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Monday, July 7, 2014

Weekend R&R: Games & Gears Ichiban Studios Pro Line Brushes


A couple months back, I gave a bit of a signal boost the the new Kickstarter by Games & Gears who partnered with Ichiban Studios to create a pro line of red sable brushes.  I backed the project (which was largely funded by the wife as a Birthday gift) and was lucky enough to get an 'Early Bird' spot.  Well, for those Early Birds, they began shipping a couple of weeks ago and, I knew that they had hit Canada last Friday.  I figured I'd have a small package waiting for me and, I was right.

It's a rainy day in Montreal today so I wasn't out BBQing supper.  I fixed up a quick little meal and set myself to examine and test out the brushes.



In short, these are very good brushes albeit, by looking at them, you would think they might take a bit of getting used to in terms of handling the brush while painting.  First off, these are shorter, a bit heavier, and a bit thicker than what I'm accustomed to using.



My usual brushes are a set of three 'Eavy Metal branded brushes from Games Workshop and while some people will cry out in despair and wonder what possessed me to spend overly much on something that was likely overpriced to begin with, I suspect this was one of those things that was less overpriced than the typical product they push on their fanbase.  I use these brushes (sized 'Large', 'Standard', and 'Detail') because they are Kolinsky Sable brushes and there was some discussion a while back that these were likely Windsor and Newton series 7 Kolinsky Sable brushes.  All I can say is that I've been using these brushes for well over a year and they have never let me down.  They're great and having used and gone through other brushes, these still are in decent shape.


Brushes don't last forever, no matter how well you care for them but treat them right, and they'll serve you a long time.  However, this Kickstarter presented an interesting option to get other sable brushes and, with the way you can help protect the tips, it seemed like a good opportunity.

Having tried out all the brushes, I have to say that it was really easy to get comfortable in using the brushes.  Because they are so 'penlike', I found myself holding the brush closer to the tip on the ferrule that I did with the other brushes but this wasn't a problem for me.  Depending on the angle of course, there were times I had to re-adjust my grip in order to get to a tighter spot on the model I was painting on but that's the same for any brush given what you may be trying to paint.

The bristles hold paint really well in part because the body of the bristles are nice and thick compared to what I normally work with.  However, application of the paint was nice and smooth.  Most importantly, they seem to keep a tip when wet and they also have some 'spring' to them.  Both very important things when precision is required when working on some details.


While these brushed will be entering regular use, my 'Eavy Metal brushes have not been replaced.  The smallest of the brushes, the 00 size would be very hard pressed to replace my Detail brush.  Since the bristles are shorter on the 00, and given the 'spring' and the tendency to keep a point, I will have to play around with it a bit more to be sure.  Eyes and facial features on 25 - 30mm is a tricky thing.  Then again, I've had difficulties with the Fine Detail brush as well.  I have heard Games & Gears were working on a pro-line 000 size and, given the quality of these brushes, I'd be happy to pay for one of these.

Games & Games had another KS a while back and there were a lot of quality control issues and the general consensus was that those 'samurai brushes' were pretty sub-par.  On the flip side, the customer service and communication seemed to be good.  This time around, they seem to make damned sure that the QA issues were well in hand for this release and I have no problems recommending these brushes for the model painter.

Unfortunately, these brushes may not be available in retail till early next year.  Games & Gears still has a way to go to fulfill all their backer commitments -- regular backers as well as extras and add-ons all ship in September.  I would suggest keeping an eye on their homepage HERE but it you can't wait and want a brush now *and* you are going to GenCon this year, you can get a limited edition size 0 brush which can be ordered HERE.  To be honest, if it wasn't for the fact that I have two sets of these brushes, I'd be tempted myself.  ;)
£7.5077
£7.50
£7.50
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£7.507.50

M

Monday, June 23, 2014

Clockwork Dragon (Wyrmgear): Painting Guide

It's been some time since I've posting a painting guide and sometimes, time is a huge factor.  I wish I had more time and energy to paint.  But once in a while, a project comes along that you really want to do.  Honestly, when you've got a great model, the right tools, the right paints, and a bit of spare time, you can accomplish so much.



Earlier this month, I finally tackled Reaper's Clockwork Dragon which was released as part of their Bones lines and I picked up as part of their first Kicktstarter.  It came unassembled  (8+ pieces) and was really simple to put together but the plastic material was a bit warped so it would not stand straight and had a tendency to topple over.  Before I undertook much work, the first thing I had to do was do something about the base and I fashioned a larger one for both rear legs.  Green Stuff to the rescue!


Priming the miniature was done using a dark grey acrylic gesso (my own mixture of Liquitex White Gesso and a store brand black gesso).

Painting the miniature couldn't be simpler in many ways.  I wanted to keep the paint scheme on the model simple and I figured a white and gold would be a great start.  As can be seen in the previous picture, the wings had already had a light coat of a 'Titanium White' on the surface of the wings.  The wings were separate pieces of the model and are only mounted in this earlier shot for the purposes of the picture.  For those familiar with Citadel paints, the closest equivalent would be the 'Ceramite White'.  The white paint was airbrushed on.


