Thursday 31 December 2020

So, how was your year?

I'm doing a review of the year, and, yes, there's an elephant in the room.

However, this is a wargaming blog, therefore I'm going to do my best to ignore the big grey viral bastard.


Ironically, 2020 began in a post-apocalyptic vein. With me travelling to Board in Brum for a 7TV day where I won best opponent despite taking a filthy broken cast of zombies.

I also painted my Fallout: Wasteland Warfare miniatures.


I prematurely believed I'd finished off my Soviets. This of course will never be true.


Looking back, the beginning of 2020 seems so structured and organised. I played a couple of games of Dropzone against Pete, I also apparently finished off my Fallschirmjager.

I've since found another sprue of miniatures...which sort of sums up how 2020 developed.


I curiously found myself with extra time on my hands and so painted my entire backlog of Masters of the Universe miniatures.

I also watched both the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, listened to Andy Serkis read the Hobbit for charity and paint a crapload of MESBG miniatures.


I continued to plough through my Lord of the Rings miniatures, completing both forces for the first scenario in the War in Rohan book...that I still haven't played.


Real life started to demand that I do stuff, and so my output dropped. However I worked through my Kitbash Kickstarter for Pulp City.


Things started to open up, and I actually managed to get some games in against Matt and his new Japanese army for Bolt Action. I found machine guns to very useful for ensuring social distancing.


With the release of the Indomitus box filling the internet, I was tempted towards 40k for the first time in a decade. Fortunately, my valiant Blood Angels came out of retirement to protect me from buying tons of things I didn't really want.


As well as continuing to repaint my Blood Angels, I actually managed to get a game against Pete where I failed miserably to defend the approaches to Stalingrad.


My painting turned back to Saturday morning cartoons, as I painted up the Thundercats and their Mutant enemies.


It turns out that my lockdown goto project is He-Man. I'd recieved more, so I painted more.


In a bid to get my painting numbers up I painted a battle group of Scourge for Dropzone Commander before returning to the Blood Angel's.

So with the year coming to a close, let's take a look at my painting tally.

Acquired: 206
Painted: 303

My hobby resolution last year was to make inroads into my lead mountain, and so I'm calling that a win, despite Leon's best efforts to derail me by 'kindly' sending me free stuff.

My broad goal was also to finish off projects, and I've definitely done that to an extent, with Fallout, the Soviets, the Fallschirmjager, Masters of the Universe and Lord of the Rings all reaching a point where I can add things at my leisure.

However, despite this success, this year I'm going to go back to more specific resolutions as I've missed them.

1. Paint more than I acquire

Yes, that's Lead Mountain in Colorado again.

This has gone well with me 
reducing my pile by 100 miniatures. I've also cancelled my subscription to Wargames Illustrated and so the influx of unwanted plastic should slow down. On top of that I've rationalised my future projects to prevent things getting out of hand and I've got more plans to further reduce my unwanted pile as storage space is really becoming an issue.

2. Play the games I've been planning

This one sort of depends on wider world issues, but I want to get my War in Rohan campaign started (and begin the Quest of the Ringbearer that I got for Christmas), Pete and I have Dropzone and Stalingrad campaigns to return to, and I want to take some of the casts I painted last year to 7TV events so that I have an excuse to buy more 7TV casts when Karl of Crooked Dice sends out his tempting tendrils.

3. Experiment more with solo gaming

This is probably one for the first half of the year. This is the something I did struggle to do this year, despite actually writing a set of solo rules for 7TV that are available for free download on the Crooked Dice website. I only managed to finish off my Breakout campaign for Super Mission Force. However, I do have lots of games (Walking Dead, Rangers of Shadow Deep, Descent, Fallout) that lend themselves to solo play that should keep me occupied until...well...

On a personal note, 2020 has been an odd year with some extremely low points that actually had very little to do with Covid 19. I've actually been extremely fortunate to not be in an industry too adversely affected, beyond trying to apply the government's crystal clear, totally consistent and realistic plans...

On the up side, I've reconnected with my old roleplaying buddies via technology and we've now got two campaigns on the go, and this hobby is one that has a strong online presence, which has provided my with plenty of opportunities to escape when I needed them.

I know this may sound like the sort of platitude that gets said every year, but this time I really mean it.

I genuinely hope you and your loved ones have a safe, prosperous and happier 2021.

Wednesday 30 December 2020


Why 'shhhh'?

Because I've painted librarian (space wizard) for my Blood Angels.

Also, because I don't want to hear that the model is actually a captain, doesn't have a psychic hood, has the wrong iconography and so forth.

He's a librarian. Deal with it.

I think I originally painted him as a librarian because when I first played 40k captains were a bit lacklustre. This is apparently no longer the case, but I didn't fancy stripping him to start again.

The model is the last of the repaints for my army (barring some veterans that need doing from scratch), and actually took very little work, mainly just sprucing up the gold and red and adding a couple of washes and transfers.

The transfers were a bit awkward, because I had to cut them to match where the cloak exposed, which made things small and fiddly.

The only notable change was using Nihilakh Oxide over white on the sword to make it more obviously a force weapon.

It's the first time I've used this technical paint and I think I'll prefer it to Hexwraith Flame for ethereal/ghostly stuff.

On the subject of the ethereal and ghostly, here's the librarian looking spooky on the edge of some eldritch portal...or a lamp.

Only one painted, but christmas only delivered a single new model, a T-34/76 for my WW2 Soviets (although I did get some excellent new board games). I also recieved another MotU miniature in the post.

