Saturday, 31 December 2016

Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago (2017)

Wind Warden by Dmitry & Kate Burmak. (c) Osprey Games
There is big news for the world of Frostgrave in the second half of 2017. Most people already know about the two expansions: The Frostgrave Folio and Ulterior Motives. Now, rumour is starting to spread about a new game called Frostgrave:Ghost Archipelago. That’s right, not an expansion, a new game. (You can read the official blurb by following the link, but the 'cover' shown there is just a place holder).

Back in the early days of Frostgrave (all of two years ago), my editor (hi, Phil!) asked me how I might want to expand the game, suggesting that I might use the same rules, but set the game in an different environment – such as the Sandgrave and Junglegrave that I have seen jokingly used by some players. Initially, I wasn’t that keen on the idea, figuring it would just be new scenarios and monsters, both of which I could do just as well, if not better, in the Frozen City.

As it has turned out, the game sold well enough that I was able to do several expansions set in the Frozen City that have included loads of new scenarios and monsters, along with other material. However, I never completely forgot about the idea of a new setting.

Then one day, while I was washing the dishes, everything just came together in my head. I realized, that changing the setting wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to expand the world of Frostgrave further, and, more importantly, give players a new and different gaming experience. Suddenly, I was no longer thinking of an expansion; I was thinking about a new game with familiar mechanics.

I always knew that if I used a new setting, it must be one that combined pulp and pirates, a setting that allowed me to bring my love for Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert E. Howard together on the tabletop. Then, the Ghost Archipelago appeared in my thoughts, just the way it reappears every few centuries in the Southern Ocean in the world of Frostgrave. A dense maze of shifting islands, the Ghost Archipelago is covered in the ruins of lost civilizations that are hidden deep in the jungles and rocky mountains. More than one intelligent race calls these islands home, and scores of deadly animals hunt in the swamps and forests.

So, I had my setting, but I still had two major questions that need answering. Why would anyone go adventuring in such a deadly place, and what kind of characters would the game focus on. I knew that if I wanted to make the game distinct from Frostgrave, I would have to push spellcasters down to a supporting roll, but what would take their place? It would need to be some kind of equally powerful group to capture the limelight!

Thus were born the ‘Heritors’. Here’s a little bit about them from a draft of the book:

Over two hundred years ago, the last time the Ghost Archipelago appeared, a group of adventurers discovered a pool of crystal clear water somewhere in the labyrinthine depths of the Lost Isles. Everyone who drank from that pool was filled with a mystical energy, a power they could call upon to perform superhuman feats. After these adventurers returned, they all became legends in their own time. Some became great heroes, others notorious villains. Ironically, despite their incredible strength, speed, toughness, and other superhuman abilities, nearly all of them eventually died violent deaths.
            Before their deaths, however, most of the adventurers who drank from the Crystal Pool sired offspring. Their children inherited many of their parent’s abilities, as did their children’s children, and so on. These descendents became known as ‘Heritors’ for they had inherited some of the power of the Crystal Pool. Yet, with each passing generation, the abilities of the Heritors became slightly less, and every time they used their mystical abilities they suffered from a pain known as ‘Blood Burn’.
            Today, most Heritors are nine or ten generations removed from their ancestor that drank from the Crystal Pool. While the abilities that they inherited still set them apart from the general population, those abilities have grown unreliable, and the pain that accompanies their usage quickly grows unbearable. Thus most Heritors use them sparingly and only in short bursts when they are required.
            No one knows how many Heritors there are in the world, but the number is probably in the high hundreds if not the low thousands. A few are well known warriors, but most choose to keep their abilities hidden. Regardless of where they are, or how they choose to use their abilities, all of them felt a great tug when the Ghost Archipelago returned. The Crystal Pool calls to them, tempting them to come and drink from its waters and gain the powers that once belonged to their ancestors. Many have so far been able to resist this call, but many more are already making their way to the Southern Ocean.

So, there you have the basic premise of the game. There is a lot more to it obviously, and over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be sharing more.

The best news, I think, is that all of the major players behind Frostgrave: FantasyWargames in the Frozen City have returned to work on this game with me: my editor Phil Smith; Dmitry Burmak, who provided all of the gorgeous artwork, this time accompanied by his equally talented wife, Kate; Nick and the gang from North Star are once again working with Osprey Games on a range of miniatures, Kev Dallimore will be supplying his painting and photography skills, Stewart Larkin will be leading the layout and design work. There is no doubt it will be a beautiful book, so there is plenty of pressure on me to make sure it is a good game! 

I'll share more when I can!

Tuesday, 20 December 2016


In my last painting post, I mentioned the trouble I was having with my eyes when it came to painting miniatures. While I still need to look into reading glasses, I have made some good progress with my new 'super light' in place. In fact, I decided to challenge myself and paint one of the smallest, most finely detailed miniatures in the Games Workshop Middle-earth range: Bilbo on a barrel. [For some reason the blog is displaying the image at slightly lower resolution. Click on the image for a clearer shot.]

Of all the thousands (yes, I'm pretty sure its thousands) of miniatures I have painted, this has to be one of my favourites. It's just a perfect.

It's probably also one of the most useless wargaming miniatures ever sculpted, which for me just increases its charm. In fact, I liked it so much, I've decided to go ahead and paint all of the dwarves that came in set as well. Honestly, I think the scene in the movie is ludicrous, overdone, and generally a missed opportunity, but the miniatures look good!

While we are on the subject of Bilbo the barrel-rider, I think Tolkien's own painting of the scene is one of my favourite pieces of his artwork. There is just one thing about it that has always given me pause. In the painting, Bilbo is very clearly wearing shoes! (or boots). How did Tolkien come to forget such a central fact about his own creation?

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Star Wars: Rogue One

I won't give a full review as there are plenty online, and it is very hard to talk about Star Wars: Rogue One without spoilers. I will just say that it has a lot of good points and a few bad ones, but, in the end, it just isn't what I want from a Star Wars movie. Others mileage will certainly vary.