The gold paint I used was a beautiful shade of yellow gold called a 'Deep Iridescent Gold'.  I guess it would be close to Citadel's 'Gehenna's Gold' but not with quite the same shade.  I find some metallic paints challenging at times to work with but, once again, my airbrush came to the rescue and I got the base coat applied in no time.

The only real challenge when it came to painting the model was with the wings themselves -- or rather their frames.  This was the most time consuming aspect of the model.  A clean coat of white on the wings and the surface of the shields on the legs were also crucial for the next phase I had planned for the miniature.


I had previously used an 'Iridescent Pearl' paint on a couple other miniatures and projects with great success.  It is classified as a 'semi-opaque' paint which means the under coating will be seen through this paint.  In the last model I used it on I did not expect the results I got (you can read about that HERE) but I had also seen the results on a white layer of paint.  The results are a nice pearl effect.  Exactly the kind of effect I wanted to have here.

With base coats and the pearl effect accomplished, the rest of the gold needed some attention.  Gold wasn't exactly the color I was going for... in my mind I wanted a brass feel to it and slightly aged.

This was incredibly easy to pull off and, given all the details in the miniature itself, a wash (shade) would do most of the work for me.  I used ''Agrax Earthshade' from the Citadel line of paints giving it a good coat.  Afterwards I lightly drybrushed some 'Golden Griffen' -- a dry compound from the Citadel line.  Between the shading and drybrushing, the majority of the work on the model was complete.

Eyes were done with a base of 'Mephiston Red' and a layer of 'Evil Sunz Scarlet'.  and the rock bases were done simply with a base of 'Mechanicus Standard Grey', layered with 'Eshin Grey', shaded with the 'Nuln Oil' wash, and finally highlighted with a drybrush treatment of 'Longbeard Grey'.  Some 'Bloodletter' glaze was applied to the eyes as a final touch.

M

Monday, June 9, 2014

Value of the Haunted Highlands

When I arrived from work today, I was surprised and ultimately delighted to find a package waiting for me.  Upon looking at the box, I was actually a bit confused.  The box hailed from the US from Asendia which is based in Illinois.  It was a good sized box and was clearly addressed to me so, I open it up.  Within it I find a whole bunch of stuff.  The physical components of the Haunted Highlands kickstarter I backed the previous year had finally come in.  Asendia, as it turns out, is a third-party company and I suppose it makes sense for a smaller outfit like Troll Lord Games to use the services of a company such as this for the mailing out of parcels.  The packing seems a bit 'sub-par' but the box arrived in one piece and I only have one little issue to gripe about.  But more on that later.

The contents of the package and level that I backed at was at the $99 level which contained a fair bit of stuff and bonuses.



At the core it of, it included a digital and print copy of the Return to the Haunted Highlands book and companion Haunted Highlands Players Guide plus the world map.  It also included a T-Shirt and Cook Book, a map pack, a set of Deluxe C&C Character Sheets, and some dice.  For $99, you need more for your dollar and the stretch goals is what ultimately gave you more.  You can read about the reviews I gave for both books HERE and HERE.


Stretch goals expanded the contents of the main book from a couple hundred pages to twice the size.  The Player's Guide was also expanded and ended up being 112 pages and both books are hardcover.  Along with the expanded content, those who backed a minimum of $59 (which got you both books and the map), a couple of adventure modules exclusive to the Kickstarter were available.  There was also an additional map done by Darlene, the same TSR artist responsible for the classic Greyhawk map that a lot of people love so much.


So, at the $59 level, you're getting some decent value.  The books themselves have a combined MSRP of $60 so if you figure 2 extra modules (I'll go with what I have seen), an extra map, it's not too bad.  If the modules were made available for sale, they'd probably be around $6 apiece.  The $75 dollar level get you a T-Shirt and Cook Book (with an MSRP of $6) on top of what you got at the lower level.  However, the $99 level has the distinct advantage of including the character sheets, the dice, and a total of seven miniatures.  Six of the miniatures are from Reaper's Dark Heaven Legends line of miniatures which individually carry prices between $5 and $7 each.  The seventh was a commissioned piece for the Kickstarter by DarkSword Miniatures whose models start at $10.  You easily have $40 - $50 worth of miniatures in at this level on top of the other incidentals such as the premium characters sheets, dice, and the separate map pack.


Conservatively, the $99 level probably gets you close to $140 worth of gaming goodness which isn't too shabby all things considered.  However, if it wasn't for the miniatures, I would have been hard pressed to justify an expenditure over the $59 level.  It's the miniatures which quickly convinced me to commit the additional $40 combined with all the stuff I was getting in between.


My only gripe (as I mentioned before) was how some of the stuff was packaged.  The two maps are were slightly damaged (creased along a couple of sides and corners) in transport.  The maps, when folded in four, still measure 9 x 12 inches and they were put together in one of the books.  The book was obviously smaller which meant the sides of the maps stuck out and when the books shifted in the box, there was little to prevent the damage it received.  Ironically, if they put it at the very bottom of the box and laid it flat, it probably would have OK thought that is a far from ideal solution.  The box was clearly bigger than the contents and, it seems to me that a small cardboard tube placed in the box would have done MUCH more to protect the contents of the maps.

