MH-2 Time Trap Part 1: The Menace of the Mimic!

PROLOGUE

They are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers! Captain America, Captain Marvel, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Starfox and Wasp! Their quiet afternoon at Avengers Mansion is shattered, as suddenly, without warning, a visitor appears in their midst, trailing a mysterious, billowing smoke! They recognize him immediately as Immortus, Lord of Limbo!

“Avengers,” says Immortus. “We have no time to exchange pleasantries. In several days, a solar flare will destroy this galaxy. You must act quickly to prevent this, or Earth is doomed. The only way to do this is to allow me to use my mastery of time to send you back to various points in history, where you must prevent certain events from occurring. The flare develops as a result of these events, so you must alter the course of time and ensure they do not take place.”

“Wait a minute, Immortus,” Captain America says. “How do we know that this is the best course of action? Messing around with the timeline seems drastic. Perhaps we can consult with Dr. Richards and come up with a better plan?” Several of the Avengers nod in agreement.

“I am Master of Time, Captain, and I assure you we have little of it left. You must act now. There are two events that require immediate attention. The first involves a young man named Calvin Rankin. The other event concerns Drax the Destroyer. Both must be stopped!”

“Drax!” exclaims Wasp. “That’s never good news.”

“I assure you that Rankin is every bit as formidable. Nonetheless, we have little time to debate.”

Captain America nods reluctantly. “All right, then. Captain Marvel, Wanda…you’re with me. We’ll deal with Rankin. Starfox, Wasp, Vision…you handle Drax. And be careful.”

“How fortunate you are, Captain, to enjoy the assistance of these two beautiful women,” says Starfox, “but Janet’s beauty is so sublime that I consider myself equally fortunate.”

“Keep your mind on the mission, Starfox,” says Cap. I’d love to punch him in the dick, he thinks to himself.

Immortus turns towards Captain America’s group. “Very well, then. You will be sent back to the year 1969. Calvin Rankin is in Central Park. You must find him and convince him to put this on.” Immortus holds up a strange-looking headset.

“Why?” asks the Scarlet Witch.

Immortus sighs in irritation. “Have I not impressed upon you the need for haste? Because Rankin will eventually come in contact with an alien device that will increase his intellect a thousand fold, allowing him to develop dangerous technologies that will directly lead to the formation of the solar flare. This headset will ensure his mind will not be altered in this fashion. It will not otherwise harm him.”

“What if he won’t put it on?” asks Captain Marvel.

“Then you must put it on him,” Immortus says, as though talking to a child. He hands the headset to Captain America. “Now, enough talk. Prepare yourselves!”

The mysterious smoke billows forth from Immortus’s hands, surrounding the small team. They are transported through time!

The Scenario:

The prologue pretty much sums it up. The Avengers must find Calvin Rankin in the park and make sure he puts on the headset. What Immortus didn’t tell them is that Calvin Rankin is a powerful mutant with the ability to absorb and mimic the powers of anyone he comes across, and that he’s not going down without a fight. To add challenge, there are innocent civilians in harm’s way and the fight quickly draws the attention and intervention of law enforcement.

Setup:

I used a 4′ x 4′ area set up like a park, with trees and natural terrain scattered around. There is a lot of open space. A statue is in the middle of the board. The Avengers deploy on one side of the board. The Mimic is deployed at the statue. There are six civilians deployed randomly around the board. The police do not deploy at the start of the game (see below).

SPECIAL RULES

The Mimic: At the start of the game, The Mimic has a Move, Body and Psyche of 6 and has only one power: Mimic. The Mimic’s power is a stronger version of the Mimic super power in Super Mission Force. Once per round, the Mimic can attempt to copy the powers of EVERY hero within 15″ of him. The mechanism is the same: a 5D Psyche-based opposed roll, every goal allows the Mimic to mimic one minor power of his choice, while major powers require two goals. Obviously, the Mimic can’t copy powers that are not technically powers, such as Captain America’s shield, and cannot copy both the major and minor versions of the same power. (This is stronger then the normal Mimic power, which only targets one individual at a time, and has a range of only 5″.) Once copied, the mimicked powers are usable for the remainder of the scenario.

The Cops: It’s 1969, and those damn dirty hippies are protesting everywhere. The NYPD has a strong presence in Central Park, and they are not about to take any shit from a bunch of barefoot longhairs. There are 3 Henchmen groups of police officers that may eventually be drawn to the combat. The first group enters at the end of Round 2; the next at the end of Round 4, and the last at the end of Round 6. The groups enter via the board edge that is closest to the majority of the action.

“We’re here to help!”: Unfortunately for the Avengers, with the exception of Captain America, the cops have no idea who they are. (1969 is well before the formation of the team.) This means they’re just as likely to open fire on the heroes, especially if they feel there is a threat to public safety (and there is). The Avengers CANNOT harm the police officers in any way. They’re the good guys, remember? Instead, they must either work around the cops, or convince them that they’re the good guys. Any hero can spend an entire round trying to convince the cops to join their side. This is tough to do, as the cops are used to seeing outlandishly dressed youths rebelling against authorit-aah pretty regularly. It requires a 3 Goals on a Chance roll to persuade the police to stop shooting at the Avengers.

Cap has it easier. Some of these cops are veterans and fought in the Big One, and all of them know Captain America (who was technically still active at this time, although Steve Rogers is still in a block of ice somewhere…) It only takes Cap 2 goals to convince the cops that the Avengers are not the bad guys. Once the cops recognize this, they assist in any way they can.

Civilians: There are 6 civilians milling around the park at the start of the game. They move randomly at the start of each turn and follow the standard rules for civilians in Super Mission Force. If things go poorly, the Mimic will not hesitate to threaten innocent bystanders.

