Friday, 27 March 2009

Oh well, who wants to live forever? Ha! Ha! Ha! DIVE! - Hawkmen in 15mm

In my humble opinion the most famous race from the Flash Gordon stories is without a doubt the Hawk-men of Mongo. Mostly because of Brian Blessed's fantastic performance in the 80's movie the very second you mention Flash Gordon then someone will inevitably shout "GORDON'S ALIVE!" in a booming voice.

When considering them to make an appreance on the gaming table visually they have remained similar in all the different previous incarnations (shown below from left to right, the Alex Raymond comic, the Buster Crabbe serial)

Similarly their leader Vultan has undergone little change (shown below from left to right, the Alex Raymond comic, the Buster Crabbe serial, the 1980's Filmation cartoon and, of course, Brian Blessed in the 1980 movie.)

So then, quite a distinctive style and one I wasn't sure at first how I was going to get some in 15mm. I had previously discovered the following images on Alan Saunder's excellent 15mm Flash Gordon HOTT army page...

And also this second image from a post on the Rat Trap Productions Pulp forum...

As you can see, these would have been prefect. They were manufactured by M. J. Miniatures who sadly had ceased trading but thanks to the comments on the forum post I realised that the rights to them are now owned by The Scene Miniatures but they were not on their website. Not being the shy type I quickly fired an email through and the owner Mike got back to me pretty much straight away. So I can announce (with his permission of course) that he's having a bit of work done on the Hawkmen mini's and they will be re-released on the 1st May !

This is awesome news as they are perfectly suited to 15mm Hawkmen, I'm prolly going to do a bit of work on one of them to be Vultan but the rank and file will be good to go once painted up.



Monday, 23 March 2009

Honourable Warriors - The Lion Men of Mongo in 15mm

If you asked anyone for an race from Flash Gordon the most likely response would be either the Hawkmen or the Tree-Men (although it's doubtful anyone would call them that). Going back to the original comic, right from the very start of Alex Raymond's strip we see that Mongo is a rich and detailed alien world, with many more peoples than those we are familiar with from the 80's movie and most modern retellings.

One such race which has fallen into obscurity is the Lion-Men of Mongo. One of the first natives to team up with Flash (after an altercation in the skies) is Thun, crown prince of the Lion-Men. Early on he becomes one of Flash's group and for that reason (and some prompting from I See Lead People's Eli Arndt) I've decided to include the Lion-Men in my initial 15mm Flash Gordon line up.

There are quite a few interpretations of Lion-Men in the different source matrial. In Alex Raymond's original there was not much "Lion-ness" about them. Thun was pretty much a semi-naked orange man with big dreadlocks and a beard...

This was also a look followed by the Buster Crabbe serials...

However in some of the other versions there has been a definite more animalistic appraoch the Lion-Men, including both the 1979 Filmation cartoon (far left on the DVD cover below) and also in the new comic by Aarden Entertainment (in the background on the cover below, behind Flash and Dale).

So with an eye towards having a more interesting and varied 15mm battlefield I have decided to go with the animalistic approach as there seems to be a good selection of 15 cat people out there. As Eli kindly drew my attention to, Splintered Light Miniatures do a whole range of cat people, not limited to just Lions.

I think for a starting skirmish group the 11 men plus leader for $8.00 would be ideal, but for future expansion you could do the different aspects of the Lion-Men's culture with the different types of feliniod that Splintered Light produce.



Friday, 20 March 2009

Flash Gordon using Larger Than Life...

Yesterday I sat down and perused the Internet to look at the various rulesets I could use to play my planned Flash Gordon miniatures game. Scale doesn't matter so much as I have the magic powers of a calculator but I definitely want to stick to a skirmish type game, the other is that it has to be fun.

There are currently quite a few 28mm/40mm games out there featuring not-Flash, something of a classic sci-fi revival in fact but the game which piqued my curiosity most was Two Hour Wargames Pulp ruleset, Larger Than Life (LTL).

Two Hour Wargames and their reaction based games system are (as far as I know) quite unique. You play out the preamble and run up (and fallout) of a game using multiple campaign tables and the actual fighting itself has a clever mechanism where you're never quite sure what the figures under your command are going to do, let alone the bad guys. because of these cleverly designed tables the game lends itself to solo and (my favourite) co-operative play the rules are fast paced and fun.