Also, see my thoughts on Prequels in General.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Irony Update

A few hours after writing the last post, I turned on my super lamp and the bulb no painting tonight. Tomorrow I go in search of an R7S, 118mm blub. Dang it.

Age Comes On Apace...

I haven't felt much like painting lately, but I did manage to finish these three Minas Tirith guardsman and a Frostgrave treasure token (the rune stone on the right). The photo, unfortunately, is a tad overexposed, which is ironic, considering what I'm about to say.

Over the last year, I have been having difficulty painting. The truth is, I just don't see as well as I used to. It's not a big deal on most miniatures, but those with finer detail (which includes most of GW's The Lord of the Rings line), I'm having real difficulty seeing that detail well enough to paint it.

For most of my life, I have been blessed with above average eyesight (apparently to compensate for my terrible hearing and sense of smell). However, having turned forty this year, it would be surprising if I didn't 'see' some decline. So I went to the optometrist. Apparently, my vision is still above average, at least as far as forty-year-olds are concerned, and I don't need glasses; though I am considering getting myself a pair of low-powered reading specs for small font.

I briefly experimented painting with magnification, but it seems to cause as many problems as it solves, and takes some of the enjoyment out of it. So, instead, I started experimenting with light... and soon made a major discovery. I didn't have near enough light when I paint.

Once I stopped and thought about it, I realized that my 'painting light' has slowly decreased over the years. I used to have a dedicated paint station, near a window, with a specific lamp for painting. Then, I immigrated to country that doesn't receive near as much natural light; I lost my painting space near the window, and I lost my dedicated lamp. Oh, and then European legislation outlawed the old light bulbs and made us all replace them with much dimmer energy-efficient ones. At each step my eyes could handle it, but added all together with another ten years of age thrown in, and it was too much. A few nights ago, after I finished painting these Gondorians, I took my super bright light from the living room into the kitchen. It has both a general lamp and a directional lamp. I cranked both up to full power. I bathed that room in light! And what a difference it made. I could see again! Okay, not like I could when I was a young man, but good enough that I could happily paint even most of the fine detail.

Yes, probably I'm just an idiot for not realizing this sooner, but hey, I've had a lot on my mind. Anyway, I'm a happy painter again!


For those wondering about the title of this post, it is a phrase from the poem 'Solomon Kane's Homecoming' by Robert E. Howard. Howard didn't write much poetry, especially later in his short life, which is a shame, because he certainly had a talent for it. You can read the whole poem here.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Troll Cave

My wife is a very generous and understanding woman. Well, she would have to be to marry me in the first place, but recently she proved it all over again. For the last two years or so we've been doing a lot of rearranging to accommodate having children. We are now a family of four in a very small two-bedroom house. It doesn't leave a lot of room for a 'stuff' intensive hobby like wargaming.

However, knowing that I need just a little bit of 'my own space', my wife and I agreed that I could have the cupboard under the stairs as my personal wargaming domain. (So long as I share it with the hoover). Thus, I give you the Troll Cave!

Okay, it's not exactly a 'games room'; you could not hope to play a game in it. In fact, it is only because I am rather a short individual that I can stand up in it, but it provides me with most of what I need. The central feature is a butcher's trolly. This is a wonderful little piece of furniture which is the perfect height for me to work on miniatures while standing. It's where I do all my planning and prep work (actual painting usually takes place on the kitchen table). The trolly also has two cabinets for storing equipment and miniatures to be painted, and a wine rack which is perfect for holding cans of primer and sealer and the like.

Next to that is a short set of drawers which holds gaming accessories, as well as few other odds and ends. Beside that is a shelf which contains several miniature cases, terrain, and some larger models. Yes, that is the Glaurung sitting on top. I am hopeful that its new place out in the open will soon lead to some further adventures.

Hiding deep in the corner, behind the hoover and my back pack are a couple more boxes of small terrain bits and miniatures.

Currently on the wall, I've got a white board, where I keep track of things to paint (and read), a bulletin board that holds my collection of enamel pins, my ENie award, and the little plate from my 'Best Softball Pitcher 2016' trophy (I broke the mostly glass trophy). There is also a framed, colourized photograph of my ancestor Col. James McCullough dressed in his Confederate Grey, and a post card from the Bodleian library reproducing Tolkien's painting of Smaug. I really need to get a copy of my photograph with Colin Baker up there as well.

Sure, I dream of a big gaming space, and maybe one day I will have an actual game room, but at the moment, this is all the space I need, and it is more than I should really ask for. My wife really is a generous and understanding woman.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The Golden Fleece

I spent this past weekend in Hastings. It was my wife’s grandmother’s 91st birthday, and the family was gathering in the seafront hotel that is owned by her son (my wife’s uncle). Saturday was a miserable day, windy, rainy, and uninviting. Still, my wife needed an errand run, and there was a bookstore I wanted to investigate, so I put on my coat and ventured out. Unfortunately, the bookstore I was keen to explore was closed. To cheer myself up, I decided to walk back via the ruined castle on the cliff top. Fighting the wind and rain, I made it up the steep hill to find that the gate to the castle was locked. So, dripping and disappointed, I started back to the hotel. Just a few doors from the hotel, I passed an antique store that had a load of books out front. Figuring I still had a few minutes, I went inside.

Its collection of books was small, but interesting. After a bit of browsing, I discovered this treasure - a folio edition of The Golden Fleece by Robert Graves for £6. Long-time readers will be aware of my ongoing fascination with the myth of Jason and the Argonauts. I have read all of the major classic sources (in translation), and several modern interpretations. I was well aware of Robert Graves for his academic work on Greek Myth, but I was unaware of this work. So, in the end, I returned to the hotel happy!

