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!

Feb 272010

(Originally posted on 100227)

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. In this scenario, it was the plans of my men… I’m sure I’ll post about mice plans going awry as well some day.

Pyramid Campaign – Scenario 2.
The last episode ended with Hawkins and his men gaining both pieces of the talisman. On their way to the ancient pyramid where king Sankar is buried, they’re ambushed by a band of troglodytes. What Hawkins doesn’t know is that the troglodytes have been employed by his surviving enemies from the last battle; miss Catherine and her warriors. If Hawkins can guide his party safely to the other side of the board and exit with the talisman still in his possession, they should be able to lose the troglodytes in the dense forests. Then it’s only a matter of a few days of travel until they reach the pyramid of Sankar.

Scenario specific rules: The defender (Fredrik, controlling the troglodytes) sets up the terrain and then positions his troglodytes anywhere within his half of the board, with atleast a medium distance space between any troglodytes. The attacker (me, controlling Hawkins warband) sets up with normal rules and have to exit with my leader (who is holding the talisman) on the other side of the board.

I decided I would try to go through the woods on my left flank, staying in cover of the center woods as long as possible. With the new addition of a minotaur warrior named Bull, I felt invincible. This turned out to be a poor assumption…

Llandau (elf rogue) and Tibor (human warrior) charged into the center woods, where they clashed with a kobold archer and a troglodyte bonecrusher. Just outside the woods stood a troglodyte brute and the troglodyte captain.

At the same time, Husk (half-orc hero) and Khwair (dwarf warrior) advanced between the two woods sections, where Husk ended up falling in a battle with a troglodyte barbarian near the left woods.

Bull had joined Tibor and Llandau in the center woods, but was very unlucky with his attack on the bonecrushed merely managing a push-back.

Fredrik managed to take out Husk with one of his two troglodyte brutes, while I still hadn’t managed to kill more than a lousy kobold archer.

I moved my guys out of the woods hoping to do some quick tag-team damage to a few of the stronger troglodytes.

Fredrik pushed me back though, and after a few turns Hawkins (my human leader) was locked in combat with a troglodyte barbarian (lethal to humans!) and a troglodyte brute. Luckily, I managed to take the brute down. Looking back at the pictures, I don’t understand why – but at this point I decided to make a dash for the objective instead of fighting and I ran off whith Hawkins and Tibor, who went out on the left flank and around the left woods section. I had no enemies between Hawkins and the table edge and really did think I could make it.

Unfortunately that was not the case. Fredrik had more luck with activations than I and soon Hawkins fell.

We continued to trade blows for a while, but my warband was soon wiped out and Fredriks troglodytes could return the talisman to miss Catherine. With a rested and refitted warband, she will be the one to approach the pyramid of Sankar in the next scenario.

My warband survived though – except for Bull, who was torn to pieces and feasted upon by the savage troglodytes. Who knows when they will show up again?

Feb 242010

(Originally posted on 100224)

I had a day off work today, and my regular gaming buddy (and cousin, to boot) Fredrik came by for a day of gaming. I had worked out a small Song of Blades & Heroes campaign for us to tackle consisting of three linked scenarios.

Pyramid Campaign – Scenario 1.
Two warring adventurer bands have acquired one half each of a magical talisman. The complete talisman is needed to unlock the secrets of an ancient pyramid, buried deep in the remote forests. Neither band is prepaired to share the certain riches to be found, thus they meet for a final show down. The winner walks away with both pieces of the talisman and can gain access to the pyramid when they reach it.

The scenario rules were quite simple. The leader of each warband have one half of the talisman. To win, a warband has to posess both talisman pieces when exiting their entry point. The entry points are a “long” section on the centre of each player’s table edge. Talisman pieces are dropped when the carrier is removed from play and any non-animal character can pick them up by spending one action when adjacent to it.

Fredrik’s warband consisted of (from left to right): Darkhölme (human archer), Ana-Marie Lebaue (human thief), Creed (human berserker; 3+, 3, fearless, savage), Catherine (human leader), Summer (human magic-user), Blink (elf archer), Tora (dwarf warrior). Click the image for a larger version.

My warband was fairly similar (from left to right): Lasek (human witch hunter), Khwair (dwarf warrior), Husk (half-orc hero; +4, 3, hero), Hawkins (human leader), Tibor (human warrior), Kiruk (dwarf warrior), Llandau (elf rogue; 2+, 3, stealth).

After setting up the table, we diced for initiative. I won, and advanced up the middle in a fairly fanned out formation. In retrospect I should’ve had Llandau (my elf rogue with sneak) on the right flank instead of the left, and tried to sneak up to the forests on my far right flank.

Fredrik’s forces moved up to the centre field, leaving only the elf archer Blink in the back, at the edge of the woods on my far right flank.

The next round, I made my first mistake. Lasek (my human witch hunter) advanced to the middle of the board and took a shot at Creed (Fredrik’s human berserker). Lasek missed his shot, and all my other activations failed. Fredrik’s Creed and Tora (dwarf warrior) closed on poor Lasek and disposed of him the next turn, while following with most of his other warriors. The grim reaper below indicates poor Llandau’s position.

I tried counter assaulting and flanking his magic-user Summer with an ambush attack from Llandau, but failed. Llandau fell and was killed the following turn by Creed.

At this point, I had a feeling I would lose the game. So far, I had not managed to take any of my opponent characters out, while I had lost almost a third of my points values in the form of two characters.

My first break came when Fredrik advanced with Tora and failed activating any other characters. I attacked her with Khwair and Husk, who managed to bring her down. Tibor moved in for the kill, abandoning the assault on Blink who had camped out in the woods stand but ran out of arrows.

Fredrik tried to move around my left, attempting to get at my leader while I wheeled around to the right trying to do the same. I did a lame attempt at attacking with Kiruk, but he was quickly slain. Fredrik then advanced towards my hero Husk and disposed of him too. At this point, I was about ready to throw in the towel.

After this, things kind of went bananas. After a failed attempt where Fredrik assaulted Tibor (my human warrior), I managed to turn the tables. Tibor killed Darkhölme (who had been very passive the whole game).

Hawkins and Khwair came to Tibor’s assistance and together they brought down Creed. Fredrik countered by taking out Khwair who had been transfixed by Summer.

Free to move, with no adjacent enemies, my two remaining warriors attacked and took out Summer. This sent the three remaining characters in Fredrik’s warband fleeing.

The remaining melee was a bit long winded. We traded blows back and forth, wittling away the numbers on each side. Finally, only my leader Hawkins and Fredrik’s leader Catherine and her companion Blink were still on the battlefield. Things looked grim for Hawkins, but with determination and a hefty portion of luck he managed to turn the tables. From total despair a few turns earlier, he was the last man standing and could head home with the two talisman pieces!

All my characters recovered fully from their injuries, except Kiruk who went on to the next battle with a temporary decrease to his Quality attribute.

I’ll continue tomorrow with a (shorter!) write-up on the second scenario, where Hawkin’s brave band is waylaid by a foul band of troglodytes.