Sunday, 16 April 2017

Miniature Painting & Monty Python

It seems I have found my hobby haven in Zombicide: Black Plague at the moment. Our regular Tuesday Night Gaming has kept enthusiasm levels high thanks to Bull's random character approach, and we're working our way through all the characters we have.

Needless to say, despite a new Kickstart campaign on the doorstep, I have been on Ebay tracking down some of the models I wished I'd bought first time around.

One of the bonuses to the renewed hobby enthusiasm is that I've returned to the painting table after an 18 month hiatus. Inspired by the rate that Bull was painting his BP characters, and playing characters I'd dismissed as a waste of time, I now have a painting list that grows daily. Thing is, I'm really enjoying the painting!

Nothing pushes your painting than a deadline set in stone. I found tournaments great for this back in the 40k days, but this time we had arranged a BP game day at Awdry Towers for the Easter Saturday and time was flying by. I sat up till past midnight to get models finished in time.

On the day we decided to make it a Monty Python outing, and used Michael's non-Zombicide models that he had lovingly painted up some time ago to an exquisite level.

We managed to get a couple of games in – although it was actually the same game twice, as we died horribly first time around… how very Monty Python-esque!

Despite the quest only requiring one character to get to red level then exit the board, we toiled for hours to reach our goal. As the characters headed through the orange level of experience points, things started to hot up. At one point we had FOUR abominations on the board at the same time!

In the end we cruised, carefully and steadily, through to our goal – no rash decisions or over the top heroics (though I had to be reined in on a couple of occasions).

Fantastic game – my thanks to Mr Awdry for being a fantastic host as always, and to Bull for providing the leadership we needed to survive (second time around!).

More painting soon!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Zombicide Green Horde is coming in May!

Those of you who play Zombicide Black Plague may have already heard the news, but I only found out last night after returning from a failed Tuesday Night Gaming quest at Bull's. There is a new Z:BP kickstarter coming at the end of May to launch a new expansion. The Green Horde will include infected Orcs and Goblins.

I am sooooo excited!

This may actually make up for me missing Salute this year, and has certainly become the focal point for the year!

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Black Plague Escalation

A new month dawns, and I thought I'd wait till I was well passed April Fool's Day before posting this latest bit of news – I've actually painted a model, and finished it!

That's right folks, it's been a good 18 months since I finished painting Ox for Guildball, which was my last completed model. This time my attention has been focused on Zombicide Black Plague. After three consecutive weeks of Tuesday Gaming Night (albeit they were mostly on a Wednesday), enthusiasm for the fantasy board game has hit new heights.

What has injected the new enthusiasm is using EVERYTHING from the Kickstarter rewards. All the monsters, all the cards, the lot. We've been working our way through the scenarios using a team that is picked entirely at random. What this has meant is that the usual suspects don't always get a look in, and you're forced to use models and skills you've never looked at before. There are at least two models that I had dismissed when creating my dream team last year, but was dealt in games this last month – and they proved to be pretty awesome.

Anyway, back to the painting. I got a few hours on Saturday morning to myself and decided to use the time to crack out the paints again. After watching Bull steadily paint the models we've used over the weeks (or the high performing ones at least!) I was inspired to start painting some of my own.

I plucked four out of the collection – Falstaff, Mizar, Morrigan and Grim – and began laying down the colour. It didn't take long for Falstaff to become the favourite for an early complete, so I concentrated on him.

Happy to say he is now complete. Very enthusiastic about the painting right now, so need to keep the momentum up. Morrigan probably the next in line so stay tuned.

Now, just need to get Falstaff in a game now.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

More Zombicide Black Plague Fun

In a desperate effort to keep Tuesday Night Gaming alive this week, it became Wednesday Night Gaming instead. Bull was keen to press on with our foray into Zombicide: Black Plague, with all the cards and extra (huge!!) models from the Kickstarter.

The quest he'd chosen was ominously titled The Ambush, and it said that only 2 characters had to survive. Given that almost all the quests say that everyone must survive, this was bad news indeed. However, looking at the board and the objectives we just couldn't see what was so difficult.

