Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Back to basics

Because it's been way too long since I've posted about something related to this blog's original focus, here are some spaceship pictures.
These pics come from my 5150: Star Navy demo I ran at last fall's MillenniumCon.
In addition to my usual Starfleet Wars/Galactic Knights minis, this game included ships from the Star Frontiers and Stardate: 3000 miniatures lines.
Look carefully, and you might also spot a Silent Death model or two.
I hope to get a game of Star Navy in this weekend.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Mounted units in HotT

As you can see, my Hordes of the Things opponents such as Johnny with his Romans and Mark with his GW Empire have several conventional mounted elements in their HotT armies.  Indeed, my skeleton army is entirely foot--Lurker, Magician, Artillery, Spears, and Shooters.
While I do use primarily mounted elements in my Sons of Muspel army, they're Behemoths and Beasts, as opposed to "conventional" mounted such as Knights or Riders. 

What about you, dear readers?  Do you prefer mainly foot armies, mainly mounted, or a mix?  Or something different, like aerials?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Compleat Enchanter

A bonus find at Half-Price: the collected Harold Shea stories by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt--tales of a 20th century American who gets transported to worlds of Norse mythology, the Faerie Queen, and other literary/mythological settings, on clearance for one dollar.  As a bonus, this compilation includes a short forward by David Drake, another author I enjoy.

Anyone who plays Dungeons & Dragons could mine a treasury of adventure material from this series.  Giants, dragons, knights, wizards, there in the mythological or literary roots of their settings.

It's easy to see why these works were listed as inspirational reading in the first edition Dungeon Master's Guide--mentions of cockatrice and griffons, dragons that smell of chlorine or spit poison, even a modern day-professor describing magic spells as having verbal and somatic components!

I'm about halfway through the volume, and it's a great read.  Y'all should track this down and read it if you get the chance.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Artist: H.J. Ford

"'Yes, it must be that,' said the Troll"
I found an art book on the clearance cart at Half-Price Books that introduced me to an illustrator who seems to have had (directly or indirectly) a great influence on how we visualize the monsters of Dungeons & Dragons.
The book is Maidens, Monsters & Heroes: The Fantasy Illustrations of H.J. Ford.  The images and captions in this blog post are all from this volume.
"Grumedan's Lion Fetches in the Princess"
The artist Henry Justice Ford illustrated some dozen books of fairy tales published in England in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  These pictures would fit right in with those in the first edition AD&D Monster Manual.
"The Griffin"
In addition to the black & white work, Ford did a number of color paintings as well for some of the later volumes.  He illustrated all types of stories for the publisher, including fairy tales, Arabian nights, history, and (Fr Dave of Blood of Prokopius take note) stories about saints and heroes:
"How St. Anthony met a centaur and a satyr"
There's even a reference to one saint who inspired a major figure in the World of Greyhawk setting:
"The man on the white horse comes to heal St. Cuthbert"
Pretty good find for just three bucks.  These pictures intrigue me.  Now I need to track down some of the stories collected by Arthur Lang that inspired them.  Anyone know a rare book dealer?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hero killer

The Nightmare Legion's Artillery element, supported by double-ranked spears on each side, would like to invite your Hero general out to play.  Briefly.

I almost always seem to do well in Hordes of the Things when using Artillery against enemy armies with Hero elements, especially when flanked by Spears.  What's your preferred method for dealing with Hero units in HotT?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lurkers: Am I doing it wrong?

So in a game of Hordes of the Things a couple of weeks ago, a question by my opponent got me thinking about Lurkers and how they're used in the game.

The rules state you can only deploy a Lurker element against an enemy element that was deployed or has just entered a bad going terrain feature on the previous bound.  I did so in the game pictured above, and the Spears element chased my Lurker skeleton from the board.  On my next bound, I was going to bring it back against that same element it fought previously, but the other player wondered whether I could do this, since his element had not just entered the terrain feature--it was still there from the previous bound.

I realized that all along, I've been bringing back Lurkers against some of the same units that drove the Lurkers off the table.  According to my new interpretation of the rules, I shouldn't have done that; instead I  should have redeployed them against new elements that entered some bad going.

