Grimdark Future: The Infected City

Comrade Patrick shares a battle report of last weekend’s game of Grimdark Future Firefight! We had four players forming two teams with 600 pts per side – quite a Sunday afternoon brawl!

We’ve been dipping a toe into the wonderful, rules-lite world of One Page Rules lately, and I finally had an opportunity to take some photos and do a writeup. One Page Rules publishes Grimdark Future, a fantastic fast-playing game inspired by Warhammer 40,000 (but minus the codex creep and insufferable meta that has come to […]

Grimdark Future: The Infected City

Alien Hunter Inquisitor

When I learned my friend Paul was dusting off his Tyranids for this game, I chased my muse and made an Alien Hunter Inquisitor for the occasion.

No sense dressing up fancy to wade through alien ichor

From impulse to 3d printed to painted, this guy took three evenings. He’s a trencher officer with a vampire hunter head, both from Anvil Digital. I made the base using a trick I learned from Dark Matter Workshop. To get the gross fleshy color, I painted following advice from my favorite mini painter Marco Frisoni. That basing trick was so much fun I kept going.

Alien hatchling objective markers

I have been experimenting with printing stl miniatures at reduced scales (more on that in future posts). These One Page Rules alien hives grunts came out with various limbs missing while I dialed in my supports and printer settings. Looking for an excuse to make more disgusting alien biomass bases, I snatched them up and disguised their missing bits with milliput egg pods. I love the result.

Such humble beginnings

Inquisitor’s retinue

This game marks the first time I have fielded an entirely 3d-printed force. Except for the inquisitor himself, my team came from The Maker’s Cult’s Feudal Guard range.

Did someone call the exterminators?

Check out Patrick’s report to see how they fared. One sure result: this veteran Imperial Guard player has acquired a taste for up-close melee combat. I decided this crew has too many ranged weapons, so I plan to replace the acolytes with these lovely Maker’s Cult dark techno assassins.

You know what the far future needs? More swords.

Majesticon Day 1: Nightwatch and Open Combat

Circumstances permitted me to host a two-day skirmish wargaming extravaganza! Comrade Patrick reports.

Hullo dear reader! I’m back after an uncharacteristic pause on this here blog. It’s been a busy summer without a lot of time for gaming, I’m afraid. But now that the days are getting shorter and the autumn winds are picking up, I’m once again finding some time to chuck some dice and play with […]

Majesticon Day 1: Nightwatch and Open Combat

Oathmark: Begovic spears

Months ago I laid out my plan for expanding my SAGA warband into an Oathmark army. Deciding how grow my multiples-of-four units up to multiples of five, I settled on the obvious answer: buy more Oathmark Human Infantry! I remembered how much I enjoyed assembling and painting the first box and wanted to do it again.

Ready to deploy

I really adore these sculpts. They are just the well-disciplined, miserable sods I look for in a line infantry unit. Thanks to a happy accident during assembly, my favorite one looks a little punch drunk.

He struggles to keep his guard up

I tend to experiment when painting, and rarely record “recipes,” or stick to them when I do. Matching choices I made a couple years ago for a cohesive look has become a recurring challenge for me this year. How did I do this time?

Come at me, bro

These 20 spearmen were painted in three separate batches with months or years in between. The latest batch benefits from all the speed painting tricks I’ve picked up.

I wish a chaos lord would

I can’t wait to square these boys off against whatever my buddy Comrade Patrick has in store.

Speed painting Imperial Guard: Qirkirin AAT

I came around to printing a Qirkirin Armored Assault Transport to shuttle my brave lads around the tabletop. It turned out well, so here’s how I did it. (Astute readers will notice I use this blog as the paint scheme journal I don’t keep otherwise.)

AAT in action

Basic idea

With this paint job I wanted to chase my personal Holy Grail, nailing down a bluish gray that doesn’t look boring. On this attempt, my strategy boiled down to undercoating with saturated contrasting colors, then tying them together with a desaturated gray. I also decorated key focal areas with contrasting textures and colors to draw the eye and look good. As always I was balancing speed and quality.


Since I had them to hand and like them, I used the same Molotow One4All paints I’ve been using to undercoat my IG infantry. I started with a base coat of Signal Black through the airbrush, then sprayed generously from below using Purple Violet, and from the sides and above using Petrol. For the desaturated highlights I sprayed from above a custom chromatic gray, mixed using Golden High Flow acrylics in contrasting colors – Naphthol Red Light and Phthalo Green (Blue Shade).

