Tag Archives: Armorcast

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!!!!!

 

 

Cowabunga, Dude!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the result:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Armorcast and Laser Cut Card: 2 Company Reviews

If you’re anything like me, you probably have a not-so-small heap of unfinished terrain projects laying about your workspace. Last month I decided to incorporate building and painting terrain into my normal painting routine (when I have a routine) so the heap will, in theory, reduce over time. So, since I just finished up Imperial Assault, I thought I’d get cracking on some of the modern terrain I ordered for my Supers and Zombie games.

Much of my modern terrain comes from Armorcast. I also recently purchased a couple of things from Laser Cut Card. What follows is a review of both companies and the products I bought.

First up is Armorcast. I already own a fair amount of Armorcast products, and there’s a couple of  good reasons why. First, they look great when they’re painted up and on the table. I’ve had the mausoleums above for about 6 years and never played a game with them (because I haven’t made a graveyard yet). I posed them with a Wargames Factory zombie vixen to show how cool the terrain looks in context. You might recognize the dumpsters from the many After Action Reports on this blog. I pretty much use them in any city-based game.

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Second, Armorcast resin products are generally pretty durable, especially the chunkier pieces. My recent order consisted of these “roof-toppers” and a billboard 3-pack (which I’ll get to in a minute). These are designed to affix to Armorcast’s line of resin buildings to make the removal of rooftops easier. I don’t use Armorcast buildings, and I like a bit of freedom when it comes to my scenery so I won’t be attaching anything permanently.

All Armorcast stuff is easy to prime and paint. I’ve never had anything rub off once it’s been sealed.

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Unfortunately, Armorcast products require a lot of cleanup. This is less true of the big, blocky pieces like those above, but look at these billboards and soda machines.There’s an awful lot of resin flash and bubbles in the casting that will need to be sanded or filled. I was least happy with the billboards, as they required a lot of flash removal. Remember when I said that Armorcast resin is generally durable? It is, but in smaller pieces like this it’s actually brittle. I broke a few of the billboard supports removing flash with some nippy cutters. You can see the broken ones in the top picture (the two middle supports).

Even then, there was enough flash left that I needed to use a Dremel to get it smoothed down, which is not really something you want to do as resin dust is quite toxic. Also, I assumed that once the billboards were assembled they would stand on their own, but they don’t. Whether this is because I broke the supports or not I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure it’s because the billboard is heavier than the supports, so it falls on its face if not anchored to something. If you plan on gluing it to a building, you’ll have no problem. But if you’re like me, you’ll have to take the extra step of basing it on something so you can use it wherever you want.

This water tower is from Laser Cut Card, a South African company that seems to have greatly expanded their product line recently. I ordered this about a year ago along with some Ork glyphs and finally got around to assembling and painting it. It’s made of uncoated cardboard, a bit stiffer than your average cereal box. LCC claims that coated cardboard (like Plastcraft stuff) would melt if cut with a laser, so they leave it uncoated. This is not as much of a problem as you’d think, as it’s surprisingly strong and sturdy once assembled.

When I first got this, I bitched and whined that there was no instruction sheet included with it. When I finally got around to assembling it, I had no problems figuring it out just by looking at the picture on the box. Anyone with modeling experience should have no problem, but just for the hell of it I went on LCCs website and found that they have instructions right there, so my grumbling was premature. They don’t include them to save on shipping costs (more on that below). Assembly took about an hour (without the benefit of instructions).

The cardboard takes paint ok, not great. As you can see, not having a coating on it just means the paint soaks into the card a little more than you may like. I spray-primed this tower black before painting it with craft paint and you can judge the results for yourself.

Incidentally, if you’re wondering about the graffiti decals, they’re made by a company called Microscale and carried by Armorcast. The sheet I have says it’s HO scale, but as you can see they seem to fit right in on 28mm scale scenery. I think they really make the water tower look cool and help cover up some of the paint issues.

So those are the products. What about the prices and shipping?

Armorcast isn’t cheap, especially their bigger pieces. However, they have extensive product lines across many genres. If you’re looking for something in particular, chances are they have it, whether you’re playing fantasy, sci-fi or modern games.  Most of it looks terrific and is generally durable enough to stand up to the rigors of gaming, although as stated above, you may need to do some work on it first.

Armorcast asks that customers allow one month for shipping, and that’s exactly how long I waited for my most recent order. Not lightning fast, but everything is cast to order, so I have no complaints. Over the years I’ve had a couple of interactions with Armorcast. One order shipped missing an item, and when I called them they took care of it right away. I also talked to their rep at Gen Con in 2012 and he couldn’t have been a nicer guy. So customer service is good, too.

Laser Cut Card has a greatly expanded product line that includes Sci-Fi and Modern terrain at insanely low prices. (That cardboard water tower retails for $6.50; Armorcast has a resin one for $12.00).  Of course, you will need to spend some time assembling it first. It’s surprisingly strong and I’m optimistic that my next attempt at painting it will enjoy better success.

LCC’s shipping times and costs are unbelievable. This water tower and a package of ork glyphs shipped in a standard mailing envelope for ONE DOLLAR, and it made the trip from South Africa to Southeastern Massachusetts in a week!!! I haven’t had any need to contact LCC for customer service, but they seem like nice enough guys and, like Armorcast, I’m sure I’ll be ordering from them again.