So Much Eye Candy: Cool Mini or Not at Gen Con 2012

While I didn’t get to see Cool Mini or Not at Adepticon 2013, I certainly saw CMON back at Gen Con in 2012.

Every time I stopped by the stretching Cool Mini or Not booth areas at Gen Con, I found a very packed, interested gaming crowd taking in all of the eye candy CMON had on display. Alongside Privateer Press, CMON seemed to have a tremendously successful Gen Con. Attendees new to miniature gaming could be excused for thinking that they were seeing multiple companies’ booths, but the unifying connection in every one of CMON’s 18 booth areas was the high quality and stunning visual displays.

CMON’s Display and Demo Boards

While the Wrath of Kings’ demo boards CMON had brought were functional and better than a simple flocked board, they were not as spectacular as some of their other offerings, but did put the focus squarely on the expressive sculpts of the miniatures. Players had the opportunity to battle as the thin warriors of House Nasier or the porcine warriors of House Teknes.

Piglike Teknes miniatures for Wrath of Kings battle against thin Nasier on desert demo board

Wrath of Kings Desert Demo Board: House Teknes vs. House Nasier

Realistic 28mm scale orange lava flowing over miniature terrain board for Confrontation at 2012 Gen Con

Confrontation Lava Demo Board

Cool Mini or Not kept Confrontation fans’ appetites whetted with a lava demo board of the game. I could have easily missed further Confrontation offerings because there really was so much to take in throughout CMON’s booth space.

There were also demo tables for players to try out Sedition Wars, Relic Knights, and Zombicide, but aside from the two Dark Age boards and Rum and Bones, the most impressive tables were reserved specifically for display purposes.

The Wrath of Kings Display Board

What a sight! The Wrath of Kings Castle was the definition of amazing and probably the envy of rival gaming companies. Designed and built by Rob Hawkins, the table took over 200 hours from start to finish. The Goritsi forces spilling out of the grey stonework buildings really put it over the top. The Goritsi definitely have a darkness to them and are comprised of the lupine Skorza, the female Blood Dancers, and would seem to be led by the red-clad Herald of Blood. Bearing such close resemblance to Confrontation’s Wolfen, the Skorza pose an interesting problem for brand recognition and differentiation, but since they are now released by the same company, the similarities should not matter. The Goritsi also boast the monstrous Ucuzo, which looks like a lab experiment gone awry (or perhaps deliberately concocted).

Pig warriors Union Workers miniatures from Wrath of Kings battle Skorza lupines and monster Ucuzo

A Monstruous Ucuzo Defends the Goritsi City Against the Invading Teknes

Arrayed against the onslaught of the Goritsi are the pig warriors of House Teknes. The rank and file of Teknes appear to be the Teknes Union Workers who wield massive swords. The Ironward is the figure reminiscent of Mad Max’s Master Blaster with a slave-driver on top of a pig warrior/Union Worker.

Beautiful stunning diorama of 32mm Wrath of Kings miniatures clashing at a castle or village

Woodland Scenics Armatures Used as Dead Trees in the Foreground of Hawkins’ Stunning Diorama

In his blog, Rob Hawkins refers to the diorama as a Goritsi City and details its construction in five blog entries, beginning with constructing the hillside foundation followed by the the construction of the buildings’ basic shapes. To enable faster gluing using super glues Hawkins uses Liquid Nails to coat the pink foam in the same way that latex paint is used to protect styrofoam from destructive aerosol spray paint.

Tentacled octopus Zalaak miniatures battles slender female Blood Dancers in Wrath of Kings diorama

Two Tentacled Zalaak Face Off Against Blood Dancers In and Near a Foamcore Building

The city’s buildings are constructed out of pink foam with thick art board used for the roof tiles. Hawkins estimates that over 1,000 separate roof tiles are on the diorama! The one detail that has puzzled me about the diorama since Gen Con is the seemingly unfinished black and white area. This is, in fact, an elemental’s head with white circles for eyes.

Wrath of Kings miniatures fight over a superb Goritsi city at Gen Con 2012 in front of stone buildings with red tiled roofs

The Black Cylinder and Dome is an Elemental’s Head! With White Eyes

Super Dungeon Explore: Von Drakk Manor

Soda Pop Miniatures Chibi Super Dungeon Explore miniatures display castle at Cool Mini or Not Booth

Super Details from Rob Hawkins: Von Drakk Manor

Von Drakk Manor was easily in the Top 5 of all terrain pieces throughout Gen Con for sheer quality and artistry. It also highlighted the expansion forces to CMON’s joint venture with Soda Pop Miniatures. The castle is just as stylized as Soda Pop’s distinctive, chibi figures and was also built by terrain genius Rob Hawkins. He has many more pictures of the stunning layout on his website. The fiery monsters were from the Caverns of Roxor expansion that CMON/Soda Pop released in limited quantities to Gen Con attendees, before they went on sale to the public in October.

