Aryllus Thenra

A brief intermission, if you will permit me, from all things Gaslands.

If you’re a longtime role-playing gamer like me, then you probably have a character or two somewhere that you would have liked to play more often than you were able to. This is one of mine.

When my friend Chris decided he wanted to run an AD&D 3.5 campaign about 10 years ago, I decided I would play a standard (non-specialist) wizard. (Prior to this, my only real experience playing a magic-user was a 2nd ed. AD&D campaign back in college, when I played a shameless Raistlin ripoff; and a MERP game where I played an acrobatic Dunedán mage. Please don’t ask.) Chris’s campaign was called Jamestown, and it involved the political intrigues of rival brothers against a backdrop of standard monster-slaying and fantasy ass-kickery that you would expect from an AD&D game. Like many games and campaigns I have played in over the years, it was over too fast, as lack of time and the responsibilities of real life soon got in the way.

In Chris’s world, mages are rare and mysterious, and command a certain respect simply by virtue of their profession. Aryllus was a young and talented wizard with a calculating and detached manner. He was soft-spoken and carefully considered his words and actions. Although he was certainly capable of laying down offensive magics, Aryllus was more of a support player in the party. I chose a wide variety of spells for him that would enhance allies and hinder enemies, rather than having him go full Tiltowait (kudos if you get that reference!) all the time. Aryllus was content to let the fighters fight and the cleric heal. His job was to make their jobs easier.

Sometimes he forgot that. Like when he tried to blast the gates of a fortress open with a Fireball spell. Since the fireball wasn’t explosive, all it did was light the gate on fire. Dumb.

Aryllus had a raven familiar named Corax (original, I know). Corax was useful as a scrying tool; Aryllus could see through Corax’s eyes and could instantly communicate with his familiar over a respectable distance. Corax had his own personality and was essentially a second character. I found the interplay between the two to be a lot of fun.

I’m not sure why, but I had a lot of trouble painting this figure. I couldn’t settle on a color scheme that I liked and I just kept putting it off. Since I’ve been painting up my favorite RPG characters lately, I decided it was high time for me to finish Aryllus. This miniature has been in my side pile for around ten years, with only a basecoat of blue paint on his jacket. He is Reaper’s Piers, Young Mage (02836), sculpted by one of my favorite artists, the great Sandra Garrity. He shares an Armorcast gallery base with Corax (a Reaper familiar from Familiar Pack VIII). I bought the miniature long before I created the character. When I decided to play a mage I used this figure for inspiration.

For whatever reason (perhaps my failing eyesight), this miniature looks much better in person, away from the unforgiving high-resolution camera lens. I must admit that in the pictures, he looks kind of sloppy in some places, but the flaws are not as glaring to the naked eye. Anyway, he’s done now, and out of the side pile. And he’s not going back.

Up next: more Gaslands! Vrrrrrooooooooommmmm!!!!!

 

 

Gaslands 3: Marstorius!

Well, I said I would post something that wasn’t Gaslands, but I lied. I’m too hooked. My Gaslands kitbashing continues on, with my first “big boy”. Ladies and gentlemen of the wasteland, I present: MARSTORIUS!!!!

I got the name from an old fighting game. Marstorius was a big wrestler from Fighter’s History. Here he is giving a bull a suplex, because as everyone knows, bulls are assholes. Marstorius was a poor imitation of Zangief; but that’s hardly surprising as Fighter’s History was a poor imitation of Street Fighter II. I like the name, and it fits my latest project nicely.

I need a bully: someone whose sole purpose is to ruin the day of anyone he meets. Someone who can dish out a curb-stomp like no one else, but can also take whatever punishment comes his way with a bloody, gap-toothed smile. In other words, I need an armored bus.

I started with this fire truck. It’s not a Hot Wheels or Matchbox; it’s sold at CVS and made by a Chinese company that makes cars that are (mostly) compatible with 28mm miniatures. In fact, I own a lot of those cars and you can see them on After Action Reports all over this blog, if so inclined. This fire truck is the same size as most of their cars, which of course means it’s totally out of scale (i.e. too small) with the rest of their line, but it is perfect for “Hot Wheels” scale, as it’s much bigger than a standard Hot Wheels car (about the size a fire truck would be next to a HW car). Hopefully that makes some kind of sense.

