Sunday, 19 March 2017

More Zombicide Black Plague Fun

In a desperate effort to keep Tuesday Night Gaming alive this week, it became Wednesday Night Gaming instead. Bull was keen to press on with our foray into Zombicide: Black Plague, with all the cards and extra (huge!!) models from the Kickstarter.

The quest he'd chosen was ominously titled The Ambush, and it said that only 2 characters had to survive. Given that almost all the quests say that everyone must survive, this was bad news indeed. However, looking at the board and the objectives we just couldn't see what was so difficult.

It soon became apparent that the narrow corridors and spawn points in close proximity to each other would cause bottlenecks and have the Necromancers sprinting off the board faster than Usain Bolt! Our fears became reality when the first Necromancer had appeared and hoofed it away before we could take her down (the dreaded queen again). However, I'm jumping the gun a little here.

As was the case last time, Bull and I both chose a single character and the rest were handed out randomly. Bull chose melee master Redcap Rodney, and I chose my Dream Team marks(wo)man Cadence. For randoms, I got magic caster Mizar and necromancer-type Ostokar – Bull got searcher James and Lucas. They were 4 characters that I was not familiar with but the beauty of doing things randomly like this is that you start to appreciate skills you knew little about previously.

So, one Necromancer had already run off the board, we had no weapons of significance, then Redcap got caught short and died. Things looked bad by turn 3, but then (whilst we were all still blue level experience) the standard Abomination appeared! Wow, just wow! We really were in a hole, so much so even Bull was ringing out the doom and gloom. Totally against character, however, I was still very confident that the quest was doable, we just had to think before we acted and make the most of the abilities we had.

Long story short, we battled our way through by the skin of our teeth for long periods of the game. We had moments that looked forlorn, but with a bit of careful planning we created some daylight and broke through the zombie waves. We came close to losing both James and Lucas, plus Ostokar took an early bite that he carried with him for most of the game.

The key to our eventual success was the Invisibility spell, Ostokar's Zombie Link ability (giving him an extra go whenever the zombies got an extra go, and James' searching which turned up a host of nice weapons mid-game. Cadence proved to be quite a shot, earning herself the Orcish crossbow by taking out 5 NPCs, on top of the host of other kills.

Fantastic quest that is not to be taken lightly, especially when you use the full deck with the extended collection of Necromancer special character cards. We also purposefully kept the Abomination on the board, to avoid any of the big monsters appearing. This proved vital to the win.

Next time we're going completely random for the characters. Should spice things up just a little more!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Art Of Character Concept Art

In a departure from all the recent gaming, I thought I'd take a quick look at what else I've been doing these last few weeks.

I've been a fan of concept art for as long as I can remember - probably from the days of seeing Jes Goodwin's 40k space marine concept sketches. I now have a vast library of collected images from the net of character concepts and comic book characters for when I'm developing my own personalities for gaming. I have posted on the blog in the past about inspirational art and have even had a go at digital art, drawing Roman soldiers and their armour. But drawing is something I haven't done seriously for decades.

Now, I have managed to get my rules for Project Hood to a decent point, ready for testing, so MY thoughts inevitably turn to visual representations of the characters involved. I had some (very expensive) concept art done in the past by Doug Telford, the guy who does a lot of the Guildball character art. Having lived with it for nearly two years I've decided that it's not quite what I had in mind. But rather than employ someone else to draw my characters I've decided to do it myself.

Drawing skills aside, this is quite a minefield in terms of choosing a style. The imagery will dictate the tone of the game absolutely. Is it a serious game or a fun game? Is it dark and gritty or cartoon-like and fun?

Initially I latched onto some fantastic work being done by Craig Bruyn. His characters have a chibi style to them, akin to Super Dungeon Explore. Whilst this is not something I would naturally gravitate towards, his style is packed with character and attitude without being overly cute. He makes it look terribly easy to draw like this, but he is truly a master at his craft. I love the quirkiness and simplicity, as well as the amazing amount of attitude his character drawings have. I had to give this a go!

My first attempt was a Soldier of Nottingham. Much fun was had playing with facial expressions and the various shapes - head, shield, helmet. Very happy with this little guy.

I moved on to draw my Hood character, and this is where things fell apart slightly. No matter how much attitude I put into the drawing, he still looking like a small child playing at being Robin Hood – not the look I was going for at all! I couldn't have the main character not being completely awesome.

 This left me in a bit of a quandary as I had thought my solution found. Back to the drawing board (so to speak!).

I looked at concept art and artists for hours and days. As easy as it was to find something I liked, I also needed to find a style that I could assimilate and reproduce to a decent standard (cannibalise?). It also had to be relatively effortless due to my distinct lack of spare time. Quick, easy results that look amazing – no problem!

I was watching a youtube video that was using a piece of art that really caught my eye and I felt compelled to find more from the artist. I soon discovered it was from Steven Sanchez DeviantArt page, and I felt like I'd unearthed something truly magical. So much character and attitude, with an angular graphic style that is not too distant from how I scribble anyway. This was surely the holy grail I had been looking for.

I decided to not mess about here and had a first stab at this style using Hood as the guinea pig. I was pretty pleased with the opening result. It was definitely encouraging, if not perfect. It had the Batman feel I was going for. I just need to give him a bit more of his own character. Just doing a head and shoulders image meant I could save a lot of time whilst still getting the character across.