It soon became apparent that the narrow corridors and spawn points in close proximity to each other would cause bottlenecks and have the Necromancers sprinting off the board faster than Usain Bolt! Our fears became reality when the first Necromancer had appeared and hoofed it away before we could take her down (the dreaded queen again). However, I'm jumping the gun a little here.

As was the case last time, Bull and I both chose a single character and the rest were handed out randomly. Bull chose melee master Redcap Rodney, and I chose my Dream Team marks(wo)man Cadence. For randoms, I got magic caster Mizar and necromancer-type Ostokar – Bull got searcher James and Lucas. They were 4 characters that I was not familiar with but the beauty of doing things randomly like this is that you start to appreciate skills you knew little about previously.

So, one Necromancer had already run off the board, we had no weapons of significance, then Redcap got caught short and died. Things looked bad by turn 3, but then (whilst we were all still blue level experience) the standard Abomination appeared! Wow, just wow! We really were in a hole, so much so even Bull was ringing out the doom and gloom. Totally against character, however, I was still very confident that the quest was doable, we just had to think before we acted and make the most of the abilities we had.

Long story short, we battled our way through by the skin of our teeth for long periods of the game. We had moments that looked forlorn, but with a bit of careful planning we created some daylight and broke through the zombie waves. We came close to losing both James and Lucas, plus Ostokar took an early bite that he carried with him for most of the game.

The key to our eventual success was the Invisibility spell, Ostokar's Zombie Link ability (giving him an extra go whenever the zombies got an extra go, and James' searching which turned up a host of nice weapons mid-game. Cadence proved to be quite a shot, earning herself the Orcish crossbow by taking out 5 NPCs, on top of the host of other kills.

Fantastic quest that is not to be taken lightly, especially when you use the full deck with the extended collection of Necromancer special character cards. We also purposefully kept the Abomination on the board, to avoid any of the big monsters appearing. This proved vital to the win.

Next time we're going completely random for the characters. Should spice things up just a little more!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Art Of Character Concept Art

In a departure from all the recent gaming, I thought I'd take a quick look at what else I've been doing these last few weeks.

I've been a fan of concept art for as long as I can remember - probably from the days of seeing Jes Goodwin's 40k space marine concept sketches. I now have a vast library of collected images from the net of character concepts and comic book characters for when I'm developing my own personalities for gaming. I have posted on the blog in the past about inspirational art and have even had a go at digital art, drawing Roman soldiers and their armour. But drawing is something I haven't done seriously for decades.

Now, I have managed to get my rules for Project Hood to a decent point, ready for testing, so MY thoughts inevitably turn to visual representations of the characters involved. I had some (very expensive) concept art done in the past by Doug Telford, the guy who does a lot of the Guildball character art. Having lived with it for nearly two years I've decided that it's not quite what I had in mind. But rather than employ someone else to draw my characters I've decided to do it myself.

Drawing skills aside, this is quite a minefield in terms of choosing a style. The imagery will dictate the tone of the game absolutely. Is it a serious game or a fun game? Is it dark and gritty or cartoon-like and fun?

Initially I latched onto some fantastic work being done by Craig Bruyn. His characters have a chibi style to them, akin to Super Dungeon Explore. Whilst this is not something I would naturally gravitate towards, his style is packed with character and attitude without being overly cute. He makes it look terribly easy to draw like this, but he is truly a master at his craft. I love the quirkiness and simplicity, as well as the amazing amount of attitude his character drawings have. I had to give this a go!

My first attempt was a Soldier of Nottingham. Much fun was had playing with facial expressions and the various shapes - head, shield, helmet. Very happy with this little guy.

I moved on to draw my Hood character, and this is where things fell apart slightly. No matter how much attitude I put into the drawing, he still looking like a small child playing at being Robin Hood – not the look I was going for at all! I couldn't have the main character not being completely awesome.

 This left me in a bit of a quandary as I had thought my solution found. Back to the drawing board (so to speak!).

I looked at concept art and artists for hours and days. As easy as it was to find something I liked, I also needed to find a style that I could assimilate and reproduce to a decent standard (cannibalise?). It also had to be relatively effortless due to my distinct lack of spare time. Quick, easy results that look amazing – no problem!

