Friday, May 19, 2017

The Day the Vomit Died - an adventure in Mordheim

I just played my first game of Mordheim! Travis, the proprietor of the superb video blog Hot Dice Miniatures, invited me to his lair to film a battle for this classic fantasy skirmish game. Travis just posted the action-packed video of my orcs clashing with his Marienburgers, and I hope you enjoy the spectacle of two lads with high spirits and higher blood\alcohol levels going at each other hammer-and-tongs. But I warn you, it's not a happy story... for that day in Mordheim was the Day the Vomit Died. 

My orc warband derives from my 3rd edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle army, Krapfang's Backwood Bandits. Loyal readers may recall General Krapfang's adventures, including The Bridge over the River Sty and the Battle of Cold Crumpet Farm. Clearly, Krapfang has fallen on hard times, since he has gone from commanding an army of greenskins to leading a small gang of Mordheim thugs. I figure he was the victim of a mutiny -- not altogether surprising, given the fact that he was never a capable general or a brave warrior. 

After his ejection, what would be left to do but assemble a threadbare rump of loyal followers and bring them to the ruins of Mordheim, hoping to make a fortune gathering wyrdstone?

Krapfang's Rump, an Orc Warband


Krapfang Toothshyte, Orc Boss with sword, shield and helmet

Grogeye the Incontinent, Orc Shaman

Curtiss Blackdung and Clarence Blackdung, 2 Orc Big 'Uns with halberds


Sludgewit the Troll

Smarmy Spiteater, Goblin with short bow

Ragwort Toothshyte, Orc with axe

I've never designed a Mordheim warband before, but once I realized that the orcs could hire a Troll, everything fell into place. Krapfang's "cunning plans" always revolve around finding a big, hungry monster and then hiding behind it until the enemy is safely ensconced in its digestive tract. I rounded things out with a shaman, two elite warriors and some paltry missile support (in the form of Smarmy the Gobbo). Unfortunately for Krapfang, I had just enough points left over to include Ragwort Toothshyte. She is Krapfang's long-abandoned wife, and she's fastened to him like a hungry leech now that he lacks a phalanx of troops to keep her away.

We played on Travis' fabulous table (pictured above) representing the ruined outskirts of Mordheim. He scratch-built much of the terrain, including sprawling trees, plaster-cast towers and a vast mansion. Not only was it beautiful, but it was the best-lit wargaming space I've ever seen, which made photography a joy.

My opponents were a well-supplied band of Marienburgers named "The Yuppies" who were led by Knock-Out Ned, a fashionable warrior armed with two dueling pistols.

The Day the Vomit Died

We randomly determined the scenario and came up with "Chance Encounter", meaning that the two warbands stumble upon each other while they are both trying to escape from Mordheim with a trove of wyrdstone. There's no turn limit, and each side is trying to bash the other into a rout.

The Marienburgers set up first. Their vastly superior complement of missile troops (a hero with a bow and two henchmen with crossbows) occupied some ruined buildings with a wide field of fire. The rest of their forces fanned out, hoping to root out the orcs.

The orcs bunch up and hide

For his part, Krapfang decided that cowering was the best strategy. There's no way he was going to walk out into the open ground and get shot to hell. So he and his cronies hid in a darkened corner of the ruins, hoping to gank the Marienburgers one by one. Sneaking up on people is not so easy when you have a drooling Troll in your midst, but Krapfang was finally able to creep up on the Marienburger's left flank. As Smarmy ineffectually shot his short bow, Krapfang shoved the Troll forward, hoping he would pass his stupidity roll and mount a charge. 

The orcs continue to hide while Smarmy the Goblin shoots his bow

Things seemed to be looking up for Krapfang -- the Troll was shuffling forward, his shaman successfully cast "Ere we go", and the Marienburger crossbows had not found them. Hoping to overwhelm the enemy, he called for a general charge.

And that's when things went to pot. Sludgewit the Troll failed his stupidity check and forgot to attack the enemy, even as Krapfang and his orcs had committed themselves to an assault. In the building above him, the crossbowmen began to rain down bolts. And the Marienburg leader, Knock-Out Ned, surged forward to help his men.