Three Cartoonish Dungeon Explorer Miniatures in Cool Mini's Super Dungeon Explore castle with fire elementals at gen con 2012

Von Drakk Manor Plays Home to Caverns of Roxor Denizens at Gen Con 2012

Ron and Bones – Rum and Bones

CMON was also previewing another of its newly-acquired licenses, Rum and Bones. Originally titled Ron and Bones by TaleofWar, the game is a pirate-themed miniatures skirmish game with highly stylized figures. In a booth filled with so many other goodies, the pirate ship did stand out for its quality construction. Little has subsequently been said about Rum and Bones (that I have seen), though Table Top Hell is impressed by the game’s miniatures.

Gorgeous miniature 28mm pirate ship for Rum and Bones at Gen Con 2012 in the Cool Mini or Not Booth

Rum & Bones: Skirmish Pirate Game, Palm Trees from Pegasus Hobbies

From all that I could see of Rum and Bones, each model is a unique personality. The character Teruk’te wears a Sharkskin and will appeal to any gamer who has ever wanted a miniature that wears an entire shark as a costume! Tale of War Miniatures still has information in English available on the game including a downloadable PDF that explains the game’s mechanics, as well as displays the entire range of finely detailed miniatures.

Inside a miniature pirate ship for Ron and Bones at Cool Mini or Not booth at Gen Con with cannons

The View Below Decks Of the Pirate Ship’s Impressive Armament

One of the neater things about the Rum and Bones demo table is that it has been carefully constructed to match the miniatures’ base size and prevent them from slipping or sliding out of position.

Top down view of miniature model pirate ship for skirmish wargame Rum and Bones at Gen Con 2012

The Savage Teruk’te Alongside Pier Del Mocho in Aft Castle High Above the Sloot Gunner

Dark Age Industrial Shop Board

One of CMON’s original brands is Dark Age, of course. Even though I had seen them at the GAMA Trade Show, I still marveled over both of the Dark Age demo boards. Having played on the board with the rock outcroppings, most of my attention was taken by the industrial garage board. The details really bring the board to life with rigging over the top, bike chains used as industrial belts, vats of liquid, and multiple elevations to play on.

Post-Apocalyptic futuristic miniature game Dark Age industrial garage terrain at Gen Con 2012

Did I mention the working lighting? By varying the textures on the board, it creates depth and detail and adds a sense of realism. The diamond-plating used on some of the floor panels is particularly effective. It really does look like a place the mutant Skarrd would have taken over or would be in the process of raiding.

Closer look at industrial garage Dark Age demo board for miniatures at Gen Con 2012

Marie-Claude Bourbonnais as Rin Farrah from Relic Knights

Another attraction in the CMON booths was cosplayer and glamor model Marie-Claude Bourbonnais from Canada as Rin Farrah, one of the chief protagonists of Relic Knights. Bourbonnais posed for pictures with fans and gamers in her self-made costume and later explained that it was her first time attending Gen Con, let alone any tabletop gaming convention. For Bourbonnais it was different than comic and anime conventions, but still “a lot of fun” and reminded her of her high school’s tabletop games organization. At Gen Con Bourbonnais only appeared as Rin Farrah, but she has cosplayed as another Relic Knights character, Candy, in the past. As of early October (2012) she still had yet to play Relic Knights herself, but looked forward to receiving her complete game to try it for herself, but did say that she has watched demos of the game.

Busty Cosplayer Marie-Claude Bourbonnais at Gen Con playing Rin Farrah with miniature her costume is based on

Two Versions of Relic Knights’ Rin Farrah: Cosplay and Miniature

Watching others game is nothing new to Bourbonnais who spent part of her teenage years watching friends paint armies and play Warhammer 40k. While she never got into the hobby herself, for Relic Knights Bourbonnais will be playing Rin Farrah’s faction. Usually though she is quite busy working on her next costume. As a former fashion designer, she’s been sewing costumes and prom dresses since she was 19. Rin Farrah’s leather outfit was a first for Bourbonnais, who makes all of her costumes and props herself.

Yellow tinted glasses and yellow and black spandex on busty Hornet played by Marie-Claude Bourbonnais at Gen Con 2012

MC Bourbonnais as Canadian Superheroine Hornet

On Thursday Marie-Claude Bourbonnais initially appeared as the black-and-yellow spandex-clad Hornet, her character in the Canadian web-series Heroes of the North. Filmed in Bourbonnais’ home city of Montreal, the series is in English, available to view for free online, and follows the adventures of Canadian superheroes. The character of Hornet only appears at the tail end of the first season of the series, but becomes more prominent in its second season, says Bourbonnais. While she came to Gen Con to promote Relic Knights, another company specializing in 3D body scans had also contacted Bourbonnais about capturing her 3D image in the Hornet costume.

