Tabletop Games for the “holidays”.

Not much painting over the last few weeks. Lots of writing, reading and playing board games!

My work has only been closed on public holidays, but that’s still given me two long weekends with chances to catch up with friends and do stuff at home. My wife and I spent one week playing Kingdom Builder (2011+), and another playing Alhambra (2003+). Both of these are great games where its hard to be sure of who’s winning till the end, and every game plays very differently. Sadly to say, when it’s just the two of us, she wins about 3 of 4 games! When we have played these with 3+ players, wins are more evenly distributed.

For the New Years weekend I dug up some of my older board games: RISK Lord of the Rings (2003, Trilogy addition), The Lonely Mountain (1984) and Talisman (1985, 2nd Edn). I think she’s played Talisman with a larger group of us once before, but not the others.

We set up RISK yesterday and ran one long game. Long, because I’d completely forgotten all the rules and so both of us were learning. Turns mostly became a case of each of us assembling one or two concentrations of forces and claimed a lot of territory, then losing parts of it when the other player did the same thing. Our biggest mistake was not defending some areas enough and over-extending our forces in attacks. My wife got a slight advantage in territories (individual areas) early on, and then regions (a group of territories) which gave her more reinforcements. I realised about halfway through that I wasn’t likely to fight my way back.

This shows the board after seven turns at the main turning point. My wife (Yellow) has reinforced her troops and is about to sweep straight down through Rhovian (yellow area on right) and take 1/2 of Mordor. With only minor reinforcements for me (and lots for her) from here on, the game only lasted about four more turns.

We swapped sides for another game today, and had a very similar game. I only held her off in Eastern Gondor for an extra turn before being wiped out.

This is quite fun, with the LotR cards adding movie stuff into the game to give bonus reinforcements, or affect battles, and scoring. I’m hoping for a three player game next weekend, which should be very different. Tonight we play Talisman.

There are 400+ figures for the game, which is far too many to paint. They are also smaller than my usual 25-30mm figures, and not so detailed. I did decide to paint the shield tokens – each represents a leader. (Gives bonus to a dice roll.) Elven shields for the good armies, and orc shields for the evil armies. All were single colour plastic tokens, that will stand out a lot more on the board now that they are painted. It was easy to miss the detail on the front (particularly on the elf shields) when they were plain colours.

A new project – Revising AD&D

I really don’t need to start a new project… I’m part-way through writing three different one-off adventures, would like to get a few more miniatures painted before the end of the year, and have a back-log of TV series and movies to watch.

Why AD&D? Why now, after two decades of playing 3rd, 3.5 and PF?

Over the last year or two I’ve read a lot of blog & forum posts about playing AD&D and how people still play or used to play the game. What rules they followed, what they ignored, how they interpreted some stuff that wasn’t straight forward, and what they changed… The original AD&D Players Handbook and DMG were really badly written, and/or edited. You needed both books to understand how spells and combat worked. You had to look all over the books to check how different parts of races, classes, combat, encounters, etc all worked. You really had to read a lot to get a thorough knowledge of the game, which still left you with questions. Looking for detail on how something worked meant you found a rule for something else you hadn’t seen before. You got used to doing certain things without realising the rule was something slightly different than what you thought it was, played using weapon speeds, or encumbrance, and then gave up when it all got complex, and so on.  Stuff on player races in the Monster Manual was different from the Race info in the PH. Gygax himself was answering questions, giving explanations and errata for the rest of his life!

Just recently I’ve been reading “How to read the AD&D Rulesbooks” series by ‘Cave of the Dice Chucker. His look at how to play the game comes down to some simply ideas:

1 – If it’s not clear in a table, or concise paragraph of text – ignore it.

2 – If it defies common sense – use common sense.

3 – If its too complex, impractical, or irrelevant – ignore it.

