Monday, 16 January 2017

Weekend Progress

There's not much to report at the moment, I seem to spend most of my time building more figures to add to the already large pile of unpainted miscellany. Here's the dark ages archers, not much to show - they have been primed, washed and then the leathers started. I should have done more but I was distracted by building the first unit of a Picts force. You can see them in the background. My short term goal is to have the archers finished by month end and a start made on either some trolls or the Picts, I just cannot make up my mind.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Saga Age of the Wolf first impressions

The start of the year means a new resolve on gaming for me, to play more often. My regular opponent suggested we try Saga Age of the Wolf. I love Saga and dark ages gaming, so I was happy to turn up at the dungeon with not one, but two armies.

Age of the Wolf is a campaign system designed for several players, but we only have the two of us interested in this game and this era, so we are taking two armies each. Whenever a player has choices in the campaign, such as who to attack, we let the dice decide. It means we miss out on the scheming and backstabbing of a real player campaign, but we do get to play lots of games and a story develops as we go along, which is just as much fun I reckon - certainly better than just playing random one-off games.

Danish Levy take on Norman crossbows 
One of my factions is the Danes and they ended up raiding against the Normans, so we generated a battle. This turned out to be a new scenario called scouts, one of three or four new battles to try in the book. The units from each force turn up one by one as the game progresses. The Normans thundered forward with a unit of knights, hoping to ride down a unit of Dane levy, but their plans came unstuck when they were showered in a hail of arrows and the unit fell back dismayed and confused. More caution was then exercised, as both sides tried to organise a battle line as troops arrived on the field.

The Danes had an advantage in the early loss of the knights, plus their battle board ability to pile on fatigue to the enemy. They could afford to hold back and wait, while the Normans had to try to rush forward, especially when they came off worse in a missile battle - the Danish archers once more proving their worth, getting the better of Norman crossbow men. Again, this was aided by the excess fatigue piling up on the Norman forces.

Tired Normans face unyielding Danes
The Norman knights finally managed to calm their horse enough to engage and scatter the Danish archers, but they were quickly tiring. The latter stages of the game saw the Normans cantering and galloping around the trees, trying but unable to gain a decisive charge, constantly hampered by fatigue and exhaustion. Eventually, the Norman Lord over-extended and was set upon by the Danish Lord and his bodyguard. His horse crashed to the ground and it was only the quick actions of his nearby knights that rescued him from certain death. He was carried from the battlefield, dazed and bloodied.

After the battle there is a process to go through, as in-game casualties are converted to campaign deaths or injuries - the Norman warlord will be suffering from that serious wound for the rest of the campaign. Both sides managed to recruit more troops, theoretically the Danes did really well here with five new hearthguard joining their ranks while the Normans attracted lowly levy, though a good number of them. Perhaps those extra arrows will pay dividends in future encounters.

This brief report just scratches the surface of what's in the book. I only had a hurried look but it seems well organised and very detailed. Hopefully the campaign will progress well for all four armies - too many campaign systems allow one side to gain such an advantage that the underdogs just give up. It's early days as yet, with just one game played, but I have high hopes for this gaming adventure.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Drabant Miniatures Archers

It's a return to the dark ages this year (and no, that's not a satirical political quip). Last night I had my first taste of the Saga Age of the Wolf system, and it was so tasty. I will post more about it after a few more sessions, but suffice to say the very next day I dug these archers from out of my stash, prepped and glued them on to bases.

These are Drabant Miniatures archers, one box of Saxons and two of the Vikings, though my aim has always been to use them as one unit of 12 fairly generic dark ages archers. Once painted, this unit will be serving in both my Viking and Anglo Dane forces. It's surprising how effective they can be - especially against fully armoured knights.

I have been taking a look at my Dark Ages collection and it's a real hotch-potch of stuff. I started with some plastic Wargames Factory figures, and they are the worst. Avoid. Then I tried some Gripping Beast plastic Saxons and they are quite reasonable, though all heavily armoured (wearing chain mail) which is not so useful in the age of the woollen sack vest. Then I tried some Gripping Beast metal vikings and I was a little disappointed in those, some pretty awful sculpts and poor casts. More recently I have tried Saxon Miniatures Anglo-Danes and they are pretty decent. By far the cream of my collection are the Drabant Miniatures vikings - painted examples can be found here. If you are looking for high quality and don't mind paying a little extra, they are highly recommended. It's a shame that the range is so limited.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Happy Thorsday

It's Thursday - the day of the week named after the Norse god, Thor. Famed for his magical hammer, Mjolnir, and also associated with thunder, lightning, strength and fertility. I have also read various claims that he was believed by vikings to offer protection from the seas, hence the wearing of Thor hammer pendants. Not a bad guy to kick off my year's painting then!

