Monday, 9 May 2016

Leiston Abbey Chapel

I spent last Saturday walking round the spectacular RSPB reserve at Minsmere in Suffolk, from a lot of the hides I could see some mysterious ruins in the background, as it happened the footpath back to the campsite happened to go straight past them.

As I approached the ruins of the 12th century chapel (all that's left of a once much larger abbey) actually turned out to be somewhat smaller than they looked from across the reserve.  But then as we got very close they suddenly got a lot more interesting, as I noticed what seemed to be a pillbox built inside!  The information board confirmed my suspicions this was in fact a WW2 pillbox built inside a scheduled ancient monument.  I've never seen anything quite like it.

The rest of the abbey got pulled down in the 14th century and the stone moved three miles or so down the road to a new Leiston Abbey which is currently a free to access English Heritage property.  We visited this larger and more impressive ruin as well (pic below), but it didn't have the same charm as the little pillbox in the ruin.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Dungeon Saga: Tyrant of Halpi Painted

The Tyrant of Halpi is a forthcoming expansion for Mantic's Dungeon Saga, it contains a lot less minis than the other expansions, but that's mainly because one of them is a large Dragon!

The Dragon is a great mini and was a joy to paint, I think he's come out pretty well and with a minimum of effort.  The only tricky bit was choosing the colour, I wasn't keen on a green dragon like Mantic did, and I already have a red dragon in my collection for some reason it took me a couple of days to think of doing a blue dragon.

Karrathor The Unbroken

I'm less impressed with the two new hero minis, they're both OK, but not exceptional, the Paladin needs a much bigger sword and the Halfling thief suffers from her (inevitable) small scale.

Ibrahim - Human Paladin

Ally McSween - Halfling Thief

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Unboxing - Kings of War: Abyssal Starter Army

Today I'm going to have a look at my latest purchase, the Abyssal Starter Army for Kings of War by Mantic Games.

It all comes together in a medium sized box with printed pictures front and back, nothing wrong with it, but nothing exciting either.  It's also not the type of box that's much use for storing constructed and painted minis.  The back does have four Mantic points on however which are of course welcome.

I'm going to start with the Mollochs, these are large infantry and come in metal, unlike everything else in the set which comes in hard plastic.  They come with three spare heads and a couple of spare arms which is good for variety if you wanted to buy a second set and create a bigger unit.  I will be combining these with my Dungeon Saga Mollochs to create a horde.

The core of the set is the 50 plastic Flamebearers/Lower Abyssals.  There are five figures per sprue which can be assembled as Flamebearers or Lower Abyssals, each sprue also contains command options, which are not necessary in Kings of War but nice to see as they give the regiment a bit of character. Each sprue also has 2 little Imps. There's nothing really to fault here, except possibly the difficultly in making the minis rank up ranking due to tails and weapons.  I've made 40/10 lower Abyssals/Flamebearers not 30/20 like it shows on the box, but it really is upto each buyer.

Moving on to the Succubi, which are also in plastic also five per sprue and also have command options and a couple of Imps.  The set contains 20 of these fearsome fighters.  There are 5 lots of paired weapons per sprue and an open hand, there are less spare parts than you get with the Lower Abyssals, but the interchangeable torsos/legs help the variety of the minis you can make.

And finally you get these Imps scattered around the sprues of the main regiments.  You are only provided with two 40mm bases, but there are plenty of Imps to make a third base.  To be fair it's only advertised as two bases, but a unit is 3 bases.  Mantic should have added an extra base and called it a real unit.

The whole set (movement trays not included, but made my life easier for photography!)

Overall I rate this as an excellent set.  You get 6 units here for a retail price of £50, which I feel is a bargin, I actually got mine from Wayland Games at £40 ( 20% off) which makes it an even better deal.  This starter actually gives you a 750pts army, and it feels like an army, you could happily play a good game with this set alone.  The quality is pretty good too, Mantic's plastics have improved no end.  Superb value for money, Recommended.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Dungeon Saga: The Return of Valandor - Campaign Review

The 'Return of Valandor' is the first expansion for Mantic games excellent Dungeon Saga game.  Unlike the other expansions this one is a direct follow on to the story in the 'Dwarf Kings Hold' set and uses the same heroes that you use in that first campaign.  As such we carried on using the same heroes each as before and Mike remained as the overlord.  Whilst you play as legendary throughout the whole of this campaign we were very disappointed to learn that we would be losing some of our favourite magic items in the form of the Dwarfs armour and the Wizards staff.  The campaign has six adventures and the heroes have ten attempts to get through them.


