Wednesday, December 25, 2013
A little bit of nerdy tomfoolery for you this holiday season. Only very questionably in the spirit of a holiday dedicated to peace and goodwill, but this IS primarily a wargaming blog, isn't it? And anyhow, it's damn funny. Merry Christmas and see you in the new year!
Monday, December 2, 2013
an interesting bit about old 80's plastic toys that bear a suspicious resemblance to a lot of the classic AD&D minis we know and love and that sort of put a bug in my head. Today I spent a good amount of time researching some D&D-esque toys I loved in my boyhood, and here I share what I've re-discovered.
Before we go any further, let me say that none of these photos are mine, most of them are taken from two very cool web pages: Little Weirdos, and Virtual Toy Chest. They are worth checking out, if you like this kind of thing.
In the very late 70's and very early 80's an obscure toy company called Dimensions for Children made some some very lovely toy playsets. They had an American frontier set called Fort Courage, and a Battle of Anzio set, but what they really put their hearts and money into was developing a series of kids' playsets with a sword and sorcery theme, done in the good old Marx Toys style. They succeeded admirably, if you ask me. Clearly DFC was inspired by the burgeoning Dungeons and Dragons movement, but their toys realized a unique and delightful vision of the Sword and Sorcery genre, and I still remember with electric clarity opening my Dragonriders of the Styx set on Christmas morning.
There were 5 DFC Fantasy playsets that I know of. If anyone knows of one I've missed, please let me know. I'd still like to collect the whole bunch. Someday.
#1: The Fires of Shandarr: My buddy Pete got this one from Kmart when we were in 4th grade. This was the first I'd heard of DFC, and damn was I jealous of this new country which Pete had discovered. I was still excited about the pack of Andrew Chernak Grenadier Goblins I'd gotten for my birthday, but here Pete had a damn D&D wargame in a box! It's amazing the memories that stick with you. I vividly recall a weekend at Pete's house spent watching his video dub of Excalibur on an interminable loop and wargaming the Shandarr campaign endlessly around his room; bloody last stands around the forest of the legs of Pete's desk, stirring final assaults on the bureau plateau! And the whole concept is so great for a kids' game! The fires of Shandarr: What a title! And look at all the stuff you got:
Knights, men at arms, Wizards good and vile!
Devils, Demons, a dragon and..."lava monsters" that bear an uncanny resemblance to the Monster Manual illustration for the Shambling Mound...
Pete, in his fighting reconnaissance of Kmart, had claimed that he'd gotten the last of the Fires of Shandarr sets, but that there was still a set there called "Forest of Doom" that featured evil trees instead of lava monsters. Naturally this led to my eagerly and unceasingly inquiring of my mother when it would be necessary for us to go to Kmart again. Alas, it was a long time before it was deemed necessary, and when I did at last venture into the Kmart toy aisle, there were no DFC playsets of any sort in evidence! Verdamnt!! Foiled!! Months passed, and I began to grow cynical. I began to think that Pete had made the whole damned thing up, and that there had never been a thing so wonderful and mysterious as a "Forest of Doom" playset. Many years would pass before the internet provided the evidence necessary to at last vindicate poor Pete.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
So, some feral horses in the area had been playing Vikings, knocking down our fences, helping themselves to our pasture, picking fights with our own horses and generally making a nuisance of themselves. At some point we made the decision to run them back out the hole they had made and fix the fence behind them. Somewhere between the planning and execution stages, my horse was startled and panicked by something absurdly insignificant and began to try to rid himself of me. I lost my reins but still managed to keep my seat. Noticing that my ungallant steed was carrying me toward a large pile of ancient, abandoned and rather sharp and menacing-looking machinery, however, I took the decision to bail out of my saddle before disaster struck.
Disaster struck anyway. I landed badly, threw my left shoulder out, and completely shattered my right wrist. Yeah, the one I paint with. Awesome.
Had a large chunk of metal installed in my forearm today, and they gave me some rather speedy and intense pain medication so I'm on the mend, but got no idea when I'll be able to work or paint again, and the Army National Guard Officer Candidate School, which I was hoping to attend next Summer, is almost certainly never going to happen now. Sigh. Oh, well. I like being an NCO anyway.
In spite of the injury, I imagine I'll still be posting some, since I've got nothing but idle time in which to sit around and concoct army lists, dream up games I'd like to play someday, and work on comic book stories, though having to type with my left hand is a pain. Hopefully I'll make better use of this time than just sitting around spending money in the Miniatures and Wargames section of ebay...
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
EMPIRE - A Song For All Exiles
Robert E. Howard
Trumpets triumph in red disaster,
White skulls litter the broken sod,
And we who ride for the one Black Master
Howl at the iron gates of God.
