Monday, March 27, 2017

1/72 scale fantasy campaign ideas, Part 1

As I've mentioned recently, Norman and I have had the opportunity to put our 1/72 scale Hordes of the Things armies on the tale three times in the past two months.  After the first game, I started painting some 1/72 scale fantasy figures, which I hadn't done in a while.  This has also left me thinking about a campaign...

Two Caesar 1/72 elves with a Reaper "Sir Forscale"
As is often the case with miniatures, several different influences were a factor in this latest visit from the muse.

One of the advantages of raising two sons in the hobby is that, until recently, I always had opponents available.  My sons, as it turns out, were raised with Hordes of the Things (and Charge!, but that's a different story).  In their earlier years, the figures we most often used were my 6mm collection, eminently portable, but perhaps not the most visually appealing figures possible.

6mm elves move through the woods

We also did various games with 1/72 scale plastic figures, which were easy on the boys' allowances.  

About the time Norman graduated from college, these two influences converged, and he started assembling some Hordes armies with the various leftover plastics.  Both he and William could paint the 1/72s to a high standard, higher than I least until the Optivisor evened the playing field a little.  I took an old project I had and repurposed it, and then added a few stands of figures from the then-recently-released Caesar Miniatures 1/72 scale fantasy range.

With one thing and another, that project stalled, and I didn't get back to things until 2014.  With our first visit to Gencon coming up, I decided to assemble a Portable Fantasy Game, and used the Caesar figure already on hand as the basis of a 1/72 scale skirmish game using Song of Blades and Heroes rules, which packs into a 12-liter Really Useful Box.  A check of airline web sites suggested that the 12-liter was the largest which could reliable be placed under the seat for a flight.

Portable Fantasy Game box, top layer

This included a ground cloth, several foam filled hills, sewn for me by one of my son William's college classmates ...

Portable fantasy game box, second layer

various pieces of quilting fabric as roads, rivers, and forest bases, ...

Portable Fantasy Game box, lower layer
some trees, plastic rock formations, Dave Graffam card model buildings, old Gallia resin walls, and two boxes of singly-based 1/72 scale figures.  When it was all set up, the whole thing looked something like this:

PFG contents arrayed 
Or like this, from our family pick-up game at Gencon in 2014:

PFG in action, Gencon 2014
Because the ground cloth is 3 feet by 3 feet, it's also what we usually use for our Hordes of the Things games.  Last year, before William left for graduate school, Norman had organized a simple campaign, based on an idea from the Frank's Toy Soldiers blog.  It took several sessions for us to arrange to play the battles from a basic single-elimination bracket, but, with the possibility of gaining subject forces by a solid victory built into the campaign rules, it was a tense and interesting series of battles.  So, having the forces out on the cloth reminded me of the campaign, and left me wondering whether it was time to do something again.

William and Norman face off in a campaign battle
My basic idea is this:  the Portable Fantasy Game box has the scenery necessary for a variety of battles, and a bunch of individuals.  A 6-liter box (of which I have three used for auxiliary transport to conventions), should hold at least 30 of the 60x40 bases we use for most of the 1/72 scale figures, and the typical Hordes army is about 10 bases.  So, three armies should fit per box, or, allowing for some flexibility in units, five armies in two boxes. That would make for a reasonable campaign set-up, and I also realized that most Hordes armies would flex to become a  Dragon Rampant warband, so I would have figures on hand for three different levels of combat.

Next session: thinking about maps, rules, and how the levels of action might fit together.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Saturday Games

Saturday was a good day for gaming.  We had another round of the HAWKs club Frostgrave campaign, using scenarios from the Thaw of the Lich Lord book (or whatever it's called).  This time around, the Lich Lord's cultists were bogged down with a treasure caravan, which proved an irresistible lure to the dedicated treasure seekers who prowl the dead city of Frostgrave.  My crew, led by Basil the elementalist and his apprentice Rosemary, found themselves poised to swoop down on the center of the caravan, where much of the richest treasure lay.  

Despite the efforts of the cultists to protect their ill-gotten loot, Basil and his henchmen looted two carts and found a few loose treasures beside, so I ended the day with five, when a "fair share" would be three.  I haven't kept meticulous records, but I think this may be the most successful raid I've had in the year-plus that we've been campaigning.

Basil and his henchmen consider the treasure-laden cultist cart

To add to the game, one of the seven players was my son Norman, who has recently finished painting a war band for Frostgrave out of spare Reaper Bones we've had around the house.  He came up from DC for the day, but it was a rough day for his band.  His apprentice was killed and the pickings were somewhat slim, as he found himself embroiled in an extended scuffle with another treasure hunter.

