Tuesday 20 February 2024

Rogue Trader Reprint: A Long, Long Time Coming


Just a quick update today as I'm pretty busy but I thought I'd post my thoughts on the Rogue Trader reprint.

So as of typing, the book still hasn't arrived and reading around the internet, this seems to be quite a common occurrence in the UK with stock arriving recently in the US but with the book being printed in China, it appears that we'll be waiting a while yet for copies to appear.

In GW's defence, they did say it could take up to 180 days or 6 months but it does feel like this has turned into a bit of a cash grab before the release of the Old World fantasy battle stuff.

I'm willing to wait a wee bit to get hold of my copy but I must admit that I'm getting to the point where I may cancel my order as I am actively moving away from GW games and delving further into my collection of old indie stuff, especially as there has been some comment from folks who did get their copy that have mentioned its not the best quality wise with photos being described as being a bit on the dark side.

I suspect that is due to the fact that GW had to scan a copy of the original so its never going to be perfect but it sounds like they could have tweaked the images a wee bit to clear them up. I'll no doubt hum and hah about it for the rest of the week but I'm edging closer to just moving onto something else and the refunded pennies could be better used for something else that will get regular play...

We shall see if there's any update this week and I'll make the decision on Saturday and possibly dedicate the saved cash to a small indie company that needs it more than the behemoth.

In the meantime, All the best!

Tuesday 13 February 2024

A Great Flood


Apologies for the lack of updates over the last week or so. We've got an ongoing leak coming through our kitchen ceiling which has now been going on for three months.

The landlord for the flat upstairs has been in repeatedly to try and fix it but still it persists. Sometimes we have a whole week without water coming through but at others its poured through resulting in a kitchen we can't really use until repairs are complete.

Unsurprisingly this has been rather praying on my mind and while its currently slowed down somewhat, its a bit of a distraction from much needed hobby time.

Hopefully it will be properly fixed this weekend but until then, I doubt much hobby shenanigans will be had!

On a brighter note, I've got a few sculpts finished and hope to be able to show them soon which will then see my Leviathan project kicking off. In an attempt to distract myself further from the flood from above, I'm also going to revamp my original Leviathan blog and stock it up with rewritten and formatted articles about the original game. This will be a bit of a slow burn sort of project but once I've got the first few posts up, I'll share it here.

In the meantime, All the best!

Monday 5 February 2024

An Ode to Obscure Games: Exploring Settings and Factions


I've been sculpting furiously over the last week and have got the next batch of figures for my Leviathan project but as I'm trying to get an entire faction at least to a decently playable condition, it's taking a while but my Children of the Worm should be about ready to paint come this weekend which is great.

In the meantime, I thought I'd have a look at how to incorporate some of the obscure games from my collection into something a bit more focused, namely looking at setting a mini campaign in one of them.

For this I've rummaged out my original Void 1.0 rulebook which has the rules and basic background for the game as well as core troop choices for each faction. Weighing in at 48 pages, the original Void rulebook is none the less a really great wee read, chock full of background that helps set the scene for the game that would develop over the following years.

We have an outline of the civilisation, namely the Viridia Solaris-Leviathan binary system where humanity originated from. We then have a brief overview of the binary systems planets and brief history of how the civilisation, originating on Viridia spread initially throughout the system and began to squabble amongst each other resulting in war and a split between the Viridians, Junkers of Ironglass and the Syntha of Prime.

We also get a good overview of how FTL travel works in the setting, largely due to the gravity well of the dead star Leviathan and then the book explores each of the factions in greater length comparing everything from their commerce to military and politics which serves to give a good grounding on how each of said factions will operate in setting.

We have the eco-capitalist Viridians who have a megacorporate democracy and generally good tech level. Its citizens are probably the freest of the settings societies but as they're working for the megacorporations, this is must be taken with a pinch of salt. Their military is well equipped but risk averse so rely more on well equipped troops who can hold the enemy off at range.

The Junkers of Ironglass are a despotic society, loosely based on Rome with the basic citizens life being grim, hard and brutal, not to mention short. Coupled with their tendency to appropriate tech, planets and resources whenever possible, they're clearly not nice guys. The inner council of the Junker's senate aren't even known, so highly do they keep their secrecy. Military wise, the Junkers are numerous and eminently disposable with short range weapons better suited to close in firefights and assaults.