If you plan on playing this as the heroes there might be some stuff here you shouldn't read before you've had a go at the missions, unless of course you don't like surprises......

Adventure 1: It Begins Again

This is a simple little adventure to get you started.  You just have to open a door you can see from the start.  The twist is you need to take wards off of four standing stones to do it, which only the wizard can do.  The heroes are in no danger here from anything, but getting the wizard round all the wards in time is a challenge and if the overlord can manage a small delay he'll win.
Tries to complete: 1
star rating: ****

Adventure 2: A Wicked Surprise

Ba'el the undead demon makes his first appearance to test heroes, but isn't going to stick around forever, only till he gets bored, this is shown by a random disappearance mechanism.  This means this level can vary wildly in difficulty depending on how long he sticks around for.  In our runthrough it came down right to the wire, we only just made the room where you all have to be at the end and we had one hero on only a single wound, our tightest win yet.  We enjoyed this one and Ba'el is one tough cookie.
Tries to complete: 1
Star rating: ****

Adventure 3: Needle In A Haystack

What is it with adventure 3's? in the DKQ's adventure 3 sucked, and it sucked here too.  The objective is to find the amulet of Valandor which is hidden in one of the four chests.  That's all well and good, but opposing you are 5 Zombies and a Revenant, that's it!  We're convinced we've either missed something, or there is a misprint and they missed the rest of the monsters and/or bone piles!

Tries to complete: 1 (under time limit doesn't count)
Star rating: *

Adventure 4: A God In Mortal Flesh Once More

This is a simple little dungeon crawl through to the final door, you have to replace one of the heroes with the spirit of Valandor, and this is about getting used to his abilities really.  The choice of who you're going to replace is an interesting one.  He's a tank, but struggles offensively against anything that isn't a demon.  We plumbed for the Dwarf, but I think anyone except the Wizard will work fine.  The concept is fine, but there just weren't enough baddies to slow the heroes even slightly which led to a disappointing game. 

Tries to complete: 1 (under time limit doesn't count)
Star rating: **

Adventure 5: New Friends, Old Enemies

After the disappointment in the lack of challenge that the last two dungeons provided things finally got back on track here with a confrontation with the mighty Ba'el.  Ba'el is proper scary, he has a feat that curses the heroes, powerful magic, a solid attack, and regenerate.  Although we accomplished this well within the time, Ba'el wasn't far off of crippling a hero and winning for the Overlord.  There's also a collapsing dungeon twist here, but it added nothing to our play through, but the random nature of this part means that sometimes it might.

Tries to complete: 1 (under time limit doesn't count)
Star rating: ****

Adventure 6: Reckoning

The final final battle against Mortibris.  Like the final mission in the DKQ not all the heroes have to survive this one, which means Mortibris must kill them all to win.  Even in his 'legendary' aspect he didn't seem to have much hope, he just doesn't have a high enough damage output and is easy to wound in return.  This was a massive anti-climax, there just weren't enough minions to take down any of the heroes, we think Mortibris can potentially cripple one hero, but there's no way he's going to kill all four.  A shame for the final mission of an arc of 14, even playing the heroes we wanted him to be more of a challenge.

Tries to complete: 1
Star rating: ***

Final Result:  Heroes win in 3 out of 10 possible turns, a crushing victory for the forces of good.

