative PTSD-experiences that shatter our minds and feelings; yet we keep up with this universe, perhaps because it joins our hatred and for such a long time manages to keep the bad guys alive. All while dangling the possible hope, that they COULD possibly be the next. (I know for sure that the death of a certain someone in season 4 likely caused me to celebrate more than I ought to...)

With such a story to tell...
And so, if you've read my other reviews, you'll know that I'm also a huge fan of Telltale; the gaming company that blessed us with great titles such as The Walking Dead and Sam and Max. When I heard they were going to launch an adaption of Game of Thrones, I was kind of suspicious about it. Mainly because, GoT never struck me as a platform for gaming in the first place. But then, on the other hand, if anyone should be able to pull off the gloom and doom of Westeros, it had to be Telltale. I fondly, and sadly, remember my first playthrough of The Walking Dead Season 1, and how insane an emotional rollercoaster that was. It was one of the few games that made dream, and certainly not in a good way; so with launch a couple of days ago, I sat down and bought the first chapter: Game of Thrones: Iron from Ice.

Where to begin? 
Reviewing Telltale games before they're fully done is kind of like reviewing a book one chapter at the time. It's kind of the cardinal trait of the company, that you'll have to wait for the next episode, which I suppose stays quite true to the original concept.

So, at the time of writing, you'll have to do with the first chapter out of six, and patiently wait for your next meal to be served. This was also the case with The Walking Dead, in which I felt it put a lot of pressure on the individual episodes, that would likely have been alleviated to some extent, had you been able to play them all into one long stretch.

Ramsay Snow. He wants some answers from you...
During this review, I will do my best to avoid any major spoilers, of course.

In the first chapter of GoT, you're introduced to House Forrester. A house loyal to the Starks, whose members seem to serve as the protagonists of the series. Chronologically, the game begins at the same time as the end of season 3 (yes, exactly at THAT ONE EPISODE!) which is also the same event that kicks the game into motion. You start out in control of the young squire Gared, who's quite early in the story flung out into a difficult decision when chaos breaks out, and from thereon you pretty much go with the story onwards.

Compared to, say, the first chapter of The Walking Dead, GoT is different in the sense that this is a strong setup for the rest of the series. You don't stick to one protagonist, but instead get to control three different during the episode, that all tell their story and involve you in their predicament. From the young squire Gared, to his sister in King's Landing and his young brother who suddenly has to take up a heavy burden of responsibility. I found this to be a good structure, that stayed true to the show's premise of constantly switching between various factions, rarely staying with the same for all too long. One could argue, however, that the time you get with all three of them seems short when they all have to be cramped into this single episode, and some of the scenes taking place in King's Landing can feel a bit stretched and tedious.

That, however, is a minor complaint and in magnitude dwindles drastically compared to some of the elements that annoyed the shit out of me in TwD. Building a swing or burying someone step-for-step was something that likely had a clever idea behind it, but ultimately became a huge detriment. While some of that IS in GoT also (being Telltale and all) I felt there was much less walking around, clicking on random shit most of the time. The story is heading forward and rarely leaves you hanging for that long.

In this regard, I may need to elaborate on my sense of action; being involved in decisions through talking and events. While the first chapter does have a share of action, you really are expected to sit through long conversations and make decisions from them most of the time. If this puts you off, you should at least consider yourself warned in advance. Being GoT and Telltale, you'll be forced to make decisions – most of the time on the fly as the timer is ticking. I'm not sure whether it was just me, but compared to other titles, I actually felt you had less time to chose your replies this time around?

It makes for the stressful and tense structure you either love or hate in these games; and while episode 1 didn't have any of those “OH NO FUCK YOU GAME!!!” decisions I felt in TwD, there are a couple of gems in between. 

I tried remaining true to a certain style of play...

Decisions, decisions...
If there is one thing that Telltale does really well, it's the illusion of choice. I'm not saying this as if it's a bad thing, 'cause it isn't. After all, if you had to make a game in which choice truly mattered on a massive scale, the ordeal would be massive. Even some of my favorite holy cows, Dragon Age Origins, are full of illusions of choice. You may chose side A over side B, meaning side A will help you in the final battle, but other than that, nothing. You can't change certain major events, for example; some people are doomed to die. This is something I truly loathed TwD for; for example that some of the people simply would die no matter what you did. Much of the story was simply hard-coded, and some of the choices I made early on were mentioned later but didn't really change anything.

