Sunday, 25 February 2018

Adventures in Middle Earth

Adventures in Middle Earth - RPG

Over the years I have put together a list of blogs I frequently read. I was perusing through my list of preferred blogs the other day when I came across one in particular that keeps me up to date with what is going on in the world of Dungeons and Dragons - Bat in the Attic. What got me interested this time though were a couple of blog posts about a new roleplaying game (for me anyway) called Adventures in Middle Earth by Cubicle 7 Entertainment. I had never heard of this company before but apparently they are famous for their Middle Earth roleplaying game; The One Ring. It seems that Cubicle 7 have managed to grab hold of the 5e OGL (Open Gaming License) and are now busy converting the wealth of material available for The One Ring into the new 5e D&D format.

As a sucker for all things Middle Earth I went straight out (well linked to their webstore) and bought a few items to get me started; the Players' Guide, the Loremaster's Guide, an adventure pack and a Loremaster's Screen (which also has a beginners adventure).

I have only really read the Player's Guide so far but it seems that the world they are wishing to convey is heavily influenced by Tolkien's books but with the choice (with a little Loremaster input) to set it in any type of Middle Earth the playing group desires - so you can make your vision of Middle Earth with as much or as little magic as you require, or even set it in Peter Jackson's film version.

I have only just begun to read the Loremaster's Guide, so cannot really say much about it yet. My one take-away from a quick skip through is that it is also a very well put together manual, conveying a conscious effort by the publisher to bring a quality product to the market. I wll try to get through this book over next week and and then take a quick peek at the adventure modules.

The setting for these books (from what I have read so far) is in what they call the Widlerlands - an area that encompasses basically from the Misty Mountains eastward to Rhun. At the moment they do not cover the Shire, Gondor or Rohan to name a few but the playing area is not limited by any means as adventuring can take place in dungeons deep and caverns old, the Lonely Mountain, Mirkwood, Dale etc.

Period wise, the setting is just after (approximately five years) the defeat of the goblins, wolves and bats at the Battle of the Five Armies and the fall of Smaug. Dale and Erebor have been rebuilt/recolonised and wealth is flowing from this area prompting the adventurous sort to get off their comfy couches, put on their walking boots and head out into the Wilderlands to help expand King Bard's benign hegemony.

As an aside, but relevant to this topic, one of my gaming buddies from the RP Haven contacted me a few days ago about getting involved in a D&D 5e game set in Ravenloft. Whilst we chatted about the game I mentioned Adventures in Middle Earth and he replied that the gaming group were looking at maybe delving into that arena after the 5e campaign closed. As RM is down as a temporary DM for a while if the current DM needs a break, I said that I would look into running a brief AiME 5e adventure when our Ravenloft adventures come to an end.

It looks like gaming may be picking up again for me after a few years in my own wilderlands (lots of personal stuff has happened in the last two years, of which only a fraction has been mentioned in previous posts - hence the lack of posts for quite a while, but hopefully that will be changing soon).

Anyway, back to my purchases. From what I have read so far, I am happy with the books. They are lavishly presented and even if I never get to use them, they have so far been a great source of information about the Middle Earth period in question. I daresay that I will pick up more of their adventure and location supplements as they are released (I am already a few behind, so once these ones have been read, I will undoubtedly purchase more of those that are currently available). If rumours are true, they will eventually be expanding (once they convert their One Ring stuff to 5e) from the Wilderlands setting into more familiar territories over time, so my favourite realm of Rohan may be given the special treatment.

Me finding the Bat in the Attic posts was quite serendipitous as I was just at the point of sorting out my GW LotR: SBG figures again. I have got the Gondor troops out of hiding and I am looking at what needs doing to complete a few squads of Warriors of Minas Tirith. My new house has a huge south facing bedroom window, that lets in plenty of light. Today I have just moved an old desk into the room as my painting station so, hopefully, I will be able to sort out my miniatures into their rightful armies and get prepped for a summer of painting.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Battle Companies II

Well, it seems, after several store visits and phone calls to GW, that Battle Companies is a direct only product. So, I decided to order up the book on the web store and get it delivered to my local store - saves a couple of quid on postage and as I need to pop up to the Broadway to do some other stuff soon anyway fits in well with my plans.

The book took one day to be "in process" and then be despatched. It took around 3 or 4 days for it to arrive in my local shop. I was not impressed with the local staff as I called on several occasions after I got the despatched notification - the first call it was not in and I was asked to call back two days later. I did so only to be told that it may be with the post at the shop keep's house! He checked it out during one of his breaks and confirmed it was there. I popped up and collected the book later that afternoon. Talk about right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing - these one-man operations don't seem to cut it in my opinion.

