Friday, 23 June 2017

FORGOTTEN HEROES: WIPS, START TO FINISH

Strange & Darke

From a role playing point of view, Brit-Cit is a fascinating place to discover and explore. The UK`s answer to Mega City One, infused delightfully with British sensibilities: where the Judges serve in a role almost akin to `The Avengers` (the old school British ones, not the ones with the green angry guy) slink in and out of the shadows, in a sort of... right proper `Blighty` version of Judge Dredd meets Dirty Harry.

Original comic book characters are often tough to sell to an already over critical American saturated audience, particularly in a universe as idiosyncratic as 2000AD’s Judge Dredd driven world-verse. One can either spend time on an origin story which, if not the subject of a whole comic, takes up valuable pages that could be reserved for the story proper: or you can just dive into your story and have your characters reveal their natures through their actions. reacting to whatever crazy situation it is that you’ve chucked them into.

The authors of our Brit Noir duo tended to opt for the latter, introducing us to Psi-Judge Becky Darke.. just at the very moment in the story where she in turn is being introduced to Detective Inspector Jericho Strange of the Endangered Species Squad. Becky has a psychic tumour that voices both her normal mind and a disturbingly (and uncontrollable) abnormal  almost paranormal inner monologue. Making her seem at times to suffer from Tourette Syndrome. While Detective Inspector Jericho Strange is a pretty average guy... with a horse’s skull for a head, due to having been cursed after looking into an ancient occult book of dark magic.  

All very British, right?

Whilst there is an argument to say that reading DI Strange’s previous adventures first, might be more rewarding: it’s almost more fun to go into this story completely blind - as the author does a terrific job of capitalising on the particular mystery surrounding our male hero`s horse’s skull; blending a slow reveal with the unravelling main story rather beautifully.

There’s also a lovely lilt to the dialogue, with no two characters sounding the same as their voices sound in your head. The story is a tad on the ‘absolutely insane’ side, but it’s easy enough to follow... and come the end, reaches a conclusion that’s satisfying, and leaves the reader closing the book with a wide contented smile on his or her face.

The art is pretty decently top notch. Gloomy church scenes, smoky offices, blasted waste-lands (including some weirdly dangerous looking sheep) each is given a particular and precise tone that euphorically sets the mood of each. There are some great one page spreads distributed evenly through the story, and whilst the artwork is never exactly flashy, there is a terrific consistency to these cool renderings.

We decided to create this strangely iconic comic book hero and heroine for one simple reason. We wanted to include them in our Judge Dredd games, and no one was making the miniatures we needed (and I suspect never will, due to their limited `very British` appeal), so we simply decided to make them ourselves.

Strange and Darke: don't the two names just roll naturally off the tongue? They belong together as a team. Starskey and Hutch: Dempsey and Makepiece: Bodie and Doyle.... Strange and Darke! Mr Joe Average except for a frickin` horse`s white skull sitting between his shoulders where a normal human head should be, and a hot sexy Gothic chick, with an embarrassing handicap, which makes her sound like a disturbed medical patient, rather than a trained Psi Judge. 

This delicious team are simply too good a deal for any self respecting 2000AD lover to miss up on, either in their table top skirmishes, or their rpg paper and pencil games.

Hils decided to star
t from scratch, rather than convert an existing miniature. She didnt have any proper modelling clay, so she decided to do the impossible task of working from an old (years out of date) package of Green Stuff. She wasn't sure how the results would work out, so she decided to make two figures at the same time.


Thus began the slow, painstaking process of building up the wire frame, and then plopping the blobs of sticky clay onto each effigy.




But of course, it all starts with her own initial sketches.


For which she used the Brit Noir Graphic Novel itself to glean ideas from, to create some original art of her own.

Brit Cit Noir Graphic Novel Cover.


The fun bit next..... the painting.

Psi Judge Becky Darke with her legendary Soul Drinking `Doom Blade`, and two versions of Brit-Cit Judge PI Jethro Stange. Version one is him slouched, hands in pockets... looking decidedly Columbo like. With the other version he is more on the ball, Carbo Blast Gun in hand: digging deeply into his pocket with the other hand... no doubt looking for his infernal foul smelling pipe and tobacco. 


