Tuesday 28 September 2021

Bad Squiddo Definitely Not Damsels Kickstarter

A while back I got sent an early preview figure from Bad Squiddo - a fantasy archer. I had great fun painting it, and am a big fan of Bad Squiddo sculpts in general.

The Kickstarter for this fantasy range has now launched. It's a super quick one - less than a week. So, if you're interested, get in now!

Monday 27 September 2021

Clearing the decks

I've had the week off, and while I had a bunch of real life obligations, I've had the chance to do a bunch of hobby too. Most of my time was spent in finishing up the prep of a whole bunch of models I got back from one of my assembly guys, but I got some paint on models too. First up is the Shasvastii Noctifer I put to one side to do the Corvus Belli OP at home challenge, and I thought I should get him finished up.

While waiting for some paint to dry, I started putting some paint on Virginia Hall from Bad Squiddo Games. I picked her up in the Kickstarter and don't have a plan for her, but it's good to get her painted up. Annie has a fantasy Kickstarter coming up this week that will only be up for five days, so keep an eye out for my post about that.

I've been meaning to get my Aenor Miniatures goblins painted for ages. I've decided to give them a contrast paint job over an Agrax Earthshade wash to see how that looks. Should be fun!

Here's the assorted models I finished up prep on. There's two Leonx Riders from the out of production game Runewars. There's a whole bunch of North Star models for Stargrave, and some Otherworld Miniatures models for D&D. Oh, and some duck people from Fenris Games in case I ever get into Runequest.

I also found some Meridian Miniatures steampunk militia from an old Kickstarter, and there's some viking types I got from Fenris and some giant rats. All the metal models I commissioned someone to assemble and undercoat. I then added some basing paste, painted that and any spots the spray had missed, then gave them a zenithal dusting to get them ready to paint.

I'll be putting these out as "Work In Progress Wednesdays" with better photos, but haven't got the photo booth out right now. All of this was to clear the decks to make way for . . .

I've signed up for the Malifaux Nationals at the end of November. I've already got a playable crew for the Viktorias assembled, and will be starting to paint them once I'm back from the Fast Panda tournament next weekend. I've dug out all the other models in the Mercenary keyword or Outcasts Versatile. The bases are on order and I'm just going to see how many of them I can get ready in time. I don't need any of them, but the more I get, the more flexibility I have available.

Pride is an Outcasts Versatile model, so I've got the Crossroads Seven box. On the off chance I get ahead there, I'll get the rest of the crew assembled too.

As the bases may be slow to arrive, I've also grabbed the Witches and Woes set out of my "to assemble" box in case I end up getting "stuck" waiting for the bases to arrive.

I don't really expect to get all of this done by late November, but being able to jump between projects means that even if not everything gets done, I've done something else rather than stopping hobbying completely.

Saturday 25 September 2021

Review: Southlands Worldbook by Kobold Press

Southlands (c) Open Design LLC

While I was on a particularly strong D&D kick over lockdown, I decide to back the Kobold Press Kickstarter for "Southlands 5th Edition". I went for the PDF option, and now it's all arrived, I wanted to share my thoughts on the first of the three books in the set - the Southlands Worldbook.

Kobold Press are a tabletop role-playing game company who produce content related to their game setting of "Midgard". They produce rules for the setting for 5th edition D&D, Pathfinder, 13th Age and AGE System. This lets them re-use an awful lot of the setting material over and over for the different game systems.

The Southlands is part of their Midgard setting, which wasn't hugely clear from the Kickstarter. A casual reader might have just assumed this was its own, stand alone setting. In fact, it's part of the wider Midgard setting. This is mostly fine, but one nation, Nuria Natal, has a long standing conflict with the Dragon Empire, which is simply not covered in this book. You can happily make this up, but generally if you're buying setting books, my assumption is that you're trying to avoid having to do all that hard work!

There's also a lot of mechanical references to other books, which is frustrating if you assumed this was a stand alone product. I'm relaxed about the references to the Player's Guide, as they were advertised together, but I'm also referred to the Midgard Worldbook, Creature Codex, Tome of Beasts, Demon Cults & Secret Societies, City of Cats, Deep Magic and Tome of Beasts 2.

I know I can always make my own monsters, or replace them with equivalent stat blocks from the Monster Manual. I can probably guess what a thief lord is going to be like from the context and stat accordingly. But I'm used to Wizards of the Coast adventure books which include any NPC blocks within the adventure you need so you don't need to pick up additional books. I'm a little put out to buy what I expected to be a self contained experience and get recommended at least $90 - $120 of additional PDFs, maybe even $210 - especially when that's not even counting the Player's Guide I was expecting to need to get.

From a gaming perspective, its broadly fine, but there's an unwritten expectation of buying in to Kobold Press' wider publications. The Player's Guide has a few of it's own faults, but I'll cover that in its own review.

