The Tyranny of Small Decisions

It's a blog on a board-gaming site. Pretty safe bet it'll be about board games then...

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The Quiet Place

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Covid affects different people in different ways. I seemed to get off really lightly; a couple of days with a very slight cough …and that was basically it. With Mrs Shep, it’s primarily been a fatigue thing… when the infection peaked, she pretty much just wanted to curl up on the sofa and sleep all day. Which left me looking for something nice and quiet (and not too taxing!) to do which wouldn’t disturb her too much…

From gallery of MrShep


And that’s how I finally got around to painting my White Gigalion. (Only 9 months after I built the thing. Gulp.)

This model seems to lend itself particularly well to my usual lazy-arse quick-and-nasty method of miniature painting. It’s basically Vallejo Bonewhite with Army Painter Quickshade Soft Tone Wash brushed on top … giving a surprisingly close (and mostly-accidental) match to the lion shown on the box art. I certainly can’t complain about that outcome … it definitely looks like I laboured over this one way more than I actually did

From gallery of MrShep


Another victory in the war against grey plastic!

Now I just need to find some survivors for it to eat…

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Fri Feb 18, 2022 7:10 am
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If I could make the change I'd love to pull the wires from the wall.

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Over time, I’ve become decreasingly aware of what games are (or aren’t) in the BGG “top 10”. Not that I was ever massively aware of what went on in there … for the longest time, the only thing that every really seemed to change was the relative positions of Agricola, Puerto Rico and Twilight Struggle … but — in a dull moment, while looking at a “how many games in the BGG top 50 have you played?” meme that was doing the rounds over the new year period — I noticed an entry in the hallowed 10 for which I was blissfully unaware of a rise towards the top. Gaia Project. At number 7.

I like Gaia project. My first plays of it left a really good impression; a heavy-ish network-building space game with 14 different asymmetrical factions to choose from … a universe of worlds to occupy, develop, build an economy around … but with open-information euro-sensibilities; no randomness beyond game setup, and NO combat (Once you grab a territory, it’s yours — nobody can take it away from you). A modular map + randomly-configured scoring objectives + tech advancements (which mitigate against one faction being consistently stronger than another; relative strengths and weaknesses are MASSIVELY configuration-dependent) …. the (well-tuned!) tech progression board, and umpteen fixes to things that seemed a little bit bit wonky in Terra Mystica … basically, everything pointed to this being a firm-favourite evergreen game that would stand the test of time. I even went out and bought a nice set of perspex board overlays on the strength of just a couple of plays and 3d printed a box organiser… because surely this one would stay in high rotation for years??

From gallery of MrShep


From gallery of MrShep


Which, of course, put some kind of jinx on the whole thing, because — apart from a few solo plays — I subsequently completely failed to get it to the table in front of other humans

And so it’s sat on the shelf, nagging at me from time to time, tempting me to pick it up again … get back into it … re-learn the rules … either in a redoubled effort to teach it to my gaming chums and get it into circulation — or just to dig a bit deeper into the solo version. But it’s a big box, packed with lots of pieces, and carries a reasonably heavy rules burden. Games like that can be intimidating to get back into after a gap. So although I’ve lifted the lid, and leaved through the content once or twice … it’s usually gone back onto the shelf in pretty short order.

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But… yeah… seeing that entry at number 7 in the chart-that-matters* got me thinking a lot of gaia-project-themed thoughts again. Was it worth carting the box off the shelf for another try? Mrs Shep won’t be interested (because: “Space? — ugh!”), but the automa solo game was pretty decent, from what I remembered.

Then I had a different idea. Hmmm…. wasn’t there an app version of this?

And yes, there is an app that plays this. And also a steam-distributed desktop version. Which, I’ll be honest, is a touch on the pricey side (at least, the desktop version is … as opposed to the mobile version). But you know how it is, when a thought gets into your head and starts nagging away? So I got myself the steam version, fired it up on my laptop, spent quite a while getting used to the interface and re-learning the various rules. …and I’ve been having an absolute blast with it! (To the extent that I’ve probably done way less cardboard-and-wood gaming than I would in a typical week, because I’ve been far too engrossed with this instead!)

From gallery of MrShep


I’ve only been playing against AI opponents so far… and even then, only the easy level. Which, I’ll be honest, is pretty easy to beat — but I’m breaking myself in gently here and familiarising myself with the various factions. Being able to work though each faction and see what makes them tick is a fun journey. Even if the AI doesn’t get massively better at higher levels (and I should maybe point out that I’ve got no burning desire to go online and play random people … the attraction of playing this digital incarnation, for me, is simply to play against the machine) I think I’m getting my money’s worth already, just by being able to dig a bit deeper into understanding everything that the game has to offer.

