Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!!

 "Trick 'r Treat!"

Wishing everyone a safe and very enjoyable Halloween!  My favorite holiday is always here and gone before I know it, and the Christmas stuff comes earlier every year.  Enjoy it while it lasts!

In the meantime, if you're in the mood for some spooky and scary stuff,  here's some posts from the last month or so that you might enjoy.  Just in case you missed them the first time around...  ;-)

Check out a pretty cool set of Star Wars themed  Jack O'lanterns here: 

"This pumpkin is now the ultimate power in the universe!"

The Castle Dracula prop miniature from Bram Stoker's Dracula can be seen here:

Castle Miniature from Bram Stoker's Dracula.

A fun little video of Hammer Horror star Peter Cushing enjoying his wargaming hobby:

Peter Cushing - Hero, Villian, & Wargamer

Spooky Mordheim / skirmish battles and terrain from years past:

Spooky Mordheim Battles, Part 1

Spooky Mordheim Battles, Part 2

Spooky Mordheim Battles, Part 3

Night of the Zombie

"Spooky Times!"

Some more spooky miniatures, terrain, and stuff:

More Amazing - Tabletop Games Graveyard

Skullvane Manse - New Warhammer Terrain

Dead Fresh - New Vampire Counts stuff!

Sprues of Death - More New Vampire Counts Stuff!

Dreadfleet has arrived!

My Mordheim Witch Hunter warband:

Mordheim - Witch Hunter Warband

My Warhammer Vampire Counts "von Carstein" army:

Vampire Counts - Carmilla von Carstein

Von Carstein Army - Armored Skeletons

Von Carstein Army - Grave Guard

Von Carstein Army - Some WIPs

Some older Warhammer Fantasy battle reports involving my Vampires:

Legendary Battles: Vampires vs Vampires

Legendary Battles: Witch Hunters vs Vampire Counts

Happy Halloween!

My friend Eric and I had a blast playing a spooky Halloween skirmish game last Friday (28th) at Village Games in Anoka in their sweet new expanded gaming space.  Busy week this week, but I'll try to get the battle report up as soon as I have some time.

So be sure to check back for "Encounter at Grimminhagen Graveyard." for some post-Halloween spooky times fun!  :-)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Castle Miniature from Bram Stoker's Dracula

A project I've always wanted to do is build a large castle for my Warhammer Vampire Counts army.  Whether it would actually be "Castle Drakenhof" or some just other place for my von Carstein vamps to call home, it would be quite a terrain project.  A great backdrop for large battles or a setting for some epic skirmish game.

One obvious source of inspiration is Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 movie Bram Stoker's Dracula.  Unfortunately you don't really get a good look at the castle during the movie, and the only picture I've had for years was the simple screen capture above.  On a side note, the outline of the castle always looked like a man sitting on a chair to me, and I've often wondered if this was intended or not.

Just a few days ago I found these pictures on the blog site: Hollywood Movie Costumes and Props.  They are from a display at the Planet Hollywood Cafe in Las Vegas featuring a prosthetic costume worn by Gary Oldman and the miniature model of Castle Dracula.

I did a little more digging and I found the StudioSL website of Stuart Land who worked on the miniature with Matte World for the movie.  In addition to a few more shots of the castle from the movie, he includes a brief history of the model.

"Castle Dracula was sculpted in an old cabin on the side of a hill surrounded by redwood trees in downtown San Anselmo, California. I carved the master structure out of 4 lb. urethane foam from some very bad blueprints. They were bad because they was blurry and unclear and had no measurements that I can remember. The castle was six feet tall with a 2 ft x 6 ft mountain cliff base. Jack Haye, who hired me for Matte World, made all the nurnies (those cool looking model pieces hanging all over the castle), plus gave it the stone texture using a secret process, and painted it.

The idea was that the castle would by shot from only one direction, like that in the photos on this page, so it was sculpted in forced perspective, which means that it looks good from only one perspective. Well, the higher-ups liked it so much, they decided they wanted to do a fly-around, approaching from one side with the camera, move up the wall, fly above the castle, then circle around and come back down the front. No problem they said, just sculpt another castle, only this time we lost the blueprints, so you have to make it all by memory, plus it has to look perfect from every side. OK, we pulled it off.

Funny, when I first saw the miniature pics above I wondered what the back and other side looks like.  Turns out, from Stuart Land's tale above, there's nothing to see.  This also finally explains why there are no better shots of the castle in the movie.  That fly around shot would have been sweet!  Oh well...  great flim regardless.

