Tag Archives: fantasy

A Fantasy Portal, Part One

Decided to crank out another piece of fantasy terrain this weekend. I’d been thinking of gateways, portals, and fantastic archways off and on for a while, after someone shared this rather cool garden gate on one of the Facebook terrain groups.

No idea where this is from originally; it’s been shared around so much reverse image search is a cluttered mess. The general idea seems to be called a “moon gate”, though, and there’s lots of other neat images around the web.

I decided on a CD-sized base, because why break good habits, and wanted the portal gate to be solid enough to block line of sight, with a raised platform that can hold several 25mm based figures or one monster on a 40mm base.

Test fitting a Reaper demon dog on a 40mm wide base. I wound up cutting the topmost stone on the left off and replacing it to improve the fit. Click for larger.

The whole thing is made up of dense pink insulation styrofoam, cut with a knife and textured with a ball of crumpled tinfoil. There wasn’t a lot of planning, just repeated test fittings with various figures like the Reaper demon hound above to make sure figures (and fingers) would fit.

One of the stones in progress, cut and shaped but not textured. Chunk of hard styrofoam, sharp knife, tinfoil ball for textures, toothpicks for strength. Not shown, hot glue gun for fast assembly. Click for larger.

Assembling the arch took a few hours, most of it working fairly casually with a beer to one side of my workbench. I used hot glue for speed, and there’s a partial toothpick holding each stone to the one below it so the whole thing is solid and should be gamer-proof. The top of the arch is about 6″ above table height and flat enough to put a 25mm base on, just for fun.

Complete portal, with demon dog. Click for larger.
Side view. The arch has a twist to it as it rises. 28mm Warlord figure (kitbashed) on 25mm base for scale. Click for larger.

Except for checking clearance on the demon dog and a couple of bigger figures as the arch went up I didn’t do a lot more planning or measuring, just cut and shaped stones that looked like they’d fit.

The big keystone at the top of the arch started as a random roughly triangular foam offcut and I shaped and textured it early, then fit the last few stones at the top of the arch to make the keystone sit where I wanted it.

Other side of the structure, same figure as previous image. The whole arch has a twist to it as it rises. Click for larger.

I think for painting I’ll basecoat the archway in white instead of my usual black, then start painting the stones with a heavy drybrush of black so the deep grooves between the stones stay white, possibly with a blue or green wash over them to make it look like magical energy is flowing through this thing, holding it together and powering whatever arcane process the archway contains. The base will probably get the normal black basecoat and then the same drybrushing up for texture.

Reaper Moor Hound bounding through a portal from whatever dread fae realm such horrors belong in. Click for larger.

Painting in the next few days, anyway, as we’re doing a stat holiday game this coming Wednesday (not like there’s going to be any big Canada Day celebrations to go to, right?) and I’d like to get this one the table then. Stay well, stay safe, and stay sane.

A Standing Stone

Nice simple bit of terrain I recently cranked out. I realized that the mushroom ring I built recently was nowhere near gamer-proof; it started shedding mushrooms as soon as it left my workbench so I popped the mushrooms off to rebuild the whole thing in such a way as to let me pin the mushrooms to the base with wire. More on that later, but this left me with a flocked and decorated CD base with nothing on it and it seemed a shame to waste it.

I took a scrap of 2″ thick pink styrofoam insulation, sliced off a piece about two inches wide, and craved bits off until it looks about right for a tall thin standing stone or monolith. Then I took a ball of tinfoil and rolled it all over the piece, which gives a really nice random stone texture. I put a few cracks and lines in with a pencil then rolled the tinfoil over those marks again, then glued the monolith into the centre of the CD with a healthy blob of hot glue.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a single photo of this piece during assembly or basecoating, but it got my usual mix of black paint and white glue as a basecoat, then once that was dry (overnight) it got drybrushed up with dark grey, pale grey, tan, light blue, more lighter grey, and finally white. The pale blue is subtle but makes the piece really pop, and I’ll definitely be using that on more stonework in the future.

Finally, I highlighted all the edges with pure white. It doesn’t show up all that well in the photos I’ve gotten so far, but in person that final step really makes the edges pop and makes the piece look bigger. After that it was just a bit of extra flock around the base of the stone and to cover the spots where mushrooms had originally been glued down.

monolith front view
Monolith with 28mm Frostgrave wizard for scale on a 25mm base. Click for larger.
monolith rear view
Monolith from the other side (back? sure…) Click for larger.

