Tuesday 30 June 2020

10mm Ziggurat Dwarf shield-bearers

More 10mm dwarves from Cibo's Little Dudes, this time a unit of three companies of shield-bearers (and a captain).

Monday 29 June 2020

Fantastic Battles - playtesting steps up as restrictions ease

As the Covid-19 pandemic eases here in Ulster, we are now allowed to meet in small groups, inside, for the first time in over three months. The obvious way to celebrate was to play with toy soldiers. In person! Four brave souls met for a live playtest of Fantastic Battles, pitching the goblins of the Wyvern Hills against the Vermintide.

The bowl of dice is substituting for a bag of counters to randomise initiative during the Action phase of each turn. There is one coloured counter/die per character, plus one for impetuous units. As each coloured counter is drawn from the bag, the respective players activate a character and any units they are able to command.

The Great Goblin is engaged by the Great Rat in what was to be come the turning point in the battle.

Before he can rush to the aid of the goblin warlord, the hill giant is charged by a furiously propelled rat wheel. The goblin warlord fell (and was eaten) by the Great Rat, and the gobin army fell apart shortly afterwards.  

Sunday 28 June 2020

A whole new world - Starting on 10mm Ziggurat Dwarves

Dodging the the judgmental stares of the unpainted 6mm Austrians sitting on the shelf, I made a start on a new 10mm army this weekend. My 'Ziggurat Dwarves' are based on the evil dwarf range from Cibo's Little Dudes with a few modifications.

The company of flying carpet uses a couple of dwarf magic-users mounted on greenstuff carpets. They will provide some mobile shooting support to what will, on the whole, be a slow melee-based army.  

The djinn is from Cibo's desert empire range. Like all of Cibo's stuff he's full of character, but this chap seemed very unstable when I went to base it. I adapted the figure a little, removing the lamp and shifting it to the side, then adding more magical bubbles around the base to give it a bit more stability. 

Monday 22 June 2020

Fantastic Battles - more playtesting-by-proxy

We had a busy weekend playtesting Fantastic Battles over the wonder of the internet to ensure that we simultaneously stayed dry and respected social distancing. 

Jim (and his cat, obscured though she was in the photo) took on the role of halfling warlord, while Joel (avec hound) played as the great goblin. I was impartially pushing figures around on the table at their respective instruction.  

There was an early (hard fought) scrap in the woods between the halfling poulty scouts and the goblin warlord mounted on his wyvern, supported by bat- and spider-riding goblins. Unfortunately not captured by the battlefield correspondent. On the opposite flank, the woods can alive to halt the advance of a massed unit of goblin wolf-riders.

In the (left of) centre, more treefolk engaged a unit of goblin warriors from the front, while the halfling-friendly cockatrice flew over to attack the same unit in the rear. In a desperate attempt to stop his centre crumbling, Joel them through a giant and a goblin captain in against the distracted chicken-monster.

Also in the centre (but more to the right), the halfling Hearthguard and kitchen militia stood to receive a charge of orges, a giant, and a unit of goblin madcaps - hopped up on magic mushrooms.

And on the left, the wyvern and bat riders made it through the woods to attack a unit of halfling archers on the hill.

The game ended in the mutual destruction of both armies. The goblins were, perhaps, in a slightly more comfortable position, but neither army would be capable of another battle - very much a Pyrrhic defeat to coin a phrase. The feedback though, was rather complimentary:

Joel: "Great game last night chaps. My plan was to use the tree line to mask the approach of the bats and wyvern. The spider riders were to push through but I didn't think his geese would have held me back as long. In the centre I wanted the hard units to march up the centre with weaker goblins and madcaps to soak up archery. On the left flank I wanted the wolves to smash into the hardest unit in Jim’s army. Which they did admirably considering how hard the treemen were. Overall a very flavourful ruleset in that you can customise the units to feel right. My imagination has been flaring over what I can build. That’s nothing but good."

Jim: "I was very pleased with how long the poultry platoon held out. The benefit of getting into the trees and holding you there. Ponies did ok, but I should have had them on the other flank supporting the treefolk. My centre held not too badly. Although my over enthusiasm with Rosie and the Truffle Hunters left them horribly exposed. Sitting down today to start painting up and sorting out living quarters for my Byzantine-Iernians. A wee dun and small town to start. Then, maybe, in the spirit of entente cordiale, a Ziggurat and surrounding town! Oh! Oh! Some orc and goblin zits. An idea I have been sitting on for 40 years. More will be revealed by the Dark Architect in due course."

So Joel has since bought not one, but two armies, and Jim has been working on his existing Dark Ages-inspired force, as well as more terrain. That's a pretty positive response in my books.


In the next round, Brett took on the command of the goblings, while I led the night elves of Moonspire. This was a smaller battle at only 700 points with 16 companies a piece (the goblings had many more characters).

Goblin wolf- and spider riders take on the night elf reivers and (much bigger) spider riders. 

More wolf-riders and bat-riders assault the undead thralls holding the left of the night elf line. 

Eternal enemies, a horde of goblin warriors hurl themselves against the disciplined ranks of the night elf swordsmen.

Despite loosing both flanks to the goblin assault, the night elf centre stood firm and the goblin army scattered as a great flood of resolve loss cascaded through their ranks. This battle was another smooth run through of the rules proving that they are now in a pretty stable state. We did discuss rallying and magic in the game at some length, and have a few tweaks in mind to make it more interesting! 

Saturday 20 June 2020

10mm scenery for the solstice

What better way to spend the summer solstice than by building a stone circle? I've had a stone circle for a while, but it was poorly based so I pulled it apart to make a few new terrain pieces. First up, a smaller stone circle! This can be used as rough terrain, or even a settlement feature in Fantastic Battles.

Three other stones have been made into separate standing stones or 'totems'. If choosing to play Fantastic Battles with Objectives, warlords can be tasked with an iconoclasm, destroying totems located across the table.

The last of today's wee pieces is a small barrow or the entrance to a troll-hoard. In Fantastic Battles, these features can be discovered through random events, or can be the target of on Objective.

Thursday 18 June 2020

Fantastic Battles - call for playtesters

Fantastic Battles has reached a point where it would benefit from a few more playtesters outside of my regular opponents. If you are interested in helping out, please drop me a message through the contact form and let me know your gaming capacity at the moment - with lockdown at different stages in different places, some people can play solo or over video link, some can meet with friends, and some might only be able to read but not play.


Saturday 13 June 2020

Fantastic Battles army showcase - Goblins Tribes of the Wyvern Hills

While the playtesting of Fantastic Battles is still very much a work-in-progress, the army building mechanics are relatively stable so I thought I would showcase one of the armies we have been playing with. As outlined previously, army building is designed to be fully customisable to suit a player's vision of their faction. This list represents my view of goblins as a jibbering, unruly, tribal society, brought together only by the strength and cunning of a 'great goblin'.  

This army is costed at exactly 1000 points. It includes seven characters and 22 companies (bases of troops/monsters) which I would normally run as 13 units. I have chosen the 'unreliable' trait as a racial trope to reflect the notion that goblins are not the most steadfast of fantasy races. Away from the watchful eyes of their commanders, they are wildly unpredictable. The rules work perfectly well with smaller armies, and with multiple players per side. I haven't yet tried larger armies per side due to the restrictions of social distancing. 

You can use any miniatures you like to build your armies - my 10mm goblins (and their pals) are a mixture of Polar Fox, Cibo's Little Dudes, Warmaster, Magister Militum, Frostgrave and Blind Beggar miniatures.

The army's characters. Characters are crucial to an army's performance - they command units, rally their spirits when they are feeling down, and cast spells to buff friends and frustrate foes. At the back is my Warlord (and great goblin), King Skrotrot, riding on his wyvern. Along the front, from left to right, are my two Magic-users Skittles and Slabbers; three Captains, Skunkbut, Snatters and Skunderd; and my Rogue, Snickers.

Four companies of goblin wolf-riders armed with wicked shortbows and riding cranky canines. I would normally field these in two two-company units to give maximum flexibility, but they could just as easily be run as a single four-company unit.

A single unit of goblin bat-riders. This unit is not very tough or powerful, but it is incredibly fast. If it can hover around behind larger units and avoid destruction, it is perfect to launch attacks on enemy flanks and rears. 

Considered backwards even by goblin standards, the two-company unit of goblin spider-riders are the only unit in the army capable of fighting unhindered in woods and rough terrain.

Goblin warriors at their most generic, these chaps carry wicked shortbows but are even more at home getting nice and close and giving the enemy "one up 'em". 

Two companies of goblin Madcaps, made up of fungus-addicted hooligans, even more unpredictable than others of their race.  

A ramshackle goblin battle-wagon, capable of flattening enemy warriors irrespective of their armour - all despite being held together with bits of string. 

The most steadfast unit in the army consists of these two companies of ogre mercenaries, lending some much needed muscle to the goblin horde. 

Hurling boulders and capable of regenerating when wounded, a two-company unit of trolls also provides valuable support to the more numerous goblins. 

Rounding off the army are two giants (Snickers the goblin Rogue shown for scale). Giants cannot form into groups, but fight with the power of much larger units. 

Tuesday 9 June 2020

10mm goblin spider-riders

To bring my 10mm goblin army up to full strength I needed one final unit. I settled on spider riders from Cibo's Little Dudes in Switzerland (I added the tiki masks). With so much character pumped into these little chaps, they are slightly heftier than either Warmaster of Polarfox 10mm goblins, but work perfectly well alongside them in their own unit.

Saturday 6 June 2020

Fantastic Battles - playtesting by proxy during a pandemic

One of the challenges brought on by the current pandemic is the inability to meet friends inside to roll dice and push toy soldiers across a table. We are now able to meet outside (wargaming in the sun?), but with the recent squally weather, it's not all that enticing. This has been rather frustrating for writing purposes, as Fantastic Battles should now be in the middle of extensive playtesting. I started testing back at the start of the year, but lockdown really put a dampener on that. 

While other people have managed to test the rules, either solo or with various technological solutions to social distancing, I have been a couple of months without testing a battle. A couple of weeks ago I was invited by Steve and Forbes, two wargamers across the water in England, to join them for a virtual playtest. It had never occurred to me that this was a viable way to play wargames, but it seemed to work for them, so we gave it a shot ourselves this week.

I set up the table and deployed my forces - 1,000 points of halflings - on one side of the table, dumped 1,000 points of goblins in the middle, and my laptop on the window sill roughly where my opponent's head should have been.

We then set up a three-way video call between Andrew, my laptop and my phone. Andrew could see the entire battlefield from the laptop camera, while I could use the camera on my phone to give close-up footage if he needed it. After the initial discussion and set-up, we mostly operated with just the laptop camera (laptop muted and mic turned off), with the cameras off, but sound on, for Andrew and my phone. 

After Andrew directed me to deploy his goblins we rolled for mishaps - you can see some of the damage above. My unit of archer militia were too enthusiastic and deployed much further forward than they'd been ordered; over in the left you might be able to make out Andrew's trolls also suffered from too much enthusiasm. Both of us also had a couple of late units which, while on the table, were not deployed where they had been instructed. We each had a single unit suffering from disease, and some of my artillery crew had deserted before the battle. The wee bolloxes.

Part way into the game, the halflings' treefolk allies held their own against a combined assault of goblin spider-riders and trolls, while goblin captains scrambled around trying to keep as many units within their command range. The goblins were hampered throughout the game by their unreliable units, but Andrew's expedient distribution of captains meant that any real disaster was avoided.

Over in the centre, the poor militia archers fled before an onslaught of goblin wolf-riders. In retrospect, I should have abandoned them to their fate, but instead I threw forward yeoman cavalry and poultry-riding scouts supported by three characters (a captain, rogue and magic-user). These were each, in turn, ripped to shreds by the goblin king's wyvern, bat-riders and a sneaky goblin rogue.

The last photo - just before the end. The treefolk continued to hold their own. Having scattered the trolls and spider-riders, they were then attacked by a giant whom they were also able to kill. Unfortunately, he fell forward and flattened the halfling captain leading the treefolk. That was enough for the trees to loose heart and depart back to the woods from whence they came. 

The halfling kitchen militia were caught in a march column by a unit of ogre mercenaries. Their second giant and the goblin battle wagon took on the halfling pike-armed hearthguard who, though brave, were destroyed following a sweeping flank charge by the goblin wolf-riders.

So when all was said and done, a rather catastrophic result for the halflings. Playing by proxy, with an opponent on the other end of a video call, will never be as satisfying as meeting in person. However, given the circumstances, it worked remarkably smoothly. It helps that Andrew and I have a similar play style and could trust each other to report truthfully on dice rolls. The rules flowed easily for us with no obviously unbalanced areas. Another few games like this, and we might be ready for more open playtesting...

Tuesday 2 June 2020

Building an army for Fantastic Battles

In Fantastic Battles, all armies are custom built to suit the player’s vision of their fantasy race, nation or faction. This post is intended to give some insight into the process of building an army with which to crush their enemies.

Armies consist of a number of characters and companies built using the guidelines below. For pick-up games, players would normally agree a nominal point limit of 500-1,000 points within which to build armies. A 1,000 point army might have somewhere in the region of 4-7 characters, and 15-25 companies. Games with multiple players per side are easily accommodated.

The rules will include a number of pre-generated army lists based on the armies of the various play-testers, but these should be seen as suggestions rather than canon, and players are encouraged to create armies that suit their own collections.


Each army must be led by a single warlord (or a necromancer) and may also include a number of other individual characters who are classed as captains, magic-users or rogues. Character types are standardised to reflect the battlefield role of individual personalities; they are not customisable except for the spell choices of magic-users.

Warlords/necromancers are the player’s avatar on the table. They have the best capacity to maintain command of the units around them and rally them when their resolve flags. Captains have a reduced capacity for command, while rogues and magic-users may only command units to which they are attached. Each magic-user has three spell slots which are chosen from a list of spells (currently there are 10). There is some access to magic items in the form of relics, but their impact is limited.

Characters are essential to any army, but they will never be game winners. They may move freely around the battlefield as individuals, but this is not a game where a single hero can expect to last too long against an entire unit of enemy warriors. Characters can attach to any unit, bolstering their Resolve and Melee capacity, and some ‘units’ (such as dragon matriarchs or giant chieftains) may also take character traits to allow them to lead their peers into battle.

The building block of the army is the company. Each company is recruited from one of seven base profiles and can be allocated up to three distinguishing traits ranging from amphibious and berserk, to flying, monstrous, mounted and undead.

An army may also apply a racial trope. The racial trope is a single trait which applies to all companies (not characters) of that race in the army; i.e. ‘all dwarves are doughty’, or ‘goblins are notoriously unreliable’.

The base profiles include elite, formed and irregular companies, as well as dragons, fantastic beasts, vehicles and ordnance batteries. With 40 traits to choose from (currently), it is possible to create well over 1,000 different company profiles.

Example companies 

The following examples outline the process of customising a company roster. Although both are based on an Irregular company base profile, the two examples will play very differently due to the allocated traits.

Whether dwelling in damp caverns, wild hills or the vast steppe, Goblin Warriors habitually wield wicked short bows but are always willing to throw themselves into a brawl with anyone who stands in their way. Goblin Warriors start as an irregular company (22 points) with the unreliable trait as a racial trope to reflect their argumentative nature (-4 points). They are melee troops who also carry bows, so receive the shooter (mixed unit) trait (2/1 Shoot, +4 points), and their enthusiasm to get into a scrap gives them the wild charge trait (+2 points).

Riding out to patrol the borders of the halfling shires, what Poultry Scouts lack in punch, they make up for in versatility. Beginning as an irregular company (22 points), the scouts are obliged to take militia (-1 Melee, -2 points) as their halfling racial trope to reflect their less-than-martial nature. Their small feathered mounts are not impressive enough to provide the mounted trait, but they do grant the fast trait (+1 Move, +1 point). As javelin-armed scouts, the riders gain thrown weapons (+1/- shooting, +1 point) and the skirmishers trait (+4 points).

Forming Units – Companies and Groups
During deployment, a player chooses to deploy their companies as individual small units, or combine up to four companies in larger group formations. With the exception of companies with the giant trait, any type of company may be grouped together in this way, whether it represents a horde of zombies, a grand battery of artillery, or a clutch of dragons. The only condition is that all companies in a group must have an identical profile and traits. Companies formed into a group during deployment must continue to operate as part of the group throughout the game. Likewise, companies deployed individually cannot be merged into a group later in the battle.

Individual companies are more manoeuvrable than groups; they can more easily navigate between terrain features, and find it easier to position themselves to attack enemy units in the flank or rear. However, by their very nature, lone companies tend to have less Resolve than groups, and lose Resolve faster when they see larger units scatter.