The Syntha of Prime are a technocratic society who believe in melding humanity with machine and develop artificial intelligences using Prime Obsidian, a super rare material only found on their homeworld. Interestingly it is stated that there are two tiers of citizens, the lower class Synthetics such as AI's and synthetic beings while the upper is the Prosthene or cyborg humans. At the same time their society is guided by an AI called Prime. Unsurprisingly the Syntha rely on technology over numbers.

Finally we have VASA or the Viridian Aeronautics and Space Agency who are based on Vacillus and are essentially a combination of scientific administrators, law enforcement, the UN and Nato. They seek to keep peace amongst the members of the Tripartite Confederacy. As such they have access to the best tech and gear and are pretty heavy handed in trying to stop humanity from both wiping itself out and in resisting the Korolan menace.

This sort of information is really handy as it gives you so many handy hints and creative choices if you wish to incorporate the Void setting into your own games or wish to play the game as meant and I do like the fact its all pretty hard sci-fi without the whole mysticism or space fantasy of many other games. 

When you compare it to the older ruleset, Kryomek, you can absolutely see its influences with the Nexus Quarumate and its mixture of megacorporate shenanigans facing an implacable alien menace so it wouldn't take much work to combine the two with just a small amount of effort.

Next we move onto the Void rules themselves, these are a nice, tight and quick skirmish set that is clearly aimed, at least initially at 30-40 figures a side. Looking at the rules, I see no reason why it won't work perfectly well for much smaller skirmishes with 5-10 figures fighting it out with only minor adjustments and may well be a way of trying out the game quickly and easily.

The other option is to use the setting as a guide and instead of concentrating on the big sweeping stuff and instead get down to the nitty gritty. There are plenty of interesting options for the skirmish gamer by just reading the rules. I could easily imagine creating a small raiding party of Junkers seeking loot, Syntha scientific expedition protected by AI troopers, Viridian marines off on a bug hunt or even independent colonists trying to hold off one of the great powers who seek to incorporate them into their fold. VASA could be used as enforcer types, either NPCs with set objectives or as a punishment unleashed on any warband that gets too overpowered in a campaign.

One of the criticisms I've head of Void is that it is a bit generic and the figures are bland and possibly compared to the super detailed and even fiddly stuff that GW produces, this is to some extent true but with a bit of a read of the rules and forethought, it does make for a really intriguing setting that lends itself to digging into and exploring.

When you combine this with other rulebooks which are specifically aimed towards small skirmishes, such as Star Mogul or Planet 28, there's the framework for a gripping narrative to be explored in small scale.

Combined with the Battles With Miniatures magazines and Army Books, all freely available to download from Seb Games, there's a lot of inspiration to be found and I do look forward to porting Farpoint into it and seeing what I can come up with 

I'll be posting more of my thoughts when using other games, specifically sci-fi for my next update and we shall see where it takes me but in the meantime, All the best!

Thursday 1 February 2024

An Ode to Obscure Games: Leviathan


I figured that after all this rummaging through my collection of obscure games, it was high time I actually posted about my main project this year, Leviathan!

Published in 1995 by Grendel Miniatures, Leviathan was a game that I discovered, like so many others, in Macs Models and was immediately fascinated by the stunning artwork produced by Adrian Smith. Macs Models even had lots of the original art up on the wall which I still regret not buying when they were available!

Unsurprisingly, I picked up the rulebook immediately and that was me. Sadly I didn't end up doing much with it until I headed off to university in 2006 where I arrived in Worcester, a city I'd only visited once and knew nobody having sold off literally every miniature I owned and most of the rulebooks and gaming magazines. While university was brilliant, I found myself hankering after miniatures and had for some reason, brought my rather battered copy of Leviathan with me and re-read it for the first time in over a decade.

Here was a very different fantasy world from the GW Old World. It had suffered an apocalypse called The Death which saw the thrice cursed Elves break a great seal which unleashed the princes of the fallen upon the world. At the same time a great storm of wild magic roiled across the world, mutating, changing and causing vast destruction as it went and now the surviving races must fight to survive this harsh new world.

The now throughly evil Elves squat in their great obelisks in the wastes ride forth to reconquer their shattered realm, accompanied by terrible monsters summoned from other realms and the warped remains of the dragons.

