Khelden Josek, Dwarf Brewer

Today, I present to my readers my favorite role-playing character of all time: Khelden.

Khelden is an Ultangen Dwarf, a race from my good friend Owen’s fantasy setting, Gandaria. (Owen used to have a whole website dedicated to this setting and some of his other gaming and writing endeavors, but he took it down a couple of years back, which is a real shame.) Like many dwarfs, Khelden was a soldier for decades, a veteran of countless battles and a formidable warrior. But Khelden left the Dwarflands to start a life elsewhere. A brewer by trade, Khelden set up a prosperous business in the large, mostly human city of Brimshire. His wealth and character allowed him to achieve some status among the merchant class and the nobility.

Khelden is immensely strong; and while he is no deep thinker, he possesses the canniness of one who has lived by his wits and skills for many long years. He is an exceptional fighter, but he considers brewing his profession. While he excels at brewing (it’s his highest GURPS skill, in fact), he is constantly being called away from his brewery to battle monsters or deal with the intrigues of evil beings. Khelden wields Arshavir, a dwarven mace of great power and a relic from many centuries past, long thought to be lost. The mace has an adverse and dangerous effect on the weather the longer it is used in battle. Luckily, Khelden finishes most fights quickly.

This miniature is a perfect representation of Khelden as a Master Brewer in his later years, assuming he ever got to live that long (unlikely, considering the lethality of Owen’s campaign). He has finally settled down and retired, enjoying the fruits and rewards of a life well-lived. At long last, he has perfected his recipe for his dwarven stout, better known as Khelden’s Black. Unfortunately, this miniature does not have a mace, but a hammer instead. Khelden used a hammer in his early years. I imagine that since he is now old, Khelden has passed Arshavir on to a younger, worthy dwarf; and is content to take up the hammer again.

The miniature is the Dwarf Brewer from the Reaper Bones line. The ale casks on the right of the picture are from Deep Cuts, part of the Pathfinder scenics they’re putting out nowadays. Both Bones and Deep Cuts claim they do not need primer and that paint can be applied directly to the model, but I primed everything with Vallejo surface primer and I’m glad I did. I like the ale casks. At $3.99 for the three pack they’re priced nicely, but they don’t sit levelly. It’s a minor quibble, but it’s there. The Reaper dwarf miniature was only $2.50! I’m starting to find a new appreciation for Reaper Bones…

If you’re interested in yet another of my old characters, I posted a short write-up of my monk, Brother Jerrod, way back in March 2015.

The Dwarves Are Upon You (again)!

Just in time for 3 years after the Age of Sigmar destroyed the Warhammer Fantasy universe, I have finally finished my dwarf army. Well, mostly finished. I firmly believe that you can never have enough dwarfs. But for now, I am content.

This was definitely a labor of love. It has been over a decade since I played a game of Warhammer Fantasy, and I have no interest whatsoever in Age of Sigmar. It is unlikely that these stalwart dwarfs will ever see battle, which is a real pity. Nonetheless I did my best to paint them in a manner most glorious, limited only by my shortcomings of  painting skill.

Some of these miniatures and units have appeared before on this blog, back when I was zealous enough to think I could complete a project in a reasonable amount of time. Now that the army as a whole is finished (mostly), I decided to present them once again, this time with the rest of the army. My dwarfs are from several different manufacturers. I have no brand loyalty when it comes to good-looking miniatures, and I don’t play in tournaments where “official” miniatures are required. To that I say most vehemently: “Fuck that shit.”

First up, the Thunder from Down Under(ground), my missile troops!

This is the small unit of Thunderers included with the Battle for Skull Pass (BFSP) boxed set. Ten stalwart gunners, led by a Hero (more on him later). I really like these one-piece plastics; even though they’re not poseable, it’s still possible to achieve enough variation with the paint jobs to make them all appear different.

Up next is a group of ten Quarrelers, produced by Mantic. Mantic definitely has a unique look that you either love or hate (I like these guys), but the price can’t be beat. Not as detailed as some of the other manufacturers, but they certainly do the job for rank-and-file troops. These dwarfs could have been build as Ironwatch, which is Mantic’s equivalent of Thunderers, but I chose to give them crossbows rather than rifles because crossbows are cool.

Finally, my favorite unit of missile troops: my Dwarf Gunners, manufactured by Black Tree Designs. Let me be clear: I LOVE BLACK TREE MINIATURES.These guys are all metal, and hearken back to the glory days of GW and Citadel metal miniatures. They have the same “chunky” look to them and the same weight in the hand. They’re priced fairly well, especially since Black Tree seems to have constant 40%-50% off sales going on at any given moment. These guys were a joy to paint, and although 18 is quite a lot of dwarfs for a unit of Thunderers, I really like them!

Next up, the foot troops. First is the small unit of Dwarf Warriors from the Battle for Skull Pass set. Ten dwarfs does not a unit make, IMO, but they’re what I had. They’re positioned behind one of the King’s Wall obstacles, also from the BFSP set. I acquired a few more of these dwarf walls over the years.  These warriors are positioned next to a Flame Cannon (more on that later).

Up next, a group of 16 Dwarf Rangers. These guys are GW plastics, and they lack a command group because I couldn’t find a dwarf command group that looks the same as the unit. I’d still like to get one, though…so if anyone has dwarf plastics from this set that could be made into a command group, contact me and let me know.  Although they are ubiquitous in Fantasy, especially with Dwarfs, I’ve never been a fan of double-bladed axes (they look dumb to me), so I took the liberty of modifying some of axe-heads by removing one of the blades. I like the way it looks much better. They’re standing next to an old -style GW Dwarf Organ Gun (see below).

A unit of Black Tree Dwarf Warriors. Now this is more like it! A small unit at 18 models, but a solid enough brick on the table. Red is my least favorite color, and I loathe painting yellow, so why I chose this color scheme I couldn’t really tell you. The standard bearer had a miscast axe, so I just clipped it and replaced it with a Mantic hammer head.

