GW2: A Boy and His Golem

aboyandhisgolem

❤ ❤ ❤

When you’re located on the opposite side of the world from where these dang codes are being given out, you pretty much give up the thought of ever owning one of these beauties.

A big, big thank you goes to Gazimoff, who generously thought of sharing the codes he picked up via an online competition, and also to the folks at ArenaNet who generously gave him a bunch more codes to give away.

(Not to mention, the good souls working ArenaNet Support who swiftly responded within a day – during the weekend – and managed to fix the issue of code and account region not matching by manually applying said code to my account.)

Some really ingenious golem designs were submitted: among the winners was a Trahearne golem and Skritt golem very worth checking out, and all the other contenders whom you can see in the comments here were making me lose hope that my humble, amateur effort would make it. 🙂

Which, by the way, was the semi-secret work-in-progress project alluded to previously.

I’d only been procrastinating on painting miniatures for merely ten years now, so of course step one to getting back into the habit – decide to model and paint up a golem for the competition with a two week deadline… for fun!

Some GW2 wiki research on golems produced a very nice concept art of a giant golem.

http://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/File:Giant_Golem_concept_art.jpg
http://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/File:Giant_Golem_concept_art.jpg by Levi Hopkins

I doubted I had enough “green stuff” Kneadatite epoxy putty left in the house (the usual substance of choice for miniature sculptors of the Games Workshop/Reaper Mini backgrounds), nor its workability after a decade, so of course it became a big craft experiment into the world of air-dry modelling clay, which was way more easily available at a neighborhood book/stationery store.

Except they didn’t have any white color in stock either, so I had to settle for peach.

omg-wip-finalsculpt

Fortunately, asura aesthetics tend toward the geometric, which make things a lot more achievable for an amateur just enjoying the feeling of getting hands all gunked up with clay and shaping stuff.

Make a rectangular cube here, a ball there, a triangle or a pyramid elsewhere… Let it dry a bit. Then try to stick them together.

Curse and swear when things don’t.

Cudgel brain for solutions and resort to grabbing some wire to thread the shapes through and pin one to the other.

In retrospect, I’d make a more proper armature next time.

But for what was essentially a prototype of a prototype, just an idea simmering around in my head, the discovery process was pretty fun.

(I did have to resort to the ol’ rock trick to stabilize one super-heavy arm though.)

Several days of shaping and drying later, it was time to work out the painting kinks with a much larger surface area to practice on than a normal mini.

Step 1: Priming

omg-wip-blackprime

The really amazing thing is that both my black and white paint-on gesso primer and my Vallejo paints were doing just fine after so long a time of being ignored. (Go go air tight containers! Betcha your spray primers and cruddy Games Workshop paint pots can’t match that.)

Black and white priming is a variant technique that I experimented with and found I liked (thus avoiding the holy war of solely black primer vs white primer.)

Priming black gets black into all the deepest shadows, and with my particular brand of gesso, goes on more smoothly than white.

The problem is that subsequently painting colors on top of such a black coat takes forever, especially if you use thin coats of paint or your paint tends to translucency. Colors tend to be more dulled and less bright than applied on top of white primer.

Enter the drybrushed white primer on top of the black primed layer.

omg-wip-whiteprime

I was a little rough with the drybrushing on this big model, as most of the surface was meant to simulate stone anyway.

(So rough the right arm fell off. Cue hasty ball of clay propping up the re-attached and heavily superglued limb into position.)

The idea of drybrushing white primer is to lift out all the surface detail (which would be there on a less amateurishly sculpted model) while leaving black in the crevices, giving some instant contrast.

Step 2: Basecoat

omg-wip-basecoat

In this case, I did end up obliterating most of the primer contrast when I added the grey basecoat since it was more of a slapdash preliminary test of contrast.

You may notice I smear a lot of paint on the supporting paper.

After learning one too many times the hard way why one should not apply an unknown glop of paint directly onto a model, it’s just a habit I developed to test how much paint is loaded onto my brush.

(I find tissue too absorbent for this, and while testing it out on one’s nail or thumb does work, it nets you a lot of strange looks later when your thumbnail is streaked with multicolor acrylics and is a bitch to scrape off, even with soap and water and plenty of scrubbing.)

Step 3: Wash (Shading / Color tinting)

omg-wip-dirtwash

It was a little too grey, so instead of simply washing with a darker grey to add shadows, I opted for a thinned down layer of brown and let it pool in the recesses to simulate more of a dirt / granite look.

