Adventures in Midgard – “Prologue”

Well it’s been quite a while – I started talking about Fantasy Skirmish way back in August 2018, with the purchase of Open Combat and the Frostgrave sprue. Fast forward almost 3 years and I FINALLY have put some fantasty figures on the table and played a game of them using Open Combat by Second Thunder

The idea behind this game was something a little simple, to get myself and my Dastardly Regular Opponent up to speed with the system and have fun over a couple of hours on a sunny day. Combine this with the Sword Masters expansion sitting on my desk and having been planning some Swashbuckling games with The Sister to introduce her to wargaming, well it was time to actually play something. And for the first time since September, actually rolling dice against someone else!


As you can see from the handy paper prepared by a friend of mine, The Swordmasters of the Empire (think a combination of diplomat, spy and assassin) have been sent off into the wilds to hunt down a group of cultists that have captured a nobleman from one of the Empire’s client states. These Cultists are from a group worshipping the undead, seeking to summon various undead creatures to go forward and attack the Empire itself.

The team of Swordmasters have managed to catch up with the Cultists just as they prepare their ritual to summon a Shadow Knight from behind the curtain of unlife. The ruined Chapel amongst the trees is a suitable place for such a ritual, and the cultists have gathered in numbers.

Here we have our group of Swordmaster, their horses left further up the road for purposes of sneaking up on their opponents. All of them were made using the Swashbucklers profile in the Sword Masters addon book, but I tweaked each to fit their characters better with a profile adjustment and a new ability.

From left to right

  • Benfrey Jochman – The oldest of the three Initiates into the ways of being a Swordmaster. He’s the tankiest of the three, used to taking hits in a bar brawl.
  • Alastair von Ferrumgard – One of the leaders of the Swordsmasters, an inspiring Tutor to the Juinior initiates. He has trained the other three and, although age has slowed him, he is still able to inspire his students.
  • Lacelle O’Dicca – A rising star within the Swordmaster, Lacelle has proven herself to be deadly with the blade and quick on her feet.
  • Zorros Colvieri – The son of another Swordmaster, Zorros is… an asshole. Delighting in taunting his rivals, he also wears a suitable extravagant hat and cloak (and yes, these are items in the rule set).

All of them also have sword fighting skills like Lunge, Parry and Riposte which lets them do all sorts of things you’d expect from a group of heroes ala The Musketeers.

Zorros start off the plan by doing what he does best – distracting the enemy by making a lot of noise and standing out in the open, Taunting his opponent to lure them out of positions. However, as good as his skills were, the cultists were still wary.

Of course, Zorros hadn’t expected one of the cultists to step forward and pull his hood back to reveal a grinning skull! Turns out the cultists already had two undead servants, able to Intimidate our heroes to reduce their courage. This reveal may have shocked Zorros for a moment but he quickly continued his part of the plan, calling out the cultists and luring the guardians towards him.

Meanwhile, the other Swordmasters crept into position nearby, ready to sneak into try and disturb the ritual.

Of course, the Swordmasters hadn’t expect the cultists to have brought bows with them. As Zorros continued to heckle the guardians closer, one of the archers pulled his bow string and let loose. The arrow struck home, wounding the flamboyant Swordmaster.

Who responded by leaping upon the nearest piece of cover, insulting the cultists and dragging them closer to him.

Eager for the fight, the cultists joined in.

On the other side, Lacelle crept forward, planning to outflank the archers. However, the other skeleton warrior spotted her, revealing his frightening facade to her and causing a sense of dread in her. No one had mentioned there would be skeletons!

Despite their personal difference, Jochman considers it unwise to leave Zorros alone, and so creeps into position.

Pushing past her fear, and leaving Alastair to deal with the Skeleton, Lacelle instead climbed the wall, preparing to sneak up on one of the archers too focused on their ally.

Speaking of which, Jochman decided to take a more direct approach to assist Zorros. While the fight stood atop the barrels lunging forward to land strikes on his opponents, Jochman came barrelling in, trapping the Cultist Guardian between his and Zorro’s assaults

(Rules note: Landing a solid hit pushes a figure backwards, but if they can’t actually move the full distance they take an extra wound)

Very quickly, the skill of the two fighters took out the first of the cultists.

With a shout, Lavelle also managed to land a solid hit. As well as stabbing the archer, the battle pushed him off the top of the ruins and, with a cry, he fell to the floor, sustain almost enough damage to kill him. Almost.

While his younger colleagues got into the main fight, Alastair squared up against the skeleton… and entered into a multi-turn duel that had them moving back and forth like it was a fencing match.

With a cry, Zorros lept down from his cover and quickly finished off the other skeleton with a fancy set of sword fighting moves that pulled the undead creature apart.

In contrast, Jochman simply took a single strike to bring down his foe, before turning to hunt down a new target.

One of the archers, having just recovered from a fall off the ruins and starting to dust himself off, was surprised to see a very angry Swordmaster in black sprinting across the field towards him.

Meanwhile, Lacelle, seeing that the ritual was reaching a high point, decided that enough was enough and now was the time for drastic action. Running to the edge of the ruins, she dived towards to the Cult Leader…

Failed. Terribly. Landing short, she managed to attract the attention of the cult leader who turned around and, as all swashbuckling films tell us villains do, began to monologue.

Alastair, after several turns of back and forth with his skeletal rival, finally managed to land a killing blow.

Meanwhile, filled with revenge for the arrow that pierced his cloak, Zorros proceeded to run towards the archer. Sadly, an attempt to throw his hat (to distract the archer) ended with it fluttering gently towards the ground.

At the same time, Jochman also finished off the downed archer, knocking him down with a shoulder charge before rushing past to….

Come to the aid of Lacelle! Jochman interrupted the crazed rambling of the cult leader, giving time for O’Dicca to quickly recover and leap to her feet.

Now outnumbered, and with Alastair joining the fight too, the Cult Leader did the only thing sensible. Turning around to the captive and finishing the ritual, he slayed the Siccarian noble.