Hils don`t like using pre-made bases for her models (she says its seems lazy, after spending good time preparing a good miniature: why not go the whole hog, lol. So yeah. she always makes and bakes her own bases out of Polymer Clay).

Hils said from the start: "I wanted to get that comic book sketch like quality to the the models, `cos you don`t often see that style done with table top miniatures"



Finished... Da daaaaa!!!



)o(



Now onto meeeeee:



Stevie`s Becky Darke


I took an entirely different approach with my efforts. Starting with an old Indy Clix mini (Aphrodite I think it was), I chopped her in two and added a lower elf torso (from an old... god knows what it once was... mini), added on suitably posed arms and body accoutrements, from at least three other minis (a real Frankenstein Monster by this stage).

in her original state before being cut up lol


And then I did a total painted job on her.... and voila!  I had me a unique red head Becky Darke (complete with Doom Blade) to go with Hiller`s two different cool versions of Jethro Strange.

Old Tramp and leggy.. weird Goth, what a pair


This version sees Jethro Strange looking decidedly more sinister here, with his gun out and ready for action. Becky looks like shes saying: " you really want to mess with moi?"



Article by Steve & Hilary Gilbert


Monday, 19 June 2017

Doctor Who



Doctor.... Who?


I always resisted Doctor Who, with quite a vengeance actually. I put it down as silly, more than a little childish, boys own, and.. well: quite frankly.. infantile, badly written terribly choreographed  pulp. I was sure nothing would ever sway me of this opinion - heavily rooted as I am in the classics. I`d rather read The Bronte's, Thomas Hardy or Charles Dickens, or watch the opera version of Le Miserable, Shakespeare's Midsummer Night`s Dream, or Gilbert and Sullivan`s Pirates of Penzance. I truly never stopped to consider that Doctor Who just might be something rather special, rather British, and altogether wholesomely addictive and worth cherishing.

How very wrong I have been all these years.

I used to watch Doctor Who as a kid with my old Dad. I stopped watching when Tom Baker left the show :(

I can point my finger at two people for having opened my eyes to the joys of Doctor Who and his amazingly diverse collection of ever changing assistants. Jez was first. We`d chat back and forth about game related nitty-gritty, and invariably he`d get back to mentioning `The Doctor` in some form or other, and my eyes would glaze over and I would smile politely and go "That`s nice, jez." And that would be that. "God"  I used to think to myself "would he ever just get the hint that I`m not interest, and keep on track about more important stuff, like Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder RPG, Heroclix, or Victorian Science Fiction."  But no, he persisted with his love of all things Who. Of course, he didnt talk about it in a sterile vacuum.. no, it was always in relation to his latest projects and what have you. He was never boring in any way: I just..plain and simple.. didn't `get it` and was stoically determined I didn't want to get it either. But he was painting a mural on a vast wall. And murals take time before they start to come together. Slowly, a piece at a time, his tenacious and dogged determination to `get me interested` paid off.

 More out of politeness than anything else, and the thought that maybe he`ll finally `get it too` that I wasn't that interested: if I agreed to watch a few episodes of his beloved show, maybe just maybe, he`d see that he`d never win me over to his silly cause.

So Stevie borrowed a couple of complete boxed set series from a friend. Starting with the 9th Doctor and his companion Billie Piper. "Oooh Billie Piper"  I thought "least I know her from Penny Dreadful, and Oo, don`t I know that Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) from the series Cracker?" I pondered to myself, as I sat down and prepared to be bored stiff!

The second major influence was Simon. His Fantorical blog never strays too far away from Who-verse, but it was his two part battle report (or AARs as I like to call them) on the new Warlord Games "Exterminate" game that really peeked my interest. This of course, all coincided with the fact that by now we were utterly hooked, like drug addicts, to the borrowed Doctor Who DVDs we were watching. Having progressed from the 9th doctor onto the 10th (David Tennant), which we are currently half way through (we`re at the point where we have just lost Billie Piper into an alternative reality universe with her Mum and Dad. And (what I assume is soon to be a new assistant) has just showed up in a wedding dress "Do I look bothered."

