Mar 192010

(Originally posted 100319)

I was asked to show how I made the step pyramid we used in our Song of Blades campaign recently. Luckily, I had prepared a few pictures of the different steps. Remember, click each image for a larger view!

Step 1: The basics
I started out with a masonite sheet which I’d cut to a 30×30 cm square. I rounded the corners and gave the edges a slight bevel by sanding. I also sanded the surface for better glue adhesion.

Next, I cut out regular white styrofoam (the expanded kind, made up of little styrofoam balls). It’s generally frowned upon by terrain builders, but it was the only kind I could get. It’s not as malleable as pink foam, but it works fine for this project.

I cut out four squares, decreasing the edge size of each by 4 cm. These form the four levels of the pyramid. I didn’t take particular care when doing this, but still used a steel ruler and tried to get the cuts as straight and horizontal as possible. Most important here is to have a sharp blade and use a gentle, loooong sawing motion when cutting. You can’t cut styrofoam as you cut card or foam core. It’ll only mess up the cuts and make the foam crumble or curl.

The result ended up like this:

Step 2: Joining stuff together!
First thing I did here was to just tile the levels on top of eachother (and the base) and draw out an outline to get the levels fairly well aligned.

I then applied a liberal amount of PVA (wood glue) to the base, pressed down level 1, slid it around to spread the glue love and finally aligned it. Once in place, I pushed a few cocktail sticks into level 1 near the center, to rely not only on glue for adhesive support. Once again, I applied liberal amounts of glue to the area which would be covered by level 2 and then put level 2 in place, like this:

This was repeated for each level until the pyramid was assembled. At this point, I continued on with sculpting – but what you really should do is to apply preassure on the pyramid and wait for it to dry completely. I finally found a use for my old copy of Trivial Pursuit, and also had a reason to bring out Titan. Two opposites, but they have one thing in common. Actual weight!

Step 3: Sculpting!
This might seem complicated and hard, but I’m telling you it’s dead easy! This was the first time I sculpted stone work of any kind, so don’t fret!

I started drawing a rough grid, off-setting it by 1 cm on each level. I then started cutting out small “scores” along the grid. This was done by “slicing” along the lines with the blade tilted first to my left and then to my right. It took a while, but not more than 30 minutes or so to do the whole pyramid.

After I had the stone slabs sculpted, I did some detail and weathering damage here and there. Still using the same “angled slicing” as above. I also shaved off the perfect angles of corners and edges. Here’s a work-in-progress shot:

Step 4: Base coat, sand and gravel
The first base coat must be applied with a brush! Any aerosols will melt the polystyrene and you don’t want that. I mixed some PVA glue with water and then added black acrylic craft paint to the mix. This was applied liberally with a large brush all over the piece. Make sure to get the mix into every nook and cranny to prevent the white of the polystyrene to show through!

While the base coat is still wet, I poured coarse gravel on select spots where there should be rubble. Some small pebbles were also glued down with an extra dab of PVA. The rest of the base coat was covered in very fine sand. This was then left to dry completely and thoroughly, and finally I gave the whole piece a coat of watered down black acrylic paint. In hindsight I should’ve used a dark brown instead of black. Here’s the result, halfway through the last base coat:

Step 5: Finishing up!
This part was not really documented, I’m afraid. What I did next was to cover the base in flock and static grass, just in case I’d have to game with the piece before I had been able to finish the dry brushing and touch-up. Luckily, I did have time to finish the whole piece before we started playing.

I drybrushed in several steps, starting with a dark brown on a fairly wet brush. Here’s one shot of the piece at that level.

I then added an ochre to the dark brown in steps, with an increasingly drier brush. At the end, I added some white to the ochre to get some nice highlights on the raised edges and debris. The last touch was to add static grass and a piece of left over foliage from my trees here and there on the pyramid. I sealed the whole thing with a glossy spray on varnish. Now, when more than a week have passed I’ve also given it a coat of dull varnish to take the shine off. These pictures were all taken of the piece with glossy varnish though.

Here are a few of the finished piece, with a 28mm miniature for sense of scale.

So, that’s pretty much it. With left-over materials and two evenings of fiddling after work, I have this pretty neat scenario centre piece!

Mar 182010

(Originally posted 100318)

I’ve been ill with a cold for the last week or so, hence the complete and utter lack of updates on my Song of Blades game more than a week ago. Now I’m recovering though and tomorrow I’m heading back to work. This will be celebrated by a report of my less than stellar performance in…

Pyramid Campaign – Scenario 3
Miss Catherine and her band of warriors have now acquired the old talisman they need to access the riches hidden in the pyramid of Sankar. They reach their final destination at dawn, and with their blades at the ready emerge into the clearing in which the pyramid is located. Automated metal guardians stir to life as ancient seals of warding are broken by the talisman’s presence.