This issue, I'm afraid will continue in GoT. Giving an example would be a massive spoiler, so just allow me to say that no matter what you do throughout the episode, a certain something is bound to happen in the end. Besides from that, it's really hard to say at the moment what impact your decisions will have later on, seeing how this is the first chapter and all. As said, the FEELING is there. When I had completed the first chapter, which took me roughly two hours or so, I couldn't help the nagging notion that I'd set my entire family up for disaster, even though I thought I did so well. In that regard, I suppose the game truly hits its origin fairly well.

This game is made for people who're familiar with the universe. That may go beyond saying, but still; I knew absolutely nothing about The Walking Dead before starting out on Telltale's version, and it didn't matter. It got me into the universe.
As for GoT, I'm pretty sure I would've stopped half an hour in, because this game really is made for people familiar with at least the first three seasons of the show. It goes to great lengths to set the mood, including the by-now-very-famous theme-song from the start and casting the visuals and voices of the original actors quite well.

One thing the game does really well, is truly making you FEEL like part of an episode. This is both terrific and terrifying at the same time. Being greeted by Tyrion Lannister had me jumping with excitement, which was instantly replaced as I were to beg Queen Cersei for help the following moment. The writing is in this aspect really good, and the great names keep to what makes them great all throughout the series. Cersei will leave you with a dreadful feeling that you've been played just the way she planned, and a late meeting with the ever unsettling Ramsay Snow is as volatile as could be expected. You have to navigate your way through these conversations, all the time managing the balance of saying what they want to hear, and yet stand up for your family, hoping they'll just go away and provide you with what you want.

In this regard, the game is an absolute blast and I can't wait for even more of it!

No, wait, already?
My major complaint about the first episode is that it feels really short. With so much setup needed, of course I understand this is a premise that's hard to avoid. Yet, I couldn't help feeling a bit let down, seeing how the episode pretty much shuts off as soon as you feel it's getting started. Even compared to the first episode of TwD, everything here felt too shallow in the end and so many points were touched upon, without being fully explored.

In this regard, I suppose it's a kudos to Telltale that I'm eagerly waiting for the next episode, only I hope it will be longer.


If you're a fan of the show, you might consider this for a good story. If you're a fan of Telltale, you'll pretty much get what you're used to, which is a good thing. If you're a fan of both, chances are really good that you'll like GoT. Only be prepared that it's a very fun, albeit short ride, that will leave you wanting more, being slightly annoyed at it for leaving you just as things were about to get going.

Score: 7/10

  • Genuine authentic feeling of being in Westeros and playing your own GoT story out.
  • Original voice actors and music are both a blessing
  • Some rough decisions that will surely come back to haunt you

  • Way too short
  • Too much setup that ends just as things are about to get going
  • So far, very limited influence on the turn of events (which is likely due to change later)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

DNJL 1 - A Ghost in the Warmachine

The blog has been rather oblivious regarding the not-so-recently initiated Danish National Journeyman League (DNJL) of Warmachine/Hordes by PrivateerPress. Partly because I'm a slow fucker, partly because work at the hospital has to a large degree kept me from participating as much as I ought to. Nonetheless, I found it worthwhile to at least drop a short post about our wonderful, Danish community, meanwhile proving "I'm a warmachine player too!!"

Those who've been tagging along at the blog are well aware that it has been some time since I last brought my dolls to the Iron Kingdom. More than a year, to be precise. I'd more or less decided to shelve the rather significant collection of boys in red, when our former organizer poked me about participating – a daunting task, considering I've been away for so long and thought I'd barely recognize anyone.

We kicked off the event a couple of weeks ago, and in case you were wondering I decided to stick to my faithful old Khador forces. Partly because it's the faction I know my way around best. Despite the obvious notion of starting out a new faction due to Journeyman, I didn't feel I had the time to read up on the Horde-rules (and I want my second faction to be a Horde army).

I'll have to say; I'm not in this for the winning. I went in really hard during the last two leagues, but this time around, working in the psychiatry simply leaves me with way too little time and energy. Also, the number of participants during this league is massive in my city (our group boasts a whopping 65 members in itself); aiming for the top tier wasn't that lucrative for me. So my aims have been tempered this time, and I've gone in mostly for a good time and painting the last minis I need.

