Sunday, August 23, 2015

BGiME #3: Creating a Hedgerow

The “Modelling Workshop” project in Battle Games in Middle-Earth #3 is the hedgerow, a common obstacle/barrier that’s simple to make and looks good on the game table. All you need is a green scouring pad, some flock, cardboard, glue, a little paint, and you have a pair of nice terrain pieces. With an ultimate plan to run “The Scouring of the Shire” one day, I figured I’d best become familiar with making these and sat down to assemble out a pair of hedgerows for my table.

The hedges are easy to create, but I did encounter two problems in making them. The first was my own fault, while the second was due to a step in the instructions. The first thing I noticed is that I was running into trouble flocking the hedgerow and base. I’ve made terrain utilizing flock in the past—albeit a while ago—and didn’t recall having as much difficulty at that time. I finally pinpointed the cause of my difficulty, but it unfortunately came after I’d had put the project to bed. The reason the flock wasn’t adhering as well as it had in the past was that I was using white glue mixed with a ratio of water as an adhesive. On previous projects I used a wood glue/water mix with much better results. Not all PVA glues are the same when it comes to scratch-building, it seems, and I’ve noted this for future reference. 

The second issue was that the instructions say to paint the base of each hedgerow green. In my opinion, I don’t believe using green as a base color when you’re going to flock the piece is the best way to proceed. In other terrain pieces, I’ve always used a dark, almost black, brown as a basecoat for areas I intend to cover with flock. It provides a better look, giving the illusion of rich soil underneath the green grass. Combined with the less-than-perfect flocking, the green basecoat is sloppy to my eyes on the finished piece.

You can see where the flock failed to stick in this overhead view.

The light green base coat proves problematic when the flock doesn't stick
All-in-all, however, it’s a good start for a terrain collection. I’ll need to make six to eight more of these in the future to have a full set of hedgerows for my table, but given the lessons I’ve learned and the experience I’ve acquired to make them, that’s a task that will take one rainy winter weekend to complete.

Next up, we pit Frodo against the Ringwraiths and things turn bad very quickly.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

BGiME #3: Painting Frodo(s)

I knew when this crazy project began that I wouldn’t always have the model included with each issue in my own collection to paint as per the instructions given in Battle Games in Middle-Earth magazine. There would have to be substitutions made, especially—as I initially believed—when it came to the Fellowship. The models included in the various BGiME issues come from the original Fellowship of the Ring boxed set, which is something I didn’t own at the time I embarked on this weird journey. My intent was to substitute my plastic Fellowship models from the Mines of Moria starter set. 

Original Fellowship of the Ring set from Games Workshop (2001)

Happenstance and good friends intervened on my behalf, however. In a three-month period, I had not one, but two complete sets of metal Fellowship minis fall into my lap, presenting me with a bevy of Frodos to choose from. I had already painted my Mines of Moria plastic Frodo according to the instructions included in issue #3, leaving me with the option of doing one of the metal models in the same way and remaining true to the magazine’s choice of models or giving them both a more advanced detailing. I chose the latter, intending to keep one set and present the other as a gift to someone I know who shares my love for the Professor’s work (Shh! That’s a secret!). So, rather than one painted Frodo, I find myself with three. Allow me to present them to you:

Frodo #1: Mines of Moria plastic miniature (painted using technique described in BGiME #3)

Frodo #2: Fellowship of the Ring metal model (I used a wash to detail the facial features a bit more)

Frodo #3: Fellowship of the Ring metal model (no wash used)

The Fellowship of Frodos (Do you call a group of hobbits a “pipe of hobbits?”)

I think I’m most partial to the washed version but only a fraction more so than the unwashed version. I’m happy with the lot of them and look forward to placing them in dire straits many times in the future.

Battle Games in Middle-Earth #3 Overview

Gen Con is over, my backlog of projects has been slain, and my future projects have been carefully scheduled to allow a steady stream of work that still allows me some time for recreational activities. In short, it’s time to get back to Middle-Earth and the miniatures that represent it!

Issue #3 of Battle Games in Middle-Earth contains a few firsts for the series, all of which we’ll explore it a moment. It marks, in my opinion, the first step into both the SBG as a whole and into the advanced stages of the miniature wargaming hobby. If you’ve purchased issues #1 and #2 and found your appetited whetted, issue #3 is the first real course of the delightful meal that awaits you.

