Friday, 30 August 2013

Gaming Board: part 1

All a-board!!

Inspired by Mr Awdry's gaming board (above), which was in turn inspired by Clint's gaming board, I've decided to create a flexible gaming board to support my games of The Dark Crucible (amongst other things).

In the past I created a Malifaux gaming board, which has been superb and used to death. This time I want something that is much more immersive, realistic and can be swapped out (like Michael's board) for different types of landscape – green fields, snow, desert, lava.

The thing with projects like these – I find – is that you need to map the basics out before you start in order to avoid disaster. In this instance, the basics are the size of the overall board and the individual measurements that will get me there.

I did a drawing…

I sourced 50mm thick blue styrofoam from Antenocitis Worshop, 600mm square for £6.
I bought two… as you do.

One of these would form the basis for my board and, using Michael's frame design, could easily be swapped out. My diagram above shows a proposed frame with corner supports that the foam can sit on. At present the foam is sitting slightly proud of the frame, but given that I intend to carve into it heavily I don't expect it to finish so high. Then again I may add mountains so who knows.

So that's the plan. I just have to gather together wood for the frame and things can get started.
The intention is for these to be the game boards that feature within the final rulebook for The Dark Crucible, so all the stops need to be pulled out!

No pressure then.

Read part 2 here…

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Of Celts and X-Wings…

The last week has been something of a whirlwind.

Last Saturday I braved the increasingly poor weather to visit Michael Awdry. It was this time last year that Michael and myself, together with Andy Walker, were painting Malifaux models for the Tale of 3 Painters project. I can't believe it's taken me a year to go back to Pevensey.

The plan was to start with an introduction to The Dark Crucible. Michael had already seen an earlier copy of the rules, but things had changed a lot since then. I had hastily put some paint on plastic the night before – my Celts (above) had been looking extremely grey and shiny which would not do when visiting such a prolific painter.

We took advantage of Michael's recently completed gaming table, which I have to say made a world of difference to the atmosphere of the game. Despite never (technically) having played a wargame before, Michael's Celt warband came out victors against my Romans – Jimmy and Hamish hacking 'Mad' Marcus to pieces after he had single-handedly downed two of their Celtic brothers. At least he went out in a blaze of glory – a feat he duplicated exactly in another game last night… he's starting to get a reputation.

After a short break for lunch we moved on to X-Wing, which had peaked Michael's interest some time ago and I had been promising to bring down. In our opening demo game the twin TIE Fighter combo took good old Luke to pieces – a harsh lesson indeed. Next game, with reinforcements on either side, Luke almost made a very early exit, being stripped of shields and reduced to a solitary hull point in a single turn. Alas (for the Empire) that was as close as I got to killing not only only Luke, but the A-Wing and Y-Wing too. Even Darth Vader didn't survive the battle. Revenge was sweet and Michael was truly addicted.

Great afternoon's gaming, great host. I've been so inspired by Michael's gaming board that I am in the process of gather the materials to make my own. There will of course be detailed coverage of its construction, so stay tuned for that!

Friday, 23 August 2013


I though I should acknowledge this day for posterity.

Today is my last day in full-time employment!

I handed my notice in just about 4 weeks ago, now I finally get to see freedom. It's been a rough 3 years – it's amazing how individuals want to drag everyone else down and work against the best interests of their own business. You can only treat it as 'water off a duck's back' for so long, day in and day out, before it starts to bring you down… and life is too short to be this unhappy.

So, just 8 more hours to go before I start a week of prepping for life as a freelancer designer (again). Very exciting times ahead (if a little nervy).

To be continued…

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

What is The Dark Crucible…?

In my last post I revealed that my secret project was The Dark Crucible and mentioned that I was looking for playtesters to help move things along. I obviously pitched it really badly as there was no response, so thought I would do a few follow up posts to explain the game in more depth and even showcase some of the rules in action.

As revealed previously, The Dark Crucible is a hybrid game that tries to span the gap between the historical and fantasy genres of gaming. This could be seen as heresy by both camps but by using historically accurate miniatures in an arena of pure imagination, with fast and easy to learn rules, the idea is that this game fills the times when you don't have time or space for a game of Hail Caesar or Warhammer Fantasy/40k. It means that historical gamers can use models they already have and, given it's a coffee-table skirmish wargame, fantasy gamers only need a handful of new models to play.