The book has a bit of damage on the slipcase, but it is still in good condition overall. Folio editions are always well constructed books. My only gripe about Folio editions is the internal artwork. I always find the artwork to be a bit childish. Some people must like it though. That said, I do really like the artwork on the cover, which is the part I’ll see the most, so it works out okay.

I’ve read the introduction and the first few chapters. It is a chewy work, filled with Grave’s personal theories on Greek myth. For example, the whole story is put in the context of a theological war between the followers of the old Mother Goddess and those that follow the new Olympian Zeus. In truth, I’m 40 pages in, and we’ve only seen the baby Jason briefly, so I can’t yet comment on how good it all is, but it is certainly interesting.

For those that may be wondering, Grandma’s 91st went swimmingly, with loads of cake! I had to bow out of the party early to put my daughter to sleep (and do some quiet reading). The next morning dawned bright and beautiful. We decided to stay until lunch time in order to tour the new pier they’ve built in Hastings (really nice, if a bit empty out of season), and to let my daughter have a couple hours playing on the stony beach.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Frostgrave: Ulterior Motives

Photo and Painting by Kev Dalimore
With Forgotten Pacts just about to release, and The Frostgrave Folio coming in March next year, a few eagle-eyed players have noticed another Frostgrave expansion listed on Amazon. Here is the blurb:

The Frozen City harbours many secrets, and not all of them are ancient. While most adventurers who brave the dangers seek wealth and lost magic, some journey into Frostgrave for more personal reasons.

This expansion for Frostgrave consists of 40 Ulterior Motive cards, which add variety, depth, and new tactical challenges to wargames in the Frozen City. Each card presents the player with a specific task to accomplish and offers rewards if they succeed. Some of these missions must be revealed to all of the players, others must be kept secret. Will your wizard seek to slay a great demon? Rescue a desperate captive? Bring retribution to an enemy? All wizards seek power, but what are their ulterior motives?

Frostgrave: Ulterior Motives is coming in June 2017, and it is going to look significantly different than the ones that have gone before it. Instead of a book, this expansion will be composed of 40 over-sized cards in a box. I’m sure people are wondering why cards. Well, there is a very good reason.

Frostgrave: Ulterior Motives comes from my desire to add ‘subplots’ to the game, something like the fantastic subplots table found in the original Rogue Trader book many years ago. The more I thought about it, and worked on it though, the more I encountered a problem.  Wizards are by their very nature a secretive lot. They don’t like giving straight answers at the best of times, and they certainly don’t go around blabbing about the specific reasons they might be venturing into the Frozen City. Basically, I wanted a lot of the subplots to be kept secret, at least for part of a game. While I could have had players secretly roll on a table, I think wargames should always avoid hidden dice rolls wherever possible. They are just breeding grounds for arguments, and best left to role-playing games. After a bit of consideration, I realized the whole issue could be avoided if players just drew a card that they could hold onto and reveal at the appropriate time. My editor liked the idea, and thus Ulterior Motives was born.

So, coming June next year, wizards will have 40 new reasons beyond the collection of random treasure to lead their warbands into the ruins of Frostgrave!

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

My Name is Dzozefs A. Makalo!

Or so it apparently is in Latvian! 

A few years ago, I wrote a short book entitled The Story of Santa Claus, which, rather unsurprisingly, tells the story of Santa Claus and how he went from a Turkish Saint to a sleigh-riding, present-producing Christmas spirit beloved by children the world over. The book did pretty well when it came out, selling around 5,000 copies between the UK and USA.

Last year, the book was translated into Japanese, which I wouldn't have thought was an obvious market for the book.

This year, it has been translated into Latvian! I must admit the closest I've ever come to Latvia was a short holiday in Estonia, but it's still kind of a thrill. The language is so far from anything I recognize, that I had to use Google Translator to see if they had changed the title (apparently not).

I think my favourite thing about this book though is that they translated my name on the cover. I have been translated as Dzozefs A. Makalo. I suspect that Joseph is in pretty common usage in Latvia, but I wonder if McCullough gave them a challenge? If I said 'Makalo' with my southern US pronunciation, it wouldn't sound a thing like my name. (In fairness, I've heard Scots say the name and it doesn't sound much like how I pronounce it, so there is a question about who is right here). I'd love to hear a Latvian say it.

Anyway, for anyone who might be interested in the book, in English, you can still buy it from Amazon.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Gandalf the Grey (and Blue)

When I was about ten or twelve years old, I took my first miniature painting class. It was held in a small room in the back of the local gaming store. As I remember, the only students were me, my friend Peter, and one other guy. The teacher, whose name I have long forgotten, was a kindly middle-aged fellow, who taught me a lot of important lessons about painting miniatures (most importantly, use acrylics, not oil-based paints!).

The teacher mostly painted Middle-Earth figures from Mithril Miniatures. I asked him once if he had a complete collection. He said that he had bought every figure that they had produced, but might give up if they produced another Gandalf figure.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there are more unique Gandalf figures (both official and unofficial) than there are for any other character. Not only is he arguably the most recognizable and popular figure in fantastic fiction, he is the only character to play a major role in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (as well as some of the supporting material).

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I already have several Gandalfs in my collection, and I have just painted another one! This latest one is a plastic miniature that comes from the Mines of Moria box set. Unlike most of the other Gandalfs in the Games Workshop line, this one was not based on the movie version...or at least it isn't based on Ian McKellen. Still it is a wonderful sculpt and a really nice pose, and I thoroughly enjoyed painting it.

Since I already have several Gandalf the Greys in my collection, I decided to paint this one slightly differently. This time I gave him blue trim around his robes, which I think works pretty well, and matches the blue hat he is said to have in The Hobbit. I also made his scarf blue as well (said to be silver in the book). Even Gandalf must have gone through a few robes in his 3,000 years or so of wandering Middle-Earth!

