Category Archives: 28mm

Golem Night (Frostgrave at Scrummers)

Saturday night (just past) was the Second Saturday of the month and therefore, a Second Saturday Scrum night. I was asked by the regular gang last month to put together a Frostgrave game for the upcoming session. I have a decent amount of Frostgrave stuff, having run the game for the past three years at Game Camp, and I thought I could come up with something. ūüôā Having only a very limited knowledge of Ghost Archipelago and almost none of the right terrain for it, I opted to stick with the familiar and created an entry level scenario for old fashioned, Frozen-City-of-Felsted Frostgrave.

Felsted in all its frozen glory…

Frostgrave Figures I have plenty of– almost one each of Northstar’s initial run of Wizards and Apprentices (except Witches, I believe). I also have a healthy amount of supporting cast players, goons, soldiers and warband fodder. I usually bring a box or two of Saxons and Vikings to backfill any Soldiers and Goons.

Warbands and Wizards: We had six players.¬† I created 6 warbands in advance in case anyone there didn’t want to go to the bother of creating one.¬† I made a Chronomancer, an Elementalist, an Enchanter, a Necromancer, a Summoner and an Illusionist.¬† There were two level 3s and 4 level 2 wizards.¬†¬† I created them using Ash’s Warband Manager on table top space.¬† I love the utility as it prints up some nice warband sheets and does most of the mental work for you.¬† Unfortunately it also has lot of options to add stuff from ALL of the supplements that have been published so far, so I ended up blithely adding Javelineers and Crow Masters without really knowing what they do or having any reference to them– I just thought they would be cooler than the standards thugs, thieves and archers everyone uses their first time.

Summoner and goon approach the ruins of Felsted with caution…¬† Photo by Joe

So it probably would have behooved me to at least download the myriad PDF materials I have purchased as supporting material for Frostgrave to my tablet reader¬† that explains all the new stuff.¬† As a backup… Live and learn.

Rival treasure seekers square off in the ruins..  Photo by Joe

Frostgrave is probably optimized for four players maximum because it actually plays better in a small space.¬† When you have lot of space on either side, the players tend to not get to grips with the opposing players and instead run in, grab treasure and exit immediately.¬† One of my frequent opponents gears his warbands specifically for what I call “the smash and grab” approach– lots of spells that move players and treasure quickly and efficiently to the board edges, and not much else.¬† That’s definitely an approach, but not one I relish.¬† I like mixing it up with other players.¬† So that’s why I created.. GOLEM NIGHT.¬† I came up with 1 major victory goal for each player– which I called “Cheap plot devices” during the game.¬† Most of the action was centered around artificial constructs (aka, Golems) and I had a goal for a Clay Golem (who has a magical strip of bark rooted on its back that could be used for healing) two goals were for an Iron Golem (one was to collect its head, another to collect a wand it was carrying).¬† A (rather disgusting looking) Flesh golem had a famous anti-command dagger stuck in its side.¬† Another was a giant Stone Golem which was just there to confuse people.¬† I also added 2 smaller quests about drinking the waters from the Amphora of Wisdom and three books and three keys, but that really didn’t get anywhere.

The Enchanter Party, using one of the new supporting characters (Pack Mule), managed to make it to the center rubble pile in the circle, before retreating to board edge.

The cast of characters included Joe Procopio (our host), Jared Smith, new guy Rich McKee, John Sears, and Garrett O‚ÄôHara. I played to balance the numbers a little, but kind of went easy on the goals and victory conditions because.. erm.. I knew them in advance. As it turned out the cheap plot devices didn’t really pan out well– nobody accomplished their goals except me– I drew the Dagger of Chaos (stuck in the Flesh Golem). Garrett and Rich actually killed the Golem and I bribed Garrett for the dagger from my store of money. So, ironically, I was the guy who achieved his victory conditions, by bribery– not valor.

Here comes a Flesh Golem!¬† What’s that stuck in his side?

Mostly we collect Victory Points by counting treasure points and adding spells cast and opponents slain. Since we played one side of the table, roughly one group of allied Wizard schools against the other group, I can state categorically that the other side won on points. However, we did outright KILL two of their Apprentices, which is nothing to sneeze at. Our problem was that the treasure just wasn’t abundant on our side of the board.

FREE AT LAST!! AFTER 1000 YEARRRRRSS!¬† (there were some genuinely comedic moments, as we see here when Garrett’s party had an unexpected and nearly fatal surprise).

So all told I’d say this was a great night, even if it didn’t unfold quite as I had planned. Since I tend to be a tough self-critic I’ll say this– I didn’t give the guys the option to create their own warband, and probably should have– I just think it’s a time-waster. Secondly, some wizards (like my own) had very few spells that worked offensively (e.g. had the power to cause another person or group harm). I was in a hurry when I created the warbands and probably should have seen this problem coming. Live and learn. Also I probably should check to see if flunkies are described in the core rulebook before adding them to warbands. I thought it played reasonably well once we got started and created a lot of potential for laughs. Thanks go out to Joe P. as usual for providing a nice location for our evening entertainment.

You cannot defeat this foe!  Photo by Joe

HERE is my Flickr album of pictures from the game, mostly taken with a Samsung, but some taken by Joe and Jason and posted to Facebook. ¬† Since I was organizing this game I didn’t take all that many.¬† HOWEVER!¬† Please visit Joe’s SSSC Blog for his report on the event, complete with lots of lovely pictures taken by Joe’s wife Ellen.¬† I love the filter she used to sort of give each picture a crispy, just-snowed atmosphere.

parts of My warband– an Elementalist and his apprentice, whom the warband manager called “Elizabeth”, so what the heck, I made her a female from my Viking victims.¬† (photo by Ellen P)

Just a couple of the golems queuing up for GOLEM NIGHT.  Photo Ellen P.

I had a great time as usual, this is a great group for Frostgrave!


Mega Space Hulk, it’s a thing

So Garrett and I had opportunity to attend our second Second Saturday Scrum Club adventure, which is a rather high-falutin’ term for a bunch of older guys (and Gar) sitting around and jawing about games and stuff while we try the latest Miniatures concept.

The concept for this session was a brainstorm between Joe and Jared.¬† Both of them had fond memories of playing Space Hulk, the eponymous Aliens clone game from Games Workshop when they were much younger.¬† Read about the history and concept of the game in this great blog post, the author does the subject justice. My experience was minimal– I played one time (back in the 90s, probably with the second edition) and I remember it being very, very deadly for the Space Marines. Guess what? That memory’s pretty accurate! I was game to give it another shot, of course, and even own my own set from the the third edition that got published sometime in the 2000s.

The pile of expended “activation blip” tokens for the Gene-Stealers grew and grew as we cleansed the ship of their foul abomination.¬† Twas a long bloody event indeed!

So what makes our session particularly interesting is that most people play this game with one boxed set’s worth of materials, which really only supports two players (three or four if you split your forces, I guess, but it’s not really designed for multiplayer). Since six dudes on average show up for Scrummers, how to play a mega game with multiple players? As it turns out, easily, but you have to combine a lot of Space Hulk sets. I’m certain there were at least three present, although we played with a combination of old and new miniatures. Jared did most of the construction on the resulting very large map.

