Thursday, May 21, 2015

Katie's Amazing World: A Minecraft Birthday Party

By Angie

Note: Here's our first special THROWBACK THURSDAY!
(In which I finish and post a draft of an article I started a couple years ago! This party was thrown in 2012, but my kids STILL love and play Minecraft daily so I felt it would be worth sharing. Enjoy!)

I previously wrote an article about bringing your favorite games and video game characters to life in party form: "How to Throw a Great Character Game Party", and this time we took on the kids' favorite open-world creative game Minecraft! Here's the basics of how we did it broken down into the 4 essential steps:


The first step to any party or event is to set the mood, and in this case we wanted a fun Minecraft feel, with the block-y pixel charm, and since it was a party for 7 year olds (some of whom might not be familiar with the game) we wanted it to feel fun and accessible as well. Katie was all in on making decorations, and had some help from a friend before the party. This was great to have the girls set on this task while we were busy with other preparations..

Steve-heads and Creepers were an easy choice as they were easily recognizable as Minecraft, and relatively easy to make.

We used the Steve-heads and Creepers to decorate our favorite Happy Birthday banner (with some lights to draw attention to their handiwork!)

While the girls were lining the house with Steve's, creepers, and other blocks, we set to work on making another Minecraft staple: the Crafting Table. We wanted something that served as a decoration and also was part of the activities part of the party, so we printed out some patterns which were used in some of the crafts and had them stewn about the table.


Building is such a core part of the Minecraft experience, we knew we had to come up with ways for the kids to build stuff at the party if we wanted to capture that Minecraft feel. Because of their age, "melty" beads (also called Pearler Beads) seemed like a great fit for a craft project. They were bright, colorful, presented lots of options for following patterns, and are just really fun!

Some of the kids made their creations without help, but we had adults standing by for crafting assistance. We also had keychain loops to turn the finished product into something that could be hung off of a backpack zipper of otherwise displayed. 

We also had paper available for collaging, as Pearler beads require a lot of manual dexterity (and patience) and we had some younger kids at the party, so we wanted to make sure there was something they could craft with the patterns as well. 

Even the older kids got into the crafting, and we saw some really elaborate creations made throughout the course of the party. Of course there was a Diamond Sword, the pinnacle of Minecraft weaponry. 


Immersion into a world is one of the best parts of gaming, so we also wanted to make sure there was a way for the kids to jump into the Minecraft world and play the role of the survivor, striving to build a life and drive back the bad guys. Our first goal was to make some bad guys, and of course some weapons with which to fight them!

"Do you like my sword-sword-sword? My diamond sword-sword! You cannot afford-afford, afford my diamond sword-sword"! You've all seen that video, right? My kids sang that for months. Anyhow, back to the party!

We made a Ghast pinata, and a Diamond Sword and a Diamond Pickaxe with which to break it open, and the kids were beyond excited to take their turns attacks the "mob" and of course hoping for candy! (They all used the sword though, who wants to fight a mob with a pickaxe? What were we thinking?)

To simulate the survival and build aspect, we filled our house with cardboard boxes for the kids to use as building blocks. They created houses, castles, forts, walls, and many other things (to inevitably knock down and rebuild!). If the party hadn't been in November in Oregon (both cold AND raining) this part would DEFINITELY have been outside! 

We also had a few computers and the Xbox set up where you could actually PLAY Minecraft, but the kids were so busy with the party activities they only got used by the cousins before and affter the actual party. But you can see that lure...


Of course, all heroes need to eat. Much like decorates, food can help set the feel for a party. We decided to go all in on the blocks and do all cube foods, then let the kids have the fun of playing with their food AND building some more! One of the challenges was finding foods that could be cubed and could at least sort of be eaten together. Our menu consisted of fruits, veggies, cheeses, crackers, and breads, all of which are favorite snack foods for busy kids. We also did our best to replicate the Minecraft cake that you can craft in the game, which scored bonus points with the birthday girl! 

Maybe some grownups played with their food too....

The cake is a lie! Wait, wrong video game reference. This cake was amazing. 

So that's how we pulled off an amazingly fun, memorable Minecraft themed party for our little adventurer. I feel that a game makes a pefrect theme for a birthday party (or other type of celebration) because it is already structured around doing something fun, usually has a rich world to draw from, and gives the party-goers a great way to socialize and engage in something more memorable than some of the typical party fare.

