Thursday, December 18, 2014

...paved with good intentions...

Drawing by Dylan Horrocks
Tonight, Ash the paladin died because she put herself between an owlbear and its escape route, under the impression that she was protecting her friends. Alas, a tragic and fatal mistake. Jay-Zee (the bard) had previously done it entirely by accident, but was better at making life/death saves, and so survived the whole horrible affair.

One good outcome though — the escaping owlbear scattered the approaching hobgoblin warband which would almost certainly have killed everyone else.

Tee-Bee-Ay (wizard) was surprised and badly chewed up by a grick, before dual-longsword-wielding Bea sliced it up in a trice with max-damage critical hits from both attacks in the very first round of combat.

Jay-Zee was surprised and stabbed in the face by the single remaining goblin (hiding fearfully under the altar) which then ran away and hid, and amazingly, got clean away. Jay-Zee is disgruntled at the pathetic level of treasure to be found, in spite of having scored ten year's wages worth of coin and other loot.

There appears to be an issue with killed things refusing to stay lying respectably still; they insist on getting back up after a while and shambling about moaning. It's a disgrace, and most inconvenient.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


77156: Owlbear by Jason Wiebe
D&D is no stranger to stupid monsters, and this is one of them — the Owlbear. Mechanically, it's not terribly interesting; it's just a big biting, clawing monster, more dangerous than some, less dangerous than others, but with no real distinction about it. It might as well just be a bear. A rabid bear, but just a bear.

Its existence in the D&D canon does have implications for the standard milieu, implications that are borne out repeatedly: in the D&D universe, anything can be interbred with anything else. It's a concept that really doesn't hold water in the real world, though it appears to be central to the world view of those peculiar people who think that two men getting married is going to lead to general mayhem and apocalypse. But that's a bit beside the point.

This figure does have something going for it that I haven't really seen in others. The owlbear is supposed to be fundamentally bonkers insane to its very core, and this figure does look a tad doolally.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Potion Labels

I'm kind of a fan of using handouts and, where possible, props at the table, just because I think they're fun and cool.

I like the idea of your common-or-garden potions — things like potions of Cure Wounds, Neutralize Poison, Cure Disease, and so forth — being sold like the snake oil that hucksters used to peddle out of suitcases back in the day, with the difference being that you have a slightly higher chance of getting something that will actually work instead of just making you a bit drunk while dissolving your innards.

The labels might serve, after a while, to reassure the players that they're going to get the results they expect (or to make them suspicious that they won't). After all, everyone knows that Professor Pinkman's remedies are generally reliable, but what about this Doctor Arnolfius? has anyone ever heard of him? Should they risk it?

To both of these ends, I thought I might start coming up with some labels that might be found on potion bottles. This is the first.

Here's a link to a PDF (about 880 KB) which will print at the 60x120mm I intended.

And here's another, for the unknown and therefore suspect Doctor Arnolfius' Muscular Enhancer. This one's only 470 KB.

Monday, December 15, 2014


77048: Mocking Beast by Julie Guthrie
I've finally got around to painting the Reaper Bones Mimic figurine I got in their last Kickstarter.

I don't believe this is a monster I have ever used in any of my games. I'm not sure why, because I'm not at all averse to making my players just as paranoid as can be.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ah, fun times!

Cave Monster by lpeters on deviantart
I like this picture. I like it for many reasons, but not least because the guy with the torch is clearly shitting himself with fright and concentrating his whole being on getting the fuck outta there rather than bravely standing up to his mighty foe with raw grit and cold steel.

Judging by the sanguinous state of the critter, torch-guy has already seen what happened to somebody else who attempted to bravely stand up to his mighty foe with raw grit and cold steel.

I would run away too. Just as fast as I could.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Power Grid — Australia, India

I just got the Australia/India expansion for Power Grid. As well as providing new maps to play on, each changes the way the game is played a bit.


  • Australia does not have a single connected power network. Only in the populated regions, mainly in the south east are several cities connected to each other. Because of this, players may connect to any city for a generally higher connection cost.
  • Australia does not use uranium for their power production, but they do mine huge amounts of the material to sell to other countries.