Giant map of 3 of the later vintage Space Hulk tiles, as designed by Jared Smith.¬† red dots are doors.¬† Triangles are entry points for Gene Stealers.¬† Green is the far edge where half our force started.¬† Photo from Joe Procopio’s blog post

As you can see, three sets makes a giant honkin’ layout indeed.

Final layout.¬† That’s Steve “Mr. Tekumel” Braun on the top right there.¬† Photo: Joe Procopio’s blog

Game play was pretty fast, and deadly chaotic.

Gar and I were on opposite ends of the Ship. Gar was near the insertion point of the landing torpedo. I was across the ship from him. Our goal was to support each other, claim a few victory points, and then bug out when the things started to get all twisty. To quote Luke Skywalker, “Things didn’t go as planned”.

Space Hulk is very deadly.. genestealers can spawn almost everywhere and even with the Blip Token mechanic, they come out of nowhere and just won’t stop.

Each squad/figure had 4 Action Points (APs) a turn, plus an additional 1-6 Aps per sergeant figure, per turn.¬† Entering¬† a room triggers an event from either “inner” or “outer” room decks.¬† VPs per objects found and there were two special VP events– finding the Chapter Librarian and extracting the genetic code of the dead Captain figure.

So the game cards try to funnel you to the center rooms. We discovered the Dead captain figure pretty early in the game. Unfortunately, he was in a room off of a single corridor with TWO Genestealer entry points, feeding right into the corridor. Having this down by MY end it was evident that I should make a big effort to rescue the captain’s genetic code. Unfortunately, all I could manage was to get slaughtered. My priest, whose job it is to extract genetic codes, got swarmed and killed in an eyeblink. It’s awfully easy to die in this game.

There’s the captain.. in a room right next to TWO genestealer entry points.¬† We got chopped into chutney trying to achieve the victory condition of extracting the Captain’s genetic code.

Fortunately things were going better a the far end of the board, where, despite bumping into just as many Genestealers, they did find and rescue the Librarian, they found some nice loot and a Chaos Marine!

This actually worked out well (initially) for our side, as the Chaos Marine popped in to a room full of Gene Stealers, and just fired away at the NEAREST TARGET..

Alas for us, an urgent message from home informed us that Audrey (my beloved) was locked out of the house, and we had to cut the evening short. At that point I was down to two functioning marines (both of them schlubs) and Garrett down to three. As we drove home, Garrett was ecstatic about how much fun the evening was– “What was that game called again, Dad?” “Space Hulk, it’s an oldie but a goodie..” “Space Hulk, huh? Who made that again?” (shaking head in disbelief, kids these days). “That would be GAMES WORKSHOP, son.” “Wow, man, we have to try more games like that.. Games workshop…


Anyway, a big thanks to JOE PROCOPIO, once again our most excellent host, and everyone who attended– it’s not the game so much as the company, really (okay, the game helps too)– This is kind of a new experiment with getting some like-minded players together “of a certain age” and it really is a lot of fun for me. Surprisingly, Garrett is enjoying it as well, and he’s a youngster. Joe blogs about every event, like I do, and waxes far more eloquent than your humble servant.¬† Here is his latest blog post on the Space Hulk Mega Game.

My pictures can be found on the Flickr account here.  And who knows, maybe this slideshow thing will work this time (it requires Flash).

Thanks again to Joe and Jared for putting together this awesome layout and playing the Genestealer faction.

MadMax34 Turning Templates from Things from the Basement

I have been playing around with the Mad Maximillian 1934 car combat rules for a little bit now as the past two posts can attest to. I am enjoying the game very much. One thing I wanted to do was assemble the little turning template that comes in the rules, but the only way I thought it would be durable enough would be to print it on card stock, laminate it, THEN cut it out and punch it so it could rotate.

Yeah, I could do that. OR I could send a few bucks and get a very durable laser cut wooden one of my very own. Or maybe two. So I did that instead.


There’s not a lot to this thing. Two pieces ; one with an arrow going IN and another with an arrow going OUT. There are graduations on the template itself which will effect how many fate and fortune dice to roll. The template starts off on this single sheet. Punch out everything carefully. The top circle (as show) will overlay the bottom one. The two tiny bits and the inner circle are there to keep the spindle rotating nicely. You may want to be sparing with the glue here, you don’t want the two main circles to bond together accidentally or the template is worthless.

Once you build the spindle out of the two tiny bits (that make a kind of stand up X together, you put the small circle on top of that (very sparingly with glue) making sure the top circle and bottom circle can rotate.

With paint on

At the end of that drill, you have this. The bottom circle rotates and indicates where your turn is going to be and how risky it is. Coloring the areas on the edge of the wheel to match how it is depicted in the rule book is a bonus that I recommend. Green is no danger, Yellow is some danger, Red is dangerous!

In my mind, this is the Cadillac option, if you’ll pardon the car pun. It’s durable, inexpensive and works like a charm. Not nearly as large as I thought. A very handy option indeed.

Turning template in use

Here is a time lapse photograph of a template in use. The Three Wheeler moves forward 4 and attempts a slight left hand turn, sufficiently into the yellow zone to be risky.

And there you have it.¬† That’s from Things from the Basement (URL up above).¬† I think it’s worth the tiny investment.¬† I got two!

Simple Fog of War in Boom! Zap!

My plan was to debut the playtest game of Boom! Zap! (my pulp SF reworking of the old Rules with No Name engine) at camp this year, but there was such a clamor to run Frostgrave for another day and Big Danged Boats for another day that it kicked Friday’s game right off the schedule. Too bad, I had invested a ton of time and $$ purchasing and building hallway terrain from Gamecraft, and it looks fantastic (although I really need to work on a paint scheme for reuse). With that said it is very durable and I can use it for next year’s camp so it’s nothing wasted.

I love this stuff– it’s the Science Fiction Spaceship Corridor line from Game Craft, who makes a lot of laser cut wood gaming accessories. It’s durable, goes together with wood glue, and pretty much idiot proof. After you assemble it, it fits together nicely:

The idea behind this stuff is to use it for corridor and setting for a couple of games, one being BOOM! ZAP! (pulp SF) and the other SPY RUN (retro 50s, 60s and 70s spy game) both are 28mm skirmish level and both interact with the terrain (hallways) in a very specific way. One element I’ve been wanting to try is limited perspective based on terrain. Bear with me, this may sound complicated at first, but I think it will pay off in entertainment value.

I’m trying to prevent the God’s eye view benefit from playing factions interacting with each other in enclosed terrain (an outpost). YET! we are in a universe where things like recon probes, motion detectors and the like exist. So groups moving around should have some limited intel about other groups moving around. So prior to contact I create blip tokens similar to those used in the game SPACE HULK.

Each blip reads as a group of people or moving mass (like robots) in the complex or terrain. They enter the complex through three possible entrances (two airlocks, one underground shuttle). Initially, before they are revealed by moving into proximity with each other, all groups move as blips. As they move through the complex, they can, if they have the right equipment, send a probe droid ahead to recon for them for a certain amount of distance. The probe can (under an operator’s direction) move around corners and report back what it sees. It could be empty and likely will be:

empty hallway
Empty Hallway

Or maybe not!