UPDATE:  Be sure to see what Stuart Land has to say himself 
in the comments below!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Von Carstein Army - Some WIPs

Early WIP pics

As much as I am a fan of the Armored Skeletons that came out at the time of the Circle of Blood campaign pack, I have never been one of the current Black Knights that were released at the same time.  I did convert up a unit to give the skeleton steeds barding to ride along side of the "Red Duke," but they've always lacked something in my mind.  Falling short of the awesome looking unit they should be.

One thing that's for sure is that I prefer "nightmares" to "skeleton steeds" hands down.  I've never seen a skeletal or zombie version of a horse that I didn't think looked goofy.  Nightmares definitely bring that "dark majesty" that I love about vampires (my vision at least).  Maybe that was OK with the old skeleton cavalry, but these slightly ethereal "dark riders" need sweet scary looking nightmares to ride into battle.

I guess the other things about the metal Black knights are their armor and lances.  They suffer from what I consider "weak shoulders" with the general lack of armor in that area.  Their lances (or spears) have always been less than impressive.  Better for roasting marshmallows.

My search for the perfect nightmares had me waiting for some new Empire Knights.  I either wanted metal barding or none at all.  The Empire Pistolier horses looked OK, and might have worked.  Then came news of new Chaos Knights and I was hopeful, but the perfect nightmares actually came with the Marauder horsemen kit.  These horses were EXACTLY what I was looking for with their flowing mans and tails.  Totally channeling AD&D's Lord Soth's Charge.  (Some of my first Undead miniatures by the way.)  Plus these horses LOOK evil, mean, and just plain angry!.

In addition to the Chaos Marauder horses, I used the bottom half of Bretonnian Knights, bits from both the Vampire Counts Grave Guard and Skeleton Warrior boxes, along with various bits from other kits as well.  I got rid of any silly bat wings on the helmets, and tried to give them an eastern feel like the "Riders of Doom" from Conan the Barbarian with the greenstuff fur around the helmets like I did on some of the Armored Skeletons.  With that soundtrack thundering in my head I had to give the musician kettle style drums as well.

As you can see in the early WIP pics above I originally used skeleton spears, but they looked too weedy so gave them proper lances from the Dark Elf Cold One Knights with lance tips from the Marauder Hoursemen.  Getter closer to the awesome looking unit of my dreams...

Like my Grave Guard I'm using purple in this unit, but not any red.  While purple gives both units a touch of "regal" I see the Grave Guard as more of a royal guard, while I wanted to keep the "Black" Knights as dark as possible.  Even their armor is kept darker.  Again, these are WIPs, but I like the look of the first painted minis so far.

As I've mentioned in a previous post, the unit will have a similar banner as the Grave Guard, but purple.  Same balefire torch and gold chains.  The lances will probably all get pennants too, but I have to see how this looks first.

Another project I was working on for my Vampire Counts army was evil Cossack henchmen to be used in place of Ghouls.  I have one unit of Ghouls, but they've never been a favorite troop type of mine mainly due to appearance.  I think the GW ghouls are fine for what they are, but I think having evil Cossacks is a pretty cool idea that also have uses in skirmish battle scenarios.   Ever since the appendix von Carstein list in the back of old the VC army book, I've wanted to have some human minions like you see in the movie Bram Stoker's Dracula.

This project is definitely a by-product of the Black Knights one.  The Marauder Horsemen heads really were the inspiration for these guys.  Using Empire Flagellant bodies and arms along with various heads and weapons from a bunch of different kits.  This is another way to help give my army a more Eastern European feel.  I have at least one unit planned for now that might include some carts and wains inside it.  I also plan to have a few Cossacks riding on the Corpse Carts and Black Coaches (Just like in the movie! ;-) )  Maybe even some wolf riders someday...

I have about 30 of these guys put together, and I'm still feeling out their color scheme.  I don't know if I want to try to include some other colors like olive drab or just keep the unit to just few (3-4) colors throughout.  I'm using a very unhealthy skin tone, and may even model up some with more ghoulish faces showing their evolution into depravity.  To represent the poison attacks of the ghouls, I've used a bit of Tamiya Clear Green on their weapons.  Sadly, this project is pretty much on hold until I see what the new Vampire Counts army book has to say.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spooky Mordheim Battles, Part 3

 ...and even more Spooky Times!