With a terrifying hiss and a sudden fog, the crumpled corpse of the nobleman was replaced with a Shadow Knight, a terrifying creature of undead bones and metal. With more attack, defence and fortitude than any other figures on the board, this would be a challenge.

Now, what the cult leader hadn’t realised it that Shadow Knight obeys no masters. So, when he attempted to order it around, it instead went and knocked a chunk out of his fortitude.

Facing such a betrayal, and unwilling to hang around to see who won between the Swordmasters and the horrible creature, he instead managed to disengage and flee the battlefield. Perhaps we’ll see him again?

Back in the centre of the battlefield, the three Swordmasters now engaged the horror from beyond space and time. Despite losing some mind to the Intimation of a such a monster, and wounds from it’s sweeping sword strikes, the Swordmasters managed to get in a good few hits…

And eventually, with one final rasping hiss, the Shadow Knight was defeated!

With only one model left, Zorros decided to end the battle with a final taunt. Finally, after a game of partial successes, he managed to fully succeed drawing the evil archer forward. In his rage, he failed to see that the platform ended where he stepped, leaving him to fall down and lose his final point of fortitude.


Well that was a pretty awesome game! I think Open Combat is a really great little system – it’s a quite simple core setup, using only D6s with a very small number of modifiers. In terms of play, it’s light enough that you can pick it up quickly but not too light that it feels simply like an excuse to roll dice with a beer or two – there are still plenty of tactical challenges and actions to consider. There is also so much you can play around with in the system, making it perfect for setting up a wide variety of characters to play around with, with various abilities, skills and weapons to let you create anything, especially with the Sword Masters add-on to include that final few touches.

You will be seeing a lot more of Open Combat in the future. I still want to try out Warcry properly (as well as other games) but Open Combat has (after this first game) definitely fit the niche I was want of some rules sit behind the narrative I’m wanting to write with my games. Not sure when the next game I play will be, but you’ll know for sure when it goes up!

Fantasy – The Disciples (Chaos Warriors)

“Taking their time down there aren’t they?”

The rough voice of the Northman Halfgar barked out, his grinning face looking around the group of warriors that stood among the scattered rocks and broken ruins of the entrance to the despoiled tomb. Rubbing the back of his hand on the rough stubble on his face, he continued, “Probably been killed by a tomb wraith or something. Or torn apart by skeletons. Maybe the Templars trapped them down there, hurr hurr” He chuckle again to himself, running a worn finger over the edge of his axe-head, his eyes jumping between his comrades

The other warriors, for the most part, just attempted to ignore him. Instead they focused on their own tasks. Wulf was busy preparing the fire, the former flame cultist staring directly into it as if looking for meaning in the flickering lights. The rest stood in formation around the cave entrance, looming over the rocks like a collection of statues placed among them, sentinels from a past time.

Halfgar’s laugh was only interrupted when one of the other warriors pulled off their helmet, revealing close cropped hair and an angry scowl. “Give it a rest Halfgar you swine. We all know you’re angling to take over, replace Rhazgra and become our lord’s Seneschal although somehow I doubt your idiot ambition would stop there.” The red haired woman smiled, pushing up the golden ring through her nose so it shined in the weak morning sunshine coming in over the top of the mountains. “Either stop being a coward and challenge her, or shut up and save us all hearing your voice. It sounds too much like goats rutting.”

He fixed her with a glare before cracking a smile revealing the tombstone like teeth in the front of his mouth. “Easy for you to say, Zorath, you’re all buddy buddy with one of her cronies. Bet you’re more than happy to let Arkfel wrap you in that stinking beast skin when we camp, snuggle alongside him to stay warm, hurr hurr”. He began to laugh harder, a hacking rumbling laugh, which only intensified once Zorath got to her feet with a look of rage in her eyes.

This time the laugh ended much faster, the sound of an armoured hand smacking the back of Halfgar’s head. He moved, a snarl in his throat about to turn into words when suddenly he found himself looking into a skull mask staring back at him. Dark eyes glared out of the eye sockets at him, daring him to respond before the dull low tone of Kazsour the Embalmer started to speak, echoing out from behind his death mask.

“Halfgar, son of Horath, your comments towards your comrades bring much dissent, breaking the common bonds of warriors that bind us together. Your repeated insults to your leader bring you shame. It would be wise to hold your tongue.” The stare he fixed Halfgar with continued until the younger warrior looked down, all trace of the arrogant smirk now gone.

Kazour hefted the warhammer onto his shoulder, looking around over the mountains. The others bowed their heads to him slightly – Kazour had been a warrior longer than many of them had been alive, a rarity in the warriors. After the battle was done, it was he who would collect the dead for final rites, preparing them to go into the great beyond. Even Rhazgra, their leader, knew to take his advice – she would always bring him into council meetings with her, a calming presence against the manic rage of the Herald and the overpowering command of their Lord.

“We are our Lord’s Disciples, his followers into war. From his commands, we follow The Seneschal. This task we have been given, will bring us great favour with our Lord and his Patron. Now, prepare yourself – the enemy is close and we must prepare to defend for as long as The Seneschal and our brothers needs us to.”

I’ve written about my first lot of Chaos Warriors (the Underworlds Warband) in a previous post. For me, that group was always going to be the introduction into painting a full force of the heavily armoured icons for skirmish games. That first post includes my screed on why the Chaos Warriors are so awesome and so I’ll not reprint it here. The main focus in this post is talking about the models I finished off, which can split into two groups, the New and the Old.

Soon after picking up the Underworlds Warband, I started looking for how to expand. There are two sets of Chaos Warriors available. The main box is the classic plastic set, with models that have been in circulation long enough for them to still be the primary way of getting your hands on the heavily armoured fridges. I’ll detail more on them later.