Scenario specific rules: The pyramid is located in the centre of the battle field. The defender (that’s me, playing the guardians of Sankar’s pyramid) deploys his forces either in base contact with the pyramid or on the first level of the pyramid’s steps. The attacker then assigns the values 2,3,4 and 5 to each table edge and rolls a D6 to determine which side he’s deploying on: 1; Defender’s choice, 2-5; the assigned side, 6; Attacker’s choice.
As you can see above, Fredrik deployed miss Catherine and her trusty companions on the “western” edge, while my automaton guardians are spread around the pyramid.

The goal of the attacker is to reach the top tier of the pyramid with the talisman bearer (assigned pre-game) and spend 3 actions in one turn with that character to activate the powers of the talisman. The objective of the defenders is simply to stop the attackers from reaching their win condition.

Fredrik’s warband consisted of Catherine (human leader), Creed (human berserker), Summer (human magic-user), Blink (elf archer), Tora (dwarf warrior) and Ana-Marie (human thief).

My guys were a bunch of Q4 heavy hitters: Sergeant (Q4, C4, Champion), Magic-user (Q3, C1, Magic-user), Fighter (Q4, C4), 2 x Hammerer (Q4, C4, Short move), 2x Sneaks (Q4, C3, Stealth), Golem (Q4, C5, Big). All had “artificial” trait as well.

I started with initiative, and managed to move my guys around a bit before failing two activations. As always, click the image below for a larger version.

Fredrik’s first turn was a bit more eventful, as he managed to move forward and Blink took a shot at my Magic-user which actually got him to fall.

Turn two was very inactive for both. I moved one of my sneaks, and then when I actived my magic user with two dice to stand him up I failed both! Fredrik was even worse off though, and failed with two on his first activation (Creed, the berserker).

I then had a pretty decent turn, as I activated all of my characters. I tried positioning defensively around the first tier on the pyramid as that would give my guys some bonus. I put the hammerers (tough but slow) as some sort of bait on the ground.

Fredrik’s troops were not late to go for the hammerers. First his magic user Summer attempted to transfix my Golem, which failed as I passed the two-dice Quality test. Blink missed an aimed shot at the nearest hammerer and then Tora and Creed moved up on it, failing to cause any damage though.

I started my next turn with a successful transfix of Creed. With a golden opportunity, my fighter failed to activate and the turn passed to Fredrik. Fredrik broke the transfix on Creed and went on to take out my hammerer but failed to do much else.

I tried to respond in force. My golem moved down from the ledge and attacked Tora, the dwarf warrior. She was merely pushed back though. My magic-user attempted to transfix Creed, which also failed. My other characters moved about a little, and then I did the mistake which would cost me the game. My champion moved forward and attacked Creed, but failed and was pushed back. One of my sneaks tried to squeeze in and attacked Creed too, but failed and fell!

Creed smashed the sneak to smithereens with a powerful attack, and Summer transfixed my champion. Tora rushed forward and aimed a powerful attack at my champion, but I lucked out and we rolled a draw! Blink took an aimed shot at my fighter, but missed. Catherine and Ana-Marie had not been participating in the battle so far, but now Catherine moved up while Ana-Marie stayed at the edge of a woods section (not in the image).

My champion managed to break the transfix spell, and boosted by this I decided to gamble on my golem. I activated with three dice and all succeeded! He dashed forward, and attacked Fredrik’s leader Catherine with a powerful attack… which resulted in a push-back of Catherine! =( My magic-user then attempted to transfix Catherine, but failed to activate.

Summer started Fredrik’s sixth turn by transfixing my champion. Tora, who was in base contact already did a powerful attack but once again I lucked out and rolled a draw! I was all out of luck though, as Creed circled around and with the assistance of Tora managed to kill my champion. All 5 of my remaining models failed their morale tests with at least one dice, and none of them could flee towards the nearest table edge without passing any enemies within a short distance. They were all wiped out and Catherine’s gang could without suffering a single casualty pillage the treasury of the pyramid!

I was pretty let down by this abrupt end, and so was Fredrik. I did make a misstake when I moved my champion to the front-lines, I admit that. We still don’t think the ending was fair – or more importantly; it wasn’t fun! The main problem here was the way my remaining models were forced to flee into the arms of the enemies.

In conclusion, a neat little campaign – with a surprisingly abrupt ending. A pity that, especially as I had built the pyramid especially for this scenario and painted a few D&D Warforged for the occasion!

Coming up; I’ll post a short tutorial on how I did the pyramid. Also, a close-up on the painted Automatons!