Time to test the theory again, see if it would translate to Guy De Gisburne – The Raven.

The original concept art for Guy (pictured near the top of the page) was a good stab at the character I had in my head, but I wanted to really get the Darth Vader/Dredd feel across whilst maintaining an element of humanity (if that's not an oxymoron).

This one felt good from the off. It went though several stages of development at the pencil sketch stage, long before it saw any action on the computer. The style is definitely Steven Sanchez, but it's also definitely my take on it. It's more sketchy and rough around the edges. The digital colouring was great fun too, as well as adding textures to the clothes for an extra dimension.

I'm currently going back to my Hood drawing to see if I can match the intensity of The Raven. In addition, I'm looking at the other members of the respective warbands.

This has been quite a journey. I did not feel capable of doing my own artwork two years ago, and spent a lot of money getting two concept artists to give it a shot. Whilst the results were genuinely stunning, it always felt like they weren't quite the characters I had envisioned. This image for The Raven is not perfect, but it signifies a great amalgamation of the concept artists' work and my own ideas and skills. It has given me the confidence that this is my route forward. They may only be head shots effectively, but I can foresee the next step of expanding them to full body illustrations being straightforward. I need to establish the characters first, pin down a look and feel for them all.

Stay tuned…

Monday, 13 March 2017

They Think It's All Over…!

About a month ago I managed to have a game of something I've not played in 25 years… Subbuteo!

Myself and a group of friends played it for a while back around the time of the Mexico '86 world cup, and again for a spell 4 years later. I had the odd game during the early 90's whilst at college, but my collection has sat in boxes since then.

After a casual conversation about it with our friends last year, I recovered my Subbuteo teams from my mum's attic and even went so far as buying a more recent starter box. Eventually we got a date in the diary myself, our friends James and his 7yr old son Joseph had a boys' day playing table football.

Needless to say the skills were a bit rusty, but I managed to stay unbeaten on the day, bagging a total of 6 goals in 4 games and not conceding any. Poor Joseph didn't win, or even score, on the day and was on the end of a 4-0 kicking from his dad at one point (not competitive!). After beating James 3-0 in our opening game, we ground out a 0-0 draw in the second and I eventually won by a golden goal.

Regardless of scores, great fun was had by all. Nostalgia washing over us in waves, whilst teaching a new generation a game that provided hours of fun for us oldies!

Of course, wearing your football kit is obligatory – without a word said we all turned up wearing our colours – me, in my traditional royal blue!

Friday, 10 March 2017

Bloodbowl - Humans vs Undead

In a positive flurry of gaming this week, we have Tutorial game 2 of Blood Bowl for my friend Chris. I had picked up one of the new Human teams from Ebay since our last game (but needless to say hadn't painted it). After Chris's efforts with the Dark Elves last time, the more balanced Humans gave him a different perspective. I mixed things up too, switching to the Undead.

In the last game my Nurgle team hogged possession of the ball for almost the entire time, so after winning the dice roll Chris opted to receive the ball. After some initial school boy errors (like lining up a Str 2 Catcher vs a Str 5 Mummy) Chris got into a flow and the turns were flying by. The Undead were bogging down proceedings and the damage was being dished out. Chris had two knocked out and two dead, I had a Ghoul in the dead pile also. Brutal game.

As our 6-turn tutorial half started to wind down, the ruck along the half way line started to break up and Chris grabbed his opportunity. He sprinted a thrower through a narrow gap and a lineman threw a pass. Despite a last gasp attempt to blitz the escaping receiver, my Wight managed to roll double-two for his 3+ dodge roll and fell on his face. Chris's thrower was away, with only a Mummy in pursuit (if you can call 3 squares a turn a pursuit!).

He got his just rewards for an audacious bit of gaming. First touchdown!

Great game(ette) and thoroughly enjoyable, even with us vocalising our strategy thinking throughout. It's turning out to be an awesome week of gaming. Whatever next?!

Thursday, 9 March 2017

A Return To The Zombicide Dungeons

So I've managed to go over a month without posting on the blog. And what a month it's been- lots of work family issues, a missing tooth and a broken toe. There has been no hobby time at all really, but finally I got another Tuesday Game Night under the belt.

Bull suggested an all-out game of Black Plague, with every model, card, token he owned. Oh yes, the big monsters came out to play (or at least sit on the bench and watch). To spice things up even more, we got to choose one character apiece, the rest were random - no dream team available here to face our biggest test.

To be fair we didn't do too badly with character selection. It opened our eyes to individuals I certainly have dismissed in the past and, with a bit of good luck, we managed to sail through the scenario without so much as a scare. Bull has a more detailed retelling on his blog.

Alas, as I eluded to earlier, we did get the Blobination on the board, but given his relative slow speed we managed to evade him. This meant that none of the other Monster Abominations could be on the board at the same time, so we dodged that particular pitfall (some of those guys sound nasty!).

Our biggest problem was the Necromancers. Once we added the character necro cards into the pack, the Necromancers were getting loads of extra goes, positively sprinting around the board. We managed to contain the threat in the end, only one actually getting off the board.

Great fun, and great to get back into some gaming. More gaming tonight with Chris, so we'll see how that goes!


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