Monday 28 September 2015

The Moon of Skulls...


As is the tradition of this humble web log the next post following a book review should, in some small way, be representative of the story highlighted.  With the collective tales of Solomon Kane safely shelved in the library at Awdry Towers, I can finally share this motley crew with you.  As the 'Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge' was drawing to an end, I had a convoluted idea of producing a vignette for the 'Anti-Hero' bonus round based on the Solomon Kane story, 'The Moon of Skulls'.  One of Robert E. Howard's longest stories*, 'The Moon of Skulls' sees our hero infiltrate a lost city in Africa ruled over by by the she fiend, Nekari of the Negari in a bid to rescue a kidnapped girl. 

 *almost a short novel!

 I had hoped to depict the final, climatic scene as Kane races against time to save the girl before she is offered to the Gods of the Negari in sacrifice.  In the end it wasn't Kane that ran out of time, but myself and the idea got shelved in favour of a single miniature. That said, I was desperate to get the miniatures earmarked for the vignette painted.

I had spent quite a bit of time tracking down a suitable candidate for Solomon Kane and was delighted when I happened upon this chap from 'Black Army Productions'.  The only thing is that he is rather shy  young man and the angle of the head, sculpted as it is, hides lots of the lovely details.  Still a minor detail and there is a sense of intense brooding that befits the character from the stories.  

The other two characters are from 'North Star Military Figures', the chap with the feathered headdress being part of the cannibal war chiefs pack.  A couple of skulls added to Nekari's base, seem wholly appropriate and I deliberately tried to link the two together with the use of orange, a singly bright colour in comparison to Kane's dour, Puritanical look.

Sunday 27 September 2015

Book Review#21. - Complete Soloman Kane

Once again reading seems to have fallen away from my daily routine, something I always find odd as it genuinely gives such pleasure and yet it is seemingly so easily discarded in favour of less stimulating forms of entertainment.  Fortunately for me this collected series of stories, featuring Solomon Kane, have just the right amount of clamouring excitement and are just the right length to keep even this butterfly brained reader happy!

So what can I tell you of Solomon Kane that you don’t already know?  Probably very little as I imagine that a great many of the goodly souls that frequent these pages have already dipped a toe in the pulp world of Robert E. Howard, but for me this was a revelation.  Having only recently come across the central protagonist in the movie of the same name, I was curious to read some of the original stories and even more curious as to how the writer of Conan would bring this avenging Puritan to life.  I have to say that I was transfixed from the outset, I hadn’t really understood what pulp literature was all about until this moment.  The unashamedly violent descriptions of heart pumping action see our tall, dark and grimly set Puritanical hero battle foes from this world and beyond.
In a bizarre blend of historical fiction and horror story Solomon Kane, a Puritan swordsman, travels the world of the 16th century righting wrongs and destroying evil wherever he comes across it.  Solomon is constantly tormented by the temptations of evil men or womankind and forced to make uncomfortable alliances with Godless purveyors of dark magic in order to complete his, almost, pathologically driven, quests all the time justifying the traumatic violence he administers in God’s name.

What I wasn’t expecting was that a good many of the stories would be set in Africa and given that I was reading unabridged and unedited versions of the stories some of the language is problematic using, as it does, many of the racial stereotypes and attitudes prevalent in 1920s and 1930s.  The grotesque characterisation of the villainous slavers or beleaguered tribes is clearly of its time and yet interestingly it is refreshing to see Solomon Kane’s attitude change as he becomes more tolerant and accepting of a culture that is clearly alien to him at the start of the journey, perhaps more so than the author himself. 
With adventures taking our hero from the windswept moors of England, through the Black Forest of Germany to the deepest regions of unmolested Africa there is great scope for derring-do, adventure and spine tingling horror.  Tremendous fun and from a gamers perspective so much material that could be adapted to any number of scenarios. 

If you like your adventure set at a frenetic pace, with a touch of the supernatural thrown in, then look no further than the adventures of Solomon Kane - a hugely enjoyable four crowns from me!

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Redoubt Enterprises English Civil War Falconet

As last year's 'Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge' drew to a close, I was keen to go out with a ‘bang’ and one of my last submissions came in the shape of this 'Redoubt Enterprises' English Civil War Falconet 2 1/4 gun and crew.

