A’hunting I will go…to find the Carrion Crow…

It’s been pretty desolate lately over at Carrion Crow’s Buffet, with nary a word from our thick-thewed, swarthy hero for nigh on two months. Of course, the Crow has been known to take extended absences before (he has a house on Barsoom, I hear); but we are living in “challenging and uncertain times” (I swear if I hear that one more time I’m going to kill someone), so I grew concerned. I reached out to my friend to see if all was well.

Contacting the Crow is never easy. Through a series of dead-drops, codes left on dead Cold War-era radio broadcasts, packages carried by unwitting agents and clues left in Internet Alternate Reality Games, I finally succeeded. In short, I wanted to know if he was ok.

He responded, but I got the feeling he was pressed for time, as he only sent this one folded photo of himself showing what he’s been up to over the last two months.

I breathed a sigh of relief. As you can see, he has remarkably smooth legs. He also seems to have everything well-sorted and under control. Business as usual.

Product Reviews: Wargames Atlantic Halfling Militia and the “Big Three” Wargaming Magazines that aren’t White Dwarf

Been a long time since I did a product review. This time I thought I’d share my thoughts on the “Big Three” wargaming mags: Miniature Wargames; Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy; and Wargames Illustrated; as well as some cool plastic miniatures: Halfling Militia from Wargames Atlantic.

I didn’t buy these, I got five of them for FREEEEEEEEEEEEE! with my copy of Miniature Wargames magazine. MW has taken to attaching free sprues of miniatures with some issues, which makes the $15 per issue price tag a bit more bearable for me. (Skip down below to read my thoughts on the “Big Three” Wargaming magazines.)

These halflings look pretty cool, as you can see. They have a nice level of detail, come with several options for heads and weapons (bows, halberds, spears and a sword), and fit together nicely. They’re versatile, too. You could easily use them for any fantasy game; or, if you still play Warhammer Fantasy Battle, they’d fit right into an Empire army as a spearman regiment or archer unit. (These guys are from Stirland!) They’re also fun to paint.

The one quibble I have is the length (and strength) of the spears and halberds. They’re too long. Don’t get me wrong: if I was keeping a huge spider at bay (as pictured on the cover), I’d want my spear to be as long as possible; but they’re a disaster in the making, as they stick so far out they’re easy to snag. So far they’re bendy enough not to snap, but I’m not what you’d call an optimist. They’re also somewhat inconvenient to store and ship because of the length of the spears. Other than this relatively minor complaint, color me impressed with this set, considering I hate assembling plastic miniatures.

Onto the gaming magazines.

First off, I’m not including White Dwarf, because White Dwarf is not a wargaming magazine. It’s a Games Workshop house engine that only covers GW products and has been primarily functioning as a product catalog for the last twenty years. Also, I don’t buy it.

The actual wargaming magazines–Miniature Wargames; Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy and Wargames Illustrated–have quite a bit in common. They cover a wide variety of wargaming and hobby news, they’re all very well-produced and pretty, they’re all published in the UK, and they all cost $15 here in the States. So what are the differences, at least the ones that matter to me?

Wargames Illustrated is fantastic to look at. It has a good variety of wargaming articles for all genres; showcases new games regularly, and sometimes comes with free sprues of miniatures. (I got most of my Cruel Seas ships from this magazine.) It has some good modeling and painting articles, too. It also devotes a lot of pages to covering game shows and conventions in the UK and Europe; which, although cool, is not something I really give a shit about, considering I don’t live there and am not likely to attend any of them. I would rather have more articles and scenarios for games I like.

Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy is another beautiful magazine that is heavily weighted towards the historical wargamer, which makes it of limited use to me. I rarely buy this magazine as a result; but the issues I do own are very nice. WS&S generally focuses on a monthly theme (The Carlist Wars, for example) and then devotes several articles and scenarios to the topic, including a compendium of miniatures for the period/conflict in question, presented in a variety of scales by different manufacturers. It’s a wonderful reference, and also regularly features articles by some big names in wargaming (Rick Priestly, Henry Hyde, etc…) What it does it does very well; but it’s just not for me.

Miniature Wargames, finally, is my UK wargaming mag of choice. I’ve collected it for a couple of years and it’s always been good; but since John Treadaway took over as editor it’s really been great to see the shift from a traditional historical focus to include other genres of wargames. Now, there is a center section devoted specifically to fantasy and sci-fi wargaming in each issue, which is much appreciated. MW also features product reviews, modeling and painting articles and occasional convention and wargame show coverage that doesn’t monopolize the pages. It often gives away free sprues of miniatures, too (like the halflings above). For me, Miniature Wargames is the best fit.

Here in the States, we get all of these magazines a month or two after they are published in the UK. COVID-19 disrupted the shipping schedule and so now I have months of missed issues. Print publishing is getting insanely expensive at $15 a pop and it may just be time to cut the cord. (MW doesn’t offer discounted subscription rates in the States, so I’m stuck paying full cover price.) Since I hate reading electronic media, I will likely just learn to live without it rather than purchase an online subscription.

Star Wars stuff coming soon!

Season of Scenery 2021

Well, Dave Stone’s Season of Scenery has come and gone, and here’s what I have to show for it. Thanks as always to Dave for hosting this fun challenge!

I painted up the 20mm Gaslands scenery that I said I would. The tire stacks took me about half an hour in total to complete; whereas the barrel groups took WAY TOO FUCKING LONG. Those barrels were some tedious bastards, I can tell you that for nothing. Now that I have these done, I should play Gaslands at some point just to drive some cars into these explosive barrels.

I also painted these fuel and/or gas tanks (they’re actually milk and livestock feed tanks from model railroads). While most of them are in 20mm scale; as you can see they could be used equally as well in 28mm games. I weathered and rusted them up quite a bit using MIG rust pigments and Citadel Typhus Corrosion.

Up next, I have some 28mm 3D-printed scatter terrain I recently picked up with an Etsy coupon. These crate and barrel piles look nice, and I can always use more of them. I also took the opportunity to paint some extra barrels and bits I had lying around.

I also managed to get to these remnants of some 3D-printed SciFi crates I ordered. I painted them in the same white theme I used for the others. You can see them in my Star Trek battle reports.

