Saturday, 24 January 2015

White Dwarf #52 - The White Council and Radagast the Brown

After sorting through all my LotR miniatures during the last week, I decided today to pop into my local Games Workshop to pick up some new paints and so on. I picked up enough to get me started on my orcs - I chose these as my first army to paint as they can be used as allies for pretty much all Evil armies and can fight against all Good armies.

Whilst there, I noticed that the latest White Dwarf (Issue #52) was out. I picked this up and even got the manager to dig out a free copy of White Dwarf issue #47. I had heard that issue #47 had a small Bilbo vs. Smaug game that was played with cards. It got my interest piqued, so I grabbed a copy.

Once again, I will only detail The Hobbit articles that appear in the magazine and mention the overall theme for the rest of the contents.

White Dwarf #47

The front cover presents a rather nice picture of the new Smaug miniature. It is a very nice sculpt but unfortunately it is well out of my price range and I doubt I could paint it well enough to do it any justice.

The bulk of the magazine is taken up with the new Warhammer 40,000 Cities of Death rules and some free cards but my main interest was just the four-page article entitled Hunt for the Arkenstone. It is a playing card-based game that allows two players to recreate Bilbo's hunt for the aforesaid jewel before he is caught by the dragon Smaug.

White Dwarf #52
The main thrust of this issue is the reawakening of the Necrons for Warhammer 40,000.

What I was interested in though (and why I parted with my cash) was The Hobbit stuff. There is a fair amount on the latest figures releases in this issue...

  • The White Council and Radagast the Brown are detailed in a short article with attendant pictures (2 pages)
  • The Fall of the Necromancer - a scenario in which to use the new White Council miniatures against the Necromancer and his nine attendant Ring Wraiths (2 pages)
  • Stats for The White Council and Radagast riding a Great Eagle (4 pages)
 This is only a small haul of The Hobbit goodness (8/32 pages, or 25% of the magazine content) but I feel that I have to occasionally purchase the magazines with content relevant to me to show Games Workshop that I still want magazine support for the hobby. If everyone else interested in the ruleset were to do the same, the spikes in sales of White Dwarf with The Hobbit content may show Games Workshop the game is popular and warrants a little more attention - one mag per month or two chock full of only The Hobbit stuff would be ideal.

With regards the new minis detailed in the magazine; I doubt I will buy them. They do look very nice but as they are cast in resin they are in a medium I am not too keen on. Sadly, most of The Hobbit releases are in Finecast, so I doubt I will buy any of them. However, the few plastic sets that are available (and hopefully others soon to be released) may allow me to collect some minis and play a few battles from that era as well as combine them with my LotR minis to make larger armies for certain regions for the later War of the Ring period. My existing LotR metal and plastic miniatures can proxy for those minis of beings that appear in both eras (i.e. 60 years apart).

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

My Lord of the Rings Armies (The Boxes)

As I have a few weeks off work to get the building work done around the house, I thought I would attempt to sort out all of my Games Workshop Lord of the Rings miniatures to see what I have and hopefully catalogue them in readiness for a painting and gaming timetable. I will only be cataloguing the Lord of the Rings minitaures, as I will run a separate project for my (much fewer) The Hobbit minis.

Today I managed to find all of the boxes, blisters and individual minis that I have scattered around the house and pulled them together. I am sure I have missed a few, so when I get round to the painting etc. and I find any more, I will add them into the photos then. I collated them all into their relevant armies and then photographed them en masse whether still in their box, blister or in some state of completion.

My collection basically grew from the very popular Battle Games in Middle Earth magazine that was published by deAgostini way back when the films first came out. Each bi-weekly issue of the magazine contained a variety of articles that included painting and modelling guides, scenarios and some brief back-story. They also included a metal figure or sprue of plastics within the cellophane wrapper.  I collected the entire set and duplicated a few more as back-orders to create the basics of a few armies (mainly Gondor, Rohan and Orcs). I then went on to buy the occasional box set and blister directly from Games Workshop before they started to go OOP. I then picked up a few more via EBay to plug any gaps in the collection. The armies are far from complete, but I will need to sit down with each army in turn, work out what I need to complete it, purchase the missing miniatures either from GW or EBay, and then get round to painting and modelling them.

