Friday, 17 November 2017

Good Reading

I’ve read a few really good books lately, so I thought I would share!

Anti-Fragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Sometimes you can actually feel your brain expand as you read; that was the case for me while reading Anti-Fragile. In this book, Nassim presents a new way of looking at the meaning of fragility, and, more importantly, it’s opposite. He then uses that idea to examine various aspects of human life and culture, forcing the reader to really think about some of the core beliefs of how the world works.
            It’s not a perfect book. Occasionally, he uses a couple of fictional characters to help illustrate his points, but I found this generally obscured what he was trying to say. Also, some parts were so complex, they either went over my head, or I found that I couldn’t muster the mental energy to even try and follow them. 
            Still, that aside, there is a huge amount of interest that can be taken from this book.

Despite the title, this book is mostly an autobiographical look at Chris Hadfield’s career as Canada’s top astronaut. A career that included three trips into space, including rides on both the Space Shuttle and the Russian Soyuz, a trip to the Mir space station, and a term as commander of the International Space Station. This book made me realize just how far behind I am in understanding current human space exploration, a subject I’d like to keep up with more in the future.
            Along the way Chris Hadfield does have some interesting things to say about life and how to make your life count.

After more than a decade of working for Osprey Publishing, I no longer have any direct dealings with the military publishing for which the company is famous. That said, it is why I originally joined the company, and I still try to read the books whenever I have the chance. During my time at Osprey, Leigh Neville has been the go-to author when it comes to modern special forces topics. His Special Operations Forces in Iraq and Special Opeartions Forces in Afghanistan are must-haves for SF fans, and I think this book is even better. This new book is a terrific summary of the US Army Rangers over the last few decades. It includes a summary of all of their major actions (and they seem to have been involved in just about everything) as well as a detailed look at their changing weapons and equipment during that time. If you are a modern wargamer, you are definitely going to want this one in your library.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Social Mechanics in Game Design

It's a good month for me in the wargaming magazines! Not only did my solo Ghost Archipelago scenario appear in Wargames Illustrated, but I've also got an piece in the new Wargames: Soldiers & Strategy no. 93.

This piece is more of an editorial. It delves into the question of how to take into account social interaction while design wargames. I won't say much about it here, because I said it there (if you will).

The piece earned me a really nice tweet from everyone's favourite wargamer, Henry Hyde:

Great piece in latest @wssmagazine by Osprey's @ReniassanceTrll - food for thought for #mniatures#wargaming rules writers - including me!

Thanks Henry! (I still miss Battlegames!)

As an added bonus, the piece includes a sketch of my head that makes me look like I'm wearing a Civil War ear kepi (it's actually a baseball cap).

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Frostgrave: Second Chances

While most of the attention lately has been on Ghost Archipelago, there is a very cool new release coming for Frostgrave this month: Frostgrave: Second Chances! This is the first, novel-length story set in the Frozen City, and it’s a doozy.

Here’s the blurb:

Time is running out for Yelen and Mirika Semova. Though the sisters have earned an enviable reputation amongst their fellow explorers of the Frozen City, their lives are haunted by a curse - the more Yelen uses her magic, the closer the demon Azzanar comes to claiming her, body and soul. But Azzanar is not the only one manipulating Yelen and Mirika...

When catastrophe separates the Semova sisters, it falls to Yelen to save them both. But in a city shrouded in deceit, who can she turn to for help... and what price will she pay to get it?

The story is written by Matthew Ward, who long-time fans may remember from The Tales of the Frozen City fiction collection that was released at the same time as the main Frostgrave rulebook. It was that story that convinced me that Matthew had a real handle on the setting, so when the opportunity came from someone to write a novel, he was the first person I approached. He wrote a synopsis, which I really liked, and everything lead on from there.

In some ways it has been tough to let go a bit, and give someone else room to play within the Frozen City (us writers can be jealous types, you know), but I have been involved at every step, with the power of veto over anything I didn’t like. As it turned out, it was a power I didn’t need. Matthew turned in such an enjoyable, character-driven, fantasy adventure, that I had little to say other than how much I liked it. And that is with me reading it as an unformatted manuscript (which strangely, does often make things much more tedious to read).