Issue #3 starts off as usual with the “Guide to Middle-Earth” chapter. In this issue, we are introduced to Frodo the Ringbearer and his flight from the Nazgûl, plus the role Strider the Ranger plays in escorting Frodo and his fellow hobbits to safety. We get a single page summary of the scenario to come postulating a situation where Frodo becomes separated from the rest with the Ringwraiths closing in. There is also a brief introduction to the rest of the issue’s contents. In short, the “Guide” doesn’t provide much concrete information about Tolkien’s creation, making it the least useful of the chapters within the issue. Here’s hoping this isn’t the beginning of a trend.

We next move on to “Playing the Game.” Now that the reader knows the basic rules, it’s time to start building upon this knowledge. Issue #3 features more information on the first two phases of the game turn: Priority and Move.

Priority is the shortest section. There’s really not much more you can say about “roll two dice and see who goes first that round.” There is a brief mention that, in rare scenarios, Good does not always begin the game with Priority, such as in the case of an ambush scenario. Further information is promised in later issues.

The Move Phase gets the most attention. The basic game rules presented a stripped down set of movement rules, but issue #3 begins the process of explaining the exceptions, clarifications, and special rules to these basics. For instance, models with ranged attacks can no longer move their full distance and fire. Those models wishing to attack during the Shoot phase are limited to half their movement or less. The concept of difficult terrain (any terrain that would slow down the model) is introduced along with the “difficult terrain counts as twice the actual distance” rule. 

We also meet the idea of visibility, wherein models cannot charge enemies they cannot see due to distance, terrain or other circumstances. The standard “model’s point of view” (wherein the player crouches down to eye-level of his miniature and sees what he can see) is described as a means to determine visibility in the case of terrain and obstacles. 

One last new rule is presented and it is an important one: control zone. Each model not currently in combat “controls” an area in a 1” radius around him. This means no enemy figure can move through this control zone unless it charges the figure controlling the space and engages him in combat. This represents the fact that an enemy can’t simply stand near a hostile foe and not expect to get drawn into a fight. It also makes it possible for a skirmish line of troops to defend a doorway, barricade, or similar obstruction in a somewhat realistic manner. As with most wargame rules, there are exceptions to the control zone and these are given brief coverage as well.

The next chapter gives us our gaming scenario for the issue: “Pursuit of the Ringwraiths.” This is a difficult one, folks, and is sure to test the skill and luck of the Good player. The basis of the scenario is the possibility that Frodo gets separated from the rest of his companions shortly after their flight from Bree and he must either escape the Nazgûl alone or be rescued by Strider. If the Ringwraiths capture him, all hope for the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth is dashed in a single master stoke by the Enemy. 

The deck is stacked against the side of Good in “Pursuit of the Ringwraiths.” Not only does Frodo suffer from a slower movement rate than his pursuers, but each round before the Move Phase, the Good player must roll a die. On a result of a “6,” the Ring thwarts Frodo’s attempts to flee and the model cannot move that turn, allowing the Ringwraiths to close in or preventing Frodo from reaching safety. Aragorn also starts a fair distance from Frodo, leaving the poor hobbit potentially facing up to five Ringwraiths at once with little hope of wounding them. This is going to be interesting to play out on the game table.

We briefly pause between chapters to examine the cardstock insert containing fold-out models for use in the included and later scenarios. The insert in issue #3 contains five Ringwraiths including the Witch-King (to be used in this issue’s scenario), Saruman, Lurtz with bow, Armoured Moria Goblin Captain, two Mordor Orcs, an Uruk-hai Warrior and an Uruk-hai Bowman. Our collection of models, plastic, metal, and cardstock, is growing nicely!

The “Painting Workshop” provides information on detailing this issue’s model: a metal Frodo miniature from the Fellowship of the Ring boxed set. A pot of red (“Blood Red” in Citadel’s range) paint is included as well. This will be our first metal miniature and what better place to start that with the Ringbearer himself?! 

