Sunday, January 1, 2017

Coming Out of the Box

If you liked this project,
you'll love 2017's project.
Completing Castle Meatgrinder, a large wargaming project from start to as-near-to-finished-as-any-wargame-project-ever-gets, was the least of my 2016 successes. Over the course of last year, my fire adopted a number of new irons, and by the time the Holiday season rolled around it was all I could do to keep them all in the air and not get burned.  So 2017 is going to see a few changes around here.

Long story short, Jeffro Johnson - one of the first bloggers that I really connected with - has asked me to write a bi-weekly column for the Castalia House blog.  In addition to that, one of my favorite authors, Schuyler Hernstrom, has asked me to collaborate on set of war game rules.  I eagerly agreed to both of these, and the natural result of these new project is my coming out of the box.

Oddly enough, neither man asked Warren Abox to participate.  You see, I spent 2016 moonlighting as a writer and a literary critic over at another couple of blogs, and it was under that name - my real name - that they came to know me.  Of course, my decision to enter the literature lists was a direct result of my contact with him via our shared online war gaming circles, but I tried to maintain some separation between my nom de guerre and my nom de moi.  I even went so far as to publish a handful of guest posts at the Castalia House blog under both of my monikers, without letting the blog editors in on the secret.  They are now!

Over the last six months, it has grown more difficult to maintain that separation. For one thing, I just don't have the time nor the energy to maintain two profiles at the same time.  For another, my reading and war gaming are not really two separate hobbies, but two of the many struts that support hides covering the geeky little teepee in which my heart dwells.  With the advent of the blog series and the (as yet under wraps) fantasy wargame, it's time to ditch the anonymity and bring these two hobbies closer together in my online work.

You're a reader here, so your primary concern is probably, "what does all this mean for the blog?"

Rest assured, it's not going anywhere.  It may slow down a bit as my focus shifts.  More of my nerdery will wind up pasted at Seagull Rising, and my 2017 War In A Box Project will be documented over at the Castalia House blog.

I have no intention of shuttering this site completely.  Anything of a purely wargaming nature will wind up posted here.  The bulk of my painted miniatures and most of my actual play posts will appear here.  All the brainy stuff, the literary analysis, and likely even the RPG related posts, are going to be moving over to Seagull Rising.  This means that War In A Box will maintain its typical tight focus on wargaming that you've come to expect over the years.  If you want to learn more about me, and about my writing, then you're of course welcome to check in on Seagull Rising from time to time.

On Wednesday, I'll be kicking off a big wargaming project over at the Castalia House blog that you won't want to miss.  Don't worry, I'll post a quick link here to remind you, so you won't miss it.

Oh, and lest I forget!  Thank you for painting and pushing lead with me, even if only vicariously, for the last five and a half years.  It's been a lot of fun, and I look forward to continuing the enjoyment for years to come.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Into the Dungeon: Castle Meatgrinder AP

The kids were kind enough to playtest Castle Meatgrinder over the holiday break, and we found that it needs some serious work.  They had a good time, but I wasn't satisfied with the amount of action, the speed of play, or the organization of my notes.  Most important, I was not at all satisfied with the amount of stuff in the dungeon.  We'll talk more about how I can improve as a DM later.  For now, let's look at what happened.
Seven PCs entered, and seven PCs returned.
Three entrances the players had, a barred door, an open cave, and a strange stone passage whose entry was carved to look like a mouth.  They chose the open cave, and after dropping down a flight of stairs found themselves in a 30-foot room with stairs leading down in all three cardinal directions.  The center of the room held four large columns surrounding a simple well.
After putzing about with the well for a bit, they chose to descend to the right.  A bit of exploration through large, empty halls, and they found a plain chest in an alcove.  Opening it dropped an iron cage down on the thief and cleric sent to investigate.  Together, they managed to lift up the cage enough to free them.  Just as they slipped free, cultists appeared in the distance.
They challenged the party, wary, but not hostile.  When they realized the party was interlopers they attacked!

The party's pyromaniac Halfling lit them up with burning oil, and they quickly dispatched the red robes with little trouble  They scored 25 gp and a strange gold mask the leader had been wearing.

 Further exploration revealed a lot of empty rooms and empty halls.

My wandering monster dice kept coming up sixes, and that meant the only other combat they faced was two tentacles guarding a treasure horde on a small island.  After beating sense into the tentacles and driving them off, they took the loot and ran.

After several hours, two combats, several traps, and even a bit of role-play, it was time to call it a night.  The team enjoyed the miniature heavy version, but at the conclusion suggested that they'd prefer to return to Skull Mountain and see if they can get past the shrieker at the entrance to put some hurt down on the orcs that guard the entryway. 

I'm not much for railroading, so if that's what they decide...I'm up for it.  Even if it does mean shelving the dungeon terrain for the most part.  I'll just have to find a local game convention and run Castle Meatgrinder for some strangers if that's what it takes.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Big Surprise!

After writing up my last post, it occurred to me that I do have a box of odds and ends that might be perfect for Castle Meatgrinder's heavy hitters.  Here are two of them.  (There are a few more that we'll leave in our back pocket for surprises).  Here's what they look like next to a pair of 15mm figures.  

I don't know who manufactured that dragon, but it's been in the collection for decades.  The second one here is an old Nyarlathotep miniature - I think it's an old RAFM figure.  Anybody out there that can confirm that?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Compleat Castle Meatgrinder

Who are we kidding? A project like this is never complete, it just goes into hibernation. As we round out the year of fantasy skirmish here at War In A Box, let's take a look at where the project stands. At the current time we've got over 50 characters in four different races for player pawns.  We've got at least a dozen each of orcs, ratmen, lizardmen, undead, cultists, and frogmen.  We've got creatures from vermin to ogres, flying things, climbing things, swinging things, and tentacled things.  We've got traps galore and puzzles to boot.  As it stands Castle Meatgrinder spans ten dungeon levels, each with ten to fifteen rooms, and a few hidey-holes to allow for future expansions.

That's a lot of stuff, but in keeping with the mission of compact gaming on a budget, let's take a look at how compact you can make a D&D megadungeon if you're willing to game in 15mm.

Every figure in the fantasy collection.
With room for another faction/warband in the case.

The plastic tub contains all of the dungeon floor tiles, and the Old Spice box contains the delicate dungeon dressing.  To give you a better idea of scale, that tub is designed to carry two reams of standard sized paper.

You won't have any trouble carrying this mega-dungeon around a crowded convention hall.

So what are we missing?  A few things:
  • Natural caverns.  There's room for a few more halls and rooms in the tub.
  • Big beasts.  We don't have a dragon or giant or any number of high-level threats.  Right now it's all strictly low level gaming.  Aside from a few minotaurs, we don't even have any of the heavy-hitting humanoids.
  • The Old Spice box is pretty empty.  We can add a lot more dungeon dressing to it, or maybe find a better carrier so that all of the dungeon materials themselves are in a single box.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Children of Mordor

The biggest warband in Castle Meatgrinder must be the ravening horde of orcs.  You can get an even two dozen of these bad boys from Splintered Light for twenty bucks.  And these figures pretty well match the style of those in the Jim Roslof artwork on the cover of B2: Keep on the Borderlands.

The green skins might surprise some readers.  Most old-school painters go with the reddish to ochre skin of later editions.  According to the Moldvay canon, orcs look like "a combination of animal and man," with no mention of skin color.  Not only does the green skin adhere to the color picture on the cover of the B2 module, it's really the best choice from an artistic standpoint.  It provides plenty of contrast against the brown leather armor that dominates the garb of these figures.

And just for reference for those of you who, like me, mix manufacturers, here's a comparison shot of a bunch of different ones.

From left to right you're looking at:
  • Ral Partha Europe Dwarf (15mm)
  • Ral Partha Europe Elf (15mm)
  • Splintered Light Thief (15mm)
  • Splintered Light Orc with Spear (15mm)
  • Splintered Light Orc with Axe (15mm)
  • Pendraken Minotaur (10mm)
  • Pendraken Ogre (10mm)
  • Pendraken Ratman (10mm)
  • Pendraken Lizardman (10mm)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Time for Elfs

Merry Christmas!

Ral Partha Europe makes another appearance in the depths of the dungeons beneath Castle Meatginder.  This time its a full unit of wood elves painted in muted blues and browns. 

This makes for a pretty good range of character choices.  You've got everything from magic elf to bow elf to spear elf to sword elf.  What more could a guy want for figure choices for Moldvay Basic where elf is a class and not a race.

As discussed earlier, I've been thinking of ways to make elves in Castle Meatgrinder more than just tall, pointy-eared humans given to tree-hugging and prancing about.  I think characterizing them as soul-less beings poisoned by iron opens up a lot more possibilities than the current fad of, "They
re people, but you know, different somehow.  Here's a few stat changes."

Some of you may realize that I've been done with this project for a while now.  My wargaming output is pretty sporadic, so I've pre-scheduled a lot of these posts in advance.  The good news is that I want to start 2016 with a clean slate, and that means an upcoming post dump of random things.  Enjoy.

Monday, December 19, 2016

More Heroic Dudes

This last collection represents the last heroes from (plus the second Halfling from Irregular Miniature's 6mm line).  All that's left now is the wild elves from Ral Partha Europe, and we'll have all seven character classes available for the party.