Friday, June 17, 2016

BGiME #6: Making Ruins

I’ve said it before, but constructing terrain—especially ancient and/or mysterious structures from the distant past—is one of my favorite aspects of the miniature wargaming hobby. As such, issue #6’s terrain-making chapter is my favorite one so far. The process of making more advanced ruins is presented in this issue. The techniques are simple and the results are terrific.

The “Defend the Ruins!” scenario found in this issue requires six pieces of terrain. Although any of the terrain from previous “Modelling Workshop” chapters would serve, I wanted to conjure up images of the early centuries of the Third Age and perhaps lingering relics from the Second Age of Middle-Earth in my games. So an even half-dozen ruins it must be!

The ruins are made largely with thick cardboard cut into the appropriate shapes with a craft knife, then mounted on base of thin card. Spackle is applied to give the pieces texture and, once dry, each ruin is then painted and flocked. I did these six in about a week of intermittent work, but could have easily cranked them out in a weekend if I had need to.

These are the ruins in the early stages of construction. Masking tape is applied to the cardboard edges to conceal the corrugation and create the appearance of solid stone. Each entire piece is next slathered in spackling compound. I went a little heavy in places, resulting in “frosted cake” consistency that is a bit too thick, but they still look fine for the tabletop. I finally sprinkled “sprue rubble” and a few rocks I picked up while walking to add some more details to each piece.

Once the spackling compound dried, I applied a basecoat of black spray paint for coverage.

Each of the ruins was drybrushed with a dark gray paint, followed by another drybrushing of a lighter gray, then one last layer of drybrushed off-white to pick out the final highlights. The borders of each ruin was painted a chocolate brown and a layer of grass flock was applied to finish off the ruins.

Overall, I’m tremendously satisfied with the results. The cost was negligible, making them was quick, and the technique to craft them was simple. I can easily see myself using the same method to make more elaborate ruins for a city-centric miniatures wargame. With a little snow effect flocking, similar ruins would make a great addition to a Frostgrave gaming table. Next up, we’ll see how they look on the tabletop when we play through “Defend the Ruins!”

BGiME #6: Painting Aragorn, Hero of Helm's Deep

Far more than a King...he is a Man who may command me. --Theoden
Had we been buying Battle Games in Middle-Earth as they were released on a fortnightly schedule back in 2003, issue #6 would have been an important one. With this issue, we could now discard the cardstock version of Aragorn we'd been using and replace him with a metal model as he truly deserves. This won't be the last Aragorn we paint before we come to the end of the BGiME line, but this one serves as a good place to begin.

I want to take a moment to remind the readers that, as part of my exploration of the Battle Games series, I'm painting each issue's model(s) exactly as instructed in the "Painting Workshop" section. In many cases, these means that the model won't be up to my normal standards, but it should be at least tabletop ready. I'm no Golden Demon winner, but I like to hope my skills are a bit better than the introductory level ones the readers are assumed to possess in the early issues of Battle Games in Middle-Earth.

With that in mind, allow me to present Aragorn, Hero of Helm's Deep:

Aragorn rushes to defend the Hornburg!

Apologies for the blurriness.

"I would have followed you, my brother... my captain... my king."
Even painted according to the "Painting Workshop" techniques, the final result isn't particularly poor and Aragorn makes e a nice (and powerful)  addition to the readers' growing miniature forces. We'll revisit this particular model and paint job in issue #61. Maybe we'll see a marked improvement over this beginning painting then. In the meanwhile, I think I'll shelve this version of Aragon and use my better painted model on the tabletop.

Battle Games in Middle-Earth #6 Overview

The spring has turned into summer since I last posted words here and we’ve said farewell to the rain and cold that stymies our efforts to prime and seal the painted warriors of Middle-Earth. Despite the lack of scribed words and posted reports, there’s in truth more SBG gaming happening around these parts than ever before. My efforts to beat the bushes for people interested in the SBG has borne fruit and my Facebook feed is richer than ever with Middle-Earth miniature news, thanks to my discovery of the GBHL. So, in celebration of this increased gaming activity, let’s continue our examination of Battle Games in Middle-Earth.

