Saturday, April 21, 2018

Rampanting the Dragon, Again

I need to start a project; I've got nothing really sitting half-finished (at least not anything I'm likely to pick up again), and I think having something to work on would help my stress levels.  I haven't bought the book yet for Gaslands, though I probably will, but my frequent opponent Tom has begun work on a Dragon Rampant army.  I have 24 points of undead but I'm not really feeling them; I decided to start a fresh army.

Last November I'd assembled a box of Perry War of the Roses plastic infantry, giving me a unit of billmen (Offensive Heavy Foot in Dragon Rampant terms) and two of archers (Light Missiles).  I'd picked up some foot knights with poleaxes (Elite Foot) and with just those, I could field either a Lion Rampant retinue for the War of the Roses, or a very mundane human force for Dragon Rampant.  I started brainstorming and playing around with list ideas over the past two days, and got the unpainted figures out of the closet.

The metal foot knights I'd bought were not good clean casts, unfortunately; they'd had a ton of excess metal and the butt-ends of the poleaxes were all malformed.  I did my best to get them cleaned up and presentable but ultimately I couldn't get them to a place where I felt happy with them.  They've been binned and replacements - six dismounted men-at-arms from Front Rank's War of the Roses line - ordered.

The next step was fantasy elements.  I started thinking about legendary or mythological creatures
from the British Isles, and hit on the idea of a Giant; I removed one of the units of archers from the list and added in a giant (treating it as a single-model unit of Bellicose Foot, with either the Terrifically Shiny Armor or Fear special rules applied).  This would be not only a hard-hitting unit that emphasizes the fantastic nature of the game, but also provide a visual centerpiece to the army, towering over the remaining troops.  I'm picturing the giant as having been rounded up and press-ganged into service; I think I still have enough pieces left over to make a couple more billmen to model prodding the giant forward on a big diorama base.  I selected Reaper's "Krug, Hill Giant" to serve as my brute, favoring the $8 Bones figure over the $40 metal version.  I'll probably have to put a steel pin in one of his legs to keep him from leaning and possibly do the same with his club to keep it straight.

I'm tempted to paint the giant as having Pictish-style tattoos; we'll see how ambitious I get when he's actually in my hands.

So my list at this point looks like this:

  • Foot Knights (Elite Foot, Leader) - 6 pts
  • Billmen (Offensive Heavy Foot) - 6 pts.
  • Archers (Light Missiles) - 4 pts.
  • Giant (Bellicose Foot, Fear, Single Model Unit) - 6 pts.

This puts me at 22 points, 2 points short of a standard game.  I could throw "Enchanted Weapons" on the Foot Knights, or upgrade the Archers with "Sharpshooter," which would make them activate (to Shoot) on a roll of 4+ on 2d6, or I could boost the Giant's armor to make him harder to kill.  Or, I could pick up some Halflings/Hobbits with bows and add a unit of Scouts.

Ultimately, I think I'm going to add a minor spellcaster, or "Wizardling" in game terms.  While a full "Spellcaster" costs 4 points as an upgrade and can cast any spell on the list in the book, the Wizardling costs 2 points and can have three spells, selected before the game starts.  Rather than the pointy-hatted wizard with a floor-length beard, I decided I wanted a more subdued-looking, utilitarian figure.  After doing some digging, I settled on an older figure from Reaper's Dark Heavens line of metal miniatures, #2306 "Lor Gorna of Kjord." I like the shorter beard, the simpler staff and the open book.  I definitely get a "hedge wizard convinced to help the army before returning to his hermitage" vibe off this figure.

I'm on the fence as to whether I want to add him to the Elite Foot unit as an adviser to the warband's general, or put him with the billmen to bolster them with spells like "Sharper Swords!" or "Stronger Shields!" If we end up doing larger game with higher point values, I'll probably separate him off as a single model unit of Light Foot, but for now he's mixed in with the troops.

So this is what I'm going to be working on for a bit.  The weather is finally nice enough to where I can spray-prime, so a dozen archers and the billmen are going in the priming box today.  Hopefully I can start painting tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A Pyrrhic Victory/Justice or Vengeance? (Frostgrave Mini-Fiction)

The bloodied remnants of the mercenary company dragged themselves slowly through the drifting snow still eddying through the ruined city of Felstad.  Their leader, the diabolist who called himself "Belphegor," was feeling his age as he trudged forward, refusing to glance back at his followers; refusing to see the questions and fears in their eyes.  They'd beaten back that Enchanter's warband and seized a far amount of treasure on this first foray into the depths of the Frozen City, it was true; but they'd also left three of their own dead in the snow, their blood steaming as it pooled across the ancient cobblestones.  The brutish thug Big John had been peppered with arrows and fallen off a ledge, the sickening crack of his spine breaking echoing through the ruins.  The burglar Deladrin had likewise been shot down, an arrow catching her as she darted from one shadow to another.  And most distressing, the half-goat, half-man that bleated its name as "Black Phillip"...hacked into bleeding chunks by his own comrade, the knight Vaeloth - ensorcelled by a "Mind Control" spell, he'd been forced to attack his own fellows - including Belphegor.  The half-fiend's horned head hung in shame, his sword cast away somewhere on the battlefield; he dragged Black Phillip's heavy, two-handed axe behind him, leaning against his sister - the thief Tiviel - for both physical and moral support.  