Anyway, the first thing I did was remove the side ladder, the siren lights and the extending ladder. The extending ladder could come in handy for use as scenery in other games. Removing it left me with an empty bracket on a 360° rotating platform, which is perfect for a turret emplacement.

 

Many of the scenarios in Gaslands are races, or variations thereof. Being an armored bus, Marstorius won’t win any races, but that’s not his job. His job is to make sure YOU don’t win any races.

With that in mind, I attached a turret from a Matchbox tank to the extending ladder mount, giving it a heavy machine gun with a 360° field of fire. This will allow targeting pretty much anywhere in range. Then I added the armor. Lots of styrene sheeting, craft foam and plastic mesh slapped all over this baby. It’s armored EVERYWHERE. I had some leftover rubber gaskets I had bought to replace on my outdoor faucets, so I cut them and fitted them around the wheel-wells of the truck so the armor panels wouldn’t be attached to the truck directly, and wouldn’t affect wheel rotation.

I knew I wanted a ram on the front, so I went with this buzzsaw arm. It’s an extra bit I had from an Armorcast Frank-N-Steam model I bought years ago. They don’t seem to make that model anymore, but it’s a variation of the other “Frank” models, only with two legs. I can just see Marstorius turning any vehicle foolish enough to get in his way into an instant convertible! I stuck a searchlight on the top and some auto-launchers on the back, both from old Leman Russ tank sprues. (Gotta love the bitz box!) The auto-launchers represent caltrop droppers, lest any pursuers get too close. It is unwise to tailgate Marstorius.

In Gaslands, a bus has 3 Build slots. The heavy machine gun, caltrop droppers and the front buzzsaw (ram) take up a slot each, which means the armor I festooned Martsorius with is pretty much just for show. If I wanted to make him tougher, I could forego the caltrop droppers for some extra armor instead, making him more like a war rig than a bus. He’s certainly big enough!

Here’s how he looks painted up. I used a mix of Army Painter, Cote D’Arms, Games Workshop, Reaper and Vallejo paints. Marstorius’s body and the turret is based with Necromancer Cloak (AP), with a highlight of Ash Gray (R) and Concrete Gray (R), then given a wash of Agrax Earthshade (GW). The armor plating was painted with either Gunmetal Grey (V), Gun Metal (CD) or Tin Bitz (GW) before being washed with Armor Wash (CD). The buzzsaw wires were painted various colors and given a wash of Nuln Oil (GW). I used some Stirland Mud and Typhus Corrosion (both GW) to further the grimy look. Lastly, I used some MIG rust pigment on the armor and body.

It’s not as obvious as I would like, but I painted this skull visage on the front of Marstorius’s cab. It’s tough to see behind the buzzsaw arm, but it’s there. I painted it with some watered-down white paint to simulate a spray paint effect.

I decided to add some other small touches, like this hash-mark tally of the vehicles Marstorius has sent to the junk heap. I free-handed the grafitti on the armor panels and searchlight and added the bullet holes with a Dremel.

Here are some shots showing some more battle damage. Marstorius tends to attract gunfire.

Another shot showing the rotation of the turret. That’s an old GW tank decal on his rear side panel.

Overall, I’m happy with my armored bus. I have some other cars in the works, so watch this space for more Gaslands conversions, coming soon!

Gaslands 2: Nitro Burn and Oil Can Harry!

I was warned this would happen. I have officially been bitten by the Gaslands bug. I guess that’s why I decided to convert some buggies next.

These are what I started with. I bought both of these cars brand new (a dollar apiece at soon-to-be-gone Toys R Us). The one on the left is a Hot Wheels car, the one on the right is Matchbox. Both are open-topped buggies. I really like the look of the one on the right. It has two front seats and a raised back seat, perfect for a gunner!

Buggies are light vehicles in Gaslands, meaning they’re pretty much just there to cause as much trouble as possible before they blow up.  I put minimal armor on the frames, since armoring up a buggy is a waste of a build slot, IMO. Still, I wanted the overall “Road Warrior” aesthetic…

Nitro Burn, on the left, had that ridiculous I-don’t-know-what on his roof, so I got rid of that immediately. For “armor”, I glued some some wire mesh to his canopy and some styrene to his back window. I gave him a GW storm bolter as a front-mounted machine gun and stuck a flamer tank to the side as a nitro booster.

