Nov 12, 2018

Lotr LCG: Thy kinsfolk wander afar


John Howe: Descent into Rivendell, no date given

**

Back in 2016, we had a couple of friends coming over to try the Lord of the Rings living card game for the first time, and I wanted to build them some decks to choose from. One of them was a Dúnedain deck I pretty much threw together on the spur of the moment from cards we had that nobody was using at the time; I'd used Beravor before in my first deck ever, but other than her, I had practically no experience with the Dúnedain archetype. This was what I came up with:

50 cards; 31 Leadership, 16 Lore, 3 Tactics; 21 allies, 17 attachments, 9 events, 1 side quest. Starting threat 30.

Amarthiúl (TBoCD)
Halbarad (TLR)
Beravor

Allies: 23 (14/6/3)
Eldahir (TTitD) x2
Dúnedain Watcher (TDM) x3
Guardian of Arnor (TBoCD) x3
Son of Arnor x3
Weather Hills Watchman (TLR) x3
East Road Ranger (TWoE) x3
Sarn Ford Sentry (TLR) x3
Dúnedain Hunter (TLR) x3

Attachments: 17 (11/6)
Heir of Valandil (TLR) x2
Dúnedain Mark (THfG) x3
Dúnedain Quest (AJtR) x3
Dúnedain Warning (CatC) x3
Forest Snare x3
Athelas (TLR) x3

Events: 9 (6/3)
Descendants of Kings (EfMG) x3
Fresh Tracks (TLD) x3
Expecting Mischief (OHaUH) x3

Side quests:
Scout Ahead (EfMG)

**

This deck actually made its first outing at the hands of a new player, and I was surprised at how succesful it was. We breezed through Passage through Mirkwood, but a four-handed attempt at Into the Pit turned into a grueling, multi-hour slog through a gigantic pile of locations and an even larger horde of goblins. After a near-disastrous initial staging, we got much further than I ever expected before threating out in the second quest stage. In both quests, the Dúnedain more than pulled their weight, so I think I managed to accidentally create a working deck!

Now that I'd actually seen the deck in action, a couple of thoughts struck me. Seeing as how they need to stay engaged with enemies and therefore have to defend regularly, at least until you can get some enemies snared, it occurs to me that A Burning Brand might be a really good idea, along with Song of Wisdom, which would also add some resource smoothing. I've also got a spare copy of Armored Destrier hanging around, and since every hero is a ranger, Wingfoot would also fit in quite nicely.

53 cards; 32 Leadership, 15 Lore, 3 Tactics, 1 neutral; 23 allies, 22 attachments, 6 events, 1 side quest. Starting threat 30.

Amarthiúl (TBoCD)
Halbarad (TLR)
Beravor

Allies: 23 (14/6/3)
Eldahir (TTitD) x2
Dúnedain Watcher (TDM) x3
Guardian of Arnor (TBoCD) x3
Son of Arnor x3
Weather Hills Watchman (TLR) x3
East Road Ranger (TWoE) x3
Sarn Ford Sentry (TLR) x3
Dúnedain Hunter (TLR) x3

Attachments: 23 (12/10/1)
Armored Destrier (TotD)
Heir of Valandil (TLR) x2
Roheryn (TFotW) x2
Dúnedain Remedy x3
Dúnedain Warning (CatC) x3
Rune-master (ASoCH)
Forest Snare x3
A Burning Brand (CatC) x2
Athelas (TLR) x3
Wingfoot (TNiE) x2
Song of Wisdom (CatC)

Events: 6
Descendants of Kings (EfMG) x3
Fresh Tracks (TLD) x3

Side quests:
Scout Ahead (EfMG)

**

In this form, the deck was succesfully employed by a new player on, of all places, a Sweden boat, where I introduced two new players to the game with Passage Through Mirkwood.



It was a success, in that we beat the quest, but also in that as near as I could tell, everyone enjoyed themselves. So both new players I gave the Dúnedain deck to liked it. I guess the theme of engaging enemies is easy to take to, but I also enjoyed playing it, so maybe this is just a good deck type!

**

So that's the lesson here, I guess: Dúnedain decks are fun! Try one.