Game preparation

  • In Step 1 and Step 2 of the game only the areas of the resource market for 1 to 8 Elektro are used.
  • There are no uranium spaces in the resource market. The uranium is sold in a separate uranium market in Australia. At the start, all 12 spaces of the uranium market are filled with 1 uranium each.
  • Australia only has 5 regions. In games with 5 or 6 players you always play on the whole map. With 2 to 4 players you may choose the matching number of regions in Australia, the chosen regions do not need to be adjacent!
  • Before preparing the power plant deck, remove the nuclear power plant #17. Place the removed power plant back into the game box; it is not used during the game.

Phase 2: Buying power plants

  • In Australia the nuclear power plants are considered uranium mines. Instead of supplying cities with electricity, the players mine uranium and sell it at the uranium market.
  • The uranium mines are equivalent to the power plants and players buy them in the same auctions. A player may buy a single card during each round - either a power plant or a uranium mine. The uranium mines are not counted towards the limit of 3 power plants (4 power plants for 2 players). In other words, a player may have up to 3 (4) power plants and any number of uranium mines. The uranium mines are considered when determining the player order in Phase 1!

Phase 3: Buying resources

  • The players may only buy coal, oil and garbage. At the start of Step 3 the Australian government establishes C02 Taxes. All prices for the resources in the resource market increase by 2 Elektro. Move the 6 cheapest resource tokens of each type in the resource market to the spaces in the areas for 9 and 10 Elektro. The areas for 1 and 2 Elektro are not used for the remainder of the game. In Step 3 the cheapest resources cost at least 3 Elektro per piece.
  • The uranium tokens are only used to track the uranium prices. They are in either the uranium market or in a separate storage space next to this market. The players only move these tokens in Phase 5: Bureaucracy.

Phase 4: Building

  • Players may connect any available city in the chosen game area to add to their networks. A player either pays the specified connection costs between cities, which are printed on the game board, or he pays the general connection costs of 20 Elektro, in addition to the building costs for the city.
  • The player may always choose the general connection cost, if this is cheaper than the specified connection costs on the map or if there are no connections between the cities at all. In other words: each city in Australia is connected with each other city for a maximum general connection cost of 20 Elektro. A player follows all other rules when connecting a new city: in Step 1 each city is only available for a single player etc.

Phase 5: Bureaucracy

  • Besides getting money from powering the cities with electricity, the players also get money from their uranium mines. In reverse player order, starting with the last player, each player may sell the uranium from his mines to the uranium market. A player may decide not to sell his uranium.
  • In contrast to getting money from powering cities, which players do not get at the end of the game, players get money for selling uranium in the last round of the game.
  • If the player decides to sell uranium, each uranium mine produces an equal amount of uranium matching the number of cities it normally powers with electricity. The player multiplies this amount with the highest available number in the uranium market and gets that sum in Elektro. Then, he places one uranium token per uranium mine (not per produced uranium) from the storage on the highest available spaces of the uranium market. Afterwards, the next player sells his produced uranium for the new price and so on.
  • Afterwards, uranium markers are removed from the uranium market; this symbolizes the demand of other countries for uranium. Starting on the cheapest spaces remove uranium markers in accordance to the resource supply table on the last page and place them into the storage.
  • Finally, fill the resources on the resource market in accordance with the Australia resource supply table.


  • The Indian Subcontinent is always in danger of suffering huge power outages if the players increase their networks too fast.
  • Additionally, the players must buy their resources on a limited resource market, which not always guarantees enough resources for all players.
  • The garbage power plants use livestock manure and have a low efficiency. When producing electricity they need one additional garbage.
  • At the start, the prices of resources begin at: coal 1 Elektro, oil 2 Elektro, garbage 2 Elektro and uranium 6 Elektro. Use only 8 uranium tokens during the game and place the other 4 uranium tokens back into the game box.
  • Before preparing the power plant deck, remove the nuclear power plant #11. Place it back into the game box; it is not used during the game. 

Phase 3: Buying resources

  • At the start of the game the resource market is very small. The players can only access the areas for 1 to 3 Elektro. At the start of Step 2 the areas for 4 and 5 Elektro are added. Only at the start of Step 3 is the whole market completely accessible to the players.
  • In reverse player order, starting with the last player, each player may buy just 1 resource token per buying turn. The players continue in this manner for several buying turns. If a player wants to stop buying, he passes. The other players continue to buy 1 resource token per buying turn.
  • The garbage power plants need 1 additional garbage token to produce electricity, but they do not store more garbage. For example, the garbage power plant #24 now needs 3 garbage tokens, but it can only store up to 4 garbage tokens.