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Money is Time

As an American kid growing up in the 1980's, I heard the expression ‘Time is Money’ a lot. It was the catch phrase, or perhaps label, of a certain class of professional, career driven, movers and shakers that for many people defined the USA at the time. It was not, however, an outlook that I ever subscribed to. For most of my life, I haven’t been that concerned with making money. Sure, having money was better than the alternative, but at the highest levels, I just wasn’t that interested in most of the things that I thought money could buy.

Over the last year though, my whole vision of personal wealth and finance has turned dramatically. I realized something that any beginning student of logic or mathematics should have been able to point out. If Time = Money, then the opposite must also be true, Money = Time.

I am forty years old, but I don’t think I have ever heard anyone say ‘Money is Time’, despite the fact that we all understand this to be true. We all know that if we had enough money, we could quit our day jobs and do whatever we wanted to do. We all know that if you manage to save enough money over your working life, you should have enough money to retire. In both cases, you are using your money to essentially ‘buy’ time. How much is your time worth? How much would you rather have more time than most of the things you actually spend money on?

I'll leave this with you for the moment, dear reader.

* * *

This week, I have made a small, but I hope important change in my life. Looking over my finances, and factoring in the money I have made as a writer over the last couple of years (mostly from Frostgrave), I have decided to go down to 4 days a week at my job. I am going to use this extra time both to spend more time with my family (and help out my wife with our two young children) and to devote a specific bit of time every week to writing. It is my hope that freelance writing will be able to slowly replace my other work and reach a point where it can support me and my family nearly completely. 

It is a small step, but I hope it is just the first on a long journey. We shall see.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Doctor Who Audio Sale

As I mentioned awhile back, I have to clear more space in the house to make room for the new addition to the family. As part of this, I’m selling off my collection of Doctor Who Audio CDs. I’ve kept a few favourites, but most I am unlikely to listen to again. Before I put them up on ebay, I thought I would offer them to my blog readers. Each title is £4, plus whatever the shipping cost to wherever you are. Just drop me a line and let me know what you’d like, and I’ll arrange payment.

Some of the CD cases are cracked or broken, but all of the CDs and liner notes are in good condition.

If you’ve never tried any of the Audio Adventures before, I suggest getting one of the first few. Especially good might be #16 as this was Paul McGann’s first return to the role of the Doctor!

4 – The Land of the Dead
10 – Winter for the Adept
11 – Apocalypse Element
15 – The Mutant Phase
16 – Storm Warning (Sold)
18 – The Stones of Venice (Sold)
21 – Dust Breeding
22 – Bloodtide
23 – Project: Twilight
24 – The Eye of the Scorpion
25 – Colditz
26 - Primeval
27 – The One Doctor
30 – Seasons of Fear (Sold)
31 – Embrace the Darkness (Sold)
32 – Time of the Daleks (Sold)
33 - Neverland (Sold)
28 – Invaders from Mars (Sold)
38 – The Church and the Crown
41 – Nekromanteia
42 - The Dark Flame
44 – Creatures of Beauty
47 – Omega
48 - Davros
58 – The Harvest
65 – The Juggernauts
68 – Catch 1782
71 – The Council of Nicaea
73 – Thicker Than Water
81 – The King Maker
84 - The Nowhere Place
93 - Renaissance of the Daleks
115 – Forty-Five
124 – Patient Zero
133 – City of Spires
188 – Breaking Bubbles and Other Stories
The Light at the End
Living Legend
The Ratings War
Last of the Titans

Her Final Flight

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

First Look - Frostgrave: Forgotten Pacts

With the Forgotten Pacts Pre-Order Campaign just underway (and a free werewolf already reached!), I thought it might be a good time to talk about what is actually in the book!

It is always interesting to receive my author advance of a book, as by the time it comes out, I am generally deep into another project and have forgotten what was in it. (No, I haven't forgotten my own rules, mostly, just which book they are actually in!).

The book is divided into seven chapters of completely unequal length. The first chapter is 'Forging Pacts' and gives wizards all the information they need to know about reaching out to extra-planar entities and making deals for extra power. Of course, for each boon granted by some greater demon, sacrifices must be made...

The second chapter is called 'Advanced Summoning'. This includes expanded rules for summoning demons Out of Game. The main feature of this chapter is two tables for determining random 'demonic attributes' to bring variety to the demons of Frostgrave. Let's face it, demons under the main rules are a bit samey...we'll, not anymore.

The next two chapters are 'New Magic', which introduces rules for Mystic Brands, and 'New Soldiers' which presents four new soldier types that wizards can hire. For a preview of these four, check out the link to the pre-order campaign above.

After that comes the 'Scenarios' chapter. There are eight scenarios this time, including 2 mini-campaigns with 3 scenarios each. All of the scenarios in the book involve either demons or barbarians or both. Also, I would say that these scenarios are a bit tougher, a bit more dangerous, than most of those that have gone before. Well, most wizards should be rather up there in level by now, right?

The book rounds out with 'New Treasure' and a 'Bestiary', which mostly includes demons and a few unique barbarians.

Just to set one rumour to rest - there are no rules for mounted soldiers. There are special rules for the mounted guy on the cover, but he's a special kind of crazy for riding a rhino into The Frozen City.

So, hopefully there is something fun for everyone there. Yes, Summoners are a big winner here, but there's a lot of fun for Sigilists too. And anyone can Forge a Pact!

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Frostgrave: Arcane Locations

The newest Frostgrave ebook, mini-supplement, Arcane Locations is out today. This is the last of the ebooks before they are collected into The Frostgrave Folio next year.

Arcane Locations includes three, unconnected scenarios, all set in specific famous locations in The Frozen City. The goal was to take advantage of the 'anything goes' setting of a ruined magical city to create some really different miniature gaming set-ups. I do warn that one of the scenarios requires making a very specific piece of terrain...

Also included are some new options for wizards to add to their bases. I mean what kind of wizard base is complete without a magic scroll case?