Sludgewit forgets to remember that he is charging the enemy

The rest of the battle was one confused melee, as Knock-Out Ned sought to contain the orc charge with reinforcements and missile support. For his part, Krapfang was hoping to keep himself alive long enough for the Troll to wake up and save the day. 

And wake up he did! On the next turn, Sludgewit came to his senses and hurtled into the fray, facing Knock-Out Ned himself. Krapfang had every reason for optimism, because Trolls have one nearly irresistible attack: they can regurgitate on their enemies. A Troll's gastric juices will melt a fully armoured man like a wax candle. 

In the coming turns, as the orcs were gradually beaten back, Sludgewit puked again and again on Knock-Out Ned. But the horrendous attacks only succeeded in stunning Ned, or I would roll a 1 on the injury rolls and not even achieve that. There was so much vomit. But all that vomit was for naught.

A confused melee, as the orcs stun but fail to kill their opponents

Meanwhile, the Clarence Blackdung was felled by a crossobow, and then Krapfang himself was swept out of the game by two Swordsman. With Krapfang no longer there to prod him, Sludgewit had small hope of passing his stupidity checks, and would once again forget to fight. In order to save the rest of my warband (and the few pieces of Wyrdstone still in my possession) I voluntarily failed my rout roll and we ended the game.

It was a splendid game: fast, eventful and filled with disgusting gastrointestinal drama. If you enjoyed Travis' video of the game, you should also check out some of his other work, such as his tutorial on building a Mordheim band or his other Mordheim battle reports

For my part, I am excited about finally getting into this game -- it's no doubt the best thing that Games Workshop came up with after about 1989. And although Krapfang was knocked out of the game, he was not killed, so I guarantee: he will be back, and he will be as big a coward as ever.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Investigators of Mansions of Madness

A couple weeks ago, I rolled around in the shame and disgrace of shoddily painting all the monsters from Mansions of Madness 2nd edition, the Cthulhu-themed dungeon crawl game. This week, in order to redeem myself (in my own eyes at least, and the eyes of Crom), I present painted versions of all the investigators from the Core Set and all 3 expansions: Recurring Nightmares, Suppressed Memories and Beyond the Threshold

These are 26 investigators in total. As usual, I have discarded the shoddy plastic miniatures that FFG provided in favour of metal substitutes. Where possible, I've used the beautiful Gothic Horror miniatures that Citadel produced in the 1980's when it had the license for the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game. To fill in some gaps, I use miniatures from Copplestone Castings, RAFM, Foundry and Hasselfree Miniatures. 

Loyal followers will notice that some of these miniatures have already appeared in my posts about Eldritch Horror. That's because FFG always uses the same stable of characters in all their Cthulhu boardgames. But there are a few new faces, like Agatha Crane, Father Mateo or Carson Sinclair.

Mansions of Madness Core Set

Agatha Crane, the parapsychologist painted miniature
Agatha Crane - the parapsychologist

Carson Sinclair, the Butler painted miniature
Carson Sinclair - the butler

Father Mateo, the priest painted miniature
Father Mateo - the priest

Minh Thi Phan, the secretary painted miniature
Minh Thi Phan - the secretary

Preston Fairmont, the millionaire painted miniature
Preston Fairmont - the millionaire

Rita Young, the athlete painted miniature
Rita Young - the athlete

Wendy Adams, the urchin painted miniature
Wendy Adams - the urchin

William Yorick, the gravedigger
William Yorick - the gravedigger

Recurring Nightmares

Ashcan Pete the drifter painted miniature
"Ashcan" Pete - the drifter

Gloria Goldberg author painted miniature
Gloria Goldberg - the author

Harvey Walters the professor painted miniature
Harvey Walters - the professor

Jenny Barnes dilettante painted miniature
Jenny Barnes - the dilettante

Joe Diamond private eye painted miniature
Joe Diamond - the private eye

Kate Winthrop the scientist painted miniature
Kate Winthrop - the scientist

Michael McGlen the gangster painted miniature
Michael McGlen - the gangster

Sister Mary, the nun painted miniature
Sister Mary - the nun

Suppressed Memories

Amanda Sharpe - the student

Bob Jenkins the salesman painted miniature
Bob Jenkins - the salesman

Carolyn Fern psychologist painted miniature
Carolyn Fern - the psychologist

Darrell Simmons photographer painted miniature
Darrell Simmons - the photographer

