Archive for August, 2015

I’m keen to cover some more fantasy and sci-fi stuff in Suppressing Fire, so when this little chap arrived in the post:

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I decided to set myself a little challenge, and see if I could get him painted up to gaming table standard in a single evening.  From opening the blister, to the finished item took me four and a half-hours.  So here’s how I did it:

The box for this Han Solo Ally Pack for Star Wars: Imperial Assault contains the figure (which’ll replace the rather lacklustre “pog” in the main game) as well as another – yet, oddly identical – deployment card for use in both the campaign and skirmish modes.  Seems weird to just reprint the same card, when a subtle variation would have been nice.  There’s also a rulesheet and cards for a new Campaign mission centred around Han, as well as two Skirmish missions, set around gambling gone bad in a seedy Cantina.  You also get a reward card for the campaign (Han’s quick-draw holster), and six original Command cards for use in Skirmishes.

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So, here’s everyone’s favourite Corellian straight out of the box.  The first thing to do is to run a file round and clear up the mould lines.  These aren’t too bad.  There’s a slightly difficult one on the right ear, but otherwise they came off fairly easily.  After that, it’s a quick scrub in water and washing up liquid, dry off on kitchen towel, and then spray undercoat.  For this I used Citadel Skull White, mostly through force of habit, because it’s what I’ve always used.  I generally don’t like using a black undercoat, as my eyes struggle with the detail when it’s too dark.  If you’d prefer to undercoat black, go for it.

After that, Han looks like this:

IMG_2655[1]The scrub in the sink and the white undercoat really helps to bring the detail out when painting, and also helps the paint to adhere to the model easier.  After this, the first things I painted were the skin tones (Citadel Kislev Flesh) and the hair (Balor Brown):

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The skin tone’s brought out the facial features nicely. The hair is a little more Dash-Rendar-Red than Han-Solo-Brown at the moment, but that’s because the ink wash at the end will darken it significantly.

Next, I used a generic Revell blue for the trousers, and a Revell light-grey/off-white for the shirt.  I don’t generally like painting pure white or pure black unless I have to, as it’s very easy to lose detail.  A grubby grey is good for a Corellian smuggler anyway.  Again, the trousers are a lot brighter than Han’s are in the movies, but I want to go bright, because the ink-wash at the end will make everything a lot darker.

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The next steps were the body-warmer/jacket, for which I used Citadel Mechanicus Grey (again, a little lighter than the movie, but the ink wash will darken this), and Citadel Rhinox Hide on the holster and belt.

IMG_2664[1]Next, I did the boots, and the DL-44 blaster in straight Revell Black, but you could use any brand black.  Black is black is black.

As I said earlier, I don’t like painting pure black unless I have to, but here I’ll be highlighting the blaster with some chrome later and…well…there’s no getting away from the fact the boots are simply black:

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Now, he’s starting to look like Han Solo!  I decided to add a little detail, as while he looks okay at the moment, it’s the detail that really allows a figure to “pop” and look good.  And detailing is rarely as hard as you think it’s going to be. For the detailing here, I picked out the buckles and ammo pouches on the belt in Citadel Runefang Silver, drybrushed the blaster with Citadel Leadbelcher, and added a Corellian Bloodstripe down the trousers in Revell Red.

Drybrushing is a really simple technique to get some great highlighting results, and you should be able to easily find a tutorial online if you’re not already sure how to do it.

Once the detailing work was done, he looks liked this:

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The good news is that we’re nearly there.  Now, for the ink wash I use Citadel Agrax Earthshade, and I use it liberally.  You want to get the ink into the crevices and shaded areas, which will highlight a lot of the detail on the figure.  After applying the Agrax Earthshade, my Han looked like this:

(Before and After Agrax Earthshade Ink Wash)

                            (Before and After Agrax Earthshade Ink Wash)

As you can see, the Agrax really gives the figure depth and detail with a minimum of effort.  After this dried, I added a second ink wash to the trousers and the blaster, but this time using a black ink (Citadel Nuln Oil).  This darkened the trousers even closer to the film version, and also prevented the blaster from looking too “shiny”.  We want Wars and not Trek!