Step 4: More Painting Steps Combined into One

omg-wip-drybrushafterwash

The lighting is a bit bright in this shot, but lighter greys were subsequently drybrushed in layers to create a more ‘rough stone’ textured look.

The brown wash got added to the untouched black-and-white primed rock and turned it fairly interesting and differently rock-like right off the bat.

A blue basecoat was applied to the cubes that were going to be ‘power crystals.’

While I was now more or less satisfied with the ‘stone-ness’ of the main body parts, it was becoming obvious that the model was too big and low detail for a simple wash and drybrushing to provide sufficient contrast.

Step 5: Layering – Shading to Highlighting

omg-wip-shading

Enter a slightly clumsy recollection of a more advanced painting technique.

Layering involves thin layers of paint, applied more carefully than washing all over the model with a thin layer of paint or drybrushing across the entire model.

Shade is applied in areas which are likely to be in shadow. In this case, a thin layer of black paint was used – note the translucency. The basecoat color (and my painstaking stone texture) is meant to still show up under it.

omg-wip-reapplybase

Then from black, we go back up to the basecoat grey, a thin layer again, to blend with the shadows and smooth out any clumsy brushstrokes of black that may have gone in places not meant to be black.

omg-wip-firsthighlight

A little white is mixed with the basecoat grey to get a lighter grey color as the first highlight.

This is where the magic starts to happen after all the previous patient steps. The highlight is applied on all the raised areas where one would expect light to hit.

And you can start to see the forms take on a more defined look with contrast that wasn’t there before.

omg-wip-highlights

We push the contrast even further with one more layer of highlight, grey mixed with even more white, and add it to the very tips and edges.

Really dedicated painters do even more layers for the smoothest blends. I could have done more smoothing of the black and grey parts, for example, but I was already getting too excited and eager to finish.

Power crystals were highlighted up in the same manner and I was happy to call it done. For now.

omg-oblique-small

The photos were duly submitted along with the design idea, a siege golem specialized for that last bastion of WvW – fortified walls.

Trebs take forever. I overheard a guy wanting a siege tower to roll right up to the walls and unload the zerg off. Well, who needs those when this beaut could stomp right up and tear that frickin’ wall down?

It needed a name just like the Omega Golem so that “OMG OMG OMG” would be a great abbreviation for when folks see a bunch of either golem trundle up to their keep.

Thus, the Omicron Golem was born.

omg-front

And I had just the right Asuran designer for it too.

Greetings and salutations!

Fortified walls in the Mist War get you down? I bring to you the next evolution of siege golem, just as game-changing as the Omega Golem from an Alpha.

The Omicron Golem is designed to tackle what the Alphas and Omegas cannot, the solid stone and metal structures of a keep left too long in enemy hands. Why endure primitive bookah technology like catapults and trebuchets pounding away for eons when you can roll up in air-conditioned comfort and direct the Omicron to deconstruct fortifications just as rapidly as Omegas on gates?

Inspired by a historical image discovered in an old abandoned asuran lab, and re-utilizing salvaged Inquest technology for better purposes, this new design marries the latest in eco-friendly thaumafusion power crystals with the robustness and longevity of a proven golem construction material: granite.

It is eventually biodegradeable, but will last you centuries! (See footnote 1 in small print.)

Its four-legged chassis is able to navigate rough terrain where wheels or bipedal models may operate at severely reduced efficiencies. Its three-digit hands are numerically efficient, with each digit able to rotate independently and form a claw or hook as required for grasping material or a shovel for earth-moving. Its camera and vision functions are programmed for wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum from infrared to x-rays to best determine optimal areas of weaknesses to attack a fortification.

An add-on purchase can be made for lens crystals and arcane mirrors that generate a defensive laser beam from its eye. Other optional add-ons include cushioned seats for asura and bookah sizes, an audio-generator that automatically provides music for optimum relaxed alertness or aggression as the situation dictates, and an excellent espresso machine.

No sentient creatures were harmed in the making of this golem.

Yours truly,
Shudd
Genius Inventor, Pact Commander, and the distinctly better half of
Shudd & Shodd’s Agency for World Domination

1: Claim does not apply in eventualities such as hostile acts of the enemy, civil commotion, sabotage, or other unforeseen acts of gods. Fire, flood and earthquakes may increase wear-and-tear and induce diminished operating lifespan.

I’m really glad Gazimoff liked it, because now I have a virtual mini to go with the RL one too.

