Sunday, July 12, 2015

Modular Lego Dungeon in the Works

I'm working on a modular Lego dungeon set for my kids and I to game with. I had several castle sets as a kid, so I have lots of grey pieces to work with. I also bought a few bags of grey bricks on eBay.I only have two hallways finished, but it's coming along.

(Click to see larger)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Song of Blades and Heroes Lego Game

Last evening my12-yr-old and I played Song of Blades and Heroes using our Lego collection. She likes Legos and Lord of the Rings, so it was a fun first game for her. In case you're not familiar, Song of Blades and Heroes is a tabletop fantasy wargame that needs only a handful of models to play. Typically players use painted fantasy models, but Legos work really well.

I had a lot of 1980s Lego Castle sets when I was a kid, which my parents returned to me when they moved. So, I have a good number of old Medieval/fantasy pieces to use, and I've been adding newer-made models. The Lego Fantasy Era sets are out of production (and super expensive on eBay), but I found some of the green troll heads to plop onto my old knights.

We played a game of orcs (me) vs elves (my daughter).
4 Orc Warriors, 4 Orc Archers, 1 Orc Warchief, and 1 Goblin Warrior.

1 Elf Hero, 2 Elf Warriors, 2 Elf Archers

The elves were defending a village as my orcs attacked. My kid initially complained that there were more orcs than elves. But I explained that her elves were each way stronger and more skilled than my orcs. It was an elvish victory, due mostly to several morale checks that my orcs failed (the Warchief was killed early on). I liked how my kid added narration: instead of simply hopping over the wall she explained, "My elf did a flip into the air and attacked."

So I'm very pleased with how well Legos work for skirmish games like this. We'll definitely do this again. Creating terrain was a snap, and it was easy to equip the minifigures to create the characters we needed. If you're playing with kids they will already be familiar with Legos. As opposed to typical plastic or metal miniatures, you don't need to spend time painting. For the game's scale I treated distances as if these were 25/28mm figures.

For measuring distance I used lengths of the flat Lego pieces.

Mixing and matching minifigure pieces was especially satisfying. For instance, I used the hun warrior body and helmet from the series 12 Lego minfigures set and added grey hands and a troll head. I randomly got the hun at Target, but you can choose specific minifigures from sellers on eBay. I'm excited to see that the upcoming series 13 Lego minfigures includes a goblin, which I will totally buy a dozen of. The head from the alien trooper will make a great D&D mindflayer, and who wouldn't want a female cyclops.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Scandinavian Christmas Nisse

Nisse miniature painted by myself (and mounted on a penny).

I just finished reading Keeping Christmas: Yuletide Traditions in Norway and the New Land by Kathleen Stokker, which is great because it has so much history on the julenisse. My wife is part Danish, so I've become fascinated by these Scandinavian Christmas gnomes. Kids leave treats for them on Christmas Eve, as with Santa in the US. But unlike Santa, these gruff nisser will cause mischief if they feel ignored and they leave no gifts.

Nisse History

The tradition of the Danish and Norwegian nisse (known as a tomte in Sweden and a tonttu in Finland) goes back hundreds of years. In pre-Christian Scandinavia it was believed that the spirit of the man who first cleared the land continued to watch over the farm. His descendants left an offering of beer or porridge during the winter holiday.

In the 17th century the belief in an ancestral spirit was replaced by the idea of a small ancient creature who guarded the farm and helped it to prosper. People continued offerings at Christmas, but now the gifts were for left this gnome-like fellow. This holiday custom was described by A. A. Flor in 1688:

“People have fallen into deep delusion when seeing the rich abundance brought to them by the hand of God; they cannot believe that such sweet profusion will persist unless they put out a bowl of porridge or other delicacy for the nisse.”

Nisse postcard by Swedish illustrator Jenny Nystrom.
Flor apparently believed in the nisser, saying that they took the offerings not because they wanted porridge, but because they wanted to be venerated. By the 18th century the word nisse became more widely used, and illustrations became popular in holiday postcards and in magazines. Besides children, few truly believed in the nisser, but they remained a part of Norwegian Christmas traditions.