Those familiar with Redoubt’s miniatures will hopefully understand what I mean about them being reassuringly chunky.  Certainly not the most anatomically correct sculpts by today’s standard, but for some reason I thoroughly enjoy painting them.  I have often wondered if it has something to do with the lack of extraneous detail that allows the painter to put their own stamp of the miniature that appeals to me, but whatever the reason I can honestly say that I am a great fan of them.

The addition of the officer with his sighting quadrant saw me through my one thousand point target score – albeit by the skin of my teeth.  If truth be told this accomplishment had more to do with the very generous votes my entries to the bonus rounds secured rather than the number of miniatures That I actually painted.  The Challenge proved to be a much needed escape to what was a particularly  difficult year and I was once again thrilled to be involved - roll on December when it all starts again!

Sunday 20 September 2015

Plague Doctors!

Life was tough in 17th Century England, if you did manage to survive childhood you could look forward to another thirty to forty years of drudgery and toil provided of course that you managed to avoid the plague!  It is no surprise then that the arrival of a Plague Doctor to your hamlet was seldom seen as a good omen.  A portent of imminent death the plague doctors were physicians who tried to bring some comfort to those inflicted with very little hope of success.

Engraving by Paul F├╝rst, 1656.
It is of course their costume that still to this day manages to combine fascination with fear. The eerie beaked, birdlike mask, with small glass eyes was developed, perhaps not unreasonably, in the belief that strong, pleasant smelling concoctions that included camphor, myrrh and lavender stuffed into the ‘beak’ would act as a filter against the plague ridden, filthy air.

A full length waxed cotton or leather coat was again hoped to afford some protection from the disease with many carrying a staff, not as a symbol of office, but to lift the clothing and bed sheets of infected patients to get a better look without actually resorting to touching them!  

Such is the delight of the ‘Witchfinder General’ world that the truly iconic Plague Doctor can be included as an apothecary with the ability to revive those that are in base contact with him.  I was only planning on painting one of these physicians of fear from the 'Wargames Foundry' range, but it seemed such a waste not to polish off the remaining group including the ‘patient’ that is being ‘oh-so’ sympathetically transported in a wheelbarrow.  

Requiring very little in the way of preparing, I opted to simply ape the colour palette used by Foundry, perhaps not my most creative decision, but it seemed to work for me.  Wanting to put my own stamp on them I invested a little more time in the rose tinted lenses of their masks and finally a piece of self indulgent frippery saw me use bostik glue to create the illusion of the red paint, used for marking the doors of the afflicted, flowing from a brush to the ground. 

Wednesday 16 September 2015

If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys!

The only nuts these chaps are interested in are the ones holding their rather splendid Fez hats on!  On the face of it the idea of a set of 28mm clockwork chimps sounds, and is, ridiculous and yet from the moment that I saw them I knew that I had to have them!  Falling for another Kickstarter campaign, I was happy to pledge for a couple of packs of steampunk monkeys*, not least because the company behind them, 'Westfalia Miniatures', is synonymous with quality.**
*One pack with guns, one with blades.

During the  course of the challenge, I had cause to contact Kawe of Westfalia to redeem a very generous gift voucher for coming out on top in the ‘Myth’ bonus round.  I was hoping to add this to my current pledge, putting it towards a Clocktopus.***  Being a splendid fellow Kawe suggested that this was no problem at all and added that he was happy to dispatch my pledge of chimps early as they had just safely passed quality control.  A couple of days later, ten mischievous monkeys and a zoologist landed on the mat here at ‘Awdry Towers’.   
***Best not to ask!

How they managed to achieve such clean casting on these amazingly detailed sculpts is beyond me, but they really were a joy to assemble and paint.  On the subject of painting, I found it difficult to dislodge Kawe's original choice of colours from an earlier post and went for a sympathetic brass colour.  I was delighted to discover that Vallejo do a metallic range suitable for the airbrush and so was able to achieve a lovely smooth finish with the first couple of coats.  All that remained was to pick out details with washes and a copper colour, not forgetting the splendid red Fezes. 

Their use or purpose may still elude me, but I can safely say that I am absolutely thrilled to have them in the collection, bringing, as they do, some much need levity, that and they are so wonderfully shiny!

Sunday 13 September 2015

Beam me up...

Well this is a little embarrassing, it has only been a week since the 'Rum & Bones' Kickstarter safely docked at 'Awdry Towers' and now 'Space Cadets - Away Missions' has beamed in!  Now fortunately for me I managed to get this rather large box over the threshold before the 'Saintly Mrs. Awdry' noticed, allowing me time to unpack and have the packing safely squared away before the inevitable confession. 