In conclusion this is a bit of a disappointment after the solid first campaign.  The average of my scores comes to 3 out of 5, which is fair enough, but doesn't tell the true story, there are three good missions here, but also three rather poor ones, and I feel a hit rate of 50% isn't really good enough.  It's a shame as well, the concepts and layouts for the three poor missions are fine, but we found the balancing so far off as to take away the fun, they just needed some more baddies in them.  Ultimately this campaign was a disappointing follow-up to the core box campaign.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Dungeon Saga: The Dwarf Kings Quest - Campaign Review

After some epic gaming over the start of the winter myself and my friends Mike & Richard have completed the campaign from the Dungeon Saga core box; The Dwarf Kings Quest.  Mike played as the evil Necromancer Mortibris and me and Richard shared out the heroes between us, I got the Dwarf and the Wizard, which of course left Richard with the Elf and the Barbarian.  The campaign is 8 missions long and the heroes get a total of 15 attempts to complete them all.  If you can do it quickly enough an attempt won't count towards your total (we found that to be VERY rare as most of the missions are very finely balanced) and if you fail you have to do that mission again until you get through.


If you plan on playing this as the heroes there might be some stuff here you shouldn't read before you've had a go at the missions, unless of course you don't like surprises......

Before the campaign there are two training missions, I'm not going to bother going through these, they are very easy for the heroes and just give you a chance to practice the main rules.

Adventure 1: Well Met

This may be adventure one, but this is no gentle introduction for the heroes, you need to move quickly and kill stuff to win this one and get through the final door before the cards run out.  In our first play of this we were playing as if this was Warhammer Quest, by which I mean to conservatively, trying to secure each area fully before moving on, we all survived, but the timer beat us quite comprehensively.  You can't move too quickly either though, the Wizard and the Elf start separately from the Barbarian and the Dwarf and can be very vulnerable.  Loose one hero and you loose the mission, don't forget it.  Pay attention in this mission and think carefully about every move.
Tries to complete: 2
Star Rating: ****

Adventure 2: Into the Depths

This adventure is another one where you have to open the final door before the time runs outs (there's quite a of these).  This is however where you meet your first Zombie Troll, which at this point are pretty scary things.  We really enjoyed this one, the key is not to get bogged down fighting the troll and try to slip someone through on either side to make a run for the final door. Remember that only one person has to get to the door to win the mission.  Our run through of this one came down to a dice roll to smash the door as the final action of the game! how's that for balance.
Tries to complete: 1
Star Rating: *****

Adventure 3: Restless Guardian

Time for the first boss fight!  Except you don't actually fight the Banshee in a normal fashion, you need to survive her attacks whilst you collect the four fragments of her shattered stone heart and collect them together so she can finally have rest.  This was a walkover for the heroes, the Banshee has some nasty spells, but can't do enough damage on her own to realistically cripple a hero before they collect all the pieces.  There are a few minions about, but with only one Overlord Command per turn they're not going to achieve much as they rarely get to even activate.  This is also the first time that the Overlord gets to use magic and Mike didn't get it at first which helped ease our victory.  We were looking forward to our first boss, but ultimately the speed at which we accomplished the task took away the joy of victory.  We might try this again with two Overlord Commands per turn.
Tries to complete: 1 (Within bonus time limit so doesn't count towards total)
Star Rating:*

Adventure 4: Left or Right

We're back to getting through doors within the time limit now.  The twist this time is a randomly collapsing dungeon.  This is a winding dungeon, with several routes to the final door, wether those routes will still be there next turn is part of the gamble you'll have to take.  We found this one to be incredibly close and like Adventure two it all came down to the last dice roll of the game against the door.
Tries to complete: 1
Star Rating:*****

Adventure 5: Stench of Death

A proper boss fight at last!  This time against the Zombie Troll Shaman Hoggar.  Like the Banshee fight the Overlord is severely limited by a single Command per turn.  The mission is a pretty straightforward romp through some Zombies and Zombie Trolls until you get to Hoggar himself.  He's a pretty tough beastie to kill.  It looked like we were storming it until we got to the boss who then took a lot longer to kill than we were expecting and we only just did it before the time ran out.
Tries to complete: 1
Star Rating:***