There’s lots of stuff in AD&D that everyone complained about – demi-human level limits, unbalanced classes, weak humans, different rules for the same types of abilities… It WAS a mess – but we all enjoyed it anyway. I played and ran AD&D all through High School and University, and beyond. (About two decades… yes, I’m that old!) We took a break from AD&D (1st and 2nd) and played some other games. I finished putting together a whole bunch of tables of ability scores, races, experience, saving throws, non-weapon proficiencies, weapons, armour and general equipment… and then 3rd edition came out, and I started up a new campaign using that. We really haven’t gone back.

Over the last 1-2 years of Covid, I’ve worked on a heap of one-off adventures using many different game systems, I’ve done an adventure using AD&D (based on the AD&D cartoon), and written part of another based on 2nd edition. I really liked going back through the books. It got me to finally revise the saving throw table that I’d been planning to do forever.

My most recent reading has found me remembering all the little tweaks that I’ve considered over the years… adjustments to the ability score tables, simplifying class Stat requirements, converting all the different race and class abilities to a standard form, etc.

Consider surprise… it’s a basic, very simple rule, isn’t it: PC’s are surprised, and surprise opponents 2 in 6.

Then you recall that Elves & Halflings can potentially surprise opponents 4 in 6. A Ranger surprises 3 in 6, and is only surprised on a 1. A Monk is only surprised 32% of the time at 2nd level, and 2% less each level afterwards. Gray Dwarfs surprise others 3 in 6, and are only surprised 1 in 10. Deep gnome PCs surprise others 9 in 10, and are only surprised 1 in 12 chance. We won’t look at the monsters!

I want to start expanding my AD&D booklet, revising Ability Scores, Races, and Classes and abilities. Then likely look at surprise, initiative, and weapon & non-weapon proficiency. I want to include some of the things that 2nd edition introduced, use 2nd edition spell descriptions, etc. I want to rewrite Dual-class for Humans, and give Humans something to raise them up compared to demi-humans and all their racial abilities. This will be fun, as well as exploring a game that I’ve forgotten a lot of.

Will my RPG group play it with my rules… who knows! I’m doing it for me, because it’s caught my interest again.

More Undead

Three more undead completed yesterday. These are all Citadel metal figures – Wraith, Ghost and Zombie.

Wraith, 1985 C18 (66) from ‘Night Horrors’; “Spirit 3” of the 1999/2000 Spirit Host (Vampire Counts) and  Zombie, 1988/89 130608 “Kand-Meet”.

The wraith is a typical “death” figure but would (I feel) have benefited from either holding a sword or scythe rather than the over-size sickle. I do like the absence of hands, feet and head. Painting was very straight forward being a mid-grey with black shading and then lighter gray highlight. This goes in a slotta-base very nicely, so that only a bit of robes actually seems to be in contact with the ground. I should have glued it to its final base much earlier – painting while it was held in its old base with ‘tack wasn’t balanced or steady.

The “Spirit”, which I’ve always termed a ghost was a gift from a friend who’d bought the full 3 figure spirit host. My web-search to identify the figure brought up Azazel’s painting of these and I used his painting as inspiration – just a bit more green! Also fairly simple to paint. I went for some lighting on the base (as if the spirit glows) which didn’t come out quite like I wanted but it’ll do!

The zombie took the most work since he’s fairly detailed. The plastic shield may or may not be the one I originally bought him with, but it had a depression for the nub on his arm and fitted perfectly. The armor is marked and has holes and rents, so I did the same for the shield. I thought some battered heraldry would also suit.

I dug up three metal and four plastic Daemonettes of Slaanesh for my painting tray earlier in the month. The metal ones probably got a bit of use for Warhammer Quest a decade ago. I had 8-10 plastic given to me back then that I assembled, and then sold most of on eBay. I rather doubt I’ll ever use them… ended up selling the three metal ones on Gumtree, and I’m down to the last four plastics. I may try eBay for these, or end up painting them. It’s time to dig through my figure boxes and see what isn’t painted… I know there’s still a few adventurers, and a bunch of Citadel Beastmen.

…and stay dead!

This isn’t the post I envisioned… this is a painting project that I’ve given up on before even spraying the figures with undercoat.