I went for the original Khador box, initially, but soon changed my mind about it. I've been playing a lot with Sorscha (I wish *applause*) during my early game and it was my impression that during the early bbox games, she'd be really efficient at her cardinal trait: Assassinating the shit out of stuff. I did realize, however, that I'd be mostly occupied during the first couple of weeks, and one of the things I love about WM in general, is making things work together. And there are better casters for that. So, for the obvious alternative there was good ol' Butcher.

I haven't played much with Butcher. I've heard the stories. I bought the T-shirt; the guy can be a powerhouse and quite the epitome of the glass-cannon in plate. So, I thought it obvious to try out the big, bad baldie, also because he comes with Iron Flesh and that's an earlier opportunity to bring in the WG Deathstar (because crushing dreams is fun).

I had my first real games this week, as I wasn't needed that much at hospital, and what an amazing experience it was! To return to such an active and friendly environment as the Warmahorde community in my city was thrilling. Our local store, Dragonslair, offers gaming nights every Monday, which these days should basically be renamed “Warmahorde Night” due to the sheer number of players showing up. 

In my experience, the geek-community is quite the divergent assembly of minor groups, some of which differ more than others in their openness to newcomers. Luckily, most of the Warmahorde players in our community have been very talkative, friendly and understanding of someone like me returning to the fold after prolonged hiatus. I had the pleasure of watching and talking to a good handful of people that night, before setting out for my games.

Khador vs. Skorne – 25 pts. Battlebox, no caster swap, Killing Field.

I didn't get to take any pictures of either of my battles; sorry about that. You'll have to settle for a short story.

I really like Skorne; they'd likely be my first pick of faction had it not been for those ridiculous elephants. (Yes! They bloody are!) - I went up against Xerxis, Bassilisk Drake, Bassilisk Krea, Cannoneer and a unit of Gatormen Posse. With Butcher against Xerxis, I imagined there would be some solid beating. I fielded pButcher, the Kodiak, the Decimator and a WG-Deathstar along with a unit of Widomakers. 

The game went rather solid for me during the first couple of turns. The objective markers I wanted to keep remained, and I closed in on a solid position, feated and moved the psychotic Mr. Clean in to mop up. I managed to decimate almost all the gators and tie up the cannoneer with the Kodiak. I thought I'd secured Mr. Clean by then, but on the following turn, Xerxis' counter feat and unexpected pushback, made the way for the cannoneer, who rushed down and ate poor Butcher.

Ah, damn. Losing to a rule I'd forgotten about is the story of my Warmachine life.

Lessons learned: Don't waste Butcher on killing gators, Xerxis is a c*nt, Mr. Clean is not as durable as his miniature leads you to believe.

I admit; playing Butcher has an appeal.

Khador vs. Cygnar – 25 pts. Battlebox, no caster swap, Killing Field.

Going up against the archenemy is always a load of fun; especially when said player is a former Khadorian who deserted to the boys in blue.
I fielded the same army, against Coleman Stryker, the Ironclad, the Lancer, the Charger, the Arcane Gunmages and Black 13. This was much more familiar terrain for me; I've been playing against Cygnar a lot back in the day.

I went first and decided to keep up the aggressive tactics, hoping for the best. In general, being aggressive has won me way more games than being defensive in Warmachine. Something like; being aggressive is fighting the way, being defensive is enduring it. Something like that; fuck me, it sounds good.

Out on the left flank, my widowmakers had a shootout versus the Black 13, who had a pet-buff from Stryker and placed themselves on a hill. The total DEF score was simply too high to even try, so I decided to leave them there and rendezvous, seeing as the objective marker disappeared from that part anyway. The B13 managed to AOE and crap five of my Winterguards, who apparently hadn't been paying enough attention to Joe's patriotic speeches and therefore failed their tough rolls.

The remaining Winterguards shot the arcane gun mages to shreds and the kodiak and decimator went into melee with the Ironclad and Charger respectively. Added up by the Butcher, who had feated that turn, I struck luck and had a streak of not rolling less than two sixes on all rolls for nearly the rest of the round. The gunmages, the iron clad and the lancer were obliterated in one turn, meaning my opponent decided to throw everything he had a butcher. Most hope came from the Charger, that sadly suffered from some really poor rolls and bare scratched the red giant.
Enter Mr. Stryker, who gunned and nuked with spells, but Butcher was still standing with 10 health at the end of turn, which spelled an end for Cygnar, seeing how Stryker was now in charge range.

