Saturday, 24 January 2015

SDE Heroes 01

When I did my long review of Super Dungeon Explore (SDE) last time, I deliberately did not show any photos of my painted figures from the game. But for now and the foreseeable future I'll be posting lots of reviews and photos of my SDE figure collection. I wanted to paint all 50 figures from the boxed set before playing the game as I do not like playing any game with unpainted figures. I have painted all 50. My painting style changed as these were completely different to anything I have ever done before. Chibi miniatures have a style that is unique. I thoroughly enjoyed painting them and I put a lot of effort into making them as good as possible. I do like their dungeon tile bases and I decided to paint all of the bases for the Heroes in light grey and the bases of everything else in dark grey. One other thing I had to do was make a new backdrop to photograph my SDE figures against. I used a set of printouts for the floor and wall from the WWG Castles and Keeps set. They have a suitable dungeon feel to them and they work well with the figures.
From left to right are the Royal Paladin, the Hearthsworn Fighter and the Claw Tribe Barbarian. All three excel at melee fighting. Normally when I post pictures of my painted minis I show the front and back views. The photo above was the very first SDE photo I took and I swiftly noticed a flaw with just showing the front and back. The designs on the shields would  be hidden from view. So, I decided to take photos of their right and left sides as well. Let me know if you think I should adopt this method for all my figure photos. I'm very tempted to, I must admit.
The Royal Paladin is my favourite Hero out of the basic boxed set. He is a human Hero, a Holy avenger and a Healer - an extremely powerful combination. From the high citadels, the worshippers of light are champions against the spreading darkness. Powerful warriors and healers, the Paladins have been at the front of the great confrontation with the Consul. I think he is such a cool figure and he reminds me of Sir Pelinor, my much loved Paladin character from my old AD&D campaign. Indeed, when I use him in SDE, I call him Sir Pelinor.
The Hearthsworn Fighter is a Dwarf Hero. Resilient and unflinching in the face of combat, the Dwarven Hearthsworn are warriors without peer. Able to withstand injury that would fell any of the lesser races, the Hearthsworn cleave through their adversaries bellowing insults and challenges to any foolish enough to face them. He is a typical rock-hard Dwarven Hero. Whilst he is a very nice sculpt, I must admit to not being a big fan of Dwarves.
When I first saw the Claw Tribe Barbarian I immediately thought of Red Sonja the legendary She-Devil with a Sword. She is definitely NOT Red Sonja but she does have quite a few similarities to her. Born of fire and hardship, barbarians come from the edges of the Dragonback Peaks. The hard lives they can scrape out of the rough earth and fiery landscape is meager at best; it is no wonder that many take to wandering Crystalia. The black claw tattoo on her right cheek indicates that she is a member of the Claw Tribe Barbarians. She is human, very tough and she can control her berserk fury and fiery rage in battle to great effect. I am a big fan of the Red Sonja comics (but not the awful Red Sonja film with Brigitte Nielsen) so I instantly fell in love with this adorable mini.
There is very little to choose between the Hearthsworn Fighter and the Claw Tribe Barbarian. Both are better fighters than the Royal Paladin. However, the Royal Paladin is a better all-rounder. His healing ability cannot be easily overlooked.
The comic book Red Sonja with unfeasibly large axe - clearly the inspiration for the Claw Tribe Barbarian.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Super Dungeon Explore - an Overview

Vampifan prepares to open SDE for the first time. What's inside?
Late last year my good friend, Stephen Gilbert, persuaded me to buy a board-game that was played with 28mm scale miniatures. It was a game I had heard of but knew very little about. It was, of course, Super Dungeon Explore, produced by Cool Mini Or Not and Soda Pop games. The first thing I noticed about the game was that although the figures were indeed 28mm scale, they were not realistically sculpted. Instead they were based on the Japanese Chibi form of artwork. Chibi originally meant "short person" or "small child" but is now used by fans of Anime and Manga to mean a person depicted with an over-sized head. Chibi characters often have large eyes and small mouths. This style of art will definitely put some of you off, in which case, you really won't like this game. Personally, I have no problem with how Chibi characters are drawn. Generally speaking, with the figures in this set, their heads make up half the size of the figures. This has the big advantage of meaning you can apply a lot more detail to the painting of faces. For me, this was a big plus.
The Dungeon Tiles and Adventure Tracker
First up are the game boards, which are shown to the right of here. There are five double-sided Dungeon Tiles to choose from to create your dungeon. The sixth tile, shown in the centre of the bottom row is called the Adventure Tracker. It is a dashboard that keeps track of the entire progress of the game. The Power Gauge (surrounding three sides of the board) levels up monsters and determines when the Dungeon Boss enters play. The Loot-O-Meter (the yellow squares just inside the Power Gauge) provides powerful loot cards for the Heroes as they destroy monsters. It also provides a location for the Loot Deck, Treasure Deck and Adventure Effect cards.
Photo copyright of Stephen Gilbert. Used with permission.
The two sheets of counters included in the box are made up of 2 double-sided Power Markers, 1 Loot Marker, 8 Skull Tokens, 12 Potion Counters, 32 Wound Counters, 144 Status Effect Counters and 10 double-sided Hero/Consul Effect Counters. The Consul is the person who controls the bad guys. Although the game does come with a lot of counters, not many are used during a typical game. I bought a plastic storage box to keep mine in. These counters are made of very thick card and are extremely robust.

Photo copyright of Stephen Gilbert. Used with permission.
The large deck of cards is made up of 9 Hero Cards, 19 Monster Cards, 48 Loot Cards and 24 Treasure Cards. The Hero and Monster cards show their stats that tells a player everything it can do in a game. The Loot Cards are made up of 16 Armour Cards, 16 Item Cards and 16 Weapon Cards that Heroes may discover in the dungeon. The Treasure Cards consist of 16 Relic Cards, 6 Dragon Relic Cards and 2 Boo-Booty! Cards. These are powerful treasures, but beware the Boo-Booty - that is a monster disguised as a treasure chest. I have put all of my cards in clear plastic protective sleeves, not provided with the game.
Photo copyright of Stephen Gilbert. Used with permission.
The 16 dice are made up of 8 Blue Dice, 6 Red Dice and 2 Green Dice. Stars on the dice represent successes - the more you roll the better. Blank faces are failures. Hearts are used to remove Wound Counters and Status effects. Potions allow your Heroes to gain powerful magic potions. Note that only Heroes may gain Hearts and Potions. If the Consul rolls a Heart or Potion it is classed as a failure. Blue Dice are not as good as Red Dice and Green Dice are the best of all. These are nice chunky dice with rounded corners and I like them a lot.

Photo copyright of Stephen Gilbert. Used with permission.
For most people, myself included, the big draw for this game are the figures. The 50 figures included in the game consist of 9 Heroes, 5 Spawning Point Models, 5 Treasure Chests and 31 Monster figures comprising 1 Dragon, 2 Kobold Ogres, 4 Kobold Flingers, 4 Kobold Ironscales, 6 Kobold Gougers, 6 Kobold Knuckleheads, 4 Dragon Hatchlings (2 per base), 2 Dragon Whelps, 2 Dragon Wyrmlings and 2 Boo-Bootys. The Heroes are sculpted in hard light grey plastic whilst everything else is sculpted in red plastic. Apart from the  Treasure Chests the rest of the figures are multi-part castings that need to be assembled.
Photo copyright of Stephen Gilbert. Used with permission.
Fortunately, the game comes with a very helpful assembly guide, shown to the left, that shows you how to put the figures together. The guide recommends using superglue to use on the figures and this is what I did. It takes time and patience to make them all, but I found the process a very enjoyable experience. Newbie modellers may disagree and wish they came pre-assembled. I guess enough people complained about this aspect of the game that in all future expansion sets the figures come pre-assembled.

Photo copyright of Stephen Gilbert. Used with permission.
To the right of here is a photo of the Ember Mage prior to assembly, shown next to her assembly instructions. This figure comes in five parts - head, body and arms, staff and hands, legs and slottabase (shown below). Most of the figures went together very well, although I would recommend giving everything a dry run first before applying glue. If you enjoy model making (I certainly do) then you will enjoy making the figures. If you don't then this process will be a lengthy chore, but it has to be done.

Photo copyright of Stephen Gilbert. Used with permission.
All of the slottabases feature a textured dungeon floor pattern, which I really like a lot. The majority of the bases are 24mm in diameter but a few are double the size at 48mm in diameter. I only had an issue with some of the Kobolds not fitting too well in the slottabases. But it was a simple enough job to file their slottatabs down a tad to make them fit. I decided to paint the bases of all of the Heroes in light grey and the Monsters' bases in dark grey to easily identify the two forces. Quite often when the figure is glued to their base you'll notice unsightly gaps at one or both sides. I always fill these in with Milliput modelling putty.

Photo copyright of Stephen Gilbert. Used with permission.
Here we see the Ember Mage fully assembled. Now she just needs painting. How I painted my SDE figures will be covered in great detail in my upcoming posts. I have painted all of the figures from the basic boxed set and am currently working on the figures from the Von Drakk Manor expansion set. The figures are exceptionally well sculpted and absolutely full of character. Painting them was a real labour of love.