Finally, the things I’m happiest about. These two Armorcast vending machines have been an incomplete project for years. I bought them at Gen Con in 2012; and I planned on using them for zombie games; but that didn’t happen. Then my intent was to use them in supers games; but that didn’t happen either. Then last year I took them out and put them on my desk because I wanted to get to them for Summer of Scenery 2020; but guess what didn’t happen? And there they have sat in all their annoying base-coated glory, just taking up space on my painting desk and not paying rent. Well, now they’re done, and I now NEED to use them in a game just to justify their existence.

Did I get to everything? No. But I don’t give a shit because it’s STAR WARS TIME, BAYBEEEEEEE!!!! I’m finally diving back into Imperial Assault, so watch for that soon!

Reverend Mother Mara, Sisterhood of Calucia

For August’s Character of the Month, I chose to do a Paladin.

When Mother Helen, Preceptress of Cobbage, opened her schoolhouse door to find the abandoned infant on her step, she did not hesitate; for Helen had once served the Sisterhood of Calucia, Guardian of Lost Travelers. Though Helen was a sister no longer and the Sisterhood was no more, she took the child in and cared for her as her own daughter; for what was this poor child if not a lost soul? Helen named the child Mara, who grew to be beloved by all in the small village. She was kind, helpful, charitable and humble. She could also lift a bushel of apples at arms’ length by the age of nine; and by fourteen, she could fully drive a fencepost into hard-packed clay with one swing of her hammer.

Despite (or perhaps because of) her great strength, Mara did not lack suitors when she reached the traditional age of marriage two years later; but Mara had no interest in marrying anyone from the village. These were the same boys who were her playmates for the last sixteen years, and she could not see them now as men. Besides, she needed to care for Mother Helen, who had grown infirm with age, and to assume the duties of Preceptress in her stead; for Mara was easily as wise as she was strong, much wiser than a girl of sixteen years should be.

Towards the end of her life, Mother Helen told Mara her own story; how she left the Sisterhood and came to be Preceptress of the small village of Cobbage. Helen was once a novitiate at Glenstrae Abbey, seat of the Sisterhood of Calucia in far-off Dunlaig. The folk of Dunlaig were a superstitious lot who had no use for magic that was not divine, and the Abbess of Glenstrae, Gertrude, was no exception. One dark and moonless night, an elf maiden sought sanctuary at the Abbey. She was in flight from lawless men who wished her harm; yet the Abbess denied her safety. She was fey, after all; and the Abbess decreed that she would find no comfort among the Sisterhood. When they found her body the next morning on the very grounds of the Abbey itself, the Abbess was unmoved. She ordered the corpse buried in the garden, where “at least it would do some good as fertilizer.”

The sisters were in shock. They felt immediately the loss of their Guardian’s favor, for who was more wayward and in need of aid than the poor elf maiden who begged for help and received only scorn? Still, Gertrude was unrepentant and prideful. She would hear no dissent on the matter, though she felt the loss of communion with Calucia more strongly than most.

A fortnight later, the keening started. The elf maiden had risen as a bean sidhe; and she was not done with the Sisterhood of Calucia. Each night for a month she circled the Abbey, keening and wailing; a horrid sight to behold. The sisters pleaded with the Abbess to repent; but Gertrude remained defiant, poisoned by her deep-rooted hatred of all things fey. With no divine magic to hold it at bay, it was only a matter of time before Glenstrae Abbey’s protections failed and the bean sidhe was able to enter what was once consecrated ground. When she did, her unbridled wrath broke fully upon Gertrude most horribly, but left none alive among the Sisterhood.

None but Helen. Cornered by the bean sidhe among the white and silent corpses of her sisters, Helen closed her eyes and called out to Calucia for deliverance. When she opened them, she found the horrid visage of the undead elf mere inches away, staring at her with an expression the young sister couldn’t comprehend. She blinked, and the thing was gone. Mother Helen told Mara she did not know why the creature let her live, if not to tell the tale of what had become of the fallen Sisterhood and of the once-holy Abbey, now fallen to evil and ruin.

Helen died a few nights later. Mara saw to her burial. Over her grave, Mara vowed that she would do what Helen could not. She would atone for the Abbess’s transgressions. She would rebuild Glenstrae Abbey. She would redeem the Sisterhood of Calucia, or she would die in the attempt.

Mara made her intentions known to the village. The blacksmith provided her with armor and a sword; but Mara did not know how to wield a sword; rather, she knew how to swing a hammer. So the smith forged her a hammer instead, a true weapon of war, not a tool for driving fenceposts. Mara accepted it gratefully, and named it “Correction” in honor of the switch Mother Helen occasionally used to chastise pupils who misbehaved.

The road to Dunlaig was long, and Mara encountered many who needed her help along the way. She fixed wagon-wheels for the stranded; planted and plowed for the infirm; defended the weak and powerless; and clothed and fed the needy as best she could, often going without comfort herself. She did this without complaint or recompense as service to the Guardian Calucia in memory of Mother Helen, the woman who cared for her when no one else would.

When she finally reached Glenstrae Abbey, she found it to be a cursed and bleak ruin shunned by all. In the years since the Sisterhood’s destruction others had come here in search of adventure or to loot the valuables of the vaults. All of them perished when the heard the keening wail of the bean sidhe; for the undead creature spared no one foolish enough to willingly enter the Abbey grounds. Now, these cursed souls had risen and become evil things themselves. They surrounded Mara as she strode boldly up to the gates of the Abbey, whispering foul promises of eternal torment; but Mara was unafraid. She shouted her defiance and commanded the undead horde to leave the Abbey, that this would once again be sacred ground. She invoked the name of Calucia, and something wondrous happened.

The undead hordes shrieked in fear and pain. Many of them simply ceased to exist as the power of Mara’s prayer banished their evil forever. Those that remained quailed in fury and terror; but they soon rallied and leapt to the attack. Mara met them head-on with Correction. Within minutes, she was the only thing moving on the grounds of Glenstrae Abbey. The bean sidhe’s minions were utterly destroyed, shattered into oblivion by the holy power of her warhammer.