The other set are a small number of models that were included in the Start Collecting box for Slaves to Darkness. Being much newer, these are less focused on the ability to rank up (Age of Sigmar having become a much more skirmish-y game than Warhammer every was) but are still incredibly easy to assemble. In fact, these models are push fit assembly, not even requiring glue. They are also incredibly dynamic, covered in details and might be some of my favourite troop models from Games Workshop.

In terms of assembly, the only option you have are picking is heads – everyone is armed with a hand weapon and shield combo either in hand or slung over their back. There are two heads for each model – one with a helmet and one without. I’m really impressed with the variation of both options – there is a nice mix of helmet styles and different facial features. Now, I’m kind of make it a goal to become slightly better at painting faces – the good old “flesh tone + wash” is fine for bulk armies such as my WW2 British or my moderns but for more character focused games, it makes sense to make the people look like heroes rather than line troopers. For this reason I did a few extra figures with exposed heads, rather than going purely for the faceless bad guy look.

I’ll cover painting in a second because…


Upon hearing that I was working on some Chaos Warriors, my Dastardly Regular opponent decided to throw a spanner at my ratio and dug out this box of Chaos Warriors that were buried in his shed. No, literally buried, I watched him dig through the piles of stuff to get them out. The sprue was pre-owned but only missing a single body, giving me an additional 11 warriors for the war band. The box design also gave me a vague clue to the age, as I remember visiting the Games Workshop in Exeter while on a family holiday in my childhood and being dragged away from a box very similar to this. And that was back around 2003.

Now, these old Warriors are absolute classics. In contrast to their newer Age of Sigmar brethren, they are much more static looking figures, with the entire unit sharing the same pose. You get a nice selection of heads, the ability to choose between dual weapons and hand weapon + shield combo as well as pieces for a champion, standard bearer and musician (from back in the olden days).

I ended up assembling them with shields and hand weapons (to match their more modern brethren). I also skipped out on the banner bearer and musician, they aren’t hugely useful in the skirmish games I’ll use them for). However, I did use the champion head and the skull face mask – they seem ideal to break up the group, especially the skull. As you can see in the start, the combination of the skull and warhammer is the starting point for a cool character idea.


For both sets of models, I went with the same paint scheme I used on my underworld figures. The Lead Belcher + Black Contrast works really well for getting the pitch black armour while the purple of the cloaks nicely offsets it. The actual scheme is quite fast to get onto the model, taking full advantage of wolf furs and washes to get everyone done. With the bare heads, it was fun painting the actual features, using the Contrast paints and then lightly highlighting to get the detailed look. I’m honeswtly impressed overall

With these Chaos Warriors done, a big chunk of my Chaos force is done. I did start looking at the Chaos Knights, but did not have a good time painting the horses. There are a lot of details hidden away that still need touching up. I’ve also been distracted by other things, but I think I might paint up the various Chaos warbands (such as the Scions of the Flame and the Godsworn Hunt/Darkoath figures) before coming back to the heavy armour.

Fantasy – Rhazgra the Seneschal and Retinue

The dark armoured warriors stepped further into the darkness of the tunnels, moving carefully over the loose sand and scree that covered the incline. There were four of them, the rest of the band left above to guard the entrance against any intruders while the chosen few ventured deep into the tombs. They were looking for something, something to bring their lord greater power.

At the bottom of the stone ramp the warriors paused, listening. The tunnels around them were inky black, not even the strange glowing crystal the cave above had contained. It was also quiet, still, not even the sound of the wind whistling through the caverns.

“Rhalar, light.” The tone of the leader of the band, Rhazgra the Seneschal, was short and to the point, the brisk words of a commander used to seeing her action done. She didn’t bother to turn, instead crouching behind her shield, her mace held low in the enclosed space.

“Of course, sister” the taller mage answered, her voice with an ethereal edge to it, the greenish glow of the scars in her cheek become stronger as her hand ignited, green fire wreathing it like a beast desperate to flee. With a delicate motion, she place the fire inside the top of the staff, letting it writhe over the metal as in it was in pain.

“Where to now Seneschal? These tunnels all look the same.” The Dour asked, his voice like the grinding of stone against stone, his axe resting against his shield as his helm leaned forward.

“Rhalar will guide us, won’t you beautiful?” Arkfel the Slayer, the pelt of a great scaled beast over his shoulder moving as he laughed quietly to himself, only stopping when he felt the glower from his leader.

Ignoring such pedestrian things, the sorcerer lifted her glowing hands, the magical energy now spilling fully from her eyes and the scars on her face before evaporating into the air. She turned to look down each of the tunnels, the glow seeing to burn away the darkness, before she focused on one in particular. “The way ahead. There is something dangerous, old, long dead but now disturbed.” Rhalar lifted up her hands, letting the staff float beside her as she pushed her mind forward, attempting to understand the presence before her.

“The treasure’s guardian? Or something else those damn Templars have disturbed?” Rhazgra asked, turning slightly to look at her sister. Spotting the way her hands shook and the way green fire was emitting from her eyes even as her face creased with the effort, Rhazgra placed her shield down and delicately guided her sister’s hand back to the staff, the cold metal bringing her back to the present. She seemed to sign, her shoulders heaving as she drank in the cool air.

“Careful, beloved sister. It would be unwise for you to push yourself too hard before we have reached the prize. I’ll need your mind to unlock it’s traps.” She pulled her taller sister’s head down so their brows met, the anxious sweat of the mage resting against the cool of the warrior. “Besides,” she smiled “I would hate to have to leave you behind in favour of the treasure.”

Rhalar smiled. “I know sister, but I do not think you will need to. I know The Patron smiles on us this day. I can feel her whispers in the air.”

Yep, it happens to the best of us. Eventually anyone playing Sci-fi or Fantasy finds themselves looking at Chaos Warriors and reflecting on just how cool they look. They combine the glorious appeal of knights in armour but with that dark fantasy baroque look that means they just drip with character. They are the warriors that burn down the hero’s village as child, thus setting off the story. They are the Dark Figures that chase your heroes across the plains, slaying anyone in their way. And right at the end, they are the army you fight through to take on their leader. As you might guess, I adore the artwork and mental images, even if the normal models (released back in Warhammer Fantasy Battle days) are very static/designed for ranking up.