October 2006

In 2006 I finally got my own Witch Hunter warband finished which you can check it out here if you like.  I only got a few games in during the Mordheim league, but we did have true Mega-battle at the end with 14 players.  In games like these, you do miss a lot of what's going on further down the table, but the game was tons of fun all the same.  This game was at Phoenix Games again, and it certainly looks epic in the picture below.  :-)

October 2007

As the Phoenix Games location in Minneapolis closed, the 2007 Halloween spooktacular took place at the brand new Tower Games.  "Night of the Zombie" was already featured in a post in late September, so you can check that out here if you're not too scared.

October 2009

(Sorry, the following pics aren't the best; my old camera was dying at the time.)

Unfortunately I missed the Warhammer 40k style Zombie game in 2008, and in 2009 there was no "Halloween" game per se.  We did have "A Day in Mordhiem" type thing one Saturday at Tower Games where 6 of us played a mini-league, playing 5 normal games (one against each guy), and then a big game at the end of the day.

All in all we had 6 different warbands with Undead, Skaven, Sisters of Sigmar, High Elves, Witch Hunters, and Averlanders.  Although I really wanted to play my Witch Hunters, I fielded the good old Undead for the sake of variety.

My warband did really good for the most part, but got beat down by the Sisters and their slings.  Although my warband had one of the highest ratings for the final battle they got taken out first.  Unfortunately leaving me in sit and watch mode for the last few hours.

Regardless, good times!  Sadly though this was some of the last Mordheim games I'll probably play (At least for awhile).  Most of us have moved on to other rule sets with Mordheim getting a bit dated.  For skirmish games the basic mechanics for GW Lord of the Rings game (Also used for Legends of the Old West and Legends of the High Seas) are very solid. In fact that's what Eric and I are using for our game on Friday.

Hopefully I haven't overloaded some of you with "Spooky Mordheim" stuff (sorry) after three posts.  It was fun going through the old pics again as I'm building excitement (at least for myself) for my game on Friday.  A few of these would have made half decent batreps if I still had the stories and rules we wrote up for them laying around.

At the very least I hope you enjoyed seeing the terrain and setups we came up with over the years.  I know I do Google image searches to get ideas sometimes, so hopefully some of these shots might inspire someone else.

Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Spooky Mordheim Battles, Part 2

More Spooky Times!

  October 2004

Life got in the way and didn't allow the usual big Halloween game in 2004, but I did end up playing a small Skaven vs Undead game with two of my friends.  I honestly don't remember much about this game other than the fact that it was the first game I hosted at the apartment I lived at back then.  Kind of dress rehearsal for the next game...

March 2005

Well, we decided to make up for the missed game and do a Halloween "post-mortem" early in 2005.  Everyone finally got their schedules to match in March and I hosted the game at my place.  There's definitely pluses for gaming down at the shop, but having a place to game at home has a lot of bonuses too!

 This match-up involved three Sisters of Sigmar warbands vs three Vampires/Undead ones.  I believe one Undead group started out in the middle and the other came in relief, but the memory is foggy on this game as well.  I do remember winning because my vamp survived or something...  ;-)

Great minis, terrain, and even a solid scenario are one thing, but what you really need for these type of game are the right people.  Competitive to a point, but mainly there to have fun and more than willing to go with the flow when things don't go as smoothly or their way.  Which kind of foreshadows what happens in the next game...

Again, this battle built up nicely to the cinematic clash between the heroes and villains inside the main mausoleum.  Overall a great time, but probably more remembered for one infamous moment when one guy knocked over my statue of Morr and broke off the wings.  Not such a big deal really until he looked straight at me accusingly and asked (totally serious),  "You didn't pin the wings?" instead of the customary "Oops, sorry."  Funny how that guy never played Mordhiem with us again...  ;-)

 October 2005

Back at Phoenix Games, this time we tried a breakout scenario with a Witch Hunter, Sisters of Sigmar, and Middenheimer warband attempting to get the hell out of the city of the damned while three Undead warbands closed in.  This was another scheduled event game I believe as not only did the Undead forces arrive at certain times, but the "good" guys had to make it out of the city in a certain number of turns.

This is one of those games that didn't go so well.  The good guys got bogged down very quickly and kind of bottle-necked themselves in their deployment and moves.  With the scenario making clear that speed was of the essence, they seemed to be trying to fight everyone normally instead of sacrificing a few souls to delay the deadites while the others escaped.