Something has caught Vampifan's attention in the rulebook.
The final component of the game is, of course, the rulebook. This is a glossy 32 page booklet printed in full colour. It is well laid out and well produced. The rules themselves are fairly simple but there is a lot to take in on first reading. There are three levels of play. First up is the 8-Bit, played with 2 Heroes on 2 Dungeon Tiles. This is a very basic game that is mainly designed to introduce you to how the game plays. The players fight against a Mini-Boss and his Denizens and Minions. It should last about 30 minutes. The 16-Bit game is designed for 3 Heroes and is played on 3 Dungeon Tiles. It introduces the Dungeon Boss alongside his Mini-Boss, assorted Minions and Denizens, making it a much harder challenge. Game length is about 1 to 1.5 hours. Finally, is the Super! game, played with 5 Heroes on 5 Dungeon Tiles. They battle against 1 Dungeon Boss, 2 Mini-Bosses and lots more Denizens and Minions. Game length can run from 2 to 3 hours. This works best if you know you have the time to complete it in one session.
The world of Crystalia, the setting of SDE. The basic game takes place in and around the big volcano at the top left.
Super Dungeon Explore hearkens back to the good old days of dungeon bashing. There is nothing complex about this game. It is basically about a bunch of good guys exploring a dungeon to find treasure and defeat the bad guys. That's it! So simple! Well, no, not really. Tactics do come into play. Choosing the right Heroes to take part is important. To quote from the rulebook "when choosing Heroes, it is important to consider how they will work as a party. A group of all melee fighters with no healing, ranged or area affect abilities is sure to have a harder time than one that is well balanced." Good advice! Also, knowing which Monsters to fight first and whether to go after them or a Spawning Point or a Treasure Chest are all decisions that must be made.
The Monsters are controlled by the Consul. It is his job to decide which models will be the Boss and Mini-Boss(es). With the basic set your choices are severely limited but with the addition of expansion sets, the Consul will have far greater choice. Monsters enter the board via Spawning Points (one Spawning Point per Dungeon Tile) and they are key to winning the game. The more Spawning Points the Heroes can destroy the easier it will be for them to win the game. Different Spawning Points spawn different Monsters. Mini-Bosses and the Dungeon Boss appear when the Adventure Tracker reaches a certain point. This varies depending on which level of game you play.
The Heroes can gain Magic Items by searching Treasure Chests. There will be one Treasure Chest on each Dungeon Tile. Once a Treasure Chest has been searched it is removed from the game. Alternatively, as the Heroes kill Monsters, the Loot-O-Meter increases and at certain points it also grants the Heroes Loot Items. Heroes are free to swap Magic Items irrespective of where they are on the board. Magic Items are colour coded (blue, green, red and yellow) and individual Heroes are limited to just one of each colour.
I LOVE this game! I have always had an interest in fantasy gaming. I started my gaming career by playing the original Dungeons and Dragons before progressing to AD&D and Warhammer. I fell out of love with the genre in the late 1990's. I'd grown bored with AD&D and Warhammer just pissed me off with its countless new rulebooks coming out every four years and their figures constantly rising in price. In all honesty, I never expected to get back into fantasy gaming. But thanks to Steve I did. His enthusiasm for the game won me over. I may well have let the game pass me by but when I saw the expansion sets for the game and one in particular - Von Drakk Manor - I was hooked. This one expansion is the main reason this fantasy game deserves its place on my blog. Von Drakk Manor introduces the undead to SDE. Rock on!
What is so refreshing about this game is that it is extremely family friendly. If you are a parent with sons and/or daughters, they will love playing this game. I'd recommend that dad plays the Consul and his kids play the Heroes. Invite your wife or girlfriend to play it. Who knows, you might just persuade them that gaming is fun. That, more than anything is the big selling point of this game for me. It is FUN! The figures make me smile. This is not a game to take too seriously. Each game is a stand alone adventure. At present there are no rules for campaign play. That may change in the future. I don't know. What this means is that if a Hero is killed in one game there is nothing preventing him or her appearing in future games.
The game is meant to be played with 2 - 6 players but I have played it solo with no difficulty. I can quite easily play a game where I have to wear two hats - good guy and bad guy, playing both sides impartially and without favour. Not everyone can do this but if you can and you're a solo gamer then there is no reason for you to not enjoy playing SDE on your own.
So far I have waxed lyrical about the game but are there any cons to the pros? Yes, there are. First up, if you hate Japanese Anime and/or Manga, you won't like this game. The Chibi miniatures certainly won't be to everyone's taste. Secondly, if you are not a keen modeller, then you'll find making most of the figures a real bind. Thirdly, if playing with multiple players who only control one Hero each, the game will quickly lose its appeal if their character dies early on. It can happen if the dice are particularly unkind. Fourthly, with just 10 Dungeon Tiles to choose from, your games can end up looking a bit samey after a while. However, new Dungeon Tiles are in the pipeline for a future release soon.
I'm not sure if this is a pro or a con but if, like me, you get wholly sucked in to the whole concept of the game, its characters, world setting and background, then you are going to want to buy every expansion set that you can. I have spent a lot of money on this game but I have no regrets. There is a big expansion set called The Forgotten King due out later this year. I am so looking forward to its release. To me, SDE was like a breath of fresh air. It has made me look at gaming in a totally new light. It has rekindled my interest in fantasy gaming but in a way I could never have imagined. Everything about this game makes me happy and for that reason alone I unreservedly rate it 10 out of 10.
The RRP of SDE is £74.99 but if you look around you'll find it going for much cheaper than that. For example, Amazon UK are selling it for £59.80. On e-Bay it is currently going for just £56.59. It'll pay you to shop around for the best deal.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Ral Partha Werewolves 01

