In October, after a long gaming drought owing to the pandemic and, more locally, the wildfires in Oregon, my game club got together for not one, but two meetups. Both were conducted in open-air locations using masks and physical distancing, for which I am grateful.
The first was a bits swap – our second annual bits swap, as it happens. It was a ton of fun and I snagged some very useful tidbits for my various projects. I also unloaded some choice pieces from my collection that will no doubt be put to good use by other, more creative minds. Ha!
The other event was a terrain day last weekend! I love getting together to build terrain and swap tips & tricks with my fellow gamers. I’ve hosted and attended a number of these over the years, with various groups of friends, and they’ve always been veritable fonts of inspiration.
In this case, we had a purpose behind our gathering: we have resolved to build a Frostgrave table! Starting with a modular template (12 inch squares of pink foam), each player will contribute a few tiles to create a highly customizable layout.
John had done the heavy lifting by acquiring a boatload of pink foam and cutting some tiles and scraps for us to work with. We also put his Proxxon hot wire foam cutter to good use. It was a fun afternoon of chatting, chopping, and chortling.
We all got a good start on the terrain and left with a pretty good idea of where this particular project is headed. My first tile took shape at the terrain day, and I continued working on it in the weeks to come. Here’s the progression from basic idea to finished product.
I think we’ll have the pieces in place to play our first game of Frostgrave on the new modular table by Christmas. Stay tuned!
This post is part hobby update, part real-life interlude. Come along, if you wish, and see how Comrade’s Wargames has been enduring the last, apocalyptic days of summer.
Some readers may know that I live in western Oregon, an area of the country that is beautiful, lush, and quiet — most of the time. Every now and then, wildfires come calling. This is the western United States, after all, and even though western Oregon has a reputation for being gray and rainy, the fact remains that most of Oregon’s climate is dry for a large part of the year. Global climate change is only worsening that trend, I’m afraid.
So, wildfires caused by lightning strikes in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains blew up on Labor Day weekend, fanned by an unusually strong wind system, and quickly grew to thousands of acres. These fires were unique because they began moving toward the Willamette Valley, home to the largest population centers in Oregon. Oh hey, I live there too. Right here, where the purple arrow is pointing.
So things were pretty dicey for a few days. Smoke and ash blanketed the entire valley, including my home. Here’s a look at my neighborhood on the morning of Tuesday, September 8. It looks like something out of a Resident Evil video game.
And here’s the accumulated ash on the hood of my car.
We watched the news nervously for a few days, and had our go bags prepped in case we needed to hit the road. But the fires stayed mainly in the forested mountain canyons and never ventured down into the major cities in the valley.
The air quality, however, was another story. For nearly two weeks, the air in my neck of the woods was worse than what you’d typically see in someplace like Beijing. Of course, the smoke and ash coincided with a visit from my mother-in-law, so we had to spend the entire visit indoors, with the HVAC running full blast to have a modicum of comfort.
Being trapped indoors for a week gave me an opportunity to putter around with another new hobby: food preservation! I have a little backyard garden, more of a garden patch really, and I was excited to try my hand at canning some food for storage. The tomatoes here came from my garden, and the peppers were a gift from my friend and fellow gamer John, who moved into a new home that had a backyard garden overflowing with produce (courtesy of the previous owners) and graciously allowed me to harvest some crops.
Take a look at my haul from John’s garden. Wow! Every color of the rainbow. What didn’t get pickled and canned has already been consumed by my family.
I am terribly proud of my meager pints of preserved tomatoes and peppers, and I plan to increase my garden space next summer. Please do me a favor and check back in 4 months to make sure I haven’t gotten botulism after popping these bad boys open.
Between fires and being trapped indoors and all this food prep, you might think I would have had zero time for my miniatures hobby. Incorrect! In fact, retreating to my workshop/office became an important daily ritual for me during this fairly stressful time. I managed to finish six of these fantastic chunky resin dwarf models from Scibor Monstrous Miniatures.