In either case, the Referee takes a picture with his cell phone. He then displays it to the faction reconning the hallway.

Whoops, it is truly empty? What are THOSE?

Eventually as groups move closer together the blips resolve into groups and the hidden system isn’t needed. I just think this might be a fun addition to a skirmish game set in a world with a high tech level. background.

New Viking Looter Cards

I’m going to run VIKING LOOTERS (the old Viking Raiding game by JIm Birdseye) at game camp next week.¬† Much of the game’s action is handled through the cards.¬† The file that I received from Brian Whitaker was great but not formatted for standard business card sized cards– I kept losing alignment during printing.¬† So to remedy this I recently reformatted the card deck to use a standard business card template originating from Avery.¬† This is their “Graduation announcement” template which should fit most business cards blanks, including 5571.¬† I’m very pleased with how these came out.¬† If you have a use for this kind of game, here are the rules and the cards (the important part).¬† Cards are in PDF and Word.¬† Rules are in Word.

Microsoft Word link
Adobe PDF link


(the last sheet is blank in both PDF and Word so you can write some of your own)

I think the end result is worth the effort.

This is a fun time and plays well with younger folks.¬†¬† The rules aren’t much, maybe a page and a half at most.¬† The big laughs come with how you handle it as a referee. Enjoy!

S-177 On the Seas of Tekumel, AAR

This is a general After Action Report (AAR) of a game from the recent HISTORICON 2015 show last weekend called On the Seas of Tekumel.

On the Seas of Tekumel. GM: Steve Braun. Fantasy. 28mm. Rules: Homebrew/Savage Tales. Tekumel is home to many non-human races and the high seas are a great place for them to meet up a settle their differences! See what happens when the insect-like Hluss bring their ancient Lightning Bringers to fight ships made of wood and iron. Join in the fun as the frog-like Hlutgru storm aboard your vessel.

Background: The Tekumel universe was created by Professor MAR Barker, back in the 1970s and possibly as early as the 1940s¬† (I’m not a Barker scholar, though I know a few).¬† VERY broadly speaking, Tekumel is a planet that has been colonized by many alien races — the humans who become the “Tsolyani” and the other alien races who have also shown up: Hl«ėss, Ss√ļ, Hok√ļn, Mih√°lli, Nyagg√°, Urun√©n, Vl√©shga.¬† Many of these are distinctly non-human in flavor, sporting six legs or radically different physiology, and certainly different philosophies.¬† At some point in the distant past of high science, a “Bad Thing” happened and Tekumel, its moons and other surrounding planets were transported to a pocket dimension.¬† As a result, there is no more contact with any of the alien’s home planets, and no more advanced technology, although many artifacts are here and there on the landscape.¬† Professor Barker took this setting and with the help of Gary Gygax back in the 1970s, created one of the world’s first roleplaying games, THE EMPIRE OF THE PETAL THRONE, back in the 70s.¬† I owned a copy, which was much thumbed through but rarely played.¬† D&D was always easier to grasp (although far less elegant) and my gaming buds liked their RPGs like they like their coffee, dark, bitter and easy to grasp.¬† Empire of the Petal throne has enjoyed a long lasting niche popularity over the years and has gone on to be republished and expanded upon by the fanbase.¬†¬† There have been five novels, by Barker (I believe), I only have read two of them and found them very interesting, if a little dry.

The Seas of Tekumel is a a brainchild of Steve Braun, whom I believe is a teacher in Maryland, and without a doubt a fan of Barker’s work. He adapted material present in the Petal Throne series (there’s a lot more to it now, contributed by subsequent generations) to a simple, fast playing game mechanic about naval warfare on the ship to ship level. To paraphrase one of his comments– if you are a diehard naval gamer that stresses over armor thickness and gun calibers, this is likely not the system for you. Units of movement are single small ships for the various racial types on Tekumel, all of them roughly 15mm in scale and of galley or large war canoe vintage. The simple sailing rules of movement preclude full speed straight on movement into the wind (which makes sense). Players play a single ship and its crew, which all have a secret goal to attend to.

The playing area was a standard 5 x 8 smaller playing surface– aquatic with small volcanic islands represented on them.. most with alien vegetation and some with structures. Dotted here and there were “opportunities” to loot sites for artifacts from the past.

I was assigned the H’luss, the native species of Tekumel, which are a sort of large six limbed insectoid race. They are depicted as being xenophobic in the extreme and rather hateful of the alien usurpers (which is how they view all the other races). Of all the races on the board, I was the one with a submersible, which looked like this:

The H’Luss Submersible, which I captained.

I had had this faction the last time I played and it was a lot of fun to play them. Unliek everyone else on the board I didn’t move normally== I plotted movement on a piece of paper and showed it to the GM to give him an idea of where my submersible was. Last year, I played it to the hilt and it made for some hilarious moments:

Picture from Historicon 2016 game

We had a much denser playing field than last year, it would seem.¬† I misread my goal entirely and as it had something in their about this being OUR water (being natives) I thought I had to look for a well!¬† Nope, he meant “Go steal alien tech and kill them all”.. so I wasted some time on non-existant subtlety, I admit it.

I made up for it by trying to reprise the old “surface and swamp the ship” trick which worked last year.¬† A large Tsolyani Frigate was parked on the same island as the Hlutgu, who were my victims last year.¬† I tried to surface under the (now empty) ship and drag it away, leaving the Tsolyani stranded.¬† It partially worked!

The Xenophic H’luss take the human frigate for a Missouri boat ride

Unfortunately a Tsolyani frigate is substantially heavier than the Hlut Go canoe and I ended up submerging quickly or it would destroy the boat. Mission accomplished, though, they humans were dispatched without a shot fired.

Out on the rest of the seas of Tekumel, the ships were fighting a hard scrum.¬† I surrendered any idea of taking the Humans frigate for myself, and indicated to the (giant lizardmen, forgot their name) that they could have it, even if they get more points from it. The smaller group of pirates with canoes were all swamped or died fighting. The various other ships got into a traffic jam in the center. The (big lizards) and (giant artificially made people) then got into it right above me, so I swam under them and came up behind them. I had to get some tech.¬† See that red McGuffin on the back of his boat?¬† That was part of a multi-piece “something” that it turned out I had to go look for.¬† Might as well start at the beginning.

I surfaced next to their stern and brought MY ancient artifact on deck to fire at them.¬† The results were.. unusual.¬†¬† The weapon of the ancients fired, then blew up, making the back of the enemy craft (and his replacement captain) into plasma.¬† Oddly it didn’t do much to my boat, beyond killing one of the lower ranked H’luss crew.

And that was about that for the game.¬† It felt short but it was about 4 hours.¬† I didn’t get the chunk of artifact, but I did prevent my enemies from claiming it.¬† I had wasted a little too much time trying to achieve a wrong goal early on to acquire it it.¬† Victory was determined mathematically, based on things accomplished.¬† I narrowly beat out the guy who took the empty human frigate as prize, because the GM was being nice about me attaining my goals.¬† So the stunning victory of the H’lussi on the high seas underscores our basic philosophy: GET THE HELL OFF OF OUR PLANET, ALIEN SWINE

If memory serves, I think the HAWKS (Hartford Weekly Kriegspielers) had an entire “Tekumel track” at last Historicon, and this was just one of those games.¬† I may be hallucinating.¬† I know I played in this game, and had a great time with it– the rules were simple, the setting was exotic and the game told a story.¬† Well deserved bravo zulus to Steve Braun for putting on this game, I really enjoyed it.

