Monday, 20 March 2017

Frostgrave: the Thaumaturgist's Warband

Maisey has been organising a four-player Frostgrave campaign of late, and the prospect of a wizard-centric spiritual successor to Mordheim was more than a little tempting. We decided we’d do this aaaages ago but as with so much last year, it never materialised. Well by Jove, 2017 remains the Year of Finishing, and thus have I finished another project: my Frostgrave warband. As such, I thought I’d wurble about my spell choices, my henchfolk selections, and a wee sprinkling of each character’s background.

The initial warband

I won’t be reviewing the game just yet; we’ve played a few skirmishes and they were great fun, but I’d like to have a full campaign under my belt before presuming to have an opinion of any relevance.

This is Ilandrin. He’s convinced that other wizards are irredeemably selfish muppets, and if they’re allowed to plunder the ruins of Felstad then the prevalence of destructive magical duels will inevitably worsen, catching the common folk (and probably livestock) in the crossfire. He therefore intends to hoard all the swag, put it somewhere safe, then go back to a life of quiet contemplation in his tower having averted certain disaster. He sees absolutely no flaws or double standards in this plan.

This is the old elven mage from Mordheim, appropriately enough.
He was chilling (and perhaps even maxing) in my bitz box, along with 21,839 other dudes.

Most people would describe Ilandrin as a reclusive snob. They’re right. That said, those who know him better would add that he’s a thwarted idealist; someone who spent their youth fighting for a better world only to lose heart when he realised the fight could never be won with any permanence. People would always be selfish and short-sighted, and nothing he did would change that.

The rediscovery of Felstad is the first thing that has motivated him to leave his tower for decades. Here he sees a finite goal that will make a tangible difference, and has thrust himself into the endeavour with a long-lost determination.

His rekindled enthusiasm has also brought back his sense of humour, although his associates consider this to be something of a curse. What Ilandrin calls wordsmithery, they call dreadful puns of the sort made by a father determined to humiliate his progeny.

There are ten different schools of magic in Frostgrave. When creating a starting wizard, you have to pick from a variety of disciplines as well as spells from your own school, which makes for an enjoyable level of flexibility to your initial character build.

Ilandrin is a thaumaturge, which means he’s mostly into healing people rather than exploderising them. Thus, my initial spell choices are mostly about trying to be a nice guy in an ultraviolent situation. This has the major downside that a fair chunk of the experience in Frostgrave is earned by killing/injuring people, but dash it all, one must be true to oneself.

Thaumaturgy spells
  • Heal. This feels pretty much de rigueur for a thaumaturge.
  • Blinding light. Incapacitate someone without hurting them? Ideal.
  • Restore life. Ilandrin won’t lead people into certain death if it can be avoided. He’ll lead them into certain pain instead.

Aligned spells
  • Mind control [soothsayer]. This spell has the duel advantages of being nonviolent and also mitigating the small size of my warband by stealing the opponent’s minions, although I swears on the Precious I’ll send them home when I’m done with them.
  • Teleport [illusionist]. If you’re not planning on fighting people, it’s a good idea to have an escape route.
  • Absorb knowledge [sigilist]. A chance of accruing bonus XP? Yes please. This is to offset the reduction in experience I’ll be taking as a result of being such a hippy. Taking it as one of my starting spells means it has a chance to start paying dividends right from the outset.

Neutral spells
  • Enchant armour [enchanter]. With a small warband, one must look after one’s employees.
  • Elemental bolt [elementalist]. Here we have the token facepain spell. Ilandrin is well aware that, in a monster-shaped emergency, one does occasionally have to make things go zap-sploosh. I shall endeavour to use this spell as little as possible on sapient characters.

Spells wot I want in the future
If I can scrape together the coin, I’ll strongly consider forking out for dispel, and possibly also miraculous cure if I accrue any nasty injuries. Maybe Lady Luck will let me pick these spells up as random loot, but it seems statistically improbable!