If you like Frostgrave, or just fantasy adventure novels, I suggest you give it a try.

To make the news even better, Dmitry and Kate Burmak did such a great job depicting the main characters on the cover, and a couple of pieces within, that North Star / Osprey Games just couldn’t resist getting them sculpted for the game. So, the incredibly talented Bobby Jackson was brought in to bring the sister ‘to life’ in metal. You can order them, along with the novel, from North Star.

If you need one final excuse, the novel also includes a exclusive Frostgrave scenario, written by yours-truly, based on one of the scenes in the novel.

I read a lot of tie-in fiction, and generally it is of a certain quality. I honestly believe this novel rises well above that level and could easily stand alongside most of the mainstream fantasy that is being produced today.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Ghost Archipelago: The Floating Hulk

For everyone who has picked up a copy of Ghost Archipelago (thanks!), but hasn’t had a chance to try it out yet, you might consider picking up the new issue of Wargames Illustrated

The new issues contains ‘The Floating Hulk,’ a solo scenario I wrote for Ghost Archipelago in which the Heritor and crew investigate a demasted ship floating just outside of the islands.

Ironically, this scenario marks the first that I’ve written that actually involves a ship, or at least what is left of one. I really enjoyed working on this scenario, and I find it an interesting one from a design point of view. I tried to set it up, so that, if everything goes exactly right, the scenario is relatively easy, but as soon as something goes wrong there is a cascading effect.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has played the scenario and hear how they got on!

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Ghost Archipelago Field Research

Last weekend, I engaged in a little Ghost Archipelago field research, along with my family, by visiting Port Lympne Reserve, which most people would call a small 'zoo', but which is more actively engaged in breeding endangered animals and releasing them back into the wild than most zoos. That said, the big attraction for my three-year-old daughter on this day was the Dinosaur Forest.

I must admit, I had pretty low expectations going in, but was very pleasantly surprised. Yes, it is just a bunch of model dinosaurs in a forest, but, they are very well done models, there are a lot of them, and they are full scale! It's actually pretty neat to walk around looking at these gigantic beasts, and pretty inspirational when you happen to be working on a game that has dinosaurs in it.

The whole place makes a nice, if not cheap, day out for the family.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Oathmark Dwarf Size Comparison

A few people have asked how the new Oathmark Dwarves compare in size to their The Lord of the Rings counterparts produced by Games Workshop. Well, luckily, I happen to have both in my collection. As you an see, there is a pretty significant size difference. In truth, it is the bulk of of the two figures that separates them the most. The Lord of the Rings figures have always been more slight, more 'true scale' than most miniatures on the market. Personally, I wouldn't use them together.

In truth, the Oathmark dwarves fit better with the other plastics produced by Osprey Games/North Star and with those produced by companies such as Gripping Beast. A few shots of the dwarves with Frostgrave Barbarians can be found elsewhere on the net.

In more important news, I painted a second dwarf! My unit is growing!


Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Oathmark Dwarf

In celebration of the announcement of Oathmark, I thought I would show off one of my first painted Oathmark miniatures. Here is the doughty warrior, dressed in his chain mail, with his trusty hammer and shield. I didn't spend too long painting this guy as he's just one of a unit, and I am more concerned with the over all effect of the unit, than I am with this particular figure. Also, I used him to test out the shield design that I hope to use as the unifying symbol of the 'Blue Army'. It's just a simple circle of wiggles, but at a distance gives the impression of a kind of Celtic tangle. I think it'll look good multiplied across a unit and an army.

This figure is actually a very slight conversion. The shield arms in on the sprue are designed for the shield to be held high in a more shield-wall look. I wanted a bit more of an open-form look, so I took one of the bow arms, snipped off the bow, and used it for the shield arm, which seems to work really well.

I've mounted this guy on a 20mm round base, even though Oathmark uses 25mm square bases. Why? Because I'm a rebel who doesn't by the rules, even when I'm writing the rules! Actually, it's because I've got some nice movement trays for these to slot into that should work perfectly.