Archive for the ‘Miniatures’ Category

Battle Masters: First Unit and Box Failure

Progress continues very slowly on my mini Battle Masters game.  As I’ve said before, I’m in no rush with this one, so I’m not afraid to scrap anything that I decide isn’t good enough.  But first, some good news, the first unit is complete:

Men-at-Arms of Altdorf

Men-at-Arms of Altdorf

I’m pretty happy with the final result here.  As you can see, I’ve decided on a red and yellow theme for the Imperial army.  This model was assembled and based then painted as a whole.  I’m still not convinced I want to do it this way — the other option being to paint the models individually, then mount and base them.  Though that has its own problems.  This one worked fairly well, so I’ll probably stick with this method until it becomes an issue, then swear at myself for mounting models that are impossible to reach with a brush.

The flag was made by simply printing it out on my inkjet printer, then glueing it in place to the metal rod used for a pole.  The flag was then given several coats of gloss to shine it up and give it some stiffness.  My sole reason for including a flag was to have the number of dice on the unit somewhere, and I figured the unit icon that is used for placement in the rulebook would be nice to include.

IMG_20150919_220529And now on to the less good news.  I completed the interior of my first unit box, which you can see here with all the imperial units placed, plus some dice and a few cardboard hexes from my copy of Battle Lore as stand-ins for cannon tokens (actual cannon tokens I expect to be much smaller).  It may not be obvious from the picture, but the right column of cubbies is narrower than the rest.  This was done intentionally, as the box was not wide enough to admit three columns of forward facing units.  I figured I could place the right-most column side facing since the box is so deep.  Unfortunately, I failed to allow for the thickness of the felt, and thus the units in the left two columns also don’t fit forward facing.  This works OK for the imperial units as you can see here, but simply won’t due for the chaos army, which numbers 15 total units.  There are simply not enough cubbies.  My plan had been that since many would be forward facing, I could make an insert to use up the depth of the box and thus have a few cubbies that were essentially storing two units each.  Obviously, this will not work.

So it’s back to the drawing board.  Ultimately I think my problem here is the boxes I chose.  The interior of these boxes are very deep, much deeper than I require, but don’t have enough surface area.  I need wider, flatter boxes.  So back to Michael’s I went, and discovered the box I wanted was not there.  So I bought all the kinds of boxes they had, and then ordered the box I wanted on Amazon.  Here are some images of all the boxes collected together.  The current box is the left-most on first picture, and on the bottom of the stack in the second:

IMG_20150925_070247 IMG_20150925_070315

Newly acquired from Michael’s we have the box with rounded sides, and the box that is in the shape of a book.  The latter is cute and ultimately the largest of all the boxes.  Plenty of room in this one, but I’m not terribly fond of its closure, which is a pretty weak magnet.  I imagine that going pretty quickly, and models spilling about inside the main box and getting all banged up, so it’s right out.

The box with the rounded edges isn’t bad.  It’s shorter, but wider than the original.  The interior of the original was 7.875″ x 4.75″, while the interior of the rounded-edge box is about 6.125″ x 6.25″.  It will work, but will require using the side-facing method I used above to fit all the units of the chaos army, with very little space left over for other stuff.  Keep in mind that the chaos army box must also contain the ogre cards, while the imperial army box must include the cannon markers, and if possible I’d love to include a set of dice in each box.

So that leaves the classic cigar box, the one that was missing from Michael’s collection and I had to order online.  It’s in the middle bottom in picture 1, and second from the top of the stack in picture 2.  It has a very generous 8.125″ square interior, plenty of space to put all my models forward facing.  The depth is very shallow though, and thus there is not room for the chaos army’s ogre cards to fit in a vertical stack.  Still, it’s my favorite of the group — I’d really prefer the presentation of all the models facing out of the box when it’s first opened up.  Perhaps I can mount a pocket of some kind into the lid for storing the ogre cards of the chaos box.

This means for the boxes it’s back to square 1 – cutting out new dividers, felting them, and gluing it all together.  I also did a little research online about felt.  The craft felt is OK, but it’s shedding a bit more than I hoped.  I understand pool tables use a much higher quality wool cloth, which still has some fuzziness to it.  Perhaps I can buy scraps of that somewhere?  Or maybe it’s worth a trip to a fabric store to see what other options I can find.  Of course, the main purpose of the felt is to offer a little extra padding for the models when the box is moved about, so I may be willing to deal with the shedding of the craft felt if nothing else is available that offers the same amount of cushion.

