Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Song of Blades and Heroes with the Lad...

Song of Blades and Heroes, by Ganesha Games is a relatively simple skirmish game. With slightly more than half a dozen figures per side, and only a couple of game stats to worry about, it plays quickly, but manages despite its simplicity to remain an engaging and tactical game.

Tonight my lad wanted to turn his hand to playing a miniatures game, bless him, and Song of Blades and Heroes was my immediate thought. I didn't expect him to immediately grasp the subtleties of how to push your actions or combine the use of your figures, but I did hope he would have a fun time pushing miniatures around, and he certainly did.

In Song of Blades and Heroes each figure can be activated with one, two or three dice. For every result above the Quality stat of the figure, you get one action. But if you roll two fails (below the Quality stat), play turns over to your opponent. This core activation mechanism contains a neat element of 'push-your-luck', with the desire to get more actions balanced against the risk of prematurely ending your turn. Combine this with various tactical bonuses and penalties, and an array or little special abilities, and you have an engaging but straight-forward game experience.

It's a great little game, much valued for the low miniature count, the fast game-play and the ease of rules. It also throws in some fun twists via the special abilities, such as the Leader ability, which allows for group activations, moves and firing. In short: it is fun.

In quick order I dashed off a couple of army lists, got out some miniatures and, with the help of the lad, set up the board. We rolled the Magic Item scenario - which would see our warbands searching for a special item from several possibilities on the board.

In all the game was a lot of fun. My son chose to continually push his luck by rolling three dice every activation, but that is to be expected. As we play more, his choices will grow more tactical. He did manage to knock off a couple of my warband though, so I can't be too critical!

In what I hoped would be a decisive move, my Mole with a Quality of 2+ managed to throw this turn, he fell to bow fire shortly after this photo was taken...

The miniatures are by Splintered Light, from their Woodland Warriors range, and paint up very nicely. The buildings are from 4Ground's 15mm Dark Age range, and look great.

I really do enjoy Song of Blades and Heroes, it's a thoroughly enjoyable and easy to get into miniatures game, with rules that are simple in play, but provide a solid depth of choices. Well worth checking out!

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Attracted to Infinity...

Infinity is a skirmish level science fiction table top miniatures game published by Corvus Belli. It is thick on the action, and for me the two standouts in the game are the dynamic and tension building activation mechanism, combined with the threat imposed by a reaction mechanism. In other words, you have a set number of actions you can take, and you may spend them how you please (including activating the same model multiple times). You must also be very careful about dominating lines of fire on the table, as models may react by firing at enemy models at any and every opportunity, even out of turn.

It is a gloriously fun and dynamic game, filled with tense choices, tactical play and a mix of forward planning and flying by the seat of your pants.

A good Infinity table has plenty of terrain, allowing for extensive use of cover, planning, careful movement, and covering fire.

The setting for Infinity is a sprawling space opera style universe, with a multitude of varying powers vying for their own slice. It is a highly enjoyable and well developed setting, explored thoroughly in the N3 Core Book, and expanded upon in the updated release of Human Sphere. The setting is well supported by a very consistent aesthetic and wonderful art (carried through into the miniatures).

I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to write for the Infinity Role Playing Game, published by Modiphius Entertainment, and have loved getting stuck into the setting. I'm very much looking forward to seeing the books in print later this year!

For Infinity I collect the Yu Jing, a conglomeration of various Asian powers melded into one. The miniatures produced by Corvus Belli are stunning, if sometimes a little agonizing for a lazy man such as myself to assemble. 

With a variety of miniature games in my collection, as well as hundreds of board and card games, storage is a very real issue. I just don't have anywhere to put all my miniatures!

Pinching the idea from a friend (thanks Quinton), I recently got hold of a metal tool box, and started magnetizing the bases of my figures to go inside it. I know this is not a new idea, but it is the first time I've tried it, and I must say that it's worked an absolute treat.

A couple of neodymium magnets under the base of a model, and it sticks to the interior of the metal toolbox with no worries. My only concern in fact, is that I may have attached too many magnets to the base of some of the figures, and may well pull them apart or off the base as I try to get them out (note to self: neodymium magnets are strong).