Here is a slideshow of every picture I took for the Tekumel game


Pulp Science Fiction Miniatures 2/2

And here’s some more of the same series.

Discovery: Brother Vinni and Ganesha 28mm retro Science Fiction stuff

file under #smallwars

I recently made an interesting discovery. ¬†I like my science fiction with a tinge of science fantasy, specifically of the pulp visual nature, prevalent in American culture from about the 40s to the 70s historically. ¬†So I’ve been slowly pursuing a project you can see on the bottom right, under the heading “Science Fiction Bar Fight along the lines of the Draco Tavern” (Classic Niven Reference for the win). ¬†I’ve posted on my retro SF efforts in the past on here. ¬†Given the long winter of being homeless (see the post about the tree), I’ve had time to paint and have stuff painted. ¬†My collection has grown dramatically. ¬†Alas, as the Wargame Supply Dump has gone out of business I have jumped in and attempted to buy as much of his line as I can before it vanishes.

A lot of the current offerings in 28mm don’t have the exact right “fantastic feel” to them.. just a tinge of silliness and whimsy, like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. Like fins and bright colors and big oversized ray guns and and goggles and leather helmets and such. I’m always looking for figures like this– I’ve been buying and painting GAFDOZ for years and recently made the aforementioned binge buy of WSD before it folded tents. The problem is where do you go from here? That’s what this post is about. Will it be possible to find more 28mm figures with the proper wacky pulp retro look and feel? Well, yes, but I’ll have to go about it judiciously.

One element of the amorphous “pulp SF universe” that I feel is is important is robots. I mean the big rounded edged clanky guys you used to see in the old serials. I found some candidates that make perfect sense in this setting.

I discovered Brother Vinni, a 28mm figure manufacturer who specializes in resin cast Science Fiction, Fantasy and Historical figures.¬† I believe? the manufacturer is from Russia.¬† I really like Brother’ Vinni’s small SF Line, particularly the “Nuclear Sandlot” category.¬† The humanoid figures tend to be more slender than the figures I have to compare them to– mostly in the GAFDOZ range, which are “beefy”.¬† However, robots don’t have to be in any specific scale, even androids.¬† One assumes there will be a variance.
The Nuclear Sandlot robots appear to be sculpted with an eye towards the FALLOUT computer game. If you’ve played it, you’ll see what I’m talking about. I picked up the Flying Bot¬† figure which looks like the robot major domo figure from the game. It’s easy to put together.¬† You’ll have to do some standard prep actions before painting– soak in water overnight, and be sure to drill the hole out a little.¬† The figure doesn’t come with a stand, per se, but does come with a transparent peg to mount on a stand of your choice.

Here is my version, after cleaning, drilling and mounting on a MDF circular base. Good choice, actually– this model can get a little top heavy and you’ll want something heavier to keep it upright.¬† I ended up painting the robot a gun metal color overall, with some bronze highlights, a bronze colored security weapon and bright red lenses on the security camera arms and main ray gun face.¬† I gave it a sort of thinned out black ink to give it a little grime and depth, and a couple of coats of medium shiny sealer– I’m giving all the pulp stuff a shiny coat because it seems to fit the subject.

I also picked  up two Observer Bots which also seem to be inspired by FallOut.  I plan to make these part of the gameРany character with a comunications rig sculpted on it can use an observer bot to see down a hallway.  These tiny little floating soccer balls have a perfect look for pulp

Same approach to cleaning, drilling and mounting.¬† The observer bot has a little whip antenna that has to be attached, be careful, this will get away from you.¬† The hole for the stand up flight pole was totally filled in with resin so I had to drill it out carefully.¬† The model has holes in it for some sort of whisker antennas (four of them) but these were not included.¬† I suppose someone could heat up a piece of sprue to stretch out and make them from scratch, but I didn’t see the point of it.¬† That’s my only complaint about Brother Vinnie’s kits.. don’t advertise an element of a model in the assembled pictures that isn’t provided in the final product!

Last robot I got is ALSO inspired by FallOut, I think.¬† It matches one of the standard robot types found in the game, and Uncle Vinnie just calls this “Robot“.

This was probably the easiest figure to clean up, assemble and paint. The overall aesthetic is kind of like a pint-sized Robbie the robot character from Forbidden Planet.¬† He’s going to make a decent robot butler or some other kind of servant. ¬† I also mounted him on MDF, painted an overall gun metal with bronze highlights, and gave him a little grime (thinned black ink) and a semi-gloss coat like the robots above.¬† “Robot” fits in well with the pulp figures I already have, being somewhat tiny but then again, who says robots have to be huge hulking figures to be useful?¬† Nobody, that’s who.

Now, on to some figures that I loved, loved, loved in the adverts, but the reality was kind of a mixed bag.  At least you have the bottom line up front.  On to Ganesha Games 28mm Science Fiction line, being manufactured and distributed Alternative Armies.   I was very intrigued by the latest releases that were recently trumpeted on the Alternative Armies website about Lord Phalag and his companions, Psi-Knights and Combot combat robots.   Lord Phalag is a Baron Harkonnen looking chap in a floating chair, looking very corrupt and dissolute, and slightly evil. He has an enforcer brute companion named Graul Granite who reminds me of the Thing from Fantastic Four, and some female alien type modeled to look like she has some form of psychic power or whatnot named Skarra.

(Image: Alternative Armies)

I was in as soon as I saw the floating chair. Now that’s a great sculpt. Very decadent looking.

Also of note were a gang of Psy-Knights waving about some sort of light energy beam sword weapons. Hmm. Wonder who these guys are supposed to be? You can take your guess:

Image: Alternative Armies

Well, I had to have those guys, too. I was pleased that Alternative Armies will through in a “Combot” robot with each purchase from this line and got one of those, too.

Now, here’s the rub. These are beautiful sculpts.. very pulpy, nice detail. I want to build and paint these. This is what showed up at my door.

No instructions. No bases. Nothing. Just kind of a jumble of parts. The feet aren’t even attached to a slot to go on a slotta style base. Nothing. The figure of Lord Phalag is my favorite, but I’m going to have to figure out how to put this thing together. Worse, I’m going to have to figure out the flying base too.. I know there are companies that sell these, but apparently Ganesha is not one of those. So how do I base them? (BTW, the website DOES say “sold without bases”.. and it’s my fault for jumping on this without reading, I admit that up front, but I wanted this thing to work.. and thus enthusiasm overcame common sense).

Well, it’s going to take a lot of work to make these figures work. I suppose I’ll have to find some slotta bases (I don’t have any). The figures are cast without anything at all on their feet so I expect I’ll have to drill and pin to make the figures stable on a base of any kind. The Chair figure of Lord Phalag is the big disappointment. I’ll have to buy a flying base of some kind (no idea what will work, they don’t say and they don’t sell one) and the resin part is pretty smooth. There’s some metal bits to finish out the figure but the resin is so smooth something tells me I’ll be drilling and pinning there as well. I’ll make it work but it won’t be a fast process.