Battle Masters: Army Boxes

With my model base size fixed at 1″ x 1.5″, from there I can determine that an individual hex should be about 2″ wide, and thus the full board will be about 2′ x 2′.  This is small enough to fit nicely on a table top, but it’s still big enough that storage becomes a tricky question.  At minimum, I think I’m going to have to build it as a bi-fold board monopoly style and then find a box large enough to fit it in.  Or perhaps I will build a custom box with the board built into it, sort of like a chess box where you open it up and flip it over to make the board.

IMG_20150913_131929So last weekend I went over to Michael’s to see if they had anything that might serve as box for my game.  They did not.  They did have some nice unfinished boxes like the one pictured here, all of which were far too small to fit the contents of my game.  But as I mentally pictured a 1′ x 2′ box large enough to fit the board, I realized the units would be swimming in all that space.  What could I do to contain them inside the larger box?  So, I bought a couple of these smaller unfinished boxes to use as army boxes.  I’ll make one for the empire army and one for the chaos army, each just large enough to contain all the unit models, plus maybe some extras like the ogre cards, cannon markers, and maybe some dice.  I like the idea of each player picking his side and taking the appropriate box.  Maybe I could even fit a copy of the rulebook in each box.
IMG_20150913_123617Alongside the boxes I bought some pieces of basswood to build dividers.  I used my trusty scroll saw to cut up some pieces wine-box style to make little cubbies inside the box for each unit.  Man, I forgot how much I like working with that scroll saw.  What a neat tool.

Actually, before the cutting began I did a lot of measuring.  The interiors of those boxes are somewhat awkward size, and it took some effort to figure out how to divide it up to fit all the units.
IMG_20150913_131914I managed to make something that will work just fine for the empire army, but the chaos army is a bit larger (14 units over the empire’s 11), which is causing me some difficulty.  Especially as I have yet to even figure out what models to use for all the units.  I’m sure I can make it work, but it may require some kind of layering technique, where a tray of some kind such that I can take advantage of the depth of the box.  Or maybe I’ll just take another trip back to Michael’s and see if I can find a wider but shallower box.  I’m committed to taking my time with this project, so I’m not against scrapping any part of it along the way.


Here’s the finished interior with all the empire units placed inside.  Most of those units are temporary, just fun-tacked unpainted models onto a bit of foam core so I could experiment.  As you can see I had to turn the left-column sideways to fit all the units.  It’s pretty tight but everything fits, and the slot at the top could be used for the cannon markers and dice.  I also kind of want to felt line the whole thing to minimize damage of shifting models.  I’ve started some experiments along that line, I’ll have more pictures to post of that when it gets further along.

I’m thinking for the exterior of the box I’d like to put a nice large graphic of the army’s symbol on the front.  The chaos symbol is pretty easy to find, it appears people like that as a tattoo design, but the empire symbol is more difficult.  I’ve found a couple but the resolution is all pretty low, and I’d like something I can print out at a good 6″ square to decoupage onto the top of the box.  If anyone has anything that might be appropriate, please do let me know.

Ultimately I really should start painting the models, but that feels like the easy part, so I’m holding off for now.  I think once I have a plan for the various pieces I can take my time enjoying the construction of each, but the first phase really has to be experimentation on how exactly to build each part.

The board itself, and the box to hold the entire thing, is still quite an open question.

Battle Masters: Assembling the Forces

Scaling my custom Battle Masters game started from the bottom up.  I knew I wanted to use my 10 mm Pendraken miniatures, which I’ve been obsessed with ever since I purchased my first set several years ago.  I had plenty of left-over medieval men miniatures, and only had to order a few extras and a special cannon model to complete the imperial forces.  I ordered two different cannons, as they are cheap and hard to tell what they will really look like until they’re in your hands.  I purchased the mid-medieval bombard and the renaissance heavy gun, the latter of which is really perfect, even including the crew models.