Finally, I did a solid black base.  I prefer to just use solid black for Imperial Assault, but you can do whatever you like.  It really is personal taste.

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So there, it is, from blister to a game standard paint job in 4.5 hours, including drying time.  Let me know if you’d be interested in seeing me do any of the other figures as well.

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It’s the new miniatures wargame that everyone’s talking about (no, not Age of Sigmar)…and so Suppressing Fire’s Joseph Crouch gives us the lowdown on Frostgrave

Frostgrave is my first foray into fantasy wargaming proper. Something that I found, or rather stumbled upon whilst on Facebook in one of those handy (or not so handy, depending on the subject) recommended posts. After having looked at the “nickstarter” and immediately falling in love with the miniatures and basic premise I decided that I must take the plunge.

(Models painted by Joseph Crouch and Robert Lindsay. Terrain courtesy of Rochester Games, Models & Railways)

(Models painted by Joseph Crouch and Robert Lindsay. Terrain courtesy of Rochester Games, Models & Railways)

The premise is quite simple. Frostgrave is a long dead city, some Wizards grew a bit too big for their boots and conjured something they shouldn’t have, which leads to the death of its populace, and the destruction of much of the city. Thousands of years later and tales of the city are all that remain, and you, the Player/Wizard are putting a warband together to raid the mad city to gain glory and the gold that comes with it.

To my tender and squidgy mind it reads like your basic fantasy setup, but the more I thought about it the more I likened it to Diablo, Conan the Barbarian (in particular The Tower of the Elephant) and – following along the same lines as that – the Moria sequence in The Lord of the Rings. This idea that I would be raiding a crypt rather mercilessly on some mad quest for loot, trying not to wake up the long unseen beasts that dwell in the depths…or something like that.  The idea that this game could encompass the gloom of dungeon crawling with the high action of a skirmish game was not lost on me either, and the prospect of being able to micromanage my warband over a campaign seemed far too novel for it not to be one of Frostgrave’s successes.

(Models and terrain by Joseph Crouch and Ömer Ibrahim.)

(Models and terrain by Joseph Crouch and Ömer Ibrahim.)

To this date I have played three games of Frostgrave, so I’m still getting to grips with it’s intricacies as well as marvelling at the sheer amount of customisation and storytelling the game almost begs you to throw onto it. After a long think and a few bouts of soul searching with other SF contributor Robert Lindsay, I had it firmly affirmed within me that I am an evil bastard and should probably be the Necromancers. Thus, The Murderess was born, and with her, “Frederic Fassbender” the fabulous apprentice, “The Grinning Death” a female Nord barbarian and a slew of other lesser characters that even now are coalescing fuller characterisation with every game I play.

Yes, even the Zombie that my character can raise has a name.

And this is exactly what I have loved every moment of Frostgrave for the vagueness of it, the allowance and encouragement of bringing your own version of the twisted city into being. I’ve spent more time getting it ready and forming this small mythos in my head than I have playing it (for good or for bad).

(Models painted by Joseph Crouch and Robert Lindsay. Terrain courtesy of Rochester Games, Models & Railways)

(Models painted by Joseph Crouch and Robert Lindsay. Terrain courtesy of Rochester Games, Models & Railways)

Firstly, you must create your wizard. You can do this by first choosing the school of magic they will be; Necromancer, Thaumaturgist, Sigilist etc…and then further customising them by selecting the initial spells they will be using in the game.

Then you are ready, mostly.

The basic scenario is quite simple, at the very start of a campaign each player will start of with their Wizard and 500 gold coins that are intended for the purchasing of your first basic warband and an apprentice (the book makes it very clear that although an apprentice is not mandatory, it is in fact highly recommended you have one at your side). So, you both assemble your warband and attempt your first scenario, there’s the basic one wherein 6 treasure tokens are placed around a map and your goal is to loot as much of it as possible, or if you’re like me, kill everyone before they can pick up anything. Then there’s other more lore filled scenarios, a particular favorite of mine being the “mausoleum” scenario that focuses on you having to loot a crypt in the center of the map whilst Skeletal Knights pour out of it every turn.