The barbarian tribes of the North march to a final war to avenge the mutilation of the Earth Mother. They ride great razorback boars and have the power to warp themselves in a battle frenzy and their druids can summon elemental creatures to aid them in battle.

The Orcs and their slaves, the Goblins pour from the endless plains of the east atop great lizards to ravage and claim the ruined world for themselves, driven on by their god Gorath who they summoned by the ritual sacrifice of all their shamans.

The Dwarves, locked up in their subterranean holds survived The Death better than most and now emerge with blackpowder weaponry and great steam driven engines of destruction to hold their mountain fastnesses and drive back the forces who wish to destroy them.

The rules themselves are pretty interesting but do feel like they are aimed at two very different styles of game. On the one hand, the setting and big beasties that were created for the game work for either small scale skirmishes with 5-10 figures a side fighting for resources or up to a large warband of several units supported by a handful of larger monsters or war engines, somewhat like 40k 2nd edition.

The rules themselves though seem to be aimed more towards Fantasy Battle sort of scale and need a 4'x8' board to play and regiments of troops fighting. At this level, it feels like it should have had a mass battle option with 10-15mm scale figures that would be better suited to the mass battle and mighty engines of war sort of thing.

Despite this, the game really appealed to me, and over the next few years, I picked up a lot of resin bits and bobs and even had a bash at creating usable warbands but the sheer size of the undertaking was too much and when I left uni, the project had stalled.

Over the next decade or so, I've tried to restart the game with limited success, managing to play a game each year using cardboard tokens to represent units and it actually worked pretty well but there is no substitute for a proper miniature game with painted miniatures.

This saw the birth of the Boar Company with their leader Grimli who I've sculpted in different scales over the years and their ongoing rivalry with their nemesis, Marik Goldhelm, a rogue wizard and much enjoyment has been had from it.

Similarly, as I played a small skirmish game using the setting, rather than the rules, the setting began to morph and change, with a new background forming until it was very much an original beast in its own right.

The Elves were now the remnants of an interstellar empire who unleashed The Death by creating a fell magitech machine to fight a foe so terrible that in defeating it, the Elves cursed themselves. Now there are multiple factions of them squabbling over the ruins. Some remain true to their original selves, others have fallen to evil or genetic modification or even magitech addiction.

The Orcs became Gorathians, soldiers from another world who the Elves used as footsoldiers in their wars who seek to return to their own world and will destroy all who stand in their way. They have access to crude blackpowder weaponry and when combined with their command of saurian mounts are a force to be reckoned with.

The Dwarves are engineers and builders whom the Elves had used to build their vast obelisk palaces and create the engines of war but turned against them when they turned on The Machine and now seek to bring order to the chaotic wastelands of Aeroth. They make use of technology and engineering but slowly turn to stone as they age so even their ancestors are still around and their souls can be implanted into machines to march to war along with their kin.

The Barbarians are the hardened survivors of The Death who roam the world in warbands seeking a new and safe homeland following the destruction wrought by the Elves. Once slaves to the Elves they are free people but live a hard, nomadic life of raiders and are somewhat like a combination of Mad Max and Slaine...

As the setting started developing off on a tangent, the background becoming very different from the original, I started moving away from the old resin sculpts and even the style of game that the original Leviathan rules were aimed towards and I have to say that I don't regret it as I've had a huge amount of enjoyment from putting together my own world and sculpting my own figures but I do find myself hankering after at least putting the original Leviathan to bed by completing at least one small warband using the original figures...

I still have a fair amount of resin miniatures from the range which could be put to good use so maybe this year will see me work towards getting a warband constructed and painted but I suspect that this is going to be beyond my abilities, if for no other reason storage for large painted resin miniatures is a bit of a nightmare and I just don't have the space for more than a 3'x3' board making gaming the original rules somewhat of an impossibility.

So where does this leave me? I do have plenty of options to use other rulesets but using the original setting to create some really interesting gaming. For example, how about using Frostgrave to represent different magic users investigating the ruined megacities of Aeroth in search of lost lore.

Rangers of Shadowdeep, Five Leagues from the Borderlands or Brutalquest could see brave bands of adventurers exploring the ruined wastelands and fighting dire foes to keep their homes safe from the perils of the post Death world.

There's even options for creating larger warbands with 30-40 figures to duke it out with each other with Rogue Trader or No Quarter so I do still have options!