Assuming I don't get a load of miniatures thrown over my fence today, it looks like I'll have smashed my target for the year.

Acquired: 206
Painted: 303

I'll be back tomorrow for my customary review of the year and  resolutions for next year.

Thursday 24 December 2020

In The Red

There haven't been any painting updates for the last couple of weeks because I've been chugging through the last repainted unit for my Blood Angel's and I've been less than motivated.

Anyway, they are done.

A second tactical squad. This time armed for close assault of infantry rather than holding ground or tackling armour.

The sergeant (although the model might actually be something else) packs a power sword and a plasma pistol.

The flamer guy should get round that perpetual issue of needing to roll to hit - which is apparently quite good in overwatch.

All but one of the Marines in this squad are actually metal miniatures. These three are the same metal miniature.

I ran out of bolters when assembling this squad. In fact, several of the bolters are carved off the snap-together marines from the Assault on Black Reach starter set.

This squad will probably be put in the Rhino for getting forwards into the enemy. Unless that's not a good plan. It seems like a good plan, but until actually play a game of 40k, I won't know.

Despite getting these 10 finished, I've actually had a run of things I ordered arrive over the last couple of weeks meaning that I've gained another 15 miniatures.

Acquired: 204
Painted: 302

I should still have enough of a buffer to cope with Christmas acquisitions, but who knows?

Anyway, I hope tomorrow's reduced celebrations bring you everything you want.

Happy Cristmas!

Friday 18 December 2020

The Long And Winding Road

This is the third installment of our Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay campaign set in the Border Princes. Our heroes: Wolfgang Braun of Nordland; Garil Ragnarsson the Dwarf; Rudiger Reich a devout of Sigmar; and Heinz Castel a nobleman, strangely reluctant to share his background, have travelled over Black Fire Pass to the Border Princes to start a new life. They had travelled with a caravan of refugees from the war and faced many perils, most significantly an attack by Beastmen of the forest. Ultimately they'd parted company with the others, who had decided to seek a place to settle in a mining village called Sweetwater. Our heroes have chosen to seek their fortunes in the town of Masserschloss, the seat of power of a local prince, called Dieter.

This session actually happened several weeks ago, and o my memory is a bit hazy, hence the lack of detail at certain points.

The four travellers watched their erstwhile companions disappear up the track towards Sweetwater. Or at least where they believed the mining town to be. Despite losing the safety of numbers, a strange lightness filled each of their hearts.

Wolfgang Braun felt a sense of pride that he had, in a small way, contributed to the safety of those simple folk. He wished he could have done more. Nevertheless, given the dangers they had faced in the forest, Wolfgang knew he had done all that was in his power to protect the vulnerable. Perhaps he was indeed up to the task of finding and protecting what was left of his family.

Garil Ragnarsson’s relief was much more pragmatic. The caravan had made a very big, very slow and very tempting target. The journeys of his younger days had taught him that these lands were unforgiving. At least the four of them now had the option of being able to avoid threats too large to fight. Perhaps not even drawing unwelcome attention at all.

Rudiger Reich felt liberated. He had wrestled with which path he should follow. Should he protect the people of Sigmar, or follow in his footsteps? Now he knew. He would stride into this wild and untamed land, and bring it into Sigmar’s light. Those loyal folk would someday flock back to his banner when the new Empire was born.

Heinz Castel was just glad to be rid of the tedious peasants.


Turning south, the four companions had a spring in their step and now made good time. Spirits lifted further as the volcano grew closer, but was now to the west of them. Occasionally they passed small trader caravans that hurried northwards without stopping to encounter the armed travellers, perhaps fearing they were bandits.

At one point, on the side of the road they came across a small shrine to Sigmar.  It was nothing more than a one-foot-thick wooden wall with a small roof over it, with a wooden carving of Sigmar protruding from the wall.  A handful of scraps of parchment bearing prayers were tacked to the wall and various offerings lie at the foot of the shrine: fresh cut grain, flowers, a woven cord bracelet, a wooden carving of a boy, and a wooden bowl containing a few brass pennies.

The site of this shrine, far from where such things were common, heartened Wolfgang, and lit a fire in Rudiger’s eyes. A sign, perhaps, that Sigmar’s hand was on them. They both took time to pray, and leave offerings of their own, whilst Garil waited patiently and Heinz muttered to himself.


Pressing on, the land began to rise. A row of hills linked the highlands to the northwest with the land around the volcano, which smoked and loomed. Reaching the crest of the low ridge, the four of them were able to see that the land flattened to the west, into low lying fenland, shrouded in mist. They remembered the warnings of greenskins lurking in the marshes and unconsciously gripped their weapons tightly.

Later in the afternoon, their attention was drawn to what was clearly a large movement on the road ahead. Heinz scouted forward on his steed and rode back to report that a large company of armed men was headed their way, marching in formation. Moving to the side of the road, the four took the time to rest whilst they waited for the company to pass.

Maybe sixty strong, the men wore black uniforms. They marched under the banner of a spread eagle, red, on a black field. Their arms were composed mainly of pikes with some greatswords and crossbows mixed in. Mercenaries. Tilean probably. At least that’s what Heinz surmised from the cut of the cloth of the overdressed dandy that rode at the head of the column. Barely acknowledging the existence of the four travellers, the group passed north, probably heading to the Empire, to profit from the troubles that beset it.


As darkness descended, the group made camp away from the road and passing trouble, although they did risk a small fire to warm their bones. They took turns to watch whilst others slept, and it was whilst Wolfgang was on guard that their sleep was disturbed.