But yeah, Simon`s enthusiasm for all things Doctor Who, Cybermen, Daleks and all the other strange and wonderful characters and aliens from that show, really started to influence us.. gaming wise; and so it wasn't long before we found ourselves ordering our very own copy of "Exterminate" from Warlord Games.


By now I had found and ordered a complete boxed set of Peter Capaldi playing the 12th Doctor, which I had found second hand on Amazon (and to my delight, when it arived, it was actually brand new and still sealed in its cellophane). But it was series nine.. oooops! I figured it was time to leave the ordering to Stevie from now on. But at least its sitting waiting for us to watch when we get round to it. And sure enough, Stevie has parts 3 and 4 on order from Amazon, due to arrive any day **sighs happily** and after that he will, no doubt, pick up series 5, 6, and 7. I`m told Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor is charmingly convincing. Hmmm we shall see. Right now I`m somewhat in love with dear old David Tennant. I know I am talking about all this as though its new, fresh out on TV, and for me, this holds true, I`m a Doctor Who newbie and this all feels so amazing. Imagine how it felt for you first time round, as you discovered it all. THAT`S what it`s like for me and Stevie at the moment. So as I talk about Matt Smith as a Doctor I`ve never even seen yet in action, for us it`s like the whole thing is brand new. Our biggest problem and the BANE of our viewing pleasure is, there`s always someone will ruin it for us and tell us stuff we haven't got to yet. And the internet is worst of all for this. So we are sort of living with eyes and ears sealed to some extent, and ever vigilant to STOP the moment we feel a danger moment is imminent of spoiler alerts! and turn the other way so as not to witness anything that can detract from our viewing pleasure. 


After this, Stevie just has to go and buy series 8 (the first Peter Capaldi), I`ve already gone and got the 9th series due to my own mistake, and I think there is a 10th (part 1 and part 2?).. ooooh and lots of Christmas specials to pick up as well. Frankly, the way we are going at the moment,  I imagine we will be caught up with new-Who (why do they call it nu-who, when it`s so obviously new-who: its these silly fan boy inflections which put me off all these years) within the next few months, and be up to date with everyone, and as ready as the next person for the next series to hit the TV screen.

Does anyone know when the Doctor Who series is next due out? I was amazed and delighted to see that Actress Tilda Swinton is hotly tipped to be stepping into the shoes of the Time Lord when Peter Capaldi bows out of Doctor Who for good. I pray this will happen, though I won't hold my breath too hard **looks sad** There are simply too many male haters of the idea of a female Doctor out there, I think it may dissuade the BBC from daring seriously to take that rather cool route. 

I absolutely adore her for her role as the White Witch {Jadis}in Narnia`s "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe"

and especially for her commanding co-star role as Arch Angel Gabriel in the cool sci-fi horror film "Constantine." 

But I digress a little.

I think we have established that Doctor Who is the best thing since someone got the good idea  to carve loaves of bread into nice easy thin slices, and without a shadow of doubt, yep.. Stevie and I are now firm fans of the show: as well as some of the wonderful audio novels out there as well. We have been busy downloading literally hundreds of hours of free audio stories, and these are really good to immerse into while painting miniatures and making terrain. Haven't tried any of the Doctor Who books yet, but next time we are at `The Outlet Centre` in Killarney (the discount warehouse) we will scour the shelves for all things Who.

But back to Warlord Games "Exterminate" boxed starter set game, and the many supporting box sets of miniatures to go with it. A common question that I see asked a lot is "are the 35/38mm Doctor Who miniatures compatible with standard 28mm ones from other sources?" I must have scoured the internet for ages to find that same question answered, and strangely, nowhere that I could find, is it adequately addressed. The plain and simple answer is that the Warlord Games Doctor Who miniatures game models are perfectly fine alongside standard 28mm ranges made by other companies. 


In the photo above, you can see the standard plastic Cybermen (and Cybermats) from the "Exterminate" boxed set. Now check the far right of the photo to see Missy.. painted and unpainted. Simply by placing your Cyberman next to any of your 28mm miniatures, you will immediately be able to compare the size differential to the Missy miniature above. You can also do the same with Davros as well. See, the difference really is marginal isn't it?  This should belay any fears anyone has about scale compatibility. Quite frankly, I don`t know why Warlord Games made such a point of publically pointing it out as in all honestly, these 35mm Doctor Who pieces look pretty identical to a `large` 28mm to me in any case.  Certainly not the giants I was expecting them to be.