Seeing as I’m now working on very small (honesty) fantasy collection, and after seeing the Underworld Warband back when it was announced, I decided that these much more dynamic warriors were exactly what I wanted. Each of them looked like a real threat, a champion of the dark gods assembled alongside allies and rivals to take the fight to the enemy. What better troops to follow my Chaos Lord (who I’ve designed as some kind of Cursed Warrior/Undying King) than a collection of highly skilled individuals who just happen to be able to work together.


As a test bed, I decided to paint up the Underworld Warband “Khagra Ravagers”. Comprising of three warriors and a mage, it’s a great little introduction into the range. There are lots of shared character design elements among them – the armour and cloak combination, the multiple weapons and shield all ready to go, the smattering of decorations showing their allegiance.

As an aside, before I get into the figures, I’m just going to mention that I’m using my own names and descriptions for them. As much as I like Games Workshop’s setting, I’m one of those people who really like writing their own settings, characters and stories. As part of this, these four warriors will form the leaders of my Chosen Warriors, set to accompany the Lord into battle (seeing as he fights on foot). Additionally, as the greatest warriors among them, they are sent off to do specific tasks for their leader, ideally setting them up for small skirmish games.


First up we have a Warrior with shield and axe, ready to attack but in a relatively guarded pose. This is “The Dour”, an old warrior in a profession where that is a rarity. He’s basically Rhazgra’s main advisor/strong man, ready to offer the blunt opinion when required but then following her orders to the letter.

He’s also just really fun to paint, a relatively open pose with lots of finer details to add to. As the first figure painted, this was where I decided on the colours I would be using. Going for Valejo’s Royal Purple for the cloak really helps to make them look regal. I also used the classic Leadbelcher for the armour but after a quick look, a layer of black contrast over the top made it look the classic black armour that the Chaos Warriors are known for. On most, I decided to use mostly brass colours rather gold, helping to make them look less “fancy” than any Templars I am doing. The exception was the leader and mage, the gold marking them out as a little more important.


Next, with a weapon in each hand and animal pelt over the shoulder we have Arkfel the Slayer. With a pose like that, leaving himself entirely open and daring his enemy on, he seems like a real charming bastard of a warrior. Combine that with the pelt over his shoulder, I worked up the idea of the charming asshole who knows he has the skills to backup his boasting. Plus, if I’m doing the writing, a perfect partner to the mage, standing there to taunt attackers away from his beloved.

This guy is really similar pose to the Slambo figure from the olden days and I kind of love it. It was really fun working on him, especially with the scales over his shoulder. I originally started off with the colours reversed, only swapping to a more realistic look once I double checked some reference.


Rhazgra the Seneschal is of course the leader of this warband, standing in a dynamic pose to command her warriors forward. Her gear is more ornate than her fellows, she goes to battle without her helmet and that sneer of command. In her role as Seneschal, she is responsible for making sure her Lord’s affairs are in order, as well as enforcing his commands and protecting him with the help of the Chosen. At other times, she will go and do important tasks and quests herself. As for her (and her sister’s) origins, they are shrouded in mystery. Some say she is the daughter of a northern tribal chief, others say she ran away from the Templars as a teenage trainee to protect her sister. Either way, she’s a formidable warrior and great leader of her force.

As the figure that attracted to me this band, I was very careful to try and get her done just right. As well as the ornate details, the face is really well sculpted. Normally, my faces are apply base colour, wash, finish, barely even bothering to do the eyebrows. With Rhazgra, I used the Reikland fleshshade but then went back, adding eyebrows, highlights for the nose and cheek bones as well as a touch of gold though the piercing on her eyebrow. The markings on the side of her head were an attempt at tattoos which I think have the right effect. I also spent a lot of time on the hair, working from the black basecoat to the strip of white. In sort of the opposite way, I started off the wolf pelt with a very light grey, working my way down until the layer of black contrast paint over the top portions. Overall, I’m really happy with this model, one of the ones I’m most proud of.


And then we get to the mage.

So at first I originally painted her up using the original head. This sculpt was my least favourite in the set. I understand the visual of the cursed mage with the horns and hairless, and it makes sense for Warhammer. But in my head, this wasn’t the look I was wanting for the warband. These are supposed to be well trained and skilled warriors, not yet corrupted fully. The other issues was that the head lacks a lot of the details I’d usually rely on when painting – it’s not got much topological features to let the wash run into. I tried my best with the black and gold bands but it just looks so agressively… eh.

After a weekend of staring at the model, I decided enough is enough and went looking for an alternative head. I had, a while ago, purchased some alternative Stormcast heads (which are now being used in my Templar forces which I’ll be showing off soon) so I could get away from the “nope, we’re totally not space marines” look. Those heads, waiting for me to finish the box of Paladins I got for cheap from the local corner shop back up in Edinburgh for a tiny price, have been in my bits tray for a while. Pulling them out, I found one which was ideal, matching the look of Rhazgra while still looking a little magical. The only problem was that all the detail was on the wrong side of the head, forcing a slight change in pose.

Removing the head without damaging the paintwork was one of those butt clenching moments of hobby, trying very hard to scrape as little away as possible. Luckily I made a clean cut, cleaned up the resin part and then re-assembled the head into the slot, undercoating it via brush.

And now, here she is finished – Rhalar. With the new head, she looks like a true battle mage, just as likely to kick your ass with her fists than she is with magic. This better suits the mental image of her, working as her sister’s magical aid right next to her in battle. Her origins are as mysterious as her Sister’s and she shows promise of an even greater level of magic than she has already shown.