Steps in the undergrowth, brought the Nordlander to his feet, hammer in hand. He was immediately reminded of the beastmen attack on the camp, and whispered hoarsely to the others to wake them, and braced himself for combat. A shape came stumbling out of the bushes, and collapsed near the fire. Wolfgang was about to spring forwards in attack until his senses took in that this was a man, bloodied and wounded.  He had taken an arrow through the arm, which now hung limp. 

Quickly, the camp was awake, hands grasping for weapons, but Wolfgang was already tending to the man, who groaned in pain. Through his anguish, the man was able to relay that his name was Detlef. He was a bounty hunter. He and his partner, Karl, had tracked three bandits to a rocky hill nearby, but they were ambushed.  His partner was killed. 

Detlef asked the travellers for aid. He needed their help to retrieve a locket for Karl’s widow, and perhaps even his body for a proper burial. He also offered them the bounty, if they were able to capture or kill the bandits. Eager to see justice done, they agreed, but only in the morning. Blundering about in the dark would likely get them lost, or killed, or both.

The day broke wearily, and after a meagre bite to eat, the travellers shouldered the packs and followed the injured Detlef into the wild. Without real tracking experience amongst them, the journey could simply have found them wandering had it not been for Detlef’s stumbling and falling making a trail so easy to find that a child could follow it.

The trail led to a rocky outcrop that Detlef remembered as where he and Karl were ambushed, and before long the dead man was found. Whilst the bounty hunter tended to his friend, Heinz rode round the outcrop and returned shortly after to report that he had found an opening that looked a likely spot for a hideout.

Moving stealthily around the rocks, Garil and Rudiger led the way, with Wolfgang keeping a sharp eye out for ambushers. Cautiously, they edged into the narrow passage, which opened into a hollow in the centre of the outcrop. Completely obscured from outside, it seemed the ideal location for outlaws or bandits to lair. Indeed, there was evidence of a recent fire, and a camp abandoned. The killers of Detlef’s partner must have broken camp, fearing retribution.

The body of Karl was wrapped in blankets and put over the back of Heinz’s horse, much to the chagrin of the nobleman. A grateful Detlef swore to uphold his end of the bargain and seek to help the four companions however he could once the reached Masserschloss. And so the party made their way back to the road.


“Keep moving, don’t get involved,” whispered Detlef as they approached the group by the side of the road.

Three armed men on horseback had crossbows levelled at a ragged group cowering in front of them. Terrified faces of two men and two women quivered in fear. Their sallow complexions and drawn faces betrayed a tale of hunger, whilst their stained and worn garb suggested they had travelled many miles. Meanwhile, the horsemen were clearly well fed and armed, and did not care that there was another group approaching. Their brash confidence said something other than banditry.

“What’s going on?” muttered Garil, uncomfortable with the scene unfolding in front of him.

“See, the red sashes on their arms? They’re Dieter’s men.”

That made sense. These were more of the Outriders, the caravan had encountered in the north. From what Garil understood, they were somewhat akin to Roadwardens, and were likely to deal with criminals, thieves and bandits. However, the pitiful figures stood by the side of the road didn’t exactly look like hardened outlaws, and if they were bandits, they clearly weren’t very good at it.

“Move along,” called one of the men, sneering. “You can buy us a drink to thank us for keeping the roads safe at the Bridge.”

“Please sirs, help us,” cried one of the ragged men suddenly, his voice betraying a Reikland accent “we haven’t done any…”

Before the man could finish what he was saying, there was a sharp twang. A black fletched quarrel embedded itself in his throat, and the man crumpled to the floor.

“I said keep moving,” snarled the rider, reaching to reload.

Wolfgang’s heart sank as he sense his Dwarven companion bristling with rage beside him.

“Why did you do that?” barked Garil, “He was not threat.”

“Be off with you, or you’ll get the same,” snapped one of the others, “we’re Dieter’s men, on Dieter’s orders.”

“Well, I take exception to this Dieter, and I’ll not be moving on,” growled Garin.

Two more crossbow bolts flew towards the Dwarf, but both went wide. Garin strode confidently towards the riders, only to be overtaken by a charging Rudiger, who barrelled, screaming with rage, towards the fray. Rudiger had understood that these were Sigmar’s folk in distress and was now gripped with righteous fury. Rudiger’s flail swung heavily into the legs of the lead horse, causing it to rear up and dump its rider heavily into the dust.

The other horses screamed and reared and the two mounted men struggled to keep them under control. Taking his opportunity, Wolfgang also leapt forward to assail one of the riders. Reaching up he bought his hammer heavily into the man’s chest. The impact collapsed the man’s chest and he fell out of the saddle and lay still.

The third rider, seeing his companions assailed, took flight and hurried to turn his steed around. However, this momentary pause allowed time for Heinz to kick his own horse into action and leap forwards after the Outrider. If even one of these men escaped, Heinz knew that they could very quickly expect a hostile reception in Masserschloss.

Garil stumped over to where the snarling man lay cowering in the dirt. The man was still fumbling to unsheathe his sword when Garil’s hammer smashed across his temple, dropping him back to the ground.

Heinz spurred his horse forwards, desperate to reach his quarry. He knew what it was to live a life pursued, and having made it all the way over the mountains, he had no intention of starting his new life on the run from the authorities. Again.

Drawing level with the Outrider, whose horse was beginning to gather pace, Heinz brought his heavy, iron handled cane round in a wide arc that toppled the man out of his saddle. Wheeling his horse round, he charged and caught the man rising from the dirt with an upswing right under his jaw. Heinz felt bone splinter as the solid metal head of the cane connected.