I am however satisfied with my investment -- even after I factor in the additional shipping I had to pay to get it here to Montreal, Canada.  Honestly, I haven't had a chance to game in a couple of months now and, especially after watching the latest Game of Thrones episode ('The Watchers on the Wall'), I am itching to get to running a game again and, it is quite possible that the Highlands will be where I will head to next!

M

Monday, June 2, 2014

Weekend R&R: The Mortality of Green

Like the Fantastic Adventure (HERE), the Mortality of Green was first published in July of 2000 and, it too is being given to backers in the current C&C Kickstarter (ending tonight).  The Mortality of Green is a fun, simple adventure which can typically run in a single good-lengthed gaming session.  It is set in three parts where-in the first Act sets the stage of the adventure, the second Act is essentially a chase / pursuit, and the third Act is the final show-down between the party and what ends up being a Troll Lord and his forces and then an evil sentient tree.

It is an excellent adventure for new and inexperienced players and stands out as it is not a dungeon-crawl.  It is entirely and outdoors / overland experience where the players get to learn more about the setting of Aihrde (the default setting for C&C).  That said, the adventure can be a bit tough if trying to run it for a party lower than the 4th to 6th level party recommendation.  However, it is also an adventure that can easily be thrown into a campaign -- perhaps even in between destinations of a larger and ongoing story.

As simple as the adventure might seem, it is some of the set encounters which will make the scenario memorable.  In this case, it is the form of an old, half-crazed gnome fisherman.  When I first ran the module for C&C, this was the encounter that stood out and gets talked about years later.  It was a purely role-playing experience for them and between that, the chase, and the final encounters, this adventure became an instant classic.


Mortality of Green has gone through a few incarnations and, it is likely that fans of C&C have already come across the adventure before.  A pre-d20 version and a d20 version were produced and, with the initial release of C&C, the Mortality of Green was one of the first adventures made available for the system.  It never really went out of print and has always been available in one form of another.  However, the layout / look of this version to be included with the Kickstarter promises to harken back to the original look of the module (albeit for C&C).  As something that is signed by the author, some gamers will be happy to have this in their collection even if they have a more 'modern looking' C&C version.

If you don't care for the Kickstarter but don't have or would like a regular copy of the module, physical copies shouldn't be had to find at your local game store, or failing that, direct from the TLG online store.  A digital copy can also be secured HERE at RPGNow (currently on sale for $2 till the end of the Kickstarter campaign).

M

Castles & Crusades Kickstater Ends Tonight!

Troll Lord Games' hugely successful Kickstarter is winding down and and set to end tonight.  With an initial funding goal and a couple of important stretch goals, the campaign blew past these and is bringing quite a lot of goodies to the gaming table for those that back it.  I've already written a couple of times about it (HERE and HERE) and this is where it stands now (at the time I write this).

The original goal was set at $15,000 and they currently have over $67,500 raised.

This enables all three core books to be reprinted (new printings with corrections and very minor revisions) in full, high quality color.  For previous fans of the game, with the exception of the 5th printing of the Players Handbook, all books were black and white printings.  This campaign effectively 'raises their game' as it tries (presumably) to gain a better foothold among existing and potential newcomers to the game.  The system is solid but some might have actually been put off by a non-color treatment in the past (as silly as that might sound).

Of course, being a full color production makes it endearing amongst current fans as well and this is likely one of the reasons why the crowd-funding campaign has been doing so well. The other reason would be the amount of extras being collected and offered up.

Anyone who pledges a total of $99 or more certainly stands to make out like a bandit and this level certainly has the best bang for your buck.  These extras include Character Reference Sheets, 5 adventure modules (signed by the authors), Jim Ward's Elemental Magic, Jim Ward's Solar Magic, a complete set of 10 C&C dice, a custom flash drive with digital content, Arms and Armor Resource Guide, a Book of Epic Level Play (expanding character content up to level 24), the first three levels of the Aufstrag megadungeon, a poster, a slipcase for the three core books, a printed index guide for the core books, a dice cup, and the Abyss Walker Anthology (digital).  The rest of the content will equally be included on the flash drive as digital copies to complement these physical copies.  With just a few hundred dollars left to go, another larger poster is about to be unlocked featuring the art of Peter Bradley (principal artist for the Castles & Crusades line) signed by the artist.

All in all, quite a haul.  And, if you live withing the US.  An absolute steal given that shipping appears to be included!  Sadly, for those of us outside the US, this typically means a higher tally when everything is done but at least it won't hit you all at once.  TLG will contact you after the campaign is done to settle up on the shipping in order to send you your goodies when the time comes.

The turn around for the project is the only thing I am slightly concerned about.  I have no doubt that everything will be released of course but the goal is to have the three core books ready for GenCon this year.  Which completely makes sense of course and I'm sure it can be pulled off.  However, given the extras, I half expect to see these larger packages to ship out after Gen Con in mid-August.

Even if delayed a bit, it's still a great turnaround all things considered.  If you are interested in joining the looting party, you can check out the Kickstarter Campaign HERE.

M