Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Commonwealth figures for 'Moonstone'

While muddling around online this winter, I came across this wonderful boutique game called Moonstone. Being instantly charmed, I duly pulled out my credit card to snap up the base set (and well, perhaps, a few additional figures 'fell into' the order to give a nice round number).

The basic premise of the game has 2-4 competing factions battling each other over a 3' x 3' playing surface to dig up valuable moonstones which, true to their name, can only be found at night. The factions, or 'Troupes', are 3-6 figures strong, and are composed of humans, faeries, goblins, fauns, giants, etc. The scenarios last only 4 turns, which makes for a rollicking, fast-paced game.

The figures for the game are cast in very fine resin and are amazing in their over-the-top character. Charming, silly and sometimes grotesque, the figures definitely tap into the visual style of Brian Froud, Arthur Rackham and Jim Henson. When you look at them you can't help but think of creatures featured in Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal and Legend.

That being said, being a bit of a mutton-head, I'm debuting this project with the rather boring human faction first, whereas I should have kicked off with the much more whacky goblins. Oh well, you should be able to get a visual sense of what the figures have to offer, and hopefully it sparks you to visit me again over the next few weeks to see some of the other factions.

The humans largely compose the Commonwealth faction. They have a very Grimm's Fairy Tale, Renaissance German look about them. The four characters I present here are: 

Baron Von Fancyhat

Eric the Squire

Friar Flavius

Each figure has various abilities and a signature move during combat situations. Most of these are very much in-spirit of the character and often hilarious. For example, Friar Flavius' signature move is 'Spank'. It does no damage to the opponent, but he gets 'healed' for his efforts. It fits perfectly for this fellow in his S&M gear and spiked paddle (the pink 'combat slippers' were an inspired afterthought).


So there you go, four 'heroes' from the Commonwealth, ready to battle it out for some precious moonstones. I'm working on the Goblins next, so please feel free to drop by later to see how I'm getting on with this project.


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Fire Ember Kobolds for D&D

In my previous post I introduced our original party of D&D adventurers from 1980. From that, my friend Gary and I have decided to amuse ourselves by playing a small campaign which will serve as the prelude chapter for our doughty heroes.

So, for their first adventure, I thought I'd start them off with some classic, old-school, low-level dungeon villains in the form of, yes, you guessed it, Kobolds!

So, with Kobolds in mind, I had to find some figures that could fill the ranks. This was a little difficult as I didn't really like many of the dog-faced versions, preferring the more draconic look.

To the rescue came this boxed set from Epic Encounters aptly titled the 'Shrine of the Kobold Queen'. 

With this set, not only do you get a good sized batch of Kobolds, but you're also treated with an additional monster (a Basilisk!), an excellent adventure and a two-sided play mat - a terrific value! (I say in my best car salesman voice)

Out of the box, they came in bright red, moulded hard plastic. The sculpts are pretty characterful, well-defined and a pleasure to paint. Below is a sampling of the twenty miniatures from the set. 

Kobold warriors with bow and spear & shield. There are eight of these in the box, giving a nice base for the mob.

Fire Ember Snakes with Kobold rider. There are four of these in the set - Giddyup!

As I wanted to get them on the table for play, I didn't shilly-shally around with a lot of fine detail. Lots of contrast paints and a few highlights - Bam! Done.

Kobold Kleric

Kobold Champion

One of the two Kobold Assassins

Magma Belcher Basilisk(!) and Kobold handlers

Yep, a poster-child for mirrors and Pepto Bismol, this guy barfs lava AND can turn you to stone. So, definitely not recommended as a house pet.

Mother Krangor

Some more fantasy stuff up soon!

- Curt

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Our AD&D Party, 1980

For a few of us, the pandemic has encouraged some personal reflection and perhaps a bit of nostalgia for days gone by. This is probably natural, as we miss our friends, and think of those times when we were all together, contentedly whiling away hours of carefree companionship. 

My childhood friend, Gary, has spent the past few months excavating through a bunch of material from our group's early days playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in the early 80s (he was a very records-conscious DM). The two of us have had several conversations, reminiscing about hard-fought campaigns, good friends and those characters, both epic and ridiculous, that we enjoyed as teenagers.

