Thursday, 30 June 2011

Duck, You Sucker!

So, I finally get around to Island of the Lizard King.

All I wanted was a little holiday, a little sunshine down by the seaside. I was going to drop in on my old mate Mungo, do a little fishing, drink the local booze, and maybe chase some girls.

Instead, I died, knee-deep in slime as I fought a hopeless battle against the SLIME SUCKER. Skill 10? Yeah, but deduct 2 from your own Attack Strength, so if we weren't interested in mechanically representing the combined effects of fatigue and fighting in a bog, it really is Skill 12. Maybe if I had drunk my Potion of Luck (my potion of choice in FF character creation) a section or two back I might have been able to Test my Luck through the battle. But having given a bunch of my Provisions to some old crazy up in a tree, and eaten another hearty meal after fighting the GIANT CRAB, I was only going to stumble, low on Stamina, through the jungle of Fire Island, until something whittled away the last few points.

I had very fond memories of Island of the Lizard King. It was one of the few FF gamebooks that I had completed as a boy. But now I found it all a little flavourless. The encounters had no zip, no zest. There was nothing odd, weird, interesting - and I guess that is the lesson; when designing wilderness adventures, an array of 'GIANT' versions of ordinary creatures are, by themselves no substitute for the range of encounters that might populate a dungeon, or Port Blacksand, say. Encounter-wise, the jungle of Fire Island has nothing on the Forest of Doom, let me tell you.

Or maybe my adventurer died too early in his adventure.

The poster, by the way, is for a fun, often missed Sergio Leone Western, in which James Coburn plays an Irish revolutionary with an unhealthy obsession with dynamite.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Miniature Throng

Here's some old metal Dwarfs - most of them pre-slotta. If anyone can put years / catalogues to these figures, I'd be very grateful. I know the one on the left at the back is the Magnificent Sven, but the others...?

I'm not the best miniature photographer, nor am I the best painter. And my choice of dark reds, brass, and browns really isn't the most striking.

And why am I such a fan of these old metals? No, that's a real question. I can't answer it. They are fiddly to paint, and they are never in the best condition after sitting in someone else's cupboard for over 20 years. But there is just something that gets me going. Perhaps it is because miniatures of this vintage aren't the overblown superheroes that contemporary miniatures so often are. When I painted the eyes on these guys, it turned out that half of them look terrified. And so they should be - what might be charging at them? Giants? Wyverns? Chariots full of skeletons? Whatever it is, chances are that it is taller!

Monday, 13 June 2011


I'm not the first. I won't be the last. My retro-gaming has reached another obvious waypoint. Bringing back Heroquest.

Hippy wigs in Woolworths? In 1989 you could by fantasy adventure games, set in the Warhammer universes - Heroquest is explicitly set in the Old World - and stuffed with Citadel Miniatures, in WH Smiths! A high watermark of fantasy gaming's penetration of popular culture?

And what a bargain the game looks now - 35 plastic Citadel Miniatures and a set of tough cardboard and plastic dungeon furniture would set you back a good wodge these days. Even given the fact that the game is long out of production, given that a good quality new boardgame can easily set you back £50 (and one with this many plastic components certainly would), the prices that are being asked on eBay for complete sets in good condition don't look too bad at all.

If you believe the pictures on the box, there's enough detail on miniatures to paint them up to a perfectly decent standard. That hasn't stopped me deciding that my next project (to join my Dwarf WFB army, by Beastmen WFB army, and my Ork 40K (Rogue Trader) platoon - just three reasons why this blog has been 'on holiday') is to 'metal up' Heroquest. That doesn't mean playing late-1980s Iron Maiden to really get the period feel - although that is also the plan - it means slowly acquiring and painting metal alternatives to the plastic miniatures in the box. I picked up a few 1985 and 1987 Citadel Goblins, and later in the week Jes Goodwin's classic Chaos Warriors should be arriving. Now I just need to get painting, and posting up the results.

Some Dwarfs. The red one stayed in the box. I've improved a lot as a painter since the early 1990s - click and zoom for a better look.

Of course, there is another side the Heroquest project, and that is to slowly ensnare people in the hobby of fantasy gaming. From Heroquest there is Advanced Heroquest. From Advanced Heroquest there is Warhammer Quest. And probably long before we get to that stage there is (A)D&D or WFRP (though weaning them off 'high adventure in a world of magic' and into 'a grim world of perilous adventure' might be difficult), miniature-aided or not.

So, to the gaming side to 'Project HQ'. Last night S popped over. S has come round for an evening of boardgames - Settlers of Catan, Carcassone, and the like, though we did get in a game of Chaos Marauders (full of Blanche-y goodness) a few weeks ago. But last night I suggested that we play Heroquest, which prompted in S a burst of nostalgia, and he immediately volunteered to play the Evil Wizard. He never had the chance as a child - his older brother, naturally, always filled that role. So the wife and I took two heroes each, and we successfully negotiated the first two quests, finding the tomb of Fellmarg and rescuing Sir Ragnar, with a break for a Chinese takeaway as our heroes healed and memorized their spells. Everyone had a lot of fun, and the game will be played again. Step one of Project HQ is underway.

Indeed, step one, part one was so successful, aided by the presence of a few painted miniatures on the board, that tomorrow night S will be visiting to play a 3-way warband-level (<500 points) [.pdf 7e rules] WFB game, with D proving the Orcs and the Ogres to take on my stout Dwarfs.

And when I find the time, I am due a visit to the Island of the Lizard King.

In the meantime, any of you with a Heroquest fetish but haven't spent more than a moment browsing the web, check out Ye Olde Inn for rulebooks, tiles, and fan-made rules and adventures.