Anyway, enough with the chatter, here are the pictures I took today of the 9 armies I have begun to collect. You may notice that I have not collected one of the major races; the Elves. That is because Alex has a sizable Elf army (of all factions - High Elves, Lothlorien and Mirkwood), and he will continue to collect and paint those, so there is no point in me getting a duplicate of what he has on the go.

Dwarf Army
This army consists of 64 miniatures so far. There is a severe lack of plastic infantry, but that will be remedied soon by allocating a couple of  boxes of warriors from both the LotR and Hobbit ranges.
Easterling Army
This force consists of 101 figures, which also includes a small mercenary contingent made up from EBob's Mongol range. They make great Eastern-looking allies for Sauron's most devoted mannish followers.
The Free Peoples
This is not an army as such, but just a selection of the remnants of those that do not fit into any particular race/region. The 71 figures include my 2nd Age troops, a few Elves that Alex already has, a bunch of Hobbits, a few Istari and 'neutral' beings, as well as a small number of 'baddies' in the guise of Gollum and Shelob.
Gondor Army
The bulk of this force is made up from plastic men-at-arms and rangers. There are a few cavalry also but this is a very hero heavy force. That said, including some minor allied contingents, this force numbers 104 miniatures.
The Haradrim
Another of the mannish realms that fell under the sway of Sauron's dominion. This is a small force that will probably not grow much more. There are a couple of old Citadel and Foundry minis included as I felt they fitted with the theme of the army. I will use them as minor heroes or extra captains to add a bit of variety.
The Forces of Isengard
When Saruman was ordered to "Build me an army worthy of Mordor", this is what he came up with. This needs to be added to on the plastic warriors front, but there are a few siege items I would to add to this army too. 103 figures makes for a decent size so far.
Mordor Army
I am not sure if I will actually make a Mordor army. The bulk of these minitaures will feature as Isengard lackeys. I would like a few more Ringwraiths and so on as allies, but the rest I will paint on an Isengard theme.
The Mines of Moria
Not really on anybody's side, but always hateful of Dwarfs and sun-siders, this will make for a nice little diversionary force if I ever delve into the underworld. I have included Burhdur the troll as a leader for my three cave trolls to add a bit more oomph to this force.
The Rohirrim
This final force were my favourites in both the books and the films, so I had to collect a large army of them. So far, there are 117 figures, but this will expand quite a bit. The bulk of the plastic figures have been painted already, but as I am due to buy the same amount again, then this is probably a good thing.

So, there you have it, my Lord of the Rings collection in almost its entirety. My next task is to begin opening the boxes and blisters and then cutting them from their sprues in order to begin gluing them up. I will then work out what else I need to buy to complete each army by using the warband rules in the SBG rulebook. Each hero and captain will lead a warband, so I guess there are many more plastic purchases in the offing. There are also several metal miniatures I still need to complete what I need. I will be making one small house-rule with regards the forces: Murin and Drar - I am going to allow them collectively to lead a warband, so in their case there will be 14 in their warband rather than the usual 13 (including leader).

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Dungeons and Dragons 5E

The kids were badgering me to explain what I used to get up to on a Wednesday evening, so I went out and bought the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set over the weekend. I have to take my hat off to Amazon on this one: I ordered it on Sunday night with the Super Saver free postage offer and it arrived Monday morning! Quicker than Royal Mail 1st Class.

Anyway, onto what you get in the box...
The first thing that fell out as I opened the box was a set of blue polyhedral dice: the usual d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 and d20. I would have liked a d100 too but there you go. We have four complete sets of dice at home that are easy to find (I don't know what happened to all my old gaming dice - they have become lost somewhere whilst we are moving stuff around for some building work that is currently going on in the house), so I can get a game going with the kids in the next week or two.