(Luck or skill? Fuck it, it felt good!)

So the remaining part of the night was spent socializing, finding new opponents for next week. Most people were heavily engaged in games by this time, and I decided it had been a great night. I treated myself to some objective markers and took some pictures of other people enjoying their games. Enjoy!

It was a great night; one that reminded me truly how much I'd missed the Warmachine community and games, so there is definitely room for more challenges! Read up next week, as I'll go up against Menoth and Legion of Everblight!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Hoard of the Dragon Queen Chapter 2 - It's only a model...

And we're back with more adventures from the Sword Coast and the fifth edition of the current epic saga that is dungeons sprinkled with dragons. The last time we left our heroes, they had completed the first chapter of the newly released AP; "Hoard of the Dragon Queen" – Seeing the town of Greenest in flames and raiders from an unknown, shadowy organization has kindled the flames of justice, and the heroes were hired by governor Nighthill to track down the culprits and hopefully rescue the poor half-elf monk Leosin.

At this time the party consisted of Madam Ursus the human druid of the moon; 'Twelve' the half orc barbarian, Reed the halfling fighter, Cirion the half elf sorcerer and Connor the half elf bard. The party was second level at the start of the adventure. As usual, my GM comments are in blue and there will be more than usual this time around, seeing how I had some reflections about this.

Bad adventurers, bad adventurers; what you gonna do when they succeed their survival skill check?

The first part of the adventure is mainly tracking down the cult, and there isn't very much going on here, except for some possible random encounters and two predetermined events that the heroes can interact with. The first is the sighting of a straggling group that fell behind and now made camp to eat. Second one up, is a scouting party that stayed back to make sure there were no followers, and the heroes need to circumvent this somehow. As written, the best idea is to simply skip both encounters, provided the heroes are perceptive enough.

In my case, the heroes decided to go for infiltration early on. I like this idea; it provides the players with a new angle, so I even had the master of the keep suggest this right from the start. So they simply marched up to the stragglers, consisting of some mercenaries and kobolds, and before they could reach for their weapons, they introduced themselves as new recruits who got lost on the way. With Connor's background as a former member of the cult, he was able to provide accurate details about its doings, which granted them a much needed advantage on their roll. Eventually, the mercenaries warmed up to them and one of them introduced them as members of the Black Talon company. 

(As written, there is very little spice in this chapter about neither the mercenaries nor the cultists. So, I decided to expand a bit on it. Luckily, someone else had already done an amazing work on this, over at HackandSlashmaster: http://hackslashmaster.blogspot.com.au/2014/09/on-hoard-of-dragon-queen-episode-ii_10.html – In a nutshell; it splits the mercenaries up into two factions – the black talons and the blue boars, which of course house an unhealthy rivalry, allowing the heroes to take sides. You can flesh out both factions as you please, just to make sure they're represented properly in the camp. There is also a lot of info about the cultists, but more about that in a moment).

Going Lancelot on both of these encounters is perfectly viable too, and only the second one should pose much of a challenge for the heroes.

Of all the bandit camps in the world....

The heroes were escorted with the group to the bandit camp. (In game this takes some time, and you can potentially drop as much exposition as you feel like during that time. I used it to confirm that they were dealing with 'the crazy dragon cultists' and some of the rumors presented in the book. At this point in time, there is no harm done in the players getting the feel that the cultists are up to something big involving Tiamat).

Upon arriving at the camp, the heroes have the opportunity to enter and play it stealthily. The adventure is very specific in this regard, letting the heroes know that they could easily sneak inside due to all the confusion and all the raiders returning from the plunder. The main objective from here is pretty simple, really. The camp is roughly split into three section: the entrance with the kobolds huts; the mecernary area and the cultist area. Of other points of interest there is the tent of the leaders, a mysterious cave entrance that has a lot of attention, and a monk tied up to a pole. Sadly, the heroes are only allowed to interact with one of them.