Happily, I found a reasonably well sized tool box, and will be adding a bunch of my other miniatures to it as well. At the moment it is home to my Infinity models and my Splintered Light models (for Song of Blades and Heroes). I plan to add my Planetfall miniatures in there as well, as soon as the postman delivers the packet of magnets I need to the door.

If you are struggling for storage, or are looking for a storage solution that is also handy for transport, a metal toolbox and some magnets is a very solid choice.

I used two magnets per stack - as this reached the same height as the interior of the base. For my Infinity models I added two such stacks (4 magnets per base) - probably excessive. 

The remotes (the large bases at the bottom), I used 4 stacks (8 magnets), definitely excessive.

Splintered Light miniatures for Song of Blades and Heroes

I used a lighter touch with these, only one stack per base - which was well and truly enough.

Strong magnets... a plenty of room left in the toolbox for more miniatures...

Saturday, 7 May 2016


One of these days I'll get around to writing some book reviews, and when I do, The Name of the Wind and the other books of the Kingkiller Chronicle will be among the first.

I am a long-time lover of the fantasy genre, falling at first to The Hobbit and later The Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion. I spent many nights burning candles into the morning, journeying through Midkemia, Lankhmar, The Kingdoms of the West, Eosia, Melnibone, and many other realms and places.

"I only know one story, But oftentimes small pieces seem to be stories themselves."*

The Name of the Wind is the first book in the Kingkiller Chronicle, and it is one of the very best books I have had the pleasure of reading, irrespective of genre. Intelligent, deep, interesting and beautifully written it had me by the throat from the start and didn't let go.

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” *

Now I find that a game described in the series, that world's version of Chess or Go if you will, has been designed by James Ernest, and is currently on Kickstarter. Looking at the rules and how to play video, it looks like a solid abstract strategy game, which is no surprise from a designer such as Ernest.

As a lover of the books, and a sucker for games of all stripes, this is something that pleases me mightily.

"The entire game, not just the fiddling about with stones. The point is not to play as tight as you can. The point is to be bold. To be dangerous. Be elegant."*

*All quotes from The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Inverse Genius Podcast

Many moons ago now I found and started listening to a podcast called The Dice Tower. From there I voraciously downloaded and listened to a whole menagerie of podcasts. In the beginning it was all game related, later it spun out to include podcasts with a focus on science and history and other areas.

In these early, heady days of discovery, when the world of podcasting was opening up before me like some wonderful lotus in a garden of wonder, I ran across a podcast called On Board Games. The hosts of the show at the time were Erik Dewey, Donald Dennis, and Scott Nicholson, and I thoroughly enjoyed the show.

Time passed, and my passive enjoyment of podcasts turned slowly more active. I contributed to The Dice Tower, and On Board Games, recorded a short series of episodes titled Teaching Strategies with Tom Vasel of The Dice Tower, and co-hosted the Games and Schools and Libraries podcast with Donald Dennis. I also co-host the Element 270 podcast with Peter Fontebasso and Reese Plank.

Recently the fantastic people at the On Board Games podcast have been branching out, and have just started a new podcast called Inverse Genius, which is a general geekery podcast covering a range of topics from books to movies, Netflix series and more. I recently had the pleasure of jumping on the microphone again with Don, and we recorded a couple of segments that will be featuring in upcoming episodes of the Inverse Genius podcast, in these we talk about the Netflix series Jessica Jones and Daredevil Series 1. Of course, we have plans to record more, and about a range of other topics.

The hosts of the various segments will be familiar to people who enjoy a range of board game podcasts, and it really is a lot of fun to listen to them chat about things beyond the realm of gaming.

If you're a fan of podcasts, and are after something that covers a range of topics from books to movies, tv series and more, the Inverse Genius podcast is worth checking out (and yes, I am biased)!

Friday, 22 April 2016

Light Frigates and Painting Goals

My goal at the start of the year for painting was a lofty one: to paint a squadron a month. But so far I have managed to maintain it... we are in April and four Squadrons have been painted...

And the latest to be added to the complete pile, Light Frigates from the Firestorm Taskforce boxed set:

Pretty simple paint jobs, but good enough for the table in my view. The question is, why these models? These are Dindrenzi Light Frigates, and much of my Firestorm Collection are Terran ships.