Groups consist of two, three or four identical companies. They have more restricted movement than individual companies, but combine their Resolve factors with the result that larger units tend to stick around on the battlefield longer than smaller units. 

That is all for now. Over the next couple of updates on Fantastic Battles, I'll be posting some example army lists in full.

Monday 1 June 2020

The Wrong Island: PDEE Pulp meets LEGO™️

*NB - May not be actual LEGO. The figures came out of boxes branded “Pogo” or “Juracic Park”*

Here is another game report from Mark in Thailand. The game was actually played back in February, but I forgot to share it at the time.

The Joker is taking a break from pranking Gotham City, and has taken his gf and a couple of associates hunting on Dinosaur Island. They want to kill every dinosaur they can find, just for the fun of it, and they have 10 turns to do so. The hunters are:
♥️The Joker: pistol, Engineer
♦️Harley Quinn: club
♠️Alan (blonde hair): sub machine gun
♣️Smiles (black hair): rifle

Here they are (photo below) surveying the scene from the top of a small hill.

And here is a shot of most of the island. Note the pterosaur at top R (Raptor), King Carnosaur at bottom R, and small herd of 3 x Great Herbivores around the waterhole at bottom L.

There is also another King Carnosaur roaming off-table. It will appear at a random spot if the right conditions arise. Did I say it was the Wrong Island? It seems the joke may be on The Joker.

Anyway, off they go. The Joker & Alan try a co-op move first, fail 2/3 activations, but the nearest beasts (Great Herbivores) are not bothered. These city slickers will have to up their skills if they want to shoot anything though. Harley & Smiles try the same move, same result, this time one of the munching herbivores, presumably annoyed, makes a lunge towards the hunters to warn them off.

The hunters split into two teams. The Joker & Alan will try to take down the Pterosaur. Harley & Smiles will cautiously approach the Herbivore herd.

At the end of Turn 3 this tactic seems to be working ... Alan shot down the Pterosaur with a near textbook shot from his tommy gun (2/3 hits, no jams) and The Joker and he head back towards the C of the table ...

... and Smiles inflicted two rifle wounds on one of the Herbivores which has obliging Attacked towards Harley & him. Excellent shooting.

By the end of Turn 5 the situation was more ambivalent. Both teams allowed themselves to get overconfident and now have work to do to keep out of danger!

The Joker has been noticed by another Great Herbivore, and not in a nice way. And Alan has had a lucky but maybe temporary escape, after shooting unsuccessfully at the King Carnivore. His SMG has jammed, and the beast is calling to its nearby mate as it flees.

Meanwhile, Smiles caused “his” herbivore a 3rd wound, and as it backed off (Alarmed & Move Away reactions) Harley, ever hot headed, chased after it. Then it turned and lunged at her, causing a wound.

At the end of Turn 8 the hunters have only the hapless Pterosaur to show, and are getting desperate for more kills. But will it be the dinosaurs or the hunters who end up dead?

The Great Herbivores are in full retreat, but their roars are keeping Harley and Smiles at a distance. The Joker has thrown two bombs: the first fell short and wounded only him. The second was perfectly pitched but both affected beasts survived unscathed.

Alan has continued his personal battle with the King Carnivore, causing it 2 wounds but receiving 1 in return. Desperate action clearing a jammed weapon just as the beast attacked! The other King Carnivore has also now appeared, on the other side of the thicket.

I’m not letting beasts who retreat go off the table edge, because it’s an island. If necessary they’ll move along the base edge.

Down to the last 2 Turns now. 

Not much changed in fact. 3/4 hunters were now wounded and on 2 stress dice, which tends to cause a lot more beast reactions. 

From bottom to top: one of the Herbivores, enraged by (ineffective) shooting from Smiles, turned and attacked Harley (closest hunter) and stomped her good. The Joker will be heartbroken, but is otherwise preoccupied right now as the wounded Herbivore has decided to make a move on him. And Alan, facing off against the King Carnivore, has a jammed weapon and been forced to retreat as the beast roars defiance. Also it’s mate is now in LOS, which might matter if the game continued.

So we leave our hunters licking their wounds and wondering where their ride back to Gotham is. Facing the Black Knight was never this hard, not to mention the mosquitoes.

Cheers from Dinosaur Island,