The heroes need to get Leosin outside, which can be speed-runned pretty much by keeping a low profile, wait till nightfall, knock out a guard, free the monk and replace him with the guard and either climb or slowly make their way out. Thus completing the chapter. (Still slow, compared to the fact that you can complete chapter one in half a minute by simply stating 'we wait till it's all over'..)

...It's only a model...

As written, the bandit camp is a great setup. On paper. The heroes make charisma checks to see whether they're recognized, which makes for some really interesting, dramatic opportunities. From there, they can go explore and mingle with the cultists and the mercenaries.
The only real problem is how this camp suffers from the 'rainy theme park syndrome' – you can enter, sure, but half the rides are closed and the rest are just forgettable. There is a huge tent that houses the leaders of the cult, but as written, the players have next to zero chance of entering it. Same counts for the old cave, which is reserved for the third chapter, when the heroes have dinged to level three. Problem is, a lot of players, I imagine, will want to check these two things out, so you NEED to be prepared for this as a GM. Simply making invisible walls or bashing their heads in with the (too) strong monsters of the cave, just because the heroes didn't follow the hidden railroad is just not good enough.

Rescuing Leosin can be as easy or hard as you want it to be as GM. When the players do, it becomes more or less obvious that they simply must go back to Greenest with him (because the camp needs to clear out for the third chapter to start. Plot device, you know!). Alternatively, everyone will become too much on alert and the heroes may be spotted. I suppose this is the default explanation for “Seriously guys, go home and come back later” but it's lame.

There are some suggestions I'd like to make, that can make the cultist camp much more interesting.

First, take a look at HackandSlashmaster's blog and do what he does: http://hackslashmaster.blogspot.com.au/2014/09/on-hoard-of-dragon-queen-episode-ii_10.html

  • Portray the various sub-groups of Tiamat as described in the link. How far you want to take it, is up to you. The light option is to make them all equal cultists, but flesh out the daily life a bit. Being a cultist or simply religious isn't just about evil and gloom. These people genuinely believe, so let the heroes partake in rituals, chants, prayers, gatherings, sermons, maybe even confessions or sacrifices. Just don't force too much strain on the poor paladins. Two players from my group actually ended up going through the initiation to become acolytes, meaning they for the rest of the campaign are at disadvantage resisting mind-effects from cultists, but on the other hand will have special access and results when interacting with other entities who can sense their allegiance.
  • Let the two mercenary companies be in a bitter struggle all the time. They know they can't just start slitting throats, even though the trigger fingers sure are jumpy. Allow the heroes to join up with one or the other. In my case, the heroes joined the black talons, wore uniforms and started provoking the blue boars into a fight one night. This resulted in a huge brawl, during which the heroes rescued Leosin.
  • Allow the heroes to at LEAST see the big names of the cult. I hate it when adventures do this shit and keep the bad guys in the shadows for so long; the real bad guy hasn't been revealed anyway by this time, so why not let them see the lady in purple, cyanwrath and Rezmir? Fuck it, maybe even have them bid the “new recruits welcome”if that's the approach the players take? Exposition; use it well, at the right time, and it does wonders!
  • Here's an idea: Say the heroes faked their way in as mercenaries or the like; suddenly they are approached by a dragon claw who tells them to come with him. Allow them to be uneasy as they're brought into a tent in which a familiar citizen from Greenest is tied up. He's beaten, and the claw explains they've tried getting information out of him for hours; since they know him to be a wealthy merchant yet didn't find a single coin during the raid. They want answers now, and the new recruits need to pass the rite of passage. The claw leaves them alone to sort it out; go player creativity.
  • Set up a plan for the cave. Chances are very good that your players will want to enter it, because that's how things are usually done. The camp, the top level, the cave, the lower levels. It's almost a fantasy convention, so you can't blame players for thinking such. They WILL be interested in entering and taking a look around, and what you'll do depends on your current setup. If your group consists of five players that are rested, chances are okay they'll be able to hold their own in some of the fights. Only, it just takes one raised alarm and things are pretty much over. A stealthy or talkative approach is much more viable, so consider letting them talk their way through it all, and actually explore into chapter 3. If they have the information and return to Greenest, let the governor be concerned and Leosin travel north, while asking the heroes to go back and see whether they can capture any of the leaders. In that way there is at least a hint of choice.
  • There are many ways to enter the caves or get a letter of recommendation around the camp. Such power is usually reserved for senior members, who can be persuaded in exchange for goods or perverted wishes (provided your group can handle such aspects).
  • One of the two mercenary companies has a good sport of releasing the hounds on running prisoners (not on Leosin, of course, due to strict orders) These dogs hunt down the commoners and flay them for the amusement (and foor as far kobolds go) of the crowd. Will the players intervene and be able deter further of such actions?