So how do you deploy Lurkers in HotT?  In your games, can they pop back up to plague the same element that forced them to flee the battlefield in the previous round?  Or should they only be deployed against elements that have just then entered a patch of bad going?  I can't believe I've been doing this incorrectly for so long!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

HotT big battle

This cocked die on a flat playing surface occurred in one of our games.
Weekend before last, I had some folks over to play Hordes of the Things.  Our first game was a 72-AP big battle, with two players on one side and three on the other.  I brought out my fire army and my skeletons to ally with Mark's Empire (from Warhammer).  Our opponents were Ted with his samurai, Blake's Chaos, and Johnny's Romans.
Mark's Empire troops took the center, with my skellies on the left and Sons of Muspel on the right.  The samurai charged the undead, the Chaos forces trudged toward their Warhammer counterparts in the middle, and the Roman legion marched against the fire army.  My behemoths got into trouble early with the legionnaires, aided by a behemoth of their own.  The Romans ended up routing the fire giants.
Things didn't go too well on the other side of the battle, either.  Tad's well-painted samurai army (Legend of the Five Rings figures) suffered some losses against my Nightmare Legion, but still managed to push them back. 

My props to Ted for a very nice looking fantasy Asian-themed army.  Those guys and gals fought as good as they looked, and the three generals ended up victorious over us two when they reduced Mark and me to less than half our starting AP
It was a fun game, and we were able to get in some more battles that day.  I'll share them with you later on.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Humanoid character expansion for Holmes D&D

One of my many uncompleted projects for the Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures computer game was designing a reverse-Keep-type adventure.  In this design, instead of playing the usual character races of human, elf, dwarf, and so on, the player could create orcs, goblins, kobolds, and the like, ultimately invading the titular keep on the borderlands.

While that computer D&D adventure still languishes unfinished on my hard drive, remembering it did get me thinking about how such a game might look using the Holmes basic rules.  I approached this project similar to how I did my expanded wandering monster tables: extrapolating from just the information in that blue Dungeons & Dragons rulebook, supplemented by Gygax's work in module B2, The Keep on the Borderlands.

Without further ado, here's the supplemental rules for playing humanoid characters using the Holmes rulebook:


KOBOLDS (1-4 damage)
Level                        Points       Hit Dice        Notes
1 (Kobold)                   0                 ½              +3 save (except vs. dragon)
2 (Guard)                  600             1+1            +3 save (except vs. dragon), can have 1-4 gt rats
3 (Chieftain)           2400              2               +3 save (except vs. dragon), bodyguard of 1-6

GOBLINS (1-6 damage)
1 (Goblin)                    0                1-1             -1 to hit in daylight, can see in the dark
2 (Guard)                  750             1+1            -1 to hit in daylight, can see in the dark
3 (Chieftain)           3000            2+1            can see in the dark
4 (King)                    12000           2+1            can see in the dark; bodyguard of 5-30

ORCS (1-6 damage)
1 (Orc)                          0                  1               -1 to hit in daylight        
2 (Guard)                 1000            1+1            -1 to hit in daylight
3 (Chieftain)           4000              3               -1 to hit in daylight; bodyguard of 1-8
HOBGOBLINS (1-8 damage; min 14 strength)
1 (Hobgoblin)             0               1+1            +1 morale (including save vs. fear)
2 (Guard)                 2000            2+1            +1 morale (including save vs. fear)
3 (Chieftain)           4000            3+1            +1 morale (including save vs. fear)
4 (King)                    16000           4+1            +1 morale (incl. save vs. fear); bodyguard of 1-4

GNOLLS (2-8 damage; min 16 strength; max 9 intelligence)
1 (Gnoll)                       0                  2              
2 (Guard)                 1250            2+1           
3 (Leader)               5000              3               bodyguard of 1-6
BUGBEARS (2-8 damage; min 17 strength and min 15 dexterity)
1 (Bugbear)                0               3+1            surprise on 1-3               
2 (Guard)                 5000            3+1            surprise on 1-3
3 (Chieftain)          20000           4+1            surprise on 1-3; bodyguard of 1-4

