Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Project Hood – Who Is Robin Hood?

Illustration by Doug Telford
The most common tales put Robin of Locksley living as an outlaw in Sherwood Forest, not far from Nottingham, in the time of Richard the Lionheart. Historians would have us believe that the famous outlaw was a Yorkshireman, living in Barnsdale or Wakefield and causing havoc during the reign of Edward II, some 100+ years later.

There is also a library's worth of fictional novels available that have Robin sporting a variety of outfits and wildly differing characteristics. In some he is a hero, in others a psycho?

It would seem that there are no rules. Robin Hood is an amalgamation of hearsay, tall tales and storytelling on top of a grain of long forgotten truth.

When it came to my Hood project, defining the Robin character became pivotal and quite an obsession. After all the game is named after him!



Let me introduce to you Robert, an orphan from the tiny village of Loxley. An athletic and energetic child, he yearned for excitement and adventure. When a band of knights passed through the village on their way to the Holy Lands, he packed a bag and followed them.

Things were not as he had imagined and the horrors of war scarred Loxley to his core. After a treacherous journey back to England the world-weary Robert planned to live in peace in a quiet part of the countryside, contented with simply being alive.

Alas, this plan also did no got as expected. He was not allowed to live a quiet or peaceful life as he and nearby villagers were constantly having their money and food taken from them as taxes for the King. Those who didn't die were starving. Any show of disobedience was punished with an iron fist, many villagers killed for standing up to the authorities.

After a direct confrontation with the Sheriff of Nottingham, the orchestrator of so many of these ills, Robert was arrested for treason. However, he slipped his chains and scaled the walls of the city, escaping into nearby Sherwood Forest. Soldiers were sent after him and he now fights for his life on a daily basis.

Robert decided to hit back, fighting fire with fire. He started a campaign of guerrilla warfare against not just Nottingham, but all those in authority and anyone else who tried to rob him or collect the bounty on his head. In fact anyone who entered the forest would be judged and relieved of their possessions.

After years of fighting for other people, Robert was looking out for himself. Lurking in the shadows he strikes out at those who would hunt him. Soon Nottingham would be losing more soldiers, gold and supporters than it could handle. The Hood (as he became known) was everywhere, yet could never be found or caught.

In our game, Robert 'The Hood' leads the Sherwood faction – a rag tag collection of those who find themselves outside the law. He's a mixture of the anti-hero tendencies of Batman and the survivability of John Rambo in First Blood, thrown together in a man with a deadly aim and a grievance with the world.

As well as having the legendary skill with a bow, our Hood is also extremely agile capable of gliding through the forest at speed using his surroundings. He's a free runner, able to scale the tallest tree or wall – some say he can even leap across the Nottingham Castle moat! Yet despite these two superb abilities he cannot take on the enemy in a sustained fight – hit and run is his art form and he has become a master at it.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Zombicide… ToxiCity


Saturday saw our second game day in a fortnight, this time Bull was hosting and Zombicide was the game of choice. To add a twist we moved on from the original box to include the Toxic City Mall expansion.

We decided on a 'simple' 4 square mission to start with. 60 minutes it said, but we managed to burn nearly 3 hours getting through it. The zombies were coming thick and fast and many a time we were on the verge of being overwhelmed.


Eventually the dam of resistance broke and we had our first casualties. Even Ned coming back to life as a Zombivor wasn't enough to take down the horde that had emerged from the spawn points. As we edged closer to our objective, the survivors were starting to drop and returning as helpful undead. As the zombivor Wanda burst in on the Toxic Abomination, tossing him a molotov to end his days and the game, only one survivor remained in their original red-blooded state… Phil the cop was hiding in the toilets!


After a brief break we were back into the fray, on a massive board set up and lots of cars. This second game turned out to be filled with the most carnage ever, and the first time we've had a survivor get to the red experience level!


Just as the body count was reaching epic proportions, the gasoline card we'd been searching for appeared and the game ended.

Great fun – Thank you to Bull and Michael – and I almost feel motivated enough to paint up some of my own Zombicide models… almost.


Friday, 21 August 2015

Dark Templar: The Next Generation

Not got the hang of rolling 6s yet

This one is for Anne…

Eight months ago to this very day, our son Finn (named after the Irish legend Finn MacCool) was born under difficult circumstances. He spent his first three days being cooled in an assisted sleep and the next seven in UICU recovering. We didn't get to hold him for nearly a week. It was certainly the most rotten Christmas I can remember. Yet he made it through his ordeal, with no obvious signs of complications. Unfortunately for me, the day after he came home I had to go back to work.

Two hours old
Since then he has come on leap and bounds, developing at a staggering rate. He's very clever, sharp as a razor, always analysing and striving for the next achievement. Already capable of doing a mean combat crawl, clocking up quite an impressive speed, he is desperate to walk. He's already taken an interest in my rather large wooden gaming dice – chasing it around the living room giggling to himself. Gaming is in the genes it would seem.

Hijacking mummy's birthday present

He has his quarterly check ups with the hospital, but so far he's passing his examinations with flying colours and being quite a handful for his poor mum.

So, Happy nearly-birthday Finny. It's been quite a roller coaster ride so far; this parenting lark is not for the faint-hearted, as those of you with experience will know. Christmas this year will undoubtedly be a complete contrast to 2014 and things are looking bright again for our little family. Every day continues to be a blessing and he is a joy to be around (even when he won't go to sleep or eat his food). I'm a very lucky dad.

