Monday, 17 December 2018

The Silent Blogger

It’s been a while hasn’t it?

Which is odd, because there is so much I could be writing about right now – to wit:-

  • My Maze of Malcor ‘Nickstarter’ has arrived, so I have loads of monsters to assemble and paint up.
  • The new supplement also calls for lots of unusual scenery just crying out to be scratchbuilt.
  • My pals Giles and Alan are still actively playing Frostgrave.
  • The Hereford Wargames Club is still going strong, just down the road from me.
  • I have received my print-on-demand copy of Rangers of Shadow Deep, so even if I couldn’t get together with my gaming buddies, I could still be doing some solo gaming.
  • I have a new and currently exclusive and unreleased miniature courtesy of sculptor and builder extraordinaire Mark ‘Tin Shed Gamer’ Fuller to paint up for my VBCW collection.

So why haven’t I been busy painting, modelling and blogging?

Well the answer is basically ‘meh’.

Yep, I’m in one of those wargaming doldrums that everyone gets from time to time.

Of course the whole Photobucket debacle killed off my Herefordshire 1938 VBCW blog, but I’ve also not felt like doing anything Frostgrave-wise either.

The lead up to Christmas is a contributing factor. Anyone with young kids will know how busy this time of year can be, with it’s nativity plays, carol services, concerts and visits to Father Christmas.
The not-so-great priming weather has also been unhelpful.

My creative energies have also been diverted somewhat, as I’ve gotten into role playing games – the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition RPG to be exact. I’ve played a number of sessions with some of the chaps from the Hereford Board Gamers Club and so far my character is still alive and relatively sane.

I’ve also joined Play@YSDC – a Call of Cthulhu play-by-post forum, where I’m RPG’ing in a number of games, including a WW2 Doctor Who spin-off, a groovy 1960’s adventure and the epic Call of Cthulhu campaign Masks of Nyralathotep.

So not much on the wargaming front I’m afraid.

That said – that exclusive and unreleased figure? I’ve just painted her base…

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Rangers of Shadow Deep Mission 2: The Beacon Tower (Scenario 2: Tor Varden, The Lower Level)

Annok growled as the weary warriors approached the imposing structure of Tor Varden.

“Those bastards gnolls got the jump on us and slaughtered the whole garrison but me,” he turned to the ranger Grey Leopard. “Will you help me get my revenge and clear out this nest of evil?”

The ranger peered up at the top of the tower and then down to the stout wooden door on the ground floor.

“Aye, that is my mission, but we cannot scale the walls and battering that door down will bring them running in their droves – we’d be outnumbered within minutes.”

The old soldier grinned and fished the key out of his haversack.

“Oh, no need to knock my lord, we can let ourselves in…”

Suddenly an all-to human scream of pain came from behind the stone walls.

“Someone lives!” Gasped Annok. “But not for long I’ll wager – we must hurry!”

(Note: This is a playtest of the draft document. Rules and scenarios in the finished publication may differ)

Time then to enter the watchtower of Tor Varden! Our heroes would have to be quick, for the longer they tarry, the greater number of gnoll defenders they must face. As well as working against the clock, this scenario is interesting in that you must roll for the type of room you go into each time you go through a doorway. Our heroes turned the key in the lock – what would the first room be?

A storage room. After passing the pick lock test (auto pass due to the key) and stealth test, only four gnolls inhabited this room. Two fighters and two archers, they looked up in surprise as the warband burst in.

Group activating, Grey Leopard ordered his men to attack. Ulf and Annok soon dispatched one fighter, but the others were still standing. One was downed by a shot from Grey Leopard, but Ned the archer missed his quarry. Our heroes had to act fast, lest reinforcements piled into the next room, making it harder for them to advance.

Another gnoll was attacked, but despite being outnumbered it managed to get the better of Ulf before succumbing to the onslaught. All the time the clock was ticking…

Ned the archer was also attacked and was wounded before Ungarra and Blackwing stepped up to defeat the evil gnoll. With the storeroom cleared of gnolls it was time to head through the door into the second room. What would our heroes find?