Detlef looked on stunned. His new companions demonstrated an instant brutality that had shocked and surprised him. These men were either going to go far in the Border Princes, or they were going to meet a very swift end.


The inn was warm and welcoming. Wolfgang, Garil, Rudiger and Heinz ate their meal in silence, relishing the first proper meal they’d had in weeks. For some reason, Heinz had paid for the meal secretly so that his companions did not have to dip in their own pockets. It wasn’t clear why hed done this, but nobody was going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

After burying the Outriders in shallow graves, and putting an injured horse out of its misery. They had told the three remaining travellers to head north to avoid trouble, and perhaps head for Sweetwater, where they might find others from the Empire.

The companions had made excellent time with three horses between them, despite the fact that they were now loaded with crossbows liberated from the dead Outriders. Detlef had warned them that there might be suspicions raised at the Bridge Inn, a toll gate and staging post for the Outriders, but Detlef was known to the guards and few questions were asked.

The following day the party paid the toll, crossed the bridge and headed up into the hills beyond. The land rose quickly, and before long they were exposed to searing cross winds which cut through their cloaks.

There was no immediate signs of habitation for much of the way, although at one point, about a hundred yards off the road the travellers spotted a ravine. The wind made an eerie howling sound as it blew through it.  At the top of the ravine there was an old decrepit shack, which listed toward the ravine, as did all of the trees on either side of the ravine. The party barely paid this sight any attention as they were so close to their destination.

Indeed, it was shortly after this that the crested a hill and looked down into a valley, and beheld for the first time, the walled town of Masserschloss. The seat of power in the region and a place that would become so important in their futures.

Sunday 6 December 2020

Painting By Numbers

A conversation with Pete and an opportunity to pop into my FLGS, Wargames Emporium, to finally pick up some Grey Seer spray reminded me that way back in March I'd started on another formation for my Dropzone Commander Scourge army.

And so I decided to get them finished.

If you feel like you're experiencing some deja vu, then it's probably because you've seen a very similar unit before.

Last January I spent a gift voucher on the new, larger, Scourge starter set. This gives me a large, if samey, force to build. However, it also means that I won't need to spend much more on my Scourge army.  I'm also hoping that playing with my Scourge feels different to my Resistance, where every unit is unique. More 'swarmy'.

The core of the unit are two squads of 15 Scourge Warriors. These have been done in my usual slapdash style for everything below 15mm.

I've actually done them in slightly different colours than the previous unit. This is to allow me to differentiate if they are in buildings together, and also gives me the opportunity to use one of the units as Aged Ones: older, fanatic, more elite infantry.

The Warriors are transported in Invader APCs. These have no weapons as they are designed simply to get the Warriors in close as fast as possible.

The Invaders are transported in turn by the Marauder dropship (it's out of focus because it's moving so fast). It's viscous plasma hose gives it the opportunity to rain death on enemy forces once it's dropped off its cargo.

Another 33 miniatures painted gives me a solid buffer against any potential influx of minatures over the Christmas period. Before anybody complains about such small models counting as 'one', I counted the infantry individually when I acquired them. So there!

Acquired: 189
Painted: 292

Sunday 29 November 2020

Turrets & Transfers

I'm currently chalking off some easy wins in terms of painting as real life is not conducive to spending lots of time with a brush in my hand. 

Therefore, this week I've painted a 3d printed turret to transform my T-34/76 into a T-34/85.

The turret was kindly printed for me by Pete and fortunately the connecting piece is exactly the right size to work with the hull of my resin T-34/76. My plastic T-34 has a much smaller hole for the turret to sit in, and so if I'd been converting the printed turret for that, it would have required much carving and swearing.

Here it is next to my plastic T-34/85 and I think it looks great. However the barrel did need replacing as it was at least twice as thick as it needed to be.

Fortunately, I had an unused SU-100 barrel from when I built my SU-85 (the kit allows a choice between the two), and it's exactly the same size as a T-34/85 barrel.

Eagle-eyed aficionados of the blog will have spotted that I've also grubbied up the transfers, as you can see on the original T-34/76 turret.

I do this by using a torn piece of sponge to dab green paint on top of the transfer to look like the paint has chipped. Then I simply pop a wash over it to dull the colours.

Here's the same trick on my mobile artillery support. The SU-85 I mentioned earlier and, my favourite Soviet armoured vehicle, the SU-76 (or, as Russian crews called it, 'little bitch' or 'bare-arsed Ferdinand).

I also revisited one of my T-26 turrets, which involved a little more work as I was removing the Chinese transfers I'd applied and replacing them with Soviet stars.

I've had a bit of a talk with myself about the idea of starting another Bolt Action army. Not only is a Chinese force fiddly to build, it's actually a lot of (repetitive) work on plastics that I don't like building or painting to ultimately cause my other armies to be used less.

Additionally, the Chinese have less historical opponents (basically Matt's Japanese, and I can use the Soviets against them) and I think I'd prefer to just add more interesting a varied units to my Russians, Fallschirmjager and possibly even Operation Sea Lion British.

Therefore, with this decision made, I've not only painted one model (the turret definitely counts as a separate model), I'm also palming off giving some plastic sprues to my friends that I'd gathered for starting the Chinese project. This means that the 'acquired' total has taken a bit of a kicking just in time for a Christmas invasion.

I might just break even this year...

Acquired: 189
Painted: 259

Sunday 22 November 2020

Ancient Evils

After what's been a difficult week, I wanted to get some easy wins under my belt. And the most straight forward painting I could find to do was this mummy and nefarious henchman.