The Rebuilt Mushroom Ring

As for the mushrooms, I took a scrap of 3mm plastic board, carved and sanded it so it fit onto a new CD, hot glued it down solidly, then marked out a circle and drilled a bunch of holes with a tiny drill bit. Those got overlength pieces of paperclip wire stuck into them with superglue. The wire was trimmed short after the glue had cured, and then mushrooms with holes drilled into the bottoms of their stems were superglued on.

New mushroom ring base with wire mounts superglued in place, getting a coat of dark brown paint as a basecoat before mushrooms get glued down onto the wires. Click for larger.

The lovely Bad Squiddo mushrooms got glued down (some got repainted beforehand, because I’ve just gotten some new shades of green paint, so why not?) and then the whole thing got my usual turf mix and will eventually get some flowers and other tufts to finish decorating it.

Both “new” pieces together. Reaper 28mm demon in the middle of the rebuilt mushroom ring, which still needs flower tufts to finish it off. Click for larger.

My Turf Mix

I had someone over on Lead Adventure Forum ask about my turf mix. It’s not an exact mix and has been changing gently over the years, but the base is Woodland Scenics mixed fine turf, with WS dark and medium green fine and coarse turf, some Games Workshop summer grass flock, and at least a couple random brands and colours I’m forgetting about in there.

That mix lives in a big 1 litre margarine tub that’s large enough to comfortably put an entire CD-sized terrain base in. For these pieces with fairly wild heavy turf on them I’ll leave the entire base in the turf mix for at least an hour or so before removing it and shaking excess back into the tub, to give a nice heavy scruffy layer of grass. For more manicured lawn-like grass, I’ll take the piece out of the tub right away and shake it off back into the tub, leaving a much shallower layer of turf.

The Beast on the Moor

Rummaging through one of my boxes of random figures last week (as one does…) I came across one of the random Reaper fantasy figures I’d picked up on clearance over the years, the massive wolf-like Warg. No modern Bones resin-plastic lightweight here, this is a solid pewter beast nearly as big as a 28mm horse!

overhead warg
Reaper Warg in the middle, flanked by a 28mm Frostgrave witch on a 25mm base, and a 28mm Warlord mounted officer on 20mm by 40mm base to the right. Click for larger.

The base was assembled from three pennies and a bunch of Milliput, the warg got primed, and then it went into storage sometime in early 2014 (when the first paragraph above was written…) until just after New Years 2020, when I said to myself, as I was painting other demon dogs and werewolves, “Self, don’t you have a massive great pewter warg somewhere, bought many years ago?”, and after more rummaging in more boxes of miniatures than I’d like to admit to, the warg saw the painting bench for the first time in six years or so, and it was good.

The thing is even bigger than I remembered it being, over head high at the shoulder next to a similarly based 28mm figure and taller and bulkier than a warhorse. The base is roughly 20mm wide and 45mm long, and muzzle and tail stick out over both ends.

big mean warg
Big warg, demon dog, or some sort of hell-wolf! 28mm Frostgrave plastic witch on the left, mounted 17th C officer from Warlord on the right. Click for larger.

Looking forward to seeing this guy loping across the playing field, eating people and stealing souls, or perhaps the other way around! You never know with demonic canines…

Not a waggy tail, probably. Click for larger.

Forestgrave

Locally our COVID-19 situation is such that we’re allowed to expand our pandemic pods slightly starting a few weeks ago, so myself, my brother Corey, and our friend Sean decided to do the pod thing so we could get some gaming in. Turns out it takes a goddamn global pandemic to get me back to regular weekly games, so that’s a thing.

I own the Frostgrave rulebook in actual physical dead tree format, and we were all able to grab ebook/PDF editions while Osprey was doing their giveaway a month or so ago, and all three of us own enough random figures to put together usable Frostgrave bands, so we set off!

I’m currently using my 17th C English Civil War figures kitbashed with Frostgrave plastics to make a couple of wizard figures (last seen in bare plastic here), Corey is running Reaper mouslings, and Sean has GW Age of Sigmar ladies with big, big hammers. They’re so large we’ve decided they’re actually ogres or half-ogres.

We’re also ignoring the “frost” part of the Frostgrave setting, opting instead for overgrown forest stuff because that suits our existing terrain better. Hence “Forestgrave” instead of “Frostgrave”, then!

frostgrave/forestgrave table overview
Sean on the left, Corey centre, the cat on the right. The circular mat is an attempt to make three person games less uneven. Click for larger.