The Headset: The Mimic will not willingly put on the headset provided by Immortus (Kang). In order to slip it on his head while he is still conscious, a hero must win an opposed grapple check in close combat with the Mimic. Of course, it can be easily placed on his head if the Mimic is KO’ed. Captain America has the headset at the start of the game. Big surprise: the headset doesn’t do what Immortus says it does. Rather, it strips the Mimic of his powers entirely, thus ensuring he never joins the X-Men. As a result, more mutants, including some future Avengers, are subverted to future lives of crime rather than heroism. MU-HU-HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

ROUND 1

Calvin Rankin sits on a stone bench, eyes glazed, riding a reefer buzz. The new Hendrix is on the transistor radio of the girl across the way: “Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire.” Hendrix reaches the chorus right around the time Calvin hears his name being called by a cat dressed like Captain America.

“Calvin Rankin,” Cap calls. “It’s important that we speak to you, son. Please come here.”

For a minute, Calvin considers it. After all, whoever this cat is, he has a couple of fab foxes with him. The he remembers the reefer. These three are probably from the draft board. Complete squares, man…

The civilians move randomly. The Mimic gains initiative for the round.

First, he moves just enough to catch all three heroes within 15″. Then he tries to mimic the powers of all 3 heroes. He gets enough goals to absorb Power Blasts (Major), Fortune and Jinx from Scarlet Witch; and Density Decrease, Flight and Invisibility from Captain Marvel. The only “power” he could absorb from Captain America is Super Agility, but he fails to do that. He promptly turns invisible. Then he decides to try out another of his new powers: Jinx. He successfully uses it on Scarlet Witch (who fails to detect him), which will make things tough for her on her next turn.

Captain Marvel fails to spot the Mimic, so all she can do is activate her Density Decrease power and fly out to the general vicinity of where she thinks he is. Scarlet Witch, possibly because she was jinxed, spots the Mimic and moves towards him. She trips and face-plants ( a result of the jinx), taking one Body worth of damage. She then successfully jinxes the Mimic right back, giving him a taste of his own bad luck. Captain America fails to spot the Mimic, so he moves to a position between his teammates and uses his Enhance power, granting Scarlet Witch two re-rolls to her dice pool and Captain Marvel one re-roll to hers.

End of Round 1

ROUND 2

The civilians move randomly; about half move away while the other half move towards the action. Gotta love scatter dice and random movement.

The Mimic keeps initiative. He fails to absorb any powers from Captain Marvel and Captain America. He becomes visible, as invisibility only lasts from turn to turn unless successfully recharged. He tries to recharge it, but fails (due to the higher difficulty as a result of being jinxed). He attempts to activate his Density Decrease power, but fails to do that, too. He Power Blasts Captain America, but Cap easily dodges. Mimic decides he needs to put some space between himself and the heroes and flies away. Unfortunately, because of the jinx on him, he twists his ankle taking off and takes 2 Body worth of damage. Ouch.

Scarlet Witch sees the Mimic getting closer to civilians and decides to blast him. She succeeds, inflicting another 2 Body worth of damage on the Mimic. Captain Marvel maintains her Density Decrease power and flies straight through the statue, coming into base contact with a nearby civilian. This means she is protecting him, and any attacks against the civilian will target Captain Marvel instead. She takes her attack action to blast the Mimic again, but fails to damage him. Finally, Captain America charges forward, trying to get close enough to at least throw his shield. Unfortunately, he’s just out of range.

Here comes The Fuzz!

At the end of the round, the first group of police arrive at the closest table edge, drawn by the sounds of combat! Not a good round for the Mimic, as he’s lost 2/3 of his health!

End of Round 2

 

ROUND 3

The civilians move randomly, and one of them moves off the board to safety. The initiative goes to the Avengers, followed by the Mimic and finally, the cops.

Scarlet Witch wastes no time firing at the Mimic again, but fails to hit. The Mimic absorbs Speed, a major power, from Captain Marvel. He fails again to recharge his Invisibility power, so he instead activates Density Decrease and fires his Power Blasts at Captain America, wounding him for 1 Body worth of damage. He then uses his newfound Speed power to beat a hasty retreat, flying far across the board and into base contact with a civilian! What nefarious plans could he have?

The cops activate, and, seeing how Scarlet Witch is the closest target and is obviously a dirty hippie in a slinky costume, they open fire on her, inflicting 1 Body worth of damage, despite both her Fortune power and the re-rolls Cap gave her through Enhance. Captain America forgoes all his actions to try to convince the police that the Avengers are not the enemy…

“You, sir, are NO Captain America!”

…but totally screws the pooch. The cops ain’t buyin’ it.

Captain Marvel tries to blast Mimic before he can harm the civilian, but misses. She decides to stay and protect the civilian she’s currently with.

ROUND 4

The civilians move randomly. The initiative goes to the Mimic, then the cops, and lastly, the Avengers.

The Mimic fails again to recharge his Invisibilty and fails to maintain his Density Decrease power. Ignoring the civilian, he uses Speed to position himself behind the Scarlet Witch. He fires his Power Blasts at her, but misses.

Ignoring Captain America, the cops open fire on the Scarlet Witch again, but due to her Fortune power, they miss. Captain Marvel chases after the Mimic, blasting him for 1 more damage. The Mimic is reeling, with only 1 Body left!

Captain America once again tries to convince the cops that the Avengers are no threat, but the cops still aren’t buying it. (He’s really rolling like crap.)

At the end of the round, another group of cops enters from the opposite side of the board.

ROUND 5

The civilians move randomly. Another moves off the board. (“Feets, don’t fail me now!”)

The initiative order is The Avengers, the cops, then the Mimic.

Captain Marvel presses her attack, but fails to hit the Mimic with her blasts. The cops closest to Scarlet Witch fire upon her again. Her Fortune power didn’t recharge, but lucky for her she dives on the ground fast enough to avoid being riddled with bullets. The newly-arrived group of police fire upon the Mimic but miss.