A player can adjust any humanoid character’s strength score in the same manner as fighting men.  Bugbear characters may also alter their dexterity the same way as thieves.
All humanoids do the indicated damage, regardless of weapon type.  If a humanoid character acquires a magical weapon, the appropriate bonuses will, of course, apply.
Humanoid characters begin play with the armor typical for their kind (leather for orcs and kobolds, leather & shield for goblins and hobgoblins, chainmail for gnolls and bugbears) and may wear other types of armor, if they can find any of the right size.  Kobolds can use armor suitable for halflings, goblins may wear armor sized for dwarves, and all others except bugbears are able to fit into man-sized armor.  Bugbears will have difficulty finding new armor large enough to fit their giant frames.
When gaining a level, humanoids reroll their hit points using the new hit dice number (instead of rolling one die and adding it to the current total like other characters).  If the new number is greater than the previous hit point total, use the new amount.  If the new roll is less than or equal to the previous amount of hit points, just add 1 to the previous total and use that as the character’s new hit point amount instead.
In order to become a chieftain or king, in addition to gaining the required amount of experience points, the character must defeat the current occupant of that position in the tribe.  While players are free to challenge a leader to single combat in order to accomplish this, nonplayer humanoids are under no such delusion, and will not hesitate to sic their bodyguards on any challenger!

OK, I'm ready to roll up some humanoids and take on the Castellan and his men!  Who's with me?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Hammer's Slammers

I recently reread all the Hammer's Slammers stories by fantasy and SF author David Drake.  Although he's known mainly for his military science fiction and space opera output, the author has produced quite the catalog of fantasy--both (quasi-)historical and otherwise.  However, the gritty future universe of the Slammers series has always been my favorite of his works.

I've learned a couple of things from reading these books:  The first is that war is hell.  You put armed men and deadly machines in a high-pressure situation, and someone's gonna get hurt.  Or killed.  Drake doesn't flinch from depicting what can happen to a human body in wartime.  He also doesn't hesitate to show the reader what war does to a human mind.  I've never seen combat, and thanks to this author, I hope I never do.

On a lighter note, another thing I learned from reading David Drake is that it's OK to borrow from history.  He does this all the time in his works: filing the serial numbers off the Byzantine Empire in one SF setting, or using a time of strife among Greek city states as background for another future war novel.  This is something that gamers can do when designing scenarios, and it's something I tried with my own short-lived Chancellor starship campaign.

Since the Slammers books are all about future armored combat, they make a great resource for scenarios in your sci-fi tank games.  And while there is a Hammers Slammers wargame, the encounters Drake describes would not be out of place in Dirtside, Future War Commander, or OGRE.  I'm curious; has anyone used a Slammers story as the basis for a wargame scenario?  Please share in the comments.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Detailing the Sons of Muspel

Some of the figures I bought to expand my Hordes of the Things fire army to 48 AP aren't actually gaming miniatures, but instead come from the toy line Handful of Heroes, based on Marvel Comics characters.  I found a few of them that came in a translucent orange or yellow to match the rest of my army, but the detail was a little lacking. 
However, a quick drybrush with a couple of colors really brought out the sculpting on these minis.  Compare the unretouched Zzzax figure on the left to the finished one on the right.  I used bright yellow followed by metallic gold to enhance the look of this miniature, and it will look a lot better on the game table.
Likewise, some metallic garnet red and metallic copper give a nice gradient to this model of Sabretooth, making it much less garish than its original appearance.  Put them on stands next to various Heroclix minis I'm using to make elements of Hordes, and they fit right in.
Luckily for me, the rest of these superhero gaming minis don't really need touching up.  I just need to paint these bases, and the ranks of the Sons of Muspel will grow!

Monday, April 8, 2013

The quest is complete

At last!  I finally tracked down a copy of the mid-'90s Bretonnia army book for Warhammer.  I've been trying to score one of these since late last year, when I landed a Lizardmen supplement buy just missed out on the Bretonnia book offered by the same buyer. 

Since I landed a boxed WFB set with dozens of plastic feudal warriors and their reptilian opponents (all for use as armies for Hordes of the Things) some time ago, I have been struggling with how I'm gonna paint the knight and bowmen models.  I've seen several copies of the Bretonnia supplement on ebay, but until now I had always been outbid.

I'm thrilled to have this tome in my hands now.  Something about the bright, primary colors used in the heraldry and livery for these figures attracts me.  I don't know if I'll be able to do them justice, but at least now I have a starting point for some possible color schemes.  Rule Bretonnia!