I was watching a youtube video that was using a piece of art that really caught my eye and I felt compelled to find more from the artist. I soon discovered it was from Steven Sanchez DeviantArt page, and I felt like I'd unearthed something truly magical. So much character and attitude, with an angular graphic style that is not too distant from how I scribble anyway. This was surely the holy grail I had been looking for.

I decided to not mess about here and had a first stab at this style using Hood as the guinea pig. I was pretty pleased with the opening result. It was definitely encouraging, if not perfect. It had the Batman feel I was going for. I just need to give him a bit more of his own character. Just doing a head and shoulders image meant I could save a lot of time whilst still getting the character across.

Time to test the theory again, see if it would translate to Guy De Gisburne – The Raven.

The original concept art for Guy (pictured near the top of the page) was a good stab at the character I had in my head, but I wanted to really get the Darth Vader/Dredd feel across whilst maintaining an element of humanity (if that's not an oxymoron).

This one felt good from the off. It went though several stages of development at the pencil sketch stage, long before it saw any action on the computer. The style is definitely Steven Sanchez, but it's also definitely my take on it. It's more sketchy and rough around the edges. The digital colouring was great fun too, as well as adding textures to the clothes for an extra dimension.

I'm currently going back to my Hood drawing to see if I can match the intensity of The Raven. In addition, I'm looking at the other members of the respective warbands.

This has been quite a journey. I did not feel capable of doing my own artwork two years ago, and spent a lot of money getting two concept artists to give it a shot. Whilst the results were genuinely stunning, it always felt like they weren't quite the characters I had envisioned. This image for The Raven is not perfect, but it signifies a great amalgamation of the concept artists' work and my own ideas and skills. It has given me the confidence that this is my route forward. They may only be head shots effectively, but I can foresee the next step of expanding them to full body illustrations being straightforward. I need to establish the characters first, pin down a look and feel for them all.

Stay tuned…

Monday, 13 March 2017

They Think It's All Over…!

About a month ago I managed to have a game of something I've not played in 25 years… Subbuteo!

Myself and a group of friends played it for a while back around the time of the Mexico '86 world cup, and again for a spell 4 years later. I had the odd game during the early 90's whilst at college, but my collection has sat in boxes since then.

After a casual conversation about it with our friends last year, I recovered my Subbuteo teams from my mum's attic and even went so far as buying a more recent starter box. Eventually we got a date in the diary myself, our friends James and his 7yr old son Joseph had a boys' day playing table football.

Needless to say the skills were a bit rusty, but I managed to stay unbeaten on the day, bagging a total of 6 goals in 4 games and not conceding any. Poor Joseph didn't win, or even score, on the day and was on the end of a 4-0 kicking from his dad at one point (not competitive!). After beating James 3-0 in our opening game, we ground out a 0-0 draw in the second and I eventually won by a golden goal.

Regardless of scores, great fun was had by all. Nostalgia washing over us in waves, whilst teaching a new generation a game that provided hours of fun for us oldies!

Of course, wearing your football kit is obligatory – without a word said we all turned up wearing our colours – me, in my traditional royal blue!

Friday, 10 March 2017

Bloodbowl - Humans vs Undead

In a positive flurry of gaming this week, we have Tutorial game 2 of Blood Bowl for my friend Chris. I had picked up one of the new Human teams from Ebay since our last game (but needless to say hadn't painted it). After Chris's efforts with the Dark Elves last time, the more balanced Humans gave him a different perspective. I mixed things up too, switching to the Undead.

In the last game my Nurgle team hogged possession of the ball for almost the entire time, so after winning the dice roll Chris opted to receive the ball. After some initial school boy errors (like lining up a Str 2 Catcher vs a Str 5 Mummy) Chris got into a flow and the turns were flying by. The Undead were bogging down proceedings and the damage was being dished out. Chris had two knocked out and two dead, I had a Ghoul in the dead pile also. Brutal game.