So, it's available today for the low price of £2.99 / $3.99 from


Osprey Publishing


Wednesday, 14 September 2016


As far as writing goes, I'm not usually an envious guy. I'm proud of my own successes and happy for the success of others; but every so often something comes along that is so creative that I really wish that I had created it. (For example, I really wish I had written the story of Monsters Inc.!)

Recently, I had that experience with a little game called Quill: A Letter-Writing Roleplaying Game for a Single Player. In all my decades of gaming, I've never encountered anything quite like it. It's part game/part creative writing exercise. Essentially, the player creates a character who has three skills: penmanship, language, and heart. Then, the player picks a 'scenario'. Each scenario challenges the player to write a letter. It gives the specifics of the recipient and what the player hopes to gain by writing. Each scenario also includes a list of words that the player gains points by including in the letter, there are both common words and more poetic words. Whenever a player wants to use one of the words, he must roll to see if he uses the more common or more poetic word. The skills give him bonuses to certain rolls. And that's about it really. At the end of the letter, the player counts up how many points he has scored and checks the chart to see what kind of reception his letter received.

It is wonderfully simple, and yet endlessly creative. 

I am very tempted to ask the creator if I can write a few Quill: Frostgrave scenarios. How much fun would it be to have your wizard writing to some far off mage asking for help or advice on a potion or particularly tricky summoning? There are just so many possibilities.

Wonderfully, the PDF for the game is available on RPGNow selling as 'Pay What You Want'. I paid $2, but frankly it is worth more than that. I might just have to go back and pick up the expansion Quill: Coal and Parchment, which apparently takes your letter writing underground! (Letter writing form the Breeding Pits anyone?)

Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Frostgrave Folio

Although Forgotten Pacts is next up for Frostgrave, I thought people might enjoy a look at the cover for the first supplement for 2017! The Frostgrave Folio collects all of the previously released ebook mini-supplements along with a new mini campaign and presents them in print for the first time! 

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Frostgrave Magazine Articles

For all of you Frostgrave completists out there, issue 6 of Table Top Gaming Magazine includes an exclusive Frostgrave scenario (written by yours truly) called 'The Failed Breed'. It is a two-player scenario, set down in the breeding pits and includes a new monster, the barbed-thrasher.

The last time I included a scenario in TTG Magazine the issue sold out very quickly (I'm not saying that was the reason, but I won't argue against it either...), so if you want one, it is probably best not to wait around. I think the magazine goes on sale in a couple of days. Alternatively, you can order a copy direct from their website.  Electronic editions are also available.

Also now available is issue 86 of Wargames: Soldiers and Strategy, which includes 'The Warriors of Athena', my little solo wargame of Greek Mythology which uses the Frostgrave core system.

It's just a coincidence that both of these articles are coming out at the same time as I wrote them months apart. I hope people enjoy them!

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Brief Banana Update

It has now been just under a month and a half since I set myself the 50 Banana Challenge, and I am disappointed to announce that I have only managed to eat 14 bananas. Partly this is a result of baby chaos, but mostly it comes from the difficulty in keeping bananas in stock in the house. I turns out that my wife and daughter really like bananas so they just keep disappearing!

Despite this, the experiment is already yielding results. I really had to choke down the first two bananas; the texture was just so disagreeable to me, but after about the third, this just kind of went away. It's not the greatest food texture in the world, but it ain't that bad. I'm still not a huge fan of the flavour, but I don't hate it. So, I suspect the remaining 36 will fall soon enough.

I have also discovered two other important things. 1) Bananas are really cheap. I mean really cheap. I'm sure this won't come as news to most people, but I just never realised how inexpensive bananas were compared to most other (admittedly tastier) fruit. 2) Bananas are great for filling up an empty stomach. After my 8.5 mile cycle to work, I'm often ravenously hungry, and I haven't found anything else this side of a bacon sandwich that satisfies that hunger like a banana.

Finally, for those that are considering making more of bananas in their own lives, I have to recommend banana armour. My wife bought this silly looking thing many years ago. It really is great for keeping your banana safe on the move. The last thing I want when I get to work is a battered and bruised banana - this sucker really does keep them safe. Also, in the years my wife has been using it, she has found a grand total of 1 banana that didn't fit in it.  Recommended!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Frostgrave Treasure Tokens

Over the last year, Frostgrave has received a lot of accolades, won several awards, and generally been considered ‘a hit’ in wargaming terms. As the author, I have received the lion’s share of the credit, but, in truth, there are a huge number of people that have been involved in this success. Today, I wanted to thank a few people who I believe have played a role in making the game popular despite having no financial stake in its success nor any personal connection to me.

In recognition of their work, I want to present these people with a ‘Frostgrave Treasure Token’! This is really nothing more than the little image seen here, but I hope it will be received in the spirit it is given. All of these people have presented Frostgrave in videos, on a blog, or on a forum with an infectious enthusiasm that has certainly spread interest in the game.

So, without further ado, I would like to award the first five Frostgrave Treasure Tokens to…

If wargaming ever goes mainstream and ESPN decides it needs a regular wargaming television show, I have little doubt that they will hire Ash to host it. His enthusiasm for the hobby seems to pour out of the screen in a way that makes me want to get on a plane and fly to Canada just so I can roll a few dice at his gamer co-op!

Owen and Ash operate out of the same studio and often appear in one another’s videos. In contrast to Ash’s boundless enthusiasm, Owen is a more deadpan, tell-it-like-it-is presenter. He clearly has a knack for rules, and will happily use the rules to his advantage, but doesn’t let power-gaming spoil a good time. Owen was also nice enough to come say hi at Adepticon last year!

When I first started work on Frostgrave, I never really imagined the kind of tables people would produce to play the game. I just thought of the game in my own, rather simple, terrain terms. Then along came Harry. Harry produce the first Frostgrave table I had seen that caused my jaw to drop. His long thread on the Lead Adventure Forum is an inspiration for anyone who wants to make a great looking gaming table. To my mind, it is still one of the best looking Frostgrave set-ups I have seen.

