19 October 2013

The quest for Branwen the Fair, part 1

After one of the most hectic weeks I can remember for a while (various family members poorly throughout, guests whose three children under five have no English, late night open evening at school...) we stayed in today and I settled down to play Goblinquest with the two little 'uns. I wanted to give them a bit more of a traditional multi-level dungeon to work their way through, partly because the attention span of the youngest (3 and a half) is good enough now, and partly because I wanted to see what the survival rate is like over multiple encounters. In the end we played through three levels in about two and a half hours!

It had all started so well. Duke Lanfaul's daughter, the fair lady Branwen, was to be wed and all the King's court had been invited. So many had come that the guests were fitted in two to a room and in every nook and cranny, others had pitched pavilions outside the castle walls; all were rejoicing for Branwen and her husband to be, Sir Lucan. The late summer evening before the wedding day had been long and filled with dancing and feasting, so none were surprised when the sun was hovering above the horizon when they awoke. Then the panic set in; the sun was in the West. It was almost night. The entire castle and all the guests had slept the whole day through in an enchanted sleep... and Branwen was gone!

I love Burne-Jones. I sometimes think I'd like to live in his Arthurian paintings.

The only clue that could be found was a small flag draped across Branwen's empty bed with the arms of the fearsome Sir Reginald the Blackhearted, a man who was so wicked he was even said to allow goblins and other monsters to live in the caves around his castle and raid his own villages in return for their support in defending him. Furious at his treachery, and concerned for Branwen, the guest knights quickly swore an oath to rescue the lady Branwen from Sir Reginald and whichever sorcerer had helped him enchant them into slumber.

Riding hard, you have reached Sir Reginald's castle before any of the other knights. The gates are locked and barred and you daren't risk alerting him to your presence, so you scout around to find another entrance and you may be in luck: a cave entrance lies just before you...

Well, that was the intro (more or less) that my wannabe chivalric heroes received before they were allowed to pick up their dice and then they went at it with gusto. MiniRab#1 liked the idea of using a secret passage ("like in Wind in the Willows") and led the way with his crossbowman retainer alongside. There was a brief discussion about having enough light ("who will carry the torch") which made the OSR enthusiast in me very proud; they'll be asking for ten foot poles next!

A fairly bloody skirmish around the entrance with the goblin guards had me worried about the outcome of the quest (both knights were two or three dice down their combat scale already) but then things picked up. MiniRab#2 did a canny room entry, bursting through the door and stepping through to give his crossbowman a clear shot, which he took at maximum range rolling a natural 20 against a defence roll of 1 - I awarded an instant kill - and the remaining goblins were quickly sliced and diced. There was even a bit more tactical play from #2 "I want to move around the back of them so I can attack them and the archer can shoot them."

And that was the cave entrance level cleared, only a narrow set of dusty stairs leading upwards remained and our heroes, bloodied but unbowed, hurried aloft in search of the fair maiden...

This took them into the basement of the castle proper and their first encounter with Sir Reginald's footmen - which nearly did for MiniRab#2 who wandered off and got themselves cornered by a very lucky crossbowman that he eventually rushed and slaughtered ("Good, he was nasty"). Down several dice by now, the boys decided they should try and sneak through now to find the "princess" as they kept calling her before something dreadful happened to her - "No more fighting if we don't need to now, we've been hurt too much."

Their desire for speed meant they took the first stairs up they found, leaving half the level unexplored so they didn't find the spiral stairs up to the wizard's tower. Perhaps his foul necromantic deeds will still find a way to threaten their success...

Up through the castle they pressed only to be met by a hail of crossbow bolts which required some boldness to get close enough to get stuck in. In the aftermath of the melee which swirled between two rooms quite fluidly and naturally, the sound of hammering and shouting for help (sound effects ably provided by me) broke through the harsh metallic gasping of the knights and their retainers as they got their breath back and tied their wounds in rough bandages. "The princess!" thought MiniRab#1, "No," said MiniRab#2, "the voice was not right, it can't be a women." There then followed about five minutes of both boys doing impressions of men and women. Anyway, they finally decided to open the door to reveal a ragged man who introduced himself (a little bit of in-character stuff from yours truly) as a knight who had been imprisoned by Sir Reginald and offered his help as reward for his release. M-R#1 went straight into character without blinking and gave a persuasive argument to me ("Sir Geraith") to secure his help. Thus reinforced, the merry band smashed through a locked door to get to the next upwards leading staircase...

Playtest thoughts

  • Levelling up - accruing Hero Tokens to replace lost combat dice worked really well and smoothly
  • Instant kill - I liked this "on the fly" ruling where if you roll a natural maximum and your opponent rolls a one, they die straight out. Maybe this should only apply for baddies, perhaps for redshirts as well?
  • Retainer skill - I allowed them to pay double points to regain dice which did keep them in the game
  • Action tokens - with little people playing and multi-turn combats it's easy to lose track of the end of one turn and the start of the next. I think using a token to place on your character card at the start of each turn that you cash in so that each turn feels distinct and retainers not in combat don't get forgotten
  • It played really well! The boys loved it and wanted to play on so, when I didn't relent because they were getting tired, they ran off to the incomparably fair lady Mrs Rab to give her a blow by blow account.
  • The quest held together nicely, despite being at least semi-improvised, so I'll tidy up my rough notes and try and produce a Dyson-esque or Vulpinised map to share

I hope those of you with kids are getting to game with them,

18 October 2013

Hear Blanche roar

John Blanche did an interview and cover illustration for the free Nottingham arts journal, Leftlion, this month and in it he talks about all sorts of things to with his idea of art and illustration as well as, obviously, GW over the years. My favourite quote from it is:
Although [Warhammer 40K] is science fiction, it's more medieval fantasy in a futuristic setting
I can see that! I love the cover art he provided, full of character; Aslan gone grimdark...