Mara knelt in prayer and waited. She did not wait long. The restless spirit of the elf maiden appeared, and let out a keening so horrible that Mara felt all of the rage, humiliation and pain of maiden’s death all at once. She could feel the unbridled evil of the scream as a chill upon her soul and knew that she survived only by Calucia’s grace; for it was more than anyone could bear, and Mara knew that all who had heard it before had died on the spot. In the span of one moment, the scream of the bean sidhe aged Mara a full score years; yet Mara, shaken to her core, still stood, somehow alive.

The undead thing rushed at her, furious. Mara did not raise her weapon in defense. She only watched as the hooked claws reached to tear her limb from limb, and she spoke only two words. “I’m sorry.”

The bean sidhe stopped. For a moment, the two women stared at each other; for the undead elf maiden looked then much as she did in life: beautiful and fey. Mara stepped forward and embraced her. The bean sidhe slumped and let out a sigh. Then it vanished.

Mara found herself Abbess of Glenstrae. She spent the next several years rebuilding the convent, doing much of the physical labor herself. She exhumed the bones of the elf maiden and reburied them in a place of honor alongside Mother Helen, whose remains she brought back from Cobbage to rest on Abbey grounds. Her good and charitable deeds regained the favor of Calucia, and the Abbey was soon home to novitiates once more. The Sisterhood of Calucia was born anew.

Reverend Mother Mara is Reaper’s Mother Superior, sculpted by Werner Klocke. I was wondering what miniature I was going to use for a paladin. I seem to have picked up this one in a trade and forgot all about it, which only goes to show that (surprise) I have too many miniatures. She was fun to paint, if not particularly challenging.

Up next: My Season of Scenery submissions! Then on to STAR WARS!!!!!

“Game over, man! Game over!!”

For the past few months, this has been my main project: Painting Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps, by Gale Force Nine. It’s done.

First: the Xenomorphs. These guys were super-easy to paint. All 16 took me about 2 hours and I think they look great, especially for table play. I used The Esoteric Order of Gamers method, which couldn’t be simpler; but I decided against using any gloss finish. YMMV.

Of course, the Alien Queen doesn’t come with the core set; she’s only available in the “Get Away From Her, You Bitch!” expansion. I bought that too (see below), so here she is.

On to the Colonial Marines. The core set includes (L-R) Vasquez, Frost, Ripley, Hudson, Newt, Gorman and Hicks. Fun fact: not only do I hate painting camouflage, I really hate Colonial Marine camo. It’s fucking weird; and no two people paint it the same.

A couple of close-ups of Frost and Vasquez, then one showing Hicks, Hudson (Game over, man!) and Newt.

Closeups of Ripley.

This is the “Ultimate Badasses” expansion. (L-R) Drake, Wierbowski, Burke, Crowe, Apone, and Dietrich. Spoiler Alert! With the exception of Burke, all these marines were dead by the first 30 minutes of the movie, so calling them “ultimate badasses” is a bit of a stretch…

Closeups of Carter Burke, Weyland-Yutani douchebag.

Finally, Bishop, “Gooey” Bishop, Enraged Ripley and Ripley in the Power Loader. Gale Force Nine sells these miniatures (and all the others, too) in a separate sets containing only the miniatures. This one was called “Sulaco Survivors”. I bought it thinking I got a great deal before I realized it’s ONLY the miniatures and you don’t get the stuff you need for the actual game. For that, you need to buy the “Get Away From Her, You Bitch!” expansion, which also includes these miniatures (and the Queen). Confusing and annoying, since now I have two sets of these (one of which is still on the sprue).

I really like the Bishop models. The Ripley sculpt is pretty iconic, but I’m pretty “meh” about it. Do I really need three versions of Ripley?

Finally, Ripley in the power loader. This one wasn’t fun, either. I hate painting yellow, and this miniature wasn’t easy to paint. Although I was wise enough not to fully assemble it before painting, I should have assembled it even less. It was tough to get the brush everywhere it needed to go. Compounding that with the color yellow (which is a notorious asshole) meant I needed to do a lot of repainting of the same areas to cover accidents. Still, it does look pretty cool…

Now, I’m ready to play! Just in time for another (likely) lockdown!

I can play this one solo, at least…

The 2021 Season of Scenery To-Do List

With one month gone already in Dave Stone’s Season of Scenery, I am lagging a bit behind. I’ve decided to do a bunch of small pieces that have been sitting around for far too long. Hopefully I can get the majority of them done by the end of August; but if not, at least I’ll have made some progress. Much of it is either 3D-printed or resin cast stuff, some of which I’ve owned for almost a decade.

Pretty much everything that’s black up in that picture is 20mm Gaslands scenery: fuel tanks, fuel barrels and tire stacks. These should be very easy to paint and hopefully will go fast. The white stuff is some new 3D-printed cargo piles I picked up in 28mm scale. Again, not hard to do, just time-consuming. The gray stuff is what’s left over from a 3D-printed sci-fi crate order I got last year. I used the other crates in my Star Trek Forgotten Worlds scenarios, but since I didn’t need these large ones I didn’t bother to paint them. Then there’s the vending machines and the Victorian weird science dynamo, both from Armorcast, and both purchased so long ago I can’t remember when. (I don’t even think they make the dynamo anymore.) Those damn vending machines have been sitting on my desk in their respective basecoats for almost ten years. It’s time, man.

Finally, I have three resin barricades I’ve owned since 2003 or so. I bought them for Warhammer 40K, but I never really went back to playing 40K so I never needed them. Primed black on the left side of the picture is a ruined wall fortification, another 40K piece I never got to. While these are the oldest and largest pieces of scenery; they’re also the lowest priority. Still, it would be nice to get to them…maybe if time permits.

Sarapen Moonsilver, Druid

For July’s Character of the Month, I chose to do one of my least favorite character classes: the Druid.

Loan the Barkwarden first came upon the girl in a glade deep in the Rowanwood, a basket of mushrooms nearby and a dead fox cradled in her lap. He knew who she was, of course; her silvery-white hair and slightly pointed ears made that much obvious. She was Sarapen, the herbalist’s daughter. That explained the mushrooms; but not the fox. Nor did it explain why the girl was so deep in the wood. No young girl should venture this far into the wild, dark and ancient Rowanwood unaccompanied, for Loan knew of at least a dozen creatures and plants within a stone’s throw that could easily kill her as dead as the fox in her lap. It was unlikely she was lost, though; she seemed unconcerned and unafraid. In fact, she was humming softly.