With LTL the core gaming system remains mostly the same as previous games but much more streamlined and a lot of work has gone into the campaign structure to make the games you play feel like a pulp adventure and if Flash Gordon in my mind was anything, it was those Buster Crabbe black and white serials that were repeated on TV during half term holidays when I was a kid (these were repeats in the 80's, I'm not that old).

So all excited I bought a downloadable copy of LTL and waited for it to arrive. One of the small irritaters with Two Hour Wargames is that they email you the file after a certain period of time (up to 24 hours) instead of it being instantly downloadable. So after a nights sleep my file arrived and I started reading through the book, creating my characters and campaign as I went. One thing to be aware of (which did catch me at first back when I bought my first Two hour Wargames product Warrior Heroes (WHAA), their fantasy ruleset) is the layout of the book, it doesn't follow the normal formula for a rule book it's laid out more like a flowchart with each section dovetailing neatly into the next one you need. Once you get used to this you'll wonder why other manufacturers don't do this. Also the LTL book is streets ahead of older rulesets (like WHAA) as when you do need to jump to another section it's clearly labelled which page you have to go to.

So how did my adventure go, it went something like what follows, whenever I play a Two Hour Wargames game I start a new Document and write down things as I go, I have copied my first foray into this excellent ruleset below, a battle/campaign report if you will. The sections in blue are fluff that I wrote after I'd finished the dice rolling for each section before continuing on to the next. The sections in green I've added here to make it flow a bit better.

Flash Gordon using the Larger Than Life Ruleset by Two Hour Wargames

- The rulebook breaks down what is a pulp and explains what the main factors are. I added in my Flash Gordon details as I went.

Star – Flash Gordon
Co-Stars – Zarkov
Love Interest – Dale
The Big bad – Ming
Femme Fatale – Aura

- Then it has full details of how to create your Stars, the main players of the tale.

Flash Gordon (Star)
Star Power: 2
Larger Than Life
Cheat Death
Free Will
Home – TBC
Reputation: 4
Brains: 2
Brawn: 4
Bravado: 2
Advantage: Natural Athlete
Disadvantage: Chauvinist – He cannot choose to attack a female unless she has attacked him first.

– Having a look through the disadvantages none of them seemed to fit with the idea of Flash so I made this one up.

Profession – Jack-of-all-trades (use the Adventurer Crisis Table)
Acrobatics (Brawn)
Shooting (Brawn)
Influence (Bravado)
Melee (Brawn)
Employer: National Government.

– I wasn’t sure what to pick for Flash as he’s on Mongo and is the only one but I decided that working for America probably makes the most sense.

4 Recruiting Points

- I used the story of Flash to help me here, even though not technically at Home (as Flash has no home on Mongo at the start of his adventure) I’ve chosen to recruit two co-stars Dale Arden and Hans Zarkov.

Dale Arden (Co-Star & Love Interest)
Cheat Death
Rep: 4
Brains: 2
Brawn: 2
Bravado: 4
Advantage: Sexy
Disadvantage: Petite - I used the Runt disadvantage but decided to call it petite, to be more in the spirit of Flash.
Journalism – The ability to investigate as well as report the news.
Crisis Test: Civilian
Employment: Private Company (Daily Herald)

Hans Zarkov (Co-Star)
Cheat Death
Rep: 4
Brains: 4
Brawn: 2
Bravado: 2
Advantage: Photographic Memory
Disadvantage: Addict (Drunkard)

- I gave Zarkov this but am using it to represent an addiction to stimulants, he always seemed a bit of an oddball character.

Crisis Test: Adventurer
Employment: Self-employed

Flash, Dale and Zarkov are on Mongo and using the wreckage of their crashed Rocket Ship as a base of operations. It’s in the middle of nowhere so is classed as Jungle (Rocky Desert).

Opening Scene

What does the star need to accomplish? - Find a person (Enemies protecting)
Who is the Big Bad ? – Slavers (Ming’s Palace Guard)
And how bad is he ? – Same rep as the Star
The Master Plan – Steal treasure

After crash landing on the planet surface, Zarkov picks up a radio transmission being sent by some of Ming’s Palace Guards back to the palace. In the transmission the Guards reveal that they have captured the crown prince of the Lion Men of Mongo, Prince Thun ! They are holding him captive in an attempt to get their hands on the Lion Men’s fabled ancestor stone.