Black shapes ride to a reddened revel,
Crimson queens with their hearts of ice-
We have plunged our hands in the wind of the Devil,
Leave the saints to their Paradise.
Beacons break and the singers falter,
Lights go out in the rushing gloom-
Slay the priest on the blackened altar,
Rip the babe from the woman's womb!
The black blade drinks and the black heart gladdens;
Summon our kindred up from Hell!
Let me mingle the wine that maddens
With the burning kisses of Jezebel.
Who would trade for a bloodless Heaven,
One fierce harlot's hot caress?
Virtue is one but the Sins be seven-
And sin is the only godliness.
Black be the night that locks around them,
They who chant of the Good and Light,
Black be the pinions that shall confound them,
Breaking their brains with a deadly fright.
Praised be the Prince that reigns forever
Throned in the shadows dark and grim,
Where cypress moans by the midnight river-
Lift your goblets and drink to him!
Virgins wail and a babe is whining
Nailed like a fly on a gory lance;
White on the skulls the stars are shining,
Over them sweeps our demon's dance.
Heritage of the world is ours,
Gods of all evil grant us rule-
See where they hang from flaming towers,
Woman and prelate, priest and fool.
Trumpets bray and the stars are riven!
Shatter the altar, blot the light!
Of all the world from the hells to heaven
We are the kings of the world tonight!
The high helm turned toward me, and from deep within its darkened depths a harsh voice croaked out:
"Set foes before me, and then you will know me and my story. My blade shall be my pen, blood my ink, flesh my parchment. And in that tale, you'll learn all you will ever need to know of Aulech Henschblut."
I don't mind telling you I was chilled a bit by that one, and a little uneasy about going to sleep at night with Aulech loose in the house, small though he might seem. Over the last evening or so of painting, however, I shared some of my favorite Robert E. Howard poems with him, the last being Empire, A Song For Exiles, and after that, he seemed to become a tiny bit friendly, maybe even a little jovial. But he's never told me his story. Luckily, I have Howard's poem, and I imagine that it depicts Aulech's life about as well as any tale I could tell you.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
ORCTOBER OFFENSIVE!!! Or: Slahzgore Ironbelly's Orc Chariot! Or: Mouse's Oldhammer Orc Army so far...
In honor of Ernie's ORCTOBER project, I end this month as I began it, with an Orcy post! I originally intended to have my first regiment of undead, a nice unit of skeleton reapers, ready for Halloween, but I was only able to finish about half of them. Oh, well. Next year, maybe. Anyway, I got Slahzgore Ironbelly painted, and here he is, in his Orcy chariot, along with the rest of what I've got for my painted Orc and Gobbo collection so far....
So far I've got Slahzgor, here, Bungole Bushwhacka, another independent character, 36 Gobbos, 24 Orc arrer boys and the Leadbelcher. Not a bad start, but I've got a long way to go to hit my goal of 6,000 points.
To get the army 'legal' I need the compulsory 20 Orc warriors and 20 stickas, all of whom are currently sitting rather impatiently on a bookshelf, giving me dirty looks and waiting for me to get around to them. Another unit I want to get to soon is a nifty company of 20 Orc boys with extra hand weapons. (Still need to acquire 4 troopers to finish the unit). Anyway, hopefully I'll get another regiment or two done before the end of the year, and get them into action against the Baron and the Dwarves of Thunder Mount in the New Year.
"ERE WE GO!!!!!!!!!!!"
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
So. This past weekend I climbed into my time machine and traveled to my childhood buddy John's house for a weekend of old-school gaming. I brought Fourth Reich and Full Metal Planete, a lovely old game, and my Lost Worlds books and minis, which I was eager to try out. John had purchased Black Morn Manor just for the occasion and we were looking forward to giving that a spin as well, but the only game we ended up playing was Lost Worlds, 'cause we had just that much fun with it. Even John's wife Maggie was charmed by the concept of the characterful little books with their matching minis and tried a couple of games.
LW is a very fast and very simple game, but we were impressed by the amount of work which must have gone into the system to make it function as smoothly and in as much detail as it does. The game books themselves are strictly bare-bones, and provide you with NO background, fluff, or scenarios. I can see that after a short time, simply matching one character against another would get pretty monotonous, but I can also see a good deal of potential in it for creating your own fun little scenarios and adventures, especially when you just don't have the time or space for something like an Oldhammer game.
I had books and minis for 6 characters: The Skeleton, Wraith, Dwarf, Barbarian, Forest Troll and Gargoyle. First in the arena were the Dwarf and Skeleton, and in the ensuing series of combats, the Dwarf soon emerged as a top contender. He quickly reduced the skeleton to kindling in three back-to-back fights, then took down the wraith and the barbarian in that order, and without much more trouble.
