Thursday, November 13, 2014

My Favorite Artists - Zhu Bajiee

I am very excited to announce that for today's Our Favorite Artists post I had the pleasure of interviewing none other than Zhu Bajiee.  Zhu has been involved with both Barrowmaze I and II and has also done work for Red Box Games. Zhu took a few minutes out of his schedule to answer some questions for me back in 2012, and now in 2014 I present to you dear readers his interview!

  • First of all, thanks for taking some time out of your day to speak with me, please introduce yourself and give us a brief bio:
Hi! I'm Zhu, which is my artist name. I have  a real one too.

  • When did you first discover your creative talents?
All my mates in school said I was better at drawing than them. Then  I went to art college, which was full of people in the same position, and realized that being the best isn't what it's about.

  • How would you describe your style and where do you draw your inspiration from?  Do you have a favorite piece you have created?
Black and white, grimy, graphic fantasy. The things that make me most want to draw stem from history and folklore mixed together into modern sensibilities. The writings of Tolkien and Gygax are very inspiring, then so is nature, walking though the wilder, green, growing places of the countryside, and I generate have half a hundred ideas for drawings.  I couldn't choose a favorite piece, it would be unfair to the others.

  • Who is your favorite artist? What draws you towards his or her artwork?
There's a whole bunch of people whose work I admire. It's difficult to pick one. If I were to say one that has direct influence on my artwork, it's Aubrey Beardsley, his command of line and space is beyond genius. It's really his craft that gets me - the penmanship, something I've always eschewed in my own art, is exquisite. I generally prefer his more tame pieces (Morte D'Arthur) to his erotic stuff.

  • Is art a full time occupation for you?
In the sense that I'm thinking about it when I should be doing other things, yes.

  • What projects are you currently working on?
I've got a lot of stuff for Barrowmaze 2 to do for Greg, I'm loving the dungeon-crawl aspects and all the strange archeological references.   I've also got some character designs I'm working on that are at sketches at the moment.  Right now I've got a drawing of a Red Box Games Helsvakt underway, and am just taking a break before doing some more tweaks.

  • You've created art for a number of gaming products, are you yourself a gamer and if so what are your favorite games?
Yes, I play games. I really like early editions of Warhammer (more strategic and complex than of late) and AD&D, which is the daddy of them all. The board-game Talisman is fantastic, and I'm also guilty of Fighting Fantasy.

  • Who is your favorite musical artist and why?
I listen to a lot of music.  It's a bit cheesy, but music is about setting the mood, staying motivated to work. I've just finished a private commission for a collector, based on early TSR D&D, whilst doing that I almost exclusively listened to folk and electronica - bands like Pentangle, Espers, Goblin, The Advisory Circle. The stuff being put out by Ghostbox records, for me it's very D&D. Today I've been drawing a messed-up psychopathic norse warrior, so I've been listening to 90s grindcore bands like Bolt Thrower, Napalm Death, Carcass.

  • What was the last book you read?
Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy.

  • Where can the readers go to see your art?

I've recently set up a deviant art account as well,

  • Lastly, any words of advice for aspiring artists?
I'm not really qualified to offer advice. There are a lot more opportunities to get your work seen by the right people now than ever before, and you can probably find an audience for your work much easier today than 20 years ago.  I've been very fortunate to find people who like what I'm doing enough to commission it, so a big thanks to them.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Two days after ordering it online, Car Wars Classic arrived on my doorstep!  The game apparently sold out at Warehouse 23 in around four hours!  This is just a quick unboxing so everyone can see whats in this edition.  Lets get started!

Smells like victory!
Inside the box is the rulebook which is 64 pages with a saddle-stitch binding.  There are 103 color counters which are double sided, though the vehicles have the same image on both sides which is odd.  There are only two wreck counters, they also have the same wreck on each side.  I would have liked to have seen the cars with their respective wrecks on the back.  I wonder if this was a proofing issue.  Anyway the counters include all of the classic images like the golden van, the limo, the VW Bug, and the red pickup truck.  There are also pedestrians, motorcycles, oil, smoke, gas, spikes, mines, handeling and speed counters, numbered car counters and small and large debris counters.  They are all printed on a much thicker stock and feel very nice.  Also incuded is a turning key as well as well as four six sided dice.  There are two record sheets, one for cars with a weapons list on the back and one for cycles with a vehicle build sheet on the back.