They are really tremendous sculpts, full of character, and perfect as elite warriors, thanes, sergeants, or lords.
For my army, they will hit the table as hearthguard, sworn bannerdwarves to King Nicodemus, the Anvil of Dawn. Huzzah!
See? I managed to squeeze in a bit of a hobby update amidst all this real-life stuff. There will be more to come soon, as the Year of Fantasy marches on!
Last month John and I gathered for a somewhat momentous game of Saga: Age of Magic. At long last, after plenty of worldbuilding and painting, we were beginning a narrative campaign set in my club’s homebrew fantasy world. Specifically, we’d be playing out a series of games during the War of the Coins, a particularly devastating conflict between a wealthy dwarven empire and a loose alliance of feudal human noble houses.
We knew from our worldbuilding efforts (guided by the excellent Microscope RPG) that the decade-long War of the Coins ended with the dwarves being defeated after a great siege at their capital city, and summarily expelled from the continent and sent packing over a land bridge into an icy, windswept wasteland. But while the outcome was predetermined, we were very eager to play out a series of games to determine the exact nature of the dwarves’ defeat and the humans’ triumphs.
The conflict was named after the vast amounts money (coins) spent by the human feudal states in hiring mercenaries to fight on their behalf. It was also so named for the round shields carried by the stout dwarf warriors into battle. As the war progressed, the hard-pressed dwarves took to hammering copper coins into their oaken shields. So the name works on several levels!
The game took place outdoors, on John’s covered patio, with masks and plenty of physical distancing. I was running my dwarf army using the Masters of the Underearth battle board, and John was using the Great Kingdoms list for his human militia.
In the War of the Coins, the dwarves were the aggressors, launching several border raids that culminated in a full-blown invasion of the human city-states. Our game took place in Drazenko, a border outpost controlled by one of the minor human princes. John’s faction, House Begovic, had selected Drazenko as the first location to oppose the the dwarves’ advance.
As the game began, the dwarf army had just succeeded in pounding Drazenko with long-range cannon fire, reducing much of the village to rubble and clearing the way for the dwarven advance. The dwarf king Nicodemus II, the Anvil of Dawn, had taken to the field to lead his army into the village in what everyone assumed would be a low-stakes mopping up action. Good for propaganda, especially if the king was careful to get a bit of dust on his cloak as he strode through the streets.
Unfortunately, House Begovic had other ideas. Mobile reserves arrived to challenge the dwarves as they marched triumphantly into the smoking ruins of Drazenko.
John’s army was well organized and (thanks to several mounted units) quite speedy. He was able to blunt my initial advance quite handily. Within a few turns, the dwarves hadn’t been able to move very far into the ruined village.
John’s opening turn was brilliant; he managed to get his paladin into combat with my frost giant, and actually killed the blue-skinned monster in a single combat! Talk about a huge blow to morale … it died without ever activating!
With my preferred avenue of advance closed to me, I fell back on that tried-and-true dwarf tactic: close ranks and prepare a stout defense. John’s units had the mobility to surround my force on two sides, but I’m pleased to say that I proved to be a tough nut to crack for most of the game.
An early win came when my two cannons succeeded in knocking out his catapult. These units had been conducting a long-range artillery duel for the first few turns of the game. With the catapult out of the way, the cannons were free to rain fire down on virtually any target on the battlefield. Fire at will!
Back in the center of the battlefield, the dwarves stood shoulder-to-shoulder as they weathered devastating charges by John’s mounted heroes. Dwarves fell by the score, but they managed to take a few humans with them … just enough to prevent the game turning into a total and complete rout.
It was clear that I was not going to be able to pull off the victory, but once again Saga provided a fairly close game once all the victory conditions were calculated. This is a game that rewards players who pay close attention to the parameters for winning.
One key play that kept me in the game in the latter turns came when the cannons managed to land two shells in the vicinity of Field Marshal Bartholomieu Begovic, peppering the well-heeled noble with shrapnel and forcing him to retire to the rear to recuperate with a strong cup of brandy while an attaché documented his heroism in a letter sent back to the home front.