Back to the hobby stuff next week…


Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The Hood Skirmish Game



I thought it was about time that I talk more about my Normans vs Outlaws project.

I give you Hood!

It's something that's been in development for a couple of years now, off the back of work done on my Dark Crucible project. Whilst quite popular amongst our gaming group, that particular project fell on its face somewhat when exposed to a wider audience. It was a great learning experience but it was time to move on. After simmering away for some time, it was Salute 2015 that gave me the kick up the backside to move Hood forward and see what can realistically be achieved.

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Our story is set in Medieval England, circa 1200ad. It is a dark place and a dark time. Those in power steal and feed off the toil of common people. The populace are starving and angry.

A crusade veteran turned vigilante stalks the rich and powerful from somewhere in Sherwood Forest. No one is safe, everyone will be judged. Is he a hero for the people to follow or a dangerous criminal to fear?

A mercenary is hired to dispatch this murderous thief and restore power to those in authority. Outlaws beware the man with no mercy. Is he a protector of the people or a warmonger on the loose?

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My aim throughout the project so far is to create something that I enjoy playing, something that generates a story and lots of moments to talk about afterwards. I want to play a game that sticks in the mind for years to come. I want to see moments of pure heroism and pure fear. I want players to care about the models in their army, where every casualty is heartbreaking. I want to see an ongoing story, where the game is never truly won or lost, just this chapter. Hence I settled on the story of Robin Hood.

Yet I don't want to see Lincoln green and Merry men – that all belongs in a movie from the 50s! 

I want things to be dark and gritty. I want both sides to feel like they're in a real fight and it doesn't always end happily ever after. The beauty of the Robin Hood story is that it's pseudo historic, so there are no hard and fast rules to follow and plenty of resource material to soak up. Any tale about Robin Hood has to be fantasy by nature so this allows the mind to wander and creativity to come to the fore. 

I wanted this story to lend itself to become a graphic novel style movie.

We've had great fun conjuring up characters for the first four factions. Some names you will know, some will be new. Regardless, you will not have heard this version of the story or these characters. The idea is that all the characters included have genuine use and that they had to be 'cool'. There are no superfluous characters here – I want players to agonise over who they will take and who will be left behind. I didn't want there to be any auto-includes or auto-excludes when it came to putting a roster together.

Now that's quite a tall order by any means. Whether it's achievable only time will tell, but stay tuned for more…

So who would you like to see in such an adventure? Any favourite characters come to mind?



Monday, 10 August 2015

Batman vs The Penguin


Batman pulled up on a deserted street, littered with barricades, boxes and traffic lights(?). There was something decidedly fishy going on here and it wasn't the Gotham Zoo.






He worked his way down the street, taking out lamp posts as he went (in order to keep things dark), ably supported by Gotham's finest albeit hanging back quite a bit.



He spotted a henchman trying to move a rather large, heavy safe across the street. Time to step in – out came the Batarang, clocking the henchman on the head. But there was a sniper on the roof that also needed dealing with.


The Gotham Police found themselves in trouble when Mr Scythe made an appearance – Agent Ron taking the worst of it.



Meanwhile Batman went after the sniper (who hadn't actually managed to hit anything) but his fighting skills were left wanting and the henchman was given a reprieve.



Meanwhile the Penguin's crew were racking up victory points with the 'safe' loot counter that was slowly making its way across the table.



Batman stepped in to put an end to that but time had run out. Despite Bravo taking out the sniper, the Penguin had accumulated enough VPs to sneak a win.



Mr Cobblepot claimed it was a hollow victory but there was a definite smile on his face ;)


Great game, albeit slow and full of mistakes. We had a lot of fun (re)learning the rules and things ebbed and flowed throughout. The final turn was on an absolute knife edge.

There might be something to this game after all…


Saturday, 8 August 2015

Scotney Castle


Today's post was meant to be about the Batman model painting progress… but there hasn't been any. After a cracking start to the week, my last three evening have been tied up and nothing more has been achieved. It's looking very monotone for tomorrow's game.

Instead I thought I'd show you Scotney Castle (or rather fortified manor house) near Lamberhurst in Kent. Another National Trust property (got get some use out of the membership before it runs out!), this one (the Old Castle – we didn't go round the new Manor House) was built around 1378.








The gardens were amazing and we saw quite a few people just sitting quietly and reading. We ended up spending all afternoon there and would definitely go back – highly recommended.

Batman game tomorrow so stay tuned for some reports!






Thursday, 6 August 2015

Bodiam Castle



My week's holiday started well with a trip across Kent on Tuesday to Bodiam Castle, a National Trust property that I'd been looking forward to visiting for some time. A little later, historically, than my recent medieval studies towards my Normans vs Outlaws game – the castle was built in 1385.



We were lucky that our visit coincided with a group of travelling artisans being there. There was an armourer and a carpenter, as well as a tailor and a guy minting pewter coins. All fascinating stuff.










The site also had archery which would have been excellent except for a very long queue and waiting time – not an option when you have an 8 month old in tow. One day perhaps.

A good day out to be sure. The site was smaller than I had thought but it was a nice trip only being an hour away.

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With Batman due to take to the table this weekend vs The Penguin, there has been some significant action on the painting tray – I'll tell you all about it later this week!


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