In summary, it’s a mixed bag. I like the sculpts and detailing of everything I’ve purchased lately, but the Brother Vinnie models came together significantly more easily than the Ganesha Games stuff will. Everything seems to fit well with other pulp figures I already have, so I’m pleased, but grumpy about all the work I’ll have to do for the Ganesha stuff.

Small Wars: Vikings and Frostgrave

Since I’ve been somewhat hampered in my hobby pursuits by having my house almost destroyed, all my study packed up and the walls demolished, I haven’t had ready access to things that I traditionally spend the Winter on, like painting up miniatures for gaming projects.¬† I’ll live, of course, but I have a need to bump up my forces on a few nearer term projects, such as running a gaming camp this Summer.¬† Fortunately, my friend John Montrie, being retired, has been around to provide a brush for hire, and he’s helped bump up my forces when I’ve had to exchange money for time for the past few years.¬† And thank the Deity for that, too– I don’t think I could have gotten Big Danged Boats or Frostgrave off the ground without his timely assistance.¬† As he’s off to China for a few months I thought I’d pop up to Rockville and visit, eat some Mexican food and pick up some troops I had him working on.¬† Needless to say, I’m pretty pleased with the results, or I wouldn’t be posting about it!¬† At Fall IN I had picked up another pack of Frostgrave Soldiers (the standard 28mm semi-medieval Soldiers, 22 figures, plastic, Northstar Games).¬† I also picked up some newer Frostgrave specialty figures– the Lich and Apprentice, The Crowmaster & Javileneer, and the Elementalist II & Apprentice.¬† All in pewter, 28mm, Northstar Games.

First off, the Goons.  These are the troops that make up the retainers and followers of the wizard figures in Frostgrave:

I gave John very little guidance.. if he has a fault at all, it’s that he tends to use the same four basic primary colors (red, green, blue, yellow) as uniform highlights. I don’t mind that so much, it allows me to cluster the henchmen in handy groups.¬† Still, I wanted something different so I asked John to focus on darker colors and purples.¬† He delivered!

Here are the new major characters in pewter:

Crowmaster and Javelineer

I understand what the Javelineer does.. he tosses Javelins.¬† What the Crow Master does I’ll have to read up on.¬† Maybe the Crow flies around like another set of eyes and spies on people.

Beast Crafter and Apprentice

This looks somewhat obvious- the Beast Crafter is some form of shapeshifter that can transform himself  into animal shape.

Elementalist II and Apprentice

This is the second form of the “Elementalist” Wizard from Northstar.¬† I think I might like the older figures better.. more dynamic.¬† Eh, what the heck, they’ll make good thieves.

Lich and Apprentice

I don’t know what a Lich is in Frostgrave terms.. I always thought it was the animated dead body of a powerful wizard– and usually appears as a skeleton in wizard regalia.¬† This looks more like Elric of Melnibone all tarted up or something.. no matter, it’s a cool figure.

That brings me up to 44 Soldiers from two packs, 22 cultists.¬† With the Dark Ages Vikings and Saxon figures I have painted up for SAGA and Battle Troll, I have something on the order of 120 figures I could use for “Goons” for Frostgrave warbands.¬† I’m still going to get the barbarian pack(s) and I’ll probably add some variety figures in there too (like a couple of all female warbands, a dwarf warband, a Chinese Warband, and an elven warband), but I have enough soldiers and wizard figures to comfortably run games of 10 players or more– maybe even a dozen.

Viking Looters

Another project I’d like to start running this summer is the venerable VIKING LOOTERS game.¬† This is a venerable convention game designed by the great Jim Birdseye years ago.¬† The scenario couldn’t be more simple – you are a Viking and need to get back to the boat first with the most loot (represented by pennies spraypainted gold). Your movement rate is based on the amount of loot you carry. All players start at the same distance from the boat. The fun comes in that each player is dealt several cards. Each card represents an event, usually bad for someone, usually the Viking himself.¬† The cards cause an opponent to drop pennies, fight battles, become pursued or otherwise delayed from returning to the boat. A turn consists of each player deciding whether or not to play a card on an opponent, or passing (not playing a card). Once all cards in a turn are played (face down on the table), the GM reveals them in an order that makes sense.

Yes, the “screw the opponent” factor is high.¬† I know I have plenty of fighting Vikings on board– about 44 of them.¬† However, I don’t yet have enough of regular people doing regular things– like the Saxon villagers, herdsmen, wenches, old women, and various random characters you meet in the game.¬† I’m still working on the villagers, but found a pack of Old Glory “Revenge” line Viking looters in smaller 28mm.¬† These are Vikings doing what¬† you associate with being vikings– raiding, drinking and taking stuff.

Most of these were crafted to have open palms for adding “stuff” to them.. like chickens, weapons, gold and jewelry, etc.

You can see there are some villagers in there– I also have some clergy. I am getting some sheepherders done and I still need some wenches and stock animals. Pretty much standard Dark ages figures.

I plan to run this game at camp.¬† As you already know, I have a great Viking Ship I built from a kit that I can use for a prop.¬† Scenery is pretty minimal.¬† I’ll add in a swamp that surrounds the ship except on the River side, with just one plank leading up to the boat and a big ship guard trying to rob you as you come on board– you can’t make it TOO easy!

Anyway, I love Frostgrave and always wanted to get Viking Looters off the ground, so that’s going to be my new project for the year.

Frostgrave Sunday!

We had a short window last¬†Sunday to get in a game of Frostgrave at the Comics and Gaming Store in Fairfax, VA. We were contemplating doing a published scenario, but didn’t have the right figures for it. So we did a free form Frostgrave game, my ad hoc level 4 Chronomancer versus level 5 (not sure.. maybe a Witch)?

I wanted to make the playing field dense. In Frostgrave, it’s far too easy to nail someone from the far side of the table, if there are no intervening terrain pieces to modify the shot (usually arrows). Also, the backstory of Frostgrave is Felstad (which the city this is supposed to be) is described as a dense urban environment, with narrow streets and all sorts of nooks and crannies.

We alternated putting out treasures, as per the rules. ¬†There were four pieces that were relatively close– A, B, C, and D (see above). ¬†E was a “lure” set in the “Orb of Power” which was a spell amplifier of sorts. ¬†I figured I could score A, B and C from my entry point, even with Archers in the far area of the square. ¬†I added a lot of standing terrain bits to break up line of sight. ¬†When I play Subir, I can be certain of a few things; He’ll focus on spells that teleport, telekinesis, leap, or jump away from competitor gangs– or he’ll take option 2 and select spells that block me, like Walls. ¬†One thing that he’ll always do is put a couple of archers up on a second level, where he can enjoy line of sight and pepper away as an annoyance. ¬† He was true to his patterns– this was a night of Leap, Telekinesis, Teleportation and Archers set up high.

Subir’s fantasy sniper team.