Next we tried pitting the Wraith and Gargoyle against each other. I had assumed that the Wraith would be pretty tough...y'know...Nazgul and that...but he actually folded up very quickly under the Gargoyle's attacks. Weenie.
We then decided to give the Gargoyle a worthy adversary and put him up against the Dwarf, our champion up to that point. In the first fight, the Gargoyle broke the Dwarf's axe coming out of the gate, leaving the stout little chap with a huge negative damage modifier and no way to inflict a significant wound on his enemy. After a few rounds of stubborn but pointless resistance, the Dwarf wisely decided to head for the hills at a brisk jog, leaving the Gargoyle in possession of the field.
After stopping for an hour or so in a nearby grove to replace his broken axe-handle, our Dwarf returned to try again. A tough and lengthy contest ensued in which the Gargoyle soon proved his worth. I had assumed that he would be designed as a fairly weak hand-to-hand opponent, with his main asset being his air-mobility. In fact, the gargoyle was tough, with a lot of hit points, good damage modifiers and a collection of nasty special flying attacks. After a hard fight, the Dwarf, hitherto undefeated, finally succumbed.
After breakfast on Sunday morning, we managed to squeeze in a few more games before I had to go. We decided to try Skeleton vs. Wraith, and these two managed to kill each other with a single blow each in the very first round of close combat, confirming our suspicion that they were both strictly featherweights.
For the very last game, we brought out the Forest Troll, and pitted him against a team of two: The Dwarf and the Barbarian. It was the best game yet. The Troll has a LOT of advantages, including many, many hit points, and I assumed he would stomp my two companions pretty quickly and thoroughly, but the devious adventurers quickly learned that if the Barbarian struck high while the Dwarf struck low on each round, the Troll was only able to parry one of the two attacks, leaving himself open to the other. Although it didn't wok perfectly every time, and the Troll did manage to deliver one shrewd buffet to the Barbarian's head, the fight was clearly moving in the direction of the Troll's defeat. By getting in an arm wound from the barbarian on one round, and a leg wound from the Dwarf the next, it seemed clear that the bearded duo would eventually wear the Troll down through the use of their cunning Wolf-Pack tactics.
Then came the turning point. The Barbarian crowned the superb fight he had been putting up so far by delivering a tremendous downward cut onto the Troll's bony head, shearing away 11 of the monster's remaining hit-points and dazing him. It was a coup to make his tribesmen back home stand up and cheer, but it had the unfortunate additional effect of driving the Troll into a berserk rage. The triggering of the Troll's RAGE feature had the potential to be a real game-changer. The Troll flung his club at the barbarian, a desperate gambit which at least temporarily deprived the troll of his primary death delivery system, but the Troll was down to his last hit point and the risk was well run. The flying tree-trunk struck the barbarian in the head, dropping him below zero hit points, knocking him out cold and putting him out of the fight. Left to carry on alone, the Dwarf valiantly refused to leave his fallen comrade. Knowing it was all or nothing now, he hurled himself at the Troll in a series of all-out attacks. The Troll kept jumping back, using his regenerate ability to recoup two of his lost body points each turn. When he'd brought himself back to five hit points, he felt sufficiently prepared to rejoin the fight. At precisely the same moment, the two combatants stepped forward and met each other toe-to-toe. Simultaneously each struck out and brought a magnificent blow down about the head and shoulders of the other. The stroke of the Dwarf's bright steel axe clove the Troll's bony pate in two, taking him below -5 hit points and killing him outright. At the same moment, the Troll's great tree-trunk club rang off the Dwarf's helm, bringing him below zero, but not below -5 body points, so that he was stretched senseless on the ground. The Troll was dead, but the Dwarf and Barbarian would eventually come to, collect their loot and drag themselves painfully off to the local bar to soothe their wounds with beer and and the attentions of buxom tavern girls.
Ah. A game well played and enjoyed.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
They crossed many rivers and passed through many lands, but the people here were tough and wary of strangers, and the carnival found little welcome. Women were chaste and not easily baited. Men never walked alone, but always in little clusters. Mothers watched their children like hawks. There were no easy pickings amoung these frontier people. Shivv had brought them to the very edge of the known world, in a strange, narrow country on the banks of a wide, dark river, when he decided to turn north again, and back to more familiar climes. But then they began to get sick.
They had always been a somewhat sickly bunch, but this weird new malady laid hold of their bodies with a ruthless, withering gripe. Beast and man sickened, and Diggle lay amoung his beloved charges, shivering and weeping to hear them moaning in their pain. Ecclavia said it was because they had given no sacrifices to the Master, that he was angry with them for ignoring him and that he had unleashed his terrible judgement like a fire within their flesh. But there was little they could do. When the people had seen the carnival folk begin to sicken they had driven them from them. The little clutch of brightly painted wagons lay far out in a meadow, watched from a distance by mailed horsemen who carried tall spears.