Adventure 6: Turned Around

It was going so well upto this point, we'd been a bit lucky on adventures 2 & 4, but basically we'd aced everything!  This was also when your heroes become legendary! But..... This mission really held us up, on the plus side this made the campaign mode interesting again as suddenly it was all there to play for.  The twists here are the two large randomly rotating rooms and a random exit point.  If you can roll sixes when you get to a chest(the exit is hidden in one of them) this one can be over quickly and easily, if however you flunk those rolls and have to do it the hard way by opening all the chests this mission is hard, especially as it's impossible to plan from turn to turn as you never know where your men are going to be!  Having said all that it's still a fun mission, but I'm glad we didn't have to do it for a fifth time.
Tries to complete: 4
Star Rating:****

Adventure 7: The Final Insult

The penultimate level and the penultimate boss.  This is our first, and only true 'fighty' boss, Grund, the Undead Dwarf King.  The first room is full of  monsters, you need to try and clear these quite quickly, but without getting overwhelmed in the process, we found the dwarf stood in the center did a great job of splitting the monsters into two groups.  Once you get through the first room you have a pretty clear run upto Grund himself where you attempt to kill him before the time runs out.  On our first attempt we had Grund down to a single wound when the time ran out, frustrating to say the least, but to be fair it was Mikes turn to pull off a last victory.  The second attempt also failed in the last room, this time the Barbarian had taken too many hits and went down just before Grund would have done.  The third run finally went smoothly and victory was ours.
Tries to complete: 3
Star Rating:****

Adventure 8: Only One Gets Out Alive

The final showdown, we finally get to confront Mortibris himself, even the heroes are expendable here and the game doesn't end if you loose one, the mission is also big containing all the minions in the set to slowly fight through.  I say slowly, actually we smashed trough them with ease, our dice rolling was nuts here, we didn't flunk a single attack, nor had we taken a single wound by the time we entered Mortibris' inner sanctum.  Obviously a lot of luck helped here and I expect that result is unusual.  Even though we were unharmed as we got to the end boss Mortibris soon started knocking wounds off us, he is a tough cookie indeed, he can't stand up to four heroes, but if you loose one on the way to him I think you'll be in trouble.
Tries to complete: 1
Star Rating:****

Final result:  The heroes win on the 13th out of 15 potential tries, although with one 'freebie' we actually had 14 tries; pretty damned close!

In conclusion this is a really good campaign, with different challenges for both sides, and we found it pretty well balanced, which is always tough in games like this.  The limited time mechanism puts a slightly different slant on this than other dungeon crawlers that I'm familiar with, it won't be for everyone, but I found it added a sense of drama and tension to proceedings.  We only found scenario 3 to be horribly unbalanced and 2,4 and 7 in particular where spectacularly close and therefore more enjoyable.  I also like how the heroes get better over time and there's always a new ability or item to learn to use.  The average of my (admittedly subjective) star ratings comes to 3.75, make of that what you will, but I think this is a solid initial campaign for Dungeon Saga.

However Mortibris is not quite dead and may come back yet.........

Monday, 11 January 2016

Dungeon Saga: The Dwarf Kings Quest & Return of Valandor Painted

Since Dungeon Saga arrived it has been pretty much the only game we've played, and we've now managed to complete the campaign in the 'Dwarf Kings Quest' core set and will soon be embarking on the sequel 'The Return of Valandor'.  Both sets are facing off against the Undead, so I painted them all at the same time.  The base game gives you two of each minion and the expansion another one.  Both sets come with unique Hero and Boss sculpts. 

Overall I'm very impressed with these for board game minis, they take the paint well, have good detail and have (so far) proved Mike proof.  The only real issue is that a lot of them came bent, but I've pretty well managed to fix that I think.  I've also tried to paint them up to match my Warhammer/Kings of War armies, so the Dwarf Revenants and Armoured Zombies match their living counterparts.

The heroes; Rodin, Orlaf, Danor and Madriga 

The bosses, Elshara the banshee, Mortibris the Necromancer and Grund the Undead dwarf king.  Anyone else think that Motribris has more than a shade of Denethor from the Lord of The Rings movies?