My son has been wanting to paint and play with some of the miniatures I had laying around the place. I thought Taskforce looked like a good place to start, so I grabbed a couple of boxes and let him pick which force he liked the look of. He chose Terrans, which is why I started with the Dindrenzi. He had a ball!

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Dark Age Gaming...

Dux Britanniarum is a miniature wargame set in the period of the Saxon invasion of England. Using the base book players will either represent the Romano-British defenders or the Saxon invaders. Really, the game is a wonderful campaign system with a miniatures game attached to it, but while that may sound critical of the miniatures game aspect, as a whole game it really is a wonderful experience and well worth exploring. I'll get around to writing a proper review of Dux Brit at some point, and the exploits of my Saxon chieftain Njal Ulfson (who at this point is swinging between the monikers of 'The Unlucky' and 'The Inept').

I made the decision early on to use 10mm figures to play Dux Brit, partly because of the cost (I have more than enough figures for more than two armies, and they cost me less collectively than a box of 28mm scale models).  And partly because they are easy to store and don't take up much room (I have two armies in a single tackle tray).

Using 10mm figures presented some interesting choices, I needed firstly to make sure I had enough good terrain to use with them. The trees and hills are no problem, but for the buildings and whatnot, I decided that 15mm scale stuff isn't too far off the beaten track, and have a couple of the 4Ground Dark Age buildings (which look magnificent). I also decided to convert the game directly into centimeters rather than inches, and have experimented with different sized boards to accommodate that.

A nice little Dark Age building... 4Ground make some wonderful stuff!

So, I had the figures, board, trees, hills and buildings, what I needed was some fences. After a little googling I ran across this blog post, which gives a rather excellent tutorial on making some wattle fences. Without further ado, I jumped into making some of my own.

Using icy-pole sticks for the bases, I drilled out holes every 1.5 cm along their varying lengths.
Toothpicks were then glued into the holes and left to dry.

Using a pair of snippers, I trimmed them all to a suitable length.
I painted the bases in PVA and gave them a dusting of sand.
Once the glue was dry I undercoated everything with a black primer.

A base coat of dark brown paint.

Followed by several layers of drybrushing, each with a lighter tone of brown through to a skin tone.
Using a nice braided string, I tied it off on one end, then weaved it around the upright poles, working it down so they were bunched nicely but not overlapping.

I then liberally painted the string and base with a watered down PVA.

Finally, I added some static grass to the bases in spots to give some relief.

So that was the fencing completed. They look rather nice in my humble opinion, and are relatively easy to make.

As for the boards... My key mistake when setting up my forces for Dux Brit was in basing the figures on 20mm round bases. In retrospect I should have used 10mm square bases, but I really can't be bothered rebasing everything, so 20mm rounds it is.

The base size has an interesting impact on the game, as movement is measured in centimeters, the base size of 20mm makes a reasonable difference. In the end I decided to experiment with two board sizes, one straight conversion, of 48cm x 72cm using corflute. The other board I made using thin MDF sheeting, and is 60cm x 90cm. So far I have played on the 60cm x 90cm board, and it may be a little large. Next time I'll try the 48cm x 72cm and see how that feels.

For the base paint I mixed a reasonable amount of sand in with some brown paint.

The sand gave a really nice texture to the boards.

Using a house brush, I liberally drybrushed the surface of the boards several times with ever lighter shades of brown, finishing with a skin tone.

I have yet to add static grass to the boards, I'll get around to it at some point.

Lastly I needed some animals for the odd occasion in which the scenario generator called for the Saxons to raid cattle.

Some N-Scale farm animals meant for model trains (oh, the fate that awaits you isn't what you were intended for my little beasties)

Based on 20mm round bases with some sand and static grass added.

Looking rather spiffy I think...

Some Saxons wondering if the heifer is light enough to carry off.

Romano-British soldiers come to let them know it is probably too heavy.

I should add that the 10mm figures are from Pendraken, and are top quality, with solid detail given the scale!

Yes, I still have many 10mm figures to paint, but I'll get there eventually!