I’m really happy with the headswap, elevating this figure from okay to something I’m really happy with. I like how similar this model is in terms of gear to the actual warriors (such as the armour, cloak and the fur around her neck) while still having plenty of pieces that are different enough to make her stand out. The flames were especially fun to paint – I used the Hexwraith technical paint over a white basecoat and it worked out exactly as planned. I also managed to drip a little bit into the scars on her face, just to show the magic beginning to seep out.


Overall, this Underworlds unit was a fantastic way into painting more fantasy figures. I really recommend anyone interested in trying out a new Warhammer army take a look at these figures – they have some really nice details and it isn’t a huge amount of models to paint up. I’m also pretty happy with how the group has turned out, with a paint scheme that is relatively simple but looks awesome.

Next stage with these guys? Well I have 10 warriors, 5 knights and a lord on angry crocodile to finish off in a similar way to this warband. Beyond them, there are a few more less armoured chaos fighters to paint before I can move onto the big parts of the force – my Lord and his Patron.

Only a little terrified at the prospect of those two.

Project Fantasy Skirmish – Update 1

So it’s been a while since I last talked about Fantasy Skirmishing. Mainly because, like a wargames butterfly, I was distracted by something shiny and disappeared off into doing non-wargaming things for a bit (as well as losing motivation). However, this didn’t stop me picking more models and continuing to think about adventures

Name Change

First of all, you may notice the name of this project has been changed. The reason is pretty simple – after finally settling on a story or setting, I realised dungeons would end up only being a little part of the games I’d want to play. Sure progressing through a maze of tunnels is fun, but so is ambushing carts on a forest road, brawling in the local tavern or even sneaking past the town guards through the streets of some fantasy town.

The other reason was the lack of chandeliers in most dungeons.

Setting

I mentioned setting above. Well, I’ve been talking with a friend, often about story ideas, and we came up with a fantasy setting to base some of them in. The world takes a lot of inspiration from other fantasy settings, along with a few twists of our own. Now, it’s still in development, so lots of things keep changing with it. You might see a few names change even between posts on this blog.

This is the continent of Eutanica, one of many on the Lonely Sphere. It is split between two rival kingdoms. In the North, the King of the Dark Elves rule – his navy crosses the seas to bring back slaves and plunder from other continents while worship of the twin Elven gods of War and Shadows powers his armies. In the South, the Queen of the Iron Kingdoms gives praise to the Morrigan, her nation a patchwork quilt of smaller kingdoms united under a common ruler. It advances ahead thanks to bottling lighting and using it to power a host of machines, from weapons of war to great Iron Ships. These two powers, once almost close to being united through friendship, were torn apart by a flashing blade and now exist in a state of semi-war.

And in between these two superpowers? The Marches.

Comprising of multiple smaller nations, The Marches are what have stopped these two greater powers from attempting to wipe each other out. None of these independent kingdoms has the might to challenge the Dark Elves or the Iron Kingdoms but neither would they be simple to overrun and subject. Instead, this separation has started a cold war, with both superpowers seeking to improve their influence over the buffer, gently pushing the balance of power. Both powers send their agents, such as the dreaded Dark Elf Shades and the Swordmasters of the Iron Kingdoms to assemble alliances, impress the locals and generally push their agenda forward.

And this is where the players come in.

The idea

I am a fan of narrative wargaming, to put it mildly. So my concept for this project is that each fantasy skirmish will be wired together to form miniature campaigns. Each “campaign” will represent a single quest, with the players picking small groups to represent their adventuring companies. And like every quest, each will begin with a meeting (sometimes in a tavern), progress through the mission’s various stages (with smaller battles) and usually end in some terrifying finale against a dangerous foe (ranging from rival agents to the undead to servants of the Elder Gods).

The actual battles will probably be fought using Open Combat, giving a versatile tool kit to build everything from a ratman with a knife up to Greater Demons of the Dark Prince (…maybe… if something goes very VERY wrong for the players). I’m only aiming for small battles so we don’t need to deal with things like ranked up groups. Open Combat is also relatively easy to bolt stuff onto, so weird effects like magic shouldn’t be too hard to stick on.

Painted Figures

Of course, all these games need figures. More importantly, my collection is full of unpainted fantasy figures that someone bought and the painting logbook is merciless. Let’s take a look at what I have done so far.

Iron Kingdoms Ruffian

Ruffians, rogues, scum of all kinds. A good recruiter will find them throughout the Marches, even if their quality does vary from soldier to soldier.

First model painted, this is a Ghost Archipelago crewman. The main thing here was getting used to contrast paint for the skin and painting things other than camo. There are going to be a chunk of these Ruffians assembled and painted. Mainly because these guys will form the core of most adventuring parties or (if not chosen) be causing havoc while working for rival employers.

Lacelle “Gordelan” O’Dicca, Swordmaster

Swordmasters are the Iron Kingdom’s main agents in the foreign lands. Trained in the ways of the blade and the wit, Swordmasters travel around to push their Queen’s agenda. Lacelle is one such Swordmaster. As fast with her tongue as she is with her blade, O’Dicca is notorious for causing havoc and mayhem wherever she goes.

One of North Star’s Swordmasters, this was one of those models I just had to have. Painting the puffy sleeves (in Iron Kingdoms red and white none the less) was especially fun. She may not be on the board very often, but I guarantee she will cause havoc.

Benfrey Jochman, Swordmaster

Perfectly paired, Benfrey is the yin to Lacelle’s yang. While she is fast talking and emotive, Benfrey is usually quieter, lurking in the corner of the tavern waiting to tell the poor saps she has hired exactly what they will be doing. In battle he works perfectly alongside the quick strikes of O’Dicca, often delivering crushing final blows.

The other Swordmaster, painted up to be contrasting with Lacelle. At the same time, the red and white cloth at his waist shows off his allegiances.

‘Mouse’, ThIEf

For many in Eutanica, poverty can often be a bad harvest away. Luckily, ‘Mouse’ has developed a very special set of skills to assist her in redistributing wealth in her advantage. And for a fee, she’ll join your adventuring group to use them for other purposes.