And what it does have to offer is… quite a lot. With a few more games under my belt — and a way better appreciation of all the moving parts than I ever got from the few plays that I had with the physical version — I’m definitely not going to begrudge it that position in the BGG top 10 at all. It’s a very solid game, with plenty to explore. And if I keep my hand in with the digital version … who knows. Maybe I’ll be in a good place to randomly pluck it from the collection and teach it, should the opportunity for real-world plays rise again

(Just as long as I can get used to that quirky cardbooard-and-plastic, flesh-based intelligence interface…)

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*which, obviously, doesn’t actually matter in the slightest.
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13 Comments
Sat Jan 22, 2022 2:58 pm
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Wrongsized

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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W Eric Martin is a monster, and the end results of this process are awful.

(And that's before the sticky tape turns yellow with age and then decides not to actually "stick" any more...)



But y'know what? ... if some aftermarket/licensed boutique manufacturer decided to produce a range of alternative packaging for some of my very favourite boxes of air -- with a properly scaled-down manual to fit -- I would totally pay through the nose for those.

And I did once repackage my old edition of Antiquity in a wooden crate.

Board Game: Antiquity


So. Urm. There's that option too. whistle

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Thu Nov 4, 2021 7:10 am
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The Dice Man

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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I still remember my first encounter with polyhedral dice. My gateway into the world of RPG gaming — like, I suspect, many teenagers in the 1980s — was via the red box edition of Dungeons and Dragons. And in that box came a set of dice like none that I had ever seen before! … a twenty sided die? ten-sided … twelve-sided… eight sided… and even a FOUR SIDED PYRAMID DIE which you had to read the value off in a particularly weird way. WT-A-F???!!! …Just what kind of bizarre and exotic gaming strangeness was this??!

From gallery of MrShep


They weren’t the highest quality dice … cheap-looking red plastic, and the set included a white wax crayon with which you were expected to colour in the engraved numbers yourself (which actually gave a much more professional finish than you might expect, once you’d wiped the excess wax away). Nevertheless, they did the job. And many months of dungeon delving and monster killing were powered by that little set of dice.

But then, one day… a member of our group turned up to games night and announced that he would not be using the “communal” dice this time. Because — through the miracle of mail order — he had managed to acquire his OWN set of dice. What’s more, these turned out to be a particularly classy-looking set of dice; dice that had been cast from multi-coloured plastic, with some kind of swirly cloud effect employed in the process. They really put our basic D&D set to shame…. those dice were pretty much the envy of everybody at the table.

…at least…

…until the next session. When another guy turned up with something even more impressive: Dice made from clear plastic ... Gem Dice! We were stunned by their beauty. Never before had we seen such marvels. And suddenly, those old swirly dice from the week before seemed really old-hat.

From that point forward… a whole new world of dice one-upmanship began. Glittery dice. Metal Dice (not the smartest thing to roll on your mum's dining room table!). Marble-effect dice. A 100-sided die which actually had 100 sides. A three sided die. The list went on...

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A couple of years ago, I met up with an old university friend at the UK Games Expo. He’s not much of a gamer himself … but his wife owned a tiny game shop, in a small town in Yorkshire (sadly now disappeared). Which is why they were at the expo.

As we wandered around the halls, chatting and looking at the various gaming wares on offer, I noticed that his son (who was maybe 10 or 12? …frankly, I’m useless at estimating kid’s ages) was carrying a small, well-worn bag of …. something. “That’s his dice collection” explained my friend. “He doesn’t actually play anything with them … he just likes collecting them”. And sure enough, every now and then the child would stop at one of the stands in the trade hall, transfixed by a particularly impressive specimen, and beg his parents for some spending money.

When I was a kid, I had a marble collection. Not because I played marbles. But just because… owning a bunch of really nice marbles was really cool.

I totally got that.

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I guess this is a roundabout way to get around to telling you that this week a box of yellow-and-pink “Summer” themed Kingdom Death: Monster dice arrived in the post …and that this new acquisition completes my collection of every official KD:M dice variant released to date.

From gallery of MrShep


Urm…

yeah.

I’ve got no real idea why I collected these; a single set — which comes in the box anyway — is all that you really need to play the game …especially if you only ever play solo. And some of the colour variants are definitely a bit less appealing than others. Nevertheless, I did find the idea of collecting all 10 colourways inexplicably compelling. And a nagging little voice in my head has been silenced*, now that I own them all.