Blonde busty anime woman in green swimsuit on Pool location for card game Tentacle BentoBourbonnais also has the distinction of having modeled for a card in Soda Pop Miniatures’ Tentacle Bento card game and has subsequently cosplayed as that character, essentially doing a cosplay of herself. Bourbonnais was also the basis for one of two promotional pewter miniatures in support of Tentacle Bento’s abortive Kickstarter run.

And the Display Cases

Gamers could have also easily missed all of the wonderfully painted miniatures packed into the glass display cases at the back of the Cool Mini or Not booth areas given all there was to see elsewhere. Here and there though gamers’ faces pressed up against the glass that stretched yard after yard. Sedition Wars, Dark Age, Relic Knights, Wrath of Kings, and Confrontation all vied for visitors’ attention, but were safely locked away, like heroin just out of reach of a junkie. There may have been little puddles of drool on the carpet. As one would expect from the home of cool miniatures on the internet, almost every miniature was beautifully painted. The exceptions were the gray master sculpts on display in the cases.

Anime-influenced miniatures for the Relic Knights game with power familiars on display at the 2012 Gen Con

Anime-Infused Miniatures from Relic Knights with Chibi Power Familiars

On top of the display cases though, within reach of any eager gamer was the impressive winged form of the Titan Dragon for Confrontation. Fashioned out of resin, the figure is a true status symbol among miniature gamers with a hefty price tag of $300.

Red, black, grey, and white massive Titan Dragon miniature for Confrontation at Gen Con 2012

The Massive Titan Dragon for Confrontation Lives Up To Its Name: Free from a Display Case

Ravage Magazine

Cover of Ravage Issue 7 Advertising Zombicide Toxic City MallWhile I would have liked to browse CMON’s wares a bit more, all I really had to time to do was to pick up the first three issues of Ravage Magazine. Ravage is an import, translated from French, and plays off of the gorgeous artwork CMON and its affiliates have access to. Like Harbinger Magazine of the early 2000s but with a much stronger visual focus and appeal, Ravage focuses on a wide range of miniatures with Cool Mini’s lines featuring prominently, but there have also been articles on MERCS, Infinity, Privateer Press, and even a look at 6th Edition Warhammer 40k. There are some translation artifacts in the articles that vary from interviews with designers, to game overviews, to painting and terrain tutorials, but despite the language difficulties, the magazine is off to a very strong start and is now in April on Issue 7.

Triple Ace Games at Gen Con and Iceblade Keep

3D Miniature Terrain Piece of Giant Tower on Rock Outcropping Called Iceblade Keep for Hellfrost at Gen Con

Iceblade Keep in the Triple Ace Games Booth

Back in August at Gen Con, I saw a lot of fabulous terrain on display (and for sale). While most of the best terrain I saw was being used to display miniatures, Triple Ace Games had a stunning display piece in the form of Iceblade Keep. Triple Ace Games is based out of the United Kingdom, but their core fan base is “definitely” American says Robin Elliott, the keep’s builder and Triple Ace’s Production Designer, who also brought the impressive model out to Indianapolis in August.

Hellfrost Savage Worlds

Using the Savage Worlds rules, Triple Ace Games has developed its own game and campaign setting, Hellfrost. Hellfrost is a fantasy setting featuring a society recovering from a 500 year long winter. Set in the land of Rassilon, Hellfrost provides a number of PC classes, races, spells, and new Edges for its players and is built around three core books, the Hellfrost: Players Guide, the Hellfrost: Bestiary, and the Hellfrost: Gazetteer. In order to play one would need a copy of the Savage Worlds rules from Pinnacle Entertainment Group. The model of Iceblade Keep does an excellent job of reinforcing Hellfrost’s themes of desolation, dread, and despair, as well as served as something of a light house to draw curious players into Triple Ace’s booth space.

Iceblade Keep

Iceblade Keep took Robin Elliot three months of evenings and weekends to constuct, all for a one off promotional piece for them to demo Hellfrost on. Elliott designed the keep to break into separate rooms, which also helped in dismantling it for transportation to Gen Con in a large cardboard crate. The structure of the tower is 3mm foamboard with smaller sections held together with dressmaking pins until the PVA glue could dry. For the base, Elliott used a mixture of foamboard and home insulation polystyrene blocks to form the rocks. He then coated the polystyrene with an acrylic medium followed by household emulsion and acrylic paints to achieve his splendid result.

Iceblade Keep rises out of a snowy terrain board. Colossal tower with miniatures on the table

Triple Ace Games’ Iceblade Keep Represents the Forlorn Nature of Hellfrost at Gen Con 2012

Within the fantasy setting of Hellfrost, Iceblade Keep is a “long-abandoned travel tower.” As Elliott explains, “Travel towers are built and usually maintained by an informal organisation devoted to keeping road travellers safe called Roadwardens. They originally used the tower as a base for their patrols but the route on which the tower was built became little used and the tower has now been overun by orcs and ice goblins.”