Hit us up with any questions, comments, or let us know what your favorite game-inspired party ideas are in the comments! Have fun playing!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

That's How I Role: Baela the Immovable!

by Randy

Hello there! I would like to start off with an apology for not updating recently. It's been pretty hectic for us, and we've been focusing on a lot of other things. Thanks for coming back!

What I have today is a Pathfinder character that I believe would be very fun to play. She's one tough dwarf. A single-class monk, this character shows the fun stuff you can do with archetypes. Archetypes for the Pathfinder system were introduced in the Advanced Player's Guide. Archetypes swap out features of the base class with a set of themed abilities. Some are minor, and some make it feel like you're playing a whole new class.

Baela is themed on the immovable power of stone, befitting her Dwarf heritage. The archetypes used are Monk of the Sacred Mountain, Monk of the Four Winds and a splash of Qinggong Monk. The Monk of the Sacred Mountain trades some of the movement-based monk class features for ones themed on immobility & toughness. The Monk of the Four Winds is for monks more connected to the natural world, and the elements. Quinggong monks are disciplined users of Ki magic.

Baela Duerstan is a Dwarf ascetic from Highhelm. Her mother, a caravan guard, died when she was in her teens, and she was taken in by the temple of Torag. Upon coming of age, she chose to leave the area and see the world. She now wanders from town to town, sometimes a caravan guard herself.

Baela Duerstan Dwarf Monk (Monk of the Sacred Mountain/Monk of the Four Winds/Qinggong Monk) Lawful Neutral  Level 10

Str 14, Dex 12, Con 18, Int 10, Wis 20, Cha 6

AC: 28 (+2 Dex +5 Wis +6 Natural Armor +3 Monk +1 Dodge +1 Deflection) 30 (+2 Shield if she does not move)
HP: 113 (10d8 + 50 Con + 10 Toughness +9 favored class)  DR: 1/-
Saves: Fort +11, Ref +8, Will +12
Move: 50

Unarmed strike +11/+5 2d6+3
Flurry of Blows +12/+12/+7/+7 2d6+3
+1 Shuriken +10/+5
+1 Shuiriken (flurry) +11/+11/+6/+6 1d2+3  10ft

Skills: Acrobatics +15, Stealth +15, Knowledge: Religion +13, Perception +18

Feats: Ironhide, Toughness, Dodge, Scorpion Style, Weapon Focus (Unarmed Strike), Shaitan Style, Gorgon Strike, Improved Natural Armor x2, Medusa's Wrath, Improved Unarmed Strike, Elemental Fist

Magic Items: 
Belt of Physical Perfection +2, Headband of Inspired Wisdom +4, Monk's Robe, Amulet of Natural Armor +2, 50 +1 Shuriken, Ring of Protection +1

Baela is, simply put, tough. Though she is highly mobile, she shines most when she can stand still and hit things; she is not subtle in the least. Her Scorpion Style feat will allow her to stop opponents in their tracks (and open the possibility of using Gorgon's Fist & Medusa's Wrath). The Elemental Fist feat is her go-to move for dealing unarmed strike damage. It will allow her to use any element, but it is best employed for acid damage, which is boosted by the Shaitan Style feat (which she should activate in every battle at the beginning). When she needs to withstand a barrage of attacks, standing still and using a Ki point for her monk dodge bonus will get her to Armor Class 34. And don't forget that her Damage Reduction (DR 1/-) is always active (she can double this with a Ki point).

For advancement, Baela should take Stunning Fist next level. As a monk, she will get one use per level (and an additional use from her Monk Robe). If she uses Stunning Fist in a Flurry of Blows attack, she can get two additional attacks at her highest base attack bonus (assuming the opponent fails his save). At 12th level, her Monk of the Four Winds archetype replaces Abundant Step with Slow Time, the ability to use a swift action to spend 6 ki points to get 3 standard actions that turn instead of one. At 13th level, either Crushing Blow or Hammer The Gap are good feat choices. You may also use the Qinggong Monk archetype to swap out Diamond Body for another power not replaced by one of the other archetypes: Restoration is a very good choice.