A torture chamber! Grey Leopard and his two men-at-arms stumbled through the door to discover a gruesome scene. On the far wall, two emaciated prisoners (I used ghoul models) were hanging in chains. In the centre, a surviving soldier was being tormented by a gnoll sergeant while two fighters looked up, gibbering encouragement.

Luckily the element of surprise was still with our heroes. Grey Leopard shot and wounded a gnoll before it attacked him. He easily dispatched the creature as Annok ran to attack and wound the sergeant. In the meantime the unfortunate torture victim was forced to fight another gnoll barehanded.

But where are the rest of the warband? The two rogues were doing what they do best; looting the gnolls’ treasure in the first room; while the others were making their way into the torture chamber as quickly as they could. Luckily Blackwing arrived just in the nick of time to help defeat the sergeant and it’s pal.

As everyone gathered in the now liberated torture chamber, a wounded Ned was left to release the two prisoners, while, grabbing one of the gnoll’s weapons, the rescued soldier joined the warband. Grey Leopard raced to the next door before the occupants could react to the noise of battle, bursting into…

…an armoury! Once again the room was sparsely populated as the surviving gnolls remained oblivious to our heroes’ presence. However the three creatures in the armoury quickly attacked the lone ranger and his plucky avian sidekick Blackwing.

Grey Leopard shot at an advancing gnoll but missed, allowing it to launch it’s attack and bring Blackwing down. The ranger was forced to face the gnolls alone until his remaining band could get into the room.

Luckily he managed just that, buying enough time for the others to pile in and launch a counterattack. Soon the armoury was filled with the sound of battle and the guttural howls of dying gnolls.

The final gnoll was easily dispatched, leaving the lower level of Tor Varden to our heroes. Ulf the swordsman quickly recovered from his injuries, but blackwing suffered a smashed beak.

As the dust settled the room searched for clues. In addition to the gold and jewels looted from the storeroom, our heroes discovered a philtre of fairy dust and a hidden note, scrawled by the captain of the tower before he was dragged off to his doom. In it, he warned of a terrible danger, for leading this band of gnolls was none other than an evil Shadow Knight…

To be continued...

Friday, 2 November 2018

Rangers of Shadow Deep Mission 2: The Beacon Tower (Scenario 1: The Bridge Guards)

Rangers of Shadow Deep is available to download now! Here is the first scenario from the second mission...

Hunter whined, pawing the bare soil as his master, Grey Leopard, reached down to calm the bloodhound. He too was tense, for ‘The Scree’; the drab, rocky landscape around Tor Varden; was far removed from their forest home.

And yet it was to Tor Varden that they must travel, for nothing had been heard from the watchtower for several days. With beacons along the whole border mysteriously snuffing out, it was imperative to discover what had happened.

The ranger led his companions through the winding maze of ravines towards the river he knew they had to cross to reach the tower. It took all of is navigational skills to find his way to the Enthel valley and he was heartened to hear the sound of rushing water up ahead.

But there was another sound. No wonder Hunter was so on edge, for a few yards ahead, as if someone had taught a dog to talk, things were grunting and yapping in a mockery of language. Ned, the ranger’s old archer friend, stiffened.

“By the Gods I thought I’d never hear that accursed tongue again!” he whispered. “Gnolls, and plenty of them!”

(Note: This is a playtest of the draft document. Rules and scenarios in the finished publication may differ)

And so on to the first scenario of the next mission. To reach Tor Varden our hero must cross the Enthel River, but a party of evil gnolls from the Shadow Deep had set up camp at the only crossing point. Luckily, the labyrinth of rocks and boulders that borders the river offered plenty of cover for our heroes to approach unseen.

Patrolling along the river, the gnolls were led by a formidable sergeant, who commanded a number of warriors and archers. Their camp contained a clue marker and a treasure token. The initial objective was to use the cover of the rocky landscape to pick off as many of the gnolls as possible (thus gaining +4 to any attack roll) without alerting their comrades and raising the general alarm (after which the bonus was lost).

The warband cautiously approached the crossing, using the rocky walls to stay out of sight, Initial navigation and stealth tests were passed, allowing me to move our heroes into an advantageous position and have a lone gnoll wander into an ambush. Out of sight, the creature was peppered with arrows while his fellows stood guard unawares.