How many scenes before the final scene ? - Get info from someone in a Story Advancing Scene

Travel scene – Have to go to Jungles (Arborea) using a Safari Vehicle, there is no encounter whilst travelling.

Under Zarkov’s instruction Flash and Dale manage to salvage parts from their crashed rocket ship and construct a basic flyer to take them to the nearby mountains where the transmission came from.

Scene 1 - Get info from Someone (Story Advancing Scene)

Is the Big bad here ? No
Time of Day ? Daytime

Travelling through the mountains as close to the triangulated signal as possible they discover that the Palace Guard are no longer here as this is just a relay post that was used to forward the transmission. Noting that the relay station appears manned they land their flyer and set out to find the small building with the intention of questioning the inhabitants.

Difficulty of finding the person ?
Rolled 2 and 6
No modifiers as person in Jungle
Roll 2d6 vs Rep = 6,4 – 1 pass
Roll 2d6 vs Difficulty = 4,6 – 0 pass
Searcher finds the Quarry but will suffer Complications when questioning the Quarry.

Solving the Clue
Rolled 4,3
Flash = 4 – 2,1,2 – 3 successes
Clue = 3 – 1,6,4 – 1 success
Star solves the meaning of the clue (Clues solved = 1)

Sneaking up on the outpost with the hopes of getting the drop on the sole guard within Dale trips up and they’re worried they may have alerted the guard to their presence. Luckily for them he did not hear and they quickly overcome him and manage to persuade him to give them what he remembers of the co-ordinates of the original transmission. Sadly it is incomplete, they tie up the guard and leave him behind.

Advance the Story: 4+1+1d6 = 7 !

Get info from someone in a Story Advancing Scene.

Travel scene – Have to go to Jungles (Mountains) using a Safari Vehicle, there is no encounter whilst travelling.

Scene 2 - Get info from Someone (Story Advancing Scene)

Is the Big bad here ? No
Time of Day ? Night

Flash and his companions trace the signal from the relay station and decide to head to the next one with the intention of seeing if the guard their can recall any more of the co-ordinates. They get back in their anti-grav flyer and head off in the direction of the next station.

Difficulty of finding the person ?
Rolled 2 and 5
No modifiers as person in ‘Jungle’
Roll 2d6 vs Rep (4) = 4,1 – 1 pass
Roll 2d6 vs Difficulty (2) = 2,5 – 1 pass
Searcher fails to find the Quarry.

Upon locating the next relay station finding it sadly unmanned Flash and his companions were not able to find out any more information about the co-ordinates of where the signal originated.

Advance the Story: 4+1+1d6 = 8 !

Get info from someone in a Story Advancing Scene.

Travel scene – Have to go to Lost World on foot there is an encounter whilst travelling.

Scene 3

After the failure at the last communications relay they examine the information they down loaded from the rocket’s computer and track the origin of the signal as best as they can. Zarkov believes the signal to have come from the entrance to a nearby cave. Leaving behind their flyer they enter the forbidding cave on foot.

Scene 4 – Travelling Encounter – being followed

Not long after they enter the cave network they realise they are being followed.

Scene 4 becomes a Stand Up Fight

Suddenly the tunnel our heroes are following opens up, thinking they have traversed the whole width of the mountain the look up but they notice the sun is paler in colour to that of Mongo’s surface. Above them is clear blue sky and the strange coloured sun is centrally positioned. As they look down from their ledge they see a lush and verdant grassy plain, unbeknowst to them they have entered the inner world of Mongo. Amazed by the wonders this alien world has to offer they descend to the plain, but no longer being able to conceal themselves in the tunnels their pursers catch them up and attack !

- Hmm the rules did seem to neglect to give you who you are fighting when a being followed turns into a Stand Up Fight. I am just going to roll on the Interaction tables as normal and then follow the full combat bit.

Interaction with Dinos !

Setting the Stage (p.40 [46]) - The scene takes place in an open and flat area of grassland.

