Monday, February 19, 2018

Countdown to Infinity War: Avengers

When last we saw Loki, he was falling from Asgard into space. Now we see him receiving a glowing scepter, and ready to wage war upon mankind... And he's going to use the Tesseract to do it!

Nick Fury realizes it's time to bring the team together!

In bringing the team together, you get a whole lot of big personalities onto a screen that might not be big enough to hold all of them. Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America have all headlined their own movies. (So has the Hulk, but with a different actor) They're used to doing things their way and on their own. And so you get the inevitable learning to work together/heroes fighting each other scene. Which was actually about as awesome as it was predictable, and made even better with Loki just kind of watching from the sidelines with that bemused smile.

Grumbling, squabbling, and fighting continue until Loki escapes and in the process kills the beloved Agent Phil Coulson. That gets the team to work together... with a little help from Fury showing off some of his Captain America trading cards, conveniently bloodied...

Then there's the big fight as Loki's portal is opened, and the chittari army arrives in midtown Manhattan, which the Avengers manage to defeat, mostly because the shadowy world council decides to nuke NYC, and Iron Man tosses that up into the portal. It's fun, and spectacular, and interesting seeing how these wildly different heroes all use their skills and powers to face the enemy. One thing that stands out is how much focus is spent not just on defeating the bad guys, but on saving as many lives as possible. You don't see that a whole lot in other movies like that.

The Avengers does a really good job making sure that everyone gets not only their fair share of screen time, and opportunities to look cool, but more importantly, the chance to interact with everyone else, often one on one. It really gives the characters the space to show their personalities. This is doubly so as everyone interacts with Loki! In such a busy movie with so many characters it's fantastic that they took the time to do it, and that's what helps makes the MCU so unlike everything that's come before.

Next Up: Tony Stark's PTSD! (aka Iron Man 3)

Side note: The Avengers Assemble album might be one of my favorite mixes of great songs to get stuff done to. Crank it up, and you'll want to get moving!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Stories from the Shelf of Shame: Scoundrel (and Hero)

Every once and a while I'm tempted to snag something I've painted before to touch it up. Usually I overcome this compulsion by looking at all the minis I own that don't have any paint on them at all yet. The space between those 2 is the shelf of shame, miniatures started and never completed. For whatever reason they were abandoned. Looking through my figure case recently I found a few such minis, forgotten for years.

While I was waiting for the werewolf, rats, and hyena that I'd based to dry, I decided to make a quick pass at cleaning up one of them, and just getting it done.

This time I picked the Scoundrel mini from Wizards of the Coast's line of Star Wars metal minis. Now, back in the early 2000's my painting style wasn't... refined. I'd blocked in the basic colors, and touched a few details... and then stopped. Blue shirt, black pants, brown belt, orange skin (dwarven flesh maybe? It was very Trumpian in tone), and red-brown cloak brown hair.

Sadly I forgot to snag a picture before I started working on the skin tones. Here I've given the skin a coat of Warrior Flesh and started on the eyes.

Also, since I was kind of speed painting my way along with him, there aren't really any other WiP pictures, but here's what I did:
Highlighted the cloak, and added in some decorative edging along the yoke.
Shadowed and highlighted the shirt using a combination of Imperial Purple and Oceanic Blue.
Added depth to the hair with Auburn Shadow wash, and Fire Orange highlights
Auburn Shadow eyebrows
Glazed the pants with Sepia Wash

I also replaced the base, and used my Happy Seppuku Temple Courtyard base stamp. I also decided to finished the Jake Ryan reaper mini that I painted a couple of years ago, and give him a base too.

Need to clean up the edge of the base a bit, and the boots that got some grey on it, but otherwise DONE!

Total Minis Painted This Month: 1 (not counting Jake)
Total Minis Painted This Year: 7

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Frostgrave Werewolf, Rats, & Hyena (part 1)

I decided for my next project I wanted another simple, quick, no fuss couple of minis that I could fairly mindlessly paint up. Digging through my box of goodies, I came across my bag of frostgrave minis... A werewolf, hyena, and a couple of rats. That's nice and easy...

So I cleaned up their flashing and moldlines, and glued them to bases...

That's... Not good. Looks like he's on some sort of surfboard... But he doesn't really look good on a 2" base either.

Well, if I trim off the edges maybe... no... Okay, maybe if I build up the base, put him at an angle, no... maybe if I trim him completely off the surfboard? Okay, and bend the leg...

Okay, now I need to pin him...

And add some weight to the base, cause he's tipping over...

Suddenly my simple project ended up having a fairly complicated base.

But it does look like 100% better!