There is nothing particularly flashy about Tim’s blog or his gaming tables; however, he has consistently presented Frostgrave in such a wonderful spirit that I always love when he talks about the game. I love how he takes the game and tailors it to those who are playing. I love that he uses the game to bring his family together. It was always my hope that people would use the rules as a starting point for their own creativity, and I think Tim has been one of the best examples of that philosophy.

Before John set up the Frostgrave Facebook Group, I hadn’t given much thought to the role social media would play in the success of the game. Today, I would say that his Facebook group is the single most important connection point for Frostgrave players around the world. Over the last year, John has watched over the group as it has grown to more than 5,200 members and helped make it a fun, safe, enthusiastic place to come, talk about Frostgrave, and see some of the cool work being done by other gamers.

Many thanks to these five! I hope they will digitally wear their Frostgrave Treasure Token with pride!  

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Frostgrave Takes the Silver!

I want to offer a sincere ‘thank you’ to everyone who voted for Frostgrave for the ENnie awards. Although it is getting to be a bit of old news, Frostgrave took silver in the ‘Best Miniature Product’ category!

The announcement came the day after the birth of my son, so it got a little over-shadowed in my household, but I am still thrilled that the game has once again been recognized.

The award actually came with a medal, and not a cheap plastic thing either. This medal is a serious chunk of metal! It’s got great heft!

Inspired by the Olympics (which have really helped me get through some bleary, sleep deprived days), my two-year-old daughter has taken to wearing the medal, running around the living room and declaring herself ‘the winner’.

Once again, thanks to everyone who took the time to vote. It has been another high point in a very full year!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Awake in the Nightland (Two Years in the Reading)

The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson is one of the most imaginative, original, frustrating, and difficult-to-read novels that I have ever managed to finish. It is a fantasy (science-fiction?) book like no other, or at least the first half of it is. The second half is a long, drawn-out, not very good pulp story. I am really glad I read the book, but was a bit gladder when I finished it.

A couple of years ago, my father bought me an ebook called Awake in the Night Land by John C. Wright. Unexpected, not only because I didn’t specifically remember talking with him about the first one (although I almost certainly did), but also because I had never read an ebook before. In fact, the only device I had, other than my PC, that could display an ebook was my Ipod. So, I put it on my Ipod, and didn’t really pay much attention to it.

Then, my first child was born. All of a sudden, I often found myself awake in the middle of the night, in a dark and quite house, gently rocking in a chair, trying to stay awake. I soon discovered that an Ipod, which could be held in one hand and glowed in the dark, was a great way to read in such situations. Thus, I dropped once more into the Night Land.

John C. Wright’s book is a wonderful follow-on from the original. While obviously it doesn’t have the creativity of the original, it has the good sense to focus on the elements of the setting that are the most unique and interesting, and uses those to tell fascinating stories. However, like William Hope Hodgon’s book, this one is also long, extremely slow in places, often obscure, and filled with big words, some of which are made up, some of which are not, and some of which I’m not sure about.

Essentially, if you liked the original book, you will almost certainly like this one. You might even like it more. If you didn’t like the original, well, scratch this one off your list.

By the time I had finished the first three or four stories, my daughter was older and sleeping well, and my night time reading dropped to zero. I moved backed to books printed on paper. However, with the recent birth of my son, the Ipod has come back out and I have just finished Awake in the Night Land, some two years after I started.

It is the first ebook I have ever read!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Softball: Firsts and Lasts

It was the last night of the Oxford Softball season. Having missed the previous three games due to a pregnant wife/new baby, I was glad to have the chance to take the field one more time. The game was a battle for last place in the division, or, more accurately, to stay out of last place, and to end the season on a high note. My Knights were the home team, so we took the field first.  

I was back in my familiar role as pitcher, and things got off to a good start. The first batter popped one up in foul territory between home and third, and I was able to glove it a dead run for the first out. The next two batters also went quietly.

The Knights scored three in the bottom of the first. I hit a nice liner out to left centre, but their fielder ran it down. After that, we traded runs in the next few innings. I added a few more nice fielding plays, catching two soft liners, and running over to first to take a throw from the first baseman in order to make an out. (This is a very common baseball play, but very uncommon at our level of softball. It was a first for me this season).

My batting continued to go poorly. My second plate appearance ended with a fly directly at the right fielder, and the third with a weak tapper back to the pitcher.

As we came to bat in the sixth inning (in a seven inning game), we were up by three runs. I led off the inning and sent a shot towards the gap in right field. The fielder managed to cut it off, but not before I had stretched it into a double. Two batters later, I came around to score. We added two more in the inning.

So with a six run lead, I took the mound for the last time, and had one of the strangest innings I’ve had as a pitcher. The first batter drove the ball right at my feet. I got a glove on it, but couldn’t hold on to it. I scampered after it, scooped it up, and managed to throw it straight over my first baseman... Annoyed with myself, I went back to pitching. The next batter sent a screamer right at my face. I got my glove up just in time to save my nose, but again couldn’t hold on. For the second time in a minute, I was running after a ball that was rolling away from me. This time, I grabbed it and threw a strike to the shortstop to get the running from first. One down, one on, back to pitching. A couple of pitches later, and the third batter in a row sent one straight at me. This time, I snatched the ball out of the air and threw a strike to my first baseman, catching the runner off first: double play. The first double play I’ve been a part of all season.

And just like that, the game was over. Probably for the best as I was apparently wearing a target on my chest.

After the game, I discovered that the opposing team had named me MVP (a purely fielding award). It was my first MVP this season, partly because pitchers rarely win, but mostly because there are usually better players on the field! It was a great way to end the season. It wasn’t a great year for the Knights in the standings, although we did avoid last place, but it was a great one for me having fun!