Mr Sparkles is absolutely awesome.

And this guy fits in the palm of my hand pretty snugly.

A little blurry
A little blurry, alas, but the only pic I have that shows off the crab look.

P.S. World domination plans are coming along nicely, says Shudd.

Advertisements

Reaper Bones II Kickstarter Returns!

For the few of my readers who may actually be interested in my mania for collecting figurines that may eventually, someday, be painted… you may like to know that Reaper Miniatures has launched their second Bones Kickstarter.

As usual, these are plastic resin minis, going for some mindblowing prices.

I can attest to the detail being not terrible (based on the first Kickstarter received) but have not yet gotten around to applying paint on any of them yet.

Some reports say that Vallejo paints cannot be directly applied to them, whereas Reaper Master Series Paints work perfectly fine.

I’d love to verify this, but have been facing the equivalent of clearing out a storage basement’s worth of stuff to get to my Vallejo paints (which could very well be dried out by now, but who knows, maybe living in a humid climate may have some side benefits) and massively procrastinating as a result.

At any rate, my old habit was to use paint-on gesso primer for my minis, which are mostly display-only, so I’m not really worried about that.

Unfortunately, this time around, Reaper has learned that international shipping rates are exorbitant and cutthroat and that they cannot afford to absorb the cost for everyone.

So yeah, if you’re living outside the good ol’ US of A, you may have to factor that into your decision.

Speaking for myself, I may end up using a local mail forwarding service that offers a US address (taking advantage of the free US shipping) and cheaper shipping rates back to the little red dot.

We’ll see just how much USPS wants to charge when their pledge manager comes up. *twitch*

Be aware, this is a Kickstarter, so it -is- a down payment for a fairly far future.

I would also factor in another half a year to the stated delivery date, just to be a little cynically realistic about unforeseen delays and just how many packages can be properly packed and labeled and sent out in a day.

I frankly doubt that I’ll be able to paint up even a quarter of my current collection by that time, so I’m really not worried about how long they take to get to me, as long as they arrive eventually.

But but but… dragons. So many cool plastic dragons!

They must be mine!

‘Nuff said.

Reaper Bones Kickstarter: They’re Here!

Almost one year later to the date, these beauties are finally home in my grubby greasy hands.

That makes my Kickstarter record 2 for 2. Defence Grid delivered on their expansion, and so did Reaper.

loot

I got the email a week ago saying Reaper’d finally shipped out my package.

As I was one of those international nutcases who got nearly one of everything extra, I was fully expecting the late ship date. I much rather they pack my stuff well and not miss out a thing, rather than face a longer process of back-and-forth emailing and shipping to get replacements.

USPS performed admirably and got the box here in one piece in a rather timely fashion.

(I’ve had the odd Amazon shipment go awry and take a month or two to arrive. Credit to them, they do send replacements quickly and generally, 95% of the shipments make it in 7-10 days or less. A wandering package gone walkabout is rare.)

My first priority was to take inventory.

This was a little tricky as I’d bought a LOT of dragons. I couldn’t remember offhand which one was Red Dragon versus There Be Dragons, fer instance.

It ended up a rather high-tech low-tech crossover with iPad in one hand as picture reference and receipt in the other, sorting one pile of white from another.

The first thing I was rather taken aback by was the heft. For plastic minis, they have a very nice solid feel to them. (Note, these are the larger “extras” minis I was sorting, so I presume there was quite a lot of resin/plastic that went into making them.)

I couldn’t resist cracking some bags open and test fitting parts. Again, to my surprise, about two thirds of the parts fit together very well and even stayed in place without any kind of adhesive whatsoever. The rest (like some heads) were a little light to lock in place securely, so I used some Blu-Tac as temporary sticky putty for the test fit.

I don’t really forsee a problem supergluing them in place later, but there’s always “green stuff” epoxy putty if it doesn’t work. Most of the joins fit together decently well, though if you’re picky, some puttying to smooth things over would be necessary. I was only not too pleased with one sculpt, which I will describe later.

The detail level was also very satisfactory for me, factoring in the material they are made out of. Fine lines like that on the dragon wing membranes have actually been picked up. Examining an elf showed that even the eyeball sockets were there. The caveat is that the details do seem a bit shallower than that on metal minis, so I suspect thin layers of paint will be in order here to not accidentally remove that detail.