This unit is a unit of Black Tree Miners. Note the shiny headlamps and the hammers. I love the look of these guys, and there’s 20 of them, so it’s a decent sized unit. But I’ve decided to use these guys as warriors rather than miners; I am a big proponent of core troops over special or elite choices, and these guys can serve as warriors just as well…

…especially since I already have a unit of Miners. These guys are mix of the GW BFSP miners and a GW miners regiment, for a total of 18. The one-piece BFSP sculpts blend pretty well with the poseable regiment dwarfs. The command group is from the BFSP set, so I was free to make the entire regiment box rank-and-file miners.

These Mantic Shield-Breakers are proxy Hammerers. Since there’s only 10 of them, I figured I would use them as a bodyguard for my army general. To be blunt, I hate half of these miniatures. The ones that have smooshed-down helmets annoy me, as it can’t possibly be that difficult to cast a miniature headless instead. This would give you the option of adding whichever dwarf head you prefer. Any of them would look better than these lazy, one-piece castings. The other dwarfs actually look pretty cool. And once again, the price can’t be beat (I guess you get what you pay for). This was the most recent unit I painted, completing it just last week, even though I bought it at Gen Con in 2012.

Lastly, my elite unit. These are 20 Black Tree Dwarf Ironclads; in other words, proxy Ironbreakers. I love these guys, and they’re pretty much the best dwarf unit you can field. I once had a unit of Savage Orc Boar Boyz charge a unit of my friend’s Ironbreakers, only to get decimated on the charge and routed. That’s right: my unit of Savage Orcs charged the dwarfs and got their asses kicked so hard they ran away; and somehow I rolled so badly that the dwarfs were able to run faster than my boars and cut the entire unit down like ripe wheat. Oh, the humanity.

Next up: the artillery! Here is a standard cannon. Note the crew is being kept well-hydrated by the Dwarf Brewmeister and his team. The cannon is a metal GW piece, the beer guys are from Reaper and serve no purpose other than to look cool.

Another cannon, this time the plastic one from the Battle for Skull Pass boxed set. I’m a fan of the models, especially the Dwarf Engineer. Note the Dwarf bagpiper in the background. He’s from Bob Olley’s Dwarf World line, and he’s playing the only instrument loud enough to be heard over cannon fire. Hell yeah!

Here is a close-up of the old-style dwarf Organ Gun from Games Workshop. I’m pretty sure I have the wrong crew miniatures for this artillery piece (I think these are technically cannon crew), but they came with the gun and I got the whole kit on the secondary market. I like the newer GW model better. In fact, I like the Mantic version better, too…but the spiky front on this one has some charm. Kind of superfluous, though…I mean, wouldn’t the five loaded guns deter a frontal assault just fine without all the spikes?

This trebuchet is from Black Tree Design. You may ask: who needs a stone-thrower when you have cannons? Well, I do. My cannons almost always misfire. I have better luck with rocks. And dwarfs are pretty traditional…rocks have been around forever, and if there is one thing dwarfs have no shortage of, it’s rocks. They served well enough in the past…why change things? Rocks are obviously made for hurling at greenskins or those annoying elves. AS IT SHOULD BE!

Here is a shot of the Flame Cannon, also by Black Tree. Sadly, since I will probably never play this army in a game, I will not be able to see the flame cannon in action. Burning things seems like a lot of fun. Like all my Black Tree dwarf models, I love this gun. As a bonus, here’s another look at the Dwarf Warriors from BFSP.

Confession time: Although love dwarfs, I hate Dwarf Slayers. I think they’re stupid. That’s why I will never field a unit of them. Although GW has made them iconic, I refuse to buy into their bullshit. Nonetheless, one of them came with the BFSP boxed set, so I painted him up. There he is.

And finally, a closeup of my Lords. The army general on the left came with BFSP. I painted him up a couple of years ago as part of Dwarvember, along with those GW warriors and miners. You can see more pictures of him here. On the right is a GW Dwarf Hero. Since he has a cool pistol,  I placed with my small unit of Thunderers.

As I said, the army is mostly done. Astute viewers may have noticed bare banner poles on some of my standards. That’s because I suck at freehanding banners, but hopefully I’ll get around to it. Also, the Mantic units do not come with command groups (it’s not necessary for their game, Kings of War), and neither do I have a command group for my Rangers. I’d like to get command groups painted for all my units. Perhaps it’s because I played so much Warhammer Fantasy, but units without command groups look incomplete to me, and are therefore irksome.

I’m just glad I completed this project (mostly) after talking about it for so long. The army may be complete, but I still have plenty of dwarfs to paint. Watch this space soon!

“Asteroids do not concern me, Admiral…”

I really like the new direction of Miniature Wargames magazine, particularly the monthly “Darker Horizons” fantasy and sci-fi feature. I’m also a fan of Diane Sutherland’s monthly scenery-building articles, as I like any good scratch-building tips. A couple of months back, John Treadaway penned an article on how to make cheap and easy asteroids for space combat games. The article is well worth a read, and John’s method couldn’t be easier. I encourage anyone in need of asteroids to track down the issue above.

I’ve been looking for a good method of asteroid construction for some time, and like many folks, I’ve considered everything from wood chips to lava rocks to just breaking down and buying some manufactured scenery, such as those offered by Battlefield in a Box. Then I saw what John did and I practically facepalmed myself at its simplicity. Put simply, John uses sponge chunks soaked in a mixture of paint, glue and sand. Let dry, drill holes, insert the flight stands of your choice (mine are from Litko), drybrush and done!

Here are the results. Lightweight, nigh-indestructible and pretty darn good-looking asteroids. I followed John’s method, including his idea for using a purple wash to add a bit more tone than mere drybrushing can achieve. I also added a few metallic streaks here and there to simulate metal veins, but that’s just me. My asteroids had a bit more time to dry than John’s, since I had to order the flight stands and wait for them to come in (about a week or so).

Here’s how they look with some War Rocket and X-Wing miniatures.

Imperials vs. Galacteers


“NEVER tell me the odds!”


Sure beats the crap out of cardboard templates. And it only took a couple of hours (not including drying time). Thanks, John!


Cowabunga, Dude!

I first discovered Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when I was a freshman in high school. It was 1986, a pretty amazing year for comics as a whole. That year would see the publication of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, two pivotal and iconic stories that would rock the foundations of the comics industry and change comic books forever.

