Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Mannleigh Expedition

The Mannleighs have always been an adventurous bunch.  For two centuries, Mannleigh Park has served as a staging point for countless exploratory and military expeditions.  Mannleigh men have followed her Majesty into every conflict in which the Empire has participated.  They have been to both Poles, have traversed the jungles of three continents, and have funded and partaken in more archaeological expeditions than perhaps any noble family in Britain.

A dark premonition of things to come.
However, it is the current occupant of the estate, Sir Thrustam Mannleigh, who has taken this adventure lust to a new height.  During a trading expedition to Punjab some years ago, Mannleigh found himself present during the excavation of an ancient crypt.  He encountered something that seemed to defy reason that night; something that he kept to himself until he returned home the following Winter.  When he was back on British soil, Sir Thrustam contacted his old Oxford chum, Dr. Richard Alcock, and summoned him to Mannleigh Park where an all night discussion ensued.

From that point onward, the two have put the legendary Mannleigh fortune to active use as they began an obsessive study of the unknown.  In the past few years, Mannleigh and Alcock (along with the fetching young grad student, Ms. Emma Poundwood) have followed the trail of the Sasquatch in northern Canada, helped to discover the long-lost mystery of Easter Island, and dealt with an unspeakable business in the South Pacific where poor Dick almost lost his life.

The Spring of 1892: Setting out on the Old West Road to Dertflinghan

The adventurous three (along with Mannleigh's faithful hound, Rutter) are about to embark upon an adventure into the Carpathian mountain range where their resourcefulness and fortitude will be tested like never before. 

Mannleigh's Companions:

Dick and Mannleigh attended the same college, rowed for Oxford, and played polo together in their younger years.  Their friendship has rekindled in the past few years thanks to their joint interest in the occult.  Dick was an army surgeon after college, and after six years of service in Asia, he retired from active duty and established a private practice in London.  With all of the travelling lately, it goes without saying that his medical partners are quite over-worked, trying to satisfy the needs of his neglected patients.

Ms. Emma Poundwood hails from America, where the Poundwood name is well-known in most respectable circles.  After the unfortunate death of her parents she was raised by her uncle, who in addition to allowing her to continue with her academics, took it upon himself to start training her in survival, woodcraft, and target-shooting.  Her interest in the occult led her to Alcock after she read his repudiated article, "Island Resurrectionists: The Lost Art of Zombification in Primitive Ritual Medicine."

Dick endeavors to bypass a sophisticated locking mechanism to a forgotten archive.

Ms. Poundwood deciphers dark age runes.

Painted By: Chris E

Thoughts & Commentary:

Along with the werewolf hunters Chris painted a little while ago, these models will complete his British/American Monster Hunter warband.  Naming innuendo aside, I think they are a competent-looking bunch.  Sir Thrustam is actually a Westwind Wulfenjager model, while Dick and Emma are hunters from Blue Moon Manufacturing's "I Had Such A Howling Good Time" boxed set.  For those who play Chaos in Carpathia, Sir Thrustam will be fielded as an Intrepid Leader, Richard Alcock as a Professor, and Emma Poundwood as an Adventurous Scholar.

It's difficult for me to be objective about such things, but I would venture to guess that Mannleigh and his companions will have their hands quite full in the near future.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Warmachine Action: Epic Haley vs. Severious

We had a relaxing day of gaming today and the first order of business was a game of Warmachine against that wiley Master of Menoth, the incomparable Kenoth of Menoth.  I was using a jack-heavy force while Ken primarily ran warjacks backed-up by a maximum unit of TFG, a choir, and a couple of solos.

We both advanced towards each other fairly aggressively, neither of us doing much damage to the other during the first couple of turns.

I tried arcing some spells into the TFG, but sine I was getting nowhere with it, I decided to sacrifice one of my Lancers.  It worked out, and the Flameguard were pretty much tied up for the entire game.

The battlegroups clashed on the roadway.  I was trying to take out, or at the very least, to occupy Ken's arc nodes, and in doing so, essentially neutering Severious's ability to deal any damage at range.

My other Lancer was Haley's bonded warjack which meant that it had extra movement.  I decided to throw it out there, hoping that I might get the chance to make a smack at Sevvy.

Meanwhile, Ken was smashing up my center fairly handily.

There were some more blows dealt from either side, but in the end, I managed to get the Lancer right up there and reduce Severius to one wound.

Ken made a break for it and tried to gun for Haley.  The attempt failed and the bonded Lancer came up from behind and skewered the Menoth caster much like a holy white marshmellow.