units_mountedI’m doing more planning with this project than any similar one I’ve done in the past, and really taking my time making choices about how I’ll put stuff together.  So once I had the models, the next step was to figure out basing.  First I used foam core just to figure out what size I wanted the bases, testing cavalry, infantry, and artillery models to fit.  I ended with a 1″ x 1.5″ base being just about right.  Next I played with materials: balsa wood, bass wood backed with sheet magnet, and MDF.  As much as I like the magnet one for having a smooth rubbery bottom and the added benefit that if the container is ferrous the model can be better immobilized during storage (something I do with a lot of my 28 mm figs), the MDF had the best feel.  The thickness and weight really felt the best for moving the unit around on the board.  On the right you can see my imperial lord knights on the original foam core test base, a unit of crossbowmen on MDF, and finally a unit of men-at-arms based on MDF which was then textured and primed.  I’ve also added a pole for a flag, which I want to use for displaying the unit’s symbol and dice value.  The next step for this unit will be to paint it and find out if it was a mistake to base them prior to painting.  I’m hoping I’ll be able to reach them all fine and paint the entire unit in one pass, but I’m reserving judgement until I’ve done the first test unit.

The chaos army presents some more problems in filling in the models.  I have plenty of orcs and goblins, though to my eye the orcs look like goblins and the goblins like orcs.  I ordered some beastmen which look great.  I also purchased some wolf riders, but again to my backwards eye the riders look like orcs instead of goblins.  I’m not sure if I should care about that or not, but it slightly bothers me.  I have some goblin archers which I think with a little putty mohawk will be fine for chaos archers.  The chaos warriors and knights have been a problem, as there’s nothing in Pendraken’s like that’s quite right.  I just discovered this indiegogo project for 10mm “Evil Men” which are really perfect, but sadly I’ve missed the boat on that.  I’ve sent the organizer an email to see if there’s any way I can purchase some models.

ogresAnd that leaves the ogre.  I have a few ideas here, but none are perfect.  In the line on the right you can see the right-most model is the original Battle Masters ogre.  To his left is an original Battle Masters man-at-arms for scale.  To the left of him is a very interesting model, which I will speak about in a bit.  Continuing to the left is Pendraken’s giant model that game with my original dungeon set, and then finally my unit of men-at-arms for the final scale.

Even Pendraken’s giant seems a bit too large relative to the men.  The orignal man-at-arms comes up to the original ogre’s chest.  These guys barely hit the giant’s waste.  And it’s even worse for the model in the middle.  What the heck is that model?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  Remember how I described back in ’92 attending GenCon where this game was first released, and they were handing out free copies of the rule book?  Well, they were handing something else out at the booth at that time – two little plastic figures, a knight and an ogre.  I have no idea what the point of these hand-outs where.  Their scale was oddly small, a bit too small for standard 28 mm stuff, like what’s included in Battle Masters.  Maybe they were just proof of concept for these plastic some-assembly-required models?  (Note, the ogre there comes in five pieces: body front, body back, head, and two arms.)

I long ago lost the knight, he was kind of crappy anyway (a two-part model, his sword and shield were one solid piece that plugged into the front of the main body).  This ogre though has stuck around in my collection, and I’ve never had a use for him.  For a long time he was just a kind of silly mascot model in my Battle Masters box, left there perhaps to remind me of his origin.

I cant’ deny there’s a certain feeling of kismet to using that model in my custom reduced-scale version of the game.  Still, sadly, he’s way too big.  He’s clearly more in the giant range than the ogre range.  I’m thinking of maybe ordering some of Pendraken’s trolls, as they look like they might be the right scale.  Perhaps though I’ll wait and see how the rest of the units come together.  Maybe if I have to order some stuff from Pendraken to hack together some chaos knights, I’ll toss some trolls into the order just to make the comparison.

Battle Masters

In the early 90’s, Games Workshop teamed up with Milton Bradley to create a couple games using GW’s IP but stripping it of their branding and making the whole thing a bit more approachable to the novice.  The results were the hugely popular Hero Quest and Battle Masters, the former a dungeon crawl style board game and the latter a simplified version of a classic tabletop miniatures wargame.  Hugely popular is perhaps a bit subjective, I have no data to back that up, other than the fact that everyone I talk to has heard of these games, and they seem to continue to have cult followings on the internet.