Custom gray and its constituent paints – PR112, PG7, and PW6

During this step I used the airbrush to simulate OSL from the headlights and high-beams, for later. I also blocked in the tires and a few other details with Secret Weapon Tire Black. I was so pleased with the result I had to leave it alone for a couple days before I had the nerve to continue.

Fresh off the assembly line

Mud spatter

This transport needed mud. I dirtied up the tires with Vallejo dark earth texture goop. To get a mud splatter effect, I thinned down Raw Umber craft paint with plenty of water and just a bit of gloss glaze medium. I flipped the model on its back and used the airbrush to spray air into a paintbrush loaded with this mixture. I tried to aim where I imagined the tires would kick up mud as they spin. After a first pass dried, I decided it was too dark and lightened the mix with a little tan for a second pass. The two tones together look better than either one might look alone.

Off-roading in progress


After panel lining with phthalo blue and black oil paints, I tried some titanium white and cadmium yellow oil paints for the headlight glow. I stippled the paint where I thought light would fall, concentrating the white nearer the lenses and the yellow farther away. Then I blended the stippled paint together using a big soft dry brush.

OSL headlight effect using oils

Forces mustering

My local gaming group will soon embark on a Warhammer 40k Crusade campaign, so lately I spend my hobby time getting a force ready for that.

First troopers deploy near an ancient tunnel created by my buddy Lawrence.
Survivors get to hose off the rear hatch afterward

A second Qirkirin just came off the printer, joining another twelve guardsmen in my painting queue. Next week will be my first game of 40k 9th edition. I’m excited to get these troopers on the table.

Speed painting Imperial Guard test models with oil paints


Marco Frisoni mini painting tutorials get me excited to sit down and try things. When he tossed out a “this is already quite interesting” remark halfway through this week’s video on oil painting, I couldn’t help but think “you’re right Marco, I should speed paint an Imperial Guard army like this!”

I’ve been orbiting the idea of rebooting my IG army for Warhammer 40k 9th edition, so I had some Anvil Digital files waiting their turn. I printed four and got started with color test models.

Basic idea

I wanted to see if I could get away with a three-step process for mass producing guardsmen:

  1. Spray acrylic primer/basecoat
  2. Cover with oil paint
  3. Remove some of the oil paint

I want to use airbrush tricks, transparency, and color theory to produce decent tabletop-quality models with little effort.


Since I’ve been a Frisoniac for a while now, I have been using Molotow One4All as my primer/basecoat since last year. I have a big bottle of black and I love it. Just last week I received an order of several other colors from the same line. Time to give them a try!

For the airbrushed basecoats, I used Petrol, Purple Violet, Sahara Beige, and Liquitex Titanium White ink.

Basecoat paints
Molotow One4All and Liquitex ink

I used Windsor and Newton Winton Oil paints for steps 2 and 3. I wanted a low-chroma appearance, so I mixed a Payne’s Gray from French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna, and an olive drab from Sap Green with just a touch of Magenta. I also used Ivory Black and Burnt Umber here and there. A few other colors and mixes I ended up not using, or using and not liking (such as the Pthalo Blue / Burnt Sienna mix).

Oils on the palette

The experiment

Step 1. I sprayed two of my test models with a basecoat of Petrol, and two with a basecoat of Purple Violet. Then, I took one of each and sprayed from above with Sahara Beige. The remaining two I sprayed from above with Titanium White. A promising start.

L to R: Petrol/Beige, Purple/White, Purple/Beige, Petrol/White

Step 2. Next, I slapped on oil paints. I tried different combinations of gray and olive drab on different elements of each figure, with burnt umber and black on things like weapons and boots. The fellow on the right in these pictures got a warm gray and a cold gray, which I hoped would look good together. I didn’t take a picture of this step, but they looked horrible as expected.

Step 3. After letting the paint set a while, I gently wiped away excess oil paint from the high parts using make-up sponges and Q-tips. Results were mixed.

Test results. The two on the left show promise.

I liked the two on the left enough to highlight with a little Titanium White. I think these will do nicely.

Role models for a whole army?

The extra highlight only took a few minutes, but if I paint 100 of these, that’s 5 hours of extra work. I think I will try one more iteration on a whole squad, something like this:

  1. Spray half with Petrol and half with Purple Violet
  2. Spray all generously from above with Sahara Beige
  3. Spray all sparingly from above with Titanium White
  4. Apply and remove oils: modified Sap Green, homemade Payne’s Gray, Ivory Black, and Burnt Umber

I suspect I will get best results by undercoating with purple for models that will have more gray parts, and undercoating petrol for models that will have fewer gray parts. I guess I’ll prove or disprove that hunch in the next test.