Oil Can Harry, on the right, got two space marine bolters mounted on his roll cage as machine guns. I made an oil slick dropper from an old heavy flamer nozzle (pointed downward) and some flamer tanks. For “armor”, I covered his front and side windows with plastic mesh, and gave him a spiky front bumper.

Here’s what they look like after some painting and weathering. After priming both black, I used a mixture of Reaper, Cote D’Arms, Vallejo, Army Painter and GW paints. Nitro Burn got a basecoat of Black Red (V), highlighted with Rusty Red (R), while Oil Can Harry was based with Dusky Grape (R) and highlighted with Faded Purple (R). The metal on both buggies was Gunmetal Grey (V) and the wheel rims and guns were Gun Metal (CD). The gun casings were painted Necromancer Cloak (AP). The colors on both got a wash of Nuln Oil (GW), while the metallics were washed in Armor Wash (CD). I also used some Dawnstone, Administratum Grey and Tin Bitz (all GW) to pick out some dinged up and rusted spots. I used some Stirland Mud and Typhus Corrosion (both GW) where it made the most sense. Lastly, I applied some MIG Rust pigment to all the “armor” and to the rims.

As a final touch, I decided to have a little fun with Nitro Burn. I attached an old GW Fantasy round shield to his rear, painted up like a smiley face. I figure Nitro Burn likes to live dangerously. He likes to taunt his opponents by speeding ahead of them, forcing them to look at that infuriating yellow smile. Naturally, that face is a prime target for weapon fire, so I drilled a small hole and stuck an arrow in it, no doubt fired by some enraged wasteland scavver!

My next Gaslands project is a doozy, but I think I’m going to try to paint something non-Gaslands related first.

But I make no promises.

 

 

 

First Gaslands Build: Coughin’ Joe!

I discovered Gaslands by reading Miniature Wargames magazine a couple of months back. It’s a game of post-apocalyptic vehicular combat put out by Osprey.  It’s designed to be played with standard Matchbox/Hot Wheels cars that you convert into Mad Max-esque death machines, and it looks like a lot of fun.

While my experience with Osprey Games has been hit-or-miss so far, I figured why not give it a shot? After all, the entry cost to a game like this is minimal; you only need the rules and a bunch of toy cars to play. The rules are reasonably priced at under $20, and toy cars are easy enough to come by. They’re pretty cheap even brand new, and better still; there are tons of thrift shops, flea markets and secondhand stores where you can pick up used and banged up toy cars for even less! (If you have kids, you can probably find a bunch laying around your house on inconvenient places, like stairs.) You’re going to convert them anyway, and cosmetic damage is the look you’re going for!

I went by a thrift shop and bought a bag of 6 cars for $3.00. It contained this car, a “Plymouth Hemi Cuda” by Maisto.  I actually know a guy who owns a 1969 Plymouth Barracuda. He drove it all through high school and still has it to this day, some 30 years later. It gets about 3 miles to the gallon, but it’s absolutely the coolest car I’ve ever been in, and it hauls balls, to put it mildly.

I decided this is going to be my first Gaslands conversion.

Images abound on the Interweb of Gaslands vehicles; simply Google “Gaslands” and you’ll see for yourself. There are also many Youtube videos to view on the subject. One particular creator, JH Miniatures, does a terrific series entitled Wastelands Workshop. It’s a bit technical, but you don’t need to get as fancy as he does. I highly recommend his videos.

If you’re like me, i.e. an obsessive hoarder of bits from previous kits, then rejoice, for Gaslands is the game for you. I played a lot of Warhammer 40K back in the day, using Space Marines (of course) and Imperial Guard. In other words, I have a lot of old vehicle bits that have been sitting in boxes for a very long time. But you don’t need to have a ton of fancy bits like me, or be as technically savvy as JH Miniatures to get to work on Gaslands conversions. DM Jim over at Game Terrain Engineering does a bunch of Gaslands videos, and this one in particular shows how to use common junk items as weapons and armor. Good stuff!