It was a great game with little to no downtime.  I quickly lose interest in Warmachine games that drag on much past an hour and  a half.  This one was anything but boring, and I think that both Ken and I felt that we left the other no room for error.  I was quite surprised that the Lancer survived long enough to go for the kill, but a combination of taking down Severious's arc nodes, and perhaps using my feat at the right time, allowed me to line up all the necessary pieces when they were needed.  Sevvy is an effective (and scary) caster, but because of his relatively low defense, armour, and wounds, when a warjack gets close to him, it generally tends to be lights out.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dr. Franz Grunberg, His Lunatics, and His Associates

Franz Grunberg was born in a poor suburb of Vienna on October 20th, 1815. During his childhood, Franz's father earned a meagre living as an asylum guard at the infamous Narrenturm mental asylum. Unlike his brothers and sisters, young Franz showed special interest in his father's work and as he grew older, began accompanying his father to the stone tower. Although the rows of raving madmen presented a disconcerting sight to the boy, he found himself intrigued by their condition, and even as a youngster, wondered what could be the benefit of chaining them to damp walls and leaving them to fester in their own bodily filth.

By age 13, Franz worked as a guard-in-training under the tutelage of his father. However, one of the institution's most notable doctors, a German by the name of Josef Steiner, recognized the youth's sharp mind and keen interest in the asylum and its occupants. When Franz's father died of cholera in 1830, Doctor Steiner and his barren wife stepped in as sponsors to the young man and provided the financial backing, as well as the necessary letters of introduction to begin his academic education.

Franz roamed continental Europe throughout his early twenties, attending lectures and studying under many great men. In 1841, Franz rose above his station and was awarded Doctor of Medicine from the University of Vienna. Less than two years later he earned a Doctor of Philosphy from the same institution, and his post-doctoral paper, The Symptoms and Proposed Treatments of Mental Duality in the Criminally Insane, was well-recieved in medical circles.

Grunberg's Asylum and Its Occupants:

1866 was a life-changing year for Grunberg. Just before Summer, his venerable sponsor and foster-father died in a house fire. Dr. Grunberg was greatly upset by the loss of Steiner, but was shocked to find himself the sole beneficiary of the Steiner fortune. For the couple of years preceeding Steiner's death, Franz had become somewhat disillusioned with standard psychiatric treatments and the mainstream medical community as a whole. He took the windfall as a sign, and bought a long abandoned lodge in Transylvania. Within a year, Grunberg's Lunatic Asylum was in full operation. Dr. Grunberg and his neice Emmalina still live there to this day.

Now that Dr. Grunberg is more or less cut off from the major centers of Europe, he essentially has free license to experiment with new and questionable treatments. Although some patients fall victim to his failed experimental ideas, the doctor sees his actions as justified - if he finds a cure for madness, no means would be questioned, would they?

Some of the less dangerous patients roam the grounds under the watchful eye of the groundskeeper Ernst Holdt. They sometimes seem inexplicably drawn to the dark forest across the river.

Emmalina Grunberg was the only daughter of one of Franz's younger brothers. Her father, apparently a devil for the drink, mistreated the girl and Franz stepped in out of pity and took her on as a member of his household. She has been with him ever since and is the only family member he has any contact with.

Dr. Grunberg looks to the stalwart Ernst Holdt to maintain and protect his sprawling property. When the doctor first took possession, Ernst and his father lived in a small cabin at the north end of the grounds, still under the employ of the previous owners. The old fellow passed on a few years later, and the doctor, who had become quite dependent on the young caretaker, offered him more than fair compensation to stay on.

Painted By: Jason (aka JET)

Thoughts & Commentary:

Although we had a great time playing our Legends of the Old West campaign last year, there were a few things missing. We never got to play any scenarios that required innocent by-standers - the wargaming equivalent of non-player characters. When the Gothic Horror project was well under way, I had decided to make painting such models a priority. I didn't want to be stuck playing the same basic scenarios.

In a sense, by painting these various inhabitants of the Dertflinghan vicinity now, I am killing two birds with one stone. Some of these models, in addition to standing in as bystanders and scenario objectives, will join the ranks of my Hungarian Monster Hunters a little later in the campaign.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, March 12, 2010

Workbench Update: Populating Transylvania

It's been a busy week at home and at work, but I wanted to show you folks that I'm still trying to get something accomplished. Now that I've finished painting my werewolf warband, I thought that it was time to start working on some models to populate our imaginary version of Eastern Europe.

The above models are going to pose as characters of Grunberg's Asylum (and later on, will partially form my Hungarian Monster Hunter warband - but that's another story). I don't have all of the names yet, but you are looking at the good doctor, his niece, and the groundskeeper and his hound.

As to the female model; don't as me what the heck is going on with her lips. She looks like she bought botox from a shady street vendor. I admit that some of it might be my lack of painting experience when it comes to tarted-up lady models. However, it is a model from an older Blue Moon Americana range (I think), and I wonder if the sculpting of the puffy lips isn't part of the problem. In any event, I'm very open to suggestions.