Sarapen Moonsilver looked up as Loan strode out of the surrounding wood to tower above her. The Barkwarden was huge, a head taller than most men, with tangled brown hair and deep, cobalt blue eyes. His matted and filthy beard hung to his waist, home to all manner of woodland vermin. Various crystals, dried herbs and roots dangled from his tattered robes and from the crooked blackthorn staff he bore. His hands and nails were black with dirt and he stank of the forest. Most children would have screamed and cowered in terror of such a man, but Sarapen Moonsilver did not.

Loan the Barkwarden gazed upon her with blue eyes ablaze. She stared back. “That fox is dead,” he said. The girl nodded. “Did you kill her?”

“No. She was my friend,” said Sarapen Moonsilver. “She was dying and asked me to stay with her.” Gently, she lifted the fox from her lap and lay it down next to her on the grass. She smoothed her skirt, retrieved her basket, and stood.

She shrugged. “It was her time.” Loan watched her in silence. A strange girl to be sure, but nothing simple about her. Suddenly, she gave the Barkwarden a penetrating look. “Are you my father?”

Loan the Barkwarden would have laughed, but it had been so long he had forgotten how to do so. “No,” he said gruffly. “I am not your father, child. Your father was a vain elf stooge named Veril who cared nothing for your mother and cared even less about you, if he knew of you at all.”

If she was hurt by his brutal words, she gave no sign. “You know him?”

“Knew of him, yes. He’s dead now; and no great loss, that. He tried to kill a troll that was minding its own business, simply being a troll. It wanted no trouble, but Veril, pompous ass that he was, decided he would kill the troll, and was killed by it instead.”

“Oh,” said Sarapen Moonsilver.

Loan snorted in derision. “Another fool dead, and never has there been a race more riddled with fools than the elves. Elves live long, and they are the biggest fools of all, because they are fools who think they are wise. In truth, no elf has had a single original thought or come up with a new way of doing anything for thousands of years. What do they do instead? They sit around and sing. How much fucking singing can you do in a thousand years, child?”

Sarapen Moonsilver said she didn’t know.

“Yes, the elves are old,” continued Loan the Barkwarden. “That is why they fear humans, and that is why humans fear elves. And why humans and elves alike fear you.”

“Fear me?” asked Sarapen Moonsilver. “Why should anyone fear me?”

“Because you half-elven, and half-human. You are too much the human for the elves, and too much the elf for the humans. It is no accident you and your mother live apart from both; ignored by the elves while giving out stomach remedies, love potions and hedge-cures for the superstitious folk in the village. Your ears and hair mark you as elvish: fey, magical and exotic, everything humans hate. Your wide hips and strong arms mark you as human: impulsive, brash and new, everything elves despise. Both see in you what they fear the most in each other.”

He had not spoken so many words aloud since before she was born. Loan the Barkwarden turned and walked away into the woods. Sarapen Moonsilver watched him go.

Over the next few years he kept a watchful eye on her secretly, or so he thought at first. She always seemed to sense him, whether he wore his own form or that of a beast or tree of the Rowanwood. She grew to into a beautiful young woman and a fine herbalist in her own right; but it was obvious she was much more than a mere hedge-witch.

Unlike with the fox, Sarapen did weep when, several winters later, it was her mother’s time to die. Sarapen had not encountered Loan the Barkwarden since their first meeting in the clearing years ago; so she was surprised to find him at her mother’s cairn a week after her passing. He had swept the snow from the stone and there was a great number of her mother’s favorite summer flowers and blossoms surrounding the grave. Sarapen knew it was Loan’s magic that caused them to bloom out of season. She knew then, too that Loan the Barkwarden had known her mother well and cared for her in his own way, yet neither had ever spoken of the other.

She approached the old man in the company of her friend and protector, a great bear named Sharn. Loan knew this wise and fierce bear, and he nodded in satisfaction that these two had formed a bond. It meant she was farther along the path than he had realized. He reached out and absently scratched the bear’s muzzle, heedless of any danger; for no creature of the forest held any danger to the Barkwarden of Rowanwood.

“So,” said Loan the Barkwarden, “Your mother’s time of dying has come and gone. You are herbalist now.”

“I suppose that’s true, for now,” she answered. “But it will not soon be so. The trees have spoken to me.”

“What did the trees say, Sarapen Moonsilver?” Loan asked. His voice was uncharacteristically soft. Was she so skilled already?

“They told me that I will be Barkwarden one day,” she said.

“I am the Barkwarden of Rowanwood,” the old man said. “I have been such since many of these trees were saplings.”

“But you will not be forever. All things have their time of dying, Loan.” Sarapen Moonsilver turned from the grave and smiled up at the Grand Druid. “Even you.”

“Yes. Even me.” Loan the Barkwarden nodded, his own smile lost in his great beard.

He suddenly remembered how to laugh.

Sarapen Moonsilver is Reaper’s Juliana, Herbalist; a new sculpt by Bobby Jackson from the Reaper Bones Black line.

As soon as I looked at this miniature I knew I wanted to paint her hair white, so I thought that should be the most striking part of the model, not her clothing. I opted to paint her in subdued colors, in simple clothes that a woman who walks through the forest foraging for herbs and mushrooms would likely wear. Once again, I knew I was going to do a lot of base-work on this one, so I thought her plain clothing would also contrast well with all the color on the base.

I can’t resist using this Vallejo Water Effect stuff since Roger introduced me to it, so I sculpted a pool of water for her to kneel by. I used some railroad-scale flowering bushes to finish it off, and I think it looks pretty darn good.

Fun fact if you want to use this Vallejo stuff: it interacts poorly with super glue. I know this because I was applying drops to the base to affix the flowers, when I discovered there was a little bit of air in the glue nozzle. It spit a small glob of glue directly onto my perfect, shiny and pristine water effect that I had spent two days waiting to dry. Five minutes later, the water effect was clouded and the glue had encapsulated. I had to take it out with a pair of tweezers; but it continued to react to the water effect for about 10 minutes.