Today was our second game, and Corey came out ahead on experience with his wizard/apprentice pair getting more spells successfully cast than Sean and I managed combined. We ran the Ruined Keep scenario, with the four teleporter discs around the table. There was no teleporter action at all for the first half of the game, and then suddenly everyone was doing the teleport trot. I think all three of our wizards wound up with the extra experience points for taking a teleporter ride, actually.

start of game
Start of the game. My chaps centre foreground, Sean’s ogre ladies top left, Corey’s mousling bravos top right. Click for larger.

We’ve decided that for next week’s game we are all going to roll up new wizard bands; now that we’ve had two games we’re all realizing there’s things we’d do differently for both warband composition and spell selection, and we want the chance to explore new setups especially among the huge list of spells available in Frostgrave.

centre of the table
Two of my musketeers skirt the toadstool fairy ring to shoot at ogre ladies in the background. Click for larger.

We’ve got some new scenery on the way, too, with Corey working on more ruin pieces and hopefully getting his cranky 3d printer functional again. I want to start building some ruined towers for the Silent Tower scenario, but need to clear at least some of the current painting and building stuff out of the way first!

Quick Fantasy Scenery

We had our first game of Frostgrave last night, for which I used a few of my 17th C/ECW figures, because why not? As usual, I managed not to get a single photograph during the game.

I’ve decided to go with a “Greengrave/Forestgrave” theme instead of the default Frost- part of Frostgrave, so that we can keep using our current scenery rather than starting from scratch with winter stuff.

fantasy bits
Four “teleportation discs” and a really gnarly looking fairy ring, today’s work. Click for larger.

One of the FG scenarios calls for a quartet of 2″ teleportation discs set up around the board, so I decided to whip those up today. The discs themselves are pink styrofoam, based on scraps of plastic card. Quick and easy scenery, a few hours from start to the current state shown here. They could well serve all sorts of purposes aside from just teleportation discs, and I’m sure they will.

fantasy bits 2
Four pieces of fantasy scatter, closer up. Click for larger.

The other piece I created today started with the resin mushrooms from Bad Squiddo games I got a few weeks ago. I’ve been painting them up whenever I have leftover paint, got them finished today while waiting for the discs above to dry, and decided to put together a really, really gnarly fairy ring that, even more so than most others, you really do not want to enter. That’s a 28mm Frostgrave witch on a 25mm base behind the fairy ring; most of the mushrooms/toadstools are at least waist high on a human.

muschroom ring
Any fairy that comes out of this particular fairy ring is probably not one of the good fairies. At all. Click for larger.

This might feature as some sort of marker in a game eventually, but for now it’s just some colourful scatter terrain to fill in a blank spot on the table and possibly worry players!

We enjoyed our single game of Frostgrave so far, and I’ll try to get a couple of photos tomorrow while we also try to get fewer rules wrong on our second outing!

Dogs With Guns

OK, technically dog-men or gnolls with guns. Firelocks, if we want to be really technical.

I started with Frostgrave Gnolls from North Star Figures, having picked up a single sprue frame of gnolls (five of them) from Brigade Games, the North American distributor.

The firelocks are leftovers from the Warlord Games Firelock Storming Party; each figure in that set comes with two complete sets of arms + firelock so you wind up with lots of extra guns.

The gnolls are wider across the shoulders than the Warlord humans, and have longer arms, so I cut at the wrists and re-glued.

gnolls with guns
Gnolls with guns. See text for details. Click for larger.

I’ve now assembled all five gnolls. The leftmost gnoll has a Warlord cavalry sword in one hand, and a cavalry carbine in the other; next is a gnoll with a firelock and an infantry sword at his hip; the middle gnoll is build straight from North Star parts, waving his massive ancestral sword overhead (that might get trimmed down a bit, it really is over the top massive…); fourth along is another firelock gnoll, and finally on the far right a gnoll who’s going to get yelled at by his sergeant for carrying his firelock in such a sloppy way while advancing with a large dagger in his other hand.

I might yet buy an entire box of these guys and do up more units, but for now they’re a fun gunpowder fantasy addition to a game. In Pikeman’s Lament terms they’d either be a Forlorn Hope or Clansmen, depending on your opinion of their actual quality, or possibly Commanded Shot given the generally high level of equipment they’re carrying. In the “English Civil War + magic” game universe I’m slowly developing I suspect gnoll troops occupy the same sort of niche as Irish troops seem to have, being treated as semi-disposable shock troops for the most part.

I’ve got a bunch of work with greenstuff on these guys before they’re going to be ready for painting, but given the current lockdown/physical distancing requirements of our global pandemic situation I don’t suppose there’s any hurry to get them onto the table.