I really like this little figure. Small than the others in the range, she just looks the very model of a fantasy thief.

Syghilda, Dark Woods Wanderer

Between the lands of Siccarius and Ruskov lies The Dark Wood. Many leagues across, this dense forest is a place of superstition and danger. Some say that the Elder Gods themselves stalk between those trees, their servants living alongside humans who fled into there thousands of years ago. Occasionally, denizens of this forest venture out to live among the more civilised people of Eutanica. With pale skin covered in strange eldritch markings, they are worthy warriors, unnaturally tough and strong.

This was a fun model to paint. Lots of exposed flesh to cover in my attempt at tattoos and then a bright vibrant hair colour to draw the eye. She fits the Celtic barbarian idea that the Dark Wood’s inhabitants are supposed to evoke, even if she is a little bit more refined.

Ser Renault, Knight of Fransya

North of the Iron Kingdoms, Fransya is ruled by a monarch but the individual peasants owe the fealty to one of 12 Knightly Families, each with their own traditions. Blood matters little to these families – a knight must prove themselves worthy of the name, often by embarking on quests elsewhere in the Marches.

Honestly, super simple to paint but super evocative. I love everything about this model, from the posing to the mix of armour and cloth. I went for a simple tabard, as this questing knight hasn’t earned the right to wear his house’s full colours.

Zarqaa, Farisian Demon Hunter

Hailing from a land across the sea, the Farisian Demon Hunters travel the world to slay creatures of the Elder Gods wherever they may be found. Painting their skin in ash to hide their presence from the beasts, they have many tools to banish or trap their prey. The gold on their cloaks can attract wandering eyes, but the large sword is often warning enough.

Another evocative model, whose back story was written while painting. The mix of weapons and layers of clothing were fun to paint – a light coloured lower cloth is probably all she would need back home but the other layers hold back the chill. Plus, I’m excited to introduce this sort of character into quests.

The Old Lioness, Iron Kingdoms ADVENTURER

Not all heroes can settle into a quieter life. The Old Lioness is one restless soul, happier travelling the roads than settling down to live by a fireplace. Strangely, records of a woman resembling her have existed for centuries, leading some to question just how old she really is…

One of the Heritor models. I really like this set, and for her, I went with the old adventuer look. Drybrushing on the grey hair is fun, but also adding touches like armoured plate beneath her clothing to lure in the unaware

Death Knight

In ancient places, far from home,
In tattered skin and browning bone,
Metal rusts, fabric decays, all goes below,
But Evil is a hardier foe…

I don’t have to say much – this figure is one of those that got me out of my funk and back into painting. It reeks of evil and malice, standing taller than most other figures, thin but also worrying. This is an enemy that will appear in the finale, the corroded metal and exposed bone there to terrify the players…

Cultists of the Undead

The dead should say dead, say the Covenant of the Iron Kingdoms. However, dark magics exist in this world and some mortal men wish to put the dead to other purposes. These necromancers often form cults around their work, offering immortality in exchange for service.

These were fun models to paint. I think my gold was a little too thick (I’ve lost some of the detail on the masks) but it is a nice contrast to the black robes and corroded metal. Plus great weapons to smash apart those goodie two shoes wanting to interrupt their master’s work.

Skeleton Cultists

Although skeletons with rotting clothes may have a certain visceral horror to them, loyal acolytes are much better when dressed as they were in life. And returning them as the undead means they are much less likely to tell the local constables exactly what their master is up to when captured…

These guys. Skeletons in robes have a glorious comedy to them even while looking horrifying for the part. I had great fun painting the bone thanks to how easy washes and well-sculpted figures make it.


So that’s the new update done. Obviously, I have a lot of painting ahead of me, and a lot of games to plan. I’m in the progress of planning the first few adventures (which is mostly assembling generic scenarios and working out the right bad guys for them) but the main thing is going to be finishing off the figures I have while trying very hard to not buy any more. One of the advantages of fantasy is just how many ranges full of shiny things there are…

And what’s next?

Elves. Damn, dirty, scheming Dark Elves

Project Dungeon Crawl – The Additional Players

Ah time to catch up on some of those side projects…

Oh.

As you might have guess by the slow down on the main blog, I just didn’t have time for very much other than moderns for the last little bit and so my fantasy adventuring plans have gone literally nowhere. I still have a pile of unpainted models on my desk and I have yet to even play a single game of Open Combat.

However, that wasn’t going to stop me picking up some sprues and creating a few more adventurers to go into the dungeons. Kicked off by the arrival of single spures on ebay for the new female soldiers, I quickly grabbed some off eBay and got to work.

ghost archipelago Crewmen

Hailing from the more tropical realms of Frostgrave’s sister game Ghost Archipelago, these 5 figures have a bit more of a tropical pirate vibe to them. However, I think they would work pretty well as the townsfolk of this northern town once they are indoors or in the underground. For this reason, I decided to go with the less “sea dog looking heads”. These are going to be the poor peasants or workers, suddenly interrupted by the appearence of cultists or barbarians (or maybe worse)

Assembly wise, it’s obvious there is the same feel to them as the other Frostgrave kits. I didn’t try any cross assembly but it might look a little unusual with the difference in clothing styles.

Let’s take a look at what I assembled, going from left to right

  • Simple bowman – maybe someone to be encountered out in the woods near the city, moments before something nasty appears.
  • Big axe, bag on back – either another woodland dweller or maybe a merc hired to cut through obstacles before grabbing the loot.
  • Bandana, beard, sword – simple cannon fodder. Ideal for a bar fight.
  • Mohawk, sword, simple clothes – another sailor ideal for throwing into the mix
  • Okay, this guy is my secret favourite. Floppy hat, club in hand, closed fist. I am willing all my luck

I’m actually tempted to pick up some more sprues of this, especially if I decide to add some docks to the city for the opportunities. So expect to see more of these guys.