I remember attending the GenCon when Battle Masters was released.  I don’t remember at all who ran the booth demoing it, whether it was branded GW or MB, but I do remember the three huge tables set up such that anyone could stop by and play a game (but maybe had to wait their turn depending on the time of day).  I know having demo tables like this is a common place practice at GenCon these days, but back then it was kind of unique, and I think remains so in the fact that it was pretty much unguided.  The tables were there, and if you felt like playing, you had to figure it out.

This was made easier by the fact that at the booth itself someone was handing out free copies of the instruction booklet to anyone that came by.  This combo strikes me as brilliant marketing.  I took a booklet back to my room, read it over, and by the next morning was at the tables waiting my turn to play.  I was so taken by the game that I actually bought a copy and brought it home with me.  This was no small feat given that A) I was pretty young at the time, and probably didn’t have a huge amount of spending money to blow on games, and B) I had come via plane and had to bring this enormous thing home with me.  It contains over 100 30 mm plastic models and a 5′ square vinyl mat instead of a board.  The box itself is the second largest game box in my closet to this day, beat out only by the Kickstarter edition of Ogre.

IMG_20150907_093711So not too long ago Jenn informed me of an estate sale someone had told her about where there were a bunch of games.  We went, and sure enough there were some really pristine copies of both Hero Quest and Battle Masters there.  Now, I already own both these games, and even though the collector in me marveled at their condition, I held back and instead bought a couple of old Avalon Hill games I didn’t own.  I’m a game player first and a collector second, but sometimes I have to fight the demons within to enforce that mentality.

And then wouldn’t you know it, those two games went unsold, and through the friend of a friend channels I was asked if I would like them both at half price.  Sigh.  Of course I bought them.  On the left here you can see my original 1992 copy at the bottom, thoroughly well played and beaten, and above it my new estate sale copy.  Yes, I admit it, I’m an addict.

The problem with this game is also one of its big attention grabbing selling points — it’s really huge.  I mean, I’ve never owned a table big enough for this game, and have thus always played it on the floor.  It’s fun, but it’s kind of a pain in the ass to drag out and set up.  So now I have two copies sitting in the closet with little chance of ever being casually brought out and played.  What’s the answer to this?  Why, a third copy of course.

As I was standing in my gaming / crafting room thinking what a shame it is that I haven’t down any miniature painting or other such stuff in over 2 years, the idea struck me to build a custom shrunk down copy of this game I love so much.  I have a ton of 10 mm fantasy miniatures that were my latest painting passion.  It seems counter-intuitive, but I find them easier to paint than the larger 30 mm models, simply because there’s really not very much detail you can even bother with.  So what if I rebuilt the units using 10 mm guys on little hand-made stands about 1.5″ x 1″, and expand from there, how big would the board be?  The answer is about 2′ square, certainly small enough to fit on my dining room table.

I still have a lot of details to figure out (how will I create the board, what about a box to hold everything, etc), but I’ve started in on the project.  I have no idea how long it will take me, and honestly I don’t much care.  Far too often with projects like this I have my eye so fixed on the end result that I don’t really get to enjoy the process of creating it.  This time, I’m trying to reverse that.  I mean, once the thing is done, what have I really gained?  A third copy of a game I rarely get to play.

So, expect to see more posts in the future as I start to put this thing together.  The units are the easy part, I’ve already got models laid out and have started cutting up some MDF to make bases.  I have a couple ideas on the board itself, but I’m not committed to anything yet, and I’m waiting on some materials to arrive to do some experiments.  Now, to go paint some minis!

The Siege of Bridgefaire

For several months in my campaign, Bridgefaire, the largest free city known to the players, has been under siege by a huge horde of undead.  Last weekend we finally resolved that siege, via a huge game of Book of War, with author and special guest Delta helping me to control the attacking side while my players controlled the defense.  BigFella, a former player in the campaign and good friend, was also able to join us bringing the attackers side up to 3 and taking some very nice photos for us.

We used the 10 mm figures I’ve been hooked on painting recently, which had the benefit of being fast and enjoyable for me to paint.  I also quite like the fact that their height is a little more appropriate to the scale of Book of War: 1″ = 20′.  That said, the game is clearly written for larger figures, so we did have to do some interpretation.  I also made quite a bit of custom terrain, as you’ll see in the photos.  So, let’s get on with the battle report (picture intensive, be prepared for a potentially slow load!):

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Book of War

Over a year ago I used Delta’s Book of War to resolve a major battle taking place in my campaign: the Battle of Restenford.  Next weekend I’ll be doing it again, and for this one the author himself is coming up to help me run it.  Expect to see more details on that in the future.  I invited some of the players to come and control the defense, which they’re excited to do, but a bit nervous about facing off against the creator of the game.  Some practice games were proposed, and so this afternoon I had two guest over for a little Book of War action.