For the following photos, please bear in mind that I just grabbed a camera in my excitement and mostly snapped on automatic before I ran out of charge. I couldn’t for the life of me remember how to get a proper macro mode going, so stuff will be blurry and lack detail. I’ll work it out later when I get to painting.

hydra

The Hydra, Frost Wyrm and Forces of Nature sculpts were very good. Everything fit together with barely any need to resort to Blu-Tac (except the earth elemental’s head.) Everything stands upright, they have a good heft to them, and one probably won’t even need to base these guys unless one wants to.

heretherebedragons

There Be Dragons are also a nice pair of “small” dragons (compared to all the other big stuff, that is) that fit together well for the most part. You might be able to make out a bit of the black Blu-Tac (only color I had to hand) peeking out of one wing seam, but that’s about it.

demon

I simply had to assemble this one half of the Demon pair. This guy’s wing span is incredible, dwarfing even some of the dragon’s. All the parts fit together smoothly as silk. Wings, tail, sword arms, only the head needed some Tac help staying in place.

undeadgiant

The undead giant was impressive as all get out. I could have sworn those thin arms would not have stuck on to the sockets, but they slid in and did. And the entire torso sits snugly on a waist joint. The only thing is the hammer is a little wobbly, since the arm is quite thin.

deathsleet

These two, Deathsleet and Red Dragon, are slight problem children. Don’t get me wrong, the sculpts are beautiful, the wings fit (with the help of a little temporary Tac) but they have a slight balance problem. Deathsleet tends to lean over sideways and threatens to fall over. Red Dragon leans backward and the front of the base lifts off the surface.

I suspect this is the materials change causing a change in the center of gravity as compared to one made out of metal. Red Dragon could probably still be used as is (but look unsightly, I was tempted to glue a washer or two to the front underside of its base) but Deathsleet will fall over with a faint breeze. These two would definitely benefit from a nice hefty solid base.

ebonwraith

Of this lot, the only one I struggled with and thus was not immediately thrilled by was Ebonwraith. He looks cool, no doubt about it. His wings have a fitting problem.

They also look rather identical, so I was sitting there for a while trying out both wings on each socket in different configurations, squinting at the socket joins to see which fit the best. No smooth fit like the rest of the minis had spoiled me with.

It’s not extreme, in the sense that you won’t be cutting anything in order to fit them, but it is major enough that you’ll be filling the gaps with quite a bit of putty.

wingsocket

On the bright side, I suppose this allows you to adjust the wings at different angles according to your preference this way.

All in all, am happy to report that everything was as it should be and none of the extras were missing. As for the Vampire box stock-take though:

vampireminis

Yeah, that’s going to have to wait for another night.

Red Sand, Black Moon: Dwarf vs Elf, Playtest #1

Go figure, I said I was tired of combat as a conflict resolution mechanism but in my search for narrative across solo roleplaying blogs (the Solo Nexus is a good place to start), the following ideas gelled together in my head.

  • Until Fantalonia talked about it, it never occurred to me that I could print cardstock and paper miniatures at a reduced scale of two pages to one sheet of paper and that would approximately shrink it down to 15-20mm scale.

I’ve always been used to the 25-30mm scale, which looks great, but is a bitch to set up on the dining table with your family giving you dirty looks because that’s where one is supposed to eat, not arrange a giant diorama (that cannot be moved) on top of it.

For solo wargaming, 15mm is much more portable, easier to find an undisturbed surface to play on and easier to store. Pretty compelling reasons for giving it a try.

  • Here’s another blog that uses Red Sand, Black Moon rules in a post-apocalyptic setting. Gorgeous looking paint jobs on the minis.

I’d previously flipped through a couple of cheaper old and free rules from their website. Their main differentiator is what they term a Chain Reaction mechanic, which allows for both sides to react and exchange fire in the same turn, rather than passively waiting for each other in standard “I go, you go” turn-based fashion. There are generally also mechanics for a sort of “NPC AI” which allows a solo gamer to play one side and make decisions for that side, while letting the rules and random dice control the movements of the opposing side.

But until now, I never seriously bothered to learn any of their rulesets or playtest them because learning the rules involves a fair bit of flipping up and down pages, referring to a lot of tables, and cross-checking like mad, hoping you didn’t miss a crucial sentence and screw up the reactions or NPC AI, wondering when the hell you’d finally internalize the rules to make them second nature and reduce the frequency of all that checking.

Two gladiators now, that seemed easier to get a grasp on, rather than multiple squads of people.