At present, I've ben trying to get more of my SD sculpts finished that will represent the Children of the Worm, worhshippers of a great white worm that inhabits the southern deserts whose flesh, if consumed gives the gift of unlife so expect to see some fresh fights and rivals for the Boar Company.

But this approach is very slow as I can only sculpt about 4-5 figures a week and when you include painting, this stretches things out even more so I may end up with a bit of a two pronged approach to things and create some mini challenges of a Leviathan theme throughout the year, be it creating a couple of warbands for Brutalquest using pre-existing miniatures and building them up to Frostgrave levels or making scenery suited to the setting.

Coupled with this, I do find myself being drawn to another project, namely Void 1.1. With the upcoming release of Void 2.0 by Seb Games, I do think it would be fun to do a bit of an army challenge sort of thing where I give myself 3 months to paint one of the army starter boxes and then bulk it out to a full 1500 point army (which isn't too much of a challenge when that would be 30-40 figures and a vehicle or two).

This would give me lots to be getting on with and should keep me from burning out or losing motivation which is something I have had to deal with in the past, especially with Leviathan.

We shall see what I get through in the coming months but I do plan on trying out as many rulesets as I can this year (my record is currently 7 different rulesets played in a single year and I'm keen to break this!).

Hopefully I'll get myself in gear to make a start on the somewhat nebulous projects in the coming weeks but until then, All the best!

Wednesday 31 January 2024

An Ode to Obscure Games Bonus Edition! Void 1.1


I had planned on getting on with finishing off some sculpts that I've been working on this week but a pounding headache saw tools downed for the day.

It appears that I've been reading, drawing and sculpting more than usual during my hols which has resulted in brain ache but it seems to be relenting somewhat so I thought I'd add a bonus obscure game to the mix and settled on Void 1.1 originally produced by i-Kore back in 2000.

It appeared shortly after the sad demise of Warzone and had much of the team from back in the Grendel and Fantasy Forge days and from what I can gather from chatter back then, it had initially been intended to be Kryomek 2.0 but with the weird split between UK and UK ownership, we ended up with something completely different, yet at the same time familiar.

Artwork was initially supplied by Stuart Beel who had done much of the art for Warzone and I remember hearing that quite a few of the original miniatures for the human factions were leftovers from the 2nd edition of Warzone.

The setting revolves around the the uneasy alliances of the Viridians, Junkers, Syntha and policed by VASA who encounter the alien menace, the Koralon out on the frontier resulting in everyone fighting to claim worlds, defeat the alien menace and generally stabbing each other in the back.

This background is remarkably similar to the Kryomek one but instead of borrowing from the 80's sci-fi style of the Aliens movies, it went in a more anime direction. Tech is smooth and sleek, colours are bright and the rules were a lot sleeker than its ancestor.

I remember when the first release of the game came out and was basically a small rulebook and collectors magazine along with the core forces for each of the factions, several of which could be used by everyone. 

This approach was pretty brilliant as it allowed you to collect a decent range of force from the miniatures that were released and every month following, we got a new Battles With Miniatures magazine that laid out more of the background and introduced new units.

Eventually 2nd edition arrived which saw a release of proper force books with several cover illustrations by Adrian Smith, who had worked on Kryomek and Leviathan as well as going onto really develop GW's chaos look.

Similarly the rules were tweaked to encourage somewhat larger games, much like the difference between 2nd and 3rd edition 40k but not as drastic a change so instead of fielding 3-4 squads of 5-10 figures a side, we had a starter set with fifty miniatures which you could build on to create fairly large armies.

By this point, the forces that were available had really started to develop into unique factions with the Viridians riding around on dinosaurs but also having jungle commandos and elite power armour, the Junkers being a bit of a cross between Kryomek Cyclos, Mad Max and the Roman Legions and relying on sheer numbers to win the day. Syntha are high tech with lots of robotic assets, again much like the AI units in Kryomek while VASA has lots of high mobility and peacekeeper type figures as well as stompy robot suits.

The least complete force was actually the Koralon, whose sculpts were decidedly hit or miss and described in the background as sluglike. This was remedied somewhat by the redesign that Adrian Smith worked on for the Koralon forcebook which made them much more menacing and more like the Thing than had really been explored in their previous iteration.