How does "Exterminate" play?

Very well indeed. Are the rules the next best thing to sliced bread? No, course not. In the same way that... neither is "Bolt Action" the best World War II Wargame rule set in existence. Nor is "Black Powder" a terribly realistic set of historical `horse and musket` period rules. In the same way that "Pike and Shotte" is dreadful at accurately depicting warfare in the 17th century. What they all are good at, is providing comfortably exciting and immersive table top wargames, which do a relatively decent job at achieving the right atmosphere for the game being played. Are there better rules out there.. sure.. yes, there are. 

But is "Exterminate" a good game. 

Yes it is. If feels like Doctor Who. Even a novice like me can see this after only sitting in on and watching a dozen or so games, and then (when we got the game ourselves) playing the same amount of scenarios myself. Yes it feels like Doctor Who, BUT it utterly fails in one other  major aspect.

Games always tend to turn into absolute bloody blood baths: one side usually utterly wiped out, and the other decimated beyond repair..  which plain and simply does not feel very true to the tone of the TV show. It`s a good balanced game, where two sides (two players) can pit their skills against one another in a nicely themed, aesthetically pleasing table top miniatures battle... but don`t expect the outcome to be anything other than a slaughter fest. This can be managed by careful customising of the rules here and there, or/and by adding house rules to limit casualties. But realistically, if you have to do this to make a game feel right, then how good were those rules to start with? Again I repeat, the rules of this game will give you a good balanced game, full of tension and lots of excitement. But don`t expect to have many guys left standing at the end of each game.

I will admit this has left us in a bit of a quandary.  As we want to like the game enough that we can stick with it, as is - out of the box, and share the excitement of others also playing the same game. But I do find myself questioning (a) will people have moved on to the next `quick fix` in six months time, and the game left behind and forgotten, like most others are nowadays (as the next best thing hits the shelves.. as it will, I guarantee you. In which case, sticking with this game now might be academic in the long run. And so this leads to (b): would it be better to just keep buying the highly cool miniatures, but using another more conducive set of rules for actually playing the games themselves? 

Is "Exterminate" worth its money.

YES. Absolutely yes. If  you are into Doctor Who (the reason you would have bought it in the first place, I would assume), then the miniatures are exquisite, the game play (straight out of the box) is exciting and tense..  and you get a lot in the box for your money, a beautifully rendered (double sided) 3 foot square playing map, terrain and tons of other components (even a rather cool 2 dimensional TARDIS `terrain` model). I would buy "Exterminate" (as is) simply for playing as a really fun, quick and easy family or club game. Or I would happily just buy it for the cool minis.

Are the Warlord Games Doctor Who miniatures good value for money?

Yes. I believe so. They are true to BBC costume design, the characters are modelled straight off the actual actors, and VERY accurately so. I almost hate myself for saying it, but I think they are on par with anything Crooked Dice ever made.

Would I buy everything Warlord Games makes for this game in the future?

Very possibly yes. I`m not a completist. I tend to shudder a little bit at the idea of completism (in most things in life.. it can become a severe unhealthy addiction). But most certainly, I consider Doctor Who every bit as serious a passion to collect for - in the same way I would collect Dungeons and Dragons miniatures, to enhance my games and make them better and better by the inclusion of multiple, various options, to make the adventures and stories that much more exciting, and immersive for the players and for ourselves.
Plain, simple. An actual image of a BBC Dalek from the series. I do like its simplistic elegance and uncluttered colour tones.

Interesting fact here: Stevie has seen real BBC Daleks live at a few exhibitions and shows he has attended in his life. He tells me that until now he had forgotten something fundamental about Dalek design; namely, just how pronounced the three main joins are on the body chassis {in exactly the same way as these three piece miniature are assembled.. nice touch I thought}.

Our new "Exterminate" boxed game Daleks

The miniatures themselves are dead easy to assemble. but watch out for the mid section sucker appendage (what I call the sink hole plug plunger) as this is real easy to snap off in the otherwise nice and simple three part snap together assembly. We didn't even bother using any glue with ours, they fitted together so snugly and well. The Cybermen are easier still, comprising a single main piece, one multi pose arm, and the base.