End of Round 5.

The Mimic finally succeeds in recharging his Invisibility power. He turns invisible and blasts the Scarlet Witch, who fails to spot him. He does enough damage to KO her handily, and she fails her check to stay up. Captain America tries one more time to convince the police to help, and this time he finally succeeds (perhaps watching the Scarlet Witch get blasted into next week drove the point home). From now on, all the cops will target the Mimic, if possible.

ROUND 6

The remaining civilians move randomly as usual. The Avengers will act first, then the Mimic and finally, the police.

Captain America manages to spot the Mimic, despite his invisibility. He charges forward and hurls his shield at the Mimic, but misses.

“He’s got a kid!”

The Mimic loses his Invisibility and fails to recharge it. He’s getting desperate now, and decides he will take a hostage. He flies across the board into base contact with a civilian and grabs him, intending to use him as a bargaining chip, or, failing that, as a human shield! All attacks targeting the Mimic may hit the civilian instead!

End of Round 6

For the rest of the round, the cops closest to the Mimic surround him with guns drawn, but hesitate to open fire because of the hostage. The other cops move closer to the hostage situation, as does Captain Marvel. Finally, at the end of the turn, more cops arrive: two motorcycle cops and a heavy machine gun. They’re done playing!

ROUND 7

Whatever civilians are left move randomly, except for the kid being used as a human shield by the Mimic.

The cops act first, followed by the Avengers and the Mimic.

All the cops move to surround the Mimic. They don’t do anything else.

An eerie stillness descended on Central Park, broken only by the terrified gasps of the child hostage. The Mimic, wounded and under the influence of something, was like a cornered animal, snarling alternately at the Avengers and the police. Only the years of training stayed the trigger-fingers of the NYPD; that and the commanding presence of the Sentinel of Liberty, Captain America.

Captain Marvel silently calculated her chances of blasting the Mimic without harming the child. She glanced at Captain America. A subtle shake of his head told her all she needed to know. “Stand down, Monica.” She heard it as clearly as if he shouted it aloud.

 

The Moment of Truth…

Captain America charges into hand-to-hand combat with the Mimic. The Mimic attempts to fend off Cap by placing the child in harm’s way, but Captain America is a seasoned combatant. He scores six total goals. The Mimic resists with only five! He takes one damage, enough to force a KO check. He fails!

Victory to the Avengers!

Captain Marvel soothed the child while Captain America checked Calvin Rankin’s vital signs and, finding them steady, removed the headset from his belt. “I don’t like playing around with people’s minds, Monica,” he said softly, as the child was led away by police.

“I know, Cap. But the alternative…I’ll go check on Wanda.”

Cap nodded. He placed the headset on Rankin’s head.

EPILOGUE

First up, apologies for the yellowish tinge the pictures have. I’m not sure what the problem is, but I find it annoying. I’m no photographer.

I changed this scenario a bit. As originally written, all the Avengers are present, and the Mimic has to fight the whole team. If things start to go badly, a bunch of his football player friends show up to help beat up the Avengers. (Uh-huh.)

In Super Mission Force, 6 against 1 is a recipe for disaster, so I made the Mimic more powerful and split the team up. I think it worked out ok. I don’t have any high school football player miniatures, but I have plenty of cops. So I used them instead.

The dramatic scene at the end really wasn’t planned. It just kind of happened that way. Part of the fun of playing these adventures is trying to remain true to what I think the heroes would do in the comics, so having Cap take the shot seemed natural, as he was best equipped to take out the Mimic in hand to hand without harming the innocent hostage. Besides, he was carrying the headset…

Up next: Drax the Destroyer!

MH-2 Time Trap: a Super Mission Force Campaign

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an After Action Report, and Forgotten Heroes has given me a hankerin’ for some supers gaming. I’ve decided to convert another old TSR Marvel Super Heroes RPG module to Super Mission Force. This time around: MH-2: Time Trap, featuring the Mighty Avengers!

The antagonist of this adventure is none other than Kang the Conqueror, who is generally aggravated that—despite being a master of time travel—he keeps losing to the Avengers every time he tries to take over the world. The Avengers annoy Kang, so Kang comes up with a surprisingly good plan to deal with them: make sure they never exist. Disguising himself as Immortus (his future, somewhat good-aligned incarnation), Kang invents a story about how a huge solar flare will destroy Earth in a few days unless the Avengers can stop it. In order to do so, they must travel back in time to stop several key events from happening, thus ensuring the solar flare is never triggered.

In reality, Kang is sending the heroes back in time to undo their own existence. He figures that if the Avengers never form as a super team, he will have a much easier time conquering Earth. The Avengers must discover Kang’s plot and turn the tables on him lest they be trapped in time forever and lest Earth fall prey to Kang’s tyranny.

The Avengers team roster for this adventure consists of (L-R) Wasp, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Captain America, Starfox and Captain Marvel (and a cola machine). Not exactly the powerhouse team from the movies, but a solid slice of 1980’s, Bronze Age comic history, when Scarlet Witch was nowhere near as powerful as she is now and someone thought it would be cool to put Starfox in the Avengers.

Starfox = huge douche. Just my opinion.

As with any TSR Marvel adventure, adapting it to a miniatures game like Super Mission Force will require some tinkering. The general trend in TSR Marvel adventures is one encounter/battle per chapter. Often the villains battled are lame, and the super team can deal with them without too much trouble. This works better in a roleplaying game than on the miniatures table. For example, in my last Super Mission Force campaign, based on the adventure The Breeder Bombs, there was a chapter where the X-Men fought the Soviet Super Soldiers. As originally written, the X-Men travel to the USSR and fight the Crimson Dynamo and a bunch of Soviet Super Troopers (basically armored henchmen). To draw a clear picture, that’s Cyclops, Storm, Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Wolverine vs. the Crimson Dynamo and a bunch of scrubs. That may be fun in a roleplaying game, but in SMF, the Russians are going to get their asses kicked pretty damn quick. Henchmen are rarely much of a problem for most heroes, and a team as powerful as the X-Men would wade through henchmen groups in no time. So I changed the opposition to the entire Soviet Super Soldiers team, and it was much more of a challenge. I will have to do similar altering of the original module for this campaign as well.