It does take at least a little bit of dedication to get the full set — as many of them are only available to purchase at certain times of the year (sometimes with only a few days of availability!) — but it’s not like it’s a super-difficult task to complete, if you really want to.

I guess I still just have that crazy marble-and-dice collector thing going on, somewhere deep in my psyche

What are the least-necessary game add-ons that you’ve ever bought?

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*Except for the fact that two of the sets don’t have a box. And I kind of feel like I should get the boxes, for sake of completion, now…
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Wed Aug 11, 2021 7:10 am
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A game with a few wrinkles

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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The process of working my way through all of the games that arrived during the early months of covid -- and then immediately got filed away as "probably not Mrs Shep's sort of thing" -- continues.

From gallery of MrShep
Tea towel? Flag? Really big handkerchief?

There can't be many games where you start weighing up thoughts along the lines of: "a travel iron would be a seriously good accessory to pop into this one" ...can there?

From gallery of MrShep
Smoothing-out in progress

Perhaps it's just as well that Tokyo Metro came in a small box with no free space. Fire risk averted!

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Wed Jul 21, 2021 7:10 am
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Toxic Fumes

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Mrs Shep popped out for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon, for an (outdoor!) coffee shop get-together with a friend who she hasn’t seen in far too long. So I thought I might indulge in a spot of model-making while she was gone, and tackle something that’s been sitting on my Kingdom Death Shelf of Shame for a little while now: The White Gigalion

From gallery of MrShep


The White Gigalion is curious little expansion that came out as a Gen Con release a couple of years ago. It is, essentially, a Kingdom Death Monster “one shot” … a non-campaign scenario that you can play in a single sitting — you get four pre-generated ‘mid-level’ characters with some interesting backstory, a new super-vicious version of the white lion quarry from the base game (with some unique AI cards), and some bonus content to add to your ongoing KDM campaigns as a “reward” for if/when you manage to complete this stand-alone challenge. (Though, of course, you could just chuck all of that into your base game without having to beat the stand-alone scenario first, if you really wanted to. But where would the fun be in that?)

From gallery of MrShep


In principle …it’s an interesting way to do things. Having new campaign content locked behind a parallel/stand-alone gaming challenge (assuming you have the self discipline to actually play it that way) is a cute idea. And the one-shot nature of the thing perhaps gives you a way to provide your kingdom-death-curious friends with a taste of how the real thing plays, once you've advanced out of the pointy-sticks-and-sharp-stones early years of the campaign. So for anybody trying to play their way through the top 50 BGG games … well, this seems like a perfectly good way to tick the “Kingdom Death Monster” box.

At least, that’s how it works in principle. But from the reviews that I’ve read, the Gigalion is perhaps not a shining example of a KDM foe; it’s AI deck is widely-regarded as being a little bit broken … there’s a trait which makes it wander around the board in a spectacularly dumb way, which most people apparently end up house-ruling to make the fight a bit more interesting. Plus … the pre-generated characters have been very-much built to appeal to the “chuck-a-bucket-of-dice-and-see-what-happens” kind of player, rather than the “kit-my-people-out-to-play-strategically-and-mitigate-against-bad-luck” kind of player. So your milage may vary.

Anyway, after a couple of hours spent in a fug of solvent fumes, I had THESE lovely things to show for my troubles…

From gallery of MrShep


The lion itself was a fairly easy build, but some of the joints are a bit an the gappy side (I’ve perhaps found a particularly flattering camera angle here!). I’m in two minds about whether to attack it with filler before painting it or not — but I’ll probably just leave it as it is. My KDM minis are very much used as game pieces, rather than displayable “art”. The survivor minis were a bit trickier to build… with a couple of annoyingly-tiny joints, and a seemingly-higher-than-usual amount of sprue “blobs” needing to be carved off the pieces with a scalpel blade to get a good fit. But it all worked out well-enough in the end.

All in all.. quite a nice bunch of hero figures here. Though it’ll no doubt disappoint KDM’s usual detractors to discover that the male characters (left) are showing far, far more flesh than the female characters (right)

Anyway… time to crack the paints open…

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Thu May 20, 2021 11:09 am
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Happy Eggday

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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From gallery of MrShep


Forget your fancy speckled eggs, your neoprene scoreboards, your 3d-printed birdhouse action markers, the deluxe start player token you bought off etsy, and the hand-painted laser-cut all-new dice tower that you can't even fit in the game box....

...because THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is the new must-have Wingspan accessory!




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Mon Apr 5, 2021 10:58 am
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Value

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Sometimes it’s funny what’s considered valuable, and what isn’t considered valuable, isn’t it?

I mean, normally, the foam packaging bits that you get in assorted boxes - that cheap grey squidgy stuff holding your newly-acquired expensive consumer goods safe-and-sound in transit — well, all of that is pretty much destined for the bin, once you’ve done the unboxing, isn’t it? I mean... maybe (like me) you’ll keep the original packaging around for a little while … “just in case I need to send it back”… but that stuff’s definitely going to wind up in the bin before too long (usually sooner rather than later, if Mrs Shep has anything to do with it). And because of that, you assume that those bits of foam rubber cost the manufacturer next to nothing to produce. A big old block of foam… a bit of capital sunk into some kind of cutter, or mould, or something like that… and then mass production. I bet they churn those things out for pennies. I mean… when you buy a new tv set, all of your hard-earned money is all going on the TV, not the packaging? Isn’t it?

But when you turn that whole thing around… when a specifically-cut bit of foam rubber suddenly becomes an object of desire …. something that you would very much like acquire to protect some specific, valuable thing that you own… and some clever entrepreneur cottons on to that fact. Well, suddenly the economies look very different.

This is a long-winded way of saying … I just spent the best part of 30 quid on buying a piece of foam packaging

From gallery of MrShep


It’s sold by a company called Battle Foam … a company which specialises in making foam rubber storage solutions for wargamers and miniature collectors and … in case you haven’t guessed from the shape carved into this particular block… I bought it to provide a home for the Spidicules model that I spent a few days putting together the other week.

Why? Well… it soon became very obvious — shortly after constructing the beastie in question — that this particular “miniature” was going to present a bit of a storage problem. It’s delicate, it’s big, and if it’s left out on open display then Mrs Shep (a life-long arachnophobe!) refuses to come into the games room.

So I thought I’d maybe try this battle foam stuff out to see what it’s like.

From gallery of MrShep


And it seems good … it fits the model quite snugly, has some storage space for a couple of other large figures, slots nicely into an outer crate (sold separately — I went for the cheapskate cardboard box option), and seems to perform its intended function pretty much perfectly. I think it’s going to do a very good job of keeping my Spidicules safe.

30 quid though.

For the stuff that I usually toss in the bin.

Did you ever buy a game “enhancement” that left you questioning your fiscal sanity?

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Fri Mar 5, 2021 9:06 am
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Tooling up for tiny spiders

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Back in December, I mentioned that Young Rachel was, by far, the most frustrating Kingdom Death miniature that I’d assembled to date. But I think there might be a new contender for that title now. Or, more accurately, SIX new contenders for that title… because over the weekend, I assembled the half-dozen baby spiders that come in the Spidicules expansion.

From gallery of MrShep

Tiny spider pieces


And my word, those forearms are SMALL! Far too small for my fat fingers. I spent quite some time fumbling with these, trying (unsuccessfully) to get them to attach to the spider body in the correct alignment… all the while terrified that if I dropped one of those tiny, tiny pieces on the floor, then it would instantly disappear into the carpet pile and never be seen again!

From gallery of MrShep

From gallery of MrShep


Eventually I resorted to borrowing a pair of tweezers from Mrs Shep’s makeup bag … which helped massively in facilitating the precision manipulation involved. So much so, that I then went and invested in my own set of “crafting tweezers” on amazon …on the basis that if I continued to use the ones that I’d “borrowed”, then I’d almost certainly end up in some kind of tweezer / plastic cement / WHO-DID-THIS-TO-MY-VERY-BEST-TWEEZERS!!! incident … which didn’t seem like a particularly wise fate to tempt.

From gallery of MrShep

Tiny hands. So sooo tiny!


The following afternoon, equipped with a set of no less than FOUR exciting new tweezer variants (and a smart storage case too!), I managed to get the whole batch of the little beasties stuck together without losing a single (plastic) limb!

From gallery of MrShep

There’s definitely something a little bit frog-like about these spiderlets.

And with a lick of paint (or two), the brood were ready to be introduced to their also-recently-completed mummy…

From gallery of MrShep


Exciting new death opportunities await! devil

From gallery of MrShep


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Thu Feb 25, 2021 7:10 am
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She's got Legs...

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Yesterday was a bit of a tedious sort of a day. HR had noticed that I’d fallen behind on some of my mandatory training courses, and a message had been issued by the-powers-that-be demanding that I catch up on a whole bunch of training material that I’ve been dodging for the last 18 months or so. Stuff that’s vitally important for me to know. Such as: the 4 different classifications of asbestos risk that might be encountered in UK offices (if we actually worked in an office building any more...). How to devise a bomb threat evacuation plan for your place of work (I haven’t had an awful lot of bomb threats sent to my house in the last 50 years or so, to be honest). The requirement to designate a first aider and reserve first-aider at work (Well, I guess that’s going to be both me AND Mrs Shep in the frame for that one then). And what I should and shouldn’t divulge about my work life when I’m writing social media posts on the internet…

oh.