Sadly at this point i-Kore went bust, for reasons that we don't need to go into now but would reappear a few years later as Urban Mammoth which went onto further refine the game into Urban War, a much grittier and darker version of the setting and aimed towards small scale skirmishes on a single planet.

At some point, I do think I'll take a look at it too but thats for another day as Void 1.1 has a lot of retro charm and fond memories for me as I remember playing the game at Borders Books in Edinburgh and collecting a decent sized Koralon and VASA force back in the day.

Handily Void 1.1 was initially picked up by Scotia Grendel (like so many other great games over the years) and is now being produced by SEB GAMES who have got a Void 2.0 due out soon which I look forward to seeing and are slowly gearing up to not only get the full range re-released but it looks like theres some new stuff in the pipeline too.

Now hopefully my headache will clear and I'll be able to get on with some sculpting but in the meantime, All the best!

Tuesday 30 January 2024

An Ode to Obscure Games: World of Twilight


Today marks the end of my current run of articles on obscure games and todays is a bit of an outlier as The World of Twilight is a current game that is well supported with new releases and supplements and shows what a small, niche game can do if done well!

Twilight is without doubt the best looking and most original game I've seen in a long, long time. Started about 20 years ago by Mike Thorpe, and gradually developed through small kickstarter campaigns and a very loyal fanbase, the World of Twilight is a wonderful success story in the independent game sphere.

Through the creation of an utterly unique setting that has races of bipedal lizard like creatures who succeed in having massive amounts of character and personality in each sculpt and an ongoing and evolving setting which periodically introduces new factions, areas to explore and a stunning array of miniatures, Twilight is the sort of game I'd love to see more people trying to develop. 

Its whimsical and engaging with some dark elements such as can be seen in a Jim Henson film but isn't all grim and gritty and more importantly isn't trying to compete with the likes of GW. It is not a game of mass battles but heavily scenario driven with simple but engaging rules and each small beastie has a real personality that many of the bigger games lack.

I love the fact that Mike has developed this whole fascinating ecosystem with unique societies, races and creatures that is at once grounded and magical and he's found this wonderful little niche where folks are drawn into joining him on the adventure of exploring the world he's spent decades developing.

Sadly I must admit that despite picking up a starter set during the lockdowns, I still haven't managed to paint up what I've got and have wandered off to do my own thing which is a real shame as there's so much to explore in the world of Twilight and alongside War of Ashes Shieldbash stands as truly original and different from the vast majority of games in my collection.

There's a thriving community of players, collectors and fans of Twilight but one doesn't see much on the interwebs of it. Instead there is this great little game that has chugged along, slowly developing into what we have now with multiple factions, guidebooks and some lovely sculpts, not only of combatants but also of the civilians of the world and the wild beasts that inhabit it.

I have to admit that while putting this article together I found myself wanting to rummage out the box of unpainted lead I have in my spare room and get painting as the game is just so beautiful looking with the creator developing something that manages to avoid all the usual fantasy tropes and cliches.

The game rules themselves are easy to learn and quick to pick up and as you don't need many figures to play, its easy to get into and even if you don't end up playing, the figures are really nicely sculpted and lend themselves to painting really well too.

Looking at the rules again as well as perusing the WORLD OF TWILIGHT website I find myself drawn to the game all over again and really will need to find the figures and paint them up as its got pretty much everything I'm looking for: It's quirky, original and doesn't require a large outlay to get enough figures to play a good game. It's also fully supported and getting regular releases which is a real boon too!

If you haven't heard of the World of Twilight, I highly recommend you take a peek as its brilliantly engaging and one of the highlights of putting these articles together has been reminding me that I actually have it and the game exists and is so visually appealing.

I hope folks have enjoyed my series of articles and I think one of the things I want to do as the year goes on is to actually get some figures painted up so I can play some of them! In some cases this may be fairly straight forward as the figures are either in my collection or available to order but in others I may have to proxy stuff...

We shall see what I can do as we trundle through the year but this retrospective has been a really enjoyable process for me as it has reinforced my enjoyment of old, obscure or niche games and reinforces my decision back in the day to leave the GW hobby and going forward I suspect I'll have a lot more interesting stuff to post about as I've barely scratched the surface with my collection.

In the meantime, All the best!