Son Norman showed up for the festivities
Later in the afternoon, he and I continued the series of Hordes of the Things games we have been running recently.  I mocked up a sample army of the Cold Islanders (Viking-inspired barbarians) that I finished a unit for this week, and Norman took an army led by an ancient magician featuring giant scorpion demons (behemoths in HotT terms).

Giant scorpion demons, from the TSR Dragonstrike game
 Unfortunately for me, I had not considered that war bands such as my barbarians are particularly vulnerable to behemoths, and his army swept the field in short order, with the only worrying moment from his point of view being a single unsuccessful raid on his stronghold by one of my two heroes.
The Cold Islander archers as completed
At least the archers came out looking satisfactory...I dug around in the "pending paint" box and decided that I would work on two stands of  two-handed axemen (blades in HotT) as my next effort for this project.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

1/72 Archer group

I finished up the rest of these guys today. Unfortunately some of the Revell figures had been rather flash-covered and my cleanup was less than perfect, so they'll be the rear ranks. I will be mounting these as two groups of six, suitable to represent "shooters" for Hordes of the Things.

Monday, March 20, 2017

1/72 Vikings

I'm way behind on blogging, but my older son and I have had the opportunity to play some Hordes of the Things with our 1/72 scale plastic armies recently. As a result, I've been inspired to dig out a stalled army expansion project for a fantasy Viking army and start painting. Ultimately, any painting is better than not painting, so I decided not to fight the muse.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


According to my painting records, the last time I finished anything was toward the end of August.  Now, for purposes of my records, "finished" is defined as putting the final spray varnish coat on figures that have been based.

A couple of years back, I started having trouble with the Krylon 1311 matte spray sealer I had been using for a long time, in that it kept fogging on me.  I can't help but think that they changed the formula somewhere along the way, and that it was now more sensitive to humidity than it had been, but, in any case, it stopped working for me.  I invested in a humidity meter, and also changed to a Krylon Low Odor matte spray varnish, which seems to be less sensitive.  Nevertheless, this weekend was the first time in two months that the relative humidity dropped below 60%, and I therefore felt confident in spraying everything that I've been dabbling with lately.

I continue to be working on vintage fantasy and related figures, for the most part, and the group shown above includes some Hinchliffe medieval Pecheneg horsemen (from the flea market at Huzzah in 2015), some old Heritage figures of a couple of different ranges, a Minifig Dark Ages warlord (though actually from their Imperial Roman range) an early Grenadier elf, a Ral Partha horseman, a couple of stray 1/72 scale plastics, and a fairly modern Reaper fantasy crossbowman, in the back (based for my Frostgrave war band).

I have been considering the question, without much of an answer so far, of whether I should write down a plan for the vintage fantasy project...that's probably a post for another time.

In the meantime, Fall In is coming soon, and I will be shifting back to historicals for a couple of games co-hosted with Ross Macfarlane.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Frostgrave Day

We're starting on another Frostgrave campaign day. Here, Holly, my wizard's apprentice, poses with her first successful construct, Marigold.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Gen Con 2016 AAR

After Action Report

This year was the third year that the Dean family team attended Gen Con, and we are beginning to feel like we have a handle on the planning.  We were ready for the opening of the hotel room registration back in January, and, with four of us in the room lottery we drew a good position and were able to secure a room in the J.W. Mariott, at the northwest corner of the convention center complex.

With the room in hand, my brother was confirmed in his decision to try his hand at gamemastering this year, and, accordingly, he signed us up for four miniatures games (three Chaos Wars demos and a session of the 1975 Lord of the Rings game Ringbearer), as well as a classic board game night (Cosmic Encounter) that he did solo.

As the travel plans were finalized, I decided to arrive in Indiana on Tuesday, so that my brother and I could be there for the semi-official pre-convention events on Wednesday.  I was tasked with bringing some of the miniatures for Ringbearer, but Norman had the majority of the prep work in hand.  The kids would arrive on Wednesday night, and they also booked a somewhat early departure, around 2:00 on Sunday.

Arriving on Tuesday, I found that the literal welcome mat from previous years had not been rolled out at the airport, but the street signs were all up.