I had an earlier version of their ancient gladiatorial combat rules, Red Sand, Blue Sky, but after flipping through it, it looked like the newer versions had undergone some serious refinement. New arena and zones of movement concept, instead of measuring inches, and so on. So I bit the bullet and bought the Red Sand, Black Moon rules, which would offer guidelines on adapting fantasy figs, rather than cleave faithfully to Roman gladiatorial combat styles.

(To be honest, I’m not terribly in favor of the lethality of vanilla RSBM fights though, so I might pick up their new RSBS rules some day or try to figure out based on the old rules if there’s a way to shove in some defeated/yield/surrender mechanics. But that’s a project for another day.)

Still, if I was going to learn the rules, best to play it as directed.

Browsing One Monk Miniatures yielded up some free paper models from their Forum Hoard that inspired the arena setup and narrative setting. We’d start simple, mano a mano combat between two characters and ramp up the complexity from there.

First off, a very simple tournament of four. Two fights of 2 vs 2, and the victors will fight each other.

A prisoner’s dilemma it wasn’t. The goblin capered and cackled as he translated the orc shaman’s guttural speech into the common tongue. “You step in magic ring, we give you back armor and axe. You fight. For glory of Blood God. Last one who stand, we let go free. Dead ones, we eat.

If you not fight, then you useless and we also eat.”

Kordan Stonebreaker glared back at the creature through the bars of the cage as he cracked his knuckles, thick fingers knotting  as he imagined wringing its scrawny neck. Not only did this orc tribe have goblin hangers-on, they had three very big ogres to back them up. Still, the only way they’d caught him was cos he was stone drunk and napping at the time.

“That’s fine by me,” he rumbled. He’d seen the other three prisoners. A pair of humans and a stinking elf. None of them looked to be much trouble, his freedom was pretty much there for the taking.

It figured, they’d match him up with the pansy elf first. Kordan threw on his helmet and his chainmail in a hurry, watching out of the corner of his eye the elf putting on some leather armor and testing the weight of a short sword.

The orc shaman had drawn a circle of blood demarcating the boundaries of the fight. Palpable dark power emanated from the clotted liquid, making the hairs on the back of his arms stand on end. The dwarf resolved not to go anywhere near it.

“Fight fight!” screamed the little goblin as he waved a spear much too big for him.

“Let’s get it over with,” Kordan said, hefting his axe with both hands, and marching toward the centre of the circle.

The elf didn’t move, just frowned with furrowed brow, his sword slack in his grip.

(Round 1: Dwarf wins initiative and moves toward centre of the arena. Elf stays where he is.)

Kordan again took the initiative and stomped dead centre into the ring. “Come on, elf. Whaddya afraid of? I ain’t gonna ‘et you. They are!”

The elf met his eyes and walked steadily forward. “Look, dwarf, I don’t want to fight y-”

(Round 2: Dwarf wins initiative and moves into centre of the arena. Elf approaches one zone towards dwarf.)

“Too bad, cos I do,” Kordan charged, axe raised. It clanged against the elf’s swiftly raised sword. They circled, the elf easily matching the dwarf’s movements. A few exchanges later, Kordan moved back, unable to find an opening.

The elf pushed into the centre, angry now, raining down a flurry of blows, which Kordan blocked adroitly with the haft of his axe. Unable to press any advantage, the elf also backed off.

(Round 3: Dwarf wins initiative, moving into elf’s zone. Rolling for maneuvering, adding the successes to speed and other modifiers, they both end up with an equal number of successes. The Maneuver Table indicates the result as the active player unable to find an opening to attack and moving back to the zone they started in.

Elf’s turn, he moves up, maneuvers, equally matched success again, and he moves back to where he started.)

Breathing heavily, the elf told him, “Don’t you see, this is f-“ He broke off in mid-sentence to dodge the dwarf’s charge yet again. They exchanged more blows, the elf steadily increasing the speed of his attacks to a point he hopes the dwarf cannot match.

Panting, Korgan appeared to slip. A triumphant lunge by the elf became an expression of shock as the dwarf neatly sidestepped and brought his axe down. It came down on the elf’s left arm, and bounced right off the suddenly-appearing sphere of blazing energy with a shower of sparks. The shield saved the elf from harm, but the force of the blow sends the elf sprawling facefirst into the ground.