The next thing I noticed was a glossy blank character sheet (no doubt meant for photocopying) and five pre-genereated characters - just add preferred name.

Next up was the Starter Set Rulebook - a 32 page rulebook that has all the info to get you started whether as a Player or DM. This contains details of character stats, combat, adventuring and spellcasting. I am presuming that this only contains a very small fraction of the spells and equipment that will be available in the full version, but it is certainly enough to be getting on with. I have only had a skim read through this book but all seems standard fare; the usual character classes/races look like they will be available in the full version of the rules, but I have heard rumours that some of the latter stock races (Tieflings? - not sure what they are, but wanting to find out) will be too. The standard game world also seems to be Forgotten Realms, not that that means anything to me as I always play in my own campaign settings and adapt modules etc. to fit. There are a few new rules that I would like to try out - Advantage/disadvantage instead of trying to find all those plusses and minuses when calculating To Hit etc., Feats and Skills have been simplified, but not too much, and combat seems to be quite streamlined now.

The final gaming item is a 64 page adventure booklet. I have only glanced through the pages (looked at the nice artwork but not really read any of it), but it seems quite a substantial and comprehensive manual. I will be trying to run this with the family in the next week or two - just as soon as the house is back in order after the building work.

Then there is one last item - a cardboard tray. I am unsure what its purpose is within the box - maybe it is to be used as some sort of divider within the box itself, or maybe there is more to come that will fit into the starter box and thus require something to hold it? I will use it to hold the character sheets and dice separate from the rulebooks. I am sure many pieces of note paper will be required for running the adventure and perhaps it can hold all of those between sessions?

Getting onto the whys and wherefores of the Starter Set, I bought it on a whim due to questions asked by the kids and because it was not too expensive (£16.99 including free postage). It will also give me an insight into the new version to see if I want to pick up the three core books in the future (most likely that will be a Yes). I am hoping there will be some kind of conversion kit to allow migration of old characters from any version to this version. I would like to get the kids playing something and maybe involve my wife too, so we can have a monthly (or weekly?) gaming session with snacks and fizzy drinks around the dining table for a couple of hours of interacting together. It has got to be better than just vegetating in front of the TV.

In summary, as this is just a starter set there is a heck of a lot of stuff missing, but it does work (from a cursory glance through) for beginners to D&D I think - everything you need is there in the box to play a game except maybe some figures and a battle mat (but Wizards stress that this game should be tried as an imagination based game too). I think that for your money it is a little light on physical content; i.e. two booklets, 6 (character) sheets of paper and 6 dice is not really that much for the money, but if I compare it to other rulesets (e.g. Saga) I have bought recently it is on a par. The quality is very high and the production values second to none, so knowing what D&D is like in play, I think that you do in fact get quite a bit. I would give the Starter Box a good 7 out of 10 for effort and presentation, and the hours of fun it should produce.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

White Dwarf #46 and The Battle of the Five Armies supplement

A little bit late, but I thought I would comment on this issue of Games Workshop's weekly printed magazine. It is not so much on the content of the magazine itself, although there were a couple of The Hobbit themed pages, but on the inclusion of a rather nifty-looking gaming supplement that I am going to comment.

Cover of The Battle of the Five Armies supplement issued with White Dwarf #46

White Dwarf became a weekly printed magazine about a year ago, but it is now mainly aimed at Games Workshop's two main universes: Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, with a smattering of The Hobbit thrown into the mix occasionally. As I do not play in either of GW's universes, I am limited to how often I buy the magazine, but as it contained a supplement of a game I would like to get back to playing, I bought it.

It is in a stapled magazine format rather than a stiff-card bound cover so, unfortunately, it will not look good on the shelf with the rest of my LotR and The Hobbit supplements. Hopefully, if GW release another issue (see later), the two may be combined into a hard card cover at some later date and I will purchase that one for my shelf.

Anyway, onto the contents - please note if you have not seen the film yet, this may contain some spoilers.