Anyway, onto the book itself. It is beautifully presented with plenty of eye candy on offer. It is a hard-cover tome, so should prove nice and hard wearing. There are 14 pages of actual rules - the main rules are obviously going to be those from one of the main rule books that are already out there; so you will need an additional (the main) rule book in order to be able to play Battle Companies. To be fair, this is mentioned on the back of the book, so no confusion allowed. A good point is that it mentions the Middle Earth Strategy Battle Games rules manual - things are moving forward with this franchise.

The main rules are then followed up with the actual Battle Company descriptions split between good and evil factions; for the good side there are 5 companies for men, 3 for the Elven lords, 2 for the Dwarf realms and one for the Shire. For the evil side there are also 11 companies that can be used to represent the majority of forces you may wish to represent from both the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. There are promises within the tome to say that more will be forthcoming but may be presented in either a future supplement or within the pages of White Dwarf.

Next up are a bunch of scenarios (12 in all), with a nice little section presenting some one-off rules for particular locations if you wish to fight your battles all in one locale, Lake-Town for instance. These are an interesting addition to the basic rules and will add to the fun when played. The scenario section is completed by a new narrative style campaign/scenario - set in Arnor.

The next section, more to use up page space methinks than to add anything to the rules, contains some representative battle companies created and played with (presumably) by members of the GW staff. I must admit they do look good and give one something to strive towards; the back stories/recollections certainly make the companies feel like real forces of troops that grew organically rather than at the whim of a points jockey's calculations.

Finally, a short missive tells one how to utilise one's Battle Company in a main stream LotR:SBG game - some nice rules in here.

Overall, I am so glad that these rules have been given the time of day and released to whet our appetites for the main course which should be out sometime in the first half of next year. That said, I do wonder what will happen to the unofficial supplement doing the rounds on the internet...

A big shout out must go to the authors of this excellent supplement - a lot of time, effort and skill went into creating what we all wanted after GW stopped supporting the idea. Hopefully, the people involved were/will be contacted by GW for some input and maybe a new supplement with some of the Battle Companies within this PDF will see the light of day again. Perhaps even some of the minor rules alterations can be incorporated too?

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Battle Companies

On the gaming side of things, I have renewed my interests in the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Games with the advent of the new Battle Companies rules.

Unfortunately, I have visited three Games Workshop stores and drawn a blank so far; The flagship Warhammer store in Tottenham Court Road only sells their Warhammer ranges - so I can forgive them not stocking it, but my two local stores have both been closed when I got there even though their opening times were advertised on the website and on the shop doors! I am not amused as both times it cost me a lot of time and effort to go out of my way to personally pick up the product (and I was aiming to grab some hobby related goods too).

Recently, my youngest son, 8 years old, decided he would rather play with figures than Lego now. This is without any prompting from me. He noticed an old 2008 GW catalogue lying around and picked it up for a read. This then led him to asking me what I was going to do with a box of Night Goblins I have had lying around for many years. I said I would make them up for him and he could play with them if he wished. Next thing I know, a small parcel came through from an eBay purchase - he had asked his mum for a few items when he visited her and a little later he received some Snotlings. Not to be outdone, I grabbed him some second hand Ogres and Gnoblars at a show I recently attended. Finally, he was able to get hold of a couple of boxes of Warriors of Chaos (3 in each box) to make his little army a decent size to play with.

The other day I popped into the kitchen/study area to find him with my dice out on the table running a battle with rules he had made up himself - even down to using the direction die to see where the ogre cannons and goblin arrows flew. He was rolling to see how far they moved, to resolve combat and even took account of casualties on multi-based units.

He has a load of old LotR miniatures that I bought for him off eBay a few years back, and he has also got those out to fight against his ogres and goblins etc. He is getting more gaming in than I am these days! I will see if I can get some photos of one of his games in progress soon, and some idea on the rules he uses.

This winter holiday I will be gluing up as many miniatures as I can in readiness for a spring undercoating offensive. Then, when the light improves more (I had a serious issue with my eyes recently that has not really got much better - it is not sight-threatening but the reduced level of vision I have will not get any better) I will get some painting done both for him and for me. I am going to enjoy teaching him how to paint, and hopefully his older brother can help out too?

2000AD Winter Special Prog

After all the recent bad events begin to get recede into the memory banks and the present begins to take precedence I will begin to update this blog a little more frequently. I have finally managed to sort out all the after-shocks of the last 18 months and I can now hopefully get together some semblance of an ordinary life again.