Up until then I only collected Marvel titles, and all of those were in color. Black and white comics, i.e. small press titles,  were unknown to me. Then my friend introduced me to TMNT #7, and I was immediately hooked. I hunted down as many back issues as I could find. They were surprisingly scarce and first printings of the first 3 issues were well above anything I could afford even if I could find copies. I managed to get everything from issue 4 and up, but even to this day I do not own copies of the first three issues. Instead I had to content myself with the First Comics graphic novel, which reprinted all three issues in color. (Prior to this reprint, the only TMNT color material was in a Munden’s Bar story in Grimjack #26. I bought that for the turtles, and ended up becoming a much bigger fan of Grimjack than of TMNT!)

The original turtles, by which I mean the version as presented in the comics prior to the first (1987) animated television series and the (1990) live-action movie (featuring the great Corey Feldman as Donatello), were a bit different than what we know today. The comic, although a parody of Daredevil (among others), was kind of dark. It managed to take itself somewhat seriously even in the midst of its absurd premise. For example: the turtles killed people. Lots of people. Ninja henchmen, mostly, but still people (I guess). When Leonardo slashed with his swords, someone bled. Obviously, this kind of thing didn’t make it into the cartoon, which was unsurprisingly targeted towards children. Also (as we knew from their early colorized appearances) the original turtles all wore red bandannas. The only way to visually distinguish which turtle was which was by the weapons they carried. Among other changes, the cartoon toned the turtles down, outfitted them in different colors, created a catchphrase (“Cowabunga!”) and inexplicably made them go crazy for pizza.

TMNT’s success spawned many imitators and started a “funny animal” comic craze, giving rise to the likes of such mercifully-forgotten titles as Pre-Teen Dirty-Gene Kung-Fu Kangaroos, Geriatric Gangrene Jiu-Jitsu Gerbils, and the Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters.  None of these were any good. All of them were pretty blatant ripoffs. Nonetheless, the Hamsters seemed to enjoy the most success as a poor-man’s Band-Aid in between the irregular TMNT publishing schedule.

My friends and I got so hooked on TMNT that we played many hours of the Palladium RPG: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness (see above). This, in turn led us to Heroes Unlimited and later, briefly, RIFTS, before we abandoned the Palladium system altogether in favor of other games.

Before we did this, though, I managed to get my hands on these TMNT miniatures, released in very limited numbers from Dark Horse (yes, THAT Dark Horse). These figures go for a pretty penny nowadays, especially the other releases in the line (like the Mousers). I remember I bought this pack on Martha’s Vineyard on a day trip. Retail space isn’t cheap on the Vineyard, so who would have thought that Martha’s Vineyard would have had a comic shop, never mind one that sold miniatures, too? (Aside: even though I live on the South Coast of Massachusetts, I haven’t been back to the Vineyard since I bought these, mainly because I hate boats.) They’re supposedly 25mm scale, but they’re more like 15mm. Between my awful paint job, Donatello’s miscast staff, and Leonardo’s broken sword, they’ve seen better days…

And so, when I heard Wizkids got the license for TMNT Heroclix, I was happy. When I saw this set marked half off at the FLGS, I didn’t hesitate. Here’s what they looked like out of the box:

It appears I’m unlucky with turtle miniatures. Brand spankin’ new, both Leonardo and Donatello suffered from bent weapons that can’t be fixed. Bummer. They’re also all a  bit too bright and cartoony for me. I knew I wanted to repaint them as the original badass turtles of my youth.

Here is the result:

To continue my run of bad luck, somewhere in the painting process I appear to have broken one of Raphael’s sai. Drat! I based them on Armorcast sewer bases that I purchased specifically for this project. I don’t know if I will ever use them in a scenario, or what system I would use if I did; but, since Super Mission Force is my current favorite gaming system, here are my SMF builds for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:

Aside from the weapons they favor, the turtles aren’t much different. The easy way to build them for SMF is to make them all the same.

All Turtles: (Brawler) Major: Scrapper;  Minor: Armor, Super Agility

Of course, that’s not much fun. The other way I would do it is to make them all Wild Cards. Yes, I know that is against the “two wild cards per team” rule, but who really gives a shit? In this case the turtles would lose the Scrapper power (which is one of the best major powers in the game, IMHO), but would gain powers that would represent their personalities; in other words, make them different from each other in tangible ways. All of them are turtles who can kick ass, but they fill certain roles within the group: Leonardo is the leader, Donatello is the brain, Michelangelo is the clown, and Raphael is the hothead.

Leonardo: (Wild Card) Minor: Armor, Melee Specialist, Super Agility, Enhance

Donatello: (Wild Card) Minor: Armor, Melee Specialist, Super Agility, Savant

Michelangelo: (Wild Card) Minor: Armor, Melee Specialist, Super Agility, Clever

Raphael:  (Wild Card) Minor: Armor, Melee Specialist, Super Agility, Rage

(I couldn’t really think of a fourth minor power that would “define” Michelangelo, so I chose the “Clever” Boost purely for the team initiative bonus, since the turtles are rarely caught flat-footed). Mike has a tendency to ride around on a skateboard, so I guess you could substitute the “Fast” Boost instead, which would increase his movement by 4″.)

This little rush of nostalgia was so much fun I reread the first three issues of TMNT last night. And….well…let’s just say some things are better left in the past.

“Yesterday’s Lead”

It seems I took the month of January off from blogging, quite accidentally. For Christmas I was gifted with Mass Effect: Andromeda for PS4. It was released back in March of last year, but I’m not the kind of (video) gamer that needs to get a game as soon as it’s released. Thus I tend to spend less money on video games overall, as I can wait until the price drops. I am a huge fan of the Mass Effect series, and although this latest game was (unfairly, IMO) derided,  at least in comparison to the previous trilogy, it has accounted for my free time throughout January.

Anyway, it’s nice to be back.

I rarely pick up Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy magazine these days. Although it’s a fine publication, it’s not for me, as it is primarily geared towards the historical wargamer, and even casual visitors to this site will know I don’t fall into that category. The other day I found myself at my newsagent (see what I did there? I used a British term) by complete happenstance ( I was purchasing coffee and donuts for a work meeting at the Dunkin’ Donuts next door), and, since the latest issue of Miniature Wargames magazine hadn’t arrived yet, I gave in to whimsy and purchased WS&S #92. As expected, it had little to interest me as far as gaming goes. I am unfamiliar with most of the historical periods and battles covered throughout the issue. But what issue #92 did have was a worthy article by the great Rick Priestly, entitled “Time, Tide and Yesterday’s Lead.”

