Sunday, January 26, 2014

Howling Axes! Norse Gael axemen

The Norse were first recorded in Ireland in 795 when they sacked Lambay Island. Raids continued until 832, after which they began to build fortified settlements throughout the country.  The Norse–Gaels originated in settlements when the Norse intermarried with the native Gaels in Ireland and Scotland.  They founded the Kingdoms of Man, Argyll, Dublin, and Galloway. To this day, the Hebrides are known in Scottish Gaelic as Innse Gall, the islands of "foreigners." The Norse–Gaels dominated the region until the Norman invasion.

Gripping Beast did a splendid job of capturing the spirit of mad Viking-Irish warriors.  The warband contains a shocking number of barefoot fellows.  What they lack in fashionable footwear is made up for by the Dane axe. These barefoot axeman have a wicked look about them.  Slopping around without shoes might turn anyone into an axe-wielding maniac.  

First up are 8 warriors, followed by 4 hearthguard. Take a look at the warrior in red below. His hair is plaited and each plait is secured by a small golden ball. I knew I'd seen this look before and sure enough, Ian Heath's "Armies of the Dark Ages" has an illustration that appears to be the inspiration for this figure.   

This winter has been a brutal one, even for Minnesota.  We're going to get popped by another round of the Polar Vortex with temperatures dropping below -25 tomorrow.  Gray skies and icy cold temps are fueling a bad case of cabin fever.  It's a good thing I don't own an axe or I just might chop through a door, pop my head through and yell out "Heeeere's Mooonty!" Thank goodness for the painting table as it does keep me sane.   Stay warm and sane, where-ever you are!
Where's my SAGA warband?  WHERE??

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

First try of Dead Man's Hand

I met up with my friends Hugh and Mark at Fantasy Flight Games Center to try Dead Man's Hand. Hugh kindly brought everything-figures, rules, buildings and terrain.  He had his Old West town up in 30 minutes.

That was time well spent as this game looks LOVELY on the table. 4Ground's prepainted buildings are gorgeous.  Each comes apart floor by floor, which allows you to fight from the ground floor to the rooftop. We had 6-7 people stop by to ask what we were playing.  That was a record amount of interest for us!

I ran the Lawmen and Mark ran the Outlaws. The game uses a small deck of playing cards for each gang. The cards determine initiative and activation order. Some cards are held in hand to be played for special abilities or interrupts. I loved that the cards break up the IGO-UGO.  They bring drama and uncertainty as you find yourself hoping for a turn of a friendly card.  Tempted as you are to play the cards quickly, you only get one new card at the end of each turn.

Sharp eyed readers will recognize these fellows from my painting table last fall. That's the bonus of "painting local."
The game is played with 3 linked scenes.  The first 2 are small affairs that build to a final showdown. In the first, 3 drunk Outlaws were giving my Lawman a hard time.  My gun ran out of ammo after my first shot so I ducked into a building for cover.  The Outlaws shot me dead anyway. Not a great start for the good guys.
In the second scene, my Lawmen got revenge by fighting through an ambush and sending the Outlaws packing.

The final showdown felt like a classic Western.  The Outlaws holed up in the Undertakers Office. As they ran in, I played a card that saw the undertaker pull a gun to defend his business.  It didn't turn out well for him as he became the first customer of what would be a busy day.

While the Outlaws were running to the rooftop, I rushed the first floor and dropped the Outlaw tasked to cover the front door.  In the picture below, the Lawman with the "Out of Ammo" marker has a sawed off shotgun.  His specialty is to run up point blank and shoot both barrels.  It's a high risk, high reward strategy. In close quarters, there's nothing better!
Dead Man's Hand gives you many decision points. When the enemy rushes you or through your line of fire, you can activate for a single quick shot if you haven't activated already.  You can also activate for a duck and dive as well, which is often the most sensible move you can make. The game plays out like a classic Western, with players crashing through doors, windows, and jumping off rooftops.  My Sheriff found himself outnumbered and in a bad spot. I played a "Bullets Can't Stop Him" card and kept him alive for that turn.

The end was played out behind the Undertaker's Office.  The Outlaw boss jumped down from the roof and drew my gang into the alley.  The Outlaws up on the roof had a good line of fire on my Lawmen and all the lead was making it hot, hot, hot.  Try as I might, I could not drop the Outlaw boss and losses on both sides mounted until each gang had to take a "Big Morale Test."  Hugh told us both "Don't roll a 1!" to which I replied, "Isn't that the name of a famous blog?"  And just like that, Mark and I tossed 1s.  Both sides broke and ran, resulting in a tie.  Like a good cliffhanger, we'll have to wait until the next episode to see who wins.
I'm completely smitten by Dead Man's Hand.  The rules were easy to grasp and the game moves very quickly. It builds a tense and colorful narrative. As someone who's gamed, lived in and loved the Old West, these rules hit all the right notes for me.  Very well done, Great Escape Games.  I'm off to get my copy and I can't wait to get another game in! Next time, I hope Mark will be singing, "I fought the Law but the Law won."  
Hugh and the Outlaw Mark in green
Fantasy Flight Games Center-aka Gaming Nirvana!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Getting the band together - Norse Gael

For Christmas, Mrs. Gamer gave me a Gripping Beast Norse-Gael warband. For readers not interested in the Dark Ages, you're probably muttering "Dear lord, make him stop!"  Short of divine intervention,  I can't stop my Dark Ages painting quite yet but I'll change things up by sharing how I put this warband together.

These 2 pics should be last in today's post but with blogging, I'm compelled to lead with my best. I start a warband by painting levy figures first and working my way up the socioeconomic ladder. These 12 javelinmen are Norse-Gael levy. As such, they're poor, plain and expendable.   I'll go into who the Norse-Gael were later in this series. For now, you might be asking how did I get here? Let's rewind to the start. 