Dexter Drake magician painted miniature
Dexter Drake - the magician

Mandy Thompson Researcher painted miniature
Mandy Thompson - the researcher

Monterey Jack archaeologist painted miniature
Monterey Jack - the archaeologist

Vincent Lee doctor painted miniature
Vincent Lee - the doctor

Beyond the Threshold

Akachi Onyele shaman painted miniature
Akachi Onyele - the shaman

Wilson Richards handyman painted miniature
Wilson Richards - the handyman

Thanks for looking!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Saga Revenants - zombies invade the Dark Ages

Saga Revenants was a limited edition set that Gripping Beast produced in 2015 for its skirmish game, Saga. It introduces zombies as a playable faction, letting them battle alongside Anglo-Danish huscarls and Viking Bondi. It's charming to inject a small dose of the supernatural into a historically-based wargame. Indeed, Saga Revenants slots right into the world of Saga since Scandinavian and Celtic mythology all feature some form of the reanimated dead. (As a child, one of my favourite myths was the story of Hel, Norse goddess of the underworld, arriving with her army of corpses at the battle of Ragnarok in "Naglfar", a giant ship fashioned from dead men's toenails). 

For Oldhammer aficionados, Saga Revenants has an extra grip because the 50 or so zombie miniatures that come with the set were all sculpted by Bob Naismith, the lead sculptor at Citadel in the mid-1980's and the man responsible for many of Warhammer's most iconic designs (see Axiom's excellent interview with Bob for some wonderful insights into the man and his influence).

Bob Naismith's sculpting talents are on full display with these miniatures. As Barks said in his recent post about Revenants, they are a "blend of horrific and comical". Although some of the details (especially tattered clothes) are a chunky, the sculpts more than make up for it with an overall sense of personality and movement. Many of the zombies are palsied and limping, with crimped hands and twisted limbs. Their faces vary between friendly smiles and grimaces of insufferable pain. In other words, these are emotive zombies, not the sullen, expressionless corpses that you usually get nowadays (I'm looking at you, Walking Dead).

I speed-painted 48 zombies in a few weeks. My recent experience with speed-painting have been spotty at best (cough, cough, Mansions of Madness, cough), but I think I'm slowly improving. My technique for painting these miniatures owes a lot to Sorastro's tutorial on painting zombies. I blocked in a few simple colours (medium green fleshtone, khaki clothes, terracotta accents, etc.) and then enhanced these with a sloppy layer of highlighting. The whole package was then covered in Army Painter Strong Tone - and when that was dry, I added blood, rust, facial details, and more blood.

Above are the "Grave Pits" that come in the Revenants set. These are wonderfully sculpted eruptions of zombies clawing out of the ground -- the Revenant player can use these Grave Pits to attack his opponent from below. It's not pretty.

A warband of Revenants is led by a Necromancer. But I didn't paint the Necromancer included in the set -- that would be an insult to my own Lichemaster. Yes, Heinrich Kemler shall take his rightful place at the head of my legion of undead. But he will need a Saga appropriate identity. I dug around my library and found a wonderful typed monograph called "Legends of Icelandic Magicians" (1975) by Jacqueline Simpson. It contains some fascinating legends about an evil wizard named Gottskalk the Cruel who  "gathered together all the black spells, which had never been used since heathen times, and wrote them all down in a magic book called Red Skin." Sounds about right.

So please meet Gottskalk the Necromancer...

Stay tuned for some battle-reports to see how Gottskalk and his Revenants fare in the age of the Vikings...