I split into two teams, one lead by the Chronomancer and one by his Assistant. ¬†My Chronomancer and his team hit the tower to retrieve Treasure B (above), and easily nailed C, but D was going to be hard to get to unopposed and E almost impossible. ¬†There was also a treasure in the fountain behind the tower (not shown) that I’ll circle around to.

This is the Orb of Power, which is a Games Workshop Numinous Occulum model, repurposed (I have one too). ¬†If the wizard stands in the Orb, he can cast spells with big pluses– think of it as a magic battery pack. ¬†It was closer to Subir’s starting point than mine (point E in the photo above), so I didn’t really think I would get a treasure there, nor could I make use of the Orb.

My two groups moved close to each other and supported each other. Subir was much more spread out. I think he had the better idea.  Being a level 3 guy, I had some good hirelings.. A Man at Arms, two Archers, two Thugs, One Infantryman, one Thief.  A good mix of muscle and smash and grab.

The apprentice easily converged on Treasure C while the Chronomancer took Treasure A in the tower. ¬†There’s another one in the fountain in the background.

he wanted to show off.

Or course, Subir would try a little razzle dazzle.  He telekinesed the treasure from the Orb of Power dome, and then LEAPed this thug (position A) to the second floor balcony where treasure D was.  He got to the treasure first, before my Infantryman could stop him (position B), crowed a little, and LEAPed out.

My Chronomancer basically did what Wizards do in this game.. got under cover, got up high, and got behind an Archer who provided cover. ¬†My accompanying Thug moved the treasure to the map’s edge, as did the extra thug near Treasure C.

We did run the game with a rule I like to use– whenever you pick up a treasure, you roll on the Random Monster table. ¬†This didn’t create a lot of distractions.. well, mostly, until…

No, it’s not Cthulhu. I don’t have a worm figure, and that’s what Subir rolled. Bad luck for him!

As Subir and his gang cowered behind some rubble, I tried something silly. I had placed a WIZARD EYE on the flat side of the wall, near that balcony Treasure D was on. I had STEAL HEALTH which works “In Line of Sight” to a target. So by extending Line of Sight, My Chronomancer was able to steal health from the Worm itself, from across the board. I even had to sacrifice a couple of hit points, to make a spell roll work, and immediately got it back from the demon! Now that’s a hoot! My attempt to intercept treasure D on the way off the board, which caused me to lose my Man at Arms, sadly, pincushioned with arrows.

Well, sadly, an urgent call from home cut our game shorter than I would like, or I would have nailed the treasure in the fountain, too. As happens a lot with Frostgrave, the game tied up 3 treasures to 3 treasures. I don’t collect warbands like Subir does so I didn’t roll for the treasures. I did lose a guy to an Archer attack, but that’s life, warbands are kind of expendable.

A great time, I only wish we could have played longer.

28mm Greek Galleys? Deal me in!

I’ve always been partial to galley warfare games, but usually at a drastically different (smaller) scale than what I usually play in.¬† What has come down to us about the naval warfare of the Ancient World is at best somewhat fragmentary.¬† There are some excellent books on the subject, including The Battle of Salamis by Barry Straus and Naval Warfare under Oars by by William Rodgers.¬† The thing is, we have a generalized idea of how these ships fought, and what they looked like from pictures and pottery shards.¬† We know these big battles like Actium and Salamis were fought in history.. but it’s hard to conceive in the minds eye of literally HUNDREDS of galley ships smashing into each other in a single engagement.¬† That’s why I’ve always played with galleys (when I have) in smaller scale like 1:1200 with an odd detour into 15mm sometimes.¬†¬† The battles are just too huge to grasp what a single ship fighting another single ship action would be like.¬† The “Galley Period” for want of a better name for this period of naval science, lasted a long time and witnessed much innovation.¬† The swift, streamlined galleys of Salamis (481 BC)¬† bore only a superficial resemblance to the giant behemoths that fought in later periods.. slow moving ten banked monsters were at both sides at Actium (31 BC), for instance.¬† Yet both are “galley engagements”. ¬† Much like how a 19th century 74 Gun Ship of the Line was a complex¬† instrument to navigate and fight, involving many concurrent, complex tasks, so must have the operations of a Greek Galley in 481 BC have been equally complex, with many concurrent actions transpiring to bring a ship to battle.¬† The Steersmen had to guide the ship into a path to ram.¬† The Rowers have to act in unison to increase the ship’s speed to make the ram a success.¬† The Overseer has to keep the pace and relay the Officer’s intentions to the rowers.¬† The Officer has pick his targets and deploy Marines and Archers.¬† The Archers are firing away at the enemy ship as they close.¬† The Marines are queuing up to¬† leap across the gap between ships and engage in brutal hand to hand combat.¬† All of this will only happen if the weather conditions are absolutely perfect; even a moderate swell could dampen martial ardor on galleys, which swamped easily.

So, as you can guess, there’s a lot going on in each of those tiny ship models we so casually assign number factors to, or damage points and ‘crew factors’.¬† Traditionally, we tend to ignore this level of action in favor of a more grand tactical view of ancient combat. … but.. .what if?¬† What if we had a scale where we could actually SEE some of this beehive of activity?¬† Would that make a great game, or a tedious one?¬† I suspect it depends on how much of the action you generalize.¬† In any event, the mechanics of any theoretical ship-to-ship galley warfare game would be a whole lot easier to envision in a larger scale, and as of today, that’s possible.¬† I noticed shared post on the Naval Warfare group on Facebook:

(image copyrights: Ironheart Artisans)

As you can see, this is a laser-cut nautical galley model in 28mm, not unlike my recent Maori war canoe purchase, only an order of magnitude more complex. The designer is Alex Landing, whom I exchanged a few pleasantries with on FB. His company is IRONHEART ARTISANS and as of today (9/30/16) the galley isn’t on their website but soon shall be. I was quoted a retail of 62 dollars each. Now that may seem a trifle steep but I don’t think so.. this is a complex model with a ton of parts. It will require careful assembly. The benefit is that the finished model will certainly A) look fantastic and B) provide enough room to model a ship to ship engagement in 28mm. I could easily envision a game design that models aspects of galley warfare that we rarely add to games, such as rower fatique, deck to deck battles, turning and navigating, oar sheering, and other fun period naval problems. I’m kind of excited about the idea of such a game, and now I might be able to make it happen. The figures wouldn’t be too hard to get– 28mm Greek peltasts and slingers for the Marines, plus Archers. The down side is that it will require a huge amount of playing area for relatively few players– can you imagine a six player game in this scale?

Review: Frostgrave Cultists, by Northstar Miniatures

Plastic soldiers, 28mm scale, sold as sprues that are assembled into a variety of poses
Created for the game FROSTGRAVE (Osprey Publishing) but can be used for a variety of skirmish games in the 28mm scale. Not really a good addition to historical army, the fantasy theme is very pronounced.

I picked up a box of Frostgrave “Cultist” figures at the recent Cold Wars convention. This is a big box of assemble it yourself plastic figures– and I mean big, you can make 20 figures with this box. The intent of the plastic soldiers is to quickly give a Frostgrave player suitably Winter-themed troops to rapidly bulk up warbands. I’ll stress up front they aren’t required to play the game– you can play Frostgrave with anything that seems to fit the scale and setting. I got them because they looked pretty good (I love pointy headed cultist heads), they are in scale, and there’s a lot of them.