You might think Mr. Priestly waxes nostalgic for the early days of Citadel and Warhammer miniatures, but he quickly sets the record straight. Despite his involvement in Warhammer’s development, his particular enthusiasm is the Minifigs line of the 70’s, as those are what led him down the garden path to wargaming.

I must confess that since I live in the United States and I was born a good decade or so after Mr. Priestly, I am unfamiliar with Minifigs. Like so many others, I started gaming through Dungeons & Dragons, circa 1983 or so. I’m pretty sure I got the red box for my 10th birthday and it took me a year or two to start running “The Keep on the Borderlands.” I never played a miniature wargame until I was in college in the early 90’s. Predictably, my first introduction came through Warhammer 40K, then quickly moved to WFB. But I had already been collecting and painting miniatures before then. Despite all my failed attempts to introduce them into my roleplaying games, I found them really cool (an obviously still do). I certainly share nostalgic feelings for the miniatures that got me started down my own path, some 35 years ago. And those miniatures, primarily, are Grenadier and Ral Partha fantasy figures.

The first set of miniatures I ever bought was the often-reissued Grenadier Tomb of Spells set. It’s the second one down in the left column. Starting from the top left and continuing clockwise, we have Specialists, Hobgoblins, a Dragon Lords set that once included paints, Thieves, Denizens of the Swamp, Orc’s Lair, and Wizards. The Wizards set was the second set of miniatures I ever bought, and I repainted the set a couple of years ago. You can see the results here, if so inclined.

With the arrival of AD&D 2nd Edition, TSR started packaging miniatures under their own name. The above sets are examples of this era. I bought the Marvel Super Heroes and Dragonlance sets when they came out, and a friend gave me the Magic-Users set long ago. The remaining sets were all recent eBay acquisitions.

I probably paid too much for the Indiana Jones set (it’s rare). I paid less than I thought I would for the Star Frontiers and other AD&D sets, but again, probably more than I should have considering the quality. I’ve said this elsewhere: this era of miniature manufacture leaves a lot to be desired. The sculpting is pretty sub-par across the board. Scale is pretty much an afterthought, even between models within the same set (Star Frontiers is by far the WORST for this). I have been painting some of the Marvel miniatures for use in my supers gaming alongside Heroclix models, which should give you a idea of how random the scale is. Some are compatible with Clix models while some are on the small side of 25mm. To top it off, I have no idea what metal was used to cast this line of miniatures, but for some reason, they do not take paint well. Prior to sealing them, even casual handling can cause the paint to rub off, which is kind of a pain during the painting process.

The last of my old sets are above. The Grenadier Secret Agents set is really good, containing lots of mercs and soldiers for use with Top Secret or any other skirmish wargame. Grenadier released two sets of these. I know I had both at one time, but I can’t remember what happened to the other set. (As an aside, the box art above was painted by famous Grimjack artist Flint Henry!) Below them is an exceptional set of ninja by Ral Partha. I recently bought a second set, because as everyone knows, you can never have enough ninja. The bottom row contains dragon models; a Ral Partha T’Char (one of the best dragons produced, IMO) and a couple of Julie Guthrie Grenadier Dragons. I painted up her Red Dragon a while back. You can see it here.

Nostalgia, as Mr. Priestly aptly observes, exerts a powerful force that drives one from affection for times gone by to collector’s obsession. All of the above boxed sets were purchased either on eBay or at a flea market over the last couple of years. With the exception of the Skeleton King’s chariot (top right), all these sets are complete and pristine. (I even managed to replace the 54mm Batman set with one that included a Joker this time.) The DC Heroes sets were a real find at $10 apiece, all bare metal! I painted up the 54mm Batman a few years ago, and recently painted the Grenadier Halfling set above. Batman is here; the Halflings are here.

Which brings me to painting, or rather, repainting. In his article, Mr. Priestly mentions that most Minifigs of the time were likely “favored with a hefty coat of Humbrol Enamel…and then gloss varnished to within an inch of their little metal lives.” Again, I can relate. Here in the States, Testors enamels were the model paints of choice, and I laquered many a miniature in them before “discovering” acrylics right around the time I started playing 40K. Prior to that, every miniature I painted, including many from the sets above, were done with Testors enamels and gloss coat. I shudder to look at them now, but if you’d like to see some before and after shots, look no further than here.

The question then becomes “To strip and repaint, or not to strip and repaint? I am a big advocate of repainting. I’m not the best painter in the world (not even close), but I am exponentially better than I was 35 years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the old miniatures I have repainted recently, and I think they are the better for it. But, if even if I were to strip and repaint one miniature every day for the rest of my life, I would likely never finish what I already own, never mind any future tempting purchases. A somewhat sobering and morbid thought, but true nonetheless.

What do you think? Do you get dewey-eyed for a certain manufacturer or era of miniatures? Do you advocate repainting, or are you content with (and perhaps comforted by) viewing your early efforts for what they are?


Terror of the Toyman! Conclusion

Quick synopsis: The Toyman is attempting to detonate a bomb during the Christmas celebration in the town square. Superman is attempting to thwart his nefarious scheme and protect the civilians that have been drawn to the square by the big stacks of presents Toyman dropped to lure them there. For more detailed scenario information and special rules, please refer to my last post.

At the start of the game, here is the board setup:

There are 7 possible locations for the bomb.  Clockwise from the top right corner, they are: stack of presents 1, the fountain/Christmas tree, stack 2, the house, stack 3, stack 4, and the church.

Superman sets up in the middle of the board, while 6 civilians are scattered around the board.


Toyman won’t arrive until the end of round 3, so no initiative roll is necessary. Superman has a few rounds to get a jump on finding the bomb’s location. First, though, the civilians randomly meander around.  Then, I draw from the location and hazard decks. I get stack of presents #3 as the location, but draw a “nothing happens” as an event. An early lucky break for the Man of Steel!