Southlands (c) Open Design LLC


Lets talk about racism.

As a disclaimer: I'm a middle class, middle aged white guy who is still learning about this stuff. I may get some things wrong.

To be clear, this book is not a disaster. There's two prominent Cultural Consultants listed in the credits, and there was nothing in the book that made me feel like I didn't want to ever give Kobold Press any money ever again. But reading it reminded me of late 90s / early 00s gaming supplements, and over the past few years we've seen a lot of progress in handling issues around race, and it feels like this book really hasn't done anything to learn from that.

Its better than Tomb of Annihilation, but that is a low bar. Graeme Barber has done a comprehensive review of that book covering the issues with it, which I won't rehash here. If you have the time, I strongly recommend going and reading his review of Tomb of Annihilation.

My biggest concern is that there is no DM advice on handling cultures inspired by real world cultures, or avoiding racist tropes. At least 95% of this book could be played as written just fine as long as you avoid some land mines, but there's simply no help given. Not every book can be Harlem Unbound (probably the best book on the subject at the moment, buy it even if you're not into Call of Cthulu). But I'm not asking Southlands to be Harlem Unbound, I'm asking it to provide some basic advice.

To start of with, the pulp genre has had a racism problem since it came into being. As so much pulp was "goodie vs baddie" with little nuance, often the baddies fell into racist tropes, or just outright racism. That in turn means that a pulp inspired setting can end up falling into these same tropes.

The setting as a whole is already a bit of a worry for me. While Wizards of the Coast recently did an Egyptian themed / inspired setting as part of the recent Ravenloft book, gods and so on were at least renamed. In the Midgard setting, historic gods are simply presented as fantasy gods, like Deities and Demigods, with all the attendant baggage and problems that brings. Is there cultural appropriation there? Is there offensive material? I don't know enough to tell, and the book hasn't given me any expert advice on handling it or explaining how to avoid being offensive.

Then we move on to harmful tropes. The Southlands are described as being a higher magic setting than Midgard as part of the explanation of the setting. While a common pulp trope, it's playing into Orientalism, portraying cultures as mystical and spiritual rather than modern. It can be a form of othering, setting your own perspective as the norm, and other cultures as the ones who are different.

I'm also deeply suspicious of the way many of the nations are written in the book. The majority are in some way evil or oppressive. Many engage in slavery. This sort of portrayal is common in colonial narratives that seek to justify conquest by claiming that they weren't capable of governing themselves in a "civilised" fashion before the arrival of the colonisers.

The use of evil civilisations in fantasy adventure games can be a useful setting point, because it means that adventurers have antagonists, and reasons why problems haven't been fixed. I've also been told by a friend that the majority of the Midgard civilisations are pretty corrupt and evil for this reason. If that's the case, the problem is that here, presented in isolation, it looks like a harmful trope, and could end up being used as one by a game runner who hasn't shelled out for the sister campaign setting book. Again, the lack of guidance and advice leaves the setting open to problems when running it.

While we're on the subjective of colonial tropes, this book would swiftly swerve into disaster if any campaign ran with the player party being all or majority foreigners to the Southlands. Think for a moment about what it looks like if a bunch of foreigners come to fantasy Africa to solve its problems because its own people have not... Simple to avoid, particularly if using this book in isolation, but there's no guidance or warning to stop someone not thinking about how offensive that might look and running it.

Prayer Mat magic item created by Kobold Press.
Open Game Content under the Open Game License

Then there's the Prayer Mat mis-step. I wince looking at this. In a setting without Islam, they've included a prayer mat magic item. I'm deeply uncomfortable at the idea of including a famous aspect of Islamic culture into a fantasy setting, particularly one where it's then used to pray to polytheistic gods. Its pretty much the worst thing I've seen in the book, and the closest thing to "I'm never giving them any money again" there. If I were to run a Southlands game, its incredibly simple to excise wholesale and pretend it isn't there. But it shouldn't be there.

So, in summary - the Southlands Players Guide is a flawed book which would have been forgiven its failings if it had been published even five years ago. As it is, it's a disappointing mis-step that could have done an awful lot better in avoiding racist tropes and offering advice on running a campaign in a different culture. Its still usable, but will require additional work and research to make sure your game doesn't end up cringeworthy or offensive, and it's work that Kobold Press should have made the effort to provide for you.

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Sisters of Battle First Game Plans

I'm hoping to get my first game of the 9th edition of Warhammer 40,000 in soon, so I took a little time to write a list using the Sisters of Battle I have available. I've not written the list for a particular mission, as that will need agreeing with my opponent, but there's not exactly a lot of variation I can manage within the models I've got. It's only going to be a 1,000 point game.

First up, I'm taking a Patrol detachment with two five lady squads, taking advantage of the fact I have a couple of spare Veteran Sister Superiors from the limited edition models.

Lacking any tanks at the moment, mobility will have to be covered by the Seraphim squad. I'm suspecting some transport tanks may be high on the purchase list to expand out to 2,000 points!

As it's the only armour I've got, I'll also throw in the Penitent Engine to run around do violence before something smushes him.

This mob will get led by a Canoness, with a second Canoness leading up a Vanguard detachment as most of the models I own are Elite . . .

I've grabbed a Dialogus to learn what they do in the new edition. They seem to hand out buffs to units or something.

Also, the Imagifier, who also seems to have an aura of useful effects.

The rest of the list is taken up by angry people. To get two org chart free Repentia Superior, there's a squad of Repentia in both Detachments. I'm aware they could likely do with some vehicles, which I don't own, soooo...

The list is then rounded out with as many Arco Flagellants as I can afford for the points. Their job is to run forward screaming with the Repentia and see who dies most / kills most.

Getting a game in isn't really my top priority right now, as I really need to focus on getting ready for the Malifaux tournament I'll be at in November, but if I have some free time to fit in a game, I may as well...

Once I've got a game or two in, I can start thinking about how the force plays and what sort of models it would be sensible to get to expand the force. The obvious one to start off would be more Battle Sisters, so I can take more varied troop choices and get a bigger Detachment rather than two smaller ones.

Monday 13 September 2021

Infinity N4 Battle Report: Dahshat Company vs Force de RĂ©ponse Rapide Merovingienne

As I mentioned last week, I went down to Bethnal Green Working Men's Club for a Sunday club session to take part in our Meatspace League. Hackney Area Tabletop Enthusiasts are requiring advanced bookings to limit numbers and allow social distancing, and it is absolutely required to wear a mask while moving around the building.

I got there super early because of nerves about travelling, but it meant I could get out the scenery and set up a table.

My opponent was bringing Merovingia, and the League called for the mission Annihilation. I won the Lieutenant roll and chose to go first. Dahshat Company is "pretty aggressive" as a faction, and I wanted to cause as much damage as possible early on. For defence, I had a core fireteam of Ghulams with a couple of snipers. The Bounty Hunter sniper rolled Mimetism -6 which moved the team from "good" to "oppressive".

The right flank had the Rui Shi and McMurrough. I was really worried about Margot and Duroc walking in from the side or my deployment edge, so did my best to cover their possible approach edges as best possible.

I also had a Total Reaction remote up on some shipping containers. I've taken to having more ARO pieces over the lockdowns, and it's served me pretty well so far. The advantage of the Reaction remote is that it still has a Heavy Machine Gun so could go on a late game attack run if it needs to. My hold back models were the Maghariba Guard and a Rafiq FTO in a Fireteam: Duo.

I pushed the Maghariba Guard up the table and shot everything I saw. I took out four or five models on the way. He ended on my opponent's half on the table in suppression fire for the inevitable counter attack.

On the right, I pushed the Rui Shi up and dropped it into suppression fire to be yet another problem for my opponent.

The Merovingian response to the Maghariba Guard was air dropping a Werewolf. Duroc managed to throw smoke and get into close combat with the TAG. A few hits later, and the Maghariba Guard was dead.

McMurrough went on a killing spree, killing a decoy who was hiding like they were a Lieutenant, and most of the rest of the Ariadnan Link team. Eventually his luck ran out and he got taken out by the 112 Doctor.

The Rui Shi moved around and managed to take out Duroc, but the return fire took it out in turn.

Margot managed to get in range of my link leader and Lieutenant and dropped several speculative fire grenades onto him. Despite the early damage from the Maghariba Guard, we were tied on casualties and surviving points, meaning that the Lieutenant kill swung the game for the French.

My initial thoughts from this game is that it's more to do with how I played the mission. I think Annihilation may benefit a cagier, more defensive play to try and keep more of your forces alive. Having a reliable solution to "Lieutenant on a rooftop" is pretty vital, as those are relatively easy points to pick up in many cases.

It was good to get back into games in person, and it gave me plenty of tactical thoughts to chew over for future games.

Monday 6 September 2021

Going Out Out

Yesterday, I made my first trip to HATE club since the pandemic started. We're having a Meatspace League to get people used to going out again a bit. The club has social distancing and mask rules in place, and everyone's being super careful. I had a great game, and I'll write it all up separately.

With the world starting to open up again, I've signed up to a tournament at the start of October run by the Fast Panda YouTube Channel. It's up north but should be relatively easy to get to. Not sure what I'm taking yet, but I'm thinking that Dahshat Company is the most likely.

I've also signed up to the Malifaux Nationals in November. I don't have a painted force yet, but it's far enough out that I should be able to get the necessary models done - it's longer than I had for the OP at home challenge, and I managed that.

All in all, the world is opening up again. I'm definitely taking it very slowly and carefully - and recommend everyone else does too. It was good to get a game played in person, and talk about nerd stuff at an actual place. Here's hoping the situation can continue to improve.