The Box Cover. Click to enlarge.

Details: There are 4 sprues with 5 body variations on them (I think). Essentially a mixture of cloth, leather armor, maybe some studded leather. There are many head variants in this box, most of them with pointy hats, helmets or hoods. Only two bare headed head variants per sprue, I used those sparingly. There is also a few weapon variants sculpted to represent skull heads and skeletal arms. Decent variations for possible weapons– a two handed knobbed club, a bow, a crossbow (two handed), several variations of hand weapons, mostly a Kopesh, a small sword, various daggers, a couple of target style shields, a spear etc. There are some hand-only variations and nice extra bits (like quivers, pouches, sheathed knives etc) to add to the figures to increase variation. Sculpting is excellent here– very detailed and weird looking cultists with a variety that really sells it. The best part of this set is just how well the two-handed weapon sculpts fit on every body type provided, every time, with minimal glue. The plastic type is hard gray styrene, you will need a Testor’s style glue to construct them. Every body provided comes with a matching styrene circular base.

And here’s my first batch of cultists. I actually did make 20, one of them broke and was drying after a repair job. Click to enlarge

I only have them primed up at the moment but they will take a coat of paint nicely. I’m very pleased with my first “war band” purchase from North Star. I would give this a 4 out of 5, for a few minor nits about weapons choices (I would have liked to have a longsword carried by a human arm, and larger shields so we could indicate Men at Arms types, but that really IS minor).

If you purchase these, and North Star’s other warbands, they should mix very well with the regular soldier types and the follow-on skeletons. Don’t throw away the sprues whatever you do. I had to fix some broken weapons pretty quickly– be sure to use a storage system with some padding as the swords can be a little fragile. Scale wise they mix perfectly with 28mm pewter from the same company, but would also work with Warhammer Fantasy (although they might be a tad chunky in comparison), Reaper miniatures, even older pre-painted monsters from the D&D Miniature and Pathfinder miniatures lines, although the latter may lack detail in comparison.

I’m glad I bought these cultists, they will be very handy going forward with Frostgrave games.

Small Wars: Frostgrave, what’s it all about

Today’s SMALL WARS post is about FROSTGRAVE, the new-ish fantasy skirmish game set in the frost shrouded city that gives the game its name. Frostgrave is a game of magic, combat, looting and exploration that combines a little old and a little new with a strong fantasy narrative element that fosters both a connected campaign game and good storytelling.


Amidst the frozen ruins of an ancient city, wizards battle in the hopes of discovering the treasures of a fallen empire. In this fantasy skirmish wargame, each player takes on the role of a wizard from one of ten schools of magic, and builds his band of followers. The wizard’s apprentice will usually accompany his master, and more than a dozen other henchman types are available for hire, from lowly thugs to heavily armoured knights and stealthy thieves. Wizards can expand their magical knowledge by unlocking ancient secrets and may learn up to 80 different spells. While individual games of Frostgrave are quick and can easily be played in an hour or two, it is by connecting them into an ongoing campaign that players will find the most enjoyment. The scenarios given in the book are merely the beginning of the limitless adventures that can be found amidst the ruins of the Frozen City. [Osprey Publishing]

[editorial note— I use the phrase “blue line” here to represent most of Osprey Publishing’s recent output of low-cost, introductory miniature game rules on a myriad of subjects, both historical and fantastical, because of their distinctive use of the color blue on the cover.¬† Osprey does not use this term as far as I know]

frostgraveFrostgrave came out from Osprey Publishing earlier this year (2015), with the usual minimal fanfare I associate with an Osprey wargame release– I knew nothing about this game, then suddenly it was on the Osprey publisher table at wargame conventions, on Amazon, and there was some online buzz associated with it, about as much as any other “blue series” Osprey wargame– one more among the horde of releases, in my opinion.¬† Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the blue line series of rules, and I’m happy that Osprey is stepping up to the plate and supporting the natural marriage of great historical art and somewhat okay wargame rules at a very affordable price.¬† I especially like the Kindle releases of said rules, for various reasons.¬† I do think the flood of releases tends to create a “cult of the new” effect, when Osprey Publishing might be better employed releasing fewer rulebooks a year and doing the legwork associated with new entertainment products– building some social media buzz, energizing a fan base, recruiting some GMs to run high-profile demo games, etc.¬† For all I know, this is being done, somewhere, I just haven’t seen much of it in the historical miniatures community.¬† A quick look at the Preliminary Events List (PEL) at a recent Historical theme miniatures convention (Fall-IN! 2015) showed few, if any, games being run from Osprey publishing previous line of blue line rules.¬† That’s including In Her Majesty’s Name, a blue line game release that came out with lots of fanfare, two expansion books and a series of excellent 28mm figures from Northstar Miniatures.¬†¬† In Her Majesty’s Name has only been out since the middle of 2014, and already, well, nada… and it’s a great little game, too!

One game I did start to notice being run at conventions (including Fall-IN!) was Frostgrave, released in the first half of 2015, was not following the “blue line pattern”.¬† First of all, it’s not a thin paperback, not that there is anything wrong with that.¬† The print edition is a large format hardcover, with extensive and vibrant illustration throughout.¬† It’s also 96 pages, which is quite a bit more extensive then the smaller paperbacks.¬† That’s not all fluff and superfluous stuff, either, but lots and lots of supporting material for the game, including campaign options, but we’ll get to that shortly.

To characterize Frostgrave by a certain type, it’s a points-based, fantasy themed skirmish game set in a consistent universe, namely of various parties investigating the ruins of an ancient city of Frostgrave.¬† If that sounds familiar to gamers with longer memories, yes, this has been done before as a game– namely Mordheim, by Games Workshop.¬†¬† Mordheim used a very similar framework for a fantasy skirmish game back in 1999, where small bands of adventurers explored another ancient city for the same motivations– treasure and glory.¬† Mordheim was a big hit back in its day and (in my recollection) a pretty good small skirmish set– I have seen it adapted to many other settings besides fantasy, including a WW2 game I played in.¬† One of the selling points of Mordheim was the continuous campaign concept, which is also a feature of Frostgrave, and I suspect will contribute to Frostgrave having a longer shelf life.

Wizards, Schools, Spells and Warbands

The primary focus of Frostgrave is the individual Wizard character.  These are not the wimpy magic users of old D&D.   These are tough, hard-bitten specialists that live lives of adventure, plundering ruins, stealing loot, and they are not shy about reaching for some iron when the magic runs low.  Wizards study at ten schools of magic.  Schools of magic form complex relationships with each otherРsome being aligned, some being opposed, and some neutral.  This effects spells selection,and in a greater sense, how the game will play out tactically.

Table 1: Schools of Wizardy

Each school has a list of spells associated with it (See table 2) and he or she must choose EIGHT of them to start. Three must come from the Wizard’s OWN school of magic, one must come from each of the three ALIGNED schools of magic, and the last two must be from any of the five NEUTRAL schools of magic.¬† Each description of a school has a small table outlining alliances, neutral schools and opposing schools to make it clear.


