Wednesday, 22 February 2017

A New Direction

Things have been fairly quiet here on the blog for the past few months. One reason for this is that I have a lot of commission work ongoing - by the time the weekend arrives I have very little energy for my own projects. I have also fallen into a bit of a rut, painting the same old subjects in the same old style. I cannot (and would not want to) reduce my commission work, but I can make changes to my personal projects. I want to try something new, move out of my comfort zone. Hopefully, this will give me a burst of energy and inspiration. Time to find out if a change really is as good as a rest.

Today the postman delivered the materials I need for this new project - a range of AK Interactive products. I have had an airbrush for some years but never really used it for anything more than basecoating. I am not a fan of painting that looks like it has been airbrushed, if that makes sense. I want to experiment to see if I can reproduce the more realistic finishes that are seen in the historical/vehicle world. But I will not be painting historical subject matter. This picture shows the kind of thing I am aiming for. A whole new world awaits.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Age of the Wolf Game 3

At the end of season 1 of the campaign, both my armies (Danes and Vikings) had done well - winning battles and gaining wealth, troops or whatever. For the second season we again let the dice decide what each faction would do, leading to the rather strange situation of three of the four defending. So we had just one game to play, Danes raiding a Saxon village. It was a straight battle with victory points determining the winner, with the attacker gaining bonus points for every field or hut burnt to the ground. We double checked the setup, but it was definitely straight into the action as two units of Danes immediately set fire to two fields.

With a time limit of just seven turns, the Danes could not afford to hang back and pile fatigue on to their enemies, a tried and tested tactic. Instead, as the Dane commander I spent most of my Saga dice purely to move around as many units as possible, with an occasional use of the intimidation ability to cancel an enemy activation. The nearest hut went up in flames, while hearthguard pressed on to attempt to torch the third field, this by now defended by Saxon warriors. Over in the centre, Danish levy once more proved a thorn in the enemy's side, as their arrows brought down a unit of hearthguard.

Resistance by the Saxon defenders was weak, their warriors no match for the Danish hearthguard - the third field was soon ablaze. The game was coming to and end now. The Danes made a final push around the rear of the Saxon army and made it to the penultimate hut, but were unable to set it alight. Satisfied with the carnage they had wrought, they withdrew back to their own encampment. In points terms it was quite close, but adding in the bonus for the burning fields and hut it was a clear victory to the Danes.

In the post game phase, both forces suffered a slight decline in their numbers due to battle attrition. The Danes had plenty of wealth and were able to reinforce some of these losses, but the Saxons are penniless and have to rely on the mercy of the fates. This was reasonable with another six levy joining, but the Saxon commander is really struggling and thinking of defecting to Welsh allies! At the end of season 2 the Saxon contingent is really struggling, while the Danes and Vikings are roughly neck and neck in front.

Three games in then and it's possible to make a slightly more informed opinion of the Age of the Wolf supplement. It's a great idea, there are four new scenarios to play (including the one above) and there is huge scope for narrative development with all the little traits and abilities of the warlords, the fates, reinforcements, and such like. The book is pretty well laid out and it's reasonably easy to follow the procedure around seasons, games and campaign mechanics. There is a problem with forces being mismatched, it's not explained at all well. And the random events can be very unfair - Saxon flood and famine coupled with Vikings gaining ten hearthguard (elite) troops springs to mind. As we prepare for season three it's clear that the Saxons are really struggling. It's also very unclear as to there being any way they can get out the predicament.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Dark Age Archers WIP

I was hoping to have these painted by the end of the month, but here we are on the last day and they remain a work in progress. I thought I would present the stages gone through so that anyone interested can have a go at this painting style - and to help me in future projects. It's fairly quick and easy, mostly glazing and minimal amounts of highlighting.

Stage 1 : Prime and wash
The first stage is to prime the figures white. I use Halfords white primer, available in the UK - it's a car spray. If you are looking for something similar, make sure it's acrylic. Once that is dry, I wash the figures with a diluted brown. This is just to give a guide and a little lining, it beats working on a glaring white undercoat.

Stage 2 : Leathers base coat
I don't particularly enjoy painting all the leather areas, so I get them out of the way early on. Various browns are thinned and used on all the belts, bags, quivers, etc. If your paint is thin and a little translucent, some of the wash from stage 1 will show through, giving instant shading. Additionally, a khaki or pale colour is used on the leg bindings and a few of the paler garment areas.

Stage 3 : Flesh, base and metal base coats
This was a very brief session, base coat and first wash on the flesh areas. I also washed some earth into the sandy bits, and painted the metal areas. Sometimes you can only squeeze in a short session, but every little helps.

Stage 4 : base coat remaining garments
For this stage I was able to spend quite a bit more time, enough to get the base coats for all the clothing. These were mostly neutral creams and browns, with a little pale blue here and there. I also washed the metal areas with a grey - a mix made from blue and brown paints.

That's all I managed I'm afraid, it's been a busy month in other areas so little time for hobby painting. These are close to completion, just the hair and fur, bows and arrows and a little weathering left to do. Let's hope they do not attract the attention of PETA!

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Another Age Of the Wolf game

As I mentioned in this post, I have recently started an Age of the Wolf Saga campaign with gaming buddy Matt in his world renowned dungeon. We have two armies each. I have Vikings and Danes, he has Normans and Saxons. Having fought one battle between the Normans and Danes, it was the turn of the Vikings to take on the Saxons. We had randomly rolled on each factions stance for the first campaign, and it came about that the Saxons would be raiding a defensive Vikings force. This is not the usual stereotype, but it is easy to imagine that the Vikings have established a camp and the Saxons have come to loot and destroy it, or some similar scenario. The battle we rolled for was The Escort - the Vikings would be escorting much needed supplies (perhaps stolen from Saxons?) back to camp, the Saxons would be attempting to stop them.