Triple Ace Games

As an RPG publisher though, Triple Ace’s real focus is on gaming books and they brought quite a selection with them. If you’ve ever wanted rules and ideas for role-playing your own journey through the Looking Glass, Triple Ace Games offers Wonderland No More, their Alice in Wonderland game and setting. If that’s not your cup of tea, there is the futuristic gothic Necropolis 2350 which had me doing a double-take. Necropolis 2350 is a setting highly reminiscent of Dune, Fading Suns, and GW’s Warhammer 40,000. PCs take on the roles of knights in the Sacred Orders and basically serve as inquisitors of the Holy Mother Church, fighting its battles and carrying out investigations. Another Triple Ace Games title on offer was Sundered Skies which has steampunk fantasy elements of floating airships and pistol combat in the vein of Spelljammer (just not in space) or Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. The UK company’s latest addition Savage Worlds All For One: Régime Diabolique was also on sale with a small paper sign in Triple Ace’s booth advertising “Savage All For One is Here!” As its title might hint at, All For One features a Three Musketeers setting which is actually 1636 France.

Roleplaying game manuals at Triple Ace Games booth at Gen Con 2012

Triple Ace Games RPGs at Gen Con: Wonderland No More, Necropolis 2350, & Sundered Skies

Gale Force 9 at Gen Con 2012

Gale Force 9 was exhibiting and selling its flagship line of basing products and gaming accessories at Gen Con, but also showed off several newer ventures, particularly its WotC-licensed Dungeons and Dragons terrain and a board game of Spartacus, based on the popular Starz cable series.

Dungeons and Dragons Caverns of the Underdark and Other GF9 Terrain

One of the most eye-catching tables at Gen Con was definitely Jason Buyaki’s Underdark Cavern board, built with the assistance of sculptress Lizzie Willick. Though Gale Force 9’s website states a month-long construction time for the table, when I spoke with him, Buyaki pegged his and Willick’s time on the board at two weeks. The table also had two denizens on it, a Beholder Eye Tyrant and and a Purple Worm, both of which will be released as part of Gale Force 9’s Dungeons & Dragons Collector’s Series line of premium unpainted resin products. The board separates into two pieces three quarters of the way up from the bottom and will be traveling to Essen later this year to help promote Dungeons & Dragons and Gale Force 9 in Europe.

Miniature underground cavern for the Underdark in 28mm at the Gale Force 9 Booth at Gen Con

The Caverns of the Underdark 3D Set on a GF9 Vinyl Mat

While the impressive Underdark Cavern was not for sale at Gen Con, the Caverns of the Underdark 3D Adventure Sets were. Each 8-piece resin stalagmite set comes fully prepainted and is a licensed product from Wizards of the Coast to Gale Force 9. As Jason Buyaki pointed out himself, the stalagmites are also usable for pulp action games or for science fiction cave settings, in addition to concealing the movement of drow, duergar, and driders through your Dungeons & Dragons games. Gale Force 9 also has a variety of crystals that make for colorful additions to a gamer’s dungeon or cavern, as well as a new vinyl playing mat specifically licensed for Dungeons & Dragons use, featuring a 1-inch grid.

Terrain mastermind Jason Buyaki in Spartacus T-shirt Stands Before Huge Cavernous Dungeon at Gen Con

Terrain Mastermind Jason Buyaki Standing Beside One of His Greatest Gaming Boards

Lizzie Willick has also designed a series of re-imagined hills for the Battlefield in a Box line of prepainted terrain. Willick has answered the question “How do you make a hill that’s not a hill?” with five intriguing collapsed urban structures: the Fallen Angel, the Buried Monument, the Collapsed Corner, the Ruined Fountain, and the Blasted Garden. They will look good in most futuristic urban cityscapes and match Gale Force 9’s existing Gothic range, while helping to block line of sight and offering concealment and cover to nearby troops.

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery

Unpainted plastic generic gladiator pieces on arena game board for Spartacus board game at Gen Con

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery at Gen Con 2012

Gale Force 9 CEO John Kovaleski explained GF9’s other exciting venture, the Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery board game. GF9 demoed the game throughout Gen Con at four tables. Players use generic gladiator playing pieces, but can play with named characters from the show such as Spartacus himself, Asher, or Animaeus. The game is also rated 17+, so fans of some of the more vulgar and evocative expressions that really characterize the show have some of them to look forward to. Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery will be available in stores in late September or early October with an expansion to follow. From my video with Kovaleski it also seems quite likely that there may be further games in the Spartacus setting released by GF9.