(Round 4: Elf wins initiative, and catches his breath where he is, regaining one bonus dice. The dwarf charges in, the elf wins the maneuver by 1 success and attacks. He scores only 1 success higher than the dwarf. Attack Table indicates the result is to re-take the Attack test, discounting weapon reach and the previously used bonus dice. This time the dwarf wins the attack, 4 succcesses to the elf’s 1 success.

Attack Table result – attacker lunges aggressively, defender steps aside. Attacker is forced into the movement zone directly behind the defender and is now knocked down. Defender scores hit on attacker as he goes by.

Rolling for hit location yields the elf’s left arm, which is conveniently his shielded arm, which protects him from damage.)

“Pah, magic-user,” Korgan spat. Before the elf could recover and get back up, the dwarf ran at him and aimed a series of attacks at his back. It took all of the elf’s agility to block and counter, as he flipped over to face Korgan, just in time for the dwarf to find a way past his defences.

The axe bit deeply into the elf’s chest as the elf threw himself back wildly, narrowly missing the blood barrier of the fighting ring. His nimbleness spared himself a lethal injury to the heart, but Korgan could see blood soaking into the leather regardless.

The elf scrambled upright, his breath coming in pained gasps. He paused to catch his breath, sword in a guard position.

(Round 5: Dwarf wins the initiative. He moves into the elf’s zone.

I had a moment of puzzlement here as I tried to figure out if this meant the dwarf had rear facing on the elf. If the elf fell forward, it would make sense that the dwarf could attack his unprotected back. This was quite important as attacking someone’s rear meant discounting Speed successes, which normally add on an automatic success per point of speed. The rules were also a little unclear as to whether just the rear attacked victim had to discount the speed successes or both.

I eventually decided to allow rear facing and discount just the elf’s Speed, which made for a very lethal maneuver in favor of the rear attacker. 8 successes for the dwarf, 3 for elf. Winning by 3+ successes meant you could bash attack, bite or tail attack, as well as attack an unshielded side. Despite Korgan’s bar-brawling habits, I doubted his bite attack would amount to much, and there was no point to bashing since the elf was already on the floor and would regain his feet on his turn. So attack unshielded side it was.

Luck of the draw, the elf rolled 1 dice and scored 1 success. The dwarf rolled 7 dice and scored only 2 successes. Re-attack again, but this time the elf turns to face opponent.

His luck runs out, the dwarf has 5 successes to his 1, pushing him into the next zone against the arena’s wall. Rolling for hit location and damage, the dwarf scores a serious wound to the chest (-2 to that location, the elf has essentially 3 hitpoints there, equivalent to his strength, narrowly avoiding getting killed outright) and would have knocked down the opponent, except he was already down.

Elf’s turn, he jumps to his feet and catches his breath, having run out of bonus dice defending madly while knocked down.)

Korgan flung himself at the elf again, hewing mightily as if trying to chop down a tree. But the elf defended well, with a fast one-handed movement of his blade, and forced the dwarf back once more, leaving himself yet again a space to recover.

(Round 6: Dwarf wins initiative, he’s low on bonus dice too, but I wanted to press the advantage and charge at the elf again. Maneuvering, they’re evenly matched, the dwarf retreats to his zone. Elf stays where he is and catches his breath again.)

Then the elf moved purposefully on Korgan, attacking him head on. It took all of Korgan’s skill, including some won at bar-brawling, to counter the elf’s rush at him. Their weapons locked together, the dwarf growled and lowered his head, thinking to headbutt the elf.

Oh crap, went through his mind in one swift shocked instant as the elf somehow twisted his blade out of the lock faster than he thought possible, and took advantage of the opening to bring the sword down onto his head.

The clang of metal striking metal was as loud as a hammer hitting an anvil. The dwarf reeled back blindly into the centre of the circle.

Then it was the elf’s turn to look shocked, as Korgan’s eyes uncrossed, and he shook himself like a dog to shake off the impact. He reached stubby fingers up to his battered, dented helmet to feel out the extent of the damage. The force of the blow had sent the edge of the helmet deep into his brow. Blood flowed freely from the gash, but it just looked worse than it really was.

The dwarf spat again, “That the best you can do? I’ve had worse headaches waking up after a night of two dozen pints of Skullsplitters’ finest.”

(Round 7: Elf wins initiative, moves into dwarf’s zone. Maneuvering yields a head on attack for the elf. Evenly matched successes, it’s a draw, both remain in the same zone.

Dwarf’s turn, they maneuver, and the elf wins an attack to his unshielded side. Elf wins the attack roll by 3+ successes, pushing the dwarf back into the arena centre, and rolls a hit location of the head, causing me to stop breathing as I was sure this was the end for Korgan.