Eventually we would like to see our own range of suitable models created, that could crossover and find game time with historical games, but first we need to pin down the rules and make sure there is enough interest.

We want this game to be the graphic novel of wargaming – dark, gritty, exciting, with some twisting of the facts for the sake of story and adventure. We're fighting in the playground of the gods, it's never going to be a shiny, sparkly place so everyone will be fighting for their lives. With so few models on your side, every casualty is going to count – praying to your chosen deity that little bit harder may make a difference. Gods of War are petty and cruel, but if they're on your side you will survive.

The final rule set will have several linked scenarios and campaigns to build your games into more of a storyline or roleplay than a straight up pitched battle. This helps to develop characters within your ranks and nurture an attachment to individual models.

We want to see the individual behind the armour and warpaint. By giving all your models names, converting them here and there, you can create you own characters and watch them develop from game to game. Although their stats and skills may not change much, if at all, you will find a story unfolds from game to game. Some may develop extra skills, the most valiant become independent heroes.

In the games we've played so far, heroes have died and grudges born (and borne). Banter becomes part of the gameplay as your opponent taunts you into making rash decisions in the name of vengeance. Charging an individual out to take down a juicy 'isolated' target may turn out to be a fatal mistake.

Your leaders have an increasing amount of influence on the game and can potentially turn the tide of battle if utilised well. They come at a cost but are often the glue that binds your band of brothers together.

Each army is intended to play differently, with reference to historical facts, so there is variety and fun in swapping sides. Because there are so few models on the table it is impossible to re-create the fighting techniques of some armies (e.g. testudo) but such things are referenced in the way the models work together, or don't.

Eventually we hope to add mounted characters to the game. This will not only add another dimension but give you the opportunity to expand the models you have, or use more from your collection. Balance is very important though, and we have gone to great lengths to try and ensure that every army has a fair shout in any situation.

We're also adding special characters to the rules. These will break beyond the confines of the army list and allow unique individuals to roam the battlefield, with their own abilities and equipment. This gives the (completely optional) opportunity to play something different from rank and file characters, with every member of your band a notable hero – proper Hollywood!


It's still early days for The Dark Crucible game. We are playtesting like mad, but it's always good to get constructive feedback from other gamers. We're looking for gamers who play strictly historical wargames, as well as those who play 40k/Fantasy, Warmachine and boardgames, to get involved and do some playtesting for us. We want perspectives from both ends of the gaming table.

You'll get a set of the basic rules to start with and you'll need approx 10 models to represent the two sample armies. As we collate feedback and develop the rules we'll issue new, expanded versions to test.

Everyone involved will get their name in the final rulebook on our page of heroes.

Interested in having a go?

Send an email to telling me your (real) name and which games you play.

To be continued…

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

It's here… The Dark Crucible!

After much delay and hype, my secret project is finally here.

Welcome to The Dark Crucible!

This is a set of rules written by myself and Bull that we will be launching later in the year. As no doubt you will have deduced, it involves Romans and Celts at the moment but will be expanded to include Vikings, Greeks, Crusaders, Samurai and anyone else we feel deserves to be in there.

I always loved learning about Romans and Crusaders as a child, played with Knights and Castles but the historic side of gaming has never translated into adulthood for me. I wanted to find a game that spanned the gap between the likes of Hail Caesar and Malifaux. When I couldn't find one I decided to make one.

We consider the game a Simple, Historically-Fantastical, Character-Driven, 'Coffee Table' Skirmish Wargame.

Er, what?

It's a set of very simple rules for a skirmish level game, that can be played on a coffee table and has elements of history as well as fantasy driving it. The scale allows me to replay scenes from films like CenturionKing Arthur or The Eagle. But we also want to fight Samurai with Romans and Vikings with Spartans. We want to fight in lush green fields, across snow-laden landscapes, even unstable volcanic underworlds.

In keeping with the game itself, the premise behind it is simple…

Imagine the various Gods of War from every race and background getting together for a drink, in some kind of celestial public house. They each brag and boast about the mortal soldiers who revere them, who fight and die in their name.

But if a drink-infused challenge was thrown down who's warriors would come out on top?