The rats and hyena weren't nearly as much effort.

Primed with some Stynylrez airbrush primer that I got in my swag bag from ReaperCon.

I then washed the werewolf with sepia wash, ans painted the rats with Ruddy flesh. And that's where I stopped for the night.

More to come...

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Stonehell: Dorm Antics

Session 56 was played on 12/27

Eiric, wizard 6 (Kat)
- men at arms (Koltic, Pargax)
- linkmen (Lomax)
- dog (Neon)
A-A-Ron, Thief 6 (Henchman)
Daryll, Cleric 6 (Henchman)
Orpheus, Human Fighter 5 (Henchman)
Karl, Dwarf 6 (Julia)
- dog (Hobart)
- men at arms (Bollox, GoMat)
Lex the Cheeseman, Fighter 3
Brie, wizard 2 (Apprentice to Eiric)

Lex miraculously makes it from the witch’s cabin back to the orphanage while only 1’ tall and naked. After hiding out for a couple of days, he returns to his normal height… more or less.

Gearing up, the party heads to the dungeon, stopping once again in Kobold Korners. The excavation is taking longer than Trustee Sniv expected, so the party makes their way back to the Monster Dorm. Picking a new hallway, they trigger a dart trap, much to A-A-Ron’s shame. A-A-Ron and Koltic both avoid the large darts that shoot out, but Bollux and Karl are both hit. Bollux drops, and Darryl quickly uses his magic to save him.

Further down the hall, large white ape-like creatures attack the party, knocking out Paragax before they’re cut down. Darryl heals him too.

Investigating a small room with a cistern, they’re set upon by giant spiders. Karl is bit in the short battle, but doesn’t suffer from any poison effects. Paragax, trying to shoot the spiders, hits Karl. After the battle, Karl makes him drink the “male enhancement potion” that Paragax has had from the start. Turns out it was Love Potion #9, and Paragax fell insatiably, in lust with Karl. In disgust, Karl pushes him into the cistern. Nothing eats him.

The party is drawn back out into the hallway by the sound of large, heavy, and metallic being dragged across a stone floor. Gnolls trying to loot an iron maiden freeze at the sight of the party. Everyone takes a moment, and Eiric talks to them. Conversation is limited, but they warn the party about going down *that* hallway because that was where they lived.

Moving on, they avoid the trap the gnolls didn’t warn them about, and investigate the room they were dragging the iron maiden out of. The old torture chamber was dusty and rusty, but they did find a secret compartment the gnolls missed, and took the treasure within.

Continuing along the hall, they pass a large boulder blocking a doorway, and hear some talking from the next door. They decide to knock. The talking stops, and an 8’ tall shaggy beast pokes his nose out the door. “Wat you want?”

Karl holds up his wineskin. “Trade?”

The beast grunts, shuts the door, moves something heavy and then reopens the door. A hobgoblin yells “It’s them! Kill them!” as he raises his blade. The 7 bugbears forcibly restrain the 3 hobgoblins. “We trade.” the bugbear chief directs. The conversation touches on the fact that the hobgoblin warcaster is working with Ful’kith, who commands the bugbears. In exchange for the dwarven ale, they get a gallon of kobold ale, and “the good stuff” brewed down below.

Backtracking again, they take a side passage, where the sounds of both running water and a strong wind can be heard. They continue on into one of the dorms, checking out the rooms, one by one.

They encounter:
Spiders! - Power Thirst & Torch and close the door.
Red centipedes, that poison Hobart! Karl is panicked, and demands that the party return to the Korners, in hope that there’s some antidote there. The closest there is is a concoction brewed by the soothsayer. Hobart survives both the poison and the cure. The party buys some snakes on a stick, then returns to the dorm.
Pit viper!
More centipedes!
More spiders!

After cleaning out this section of dorm rooms, the party returns to Kobold Korners, and meets again with Trustee Sniv, who expresses a great interest in acquiring the dwarven beer Karl has.

Back to the dorm, they go to the weird fountain at the back and check it out. Spotting several glittery things, Karl strips down, slips on the ring of swimming, and takes the flaming dagger, and gets into the hip deep water. He gets the first sparkly thing out, when the water itself seems to attack him. He mostly ignores it, and keeps going for the treasure. 5 things are tossed out before the water drags him under. Orpheus and Lex rush forward, grabbing Karl by the beard and yanking him out and dragging him away from the frothing water.

Karl gets dressed, and the party heads back to Kobold Korners for a well deserved rest and drink before heading back to town to split the loot.