A random event card brought some reinforcements in the form of a member of the garrison at Tor Varden. Appearing on the other side of the river, this man-at-arms wisely decided to stay out of sight, lest he raise the alarm.

The gnolls continued their patrol, with one of them inadvertently moving into view of our heroes, but out of sight of his comrades (another successful stealth roll). Grey Leopard aimed his bow and fired, cutting it down.

Our heroes slowly moved forward, trying to maintain the element of surprise. However the powerful gnoll sergeant, no doubt wondering where his mates had got to, decided to poke around the rocks (random movement during the creature phase) and stumbled upon our gallant band! Wasting no time, Grey Leopard and his friends launched a group attack.

The alarm was finally raised! The gnolls scrambled for their weapons as behind their camp on the other side of the river, the surviving soldier decided to launch a diversionary attack.

The battle ebbed and flowed along the approaches to the river. The gnoll sergeant was quickly overpowered by Grey Leopard and his friends, but further along the riverbank, his faithful man-at-arms Ulf was having difficulty in defeating a gnoll fighter, which had dodged an arrow from Ned the archer.

Suddenly another survivor from Tor Varden appeared and joined the fray! (A slight mistake here, as I should have discarded the random event card, as it had already spawned one survivor). However he was quickly slain by a gnoll fighter.

Now organised, the gnolls began to close in and the element of surprise had been lost, forfeiting the +4 attack bonus. A gnoll archer was dispatched by the combined efforts of Ungarra the swordswoman, Blackwing and Hunter. However Hunter was taken out in the process.

Another gnoll bowman was lurking nearby – it took aim and poor Blackwing was shot out of the sky in a cloud of feathers. Meanwhile Grey Leopard was directing proceedings and shooting at any gnoll he could see. In doing so he stumbled upon a booby trap hidden among the rocks (a random event card). Luckily he was perceptive enough to spot the danger and avoided setting it off (perception test passed).

Our heroic ranger advanced towards the bridge, shooting one of the gnolls guarding the camp on the other side. Meanwhile the two rogues, Sneaks and Stabbs, had been working their way unnoticed along the right flank, and seizing their moment, attacked a gnoll by the riverbank.

Our heroes converged on the bridge, slaying gnolls left, right and centre. Having seen off several of the creatures, the surviving Tor Varden soldier made his way to their camp, digging through their filthy belongings to locate the clue marker. A clink of metal alerted him to something and, after passing an armament test; he recognised the keys to Tor Varden watchtower!

By now the entire gnoll patrol had been destroyed by our brave warband, allowing Grey Leopard to reach the treasure token. Hidden among the gnolls’ rags was a glittering magical two-handed weapon! Alas no-one in the party was trained to use such a thing, and so it was reluctantly discarded.

Our gallant warband had forced passage over the river and gained the keys to Tor Varden to boot. Alas hunter the hound was badly injured and would have to miss the next game, but taking his place was the grizzled survivor of Tor Varden – and it was this tower that now loomed before them, ominously silent in the swirling mist…

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Rangers of Shadow Deep Mission 1: The Missing (Scenario 2: The Infected Trees)

Pale wisps floated through the group as Grey Leopard led his companions through the trees. The tracks discovered by the adventurers had confirmed Grey Leopard’s worse fears: giant spiders were scuttling out of the darkness to infect the living, turning them into… something unholy…

Following the tracks into the forest brought the heroes to an area of woodland draped with cobwebs. Bloated cocoons littered the forest floor and gnarled and twisted trees, where the foul things made their nests, lurked in the shadows.

Grim faced he turned to his companions.

“Burn them.”

(Note: This is a playtest of the draft document of Rangers of Shadow Deep. Rules and scenarios in the finished publication may differ)

Despite not being well versed in ancient lore, Grey Leopard knew enough to find one nest tree and destroy it immediately (pre-game lore skill roll passed). Aided by Hunter he was also able to locate and kill one giant spider (pre-game tracking skill roll passed) and also discover a patch of Farlight Leaf growing nearby (pre-game survival skill roll passed). This gave him an extra +1 to his shooting stat, at the expense of other abilities.