Career Hits: 136

Saturday, 13 August 2016

The Warriors of Athena

Devoted readers may remember a few months ago, when I posted this little teaser about a side project I was working on. Well, I have just received confirmation that it is soon going to appear in print in the next issue of Wargames: Soldiers & Strategy.

The Warriors of Athena is a solo wargame set in the world of Greek Mythology (or at least Hollywood-style Greek Myth). The player starts by creating his ‘Hero’. This begins with a roll on the parentage table to see if the hero is the son or daughter of a god or king. The player then gets to choose the stats and special abilities that define his hero. Finally, the hero must recruit a warband of other warriors to help him on his quest; this can include a few fantastic warriors such as centaurs and satyrs.

The basic rules are based on Frostgrave, and players will need a copy of the book, or at least a decent understanding of the rules, in order to play The Warriors of Athena.

After the creating a hero and building a warband sections, there are two linked scenarios to set your hero out on his journey through Mythic Greece. First the hero must rescue some prisoners from a band of pirates and then sail to a barren island and confront a deadly gorgon! If the hero survives, there are rules for experience and improvement.

At this point, The Warriors of Athena is just one article, but I am hopeful that if the feedback is good I will expand the game with new rules and scenarios in future issues. So, if you like it, make sure to let Wargames Soldiers & Strategy know!

You can pre-order the issue here. A PDF of the issues is usually made available for purchase after publication.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Life, Little Ones, and the Pursuit of Happiness

I am in the middle of one of those strange periods of life where time seem to flow at a different rate. My son, James, was born a week ago, and since then the days have been filled with nappies, laundry, and vain attempts to keep the house clean. Sleep has become a rare and precious commodity to be seized whenever it can be found.

The combination of sleep deprivation and lots of mindless tasks can take the brain in strange directions. For whatever reason, I have been thinking a lot about my personal happiness. Obviously, watching my family grow has been a major source of happiness (although, in truth, I think the true benefit of a family is to be found in the increase in ‘joy’ which is not exactly the same thing).

With personal free time set to become increasingly scarce, it is going to be important that I use what time I do have on things that make me happy. So, in a spare moment, I quickly jotted down the activities that bring me the most happiness: reading, writing, cycling, painting, exploring, wealth building.

There are others, of course, but these are the big ones. Having determined this, I thought it might be beneficial to set myself some goals. These goals aren’t there to provide pressure on my life. I’m putting no particular time limit on them (though I suspect they will take about two years), and there is no reward for success or failure. They are just there as reminders, gentle nudges to keep me doing the things I love, instead of getting distracted by other little projects that take time but give little happiness.

So here are my goals.

1) Read 100 books
2) Write 100,000 words
3) Cycle 2,000 miles
4) Paint 100 miniatures
5) Explore 20 new places
6) Invest £10,000
7) Reduce my Mortgage by £10,000

It’s a pretty mighty list for a man with two small children and a full-time job, but since everything I accomplish from the list is its own reward, it’s not overly daunting!

The easiest two to accomplish will probably be the reading and the cycling. I can’t stop myself from reading. I take a book everywhere and if ever the least bit of boredom starts to creep in, I pull it out. I can’t really imagine life without reading. A lot of the cycling will be achieved through my commute to work. I do hope to make some more interesting journeys as well, but any time spent on the bike is good time.

The writing number is pretty massive, but a lot of that will be taking up with Frostgrave material that has already been commissioned. Add in this blog and a few other projects, and I think it will come tumbling down pretty fast.

Painting miniatures may prove the hardest. Although I love it, it is the hardest to get myself to do. Since I have no permanent painting station, every session involves set-up and clean-up time, meaning I have to have a good chunk of time to devote to it to make it worthwhile. Still, if I can get on a roll, it will happen.

Exploring is an interesting one. I have often thought I’m a bit like Bilbo Baggins. I love my home comforts, my books, my comfy chair...but I’m also drawn by the lure of adventure, by a constant wondering of what is just over yonder hill. It is a strange compulsion that has led me to immigrate to the UK, and one that is always gnawing at me. I find huge satisfaction from seeing new places, I just have a bit of trouble motivating myself to do it. So, this goal is about going to new places. This can be as simple as the next village over if I’ve never been there, or a whole new country. The key though is that I have to have time to explore it. At least half a day of wandering and taking it in.

Finally, money. My personal relationship to money has changed greatly over the last couple of years. I’ve never been hugely motivated to accumulate money, because I was never much interested in most of the things that it could buy. It wasn’t until the last couple of years that I began to realize that money can actually buy time. That is money can free me from working and give me more time to – well, to accomplish all of the other things on this list of goals! So, I’ve got two financial goals. One to increase my investments, and the other to decrease my debt. Essentially these are the same thing – a general increase in wealth, but it is more fun to attempt them separately.

Those numbers may look big to some people, and they are, but I’ve got a few things on my side. About a year and a half ago, my wife and I changed our lifestyle so that we could survive on one salary so that she could stay home with the kid(s). We had more or less achieved this when Frostgrave launched. Although Frostgrave doesn’t come close to replacing her lost salary, it did give us a good boost to the income. Having already accepted we would live on one salary, this money became ‘extra’, and has mostly gone to saving towards eventual financial independence.

Also, a bit of good news for us mortgage holders; interest rates have just dropped by a quarter of a point. Since my mortgage rate tracks the prime lending rate, it also dropped a quarter point. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you are talking 'house cost numbers' it makes a difference.

Mainly though, after my success with the Debt War, I’ve come to realize that wealth accumulation is partly a state of mind. In order to build wealth, you first have to believe it is possible. After you do that, it is just a matter of figuring out how to do it. I actually think, for most people, that first step is harder than the second.

So, seven goals in an attempt at greater personal happiness. We’ll see how I get on, and if it has the desired effect.

After this blog, I’ve only got 99,000 words left to write!