A long time ago, a mate bought a box of multipart plastic skeletons and assembled them. He gave me four, that haven’t seen much use in that time. As part of my three-day weekend, I decided to paint some more undead. I  cleaned up three metal undead and started work on the skeletons…

I’d say these fit most of the things I don’t like about multi-part figures – fiddly and fragile. (Why do this with Skeletons!) If I’d been the one assembling them I likely would have cleaned up the mold-lines, etc at the time. Doing that after they are assembled is much more of a mess. I’ve cut off a thumb, broken two in cleanly in half (at join points), and detached an arm. A third’s upper/lower torso is glued slightly out of alignment; just enough to annoy me that I want to break it and re-glue correctly. He also has the tip of his bow missing. (Probably me in the past, or moving around in storage.)

I’ve decided that I’m not happy with the way this is going, with the expectation that painting them would be annoying and I’d probably break something else. So, it’s into the bits box with them for future use as base decoration or whatever – skulls, bits of skeletons, bows and quivers.

The suns out, so I’ll spray the three metal undead so they’re ready to paint. Then maybe I get all my Warhammer Beastmen out of their storage trays and start preparing them.

Mantic Dwarfs

These guys are Mantic Dwarfs, multi-part plastic figures, that I was given (years ago?) by Azazel. (Mantic calls them Dwarfs, not Dwarves.)

I generally dislike multi-part figures, mostly because when I was first buying miniatures they were mostly metal, and awkward to assemble – often because parts didn’t fit smoothly together.

This lot were mostly assembled when I received them and look to have been two or three pieces – just enough to give a good variety of poses, weapons, etc. I have nine dwarfs, and while there are similarities, all are unique! I may have to watch out for some more of these. I like the style of Mantic’s dwarves; they were easy and fun to paint and it would be really nice to have more of them. I really like the idea of building a dwarf army, but I don’t know if I would ever get to do anything with it.

When I eventually decided to add these to my painting tray, I found I had three headless bodies, two loose heads, and two figures with no weapon. This is an excellent reason to put figures into plastics bags when you get them and not have them lying around on a shelf or mixed with other components in a box! I’m certain that I’ll turn up a dwarf head sometime in the near future.

I took the head-less body I liked the least, and cut his hand off to get a hammer for one of the other figures, and cut down a long spear in my parts box for the other. Heads were glued, a few small gaps were filled and many images of Ironclad, Sheildbreakers, etc were browsed on the ‘net.

I decided to try something different when undercoating – spraying with black from the sides, then white from overhead, aiming for the contrast of zenithal highlights that I’ve seen in many painting videos. (“A technique that quickly reproduces the light and shadows produced by an imaginary light source directly over the subject.”) I didn’t like the final effect. White undercoat makes detail stand out more – very helpful with my eyes when painting fine detail – and black means the final result is dark. I might go for this with monsters, but I don’t like the idea for characters. If do it again, it’s going to be with less black, and much more white.

Armour is primarily antique copper, with bright bronze for highlight. Gun-metal and silver highlight on some armour and weapons. Various browns, a few greens, some red and silver (chainmail) to add some variation.

I have very few decals left in my parts box, with nearly all of those being chaos related. At some point I think I need to look for some decal sets that would go with more “good” aligned forces, or that are more general in style. My free hand painting can’t do the fine detail that people like Azazel have achieved. I went with a variation of an online shield design. I’m glad I only had four shields too, not a whole unit… even when pencil lines marked in advance, trying to get all four looking the same wasn’t easy. A hammer or axe symbol on top would have been perfect.

These are also an entry in the Mo’vember challege by “Rantings from behind the Moustache

Back from the Dead…

The title reflects both the state of my computer and the undead I painted during October, while mostly not online.

It was a remarkable month for many reasons: my PC died, I had a Covid test & a day of working from home when one of the guys at work might have been exposed to Covid, the last of our three chickens got sick and died, and we had a windstorm that left lots of people in Melbourne without electricity, including us for 30 hours. Since we don’t have a gas connection, this meant no lights, hot water or cooking. Thankfully, the end of lock-down the week before meant we could go over to my Mum’s for dinner and a hot shower.