Apprentice: Gili the Exile
The Rite of Nullification is carried out on those few dwarves who have any magic in their blood. A dwarf would say this is because combining a lust for gold with a lust for arcane power is a recipe for disaster; cynics suggest that dwarves are just rubbish at magic and don’t want to embarrass themselves. Either way, the important thing is that no-one refuses the Rite of Nullification.

Except Gili, daughter of Thodrum.

When she became the first dwarf in recorded history to refuse the rite, her family exiled her to avoid dishonour. Appalled by the family’s willingness to cast her aside, Gili’s brother Gandric followed her into exile, leaving the House of Thodrum heirless, and the two of them began searching for a tutor in the roofless realm of the surface.

Gili's model can be found here.

Every wizard they met laughed and turned Gili down; life was too short to even try training a dwarf. One said he’d have more luck squeezing gold out of a goose. It became apparent to Gili that she needed to find a master so long-lived that time was no issue, and so headed off to the elven city of Arn Thalor. There she met a new problem: blatant racism. She persevered, and eventually knocked on the door to a tower in the hills overlooking the white walls and blue slate rooves of the city, and Ilandrin answered the door.

He seemed neither friendly nor interested, but offered her access to his library and said that if she could look after herself she could stay. It seemed like the best offer going, so Gili and Gandric rented a room in a local tavern, and while she made the daily trek up to Ilandrin’s tower, Gandric kept them in bread by working as a mercenary. Gili slowly got to know the wizards in the area, and saw humans and elves who started learning after her become fully-fledged wizards. She spent years trying to master even the most basic cantrips, and while she came close to quitting on several occasions, she never gave up. In time, her determination moved Ilandrin, and he began to train her properly. This has earned Ilandrin a fair amount of mockery from his peers, although he doesn’t seem to care.

Something finally clicked in Gili about three years prior to the rediscovery of Felstad, and since then, her skills have grown at a normal rate. Just as well, Ilandrin reasons, since he’ll need all the help he can get in the ruins of the frozen city.

Since Ilandrin is a perfectionist and a snob, the value of hiring plenty of cheap thugs and thieves to carry treasure is lost on him. He’s hired the best bodyguards money can buy, and even his expedition’s cooks and camp staff are well-trained marksmen.

Gandric the Exile
Gandric's model can be found here.

Gandric is far more pragmatic than his sister, and worries that her relentless optimism will get her killed. As such, he rarely leaves her unattended. This is a source of both gratitude and frustration, but ultimately Gili knows she’d be dead if it weren’t for her brother’s axe. In rules terms, Gandric is a templar with decent armour and a two-handed weapon.

Uhtred & Adebola
These two warriors come as a pair in more ways than one. Uhtred, a well-travelled and respected mercenary, met Adebola during his travels, and brought his lover home with him after hearing a big magical ruined city had thawed out right next to the village he grew up in. Their relationship is somewhat inspired by an incredibly NSFW and hilariously penis-filled episode of Oglaf.

Uhtred's model can be found here.

Adebola's model can be found here.

What Ilandrin doesn’t know (yet) is that Adebola isn’t really a dedicated warrior but more of an explorer, despite Uhtred’s claims otherwise, and will mainly be using muscle and enthusiasm to survive in Felstad. This little facet of Adebola’s character came into being because the sculpt of the model is leaning forwards spectacularly, implying a total lack of discipline and training.

In rules terms, Uhtred is a knight and Adebola is an infantryman.

Hesla & Bolbert Whindle
Halflings are famous for their cooking skills, and so when Ilandrin saw husband and wife Bolbert and Hesla advertising themselves as local guides, trackers, and cooks, he hired them on the spot. If left in the same place, they can spend hours bickering over a bubbling pot of stew, and so Ilandrin is finding it best to take one of them along as a pathfinder whilst leaving the other to mind the camp.

Hesla Whindle's model can be found here.

Bolbert Whindle's model can be found here.

In rules terms, both Hesla and Bolbert are crossbowmen, and until I’ve gathered more gold only one of them can come along on an excursion.