Superman moves to the closest possible location, which is the fountain and Christmas tree. He takes a Special Action to scan for the bomb. The secret counter underneath the tree reveals there is no bomb here (good thing, or this would have been a short game indeed). Superman uses the remainder of his Move action to fly to stack #1. Although he can easily reach it, he can’t take any further actions this turn, so the round ends!

Score: 0-0


Once again, the civilians move around randomly. My deck draws indicate that the Santa Bot appears at stack #1, which just so happens to be where Superman is at the moment. And it’s a good thing, too, considering that 2 civilians are within range of the Santa Bot’s machine gun (Power Blasts) and would have certainly been easy targets if the Man of Steel wasn’t around to draw the Bot’s fire.

Since Toyman isn’t around to direct his toys yet, Superman automatically has initiative. Superman now has to decide whether to fight the robot or scan the stack of presents for the bomb; he can’t take both a Special Action and a Combat Action in the same turn! Being Superman, he decides the most immediate threat to the civilians is the Santa Bot, so he charges the Bot and attacks! He does a measly one net goal’s worth of damage, not enough to drop the Santa Bot. The Bot fights back, but fails to hurt Superman at all. The round ends!

Score: 0-0


“Great Caesar’s Ghost!”

Once again, the civilians wander without purpose. My deck draws indicate that at stack #2, Teddy appears! Teddy is a big robotic teddy bear that isn’t very friendly. Unfortunately there is a civilian who looks an awful lot like Daily Planet editor Perry White standing right next to present stack #2. Perry White threatens the bear with a rolled-up copy of the Planet, but Teddy doesn’t seem too impressed.

Now Superman has a real dilemma: protect the civilians nearest him, protect Perry White on the other side of the board, or scan for the bomb??

Superman attacks the Santa Bot with a haymaker, flooring the robot with a net 7 goals of damage! That takes care of the civilians nearest to him, but should he scan stack #1 for the bomb next turn, or leave to protect Perry White from Teddy?

It’s no choice at all. Superman uses his Move action to fly across the board into base contact with Teddy, thus ensuring the big robotic bear has his full attention.  Teddy attacks Superman (leaving Perry White alone for now), but fails to do any damage.

At the end of round 3, the Toyman arrives in spectacular fashion by parachuting onto the middle of the square inside a huge Christmas present!

Score: 0-0


The civilians move randomly, as usual. One of them takes the opportunity to get the hell out of the square and moves off the board, thus ensuring he lives to celebrate Christmas at all! Perry White’s random movement actually moves him closer to Teddy, but I decide that Mr. White is probably a lot smarter than that and move him in the opposite direction. The deck draws indicate that the house is the location for this round’s event, which is that the clockwork soldiers regenerate or that nothing happens. Since the soldiers aren’t in need of regeneration, nothing happens!

This is the first turn Toyman is on the board, and so initiative has to be determined. Toyman beats Superman’s roll. The huge present opens, and Toyman and his clockwork henchmen emerge!

Superman attacks Teddy, inflicting 2 net goals of damage and knocking Teddy back 8″.  Teddy is knocked down and can’t reach Superman to fight back on his turn.

Score: 0-1, Superman


The civilians move randomly. The deck draws indicate that the 2 rock’em, sock’em robots burst out the front door of the church! Unfortunately, there are 2 civilians directly in the path of these clanking, metallic pugilists, and the Man of Steel is all the way across the board! What can he do?

Well, nothing yet, because Toyman keeps initiative this turn. He moves himself and his clockwork henchmen within firing range and open fire on Superman! They manage to inflict 2 net goals of damage. Ouch!

Superman is once again faced with a dilemma. Two civilians are in danger from the robots at the church, and Perry White is stuck between Teddy and the Toyman. Plus, there’s that pesky bomb to find…

Superman does the best he can. He flies over to Perry White and grabs him up, continuing to the nearest board edge and moving his boss to safety. Since this doesn’t count as an action, Superman returns to stack # 2 and uses his Special Action to scan it for the bomb, ignoring both Toyman and Teddy for now. Unfortunately, his gamble fails. Stack #2 doesn’t contain the bomb, either!

Teddy charges Superman, but Superman shrugs him off, and can only watch helplessly…

…as the robots move to attack the closest civilian and quickly pummel him into unconsciousness. Poor guy! Where’s Superman when you need him?

Score 1-2, Superman


It’s halfway into the game, and Superman has only been able to scan 2 of the possible 7 bomb locations. That bomb could go off at any moment! He better get moving!

Of course, the civilians move randomly first. Another moves off the board to safety. The deck draws indicate that stack #4 is the location, and the event is once again that the clockwork soldiers regenerate or nothing happens. The soldiers have not been damaged, so nothing happens.

Superman gains initiative. A quick look at the board shows that there are only 2 civilians left to protect. One is all the way over by stack #1 and is in no immediate danger from anything, and the other is right next to the rock’em, sock’em robots. Superman leaves combat with Teddy to race across the board to the civilian near the robots. (Teddy gets a free attack on Superman as he flies away, but does no damage.) He flies the civilian off the board to safety and then lands next to the church, where he uses his Special Action to scan the church for the bomb.  Once again, there is no bomb.

Toyman marshals his henchmen and moves towards Superman. The robots move towards him, too; and Teddy moves as fast as he can in Superman’s general direction. That’s about all they can do.

Score: 1-4, Superman


Civilians move. The Toyman’s deadly squadron of toy planes activates near stack #3.

Toyman gains initiative. He sends his planes over to attack Superman. They open fire, but fail to harm the Last Son of Krypton! Superman returns fire with his heat vision, destroying all but one of the planes. The robots charge into combat with Superman and mange to inflict one net goal of damage. (I probably should have moved Superman somewhere else and scanned another location, but instead I attacked the planes and forgot to move him at all! Dumb!) Toyman, his henchmen and Teddy all move towards Superman, but none of them can do anything else.

Score: 1-4, Superman


The one remaining civilian on the board moves around, but she’s so far away she’s in no danger unless something activates at stack #1 this turn. Instead, nothing happens at the fountain and Christmas tree this round. That bomb is still out there, and there are not many turns left. There are still 4 possible locations that bomb could be: stack #1, stack #3, stack #4 and the house!

Superman keeps initiative and leaves combat with the robots,taking 1 goal of damage in the process. He moves to stack #4, directly in front of him, and scans the stack for the bomb. No luck! he still has plenty of movement left, so he speeds over to stack #3. He can’t do anything else on his turn, but at least he’s in position for next round…if it’s not too late!