Alternately, a one-level dip into Fighter with the Unbreakable archetype would round out the prerequisites for the prestige class Stalwart Defender anytime after 9th level. Though a Monk is not the ideal path to get there, it offers a lot to Baela: a larger hit die, a dodge bonus to AC, damage reduction (it won't stack with hers, but will eventually surpass what she has), the defensive stance and a variety of defensive powers.

Note: All of the links above go to, an excellent fan-made resource for Pathfinder rules run by John Reyst. I use this every time I make a character or plan an adventure for Pathfinder. John is currently running a Patreon to support maintaining this excellent resource. Please consider lending your support.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Glory of Asphyxious!

Painting a Warmachine Lich Lord

by Randy

Hello there!

I wanted to show off my latest project. If you have played either Warmachine or the Iron Kingdoms Roleplaying Game, you have heard of Cryx. For those who haven't, Cryx is an island nation of nightmares, where the dead walk and do the bidding of the world's largest dragon. The dragon, Toruk, has appointed twelve Lich Lords to carry out his bidding as governors and generals to conquer the world for him. The mini I painted is one of those Lich Lords, Asphyxious. Asphyxious just recently acquired his title by slaying his predecessor, Daemortus, whom he has made into a spear.

Pretty fearsome, eh? The model itself is pretty impressive. Not counting the plastic base, it has 12 pieces. I'm not covering assembly here, though you'll probably get a little of that incidentally. With a model like this, it makes the most sense to paint it in pieces. I painted the model with Formula P3 paints, the paint range by Privateer Press, makers of Warmachine.

This pic shows me getting the model ready for priming. I have already washed the pieces, cleared mold lines and I have put together the upper and lower body, and the base and the stand piece for the base.Then I mount the remaining pieces to be primed with a spray primer. I used my hand drill to make small holes which double as places for pins when the model finally gets assembled.

Here it is after it has been primed in black and painting is underway. 

Here's the body. For his robes, I used Rucksack Tan mixed with Armor Wash. The green in the head socket, between the ribs and underneath the body is Necrotite Green. I went over the black metal with a little thinned Cryx Bane Base, then drybrushed Cold Steel. The soul cages hanging on the belt were done with Blighted Gold, highlighted with Rhulic Gold. 

Here's the base. I had already painted the base insert, not I have added the swirling souls and have painted them. Also, if you look closely, you can see a little metal pin in the top of the central swirly pillar. This corresponds to a drilled hole in the bottom of the lower body. This was done with Necrotite Green and Morrow White. 

Here's the 'backpack': the array of exhaust pipes coming from the back. Cryxians burn necrotite instead of coal,. and that burn with a green flame. The metals are the same as the body above, with most done with black drybrushed with Cold Steel, and the flares at the end of the pipes Blighted Gold highlighted with Rhulic Gold.

Here is the right hand & spear. Metals as above, with the blade being Cold Steel washed with Armor Wash. The eye was done in Morrow White, with the pupil Coal Black, and the edges done with thinned Murderous Magenta. 

And here he is... Lich Lord Asphyxious, in all his terrible glory! His skull was basecoated with Rucksack Tan, washed with Armor Wash and then highlighted with Morrow White. 

So... that's him! I finally got him together and painted, after having the model hiding in my unpainted pile for a couple years waiting for me to become a better painter. I'm very happy with the outcome, and maybe one day I'll field him in a battle, or plague the players in my upcoming Iron Kingdoms Roleplaying Game campaign with him. Any miniatures that you're particularly proud of? Let me know below! And also consider visiting my Instagram profile. You'll find quite a few miniatures on there!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

All 'Jacked Up!

Magnetizing The Cygnar Avenger - Centurion - Hammersmith Warjack Kit!

By Randy

Hiya, folks! I some more miniature hobby stuff to talk about concerning one of my favorite games, Warmachine by Privateer Press. In a recent post I did on playing Warmachine on a budget, one thing that came up after a helpful comment by a reader was that using magnets to be able to quickly convert  one warjack or warbeast to another was one way to save money. I had been itching to try this for months! I finally got a warjack kit, and wanted to share my first attempt at building a model this way. So here's the model:

And here it is all laid out to show the parts:

This kit allows you to build three different warjacks: the Centurion (with spear & shield), the Hammersmith (with 2 matching hammers) and the Avenger (with a sword & a seimic cannon arm). So planning ahead, we primarily need to have the ability to swap out the arms. Each warjack also has a different head, and while this isn't necessary, we'll magnetize those, too. Finally, there are two sets of shoulder pads. It is perhaps completely frivolous, but I'll magnetize those, too.