These are possibly the first additions to 7TV: Pulp project focussing on archaeological expeditions in Egypt and the inevitable disturbance of ancient curses and undead monstrosities.

I don't currently have any terrain for this project, and the only miniatures I have that might get used for it are some plastic British desert infantry from an issue of Wargames Illustrated. Therefore this one is likely to be a slow burner.

The mummy is from Crooked Dice and I picked him up whilst supporting one of their smaller Kickstarter campaigns.

The sculpt is clearly based on Lon Chaney's portrayal in a series of films in the 40s, and one of the things I love about the model is the fact that the bandages are clearly a costume which fits neatly and reveals the actor's face, rather than any attempt to actually look like an ancient corpse.

This is a miniature I have mixed feelings about. It's from Pulp Figures and is part of a set of henchmen I recieved as a Secret Santa gift several years ago.

It's a very characterful sculpt with a cartoony style. Unfortunately, the cartoon in question is probably Tintin, and the miniature repeats some uncomfortable racial stereotypes that were all too common in texts of the pulp genre. 

As a 'pulp' figure, it is undoubtedly based on contemporary representations, but it does beg the question as to whether such representations are just part of history to be understood and engaged with (in the same way that WW2 gamers play as the SS), or whether these kinds of images should be left in the dustbin of history.

Mind you, now I think about it, perhaps having a game where the entitled colonial looters of ancient treasures are presented as 'heroes' is equally problematic? 

This is probably why my first choice for a Pulp setting involved dinosaurs. You always know where you are with a dinosaur...

...on the menu...

Acquired: 217
Painted: 258

Sunday 15 November 2020

The Weird and Wacky World of 80s Cartoons

As I progress through the cast of characters of 'He-Man and the Masters of the Universe', the ways in which times have changed since the 80s becomes increasingly obvious. 

The past, as they say, is another country. The characters I've painted this week emphasise that in a variety of ways.

All four are from the same sculptor who did the original set of characters from Quest Miniatures, although he is no longer working with that company and these were a private commission.

From left to right we have the villains Fakerand Jitsu, and the heroes Mekanek and Sy-Klone.

'He-Man'was famously a toy led cartoon (in fact the cartoon was created purely to convince Mattel to make the toys) and perhaps no character reflects this more than Mekanek. His design was clearly influenced by the desire to create toys with 'action' features combined with the limitations of 80s manufacturing techniques.

Blessed with the lamest superpower in the universe, Mekanek has the ability extend his neck to see over thing slightly taller than himself. In the 2002 remake there's even an episode where he has a crisis of confidence over his embarrassingly weak gifts.

In game, his powers present an issue as his neck potentially could give him line of sight anywhere, but he has no ranged weapon to exploit this. I'm thinking of using a pre-game mechanic which link to his ability to recon the battlefield.

The series was cheaply made, re-using the same animation clips repeatedly. The design of Faker reflected that a similar attitude was applied to the toy line, as he was clearly made using the same mould as He-Man (and the same accessories as Skeletor) just with a different coloured plastic.

Amusingly, the only time he appeared in the cartoon, he wasn't blue, but was exactly the same as He-Man. His toy's blue design does present some problems for Skeletor's plan to have the 'Evil Robot Impostor' impersonate He-Man and ruin his reputation. However, nobody on Eternia is bright enough to work out that He-Man is Prince Adam in different clothes, so perhaps a bright blue impersonator might actually fool the dimwits.

Ah. Jitsu. The karate-chopping, samurai-styled, ever so uncomfortable reminder that racial stereotypes were not only common, but were happily promoted on children's TV. In a cast of fish people, lizard men and talking green tigers, Jitsu was the only 'human' character that wasn't white.

I suppose he represents the growing popularity of martial arts in western culture. Something that the release of the 'Ninjor' toy at the end of the line built upon. Making them both villains doesn't help though. 

At least when Thundercats came along, the samurai Hachiman became a hero after first appearing as a villain. It's funny how both Eternia and Third Earth both seem to have a Japan tucked away somewhere.

Sy-Klone is not a character I'm that familiar with, as he's from the later releases of the toys. He at least had a genuine power in the ability to manipulate the winds.

He was a bit of a bugger to paint with the heavy use of yellow and the radar scanner in his chest (how does he use it?), which Mattel achieved with a handy sticker, but I had to paint freehand...several times.

I'm pleased with the four of them as they are ticking off those key characters that I want to get to 'complete' the project. Mekanek and Faker are specifically characters that I felt that I was missing. Whiplash and Buzz-Off are now the last two remaining on that list of 'must-haves'.

Progress is slower at the moment as I'm very busy with work, but at least still moving forwards as lockdown is having an impact on my purchases.

Acquired: 217
Painted: 256

Sunday 8 November 2020

The First Taste Is Free...

Miniature Wargames, like many magazines had a free miniature with it this month.

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that I'm a sucker for free stuff.

This is a Barnabotti, an impoverished noble, from the TT Combat game Carnevale.

Carnevale is a skirmish game set in a fantasy version of 18th Century Venice. A portal, called 'The Rent'has opened in the sky. Lovecraftian Monsters haunt the canals, vampires stalk the streets and debauched nobles carry out violent masquerade purges.

I know all this from the article in the magazine.

Yes, TT Combat, your cynical marketing ploy appears to be working on me.

I really enjoyed painting this miniature...something that isn't helping me to resist buying in.

It's a single piece cast in resin, which required very little cleaning and is really detailed. The cloth takes washes very well, and the raised details are clear and easy to pick out, which suits me.