Nov 5, 2018

Let's Read Tolkien 50: Flotsam and Jetsam

Gandalf and the King's company rode away, turning eastward to make the circuit of the ruined walls of Isengard.

As the Riders of Rohan leave, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas stay behind at the gate-house, where Merry and Pippin serve them a meal from Saruman's captured supplies, and they catch up. There's even pipeweed, and Pippin wins Gimli's eternal gratitude by giving him his spare pipe - because of course a hobbit has a spare pipe.

The hobbits and the Three Hunters exchange stories of their pursuit, and Merry and Pippin tell about their time with the Ents, and narrate the Ents' attack on Isengard for our benefit. The hobbits had watched as Saruman commits a rookie War of the Ring error in emptying out Isengard even though there are Companions in Fangorn, and while the Huorns - like feral Ents - went after the orc army, the Ents smashed their way into Isengard and drove Saruman to hide in the tower of Orthanc. Once Isengard has been wrecked, Gríma Wormtongue shows up, and Treebeard sends him on to Saruman's tower. The hobbits are then left at the gate-house to await the King.

Finally, Aragorn, bothered by the barrels of pipeweed from the Shire, makes a prophecy: "Wormtongues may be found in other houses than King Théoden's."

**

Geez, 50. Back in November 2013, when I was a second-year theology student, I wrote about a very proper gentlehobbit having his house crashed by a party of dwarves.

As it happens, this chapter is also a meal featuring dwarves and hobbits, and not really that much else. One of the problems of reading a book you know by heart is that it's difficult to judge how effective some of the literary gambits are; much of the effect of Tolkien's changes of perspective is lost when everyone knows the story. Still, the reunion of the hobbits and the Three Hunters in the ruins of Isengard is memorable, and the pacing of the story works: this is a little interval between the climactic battle of Helm's Deep and the following chapters, which begin to set up the next major section of the plot.

In my mind at least, there are two reasons why Tolkien chose to tell the story of the Ents' assault on Isengard through the hobbits: it fits with the lowered tension of the story, and preserves a little more of the mystery of the Ents. Hearing everything at second hand leaves them at a bit of a distance, and I think it works.

Finally, Tolkien's theology of luck also rears its head here, in a remark by Gimli. I mentioned the concept way back when Bilbo met Gollum, and discussed one sense of it in Chapter III: luck as providence, Eru/God intervening in the world. Here we have a glimpse of his other idea of luck: one where luck is something you make or at least grasp for yourself. A northern theory of luck, if you will.

"The cutting of the bands on your wrists, that was smart work!" said Gimli. "Luck served you there; but you seized your chance with both hands, one might say."

This idea is a complement to the notion of luck as divine intervention: whether God stoops down to arrange matters for you or not, what's important is that you grasp the opportunity. This is a similar idea to Richard Simpkin's concept of luck management, and even has shades of the New Age-y idea of affirmations peddled by cartoonist Scott Adams in the Dilbert Future - one of the first strong signs that he was going round the bend. In this context, it's another tension between the Christian and pagan elements of Tolkien's creation.

Next time: a parley.

Oct 8, 2018

Let's Paint Star Wars: Rebellion

They had more than a hundred ships in their following when they sailed into the harbor of Aldiranborg, and the entire harbor was full of Norwegian warships as far as men could stretch their eyes.
- Tattúínárdǿla saga, Chapter 28: Concerning the Burning of Aldiranborg


I previously talked about how much we enjoyed Star Wars: Rebellion. One of its attractive features is the miniatures, which really contribute to the feel and theme of the game. Below are all the models from the base game and the Rise of the Empire expansion (as well as some Armada models, but ignore those), and, well, there are several.


I'm going to paint them! Or at least some of them.

Painting miniatures isn't just an aesthetic thing: it's a lot easier to tell different miniatures apart and spot them on the board or table if they're even rudimentarily painted. The Rebellion board is mostly black, like our TV table above; the white rebel miniatures stand out quite well, while the grey Imperial models tend to blend into the background and each other, forming a grey mass where it can be difficult to tell how many and what kind of miniatures there are. So if I'm going to paint something, I should start with the Imperials, and especially the smaller models.

Another angle is figuring out where you get the greatest return on investment. Most of the Imperial starships are grey, and you could paint them... well, grey. I think my last priority would be painting the Death Stars, as it just doesn't seem necessary. However, it's almost miraculous what you can do to a drab plastic model if you make it a nice base! So infantry models with bases tend to offer the best return on investment; I'm especially looking at the stormtroopers here. However, I also read a very clever blog post on how to paint TIE Fighters easily, and that also represents a considerable return on investment, since there are 24 of them!

So, based on this logic, I'm going to start by painting the stormtroopers and TIE Fighters. Because I've got the expansion unboxed as well, I'm also throwing in the TIE Strikers and assault tanks, because the same painting logic should work for the Strikers as for the Fighters, and I like tanks.


So here's what I did!

**

1. TIE Fighters and Strikers

I'm trying r2eq's method, which seems wonderfully simple - something you want when painting two dozen tiny models!

Phase 1: black primer


I used Army Painter matt black primer, and did the Death Star bases while I was at it. The primer was excellent; I highly recommend it.

Phase 2: drybrush the hull with Neutral Grey


Apart from the spray primers, I exclusively use Vallejo paints. A Neutral Grey drybrush paints the hull while leaving the cockpit windows and engine exhaust black, which is perfect.

Phase 3: paint the "spokes" and edges of the panels Neutral Grey


And that's it! Spray on varnish and it's done.

2. Stormtroopers

Phase 1: white primer


The Army Painter white primer is every bit as good as the black. Very satisfying finish.

Phase 2: bases


Like I said, bases are an easy way to make models look so much better! I knew from the outset that I didn't want to paint up 30 identical stormtroopers, so I went trawling through Wookiepedia for different paint schemes, and figured out appropriate bases for each. I did about half in Basalt Grey, which I think is a neutral enough color that can represent, say, rock or the deck of a starship. It's dark enough to be a good contrast for a light miniature, but not black enough to look like the poor guys are standing on empty space when you put them on the board. The sand-colored bases in the middle are German Camo Orange Ochre; the light green ones are, well, Light Green; and finally the dark green bases are German Camo Bright Green.

Phase 3: black details


You can do all sorts of complicated things with inks here if you want, but I just straight up painted the eye slots, guns and leg joints black. You can apply paint fairly liberally, as it can be painted over in the next phase.

For one group of stormtroopers, black details meant literally everything except two dots of Fluorescent Green per model: Krennic's Death Troopers.


Yes, they have black armor and black guns. Yes, it will be impossible to see them on the board. No, I was not in charge of wardrobe for Rogue One, so it isn't my fault. I liked the movie, so I wanted the Death Troopers to be represented among my models.

Phase 4: paint the armor your chosen color

For your basic stormtroopers, this simply means giving the white armor parts a coat of white paint, and you're done! If, like me, you suck at painting, this is a perfectly acceptable level of detail to shoot for.


Or choose a different color! I also painted up some crimson stormtroopers because apparently they canonically exist; I chose them to evoke the (in my mind nonsensically named) Emperor's royal guard. The color is Vallejo Scarlet.


Finally, going through stormtrooper subtypes on Wookiepedia taught me that such things as forest troopers exist; as a published forest history researcher, how could I resist? Instead of painting the armor white, I gave them a coat of Luftwaffe Camo Green.


Phase 5: apply armor markings

Like I said, I wanted variety in my stormtroopers and looked through Wookiepedia for some paint schemes. Below are two simple ones: the guys with red markings (plain Vallejo red) are Imperial shock troopers, and the ones with blue shoulder pads are stormtrooper snipers (Deep Sky Blue).


Phase 6: finish bases and varnish

When all the various paint schemes were done, I gave all the stormtroopers a coat of Gloss Varnish, and then set out to finish their bases. The basic stormtroopers, snipers and crimson stormtroopers got a simple Basalt Grey base, which I think kinda works for contrast.


The shock troopers' bases are German Camo Orange Ochre, with sand stuck on and painted Tan Yellow.


The forest troopers' bases were simply flocked.


For the Death Troopers, I wanted to evoke the scene at the beginning of Rogue One where they're fetching Galen Erso from Lah'mu, so I glued some larger flock to their bases, and I think it worked all right:


So here they all are!


I am just absolutely delighted with the way these turned out.

3. Tanks

I took the easy route with the tanks: I primed them white with the stormtroopers, and then painted two of them Neutral Grey. Two others got a coat of Luftwaffe Camo Green to match the forest troopers, and the last two were done in Tan Yellow to go with the shock troopers' sand bases.


I'm unsure whether to do more with them or not; in my opinion, a simple coat of paint makes them look like combat vehicles.

4. Captain Phasma

Apart from painting up different kinds of stormtroopers, I also knew I wanted to do something special. Now, I didn't particularly like the new trilogy, but it did have some excellent characters, and even though I'm sure it's a horrible anachronism, I wanted to include my favorite: Captain Phasma. I mean basically, she's a stormtrooper with a cloak. So I found some antique green stuff I had lying around, and made a cloak:


I rolled out an approximately cloak-sized chunk of green stuff and tried to make it look like it flows off her shoulders like her cloak does in the movies. She was then primed white with the other stormtroopers.


I gave her a Basalt Grey base and painted the edges of the cloak with Red.


The rest of the cloak, the armor joints and eyes were painted black.


Here's a view of the cloak from behind; I think it looks great!


Finally, the armor was painted in Natural Steel (whatever that is!), which I think turned out to be absolutely perfect. Here she is hanging out with the Death Troopers, because I was finishing them at the same time. The armor was varnished with Gloss Varnish, and the cape and gun with Matt Varnish.


I couldn't be happier with my Phasma! I've done my share of conversions on 28mm models, but never on anything this small, and I've rarely done anything with green stuff - never anything this substantial. So I'm absolutely delighted. I think this is the best model I've ever made: certainly it's the one I'm most proud of.

**

So that was the first batch of models!


They've made a significant dent in the sea of grey that is the Empire, but there's still lots of work to do!


I was working under a time constraint when I painted the first miniatures: everything had to be ready to be packed away by the time we left to spend Midsummer in the country. I think the stormtroopers and TIE Fighters looked great!


For the next batch, however, there's no rush at all, which means I could look into painting some rebel infantry. The rebel troopers are the biggest group of unpainted models left, and while I'm at it, I might as well paint the vanguards from the expansion too.

The next most common model remaining is the Y-wing, which I accept is a thing that exists in the Star Wars universe, but that's pretty much the extent of my feelings towards it. You can see why I started with the Imperials. Speaking of whom, there are also ten AT-STs.

Finally, in recognition of the glorious victory of Malastare in our first game ever, where the Emperor defeated the revolution using only a single assault carrier, I'll be painting the assault carriers as well.

Therefore, batch 2 consists of 21 rebel troopers, 6 rebel vanguards, 12 Y-wings, and 10 AT-STs and 8 assault carriers; everything's getting primed white.


5. Rebel scum troopers and vanguards

I was kind of struggling to come up with ideas to paint my rebel troopers, other than the basic Alderaanian consular security look. The Rogue One visual guide was a great help and inspiration here; I quite liked the ramshackle but very military look of the rebel troops in Rogue One, and it inspired me to put in a little effort with my troopers. I therefore painted up a bunch in their mixed greens, browns and blues. The blue is Dark Blue, the greens variously Luftwaffe Camo Green, Medium Olive and German Camo Bright Green, and the browns include German Camo Orange Ochre and Stone Grey.


Of course, I did some Alderaan guys as well. The shirts are Dark Pale Blue (surely an oxymoron?), the pants Neutral Grey and the helmets Ivory. I also painted two figures as rebel honor guards, with Luftwaffe Camo Green uniforms and Ivory helmets.


Another group was modeled on the Endor strike team from the movies; the green is USA Uniform drybrushed with Light Green, and the vests Neutral Grey.


To add a little color, I painted three figures as rebel pilots, with Orange flight suits and Ivory helmets and vests.