Here are my tools:

There shouldn't be anything surprising there. From left to right, we have magnets, brass rod, a file for removing mold lines, liquid green stuff, superglue, a pin vise/drill, an X-acto knife and tweezers. Not pictured is epoxy putty (I prefer ProCreate putty) and a Sharpie. Here are the magnets (3mm x 1mm neodymium):

The first step after planning is to drill holes for the magnets. Many model builders will already be doing a bit of this to add pins or brass rods to support heavier parts of models. What I am going to do here is make holes large enough to set in a magnet.

I used epoxy putty and superglue to set them in.

That one is the right arm. That one I pinned to the shoulder, since all the right arm does is hold a weapon in all the possible configurations. Here's one of the weapons (the sword for the Avenger). Each of the right arm weapons has the hand molded to them, and here is what an inset magnet looks like on one of them.

The left arm was a little more tricky. First of all, there are two separate arms: one is a cannon, and the other an arm like the right that has two different weapon combos (a hammer and a shield). The arm and shield combination is fairly heavy, and one magnet (at least of the size I have) will not suffice to hold the whole assembly. So here's what I did
I drilled a hole for a brass rod, and I set in one of the magnets slightly farther back. I tested positions for where to place them and this seemed the best.  Here are the two arms:

And here is wrist of the left forearm:

The red dot notes where the magnet is (it is covered by putty, which matches the grey of the plastic) and there is also a hole for a brass peg. And here are the shield and the hammer hands:

Each has an inset magnet on the top and a brass peg below. The hammer hand didn't really need it, but I figured it wouldn't hurt. And here is the finished kit, laid out in all its separate pieces:

And here are each of the warjacks it makes:

The Avenger!
The Centurion!

The Hammersmith!
Update! I made a brief YouTube video showing how this works together. The video isn't the greatest but it should give you an idea of how it works:

This was a fun kit to build! It will, of course, be painted and set on a finished base. But right now, my painting queue is pretty large. One observation I will share that you should note for your magnetized projects is that magnets have positive and negative sides, and your pieces will need to match up. I recommend using a Sharpie to place a dot on a magnet, and be sure to test before gluing. That's it!

Do you have any model projects that you are particularly proud of? Tell us below!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Game online at AetherCon II!

by Randy

Hello, gamers! Have you ever attended an online gaming convention? If not, you should consider logging in to Aetheron II this weekend, November 15-17th! This is AetherCon's second year of running an excellent and free online gaming convention, and they have loads of events, games, and panels. I had the opportunity to catch up with Barry Lewis, the Promotional Coordinator for AetherCon. He was able to answer some questions about the convention!

Growing Up Gamers: This is AetherCon's second year. What was the original idea behind AetherCon? Has that changed since sine last year?

Barry Lewis of AetherCon II: The main idea is just to get people together to play RPGs and have fun with a sense of community behind it.  That has not changed and never will.

Growing Up Gamers: What are the technologies that you are using? What can simulate the in-person roleplaying experience?

Barry Lewis: AetherCon is using free, web based programs to run the convention.  The two programs we’ll be using for the RPGs is the Roll20 program, which will be the main program being used, and the INFRNO program, in which a few games will be featured on.  Roll20 and INFRNO will be used for the publisher demos as well.  The other program we'll be using is Anymeeting, which is a free web conferencing software, for the Q&As, panels, vendor hall and artist enclave.   I think the two programs, Roll20 and INFRNO, come very close to the “in-person” feel with their use of webcams/chat rooms and on-screen graphics.  The only thing you can’t do is raid the GM’s fridge for snacks!

Growing Up Gamers: How many people do you expect to attend AetherCon II, and how many took part last year?

Barry Lewis: As of right now I don’t have the solid numbers, since they tend to fluctuate, but this AetherCon is shaping up to have more people than last year’s event.  We’re learning little by little what works and what doesn’t and this will help us improve each year and this translates into a better experience and more attendees.

Growing Up Gamers: How have game designers and other panelists responded to the idea of an online convention? Your schedule certainly shows us that there has been a great response, but have others been hesitant?