Two players showed up, and for the first game I had them play just using the basic rules, 200 points a piece, just to get a feel for the rules.  We actually made a fair number of mistakes along the way, and I took pretty poor pictures of it, so we’ll just skip the review of that game.  The major point of interest was that it ended with one player down to just one unit of three horse archers, while the other had two units of cavalry, one medium and one heavy.  It was turning into a very slow game of cat and mouse, and so the horse archer player decided to just concede.  I think with two units the other guy probably could have eventually cornered those darned horse archers, though it would have taken quite a few turns.

For our second game we added in all the rules, and played a bigger game of 1 vs 2.  I had 500 points and my two opponents had 250 points each.  We wanted to play with wizards, and after cruising through the rules I decided it would be amusing to do a little law vs. chaos theme.  Here’s the board after initial setup, and the opponent has started moving some units:

My forces in the fore-ground from left to right include: 4 hill giants, 10 goblin archers (cleverly disguised as skeletons), 9 medium orc infantry with an embedded rank-2 wizard, 10 more orc medium infantry, and finally 10 more goblin archers (again disguised as skeletons).  For my spell I took Control Weather in hopes of avoiding bright sun penalties on all the green skins, but the weather roll came up cloudy anyway.  Still, worth the extra points I thought to ensure dark skies.

My opponents’ forces from left to right include: 3 horse archers, 3 light cavalry, 3 heavy cavalry, another 3 heavy cavalry, 8 pikemen, 5 archers, a wizard with 3 heavy infantry entourage, 5 more archers, 3 medium cavalry, and finally 3 more medium cavalry.  Yeah, that’s a lot of little units, which I’m not sure was an intentional strategy, but it did work in their favor as we will see.  The terrain includes a section of rough in the middle surrounded by lots of hills.  Amusingly most of those terrain placements are my own, as my opponents kept rolling “open”.   They seemed disappointed by not getting to place terrain, but for an army with so many cavalry I think they should be pretty pleased.

Here now is the board after the end of my first round:

I’ve moved all my green skins forward slightly in a defensive posture around the wizard and to try and get into better range weapon firing position, though the right flank opponents remain well out of range.  On the far left some lucky rock throwing has killed one horse archer and routed the unit, which will vanish off the board next round.  Excellent result considering the -2 to their rolls due to range and indirect fire over the hills.  One of the heavy cavalry units has also lost a model from my wizard’s fireball wand, though no route there.

Above is the end of my opponents’ round 2.  The enemy horse archers are nearly off the board.  On the right the medium cavalry have pushed forward but were slowed a bit by the intervening hills.  My right-most unit of orc infantry have taken some losses from archer fire, but hold the line.  The light cavalry has impacted into my goblin archers on the left, but they hold as well.

My turn 2, and I rush the enemy.  Perhaps it would have been wiser to hold back and keep firing missile weapons.  My hope though was to get one hit in with my giants.  Sure they need 6’s against the heavy cavalry, but with damage 2 hits just one hit will take out a model, and with only 3 models in the unit I’m hoping for a quick route.  In fact, the dice are just not with me here, as I only take out one cavalry model on both fights on the right flank, and no routes there either.  My goblins show their mettle taking down one of the light cavalry models and wounding another, and a lucky shot of the fireball wand takes out another heavy cavalry model.  One remains, but he just refuses to run.

Now the fight is starting to turn.  On the right flank I’m just not getting the hits I need, and my green skins are starting to whither.  My wizard’s orcish guards have taken some losses from archers, but fortunately have not run.  The solo heavy cavalry model has joined the light cavalry in wiping out my goblin archers on the left, and they route.  My giants start taking a couple hits, though with 8 HD a piece, I’m not worried yet.