As for the rest of the boxed set minis, these are mostly one piece sculpts which are a pure delight to own (a few are multi piece kits, but I havent seen one of these yet myself). They really are very beautiful pieces, and as I said earlier. I look on collecting Doctor Who Monsters, Aliens, and Characters as fundamentally intrinsic to me now, as I would collecting miniatures for a Dungeons and Dragons fantasy game. Only difference is.. Doctor Who isn`t confined to fantasy, its the fantastical, its science fiction, and its adventures in dimension, time and space.


Its magical and I love it.


Article by Hils



Friday, 9 June 2017

More Test of Honour - And Some Mid Year Musings


June is proving to be a bit of a busy month for me, and I can`t seem for the life of me to find time to get much done on the game table, hence no battle report this week or last. I like always to be up and doing whenever possible, as I truly believe a happy gamer is one who plays lots and plays often.                                                                                              
However, we are still waiting for an actual date for Hils knee operation.. and things are a bit up in the air at the moment, as the house needs to be straight and tidy for when she gets home, so we are beavering away doing house blitz on each of the rooms, disassembling a bed from one of the spare rooms and carting it downstairs and reassembling it in the lounge (so she has easy access to the main bathroom, the kitchen and of course the main downstairs lounge). All those little things and then of course, waiting each day for the post, half expecting a letter from the hospital and confirmation of a finite date. So all in all, I`m not as hobby productive as normal right now.
But, again, all in all, it`s an interesting year for me hobby wise. I have boxed up (well, I`m in the process of doing it as part of my mass house tidy-up) many of my ongoing projects, and focussed on the subjects I feel inclined to do for the rest of this year and into the next. My “Test of Honour” by Warlord Games, remains firmly top of my current schedule of interests.
That's coal dust {from the lounge fire} stuck up my finger nails, not normal dirt lol
Basic  Inking Technique:
first I undercoat with spray can matt white paint, purchased from the hardware shop.

Then I quickly paint in the main detail on each figure (using ordinary matt paint.. not ink), allowing myself about a minute or two per miniature. Then let the colours dry.
Next I use a bottle of Windsor and Newton brown Ink…. water it down 2 parts ink and 1 part water, and cover the entire miniatures, and let it dry.
Paint the bases: I did mine plain black with highlighted dry brush edges, it seemed to suit.
Finally  spray with Games Workshop matt Purity Seal, and bingo! Your Samurai are finished and ready for the table. Time per miniature… all told maybe ten minutes (max) spent on each model, from start to finish.






Still to be painted, my lovely Torii Gate - for my next Samurai game (will have black slates on the roof, and red ink dye wood for the rest).

Meanwhile, my Hero and Horror Clix seems to have mutated into a consolidated, eclectic subject, that encompasses Batman`s Gotham, Judge Dredd`s Cursed Earth, elements of The Terminator, and now even Aliens and Predators have entered the happy mix. But now even the Doctor Who verse is possibly on the verge of working its way in there as well.
Oh yes, I just realised that might sound a bit confusing. Let me explain.
I have been agonising a bit over which rules to use for my ongoing `Gotham` and `Cursed Earth` campaign for  while now (meh! I`m always agonising over rules): be it D20, D&D Judge Dredd by Wizards of the Coast and Mongoose Publishing, or `Mutants and Death Ray Guns` by Ganesha Games, or even my own sets of rules `Generic Wars and Miniature Figurines`  or even  Jez`s `Way of the Crow.` But then recently something happened which changed all that decision making and led me (for the first time) in a clear forward thinking decision. That decision was a bit of a brainstorm/brainwave really… to use the Clix rules (actually, our own re-write Clix Redux) to play all our superhero games from now on. Thanks to Simon, who sent us hundreds of empty Clix bases, it means we have a veritable heap of spares which we can use to create our own characters for our games.
You see,  I have so many options for Clix (due to now having so many empty bases), I can customise these to make my own proxies for all manner of new miniatures, which I can then put into the games as will.  As an example: I recently bought (on eBay I seem to recall) a group of a dozen 28mm Judges for Cursed Earth. These are beautiful miniatures, the old Mongoose ones I think, and perfect size for using alongside HeroClix. All I have to do is scrutinise  them carefully, and find a dozen bases with stats that seem suitable for each judge; a base for Hershey, one for Anderson, Judge Caligula, Judge Giant, Brit Cit Judge, etc etc etc then re-spray the top of each base (using a fine spray modelling gun), add in new name, photo shop a custom stat card, and bingo!!!! I have my own brand new custom built Heroclix miniature(s).
 I can do this for so many miniatures I have, all just crying out to be added to and used in my games, and now, by carefully mix and matching bases, the sky`s the limit to what I can actually do with this cool idea.
Which leads me on neatly to the new Doctor Who miniatures  game by Warlord games. I wondered long and hard whether I would just play the game straight out of the box: and watching Simon