In terms of colours I went for blue, purple and gold due to the connotations of wealth, nobility and privilege. This was due to the fact that the Barnabotti are essentially henchmen in the Patricians faction and represent the ruling classes of Venice.

I'm currently very tempted to buy more of this game, if only for the painting and terrain building aspect. I don't know whether it's a game I'd get to play much, but increasingly (as with my 80s cartoon projects) that's not something that is dictating whether I buy and paint models as I really enjoy taking my time over individual, brightly coloured character models rather than churning through the rank and file.

Only one done, but none bought. That's progress.

Acquired: 217
Painted: 252

Thursday 29 October 2020

The Road Goes Ever On...

The second session of our online WFRP campaign saw our adventures on the road with a refugee caravan and me trying a different method of creating a narrative.

I knew that the next part of the adventure would involve travelling and so I used a random generator to work out if there would be encounters on the road, when they would be and where.

These wouldn't be encounters thrust on to the party as in a linear narrative, but would be things that the players could encounter and respond to as they chose. What's more, other people and creatures would have their own agendas and act according to what seemed most likely in response to the PC's choices.

This actually led to what might seem an uneventful session, but I think that I ended up learning more about their characters, and they got to begin to piece together how the realm of Masserschloss works as I tried to weave each encounter into a wider tapestry.

Episode 2

Markus and the outsiders were swallowed once again by the misty morning. Soon, even the faintest sound of their passing had gone.

The train of refugees began to move again. Grimly clinging together. Pressing on, hopeful of a better tomorrow. Or, at least, a delayed fate.

The dawn crept forwards into morning and with it the mist began to clear. The road led down from the hills and into a wide plain of rolling grasslands, pockmarked with woodlands. Wisps of rising smoke here and there betrayed the presence of some sort of settlements. Nothing like the great cities of the Empire, or even the smaller market towns. Hamlets, maybe, or villages at most. Tucked into the landscape, not advertising their existence.

Dominating the plain to the south was a single mountain at the tail end of a ridge of hills. It's shape seemed odd to the former Imperial citizens. It was as if one of the gods had sliced off the peak, or flattened it with a hammer. Above this single height was a dark cloud which seemed to issue from the mountain, as if breathed out. 

Only Garil, Dwarf of the World's Edge Mountains knew what it was that shaped the mountain in this way. He had passed this way many years before. He remembered the still stirring volcano on his shame-filled journey to the Empire, fleeing an undeserved strain on his honour. The wonder on the faces of the humans at the sight of it made him smile. For him, though it was a landmark that showed him the way home. The hour of his reckoning was drawing closer.

Beside Garil, strode Wolfgang, leading the mules. He was keen to keep a close eye on them after the disturbing events of the night before. The poor animals were likely to bolt in the event of any more surprises. That would be yet another hardship to bear for the ragged travellers. Something Wolfgang would do what he could to avoid.

Rudiger was not taking in the landscape ahead of him. He was busy offering inspiring words of, what he thought, comfort to those who would listen. Telling tales of Sigmar's undoubted joy at the victory they had won in the woods. The zealous preacher scarcely noticed the faces of those around him flinch as he continually stirred bad memories.

At the head of the column, Heinz rode alone. He casually took in the morning air. For a brief time he was taken back to his days riding in the woods near his home. Momentarily he forgot everything that had happened since then. He savoured the feeling, taking deep pleasure from the tranquil nostalgia and the moist air on his skin.

Some way behind him Garil was beginning to appreciate that the road they travelled was actually really rather good. The muddy trail in the forest had given way to stone slabs. Well carved and evenly spaced, the craftsmanship was more than he expected from human. Especially outside the Empire. He began to ponder the likelihood that the road was of Dwarf-make. Yes. That would make sense.

Garil's thoughts were interrupted by the appearance of a small boy at his shoulder. Scrawny and short, the boy was hovering that bit too close. Enough to suggest that the boy had something to say, but was trying to be polite about it.

"Well, lad, out with it," said the Dwarf eventually. Garil wasn't not fond of children, he just had no real experience of them. Especially human ones.

The boy hesitated. "Erm..."


Beside Garil, Wolfgang smirked at his companion's obvious discomfort. He, in contrast, was very familiar with having children around. He missed his nephews. The boy reminded him of little Stefan, the youngest.

The boy continued, "can I...erm...can I ask? What's it like?"
"What's what like?" responded the Dwarf, bristling at the lack of directness. Were all human youngsters this tentative?

"What's it like to be a Dwarf?"

Wolfgang almost snorted at the impertinence of the question, and stole a glance at a what he thought was a baffled Garil, who apparently had no clue how to respond.

For Garil's part, he was taken aback. Not by the question itself. The child was just curious. What had floored him was the fact that in that moment he realised that he didn't know the answer. It had been so long since he had felt like a 'real' Dwarf. So long living amongst humans. So long hiding from his responsibilities.

Sensing that Garil was struggling, Wolfgang stepped in.

"What's you name, lad?"

"Pieter," came the reply, "I'm eight."

"Pleased to meet you Pieter, who's eight," said Wolfgang with a reassuring smile. "Who are you travelling with?"

A darkness passed over the boy's face, "my mother and father, and my grandfather was with us until he went away last night." It was if a great weight had descended that those young shoulders were too slender to bear.

Too late, Wolfgang realised that he'd said the wrong thing. He thought quickly of a way to change the subject.

"I'm really sorry to hear that Pieter. Hey, would you like to ride on one of the mules."

Like a cloud passing over the sun, the darkness was gone and Pieter looked like a carefree child again.

"Can I?"