UPDATE: I cleaned the “failed” test models with white spirit and then repeated the base coats. After a second round of oil paints they came out nicely. Next up I need to match the basing style of the IG models I already own.

Reinforcements are on the way.

Ultimately I want to paint in batches of six, with a cycle time of one hour per batch.

Stargrave Dead or Alive: pursuit of Tamix Phage

In my first ever game of Stargrave, the crew of the Errant Wanderer chased down a bounty named Tamix Phage in a solo scenario from the free Dead or Alive mini-expansion. Dead or Alive gives rules for randomly generating various bounty hunting jobs your crew can embark on, with special rules for using decision trees to guide the actions of the bounty mark and their gang.

A showdown at the starport

Through coercion and bribery, Captain Varga Driima has finally tracked Tamix Phage to a nameless planet orbiting some backwater star. Someone has tipped her off. We find our crew having chased Phage to a small starport as she attempts to board an escape craft and slip through their grasp.

A backwater starport

I chose the starport setting based on terrain I had on hand, and rolled for a random mark and gang. The scenario generator produced a team of hard-bitten combatants. Tamix herself, described as a “Mercenary and murderer” who leaves “a trail of bodies a parsec long,” wore an alien armor suit that could take free Snap Shots at models during their own activations. Her gang consisted of a hardy mix of recruits, sentries, troopers, snipers, and a grenadier.

Tamix Phage directs a pair of sentries.

My own crew was designed for campaign multiplayer games, nimble, loot-focused, and a little tricksy. To take down a mark like Tamix Phage, I would really need to play carefully.

A costly victory

Varga pauses to watch Phage gasp a chain of obscenities between bloody coughs. When “Bounty Confirmed” chimes on his wrist deck, Delsom turns to speak, but the bark of incoming fire interrupts. The officers break into a wordless run; they’ll settle accounts back on the Wanderer.

“Bounty Confirmed”

The Reclaimers brought down their quarry, but paid dearly. Tamix Phage’s Snap Shot alone took down three crewmates, and only Captain Driima, First Mate Delsom Lang, and two other crew escaped from the starport. If this were a campaign game, the bounty payment might barely cover hiring replacements afterward (though perhaps I would have played a bit differently in a campaign game).

Triumphs and tragedies

Several moments provoked cheers and groans in this game.

On the first turn several models threw smoke grenades to screen my crew’s advance. This worked, but I got too cocky moving my Captain into one of the smoke clouds. You can’t shoot into those clouds, but you can charge into them with weapons swinging! That is precisely what the closest of Phage’s sentries did, tying up Captain Driima in close combat right away. What a disaster.


Luckily my roguish captain has a power called Quick Step. At the top of the next turn I activated that power, allowing Varga Driima to waltz right out of combat into nearby cover! My pathfinders made short work of the baffled sentry.

Why stand and fight when you can skulk and ambush?

In fact, those pathfinders accounted for most of my crew’s kills and big hits, including the shotgun blast that convinced Tamix Phage to flee the scene. Many of my “hooray!” moments resulted from their ability to move right where they were needed and then aim true (plus some dice luck, of course).


On the other hand, most of my “oh no!” moments came from Phage’s Snap Shot ability. This allows a free +1 shot at every model who activates within or moves into Phage’s line of sight. What’s the big deal, it’s just a +1 shot, right?

I kept rolling critical hits. My dice were especially manic on turn 2, where my runner’s weapon jammed, Snap Shot landed a crit and killed my hacker, and Phage dodged my pathfinder’s crit by also rolling a 20.

Phage’s corridor of death

Then there was Charlie the Chiseler, whom I dub Lucky Charlie posthumously. Chiselers get a large bonus for unlocking physical loot tokens. Charlie reached the central loot crate to open it on turn 2. With Charlie’s special bonus, I needed to roll a 7 or higher on a 20-sided die, a 70% probability.

He failed on turn 2.

He failed on turn 3.

He failed on turns 4 and 5.

By the time he succeeded on turn 6, the rest of the crew were either dead or fleeing, and the bad guys swarmed. Charlie hauled his hard-earned loot into the cover of a smoke cloud…

…which promptly dissipated.

He died on turn 7.

You had one job, Charlie.

My triumph began when Captain Driima bravely hid in a smoke cloud and blind-tossed a frag grenade at Phage. This marked the first time I had managed to hit Phage with anything, and it was solid enough to stun her. Then, after barely dodging a Snap Shot, my pathfinder managed that big shotgun hit, which hurt Phage enough to switch her from Fight to Flight.

Clever and lucky? Yes. Brave? Well…

Once Phage turned and ran, I realized I had maybe one turn to bring her down before she escaped off the edge of the table. Abandoning all caution, First Mate Lang ran headlong around the corner to face Phage’s Snap Shot. He dodged! Lang was just under four inches away. He could take a shot, but success seemed unlikely.

No time for self-preservation.

Instead, he activated his Target Designation power, hindering Phage’s ability to dodge future hits. This allowed Lang to power move just close enough to lock Phage in combat if she tried to move away. Lang would be outclassed in close combat, but at least it would slow Phage down if necessary.

Next turn, Driima rounded the same corner and dodged the Snap Shot. He had a clean shot, enhanced by Lang’s targeting projector. It came down to a single die roll, and I rolled high. Phage fell on the spot, and the job was done.

Teamwork makes the dream work.

That turn, after several turns of rolling no result for Unwanted Attention, I rolled a 20, summoning a trio of the pirate fleets’ best troops. No sense hanging around anymore. Surviving crewmates scattered to meet up at a rendezvous point and count their money.

The cavalry arrives, prompting a hasty retreat.

Frostgrave to Stargrave first impressions

The Stargrave rules provided a tense, exciting game, with lots of high-stakes rolls and surprising outcomes. Compared to Frostgrave, a few changes stood out.

Generally, armor in Stargrave is lower than in Frostgrave, and health is higher. Combined with the rules for being Stunned and Wounded, this leads to a broader range of combat outcomes occurring more frequently. In both games it seems like models can take about two or three solid hits before they go down. In Frostgrave I often feel that when getting hit a model either dies or completely shrugs it off. In this game of Stargrave, models took hits and ended up Stunned quite often, which led to being faced with more frequent puzzling decisions about what to do next.

Plenty of interesting outcomes.

I just love the Bribe power, being able to simply say “nope” and have an incoming shot automatically fail. I also love the idea of all our expendable grunts being susceptible to bribery. Of course they are.

Grenadier’s turn? Nothing a little bribery won’t fix.

Power moves solve something that bugs me about Frostgrave. I tend to build fast, nimble teams focused on getting treasure and getting out quick and clean. In Frostgrave that often means my wizard falling behind my thieves and treasure hunters. Being able to activate a power and still move a little bit helped my Captain and First Mate feel more dynamic and center stage. I prefer this; they’re the stars of the show, after all.

Officers staying right in the thick of things.

I cannot wait to get a Stargrave campaign going with my friends. When we do, you can bet I’ll write about it here.

See you, space cowboy

Open Combat: Ambush at the Greenfire Portal

Comrade Patrick offers another battle report, this time from our recent game of Open Combat.

John and I got together earlier this month for a quick midweek game of Open Combat. It was to be John’s first game; I had played Open Combat a few times over the last few years and found it to be an excellent rules-lite skirmish game for small scraps featuring 6-12 figures per side. The […]

Open Combat: Ambush at the Greenfire Portal

You know those models you paint because they look so cool, but you don’t have any idea what you’ll use them for afterward? Open Combat provides a cohesive, well-balanced game for using whatever fantasy models don’t see enough love on the table. This was exactly what I needed for my Wurmspat and Garruk’s Reavers WH Underworlds warbands.

Thanks Patrick for singing the ballad of our brutal clash!

Stargrave Crew: The Reclaimers

I just finished painting my Stargrave Crew! Let me show you.


In a galaxy torn apart by the Last War, vast pirate fleets roam from system to system, robbing, extorting, and enslaving. Amidst this chaos, thousands of independent operators – smugglers, relic hunters, freedom fighters, and mercenaries – roam the dead stars in small ships, scratching out a living any way they can.

Stargrave: Science Fiction Wargames in the Ravaged Galaxy

Stargrave is a narrative tabletop skirmish wargame, the sci fi successor to the popular game Frostgrave, written by Joe McCullough and published by Osprey Games. To play I needed a crew consisting of a Captain, First Mate, and up to eight crewmates.

Varga Driima, Captain of the Errant Wanderer

Varga Driima, second from left, and his assembly of skilled retainers

The Last War ruined Varga Driima’s interstellar trade empire, but his nose for opportunity never faltered. He escaped the collapse of his homeworld on the Errant Wanderer, a nimble cutter that keeps him one step ahead of trouble. Now he plies his extensive former trade network to find and gather valuable goods, information, and loyalties. He also picked up a thing or two about fighting dirty.

Delsom Lang, First Mate, pirate deserter

Delsom Lang, second from right, and his squad.

Delsom fought in the Last War and, like everyone else, he lost. After six grueling months stranded on the fallen planet Demeter III, he surrendered the remains of his squad to Wyatt Galven’s pirate fleet. Disciplined, coordinated, and professional, Delsom and his team were natural fits for Galven’s armada. They quickly found their place as a raiding party, but just as quickly found they had no stomach for Wyatt Galven’s atrocities. When circumstance and Varga Driima offered them an alternative, they took it.

The Reclaimers

A bond forged in adversity.

Since joining forces, Varga and Delsom have formed a close bond of friendship. The crew works together like they’ve trusted each other for years. With a little luck, perhaps they’ll carve out a sliver of peace together in the Ravaged Galaxy.

The Reclaimers

These ideas grew together in spurts over the course of a couple months. I’m thinking of doing a follow-up post about it. Would you be interested in reading more about the creative cycle I undertook to develop this crew? Please say so in the comments.

Frostgrave: The Silent Tower

My friend Patrick published a battle report from our recent game of Frostgrave. Go check it out!

(That marauding bear mauled two of my warband to death, but Elder Futhark the Sigilist didn’t mind. They’re called expendable thugs for a reason…)

The next scenario in our Frostgrave campaign was straight out of the second edition rulebook: The Silent Tower! “Frostgrave has many dangerous places, yet few are as notorious and feared by wizards as this tower. A null-field, it negates all magic, leaving spellcasters powerless and vulnerable. Only the most daring and reckless dare to venture […]

Frostgrave: The Silent Tower

Modular Frostgrave utility pieces

I built several versatile terrain pieces to supplement the standard board tiles in our collaborative modular Frostgrave terrain board. These “utility pieces” are helpful for breaking up boring flat areas, blocking line of site, providing traversal, and approximating urban features. Let me give you a tour.

The building blocks of fun

Dungeon tiles and stackers

I first learned about dungeon tiles and stackers from Black Magic Craft, but I built mine based on designs by RP Archive. I needed to fill volume fast, and RP Archive’s larger size stackers did the trick.

The popular three-inch dungeon stacker

RP Archive’s floor tile design incorporates ideas introduced by Wyloch’s Armory. They work together with other elements of RP Archive’s modular system, more of which I intend to build later.

A dungeon floor tile

I was daunted by the quantity of stackers and tiles required to fill out a 3’x3′ Frostgrave board on their own, but I like having several of each on hand when setting up a game with our other terrain. I may crank out a couple more every now and then between other projects.

Mini stackers

Though they have their place, three-inch tall dungeon stackers challenged me on a table covered with inch-and-a-half tall board tiles. I needed to scale down. I chopped up a couple in-progress floor tiles and assembled my first “mini stackers.”

Mini stackers

I love these more than I can describe. They do all the things I want utility pieces to do, and they fit and complement the other shapes of our table.

I need maybe three times the number of mini stackers I have. These will be my standard palette cleanser project for a while. They ended up similar to the original Black Magic Craft dungeon stackers, so I may also try some with those dimensions.

Scatter sticks

I made a handful of half-inch by half-inch by three-inch rectangular prisms to spruce up stairs and add cover to exposed platforms and bridges. They come in handy but they are too easy to bump and displace. I may experiment with blu-tac.

Rampart sections

RP Archive shared how to build these modular rampart sections and I couldn’t help but give them a try. They were a little fiddly to build but the result was worth it. Have you noticed that RP Archive shares good ideas?

Utility pieces in action

My favorite gaming terrain balances two goals:

  • Interesting gameplay
  • Immersive visual storytelling

I try to meet both goals by mixing elements that emphasize one or the other. These utility pieces fall firmly in the “interesting gameplay” category. I can use them to block or connect things as needed to provide the best chance of a fun game. Visually, they just need to avoid distracting from terrain in the “immersive storytelling” category.

A setup from five minutes of playing around.

I pair utility terrain with eye-catching terrain to give my friends and me the best experience I can.

Visual storytelling scatter terrain

Afterward, it stores away very nicely as I plan my next build.

What will I do with all this extra space?