Finally, I wanted to do something a little special with my rebel troopers as well. One paint scheme for the troopers that suggested itself was the Hoth snow camouflage; but if I was going to do that, what do I do with the base? Plain white doesn't usually look great on a base, as it just tends to look unpainted. Then it occurred to me that a friend of mine has glitter paint! Or to be specific, pearlescent acrylic, but y'know, it glitters! So I had to try it.


And it worked! The mix of ink and Matt Medium doesn't glitter much, but it does give the bases a kind of, well, pearlescent hue that's easily the best snow effect I've ever managed to produce.


6. Y-wings

The Y-wings ended up becoming the testbeds for my rebel paint scheme ideas, and I think they turned out all right. First, I painted the engine bays and cockpit window black.


Then the hull was given a coat of Ivory, and the rods on the nacelles were painted Gunmetal Grey. I then did the squadron markings: three Y-wings each from Red, Blue, Green and Gold squadron.


I wasn't entirely happy with the Gunmetal Grey, as I think it ended up being too dark, so I gave those bits and the protrusions on the rear part of the hull a little highlight in Natural Steel, and painted the cables (?) coming off the nacelles with Copper. I also dabbed just a tiny amount of Natural Steel on the front of the nacelles. Finally, the whole model was given a wash of thinned-down Smoke to give it a slightly dirty, worn look.


I absolutely love the way these turned out! I wanted them to be a kind of slightly dirty off-white color to really contrast with the clean grey of the Imperial models, and the Ivory-Smoke combo worked brilliantly. I'll be painting all the rest of the rebel small craft with the same scheme.

7. AT-STs

These guys were easy to paint: I painted the legs with Dark Seagreen, and then did the top bit in Neutral Grey and gave the legs a light drybrush with the same. They were based to match the various stormtrooper bases, plus a pair in white and glitter.


8. Assault carriers

These are some of the easiest models I've ever painted. First, I gave them a coat of Dark Seagreen:


Followed by drybrushing with Neutral Grey.


I quite like the end result, so I'm sticking with it. I'm kinda tempted to just do the star destroyers the same way.

**

So here's batch two in its finished glory:


I actually got through these figures so fast that I still had time for another batch before our next trip to the country. Now that I have a paint scheme for the rebel fighters, I feel like I have to paint up the X-wings as well; after all, they blew up a Death Star for me! While I'm at it, I might as well do the airspeeders and U-wings as well, to finish all the rebel small craft.

On the Imperial side, the AT-ATs are the last unpainted Imperial ground units, and I'm going to try the assault carrier paint scheme on the Interdictors because we haven't got as far as using the expansion yet, so if it doesn't work out I'll have time to fix it. Finally, I think I discovered the perfect blues for a super star destroyer? Only one way to find out!

**

9. X-wings, U-wings and airspeeders

I used the same method as with my Y-wings, starting with painting the cockpit windows, guns and what have you in black.


I then did the metal bits in Gunmetal Grey, painted the hull Ivory and added squadron markings:


And finally, a wash of watered-down Smoke ink.


10. AT-ATs

These big boys got a base coat in Dark Seagreen, and I then painted the large surfaces on the hull with Neutral Grey. It's a bit dark grey perhaps, but I'm happy with it.


11. Interdictors

To test the assault carrier scheme, I painted the three Interdictors with Dark Seagreen, and then drybrushed with Neutral Grey. This, I think, turned out too dark.


Drybrushing with Light Grey, however, worked!


12. Super star destroyers

My super star destroyer paint scheme was very simple: basecoat in Dark Blue, followed by drybrushing with Dark Blue Pale. I think it's perfect.


**

So, with the Interdictors set aside for the moment, here's the finished third batch of miniatures.


The big picture is also starting to look a whole lot better.


At this point, I set off for the country again, and I can't go on without praising the Feldherr foam trays my friendly local game store sold me. Look at them!


Everything fits brilliantly and travels safely.


There's even spaces for all the cards, counters and dice.


These were fairly cheap where I got them, and I definitely recommend them, especially if you have to move your game around at all.

**

That's what I've managed so far! I'll be finishing the starships and ground installations over the winter, so hopefully by next year, I'll have a fully painted set of miniatures. These models have been lots of fun to paint; I have a feeling I'm going to need another painting project when this is done...