From this, I've decided to put together a game for us using the excellent 'Thud & Blunder: Fantasy Skirmish Wargaming Rules' from The Ministry of Gentlemanly Warfare. I quite like the system as it can be easily adapted for 'roleplaying light'. Also, since the characters are stripped-down to archetypes, its perfectly designed for one player to run several heroes simultaneously. 

From this, I thought it would be fun to resurrect our old adventuring party from the 80s, putting them through a series on interlinked scenarios, providing a prelude, a v0.9 if you will, of our original characters, before they became hard-bitten, seasoned veterans.

For figures, I've chosen models from Otherworld Miniatures. I really like these figures as they're quite beefy, and incorporate all the necessary accoutrements, like packs, rope and torches, that adventurers would need while delving in dark, dank dungeons.  

So, here they are, Amrak, Zandrack, Zarg, Deka and Gallahan, five adventurers who entertained us for countless hours in the early 80s. 


'Amrak the Seeker' is the party's Cleric, and was the character of our friend John. As anyone whose played D&D knows it's almost impossible to form a group of adventurers without having a healer on board. Amrak was a very solid chap.

'Zandrack' is our thief, originally run by George. Zandrack was a good footpad, did all the traps and sneaky stuff, but was bit of a tw@t (see below)

Zandrack's well prepared. I like that he has a grappling hook on his pack.

'Zarg the Terrible' was my old original character, a magic-user. He was kind of superfluous really (thus the 'terrible' moniker), but he became a bit more useful when he got into higher levels. He ultimately died by friendly fire when Zandrack (badly) threw an explosive gem into a room Zarg was in. The b@stard. That was in The Hall of the Fire Giant King'. Anyone remember the old Giant Series?

'Deka Jsell' is Gary's half-orc assassin. As teenagers were very suspicious of Deka (Gary role-played him excellently, being very oily and cagey), so we ultimately ended up killing him as 'a test of his loyalty'. Yep, rolling with our party was a pretty tough gig.*

Deka looks to be a fairly nasty fellow, so I thought that he needed a softer side to him, literally. So I gave him a nice pink blanket that you can just see peeking out from his backpack. You see, this is his childhood blanket, a gift from his assassin mom. You know, for when the nights get chilly and a place to tuck your head under when there's monsters about.

'Gallahan' is our indomitable fighter. He was George's second character. I don't really remember much about him except that he was a very good meat-shield. An adventuring party always needs one of these poor slobs to do the heavy lifting.

*The surviving members of this party were killed in the infamous 'Tomb of Horrors'. I ran that module, my first effort as a DM. I'm still scared by the experience...

There you have it. Our D&D party from the summer of 1980, resurrected for fresh fun and adventures. 

Now, I just need to make a mixed tape of The Cars, Queen, Supertramp, BOC...



Monday, March 22, 2021

'A Sword Day, A Red Day!' - 10mm Lord of the Rings

Yes, yet another project for distraction. Really, can we ever have too many hobby projects? Heavens, I hope not.

When I first read 'Lord of the Rings' as a boy I was enthralled by Tolkien's description of the Battle of Pelennor Fields and have always wanted to see it arrayed on the games table in miniature. So after spending this past year re-reading Tolkien's work, I've decided to start the journey to see if I could achieve this.

For me, one of the highlights of the battle was when Theoden looked upon the mighty enemy host in front of Minas Tirith, turns to his Rohirrim, and calls out:

Arise, arise, Riders of Théoden!
Fell deeds awake: fire and slaughter!
Spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered,
a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!
Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!

With this in mind, I thought I'd start this project with Theoden and some of his riders of Rohan.

Okay, with a subject and some figures in mind, what rules would I use? Well, thankfully GW has their excellent 'War of the Ring', which has a small, but dedicated fan base still supporting it.

While 'War of the Ring' is a great set of rules, I have a couple criticisms. First is with GW's  extortionate pricing, as the cost in figures for two good-sized forces is prohibitive for most hobbyists, except perhaps if done as a club project. 