Being able to travel and visit people again is great, and with the fantastic assistance of a mate I now have my computer working (upgraded MB, CPU and RAM!) and everything on it working normally.

While I had no PC, I did a lot of reading and got back into some painting. Now I’ve got blogs to catch up on, and pictures to take and post myself. I was lucky enough to be able to bring a work laptop home to keep up on some of the forums I read. I’m determined to make more regular backups of stuff on my system, and not just to a secondary hard drive, but to a USB. An up-to-date printed page with logins, passwords and site references, etc is also a must.

The three undead today all came from the UK in a miniatures swap with Subedai of the Lost and the Damned. One had been painted before and needed a clean up first. All are metal.

The first is a Prince August figure (1984, SK6, Skeleton) This one is history revisited for me: There are seven figures in this range (SK1-7) and I bought a blister pack of three (SK5-7) in the late 80’s. I dug them out to make sure this guy was painted in the same style. I first thought I had a slightly different figure, then realized that he’s actually missing his right arm. After painting, he looks like he has an arm there. (Only a humerus, not a radius & ulna.) The last picture shows him on the far right with my original three.

The next two figures are Citadel (I think) – I did look at the slotta base before filing it down to fit a plastic base and all I recall about them now is that each said “Skeleton”. The internet suggests these two are both from GW Citadel: UN2 (20) Agog Deathblow (Skeleton Infantry) and C17 (CJ-07) Skeleton Gunner, both 1987.

These three figures were all fun to paint. I particularly enjoyed the “gunner”. I’m saving him for my Gamma World game, though he might fit into a fantasy game in the right circumstances. He has hints of fluoro green that the phone camera hasn’t really picked up. I’m particularly pleased with his left eye – I got a dot of fluoro green in that eye socket with one attempt that I couldn’t replicate in the other. (The right eye has some green, but its not a fine point, nor as bright.)

 

Painting Skaven #6: Warlock (Final)

Finally, the last skaven – unless there’s a figure or two in the wrong storage box! That’s a group of 24 all done.

This is a metal slotta-based Citadel (Games Workshop) figure from 1995 – #74472/2 “Skaven Warlock with skull”.

I’d considered doing his robes in purple, and when I got started on Friday night realised that there’s a separate jacket over the robes. The jacket was done in fushia with the lower robes in the same but lightened with white. Then I red inked the jacket, and purple inked the robes. Everything went smoothly from there, with colours suggesting themselves as I went along. A final bit of black ink over everything make the holes and folds were distinct, then highlighting. When taking the photographs this morning I noticed I hadn’t coloured the chaos symbol on the belt buckle. That’s now been fixed.

I’ve really enjoyed these last two skaven, and I like the warlock more than the plague monk. I’m very pleased to have got through the whole group, and they make a very nice force.

Last of all, a group shot. I had a lot of fun setting this up, which is a sure sign that it’s been way too long since I’ve done any table-top gaming. I already had planned to write these guys into my mega-dungeon. Now I want to set up something like this seen to play out a really big battle. You should be able to click on the pictures for a bigger image.

Painting Skaven #5: Plague Monk

I was determined to get another skaven painted this weekend and I’m very happy to have succeeded!

This is a metal slotta-based Citadel (Games Workshop) figure from 1993 – Clan Pestilens 74451/5 “Plague Monk”. I’d been planning red-brown robes, but saw some newer plague monks with yellow robes and black hoods. The yellow got my attention, but being plaguey, I wanted a dirty yellow. Once I got going other things fell into place.

Painting took longer than it should have, but I’ve interspersed that with some computer gaming, reading, housework and preparing another batch of figures.If the weather report is correct he can go out for a varnish spray tomorrow.

A number of years back I got some Mantic Dwarfs from Azazel, and last year (I think last year) I got some figures from Subadai (Lost & the Damned) and decided it’s a good time to get some of these done too. There are nine dwarfs, three skeletons and my last skaven ready to work on. (Only two skellies in the picture, the third didn’t need cleaning and undercoat like all these did.)

Yes, that’s a skeleton with a blunderbuss!