In case things actually go well and I manage to yoink swag aplenty, it seemed prudent to paint up some reinforcements. These come in the form of a bonus Halfling (as explained above) and two well-equipped knights: Solveig Ulrikasdottir and Ragna Yngvildrsdottir. This would take me up to nine warband members, and the absolute max is ten. I’ll wait and see how things pan out before I decide on a tenth trusty assistant.

Ragna's model can be found here.

Solveig's model can be found here.

Something else worth mentioning: painting a warband is essentially a chance to paint a bunch of completely individual models, and that gave me an unmissable opportunity to experiment with various painting techniques. I wanted to try and create old, worn-looking fabrics rather than the cleaner look one achieves with conventional highlighting/blending. Did it work? No. I misjudged the strength of my glazes, or misjudged colours, and the end results often looked a lot flatter than intended, particularly on Ilandrin. The problem was compounded by the limited amounts of painting I’ve done over the past few years, but oh well. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and this has been a fun little side-project. The warband has the overall tone I was going for, even if the end result isn't necessarily my personal best.

There’s still some scenery and some NPCs to paint, and then we’ll creep our way into the ruins and try not to get eaten / shot / fireballed / frozen / zapped / mauled / clawed / trampled / splattered on a wall. Good times.


Sunday, 12 March 2017

Storm Eagle - A Work In Progress: Part 1

Hello my little Beardlings,

In my post last week I said that 2017 is going to be a year of getting things finished and I also went on to list out the unfinished projects that have been sat around waiting for some love, care, and attention. I also had set myself some deadlines, and as much as I love hearing the whooshing noise that deadlines make when they go past, I really am going to be firm with myself about sticking to them. 

So, what's on the list for March?

Maisey’s Hobby To Do 2017:

- WFB: Ogre Scrap Launcher. Feb
- Bolt Action: German Veteran Heer Grenadiers . Feb 
- Frost Grave: Scenery - Gothic Buildings finishing + Finish remaining Tabletop world buildings. Feb
- 40k: Charlie’s Storm Eagle - build and paint. Mar
- Bolt Action: North African/Desert Board - source buildings and make scatter scenery/trench works etc. Apr
- WFB: Vampires - Finish 35 Skeleton Unit, Maybe upgrade 25 Skeleton Units to 35’s?. May
- WFB: Empire - have 30 slots in case. Bulk out line units + detachment. Add new line unit? Jun
- Bolt Action: DAK - get book 2nd ed, write army list, start getting any extra models. Jul/Aug
- 40k: Thousand Sons - work out colour scheme/painting method. Get hero models. Get extra troop choice models/convert up cultists. Sep/Oct
- Bolt Action: NWE British. Paint Trucks + get a Tank (Firefly?). Nov
- 40k: Industrial Scenery, Dec
- 40k: Tyranids, palate cleanser/gap filling/drying time project. All Year
- Bolt Action: Pacific theatre project planning. Back Burner/2018?

- The Beard Bunker 2018 super secret project planning. Back Burner/Nov/Dec

How Charlie convinced me to build his Storm Eagle for him was a blurry mix of flattery, self deprecation, and off handedness that meant I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. Yes, I've built big kits before. Yes, I've worked with resin before. And Yes, I do silly things with static model builds that involve methods that wargaming miniatures don't normally use. Long story shortened, I'm building a Storm Eagle.

It's a big kit. Not as big as some of the Titans that Jeff has built and painted (Jeff's Titan work), but still big. It's also a very non-organic shape, which resin doesn't actually like to be. Resin is great for details, it great for big creatures. What it's not great at is staying is a straight line. Above we can see all the bits after been thoroughly washed in warm water to remove the mould releasing agent. 

Cutting back the contact points for the mouldings. Vigorous action with the clippers, followed by a lot of sanding. Remember to wear a face mask while sanding resin, it's really not good for your lungs. 

Engines are on. I'm using a mix of super glue and two part contact glues to stick it all together with.

As you can see above, some of the parts needed sanding back. I'm using multiple grades of sanding sticks, and a polishing stick to get everything smooth again. 