Between the elf’s puny strength and Korgan’s armor class, he only manages a Wound of -1 str on the dwarf’s head, and I didn’t even have to bring any dwarf Signatures into play. Korgan has 5 str, so his skull is very thick. 4 hitpoints left. Phew.)

But both fighters were exhausted after that exchange, and they spent a mutual moment breathing hard, their eyes locked on each other, alert for the slightest movement.

(Round 8: Elf wins initiative, and catches his breath to regain a bonus dice. Dwarf is also out of bonus dice, and I decide to let him take advantage of the breather to recover one too.)

The elf, deadly serious now, came at Korgan with a furious flurry, steering the less maneuverable dwarf in a circle. He slid his blade through an opening but it barely scratched the links of Korgan’s chainmail. It left himself open in turn for Korgan to press an attack, but the elf again twisted out of the way in the nick of time. Once more, the elf narrowly just missed scoring another hit, and aggressively attacks yet again.

Which proved his undoing as he fell for one of the dwarf’s feints and lunged forward a mite too far. Off-balance, he staggered and Korgan helped him on his way to the floor as his axe dug deep into the elf’s right arm, tearing into the muscle.

The elf had no time to worry about that wound as the dwarf followed up by jumping right on top of his back and bringing his axe down on the elf’s neck.

The guttural cheers of the orcs and ogres around him heralded his victory as the elf’s severed head rolled to a stop against the blood barrier.

(Round 9: Elf wins initiative, moves up to the dwarf’s zone. Maneuvering, he gets to attack the dwarf’s unshielded side. The dwarf wins by 1 success, re-take Attack test, the elf wins by 1 success, re-take Attack test yet again, then the dwarf wins by 3+ successes. Again the defender lets the attacker lunge past and whacks him as he goes by. The dwarf rolls a hit location of the right arm, which is unshielded, and dings the arm for -2str (aka hitpoints, again the elf narrowly misses having the entire thing chopped off.)

Dwarf’s turn, the rear attack maneuver is like taking candy from a baby – easy, mean and vicious as hell. He rolls a hit location of head, rolls for damage and scores a Killing Stroke!)

“Good! Good! You wait. One more fight, then you fight winner!” screeched the goblin.

The orc shaman was drawing up a new blood circle, the ogres escorting the two humans into it. They flung the fighters’ belongings onto the sand as the shaman finished his chanting.

Korgan looked grimly on from his circle, intent on studying the techniques of his next would-be opponent, the last obstacle to his freedom.

Wow. I’d thought I’d skewed the fight in the dwarf’s favor by giving him Star attributes (5 Savvy, 5 Strength, 4 Speed), since I chose to play him and I wanted a simple fight for my first rules-learning attempt. But the elf (4 Savvy, 3 Strength, 5 Speed), played entirely as an “NPG” or Non-Player Gladiator, moving according to the rules and dice rolls on a table, put up quite a fight.

He’d randomly rolled a Signature trait of Poser, which gave him a 2 dice advantage on maneuvering, but a 2 dice disadvantage on attacking, until he inflicted his first damage. I interpreted it in this context to mean that he didn’t have his heart entirely into the fight at first, as opposed to say ‘playing to the crowd’ posing a typical gladiator might do. His other racially given Signatures, Nimble, Slippery, Strong-Willed were quite effective at simulating how an elf might fight.  That is to say, he was pretty much dancing circles around the dwarf when he maneuvered, especially in combination with his speed.

The dwarf, on the hand, had Signatures of Mass, Resolute and Stout, making him really tough and hard to knock down – though these weren’t really tested in this battle. I picked a Hard as Nails Signature for him as a Star, and his random Signature turned out to be Vicious – giving him two extra Attack dice if he won the Maneuver. Which really made him very nasty when he managed to rear attack the elf twice. The dwarf’s higher Savvy (aka battle prowess) also gave him a slight advantage over the elf when they tangled up in combat.

The bonus dice mechanic was also interesting, simulating a kind of endurance and energy. It really swung the battle back and forth as I had to figure out if I wanted to spend the energy to press the attack or conserve it to defend or attack later, whereas I had no control over when the NPG would decide to spend his bonus dice. There’s an algorithm for that, where you roll all of the NPG’s bonus dice and he will use it if it comes up 1, or 1-2, or 1-3, depending on the situation. There was a round where the elf blew 5 bonus dice and me, having forgotten to declare the dwarf’s bonus dice first, decided to play it fair and say the dwarf spent none.