Assemble the Cast
4+4+4 = 16
Roll 1d6 = 5 : +1 Clue = 6 : Big Bad Rep 4 = 10 = The enemy has equal the Rep of your group.

Small Feeder
Rep 3
Star power 2
(Three of them equalling 9 Rep)
Special Characteristic:
Crisis test: Feeder

Small Ferocious Flyer
Rep 4
Star Power 2
(Five of them equalling 20 Rep) – I reduced this to 2 of them making the overall rep of the encounter 17 instead of 29 !
Special Characteristics:
Crisis test: Ferocious

Place the Actors on their Marks

Leaders start 11 inches from each other (28mm scale), place all other with 12 inches of leader but no closer than he is to enemy.

Action Section – Take the Gaining the Upper Hand test
Flash – 4,5,5,3 – 1 Success
Dinos – (+1) - 5,6,5,1,5 – 1 Success
Flash – 6 - Fail
Dinos – (+1) - 5,2 – 1 Success
Dinos won

Score 1 more success than opponent

• All will fire if possible. Go to the Combat Rules section.
• Otherwise charge into melee but enemy may fire. Go to the Combat Section rolling Activation normally

- Not owning any Flash Gordon miniatures I stopped there for the moment !

So in ten scant minutes I had an excellent scenario laid out in front of me leading to a rumble with the inhabitants of Mongo's inner world. I could play it solo from then or have people playing Dale and Zarkov and even someone playing the Dino if I wanted to. All in all I was very very impressed with how this ruleset let me follow Flash's footsteps on Mongo and I can't wait to give the fight a go this weekend (with proxies) and will let you know how the combat mechanism works ! One thing I forgot is that my Flash and his co-stars are not armed so it might be an easy win for the Dinosaurs !

Over the weekend I will also be looking at a recommended source for the Lion Men of Mongo and maybe trying to source a Zarkov whilst I'm at it.



Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The Evil Tyrant - Ming the Merciless in 15mm

As dictated by duality theory, good cannot exist without evil so today I have turned my web crawling towards getting a good miniature to represent Flash's nemesis on his adventures on Mongo, Ming the Merciless.

Unlike most characters who undergo massive changes depending on the source material you look at, Ming remains pretty much constant throughout all the different incarnations of Flash Gordon, the only notable exception being the slightly under-par* 2007 series (shown above far right image). Ming was typical of oriental styled villains of the 30's and is in effect an alien version of Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu (perhaps they were one and the same, or maybe even twins separated by time and space; the pulp scenario Flash/Fu possibilities are stirring in my mind already) sadly there are only a few miniatures that could possibly be used for Ming.

Circa Games have an excellent 15mm resource for Victorian and Pulp 15mm miniatures and one of the things they do mention is one of Irregular Miniatures colonials line, their Chinese Civilian FZ 122 who sadly does not have a picture but is described by Circa as "One chap with long robe and round hat looks distinctly Fu Manchu-like." which (minus the hat) could be exactly what I'm looking for but his clothing might be too low key for Mings sumptuous robes. At the low low cost I've decided to get two of these anyway, one for Ming (with a bit of head re-sculpting or maybe a head swap) and one for Fu. That is one of the awesome things about 15mm, you can pick up extra miniatures for future games as you know it's not going to smash the bank to get a new game up and running, especially skirmish level gaming that I'm primarily interested in

After some more trawling of the usual 15mm suspects I actually found a likely culprit on Alternative Armies 15mm site. The meekly named 'Merchant' from their Laserburn Starship crew looks ideal, especially when lined up next to the Defenders of the Earth version of Ming.

Obviously I'm going to have to do a bit of remodelling on the head and the beard is bigger than we'd expect but the miniature looks really nicely detailed. One of these has been added to my Salute buying plans.

Another thing I found right next to him on the site was 'Space Scout'
which immediately put me in mind of Ming's son, Prince Kro-Tan from the Defenders of the Earth cartoon.

I like the idea of Ming having a opportunistic power hungry son as well as the femme fatale daughter, Aura. The addition of an extra sibling opens up loads of gaming possibilities for anything from petty rivalries to a full civil war on Mongo so 'Space Scout' is going on my Salute list too !