As you can probably tell, my last game with Tom was a bit of a Pyrrhic victory! I think at the end of the game all I had left on the table was my Wizard, Apprentice and a Crossbowman, and during the recovery phase at the end of the game, three figures bit the dust for good, including, to my infinite disappointment, the Infantryman "Black Phillip." The goat-headed beastman mixed nicely with the humans and half-fiends and emphasized the "traditional diablerie" theme I have going with my Summoners.

But, the nice thing about a game like Frostgrave or Mordheim is that it encourages the development of a story through the medium of the dice.  And this set me up very nicely; three rounds stuck under a mind-control spell and forced to kill his comrades means the knight Vaeloth now has a vendetta against Tom's Wizard, which will change the way I run him on the table next time we meet.  And since, when it came time to roll up treasure, I discovered I'd found a "Banner of Courage" (which gives a bonus against spells like Mind Control) which I immediately equipped Vaeloth with - and that meant converting a figure to represent him carrying the Banner into battle!

Fortunately, Vaeloth was a Reaper Bones figure; #77120 "Vaeloth, Hellborn Paladin" to be exact, pictured in his original state to the left.  It was a simple matter to buy a second copy of the figure and slice away his sword (Bones figures lend themselves very well to conversion).  A 3" pin pushed through his hand provided the skeleton of a banner pole, and a little bit of Green Stuff thickened it out.  A spare banner from a Games Workshop Chaos Warriors box (along with a horned skull from the same) completed the Banner of Courage.  But this left Vaeloth without a weapon! So I cut away his right arm just above the elbow (at the edge of his scalemail sleeve) and cut apart a Chaos Warrior's right arm so that I had a gloved hand holding an axe.  A little bit of Green Stuff became the sleeved arm between the scale armor and the hand, and Vaeloth was ready to be painted.

I copied the color scheme from my first Vaeloth pretty closely, though I brightened his armor a little (drybrushing a bit more Tarnished Steel over the Blackened Steel base coat) and highlighted his red tunic a little bit brighter.  I kept the banner as simple as possible; an ordinary inverted pentagram in white (a color I haven't used in this warband) looks very striking against the dark red of the banner.  I still need to decide if I want to glue a grass tuft or two to his base, and then add snow flocking.

Belphegor weighed the pouch of golden crowns in his hand, mentally calculating how much of the treasure their last foray had brought in remained.  He'd hired a second crossbowman to help counter the archers he expected to encounter on his next trip into the ruins, and recognizing the value of a combination of skill at arms and heavy armor, he'd hired another knight, the albino Lady Cassiata; she had brought with her a pair of enormous warhounds.  He hoped the slavering brutes would make quick work of rival spellcasters. 

"When do we return to the ruins?" grated a barely-human voice behind him.  Vaeloth.  The armor-clad half-devil hefted the axe to his shoulder - he'd cut the haft of Black Phillip's battleaxe down so that he could wield it one-handed.  Its edge gleamed, freshly sharpened. 

Belphegor smiled thinly beneath his cowl.  "Soon, my impatient friend.  Your axe will taste blood ere long."

"When?" Vaeloth insisted.  "That wizard is still out there.  I will not allow him to control me again - I swear by the Pit! Black Phillip's axe will drink deeply his lifeblood - let me find him and exact justice!"

Belphegor could not help but chuckle.  "Justice, my friend? Or revenge?"

Vaeloth howled with rage, unable to refute the diabolist's suggestion.  Behind them, seated on a crate as she mended the straps on her shield, Lady Cassiata could not suppress a snicker.  The red-eyed woman made no attempts to hide her contempt for the half-devil's explosive temper and demonstrably weak will.  Vaeloth turned and snarled at her, and almost immediately her slim, single-edged sword was drawn and at his throat.  

"Settle down, both of you!" Belphegor demanded, allowing arcane energies to crackle between his fingers.  "Stop this at once or I'll consign both of you to the Pit.  Save your energy for Felstad.  We re-enter the city soon enough."