There’s also a fair bit of luck involved, which yields the element of surprise and emergence for someone playing solo. Just because you get to roll 7 dice only means you might score more successes (rolling 1-3 on a d6). If the dice don’t go your way, you might get less successes than you’d expect. This is adjusted by modifiers here and there to simulate various Signatures and change the probability of something happening.

The whole thing from printing and cutting up and gluing minis, reading the rulebook, assembling the arena and all took the better part of a night, 5+ hours or so, including the fight that took 3-4 hours. But that was me being a big rules stickler and a very slow learner, going backwards and forwards on the iPad with the pdf rulebook. I don’t think that particular racial match up helped either, fast squirmy bugger versus rabid stout rock made for a long back and forth fight.

I was also slowed down by the dice rolling. I went electronic some time back with the Dicenomicon app, but I was getting ready to murder something with all that flipping back and forth between it and Goodreader, where the rules were, so I grabbed the only three tangible plastic d6s I had to hand. Not enough to work with, I’d recommend having a good 10-15 of ’em for faster play, possibly one color for one opponent if at all doable. Gotta dig mine up from wherever they’ve gone for the next time.

With more rules familiarity, it’ll likely go faster, but there is still a lot of tables and special Signature skills to cross-reference.

I am liking the scale. I think by conservative accident, I only shrunk mine to slightly taller than 20mm (it’s about the old Ral Partha 25mm scale mebbe), but with the small arena format, the whole thing fit neatly into an A4 sheet of paper, which these days, is more realistic to maintain and store in the house without mouldering and dust collection than the dreamy ideal grassmats mounted on specialty art store foamcore boards of youth.

All in all, a pretty nice game and a good change of pace. It’s not THE narrative holy grail that I’m still looking for, but I’m glad I tried it. Chalk up one more game in my repertoire.

Reaper Miniatures Bones Kickstarter

I don’t know how many of my readers would be interested in this, but as I mentioned, I’ve been diving back to tabletop gaming roots (RPGs and wargames) and scouring solo RP/wargame blogs in the search for some kind of narrative that fulfills my current craving. (Don’t worry, I’ll be back to video games shortly, once the urge is sated, I get new longings very quickly. And I’ll definitely be around for GW2 as long as Gamestop doesn’t screw up my CE and leave it adrift on a container ship somewhere.)

It turns out I must have an alarm system built into my head or something, because visiting those blogs clued me into something spectacular going on at Reaper Miniatures.

They’re launching a Kickstarter to ramp up production of their new line of plastic miniatures, called Bones.

The Kickstarter has completedly exceeded their original target and they’re on to fairly insane stretch goals now with crazily tempting figures and extra freebies for the Vampire level.

I haven’t painted minis in ages, probably over ten years now, though I still have an inordinate fondness for Warhammer 40k and Games Workshop related fluff (they’re so colossally expensive though, an MMO habit or three is way cheaper).

One look at what Reaper Minis is offering and I’m going back to the dark side when all the goodies ship in March 2013.

Look at that heavenly variety of beautiful sculpts, going for less than a buck each!

To be cynically realistic, as far as my research goes, the polymer or plastic that the Bones miniatures are made up of is of the soft variety (so says this review), so I wouldn’t be imagining something like GW’s hard plastic. I might think it closer to the type used in prepainted D&D miniatures, but it looks slightly harder and looks like it holds shape and detail a little better. (There are a couple of Youtube videos where you can skip ahead to the end where people poke at ’em and bend ’em.) Not as good as metal can, but the quality of the already-created Bones minis are pretty damn decently close, in my opinion.

Especially with the talent of Reaper’s sculptors and popular metal lines to replicate.

Weight might be an issue for some. Certainly, there’s nothing like the heft of solid metal in the palm of your hand, but when I think about the international shipping costs of a box full of metal versus one much lighter… Well, there’s something to be said for being not so dense and heavy. 🙂

The Kickstarter has lots of options, so do check it out if you’ve the slightest interest. 15 bucks can get you a bunch of dungeon nasties for early-level adventurers.

You could also just pledge a dollar and add on $18 for a paint set, or $25 for 20 orcs.

But ye gods, Vampire Level is where it’s at. Come on, invite home some plastic monsters. Support the Kickstarter and help it exceed $475,000.

(I really really want Deathsleet for $10.)