But back on the front lines, where warriors were fighting and dying, it was anything but glorious. Drazenko was a smoking ruin of churned mud and shattered masonry, strewn with the bodies of the dead and wounded. The dwarves were pressed back as House Begovic’s pegasus cavalry flew in to cut down the cannon crew, effectively silencing the big guns.
At this point, we had reached our turn limit, which meant that King Nicodemus was able to quit the field with some dignity intact, having been stung badly by his first encounter with House Begovic.
As we counted up victory points, we found that the game wasn’t a total rout for me, so that was nice. John has a very good handle on how to play the Great Kingdoms battle board, and his army list is versatile and well tuned. For my part, my list wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be (due to painting queue obligations) so I had a bit of work still to do.
I also decided that I wanted to go all in on the “big guns never tire” theme for my army. So in addition to my two static war machines, I’ll be taking two destruction teams (to be represented by some multi-barrel organ guns I have in my collection) to really max out of the number of shooty stuff on my side of the board. Thankfully, Saga is versatile enough to allow me to achieve this goal in short order.
Now that the War of the Coins has begun, we can’t stop now! Let’s see what King Nicodemus has in mind for his next move. And how bold will Field Marshal Bartholomieu Begovic be when he returns, refreshed and healed, to resume his command? Only time will tell. Stay tuned for more!
One of the hobby values I’ve tried to represent on Comrade’s Wargames over the years is the appeal of using whatever miniatures you want in your games. I collect and paint miniatures that are pleasing to me, first and foremost, and don’t concern myself all that much with how they’ll be used as playing pieces in specific games.
This has led me to embrace games that don’t have a proprietary set of miniatures associated with them — games like Song of Blades & Heroes, Open Combat, Dragon Rampant, Zona Alfa, Oathmark, Warlords of Erehwon, Scrappers, and Saga: Age of Magic. All of these games encourage players to explore oddball figures and game lines that juice their creativity, rather than simply painting the “correct” miniatures required to play a certain faction in a certain game.
Which brings me to this blog post, about a few of my very favorite dwarf models. For a long time, I admired these figures from afar, but in the last couple of months, as I rebooted my dwarf army for Saga: Age of Magic, I embarked on a concerted effort to track down and acquire these figures.
Lead Adventure Miniatures / Ratnik Miniatures
Ratnik Miniatures is a boutique company run by Igor Karpov. Over the last dozen or so years, Ratnik’s miniatures have been produced and distributed by Lead Adventure Miniatures through license. Ratnik’s figure lines are extensive and include the absolutely glorious Bruegelburg medieval fantasy figure collection. Ratnik is also responsible for the tremendous, super flavorful Stalker figures most recently highlighted in the pages of Zona Alfa.
But we’re here to talk about dwarves! Ratnik produces a fairly extensive line of grim, stoic, high fantasy dwarves. I splurged in May and bought six (!) of my favorite sculpts as reinforcements for my dwarf army.
The figures are everything I want from my dwarves: functional outfits and armor without a lot of overwrought embellishment, brutal weapons, and epic & dynamic poses.
Amazingly, with the exception of their shields, these are single-piece metal sculpts. They’re just astoundingly crisp and detailed. I loved painting them!
Scibor Monstrous Miniatures
Scibor is another producer I’ve had my eye on for a long time. The company is the exclusive purview of sculptor Scibor Teleszynski, and he specializes in chunky, heavily armored dwarves. The scale of the figures creeps up to 30mm, making them quite large alongside typical Warhammer dwarf models. In terms of style, they are gorgeous…definitely a “premium” line of dwarf figures, if that makes sense.
So as I began eyeing a purchase of Scibor stuff last month, I decided that these guys would be HQ figures for my army: lords, champions, squad leaders, and hardened veterans. The size differential certainly makes sense when you consider that they would have access to the best arms and armor, as befits their status.
Anyway, I started down this path by painting up a new dwarf lord to lead my throng! Behold, King Nicodemus II, the Anvil of Dawn!
This model represents the first time I’ve used Retributor Armor paint to create a lustrous rose gold color for his armor. I’m very pleased with how it came out!
I’m also in love with his sassy pose, with that armored arm resting casually on top of his shield. He’s all like “Come at me, bro.” And let’s hear it for that chunky plinth he’s standing upon…that definitely solves the problem of “OK, which one is your leader again??”
So there you have it: a few of the my favorite dwarf models that I’ve painted up recently. More are on the way…an entire unit of Lion Guard dwarves from Scibor, plus a few interesting figures from Spellcrow. Stay tuned!
Earlier this month, John and I dared to play a game of Saga: Age of Magic on his back porch. We had physical distancing and a nice breeze, as well as face masks for both of us, so we felt that we had taken all reasonable precautions. After a long drought, we were excited to get some newly painted miniatures onto the battlefield, both for John’s Great Kingdoms army and my Masters of the Underearth (Skaven) warband.
The game was a follow-on to the outcome of our previous game, which saw a rout by a ratmen raiding party harrying the defenders of a fortified village. For this game, the ratmen had secured a slightly more … pungent … booty, in the form of three rotting coffins, each containing the noisome remains of a plague victim. The ratmen were scurrying off with the caskets so that their crazed alchemists could use the bodies to brew up some dastardly poisons. Only the stout defenders of House Begovic stood between the ratmen and their goal!
You can see the caskets, being borne by a swarm of rats, in the photo above. The goal was to escort them across the battlefield and exit through John’s table edge. I’d have to keep moving at a pretty good clip to ensure a reasonable chance of winning. No dithering and no time wasted on fruitless combat!
After deployment, I committed most of my forces to the right flank, as seen in the photo above. I was trying to stay as far away as possible from John’s unit of mounted hearthguard. At eight strong, they were an incredibly powerful and hard-hitting force on the battlefield. Unfortunately, the best I could do was delay their arrival.
So I started maneuvering away from them, angling up the right flank and positioning some of my ratmen as blocking units to slow down the attackers. It worked! For a couple of turns, anyway. My newly painted levies with bows occupied this encampment, staying in cover and delivering fairly effective missile fire throughout the game.
Likewise, this unit of levies shadowed the hearthguard on the opposing flank, always threatening to burst from cover and poke the cavalry with their spears. They actually jumped into combat toward the end of the game and, I think, inflicted some casualties!
The caskets moved slowly, and I had to keep the rest of my force arrayed around them to provide a support. It was only a matter of time before John’s hearthguard caught up to them and surged in for a massive assault.
Oh look! There it is. CHARGE!
The charge wiped out an entire unit of warriors that had been protecting the caskets, leaving the poor little rat swarms dangerously exposed to the thundering hooves of the hearthguard. On my turn, I got incredibly lucky with a pair of quadrupedal creatures, which managed to annihilate about half of the horsemen in a single savage round of attacks.
That combat tilted the game in my favor, at least temporarily.
The quadrupedal creatures are Chaos Centigors from Warhammer Fantasy. I love the miniatures and figured I’d get them onto the battlefield alongside my Skaven. After all, why do we play Saga if not for opportunities to mix and match miniatures from our collections?
After that, the game became a rat race — no pun intended. I had pushed through the initial battle line (at great cost) and now had a slim chance to make a break for John’s table edge.
Unfortunately, my rat swarms were mauled and nearing exhaustion. John still had several highly mobile units that were ultimately able to chase them down and skewer the poor rats one by one. Oh well! I take heart in the knowledge that John’s surviving warriors caught the plague and died horribly after the battle was won.
This game represented a personal best for me in terms of rules comprehension and overall grasp of strategy and tactics. Saga is a really complex game, with a lot of decisions to be made at various points throughout the turn. Playing against a worthy opponent like John requires the utmost attention to detail! I am getting better with the Masters of the Underearth army. I intend to use the same army list for my dwarf army, which will be helpful for digging deeper into the tactics of this particular army. We’re playing again soon — stay tuned for more!