My giants are now seriously under fire.  There’s a full unit of 3 heavy cavalry in front, and 2 light and 1 heavy in the back.  That’s 12 attacks!  Not to mention the pikemen have joined in with some 1″ distant jabs at my poor giants.  They’ve taken 6 wounds are look like they’ll lose a model soon.  Most distressing though is their continued inability to inflict a single wound on the enemy!  My wizards’ guards continue to take losses, and the battles on the right flank are really getting bloody.  I’m losing models left and right, while my own attacks just never seem to land.

This is the last turn we play, which is mine.  My opponents unfortunately have to leave soon, and before I throw in the towel I want my last licks.  Despite this, and despite shifting focus to attack the easier targets of light cavalry, the giants continue to roll terribly and miss every attack.  My goblins on the right finally break, and my orcs are down to just 4 figures and keep missing their targets.  The right flank was a pretty well balanced battle, but the dice just don’t love me in this game, and it looks like I’m going down.  My wizard does land a fireball on some of the enemy wizard’s heavy infantry guards, but it’s too little to do any real harm.

It’s too bad we didn’t get to finish out the fight, and I think my opponents’ are the pretty clear winners here.  It was a lot of fun though, and definitely served the purpose of getting us all comfortable with the rules.  I came away with a list of questions for Delta, which I’d normally just email, but as Book of War is an officially published product perhaps it serves us all better to post them publicly here.  I’m sure Delta won’t mind, right?

  1. How close to the edge of the board should starting units be placed?
  2. When calculating morale, is it correct that the HD bonus is for the base HD of the unit, and not multiplied by the number of models?  (Meaning 4 models of 8 HD giants get a +8 modifier not a +32.)
  3. When do routed units make their first move?  If it’s during the controlling player’s turn, can he choose to move his regular units first to get them out of the way of the fleeing units to avoid the panic they might cause?
  4. I see you have moved the extra rank bonus to morale into the optional rules section — do you use that rule yourself?
  5. Do horse archers get the same extra attack other cavalry units recieve (suspect the answer here is yes)?
  6. Do only models in base contact get to fight?  Does corner contact count?  Say a unit 8 files wide attacks a unit only 3 files wide, how many attacks does he make?
  7. What happens when a unit with an embedded wizard has to make a morale check and they fail?  Does the wizard flee with the rest of the unit?  What about his personal entourage?
  8. Can a wizard’s wand be used when his unit is engaged in melee?  Can he cast spells while in melee?

Wow, OK, that was longer than I anticipated.  Delta, if you don’t want to answer these here, I’ll be happy to move this to a more private venue.

Book of War

Delta has informed me of the release of his war-game Book of War, which I highly recommend anyone reading this blog immediately check out.  It’s a very light and easy miniatures battle game, which alone is enough to commend it, however it has one very excellent feature that really makes it noteworthy to us old school folks: parity with old school D&D.  It’s pretty easy to take say, the town of Restenford from L1, stat out its defenders, an incorporate its defense into your regular D&D game.  Or model whatever other large scale battle your D&D campaign requires.

Medieval Mice

At HelgaCon someone mentioned an interesting idea to me that’s stuck in my head.  So much so that I find I have to post about it before I can post about other HelgaCon stuff.  The idea was simply this: run a D&D game where the players are anthropomorphic mice.  It’s not the originality of the idea, but the simplicity of that’s really grabbed me.

The idea started when discussing Reaper’s excellent set of mousling miniatures.  When Reaper first introduced it’s Legion of Justice and Caeke line, I bought the first one for Jenn as something interesting for her to paint.  This led to picking up the second one in the line at GenCon, and then discovering the mouselings and purchasing those as well. Not only did she buy the full set, but I also ended up with an extra wizard-mouse when it turned out to be the model used during my round at speed-painting.  You can see my entry here.

Well it’s hard for me to be around miniatures without trying to find an actual gaming use for them.  Thus, I bought Jenn a copy of the Mouse Guard RPG, which I had heard of in passing but knew little about except that it’s apparently based on Burning Wheel.  It’s a beautiful book, and I’m sure Jenn read through the entire thing, but that’s pretty much where that ended.  I haven’t had a chance to really read through it, and given the heft of the book and Burning Wheel’s reputation as a “crunchy” game, I knew it would be a stretch for me to get around to running it.