Female Soldiers

I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on these girls for a while, especially after seeing the original previews. I really like the style they have gone for, continuing the wrapped up warm look that the original figures had while being sculpted to still look feminine. These all look like tough practical fighters working in winter conditions.

Options wise, there is the same mix of kit as the original spures, everything from bows and crossbows to various swords and spears. There is a great selection of heads

So lets look at who I assembled. Again going from left to right

  • I went for a classic adventurer look here, here striding forward, resting on her spear as she treks into the mountains.
  • This one is probably going to be used as the leader of the adventuring party. Cape hanging off there back sword held low as she advances, her mouth covered in a cloth against the environment.
  • An experienced fighter, axe in one hand and a bow in the other
  • Big lady with a big axe. This figure also has the two-part ponytail head, slightly moved to give her some motion
  • I think the hood and crossbow makes her look like some form of tracker, ideally suited for living up above the snow line

Overall, this is a really nice alternative to the normal soldier sprue if you want some additional variations. There is a good selection of parts and they do look different to their male variants – it’s definitely more than just a headswap.


So where do we go from here? I really like both of the sets I’ve take a look at, and I’m tempted to play around with the crewman sprues a little more to make some more civilians.

Next step: Actually do some painting.

Project Dungeon Crawl – Assembling the Cast

Do not adjust your set, you’re about to look at a post that may not quite match with what you normally come to the blog for. But don’t worry, we’ll be back in the modern-day on Friday.

As I’ve said before, modern wargaming is still my favourite thing. But you know, maybe it’s time for a side project or two. For a while I’ve wanted to do something Fantasy related. I’ve also wanted something that is relatively quick to play and easy to pick up. I bought Open Combat earlier this year and after reading it (and talking to the author at Chillcon) it seemed perfect to act as a base. However, it’s not a ChargeBlog project until I break out the rule writing and there is a specific type of game I’ve wanted to run:

Dungeon Crawling

As such ,Project Dungeon Crawl is made out of three parts:

  1. A set of rules designed to tie games of Open Combat together, let players create an adventuring party and the generate the dungeons with ease.
  2. Dungeon Tiles – after all you’re going to need somewhere to fight through
  3. Some figures suitable for dungeon delving

We’ll look at the first two parts in future posts but today we’re going to focus on building the troops. Before deciding what I wanted to buy, I had to think about the look I was going for. The plan was for some dirty grimey low fantasy, with the dungeon delvers being the city watch fighting through the sewers and caverns against the thieves and cultists that inhabit them. The Frostgrave Soldiers box seemed ideal for my purposes based on pictures of the sprue and the examples I’ve seen produced from it.

After breaking out the plastic glue (last seen building crashed C130s) and sitting down with a box of sprues, it was time to get building.

Soldiers

The Frostgrave Soldier box comes with four identical frames of various plastic pieces. The max number of figures you can build from each sprue is limited by the bodies included on each one, giving you 5 figures per sprue giving you 20 in the box. The rest of the frame is packed full of items – there is a nice variety of weapons you’d want in an adventuring party as well as plenty of tools and kit to really make them look like a group carrying all the kit needed to get past all the various traps you may meet. I really like the lantern – perfect for going through dark tunnels. One comment i was about to make was in regards to the relatively few left handed weapons (other than a small knife); however I then realised that with only a little extra work you could easily use some of the clenched left hands after clipping the weapons apart.

The box doesn’t include an exact construction guide but most of the bits that are multi part (such as the bows) are located close to each other to make things easier. The plastic is pretty tough meaning that there was very little damage to the pieces when clipping them from the frame. Overall, it’s a great frame to work with. I will say that after finishing a box I have a literally pile of arms, heads and more waiting to be used – all I need is some more bodies and bases.

Anyway enough technical stuff, lets take a look at what I’ve made so far. These are all WIP – they are not quite ready for painting as I might go back and add a few other items and do the last bits of cleanup.

Group 1 was the very first figures I made once the box arrive. The idea for these is to represent the City Watch while looking at the options. From left to right we have:

  1. The technically minded crossbow wielding adventurer, laden down with bolts and kit needed for dismantling traps (or reassembling them)
  2. The hardened tunnel fighter with sword, sword knife and armed helm to jump into battle in the darkness
  3. The classic “axe and board” guard ready in a defensive pose
  4. The grizzled watch veteran, lighting the way but ready to switch to his great sword when needed
  5. The foppish bowman, probably more used to spending his time above ground, pointing out the cultist/man sized rats climbing out of the sewers.

Group 2 was part . Again from left to right:

  1. Another laden down crossbowman – unsure if it’s supplies needed for dungeon delving for just space for ill gotten loot.
  2. A Sword and Board guard in full effect ready to rush into battle.
  3. Sven – doesn’t take kindly if asked about being a northman in the tavern. The combination of great axe and helmet just sold me on the idea of viking looking big man.
  4. “Who goes there” in plastic form. Probably more useful as a tavern keeper hearing noises after closing or a concerned citizen.
  5. The most accurate of dungeon adventurers – torch in one hand, sword in the other, distinct look of unease on his face as he shuffles into the darkness.

Of course, after building the first group of soldiers I realised that it might be time to pick up some of the other plastic kits so I could do some mixing and matching. After finding the sprues available individually on eBay, I got some ordered and then picked up some bases and heroes from Northstar.

Cultists

The cultists frame follows the same basic idea as the soldiers sprue – 5 bodies and a pile of accessories. As well as equipment with a different style to it, the spure has some cool additions to theme some of your characters. There are several skeletal and zombie parts (including heads and arms) so you could easily assemble undead or reanimated versions of your goons if a necromancer is in play. I really like the heads – the hooded versions come in plenty of styles while the unmasked sets are packed full fo character. This sprue had a few more items that were designed to replace the hands of other arms so having a sharp scapel was useful. There are also a few sets of belt kit with bits of bone and mysterious bottles that just sell the point of this pack.