I'm also using Squadron Modelling products Green putty to gap fill/bulk out where needed. It's a lot thicker than liquid Greenstuff, but a lot thinner than regular Greenstuff. I use a pointed stick to slap it on. The big difference between the Green Putty and actual Greenstuff is the Green Putty can be sanded and polished smooth again. 

More gap filling.

Yet more gap filling. I've only been taking in progress shots as and when I remember. But most of these have been filled smooth before I begin the process of sticking the hull parts together. 

Getting the hull parts to fit was a challenge. The large flat pieces of resin has warped quite badly, so a mix of soaking in hot water to soften them, and then carefully reshaping did most of the work. Then some very gentle heating using Em's hair drier for some focussed reshaping. Please be very careful with the hair drier thing. It gets very soft, very quickly and can break or become misshapen if you're not gentle with it. 

The parts of the hull got taped in place and then wrapped in tight elastic bands to keep it together while the glue cures properly.

Here we see the baby Storm Eagle emerging from it's rubberised cocoon. It won't be long until the wings start to sprout out and the rest of the details will be added. 

So far I'm enjoying the modelling challenge despite some of the problems with the kit and materials. Currently the wing assemblies are done and the hull is waiting for me to have time to get in and do the next round of gap filling/sanding. I'll give you all an update once the build has finished.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Daffodils and Dust

We here at the bunker often talk about the hobby butterfly. Like the butterfly we are drawn, powerfully and inextricably toward something beautiful and all consuming. It takes over our hobby desire so completely. We throw ourselves into that project and immerse ourselves in its beautiful nectar. For a short while. Until we catch the alluring scent of the next bloom and we find ourselves floating towards that next shiny thing.

So then what happens to all those forgotten flowers? All those neglected blooms? All those undercoated Orks? They sit on shelves, or packed into cardboard boxes stuffed under the stairs. They slowly gather dust, hoping for the day when they will feel the sweet caress of a brush and given their time in the sun.

When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils
I’m certain, if you are anything like me, this will be a familiar story. You will have those projects that started with such zeal only to wither and dry out like daffodils left on the hobby room window sill. Also, if you are also like me, you may be utterly unaware of the life cycle of the daffodil. I once believed that once those dazzling yellow flowers had passed and the fresh green leaves had wilted, the plant had passed from this mortal plane. Emma, however is somewhat better informed than I am about such matters, it being up until recently her job, explained to me that the splendour of the daffodil just retreats back into it’s bulb only to come back all the stronger next year.

Ok, you might be thinking that I’ve taken the butterfly/flower metaphor and run with it in a way that would make Forrest Gump feel lazy. I am, however, trying to introduce the Beard Bunkers grand plan for 2017. In short, we are going to be clearing our to do lists. Breathe life back into those semi-forgotten projects with painty lips. Then we’ll be blogging about it, partly as proof of things getting done, but mostly as a way of motivating ourselves here at the Bunker with one of our favourite motivational methods, guilt. This may not sound like a particularly grand plan but A), you don’t know quite how many projects we have on the go and B) just how psychologically good this is going to feel to not have all those little unpainted voice screaming guiltily at the back of our heads when we click buy on that box of Thousand Sons marines that you just couldn’t resist.

This is one of our 'To Do' shelves!
This Plan, and it’s really a Plan with a capital P now, was set upon at a recent Beardy gathering and we were discussing where our collective hobby is going. As most of you would agree, the hobby is best with others, and we like to work on things together, or at least have a collective objective. As many of you regular readers (and pats on your patient backs for sticking with us) might have picked up on the last few years we have been in a rather barren place with our hobby. After what happened with the end times and WFB and that last few editions of 40k sucking the fun out of the game (in our humble opinion) we’ve been in some kind of existential malaise. A hobby funk if you will. In an attempt to resolve this we’ve been dabbling. Dabbling here, dabbling there, but without much commitment and drive. This has left a lot of half-started things laying around. Then we hit on the idea of having a hobby spring cleanse. Clear out projects and begin to work on something a little more long term for later in the year. Something a little more thought out and better prepared.