As the heroes moved cautiously through the woods, they came upon an evil spider (well, ladybird – I didn’t have enough spiders!) As they battled this creature, Grey Leopard stumbled upon a nest tree (random event card that happened to spawn one right next to him). Fumbling for his tinder box he immediately set it alight.

Spiders came skittering through the undergrowth at alarming speed, but the adventurers managed to fight them off. In the meantime the two rogues managed to creep along the spider-free left flank and towards the nest trees at the other side of the table.

Pressing forward, Ungarra slew another spider and investigated a cocoon, finding it to contain the corpse of some poor individual. Grey Leopard did his best to cover his companions, but, as with the first scenario, he was missing every shot, despite the Farlight Leaf.

Ulf waded into the undergrowth to slay another spider, as more were emerging from the nest trees. Luckily, on the flank, Stabbs the rogue had reached one unmolested and quickly set fire to it. The others poked their swords through more cocoons, only to find more dead bodies.

However Ungarra noticed something struggling among the cobwebs – a survivor! The swordswoman quickly cut the villager free and sent the grateful girl on her way. Meanwhile the rogues continued to set the nest trees alight while the others chopped up cocoons.

One cocoon however yielded a zombie! Ned the archer fired, but missed. Behind him, Grey Leopard drew his bow and concentrated. With Farlight Leaf coursing through is veins he fired… and hit! Finally a kill for the ranger!

Ulf the swordsman was not so lucky: sluggish from a poisoned spider bite, he was too slow to react as a spider leapt from the undergrowth and tore a chunk out of his neck. A critical hit, which is not as critical as in Frostgrave, but still critical enough to down him!

Hunter and Ungarra quickly ganged up on this final spider and tore it into a foul-smelling mess, finally clearing the area of the evil stain of infection.

Another fast, furious and fun game, made a little easier by the initial run of successful skill rolls and the lucky placing of a nest tree next to the Ranger.

Over the two scenarios Grey Leopard earned enough experience to advance to level 2, gaining an extra ability (‘Focus’) and an improvement to one of his skills. He was also the proud owner of a Fishglass.

That concluded the first mission. It was obvious that the unpleasant things sneaking out of the Shadow Deep’s miasma were merely the vanguard of a wider invasion. Could the line be held, or would the kingdom fall to the greater evils about to be unleashed?

Monday, 8 October 2018

Enter the Dragon

Since time immemorial Atrrakza the Blackhorn had slumbered beneath the magical city, dreaming great saurian dreams atop the vast pile of treasure it had accumulated over the aeons.

Once every few centuries something would awaken the great beast: a shift in the magical field, the sudden craving for more glittering things, the intense cold and frost that had as of late settled on his mighty scales… or simply just hunger for flesh…

Who knows what had roused Atrrakza the Blackhorn this time. Perhaps it was the prattling of the small ape-like creatures that scrabbled around the tunnels near it’s cavernous chamber with their torches and feeble spells. Maybe it was their squabbling over trinkets that were rightfully the property of the dragon.

Either way, as it’s eyelids opened to reveal jet-black eyes that gazed balefully into the darkness and it’s nostrils flared with sulphurous clouds, Atrrakza the Blackhorn stirred…

Wargamers can be a very nice bunch of people. Last December I posted a little update, talking about the latest issue of Spellcaster magazine, which features rules for dragons. I also uploaded a photo of my kids’ toy dragon, which I intended to use until I got around to buying a proper model.

Months later and I received a very nice email from my chum Phil Curran, who told me he had a spare one, and would I like it? I of course said yes, and within days I was the proud owner of this lovely beast from Mantic’s Kings of War range.

It’s a massive model – a really nice chunk of plastic which painted up a treat (despite my heavy-handed drybrushing on some areas that I managed to avoid photographing). The red colour scheme I wanted has come out lighter and more orangery than I anticipated, so I decided to go for black horns, claws and teeth to add some contrast.

All-in-all though I’m very pleased with how the dragon came out, so thanks very much Phil for your generosity – you’re a true gent!