Friday, 5 August 2016

So Many Miniatures, So Little Time

Back in my painting prime (before I became a father and a professional wargame writer) I was painting 200+ miniatures a year. Over the last two years, that number is probably somewhere between 30 and 40. That’s probably the best indication of the relative time I now have to spend on the hobby*. Whereas before I was happy to flit between periods, scales, and systems, I now feel that I must be a lot more choosey in how I spend my time if I hope to accomplish anything. So, after giving it a lot of thought, I have decided to try and limit myself to just five specific areas:

The Lord of the Rings – For me, Middle-Earth is where the hobby started and where I still find the most pleasure, especially in painting. Most of the unpainted miniatures I own are Games Workshop LOTR figures (stockpiled when it looked like they were going to cancel the range). That said, I won’t limit my collection to just GW figures. Any figure that fits into my particular vision of Middle-Earth qualifies, such as the Footsore Miniatures I’m using for my Rohan forces, or some of the great monsters available from Reaper. I suspect, in the coming year, at least half of my painting will be The Lord of the Rings figures.

Greek Myth – Every since I was young, I’ve loved Greek Myth, and it has always been a minor part of my miniatures hobby. Thankfully, it’s a genre that doesn’t need many figures. I’ve got a nice little collection already, and I’m happy to slowly add to it when the mood takes me.

Warhammer 40,000 – I don’t actually play Warhammer 40K. As a game, I think the rules have long been overtaken by more modern systems. However, I have collected a large Demon Hunter’s Army, which I use as my go-to science-fiction forces. It’s already a pretty large collection, so I don’t think I’ll be adding much to it, just a figure here and there that strikes my fancy. I’ll likely spend more time working on bad-guys for them to fight, such as the genestealer cult forces from Deathwatch: Overkill.

Battletech/OGRE – Basically, 6mm science-fiction. I don’t actually have a very large collection of 6mm science-fiction figures, however, I have long been drawn to both Battletech (great setting) and OGRE (great game). Thankfully, a lot of figures for these two games are interchangeable and usable with a lot of other systems as well. I honestly don’t know how much time I will spend on this area, but I’m keeping the possibility open.

Silent Death – My all time favourite space fighter game. One of these days I’m going to get around to painting the figures, but who knows when that will be.

And that is basically it. I’m not going to rule out painting an individual figure here and there just for fun, but I’m going to actively try to avoid buying multiple figures for any other period or genre (a lot of Will Power rolls in my future).

Hopefully, with these limitations in place, I can make those 30 to 40 miniatures I do paint really count!

It is perhaps worth noting that the above period limitations are only about buying miniatures. I’ll perfectly happily pick up new rules sets. Many of these, hopefully, will be usable with the figures I already have, but also, I think it is important as a game designer to keep up with current trends in miniature gaming and to use other people’s good ideas to help fuel my own.

* This does not include time spent writing or working on Frostgrave as this is classified as ‘work’.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Defending Rohan

Although my figure painting has slowed down to a crawl these last few weeks, I have managed to finish up this warrior of Rohan. Like most of the figures in my slowly growing Rohan army, he is from Footsore Miniatures. I can’t speak highly enough about these miniatures. The sculpting and casting are both so sharp that they are a real joy to paint. Even simple paint jobs look great on these figures.

The biggest challenge to painting this figure was the shield. I once again put my free-hand painting to the test in an effort to paint a horse head. While it does make this particular warrior look like he might be a fan of the Denver Broncos, I am generally happy with how it came out. Okay, it’s a little bit blobby, but when he’s ranked up in a shield wall with a bunch of his fellows, I think it will look pretty good. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Arachno Assassins in Frostgrave

I don’t think it is any big secret that I have long been a fan of Reaper miniatures, or that their wonderful line of heroic fantasy miniatures has been one source of inspiration when working on Frostgrave.

Today, for a bit of fun, I thought I would create some stats for one of my favourite little subgroups of Reaper Miniatures, the Arachno Assassins! I remember when the first of these little eight-limbed skeletal monsters came out. I thought it was hilarious and bought one immediately. I’m glad that over the years they have slowly added new archno figures to create a small range.

Arachno Assassins

These six-armed skeletons are rarely encountered in the ruins of Frostgrave, but when they are, they tend to be encountered in groups. While just as fragile as normal skeletons, their numerous arms give them a lot more offensive punch.

Arachno Assassin

A standard archno assassin armed with six hand-weapons.

Arachno Assassin

Arachno Assassin Man-at-Arms

A standard archno assassin armed with three hand-weapons and three shields.

Arachno Assassin

Arachno Assassin Archer

A standard archno assassin armed with three bows. See the Wargames Illustrated article for full rules on skeletal archers. Archno assassin archers roll three simultaneous attacks every time they make a shoot action.

Arachno Assassin
Undead, Three shooting attacks per shoot action.

Arachno Assassin Sergeant

A slightly more powerful archno assassin armed with two hand-weapons and two two-handed weapons. An archno assassin sergeant receives a +3 damage modifier in combat.

Arachno Assassin Sergeant
Undead. +3 damage modifier in combat

Arachno Assassin Standard-bearer

An archno assassin armed with a hand-weapon and carrying a standard.

Arachno Assassin Standard- bearer
Undead, All Archno Assassins with in 12” receive +2 on all Will rolls.

Arachno Assassin Champion

A powerful archno assassin armed with two hand-weapons and a mega-scythe. An archno assassin champion receives a +2 damage modifier in combat and all damaging strikes against it suffer a -2 damage modifier.

Arachno Assassin Standard bearer
Undead, Mega-scythe

Arachno Assassin War Priest

A powerful archno assassin armed with two hand-weapons and a scythe. An archno assassin war priest receives a +2 damage modifier in combat. If a war priest is not in combat, it will use its first action to attempt to summon another archno assassin. Make a Will roll with a Target Number of 15. If successful, immediately place another archno assassin at the centre point of a random board edge. This archno assassin will activate on the same turn it arrives.

Arachno Assassin War Priest
Undead, two-handed weapon, summon arachno assassin.