But back to me…I decided not to go too crazy with my first car. I’ve opted to use some bolters from some old Rhino kits and smoke launchers from a Leman Russ tank as conversion bits. The bolters are machine guns, and the smoke launchers could represent turbo boosters, caltrop or glue droppers, oil dispensers, or…well, smoke launchers, which is what I’m going to use them for. Coughin’ Joe, get it?

For armor, I used some old material I had laying around: these textured craft foam sheets. Each package cost me a dollar, and you get six different texture patterns. Four of these have patterns that are useless (like the one pictured), but there are two that could work.

The orange stuff is the craft foam. It’s easy as pie to cut and glue, and the grid pattern makes it look industrial enough to serve as armor. I also clipped some plastic mesh from a needlepoint sheet (I think that cost a dollar, too), and glued it around the front wheel wells to offer the tires some protection.

The smoke launchers glued easily to the back of the car. The bolters have little mounting pegs on them, so I decided to drill tiny holes to accommodate the pegs. This was surprisingly difficult, even with my Dremel on max rpm. Turns out I needed a cobalt drill bit to get through the car. One quick trip to Home Depot sorted that out, and voila! Front mounted machine guns!

Once assembled (it took less than 20 minutes, not counting my trip to Home Depot), I primed it black.

I used a mixture of Vallejo, Cote D’Arms and GW paints. I based the car in Military Green (V) and highlighted it with Cayman Green (V) before giving it a thorough wash in Nuln Oil (GW). I painted the armor plating Gunmetal Grey (V) and the guns and wheel rims with Gun Metal (CD) and washed all the metallics with Armour Wash (CD). Then I liberally applied some MIG rust pigments to the armor sections and the rims. I used some Stirland Mud (GW) on the wheel wells and the front and rear bumpers. A light drybrush of Dawnstone (GW) on the windows, and that was that.And here he is, in all his grimy glory…Coughin’ Joe!

Rear view. Most people never see this on account of the thick black smoke pouring out of those launchers…

If you see this in your rear-view mirror, you’re about to get shot. A lot.

I read somewhere that it’s easy to get addicted to converting cars for Gaslands, and I am already hooked. I have a bunch of toy cars and bits scattered around my hobby space as we speak. More Gaslands conversions soon!

 

Making a Fighting Arena Board

A couple of weeks ago my region was hammered with about 17 inches of snow, and I got to stay home from work. With blizzard conditions raging outside all day and well into the night, I wasn’t going anywhere, even if I could have. I figured it was a great day to get some painting done! Or it would have been, if I hadn’t lost power at 6:30 am, ten minutes after I woke up.

In such instances, my standby generator powers most of my palatial estate, with the notable exception of my basement, which contains my hobby space. When assigning which circuits would be backed up, I obviously prioritized important things like heat and water over painting space. (It’s nice to be able to flush a toilet when you need to.) Consequently, most of the basement didn’t make the list.  However; since my furnace is located in my tool room, that part of my basement has power. I couldn’t paint without moving everything, so I decided instead to start work on a project I’d been considering for a while: an arena board.

I’ve been toying with an idea for a martial arts skirmish game, something along the lines of the Street Fighter and Tekken video games. I purchased Osprey’s A Fistful of Kung Fu when it came out, but I was put off by the many charts and tables, and also by the fact that it’s a faction-specific game. (The figures by Northstar are admittedly impressive, but I don’t want to have to buy them.)

The “arena” board I have in mind is a 2′ x 2′ board with a fighting circle inscribed in the center. As it will be made of flagstones, the board can double as a dungeon floor, a ruined courtyard, or anything else that would have a stone floor for use in other games. Picture a sumo ring, or the courtyard in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and you get the idea.

Designing the Arena

My starting materials are a 2′ x 2′ board made from 10mm thick MDF, some craft foam sheets, some PVA glue, a T-square and a razor knife. I bought a 2′ x 4′ MDF board from Home Depot for about 5 bucks. I had them cut it in half for me there, since their cutting station can make a much straighter cut than yours truly with a jigsaw (I hate jigsaws). I drew a roughly 18″ diameter circle in the center of the board, and then drew a perimeter 10 cm in from the edge all around the square.