On the last night Ecclavia was caught trying to steal a babe from the village to give to the Master. It had been a desperate gamble, and it had failed. The women of the town belabored Ecclavia with stones and Axe handles, and put flame to her flesh while she yet breathed. Shivv and a few others who were still hale enough to move tried to make off north, following the river, but the horsemen espied them, pursued them, speared them and cast their bodies into the dark waters. Then they went amoung the wagons, where they killed and burned everything they could find.
He came at last to a pool, a black welter amoung the sharp stones, and here the great beasts found him. They were huge and tall and strong, like his children. Much mightier than he. He waited for them to rend and devour him, but they sat down around him in a crescent and studied him, as if waiting for him to tell them what to do. At last he rose and went to the pool to drink, and there he saw his reflection, and now he knew why the great beasts seemed to wait upon his word. He had changed. The fever had melted part of him like candlewax, but the other half of him had grown massive and strong. His face had formed into a parody of his former self, crowned with a pair of mighty horns, split with a wild grin that reminded him of old Otho, the Carnival clown. His suppurating flesh was enclosed in splendid steel armor and in his one good hand he carried a mighty staff shod in iron that throbbed with the sacred Word of the Master. He turned and looked at the great misshapen things hunkered by the pool, watching him in fascination, and he knew the Master had sent them to him. He knew the Master loved him.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
So my latest retro-gaming obsession, (like I need another one, right?) are these little Lost Worlds combat books that were published some thirty years ago by NOVA games, and which always looked interesting to me. The fact that each one of the Lost Worlds character booklets was modeled after a specific Ral Partha miniature from RP's mid-eighties glory days whet my appetite even further. Best of all, they're dirt cheap. I got all of mine for $4 or $5 each, and about 90% of the minis are still available from Iron Wind Metals. The concept looks very simple and entertaining. Good for whiling away an evening when friends can't stay long enough for a full blown game of Warhammerocalypse.
Curiously, the miniatures don't matter one bit to the game unless you get one of the deluxe boxed adventure sets, both of which I got recently outrageously cheap on that glorious triumph of the free market system we know as ebay. Woo hoo! Got to love those auctions that end at odd hours. The adventure sets each contain a 3-d tactical map of a dungeon setting in which your characters can maneuver on each other as they try to get hold of various ancient and powerful magical artifacts. Eagerly anticipating their arrival in the mail.
Going to spend most of next weekend at my childhood friend and fellow geek John's house and am looking forward to trying a few games with these three fellows, as well as the Barbarian, Wraith and Dwarf. (Which I obtained a long time ago but which I've yet to paint up.)
A quick glance through the books hints that each character has a set of strengths and weaknesses unique to himself, and the book points out that not all characters are created equal. Some are much stronger than others, and will probably have to be teamed up on by a gang of weaker characters. The Forest Troll, here, for example, has almost three times the hit points of your average human character and can take on 2 opponents at once, something few creatures can apparently do. The skeleton is weak, but can regenerate damage by picking up the bones you knock off of him and fitting them back into his frame. The gargoyle is also considerably tougher than the average human character, and, obviously, has the advantage of a pair o' wings.
So...warming up the time machine, and we'll see how my weekend expedition to the Lost World of goofy 80's nerd-gaming goes. With any luck, I shan't return.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Steve Jackson's Ogre was one of my first loves in wargaming. My friend John and I played my plastic little boxed versions of Ogre and GEV until the cut-out counters and rule books practically fell apart. Still love the game, but as I get to be older and increasingly tired-eyed and cantankerous, I found I've lost patience with tiny bits of card-board printed in eye-splittingly miniscule type jumping around on folded paper maps.
Miniatures, then. The Ogre Miniatures game has been out for about a hundred years, but its only been in the last year or so that I've begun to seriously consider investing in it. Recently I broke down and bought my first box of Ogre miniatures, and have started daydreaming scenarios during idle hours. The boxed sets available online are really reasonably priced, I think, given what some metal minis go for, and quite nice. I was pleased to find that I could get enough infantry and vehicles together to play the Ogre basic scenario for only about a hundred U.S. The only thing that bugs me is that the infantry minis are not in scale with the vehicles, but I can see why they did it that way.
The little campaign backdrop I'm dreaming up is set on the English Channel coast. These guns belong to the 19th Normandie Division, one of the many territorial formations which were called upon again and again to repel raids by the Combine from across the English Channel. If Steve Jackson Games ever released sets of decals for Ogre minis, I haven't been able to find them yet. Too bad, 'cause I have zero talent for painting insignia free hand. So, instead of the Pan European hoplite helmet device, I've marked these batteries with their divisional badge, in this case, the Fleur de Lis common to many territorial divisions of the former French republic.