Sunday, 7 September 2014

Bad Guys

Someone asked me something the other day that I didn't have a ready answer for.

"Kraken," they asked me, inexplicably using my internet alias in an actual conversation, "in all the many wargames, roleplaying games and related hobby nonsense that you play, you always go for the bad guys. Why is that?"

"Don't ask me difficult questions!"

Interesting question. I first got into gaming through Fighting Fantasy books, where YOU were inevitably the HERO.

Nobody ever wrote one where YOU were the BLOODBEAST, sadly. Except maybe Creature of Chaos, which was totally impossible and therefore brilliant. 

The FF books must have been an influence. All the artwork, you see - it shows the bad guys, the horrible, rotting, monstrous bad guys in all their splendour. That was what first caught my eye, rather than depictions of noble, windswept posers flicking their hair and oiling their leather jerkins.

Captain Spitcurl
Which the bad guys never do, of course. 

But after that, it was Heroquest.

It's a lonely thing, being the guy in your friend group hooked on the damn hobby. You buy the games, read the rules and try and lure your pals round a table long enough to play it. And even then, they sulked unless they won, or suggested rules like 'the heroes should have more gold. And hitpoints. And better weapons for free. And the monsters should apologise as they die.'

There you are, with all the limitless options of imagination about you, ready to create sprawling sagas of derring do. And instead you have to reign it all in for reasons of balance and gameplay.

Kick in the Door!

Anyway, Heroquest. I loved the game, the models and the tiles and the whole ridiculous thing wow I mean just look at it!, but I almost never got to play it. And when I did, well, it wasn't the easiest one for the heroes. Kind of loaded against them in places. Like you can't search a room that you aren't standing in, but some of the traps would be just inside the door. So by the time you could search for them, it was made much easier by the fact it'd be right there, inside your leg.

Which I loved, of course, as dungeon master. Best of all was the rare times I got to break out the big bads of the boxset - Chaos.


Ah, they were the business! I mean, the sorcerer was weird, because he wasn't usually used as a sorceror. And the gargoyle might have had the only decent stats in the game, but let's face it, it wasn't a great model. Aren't you a little short for a Bloodthirster, kind of thing.

I can't face posting a pic of my own one. Some paint sins must stay in the cupboard.

The warriors, though - chunky, ominous and tough-looking. They had me at hello. Even if their hello was an axe in the face, I'm a sucker for that.

There's a lot of well painted ones out there on the net. This is a very good job of copying the paintjob on the side of the box, by one Gunamar Ironwill, something that remains entirely out of my reach.

The years passed, Heroquest became Advanced Heroquest. Some of my school pals were quite into that, it was more interesting and better balanced. We played fairly often, with all the provisos given above, of course. Rules tweaks, homebrewed magic, nothing too challenging for the forces of good or the next session got cancelled in favour of football (boo).

Chaos Warriors favour cloaks these days. They look fine without, I reckon. And it's more practical on the battlefield. 

I was always the bad guys. I always taught the rules, I always lost and I almost always enjoyed it. And my favourite moments of all were getting to field guys like this.

Deathtrap Dungeon

Advanced HQ had a host of stats, and they went up to an Empire Twelve rather than the confusing decimal system you get these days. There weren't many monsters in the game with a top stat in anything. Just one. And he came with two axes.

Chaos Lord

Hard hitting. More sinister because he wasn't a gigantic monster, he was an evil man. The dark mirror of the heroes, in a way. Not overpowered in the rules, particularly, but defintely worthy of respect. If (as GM) I had a fate point card to play, this guy would get the benefit of it every time.

Which brings me, belatedly, to my actual point. Completionists amongst you will note that the Chaos Champion set I posted most of last time was one down. I've coveted this guy for years, he's an icon. Defined a certain look, I feel.

Adrian Smith artwork, I think. Die, Henchmen, Die. 

Certainly, I reckon I can trace my affinity to Chaos to these models. As with being a Dungeon Master, there's something strangely self-defeating about the worshippers of Warhammer's Dark Gods. Most of the time, they perish on the path to glory, mutated beyond recognition (like the rules we played), beaten down by the stoic forces of good (the ideal result when we did) or defeated by chaotic competitors of their own (because my luck sucked back then too).

Jes Goodwin classic champion

Chaos Champion

It was a strangely emotional moment, painting this model - I didn't go for anything fancy, just something dark, menacing and solid. It brought back a lot of Adv. HQ memories, though, from random dungeon generation with jigsaw corridors to being able to afford your first Runesword. Or door blocking with halberds and the horrors of the Choke spell.

Good times. Long may we roll them.

That's a royal we. I'll be rolling like this forever. 

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