As our 6-turn tutorial half started to wind down, the ruck along the half way line started to break up and Chris grabbed his opportunity. He sprinted a thrower through a narrow gap and a lineman threw a pass. Despite a last gasp attempt to blitz the escaping receiver, my Wight managed to roll double-two for his 3+ dodge roll and fell on his face. Chris's thrower was away, with only a Mummy in pursuit (if you can call 3 squares a turn a pursuit!).

He got his just rewards for an audacious bit of gaming. First touchdown!

Great game(ette) and thoroughly enjoyable, even with us vocalising our strategy thinking throughout. It's turning out to be an awesome week of gaming. Whatever next?!

Thursday, 9 March 2017

A Return To The Zombicide Dungeons

So I've managed to go over a month without posting on the blog. And what a month it's been- lots of work family issues, a missing tooth and a broken toe. There has been no hobby time at all really, but finally I got another Tuesday Game Night under the belt.

Bull suggested an all-out game of Black Plague, with every model, card, token he owned. Oh yes, the big monsters came out to play (or at least sit on the bench and watch). To spice things up even more, we got to choose one character apiece, the rest were random - no dream team available here to face our biggest test.

To be fair we didn't do too badly with character selection. It opened our eyes to individuals I certainly have dismissed in the past and, with a bit of good luck, we managed to sail through the scenario without so much as a scare. Bull has a more detailed retelling on his blog.

Alas, as I eluded to earlier, we did get the Blobination on the board, but given his relative slow speed we managed to evade him. This meant that none of the other Monster Abominations could be on the board at the same time, so we dodged that particular pitfall (some of those guys sound nasty!).

Our biggest problem was the Necromancers. Once we added the character necro cards into the pack, the Necromancers were getting loads of extra goes, positively sprinting around the board. We managed to contain the threat in the end, only one actually getting off the board.

Great fun, and great to get back into some gaming. More gaming tonight with Chris, so we'll see how that goes!

Friday, 3 February 2017

Bloodbowl - Dark Elves vs Nurgle

Last night saw an introductory game (half) of Blood bowl with Chris. He has been eager to learn, so much so he had read the rulebook (LRB6) and downloaded the game on his pc. Having the tabletop board and models in front of you, however, is a completely different experience.

We decided to try a 6 turn half and talk through out thinking as we went. Chris took the Elves and decided to kick to me. I started the slow crawl up the pitch with the ball (red gem as a stand in). Chris managed to take out a Rotter and it created a gap to the ball carrier. Despite the dodge rolls required, Chris sent a Blitzer charging in. He made the first modified dodge roll and the second, but failed his unmodified 2+ final dodge. Having used a team re-roll already, the Blitzer fell on his face - then disaster... he died!

I got a hasty cage together and the Nurgle beasties moved (excruciatingly) slowly up the pitch. The turns carried on in this fashion - slow walking with the ball and Elves being knocked down. We then talked through the Elves not needing to be in contact with the Nurgle players, just stand off them to slow me down and avoid casualties. Chris started throwing up road blocks in this way which slowed me down even more.

The game plodded on into the last couple of turns so I decided to go crazy. I was within a move and GFI of the end zone so decided to 'burst' through. It would involve a dodge however, but I was confident with my re-roll still in-hand. Alas it wasn't to be. I was within 1 square of the end zone but failed my 4+ dodge roll... twice. Beastman down, balls pops out into an empty square by the sideline.

Chris had one of his Blitzers make a daring raid through tackle zones for the ball. We talked the move through carefully and worked it out to precision. He ducked through, grabbed the ball and dodged back out ready to throw the ball. Perfect pass, and the ball was on its way to a Lineman in space. Then things took a twist.

The Lineman dropped the catch (2+ with no re-rolls left!) but it landed in an adjacent square containing another dark elf lineman. He caught it first time - no turnover!!

We had run out of time as Chris only had one turn left, but he raced down the pitch towards my end zone. Had we been playing a normal 8 turn half he would have scored with ease - my Nurgle boys just couldn't catch him!

So the game finished 0-0, but Chris found himself grabbed by the Bloodbowl bug. We may have another convert here - he just needs to decide who to play!