The counters are nice and thick!

Rule book and record sheets.

The last piece that included is the map.  It's a double sided map which includes a raceway and an unnamed arena map.

Lily checking on the Arena Map.

Lily making sure the Raceway Map is printed correctly.

Back of the box.

This is a very nice version of Car Wars, small and packed with everything you need.  The only issue seems to be the same vehicle images printed on both sides of the counters, hopefully this will be corrected, I'd love to have the wrecks on the flip side of the counters.

Find a copy where you can and remember, drive offensively!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Fatal Funnel - Sailors of the Starless Sea

Last night my friend and I finished up our last session of Sailors on the Starless Sea, a level zero adventure for DCC RPG.  We played using Roll20, an online game table which I will be reviewing in the next week or so.  This was the first time either of us had played using the Fatal Funnel and level zero characters. We both had a blast and really enjoyed the experience.

Our initial party consisted of eight characters, we rolled for everything; names, professions, equipment, luck augurs, if there was a randomized chart, we used it. Stats were rolled in order with 3d6, this resulted in lots of lower scores but it also made having a 15 in an ability stat something to brag about! The party started with the following characters with the first four being my toons;

Dugar - Trapper (One ability score above ten!)
Aram - Grave Digger (Seven INT and LUCK)
Cerngoth - Smuggler (Seven PER and sixteen INT!)
Thaug - Dwarven Blackmith (Fourteen PER and INT, the party leader)
Imoagoth - Elven Chandler (Eight STA and fifteen INT)
Thremaim - Confidence Artist (Seven INT and eight in both AGI and STA)
Publio - Slave (Six STA and eight LUCK)
Leniqua - Wizards Apprentice (Seven STA and PER and a fourteen INT)


I will be discussing the adventure from here on, read on at your own risk!!

It didn't take long before we took out first casualties, both Publio and Dugar were killed in the very first encounter battling the Vine Horrors! Starting with only one or two hit points and no Clerics to heal is not easy! The party buried their corpses and pressed on. Entering the ruined keep they found the alter room and were able to loot several suits of chain-mail and some weapons but left before encountering the Tar Ooze. Soon afterwards they discovered the Beast-men and Champion in the tower ruins and were ultimately victorious, though Thaug and Thremaim fell in battle. Four down, four left!  They freed the captive townspeople and recruited two new party members, Hekkador and Tonual.  Heading down the stone stairs they discovered a room with several chests and some discarded treasure.  Tonual spotted a hidden compartment in one of the chests but was killed by the trap which cut his hand off, he didn't last very long!  Moving on they found a large room with a brackish pool and murals that lined the walls, they also discovered four tattered robes which they brought with them.  After a nervous encounter with the floating skulls they took one with them as they continued to descend deeper towards the Starless Sea.


On the beach Hekkador failed his save while looking at the strange symbols on the menhir and suddenly attacked the party, he was filled with the urge to cut out someones heart and feed it to the Leviathan.  Luckily the rest of the party was able to subdue him before he caused any real harm.  They lit the candle on the menhir which drew the dragon boat closer to shore which they boarded.  Halfway to the ziggaraut the boat stopped in the water and the Leviathan made itself known by the score of tentacles that raised out of the water and hung ominously over the boat.  Hekkador knew they needed to present it a sacrifice due to his earlier mental state, but the party was unwilling to kill any of their own.  They readied for battle as the tentacles moved in.  Imogoth fell in the ensuing fight, Leniqua quickly jumped on his corpse and cut out his heart which she threw it into the sea to placate the beast.  The tentacles slipped below the waves and the boat continued onward.  Despite her quick thinking the rest of the party was a little distraught by her actions.