The Way of the Gun:  I'm positively stuck on basing my 28mm figures with a glue gun.  It's fast, easy and reversible should you decide to rebase. The blob of glue also gives a nice transition that reduces the "pitcher's mound" effect.  

Chop It Down:  The figures below are the javelinmen.  To distinguish them from the spearmen, I took the Gripping Beast spears and clipped them at both ends. I cut the spears down to less than the height of the figures to better represent a javelin. Then I cut the enormous spearpoints down by 50% as well. 
Drill, Baby, Drill: Gripping Beast cast their axe-wielding figures without holes in their hands. Bad Beasty! Don't they know that drilling 24 hands out with a pin drill is brutally slow and painstaking work? With my Dremel and attachment, I got through this quickly and without swears!
What Can Brown do for You?  I prime my Dark Age figures white, topped with a burnt umber ink wash. The ink is cut with water and a bit of glue to make it colorfast during the paint and wash stage.  You can use matte medium for this as well and Gillies of the Wilderness of Mirrors blog has a recipe for an ink bath. Gillies turned me onto the wonders of ink and I've been hooked  since. I apply the ink wash everywhere but the shield front.  Those need to stay white for the LMBS shield transfers. One benefit of an inked figure is it helps you see the detail.  If you paint neatly and keep the ink in the borders, you get an effect similar to blacklining.  

So, that's how I put these mad Viking-Irish fellows together. 

I'm putting some of my 15mm Field of Glory armies up for sale.  The Ancient Spanish are up on the block today and after I get a good set of pictures, the Medieval Hungarian Army will follow. The link to the Spanish is tucked below the banner if you're interested.  Thanks for looking!     

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Bull in the Heather

A fun part of painting is finding the touches that convey the character of the figures you're painting. For the Scots warlord, the elevated basing reflected a Highlands heritage, as does the heather tufts.

This was my 2nd attempt at a watercolor-based background.  In this version, I got a lighter and smoother gradient Michael of the Dalauppror blog recommended. I love how bloggers share tips, tricks and recommendations. So thanks, Michael, and everyone else I've ever leaned on as well. I must remember it's ok to ask for help rather than rely on trial and error.

Here's the rest of the Scots warriors, the hearthguard, and the warlord in for another shot. The fellow with both hands in the air is giving off a "Braveheart" vibe and I can almost hear him yelling "FREEDOM!"

The Scots are done and off to a new home. That makes 7 factions painted out of 17 in SAGA.  If paint 10 factions, I hear Studio Tomahawk offers the 11th free, just like Subway sandwiches!

+5 points if you can identify the musical shout-out in the post's title without Google.   

Friday, January 3, 2014

Don't lose your head!

The Scots warriors continue the dark, earthen palette I plotted for the warband. I did sneak in some flourishes for the dandies in the bunch. These figures are on par with Gripping Beast's superb Welsh and Jomsvikings.

So, about the head on a pike. I found two bannermen in this set and one banner, so it was time to improv.  One of the two bannermen was channeling the Dead Rabbit gang to me.  I dug up a head, drilled it and presto, the "Don't lose your head" gang is born.   The Scots are a blast to paint and they're - wait for it - my favorite warband to date.  I do seem to get my head turned by each new faction that comes down the pike.

For SAGA players, the Scots battleboard emphasizes defensive abilities while allowing for a counterpunch.  Some of their standout abilities are:

Give Ground gives you the chance to reduce your opponent's attack dice. Ouch!  
Hold the Ground adds 2 or 4 defensive dice.
Keeping the Distance: Allows a unit the benefit of being treated as in heavy cover for the turn.  
Reach actives a movement and turns a unit (or 2) into javelin armed for the turn.  Shooting up your opponent is a great way to goad them into a charge.  
Tireless allows you to reduce fatigue by 1 at the end of the melee. Great for stacking 2 attacks in a turn.

They look to be another tough faction and it'll be interesting to see them out on the tabletop.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Sayonara, 2013

Last year was a great year for gaming and painting.  With my son at college, I've gone from monthly to weekly gaming.  I've gotten in a mix of SAGA, Field of Glory, Maurice, Dux Brittanarium, and Longstreet. 2013 was the year I shed my Guy with the Worst Dice label.  While gaming is about having a good time, cutting up and tipping a beer or two, it's nice to win occasionally. I believe the law of large numbers has kicked in because my dice have been red hot!

I  painted 931 15mm figures including new Gallic, Dailami and ACW armies. In 28mm, I painted 585 figures including Vikings, Anglo-Danes, Jomsvikings, Normans, Welsh, Irish, Scots, Byzantines and Dark Age Swords for Hire.  SAGA has been my gateway drug into Dark Age reading and gaming.  SAGA also pulled some of my buddies into 28mm and having crossed the Rubicon, we're looking to port our 28mm warbands into other rules.

Thanks to painting contracts, I was able to substantially upgrade my paints and hobby tools.  I paint more than I can play so I appreciate the opportunity to paint for profit.  To put my efforts in perspective, my furnace went out Monday night.  With temperatures below zero, I frantically called to get Emergency $ervice. I told the bleary eyed furnace repairman my ignition was out and after 10 minutes, he'd replaced it at a cost of $430.  I compared his rate to mine and I felt a bit ill.  At least I had heat to go with my queasiness!

The painting table is loaded for 2014.  I've got Norse Gael, Jomsvikings and Bretons to paint for myself thanks to Mrs. Claus.  And I have 2 Ronin starter sets plus WW II British Paras to paint on contract.

If you were up too late last night and you're looking for something to put you back to sleep, I've got my tallies below the break.  Otherwise, cheers to you and to 2014!