Here are my Super Mission Force builds for the Avengers:

Captain America (Powerhouse) Major: Scrapper, Enhance Minor: Clever, Melee Specialist, Shield, Super-Agility

Captain Marvel (Super) Major: Speed Minor: Density Decrease, Invisibility, Flight, Power Blasts

NOTE: In order for Captain Marvel to use her Speed or Flight powers, she MUST use and/or maintain Density Decrease first.

Vision (Super) Major: Super Strength Minor: Construct, Density Increase/Decrease, Power Blasts, Flight

Scarlet Witch (Blaster) Major: Power Blasts Minor: Fortune, Jinx

Starfox (Wild Card) Minor: Flight, Stun, Super Strength, Tough

Wasp (Blaster) Major: Power Blasts, Minor: Flight, Shrinking

Looking the team over as a whole, it’s pretty powerful by SMF standards, with one Powerhouse and two Supers. As usual, I ignored the SMF rules on team composition, opting instead to be true to the established characters. I think it’s pretty tough to imagine these heroes without the powers listed, even if that makes them more powerful than a typical SMF team would be. They’re the Avengers, dude! Don’t sweat the small stuff!

Up next, Scenario One:  The Menace of The Mimic!

Forgotten Heroes 2018 Bonus: Vigilante!

Perhaps it’s a bit self-aggrandizing (sorry, couldn’t help it), but I managed to complete yet another submission for Forgotten Heroes this month. It just came together on its own, as I had no plans to do another conversion.

Vigilante is a DC character who has undergone several incarnations, and is not to be confused with the Justice League cowboy version. This Vigilante is from the mid-80’s, when America’s fascination with action films was arguably at its peak, and Stallone and Schwarzenegger were in their heyday. Seems like every big movie of the time was about some badass taking the law into his own hands or getting revenge by killing lots of people, usually by shooting them a lot.

Enter Vigilante, a product of the 1980’s if ever there was one. Judge Adrian Chase got fed up with having to release career criminals on technicalities or mistrials, so he donned a black ski suit and strapped on a hand cannon. Then he went after them and shot them. That’s pretty much the plot of the Vigilante series, which ran for 50 issues and wasn’t great. Basically, it’s 50 issues chronicling Adrian Chase’s spiral into madness before he ultimately eats his own gun. For a while, he stops being Vigilante and some other guy whose name I don’t care enough about to look up takes over.

It wasn’t ALL bad, though. My personal favorite issue is this one, Vigilante #19, which is basically just one long fight scene as Vigilante tries to bring in a gang member who is a kung-fu expert. It’s penciled by one of my favorite comic artists of all time, Denys Cowan. In my opinion, no one draws fight scenes like Cowan, a talent he would prove time and time again when he took over penciling The Question. I used to dream of the day when Denys Cowan would draw Shang-Chi or Iron Fist, but to my knowledge, that never happened.

Anyway, why did I convert Vigilante at the 11th hour? Because I could. Remember that Intergang Medic I used when I made my Plant Man conversion? Well, it was just sitting there staring at me from the side of my workspace. Perhaps staring is the wrong word, considering it’s difficult to stare without eyes or a head to stare with. I thought his pose, while nothing exciting, certainly had potential.

First, he needed a head, since I used his for Plant Man. I glued a head from a Crossover Miniature (they thoughtfully provide you with head options on most of their miniatures) and sculpted the visor from green stuff. I removed the Intergang backpack and filled the resulting gap with more green stuff. Then I glued him to a Micro Arts Studio urban base.

The gun was a small issue. The one that the medic was holding looked like some kind of laser blaster (I’m not familiar with Intergang, so I don’t know what they use for guns). That simply wouldn’t do, as Vigilante uses a .357 Magnum. So I clipped one from a Heroclix Henchman and made the swap. (I know he’s holding an automatic in the picture above, but just trust me. It was usually a .357 revolver.)

Vigilante also uses a pair of nunchaku for when he gets up close and personal with scumbags who need to be put down hard. I just used some brass rod, cut to size.

Technically, Adrian Chase was a lefty, so his holster should be on the other side, but I can live with this relatively minor inaccuracy without hurling the miniature across the room.

And that officially brings me to the end of Forgotten Heroes this year. I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone else does!

Forgotten Heroes 2018 Submission 3: The Aquarian!

As Ringo would say, “Peace and Love, Peace and Love…”

As Forgotten Heroes draws to an end this year, I have saved the truly worst for last. I present to you: The Aquarian!

Sigh. Where to begin?

The Aquarian’s name is Wundarr, and he was born on planet Dakkam. When he was an infant, his father put him in a rocket and launched Wundarr into space because—wait for it—he thought Dakkam was about to blow up. Turns out he was wrong. Oops.

Wundarr drifted through space in suspended animation until he arrived at Earth, where he was bombarded by cosmic rays in the outer atmosphere and got superpowers. (This somewhat plagiaristic origin story may sound familiar to you. Perhaps he should have been named “Suparr” instead. I have to assume it was meant as a parody; either that or DC found the Aquarian so ridiculous they didn’t want to draw attention to the similarities and forever associate their own character with this ball-bag.)

Wundarr grew to maturity in the spaceship, but he still had the mind of an infant when he crashed on Earth. The Thing took him under his wing for a while, then Namorita kind of adopted him before Project: Pegasus grabbed him up and used him to study the Cosmic Cube. Nothing good ever really comes of that, but Wundarr got wicked smart (I’m from Massachusetts) and his powers were increased. He called himself the Aquarian and made it his mission to bring peace and enlightenment to the world. When not doing these things, he tours the country playing the title role in Jesus Christ Superstar.