This has actually has watered my hobby plant pot. Me being me went straight out and made a list. Then I added a deadline. I’ve always said that all I need is a list and a deadline then I’m fine. So I’ve arrived at this:

Maisey’s Hobby To Do 2017:

- WFB: Ogre Scrap Launcher. Feb
- Bolt Action: German Veteran Heer Grenadiers . Feb
- Frost Grave: Scenery - Gothic Buildings finishing + Finish remaining Tabletop world buildings. Feb
- 40k: Charlie’s Storm Eagle - build and paint. Mar
- Bolt Action: North African/Desert Board - source buildings and make scatter scenery/trench works etc. Apr
- WFB: Vampires - Finish 35 Skeleton Unit, Maybe upgrade 25 Skeleton Units to 35’s?. May
- WFB: Empire - have 30 slots in case. Bulk out line units + detachment. Add new line unit? Jun
- Bolt Action: DAK - get book 2nd ed, write army list, start getting any extra models. Jul/Aug
- 40k: Thousand Sons - work out colour scheme/painting method. Get hero models. Get extra troop choice models/convert up cultists. Sep/Oct
- Bolt Action: NWE British. Paint Trucks + get a Tank (Firefly?). Nov
- 40k: Industrial Scenery, Dec
- 40k: Tyranids, palate cleanser/gap filling/drying time project. All Year
- Bolt Action: Pacific theatre project planning. Back Burner/2018?
- The Beard Bunker 2018 super secret project planning. Back Burner/Nov/Dec

I know that is it is now March, but I did actually hit my target for February and here is a load of photos to prove it. The scrap launcher has been done, which now finishes off my little Ogre project that I started back in 2014 (shame).


The Heer Grenadiers are now completely done. I only picked these because Warlord sent me a voucher because I hadn’t made a purchase in a while (more shame).

The scenery I feel less bad about. The Frost Grave project was a fairly recent thing and these haven’t been sat there too long, but I decided to get them cleared now just so I can draw a line underneath that project for the time being (avoided shame).

The Tabletop World buildings however have been sat looking unloved for a long time (SHAME!). These are such lovely models I don't understand what possessed me not to paint them for so long.


Now only time will tell if I hit the rest of my targets, or if something else will come along and sweep my hobby butterfly away in a hurricane of irresponsibility and joy. As I said above, hobbies are best done with others, so what is on your to do list that is crying out to be finished?

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Bolt Action Italians in North Africa - Part one

Greetings bunker dwellers! It is I, Jeff of the... well, the Beard Bunker actually. I've finally moved in permanently from the old site so you'll be seeing me rather a lot more going forward. To kick off, I thought I'd return us to the dry desert heat of North Africa with a companion project to Maisey's Aussies, my Bolt Action Italians:

This lot are the first squad of the army. Italian formations of the period are a bit weird to British eyes and making them fit Bolt Action's rules took a little finagling. I'll be talking more about the historical aspects of the army in future posts so stay tuned for that. Today, instead, we'll be focusing on the models and the painting. Let's get to it!

Ignore the base rims, that's not a mistake to be fixed later, no... it's a stylistic choice honest...
The models are Perry Miniatures' range of metal Italian WW2 chappies. Now, before we get much further, I have to have a tiny grumble: I love the Perry's plastic stuff, I've used a lot of it, this is the first time I've used the metals aaaand... I wish I could say I was very impressed. The posing and anatomy seems fine enough although the one piece castings cause the usual problems there. But especially the faces and hands seem very... rushed? Is the only way I can think to say it. Some of them look like Odo from Deep Space Nine. Combine that with a slightly rough casting texture and you have not a great result. It's not a real shame as the Perrys clearly know what they're doing it's just that the quality simply wasn't there on these.

All that being said: We aren't exactly over-endowed with Italian miniatures to use and these do seem the best of the bunch out there. It just knocked a bit of my enthusiasm for the project early on. Now I've got the first squad out of the way I feel a bit better about the project and am pressing on. I just figured I'd do a slightly more impressionist version of my usual painting and let the mass effect do it's work. So armed with a bunch of internet research (very useful thread here), an old Osprey book and pints of tea, I set to.