ANYWAY…

This (and other slightly-less-but-not-entirely-useless material) amounted to something in the order of 8 hours of "self-learning interactive content", delivered in variously-sized segments. Which struck me as a bit of an ordeal, were I to sit through it all contiguously. So to break the day up a little bit, I decided to maybe do a spot of KDM monster building between sessions. Not that I’m in any way suggesting that sitting in a room full of plastic cement fumes will help you get through a day of dull corporate training. Except… maybe that’s exactly what it'll do. Because by the end of the day, I’d managed to pass all of the assessment exercises with flying colours, AND I have a new Kingdom Death Quarry constructed and ready to paint. So everyone’s a winner, right?

Anyway, I thought I’d document the process with photographs. (That’s the monster building process, not the training process). So, today I shall be building: A Spidicules*!

Now… don’t read too much into the fact that I’m building an early-game KDM quarry here; I haven’t played the Watcher showdown yet, and the forthcoming Kingdom Death Diary chapter could go either way.

Theoretically, at least.

But it’s always nice to have your options covered, right?

Removing the mummifying layers of plastic wrap revealed the following content. But can you tell what’s wrong with this scene?

From gallery of MrShep


Probably not, unless you know your Kingdom Death Monster kits inside out. Basically… there’s a duplicate sprue which shouldn’t be there (the one containing the body ball), and a different sprue is completely missing. As it turns out, the missing sprue is part of the Silk Armour kit — i.e. components which allow you to build survivors who have been equipped with Spidicules-sourced equipment. And while this means that I at least have all the bits necessary to build the monster itself (so the omission isn’t quite as bad as it might’ve been)… I’d still rather have the armour kit than not have the armour kit, as they sell for $40 a pop in the kingdom death shop! The only problem is this particular box has been sitting on my shelf-of-potential for nearly 18 months now — and it seems a little bit cheeky to go to Kindgom Death support and ask if there’s any chance of a replacement after all that time.

Though… I mulled it over for a bit… and decided to give it a shot anyway. After all, KDM ‘aint cheap … and since they charge boutique prices, it’s maybe reasonable to expect a touch of white glove boutique-grade service too?

…so I popped my issue into the web support form, added the above photo, and crossed my fingers. And within a couple of hours I got a reply from The Dark Mediator (or Rebecca, as she signs her emails) advising that a replacement will be in the mail ASAP. Hooray! All Praise the Dark Mediator! …good work, Kingdom Death support!

Anyway, on with the build… and the first few pieces — the head — went together pretty quickly. Looks like a happy little soul, doesn’t she? (I’m pretty sure it’s a she. I mean, I’m not an expert in sexing spidicules … but the expansion includes egg tiles and a brood of spider babies)

From gallery of MrShep


A little later… we have some spiny appendages in place. Whiskers? I dunno. I mean, at first glance the un-initiated might think that those are her legs.

From gallery of MrShep


But they’re definitely not her legs. THESE, my friend, are her legs:

From gallery of MrShep


Oh, and some more hands. Because most of the things in KDM have hands. Many hands!

From gallery of MrShep


Four legs attached, and she’s starting to look distinctly spidery now.

From gallery of MrShep


The legs are all on, and I’ve attached the front appendage-with-lure. This was a bit tricky — I think I accidentally trimmed away an important bit of the joint whilst cleaning the part up, so a bit of external support while the glue dried and lots of finger crossing was employed here!

A spidicules’ lure looks suspiciously like a naked female torso. Hmmm. What kind of prey would be attracted to a naked female?

From gallery of MrShep


Speaking of naked people… the kit also includes a small naked man. Who is waving.

From gallery of MrShep


Why is he waving at Spidicules? I don’t know. But I have a feeling that, whatever his motives are, it’s probably not going to work out well for him.

And here’s the finished model! It’s rather large… So I’ve put a regular survivor mini next to it for a sense of scale. Lovely!

From gallery of MrShep


Now… I just need to (a) paint it, and (b) find a place to keep it. (Mrs Shep is a bit of an arachnophobe, and she is very much NOT a fan of this particular addition to my Kingdom Death collection! )

And soon, it might be used in a game. Soooooon…..

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*which is apparently pronounced “Spidiculous”, to rhyme with Ridiculous**.

**Adam Poots has never been best at spelling.
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Fri Feb 19, 2021 7:10 am
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