This chapter provides tips on more advanced painting techniques that will serve the reader well going forward. The basics of mixing paint to achieve different color tones (such as the green of Frodo’s cloak or the light brown of his pack and waistcoat) are introduced. We also cover basing. Whereas the Moria Goblin and Last Alliance models had bases painted green, issue #3 discusses coating Frodo’s base with PVA glue and dipping it into green flock to give it a grassy appearance. Most serious wargamers use some sort of basing for their models to help add detail and/or tie their armies together, so it’s a helpful tip for the starting wargame hobbyist. 

Finishing off the issue is my always-favorite “Modelling Workshop” which gives the reader his or her first real terrain building project. The simple ruin in issue #2 were a nice introduction, but here we have a piece that will see prolonged use on the game table: the hedgerow. With rules for visibility and difficult terrain presented in this issue, the hedgerow project is a nice touch, one that puts those rules to immediate use. With just a few easily- and cheaply-acquired materials, the reader can have a pair or more of hedgerows assembled in a day or two, ready to add detail to his gaming table. As one of my goals is to eventually run “The Scouring of the Shire” campaign, having a good collection of hedgerows is important and I can’t wait to get some cranked out!

The magazine’s back cover heralds more plastic troops on the way as we are presented with pictures of issue #4’s cover (featuring a fearsome-looking Uruk-hai) and a sprue of ten Uruk-hai troops. Looks like Saruman’s forces are coming to visit next! We better get Frodo painted, build some hedgerows to slow them down, and practice our tactics against some Ringwraiths in anticipation of issue #4’s arrival.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Twenty-four Precious Objects for The One Ring RPG

Gen Con 2015 and all the associated preparations and frustrations is finally behind me, allowing the opportunity to get back to painting minis and working on my regular The One Ring game. Last Sunday saw the group get back together for the first time in over a month to explore the Anduin River valley and seek out some answers behind the possible location of a hoard dating from the fall of Angmar. I’ll leave the details of that search for another day.

I purposely added a hoard into the campaign as I wanted to give the new Magical Treasure rules from the Rivendell supplement a try. To do so required I assemble a Magical Treasure Index for the campaign, which I spent a pleasantly cool Saturday writing up. The following is my Precious Objects section from the index. As most of the items aren’t specifically keyed to the campaign, I thought I’d share it with you fine folks as either inspiration or direct use.

Precious Objects (no Tengwar results)
Roll a feat die and a success die. If the success die result is 1-3, use Table 1 to determine the throw of the feat die. On a success die roll of 4-6, use Table 2 to resolve what Precious Object is found. Use the indicated table to resolve the feat die’s result and determine what treasure is discovered.

Table 1: Diced-for Results (as per the tables in Rivendell pp. 91-92)
Eye) A tiny ruby chip embedded in a web of silver wire hangs from a slender golden chain. The links of the chain resemble holly leaves, indicating the jewelry was crafted by the elves of Eregion. The gold is dull as if sitting in shadow. The object is worth 20 Treasure points.

1) A small pearl dangles from a golden chain. A single dwarven rune is carved into one side of the pearl and the inscription is filled with burnished gold. Made in Khazad-dύm, it is worth 20 Treasure points.

2) A single freshwater pearl with pink tint rests atop a fine silver band. Worn on the brow to restrain the flowing hair of elves, this piece of Elvish jewelry from Eregion is worth 20 Treasure points.

3) A many-faceted white gem brooch that sparkles twice as bright in starlight. The stone glistens as if perpetually wet with sea spray. Made by the Men of Westernesse, the brooch is worth 20 Treasure points.

4) A silver brooch entwined with crawling ivy vines. The ivy leaves are formed by chips of emerald. Possibly of Westernesse origin, the item is worth 40 Treasure points.

5) A hefty gold ring sized for Dwarvish fingers. The ring bears the device of a blue flame made of sapphire burning in the heart of a forge. Obviously crafted in Khazad-dύm, it is worth 40 Treasure points.

6) A golden necklace of thick links bearing a net of finer silver chains. Flecks of ruby dangle from the silver wire, calling to mind a spray of embers. This work of Erebor predates the coming of Smaug and is worth 80 Treasure points.