OK, I made that last part up. (Or did I?)

The Aquarian missed out on being faster than a speeding bullet, but the cosmic rays made him more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. This is because he absorbs all kinds of energy and converts it to kinetic force, which he must discharge periodically by doing something physical, lest he explode. This won’t harm him, but the same can’t be said for anyone around him when he goes boom, so he jumps around a lot. He also has a force field that nullifies most superpowers and makes him pretty much invulnerable to anything kinetically powered, like a bullet or a punch. Presumably, you can still give him a hug. He would probably like that.

I first discovered the Aquarian in the unreadable Captain America Annual #7. I have tried to get through this particular issue about ten times in my life, and I don’t think I’ve made it very far. It’s torture.

To make this conversion, I used two miniatures, the head of an old Aquaman miniature and the headless body of the Weather Wizard I used making Water Wizard earlier this month.

I needed to do a fair bit of sculpting to make the Aquarian’s ridiculous sleeves. As anyone who visits this blog regularly knows, green stuff is not my friend. I decided to try this Magic Sculpt, which is similar in function in that it is a two-part sculpting medium, but it behaves quite differently than green stuff. It’s not as sticky, and it takes a little longer to cure completely. When wet, it gets really soft, which makes holding its shape difficult. It’s also a hell of a lot cheaper. This 1 lb. set cost me less than $20. An 8″ ribbon of green stuff costs $15!

I think my concept was solid, and the miniatures used were pretty good choices, but…

the actual execution is somewhat lacking. Here is the finished model. I’m not thrilled with how he came out. I would have liked to add more texture to the cloth sleeves, but I got annoyed with the Magic Sculpt and decided the hell with it. Hopefully by the time Forgotten Heroes rolls around next year I will be more adept at sculpting.

Nevertheless, I now have a perfectly serviceable Aquarian miniature for supers gaming, should I ever want to use him in a game, which I can’t imagine I would. Ever.

Wait…now I have to, don’t I?

 

A Brief Interlude…

A slight break from Forgotten Heroes to vent a bit.

I drop by Carrion Crow’s Buffet every couple of days to see what Jeremy is up to, which is usually something I find interesting. Today I discovered a post that irked me, and I was partway through leaving a comment when I realized my comment was long enough for a blog post. Not wanting to hijack his post (DO NOT hijack the Crow!), I decided to air my discontent here.

A few regular contributors to Jeremy’s blog have decided to retire from the blogging community entirely. As posted on the Buffet:

The reason for this is their utter dismay in the trend for a large majority of supposed ‘gamers’ to use their blogs as organs for their own self-aggrandisement, this desperate need to seek praise or have the most followers or likes or comments on their blogs, rather than actually playing games which, after all, is the purpose of buying these little men in the first place.

Ouch. Like many others, when I first read this, I felt personally targeted. Then I realized I’m not that important and I calmed down.

I don’t know these folks, other than reading the comments they have posted over at Carrion Crow’s blog, so I have no reason to believe that any decision they made was in any way related to my blog or anything I have ever done. (In fact, to think so would be somewhat paranoid and narcissistic of me, as for all I know they’ve never even been to Dead Dick’s Tavern. If they have, they’ve never left a comment, which, if the site traffic can be believed, can be said about many visitors here.) But I guess I’m guilty of the “self-aggrandizement” mentioned in that most of my posts nowadays are about stuff I’ve painted.

I don’t do this because I think I’m a painting virtuoso. I do it because I don’t get to play games very often at all, and this is my way of continuing to participate in my hobby. However limited gaming opportunities may be for me, I still have a massive lead pile that I can work on to relieve my stress and have fun. After 30+ years of painting and gaming, I still hope to improve; and I take much of my inspiration from blogs and forums where I can see and appreciate the efforts and ideas of others, give and receive encouragement and ask advice. I don’t know if anything I have ever posted here has ever inspired anyone, but if so then I am over-the-moon happy.

Why don’t I play more often? The simple truth is that I guess I’m just not motivated to anymore.

I’ll be as brief as possible: Most of my miniatures gaming was done in the mid-90’s to around 2003 or so, and it was based at my (then) Friendly Local Game Store. All of my wargaming was either Warhammer 40K or Warhammer Fantasy Battle. I knew of nothing else, and the store did not promote any other miniatures gaming. That place is gone, and my wargaming “buddies” have long since moved on. I have no idea where they are now.

I have a group of longtime close friends who I have played tabletop RPGs with over the years, but none of them are wargamers. We can’t even commit to a regular schedule to play RPGs anymore; it just became way too much effort to wrangle everyone’s schedule so that we could all meet and do something we supposedly enjoy.  Finding a date to play, even once a month, turned into a chore. Put simply, it shouldn’t be that hard for 5 adult men with similar work schedules, 3 of whom do not have any children, to get together and play a fucking game every once in a while without it being a huge dog and pony show every time. (My friends read this blog, and from time to time they may even leave a comment. They know this to be the truth, no matter how hard it is to read.)

A few years ago I bought a home. I am extremely fortunate in that in this home, I have a dedicated hobby space in my basement. With the help of my brother, who does not play any games at all, we built a gaming table. (Actually, he built it for me; I just bought the beer.) I thought for sure I would be gaming up a storm with my friends in no time. Sure, they came by a few times. But, not being wargamers, it fell to me to provide the miniatures, terrain, scenarios and rules. I did this, but there’s only so much time in the day. If I was in a wargaming group, for example, everyone would (presumably) have their own armies, and perhaps we could share terrain. When everything becomes one person’s responsibility, it gets expensive and feels more like an obligation than a hobby. If you’re the only one excited about a gaming project, then your excitement sours quickly.