So, how much more modelling and painting is left in this Gothic Horror project anyway?

A worthwhile question, and I'm going to formulate a written answer, partly to satisfy the curiosity of horror fans, and partly to help me map out what's left to do.

Part one of the project is, of course, painting the models for the warbands I want to play. I've already painted all of the lycanthropes, wolves, and lunatics I need to play werewolves. In the relatively near future, I plan on painting a Romanian Vampire warband (around 6 or 7 models), and later on I'll be putting together the Hungarians as mentioned above.

Part two of the project consists of the preparation and completion of the models and terrain items necessary to create the world in which we will play. Some of you have already seen the various buildings, Gothic terrain items, and doodads I've been working on. I still want to make a few small items, as well as a largish ruined temple (for the Ritual scenario) and some underground "dungeon" tiles so that we can play the Crypt scenario, as well as other parts of the campaign when adventurers find secret entrances, trap doors, and so on.

The card and plastic furniture pictured below is from the GW game HeroQuest. I bought it around 20 years ago or more and have decided that I'll be repainting it all so that we can play scenarios underground, as well as in cellars, castles, and other indoor locations.

For now, the immediate goal is to finish the four models shown above, as well as five inhabitants of Dertflinghan so that we can use the mob rules when playing Terror in a Tiny Town. When I finish the asylum models it'll be time for another Gothic Horror Gallery update.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, March 8, 2010

Workbench Update: Super-Gaming

I was pondering going with the title "Jason, Are you trying to get a divorce before your baby is born?", but it was too damn long. Here's a quick lesson for all of you gents out there - find a way to combine your geek activities with your quality "father-son" time and everybody wins. My son and I get to spend some fun times together and let's face it... the ladies just love that stuff.

All joking aside, some of you may have picked up on some of my allusions to my almost 10-year old son Ben and our excursions into the world of geekery. We played some Song of Blades and Heroes around a year or so ago, and more recently, we've been having a real blast playing Memoir'44 and Basic Impetus. Lately, however, I've been seriously pondering what project we could do together. He doesn't have a whole lot of interest in painting models right now, but he is quite interested when he watches me make buildings and terrain bits. As some of us have just started playing Chaos in Carpathia recently, I saw how great the Goal System was, and thought that Ben would enjoy it. Horror, however is not a genre that I'll be encouraging my son into anytime soon (He has enough nightmares already).

And then it hit me... Scott Pyle's Supersystem rules. Here was a goal-system game (check) in the superhero genre (check check) that was available as a cheap PDF download (check check check). We were officially in business.

As you can see above, we've started making a couple of buildings. With Ben's assistance, I will oversee most of the construction, and after teaching him the basics of overbrushing and drybrushing, I will set him loose on the buildings while I paint the models. Over the next week, around 10 or so co-workers will be bringing me all of their empty milk cartons. :)

Here's Ironman getting ready to blast the side out of this building. The models were bought at Wal-mart. They are a fairly hard soft plastic (you know what I mean) and are sold by Hasbro. I think they are called Handful of Heroes or something like that. You get eight in a pack for around $6.00. I bought three packs, so we have lots of superheroes and arch-villains. I'll paint up enough to get us going after Ben starts getting some paint on the city.

I started painting the Hulk just to get an idea of how the paint would adhere. I treated it just like any other 28mm model - file off mold lines, spray-prime black, and start painting. This guy is at the "10-minutes of effort stage," and I think a couple of quick highlights will make him look quite "smashing." ("Keep yer eye on the ball son... eye.. ball... That's a joke son ;) ) I won't be putting the same level of effort into these as I do with my personal 28mm models.

I think we'll bring this one to fruition within the next 4 to 6 weeks. The important thing to remember here is that most of this is a kid's project. I want Ben to do most of the terrain-painting on his own, and when it's all said and done, the buildings and the models will be his, to use how and when he chooses, without my supervision.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Starting Werewolf Warband

With the start of our Chaos in Carpathia campaign a few weeks away, I finally took the time to nail down a starting warband. After much deliberation, here's what I came up with.