After having built the figures you see below, I can easily see myself going back and building more cultists when the situation demands a horde of robed goons.

Using just the cultists sprue, I threw together these rather unsavoury looking chaps. As I theme I wanted to make these guys look very cult-y so it was pointed caps for everyone. From left to right:

  1. I was inspired by the zombie parts to add them to a few of the cultists, maybe showing that following a death cult is a bad idea. Not sure the ingame effect but I’m sure pointing a rotten hand towards people might not be the most inspiring sight
  2. This guy is similar to the first although with the opposite hand beginning to decay. I also used the knife arm from the soldier pack to give him a weapon.
  3. The Heavy for the cult, giant maul in hand
  4. Some sort of jailor or warden for the cult, with spear for poking captives and a chain for shaking threateningly at people
  5. A mainline cultists with sickle and knife. I modified the knife hand to adjust the pose, making it look a but more dynamic

Of course the point of buying more spures was to start combing parts. The idea behind these was to be able to use them in multiple roles, either as other cult members, criminals or members of the watch (assuming they have reached the bottom of the barrel for new recruits). The heads from the cultists sprue (including the zombie ones) really give these guys a very different feel to the normal soldiers. From left to right:

  1. A criminal ready for tunnel fighting with axe in one hand, knife in the other and a bag of swag on his back
  2. I really love the later but this guy is interesting due to the conversion work. After using the top of a two-handed axe on character number 5, I used the bottom end of it and paired it with the sword held by the skeleton on the cultists frame. The chipped blade gives him a slightly different feel to the other lantern holders above. Also the gritted long teeth and hood just makes him look like a real bastard.
  3. Zombie head means this guy isn’t a great looker but I really like the setup. Combing the cultist curved sword and shield together with the soldier body, makes him look like a different breed of soldier. Maybe a specialised hunter journeying into the dark on the path for revenge.
  4. The other zombie headed soldier is combined with the pair of arms that make the great sword ready to swing. Adding some pouches to make this chap look a bit more well equipped and I think we’ve found a suitable grim-looking monster slayer.
  5. The pointing hand is challenge due to the lack of left-handed weapons. However, but using the two-handed axe top and an open grip, I was able to assemble this guy. He also has a coil of rope and a club on his back, making him a well prepared adventurer. Perhaps he is pointing out a door that needs cleaving open.

Barbarians

As you might have guessed the barbarian sprue also matches the idea of the soldier spure with five suitable attired bodies and then plenty of options for them. This entire spure screams “Big gits with big axes and big beards” from the posing on the bodies to the focus on axes and hammers. As with the cultists, there is a similar selection of weapons to the original soldiers spure but with a very different feel to it. There are also plenty of knives, axes and other little items to include on your figures. In fact, between the five barbarians and the five semi-barbarians I actually used up everything off this set.

First up we have the full-blooded angry northmen and their furry cloaks to look at. From left to right:

  1. Come on. That head, big ass axe, dynamic pose? How could I not make a not-Conan?
  2. I really had fun building this old archer, covering him in little addons like his quiver but also some knives for when things get close. I can see him being useful as a scout like character.
  3. A more restrained warrior in a threatening pose ready for combat to begin.
  4. Another older looking figure, this time using the spear. Perhaps the brother to number 2, helping him with the hunt?
  5. Big hammer, flowing cloak, armoured helm. I can see this guy being the big guy the party needs to take out the dungeon.

Like with the cultists, I swiftly got to work mixing bits. I think this combination of soldier body and barbarian heads works really well – it makes them still look like part of the civilised group but still wild like their brothers outside the city. From left to right:

  1. In a charging pose, this berserker has a sword in one hand and a throwing axe glued to the other. I trimmed the bottom of it off so it would fit properly in the hand.
  2. Even northmen need a sword and board, although this one is using a bit hammer instead
  3. Even the vikings get a crossbowman. I like the unbearded head – a nice change from the beard patrol.
  4. A bit of conversion work here with adding a torch to the clenched fist. It hasn’t glued 100% straight so I might go back and tweak. This guy has a knife out but additionally has a knife on his back and an axe hanging from his belt.
  5. This final soldier has gone all in on carrying items with a sack over his shoulder and a bag hanging from his waist. Combined with the dual wielding, he is obviously very prepared for adventure.

Alongside the bases I ordered from Northstar, I realised that I needed a few other items to make the order sensible (and not just postage). Thinking more about my plans for what dungeon crawling might eventually entail (and delving into the metal figures in Northstar’s Frostgrave range) I decided that I should get a few villains for the piece. The plan is that the barbarians and cultists represent two different threats to the city above and that conducting dungeon raids would eventually reveal their plots. As such, I’m sure the groups will need some characters to get involved – perhaps to turn up and get rid of them meddling kids.

For the cultists I picked up the Lich and their apprentice. I love the sculpting on these figures, with the Lich looking terrifying and the book wielding side kick like the slimy weasel that escapes from the heroes at every turn. Open Combat doesn’t currently have a magic system other than counting certain abilities as spells (although a supplement is coming to fill this) but I have a few ideas on how to make encountering either of these two a bad idea for your party. For the barbarians, I went for bigger badder beardier. I went the Barbarian Knight and Templar set. The hammer equipped chap will probably be the chieftain planning to take over the town while the horned helmet chap work great as his second in command.


So there we are, the first step is taken. I am a massive fan of the Frostgrave range so far and it’s very hard to avoid picking up more of their figures to fill in the rosters. I’m also quite excited for the female adventurers coming soon and will probably take a look once they are released.

The plan for the next few weeks of side project is to start getting these figures painted up. I would normally base with sand, but I think more of a stone/dirt colour for these guys. I’m also going to do some more writing work, nailing down the back story and getting the rules for mission and dungeon generation done. And I probably need to get a few games of Open Combat in to get some more play time with the rules.