The idea of just playing standard D&D with mice for characters for whatever reason never struck me until someone (was it BigFella?) mentioned it at HelgaCon.  It’s so simple and obvious I can’t get it out of my head.  The only real difficulties with the idea is the question of how much to warp D&D to make it feel more mousey.  Unfortunately there’s not a lot of inspiration to draw from.  Basically there are two:

I’ve read a couple of the RedWall series, but haven’t read any Mouse Guard yet.  I understand though that both ultimately completely eliminate the presence of humans.  I’m not crazy about that, I think a Borrowers-esque kind of setting would be far more amusing.  If I included humans, I’d love to have the “dungeons” actually be the inside of the walls of a normal human castle or similar.  That begs the question of how to orient the map though, it almost cries out for side-view instead of top-down, though that may push my map making abilities.

RedWall also introduces other anthropomorphic creature types.  Would I want to include that?  It might make an interesting way of handling demi-humans (demi-mice?)  I’d also probably have to come up with some other creature to use for the evil humanoids (no orcs, goblins, kobolds, gnolls, etc. in this game).  Monsters are easy – just use regular creatures.  Bigger lizards would make great dragons.  Would I want to push more fantasy elements?  Maybe, certainly there should be spell casters given the first mini painted was a wizard.

If anyone has any other ideas for inspiration I’m all ears.  Especially art that might depict labyrinthine mouse corridors behind normal human walls.  I don’t think I could seriously consider such a game without at least some ideas for a few dungeons.

Two Bits of News

I will be moving soon, and I realized that my miniature collection has really expanded quite a lot in the last five years.  How the heck am I going to pack and transport all these miniatures?  That’s when I discovered the EconoBox available at the Warstore for $11 a piece, or 5 for $50.  I ordered the bundle of 5, and so far have filed two and half of them.  They’re fantastic, and fill that much needed niche for longer term storage or larger quantity moves for which fancier miniature storage devices are simply not cost effective.  I highly recommend them.

Secondly, I’ve just heard that there will be an official OSR booth at GenCon 2011.  Awesome!

Dwarven Forge

I’ve mentioned before that I generally do not play with miniatures, at least not for RPGs.  However, here at work our crazy boss loves to encourage our group extra-curricular activities, and recently the following showed up at my desk:


Yes, that’s a huge pile of dwarven forge stuff, for use by the RPG players in the company.  Now our company has gotten big enough that there’s more than one RPG group comprised mostly of coworkers, but somehow I’ve ended up the sort of administrator for all things tabletop RPG around here.  So I unpacked the boxes, inventoried them, found a place to put them, and then thought to myself “Gosh, I should probably run something to christen this stuff.”  So I sent out an open invite to anyone that wanted to play an old school dungeon crawl that Friday night.  With only a week’s notice I still got 8 players.  Have I mentioned how awesome it is to work here?

Anyway, a few coworkers who couldn’t make it asked if I would please take some pictures, which I did.  Hence, this post, and the pictures below.  However, let’s talk about how the actual game ran.  I had quite a mix of players, some old hands, and at least one that had never played a tabletop RPG before in his life (though he was familiar with the conceits, being a computer RPG player).  I ran them through character creation, and my plan was then to run them through my One Page Dungeon Contest entry, which takes place below a major city and has a lot of hooks to various entries to the dungeon.  Given that this group was so large and disparate, I started them off guarding a caravan to the city and immediately attacked it with some orcs, just to get the group a chance to gel before I started giving them leads into the dungeon.

So between character creation and the opening fight, we were a little slow getting into the game.  Even so, I still think using the miniatures and the terrain slowed things down noticeably.  For the most part I left it to the players to figure out the dwarven forge.  I described the area to them, and instead of mapping they laid tiles.  I think though the simple fact of having pieces and a “board” in front of you pushes the players into a mode of thinking, similar to combat, where each person should have a turn to act.  While when there’s no map or terrain and the players simply nominate someone to draw the map, they think more like a group while exploring.  One player saying “we go this way” instead of eight players each saying “I go that way” is obviously going to be faster.

On the other hand, you can’t deny that the stuff is pretty.  And the players all had such a good time, several of them requested a continuation of the game at a later date.  Even though we did wrap up the major thread they were following (recovering the company pay box that was stolen when their caravan arrived), it was clear there was still much of the underground to explore.  While I don’t expect to turn this into a second ongoing campaign, I may run a sequel in the future, and won’t rule out future sequels on an ad-hoc basis.  For now though, enjoy the pretty pictures: