Recently my buddy Vincent was doing a purge of excess gaming stuff, and he very generously gifted me with a Dwarf Stronghold resin terrain kit by Scotia Grendel. It was brand new, still in the bubble wrap, and I was excited to get started on it. I seized the opportunity provided by this nifty terrain pieces to bring to life a key location from my old Savage Worlds fantasy game. It’s always more fun to work on a terrain piece that has some lore associated with it, right?
Bayard’s Holdfast guards the main pass through the Vogale Peaks, serving as the last bastion of rugged civilization for travelers heading east into the goblin-infested mountain range. The dwarven garrison at the Holdfast are renowned mountaineers and mount regular patrols along the snowy trails in search of wayward travelers or encroaching goblins.
The Scotia Grendel kit is scaled for 25mm, which is just a wee bit small these days, what with all the “heroic 28mm” and even 32mm figures that are commonplace on most battlefields. So I decided to “build up” the central drum tower a little bit. I added a cylindrical core from a plastic snack container, then encircled the new core with XPS foam bricks.
The extension added about 5 or 6 inches of height to the central tower, which really makes the whole terrain piece seem a lot more bulky and imposing. You can see where I started my custom brickwork, so it’s not 100% seamless, but I think it looks alright with a lick of paint.
In my lore, Bayard’s Holdfast is build into the side of a mountain, so these fortifications just represent the “upper works” of the fortress. The rest is buried in the rock. About 40 dwarves are garrisoned inside.
Here are a few more detail pics.
This was a heavy, nicely sculpted resin terrain kit. Everything fit together well with a minimum of filing and sanding, and even my modifications were easy to accomplish.
I’m a complete sucker for classic medieval stone castles and fortresses, so this piece will doubtless hit the table in a lot of games. Until then!
I’m preparing to close out 2020, and as I often do, I took stock of my painting and hobbying for the year and found something surprising and unexpected: I painted exclusively fantasy figures for the whole year. No sci-fi, no Warhammer 40,000, nothing with a laser gun or energy sword. Wow!
This is almost certainly the first time this has happened in my gaming career. I’m not sure precisely how this came to pass. The pandemic certainly had something to do with it… in terms of games played, I mustered just four sessions — only two since March of this year.
Another factor was the anticlimactic arrival of Warhammer 40k’s much anticipated new edition. The pandemic meant that my game group couldn’t gather to try out the new game, so the arrival of the new edition was basically a non-event, at least for me. I still haven’t played a game of 9th edition, actually. Ho hum! Here’s a picture from the last time I played 40k at our end-of-the-year apocalypse game in 2019.
For 2020, I managed to get in a couple games of Saga: Age of Magic early in the year, before all this pandemic stuff turned the world upside down. Those early games got me excited to revisit my all-metal Skaven army as well as my beloved dwarf army, which I built back in the early 2010s and have been augmenting periodically over the years. Both armies fit nicely into Üthdyn, our homebrew fantasy setting that we have been tinkering with for a few years.
I find that a strong narrative framework always helps me get “in character” and plan out my painting and hobbying. Üthdyn was the spark that lit my torch through the long dark of 2020, it seems.
I’ve organized a few posts from the past year so you can read about my work on my Skaven and Dwarf armies, if you wish.
So although 2020 was a thin year for actual tabletop gaming, I still managed to make a great deal of progress on two beloved army projects. I am very close to actually completing my Skaven army…just one last unit of clanrats that I’m finishing up right now. After that, I’ll call the army “done,” although I still have a small pile of oddball figures that I’d like to add as time allows. But it’ll be nice to officially finish the army! I’ll be sure to take some glamor shots of the whole rat horde and share them here.
My dwarf army is in great shape and I have more than enough units to play most any game that comes across my table, from Saga: Age of Magic to Open Combat to Dragon Rampant to Song of Blades & Heroes, maybe even all the way up to Kings of War! But the allure of the bearded chaps means that I have plenty more unpainted dwarf models to work through. It’s been a real joy to discover and paint up some of the newer models that have come along from producers like Scibor and MOM Miniatures, as well as old favorites from the class Warhammer Citadel range. With a simple and consistent paint job, you can tie them all together into a cohesive and formidable tabletop army.
So — more dwarves in 2021, I think! I’m hoping to clear my palette by early 2021 as I am expecting the arrival of the Into the Abyss chaos warriors that I backed on Kickstarter. 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!