Table 2: Spell list per School

All of these spells have their strengths and weaknesses.¬† I think this is one of the detail areas that really lends a certain color to Frostgrave games.¬† Most of these spells are firmly within the “flavor” of their School and caster-type.¬† Illusionists rely on perception spells, such as Monstrous Form and Beauty.¬† Elementalists are kind of like magic style Green Lanterns, summoning big Elemental hammers and bolts and shields.¬† Chronomancy spells localize “something” and allow it to pass through time– causing decay, crumbling, and petrification, but also speeding someone up really well.¬† If you are at all versed in fantasy style roleplaying games, you know about all you need to know about the background to Frostgrave’s magic and wizardry.¬† There’s nothing particularly new about it to any avid fantasy geek.

The Wizard’s existence is summed up as a collection of statistics (called a stat line) describing how he performs.. none of that is particularly new to a roleplaying fan– Move, Fight, Shoot, Armour, Will and Health.¬† The higher the number, the better.¬† I’m from the “people move a certain way, swing a sword a certain way, fire shooty things in a certain way, defend in a certain way and run away when they don’t want to hang out any more” school of design.¬† In other words, all the actions defined by the “stat line” are, and should be, generic.¬† There just isn’t a need for that much detail there.¬† Frostgrave gets high marks from me for making all this stuff as simple as possible.

Warbands are another critical element to this game.¬† Wizards may have spells at the ready but it’s suicide to enter the ruins of Frostgrave alone.¬† A smart wizard recruits some cannon fodder erm, hirelings to accompany them into the ruins.¬† The wizard gets 500 gold crowns (GC) to hire muscle on a points/cost basis.¬† A must-have is an Apprentice Wizard for 200 GC.¬† He (or she) is a little insurance for long campaign games where the boss wizard might perish from wounds.¬† The Apprentice can rise up and take the boss’s place, and hire another apprentice!¬† There is a wide range of potential hirelings from the rulebook that can bulk up the wizard’s followers into a proper warband (see table 3).¬† In addition, the FRPG savvy Frostgrave player can probably add anything that seems to fit into this table, as long as it has a workable stat line associated with it.


Table 3: Warband Hirelings (from the Frostgrave rulebook)

This is another area that adds color and customization to the game.  I could easily see slinking into Frostgrave, my Wizard being followed by his hireling thief, assassin, and infantrymen.

What do we do with all this stuff?

So you have some miniatures painted, and warbands assembled and some decent terrain put together?¬† What next?¬† You actually get into the mechanics of playing the game.¬† Don’t worry, they’re very easy to pick up.

  1. Initiative
  2. Action Phases in this order:
    1. Wizard
    2. Apprentice
    3. Soldier
    4. Creature

That’s pretty much the bulk of the game sequence.¬† Action Phases allow each active agent to perform two actions– moving, shooting, casting a spell, etc.¬† Combat is pretty simple skirmish stuff.¬† If you have played a skirmish miniatures wargame of ANY kind, including historical, all of this is fairly familiar to you.¬† Movement hampered or boosted by terrain, objects as cover, melee when bases come into contact, etc etc.¬† As I’ve alluded to above, I favor a KISS principle for running miniature skirmish games and Frostgrave is all about simplicity.¬† I’m not criticizing, here.¬† I think the familiarity that many experienced players will bring to this game is a big strength.¬† Frostgrave is like comfort food.. meatloaf rather than P√Ęt√©, to be sure, but it’s still a tasty meal. ¬† There are some chrome elements of the game– critical hits and the like, and casting spells is a process that can be heavily modified by the tactical situation, but all of this is rather well defined and easy to understand.

Victory (kind of), or the long game

“Winning” is an open ended concept with Frostgrave.¬† You can score points by gathering treasure, but the real winner is the guy with troops (and most importantly, a living Wizard) who live to loot another day.¬† Frostgrave plays very well as a one-off 2-3 hour long skirmish game in a fantasy setting, but I think the game really shows its true colors when you start playing campaigns, which the rulebook concerns itself with from chapter 3 onward. There’s a certain satisfaction watching your characters grow with experience.¬† I haven’t seen that since.. since.. Mordheim, actually! ¬† I have yet to play anything but a couple of quick skirmish games, myself, but the game left me wanting to continue my character from game to game.¬† If you want a good workable campaign system for fantasy combat, this is the game for you.

In Summary

I think Osprey Publishing has developed a great little game in Frostgrave.¬† There’s nothing extremely innovative about the game itself– if I could sum it up in a sentence, I’d say that Osprey has taken the fast melee sequence out of a D&D dungeon crawl and called it a skirmish game.¬† Before I get grief for that statement, understand that I think that’s a great thing.¬† Many people don’t have the time for long drawn out roleplaying sessions where they build the game narrative through repetitive trips to town to buy things, research things, interact with the local tavern and government.¬† Frostgrave assumes this is taking place off screen and focuses on the bare-knuckle brawl once the action starts.¬† I like this approach a lot– it’s about as RPG as I can get at my age and level of commitment.¬† The game is very well supported by Osprey and supporting material is already being published.¬† I just picked up Thaw of the Lich Lord and I believe other publications are about to drop or are scheduled for early 2016.¬†¬† Northstar Figures, whom Osprey partnered with for the In Her Majesty’s Name game (and expansions), is producing quality 28mm figures to represent the primary wizard types, with apprentices, war band soldiers and some summoned creatures.¬† These are in the popular 28mm scale and can be easily supplemented with standard FRPG miniatures or GW Fantasy figures.

 Northstar Figures Frostgrave miniatures

I have a few of Northstar Figures wizard packs and will be painting them up shortly and blogging about the project, like one does.

In FROSTGRAVE, Osprey Publishing has found a system with legs that plays fast, can be taught quickly to novices, and is big and colorful with a wide-open fantasy milieu.¬† It’s already being played at conventions and I suspect it will grow in popularity as long as Osprey keeps supporting it.¬† Osprey should probably develop an outrider-style program for GMs who want to run Frostgrave at cons, as I could easily see this game gaining some traction in the upcoming year.¬† Well done, Osprey.



Future Tank v. 1.06 draft available for review

Click me for an Epub!

Now I’m still not 100% satisfied by any stretch, but I think I have a good start on Future Tank here. ¬†If you’d like to take a look, a draft copy is available here as an EPUB file (only). ¬†Please get back to me with suggestions.

Things to remember.. the audience for this will be youngsters, probably the oldest will be 15. ¬†It looks like I’ll be handling all the umpire chores, and we might have as many as 17 kids this year. ¬†It is more near future than far future in setting– that’s the kind of stuff I know about. ¬†The literary style may be a little uneven, as I started with Jim Wallman’s Tank Duel and quickly went off on a tangent. ¬†I hope you enjoy tinkering with it.


What does the Foundry look like?

If you’re involved in historical wargaming at all you probably know who or what the Foundry is.. formerly Wargames Foundry, formerly Guernsey Foundry. ¬†If you’re a Yank like me, you’ve probably got no idea what their headquarter is like. ¬†I know I didn’t before a friend of Bryan Ansell, the founder of Foundry, published this video on Youtube: