Saturday, 22 July 2017

Prehistoric lady hunter

Most of us have an image that comes to mind when we hear the words 'caveman' and 'woman'.

Whether it's Raquel Welch, Daryl Hannah, or Camilla Belle, the lady in question is generally... well... pretty easy on the eyes. I'm afraid the first female to join my hunting party is a bit more like Wilma...

Wilma the Spanish Neanderthal, reconstructed by Becky Hale

Despite my other misgivings, it should be clear that I really like the Flytrap Factory 20mm cavemen, and have been using them as the basis of my hunting party. The problem is, Flytrap Factory clearly have very fixed ideas about the role of women as none of their hunters, in 20mm or in the 28mm line, are of the fairer sex. As there are no other ranges that really match the comically caricatured features of the Flytrap cavies, I decided to have a go myself and convert on of the duplicate hunters I was sent.

I started with this hirsute chap, using a small file to remove his beard, moustache and sideburns. I didn't think I would be able to manage rebuilding her nose and brows, so she was going to be stuck with them.

Then I got to  work with the Milliput. This conversion marking only the third tome I have used it. She had her chin rebuilt and pouty lips added. I tried to add some hair in front of her ears to cover up the mess left behind after the filing, some more at the back behind her bun, and rebuilt her left ear. Then, of course, boobies. Due to the overall proportions of the base model, I made them ample, is unsupported, and kept them very much G rated.

The undercoating showed just how rough the file left the face... But, at the end of the day, nothing that thickly applied paint couldn't fix. Below you can see Mrs Cavie next to Bow, my existing conversion of the same base model. I know that she is not the most feminine of miniatures, but I'm kinda proud of how well she turned out. Judge for yourself, but I think that if you didn't know, you wouldn't immediately think that these two were the same figure. No she just needs a name. Leading contenders are Frygg, Girt, Oooh or Shrub. We wont know until she starts to be played. Then the natural name will settle.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Hetairoi's hunting adventures

Edu over at Hetairoi Wargames has posted reports on his first couple of Palaeo Diet games on his blog.

Do go and see how his hunters got on with the Vanilla Skies scenario and The Power of One.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Footprints in the dust

With Palaeo Diet: Eat or be Eaten in a nice stable form, we had another play around, porting the PDEE mechanics over to a different setting, this time, a group of thieves attempting to steal from a Roman diplomat in 1st century BC Syria.

Our thieves had to enter a settlement around a rural shrine...

And pinch the bag of silver from the togate gentleman with the blonde hair. 

Then they had to escape back through the crowded market place.

Or that was the plan. It turns out that the PDEE AI mechanic which works wonders with animals, is much harder to apply to the nuances of civilians, thugs and militia. Without coming close to exploring all options, we did never the less nut out various working mechanics and talk, at length, about how NPC humans would react to someone calling out in alarm etc. In the end, 2am came sooner than a completed game...

It was an interesting exercise and might be a project worth coming back to. What it certainly did, was make us want to play a lot more Song of Shadows and Dust!

Palaeo Diet bloodbath

Palaeo Diet: Eat or be Eaten has been formatted and is currently receiving a much-needed proof read. This week we messed around with a little hunt, keeping going long after our hunters had satisfied their bellies, just to see what happened. In short, it was a bit of a bloodbath.

The layout o f the table, four hills and two patches of tricky going. Three mammoths and two boar in the center of the table. We had two groups hunters (Snogg, Dogg, Rarr and Bow top left, Ogg Idd, Herc and Tark bottom right), each consisting of a spearman with a hound, an archer and a clubman.
The early turns saw our intrepid ancestors trying to get into position. For a tribal victory we needed to secure six bulk worth of meat (i.e. kill two mammoths, or one mammoth and and a pig). Critters, should they be flushed out of terrain, would also make a welcome contribution to the tribal feed.

By the end of the first turn, Bow and Snogg, in an uncharacteristic show of team work, had already taken down one boar. By turn two, there was also a nice tasty bunny (brought down by Snogg!) to add to the pot. It looked like it was going to be a short hunt.

Herc managed to get way too close to various mammoths at various times, although they usually moved off, or trumpeted and scared him off, before he had a chance to swing his club.

Ogg wasn't so lucky. He only met one mammoth...

Herc finally landed a blow or two against one of the woolly pachyderms, while Snogg took on his second boar for the hunt. I mean, we didn't need it, but why not... the boar was there.

 Finally sick of being clobbered and stuck with arrows (from both Bow and Tark), the wounded mammoth turns on Herc and brings him crashing down. Meanwhile, someone Bow took down a second rabbit.

 It then turned and charged at Tark who was squatting at the brow of a hill...

Before turning back and charging Rarr, making contact with him, but not quite managing to insert a tusk anywhere uncomfortable. With a tremendous effort, Rarr landed a final blow, bringing the mammoth down.

Here we see the surviving hunters and their huge haul of meat. Bow and Dogg were wounded, but Snogg, Rarr and Tark survived unscathed. Herc and Ogg will be remembered fondly by the tribe. In total, a mammoth, two boar and two bunnies brought in 10 bulk. More than enough to feed the four survivors, with plenty left over for the carrion eaters!

Monday, 3 July 2017

Meet the hunting party!

From left to right: Urgg, Bow, Herc, Idd (the hound), Ogg, Fergg, Rarr, Tark, and Snogg
As we near the general release of Palaeo Diet: Eat or be Eaten, I thought I would take a moment to formally introduce the full hunting party that has been intensively hunting, gathering, and generally preyed upon during our end of the playtesting process. From left to right we have: Urgg, Bow, Herc, Idd (the hound), Ogg, Fergg, Rarr, Tark, and Snogg. All hunters are from Flytrap Factory; Bow, Herc, Fergg, Rarr and Tark are all minor conversions. The wee dog is from Black Cat Bases.

Hunting parties will normally have between two and eight members divided between the players. Each hunter chooses to carry a single tool type; either spears, a club, a bow or fire. Their chosen tool will very much impact on their approach to any given hunt. Any hunter may also be accompanied by a hound. Hounds activate in a similar way to hunters, but failed activation attempts will result in the hound disobeying instructions and (usually) being a nuisance.

Once players have a game or two under their belt, they can roll to randomly give one of more of their hunters a trait. The hunter may in fact be a gatherer, or a stalker - or perhaps they are lame or timid. Occasionally a hunting party may include a healer or a thinker; there are 18 traits in all. 

How will you put your hunting party together?

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Disappointment with Flytrap Factory

To my great disappointment, I discovered this morning that I have been kicked out of a Facebook group. Normally, this sort of thing wouldn’t annoy me, but in this instance, it has rather touched a nerve. The group in question was The Caveman vs Wild Secret Tribal Council, a closed group for backers of the Flytrap Factory Kickstarter from November 2016, Caveman vs Wild: The Big Chill.

As readers of this blog will know, I have championed Flytrap Factory since mid-last year when I started my descent into prehistoric hunting games with TUSK. The sculpting of their 20mm cavemen is, in my opinion, superb. Despite having already started developing Palaeo Diet, I did my best to promote Flytrap’s Kickstarter, my blog post on the project received over 1300 views and I also posted about it on various forums (Lead Adventure Forum, The Wargames Website and TMP).

I have never hidden the fact that I was working on a prehistoric hunting game for Ganesha Games. Indeed, I have posted on it frequently since December last year. However, while I have shared photos of my painted Flytrap miniatures to their group and on their own forum, I have always been conscious not to discuss Palaeo Diet in those places.

Never the less, back in May I discovered that I had mysteriously been ejected from the group. When I queried this with the owner of Flytrap, he claimed to not know how it had happened and suggested that it was the result of malign interference from a soured previous relationship with another wargaming company… As unlikely as that excuse sounded, I let it pass as I was keen to watch how the project developed.

It was also in May that same time that I found that my name had been omitted from the list of Kickstarter backers in the playtesting draft of the Flytrap rules – something which the owner claims to have fixed but which I can’t comment on as I have not been privy to any updated version. All I can say is that I hope he does include it as he is contractually obliged to do so given my Kickstarter pledge level.

Likewise, I let it pass without much fuss that my Kickstarter pledge was only partially completed on time (March), with the remainder only arriving this month – and then only five of the six models advertised, and those arriving not fully conforming with the advertised sculpts for the pack. I noted my disappointment, but let it go because for my purposes, I only needed three.

Now, as Palaeo Diet nears completion – it is scheduled for release next month – we were thinking about listing companies that make appropriate miniatures in the back, the same as we did with Faustus Furius. I contacted Flytrap to ask permission to list them and, as a courtesy, to allow the owner to have a look at the almost finalised rules. He was happy to receive the rules, but then asked not to be listed as a recommended company given what he saw as the inherent confusion that it might cause.

Then, I was kicked out of the Facebook group again. It was only when I questioned this (although now also ‘unfriended’), that I was provided with an explanation citing a conflict of interests and his need to protect his property as best he could. I suggested this might be something of an overreaction, expressed my disappointment, but accepted his decision. So far all correspondence had been private.

Then, a third party copied me into an open message posted by Flytrap on their group – a message to which I was given no opportunity to reply given my ejection. I repeat it in full below; the emphasis is my own, indicating aspects that I would like the opportunity to respond to after the post.

Just a small heads up, I have removed IW Nic from this group unfortunately. The reason for this was explained to him via social media message today. In a nutshell, IW Nic recently disclosed to me that he is/has penned a ruleset for Ganesha Games entitled 'Paleo Diet', a prehistoric hunting and survival game.
He explained to me in his words that there was no conflict of interest to be had. I was privy to reviewing these rules today and was a little disappointed to see more than a good number of uncannily similar concepts and processes being utilised in his system to those used in CvW.
This has put me a little on the defensive considering I want to take the time with you (my council) to really iron out everything properly and do not wish to be shunted into having to go retail release before I am good and ready just because a competitor is jumping the gun on releasing a set... I owe CvW more than the 'Johnny-come-lately' labeling it would suffer having been trumped by the competition.
The decision to let Nic go is not personal, it is however business and not only Flytrap, but all of you in the council have invested a great deal into the development of Caveman vs Wild thus far, and with so much more to come a decision had to be made.
Ganesha games is a clear and present competitor with wide scope, deep pockets and great influence. I need to make moves to protect our investment moving forward.
I do wish Nic and Ganesha all the best for the future, I just need to be a little tighter on our own developments ahead. Especially with part two in development and part three to come.
I just wanted to explain to the group personally.

1) recently disclosed to me
I might be reading into this, but to me this suggests that I had been keeping Palaeo Diet a secret. If the owner has been keeping an eye on the forums, or my own blog, he cannot have been unaware of my project. Indeed, when I offered to show him my draft last week he said that he was already aware of the rules.

2) 'Paleo Diet'
PalAeo Diet. I have nothing against Americans, but I am not one, and therefore use conventional English spelling. Pedantry? Perhaps.

3) disappointed to see more than a good number of uncannily similar concepts and processes being utilised in his system to those used in CvW.
Having seen both my rules from inception, and the playtest draft of Caveman vs Wild I can confirm that both are prehistoric hunting games where players take on the role of hunters in a prehistoric world. Both also employ an AI mechanic to regulate the actions of animals. There the similarities cease and I cannot imagine a prehistoric hunting game without these similarities.

The implication here is that I might have borrowed some of his ideas. I very much hope that is just a possible implication and not his intention. I pride myself on honesty and decency, and that sort of thing is beyond the pale.

Palaeo Diet embraces an AI mechanism that evolved from the one used in TUSK by Wessex Games. This is integrated into a simplified version of the Ganesha Games core mechanic that I developed for Faustus Furius. The approach has been to keep the actions of hunters quite simple to allow for constant interactions with/from beasts without leaving the player bewildered with numerous charts. There have been a number of small changes to the Palaeo Diet mechanics as a result of playtesting, but nothing substantive since it was first sent out to testers in January. January. Five months before Flytrap’s playtest draft was made available.

4) and do not wish to be shunted into having to go retail release before I am good and ready just because a competitor
I do not see how my participation in the group could have impacted on that? We are a month away from release and Flytrap are just starting to playtest. Regardless, I have to say that feedback from other game developers – even those with potentially competing projects – has always benefitted my own rule writing.

5) and not only Flytrap, but all of you in the council have invested a great deal into the development of Caveman vs Wild thus far,
Yes. Including myself. I don’t see in what way my contribution promoting and funding Flytrap has been lessened because of my own projects.

6) Ganesha games is a clear and present competitor with wide scope, deep pockets and great influence
I believe this is something of a misrepresentation. It would be nice for Ganesha to be an apex predator in the world of gaming, and maybe someday it will be. For now, it remains a product of Andrea Sfiligoi’s passion and innovation, supported by one other person with responsibility for the small range of miniatures, and a couple of rule authors like myself who do get royalties, but primarily write because we love it.

So here we are. I still love the Flytrap sculpts. They have such great character and are a joy to paint. The customer service has been… middling. However, as I vent my spleen, I have to state, once again, how very disappointed I am with the attitude and approach taken by the company’s owner. 

Friday, 23 June 2017

More Flytrap Factory cavies

 I'm delighted to say that three more brave (if not bright) hunters are almost ready to join my tribe.  All three are from the second pack to the original 20mm hunters produced by Flytrap Factory in New Zealand (now re-branded as pygmy hunters alongside their 28mm range).

With the exception of the centre gentleman, all of  the FF cavies come armed with spears, but Palaeo Diet: Eat of be Eaten allows for four different equipment types: spears, clubs, bows and fire. Among my existing hunters, Fergg had already been modified as a fire carrier (green stuff flame courtesy of my mate Jim), and Bow had received a quick nip and tuck weapon swap, switching his spear for a plastic bow (again donated by Jim).

To flesh out my tribe a bit I wanted more variation. The big boy already carried a club, so that was great. However, seeing a hulking brute with a club made me think immediately of Herakles/Hercules. Herakles is usually shown wearing the impenetrable skin of the Nemean Lion so I wanted to do something similar here. Decapitating a Flytrap Factory squirrel-rat, and a spot of Milliput later (my first ever Milliputing!), and my prehistoric Herc has an animal skin headdress!

To the right of Herc is Tark, another archer. He has suffered the same quick knife-work as Bow and received another of the plastic bows donated by Jim. On the left is Rarr. Rarr had the base of the spear shaft and the very tip of his spear removed. Then, part of the spearhead taken away from Tark was added to make an axehead. Finally, my second ever attempt as Milliputting was perpetrated when I added some leather binding around the axehead. This not only makes the axehead look more convincingly attached to the shaft, but also obscures my shoddy joining work. Everyone is a winner!

Thursday, 15 June 2017

4th Cú Chulainn Cup

Once more, the time is nearly upon us for Northern Ireland's favourite, annual, Song of Blades and Heroes event - the Cú Chulainn Cup. 2017 marks our fourth outing of the competition, and we will again be hosted by the delightful Wee Gamers at their bunker in Whitehead, Co. Antrim.

When? Sunday 3rd September 2017, 10.00 for a 10.30am kickoff.
Where? Whitehead Primary School, 3 Islandmagee Road, Whitehead, Co. Antrim BT38 9NE.
The competition, consisting of five rounds, will be run over a single day. 
Entry will cost £7.00. 
Prizes will be provided by Ganesha Games and will be awarded to the Cú Chulainn Cup Champion and, by popular acclaim, to the ‘best’ warband.

Our previous days have been loads of fun, and with 14 entrants in last year's competition, there has also been loads of variety in warbands. From classic fantasy forces such as ratmen and orcs, to Vikings, pirates, zombie pirates, voodoo zombie pirates, Liliputians, Komodo dragons and much much more.

The lads (sadly so far it has been a male dominated affair) always face the day with good humour and sportsmanship. For several of our previous entrants, the competition was their introduction to the game, and new players are always welcome - and usually win!

As in previous years, the following rules will apply:

  • Players must use the same painted 25-28mm scale warbands in each round.
  • Warbands may be no larger than 300 points and must be legal – i.e. no more than 100 points may be spent on models with special rules which define them as ‘personalities’. 
  • Profiles for warband members may be taken the rosters within the Song of Blades and Heroes core rule book or any or its official supplements, or may be customised using the online warband builder software found on the Ganesha Games website.
  • Special rules from any of the following Ganesha Games rules are permitted: Song of Blades and Heroes (the revised rules, not Advanced SBH), Song of Wind and Water, Song of Gold and Darkness, Song of Deeds and Glory, Song of Arthur and Merlin, Song of Splintered Lands
  • Note that only the following forms of the Lethal special rule will be permitted: Lethal against Animals, Lethal against Artificial, Lethal against Magic Users (all varieties), Lethal against Undead or Lethal against a specified race (other than humans). Characters with the Assassin special rule may only be used if their combat factor is 3 or less.
  • Warbands must be submitted to the organisers at least one week prior to the competition (i.e. 27th August), at
Reports of the previous days can be found below:

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Kalydonian boar hunting with Palaeo Diet

This week I decided to play around with the Palaeo Diet rules a little bit and take them to a different setting. From the distant mists of time to the mythical past, I dug around in my box of Greek myth stuff for Of Gods and Mortals and came out with a big pig and three heroes. Welcome to the closing scene of the Kalydonian Boar hunt!

Oineus, king of Kalydon in Aitolia, west-central Greece, has offended the goddess Artemis. Forgetting to honour her at the annual harvest festival, she has sent a giant boar to ravage the kingdom, destroying its crops and vineyards. Desperate to kill the beast, Oineus has sent out to all the neighbouring kingdoms, seeking heroic hunters to bring the beast down. Prominent among the hunters who respond are Meleager, the king's own son; Atalanta, the Arkadian huntress with whom Meleager is besotted, and Peleus, exiled prince of Aigina, soon to be king of Phthia, and future father of Achilles.

Here we see the three heroes having cornered the great boar by the overgrown ruins of a temple. Meleager is in the top right corner, Atalanta among the ruins to the left, and Peleus on the hillock at the bottom left.

Meleager, son of king Oineus of Kalydon. Heir to the ravaged lands and said to be invincible until such time as a sacred log is fully burnt. Luckily for him, his mother knows of the story and keeps the log under lock and key. It'd take some truly terrible transgression (like, killing his uncles for instance) to cause his mother to put the log back into the flames. In game terms, Meleager is a hunter with a club.

Atalanta, huntress of the Arkadian wilds. Abandoned as a baby by a father who wanted a son, she was suckled by a she-bear before being found and raised by rough highland hunters. In game terms, Atalanta is equipped with a bow and has the special Hunter trait which allows her to re-roll one missed shot each turn.

Peleus, exiled prince of the island-kingdom of Aigina. He is still little more than a brooding teenager. In the game, he - like Meleager - is a hunter carrying  a club.

The boar. He's big and mean and cranky. In game terms I decided to use the Apex Predator attributes and reaction table. This meant that while he would not be hyper-aggressive, the hunters would know when they annoyed him. With a tough hide and savage, savage, tusks, the Kalydonian Boar will take some real skill to bring down.

In the opening phase of the hunt, all hunters moved cautiously. The boar's sensitive hearing picked up their approach, but, being a true apex predator, he held his ground before their advances.

As Atalanta came to the foot of the temple escarpment, the boar stirred into action, shuffling forward into the thicket to investigate the huntress. Knowing full well the threat posed by the boar, Atalanta crouched down in the tall grass, ready to ambush the beast should it emerge from the trees.

Meleager, fearing for his beloved's perfect skin, loped forward. The bear heard him, but still did nothing. 

Seeing the beast distracted, Atalanta darted forward, firing her bow at close range, but the arrows bounced off the boar's hide and landed with a 'thunk' among the thick foliage.

Now the creature burst into rage-fueled action, savagely swinging it's tusks and goring into Atalanta's shapely calf. Even out of sight beyond the thicket, Meleager died a little bit on the inside. His love's shapely calves were a true marvel to be hold and he was sure he just heard one of them being gored! 

Dashing in to save the rest of her, Meleager entered the thicket and struck the first telling blow against the beast. It's blood pulsed out onto the undergrowth and the rage in its beady eyes intensified.

Hearing the squeals, first from the girl, and then from the beast, Peleus stalked forward in his own attempt to bring the boar down. The giant beast heard his approach and charged, meeting the young prince on the edge of the thicket and ripping a great gash into his princely side. Meleager heard the commotion, but felt nothing...

The boar bellowed in rage and its rank spittle covered Peleus' face, moments before he strategically backed away. Atalanta was not to be put off though and sprung forward, jamming one of her arrows into the side of the predator's thick neck.   

As it squeeled in pain, Meleager advanced once more, swinging his sword to attack but getting it lodged in a tree trunk. As he struggled to get it free, the boar lunged once more, lodging his own tusk, for the moment, in Meleager's thigh.

At this juncture, Peleus moodily stepped forward once again. Every being in that thicket was one bleeding. One more well timed blow from any one of the hunters could bring the beast down, but one more swing of the boar's tusks could likewise leave the hunters' limp bodies for the crows. Threatened by the approach of Peleus, the boar lashed out blindly, catching Atalanta in the small of the back and bringing her to the ground in a crumpled heap. Meleager still though she looked beautiful in a crumpled heap, but the hunt was certainly not going the way he had expected. Peleus looked dismissively at the poor huntress, took one more casual step and plunged his blade deep into the boar's massive body, puncturing its heart and killing it in an instant. 

The hunt was done. The quietly triumphant Peleus went off looking for some palace slaves to collect the boar for tonight's victory feast, while the dissolute looking Meleager knelt, silently weeping for the romance that would never be.

The game mechanics worked really well for a direct transplant into this sort of game. If I did it again, I think I would use the pack predator reaction table for the boar to make him more aggressive and much more mobile, but I'd definitely keep the apex predator attributes. The boar was certainly a tough critter to crack and it could, quite easily, have brought all three of our heroes down. There is certainly potential here to use the Palaeo Diet game engine for all sorts of different scenarios. I think it would work really well in a Song of Shadows and Dust setting, pitching a small gang of thieves or assassins against a city militia or night watch!