My name is The Angry Piper, so can probably guess how I reacted to this development. Afterwards, I applied another layer of the water effect. It seems to be ok now. As am I.

Coming soon, in no particular order: another Battle Report, this time for some Super Mission Force; but don’t worry. The Green Hornet and Kato will return soon…

Also, it’s the Season of Scenery over at Dave Stone’s place; and I ain’t done shit yet. I have a bunch of small pieces I want to get done this year. Things that have been sitting undone for far too long.

And finally, I’m almost done with my Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps miniatures. Once they’re done I will, of course, post them here. Then it’s on to Imperial Assault; if for no reason than to justify my crazed purchases of that discontinued franchise.

Wise Uncle Wei

The Green Hornet returned to consciousness, the back of his head throbbing. He tried to reach up to massage it only to find he was bound, his hands tied behind his back around a thick support column. The smells of exotic spices assailed him as he suddenly remembered where he was: The “Happy Pepper” Spice Company, a warehouse in Chinatown, the domain of ruthless gang boss “Wise Uncle” Wei. It all came rushing back. He had been attacked from behind; surprised. He was used to having Kato there to watch his back, but not tonight.

He was alone. He could feel the cold floor on the back of his legs. He had been here a while. His head was bare. He had lost his hat. He peered around in the dim light. There it was, a few feet away on the floor. Alarm gave way to relief as he realized his domino mask still concealed his features. A small comfort, but he’d take what he could get.

A soft scuffle, and Kato was suddenly there, flowing like ink out of the darkness. The Hornet breathed a sigh of relief as his friend began to work away at the knots that bound his hands. “I told you to stay in bed,” the Green Hornet said.

“Right. I can see you obviously had everything under control here,” said Kato.

“I did, and you’re terrible at following orders.”

“I don’t work for you,” said Kato.

“Yes, you do.”

“Not when the masks are on. What happened?”

“I got jumped from behind,” said the Hornet. “Big guy. Uncle Wei’s enforcer. What’s his name?”

“Why are you asking me?” asked Kato. “Because I’m Asian? We don’t all know each other, you know.”

The Green Hornet flushed scarlet. “I didn’t mean–” he stammered, then chuckled softly as he caught sight of Kato’s grin in the dim light. “OK, very funny. You got me.”

“Iron-Skin Liu,” Kato said, as the bonds fell free. “You’re lucky he didn’t take your head off.”

“Sure feels like he did,” said the Hornet, rubbing his wrists and standing up. He bent to retrieve his fedora as the lights suddenly blazed, illuminating the warehouse.

They were in an open, circular area, surrounded on all sides by stacks and pallets of shipping crates and containers filled with spices and other imported goods. “Wise Uncle” Wei sat upon a small platform a few meters distant, flanked by his bodyguard, the massive, scowling “Iron-Skin” Liu; and his lieutenant, “Clean-Head” Chang. Several rough-looking Tong gangsters began to move from between the stacks of crates and barrels, surrounding the heroes on all sides.

“You see, Chang?” asked Wei. “It is as I predicted. Where there is one, the other cannot be far behind. It was only a matter of patience.”

“You are wise, Uncle Wei,” said “Clean-Head” Chang, smiling wickedly.

“Thank you, Chang; but I know my own name, ” said Wei. Chang stopped smiling and looked confused. Wei continued. “Now, we have them both: the Green Hornet AND his sidekick.”

“Sidekick,” the Hornet said softly, smirking. “You hear that, old friend?”

“I heard it. Remind me to show you a “side kick” when we get out of this,” murmured Kato, watching as more gangsters surrounded them.

Clean Head” Chang told me how you broke up the meeting last night at the storage yard,” said Wei. “No doubt you are seeking the mysterious man behind it all. Who could it be? What does he want? Well, you will not find him here. You might check the Waterfront District, if you survive. Donnelly seemed to be the only one interested in the mystery man’s proposal.”

“What proposal? Why are you telling us this, Wei?” asked the Green Hornet. “You’re being very helpful.”

“Why not? It matters nothing to me, my friend. In a short time you will both likely be dead; and if not, then you will come into conflict with another of my enemies, “Big Eddie” Donnelly, as you seek to thwart their alliance. Yes, an alliance is what they intend. Either way, I cannot lose.”

“Depends. You can lose a lot of men in the meantime,” said Kato, moving back-to-back with the Hornet and taking a ready stance. “All of them, maybe.” He flashed a wicked smile. The Tong shifted uneasily, looking to each other for reassurance.

“My men are expendable until they prove otherwise,” said “Wise Uncle” Wei. “None of these men have so proven themselves. Now, enough talk!”

The full scenario was detailed in the last post! Check it out if you missed it!

Turn 1: The first card drawn is a three, so two more Tong thugs come out to play and join their fellows on the perimeter of the circle. The Tong get initiative, and “Clean-Head” Chang wastes no time, knowing that his every move is being watched by “Wise Uncle” Wei. Waving his cleaver menacingly he rushes towards Kato, but doesn’t have enough movement to reach him. This does put himself within Kato’s range, however. With a loud Kiai, Kato leaps into combat, easily outclassing Chang, who falls beneath a flurry of blows from the black-masked vigilante! So much for Chang!

The remaining Tong rush into the circle; but, like Chang, they lack the movement necessary to reach the heroes. The Green Hornet counter-charges the closest Tong gangster; and with his patented one-two punch, he drops the goon like a sack of cement!

Turn 2: Another card is drawn…it’s a Two! Three more Tong surround the circle, ready to fight! The heroes seize the initiative this turn, though; and the Green Hornet moves swiftly to engage another opponent, knowing that letting up for an instant could mean that he and Kato will be overwhelmed! The gangster is no match for his emerald-clad fists, and falls just as another Tong charges the Hornet from behind. Once again, the Green Hornet prevails, punching the Tong so hard he leaves his feet! Kato takes one gangster out before he is mobbed by three more, who act in concert to try and bring him down. One manages to wound Kato! Finally, the remaining Tong thug charges the Green Hornet and meets the same fate as his friends. The Hornet now has made a small pile of three unconscious thugs; while Kato is surrounded by three very angry and very conscious opponents!