A new Stargate RPG

I’m a Stargate fan. I could say more about that and watching Sci-Fi on TV, but it would be a whole new blog-post of its own. There’s a new Stargate RPG just out, at least the PDF is, but printed rule-books are meant to be available for pickup at Gen-Con mid Sept. Here, on the other side of the world, I’m just hoping they start mailing at the same time.

I’ll assume you know what Stargate is. If you are reading this, I’d say there’s a good chance you have either watched the movie, or one of the TV series that followed it later.

History: Here’s some background on the game. (There’s already heaps of websites that could give you background on Stargate itself.)

This isn’t the first Stargate RPG. Back in 2003, Alderac Entertainment Group produced “Stargate SG-1 RPG” based on d20 & their Spycraft game. (Licensed from MGM) They also came out with a bunch of supplements and overall I think it looks pretty good. I’d love a printed copy now, but I’m not interested in spending over $100 getting a second-hand book from the USA/UK.

In mid-2019, Wyvern Gaming announced they would be developing a “Stargate RPG” with MGM. A closed beta playtest began in Oct 2019, followed by a public beta started in March 2020. Covid pushed most of their plans back six months, and they’re Kickstarter ran in October 2020. This was very well supported. I’d noted what they were doing late 2019, but missed the Kickstarter itself and got in as a late backer at the start of 2021.

Development:

The original game sounds like it was intended to be set away from Earth with players representing alien races helping the SGC fight against the Goa’uld – with no Humans! People quickly raised the point that a game based on Stargate SG-1 should allow Tau’ri (Human) characters. Thankfully, they agreed and altered their plans.

The last set of Beta rules available was Jun 2020, and little appears to have changed between that and the newly released pre-printed rulebook PDF. This PDF seems to have most spelling/grammar errors fixed and some cosmetic changes, but little or no change to the rules. The Stargate forums (on Wyvern’s site) have had considerable debate on character classes, abilities, weapons (particularly ranges), but I feel most of it hasn’t been taken into account. (Maybe their Discord channel was better with feedback?)

We now have the “Stargate SG-1 RPG” (“based on Stargate SG-1” – Really, I’d never have worked that out myself!) The game is set during Series 6 of the SG-1 TV series, and centres on the SG-P, “Phoenix” site, based away from Earth to recruit, train and send out teams through a Stargate to essentially do what the SG teams did in the series, and fight the Goa’uld. The game rules only cover material from those first six SG-1 series. I feel there may not be anything further. There’s been a lot of fuss and delay to this point, though much of that could have been Covid related rather than difficulties with MGM approval. (Wyvern also seems to have gone annoyingly quiet on how things are going with the final stage of the kickstarter, but is heavily advertising pre-order retail sales. This has also coincided with Amazon buying MGM.) If the game sells well in retail, it’s possible Wyvern could release a supplement (or more than one) to cover later SG-1 series, or even Atlantis or Universe. There’s definitely interest in an expansion of PC races and equipment. Failing that, it’s pretty easy for a GM to create material that adds to the official book – there’s already house rules on classes, etc.

Game Rules:

Based on 5th Edition D&D, this looks pretty good! I’d been going over bits of the Beta rules and reading the forums and started feeling a bit let down – especially when I’d been reading over some of the d20 version. Last month I got the full release PDF and I’ve been getting happier the more I read. I decided to make up a single-session adventure with the characters from SG-1, plus a few extras to round out character choices. I haven’t played 5th edition, nor have my players. I looked over stuff when Wizards were developing it, and have a copy of the SRD, but never really read through a lot of it. So, mostly I’m learning how the system works by making characters and reading the Stargate rules. I’m certain we’ll have a lot of fun with this, partly because it’s somewhat different from our other games.

Five races/species – Tau’ri (Humans), Aturen, Jaffa, Tok’ra and Unas. Six classes – Diplomat, Engineer, Medic, Scientist, Scout, Soldier. Each race has a “base” version, and a second variant, except for Humans who get two variants (Abydonians, Tollans). You get two origins that offer stat increases, skill proficiencies or bonuses with certain skills/weapons/environments, etc.