No doubt the scenario was a real challenge, but this is where better gamers go with the flow and give it their best shot no matter what the odds.  Our original Sisters player couldn't make it and we had a last minute substitution that would end up ruining the game for the most part.  Complaining early and often, and let's just say the behavior went downhill from there.  Not at all fun.

Maybe the board was a little long, but unlike the Undead players, the moves by the good guys were clumsy and uncoordinated.  I would of gladly switched places, because I think playing one of the escaping warbands would have been more of adrenaline rush, with a more run and gun mentality, and having the final turns take place before the city gate like intended.

Although I have few more pics to share covering 2006-2009 in part 3, we really haven't played a big 6+ player scenario driven Halloween game since.  Maybe the 2005 game killed things for us or maybe that's just life. A lot of other games have entered our hobby lives since then along with work, wives, kids, and stuff.

On a more positive note, Eric and I do have a spooky game planned for Friday night (28th) which should be tons of fun!  :-)

Be sure to check out Part 1 here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Spooky Mordheim Battles, Part 1

"Spooky Times!!"

Ever since my college days in the early '90s, I've usually played some sort of  spooky battle around Halloween.  Great time of the year with the weather just starting to turn colder, it's time to go inside, grab some hot cider, and play a spooky battle or two.

For years this was typically some large Warhammer battle with my Undead army verses whomever.  When I returned home to Minnesota in 2001 from the Army, I found that some of the locals were really into Mordheim complete with an already great collection of terrain (and minis!) that we would continue to add to in the years ahead.

 October 2002

Although I bought Mordheim when it first came out, the Fall of 2002 was the first chance I got to be in a actual league.  The four week league was a blast, but the best part came with the annual Halloween game the guys at Phoenix Games (then in Minneapolis) had been already doing for a few years.

The game pitted a few warbands of Skaven against the Undead.  As with most of our spooky bashes, we included a few troops not available in Mordheim to add to the fun.  The Skaven had to cross the river, make their way up the hill through town, to the graveyard at the top to kill the Necromancer/grab the warpstone/or something. 

The task proved a bit much for the mutant rats as they got bogged down in the town.  Fun times, but one of main problems with big one-off scenario games like this is you never get to play test them.  As long as everyone is there for a good time this usually isn't a problem anyway.  Usually...

 October 2003 

In the late Summer and Fall of 2003 we spent a lot of time working on new Mordhiem boards and terrain.  Along with helping with the boards, I spent a solid two weeks creating tons of graveyard terrain and a few other items.  This was not only for our league, but for the shop's first ever "Octoberfest" Mordheim Tournament.

That year I put together a very detailed vampire hunt game for Halloween that had three Witch Hunter warbands (led by Johann van Hal no less) making their way through a large graveyard to (s)take out Heinrich von Wulfenstein and a few of his minions along the way.  The Witch Hunter players were kept in the dark about what they were facing and only received a slightly burnt letter from the Grand Theogonist Volkmar upon arriving at the shop with instructions for the game.  (See the letter at the bottom of the post)

The Sigmarites had the task of cleansing all the large mausoleums or tombs that any vampires could take refuge in and find the two lesser vamps while trying to make it to Heinrich's crypt by a set number of turns (Midnight) before he woke up.  Each turn was an "hour" in game time and contained more and more spooky fun.

 The Undead side got to place a number of their troops in hiding and try to set up ghoul, dire wolf, etc. ambushes if they could.  Meanwhile the graveyard itself contained a couple "wight" traps and a few scheduled "random" events including spooky wind/weather, a banshee making her way through the tombstones, and even a werewolf.  I also tweaked the effectiveness of some of the events so I wouldn't overwhelm the Hunters from their main purpose.

"Werewolf?"  "There wolf!"

Although I did spend a good amount of time planning this game, I was still surprised to see everything go off with out a hitch.  Right down to the stroke of Midnight and the climatic battle between Heinrich and Johann.  If I remember correctly, I think Johann was cut down and then the rest of the mob finished off Heinrich.  Either way, all the vamps were staked in the end.

 Johann vs Heinrich

The best games are full of "cinamatic" moments, and I tried to stuff as many as I could into one night of Mordhiem as possible.  Simple stuff that adds flavor and excitement, but doesn't bog the fun down.  There were a couple of things I wanted to include with a Black Coach and Evil Cossacks coming to rescue Heinrich, but I couldn't get everything done in time.  I also had Gotrek and Felix standing by to randomly swoop by in case things started going badly for Johann and the boys, but in the end they weren't needed.