I thought of skirmish gaming, or games where cash investment was relatively small, like War Rocket or Dreadball. Neither one really took root among my friends. Not being wargamers, they didn’t really want to spend the money on miniatures. The latest idea I’ve had is Gaslands, and I hope to be able to play that with some friends soon, although once again, the cars, terrain and table will be my responsibility.

Our last game we tried to play as a group was Imperial Assault. I bought the game and painted the miniatures. We had a great space to play. I figured even if we all couldn’t make it on a specific night, we could still manage to play a scenario or two and keep a campaign going. It fell apart 3 nights in, when it just became clear that it was too much hassle to get together. (To be fair, two of my friends live over an hour away from the rest of us. I can’t blame them if they didn’t feel it was worth the drive, especially if there was a noticeable lack of commitment among the group.)

I have posted After Action Reports on this blog, and will continue to do so. However, the sad truth is that I rarely game with others nowadays, so my AARs are solo games. I still have fun, but not as much as I would if my friends shared my wargaming interests. And I guess you may ask, why not find another FLGS? I could. But all of them around me are solely devoted in 40K or Age of Sigmar, neither of which I have the slightest interest in playing.

OK, I guess it wasn’t all that brief. Whatever.

Back to Dead Dick’s Tavern and Temporary Lodging: the name of my blog comes from one of the aforementioned RPGs that my group used to play. It was coined by one of the aforementioned friends, who graciously allowed me to use it when I decided to start a blog based on my miniatures hobby. I’m not promoting any product for my own profit or benefit on this blog, such as a rule set or line of miniatures (although I will certainly trumpet praises for anything I like). I do not participate in social media, either as The Angry Piper or as the real me. I do not have a “desperate need to seek praise,” either online or in the real world, whether for my hobby efforts or for anything else. I’m not trying to get likes or clicks, and most of the comments I receive about this blog are posted by people on other forums. I guess you could still make the argument that by posting pictures of my work on this blog I’m promoting myself, but I’m really trying to promote the hobby and interact with others who share my interests. It’s kind of like if I was hanging out at a pub and talking about football with the other guys at the bar, if only I gave a shit at all about football.

Like I said, I don’t know any of these folks that are bailing on all the miniatures blogs. But I’m saddened that they feel this way, as I enjoyed their comments (even if they were made elsewhere), and I feel like any loss of contributing voices in our hobby is a bad thing. This blog, and the blogs and forums I frequent, has introduced me to many gamers, painters and collectors from all over the world.

It’s hard for me to see that as a bad thing.

Forgotten Heroes 2018 Submission 2: The Plant Man!

I’m trying to get three submissions in for the Forgotten Heroes challenge this month, and here is number two. If you found Water Wizard to be a bit of a tool, well, congratulations. You’re a great judge of character. But Water Wizard lives life like a boss compared to this guy:

Behold! The Plant Man!

Samuel Smithers was a gardener who wanted to invent a way to talk to plants, so naturally he built himself a ray gun. It didn’t work until one day it was struck by lightning, which somehow charged it with the ability to control and animate plants (I’m not making this up). His boss fired him for working on his ray gun instead of pruning the bushes (which was his job), so Smithers put on a costume, called himself the Plant Man, and vowed revenge. Unfortunately, he met the Human Torch, who quickly put an end to Plant Man’s scheme and destroyed his ray gun.

Months later, he built a better ray gun, which was also presumably struck by lightning and imbued with (better) plant-controlling power. He tried to kill the Human Torch, but failed and went to the slammer, where he was recruited by Count Nefaria; along with the Porcupine, the Eel, and the Scarecrow. (This Scarecrow is not to be confused with the cool Batman villain with the fear gas, and certainly not to be confused with the coolest crow of them all… Carrion Crow.  This is Marvel’s Scarecrow. A significantly less-cool crow.)

Any one of these jokers would be prime fodder for Forgotten Heroes, as they’re all remarkably bad at their chosen criminal profession. But I digress.

Plant Man eventually ran afoul of the Avengers and SHIELD, after he took over a SHIELD base with a 100′ tall plant monster and a bunch of plant copies of himself. That’s about where I lost track of him.

To make this conversion, I used two Heroclix figures: Jack O’Lantern and an Intergang Medic. I needed the Medic’s head on Jack’s body. I also removed Jack from his hover disk and rebased him on some plain old MDF.

Then I set about adding the green stuff. I said it before and I’ll admit it again, sculpting is not my strong suit. Many thanks to Roger, a.k.a. Dick Garrison, for taking the time to give me some advice on how to work with this hellish substance.

Lucky for me, all I really needed to do was sculpt Plant Man’s ridiculous headdress and some plant fringes around his collar, shoulders and legs. (I forgot his gloves, but whatever.) Since Plant Man’s powers all come from his ray gun, I attached a Rogue Trader-era bolt pistol (minus clip) to his thigh.

I posed him next to some killer plants, last seen in my Poison Ivy post.

Tremble in fear, for the Plant Man cometh!

I must confess I have an ulterior motive for converting Plant Man. He actually appears as a villain in an old TSR Marvel Super Heroes module, The Last Resort, which I plan on tinkering with for Super Mission Force. Originally, I was just going to replace him with another sucky bad guy, but Forgotten Heroes has given me the excuse to put some effort into making an actual Plant Man miniature!

Hopefully I can get my third submission in by the end of the month, but it will require more precise sculpting with the dreaded green stuff. I’ll do my best!

Forgotten Heroes 2018, Submission 1: The Water Wizard!

It’s June, which means it’s time for Forgotten Heroes!

Last year my fellow miniatures enthusiast Carrion Crow invited me to take part in the Forgotten Heroes challenge. I played hard to get at first, but then when I saw how much fun it was going to be, I begged him to let me take part. He graciously agreed. I converted and/or repainted the entire Liberty Legion, along with special guests Spirit of ’76, Patriot, Union Jack and Bucky! This year, I’m hoping to submit three Forgotten Heroes, not a whole team. So, without further ado, here’s the first:

 

The Water Wizard is a really lame Marvel villain with water powers. In fact, it turns out he can control almost any liquid, not just water. You would think this would make him pretty powerful, but Water Wizard is an idiot. In 1977, he made his debut in the Ghost Rider comic book and promptly got his clock cleaned by Ghost Rider, both in his initial appearance and pretty much every time they met after that.

He actually fought some other Marvel good guys, like Captain America, with predictable results (he lost). He was recruited by criminal financier and Hugh Hefner lookalike, Justin Hammer, but ran away when he had to fight Iron Man.

After a while, Water Wizard changed his name to Aqueduct, which is an even dumber name than Water Wizard, and tried to continue his criminal ambitions. Instead he joined the Thunderbolts and that’s about when I lost track of him.

To make this conversion, I used three figures. Because I never throw anything out, I had a headless Quicksilver left over from when I made Jack Frost in my first Forgotten Heroes challenge last year. . He’s been grotesquely hanging around in a corner of my hobby space since then. I thought that the head of the Weather Wizard (similar name, different publisher, equally lame bad guy) would look pretty good on the body. His  hair is already blowing around, so it would match pretty well with the running pose. For added effect, I thought I would use this water spume on the Aquaman figure for something…

An idea took shape. I re-headed and rebased the miniature, and sculpted his fashionable hip waders out of green stuff. (A side note: I suck at sculpting anything. This is problematic, as my next Forgotten Heroes submissions will require much more sculpting. Thus I have sought the aid and advice of a sculptor extraordinaire to guide my efforts henceforth…)

I removed the cumbersome Aquaman model from the water spout and attached it to a base of green stuff sculpted to look like water (I can handle that much). Now it looks like the water is moving with him. Then I painted the model to resemble Water Wizard.

Hi running pose actually looks pretty accurate. I only have to face him away from any hero model since Water Wizard often flees. I don’t have a Daredevil-like sense of touch, so I couldn’t tell if the diagonal slash on Quicksilver’s costume was raised or if it was just a painted on until I painted over it. Turns out it’s actually part of the sculpt, which is unfortunate, as you can still barely see it through my paint. Also, I now have a headless Weather Wizard where my headless Quicksilver used to be.

Forgotten Heroes 2018 submission 1: complete!

 

 

Monster Month Holdouts: Displacer Beasts and Classic Balrog

There’s always a someone who’s late for the train. My orc warlord on wyvern took a bit longer than I anticipated, so these miniatures weren’t done in time to make it into Monster Month.

First up, some iconic AD&D monsters: Displacer Beasts!

(Every time I speak the name of this monster out loud, I say it as Sylvester the Cat would. It makes it much more fun. Don’t believe me? Give it a try.)

 

A Displacer Beast resembles a six-legged, emaciated puma with two toothy tentacles sprouting from its back. They are stealthy carnivores that often hunt in pairs, which is why I bought two. Displacer Beasts are surrounded by a light-bending camouflage effect, which makes it difficult to determine the monster’s exact location at any given time (like when you’re about to get eaten).  These Displacer Beasts are from Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures, and although they’re technically the same miniature, it’s easy to get some variation in the tentacles and tail simply by doing the old “hot water bath/reposition/cold water bath” method. (I’m not sure what’s up with the lighting in these pictures, but the focus is a tad blurry. Same thing happened last time. I need to investigate this further.)

In the video game Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II, you get attacked by a ton of Displacer Beasts in an ice cave. I guess that’s why I based these on snowy bases. I used Citadel’s Mourn Mountain Snow, a texture paint kind of like Stirland Mud. I like Stirland Mud a lot, because it looks like mud. Unfortunately, Mourn Mountain Snow doesn’t look like snow, it looks like white mud; so I also added some snowy flock and tundra tufts to the bases.

The other latecomer is a classic Grenadier Balrog. This miniature came out in the late 1970’s. I once painted him with the dreaded Testor’s gloss enamel, but I stripped the miniature years ago to repaint him. I finally did! There have been several variations of this figure over the years; one has a wavy sword rather than the flaming sword mine has. I think this miniature holds up quite well, considering its age.

It does seem a bit small for a Balrog, as you can see from the picture above.  If you say the word “Balrog” most fantasy fans have an image in their heads that roughly corresponds to this one, i.e. the Balrog of Moria, “Durin’s Bane”. But Tolkien is often vague, even contradictory at times when describing what a Balrog actually looks like. At times he describes them as gigantic; other times he says they are twice the size of a man. Whether they have actual wings or not is apparently up for debate among Tolkien-philes. Whatever the case, looking at the mniature now, it’s a bit too red. I probably should have painted either his body or wings black for some variation. The hair on the Balrog’s body was drybrushed with a Vallejo Cavalry Brown, but it looks close enough to red so that the effect is somewhat lost.

It looks a hell of a lot better than it did when coated in Testor’s gloss enamel, and it can certainly do a fair job of representing a greater demon, nonetheless. I made the lava base out of pieces of irregular craft foam scraps I had from my Gaslands projects a few months back. I’m somewhat ambivalent about how it came out and I’ve since found a much better method for making lava bases that I’m keen to try soon.

That’s REALLY it for Monster Month. Up next: a return to Forgotten Heroes!

Insanity Pile Progress

Miniatures Painted Thus Far: 10

Miniatures Purchased: 0

Total: +10

 

Varg Bonebreaka: Orc Warlord on War Wyvern

To finish off Monster Month, I present a  monster miniature that is finally seeing paint after almost THIRTY YEARS in my “to-do pile”!