First up, to get the blog moving again, is the final 2000AD 40th anniversary signing of the year - the 100 page Winter Prog (#2061). I know most of the latest updates have been 2000AD related, but they are the only entries I can put onto the blog due to their slight nod towards gaming (there are some 2000AD games, figures etc. being played out there).

As usual, one of the London comic shops, this time Forbidden Planet, put on a signing for the die-hard fans. Five out of six of the advertised art droids turned up, which was almost as many as those in the queue. For some reason it was very pooorly attended when I got there (maybe 15 minutes after it started). Perhaps several people had been through the process before I got to the back of the queue?

Anyway, I managed to get my copy of the magazine signed by all five of the very friendly chaps, but as I am still about 10 years behind with my (re-)reading I didn't have any questions to ask any of them. Perhaps in a couple of years' time when I have finally caught up again I will have more that I can chat about? Anyway, these signed copies have been tucked into my collection in their places and will hopefully come as a pleasant surprise when I encounter them again on my read through.

Next post in a couple of minutes...

Monday, 29 May 2017

Anderson : The Deep End

Rebellion's Dredd movie comics

In 2012 the second Dredd movie was released. This was released despite the box office failure by the Stallone version in 1995. The Stallone version tanked at the box office in the US, but world viewings and video sales meant it took enough to actually became a success. The 2012 version ignored all that had gone before in the 1995 version and started with a new vision of dredd and Mega City One.

Since the release of the 2012 film, Rebellion have been hard at work filling in the background and subsequent adventures of the main characters; Dredd, Anderson and Ma-Ma. These stories were all featured in the Judge Dredd Megazine but have subsequently been reprinted in collected works.

The first collected comic (originally printed in Meg #328), titled the Dredd Movie Prequel (only available as a download now I believe), contains the story "Top of the World, Ma-Ma", which describes the rise to power of Madeline "Ma-Ma" Madrigal.


Next up came the one-shot Underbelly (originally in Megs #340-342 - 2013). "In the wake of Ma-Ma’s death, other criminal gangs in Mega-City One are moving into the power vacuum, trying to fill the gap in the market left by the Slo-Mo drug. When a corpse dump is discovered in a rad-pit, the bodies are all revealed to be mutants. Could the dead be connected with an outfit smuggling illegal refugees into the city from the Cursed Earth? Judge Dredd once again teams up with Psi-Judge Anderson as they scour the underworld for the perps responsible, and bring them to justice!"

The third story from the movie universe, Uprise (Megs #350-354 - 2014), "In the neglected sector of Mega-City One known as The Spit, tensions are reaching boiling point amongst the citizens as the shiny new mega-block Oemling Tower is being constructed for those that can afford to live in it. As the Judges face running battles with rioters, the underground movement known as Uprise stokes the flames of dissent..."

The last story, to date, for Judge Dredd is Dust (Megs #367-371 - 2015-16). "When Judges Dredd and Conti are called to a ruthless gang slaying, it seems a vigilante is at work – but the residues of dust left behind and the particular way in which one member was slowly murdered indicate that this is no ordinary perp. The trail leads beyond the walls of Mega-City One and into the Cursed Earth, where the answers may lie within the irradiated wasteland..."

Now to get onto why I have decided to write this little treatise on the Dredd Movie universe...

Rebellion, not happy to rest on their laurels, have branched out this month to cover Judge Anderson in her very own story. Actually, there are two stories in this comic which I picked up on Saturday this week at a comic book signing at Forbidden Planet in London.

There are two variant covers, both of which I picked up and got signed by the author Alec Worley. The first cover above is an exclusive one available only for those who attended the comic signing (and I daresay anyone able to pick up copies of those that are immediately available on EBay).

This comic, Anderson: The Deep End has the story "Following the traumatic events of Peach Trees block, rookie psychic Judge Cassandra Anderson is still coming to terms with life on the mean streets of Mega-City One. When a strange of case of seemingly demonic possession requires her attention, it will play on her doubts and fears…"

I have experienced a big resurgence of interest recently in all things 2000AD and Judge Dredd. I started a few years back by re-reading my collection from Prog 1. I initially collected and read all issues up to and around prog 750 before cancelling my subscription and subsequently selling them all to pay my mortgage arrears one month (a sad day indeed!). I carried on with my subscription again a few years later, but as I didn't own or hadn't read the intervening progs I decided to wait until I had collected them before embarking on this latest odyssey of back prog reading. I was able to get round to this a few years ago and have read all progs, Megazines, Starlords, Tornadoes, Crisis, Revolvers and various specials, annuals and spin-offs up to 2006 - Only about 12 or so years to go!