My usual approach to WW2 figures is to deal with the vast bulk of the uniform first, generally by drybrushing, as that gives a bit of texture to the cloth that contrasts nicely with the smoother helmets and other gear. I also make sure to add uniform insignia and squad markings as, lean in, I need to whisper this... painting monochrome WW2 stuff can be a bit boring otherwise. Handily, the slightly slapdash supply situation the Italians had also gives you a chance to scatter some of the grey-green temperate bits of kit among the units. That and the occasional cork helmet (rarely worn in combat sure, but I figure a surprised unit) means that there's a nice bit of variety. But for the most part the painting starts with a solid basecoat of Vallejo Dark Sand, shaded down with Seraphim Sepia and then highlighted with Dark Sand mixed with increasing amounts of Pale Sand. If you want to introduce some tonal variation (ping) to the unit you can do so here by varying the final tone. Some ending up a bit lighter, others darker, the sun tended to bleach uniforms. I'll confess, I didn't bother on this one. Might on some more veteran troops. 

Something I was pondering was how to get the darker skin tone that tanned, Mediterranean troops deployed to the desert would have. Fortunately, I recently realised that by adding Beige Brown and Burnt Umber to the skin tone spectrum allows you to portray most skin tones by adjusting what wash you use. In this case a Beige Brown and Cadian Fleshtone mix shaded with Reikland Fleshshade. Highlighting up gradually to Cadian Fleshtone left me with that "long time in the sun" look I was going for. The other problem was the rifle furniture which is a rather strange orangey tone. I then had memory turn a card and recalled Charlie using Chestnut Ink as a glaze to get the varnished wood look. I busted that out and voilĂ , orangey Italian rifles. Talking about all this, it's time for tips folks: there's always a problem with keeping things consistent across an army especially if there is a bit of time in between painting sessions. Solve them with a crib sheet that you write as you develop the colour scheme like this:

These have saved me many, many times. As an example, I'd have completely forgotten that I'd added that dash of German Camo Dark Green to the temperate uniform basecoat. Now, I could go on and on and on here but instead, I'm going to reign myself in and save some content for future chapters in the project. I'll do linking bits at the bottom of each part to help navigation

Like this! : Part two (this will totally have a link one day)

Until then lovely dwellers,


Saturday, 18 February 2017

Tabletop World Blacksmith Forge

As a rampant hobby butterfly, I'm much better at starting new and ambitious things than I am at finishing them. Everything I start is doomed to WIP-shelf relegation as a new sexy project tempts me away. Mounds of basecoated or half-assembled things lean against each other in boxes, exchanging disappointed glances and wondering if their time in the sun will come.

Screw that.

If 2017 is even a patch on 2016, we're going to need escapism and endorphins in equal measure, which means getting stuff done, gods dammit! To that end, as promised at the end of my post on the merchant's house, here is the blacksmith forge from Tabletop World.

It amazes me that this kit is just four components. It's like a diorama that requires almost no assembly. What I will say is that Jeff was wise to mount his on a base - the joins connecting the smithy to its house have patchy contacts. I got over this with an enthusiastic application of thick super glue, but structurally it's not very sound. So why didn't I follow Jeff's wisdom and add a base? Because he's building a rustic village, whereas I want my buildings to work in both towns and countryside. A grassy base would undermine that flexibility. Still, basing it is a damn good idea if that's compatible with your plans.

If you're curious about painting this kind of scenery, Jeff also wrote a solid step-by-step of his work on Tabletop World's windmill, and honestly he did a more conscientious job than I do on my own scenery. That said, if you do have any questions re: painting, I'm happy to answer them.

In case you're concerned that my sole plan for 2017 is to spam things I've painted whilst patting myself on the back for actually finishing something, I assure you that there are other things brewing. Frosty things. Grave things.*


*I am subtle, like happy mallet.