"Of course," smiled Wolfgang and lifted the beaming boy to perch amongst the baggage.

At the head of the group, Heinz was brought out of his reverie. To the left of the road the landscape sloped away some twenty yards until it hit a thick line of brush and scrub. Protruding from the tangle thicket of branches was, what looked to be the corner of a wagon.

Heinz brought his chestnut mare to a halt and dismounted to get a better look. Yes, it was a wagon. Heinz could see the furrows cut in the damp earth where the wagon had clearly tumbled from the road and down the sloped. The nobleman's thoughts turned immediately to Esther, the pretty girl he'd had his eye on. Her family had fled the battle the night before.

Behind him, the cautious refugees came to a stop. Aware of the possibility of further attack, Wolfgang helped Pieter down from mule and sent him back to his family. Rudiger issued swift commands to those around him to stay close as Garil and Wolfgang strode towards Heinz. They watched as the young nobleman, cane in hand to support himself, made his way carefully down the wet slope.

Pushing through the bushes, Heinz saw the wagon, but no sign of horse or driver. In the back, personal possessions, mainly blankets and clothes, lay strewn as if they had been hurriedly searched. Ominously,  he discovered a single crossbow bolt embedded in the front of the wagon, close to the driver's seat.

Bandits. The horse and anything of value would be gone, and the wagon's owners would be dead or worse.

The faintest flicker of sympathy for the fate Esther might endure played across Heinz's and passed. His thoughts turned to himself. He quickly climbed into to wagon bed and rummaged amongst the clothing. As he suspected, the bandits hadn't looked closely, and there were some relatively well made garments in amongst the rags. Heinz grabbed the best shirt, breeches and tunic he could find and stuffed them into his bag. He smiled to himself, they weren't the best quality, but they were better that his filthy travelling clothes.

"What have you found, lad?" Garil asked as he crashed through the undergrowth.

Heinz quickly put his bag behind his back turned his attention to the Dwarf and Wolfgang, who had made their way down the hill.

"Whoever they were, looks like bandits got them," Heinz replied, "I was just thinking we should distribute these clothes amongst the group."

"Not a bad idea," said Wolfgang as he pushed his way forwards to inspect the halter and tack, these haven't been cut, with a few men I'm sure we could get this wagon on the road."

"And then what?" responded Heinz dismissively. "We don't have anything to pull it. Unless you suggest hitching up mules?"

"What about your horse?" asked Garil. The frosty look that Heinz shot him answered the Dwarf in no uncertain terms. He wasn't sure how he'd upset the young man, but it was clear that this issue wasn't up for discussion. He also noted the Wolfgang had also visibly balked at the idea, suggesting that he said something foolish.

Garil put the issue out of mind, "well, let's get these rags up the hill."

The three of them quickly stuffed the clothes into a couple of sacks that were in the heap and began to haul them up the hill. Back at the road, Wolfgang and Garil passed amongst the travellers and distributed garments and blankets as best they could to a grateful crowd.

Heinz came last, hauling a bundle and what looked like an abacus, drawing an enquiring look from Rudgier.

"The bandits must have overlooked it, or thought it worthless," said Heinz, responding to the unmasked question, "I thought we might be able to sell it in Masserschloss."

Rudiger nodded at the sense in the man's actions. They might need to sell a god few things before long, just to feed themselves. His thoughts turned briefly to how low the food supplies were. At least he had his faith to nourish him.

The ragged caravan began to move again, and people turned their faces away from the wagon. The tried not to think about what may have happened to its owners.

The day drew on. The road continued south for some time before bending east. From time to time, faint tracks betrayed the possible existence of settlements some distance from the road. Only once did a wider path branch off, but the caravan headed the advice of Markus and continued along the paved road to Masserschloss. All the time, the smoking mountain, now on their right, grew larger and closer. 

Despite the quality of the road, they saw nobody else on it, save for a small group of charcoal burners moving slowly ahead of them. As the refugees closed on then, the broad shouldered men dropped their loads and stood to the side of the road as the Imperial travellers passed by. Pleasantries were exchanged, but Garil noted the men's hands placed warily on their weapons. Whatever Markus had said about the outriders protecting it, this wasn't a safe land.

Several hours passed. The rain came, thin and pervasive. Soaking the travellers down to their bones as the landscape continued to crawl by. The only change in view was the mountain of smoke edging closer and a line if hills slowly appearing in the distance. Occasionally, the scrub and trees would stray close to the road and everyone's breath would be held in anticipation of potential ambush.

Heinz was still ahead, nominally scouting for trouble. The sun was beginning to dip when he saw something odd in the trees ahead. He cautiously rode forward to see a brutal sight that cut him to the core.

Three of the thicker trees by the side of the road had been stripped of their lower limbs. Each had the corpse of a man roughly nailed to it with thick iron spikes. The looks on the stricken faces suggested to Heinz that these brutalised people had not been dead when their punishment had been administered.

Their 'crime' was clear enough. Two of the bodies had clear and visible mutations. One had a cluster of livid purple appendages sprouting from his throat and chest. They looked not unlike fingers that lacked the rigidity provided by bones. The other had a mouth that had hardened and elongated to form something like a bird's beak. Who knew what other mark the third body held?

Above the central corpse, the one with the 'beak,' a rough sign had been put up, bearing a simple statement, "deth to monsters".

Heinz felt sick. Was the answer to humanity's fear of the warping influence of Chaos really this level of brutality? He knew from the experience of his father's serfs that mutation struck families randomly. Were these really 'monsters'? Or were they just poor unfortunates, driven out of their communities only to be tortured and killed for simply existing? Was this really the only way?