Toyman’s group and the one remaining plane move into firing range and open fire, but Superman takes no damage. The robots and Teddy both chase after Superman, but they pose little threat to Superman at this point. There’s only one civilian left and she’s safely out of harm’s way. The main concern is the bomb!!!

Score 1-4, Superman


The civilian wanders around stack #1. Holding my breath, I draw from both decks. Stack #2 is the location…and nothing happens!!!! Whew!

Superman keeps initiative. Superman immediately scans stack #3, hoping to find the bomb, but there is no bomb! There are only 3 rounds left in the game, and the bomb could go off on any one of them! Since one civilian has already fallen, if the bomb goes off, there is no way Superman can win this scenario.There are only 2 places it could be: stack #1, or the house. The house is closest…

Superman makes another calculated risk and flies across the board to stack #1., where he will scan for the bomb next turn. Even though the house is closer, he could get bogged down in combat with the Toyman’s toys, as they will all be in the same table quarter as the house by the end of this turn. It’s a gamble to be sure…

Toyman and all his toys consolidate near the house.

Score: 1-4, Superman


The remaining civilian moves. Convinced I’m about to draw the Joker, I pull from both decks. The location is the church…the event is…the presents shuffle positions! Lucky for Superman, the stacks that switch positions are stack #3 and stack #4, so he doesn’t have to worry about chasing stack #1 around the board…

Superman keeps initiative. He scans stack #1, and discovers the bomb. And not a moment too soon! Victory for Superman!

Score: 1-9, Superman.


Well, this game was the most fun I’ve had playing with myself since…well, never mind.

Despite going for 10 rounds, this game played very fast (about 30 minutes). The ending score was not as much of a runaway victory for Superman as it appears. If the bomb had gone off, there was no way Superman could have won the game, as he had already lost a point for the wounded civilian in round 5.  Even if Superman saved all the other civilians, had the bomb exploded, the final score would have been 5-6, Toyman.

The game went down to the final 3 turns. The last 3 cards were the 10, Jack and Joker; the two “present shuffle” events and the bomb going off. I really did shuffle the cards pretty well, or so I thought. In any event, despite all hazards being activated, Superman got really lucky by drawing all the “nothing happens” events during the game. This gave him the breathing room he needed to try to be everywhere at once.

Well, almost everywhere. This guy will be spending Christmas in the hospital.

I think the scenario works well. The random position of the bomb, and the randomness of the locations and hazards really makes the game difficult to predict, which is what I was going for. After all, what else can Toyman really do to Superman but keep him occupied and distracted? Superman has to do his best to balance getting the civilians to safety with finding the bomb before time runs out. The hazards work to delay him, as Superman really only has to engage them if they threaten civilians. If no civilians are threatened, he’s free to fly around the board and search for the bomb.

Ironically, the bomb was in the second location Superman visited, but he had to leave it to go protect Perry White from Teddy back in round 3! He didn’t have time to scan the location after destroying the Santa Bot, because if he did, that would have allowed Teddy to attack Perry White if the bomb wasn’t there. He never made it back to stack #1 until the very end of the game.

Here are my Super Mission Force builds for the characters:

Superman (Powerhouse) Major: Speed, Super Strength, Minor: Armor, Enhanced Senses, Flight, Power Blasts, Resistance, Tough

Toyman (Mastermind) Major: Enhance, Minor: Gadgets, Savant

Note: Toyman DID make use of his Gadgets power to gain re-rolls each round, but either he failed to do so or they were used without any real effect on the overall game.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Terror of the Toyman! Part 2

The Scenario: Just in time for Christmas, The Toyman has planted a bomb somewhere in the town square! He scattered piles of Christmas presents around, which naturally attracted the attention of the locals. The bomb will go off soon, making this a Christmas to remember…unless Superman can stop it!

Superman’s goal is to find and defuse the bomb before it goes off, and to protect as many civilians as possible. The Toyman’s goal is to make sure the bomb goes off by delaying Superman long enough for it to detonate.

Game length: The game lasts a maximum of 12 rounds, or as long as it takes for the bomb to detonate or be discovered.

Setup: The play area is a 4′ x 4′ section of  a park or town square. There are several piles of Christmas presents scattered around the area, as well as a few structures, monuments and buildings. Each of these is a possible location for the bomb. Randomly place a face-down counter under each possible location. All of these counters should be blank except for one, which should represent the bomb. (Obviously, if you’re playing this game solo, as I did, make sure you don’t know the location of the bomb.)

Scatter 6 civilian models or counters around the board. Each one represents a hapless civilian who has wandered into harm’s way and who must be protected!

Superman deploys in the middle of the board. The Toyman and the clockwork soldiers don’t deploy at the start of the game. Keep them off the board for now.

Special Rules:

The Super Mission Force turn sequence is slightly altered for this scenario. It is as follows:

  1. Move civilians.
  2. Draw one card each from the location and event decks.
  3. Place hazards or resolve effects of cards.
  4. Determine initiative.
  5. Activate normally.

Civilians: Per the SMF rules, civilians move 4″ in a random direction at the start of the turn. If a civilian wanders off the table edge, he or she has made it to safety. Civilians can also be escorted off the table edge if Superman moves into base contact with them and then moves to any table edge. Civilians have a Body of 2 and are quite vulnerable to attack.

Card decks: This game uses a special card activation mechanic to randomly determine when and where hazards (usually malicious toys) appear. Using a standard deck of cards, make two separate decks (red and black). The red deck should contain as many cards as you have locations (in my case, 7). Assign each location a corresponding card (i.e. Ace = fountain, 2 = Church, etc.) The black deck needs to contain 12 cards, including a Joker. (Ace-Jack, plus the Joker). These cards represent events or hazards that will take place. Feel free to make up whatever events you want based on the Toyman’s hazards (see below). You can use hazards similar to mine or make your own.  The Joker card represents the bomb’s detonation, and you should be sure that at least 4 cards are “no event” to give Superman some breathing room.

My black deck event list looked like this:

A-3: nothing happens.

4: Teddy appears.

5: Santa bot appears.

6: Robots appear.