Phase 4: Building

  • When the players connect new cities to their networks, they show this by placing their houses on their end.
  • At the end of this phase the players count the total number of houses placed on their end (which were newly connected by all players during this round). If this sum is higher than twice the number of players, at least 5 houses with 2 players, at least 7 houses with 3 players and so on, the players cause a huge power outage. As punishment they get less income in the following Phase 5: Bureaucracy.
  • Finally, all new houses are placed right side up.

Phase 5: Bureaucracy

  • The players must power as many cities in their networks as possible with their power plants. If the power plants have enough resources and there is still an unsupplied city in that player's network, resources may require to be moved between power plants using the same resources, until the power plants produce enough electricity even if they now overproduce. Only if a power plant is not needed to supply electricity, may the player choose to produce no electricity with that power plant and save its resources for the next turn.
  • If the players caused a power outage in Phase 4: Building, all players are punished and receive less income for powering the cities. For each city connected in a player's network, that player must subtract 3 Elektro from his total income. For example, if he owns 10 cities and powers 8 of them, he gets 90 Elektro - 30 Elektro = 60 Elektro!
  • If there is a power outage in the last round, you also play phase 5 for once, so all players get one more income.
  • Finally, fill the resources in accordance with the Indian Subcontinent resource supply table. Refill the most expensive spaces first, even if these spaces are not available in the first turns, like uranium.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Red Light Artillery

And here are the Gatling guns of the Red Army.

I think this will do for artillery for a while. Both armies could do with a bit more padding out with infantry and cavalry yet.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Blue Light Artillery

Progress has slowed a little recently, mainly because we've been having an unseasonable cold snap. That means that it's not that comfortable in my workroom, and also that it takes quite a bit longer for the Quickshade varnish to cure.

Something I've learned is that you shouldn't use a hair dryer to blow off the excess Quickshade, because the heat accelerates its tacking off, and it doesn't give it time to drool down off the high points and self-level, and you end up with something that looks like it's been bathed in black treacle. The offending model is at the back, on the right.

Oops. Well, now I know that. Now, back to the Reds!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Gatling Gun

Whatever happens,
we have got
the Gatling Gun,
and they have not."
— jolly morale-raising Victorian jingle by Hilaire Belloc.
Here's the first of my HäT Gatling guns, which will be filling the role of light artillery for my generic Victorian Red and Blue armies. These guys, obviously, belong to the Blue army.

There are seven more yet to do, so each army will get four each.

I'm quite impressed by the quality of these little models. The sculpting is a bit more refined than that of the infantry set, and they were pretty good to start with.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

None so blind as those who will not see

Tonight's game revolved around the party playing hide-and-seek with a green dragon.

Success was made possible by the fact that they were dealing with maybe the least observant dragon in the whole history of dragoning. Over the course of the evening, it got to make maybe twenty perception rolls of various sorts; none of them scored more than a seven. And whenever its very respectable passive perception might have been relevant, the party were happily rolling natural twenties for their stealth skill as if there was no other number scribed on the die. (There was, I checked.)

All that was to the good of course, from the players' point of view, since if the dragon had actually found them it would very probably have made pretty short work of the whole lot of them. As it is, they nicked its loot, torched its lair, and got away unscathed.

I have the worst luck with dragons.
P.S.  Annette was most aggrieved that I didn't mention that they were clever too. So then, they were clever too.

Red Artillery

Following on from the Blue artillery, here's their opposition. Exactly as with the Blues, the two medium guns have four crewmen each, while the heavy gun (the ACW howitzer in the centre) has six.

I've conscripted some of the figures from the Revell ACW artillery set to fight for the Reds.

I've managed to track down some HäT Gatling Gun sets, so I'll grab those just as soon as I can and put together some light artillery for each side. And I suppose I'd better get on to some more infantry as well, and some cavalry. There's just no end to it.

It's The Waiting I Can't Stand

The only things I don't like about Army Painter QuickShade are

  1. How long it takes to cure, and
  2. The price.

I hate waiting.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Blue Army Artillery

Here's the beginnings of the artillery park for the Blue Army.

In point of fact, the uniform is that of the British Royal Artillery, of the same era as that of the Red Army, so they really should be shooting for the Reds and not at them. However, I cast aside all historical considerations, and because these lads are dressed in blue, they'll be fighting for the Blue Army — and they'll like it!

