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.