Moving onto the ziggaraut the four remaining party members, Aram, Hekkador, Leniqua and Cerngoth, donned the robes they had found and marched up the ramp towards the chanting beastmen.  Arriving at the top Hekkador discovered the skull he had taken from the pool room was vibrating and glowing, he tossed it into the hellish pit at the top of the ziggaraut.  This caused a large explosion which sent beast-men and party members flying in different dirrections.  They party reassembled and began slaughteriung the stunned beastment but they were unable to stop the beastman shaman from summoning the Chaos Lord.  As he formed they began retreating down the ramp in a fighting withdrawal.  Soon the Chaos Lord was upon them and a raucous battle followed. Luckily there were no deaths and all four lived to fight another day while the Chaos Lord was thrown low.

Soon after the his death the entire cavern began to shake and crumble, the intrepid party helped the townsfolk they had saved onto the dragon ship and they were carried away by a huge wave that swept through the cavern.

The Fatal Funnel lived up to its name.  Our losses were heavy but in some strange way I feel connected to the characters that did survive!  I don't think I would want to play like this all of the time.  There is a distinct lack of things to do each round for the characters as they do not have classes and the abilities that go along with them.  But if you have not tried playing level zero heroes, give it a shot, its a blast!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dwimmermount has arrived! (Review) - UPDATED

Its finally here.

In April 2014 the Dwimmermount Kickstarter campaign was successfully funded to the tune of $48,756 with an initial goal of $10,000.  I am not going to get into all the drama that followed but it has taken several years for the final product to arrive, and boy it's a beauty.  Autarch did a fantastic job putting this together.  There are two versions available; Labyrinth Lord and Adventurer Conqueror King.  The version I have and am reviewing today is for LL.

This is a BIG, MEATY book, it's 408 pages of deep, dark adventure.  I have not had a chance to read all the way though this beast yet, its going to take some time.  I recieved three books; the adventure book, an illustration book and map book.

Dwimmermount on the left, Dungeoneer's Survival Guide on the right, River the cat in the background.
Lets get started with the Map Book.  This includes a wilderness map of the area surrounding Dwimmermount, the town of Muntburg and two page maps of all of the Dwimmermount levels.  Also included are the dungeon era illustrations and a four page side view of the entire dungeon.  Its all in black and white and is perfect bound.  The maps are big and easy to read, overall a very usable book.

Nice big maps.

Next up is the Illustration book.  This book is half the size of the map book, so roughly 8.5"x5.5".  It has a very nice color illustration on the cover that is printed on a very interesting material, it almost feels like a velour but is a paper.  I find that I keep rubbing the material, its very nice.  Inside are 44 black and while illustrations from various locations around the dungeon.  The likes of Jeff Dee, Steve Zieser and Erol Otus grace the pages, its a really nice book but I find myself wanting it to be a full sized 8.5"x11" booklet, the pictures are just to small for my liking.

Love that cover!
The illustrations are fantastic but should have been bigger!
Last but certainly not least is the main adventure book itself.  It starts with a very extensive table of contents and then its into the good stuff.  Chapter One covers the area around Dwimmermount.  Chapter Two covers the history of the dungeon.  Chapter Three is all about adventuring in the dungeon, everything from common knowledge of the dungeon to rumors and adventure seeds.  The following chapters cover the town of Muntburg which serves as the home town for adventures into Dwimmermount.  The Factions get a chapter and then its into the individual levels, one chapter each for a total of thirteen.

Following the levels are the appendices, all 91 pages of them!  They cover new magic items, new spells, new monsters, rival parties, the four worlds, Azoth and the secrets of the Turms Termax.  There's some really good stuff in here, lots of fun spells and monsters to throw at your players to keep them on their toes.

I'm really looking forward to digging  further into this book, it looks fantastic and varied enough to keep things fresh.  Unfortunately my issue with this adventure is the same I have with all mega-dungeons, I will never have the time to run this all the way through from start to finish.  One-shots are how I have to roll, my gaming time is limited these days so something we can start and finish in one or two evenings is best.  I'm sure I could use bits and pieces of this for smaller adventures, it may be the only way I get to use it!

Lots o' adventure!

If you have an itch for an epic mega-adventure, Dwimmermount will not steer you wrong.  It's a lot of material and is a steal at $10 on for the .pdf.

Five beer steins out of five!

UPDATE 08/31/2014: I received an email from the Kickstarter campaign today, it stated that the Wilderness Map and Dungeon Tracker are also complete and shipping, I will update the  review once those two items have arrived!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Otherworld Miniatures; Labyrinth Lord Level 2!

My new Otherworld miniatures arrived today and I'm super excited!  As you can see above they come in their own case (Feldherr I believe) with a sleeve wrapped around the case.

Each miniature has its own slot, there are two levels in the case.  My only complaint would be that many of the bases do not have slots which means I will need to cut them myself.  This is different from the first set which all had pre-slotted bases.  Some of the figures also have VERY tall tabs at the bottom which will need to be sliced in half to get them to fit in the bases.  Unfortunately the material is quite thick, its going to take some elbow grease to get them cut.  Other than those minor complaints I am very pleased with the set, the sculpts looks awesome and I really like the giant ooze!  More pics to come as I get to work on these later this week.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Queen of the Spiders

Queen of the Spiders is still considered one of the greatest Dungeons & Dragon adventures ever printed.  It's also one that I have never owned and I have decided to rectify that.  I checked Noble Knight Games, they have no copies availible.  Next up was Amazon, they have copies running from $100 all the way up to $2936 (really?!).  I've been burned several times on Amazon with old modules, missing maps or in really bad condition so I'm a bit wary to purchase this piece from them.

What I need from you oh faithful readers is your feedback, I really cannot see paying $100.00 for an adventure, no matter how good it is.  Is there anyone out there that is aware of an alternate source (I already own a .pdf copy but would really like a hard copy) where I can pick up my own dead tree version?  Is anyone aware of some little out of the way online store that might have a copy that will not cost me an arm and a leg?

This might be a long shot but I figured its one worth taking.  I will be wrapping up my Temple of Elemental Evil campaign soon and was thinking of running all the way through Queen.  Anyway, thanks in advance!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Surviving K2! Brrrrrr.

My wife and I found some time last night to give K2 a try.  Adam Kaluza is a board game designer and avid mountain climber.  He has released several climbing games with K2 being the first, followed up by and expansion called Broad Peak (which I do not own....yet) and finally his newly released Mount Everest.

Being a person that loves to camp and hike and climb these games are right up my alley.  I'll keep my comments focused on K2 as I have not had a chance to play Mount Everest yet.  

Each player is assigned two climbers each with their own tent.  The goal is to climb as high as possible to gather as many victory points as you can.  Points from both of your climbers are added together at the end of the game to find your final score.  The game is simple but offers many choices and changing conditions.  As a player you hold six cards in your hand but can only play three per turn, these are movement cards, rope cards (which can be used to move faster down the mountain), and acclimatization cards.  The three cards you play can be split between your two climbers.  Each space on the board has a movement cost and acclimatization cost which can be positive or negative.  You gain victory points by reaching higher spaces but if your climber dies (by going below one acclimatization points) you get only one victory point for him/her.

My wife plots her red climbers strategy.  Points track is on the right edge of the board.

Fun stuff included in the game are the tents, which can be pitched once for each climber.  This changes the acclimatization in one space for that climber to +1 instead of negative points.  Pitching tents are essential to making the summit, when and where you put your can can help win you the game.  Tents are setup by paying extra movement points, once placed they are there for the game and can only be used by the matching climber.

Pushing toward the summit.  You can see the weather track to the left of the board.

Weather is another big factor in the game, there are 18 game turns, each with different weather.  You can see the weather for the next few days and can plan your assault on the summit accordingly.  Weather can cause negative acclimatization or movement in different altitude bands.  This is why tents are so important, if you are losing acclimatization points due to the altitude and also due to the weather your climbers would quickly expire.  As you near the peak there are also rules allowing only so many players in each space, you can pass through but cannot stop and exceed the maximum number allowed.  This allows you to block other players and force them to use more movement cards exposing them to risk factor tokens.

The game board includes two sides, one harder than the other, also included are two sets of weather cards, one good weather with the other being winter weather for increased difficulty.  My wife and I played on the sunny side board with the good weather cards.  Next time we will try the harder versions of each.

My wife's first climber made the summit and then died from overexposure.  My climber is two spaces below the summit in his tent waiting out the storm.

Its a great game that plays smoothly and takes a bit of strategy to plan out your turn.  You never have enough movement and acclimatization cards to execute all of your plans, you need to adapt on the fly to be successful and to keep your climbers alive.  If you have any interest in climbing themed games give K2 a try, you will not be dissapointed!

My climber in his tent is blocking my wife, she needs to play extra movement points to advance past him.

She leaped over me and then I returned the favor and reached the summit!

Here's how the game ended, ten points for each that summit-ed and six for my other climber.  My wife's second climber died giving her only one point which gave me the win!

Sol Tachi (Star Wars Edge of the Empire Character)

Edge of the Empire is another game that I have not had the time to actually play.  Its a big beautiful book with fantastic art throughout.  For my first character I decided to roll up a Bounty Hunter, Sol Tachi.  He come from a poor background, his father was an unsuccessful local system Bounty Hunter.  Sol learned the trade from his father at a young age and decided if he was ever going to be a success he needed to get a ship and leave the planet.  I gave him Freedom for his motivation, Sol is driven to do what he wants when he wants, he strives to be his own man.  For an obligation I gave him a criminal record, he had a brush with the Empire on his home-world of Fondor.

I figured he was technically proficient so I gave him the Gadgeteer specialization.  Gadgeteers are a mix of tech and combat experts, equally able to jury rig failing equipment or blast their way out of a dangerous situation. 

He has good Cunning and Presence and is a descent pilot and has good underworld connections. He's armed with a standard Blast Pistol with a filed down front sight but also has several non-lethal weapons to take down his marks, including a bola, two Stun Grenades and a pair of Shock Gloves.  Check out the rest of his stats below!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

New Labyrinth Lord Miniatures on order!

Well this morning I ordered the next set of Otherworld Miniatures made for Labyrinth Lord.  I'm very excited for this set, it comes in a Feldherr case and includes the following minis; 3 Gnolls, 3 Ghouls, 3 Zombies, 4 Troglodytes, 2 Shadows, 3 Large Crab Spiders, 3 Berserkers, 1 Green Slime, 1 Yellow Mold and 1 Evil Magic User.

I'll make sure I post some pics once they arrive and again once I start painting.  Hope you all had a great weekend!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Painting Operational Detachment Alpha - Complete!

My Delta Team is complete! Today I washed the figures in Citadel Devlan Mud, let them dry and then went back in and highlighted them.  I finished with two coats of Citadel Matte Varnish to help protect them.  I enjoy these figures, though I'm not super happy with the kneeling guy but I think that's more the pose that anything. If your looking for 20mm modern figures check out the Elhiem line available here in the US of A at Syr Hobb Wargames.


Painting Operational Detachment Alpha - Part II

I finished the base coat on all five of my Delta Force members yesterday.  I'm not going to describe what color is where, to be honest I didn't write everything down, I was busy watching World Cup games while I was painting.  Later today I will give them a wash and then go back in an paint the highlights.  I hope you're all having a good 4th of July weekend!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July!

Lincoln riding bear, because AMERICA.
Happy 4th everyone, be safe and enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Painting Operational Detachment Alpha - Part I

ODA Team Leader.
Heya folks,

I managed to spray coat my Marines with a clear matte varnish and I'm pleased with how they look.  I tried to take a few more pictures but they looked exactly like the last batch so I'll just move on to my Delta Operators.  I was able to get a little painting done this morning, I'll be working a bit more on these guys this weekend.

The Team Leaders coat is Citadel Fenris Grey with Vallejo Stone Gray pants.  His webbing is in Vallejo English Uniform.  All the skin tones are again either Vallejo Basic Skintone or Citadel Mournfang Brown.

Base colors blocked in.
Delta Operators Two and Three.
Operator Two has his pants painted in Vallejo Flat Earth, Operators Three and Five have theirs in Vallejo Iraqi Sand.

Delta Operators Four and Five.
Four has a pakol (afghan hat) painted in Vallejo Flat Earth and pants in Vallejo Grey-Green.

I am going to be painting these guys in earth tones but mismatched so they don't look like standard uniforms but more like men that have been operating behind enemy lines.  More to come this weekend, be safe and have a good July 4th weekend!