As a side note, my brother once told me, while making my gaming table, that there is no such thing as a piece of wood from Home Depot that is truly “square”. The picture above proves this. I didn’t want to fuss with making it perfectly square (I lacked the tools to do so, anyway), so I just went with it. Also, as another side note, there is absolutely no whisky in that coffee cup. Honest.

Assembling the Board

After cutting the craft foam into 1 inch squares, I moved the project upstairs to my living room. While the blizzard raged on, I turned on my TV ( I love having power) and settled down for what I knew would be the most tedious part of building the arena board: gluing the “flagstones” down. I decided to watch a movie while I worked, and I picked Kong: Skull Island. I guessed it wasn’t the type of movie I needed to pay close attention to in order to capture all the director’s subtle nuances, and I was correct. Still, I enjoyed the movie. It’s King Kong, with no real pretensions to anything else, and it’s got a great cast. What’s not to like?

I measured the center point of the circle (and the board) as best I could and started laying down the squares.

I used this piece of wood as a spacer, to ensure the squares were more or less evenly spaced. Due to my own imprecision cutting the foam squares, they weren’t exact; but I thought uneven stones would give the board a rustic, imperfect character for the end result.

I worked from the center of the circle to the inside circumference, then I began trimming the stones so they would not overlap the inscribed circle.

Then, working from the perimeter, I started laying down squares to meet up with the outside circumference. I was careful to make sure that the spaces lined up as best I could with what was already down on the board. Again, I trimmed the pieces so they wouldn’t overlap the inscribed circle.

As you can see, the pattern is taking shape. Once everything is finished, there will be a visible circular pattern in the flagstones. I’m not going to lie, this was pretty boring and tedious work. (I have newfound respect for people who lay tile for a living. It sucks.) I finished Kong: Skull Island and had time to watch another movie about an autopsy subject who is really a dormant witch who starts killing people in the morgue. It was surprisingly watchable, but then again, my attention was split.

Once the board layout was complete, I used a ball point pen to inscribe some cracks on the craft foam flagstones. Hint: don’t do this with a pen you care about, as it will stop writing permanently.

This was also tedious work, but it took much less time than laying out the foam squares. Once complete, the board looked like this.

Adding Texture 

With the squares laid out, it was time to add some texture. I used Elmer’s wood glue and squeezed out a line throughout the gaps, being careful to make sure the circular gap was covered as well. I used an old, shitty paintbrush to spread the glue around.

I did it in sections to ensure the glue didn’t dry before I got to it. Then I dumped sand over the whole section.  I let each section absorb the sand and dry before I moved on, which enabled me to collect surplus sand (be sure to lay down newspaper, folks) from a dry section for reuse.

Once the whole board was covered in sand, I filled in any gaps I had overlooked. I scraped most of the sand that had adhered to the flagstones away, leaving a little bit for added texture. Then I moved on to the first phase of sealing the table: Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement. This stuff has the consistency of milk and brushes on very easily. I used it to soak the “grout” areas and let it dry overnight. Then I added another coat the next morning, before I had to go  outside to deal with the 17″ of snow in my driveway. With two layers of scenic cement on top of the wood glue, the sand wasn’t really going anywhere and should stand up well to painting.

Painting and Sealing

A week later, we got more snow. Not enough to be an issue, but enough for me to have an excuse to stay home again. Time to paint the arena!

I had some Asian-themed terrarium scenery I thought would go well with this board, so I decided to match my color scheme to that. Another trip to Home Depot and I got two small sample pots of Behr paint: Native Soil (basecoat) and Safari Vest (highlight). With the sand pretty well glued down, I applied a thorough coat of the Native Soil to the board. (That swatch there isn’t Safari Vest, it’s a color called Woven Straw. I thought I was going to use it as a highlight, but it’s too bright.)

Unfortunately, this somewhat obscured the cracks I had so painstakingly inscribed into the flagstones. I decided to give the whole thing a black wash, both to reinforce the spaces between the flagstones and to highlight the cracks. I used watered-down black craft paint and applied two coats of the wash over a day or so. (I didn’t really have to wait that long, but I was doing other stuff in the meantime, and it’s not like I was in a hurry.)