Bring on the league!!

Monday, 30 January 2017

Build A Gaming Board: part 4

No, I've not gone all George Lucas and started a new series with part 4. This is in fact the legitimate part 4 of a post series that began back in 2013!

That's right! After a four year hiatus, that included a house move, four job changes and a new baby who has grown into a toddler, I have finally made some progress on my gaming board. Hey, I may be laid back but I get there in the end… sometimes.

If you missed the beginning you may want to catch up:

Gaming Board: part 1
Gaming Board: part 2
Gaming Board: part 3

So the board was originally meant to be for my now defunct Dark Crucible ruleset. The frame and foam base have been kicking around attics, spare rooms and garages for ages now, getting more damaged by the year. I've always wanted to go back and finish it but for a long time it seemed very unlikely things would progress at all. With my recent stint at rule writing I've been looking to get a new neoprene gaming mat (as they are a superior solution) but every time I went into the garage I'd see my board looking neglected and very sorry for itself. I decided to just do something about it, so (disguised as part of a household chore) I spent some time knocking things into shape.

I've sanded down the frame ready for some undercoat. There were some sharp edges there so I was keen to get it user friendly. I was also bothered by how high the foam sat above the edge of the frame. My original plan was to carve some wonderful rolling hills into it, but that was a little ambitious as I discovered. I'm going for something a little more reserved this time as an opening effort. I spent a long time trimming several millimetres off the top of the foam to get it closer. Once done it looked pretty rough so I gave that a sanding before pouring lots of pva glue on it to fill a few holes and scattering some larger sand/stones on there.

The plan now it to cover the rest of the board with a combination of red oxide and textured emulsion to get a nice, flexible surface. Once that is complete I can paint it and get on with the flocking!!

We may see this bad boy finished yet!

To be continued...

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Tuesday Gaming

Tuesday this week saw a couple of firsts.

It saw the first instalment of the resurrected Tuesday Gaming Night - something that fell by the wayside over ten years ago! - which was immense. It is something that I have wanted to try and implement for a long time, but it just hasn't been practical up until now. I may be talking this up too soon, but I'm very upbeat at the prospect of regular gaming - even if gaming every week is not possible, Tuesday night has been marked off on the family calendar as hobby night, so it's down to me to make the most of the opportunity.

Tuesday night also saw the first game of Blood Bowl played by myself and Bull in two and a half years. We were very rusty to say the least - my Dark Elves for some reason aiming for a 4+ roll for their dodges, Bull forgetting the fact he had re-rolls, and some key rules being forgotten completely.

It was a practice game in name only, using the larger pitch for the re-released box set. Bull (using his newly painted Human team) and myself (with the ever reliable Dark Elves) found ourselves strangely nervous throughout - the will to win... and in style... overwhelming at times.

I won't go into too much detail about the game, as it was calamitous from a rules perspective and took far too long - 12 turns in 3 hours (that's right, we didn't even finish). The highlights included: using some random special play cards that were overpowered but didn't seem to have much effect (except the one that hamstrung my runner for the entire game!); Bull managing to eventually score in the 8th turn of the first half after getting bogged down in the middle for most of the half; me nicking a very quick score early in the second, only for Bull to grab a second with the last roll of the dice. Towards the end of the evening chances were being taken quite liberally - I had one Blitzer attempt a move that involved two negative dodges, two normal dodges and to 'Go For It' rolls (the last of which he finally failed).

The conclusion was Bull remembering how much he loves this game, and me remembering my love/hate relationship it and how the randomness of dice rolling can ruin your evening, never mind best laid plans. It's all very exciting stuff, and we're hoping to rope in a few more people for practice games and maybe a bit of a league... for fun!

Oh, and the blog had a birthday this last week too - 7 years old!!

I don't count the visitor numbers anymore as the spambots have killed any hope of getting a realistic view. Despite not posting nearly as often as I used to I have tripled the traffic, it's just not valuable or genuine traffic. I'd like to think that with the re-invention of Tuesday Night Gaming I'll have more to post about, but we've been here before. I'll just promise to post when I have something genuine to show and tell!


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