The Great Wolf (werewolf pack leader)
MV: 7 | DR: 6(3) | Str: 5 | Agl: 4 | Mnd: 2 | Res: 4 | Fate: 4 | Vit: 5

abilities: werewolf, terrifying aura, combat attack x3, claws (DN6), killing strike (1), sharp senses x2, solitary

Black Maw (werewolf)
MV: 7 | DR: 5(3) | Str: 4 | Agl: 3 | Mnd: 2 | Res: 3 | Fate: 3 | Vit: 4
abilities: werewolf, iron will x1, combat attack x3, claws (DN6), killing strike (1), sharp senses x2, solitary

Bloodrunner (werewolf)
MV: 7 | DR: 5(3) | Str: 4 | Agl: 4 | Mnd: 2 | Res: 3 | Fate: 3 | Vit: 3

abilities: werewolf, dodge, speed burst (1), combat attack x3, claws (DN6), killing strike (1), sharp senses x2, solitary

Gregor (escaped asylum inmate)
MV: 5 | DR: 5 | Str: 4 | Agl: 2 | Mnd: 2 | Res: 4 | Fate: 4 | Vit: 3

abilities: combat attack x2, inhuman strength (DN5), inmate dedication (The Great Wolf)

Crazy Nell (escaped asylum inmate)
MV: 5 | DR: 5 | Str: 4 | Agl: 2 | Mnd: 2 | Res: 4 | Fate: 4 | Vit: 3

abilities: combat attack x2, inhuman strength (DN5), inmate dedication (Blackmaw)

The Man Hunters (wolf pack x6)
MV: 8 | DR: 3 | Str: 3 | Agl: 3 | Mnd: 1 | Res: 2 | Fate: 2 | Vit: *

abilities: combat attack x2, combat evade x1, bite (DN5), sharp senses x3

I was originally going to start the campaign without any inmates in my warband. I had planned to add them later as I earned some post-battle resources. However, after painting a couple up, I couldn't resist including them. I think they'll add a little bit of that human character to my warband which will certainly help me to propel the story.

I also used the optional werewolf upgrades in an attempt to specialize them for different tasks. With an extra Vitality upgrade, Agility upgrade, and the Terrifying Aura ability, the Great Wolf should have some staying power, as well as the ability to really rip the enemy apart. I gave Blackmaw an extra Vitality and the Iron Will ability to represent his supernatural toughness. Finally, to help him live up to his name, I gave Bloodrunner an extra Agility upgrade and both the Speed Burst and Dodge abilities. Hopefully, those pesky wulfenjager will have a hard time hitting him with their rifles and he will be perfectly suited for flying out behind buildings and tearing their faces off.

In the very near future, I'll finally have the opportunity to put some of these theories to the test. Stay tuned, and as always...

Thanks for reading,

Friday, March 5, 2010

Grunberg`s Lunatic Asylum for the Criminally Insane

The Asylum lies just off the Old West Road approximately half a day's ride from Dertflinghan. In its hay day, the building and surrounding grounds served as a game lodge for the more sporting of Dertflinghan's nobility. Just over ten years ago, the then cutting edge Austrian psychiatrist Dr. Franz Grunberg spent a considerable amount of his inheritance to purchase the property and then proceeded to convert it into a lunatic asylum.

Dr. Grunberg primarily cares for patients who have shown little response to more conventional treatments. Many of the asylum's occupants are of noble lineage and have been sent to this cast-away edifice so that their families do not have to face the embarrassment of having a mad relative.

The Asylum

The main building is a two-story Gothic manor consisting of three wings on the ground floor, a second story private apartment, and according to some reports, vast underground cellars which are rumoured to connect the crypts and sewer system of Old Dertflinghan. The Dr's second story apartment is a veritable fortress, and although a man of science, he has obviously taken steps to foil both immortal and mortal intruders.

The Grounds

Although much of the lodge's former glory has decayed and crumbled over time, some remnants of the gardens and extended park area are still intact. Being something of a horticulturist himself, Dr. Grunberg has taken a personal interest in the care and reconciliation of the garden. He often puts some of his patients to work in the hopes that the repetitive chores of weeding and digging might help to sooth their savage souls.

The Forest Beyond

Like all occupied areas in this land, the asylum certainly has the feeling of a very small island in an infinite sea of darkness and unknown evil. The doctor often enjoys his chamomile tea on the balcony at night as he stares out into the vast expanse of the shrouded forest below. However, as night descends, many of the above-ground inmates cling to the bars of their windows moaning and mumbling incoherently, as if communicating with some unseen presence in the black woods beyond.

Modelled and Painted By: Jason (aka JET)

Thoughts & Commentary

The moral of this story is - stay away from dollar stores! This setting came on rather quickly as I rummaged around in a shop near our house. Three wooden jewelry boxes and a couple of hours of effort saw the beginnings of an asylum, and more importantly, inspired some details of the story which will come out as the campaign advances.

I've been reading Dracula as I've been working on this "set," and the asylum near Dracula's London property was obviously part of my inspiration. I've removed the teeming streets of London and replaced them with a vast expanse of forest, but the atmosphere will stay very much the same. Hopefully many adventure possibilities will pour forth from both the asylum and its residents.

Thanks for reading,