The two outside guns came with the figures, and are from HäT's Colonial British Artillery set. They'll be doing duty as generic Medium Artillery, and I've therefore only given them a puny four cewmen each. The middle gun is from a Revell set of American Civil War artillery, which will serve as Heavy Artillery and therefore gets a crew of six. The Revell crew figures will end up crewing guns for the Red Army.

I want to get one or two of HäT's Gatling Gun set, to serve as Light Artillery, but that will have to wait until I can find some.

Brave Boys of the Blue

Here is the first battalion of those brave boys of the Blue Army, ready to take on those repellent and repulsive rapscallions of the Red.

For some reason that I can't put my finger on, I feel like this colour scheme has a Bavarian look about it. My knowledge of actual uniforms of the late Victorian era is sadly lacking though, so it may just be fantasy. Which this army is, so it's got that going for it, which is nice.

I considered going a bit more realistic with the base landscaping, but in the end I decided on this plain, even, bright green grass, which I think is a good compromise between the toy soldier aesthetic and the more modern mini-diorama wargamer's style. It hides the individual figure bases well enough, which is its main function.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Blue Army - Command

Here's the command base for the first Blue Army battalion, front and rear. Note that all the officers get fancy-schmancy crimson pants, while the ruck and swill in the rear rank have to make do with common old dark blue.

I'm pretty happy with the way that these figures are turning out. They do look a bit terrible in high magnification, but in real life they're quite acceptable as gaming pieces.

D&D5e Character Generation Wheel

This PDF (some assembly required), when printed on to card and a circle of acetate or clear plastic pinned to it (for writing on with dry-erase marker), creates a handy-dandy tool for initial characteristic generation for my D&D campaigns.

Basically, the way it works is this:

  1. For each of the small circles, roll 4d6 and write the sum of THREE of them on the plastic over the circle. (I've used this system with 3d6 straight as well, and still got pretty decent characters.)
  2. Repeat until all the circles are filled.
  3. Rotate the plastic circle until you get a characteristic array you like matched with the characteristic name labels in the bottom quadrant of the array.
  4. Once you've chosen a set, you can rearrange them, but at a cost:
     .....For the first pair, each score of the pair is reduced by -1.
    .....For a second pair, each is reduced by -2.
    .....For a third pair, each is reduced by -3.
    And so on, if you really want to play around with them.

Note that I have included the Strength reduction I use for the teensier races. If you hate that idea, just ignore it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Posted on reddit by MrApophenia, which I then found out about from ZakS, who found out about it from danbuter on therpgsite:
So I was thinking about goblins in my game, and came up with an idea I thought was kind of fun. Figured I'd post it for anyone who wants to swipe it. 
In my game, I want goblins to be scary, even though they're mechanically identical to the usual low-level baddies. Mostly I'm swiping the Pathfinder mode of Gremlins-inspired craziness for my goblins, but rather than being cowardly, I'm planning to make them gleefully suicidal, with absolutely no concept of self-preservation or survival instinct. These guys will throw themselves at the heroes in giggling hordes no matter how many get slaughtered. 
Then I got to thinking about why they would have this trait, and an idea struck me: Nematodes. Specifically, nematode cannibalism. 
Nematodes are a type of flatworm with an odd characteristic - if one nematode eats another one, it seems to take on the memories of the consumed worm. Yes, really! 
Goblins, it turns out, are the same. Goblins don't fear death because they have a very peculiar form of immortality: As long as a dead goblin is eaten by another goblin, all its memories will be passed on to that goblin - including any memories from previous consumed goblins! And since goblins are voracious cannibals, most goblins remember dozens or even hundreds of lives (and deaths), and see it as little more than an inconvenience. 
A goblin who eats a hobgoblin not only gains the memories of that hobgoblin, but will begin to grow; over the course of about a month, it will become a new hobgoblin, with the personality and memories of the deceased hobgoblin. This is why hobgoblins are always sure to keep some goblins around, despite their contempt for their inferior cousins - when a hobgoblin dies, assuming it's a hobgoblin the others still want around, they'll go grab the nearest goblin and feed the corpse to it. 
However, one hobgoblin eating another is a severe taboo, because of the result - a bugbear, a monstrously huge goblin that hunts and eats other goblins and hobgoblins. (Bugbears tend to be solitary and avoid each other, so what happens if one bugbear eats another is left to the imagination of the GM.)"