This will be my last review of my werewolf figures for the time being. I do have a lot more to show but they need re-basing. This time round I'm looking at a selection of Ral Partha 28mm scale Crinos form werewolves. These were all part of the official White Wolf Werewolf: the Apocalypse range of figures and they all stand approximately 40mm tall.
In keeping with Vampire: the Masquerade, where vampires belong to an assortment of clans, so too, do werewolves, or Garou as they prefer to be known, belong to any one of a variety of tribes. There are currently 13 known tribes working for the forces of good. According to Garou oral history, it was always their duty to keep the balance in nature on behalf of Gaia. They did so by culling overgrown populaces, hunting too powerful predators that otherwise would rampage unchecked and fending off otherworldly spirits that overstepped their stance. In addition they believe in the existence of the Triat, a trio of deities that define how the world works: the Weaver is the deity of order and scientific advancement, the Wyld is the deity of creation, entropy, and chaos, while the Wyrm was the deity of balance between order and chaos who destroyed that which ended the harmony. At some point, the Weaver went mad by trying to bring the entirety of the Wyld's chaos into order and trapped the Wyrm in her Pattern Web, injuring it while also driving it to madness and making it seek out the destruction of the world of Gaia's creation.
The Garou themselves are a self-acknowledged dying race; the largest Gaian tribes number 750 to 1,250 Garou worldwide, with the smaller tribes numbering less than 500. The Wyrm-serving Black Spiral Dancers comprise fully one-tenth of the total Garou population and are the largest single tribe. The Black Spiral Dancers are not part of the 13 Gaian tribes. The White Howlers were a tribe of Garou of who were descended from the Picts in Scotland. They attempted to battle the Wyrm directly by seeking it out in its lair known as the Black Spiral. They were driven mad by the Wyrm and only survive to modern times as the antagonistic Black Spiral Dancer tribe who actively foster the Apocalypse and are heavily deformed due to their devotion to the Wyrm instead of Gaia. They are evil, corrupt and often mutated. Many of them work for the infamous Pentex corporation, a global company of immense power and influence, very similar to the Umbrella Corporation from the Resident Evil books and films.
At the far left is a member of the Glass Walker tribe. The Glass Walkers are a tribe who are most in tune with the Weaver, directly involving themselves in human society and having technological prowess. This character is armed with a sawn-off pump-action shotgun and also holds some sort of shamanistic totem. Glass Walkers usually have mottled grey fur.
Next up is a member of the Black Fury tribe. The Black Furies are a tribe of solely female Garou who are most in tune with the Wyld and claim to be descended from the mythical Amazons. The black furred body with white face is typical colouration of the Black Furies. To be honest, as shown in this form there is little difference between her and any of the male Crinos form werewolves. Her body is slightly slimmer but hardly that noticeable.
At the far right is a member of the Silver Fang tribe. The Silver Fangs are considered the leaders of Garou society, often having relatives who were members of royal families. They have since been the result of heavy inbreeding and many members possess mental illnesses. This character is clearly on a mission to hunt down vampires. He/she is armed with a silver dagger and a wooden stake.
Zhyzhak, at the far left, is a named Black Spiral Dancer leader. There is no denying that she is definitely female. She is dressed in a leather outfit suitable for a dominatrix and naturally, holds a whip. She is cruel, sadistic and a fearsome opponent. She does not appear to be mutated, which is rather uncommon amongst Black Spiral Dancers.
In the centre of the group is another Black Spiral Dancer. This Crinos form Garou has been severely mutated. Note his large bat-like ears, thin membranes between his arms and body and unnatural looking tail. To emphasise his mutation even further I gave his black fur a dry-brushing of metallic green paint. He holds aloft a trophy he has just acquired - the severed head of a Garou.
At the far left is yet another Black Spiral Dancer. He is also a mutant, having lost all of his fur. He wields a curved silver dagger. He is a minion of Zhyzhak and serves her loyally. He was a multi-part figure with his tail and right arm being separate pieces.
I managed to buy over half of this range of figures. The reason I didn't buy all of them was that I never did play Werewolf: the Apocalypse. I primarily bought the game and figures to use as adversaries for my player character group in Vampire: the Masquerade. In hindsight, I wish I had bought more of this range. I always loved Ral Partha's figures as they were exquisitely sculpted. This range of figures has been out of production for many years now and it seems unlikely that they will ever return.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Assorted Werewolves 04