It’s an old Warhammer Orc Shaman on War Wyvern, circa 1990 or thereabouts. I got him on the secondary market sometime in the mid-nineties. Originally, he was to be for use with my Warhammer Fantasy Orc & Goblin Army, but I wanted to use the wyvern as a mount for an army general, Varg Bonebreaka,  rather than a shaman (more on this later). Before I could do more than buy the bitz and start the conversion, though, several things happened.

  1. Mounting characters on monsters fell out of favor, if not with the entire WFB community, then certainly with my WFB gaming group. The focus of WFB became more about troops than super, unit-killing characters. A positive change, I would say.
  2. I stopped playing “special characters” in my army, for the same reason as above.
  3. I got distracted by something else. I don’t know what. It could have been a bright spot of reflected light shining onto the wall, for all I know. More likely it was my 40K Mordian Iron Guard.

Eventually, around 2003 or thereabouts, I ceased playing Warhammer and Warhammer 40K altogether. This miniature, along with all my others, languished in storage until around 2010 or so, when I started painting miniatures again.

The mounted shaman miniature is perfectly acceptable, in a “I’m holding two weapons parallel to my body within my frontal plane” kind of way (typical of GW of the time). He just wasn’t all that exciting. For my general, Varg,  I decided to use the original Morglum Necksnapper model as the base of the conversion.  You can see in the picture below how the original model looked way back when. I intended to mount the shaman on Morglum’s boar, since he wouldn’t be using it. I still haven’t got around to that yet, either.

I purchased all the bitz I needed for the conversion from a GW rep who came by my FLGS in the “Bitz Wagon”. I bought a dwarf casualty for the base, as my Orcs & Goblins often faced off against my friend’s Dwarfs. (Yes, I wanted to irritate him.) I got rid of Morglum’s axes, as I hated how they looked, and replaced one with a double-edged Chaos axe. I decided I was going to give him a long spear in his other hand, as he would be pretty high up on that wyvern and wouldn’t be able to reach his opponents with anything else. For that, I used a lance from an old Skeleton Horsemen box. Finally, I ditched Morglum’s banner poles and replaced them with the back banner from an old Skaven model, Queek Head-Taker.

Then I let him sit there in the Insanity Pile, untouched, for almost 30 years. When Monster Month rolled around, he wasn’t hard to find.

Here are the results. Because of the large amount of conversion on the orc, I needed to paint them separately prior to assembly. This is actually the first time I mounted a model on something to handle it while painting (I usually just hold it between my fingers). The wooden “plant pot” was intended to provide some stability, but it didn’t do much as the model kept falling over whenever I accidentally hit it (which was often). After the third time fixing the spear, I got wise and glued it to this coffee can lid for added stability.

I don’t go in for the double banners on the wyvern’s back, because I think it looks stupid. Also, I suck at making banners. I opted to add some severed heads from an old GW zombie sprue instead.

I couldn’t find the “back end” of the lance pole. It disappeared some time in the last 25+ years or so. Instead I used a piece of plastic rod. I thought it looked kind of boring, so I added this scythe blade from a GW zombie sprue to the end, turning it into a nasty, unique-looking pole-arm.

I drilled a couple of holes in the wyvern’s flank and added some arrows. Monsters, and the generals on them, tend to attract missile fire.

My friend’s Dwarfs, IIRC, were painted in a green color scheme. I decided to paint this dwarf blue to make him really stand out against the grass and under the wyvern’s claw. The broken barrel is from an Army Painter basing kit.

At last, some final pictures of the complete wyvern with the rider. I give you Varg Bonebreaka, a name inscribed forever in the Book of Grudges many times over! WAAAAAAAAAAAGH!!!!!!!!

Makes me wish I still played Warhammer.

This model took me longer than I thought to complete, so I’m glad I started when I did. Unfortunately, I still have a few monsters that aren’t quite finished, and the end of Monster Month is nigh! Oh well. Perhaps I will finish them up soon, and post them as an intermission during next month’s Forgotten Heroes challenge!

 

Insanity Pile Progress

Miniatures Painted Thus Far: 8

Miniatures Purchased: 0

Total: +8

Griffon and Land Shark

My latest two “monster month” projects have arrived! Presenting: the Griffon and the Bulette (Land Shark).

(Astute observers may notice that the model in the middle of these two monsters has changed since the last post. That’s because I couldn’t seem to find that human fighter who found himself between an Umber Hulk and a Purple Worm, and then between a hungry Troll and a Basilisk. Perhaps his luck finally ran out…)

The Bulette, also known as a land shark, is a terrifying predator that lives only to eat (much like a regular shark). It burrows beneath the ground and bursts to the surface whenever it detects the vibrations of movement. A bulette has a territory of about 30 square miles, and will attack anything it comes across, completely consuming its prey (clothing, armor, weapons, etc.). When it has eaten everything in its territory, it will move on to another area.

Bulettes are not usually smart; however there is a famous case of one land shark ringing the doorbells of unsuspecting victims, fooling them into opening the door by pretending to have a delivery of something (flowers, candy, etc.). Once the victim opened the door, the land shark would strike!

This bulette is a Reaper Bones “land shark” (appropriate, no?).

A griffon, as everyone knows, is a majestic beast with the body of a lion and the head, wings and front legs of a great eagle. Griffons are fierce predators and enjoy eating horses most of all. Griffons are semi-intelligent and are much prized as mounts for heroic characters, as they are capable of being trained by those with enough daring and skill.

This griffon is yet another of Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures.  I used the hot water/cold water bath method to reshape its wings somewhat, but that’s about it. In all my years of painting, I have never painted a griffon before. I really like this miniature (score another for Nolzur’s); therefore I have named him Merv.

You see what I did there?

 

 

Insanity Pile Progress

Miniatures Painted Thus Far: 6

Miniatures Purchased: 0

Total: +6

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