(Models painted by Joseph Crouch and Robert Lindsay. Terrain courtesy of Rochester Games, Models & Railways)

(Models painted by Joseph Crouch and Robert Lindsay. Terrain courtesy of Rochester Games, Models & Railways)

I’ve played that one twice because Skeletal Knights are perhaps the best thing ever.

At the end of each scenario the players total up their loot and roll for injuries/deaths on their warband, as well as totaling up experience for their Wizards in order for them to improve or even learn new spells.

YES, I did say experience, because over the course of the game the Wizard will earn experience points for performing certain actions, eventually attaining a level and a point in which to spend either improving the casting number on a spell or an attribute.

(Models painted by Joseph Crouch and Robert Lindsay. Terrain courtesy of Rochester Games, Models & Railways)

(Models painted by Joseph Crouch and Robert Lindsay. Terrain courtesy of Rochester Games, Models & Railways)

Beyond this is a fantastic meta-game in which you can look after your warband, buy them gear, learn new spells and even customise a base that will grant your team certain buffs over the course of the entire campaign.

If it’s starting to feel like this game was designed to pull in gamers of a different kind then I think you’d be right in feeling that way. I, myself, am primarily a video gamer and love the thought of micromanaging my Wizard and warband in-between games. This approach lifts what could be a basic idea into something very memorable that exists past the core limitations of a skirmish game, and even introduces ideas brought over from paper RPG’s creating something, for lack of a better word, Epic.

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Additionally, I’ve read the supplemental book Tales from the Frozen City and have mixed feelings about it. It’s a great addition for someone that wants to rely on official lore, or someone that hasn’t quite decided what their starting wizard will be as it showcases each wizard and their particular skillset and alignment within the world of Frostgrave, but beyond that it doesn’t really add anything particularly exciting to the world, i.e a big bad for us to worry about and then dream of what Reaper Miniature will be of use for such evil, something I am sure they will rectify in the Thaw of the Lich Lord expansion due in November.

In short, I think I’ll be playing Frostgrave for a while. I couldn’t recommend it enough, it’s perfect for beginners like me and seasoned players who enjoy elements of RPG mixed in with their skirmish games.

It’s got my imagination by the cajones and it’s not letting go.

Polish Spitfire Aces

Posted: August 6, 2015 in Aerial, Books, World War II

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Of all Allied airmen, Polish pilots had had the most experience of fighting the Luftwaffe by the time the war came to Britain. As the Battle of Britain raged, they quickly proved themselves as highly aggressive and skilful interceptors, especially when flying the famous Spitfire.

The Polish Air Force eventually became the largest non-Commonwealth Spitfire operator, using some 1,500 Mks I, II, V, IX and XVI to devastating effect. Top scoring USAAF ace of the ETO, Francis “Gabby” Gabreski and a whole host of other Allied and Commonwealth aces flew with Polish squadrons, adding even more to their fighting quality. Conversely, several Polish pilots were attached to other Allied squadrons throughout the war, demonstrating their prowess alongside airmen from a whole host of nations.

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A slightly off the wall topic, but one that Wojtek Matusiak’s new book tackles very entertainingly, and very informatively.  The set-up is handled very clearly, and it needs to be said that Matusiak’s descriptive writing is superb.  As we all know, history books can sometimes (perhaps frequently) be accused of being a little dry – but the descriptions of the dogfights in Polish Spitfire Aces are amongst the best I have ever read.  It would be selling the subject matter short to describe them as “cinematic”, but they are certainly immersive.

Furthermore, the anecdotes and post-combat reports from the pilots themselves are highly entertaining and engaging, on several levels.  The adventure of the pilot who had to find shelter with the aid of some locals and resistance fighters was a particular highlight.

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All in all, a great book on a niche subject.  Recommended to all those with an interest in the Battle of Britain, or Spitfire pilots.