Barry Lewis: The response has been excellent.  Since this is a fairly new(ish) idea they are intrigued with the concept and would like to see it succeed since it’s another way to get their products and themselves more exposure.  They’re only hesitant until they check their schedules to see if they are available.  If they’re available they tend to jump on board quickly.

Growing Up Gamers: Since AetherCon last year, I have seen at least one other online game con (ConTessa). Do you think more conventions of this sort are going to take off?

Barry Lewis: I’m noticing that online conventions are starting to appear. VirtuaCon just happened in October so I’m sure we’ll see more in the near future.

Growing Up Gamers: I imagine it is taking a lot of work from a lot of people to make this happen. How many people are on your team?

Barry Lewis: I’m the director of a “live” game convention and I think doing a “virtual” game convention is much harder.  AetherCon has staff spread out across two countries, US and Canada, and it’s a lot of emails, messaging and live chats.  You definitely have to be well organized and prepared for anything.  We have around 12 people working for AetherCon at any given moment with 8 or 9 of them being senior staff.

Growing Up Gamers: Are there any event types that are not yet represented in AetherCon's schedule that you would like to see in coming years?

Barry Lewis: I would like to see other aspects of gaming, such as card games and miniature games being integrated into the convention, but that just opens a whole other logistical “can of worms”, at least for now.

Thanks, Barry! I would like to point out to our readers that I will be participating in AetherCon II as an attendee, a host for a couple panels and a panelist myself. If you would like to catch up with me (Randy of Growing Up Gamers), drop in to the panel at 3-4:20pm EST on Saturday Nov. 16th called Looking for Players: Bringing New Faces To Our Tables. I'll be on the panel with Mike Mason from Chaosium and Mark Diaz Truman of Magpie Games. Additionally, on Sunday I will be hosting Q&A sessions with Brian Berg of Total Party Kill Games at 4-5pm EST and Todd Crapper of Broken Ruler Games at 5-6pm EST. I hope to see you all there!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Warmachine On A Budget!

Part I: Building An Army

By Randy

If you've ever played any tabletop wargame at all, you know that they're expensive. Very expensive. You need rulebooks, paints, brushes... and models. Lots of models. It seems like you can never have enough models to do everything you want. I'm personally more of a roleplayer, and am more interested in having a wide variety of models to represent the players in the Iron Kingdoms RPG, and the variety of creatures and characters they will encounter. Yes... expensive. What I'm hoping to do here is to give a brief guide to playing Warmachine, Hordes or the Iron Kingdoms Roleplaying Game on a budget.

This is what will interest most Warmachine/Hordes players will be most interested in. How do you build a faction army cheap? The simple answer is that you can't. Sorry. This isn't a magic bullet. The more complex answer is that with certain factions, you may be able to stretch your money a little further. Here's how!

Starter Boxes

Every faction has a starter box. This is a fully playable battlegroup, complete with a Warcaster or Warlock and some Warjacks or Warbeasts. These MSRP for $50, and are a great deal if you price the pieces out individually. In most cases, you'll want to start here. The downside is that you might not want that particular caster, but having a variety to choose from will be worthwhile in the future.

Two Player Battle Boxes

Both Warmachine and Hordes have a Two Player Battle Box. For an MSRP of $99, you get two starter kits, plus an additional sizable unit for each faction. This is an insanely good deal... especially if you can pick it up at a discount (a search while I was writing this turned up deals from $61-$75). This will limit you to one or the other faction (Khador & Protectorate of Menoth for Warmachine, Circle Orboros o& Legion of Everblight for Hordes). The upside for this is that if you and a friend want to jump in and try it out and are willing to use those factions, this is perhaps on of the best deals around. I personally picked up the Warmachine box, and I was glad to fill out my Protectorate & Khador factions. So many models! As a bonus, they also come with quickstart rules.


Privateer Press released a nifty boardgame a few years back called Grind. It was based on a Warmachine game that was printed in No Quarter magazine. I would love to say that I played this game; I really would. But I didn't. What I really liked about this game was the value. What I found is that the contents of this box, plus one Cygnar Heavy Warjack kit (the Ironclad/Cyclone/Defender one) and one Khador Heavy Warjack kit (the Destroyer/Juggernaut/Marauder/Decimator one) and you can put together six heavy warjacks: 3 Cygnar, 3 Khador. That's value. And that's not even taking the light models into account (just for Cygnar; Khador doesn't do light warjacks). The Cygnaran 'jacks are spot-on with only the tiniest bit of conversion necessary. The Khadoran ones have ever-so-slightly smaller smokestacks, but that's barely noticeable. Totally worth the price. I'll bet the game is probably good, too.