Turn 3: The card drawn is a Five: Look Out Below! A barrel of peanut oil shatters on the ground, turning the entire area into a slippery mess! Everyone scrambles to get out of the way. Kato and two of the goons he’s fighting manage to avoid it, but the barrel lands squarely on the remaining goon, knocking him unconscious. The Green Hornet is also hit. He takes a wound and is knocked prone, covered in peanut oil!

The villains gain initiative and immediately attack Kato, but even with two-to-one odds, they don’t stand a chance. Kato leaps into the air, lashing out with both legs in a corkscrew kick that sends them both flying, their senseless bodies sliding away on a sheen of oil. (Kato beat them on their turn, taking one out; then attacked on his own activation, taking out another.) The Green Hornet manages to stand up. Looking around, it seems that for the time being, at least, there are no Tong to threaten them!

Turn 4: The card drawn is a Nine. Nothing happens! With no events, no Tong to defend against and still no way out, this lull in the action seems like a good time for some dramatic dialogue, especially since…

Turn 5: The card drawn is the King!

“Wise Uncle” Wei clapped softly, gazing at Kato with undisguised admiration. “Your skill is quite impressive, ah…mmm…what IS your name? A thousand apologies, but I don’t seem to know.” Kato scowled. The Green Hornet tried and failed to cover a smile.

“You seem to be out of soldiers, Wei,” said the Green Hornet.

“There are always more soldiers,” Wei replied irritably, waving his hand in dismissal. He continued to address Kato. “You must know your talents are wasted with this green fool.”

“Hey!” protested the Green Hornet. ” There’s no need for name-calling.”

“You should join me, instead,” Wei continued smoothly. “Such skill as you possess would be well-compensated in my organization.”

“No chance,” said Kato, “the green fool needs me.”

“Really?!” exclaimed the Hornet, “You, too? I’m standing right here!”

“As you wish, then,” said Wei. “I grow weary of this entertainment.” He stood up. “See to it they do not leave this warehouse alive, Liu.”

“Iron-Skin” Liu nodded, hopping down from the platform as more thugs entered the circle. The Green Hornet and Kato found themselves back-to-back again, waiting…

Turn 6: I drew the Ace. Three more Tong show up! I deployed these three as a squad rather than scattering them around the circle. They will move and act together, because this one-at-a-time crap isn’t working out for the Tong! Close up on the faces of the Tong, all scowls and menace; cut to the Green Hornet, brow furrowed in determination; quick zoom on Kato’s mask, where his eyes can be seen, narrowed; while the final shot shows a slow, evil grin spreading across the brutal visage of “Iron-Skin” Liu…

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Greetings. I am “Wise Uncle” Wei. I cannot help but notice you admiring my Dragon Bell. An exquisite piece, wouldn’t you agree? It must have cost a fortune, you must think. But no, this is not so.

You may ask, why am I called wise? The answer is simple. It is because I get all my Dragon Bells at Wargames Terrain Workshop. After all, I may be the head of a very lucrative criminal enterprise; but just because I can afford expensive bell decor doesn’t mean I frivolously throw money away. That would be foolish, and I am not known as “Foolish Uncle” Wei.

This is my associate, “Iron-Skin” Liu. He is a man of few words; but when he does speak, it is often of Wargames Terrain Workshop, and of the unparalleled product quality and customer service they offer. Liu suggests most strongly that you shop there. If you do not, then “Iron-Skin” Liu will become unsettled, and that would be most unfortunate.

For you.

END COMMERCIAL

Turn 6, Continued: The heroes gain initiative. Seeing the group of thugs and “Iron-Skin” Liu about to close on Kato, The Hornet charges the group of thugs, hoping to cut them off. With a quick haymaker he drops one of the Tong; while “Iron-Skin’ Liu, bellowing in challenge, charges Kato and knocks him clear off his feet! Kato is wounded again and knocked back a full 3”! Liu isn’t far behind and immediately closes the gap; but he’s a bit overzealous and underestimates his opponent. With a natural 10, Kato slugs Liu right in the breadbasket, knocking the wind out of the giant and stopping him in his tracks! “Iron-Skin” Liu is wounded and staggered! The remaining two thugs attack the Green Hornet, hoping to overpower him, but the Emerald Avenger easily puts them both down in the dirt with two well-placed socks in the jaw!

Turn 7: A Ten is drawn. Nothing happens! Initiative goes to the heroes. Kato fends Liu off with a lightning-fast flurry of strikes to Liu’s face, but he’s not called “Iron-Skin” Liu for nothing! Liu smiles at Kato, completely unhurt! Kato looks at his fists in disbelief and betrayal as the Green Hornet barrels into Liu from behind! He bounces off the giant’s back, but doesn’t get too far before Liu lashes out in a mighty sweeping attack that barely misses Kato but swats the Hornet down like his namesake! The Green Hornet is knocked flying and is KO’ed!

Turn 8: A Seven is drawn. Back off! Kato grabs a rope and pulley from the ground and swings it around, clearing some space. “Iron-Skin” Liu retreats warily as the Green Hornet makes his roll to recover. He stands up slowly, shaking his head, trying to remember if he’s ever been hit that hard before. Initiative goes to the heroes again. Kato charges at Liu, but rolls poorly and Liu gets the better of him; grabbing Kato by the back of the neck and slamming his elbow into the hero’s face! Kato staggers back 3″ and collapses, unconscious!

Liu lunges at the Green Hornet next, but once again, he underestimates his opponent. The Green Hornet meets his charge with green-gloved fists of fury, striking Liu twice hard enough to hurt. Hard enough, in fact, to drop the giant in his tracks! “Iron-Skin” Liu is KO’ed!

Turn 9: A Queen is drawn! The Green Hornet spies an opening as Kato makes his Will roll to recover. Bloodied and exhausted, both heroes beat feet to escape before more goons show up!

Turn 10: Success! Victory for the Heroes!

The Green Hornet and Kato staggered back to the Black Beauty, secreted about a block distant from the Happy Pepper Warehouse. Both men were seriously injured, but they would recover. Kato slid behind the wheel while the Hornet climbed in the back, wincing in pain.

In the rear-view mirror, the two men stared at each other in silence. “So,” said the Hornet, finally, “Looks like “Big Eddie” Donnelly’s getting a visit from the Green Hornet next.”