Once it was done, I gave the board a drybrush of the Native Soil, followed (once it dried) by another drybrush of Safari Vest. I actually regret buying the Safari Vest sample pot, since I used so little of it. I could have probably got the same effect by using craft paint (and it would have been much cheaper, too).

Anyway, I decided that the board would benefit from some flock in between the flagstones, to simulate  the irregular growth of weeds. Anyone who has ever seen a flagstone driveway, or even a sidewalk for that matter, knows that plants tend to grow in the cracks despite anyone’s best efforts.

Once the flock was down and dry, I decided to apply a coat of matte polyurethane to seal and protect the whole board. And done!

Or so I thought. Something was missing, so I decided to make a viewing platform where VIPs could watch the fights. I used plasticard for the flagstones and insulation board for the body of the platform. A little glue and textured paint (same colors), and it fits right in.

The evil Hai Feng observes the battle between his two lieutenants, each intent upon joining the ranks of his celestial bodyguard…

The beginnings of a tournament of World Warriors. Who will be crowned champion?

At the Shaolin Temple, Master Tsu Kang teaches the Iron Palm technique to his initiates…

The stone board can be used for other games as well:

In a tomb somewhere deep in the jungles of Ceylon, Lara Croft confronts Helmut Von Jurgen and his unsavory henchmen.

In the sacrificial shrine of the Reptile God, a small band of adventurers faces off against a Lizard Man shaman and his minions…

Not a bad way to spend a snow day or two. I’m mostly happy with how it looks, but if I had to do it again, I would make a smaller circle. 18″ is a pretty big diameter for a 24″ board, but I can make it work.

Now I just need to get crackin’ on those skirmish rules!

 

 

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy has become one of my favorite Batman villains, although it wasn’t always so. (Take the movie Batman and Robin, for example; like Arnold Shwarzenegger’s Mister Freeze, the less said about Uma Thurman’s portrayal of Ivy, the better.) I didn’t really start to like her until the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Harley and Ivy”, in which the two ladies team up to take over Gotham’s crime scene, at least until Batman and the Joker find out about it.

Ivy appears in all but one of the Rocksteady Batman: Arkham series of video games, of which I am a huge, obsessed fanboy. And now, with a particularly cold-blooded version of Poison Ivy running amok on the current season of TV’s Gotham, I thought it was a good time to feature her here.

This repainted Heroclix Ivy is from the DC Cosmic Justice set. It’s the classic, early version of Ivy, before she got chlorophyll for blood and became more plant than human. I based her on a small piece of Spanish moss. Behind her are some of her pets: the big monster plants are Dragon Plants, new from Reaper’s Bones collection. The pod plants are also from Reaper Bones; they’re Death Star Lilies.  The big Man-eating Plant in the middle is from Armorcast.

 

The little plant people are Vardu Sprouts, from Hydra Miniatures’ Primal Dawn range. When I ordered them I thought they would be bigger than they are, but they’re sprouts, after all. I just based them two to a base. I plan on having the pod plants spit them out as a renewable source of plant henchmen.

Lastly, the big guy is an old version of Reaper’s Swamp Shambler. I painted him years ago, and he looks a lot like a certain…bayou-dwelling…Plant Elemental…known for…punctuating…his speech…with lots…of…elipses…but in this context he’s Ivy’s bodyguard, should Batman ever get too close. He’s better than that horrible version of Bane in Batman & Robin, anyway.

Man, was ANYTHING in that movie any good? No. Not a thing.

Anyway, here is my Super Mission Force build for Poison Ivy:

Poison Ivy (Wild Card) Minor: Barrier, Entangle, Summoning, Telekinesis

I can hear some of you already: “Now hold on a second, Angry Piper! Barrier and Entangle, I can see. But since when does Poison Ivy have Summoning and Telekinesis?”

To that, my friends, I would say you must think outside the box a bit. What is Poison Ivy’s main power? Plant control. Unfortunately, there is no plant control power in SMF. Ivy can get plants to do a lot of stuff, like entangle enemies or form barriers…or grapple enemies at range with super strength, bear herself aloft to higher elevations (a’ la Jack and the Beanstalk), or manipulate objects at a distance using plant-y tendrils. (In other words: Telekinesis, only using the plants instead of her mind.) She can will plants to fight for her and pretty much instantly mutate normal plants into killing machines. Kind of sounds like Summoning, no?