7: Planes appear.

8-9: Clockwork soldiers (Toyman’s henchmen) regenerate (if they are on the board and damaged), or nothing happens

10-J: Presents shuffle!  The Toyman has made use of tricky teleportation technology! Randomly swap the places of two stacks of presents, being sure to move the counters underneath with them. This may mean that Superman may have to revisit a section of the board he has already scanned. Depending on the location of the bomb, this may also mean the bomb has moved!

Joker: The bomb explodes! If this card is drawn before Turn 4, ignore the result and shuffle it back into the deck. Also, when this card is drawn, ignore the corresponding red location card. The bomb explodes wherever it is on the board.

Hazards: Hazards deploy at whatever location is drawn that round. Hazards are there to delay Superman and to cause mayhem. Hazards do not get an initiative roll of their own, which means that until Toyman arrives, Superman automatically will act before any deployed Hazards. A hazard will always attack Superman if he is within range of its attacks or within its charging distance, as appropriate. If not, it will attack any civilian it can reach instead. If neither Superman or any civilian is a viable target, the hazard will move towards Superman at the fastest speed possible. Generally speaking, hazards pose little threat to Superman other than forcing him to spend valuable time dealing with them when he should be looking for the bomb. But hazards are very dangerous to civilians!

Toyman: Toyman deploys at the end of Turn 3. He can appear wherever you want, but I deployed him via a huge present that parachuted into the center of the board. He rolls for initiative as normal starting on Turn 4. Prior to this, Superman automatically has initiative over any Hazards that may have activated.

Toyman also has some special characteristics for this scenario. First, he functions as both a character and a henchman group. When he activates, his clockwork soldier bodyguards activate with him. They move as a unit and can make use of concentrated fire. In addition, the clockwork soldiers function as a type of armor. All damaging attacks on Toyman must target the clockwork henchmen first, removing them as casualties before the Toyman loses any Body. Once all henchmen are destroyed, Toyman takes damage as normal.

Lastly, Toyman can fix any damaged toy (other than his clockwork soldiers) on a successful Chance roll if he moves into base contact with it. Return the toy to full capacity. It can activate as normal on the following round.

Superman: Until the Toyman deploys at the end of Turn 3, Superman automatically has initiative. It should be noted that with Superman’s Speed and Flight powers, he has a Move of 60″, which means he can reach any point on the board from any other point on the board in 1 round. This is good, because he’s going to need it. He has a lot of ground to cover and not much time.

Usually, Perception checks are opposed Free Actions, but not in this scenario. The Toyman has encased his bomb in lead, which means Superman can’t simply use his x-ray vision to spot it. In order to scan for the bomb, Superman must get in base contact with a possible location. Then he must use a Special Action to scan for the bomb. This is automatically successful; if Superman scans for the bomb, reveal the counter at the location. If it’s blank, the bomb is somewhere else. If it’s the bomb, Superman automatically destroys it by whatever method you feel is appropriate (heat vision, freezing it with his super-breath, hurling it into space, etc.)

Scoring: Superman gains 1 point for every civilian he rescues or who exits off the board, and get 5 points if he finds and destroys the bomb. Toyman gets 1 point for every civilian injured, and 5 points if the bomb explodes. Thus it is possible for Superman to still win the scenario if he saves all the civilians before the bomb goes off.

Next post: the After Action Report!!!

Terror of the Toyman! Part 1

When it comes to superheroes, Superman isn’t one of my personal favorites. Of course, if I could be any superhero, I’d definitely pick Superman for x-ray vision alone (but having super-strength, invulnerability and flight wouldn’t suck either).  Despite this I never really found him all that interesting on his own.

That’s because it seems there are only three main ways to challenge Superman’s obvious superiority. Take away his powers (à la kryptonite), hit him with magic or mental manipulation (à la Mr. Mxyzptlk), or just be tougher and stronger than him (à la Doomsday).

The Toyman doesn’t really fit any of these criteria, and yet, he’s primarily considered a “Superman” villain.

For those not all that familiar with the Toyman, I could write a brief description of the character here. Or, I could just block quote and attribute a perfectly good description that needs no editing or embellishment. So, from DAMN Good Coffee, the blog of  Mr. Charles Skaggs, I present his description of the Toyman:

Created in 1943 by Don Cameron and Ed Dobrotka, The Toyman first appeared in Action Comics (vol.1) #64 as Winslow Percival Schott, a criminal who used various toy-themed devices and gimmicks when committing crimes. After Superman’s continuity was relaunched following the Crisis on Infinite Earths event miniseries and John Byrne’s The Man of Steel miniseries, The Toyman was reimagined in Superman (vol.2) #13 as an unemployed British toymaker who blames Lex Luthor for being fired from a toy company.

Years later, The Toyman became a darker, more sinister character who abducted and murdered Adam Morgan, the son of Cat Grant.  The character was reimagined once again in Action Comics (vol.1) #865 as a toymaker who lived with his wife Mary and agrees to sell his shop after Mary is killed in a car accident.  After learning that the buyer lied to him, Schott proceeds to bomb the business with an explosive teddy bear and Mary is revealed as one of his first robotic creations.

I can add nothing of substance to Mr. Skaggs’s words. That’s pretty much the history of the Toyman.

However, my favorite version of the Toyman is this one from the DC animated universe. This version is the unnamed son of Winslow Schott, and is obsessed with revenge against mob boss Bruno Mannheim, who he blames for his father’s imprisonment and eventual death, and his own miserable foster home upbringing as a result. He wears this creepy doll head and you never see his real face.

Anyway, about a year ago, I got an idea for a Supersystem 3 scenario featuring the Toyman. But, now I play Super Mission Force pretty much exclusively, and SMF being predominantly a game of Supers combat, I was in a quandary as to how to effectively use Toyman against Superman. After all, he has no super powers, and Superman could pretty easily wipe the floor with him in a straight-up fight. Toyman could, of course, have some super-tough toys for Superman to brawl with, but that just seemed kind of boring and not very imaginative.