“Sure, Kato replied. “But maybe tomorrow. Or the day after.”

“Kato…thanks. Thanks for coming after me.”

“Of course.” Kato grinned. “Green fool.”

The two men laughed as the Black Beauty roared off into the night.

Brawl at the Happy Pepper Warehouse!

IN TWO DAYS!!! Another challenge for the Green Hornet; his aide, Kato; and their rolling arsenal the Black Beauty! If you missed the first scenario of this campaign, you can find it here! Once again, I’m using the .45 Adventure rules by Rattrap Productions, with a few modifications I have made myself. You can find out all about the changes I made here!

Scenario: The Green Hornet has been captured by “Wise Uncle” Wei’s men. Kato has managed to free him, but now both men have been caught at one of the Tong gangster’s warehouses. They must survive wave after wave of Tong until they can somehow find a way to escape!

Victory Conditions: The Green Hornet and Kato must run out the clock and survive against hordes of mooks until they can make their escape. If they escape, they win; if not, the villains win, and they are captured again!

Forces: The Hero player controls the Green Hornet (Grade 3 Crimefighter) and Kato (Grade 3 Crimefighter). The Criminal Player starts with Clean-Head Chang, a Tong Enforcer (Grade 2) armed with a cleaver; and 3 Tong thugs (Grade 1), who are unarmed.  In addition, “Wise Uncle” Wei has left his right-hand man and bodyguard, “Iron-Skin” Liu (Grade 2 Heroic Warrior), to make sure the heroes don’t leave the warehouse. Liu will watch from the sidelines until he takes a more active role (see below); also, more and more goons will continue to show up until the heroes either escape or get overwhelmed.

Setup: Play is on a 24”x24” surface, representing one of Wise Uncle Wei’s warehouses. There is a raised platform on one end of the board. In addition, there are shipping containers, crates, barrels and oil drums liberally scattered about the warehouse around a central, circular area free of debris. The Green Hornet and Kato start in the middle of this circle. “Clean-Head” Chang and the three Tong are deployed around the perimeter of the circle, at least 6” away from any of the heroes. They should be deployed such that they block egress from the circle. “Iron-Skin” Liu and Wise Uncle Wei are deployed on the platform, watching the fight. During the course of the combat, reinforcements may be deployed anywhere around the perimeter of the circle as they arrive.

Special Rules:

Event Deck: At the start of every turn, draw a card from the 13 card event deck and resolve it before rolling for intiative.

  • Ace-Two: Reinforcements! The villain player may add three Grade 1 Tong (unarmed) to the board. They must be deployed around the perimeter of the circle, at least 3” away from any of the heroes. They may move and attack this turn.
  • Three-Four: Reinforcements! The villain player may add two Grade 1 Tong (unarmed) to the board. They must be deployed around the perimeter of the circle, at least 3” away from any of the heroes. They may move and attack this turn.
  • Five-Six: Look out below! An unseen goon pulls a lever, dropping a suspended crate from above, which crashes down into the circle!  All models in the circle must pass a Dodge test or take a STR 6 hit. If a model is wounded but not KO’ed, he is buried under the crate and Knocked Down. Models that are Knocked Down have their Heater and Shiv skills halved. On a subsequent activation they must pass a Brawn test to extricate themselves and stand up. In addition, roll a die to see what the crate contains on the table below.
  • Seven: Back off! Someone left a weighted rope and pulley laying around. The Green Hornet or Kato (hero player’s choice) snatches it up and whirls it around, clearing some space. All enemy models in hand-to-hand with the hero get pushed back 2” in a 360° arc.
  • Eight: Back off! The Green Hornet or Kato (hero player’s choice) topples a stack of crates, clearing some space. All enemy models in hand-to-hand with the hero get pushed back 2” in a 360° arc. In addition, roll a die to see what the crates contain on the table below.
  • Nine-Ten: Nothing happens.
  • Jack-Queen: A way out! (If this card is drawn during the first three turns, ignore it and shuffle it back into the deck.) The Green Hornet and Kato spot a way out of the warehouse that coincidentally takes them right past the Green Hornet’s gear. The heroes have an opportunity to disengage and flee combat without suffering any attacks (no test necessary). They may leave the circle in whichever direction they choose. The goons will pursue and attempt to stop them; but if the heroes can reach the edge of the board, they escape! If he hasn’t already joined the fight, “Iron-Skin” Liu hops off the platform and enters the fray, while Wise Uncle Wei makes his escape.
  • King: Wise Uncle Wei has seen enough. He leaves, telling “Iron-Skin” Liu to make certain the Green Hornet and Kato don’t leave the warehouse. Liu hops down from the platform and will join the Tong this round. (If this has already happened, then ignore this result.)

No Escape!: The Green Hornet and Kato may not leave the circle until either a Jack or Queen is drawn from the Event Deck. This symbolizes the constant threat of the circling Tong; until an opening presents itself, the heroes must tough it out!

Hordes of Mooks: The board has the potential to fill up with goons pretty quickly. If there are 3 or more Tong thugs within 3″ of each other at any time, they immediately form a squad; rolling once for combat at +3d10 rather than rolling individually.

“Do not disappoint me”:  As long as Wise Uncle Wei is on the board, all the Tong (including “Clean-Head” Chang) are considered to have Undying Loyalty, and do not need to make Guts checks no matter how many of their fellows fall in combat.

Falling Crates: If a card result indicates that a crate explodes, roll a d10 and consult the following table to determine what happens:

  • 1-3: Pepper! A barrel of hot pepper flakes explodes into the air. Every model in the circle must make a BRAWN test or have their Shiv and Dodge scores halved and their Move score reduced to zero for two rounds as they uncontrollably cough and sneeze.
  • 4-6: Peanut oil! A cask of peanut oil bursts on the ground, making the entire circle slippery terrain for the rest of the scenario. If a model attempts to move more than half its speed it must pass a DODGE test or be Knocked Down. If it attempts to run, it must pass a DODGE test twice or be Knocked Down.
  • 7-8: Flour! The crate contained sacks of rice flour, which burst, producing clouds of powder that obscure vision. Every model in the circle has their Heater and Shiv scores halved for two turns until the flour settles.
  • 9-10: Fish Sauce! A barrel of smelly fish sauce crashes into the circle. If a hero is hit, he is covered in fish sauce in addition to taking a wound and being Knocked Down; but he smells so bad that any goons in hand-to-hand immediately break away 1” and won’t attack again for two rounds.