 {from the `Fantorical` blog https://fantorical.blogspot.ie/ }

play this remarkable looking game, really gave me pause to sit back and think “do I want to go the official route and play this game straight out of the box, or do I want to use the wonderful components and miniatures contained within, and go my own route using whatever preferred  rules  I choose to use, to create my own style of Doctor Who adventures?”
I VERY nearly decided to play the game as intended, the Warlord Games way. But in the end several things stopped me dead in my tracks, right at the finish line. One influence was Jez {from Carrion Crows Buffet  https://carrioncrowsbuffet.wordpress.com/ } and his infectiously enthusiastic way of showing me you can enjoy any kind of gaming without always needing to have the right official model for the job….  Just make your own facsimile and make it look how you want it to look. This has had a big influence on me this year and I am grateful to him for his lateral way of thinking.
Another thing to influence me was the nagging thought in the back of my head that I don’t HAVE to buy into everything Warlord Games are selling for this new franchise. I don’t even like every miniature they do for their Doctor Who game, but I love enough of them to want to collect a fair few. The 35/38mm thing bothers me… but for things like the Daleks and Cybermen, I can easily wing this. I have hundreds of Hero and Horror Clix miniatures I can use to make as many Doctor Who proxies and facsimile models as I could possibly want, from Aliens to Monsters, side-kicks and out and out villains, to assistants or UNIT guys.  What`s more, with my newly acquired  pile of empty Clix bases, I could even mount the Daleks and Cybermen and all the lovely cherry picked Doctor Who miniatures I desire to pick up, on HeroClix bases, and be done with it. What a unique game I could make then huh? Never seen that done before, I think I might actually be the first, if I did go that route.
So, aware I have literally hundreds of usable 28mm miniatures going begging, and having long ago broken the addiction which makes me feel the need to buy everything that’s new, just because it is new and I don’t have it: I can see that I already have a full Doctor Who collection just waiting to be utilised. Fleshing this out with Daleks and other odds and ends will, thus, be a pleasant distraction from DIY gaming.
The rest of this year should promise to be quite an interesting time, full of many new hobby endeavours, done the good old typical Gilbert way.
Missy

Another reason I paused to think before diving deeply into playing and collecting for the official Doctor Who game is that… honestly, I think there are perfectly good alternatives which allow more game potential (for me) than the one Warlord Games is promoting. It looks GOOD yes I can`t deny it, but I have been watchful and, sat in on it being played with a keen, studious eye… at least half a dozen times now, on at least three separate occasions. In addition I sat and watched hours of it being played on you tube, and although it looked fun (like most Warlord Games do) I was not convinced it played just the way I wanted it to do.  I`m looking for more than  “I line my guys up six inches from the edge of the board, opposite the enemy: then both sides advance to the middle of the map, and pound hell out of each other in the process.”  I`m looking for narrative role play, and a Doctor who can duck and weave and run away, using his wits to win the day, not just brawn and a multitude of cool weapons. The Doctor Who game almost achieves this by a clever use of objectives and tokens, but it doesn’t go far enough to convince me of a true Doctor Who feel and tone.
And so at the very last moment I stopped and went, NO! And in that moment I made the decision to steer my own path, and create my own game… using as many of the official game components as I feel I want to add in… by cherry picking the bits I want – and as I need them.
Wish me luck, and I  shall update here as things develop. But for now, wooohooo!!!
Happy Gaming
Article by Steve.