I decided that Toyman isn’t really a threat to Superman, but he could easily be a threat to normal people. Protecting normal folks is what Superman is all about, so what if, for the purposes of the scenario, Superman had to protect as many civilians as possible? An idea took shape…

But first, if I was going to use the Toyman, I would need some toys. Behold what I found at the local dollar store:

For a grand total of $3.oo, I purchased these cool rock’em, sock’em robot finger puppets and some cars I could cannibalize. Some nippy cutters and superglue later, here is the result:

Instant toy-themed robot menace!

I did a quick search for a Heroclix version of Toyman. Sadly, it seems Wizkids don’t have the rights to the DC animated universe (Knight Models does, I think…) so I couldn’t get a version of the doll-head wearing Toyman that I like. I had to settle for this guy:

Not a bad start, and it naturally got me thinking about Christmas, which would be an ideal time of year for Toyman to start some trouble. With that in mind, I did a quick repaint and scoured my miniatures for other things that could be used as deadly toys.

My repaint is in the center. I purchased some (sadly OOP) Parroom Station clockwork soldiers (in the back) from Matt Beauchamp of Hydra Miniatures, and I took advantage of Armorcast’s 20% off Christmas sale to pick up the Santa bot. I already owned Wyrd’s Teddy from the Malifaux line.  I just needed to paint him, and I did.

Turns out these Hydra War Rocket Galacteer fighters are just the right scale to double as deadly toy planes. So I planned on using them, too.

If Christmas was to be the backdrop for the scenario, I would need some thematic scenery, like piles of presents! I thought a ring box would make a good giant present (from which something deadly could emerge). I bought some wood cubes from an art store and glued them together in random formations. A little red, white and green craft paint and I’d be good to go.

I figure once I’m done with this scenario, I can repaint the blocks to use as crates and boxes for warehouse scatter terrain.

Stay tuned! Scenario to follow next post!

Gotham Girls


It’s funny how sometimes projects get completed without any clear plan whatsoever. From the crime-filled alleys of Gotham City: three of Batman’s most notorious femme fatales: Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Lady Shiva!

These miniatures were in the freezer bin wherein all the Heroclix models I intend to repaint and rebase currently reside. A couple of months back I was painting up some Hasslefree martial artists, and I thought a Heroclix Lady Shiva might make a good addition to the theme. I fetched her from the freezer and rebased her, intending on repainting her whenever I got the chance. No rush, you understand. Just a miniature to add to when I had some extra paint I needed to use.

Then I picked up some miniatures in a Craigslist lot that included these AD&D hyenas. I immediately thought of Harley Quinn, and into the freezer I went yet again. A quick rebasing and she joined Lady Shiva in the side pile.

Then, while playing Arkham Knight on the PS4, I thought about the Heroclix Catwoman figure who was cooling her heels in the freezer. I took her out and rebased her with this Reaper cat familiar, and off to the side pile she went.

As fate would have it, these miniatures got painted at pretty much the same pace: a dab here and there while I did other things. Then one afternoon I took them out of the side pile and finished all of them off. I added some highlights and shading to the pre-painted hyenas and the Gotham Girls were done! I’m not wild about how Lady Shiva’s raccoon eyes look, but she’s ok for tabletop gaming. Maybe I’ll touch her up a bit. I’m also thinking of adding some gloss varnish to Catwoman’s costume and whip, but I’m not sure yet.

Incidentally, if you’re wondering about the conspicuous absence of a certain red-headed botanist-turned-arch criminal, all I can say is stay tuned. She’ll be here soon!


Tick, Tock…Time to Feed the Croc!

I find the Knight Models 32mm Batman miniatures to be terrific sculpts, but they’re generally too pricey for me to justify their purchase, except in rare cases.  I caved and bought the Frank Miller Batman, for example, because I just had to have it. Same thing with Killer Croc, here.

This version of Croc is based on the Batman: Arkham series of video games by Rockstar. In total, there are four games. Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, Arkham Origins (a prequel), and Arkham Knight, which closes out the series. Croc appears in every game as a boss except for Arkham City, where he is mentioned, but doesn’t actually appear. (Technically, he doesn’t appear in Arkham Knight unless you purchase the DLC Season of Infamy, which is so good and so worth it I don’t know why you wouldn’t.) In the comics, Croc started out as a big ex-wrestler with a skin condition. He has since devolved through a half-man/half-reptile all the way to a full blown human/dinosaur hybrid complete with a tail!

This version most accurately reflects Croc’s appearance in Arkham Asylum (no tail yet), the first game in the series. Much like the game, I love the miniature, too. I posed him with a couple of reptilian friends. The one on the left is a child’s toy I got at a flea market somewhere. I’m pretty sure I got two, but I can only find one.  The other one is a large Dungeons and Dragons Dire Crocodile. I bought it for use as a Pulp monster, but when I decided to paint Killer Croc I thought it was a good excuse to paint the Dire Crocodile as well.

The Dire Crocodile is quite large. Here he is next to a 28mm Reaper Inkeeper. I built a lip of green stuff around his base and applied scenic water with an eyedropper (sayonara, eyedropper). Three days later, the water still hasn’t cured and it sticks to everything it touches. Hugely annoying. Looks ok, though. It will look better when I can add some flock/leaves to the rim of the base, whenever the “water” dries.

Speaking of huge, even scaled at the 32mm range, this Killer Croc is gigantic. Here he is posed with a Heroclix version of himself. (I’m a big fan of Heroclix for many reasons, but I think everyone seeing this picture can understand why I splurged on the Knight  version of Croc.)

And here he is with a Reaper Ogre, a Heroclix Hulk, and a Heroclix Question. (Incidentally, here are my repaints of Hulk and The Question.) The Question model should give a good indication of how a “normal” 28mm model looks next to Croc.

This is somewhat problematic. Croc is big, but he’s nowhere near the size and mass of the Hulk. From a scale perspective, I find this irksome. Doubtful I would ever use them in the same scenario, but still…

I tried to repaint a Heroclix Solomon Grundy recently, but standing him next to Croc was laughable. In the comics, they’re about the same size; so too in the Knight Models range. But mixing and matching Knight Models with Heroclix may work fine with normal sized figures, but not so well with big guys like this.

Which means I’m probably going to have to buy the Knight Models version of Grundy. And while I’m at it, their version of the Hulk. But at $35 apiece, that’s a lot of cheddar for only two miniatures.

Luckily, ’tis the season. Black Friday is in two days….who knows?

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