Tuesday, 3 March 2015

SDE Heroes 04

When my good friend, Steve, first suggested I might be interested in Super Dungeon Explore I was a bit sceptical. After all, this was fantasy gaming unlike any other I had done before. The Chibi look of the figures certainly did not put me off but I did wonder if this game could sustain my interest. So I researched the game to see what was available for it and that was when I got hooked. I discovered that there were two expansion sets available for the game - Caverns of Roxor and Von Drakk Manor. Von Drakk Manor REALLY caught my imagination in a big way and I just fell in love with it. Here were the undead as I had never seen them before - Chibi style! I had to have this set.
For those of you wondering why I have been so heavily promoting SDE on a blog devoted to all things undead then wonder no more. Von Drakk Manor is THE set that firmly ties in SDE to my blog. I'll be doing a full review of it this month, starting off with a look at the four Heroes.
At the far left is the Celestial Herald. For millennia Celestials have remained aloof from the world below. As the Dark Consul's power grows his shadow extends even across their sacred lands and at last they have begun to recognise that the threat concerns all the peoples of Crystalia. The arrival of their Heralds signals that Celestia will not submit quietly. She is quite powerful with good stats apart from Attack. No matter. She excels at ranged combat using her magic bow with a range of 6 squares. She has two very potent Special Attacks which she can use with her bow. Both cost 2 Actions to use. First up is Arrow Storm, which spreads out in a Wave before her for 4 squares in a cone that is 7 squares wide at extreme range. That can affect a LOT of enemies in just one attack. Secondly, she has Heart Seeker, which adds +1 red die to her Dex (Dex is used for ranged attacks instead of Attack) and it adds Hookshot, which allows her to shoot around corners. No hiding from this shot! Finally, she is Immune to Knockdown and she can Fly.
Next up is a human Hero - a Sister of Light. Chapter Houses for the Order of Light can be found throughout Crystalia. From their hallowed halls, paladins, priests and slayers are trained to bring light to the dark corners of Crystalia. Sisters of Light are drawn from the order's orphans who have lost their loved ones to the creatures of the night. Their unique experiences give them not only the strength to seek vengeance but the empathy to assist others in need. The Sister of Light has much in common with the Royal Paladin in that she is good in melee combat, has a very good Armour stat and can heal others with her Purification ability. She has one Special Attack - the Hammer of Judgement, which frankly, is not all that good. All it does is Push enemies away from her for one square. Meh! However, she does have one ability which is very useful against the undead - Holy. This allows her to reroll a single die when making an attack roll versus undead or demons.
Third in line is the human Hero called Von Wilding. Generations ago the Von Wilding family saw the destruction of their family estate and a curse put on their entire line by Baron Von Drakk. The family's fate was meant as a grim warning to any noble family who dared oppose the Baron. Now, sworn to the life of a slayer, successive generations of Von Wilding travel Crystalia searching for clues that will allow them to remove the curse and end Von Drakk's blighted reign over their homeland. Von Wilding has good stats across the board. He wields a whip with a Reach of 2 squares. For 2 Actions he can use Whip Master which Pacifies an opponent, meaning it can't use any Special Attack. For 1 Action he can Crack the Whip, which is not a Special Attack but which can Compel an opponent to move 2 squares in ANY direction. This is similar to the Push ability but with greater options. He is armed with 2 potions, both of which can harm opponents. Von Drakk Manor introduces a new rule to the game - offensive potions. Previously, all potions aided the Heroes in some way - now, certain potions can hurt the Consul. Finally, and I have left the best to last, Von Wilding can transform into Von Wilder, a werewolf!
Von Wilder is a Shapeshifter, specifically, a lycanthrope or werewolf. Through rigid discipline the Von Wildings seek to tame their inner beast. Though not entirely successful, they have become very adept at "aiming" their Wilder side in the right direction. Von Wilder's Attack and Armour stats are identical to that of Von Wilding, which did surprise me. I expected them to be a lot better. He is faster with a Move of 8 instead of 6 but his Will and Dex stats are lower. He is Tough and Vulnerable to Magic. Heroes who are Tough may remove a single Wound Counter at the start of their activation before any Status Effects are resolved. Von Wilder has just one Special Attack - Shag Fest. It comes with four components. It adds a +1 red die to his Attack roll; it has Sweep 1, which allows it to target the four squares in front of him; it is Dangerous, meaning it will affect any hero who is standing in the way and finally, it transmits Lycanthropy. What this means is that wounded models who are not removed from play gain a +1 red die to their Attack rolls and suffer from Vulnerable to Magic. This makes it a double-edged sword ability - both good and bad to use. Good against single wound models but bad against multi-wound models.
These figures are truly amazing sculpts, especially the Celestial Herald and Von Wilder. The Celestial Herald is literally in a kick ass pose. I was very pleased to see one of the inhabitants of Celestia make an appearance as it helps to open up the world of Crystalia.
I deliberately painted the Sister of Light's tabard in the same colours I used on the Royal Paladin's shield - white background with a gold cross. Also, just like the Royal Paladin she wears a blue cloak. I see them as coming from the same Order.
Von Wilding is a very nice figure but he suffers from the same complaint as the Deeproot Druid - why use him when you can use the much cooler looking Shapeshift version? I didn't expect to see a werewolf as one of the Heroes but they have traditionally been known to oppose vampires so why not? The figure of Von Wilder is one of the coolest figures I have ever seen and just exudes menace and power. I am not surprised that in multi-player games arguments can break out over who gets to play Von Wilder. I have read that some players feel Von Wilder is too powerful. Rubbish! No Hero in SDE can be too powerful. In the first game that I used these four Heroes they did not fare well against Von Drakk and rather surprisingly, I thought Von Wilder was the weakest of them all. He died first. Maybe I just had an off day with them. I shall try again with them and hope for better luck next time.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Vampifan's Views 61 - Monthly Musings 39

Miss Vampirella February 2015 - Arban Ornelas
This month's Vampirella model is the lovely Arban Ornelas. I mentioned last month how some of the Vampirella models got her iconic costume spot on and some didn't. Arban falls in the category of not getting it right. But it is not her fault. She was hired by Harris Comics to help promote the comic. This photo was taken at a comics convention. Harris Comics published the Vampirella comic from 1991 until 2007. They designed and provided Arban's costume and they really should have done a better job of it. The waist band is far too high up on her hips. Heck, it is so high it covers her belly button. As a consequence the gold bat logo is far too high as well. It should cover her crotch. The top half of the costume looks good but I really don't like the bottom half. Still, costume criticisms aside, I do think Arban is very beautiful and very voluptuous. I also think she was very brave to wear such a revealing costume!

Back cover of the A Touch Of Evil game
In hobby news I have been painting a bunch of figures unlike any other I have painted before. No, they are not more Chibi figures. They are 28mm scale early 19th century American adventurers. They are the heroes of a board-game called A Touch of Evil by Flying Frog Productions. You can see some of the unpainted figures in the picture to the right. I recently purchased this game after it was highly recommended to me. A lot of people have described the game as being Arkham Horror-lite. I don't see this as a bad thing. Arkham Horror is a very complex game so if I play ATOE first it will be a good introduction to preparing me for AH. Reviews of the painted figures, the game and its expansion sets will follow soon. It does feature the undead and the figures are realistically sculpted. No Chibi nonsense in these games!

Speaking of Chibi nonsense, I have been playing lots of games of Super Dungeon Explore recently. Indeed I have played more games this past month than in the whole of 2014. My New Year's resolution to play more games in 2015 is going very strong. I have been trying out various combinations of Heroes to battle the Consul. Some Heroes work together and individually better than others. Just sticking with the nine Heroes of the basic game my favourite is definitely the Hexcast Sorceress. Before I actually played the game I thought it'd be the Royal Paladin based on his stat scores and abilities. Don't get me wrong, he is a must have for any party. It is just that I have totally fallen for Miss Hexcast. I really must give her a proper name.
The stat card for the Hexcast Sorceress
When I first reviewed her I said that the Ember Mage was a more powerful mage than her. This is true. But the Hexcast Sorceress has two unique and awesome spells in her arsenal - Broken Bones and Hobbled Hands. These two spells have been the bane of Starfire, Rex and Reg in every game that I have used the Hexcast Sorceress. Here is how best to use her in a typical game. Try to keep her away from the thick of the action at all times. She is at her most effective from a distance. If ever you find a relic that adds to a character's Will score give it to her. Will is what she uses to cast Magic so try to boost that as much as possible. Twice I have been lucky enough to find a relic that added a +1 green die to her Will. When Rex or Reg or Starfire appears have her cast Broken Bones on them. Keep casting this spell until it succeeds. Why cast this spell first? Well, Fragile forces the target to discard the highest roll it makes for its Armour roll. Doing this makes the target much easier to hit for every Hero. Once you have done this then cast Hobbled Hands on the same target. With the target's defence drastically lowered this should be a lot easier to cast. Weak works in a  similar fashion to Fragile but instead it forces the target to discard their highest roll for their Attack roll. Remember the aim of the game for the heroes is not to slay all the monsters but just to slay the Dungeon Boss, which in this case is Starfire the Dragon. The Hexcast Sorceress makes that job so much easier. Oh, and her ordinary Magic is usually good enough to smite most other dungeon denizens and minions, especially so if you boost her Will score. Plus, unlike normal ranged attacks, Magic can be cast on an opponent if they are in an adjacent square. Pretty damned nifty! I think she is an absolute babe. I will leave you with this line drawing of her that I found on the internet showing what she looks like if realistically rendered. I am definitely in love with her!
Hexcast Sorceress beautifully and realistically drawn by female artist, Sionid.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Under a Graveyard Sky by John Ringo

Faith takes a breather from killing zombies.
Zombies! There's just no escaping them. I know some of you will be thinking, "thank God Vampifan has stopped doing his posts about Chibi fantasy figures!" No names mentioned, but you know who you are! Well, sorry to disappoint you but this is just a short break from my SDE stuff.
It has been a long time since I read a zombie novel. A couple of weeks ago I read a review of a zombie novel called Under a Graveyard Sky by John Ringo on Shelldrake's Zombie Wargame Blog run by my good friend Ian, aka Patient Zero, administrator of the Board of the Living Lead forum. See here - http://zombiewargame.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/john-ringos-black-tide-rising-zombie.html
Ian liked this novel because the hero was an Aussie and Ian lives in Australia. I was interested in reading it because a) it's a zombie apocalypse novel, b) I'm happy to be persuaded by other people's recommendations and c) I've read a few of John Ringo's sci-fi novels and very much enjoyed them. So I had high hopes of this novel, which, by the way, is part one of a proposed four-part series called Black Tide Rising.
The story focuses on a family of four who are well prepared for almost any disaster, including a zombie apocalypse, which they never believed would happen. Steven John "Wolf" Smith is a naturalised American citizen, former Australian paratrooper and most recently, a high school history teacher. His wife, Stacey aka "Momma Wolf" is a first class mechanic and self-professed geek. They have two daughters, Sophia aka "Seawolf," a 15-year old student, who is good looking, level-headed and intelligent, and Faith aka "Shewolf," a 13-year old firebrand who is very tall for her age and who takes to killing zombies like a duck to water. The family have a survival plan, which they employ as soon as they receive advance news of the upcoming zombie plague from Steve's brother, Tom. Tom works in a private research facility as a scientist and his company is well aware of the threat a newly discovered plague poses. The Smith family grab a boat, stock it full of supplies and head out to sea. A good plan. However, things change dramatically, when they find other boats at sea, whose crews need rescuing. Rather than ignore them they do the right thing and help them. So begins their new mission - save humanity - one boat at a time. This they do in a small way by rescuing anyone in distress at sea, as well as clearing out boats that are overrun with the infected.
Steve is an excellent strategist and a charismatic leader. Stacey excels at ship repairs. Sophia becomes a highly competent helmswoman. And Faith, well, she truly excels at killing zombies. Not only is she VERY good at killing them but she thoroughly enjoys killing them. Soon the family have a flotilla of ships under their command, which they name Wolf Squadron. Most of the world's population were wiped out by the zombie plague but there still remains pockets of humanity. The US Navy suffered catastrophic loses but many of their submarine fleet remained safe. Those in the vicinity of Steve's ragtag collection of survivors take a keen interest in what he is doing and make their presence known. I won't spoil things by saying whether they help or hinder Wolf Squadron.
The book is fast-paced, very exciting and quite humourous. John Ringo is a military veteran, so he knows the jargon and writes very believable scenes and dialogue relating to all things military. The stand out character in the book is 13-year old Faith who steals every scene she is in. Yes, she is a zombie killer par excellence, but her fight scenes are handled realistically. Personally speaking, whenever Faith appears in the book, my face just lights up. She is very much larger than life but I love her. As one Gunnery Sergeant said to her, "damn, I wish you were legal so I could ask you to marry me!" She makes a lasting impression on everyone she meets and especially on this viewer.
I am about half way through the second novel in the series, To Sail a Darkling Sea and it is every bit as good as the first novel. Book three, Strands of Sorrow is released in paperback format at the end of this month. I will be buying it on that day. This a series that I can highly recommend. I'm happy to give Under a Graveyard Sky a 9 out of 10 rating only because it ends rather abruptly, leaving you wanting more. I ordered my copy from Amazon UK, where the paperback version is currently on sale for £6.50. The Kindle edition costs £4.49.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

SDE Monsters 04 - Dragons 01

The last batch of monsters to appear in the basic boxed set of Super Dungeon Explore are the Dragonkin, led by the fearsome Dungeon Boss, Starfire. Here they are -
I'll start with two types of Drake Denizens - Hatchlings and Whelps. The game comes with two of each. I've painted one of each type differently with orange highlights and pink highlights. The Hatchlings and the Wyrmlings (see below) have two Wounds each and this helps me to identify which one has suffered a Wound.
Even the smallest of drakes can be a serious threat in numbers. Quick footed, sharp toothed and very hungry, Hatchlings swarm over anything at their height and have made more than one quick meal of a wounded Hero.
Still too young to earn their wings, Whelps must settle for chasing down their prey to make a meal. This quickly weeds out the weakest of the clutch and ensures that only the strongest will survive.
Hatchlings have rather poor stats although they do have 2 Wounds and 2 Actions per turn. Their one and only Ability is Swarm, which costs 1 Action. This gives them a +1 red die bonus to their Attack roll if the target is suffering Knockdown. You may think this is not a very useful ability but read below about Whelps.
Whelps have better stats than Hatchlings but they only have 1 Wound and 1 Action per Turn. Their Attack dice aren't too bad with 2 blue dice and 1 red die. Here's where it gets interesting for the Dragons. If the Whelp causes a Wound it automatically inflicts Knockdown. So the trick is to attack first with the Whelps then follow up with the Hatchlings.
I've left the best to last. The two Wyrmlings who come with this set are also Drake Denizens and are the best of the young Drakes. However, the star of the show is unquestionably Starfire the Dragon Dungeon Boss. He's big, powerful and a real challenge for the Heroes to defeat. He is also the best sculpted figure in the set, in my humble opinion.
Wyrmlings have so far managed to not be eaten by kin or Kobold and are nearing maturity. They wheel around the caverns and their mountain hunting grounds, on newly spouted wings, feeding on foolish trespassers.
Whilst Dragons are not uncommon on Crystalia, none inspire the terror of Starfire. From his volcanic mountain within the Dragonback Peaks he brings fire and destruction across the length and breadth of the realm. Vast herds are consumed by his appetites and entire treasures are claimed by his greed.
Wyrmlings are nasty little critters with 2 Wounds, 2 Actions per Turn and decent stats including 2 blue dice and 1 red die for Attack. They come with 3 useful abilities - Fly, Knockdown and Immune to Knockdown. Finally, they have two Special Attacks they can employ - Dive Bomb, costing 2 Actions which as well as wounding a target also Pacifies them (this prevents the target from using any Special Attack); and secondly, Swarm, costing just 1 action, which adds a +1 red die bonus to the Wyrmling's Attack roll if the target is suffering Knockdown.
Starfire comes with a frightening array of stats. Movement 6, Actions 4, Wounds 8 (yes, 8!), Attack 1 automatic hit plus 2 red dice and 1 green die (ouch!), Armour 1 blue die, 1 red die and 1 green die (that's tough), Willpower and Dexterity both have 2 red dice. His 3 Abilities are Fly, Immune to Fire and Immune to Knockdown. Finally, he has 2 Special Attacks, both costing 2 Actions. First up is  Dragon Breath which Sprays out in a cone for 5 squares and naturally sets any target on fire. That can seriously hurt a party of Heroes if they stand within that cone of fire. Secondly, Starfire can do a Tail Sweep which hits every model within 2 squares of any one of the four sides of Starfire. This causes Knockdown in addition to its Wound effect.
The first time I encountered Starfire in a game he wiped the floor with my Heroes. Since then, my Heroes have managed to defeat him. The key to defeating him is to make sure you destroy every Spawning Point on the board before he appears. Do that and the Heroes' chances of victory are greatly increased. Otherwise, Starfire gets to activate twice in a Turn and if you are a Hero, you do not want that to happen! Also, choose your Heroes wisely. There is one particular Hero who has been a major pain in the ass for not just Starfire, but also Rex and Reg. Sorry, Simon, but I'm going to tease you again. I'll tell you who that Hero is when I do my February Monthly Musings in just over a week's time. See if you can guess who he or she is.
Finally, here is a group shot of all the Dragons. Starfire is a such an impressive figure, isn't he? Now I have a confession to make - I love dragons! I have quite a few figures of them in my collection and a few are a lot larger than Starfire. No matter, I still love this figure. He has been beautifully and cleverly sculpted. I say "cleverly" because the way he is crouching over that rocky outcrop greatly reduces his footprint, reducing the amount of space he takes up on the board. His wings point upward, which also helps reduce his footprint, making it easier to fit other figures around him. Clever design! I also like the fact that Starfire has not been sculpted as a Chibi character but as a realistic looking dragon. You could use Starfire in practically any fantasy game and he wouldn't look out of place. How cool is that?

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

SDE Monsters 03 - Kobolds 03

The last two Kobold types I want to review here are the most powerful of the Kobolds. They are the Dragon Priests and the Kobold Ogres.
Dragon Priests are Kobold Minions and the boxed set of Super Dungeon Explore comes with two of them. To help differentiate between them I have painted one with red skin and the other with grey skin. I have also given them different coloured clothing.
Often leaders of warbands in the deep dark, Dragon Priests are granted arcane powers by their close communion with the dragon, Starfire. Once bestowed these gifts they never hesitate to use their favour to bully and cajole the lesser Kobolds into fighting for them.
Dragon Priests come with a good set of stats. Their four main stats (Attack, Armour, Will and Dex) all use two dice, usually 1 blue and 1 red, although Attack only uses 2 blue dice, which isn't as good. Still, these are not meant to be front line fighters. They work best supporting their colleagues from afar. In addition they have 3 actions per Turn and 3 Wounds. Not bad at all!
As you might expect, their main offence comes from Magic, and with a range of 8 squares that makes them as good as most Magic-wielding Heroes. If they do get close in, they also have the Mob ability, which is common to all Kobolds. They have two Augment spells that can help their comrades - Dragon Rage and Shadow Breath. Dragon Rage affects all allies within 3 squares and grants them a +1 blue die to their Attack rolls. Shadow Breath has an even larger range of 5 squares and grants all allies within range the Stealth ability. Stealth works like this - when a model with Stealth is targeted by a ranged effect they may immediately make a DEX roll. Subtract the number of stars rolled from the attacker's range. If the  roll causes the attacker to be out of range the attack is considered to have failed.
The Kobold Ogre is a Mini-Boss, second in command of the Dungeon Boss. The game comes with two of these fearsome monsters. The game designers have named him Rex, but I thought they can't both be called Rex, so Rex is the red skinned Kobold Ogre and I have named the grey skinned Kobold Ogre, Reg. Rex and Reg are twins, despite their different colouration.
Rex and Reg have collected more than a few new friends since going to work in the Consul's dungeons. Most are unwary adventurers not quite quick enough to get out of the reach of their enthusiastic hugs.
Mini-Bosses are very tough!  Rex and Reg have 5 Wounds, 3 Actions per Turn and excellent Attack and Armour stats - 2 blue dice and 2 red dice for Attack and 2 red dice for Armour.  Because of their huge size they have a Reach of 2, allowing them to attack targets up to 2 squares away. Also, because they are part Kobold, they have the Mob ability.
Rex and Reg come with three offensive abilities, which in order of power are Rex/Reg Smash, Rex/Reg Cuddle and Thwomp. Rex/Reg Smash costs 3 Actions to use but causes Massive Damage, which grants him a +1 green die to his Attack rolls. Ouch! Rex/Reg Cuddle costs 2 Actions to use and if successful causes the target to be Immobile and Weak. Finally, Thwomp, which costs just 1 Action, can push a target up to 5 squares away if successful. Most times this won't be very useful but if there is a lava pit, for example, behind the Hero then it might be worthwhile using.
As promised here is a group shot of all of my SDE Kobolds with the grey-skinned Kobolds to the left and the red-skinned Kobolds to the right. You can see from this photo just how tall the Kobold Ogres are. Rex and Reg should be in the second row from the front, along with the Gougers, as they all have Reach 2 abilities. The Ironscales and Knuckleheads should always be at the front of any attack. Keep the Flingers and Dragon Mages to the rear if you can as they work best from a distance.
Next time I'll be reviewing the last of my Monsters from the basic SDE boxed set - Dragons! Yes, I'm keeping the best to last.