This is a figure from the Blood Rage game, one of the Norse gods. I painted it using the Army Painter undead paint set - I will post a fuller review on this set when I have tried it out a few more times, but as you can see it gives some nice natural tones. All the paints used on this model are from the set, including the slightly strange pale green on the base which I will probably paint over, but I just wanted to try out as many of the included paints as I possibly could.

Five fascinating Thor factoids!

He rides a chariot pulled by two goats, named Tanngrisnir (teeth-barer, snarler) and Tanngnjostr (teeth-grinder). Not only do these fearsome beasts pull his heavy wooden chariot across the skies, they provide him with food. Thor cooks the goats for his supper, then uses his magical hammer Mjolnir to resurrect them the next day.

Thor owns three magical items, the most famous being the hammer Mjolnir. In order to wield the power of the hammer, he has a pair of iron gloves, Jarngreipr, and the belt, Megingjord, which doubles his already mighty strength.

Thor was very adept at killing giants with his hammer Mjolnir. These giants were not the oversized men blundering around the Warhammer world, but more like titans or even gods. Most are human shaped, though some are beastly - such as Fenrir the World's End wolf and the Midgard Serpent. Some are hideous while others are beautiful. The Norse gods and giants are often at war. In one tale, giants hide Thor's hammer under the earth and will only return it if the beautiful Norse goddess Freyja will marry Thrym, king of the frost giants. Thor is disguised as Freyja and goes to the wedding feast, tricks the giants into returning the hammer, then slays them all.

As well as a day of the week, Thor has a chemical element named after him - Thorium. There's even a Thor's hero shrew, the only mammal known to have interlocking vertebrae.

Thor will die at Ragnarok, the end/renewal of the world. Jormungandr, the Midgard Serpent, will come out of the sea and poison the sky. Thor will battle the giant creature and ultimately kill the beast, but then will walk just nine paces before dying from the venom sustained in their epic conflict. A hero's end, worthy of a place in Valhalla.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Review of the Year

2016 is almost over, time for the traditional look back at the painting and gaming highs and lows. In terms of quantity of figures painted, this year has been the lowest since I started the blog. The main reason for this has been a desire to paint up a dwarf warband to my highest level. It takes a lot of time. Coupled with this fact has been a dip in motivation, especially over the summer months, when I painted and gamed virtually nothing. But that's the lows seen off, on to the highs for the year.

The very first painted item of the year was a Blood Rage Fenris wolf. I really thought I would have completed more of the figures by the end of the year, but it was not to be. I actually played a handful of games of Blood Rage with my family and it went down very well. I also enjoyed a few games of one-page-40K with a fellow gamer, so much so that I was inspired to paint up a pair of kans and make some terrain (here and here).

Spring came around and I started on the slow, steady slog of painting dwarf slayers, a task that was to last through several months. To break up the task, I also slotted in a dwarf runesmith, a strong candidate for my favourite paint job of the year.

In the summer I took a break from sweating over beards, and switched to painting Anglo-Danes for Saga (which technically also have beards, just not as luxuriant as their dwarf counterparts)! It was a real pleasure to blast through a starter warband in a relatively short time, for the first time this year I really felt like I was getting results. I also had my first exciting encounter with shield transfers.

As autumn arrived I made a switch to my Chaos army and painted up the character model from the newly relaunched White Dwarf magazine. I was not that impressed by the magazine, but really happy with my work on the chaos champion, another strong contender for paint job of the year. Vorghan the Slayer became the leader of a chaos warband in a mini gaming campaign, based on a system in the General's Handbook. Reflecting a very poor gaming year, it took four weeks before the first game was completed, then another month before we got round to the second game. It really has been a very lean year for rolling dice, something I am determined to improve on next year. The autumn season ended with a couple of figures for my steampunk collection and a lone Blood Rage wolfman figure.

Winter had now arrived and it was back to the dwarfs, Gunnar Gunnarson and the Dragon Belchers, which happily was completed in a relatively short time. I was hoping to add the mighty Anvil of Doom to my dwarf force, but only got as far as the twin guard before festive activities ate up my time. So less than two dozen dwarfs painted throughout the year. Well I did say that it was a project to take my time over, and there's certainly no rushing a dwarf. Hopefully next year will be an improvement, I already have a couple of units assembled and heading up the 2017 painting list. And I am starting to think about some gaming opportunities. Let's hope for a better new year.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Trolls Going Cheap!

I have had these Mierce Miniatures trolls for such a long time, I thought it was about time they came out of the box to see the light of day. They immediately turned to stone - sorry, bad joke. They were pretty easy to put together, resin models with no air bubbles and few mould lines to scrape away. The joins are good too, I will probably run a coat of liquid green stuff over them just to be sure, but you could probably get away with priming from this point. Lovely models they are too, highly recommended. There is a brief sale on the website, get on there now and enter the discount code NEW-YEAR-2017. Be quick - the sale only lasts until January 2nd. I have ordered a couple more trolls to add to this little force, which I see rampaging through viking settlements and beyond some time in the new year. Much more in the same vein to come in the new year.
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