Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Dead Man's Hand - German Edition from Stronghold-Terrain

Stronghold-Terrain have released the German edition of the Wild West skirmish game Dead Man's Hand and I take a look at the rulebook.

The Wild West skirmish game Dead Man's Hand was originally released by Great Escape Games and later on translated into French by Studio Tomahawk. Now Stronghold-Terrain have released a German version of the rulebook which includes the latest updates and optional rules introduced by Studio Tomahawk.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Cobblestone Gaming Mat from Kraken Wargames

At the end of 2015 I backed the Kraken Mats kickstarter thanks to a convincing unboxing video over at Beast of War. Today the mat has arrived - does it hold up to my expectations?

The Kraken Wargaming mats are now available from FantasyWelt and today I received my version of the 4 x 4 Cobblestone City mat. First off, some images of the design:

The Cobblestone City mat image from the Kraken Mat kickstarter

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Wachau Meeting House from GrandManner

The Wachau Meeting House from GrandManner is finally painted up and ready for the battlefield.

As I began to write this post I looked up my review of the buildings from GrandManner, which I wrote shortly after I received the order. This was almost four years ago! My painting backlog is truly horrible - and I have even older pieces still in the pipeline. But let's not digress...

I previewed a work-in-progress photo of the Meeting House when I published my review of Tony Harwood's excellent book Building Wargame Terrain as this model was designed by him. For some reason it took me until just recently to finish painting the house. Now please don't mistake this for me not liking the model. To the contrary: I think it is absolutely beautiful. The textures and details are superb. In fact, I think Tony has created the best designed models in the market. The are only topped by the outstanding casting quality, material and complexity of Tabletop World's pieces. But when we talk about the details, textures and authenticity, I believe these are the very best. I like how the models strive for historic accuracy instead of making use of the artistic licence you get with Fantasy models.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Mansion from Tabletop World

More than a year after ordering the impressive Mansion from Tabletop World I finally managed to finish painting the beautiful building.

As I described in my initial review the Mansion from Tabletop World is a highly impressive piece of terrain. The logical consequence is that it takes a lot of effort to paint this massive building. Add my habit of procrastination to that and you have a long-term project. Well, in fact, it wasn't that bad. I think I began painting the mansion in December last year. Since I only get to have any hobby time at the weekends and I spent a couple of those this year playtesting my pirate skirmish rules I did quite ok this time.

Let me say it again: the Mansion is great. The term centre-piece has been used a lot for various buildings but this one truly is. It towers over the other houses and puts the coaching inn to shame. When I began painting I was considering using a bolder colour scheme than usual. Maybe a red wall? Or at least red or green window frames? I had a look at other people's work on the model. You can find my collection of people's Tabletop World buildings on Pinterest. In the end, I went with a rather conservative approach that makes it look like most of my other half-timbered houses.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Tabletop World Gallery

Tabletop World produces some of the best terrain pieces in the market. This post is dedicated to the inspiring creations people come up with using their products.

Diorama from the Tabletop World Painting Competition 2016 announcement

I have been a fan of Tabletop World and their buildings from their early days and keep a gallery of pictures of their buildings since their first pieces went out of production. I have spent the last weeks' hobby time painting up their huge mansion building. This made me search the internet a bit for other people's versions of the mansion and I came across some incredible works.

Now Tabletop World have posted the entries for their annual painting competition on their Facebook page and again I was stunned by the incredible projects people make using these buildings. It really seems that their buildings bring out the best in some painters and make them create some of the very best terrain pieces and dioramas I have every seen. Since I like to keep things in one place I decided to create a Pinterest gallery where I can curate all these awesome works and return for inspiration.

Folge Christians Pinnwand „Tabletop World Gallery“ auf Pinterest.

Here are my personal favourites of this year's competition:

Converted building by Simone Pohlenz

Converted building by Simone Pohlenz

Diorama by David Rumeau

Window detail of David Rumeau's diorama
Diorama by Tim Ward

Diorama by Tim Ward

Diorama by Patrice Vincent

Check out all the entries for the 2016 painting competition on Tabletop World's Facebook page and vote for (aka like) the ones you like best.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Tactica 2016

The annual Tactica tabletop convention took place on February 27-28 in Hamburg. As in the previous years before I went on Saturday and had a great time.

Again lots of great tables and participation games could be enjoyed. A table that particularly impressed me was this Frostgrave board. What I like about it is that it contains many of the Tabletop World buildings that I also have except that these were modified to turn them into ruins. Very cool!

Probably the most impressive table was this 16th/17th century Japanese castle by Frank. You can read more about it on his blog here (and part 2 and part 3).

Another highlight was this board from Freebooter Miniatures to promote their rules for playing with ships. I am already used to Freebooter bringing very cool gaming boards to Tactica but I liked this one especially because it is so unusual and effective despite its relative simplicity.

My 'preview highlight' of the show were these miniatures for a field bakery at the Black Hussar Miniatures booth. These Prussians from the Seven Years' War range are very cool looking unique civilians and I can very well imagine using them for my pirate games. They will be released in about a month and made available as several packs.

Another teaser was this crane at the Thomarillion booth. It would be a great alternative for my current crane and I don't think you can have too many cranes around the docks.

The Game

We managed to play one participation game of Jugula. My friend Jens was very interested in these gladiator rules from Studio Tomahawk so we took the opportunity to learn more about the game. It was indeed a quite enjoyable game and I can see how you can have a lot of fun mastering all the tactical possibilities. It would make for a very nice side project as you need very few miniatures and you can can build a great arena table if you like.

Treasure Hunter

I had a very specific shopping list this year. Firstly, I wanted to stack up on my pirate figures collection. In my opinion, Foundry still has the best range of pirates (aside from Black Scorpion, but the two don't mix that well). In addition, I chose to go with North Star Figure's Blackbeard model as a captain for this new crew. It really is a shame that their sets are so expensive (23 GBP for 8 models, compare with 12 GBP for Foundry's sets of also 8 models)

Then I picked up the rulebooks for Frostgrave and En Garde!. With Frostgrave being all the craze these days I wanted to take a closer look at the rules. I might even end up making a small warband. Or I guess I could use my existing gang of gypsies.

I have been a big fan of wagons and coaches since I first used a Stage Coach in Mordheim. So when I saw the coach from Schilling Figuren it was another immediate must-have. I already have a lot of unpainted wagons and coaches from West Wind's Empire of the Dead: Requiem kickstarter and the Berlin Carriage from Warlord Games but I just had to add this to the lot.

Finally, my most important haul: Elmar Fischer aka Elladan of Stronghold Terrain made these custom casts of his beautiful building fronts for me. I talked to him about my Port of Gierburg project and how I plan to have a huge facade on one side. He was so amazingly helpful to make these pieces from his out-of-production houses and fronts so that I can build a big facade from them.

In conclusion, the Tactica has been another fantastic event. I am especially happy about my purchases and super grateful for Elmar's help and support. I already look forward to next year.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Ocean and Cobblestone Gaming Mat from Deep-Cut Studio

Two new gaming mats have arrived for my collection: The ocean mat and cobblestone mat from Deep-Cut Studio.

After my great experience with the cobblestone gaming mat from UrbanMatZ I was looking for an appropriate sea mat for playing piratey ship battles. I found a suitable mat design from Deep-Cut Studio. At that time their mats were available only in two versions: PVC and cloth. I hadn't really seen any good feedback on those materials and I was very happy with the "mousepad material" which I got to know from UrbanMatZ. Just recently Deep-Cut Studio (DCS) made their mats available again in that version as well so I gave them a try. While I was ordering the Ocean mat I thought why not save on the shipping costs and try their cobblestone mat as well?

Unlike the UrbanMatZ mats, DCS mats do not come with a free carrying bag. If you already have one this is no big deal as you rarely need to carry many mats around. For storing the original package is sufficient enough, if not nearly as nice as a proper bag, of course.

The first thing I noticed is that the DCS mats have sharp corners where UrbanMatZ has rounded corners (true mousepad style!). I think I do prefer sharp corners although it doesn't matter much to me.

Another thing I noticed later on is the smell: The DCS mat smell a bit of rubber. It didn't last long, though - after a few days it was gone. But I didn't notice this with the UrbanMatZ mat.

The Ocean Mat

Detail image of the Ocean mat from
the Deep-Cut Studio website
I chose the large 6' x 4' version because - well - ships! If you plan on running 28mm ship battles you better go with the largest option.

Surprisingly, the design of the actual mat appears somewhat different to what you expect from the pictures on their website. The pictures show an uneven curly surface. Of course, I am not talking about the physical surface here - I mean the graphic design. The actual mat is more like a flat blue surface with the occasional white foam. The curly design is just missing (as if you had hidden a layer in Photoshop). Here is a photo to show the difference:

Detail of the Ocean mat from Deep-Cut Studio

I have to say that the design looks a bit better on photos than in reality, yet is still nice enough.

The different design aside, the mat is quite nice. The production quality is high and I look forward to playing my first ship battles on the mat. I believe gaming mats like these are the perfect solution for representing water surface. The material is perfect for moving ships about as the models slide smoothly across the board.

The Cobblestone Mat

I ordered this 4' x 4' cobblestone mat as a kind of bonus. I was already quite pleased with the UrbanMatZ mat but I wanted to have a comparison (and I was too impatient to wait for the Kraken Mat that would come sometime in May).
When I rolled out the cobblestone mat I was quite pleasantly suprised. The design is very nice. The details are sharper than those of the UrbanMatZ mat. The cobblestones are nicely small, very well fitting for 28mm scale. I also like the colours: The UrbanMatZ mat is kind of blueish while the DCS mat has a more "normal" brownish grey tone and fits my buildings much better.

A scenic shot with some buildings and highwaymen

A comparison between the UrbanMatZ cobblestone city mat and
the cobblestone mat from Deep-Cut Studio

The mats from UrbanMatZ and Deep-Cut Studio and their backs

All in all, I can definately recommend the mousepad version mats from Deep-Cut Studio. Of course, the different design vary a lot and it is very subjective whether you like them or not. At least the cobblestone mat I find absolutely excellent.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Cobblestone Gaming Mat from UrbanMatZ

UrbanMatZ produces gaming mats for the tabletop. When I saw the cobblestone mat I immediately ordered one.

Until quite recently I had never even considered using gaming mats. I am quite picky when it comes to terrain and building a gaming board. My personal gaming board project, the Port of Gierburg, has been going on for many years and I am willing to take the time, effort and costs that are neccessary to make it as perfect as I possibly can - with little to no tolerance for making compromises. A flat illustrated mat for a surface definately does not fit into this concept.

The Cobblestone City design
from Kraken Mat (4' x 4')
This was until November last year, when I saw the Kraken Mat kickstarter which, among many different designs, featured a cobblestone pattern. Before that I had never seen a cobblestone mat and even though I wasn't particularly interested in getting one I did find it surprising that there weren't any around. From fantasy settings such as Mordheim or Frostgrave to World War II settings you would think there is enough demand to justify such products. The story and photos of the Kraken Mat had me curious enough to give it a try. That's when I first overcame my inhibitions.

As of today, I am exictedly waiting for the Kraken Mat to arrive (which is currently planned for May I believe*). However, although the Kraken Mat looks absolutely beautiful from what I can see I still had one concern: With all the streets and pavements printed on the mat you are quite restricted when it comes to placing terrain features such as buildings, barricades, etc. To allow for all kinds of scenarios with different terrain setups it makes a lot of sense to have a "general purpose" mat - a full cobblestone pattern with no other features that restrict the placement of terrain.

So I was pleasantly suprised to see exactly this in a comment in the Mordheim Facebook group: the Cobblestone Battlefield mat from UrbanMatZ. I thought "I already got one, might as well try this one too", and ordered the 4' x 4' version.

The Cobblestone Battlefield mat from UrbanMatZ

Close-up on the details

The design consists of very nice irregular cobblestones. There is dirt, grass, blood stains and what I believe are manhole covers, all of which make the design more interesting. I would have actually preferred that there was no blood since I find that to be better suited for fantasy settings whereas my games are more on the historical side. Funny enough, such a blood-less version is available since yesterday.  So a bit of bad timing for me but very cool overall for all other potential customers.

I do not want to go too far into detail with reviewing this. There are a lot of (obviously positive) video reviews on the UrbanMatZ website and I will simply say that I concur: This is a really great product. I was a bit worried that the surface may be a bit problematic since this is mousepad material and I could see the fibre texture in the close-ups in some of the video reviews. But during normal usage you don't notice this - you have to get very close to the mat to see the fibre surface so I don't find this to be a problem at all.

We actually ran a game on the new mat just yesterday and it was great. The surface is soft and smooth (if you know mousepads, then you know this). This is perfect for moving miniatures and placing buildings. Before, the models regularly caused little scratches on my IKEA table. Moving figures across these mats feels a lot safer. Also rolling dice on the mat is a pleasure as the mat deadens the sound.

A little setup to give an impression of the gaming mat in action:
Highwaymen and Thief-catchers fight it out in the city

So all in all, does this gaming mat replace a properly modelled 3D gaming table? Of course not! But as my "proper" gaming table will turn out similarly restrictive in terms of terrain placement as the Kraken Mat I am super happy to add this piece to my gaming inventory. While my scratch-built table will be the obvious pick for "flagship" scenarios and photo-taking this gaming mat will be the choice when variety is needed. And because of its flexible design I believe it will actually see more play than my "main" gaming board. For only 45 EUR and a super nice carrying bag included I think this is not too bad a deal.

*Update May 28th, 2016: The Kraken Mat arrived today. Read more.

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