Monday 29 January 2024

An Ode to Obscure Games: Kryomek


Todays post is all about another early 90's game that is still in production but hasn't seen any developments or indeed releases in decades.

Krymomek is a game originally produced by Fantasy Forge in 1991 and is very much in the style of the Alien movie franchise.

I picked up the original rules and its supplement Hivestone from Macs Models in Edinburgh (they're their original demo copy!) and it was one of the first non GW books that made its way into my collection and its stuck with me all these years.

Setting wise, its about a human based spacefaring race that jumps into undiscovered space and finds out that they are not alone. The Kryomek are highly aggressive and a galactic war immediately breaks out with both races trying to wipe the other out.

The rules themselves are based on Stargrunt 1st edition and is aimed at the squad to platoon level with the odd vehicle. Interestingly this seems to jar with the background as its all about either mass battles between the Nexus and Kryomek or small squads infiltrating the Kryomek hives trying to locate the Hive Masters, the brain that motivates the antlike xenos.

Looking back at it, it feels like there should have been a 28mm skirmish style of game with a single squad trying to fight its way through a hive with specific objectives along the way or clearing out infestations like Space Hulk. A second, larger combined arms game in 6/10/15mm scale where you could make the most of the epic conflicts mentioned in the background. It does feel that this was designed with 40k in mind though.

I must admit that the rules themselves weren't what attracted me to Kryomek though, its the background and art. Its a hard sci-fi setting that you can totally imagine being set within the Alien universe with humans using guns and robots to take on a close combat themed enemy. The artwork is also superb, with the likes of Adrian Smith, Tony Ackland, Pete Knifton and Stephan Tappin, all ex GW artists as well as Chaz Elliot, Colin MacNeil and Bob Olley sculpting much of the range, also all ex GW sculptors.

The combination of 80's style sci-fi high tech and the grotty, lived in artwork, like the image above (which totally reminds me of a Rogue Trader pic of two renegade marines) and the fascinating pseudo military scientific report that the background is written in, Kryomek is a fascinating object.

There are only two forces in the original rules, the Nexus and the Kryomek. While the Kryomek are very much a horde type of alien menace with their forces consisting of ravenous Hellions, primitive bipedal eating machines, the Warriors, vaguely humanoid beasts with acidic blood and a variety of somatic weapons, be they single molecule blades or acid projectors. The big guys on the battlefield are snake bodied Warmasters, the driving force of the Kryomek on the battlefield.

As for the Nexus, they are split into several sub forces. There are Nexus Marines, essentially marines from Aliens with vests and guns. Next they have Nexus SWAT, power armoured and heavily armed elite troops. The final human option is the CYCLO convict troops who are used as suicide troops. The Nexus also have access to an assortment of AI units including the absolutely terrifying TALOS units and even light combat walkers.

The supplement HIVESTONE brought in Nexus Rebels, Colonial Marines, Megacorporate forces as well new Kryomek sub-strains and an assortment of bits and bobs, not to mention the much needed force lists and point costs that the original book was missing.

Its still free to download and I highly recommend folks pick up at least the PDF or the books which are also still available through Scotia Grendel.

Alas as with so many of my collection, the games creators Fantasy Forge became Grendel and went bust so the figures and game were picked up by Scotia Grendel in the UK and MSD Games in the US so while the game is technically still up and running, there is no real update on the game, be it a revised 2nd edition or supplements, new figures or whatnot.

I believe that following the demise of Warzone, John Robertson, the creator of many of the wonderful games of the 90s, Kryomek, Leviathan, Warzone and Chronopia tried to regain the rights but wasn't able to do so, possibly because of the split between UK and US companies and went on to develop VOID, which is most definitely its spiritual successor.

Kryomek has such brilliant potential but needs new miniatures as the three sculptors for the original range had such different styles that the figures don't really fit together very well. Also I'd love to see a redeveloped 2nd edition with fully playtested and revamped rules but this seems a bit unlikely.

Unlike quite a few of my games, Kryomek does seem to have a player base that is keeping it alive with a fairly active Facebook group so its well worth looking it over if you are on social media.

I'll be posting some more bits and bobs tomorrow with the last of my Obscure Games series for a while as I'm hoping to have some Leviathan stuff finished as the week goes on but its been loads of fun to post up all these lovely niche games so I suspect that I'll be posting more of them as the year goes on!

In the meantime, All the best!