Today decorative nisser begin to appear in Scandinavian shops as early as November, reminding shoppers that Christmas is coming. We have a friend from Denmark who explained that the nisser appear gradually, building in number as Christmas gets closer. The tradition of leaving porridge for the nisser continues in the Scandinavian countries and areas in the US where many many Scandinavians immigrated (such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa).

My favorite books about the nisser

Astrid Lindgren, author of Pippi Longstocking wrote two children's books (with lovely illustrations) about the a nisse on a Swedish farm: The Tomten and The Tomten and the Fox.

Christmas at the Tomten's Farm was written and illustrated by Harald Wiberg, the same fellow who illustrated Lindgren's tomten books. The pen and ink art is excellent. Wiberg's book describes traditional rural Swedish Christmas traditions (including old folk superstitions like the tomten). The book is out of print, but you can find used copies on amazon and

At the top of the post I mentioned Keeping Christmas: Yuletide Traditions in Norway and the New Land by Kathleen Stokker. It's a scholar study of Norwegian folk traditions, including maybe ten pages devoted to the nisser.

About the nisse miniature

I found the tiny pewter miniature (pictured at the top of this post) on eBay. It was being sold as a fairy garden decoration. I got a bag of 25 of them, but I don't know what company made them. I painted a similar (and slightly larger) nisse a few years ago. You can see that mini here.

P.S. "Julnisser" are the Christmas gnomes, while "Julenissen" is the Norwegian name for Santa Claus.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

1/72 Rogers Rangers WIP

I saw that the Song of Blades and Heroes rules recently released a French and Indian War version, Songs of Guns and Tomahawks. For years I've been patiently waiting for Imex to release their 1/72 Rogers Rangers set, but it looks like that's never going to happen. BUM has several French and Indian War sets, but they are super expensive by typical 1/72 standards. Waterloo does have a Rogers Rangers set, but the models aren't very accurate, historically speaking.

So! I realized I could build my own rangers using sets that I already have. In the front row I'm using some of Italeri's excellent Indian Warriors. The two on the right are remaining as British allied Indians. On the left I made simple Scotch bonnets to turn them into rangers in Indian garb.

The brown models in the middle row are Red Box British Infantry. These models are intended for the Jacobite Rebellion, but that's only a decade before the Seven Years War (so the uniforms work well). I added another bonnet to one, and I trimmed away the brim of one of the tricorn hats to make a jockey style cap.

And in the back row I'm using grey figures from the Revell/Accurate American Militia set. I'd love to have a 1/72 scale wolf to accompany these guys (Rogers had a wolf-dog that would accompany them on raids). Unfortunately, I can't find anything suitable. My 25mm wolf in the background is way too big. And the dog that comes with Imex's Eastern Friendly Indians is too small.

P.S. That's my Ben Franklin in the background. He's also from the American Militia set.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Completed DBA Misty Mountain Goblin Army

(click for much larger image)
And here's my completed 1/72 scale Misty Mountain Goblin army to play De Bellis Antiquitatis. It's a mix of 1/72 plastic minis (mostly Caesar Miniatures) and metal 20mm goblins by Splintered Light Miniatures and Rebel Minis' Bag o Orcs (now sold as Armored Ogres by Splintered Light).

I followed the fan-made Misty Mountain Goblin army list that you can see on David Kuijt's site. His list has some felixibility in which elements you field. Mine goes like this: 3 Warband elements (one is the general), 3 Wargs (a fan-made unit similar to Light Horse), 1 Bows, 5 Psiloi.

You can see close up photos of the general element, the wargs, and warbands, bowmen, and psiloi.

These goblins are ready to fight my 1/72 Viking army (who can easily be Middle Earth humans), but I'm also starting an elf army.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

DBA Goblin Army Command

(click image to enlarge)
Almost four years ago I started building this Misty Mountian Goblin DBA army using 1/72 scale minis. Pictured above is my completed warband command element. If you look at this in-progress photo from 2010 you can see the simple conversion I made, and you'll notice that I made a couple model replacements since then. This month I found an excellent goblin warboss in this set of medieval Lithuanian-Russian Heavy Infantry by Mars.

Check out close-ups of my other completed elements:
Wolf riders (Light Horse)
A Warband, Psiloi, and Archers