The second is that I just don't like how cavalry formations look in the game. Sure, it allows people to fit their existing LotR cavalry into sabots, but due to the large circular bases, they only can fit two models per sabot base. While I quite like the large basing for LotR skirmish, it really doesn't translate well for massed ranks of cavalry. 

So after giving it a bit of thought, I decided I'd use the same base dimensions provided in the game, but I'd use 10mm figures in order to give a greater sense of mass.

These models are from the excellent Copplestone Castings range. I absolutely love them as they capture all the Tolkienesque spirit, while also being rather minimal in their design, and so quite easy to paint. I've put them on large acrylic bases as an experiment to see how it works with massed ranks - I think I like it.

I know these are not that much of a 'battle host', as trio of bases represents just one formation, and I want six for the entire Rohirrim contingent. I have a suspicion I will be serving this out to commission painters to finish up for me...

I've decided to put the various heroes on separate bases, so here is Theoden on his mount, Snowmane, riding with his household banner bearers. 

The Mumakil were a bit of a problem to source at first. A have a few different variants as test models. One you see here is a mastodon from Eureka miniatures, another (not shown as I didn't get him done) is a 3D print of a Chaos mastodon, which has a good look as well. I'll have to post him up later. 

Finally, the pick of the litter is this Mumakil from Eaglemoss magazine. This was part of their long out of print LotR chess set series done around when the films were released. He's quite hefty, being in white metal, and is an almost perfect fit for 10mm. His stock paintjob wasn't too bad, but I wanted him to blend in with my other figures, so I primed him up and gave him a fresh lick of paint.

The Eaglemoss Mumakil are rare as hen's teeth, so if anyone ever comes across one for sale, please let me know as I'd like a few more for the force. Sorry, I have no crew for the howdas as they are still coming in from Pendraken (Persian archers). Sigh, another task for another day.

- Curt

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Additions to the 2mm Napoleonic Collection

Here are a few more units to add to my 2mm Napoleonic collection. A project I started a few years ago.  

This madness stemmed from spending years reading battlefield accounts and looking at drawings describing the formations used during the Napoleonic wars. I've always been fascinated by the 'Rock, Paper, Scissors' aspect to Napoleonic tactics. How line defeated column, cavalry smashed lines, squares bested cavalry, etc. So I wanted 'gaming pieces' to reflect these formations on the tabletop, at a ground scale that was somewhat closer to reality. What you see here is essentially a wide-angle perspective of how armies may have looked in the field, which oddly appeals to my lizard brain.

Here we have a force of Austrian infantry arrayed in line, a regiment of French cavalry, a deployed battery of French artillery and a command stand. The 'smoke' markers are simply layered MDF I had designed, painted to suit.

In my collection I have each unit illustrated in the various formations in which it could have been deployed. So an infantry unit will have bases depicting it in line, column and square; cavalry are in lines and columns of squadrons and artillery are shown both limbered-up and deployed with their trail of caissons and wagons. Here are five battalions of Austrian line infantry arrayed in a 3-rank line formation.

A regiment of Imperial Dutch Lancers in a 2-rank line, ready for the charge. I love dudes in pink.

As you can see with the artillery battery below, I wanted to reflect the depth of these formations which can be quite striking. Often, we think of a Horse & Musket battery as being simply a line of big guns, whereas in fact a deployed artillery battery was a tremendously deep column, with successive lines of caissons and supply wagons servicing the guns. I find reflecting this on the tabletop to be really interesting as one quickly discovers that these formations need a lot of space to both deploy and maneuver.

A French upper level command stand.

In addition I put together a pair of Built-Up-Area (BUA) tiles to represent a quasi-Germanic aesthetic. Again, like the other figures here, these building models are from Forward March Figures. I tried to mimic the organic flow of an older city, with its streets and avenues sprouting from all over the compass. 

I had fun making the various parks and green spaces. Sarah says she wants to have coffee in the bistro next to the Cathedral. :)

I also made a few trees for the bases using my tried-and-true method of clipping figure foam packing into roughly spherical shapes and gluing brad nails into them to serve as trunks. I then coated them with Liquitex, give them a quick paint and drybrush and presto, 2mm scaled trees!

Next Up: Something inspired from Lord of the Rings!

- Curt