I have tried to explain that there was a good two months between pledges, but having two parcels arrive in as many weeks was a tad unfortunate to say the least, in my favour this was a modest haul by comparison to the previous booty; the core box and a rather nice hardback book with exclusive scenarios and artwork.  

Everything is nicely printed, with good quality card stock and of course a legion of little green men! 

The success of the Kickstarter saw the designers invest the obey back into the core box with the addition of coloured plastic cubes to represent Hit Points and Oxygen along with some rather splendid sparkly dice - there was even a brain in a jar! 

For me though it was the addition of the backers' names on the side of the box that made my day - nice touch.

Unlike 'Rum & Bones' this game works well for solo play as the alien movement and attack is governed by a set game dynamic.  With that in mind it seemed appropriate to crack on with the first mission - Mercury: Alien Probe a good old fashioned bug hunt! 

Yeoman Cookie Hannah and Chief Lance Desoto survived the first contact with the Alien menace and start scanning the ship for the elusive Sentinel.  Every scan sees a tile flipped revealing the contents on the room, which could include useful items, alien technology and of course enemies. 

As the team worked their way around the ship more and more saucer men appeared along with a leader and then the appearance of the Sentinel himself - *gulp*.  After a moment of 'panic', which saw Yeoman Cookie lose a precious oxygen cube, both members unleashed their Atomic Rifles to good effect, scoring the four hit points required to put the Sentinel down - *phew!*

I don't know exactly why, but this game really appeals to me, more so than the hugely successful 'Rum & Bones'. Its collaborative nature will mean that it will be great for team play and the use of items means that each player can often string together wonderfully elaborate turns that never fail to raise a smile. The slightly corny feel of early Sci-Fi is alive and well and try as I might, I couldn't help but make *swoosh* noises every time a hatch was opened.  Time to strap on the oxygen tank and head off for the next mission...

Sunday 6 September 2015

Ahoy Mateys!

The start of any academic year is a busy time at best, but this year the return to work was sweetened with arrival of my 'Rum & Bones' Kickstarter.  Having learnt my lesson from past crowd funding escapades I pledged for the basic Captain level, with a couple of extra packs of dice*, back in December 2014.  Of course that is the problem with Kickstarter, the waiting!  Back in 2014 you couldn't move for piratical wargaming fun, but at the back end of 2015 there is barely a black sail on the horizon!  

*You can never have enough dice!

Of course there are other benefits to pledging and that is all the free stuff!  The additional exclusives on this one meant that I failed to sneak the not insubstantial box past the 'Saintly Mrs. Awdry', which in turn brought a derisive, "what have you done now?"  Not one to be deterred by the sudden frost that enveloped 'Awdry Towers', I set about unpacking my plunder.

My first impressions are that it looks fabulous, the design of the miniatures, boards, rules and even the packaging have real quality to them, but what about game play?  I hurriedly set up the boards and populated them with pirates selected my factions - in this case the Wellsport Brotherhood and the Bone Devils.  From the outset it was clear that this wasn't really intended for solo play, but my intention was just to get a handle on the rules.  Before long deck guns were cutting swathes through pirates intent on crossing gangplanks, heroes were rigging across from ship to ship with no apparent regard for health and safety and the Kraken, well actually the Kraken didn't turn up because as just as I got going it was time to put my toys away for supper!

Supper time!

Unperturbed, I tried again this afternoon and can report it really is great fun!  Fast and furious, the game  requires you to accumulate objectives to secure victory points, but of course there is treasure to be had too!  Gold is awarded when Heroes dispatch Deckhands and can then be used to unleash ever more powerful attacks or unlock special abilities.   

The above pictures show key moments as members of the Wellsport Brotherhood snagged the three objectives necessary to see them win the game and below the state of boards at the end of the game.  All over in just over an hour and half, this is a great fun, fast game.  I imagine as one becomes more familiar with the factions' attributes, and depending on the luck of the draw with the tide cards, each game could differ completely.  That said, I'm glad I didn't go overboard** with my pledge as I can always add different factions if it captures the imagine of our small gaming crew.  I shall certainly be painting up a few pieces in due course as they really are too good not to, but as to well - who knows?
**Pun very much intended!

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