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Rangers of Shadow Deep Mission 1: The Missing (Scenario 1: The Deserted Village)

The ruined village lay below them, smoke rising lazily from still smouldering fires. Grey Leopard crouched at the edge of the rise that overlooked the settlement and looked down. Even from his vantage point it was difficult to work out what had transpired here, or why his fellow ranger Aventine had not returned from his scouting mission, but his sharp senses told him that there were clues to be found. Slowly he beckoned his companions and together they made their way forward…

(Note: This is a playtest of the draft document of Rangers of Shadow Deep. Rules and scenarios in the finished publication may differ)

Time then to take the mantle of Ranger. I decided to create a ‘rangery’ Ranger – a woodsman, survivalist and tracker – called Grey Leopard. After improving my ‘move’ and ‘shoot’ stats, my BPs were spent of abilities like ‘steady aim’ and ‘evade’ and skills such as ‘navigation’, ‘stealth’, ‘survival’ and a handful of others that I thought represented my idea of the Ranger.

This left enough BP to recruit seven companions: bloodhound, raptor, two rogues, two swordsmen and an archer. I kitted out Grey Leopard with a bow, quiver, sword, light armour and a dagger.

The heroic adventurers warily fanned out from the centre of the village, looking for any clues that might provide information. Grey Leopard used his skills to pass a perception test, allowing me to move one of the clue markers to a more convenient location.

Suddenly a low moaning sound alerted the heroes to the presence of zombies! Grey Leopard fired at one, but missed. His companion Ned the archer tutted, before calmly drawing his own bow and dropping the creature.

Other creatures scuttled towards the heroes – giant rats, squealing with malicious glee. Hunter the bloodhound and Ulf the swordsman quickly dispatched one of the rodents, but another one was lurking in the nearby undergrowth.

Catching it’s scent, Hunter dived into the bushes, but the rat’s sharp jaws overpowered the hound. Luckily this rat was in turn dispatched by Blackwing the raptor – blood for the bloodhound!

More zombies were shambling into view. One was shot at close range by Ned, while Ungarra the swordswoman slew another. Meanwhile Sneaks the rogue used her lock picking skills to gain entry to one of the ruins, within which was a clue.

Or was it? No – it was a survivor! After the injured villager gained consciousness he joined the band, swearing revenge upon whatever evil had destroyed his home.

Ungarra stumbled upon another clue: another Human, but dead this time. A quick search of the body and after passing an armoury skills test, she recognised the corpse’s weapon as the magic sword of the Ranger Aventine. So he had also been slain by the evil…

More rats could be heard scurrying through the undergrowth as Sneaks and her injured friend investigated another clue. Another corpse, but this time reanimated! Outnumbered, the creature was quickly slain by the pair.

Rats and zombies were now converging on the adventurers, bringing a pallid stink of fetid air in their wake. A random event card heralded disease, meaning that any hero reduced to zero health would have to pass a health test to stave off the pestilence, or begin the next scenario with -3 health.

Stabbs the rogue uncovered another clue, his keen senses telling him that it was treasure even before he fished it out of the rubble. Meanwhile the adventurers converged on another ruined hut. Blackwing flew in to investigate, but was pounced on by a rat!

Ulf investigated a further clue, finding a pouch of rare anthalas herbs, while at the hut, Sneaks picked the lock and stepped back to allow access to Ungarra. She swept in and killed the giant rat, leaving the next clue free to be investigated.

It turned out to be a set of strange tracks. Luckily Ungarra passed the tracking skill roll and ascertained that something very unpleasant had skittered into the village, turning the inhabitants into zombies. The tracks of these creatures led into the forests…

A great game to start off with. All the clues were uncovered and much experience earned, but the heroes didn’t get it their own way, with Hunter the bloodhound gaining a permanent injury, despite having a +1 to his survival roll thanks to the herbs.

Blackwing survived her injuries, but succumbed to disease after failing her health test. Being at -2 health meant that she would miss the next scenario. The treasure turned out to be a Fishglass, which would come in handy if any swimming was required, while Ungarra claimed temporary ownership of Aventine’s magic sword (which would have to be returned to the King’s armoury at the end of the mission).

A fantastic game full of thrills and spills - solo gaming has never been such fun! Onwards then, to the deep dark woods…