Sickened, Heinz turned his horse around and rode back to the others. It would be best if the womenfolk and children were to avert their eyes as they passed.

Warning delivered, Heinz rode quickly ahead, not wanting to look at the grisly sight again. He also had no stomach for hearing Rudiger celebrate the rooting out of corruption with one of his interminable sermons.

The the afternoon became evening and a camping site was found. The remaining wagons were used to provide a sort of central strong point in the camp, and the youngest and oldest were encouraged to sleep beneath them out of the rain. Tents were pitched around the wagons, but no fires could be lit. Food was scarce too. People huddled together, hungry and shivering until exhausted sleep took them.

Heinz had volunteered to watch. He couldn't sleep yet anyway. Images of the impaled bodies lodged behind his eyes. He avoided contact with the other man, whose name escaped him, as he was in no mood for small talk. He stared into the darkness and thought of the soft beds, and softer bodies, of his days in Talabecland.

Suddenly he became aware of a light in the darkness. At first he thought he was imagining it. However, some way away, directly away from the road, a light definitely flickered in the dark.

Quickly, the nobleman roused a few others. Garil, Rudiger and two other men, Mattias and Karl-Heinz. Heinz pointed out the light.

"Lucky bastards," grumbled Garil, "how'd they get a fire going?"

"Do you reckon they'd let us share it?" offered Matthias.

Rudiger scowled, "they're a good way off, no point rousing everybody. I could take my lantern over there and bring a light back. I could also check if they're a threat."

"You shouldn't go alone," said Karl-Heinz.

"Good point," added Garil with a grin, "you and I should go with him."

Karl-Heinz looked horror stricken at this suggestion, and Heinz had to stifle a laugh.

"That's settled then," said Rudiger, "we'll head that way, see who they are and see if we can at least get some fire."

Despite the dark, cold and wet, Rudiger felt better to be doing something. He had been waiting to be shown where his path should lead. A veritable light in the darkness seemed as good an omen as any. He gripped his flail in one hand and his unlit lantern in the other, prepared for whatever course of action Sigmar required him to take.

Garil stumped through the undergrowth behind the snivelling and whimpering Karl-Heinz. The Dwarf was certain that if this did go bad, the human would be more of a hindrance than a help. Rudiger was a stout sort, so at least he wouldn't be fighting alone. 

The land was slowly rising as they walked. It appeared that the light was atop a small rise, and as they approached, Garil could make out trees surrounding what might be a small campfire. He slid his warhammer out of his belt as they got closer.

Suddenly, there was a shower of sparks, and everything went dark. Somebody must have kicked out the fire. They'd been spotted.

Everything was quiet as the three edged slowly forward. Having lost the element of surprise, Rudiger tried a more diplomatic approach.

"Hello," he called, "we didn't mean to startle you. We were just hoping that we could share your fire. It's a cold night."

No answer. Only the wind and the patter of rain on the leaves. Although Garil could swear that he heard the faintest cry, as if from a muffled baby.

With no reply, the three pressed on into the camp site. There were signs that a small group had been here, but they were clearly travelling light, as nothing has been left as they fled. Even the fire had been stamped out totally, meaning that the few flickering embers were not enough to light the lamp.

Tired, cold an frustrated at their futile mission. The three companions turned back to their own camp.

The morning brought further bad news. One of the mules had disappeared from where it had been tied. It seemed bizarre that it could have got out of the camp without disturbing somebody. Without it being led, at least.

The caravan took to the road again, the landscape rising in the north east, until, after only about an hour's journey, they arrived at a junction. It was presumed that this was the road that Markus had told them led to the Sweetwater mine.

A man called Gunter loudly declared, "I don't know about anybody else, but I'm done with travelling."

There was a murmur of agreement in the crowd.

"I'm taking my kin up to this here mine," Gunter continued, "that Markus fella said that there would be work if we wanted it. Now I know nothing about mining, but I'm willing to learn. I can't think that it would be worse than being cold and hungry on the road, waiting for bandits or worse to take me."

The man was clearly speaking what many had privately thought. Heads were nodding, and some were speaking in agreement.

Mattias shouted up, "Gunter's right. We came on this road to find a better life. That means settling somewhere. Why not here? We might at least be welcomed. And if we're turned away, we're no worse off."

Gunter took over again, "I'm not going to tell other folks what to do, but I'm going to Sweetwater, and I'd suggest you come too, at least for a time. Then you can continue your travels if it's not yo your liking. What do you say?

A ripple of assent ran across the group. Only four faces seemed impassive.

Wolfgang knew his brother. Being a miner would not have called to him, and so the Nordlander would continue on to Masserschloss. He was sure he'd find news in the taverns and inns there. Perhaps his brother might even have left him a message.

The thought of becoming a miner did not appall Garil. Not yet though. He'd put off his reckoning long enough. His road led east.

The thought of becoming a miner did appall Heinz. He did not know what fate had in store for him, but he was certain it did not involve a menial job amongst peasants. Masserschloss must hold better opportunities and diversions than this.

Rudiger brooded on the night before. No. This wasn't his calling. This wasn't Sigmar's path if anything, the misadventure in the dark had taught him that straying from his path, no matter how tempting the reason, would only lead to darkness.

And so, a short time later, the four companions watched as the bedraggled travellers they had come so far with took the path into the hills. Farewells were given and blessings were offered.

No, their fate was not to be a life of honest toil in the mines. And so Garil, Heinz, Wolfgang and Rudiger turned their faces south.

Towards Masserschloss.