Stay home, stay safe, stay healthy, stay sane, and try to get some hobby time in as your stress levels allow!

Tell the Bartender Your Troubles

Way back in December 2018 on Twitter, Bears Head Miniatures showed off pictures of their new Beholder-alike floating eye beastie, Narthoks the Excellent. I made an offhand comment of, “With that expression, somehow I see him as the wholly unexpected barkeep behind a very strange bar somewhere, towel draped over one tentacle, goblets and beer mugs in the other tentacles…”

A few weeks later, Bears Head posted this:

…and naturally I had to join their Kickstarter, even though I had no particular use then or now for a Beholder, in bartender guise or otherwise! (is a bartending Beholder actually a Beerholder? A Barholder?)

My understanding is that the bartender version was a Kickstarter-exclusive, but the regular and sci-fi versions of Narthoks are available over on the Bears Head website, along with all sorts of other interesting figures!

So what did I get for my offhand comment? Narthoks is a big chap, roughly 2 and a half inches across at the tentacles and about 2 inches tall from bottom of tentacles to top of head/topmost eyeball. Taller than that once he’s on his flying base, of course. He’s got a towel and glass in his frontmost tentacles, a cocktail shaker in his right-hand tentacles, and a bottle and glass in the left. All the bar-ware is scaled to Narthoks, which means the glasses and shaker are the size of barrels from a human viewpoint!

barholder, bare resin
Bare resin Narthoks straight out of the box from Bear’s Head back in May 2019. Click for larger.

The figure is resin and nicely cast, with only a bit of cleanup along seams and some casting flash. He’s in two parts, tentacles and base/neck (?) and then head, and while the seam between them has more gaps than I’d normally like to see, the textured nature of his skin makes disguising this seam easy once you break out the greenstuff.

Anyway, after Narthoks the Barholder showed up in May 2019 he sat in his box until just a few weeks ago (end of January 2020), when I felt the need to radically change up my painting after painting a couple of dozen lovely but fussy and tiny 1:1200 WW2 naval boats!

For painting, I was inspired by Dana Howl’s awesome video on using glaze medium, which I’ve linked to at least once already on this blog, and by the splendid and underused (by me, at least, in usual day-to-day painting) Royal Purples triad from Reaper’s paint line.

barholder, wet paint
Blending basecoat in progress. Almost all the paint you can see here is still wet, as the glaze medium slows drying time. Makes for fun and dynamic painting on a big figure like this! Click for larger.

Narthoks’ underside is various shades of bright blue, his topside is mostly Imperial Purple, shaded down with Nightshade Purple and highlighted with Amethyst Purple. The eyeballs were painted Pure White then glazed with a variety of yellows, reds, and oranges.

barholder basecoated
Basecoating done, eyeballs and other detail parts included. Click for larger.

Final highlights on Narthoks’ body were a mix of Amethyst Purple, Pure White, and glaze medium, 1:1:1; this is most visible on the eyelids and on the bits just above the “horns” along each side of the body. The eyeballs have all had a coat of gloss medium, although as I haven’t given the whole miniature the usual coat or three of protective matte varnish, this gloss will have to be redone in due course. Ah well.

narthoks finished, front
Narthoks all finished except for basing. Go on, tell the bartender your troubles! Click for larger.

narthoks finished, left side
Left side of Narthoks. I really like how the shading of the horns and above them has come out. Click for larger.

narthoks finished, right side
Narthoks’ right side. The eyeballs have turned out nicely too. Click for larger.

Narthoks comes with a standard clear plastic flying base; I ran a length of paper clip wire up into him for a painting handle and to help pin the two halves of his body together. I’ll trim that short and slot it into the post of the flying base, but I might replace the clear plastic base with something more bar-like, either flagstones or a wood floor. I’m actually tempted to get a small display dome for Narthoks and put him on one corner of my home bar cabinet as a mascot of sorts, as I currently have absolutely no actual gaming-related use for this awesome figure!

Extremely Bad Dogs

Every culture has dog/wolf demon things in their folklore. The UK is thick with them, it seems like every county has three or four varieties, and they show up everywhere else in Europe too. Usually huge, black, red-eyed, and inclined to eat people by dark of night or just bay (they never merely bark) threateningly on dark and misty nights.

With that in mind, adding some demonic dog-creatures to my “Weird ECW” skirmish seemed like a natural thing to do. Fortunately, Reaper Miniatures has a whole selection of suitable figures, so I sent some money to those nice folks in Texas and got a good selection of things back, of which this pack of extremely bad dogs is just the first part to be seen here!