There are two new scenarios featured plus a small section on how to link them together along with the scenarios from the preceding supplements already published. These combined now tell a narrative that spans all three films...

  1. The first scenario is called Fire and Water. It pits Bard, 4 dwarfs, Tauriel, the Master of Laketown, Alfrid and a captain along with 3 dozen Lake Town guardsmen against Smaug. This is meant to represent the scene in which Smaug meets his nemesis
  2. The second new scenario is Assault on Ravenhill. This is a battle that pits Bilbo, 4 dwarfs including Thorin, Radagast on an eagle, 2 great eagles and Beorn against Azog, Bolg, 3 Gundabad orc captains and 3 dozen Gundabad orcs. This is meant to represent the scene where the dwarfs attack the orc leaders upon Ravenhill to end the battle raging below them

After the scenarios section is a part with the profiles for all the new The Hobbit miniatures that have just been released...

  • The Good Heroes section contains the stats for Bard, Lake Town captains, the Company of Dwarfs plus Bilbo, Saruman, Radagast, Galadriel, Elrond, Thranduil, Legolas, Tauriel and Mirkwood Elf captains
  • The Good Warriors section contains the stats for Mirkwood Elf cavalry, Mirkwood Elves and Laketown Militia
  • The Evil Heroes section contains the stats for Azog, Bolg and Smaug

The final section of the supplement contains details on how to create themed armies depending upon where they are from or who you want to build a force around...

  • There are three new armies: Desolation of the North (Smaug), Erebor Reclaimed (The Company), and Survivors of Laketown (Bard, Laketown Captains and Laketown Miltia)
  • There are also amendments to some previous army lists detailed in previous supplements: Thranduil's Hall, The Army of Laketown, Azog's Hunters, Radagast's Alliance and The White Council

The final page has summary details of all of the new stats.

Overall, I am happy with the supplement, considering it cost me only the price of an issue of White Dwarf. However, I do have a few nits to pick...

  1. I was hoping it would detail some of the cool evil troops in the film like the new troll variants, the ogre-type (Olog-Hai?), and the various other new orcs, as well as the Iron Hills Dwarfs, but I imagine GW are awaiting the release of some more minis before releasing another new supplement in White Dwarf that contains those missing stats
  2. I had hoped a combined (this one plus my hoped-for evil one) supplement would have been released in hard card cover so that it matched in with the rest of the supplements I already own
  3. As I am not a regular White Dwarf reader I have no way of knowing when these types of things come out. Even though I do subscribe to their newsletter, I still have to rely on rumours on the internet as The Hobbit material is not very well advertised

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

400th Post!

After I had published yesterday's blog post I noticed that it was my 399th submission. This came as a massive surprise to me as I did not think I had written that many entries. So, on this, my 400th post, I thought I would take a brief look back over my past few years' worth of entries and see where I have gone from and where things have led to.

The blog began life primarily as a catalogue to detail the painting of my old-school fantasy figures and my newly purchased Early Imperial Roman army. This soon diversified to include the many other types of mini that were in my lead and plastic piles. Unfortunately there was no real order to the chaos, so my collection just got painted with no real project in mind, except to begin with to get a few Hordes of the Things armies created and to test and hopefully improve my painting skills. The HotT armies were created but they were never played with - interest in the system died before I completed the painting unfortunately. If I could go back and do things differently I would have painted all of my fantasy minis to fit within a theme. There were a few minor themes involved but no coherent whole. This was an opportunity missed. However, I really could not face going back and repainting/basing all those minis. So, going forward, I will hopefully be doing things with more of a theme in mind in the future.

As time went on, I started to add write-ups of returns and various artwork from a play-by-email game run by my long-time gaming friend Colin. A few more games were also added in this way, including one of my own, but I decided a short way through to create a new website to house that and thus keep it separate from my painting stuff. Unfortunately, I did not keep up the posting after it finished and, as it was a freely hosted site, the server/site owners deleted it to recapture the space. Ho hum, another harsh lesson learned.