This is what The Dark Crucible is all about. It's a heavenly gladitorial arena, where each god selects a handful of their best soldiers to represent them. Games are quick – with often no more than 5 or 6 models a side it's never going to last long – with plenty of opportunity for banter… in fact we wholeheartedly support it. Objectives are often as simple as last man standing or capture the flag type; sometimes more complex scenarios are the order of the day to test the warriors to their limits.

However, with the gods dabbling constantly, it's never going to be a straightforward fight!

We Want You!!

This is where you come in.

We're looking for a handful of individuals who want to get involved and test our rules. We think they're fun but we want to make sure other people think they're fun, reasonably balanced, and make for a game worth playing.

At this stage we're testing the basic mechanics of the game, but people who stay involved will get to experience the more advanced elements such as Heavenly Interventions and Special Characters.

If you would like to have a go play testing and would be happy to submit sensible, constructive feedback then send me an email and I'll add you to the list.

I need to know your name, country/state where you live and which war/board games you play/have played in the past. Simple as that. Send you details to thedarktemplar (at) btinternet (dot) com

Don't forget to tell your friends, or anyone you think may be interested.

To be continued…

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

More Art Inspiration… Artgerm's Ladies

After yesterday's post I had another look through Stanley Lau's Deviant Art page to take in his catalogue of work. It's truly amazing – the guy has a talent to be sure. I thought I'd share some more of it here, but if you get the chance, go have a look through his gallery… and be inspired!

…And how many of you remember these guys from childhood?

Monday, 12 August 2013

Inspirational Art…

Wonder Woman by Artgerm

My enthusiasm for digital art has found a new level, as regular visitors of the blog will be aware. Deviant Art is the website where artists and photographers go and show off their talent, whether beginners or professionals, and it is a superb resource for inspiration.

Industry visionaries like Stanley "Artgerm" Lau caught my eye during my initial visits to the website. Yet as my interest has developed and I've dipped my toes back into the art pool, I've found more applicable inspiration.

As much as the polished finished work (as above) are amazing, I'm finding what artists refer to as 'speedpainting' of more value. Being a graphic designer, I find the more abstract aspects of the speedpaintings very appealing – the ability to describe an element or scene with a few simple strokes is fantastic to me, and is the direction in which I want to develop.

With this in mind I thought I'd showcase my Top 5 Deviant Art Artists and Artworks. Enjoy!

Stout by Mr Jack
One of my favourite artists, Mr Jack has done a lot of work for Blizzard. His polished pieces are amazing but, as I said, I find his speed art (like Stout above) simply aspirational.

Planet Unknown by Lingy-O
Lingy has a lot of texture in his art and some fantastic speed art, simple gestures allowing your eyes to fill in the blanks to create the scene.

Red Robot by Zedig
I love almost everything Zedig does and a true inspiration at present.

There Was Rain by Amirzand
Amir has a very abstract feel to his work and I love the shapes used to create this picture.

Data Mage by Madspartan013
I love this piece by Madspartan, lots of texture and simple shapes to build up an image full of emotion.

More art to come, and a big announcement on Wednesday this week!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Roman Armour Test…

The painting continues. I've really got the bug here, so if I can't be painting models at least I'm painting something!

The fascination with painting Roman Legionaries is driving my digital work at the moment. This week I started another image. It was supposed to be very loose and quick but (as usual) I got stuck into detailing the armour, even before the rest of the image had taken shape. So this has turned into an armour study piece – though not finished yet. I love the Lorica Segmentata armour that the Legionaries wore and I enjoy painting it.

For this particular effort, instead of going standard colours, I'm trying out different light sources, with little to no reference. Not there yet but things are moving in the right direction. There's a light source behind the soldier that doesn't seem altogether natural…hmmm.

Messenger by Amirzand

Maybe one day I may actually get around to painting something in the style of one of my Deviantart heroes (above)…

Monday, 5 August 2013

More Roman Artwork…

Another scribble from my wacom pad as I practice getting my digital art skills up to speed, something fun based upon a photo from Flickr. Another step in the right direction and more fodder for my Roman project.

I'd actually like to get back to painting some models but the enthusiasm is not there at the moment.

I will be announcing my secret project in about a month's time and explaining what it's all about!

To be continued…


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