One thing I'm not yet 100% decided upon is skin tone. I'm not yet sure if I'm going to go with the Alex Raymonds yellow skin, the Defenders cartoon green or the movie's Caucasian. I need to decide on one though as it will affect the painting of all my Mongo troops and Ming's offspring. I'm leaning towards the green but I might just use it foe the 'royal family' as opposed to Ming's palace guards, perhaps suggesting the rule of Mongo was taken by force or even a separate race of higher born humans. Hmm...

Tomorrow I'll be having a think about which rulesets can best accommodate 15mm Flash Gordon gaming...



* read 'tragic'.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

The Hero of the Piece - Flash Gordon in 15mm

So then, armed with a miniature scale and a theme I hit the first stop of most people these days looking to find anything at all stop at, Google. Google has a lot to answer for, because of it we can now pretty much find anything we want in a very small amount of time through the magic of the internet. Whilst this is in itself amazing it does make you realise that no matter how original you think an idea is, someone has probably tried it before.

Fourth link down in a simple Google search for "15mm Flash Gordon miniatures" we find "Alan's Flash Gordon Army" and in seconds the first step of trying to find a figure to represent the hero of the piece has been deftly stepped on and subsequently left behind with a plethora of miniatures and ideas to kick start my new hobby.

Steve 'Flash' Gordon - Our Hero

Depending on if you follow the comics, the black and white serial, the eighties movie or the (tragic) new 2007 series, Flash's background varies. Originally a Polo player graduated from Yale he has seen incarnations where he's been a famous quarterback for the New York Jets to the (tragic) new interpretation where he's a track runner. All of this is moot really as once he's in space he dons skin tight clothing (often just a skimpy set of briefs) grabs a sword and a blaster and heads into the fray. I have decided to stick to (at least to begin with) the Alex Raymond strips as they are quite jolly and full of much derring do. The strip below is from Flash's first few hours on the planet Mongo...

As you can see he's parading around in his skimpy's with a top nicked from one of Ming's flyers armed with a sword he's picked up along the way. This set the parameters for my first mini and thanks to Alan's Flash Gordon Army the legwork has already been done.

Peter Pig's fantasy line, 'War in the Age of Magic' has several miniatures called Red Aliens that look wonderfully like exactly what I'm after...

Would you look at that, a buff young male in a pack along with a scantily clad female who could easily represent a captive Dale or even Princess Aura all for 1 shiny pound. I have spoken to Peter Pig and pre-ordered these along with some of their other miniatures to collect at Salute !

My (epic space) quest is underway.



The Adventure Begins !

Afternoon All,

Welcome to my new blog which will document my journey into the world of 15mm science fiction and fantasy gaming. It has been 100% inspired by Tony (Dampfpanzerwagon) foray into the world of 40mm Flash Gordon gaming on his blog. I always read Tony's blog updates with awe, his painting is awesome and the conversions and scenery he somehow finds the time to create are truly a wonder. For a long time I have played pretty much one system, Flintloque, which has taken up much of my time with both the game itself and the website I run for it, Orcs in the Webbe, I will still be carrying on with Flintloque as it enters it's 3rd incarnation but I have decided it's time to get a different gaming perspective so I'm changing to 15mm gaming to see what it's like.

I must be honest the main deciding factor in loosing a whole centimetre off my models has been cost, 28mm miniatures have been gradually getting more and more expensive over the last few years and whilst I do appreciate the amount of effort and time that goes into creating them in the current climate I simply can't afford them any more. I have toyed with (and as a result, created) many print off minis and flats to try gaming with but there's just something about miniatures games that make them so much more appealing. For me it's not just the gameplay (although that is obviously hideously important too) but the hobby itself, collecting the miniatures, painting them and getting them onto the gaming table.

Taking Tony's lead I have decided to stick to Flash Gordon for my initial encounter with the world of 15mm, not because there was a plethora of minis that suited it (quite the opposite at first glance) but because I liked what T0ny had done. For him the seeking out and finding of new minis/terrain that fits in with his chosen theme and scale has in itself become part of the hobby.

All of this has tied in nicely to my trip to Salute at the end of the month, meaning I can pick up some minis without incurring postage, although at 15mm the costs don't stray too high anyways :)

So without further ado I leave you gentle reader to enjoy The Space Adventures of the MadWelshWizard.