Here is another batch of 28mm scale werewolf figures from my collection, and once again, they are a mixed bunch from a variety of companies. Some are still available to buy but others are sadly, long gone.
At the far left is a huge and very scary werewolf in its Crinos form from Heresy Miniatures. This is a multi-part kit containing head, torso and right leg, tail, left leg, right arm, left arm and base. It was sculpted by Andy Foster and I must say, he's done a cracking good job. Note the blood around its mouth and snout, indicating it has fed recently. This is one of my all-time favourite werewolf sculpts. It is in a very animated pose and it was a joy to make and paint. He is available to buy from Heresy's webstore for £8.00. Do bear in mind that for that price he is very tall despite the fact he is crouching down, and he is a multi-part kit.
The white werewolf was originally made by Grenadier Miniatures but is now available from Mirliton. He is part of their Nightmares range and comes in a pack of three figures marked as NM020 Lycanthropes. The other two figures show him in wolf form and in half-human form. Price is 5.96 Euros for all three figures. I must admit that I think this is a rather average sculpt. By painting him white, he could almost pass for a small polar bear.
At the far right is an old Ral Partha figure who is not actually a werewolf at all but a werejackal. He is quite small and the fact that he is crouched down in a running pose makes him look even smaller still. I actually like this figure for his uniqueness. Ral Partha made a lot of werewolf figures. They had the franchise to make figures for White Wolf's Werewolf: the Apocalypse RPG. This figure, however, was part of their fantasy range. Ral Partha closed shop many years ago so you will struggle to find a copy of this figure.
These two huge werewolves in their monstrous Crinos form were made by Alternative Armies as part of their old Firefight sci-fi range. They were allies of the evil Shia Khan forces who fought against the Free Companies Crusaders in what was known as the Ion Age. They stand 42mm tall from the soles of their feet to the tops of their heads.
I see no reason why they can't be used as contemporary werewolves. They are nicely sculpted and although they are huge in comparison to a normal 28mm tall figure, they are still in scale. A Crinos form werewolf is generally about nine feet tall. Sorry to say that these figures are no longer available.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Horrorclix Werewolves 02 (and ATZ-Reloaded Preview)

I'm reviewing my second batch of Horrorclix 30mm scale werewolves today and they are quite a mixed bag of figures.
At the far left is a Dire Wolf from the basic set in it's Rookie version. The Veteran version is identical but the Experienced version is made of transparent plastic to represent it in its spirit form. This form is far larger than a normal wolf and in White Wolf's Werewolf: the Apocalypse RPG, this is known as the Hispo form, aka the giant wolf form. It can transform into a normal sized wolf and that is known as its Lupus form. To give you some idea of his size note that I glued him to a 25mm by 50mm cavalry base. He is about the size of a horse! Yikes!!!!
Next up is Jak-Jak the Wolf Boy. This figure came in the Horrorclix expansion set - Freak-show. The Veteran version was given the name Jak-Jak but the Rookie and Experienced versions were just called Wolf Boy. He is tiny and if he wasn't crouching atop a stool could easily be overlooked. There is a chain around his left ankle which is secured to the floor. I guess the Freak-show owners don't trust him to roam free. In case you were wondering, that's not blood on his shirt but a red tie.
The female werewolf is called Lupina and she was also part of the Freak-show expansion set. It is interesting to compare her with the SLAP Minis female werewolves. Lupina is much sturdier and muscular. She also looks far more menacing and deadly. Her sports bra survived her transformation into werewolf form; the only piece of clothing that did. Note her ponytail. I do like her colouration. The pale brown colour is unusual but works well on her. She is my favourite figure out of this group.
Finally, we have Werewolf Orderly, who appeared in The Lab expansion set. It isn't clear from my photos but he is carrying a clipboard in his right hand. It is not hard to guess what happened to him. He must have got bitten whilst tending to a patient. Come the next full moon he turns into a werewolf. Bummer! He has been sculpted in a very animated running pose.
As I said before, the Horrorclix range has been out of production for quite a few years now. However, these figures do crop up on e-Bay and certain figure stores.

Just to prove I have not totally forgotten my main love of gaming - zombie apocalypse games - I was recently contacted by Ed Teixeira of Two Hours Wargames, asking me if I could post this video link on my blog to help promote the new ATZ-FFO board-game called ATZ-Reloaded.
Ed is working in conjunction with Lock and Load Publishing on an updated version of the ATZ board-game to bring it more in line with the ATZ-FFO rulebook. I have the original version of the board-game and felt it was very much ATZ-Lite. It was a lot like ATZ but not quite right. I've seen a rough draught of the new game and I can confirm that the new game is much improved and far more in line with the skirmish game rules. This is the version that Ed has always wanted to produce and any fans of ATZ will appreciate how seamlessly it ties in to the miniatures rules. I can't wait for it to be released.