The Characters

The Green Hornet (Grade 3): DR 5 Brains 4 Will 3 Brawn 3 Guts 10 Heater 5 Shiv 5 Dodge 4 Speed 5 Brawler +1d10, Pugilist +1, One-Two Punch, Sharpshooter +1, Quick +1, Nerves of Steel +2, Observant, Quick Recovery, Heroic Action

Kato (Grade 3): DR 5 Brains 2 Will 4 Brawn 5 Guts 8 Heater 2 Shiv 6 Dodge 4 Speed 5 Brawler +1d10, Pugilist +2, Multiple Attacks +1, Shiv Thrower, Driver +1, Battle Cry, Leap, Devotion, Nimble

“Clean-Head” Chang (Grade 2): DR 4 Brains 2 Will 3 Brawn 3 Guts 7 Heater 2 Shiv 3 Dodge 3 Speed 4 Brawler +2d10, Sharpshooter +1, Rapid Fire, Fearful Presence, Nimble, Quick Recovery

“Iron Skin” Liu (Grade 2): DR 4 Brains 2 Will 3 Brawn 5 Guts 7 Heater 2 Shiv 5 Dodge 3 Speed 5 Brawler +1d10, Ferocious +1, Sweep, Intimidate, Immune to Fear, Toughened Hide +1, Extra Wound

Tong Thugs (Grade 1): DR 4 Brains 2 Will 2 Brawn 4 Guts 5 Heater 2 Shiv 3 Dodge 3 Speed 4 Brawler +2d10, Ferocious +1, Bruiser

Coming in TWO DAYS! The Sinister Schemes of “Wise Uncle” Wei!!!!!

Forgotten Heroes 2021: The Crimson Hound

Visitors to Dead Dick’s Tavern may recall me lamenting the fact that I don’t get to play many games any more, especially roleplaying games. Since I opened an Instagram account about a year ago, I’ve met some pretty cool hobbyists and gamers, many of whom live much too far away from me for us to ever be able to sit around the same table. Because of remote play during the COVID pandemic, that hasn’t been as much of an obstacle, and I’ve been able to get some gaming in with some very cool people.

One of them, my friend Bruno, has a YouTube channel called The Chronicles of the Crimson Hound, and through this, he has come up with something truly ingenious that all but guarantees he gets to play a ton of games. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t envy the guy.

Bruno created a character: the Crimson Hound, a vampiric vigilante super hero in a cyberpunk-style city. Bruno’s brilliance is that he gets other people to GM games for the Crimson Hound, using whatever rules system and running whatever story they like; then he puts the game sessions up on YouTube. So far, the folks running the games have mostly been gamers who have websites and podcasts of their own; so viewers get to see a variety of game mastering styles and get a feel for diverse methods of storytelling and gaming. The serials are broken down into sessions of about 15 minutes each, so they’re great to listen to while you’re…oh, say, cooking dinner or painting miniatures. Check them out!

Anyway, Bruno asked me to GM a game for the Crimson Hound, which made me feel immensely flattered. Run a game for a vampiric vigilante in a pulp/cyberpunk setting? Yes, please! On YouTube? No, thank you. Some folks, like Bruno, are handsome and charismatic enough to be on YouTube. Others, like me, are far too handsome for YouTube but lack any charisma whatsoever. Sad, but true.

Still, I felt bad because Bruno was kind enough to playtest one of my Call of Cthulhu adventures that I am planning to submit to the Miskatonic Repository. In other words, when I asked, he said yes; while when he asked, I declined. Kind of a dick move on my part. (See? No charisma.)

So, as a way to say thanks, I decided to immortalize Bruno’s creation, The Crimson Hound, for Forgotten Heroes. The Crimson Hound isn’t “forgotten”, of course; his legend is only just beginning! But this challenge gave me all the excuse I needed to practice my green stuff kung-fu. (Special thanks to Dave from Wargames Terrain Workshop for the quick assist in answering my noob sculptor questions.) Besides, Carrion Crow is usually pretty lenient when it comes to enforcing the rules.

The base miniature was Captain Griffon, by Reaper, from their Chronoscope line. (If I remember right, Bruno wanted to use this miniature himself for the Hound, once upon a time.) I couldn’t find anything better in my rather extensive pile of Heroclix. I had considered using a Robin miniature as a base, but I picture the Hound is bigger (and cooler) than Robin.

In his single-minded pursuit of vigilante justice, the Crimson Hound has used stun batons, handguns and even an enchanted short sword. I considered giving him one or more of these, but in the end I decided just to stick with his bare hands. The Hound is a brute, after all. He’s not too subtle when it comes to kicking ass.

I added some green stuff to bulk out his shoulders and his collar, and sculpted his mask and his knee pads. Then I let him dry and sanded him down with an emery board, because Dave said to.

Of course, unbeknownst to Bruno, while I was IN THE MIDDLE OF sculpting and painting the Crimson Hound, Bruno put up a new Instagram post, showing the Hound’s upcoming NEW COSTUME. In other words, not this one anymore.

D’oh!

Here he is, all painted up. I tried to be as faithful to the top picture as I could, but there was no way in hell I was going to even attempt that belt. It’s way beyond my green stuff skillz. As it is, looks like I could have done a better job sanding him down. Hope you like him, Bruno!

Here’s a funny little anecdote: for my final touch, I decided to give the red parts of the costume a light wash of Citadel’s Bloodletter glaze, which really does a good job of highlighting and tying together the different shades of red. It was supposed to be the very last thing I did, but shortly after the application, I noticed a bunch of mysterious white spots all over the model, wherever I put the Bloodletter. Seems my glaze went bad somehow, and I had to redo all the red. Isn’t that funny? Ha ha ha.

Ha.

That’s probably it for my Forgotten Heroes submissions this year, although I could still pull something out last minute. Stranger things have happened. In the meantime, I will continue to watch the other participants with great interest!