Taking a short break from posting

This is just a brief post to keep everyone up to date, as I’ve been quite inactive on the blogging front. It’s been quite a busy time, and with everything that’s going on right now I’m going to be taking some time off from the blog.

While I’m still enjoying building and painting minis, I haven’t been doing as much of this of late and life has been keeping my hands full in other regards. In order to shed some weight off my shoulders, I made the hard decision to do away with my minis-based Instagram of the same name, as this always felt like more of a number-juggling effort than anything. I wasn’t really enjoying it the same way I enjoy blogging.

Image by JOYUMA, from Unsplash.

I’ve also been getting back into the habit of writing, which is where a lot of my free time has been going lately. It just feels like now is the perfect time to give that a go, as I have been putting it off for years and years. In the meantime though, I’ll continue to be around and reading everyone’s posts. I just won’t be posting much myself for the next month or so.

Anyways, thanks for reading and I’ll catch you at some point.

Dreadaxe Gaming: Mass Effect Legendary Edition (ME3 so far)

I defeated the rogue agent in the 1st game, survived the suicide mission in the 2nd (doing so with a full crew surviving, thankfully), and I’ve just begun to take on the 3rd game in this trilogy. The Mass Effect Legendary Edition contains some of my most played games to date, titles that kept me sane during difficult times nearly a decade ago, and offered enough variation to keep me coming back for repeat playthroughs, whether it was for the sake of choosing a different character class or picking an alternate solution during a mission.

The Reaper threat is upon the galaxy and they have launched their assault on all organic lifeforms. Most worlds you visit are warzones, crawling with mechanised servants of the machine overlords. Once again, it is up to Commander Shepard to push back on these ancient machines and unite the galaxy in resisting their imminent destruction. The story moves at a more urgent pace than the previous games (understandably, considering the events) and you feel the characters beginning to lose hope as they are faced with the bleakest of situations; tensions mount, desperate alliances are forged and entire planets are engaged in warfare.

While I played 1 & 2 to death, ME3 is my least-played of the three. I completed it once when it was originally released in 2012, even firing through the optional multiplayer mode with a buddy of mine because it was so damn addictive. The game retains the dark edginess of ME2 while leaning into some aspects of ME1’s RPG roots with a more extensive way to level up your skills, allowing the tailoring of your characters to fit a particular role.

Players can still choose Shepard’s responses and tailor their attitude towards the situation, with the paragon/renegade morality system making a return, as well as the ability of having your character form a romantic bond with one of your companions. There feel like less dialogue options this time around, with some conversations only offering a flirtatious or aggressive response as the choices, which can make scenes a little strange. That aside, there are plenty of ways for you to influence to story, and heaps of callbacks from decisions you might have made in the previous games that have carried over with your character, so the experience has more of a weight to it.

I didn’t like the planet scanning in ME2; ME3 continues to allow you to pilot the Normandy in the galaxy map segments, but you can scan as you fly, speeding up the process. The combat improves on ME2’s, taking the fast-paced, and frankly bullet spongy combat from that game and making movement more fluid, with enemies less like indestructible blocks of marble. Moments when a gunfight is in full swing and Shepard and co are mixing gunplay with tech and biotic powers are just chaotically glorious to behold.

Combat is the slickest it’s felt in the series, with the addition of a combat roll and a refining of the cover-based shooting that ME2 featured so heavily. It’s no Gears of War, but its functional. My only problem with the combat is the almost horde-mode mentality of some of the battles, making the story grind to a halt as you painstakingly chip away at waves of enemies until the game says you’re allowed to proceed. As I said before, the enemies are not as tanky as the last game but when there’s a wave of 20 of these bastards flanking you and throwing grenades with near 100% accuracy, it can be a lot to deal with.

For any small issue I have with the Mass Effect series on the whole, I’d happily supply five positive points in its stead. I don’t think 3 is the strongest in the series, though it does have the most polished combat and powers system, coupled with some of the most intense story beats of the series.

I think bringing back the trilogy in its complete form was a fantastic idea, and though my dear old Xbox 360 has long since fallen into disrepair and unable to play the original discs, I’m happy to have had the opportunity to blast a path through these games again on my current setup. The modern gaming industry has turned me into more of a pessimist than ever when it comes to new releases, and while I’m not always on board with remakes & remasters either, it’s safe to say that I am with Mass Effect.

Angmar: The Wolves of the North

‘…the wolves that had once come ravening out of the North in bitter white winters were now only a grandfather’s tale.’ The Lord of the Rings, Prologue, pg.5.

I’ve been reading The Lord of the Rings for the past month and I’m halfway through the first book of the Two Towers. So far, the wargs (and just wolves in general) have featured a lot more than I initially thought they would, with even mention of a ‘chieftain’ at one point. The odd line here and there alludes to the evil realm of Angmar and the wolves that would roam from the hills in packs, and such lines are enough to give a chill of dread.

When putting together my Angmar list, I was mainly looking at models that I thought looked cool rather than what’s ‘in’. I’ve always had a fondness for the wargs, and running them as a pack of wild wargs rather than orc-bearing cavalry fits in with this theme of the vicious wildlife from the north lands. I don’t want to go too spirit-heavy with the Angmar army, though the army bonus leans into this method of playing, but instead have a mix of things.

All the wargs have 10″ movement but the rest of their statline is quite similar to that of the orcs; defence 4, courage 2, though their strength sits at a 4 while the orcs have a strength of 3. The chieftain has Heroic Strength and Heroic March with the rule that only fellow wargs can benefit from their Heroic Actions. The chieftain seems like they would be quite decent in a scrap, with a strength value of 6 (same as a cave troll) and the Terror rule which puts up a bit of a hurdle for the enemy to charge them.

In terms of painting, the wargs were built up on layers of Steel Legion Drab mixed with Zamesi Desert, using lighter drybrushing strokes as the layers went on. The faces and paws were Eshin Grey with a brown wash, and some Dawnstone drybrushed for that highlight/fuzzy appearance on their snouts. They were fairly easy to paint and pretty relaxing as well actually.

With the wolf warband done now, I can focus on the remainder of the orc hordes for Angmar, and also finish up some more of my Elves for Rivendell. As always, thanks for reading, take care.

Dreadaxe Gaming: Mass Effect Legendary Edition (ME2 so far)

Mass Effect 2 is a different beast from the first. It moves with more urgency, there’s a larger team to recruit and get to know, and loads more of the galaxy to explore. With the Legendary Trilogy released this month, I have had the joy of blasting my way through these games for the first time in nearly a decade.

While I gave a slight plot overview in the previous post, I’ll be delicate here because a lot happens in the opening couple of hours. Suffice to say, Commander Shepard is roped into investigating the disappearances of several human colonies on the edges of space this time around. It’s up to the player to assemble a team of new operatives and familiar faces from across the galaxy to help the mission.

What set this game apart from other games I owned back in the 2010s was the ability to import your character from the first into the second (and eventually the third). This meant your character and their decisions- big and small- could be carried over and expanded upon in subsequent Mass Effects, changing aspects of the experience between playthroughs. Some characters might survive or die in one game based on your decisions, with that effect being felt somewhere down the line. It’s also interesting running into an NPC from ME1 that remembers who you are or how you treated them in the past, or if you were responsible for saving or killing their colleagues.

I like the amount of choice that you’re given in here, with your armour being customisable this time around as well as your ship having upgrades available for crafting. There’s a heap of content in the form of side quests and loyalty missions, as well as all the gathered DLC too. You feel like you have control over readying the crew of the Normandy for the final push and that every side quest is worth it, even if it’s just for a couple of damage or armour upgrades.

The combat in ME2 has always felt more sleek and loose compared to the slight clunkiness of the first. The guns don’t always feel like they pack a punch though, and I find that overall the enemies tend to be more bullet spongy. The vehicle sections are gone and surveying planets is done from the comfort of the ship, which is neither a positive or negative change really; the Mako was quite infamous for pissing off players of ME1 but I find scanning planets over and over again instead to be more annoying sometimes.

All in all, Mass Effect 2 is a great game that’s just hampered by one or two odd design choices. It’s difficult not to weigh it against its predecessor, but I think it stands well on its own two feet and delivers a darker story on a much grander scale, one that is all too happy to remind you that your choices have consequences.

Plus, all the DLC is woven into the experience as well. What more could you want?

Gildor Inglorion

A month or so ago, I mentioned that I was bringing a warband of Wood Elves into my Rivendell army, which is the benefit of bringing Gildor Inglorion along. The Noldorin Exiles mentioned in the Middle-earth Army Book are meant to represent the Elves that Frodo, Sam and Pippin encounter in Chapter 3 of the Fellowship of the Ring, where Gildor inadvertently scares away a Ringwraith that is crawling at the Hobbits.

The Elf warband led by Gildor gains increased movement, making them fall somewhere in between cavalry and normal infantry in terms of movement. They can also take a host of lovely upgrades that I’ll touch on in another post, but their main benefit is their speed.

Gildor has a sword and Elven cloak, along with a decent stock of Will points and one spell, Immobilise, all for the tiny sum of 70pts. This is a pretty good deal, considering that one of Rivendell’s problems is models with high points cost, so having a hero below 100pts who can lead a warband of 12 troops means he and his Wood Elves can slot into a list without causing too much hassle.

The model itself was fun to paint; I stuck with the colours from GW’s site because they looked pretty cool, and the mix of greens and greys was what I was intending on painting the Wood Elf warriors with. The only part I’m not massively pleased with is the face. This was an unfortunate moment when I discovered that Gildor’s face is actually quite flat and lacking in many grooves to get a wash into. Despite thinning my paints, he was looking like Leatherface at one stage, and I had to strip it and start again. He’s still not 100% where I want him to be, but I fear that more tinkering would lead to catastrophe.

That’s all for now, anyway. Thanks for reading!

Dreadaxe Gaming: Mass Effect Legendary Edition (ME1 so far)

Mass Effect 1 was one of those games that got me through some tough times. I got into it a few years after its original release in 2007, by which point the second one was out as well, and they were among my most played games on the Xbox 360 at the time. These games fought off hours of boredom and I guess even loneliness as well, keeping me occupied late into the night and waking me early in the morning to play again. I pored over the first game the most however; although I had played RPGs before, I hadn’t played anything like this or indeed any BioWare game until then.

Now it is 2021 and the series has been scooped together into one package with all DLCs (bar one, which thankfully most consider to be the least important of the lot anyway); ME1 has had a visual facelift to bring it closer to the 2nd and 3rd games, along with some other tweaks to the combat, driving, and loading times. I’ve quickly fallen back into the routine of playing a few missions, talking with NPCs, upgrading gear and inspecting everything that I can find to the point that I don’t even realise how much time has passed. It’s not just the nostalgia of the game itself that’s hitting me, but I feel like I’m back in my old flat in 2010, becoming absorbed in this sci fi universe for the first time.

The story follows Commander Shepard (male or female, your choice) as they hunt down a rogue Council agent called Saren, exploring worlds, piecing together a crew and doing whatever work the Alliance throws your way. While the main story revolves around the hunt, side quests pad out the experience and provide some world-building, as well as opportunities to earn more XP and gear. Mass Effect has a reputation for being a cinematic game, and you are asked how you want to respond to events in the form of dialogue and actions. This also builds Shepard into a character of their own, allowing the player to shape them into a noble and patient hero, a temperamental child who punches folk, or someone in between. These narrative moments fuel the game in a big way and become as addictive as the combat.

The changes to the HUD and the Mako’s aiming system are very welcome, and you can feel that the combat has been tightened up to a certain degree. I’ve only been playing through as an Engineer class but have found the combat abilities to be responsive and much more effective than I remember them being, though the aiming of said abilities can feel hit or miss at times. Also, the squad members have never looked better, and the way that they weigh in on events that occur as you play is one of the little bits of magic about the Mass Effect series as a whole. Tinkering with loadouts and armour takes on a life of its own too as you find yourself in pursuit of those sweet higher numbers!

Is it perfect? No. It’s easy to forget that this is no remake; there are sharper visuals and general quality of life improvements across the board but it still handles like it did over 10 years ago- that’s not necessarily a bad thing- but it is worth remembering when playing. I’ve been having issues with squadmates ignoring commands, or getting left behind and trapped at automatic doors, something I only notice when I have wandered solo into a deadly gunfight. There’s a handful of audio problems such as distortion and warping of effects that are too high in the mix (Saren’s ship, various generator noises, etc) and they can become quite ear-shredding when they are on a constant loop.

Minor gripes aside, I’ve been having a whale of a time replaying Mass Effect 1. I think that BioWare have made slight improvements where it matters and maintained the integrity of the experience, though there are little annoyances here and there. This remains one of the most engrossing games that I’ve played and is packed with interesting characters, intricate galactic politics and explosive action. It really is worth checking out if you are a longtime fan on the brink of picking up the trilogy, or a newcomer who missed out the first time around.

Thanks for reading, and take care.

Erestor (Summer Solstice Painting Challenge)

I have just wrapped up work on my entry for the Summer Solstice Painting Challenge, hosted by Ann’s Immaterium. For this challenge, I have completed Erestor for my Rivendell army; he is an advisor to Elrond who suggests that the One Ring be hidden in the care of Tom Bombadil early on in book 2. I chose him because I really like the model for one, the pose being distinctly deadly, but also because I really enjoyed painting him and reckon that he is the best of the Elven troops that I have finished so far.

I went with the Rivendell colour scheme that appeared as an alternative for the Elves in an old copy of White Dwarf (I have only found the image online, I don’t know which issue it appeared in, sadly- if anyone does, please let me know). This mainly involved a grey tunic, green cloak with blue ink wash, and gold armour drybrushed with a mix of gold and silver.

As for the base- with the rest of my Rivendell troops I tried going for an autumnal woodland effect, but this didn’t pan out and I had trouble sealing the odds and ends to the base. I drybrushed green patches over some of it, giving a kind of mossy look before leaning hard on the Valhallan Blizzard to cover up any mistakes. I love that paint, but I use it too damn much…

Erestor is a great figure, and though his role is small in the book, it made me seek him out and read more into him. In the tabletop game, he seems to be an underappreciated gem with a fight value of 6 and a defence of 7 with his heavy armour. He can also throw his Noldorin daggers, and gets re-rolls for wound rolls when throwing them or striking with them. I’ve yet to see how he performs in-game, but as I plan to take Glorfindel as the leader to my Rivendell army, Erestor will no doubt fill a useful role in leading his own warband.

Anyways, that’s all for this post. As always, thanks for reading and take care.

Hobby Progress (8th May)

The last few days have seen me painting up some of the High Elves for my Rivendell army. The spear and shield warriors have proved to be some of the fiddliest models I’ve ever worked on, but the results have been pretty pleasing. Deciding to mix gold and silver paints for the final highlight on the armour, I’ve been sticking to batch-painting these elves, which has been moving things along quite swiftly.

These troops feel pretty nostalgic to me, conjuring up images of the first few issues of the LotR magazine and the Warriors of the Last Alliance that I think I recall came attached to one of them. They’ve actually been a joy to work on, and are a nice contrast to the grubby hordes of Angmar orcs that I’ve been painting up recently.

Progress on the wild wargs has still been coming along, with the bases just needing done. I’ll be happy when their ravenous warband is up and running and I can get a game with them. They seem like a fun bunch to play as.

Thanks again for reading, and take care.

Witch-king & the Dwimmerlaik

The Witch-king is one of my favourite characters in the Lord of the Rings, as I might have mentioned several times before. His history is very grim, and the tales of war between Angmar and Arnor makes for an interesting read. Even the snippets of history that appear in the early chapters of the Lord of the Rings tease the horrors of the north from times past, and video games like War in the North also lends to the lore in this regard.

My favourite Witch-king model is this one from the scene at Weathertop in the Fellowship film, when he is approaching Frodo. I managed to get this one for a few pounds on eBay not long ago, and set to work with the black contrast paint. As with the rest of the Ringwraiths, I followed this up with light drybrushes of Dawnstone and lighter touches of white afterwards.

I do like the cheeky Morgul Blade tucked into the belt.

The Dwimmerlaik followed the same steps, and I repeated my painting steps for his horse that I initially used on the Tainted’s steed. I tried to keep the horse as dark as possible, washing the flesh with Nuln Oil before bringing the brown back up again with a light drybrushing of the original colour. All the bases got the snowy Angmar treatment, with the skulls taking a wash of Nuln Oil and Agrax Earthshade.

This is the majority of my Ringwraiths complete now, leaving only the mounted Witch-king to go. Painting the hooded riders has been fun, but the results aren’t always obvious on camera. Alongside the mounted Witch-king, I was basing the Wargs last night and making some progress with the Orc horde too. Things are taking shape.

Thanks again for reading, and catch you next time.

Wild Warg Chieftain

With various bits and pieces nearing completion, something was bound to slip through the cracks… Hello, and welcome back to another model update! This time we have another hero finished for my Angmar list, and leader of his own warg warband, the Wild Warg Chieftain.

Right off the bat, this creature is one of my favourites in the Lord of the Rings range. I love wargs as a standard anyway, and the thought of running a warband of wild hill wolves from the north was too much of an opportunity to pass up. I don’t min/max army builds, and my gut twists at the thought; although Angmar’s army bonus ties in with spirit heroes, I prefer the mixture of wildlife that the region has to offer. Rule of cool, and all that.

The Wild Warg Chieftain has one of those poses that just looks badass, pressing down on the chest of a slaughtered man, roaring into the cold winters air. I love the way the fur is grooved into the model, as it scratches that all-important ink wash itch, and the whole thing is a lot sturdier than I initially thought it would be for a metal miniature balancing on a rock.

For painting, I watched a few YouTube videos, building up the fur with Steel Legion Drab before mixing with Zamesi Desert. The mane stands out more in person I think, it looks quite dull on camera unfortunately. For the fella, I painted him in green, black and brown like that of the rangers’ attire.

In gaming terms, he has a 10″ move with Heroic March and Heroic Strength. His/her Packlord rule means that only their wild kin benefit from their heroic actions. The Chieftain is a pretty meaty model with defense 5 and 3 wounds, making it something of a discount beatstick/objective-grabber that can cover decent ground.

I’m gradually getting the remainder of their warband based, so will hopefully have them done in the next week. My initial plan was to have a Wraith-led warband alongside a band of Wild Wargs for smaller games, expanding on this to include a third to beef out the Orc numbers. We’ll see how things go though.

Anyways, thanks for reading. Take care.