I had the chance to involve almost all of these, and with Hackand Slash's post, you should have plenty to flesh out your own awesome Cultist Summer Camp!

What happened here?
The heroes arrived at camp and hooked up with the Black Talons, who were brutish and spat in their direction at first, at least until they started bullying back and cracking some skulls. The leader, Mershan, took heart to the heroes and explained a lot about what had gone on. They noticed Leosin on the post, and also the cave.

Two of them joined up with the cult and drank from the cup of blood (yes, some things you just can't avoid) and took up the cultist mantle, allowing them to enter the cave.

After a quick spelunking in the caverns, they sadly managed to trigger a trapped stairway and were kicked out by the other cultist for being such noobs. So they waited till nightfall, provoked a fight with the Blue Boars and rescued Leosin from the camp. 

There wasn't much time to talk, in fact they more or less just kicked him out of the place and told him to go home. Thus they waited till dawn and I decided to simply let the rumor go that the camp was moving out and going west, allowing the heroes to volunteer for staying back to 'guard the caves' (at this time, they were so frustrated about not getting to enter that they instantly took it). So the camp departed and the heroes prepared for the dark descent.

The general opinion...
The second chapter is really short and you can make it as exciting or plain as you wish, which I ultimately think is a perk for the GM. I know some people have bashed this part of the adventure quite hard, and yes; as written there is not much to go on at all. If you're a busy GM and just want to pick something up that's interesting right off the bat, you're going to get disappointed with this. The good news is that all of the above options are easy to integrate, but I still recommend you read both the third and the second chapter in one go, seeing as they're so closely related.

And with that being said, we're moving on to the third chapter, in which the heroes finally get to see what's in those awesome caves! Stay tuned!

Painting Nagash

Not going to waste time, posting any unnecessary crap about why this is late and why there haven't been any updates for ages. I think the recent painting-pictures explain why. Also, updates, yay!

Painting Nagash was a blast. This entire miniature was pretty much the whole reason, why I decided to start up a vampire counts army again (after selling my old models, deciding I was done and through with WFB, but fuck it; a man's gotta have a hobby, right? Or 15. Fuck me if I know, I had fun).

I know that had I only been a good and proper nerd, I would've made notes along the way, how I did it, what colors I used, etc. so people actually had the chance to ask me about specific things. The truth, however, is much simpler and a bit of a letdown. Thing is; I didn't, because I didn't come up with this idea. I realized that Games Workshop released four videos on youtube, in which you're specifically taught how to paint Nagash. And even though I usually prefer making up stuff as I go along, people who know me are also aware that I'm a classic guy at heart, when it comes to painting. I don't feel a need to reinvent the wheel, so since the official look was very, very pretty, I decided you couldn't go wrong with that, so there I went and copied it.

The videos in question can be found here:

I won't lie; it took quite a while to paint Nagash. Three weekends or so, I'd reckon, time mostly spent at night. In fact, I think I managed to watch an entire season of Game of Thrones from start to finish; just go give you some expectations if you're going to do it thoroughly.

The guide is quite simple, but I recommend watching it all at least once to get an idea of the paints you need. Most of them are (surprise, surprise) from the new range of GW paints, so if you're like me and stock up on the old range, chances are you will miss quite a few colors.

A thing I'd like to add, however, compared to Duncan's suggestions. While he does glue on the small books to the spirits first; I STRONGLY recommend NOT to. Why? Because while they do make it easier for the spirits and doesn't require you to take care of running glue when you put them on; they are a royal pain in the ass to paint once assembled. In the end, I took the easy way out and just painted the surfaces immediately visible on the mini, but on closer inspection you'll notice they're mostly brown and shaded on the backs, simply because painting through the spirits and robes is so annoying. Instead, paint the tomes first, then glue them on gently, being careful with the amount of glue you use, and your life will be all the better. Trust me on this.

With that being said; here you have him. The big Mr. N himself. Enjoy.