7) A silver armband adorned with the golden bas-relief of a holly tree, the leaves are cut from shards of green gem and the red berries are bits of glittering ruby. Created by the elves of Eregion, this item was worn by the protectors of the realm’s borders and is worth 80 Treasure points.

8) A circlet of silver adorned with a golden scallop shell at the forefront. A glittering white gem rests in the heart of the shell like a piece of trapped, gleaming sea foam. Created by the Men of Westernesse after the sinking of Nύmenor, the circlet is worth 100 Treasure points.

9) A tremendous sapphire stone the color of the ocean deeps crowns this golden ring of solid construction. Small flaws in the heart of the stone mimic delicate seaweed dancing in the ocean currents. An engraving on the inner band reads “All praise to the works of Ulmo” in Adûnaic, the common language of Nύmenor. It is worth 100 Treasure points.

10) A single amethyst of regal purple hue. A quartet of golden tines grip the stone, demonstrating it was once part of a larger piece of jewelry. The stone glimmers in the moonlight, creating glints of light that appear vaguely humanoid as if the auras of those who lived long ago. The sense of melancholy washes over all who hold the stone. A lost jewel of Beleriand, the stone is worth 100 Treasure points.

Gandalf) A single adamant stone, shining with a seemingly inherent light. The stone possesses numerous facets cut by the patient hands of the dwarves of Nogrod during the distant First Age. The jewel appears to glow brighter when in the company of other precious stones. It is worth 120 Treasure points.

Table 2: Special Objects (homemade creations)
Eye) An ivory pipe bearing the carving of a flourishing orchard with fruit inscribed around the pipe’s bowl. Hobbits claim the pipe improves the quality of any pipe-weed burned in it. Worth 20 Treasure points (Hobbit culture treasure).

1) A necklace of shining silver chain fashioned into the form of a serpent. A single small white gem rests in the snake’s mouth. This is a product of the elves of Eregion. Worth 20 Treasure points.

2) An inkwell carved from a single amethyst and lined with silver. A golden top carved into the shape of an acorn seals the well when not in use. It is said that all agreements signed in ink from the well will never be broken. Worth 40 Treasure points.

3) A sheath of blue leather tipped with gold and its mouth rimmed with the same precious metal. Three oak leaves turned to yellow gold are entwined around and decorate the body of the scabbard. It is sized to hold a short sword or long dagger. Worth 60 Treasure points.

4) A golden tankard with silver lid. A window of clear crystal allows the drinker to gauge the level of liquid remaining in the tankard. Around the window is an embossed dwarven face, his mouth open wide, the window positioned in the face’s open mouth. Worth 80 Treasure points.

5) A skullcap of silver bearing a white jewel at its peak. Dwarven runes are inscribed around the border of the cap. This object is said to have been worn by a prideful dwarf who went bald before his time. Worth 80 Treasure points.

6) A golden cup with its lip dressed in pearls. Leaping stags are etched along the bowl of the cup. Some believe the pearls turn black if poisoned liquid is poured into the cup. Worth 80 Treasure points.

7) A necklace of golden and silver wire entwined in a spider’s web. Myriad dark purple amethysts adorn the strands like dew drops caught in a web at dawn. Worth 100 Treasure points.

8) A single green crystal orb the size of an orange and set atop a round base of chased silver. Quenya writing along the base praise Elbereth Tintalle. Shining glints of yellow twinkle in the depths of the orb, which is believed to bring peaceful dreams if left at the foot of one’s bed. Worth 100 Treasure points.

9) A map/scroll case made of beaten gold and sealed with ivory stoppers. The exterior of the case is decorated to resemble a colored rolled map with flecks of emeralds for forests, sapphires for lakes, adamant for snow-capped mountains, and flakes of onyx for trails and borders. Worth 120 Treasure points.

10) A golden ring set with a cluster of pea-sized sapphires. The stones are arranged as a bunch of grapes, glistening with morning dew. In the days of Westernesse, a lord’s wine steward wore this piece as his badge. Worth 120 Treasure points.

Gandalf) A golden lamp decorated with cut rubies and emeralds set to capture the light of the lamp’s flame. The gems throw dancing colors on the walls and ceiling when lit in a dark room. Some say the elves could predict future events by observing the flickering colors. Worth 120 Treasure points.