You can only take 5 levels in one class (specialising), after that all your “Mission Points” go to buying feats. Essentially, even class abilities are feats, and all feats have a cost in Mission Points. After 5th, your level is determined by how many points you have spent. If you know what you are doing, you can be “classless” right from the beginning. They have an interesting system for ‘encounters’ that uses a blend of actual role-playing with skill checks for what they term: Convince, Diplomatic, Infiltration, Interrogation, R&D, and Traversal. The GM sets a DC and Threshold (the number of successes required) to succeed. Players describe their “approach” and use ‘Determination Points’ to make rolls. This occurs in rounds until the PC’s achieve threshold, or no one can (or does) contribute more DP, and fail. I’m still getting my head round how this works, but the DP’s are a bit like wagering with poker chips, and you can get them back during the process.

It comes together pretty well. Trying to put together specific characters from the TV series has been a challenge, but I think I’ve got PC’s who represent the characters reasonably well and will be fun to play.

The downsides to the game:

I haven’t finished reading everything, and I’m still learning the game (and 5th ed) but I am disappointed. Particularly, that with all the time spent on play testing and feedback, there isn’t MORE available in the game. Also I’m surprised that considering how this is all based on SG-1, they didn’t draw more from the series itself instead of defining their own ‘canon’.

Potential Improvements:

  1. Races/Species: Aturen are a pointy-eared non-violent species invented by Wyvern (on the forum someone called them ‘space-elves’). While the rules mention 7 planets that SG-1 contacted with humans, only two of them are given specific race traits to use as PC’s. I would have like more options for Humans, and a few more alien races – actually from the series. Serrikan (a reptilian race from Hebridan, Season 6) are mentioned as an NPC race, as are the near human Ilempri (Season 3). I’m sure I’ll write my own rules for Player race versions.
  2. Origins: Players choose two, each from a different category – Biome (16 options), Background (25) or Racial (6). It’s a pity that the racial set has only one possible choice for all but Jaffa (and you have to be a pacifist for the Aturen one). At least three choices each here would have been much better. The backgrounds list is great, and I’m tempted to house rule both choices can be made from here if you’re human.
  3. Equipment: There’s lots of different weapon types listed, and a nice set of weapon ‘upgrades’, but the list of weapons itself isn’t remarkable. Equipment is fairly basic, and probably enough, but the Goa’uld technology that they give rules for is buried in the last chapter with the Goa’uld/Jaffa and not in the Equipment chapter. Again, I’m sure there will be people drawing up lists of more equipment/weapons to use, or I can just go to D20 Modern for inspiration.

Overall, the Kickstarter isn’t much behind schedule (about 5 months) and has been better than almost every other Kickstarter I’ve been part of (in regards communication and delays) except Zombicide. I haven’t funded many projects, but thankfully none have fallen through, although one was much much worse than this… <cough… CurseoftheLostMemories… cough>. I’m looking forward to my book in October. <curses seafreight> Anyone else a backer, or been play testing the game?

This has also given me the idea of using these rules for a one-off Battlestar Galactic session!

Painting Skaven #4: Grey Seer

I finished painting this guy yesterday, making this about four months since I started preparing all my skaven for painting. (Maybe two months since I did any figure painting… not encouraging.) He’s been sitting on my desk for way too long, but he’s not the last. There’s still two more to go!

This figure is a metal Games Workshop (Citadel) figure from 1993, 74464 “Grey Seer Thanquol”. I could have been a little fussier with some of the detail, but I reached the point where I’m happy and just wanted to say “done”.

My main problem with these last three skaven has been colors. I’ve learned that I do really well when I’m copying a card/comic/movie or whatever – an established color scheme – but struggle with individual figures where I have to choose everything myself. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s certainly why I haven’t gotten anywhere with these last few skaven.

It’s too cold for spray varnish this weekend. He can go back on the tray until probably Tuesday, when we are meant to reach 17 degrees and sunny! The next figure I’m hoping to start today is a plague monk, and I’ve decided on red/browns for his robe. The last, a skaven warlock (engineer) might get some type of purple.