Of course, if you don’t like my version of Poison Ivy, you could substitute some or all of these powers with others you may find more thematically appropriate, like Armor, Damage Field, or Enhanced Senses, to name a few. When using Ivy in a scenario, I would let her have a few plant guardians and/or henchmen in place at the start of the game. She’s really not that tough, otherwise; and she would likely be defeated before she could use her powers to summon reinforcements. Just my 2 pesos.

 

 

Juggernaut and Black Tom

Juggernaut is a classic X-Men villain, a physical titan who is counterpoint to his brother Charles Xavier’s mental mastery. Unfortunately, he often hangs out with Black Tom Cassidy.

Black Tom is the cousin of Sean Cassidy (not to be confused with Shaun Cassidy, the Hardy Boy), better known as the X-Men’s Banshee. Black Tom was created by veteran X-Men scribe Chris Claremont, a man responsible for many great X-Men storylines and characters. Unfortunately, he’s also responsible for many horrible X-Men characters (like Black Tom Cassidy), as well as the nightmare “alternate-reality/timeline” clusterfuck that characterizes the X-books to this day.

I have mixed feelings about Mr. Claremont. On the one hand, his X-Men work with John Byrne in the late 70’s/early 80’s is iconic. But then, in the 90’s, he created Gambit.

No matter how conflicted I feel about Mr. Claremont, my feelings about Black Tom are crystal clear. Like many of Claremont’s characters (Moira Mac Taggart, for example), Black Tom suffers from ridiculous ethnic stereotyping. He’s all “begorrahs” and “boyos” and “blimeys”.  I get that he’s a comic book villain, but fer Chrissakes, man. Black Tom also channels his powers through a shillelagh, because of course he fucking does. 

In case you can’t glean as much from the tone of this post, I actually hate Black Tom Cassidy more than I hate Gambit (I didn’t know that was possible). Nevertheless, he hangs out with Juggernaut, so….

Here are my Heroclix repaints of Juggernaut and Black Tom. I look at these and while I’m happy with the repaints, I have a slight problem…Juggernaut is way too small. According to the Marvel wiki, Juggernaut is 9’5″. The fact that he’s hunched over (no doubt plodding forward) doesn’t help, but I feel like Juggernaut should be HUGE. Take this screen shot from the Marvel Super Heroes video game:

Yeah. That’s Juggernaut. Not someone slightly larger than Black Tom Cassidy. He can fit his whole hand around Iron Man’s waist! (In the video game, he’s actually bigger than the Hulk.)

There are other Heroclix versions of Juggernaut, but, IMO, this one is the best sculpt. I wish it was bigger, but I’ll live with it.

As far as Black Tom goes, his sculpt is fine, although the flame coming out of his shillelagh (why does that sound dirty?) is made out of that translucent ‘Clix plastic I hate so much. I painted flames over it, for better or worse.

Here are my Super Mission Force builds for Juggernaut and the reviled Black Tom Cassidy:

Juggernaut: (Super) Major: Super Strength, Minor: Armor, Density Increase, Resistance, Tough

Special Rules: Unstoppable: Juggernaut’s Density Increase power is ALWAYS on. He doesn’t have to activate it, nor can he choose to deactivate it. This makes him immune to knockback at all times. It also means he can’t charge, only move at his normal rate. Juggernaut can be Entangled, but only until his next activation. He automatically wins any opposed roll to escape an Entangle. He just plods forward. Juggernaut can be grappled normally. (If you want try grappling Juggernaut, good luck.)

Black Tom Cassidy: (Blaster) Major: Power Blasts, Minor: Clever, Rapport (Juggernaut)

Note: this is the old version of Black Tom, the one I know and hate from a few decades ago. Apparently, Black Tom is now part wood, and can control wood. If you prefer, I guess you could give him Armor and Melee Specialist instead of the minor powers I gave him to reflect his current version. He’ll still suck, though, because he’s still Black Tom Cassidy.

 

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!

 

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