Hoggar the Zombie Troll Shaman 


 Skeleton Archers

 Dwarf Revenants


 Zombie Trolls

 Armoured Zombies


Valandor and B'ael 

And finally a couple of bits of the furniture

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Kings Of War Kickstarter Wave 2 - The Forces of Nature

My second package from the Kings of War Kickstarter has now arrived which means I have a lot more minis to paint.  I didn't go overboard on this and the bulk of this package is the $50 Forces of Nature starter army.

Lets start with the undoubted highlight on the set which is the massive Greater Earth Elemental in resin.  This is one of those WOW figures when you open it up.  Much bigger than I was expecting and I love the style.  It shares the same body as the greater obsidian golem for the Abyssal Dwarves but comes with different arms and head.  It's not quite perfect, there are a few air bubbles, but nothing a little bit of liquid green stuff won't fix, and nothing in a key place, so I'm still happy with this.

The leader of this little force is the Druid.  She comes with an alternative head and staff arm, allowing for four different combinations.  This is the one mini here that I'm not convinced by, lets hope a lick of paint will improve her look.

The starter set also includes three regiments, the first of which are the new hard plastic Salamanders.  I got 20, although I've only assembled 10 so far.  These are a proper hard plastic multi-part kit with options for hand weapons and shields or double-handed weapons.  I've armed mine with double-handed weapons as I have a unit f old GW Saurus with hand weapons and shields already which I've been using as Salamanders.  There are also command group options and little bits of flame you can decorate the bases with.  Very pleased with these, one small gripe is that getting them to rank up properly isn't easy, but overall they get a thumbs up from me, I prefer them to GW's current Saurus kit as well.

The second regiment is another hard plastic kit, this time the watery Naiads.  Again I got 20, but have only assembled half so far.  These have also been given the whole multi-part kit treatment with full command options and this time the weapon options are for 'shooty' harpooners or 'fighty' with nets and spears/tridents.  I'm creating a regiment of the harpooners, but am assembling a few as fighty types, just because I want to really.  These look much better in person than in the official photos and I'm also rather pleased with these.  Each sprue also comes with a frog and an otter, the otter in particular is I think rather inspired.

The third regiment was three Tree Shamblers, I'd already jumped the gun and bought another three of these and have them ready painted so have at look at these ones rather than the three in plain metal.

last minute on the campaign Mantic also offered a Centaur hero for the FoN that wasn't included in the starter army, obviously I had to get him as well, and I think he looks pretty good, although I do wish he was facing forward....

Finally I got the campaign book, 'Destiny of Kings' which has rules for map and narrative campaigns, an example campaign and rules for using some of the Dungeon Saga heroes as living legends in KoW.  I'll do a proper review of this at some point soon when I've read it thoroughly.

So in conclusion, I'm very happy with this and am very much looking forward to the summer KoW season we have planned, I think there's a good chance we'll actually try the narrative campaign from the book.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Merry Sithmas

I hope everyone enjoyed a break of some sort over the last few days, even though I don't really believe in Christmas I seem to have managed to have three Christmas dinners over three days and have enjoyed the holidays more this year than I have in a long time.  With all the (justifiable) hype over the new Star Wars movie I correctly predicted that I'd get a slew of Star Wars related gifts.

Some good stuff here, the 'Spark of Rebellion' DVD is one that I haven't seen and I really love the mug, I feel the tea will be strong in this one (sorry, terrible joke I know).  I'm not entirely convinced with the sticker book however.

The highlight has to be the metalworks 1:20 scale R2-D2 model.  This was a lot more complicated than it looked at first glance.  Clearly I'm no novice when it comes to model making, but this is the first time I've never done metal-folding and there was a lot of learning of techniques as I was building it, I found it pretty tricky at times and in the end I haven't got it quite right.  It took a lot longer than I expected as well, several hours in fact.  I like the end result and will have to try and get another one from the range at some point.

I couldn't help but buy myself some of the brand new Lego sets for 'The Force Awakens' as well, focusing for now on the incredibly stylish First Order.

I saw the new movie a couple of days before Christmas, and whilst I'm not going to do a full spoiler filled review I am just going to say that I liked it a lot, it's not perfect, but I reckon 8.5 out of 10.  Star Wars is finally back and I can't wait for the next installment.

May the force be with you, always....... 
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