Here's the link to the magazine, issue 55 is the one you want: Leftlion, issue 55

17 October 2013

Chainsaw Warrior

Fire up your chainsaw: Darkness is back and you only have 60 minutes to save New York!

I never got to play this standalone, solitaire GW boardgame first time round because I was too young, although I did always choose the Chainsaw Warrior character in later years when playing Talisman using the Timescape expansion. I had no idea he came from another game, I just thought he looked cool.

The original set looked like this:

The idea was that, as the eponymous chainsaw wielding chappy, you had to fight your way through an endless tide of zombie-like creatures and destroy Darkness who was trying to suck New York through some kind of interdimensional gateway to hell. Yup, chainsaws versus zombies. Oh, and the miniatures you could buy to go with it are brimfull of the individuality one would expect of the Citadel studio of the time (1987):

If I were ever to heed the siren call of Rogue Trader-esque gaming, I'd have to include all three of these guys!

Anyway, aside from an excuse to show some golden oldies from before Grandma Wendy became a mere shadow of her former creative self, I posted this because I spotted that Auroch Games have released a fully sanctioned digital version for just about every platform you can think of. Screenshots, you say? Feast your eyes on the unfolding horror you must defeat....

Gentlemen, start your chainsaws!


16 October 2013

Ugly duckling - WIP 1

So, I have a large carnivorous bird model that I want to make into a large swan-like bird for this Knight Project on the Oldhammer forum. I also have greenstuff (which I've used before with some success), procreate (which I've used before with some success) and milliput (which I've never used before). After careful thought, considering this is the first time I've been trying to reproduce a realistic effect... I chose the milliput. Error! Look at the mess I've made:

Fortunately, milliput responds really well to being reshaped when wet, so those horribly jagged edges might yet be salvageable without having to file bits off. I think what I'll do is switch to procreate for the surface detail: saddle shaping, buckles on the strap, nostril things in the swan beak. Oh, and that nobbly bit that mute swans have above their beak:

I'll have one more go at sorting the joints with milliput, just to get some practice.

Hopefully your sculpting is proving more successful,

15 October 2013

Autumn cleaning

Stuck at home with a rotten bug and unable to face the pile of marking that is glaring at me reproachfully from the corner of the room, I'm doing really important things like changing the layout of this blog. Useful, eh?

Actually, blogger seems to have been really struggling to keep me logged in on the previous dynamic template which meant that I'd have to refresh the page half a dozen times before all the tabs and links, even comments, were available. So I've gone for a classic, clean template. Sort of Oldblogger, if you like.

Speaking of classic, have you seen this vile thing yet? It's a demon of Malal - the fifth chaos power that GW never got around to producing, but did have some preliminary fluff for. The model is available from CP models as a Hook Horror.

At a mere four quid, I think that's a pretty good deal. Between the info from the linked article above, and the "make your own demon" section in the Realm of Chaos books, I reckon anyone who wanted to could stat that up for gaming pretty quickly.


13 October 2013

There once was an ugly duckling...

...who was the terrifying giant servant of a vengeful chaos god!

Welcome to post 150, dear readers (cue cheering, balloons, party poppers, cake and fizzy pop!), in which I once again try to persuade you that I have been doing some geeking, honest and truly. Specifically, I've been organising my workbench to undertake not one, not two, but three painting challenges. Now, you might think from recent months that the greatest challenge would be me actually picking up a paint brush (and you'd be right), but all of these tie in with my intended projects.

Challenge the first: The army muster

This is from over on the Oldhammer website and is meant to produce, by October 2014, a playable army. You are supposed to paint a tenth of your army each month, with two wild cards to allow for things like Christmas and going on holiday which rudely interrupts one's painting ambitions. This is my starting point:

There's a bunch of peasants back left, a unit of foot knights and the start of a second at the front, a cannon and crew, and, at the back, my mercenary dwarf contingent. Still in packets, or undercoated but elsewhere, I have a unit and a half of mounted knights, another cannon, more peasants etc. I plan to order more cavalry to complete the second unit of knights, crossbowmen, archers, spearmen and a third cannon. We'll see how far I get...

Challenge the second: The group Knight challenge

Another Oldhammer project, but just a single figure and one that I can shoehorn into challenge 3 to boot! Started by Asslessman on this thread, the basic idea is to choose a creature representative of your home region and to make a knight from it. Living near Bedford, the swan seemed an obvious choice, especially as I've always liked the idea of knights riding giant birds (I blame that old arcade game, Joust). This is why there was the slightly random opening to this post; behold the chaos swan!

He's behind you!

That classic chaos warrior will be the rider of the beasty
Now, obviously I need to add a putty swan beak, saddle, reins etc. but I don't think that making him/it should take more than an evening. Painting it? We'll see...

Challenge the third: Chaos narrative campaign

Up on that first picture, you might just be able to make out a chaos knight and a lovely old beastman. They are the first two members of the Tzeentch warband I rolled up for a little narrative campaign that Chris, Malc and I hope to start playing over Christmas. I have a chaos warrior and four beastmen to paint up. Surely I can manage that?

Play nicely, children.