Baggage train heads to the left flank
The battlefield was fairly open, a couple of small wood copses in the centre. A small skirmish down the Viking right flank opened the action, a unit on each side falling in combat, with the Vikings deciding it was too difficult to get past the archer levy on that side. The baggage train headed to the left flank. The action switched to the centre, location of  the bulk of the Viking army, while a single unit of warriors accompanied the cargo to the left. The Saxon army attempted to relocate their troops.

Warlords face off
The fighting in the centre was sporadic and non-decisive for the most part. A concerted charge by the Viking warlord into the Saxon Lord should have seen him hacked to pieces, but the gods deserted the Viking dice and the Saxon Lord escaped by the skin of his teeth  - or rather by the sacrifice of his hearthguard unit. Meanwhile, the baggage train lumbered on, ever to the left flank and a much smaller Saxon defending force. 

Action on the left flank
In an attempt to clear the way, Viking warriors on the left flank charged but came off second best, though both sides were now considerably depleted. In the centre, a devastating Saxon arrow volley completely wiped out a warrior unit, leaving the Viking warlord marooned with his far more pathetic levy archers, who seemed unable to hit anything even though it was just yards in front of them. But Loki came to their aid, whispering false rumours in Saxon ears, warriors slinking away from the battle for no apparent reason (this being one of the more esoteric Viking battleboard abilities).

The Final Showdown
As with many a game of Saga, it had been a brutal affair, corpses littered the ground. As the centre was now depleted, the Vikings managed to smuggle one of the baggage animals to safety, but the remaining two were blocked by a handful of Saxons. And it was just a handful - the Saxon Lord, three of his warriors, facing off against just two viking warriors. The Lord attempted to tackle the ox cart, but somehow was driven off by the docile beasts. Loki once more played his part as his more Saxons slunk from the battlefield. The lone, fatigued Saxon Lord was finally bested by a pair of viking warriors and the battle was over. The baggage was safely received by the victorious Vikings. A bad day for the Saxons.

In the post battle sequence, things got even worse for the beleaguered Saxon. The Warlord suffered a serious wound and then received news that his province was suffering from flood and famine. Penniless and dejected he limped back to his camp. The Vikings however had even more fortune bestowed upon them. Gold flowed, warriors were recruited and were magically transformed into hearthguard!! Mmm, sometimes random campaign events can be particularly overpowered. Ten warriors is barely a point in Saga terms, but ten hearthguard are two and a half points. The Vikings are easily in a position of power at the end of this first campaign season, while the Saxons are now definitely the underdogs. It will be interesting to see if the system can cope with such unbalances. 

Monday, 16 January 2017

Weekend Progress

There's not much to report at the moment, I seem to spend most of my time building more figures to add to the already large pile of unpainted miscellany. Here's the dark ages archers, not much to show - they have been primed, washed and then the leathers started. I should have done more but I was distracted by building the first unit of a Picts force. You can see them in the background. My short term goal is to have the archers finished by month end and a start made on either some trolls or the Picts, I just cannot make up my mind.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Saga Age of the Wolf first impressions

The start of the year means a new resolve on gaming for me, to play more often. My regular opponent suggested we try Saga Age of the Wolf. I love Saga and dark ages gaming, so I was happy to turn up at the dungeon with not one, but two armies.

Age of the Wolf is a campaign system designed for several players, but we only have the two of us interested in this game and this era, so we are taking two armies each. Whenever a player has choices in the campaign, such as who to attack, we let the dice decide. It means we miss out on the scheming and backstabbing of a real player campaign, but we do get to play lots of games and a story develops as we go along, which is just as much fun I reckon - certainly better than just playing random one-off games.

Danish Levy take on Norman crossbows 
One of my factions is the Danes and they ended up raiding against the Normans, so we generated a battle. This turned out to be a new scenario called scouts, one of three or four new battles to try in the book. The units from each force turn up one by one as the game progresses. The Normans thundered forward with a unit of knights, hoping to ride down a unit of Dane levy, but their plans came unstuck when they were showered in a hail of arrows and the unit fell back dismayed and confused. More caution was then exercised, as both sides tried to organise a battle line as troops arrived on the field.

The Danes had an advantage in the early loss of the knights, plus their battle board ability to pile on fatigue to the enemy. They could afford to hold back and wait, while the Normans had to try to rush forward, especially when they came off worse in a missile battle - the Danish archers once more proving their worth, getting the better of Norman crossbow men. Again, this was aided by the excess fatigue piling up on the Norman forces.

Tired Normans face unyielding Danes
The Norman knights finally managed to calm their horse enough to engage and scatter the Danish archers, but they were quickly tiring. The latter stages of the game saw the Normans cantering and galloping around the trees, trying but unable to gain a decisive charge, constantly hampered by fatigue and exhaustion. Eventually, the Norman Lord over-extended and was set upon by the Danish Lord and his bodyguard. His horse crashed to the ground and it was only the quick actions of his nearby knights that rescued him from certain death. He was carried from the battlefield, dazed and bloodied.

After the battle there is a process to go through, as in-game casualties are converted to campaign deaths or injuries - the Norman warlord will be suffering from that serious wound for the rest of the campaign. Both sides managed to recruit more troops, theoretically the Danes did really well here with five new hearthguard joining their ranks while the Normans attracted lowly levy, though a good number of them. Perhaps those extra arrows will pay dividends in future encounters.

This brief report just scratches the surface of what's in the book. I only had a hurried look but it seems well organised and very detailed. Hopefully the campaign will progress well for all four armies - too many campaign systems allow one side to gain such an advantage that the underdogs just give up. It's early days as yet, with just one game played, but I have high hopes for this gaming adventure.
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