My brother and I arrived in good time on Wednesday morning after spending the night at his place in Bloomington, and we started right off with a board game demo, of a space-themed game called Destination Neptune.  It was a bit of a time-management game, reminding me of Puerto Rico, and I am still considering picking up a copy eventually.  I was also signed up for a (Classic) Traveller game in the evening, which was a bit of a bust.  The GM thought that it would be fun to try a combat scenario, which ultimately reminded me of why I try to avoid combat in Traveller.  Most of our party was wiped out in short order.  (My son was in one of the GM’s other Traveller games the next day, and came away speaking highly of the experience, so I’ll write this one off as a good idea that didn’t quite pan out.)

The convention proper started on Thursday.  We were signed up to run one of our Chaos Wars games first thing, with the idea that we didn’t want to be part of the crush in the exhibit hall opening.  Gen Con is an interesting environment for miniatures games.

  As can be seen from the pictures, there are seemingly endless rows of 5 x 16 foot table set ups, each representing two 5x8 games, so it would be helpful for planning purposes to consider that you only have access to three sides of the table.

The background noise could be described as “thunderous”, so it’s a little hard on the voice.  On the other hand, despite the limitations, we noted that there were over 950 miniatures games in the program, so splitting the miniatures off would make a respectable miniatures convention.  They just feel a little lost in the 17,000 other events.  We had six players for the first game, a battle to evict a trio of wizards from a stronghold under construction.  The players were three younger and three older, and that demographic distribution was the pattern for the rest of our minis games.  I’m not really concerned about the graying of the hobby overall; miniatures has always skewed a little more toward the older and more established players.

I scurried off to an art workshop (on using Copic markers for mapping) after our game, which was in one of the distant outlying hotels.  Upping my game on map making remains on my to-do list…

After that it was time to set up Ringbearer.  This game was printed in 1975, and involves a compressed War of the Ring on a single wargames table.  We ended up with four players (of a possible five), so that worked out pretty well, with players for Mordor, Isengard, Gondor and Rohan, and with the Fellowship split between the “good” players.

  We thought this went pretty well, with the Fellowship taking a long detour through Rohan on their way to the Cracks of Doom.

We didn’t quite finish, though, so that part still needs some work.  The Ringbearer game was the tough one to transport and set up, so we were glad that the kids arrived in time to give us a hand in the tear down.  I’ve been using my sons as a support crew for years at the historical miniatures conventions, but that’s going to be more difficult going forward, so I’m going to need to think about my gamemastering strategy with respecting transporting stuff.

I set Friday up to be my play day in the schedule.  I was in a Fate Accelerated role-playing game in the morning, involving unicorns mediating between humans and spirits in a magical forest,  then did the majority of my Gen Con shopping.  I signed up for two speed painting sessions, back to back, in the afternoon, and was pleased to find that one of them, for painting Reaper figures,  qualified me for a final round on Sunday afternoon.

 I was fairly happy with how the other figure, an Iron Wind Metals (aka Ral Partha) elf warlord, turned out, but it didn’t get a prize.

Everybody had a schedule gap on Friday, so we set that up as our team dinner, after which I headed over to Games on Demand to see what was on offer.  I ended up in a session of The Fall of Magic, a GM-less storytelling improvisational game with some interesting potential.  Two hours was just scratching the surface, though, so I put a copy on my wish list for later.

Saturday was booked solid.  I started off in the morning in a game with my older son, a scenario using the original 1823 Prussian Kriegsspiel rules, played on a topographical map with scaled counters.

There were a few issues with the scenario design on this one, but it was as interesting experiment in hobby history.  My brother and I then ran two more Chaos Wars games (with the same scenario) back to back, with five and four players respectively.

My throat was about shot by the time that I was done, and we were again glad to accept some help from the kids on the clean up.

I hadn’t started the convention with anything scheduled for Sunday, but ended up with the final round of speed painting at 2:00.  We looks at the kids’ departure time and concluded that we could probably manage a two session at Games on Demand at 10:00.  My older son and I ended up in a session of The Quiet Year, a game of post-apocalyptic community building, which we had tried and liked last year.

After that, the kids scurried off to the airport and I did a little final shopping prior to my Reaper speed painting final.

I didn’t place in the final either, but I did end up with two brushes, three miniatures, and a fourth miniature as a prize for my combined entry fee of $4, so I had a great time with it overall.

I got to ease out of the convention slowly; the majority of the plane was filled with other Gen Con attendees headed home, so we got to talk about games all the way back to Baltimore, and I prudently took Monday off to recover.

Now that we have tried GMing, we are already discussing plans for next year’s games…