Side by side, warjacks from the kit (left, Defender) and from The Grind (right, Cyclone).


Inevitably, you're going to want to try out a model that you don't have. You're considering adding one to an army list, and you think it's synergize with others, but you want to make sure. Use another model as a stand-in! This is called proxying, and it is perfectly fine for friendly (read: non-tournament) games, as long as you're up front with your opponent. If you're a roleplayer, you probably already do this. It makes far more sense to say the Defender (a Cygnaran heavy 'jack) is a stand-in for an Avenger (a spiffy new Cygnar heavy) that you want to check out. Just make sure that when you proxy a model, you use another with the same size base, and preferably one similar so you and your opponent can easily track the board state. It's worth noting that you won't be able to do this in tournaments or at events, where you'll need the actual model and the stat card to field a particular model.

The foamboard sticks in the foreground are proxied Wracks.

Other Deals

As was commented below, Privateer Press through their online store offer Christmas specials. These consist of prebuilt faction packs with 25-30 point armies. Not to mention other deals you may find at other retailers! online retailers will likely offer discounts, but local game stores may also have customer loyalty programs, as well. (Thanks to greibach for pointing this out!)


One way to get more mileage out of one of the plastic heavy warjack kits is with magnets. The kits have all the parts you need to build three or four different jacks out of the same kit, and you can use rare earth magnets glued in to swap out heads, arms and weapons. So that kit will still only be one warjack, but you can swap out which type it is. Nifty, huh? (Thanks again to greibach for this!) Update! I just showed how I magnetized a Cygnar Avenger-Centurion-Hammersmith kit!

Best Warmachine/Hordes Factions by Budget:

1. Khador: With the Two Player Battle Box and Grind, Khador is probably the cheapest to build up an army. Going by MSRP, the Battle Box is roughly equivalent to the MSRP of the Khador models and gives you an extra faction, either for you or a friend. You can angle in a bit cheaper with the Start Box plus the Man-O-War unit, but extra models are always nice and may be worth having to trade.

2.  Cygnar: No Battle Box support for Cygnar, but you can fill out your heavy 'jacks with extras from Grind. As I said above, one Heavy Warjack kit plus the two extras from that game will give you three Cygnaran heavies (one each Defender, Ironclad and Cyclone). I recall a slight modification to an upper arm joint, and clipping the hand off one forearm and replacing with one oriented for the correct arm, but that is very minimal. I have not yet tried to do anything with the light 'jacks other than proxies. When I have any amount of disposable income, I may do an order from the Privateer Press Parts Store and get some pieces to convert them into other Cygnaran light 'jacks.

3.Protectorate of Menoth: Again, the Two Player Battle Box is a great starting point for Protectorate players. Two heavy warjacks, one light one, Kreoss and a unit of Exemplar Cinerators. The Starter Box for the Protectorate has Kreoss, two light 'jacks and a heavy.

4. Circle Orboros & Legion of Everblight: These factions are in the Hordes Battle Box, and their lists look like a comparable deal to the Protectorate, above.

5. Other factions (Cryx, Retribution of Scyrah, Skorne, Trollbloods, Mercenaries, Minions, Convergence of Cyriss): Other than the starter boxes, no great deals like above. It's a shame, since these factions all have some impressive models. I think I could field a pretty high point cost Cryx force; they make excellent RPG baddies!

Note: This list above is not necessarily factoring in competitive play, but mostly looking at getting the most models on the table. There is a discussion on Reddit about this that goes more into what factions are the cheapest in terms of fielding a competitive army. My list above should be considered in terms of getting faction models on the table for Iron Kingdoms roleplaying.


I hope that helps you if you're looking into building an army on the cheap. It's true that wargames are a big drain on the wallet, but some planning can certainly help things along. The next installment will focus on painting. Do you have any moneysaving tips for Warmachine, Horders or the IKRPG? Post them below!