At around the time I began writing up the pbm stuff, my son Alex wanted to get in on the action and offered his figures up for the blog. He was much more interested in the Warhammer worlds, so his input was mainly Bretonnians and Space Marines, but this eventually began to broaden to encompass Lord of the Rings and a variety of other stuff that took his fancy. My daughters also showed an intial interest but this soon waned after just a  few figures painted. The last couple of years has also seen Alex's interest wane a little, but he is still interested and wants to start painting again this year.

After a large proportion of my old fantasy minis and Roman army had been completed, the theme of the blog over the last year or two turned to write-ups and details about the AD&D adventures set within my own campaign world of Doggerland. This was regularly updated and I really enjoyed playing and preparing the adventure each week, but this took over from the painting almost completely.

It is funny how interests change, even within the niche hobby of gaming. I continually looked at my unpainted mini stash whilst preparing for RPG sessions and rued the fact I had very little spare time to put paint on the brush. I certainly wanted to keep up all aspects of my hobby but time was certainly against me what with the regular RPG session to prepare for each week, a long working day, and a young family to keep occupied.

Now that my personal situation has changed, I have had a chance to rethink a few things. Some of my new-found spare time has allowed me to begin re-reading my huge collection of 2000AD backdates, and I have got through a fair few new (to me) fantasy novels, DVDs on a fantasy theme, and a quick scan through some rule books I have bought in the past couple of years but not got round to reading. All of these things have begun to fire off new and exciting ideas in my imagination and I am hoping it will lead to more themed ideas for specific gaming ideas.

These themed ideas, I am hoping, will lead to me getting more painting done. I will most likely start off with my humungous GW Lord of the Rings collection that has been collected as cheaply as possible (courtesy of de Agostini's Battle Games in Middle Earth and eBay) over the last several years. I have painted quite a few Rohan and some Easterlings so far, but will look to create a selection of armies for future gaming. I am looking for themes for these and will try to make the whole collection one cohesive whole.

Game rules sets wise I was thinking of progressing from smaller to gradually larger games: Battle Companies (9 or 10 figures per side) > Strategy Battle Game (30-40 per side) > LotR Saga (50-70 per faction) > Dux Britanniarum and then see from there. This will all progress alongside my preparation for the next part of the Doggerland saga, which may be either another RPG or a pbm game.

Lots to do and get on with just as soon as my youngest gets over his chicken pox and no longer needs constant attention!

Monday, 5 January 2015

Long time, no post

It has been a while since I last posted to this blog. A lot has happened in the last few months that has turned my reasonably settled life upside-down. I was made redundant from my job back in September and it took me a month or so to find some temporary work that tied me over the Christmas period. That temporary role has now ended, so I am now back out of work and looking for a new challenge. The redundancy also coincided with the end of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons campaign I was running. During this period of contract work the hours I worked were not conducive to carrying on at the RPG club I attended religiously every Wednesday evening, so I had to stop going.

On the bright side, I have been able to sort out lots of stuff around the house - many of those odd-jobs that build up over the years have been slowly ticked off the list. I also inherited the school run at both ends of the day from my wife whilst I have been off. All of this added together has meant that I have had no time for gaming activities except for the occasional read through a few blogs and forums I follow.

The gaming eye-candy and fun that I have been seeing over the Christmas period on the internet have really whetted my appetite for gaming again, so I will be sorting through my piles of unpainted lead and plastic and unread rule books, and getting some projects on the board again. I have missed wielding my paintbrush, so this will be my first port of call - sorting out an army to begin dabbing on the colours. From the piles of boxes and blisters I have lying around, I imagine I will take a look at my Lord of the Rings stuff first. Saga, also looks to be top of the list too, so I may combine the two with the help from a few blogs I have read that contain the appropriate fantasy styled battle boards.

Anyway, this is just a short missive to let you all know that I am still around and that this has only been a brief hiatus in my normally regular posting schedule.

Here's wishing you all a belated Happy New Year and I hope that you all got what you wished for over the Christmas period.