Monday, November 17, 2014

Half a zombie is better than none

Among the stuff I got at the Christchurch Wargaming Society's annual bring-and-buy was a plastic bag labelled "Various Zombies" for three bucks.

Naturally, I couldn't pass up Various Zombies for only three bucks, so I snapped it up. They're plastic, 28mm scale, and thirteen of them, so, 23 cents per zombie. That's a bargain by any measure.

Among them was this guy, which I've repainted and rebased.  I can't help thinking now that the pile of guts in front of him would probably not be as fresh and pink, considering how decrepit the rest of him is, but never mind.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

1st Battalion, Red Army

Almost finished — all bar the base landscaping, on which I have not yet finally decided — is the 1st Battalion of my generic late 19th century Red Army. Another two or three battallions of infantry, a couple of troops af cavalry, and a few artillery pieces, and that will be one army... then I do it all over again for the Blue Army.

I'm impressed with the labour-saving utility of Army Painter Quickshade varnish; it really speeds up production, and gives a pretty good shaded finish. It dries very glossy, and I was considering matte-coating the figures, but I now think I won't bother — I quite like the toy soldier glossy look for these.

The figures are HäT's soft plastic 20mm (1:72) Zulu Wars British. There's no particular reason why I couldn't use exactly the same figures for the Blue Army, and I probably will — these sets of figures deliver the best bang for the wargaming buck of any I've seen. I was considering using, say, 1870s Prussians for the Blues, but of the sets I've seen, I'd end up using about half a dozen figures from each box and tossing the rest. Since the main benefit to me of using plastic figures is their low cost, that would pretty much make using them pointless.

This is the furthest I've got towards building a whole army in many, many years.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Dip

A mass-production miniatures painting technique that has really taken hold in the last decade or so is auto-shading by using glazes or washes of various formulations. Vallejo and Citadel both produce water-based washes in an increasing range of colours, and when used sensitively they can create excellent, subtle shading with minimal effort.

For wargames figures, less finesse is required. The miniatures are intended to be viewed at arm's length or further, so the shading results can (and probably should) be less subtle. Plus, wargaming figures benefit from being well protected from the vicissitudes of handling by a good, sturdy sealing coat.

Here are a couple of alternatives to achieve that end.

On the left, Army Painter Quickshade (Dark Tone). Quickshade comes in three strengths of tone, so you can use whichever best suits the underlying colours. This 250ml tin cost me $45, which is not cheap.

On the right, Cabots Varnish Stain (Indian Tea). This can be tinted in a much wider range of colours. The 250ml tin cost me about $25 — slightly more than half the price of the Quickshade.

However, price is not the only determining factor when one is choosing a product. How do they perform? Both, as far as I can determine, do fundamentally the same job: both are oil-based, fairly low-viscosity, tinted varnishes.

Below are two varieties of Reaper plastic zombies. Each type has been block-painted and then just dipped in the stain — a crude method of application; brushing the stuff on would certainly give you more control.

Of each type, the Quickshaded one is on the left, the Cabots Varnish Stained one is on the right.

The Quickshade gives you a much more subtle shading effect than does the Cabots, which is probably usually going to be preferable. I haven't yet tried thinning the Cabots to see if that ameliorates the chalk-and-soot effect — if it does, then its much lower price would make it a more cost-effective option. Both products do a decent job; if price is no object, my taste runs more towards the Quickshade outcome.

Both of them harden over about 24-48 hours to a a rugged, glossy finish. That means that unless you like your toys shiny, you'll need to hit them with a decent matte-coat afterwards. Some acrylic varnishes don't work or play well with oil-based underpainting, so that means that the matte-coat should probably be spirit based.

The Next Day...

I gave the zombies a squirt of Vallejo acrylic matte varnish to take the gloss off them, and it went on just fine. It doesn't seem to be bothered by the oil-based varnish underneath, which is good.

Something I've found about acrylic matte varnishes is that they really do work best sprayed. I've never achieved anything better than a satin finish by brushing them, while the identical varnish goes dead flat when applied through the airbrush.

Thinning the Cabots

Thinning doesn't work very well. I suspect that what it needs is not thinning, but dilution — I may get an un-tinted can and use that to get the exact degree of tint I need. However, there's not much point in that until I run out of Quickshade, and a pot does go quite a long way, especially when it's brushed on.