Battle Games in Middle-Earth #6 greets us with the stoic visage of Aragon staring at us giant-like from beyond the ramparts of Helm’s Deep. Right away, we know we’re in for some Strider-centric action this issue. The enclosed miniature model, selected from the “Heroes of Helm’s Deep” boxed set and depicting Aragorn rushing into battle clad in his chainmail hauberk, confirms our suspicions.

As always, the issue begins with the “Guide to Middle-Earth” section. Issue #6 is focused on Aragorn, Hero of Helm’s Deep. It recounts his journey from a Ranger in the wild to the fateful council in Rivendell to his efforts to defend the Ringbearer and rescue Merry and Pippin from the clutches of Saruman’s Uruk-hai. The article ends by setting us up for the rest of the issue, discussing Aragorn’s apparent death and subsequent arrival at Helm’s Deep at the cusp of the Battle for the Hornburg.

“Playing the Game” offers up a new wrinkle in the movement rules: climbing, jumping, and falling. Having mastered the basics of movement and the role terrain plays on model movement in the game in previous issues, BGiME #6 provides rules for moving miniatures up, down, over, and across terrain, obstacles, and barriers. It describes the differences between barriers and difficult terrain, presents rules and charts for determining a model’s success in scaling or leaping across obstacles, and the consequences of falling from heights. Thanks to these new rules, tabletop battles are no longer limited to two dimensions. The section closes with notes on how barriers affect trapped models in the Fight phase and gives the reader rules for concealing warriors by laying them prone behind terrain and how to determine if the enemy spots them.

The “Battle Game” chapter includes a new and interesting scenario, “Defend the Ruin!” This scenario depicts a classic “what if?” situation: Could Aragorn stop a band of brutal Uruk-hai intent on sneaking into the Glittering Caves and massacring the women and children of Rohan? Not only is this a challenging scenario for the players, it also features the first time limit on a game we’ve so far seen in BGiME. The Evil player has just ten rounds to find the secret entrance to the Glittering Caves and get his Uruk-hai inside before Rohan reinforcements come to Aragorn’s aid. Given that neither Good nor Evil player knows the location of the secret entrance at the start of the game, and that Aragorn must stop or slow down five brutal orcs to achieve victory, this scenario isn’t easy for either side to score a decisive victory. In typical fashion, we’ll look at “Defend the Ruins!” in more depth in a later post.

“Painting Workshop” describes techniques and offers useful tips for painting our new Aragorn model. Much of the information is material we’ve seen before, but the concept of customizing miniature bases is introduced with a “top tip” instructing the reader to adorn Aragorn’s base with a small stone painted in appropriate gray tones. Anyone who has done excessive base modeling for their figures knows that this is the first small step towards a gentle madness!

Issue #6 ends with the “Modelling Workshop” section and it’s an excellent one. This chapter is filled with detailed instructions on constructing ruins of far better quality and appearance than the simple one from issue #2. Using basic, inexpensive materials such as thick cardboard and Spackle, the reader can craft impressive-looking, yet crumbling relics from a previous time in Middle-Earth. These ruins make fantastic terrain, barriers to be breached or defended, or objectives to be taken or held. I was personally inspired to make six ruins for my table after reading this chapter and they all look fantastic.

The issue closes with the usual sneak peek at the next magazine’s contents. We see that we have a sprue of Rohan Warriors headed our way in issue #7, as well as new rules for defending barriers, tips on building walls and fences, and a scenario pitting Rohan against rampaging Uruk-hai. Sounds like a great issue! We’ll cover it in the weeks ahead. Until then, let’s take a further look at the fun stuff in Battle Games in Middle-Earth #6.