A pack of extremely bad dogs!
Five extremely bad dogs. See text for details, and click for larger.

The two left-hand figures are Hellhounds, the two slightly smaller beasts in the middle are Goblin Wolves, and the really, really big doggie on the far right there is Moor Hound.

They’re all on 40mm wide bases, just for scale, and the grey figure in the background is 28mm Warlord plastic.

Looking forward to getting these guys painted up and figuring out stats for them in Pulp Alley and the other rules sets we use! Somewhere in my mountain of unpainted figures I have at least one other big dog figure (a Reaper Warg, I think) that I can add to this pack when I find it.

A Small Stone Circle

Not every stone circle is a gigantic trilithon monument like Stonehenge. Some of them might be barely recognizable as stone circles, in fact, until you realize that plants grown in strange patterns around the stones, or you wander past on certain very specific nights of the year…

This little project started out as a way to use up leftover putty; whenever I had excess greenstuff or Milliput I’d squish it into a rough stone shape and let it dry on one corner of my bench. This weekend I wanted a quick project as a distraction, so I grabbed four of these stones, hot-glued them to a scrap CD, and added sand. That got left to dry overnight, then I basecoated it dark brown, let that dry a few hours, and drybrushed the sand to bring up the texture with various shades of pale brown, tan, and very pale grey.

The stones got a black basecoat, the drybrushed with various shades of grey, tan, and finally white.

The flocked areas are my usual mix of ground foam and static grass, and then I added various tufts from Army Painter and the flowers from Rain City Hobbies. The flowers form a ring around the outside of the stones, and I kept the foliage inside the stones to a minimum.

Stone circle, overhead view, with a 28mm Warlord pike & shot officer for scale on a 25mm base. Click for larger.

The circle from something close to model eye level or just above, with the same Warlord officer. Click for larger.

My ongoing English Civil War project might well shade over into some sort of gunpowder fantasy version of the ECW or TYW, in which case the circle will be right at home, and in the meantime it can add a little touch of strangeness to some lonely corner of my tabletops… who meets in the centre of this flower’d circle, with it’s well-trodden paths? Be ye for King, Parliament… or some far older Power?!

And Then the Golem Threw Another Stone…

Always interested in a new gaming system and being pen and paper roleplayers, Brian and I have been playing a little bit of Songs of Blades and Heroes recently. Like many of our gaming experiences, this one has been long delayed in coming but it was well worth the wait.

Our first game was a wonderful and thoroughly-illegally built three-way match involving two groups of Orcs and my Reaper Mouselings, his Dwarves and my Mouselings have had it out. The game is interesting and fun and very fast (we played three games on an hour and a half ferry ride) but has a few weak points.

Our current warbands are both tricked out minimum figures, maximum damage warbands. Neither has more than 7 figures, each worth at least two dozen points apiece. Hordes of zombies these are not. My mouselings have half their 300 point standard warband allotment between my mounted-on-an-owl, magic-using leprechaun leader, Shamus O’Reilly, and his familiar, Mossy, a captive stone golem with shooter(medium) and combat 5. Brian’s dwarves are just as nasty, with the two flanking dogs and a leader with Quality 2 and Combat 5.

A note about the game: In order to get units moving and fighting, you need to score successes by rolling at or above the quality on a d6. Combat is a simple oppposed d6 + Combat Value + modifiers. Lower Quality scores are better, higher Combat scores are better.

The game itself plays well, with some bad break points. Specifically, magic-users are useless as ranged combat figures, but deadly when they transfix. Combined with Mossy’s powerful combat and throwing ability, this gave my team a one-two killing “punch” that was hard to beat. Add in the dwarves (and mouselings) short-move and you can see where it will go wrong quickly. Where the dwarves beat me was when they were able to get their dogs around into my magic user (only combat 2) and made him move did things go badly.

And then there was the rout. Or maybe I should say “The Rout.” Brian apparently cannot roll combat rolls. I cannot roll quality checks to get people moving. These two phenomenmom manifested in one game where I never made it more than one or two short moves away from the table edge (basically less than 4″). When Brian got my leader to book it off the table, this triggered a morale roll every other warband member. Which I failed. And so my entire warband ran off the table. In a single turn.

In sum, we do enjoy playing the game, but I am not certain if its simplicities truly make me happy. We need to try some different warbands, including zombies, skeletons and cheap soldiers and see how that works.

And where are the pictures? I haven’t taken any and Brian didn’t either, so no pictures for all of you. Besides, we were playing with basically no scenery on a cafeteria table for most of our games, so they wouldn’t have been great photos anyway…