Gains: 150gp, gems, magic sword, 4 pieces of jewelry
Kills: Snow Apes, Spiders, Centipedes

Monday, February 12, 2018

Countdown to Infinity War: Captain America The First Avenger

Closing in on the end of Phase 1 of the MCU, we round out the big names of the Avengers with the 2011 film Captain America, the First Avenger...

But it's not just Cap that's introduced, but the first of the Infinity Stones! An artifact left behind by the Asgardians? Hidden away in an old church in Norway decorated in viking iconography, and stolen by Heir Schmidt...

I don't know if it's accurate to say they were saving the best for last, but this is a really solid war movie. Oh, and a comic book movie too! With this installment of the MCU the series begins to edge toward not just making good comic movies, but making good movies in a variety of genres that then overlap with comics. Going forward we're going to see spycraft/thrillers, heist movies, team movies, redemptive stories, and out there gonzo inception level weirdness. Here, though, here we have World War II, and a beanpole kid from Brooklyn desperate to serve because he doesn't like bullies.

Like the original Iron Man, I've seen this movie a whole bunch of times, and while it's fun like Iron Man, it does it in an entirely different way. While Tony Stark is the wisecracking playboy, Steve Rogers is the straight man. He's almost painfully earnest. And going in, I did not have a high opinion of Captain America.  He's a boy scout...he's just... well, kinda boring, at least in the comics I'd read. But scrawny Steve getting beat up in the alley? This was a kid I could root for. Scrappy, willing to get dirty, bloody, whatever in order to stand up for what's right. Especially when he stands back up after getting knocked down again and again, and says "I could do this all day." Because you know he would. Thankfully his friend Sgt. Bucky shows up to help him out.

But he finally gets in, as part of a special science experiment unit... and shows his true self when he jumps on the grenade tossed into the middle of the group of enlistees by Colonel Phillips.

Once Steve gets injected with the super serum, and Howard Stark (nice tie in with both the Hulk and Iron Man 2 films here) zaps him with half the power in Brooklyn, we're quickly introduced to Hydra, who will come back to bother our heroes again and again from this point on. From here the plot picks up quickly, and Captain America takes the stage... literally! That is until his buddy's unit is captured in battle with Hydra forces, and Cap heads out to bring them home. Helping him get at least part of the way there are Agent Peggy Carter and Howard Stark!

Side note: I'm finding myself writing more about the plot of this movie than the previous ones, because so much of what I want to talk about seems to revolve more around the events of the film?

Captain America rescues his buddy, and most of the unit while at the same time seeing the weapons Dr. Zola is creating for Heir Schmidt, who is revealed as the Red Skull, an earlier recipient of the super serum that had some unfortunate side effects. Captain America then spends the next bit of the movie destroying the Hydra weapons factories, capturing Dr. Zola, and in the process losing his friend Bucky. All that isn't enough to stop the Red Skull from setting his final plan into motion - the destruction of every capital & major city in Europe and the USA. Cap manages to get on the big plane, fight Red Skull, who gets zapped... who knows where? leaving Cap to crash the big plane in the ice of the arctic ocean before it reaches NYC. The Tesseract is recovered by Stark, but the plane (and Cap) are lost...

Until Cap awakes in a hospital room in NYC, with a ball game playing on the radio. Cap realizes it's a deception, runs out into SHIELD HQ, and finds himself in modern day NYC, with Director Fury there to collect him.

For a movie that takes place DECADES before everything else, this is the one that really sets up everything that's going to happen in the Avengers, though I'm not sure how many people watching in the theaters picked up on that fact. Especially those who left before the end credit scene... I still don't get those people...

One of the coolest things in this movie was making a buff Chris Evans look like a 90lb nothing. That was an amazing bit of cinematic magic that was a million times more convincing than when Wesley Crusher in Star Trek TNG got "aged" 10 years by Q-Riker into a completely different actor who looked and sounded NOTHING LIKE Wil Wheaton!

Sorry, pet-peeve.

Back to the review - There's something immensely satisfying watching the soldiers punch, shoot, blow up, and generally destroy Nazis/Hydra troops. And while I could probably spend a happy 2 hours just watching that, the writers were very smart in the way the structured the film. We got to see cool snipits of the battles that Captain Rodgers and his band fought in, but we aren't bogged down in gratuitous stuff that doesn't actually move the story forward.

There were also a lot of moments that I'd literally cheer or laugh out loud at, from Agent Carter shooting at Steve as he holds his new shield for the first time, or the flag scene? Saving his friend Bucky! Hell, Punching Hitler over and over!

To wrap this up, The First Avenger is a stand up guy, and a necessary component of the team, and I'm really looking forward to bringing them all together in the Avengers!