This column also links into my visits to The Crobar that are featured on my other blog The Taplow Horn. The Crobar is one of the few surviving rock pubs left in London. This is the main reason for visiting this institution; being able to listen to some loud rock music. Secondly, they have a great selection of bottled beers from around the world. Thirdly, the place is decorated with pages from 2000AD and the Megazine all over its walls.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Free Comic Book Day 2017

FCBD  - Saturday 6th May 2017

I am reporting this a week after the event, but better late than never I suppose?

This is the second year I have attended this particular comics event. I have been following it for several years (getting  a single comic at random from my monthly order comic supplier) but I never got round to attending until recently. It is not really an event as in turn up at one place and take part, but an event that is held in several places around the world and thus can be enjoyed by people no matter where they live. Luckily, here in London, I was happy to see three events sponsored by three comic shops all within a ten minute walk of each other; Orbital Comics, Forbidden planet and GOSH! Comics.

From the demographics of those in attendance at each of the three shops I visited, this is not just an old man's pastime. The age of attendees ranged from junior school kids up to old gits like me. The majority who attended appeared to be in their twenties and thirties, which is good news for comics as a story telling medium.

I have been collecting comics for many years but never really got into the fandom thing until very recently. I mainly go to see what Rebellion are up to with 2000AD and Judge Dredd, and this year they had another special for our delectation...

I also had a list of about seven or eight other titles that I wished to try in addition to 2000AD, and I managed to pick them all up bar one; Attack on Titan by Kodansha Comics, which seems to have not made it over the pond for some unknown reason (distribution issues?).

In addition to those I had short-listed, I managed to pick up several other titles in the random goody bags given away by Forbidden Planet, bringing my total to 22 free comics; not a bad haul for a day's wanderings.

I also managed to queue up to get my limited edition alternate cover Doctor Who issue signed by the writer and artist - bonus! I missed out on the 2000AD signing as I got side-tracked by a couple of nice pubs and a few beers whilst waiting for the queue to go down (see my other blog, The Taplow Horn for more details of that side of my day out).

I have another signing day coming up towards the end of the month for the new Judge Anderson tale. This is being held at Forbidden Planet on the 27th of May and will therefore be situated ideally for another beer and burgers trip.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Pevensey Castle

Pevensey Castle - Wednesday 12th April 2017

As it was the school holidays I decided to take some of the kids to an English Heritage site for a day out. As I am a member the entry fee is not charged and it is therefore a reasonably cheap day out (we took our own picnic lunch to save a few quid too). As I had not been there for at least 25 years and the fortification had been mentioned on a couple of TV programmes recently I decided it might be a good bet.

As we have been talking a lot about the Roman and 1066 Norman invasions at home recently, I thought that a trip to this particular castle was rather apt. The kids have been to Bayeux, Battle Abbey on several occasions (even watching the annual re-enactment a few times), and Hastings, but the only major place left for them to visit on William's tour of duty was Pevensey.

It was a rather bleak morning but the sun did pop out from behind the clouds on occasion to brighten things up a little bit. It is a rather small site still, but there is a very small museum on site now which wasn't there the last time I visited. It took us about an hour and a half to wander round and see all the sights, just long enough that something could be learned without the little ones getting too bored.

Other than one "modernised" walkway, none of the walls or towers can be climbed any more. The last time I was there I was able to get into some of the towers and sit in the arrow slits to enjoy some of the views that many a Norman soldier must have done. It didn't really detract from my enjoyment but it may do for some who are more adventurous (read: without worrying about kids taking a tumble).

The castle has seen quite a bit of action throughout its life as a Roman fortress, Saxon fortified village and Norman castle. There are four recorded sieges and it was also modified with gun emplacements to help fight against the Spanish and the French several centuries later, as well as a pill-box looking emplacement for World War Two use. The bay in which the castle stands has been drained over the years for land reclamation, so rather than seeing green fields, the Roman and Norman forces would have seen the sea and lots of coastal marshland.

In all, it was a good morning out. The kids enjoyed themselves and hopefully learned a few things. I recommend the castle for a morning or afternoon visit if you are ever in the area, perhaps alongside a trip to Battle Abbey and Hastings Castle? It was also useful for thinking about castle usage from a gaming perspective. I bought the guide book whilst there, but have not got around to giving it a good read yet, but I daresay I can glean lots of great information from it.