Ghost Archipelago: Dire Straits Weekend

Six of us got together for a pirate themed post-Covid gaming session a few months ago, me hearties

In late 2020 Mikko from Dawn of the Lead and I were chatting about toy soldiers, pirates and pervading, global glumness. We decided that it would be fun to plan a gaming get-together to take place at an as-yet-unknown future time and place, to give us a group project to work on and to share, while in-person, social gaming prospects were limited.

The theme that Mikko and I settled on was “fantasy pirates” and the ruleset that we agreed on was “Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago“.

Thunder lizard omelette bar supply chain issues drive Kaptin Boner Chief of the “Big Snakes” orc tribe to seize the means of production..

Fast forward through multiple proposed/cancelled dates, venues, attendees etc and the other logistical issues of the last few years, and we finally get to April 2022, where six of us met with our various pirate and “lost world” themed crews at Underworld Gaming, Dublin, where and spent a weekend making dad-jokes, doing bad pirate voices and watching our little men punch sharks, dinosaurs and each other.

Hobby hygge.

Long Drong’s Slayer Pirates smear their jolly boats in olive oil and booty, and roll around in it.

I have been involved in the tabletop miniature wargaming hobby for thirty-five years now. I’m not ancient, but I’m not young. I definitely don’t have the energy levels that I had when I was younger and my enthusiasm for weekends of gaming in public spaces is a lot less than it once was, plus the effort involved in organising things like this is significant.

However…

A goblin “Big Snake” warrior attempts to mug Niamh, the weird human-beast hybrid Stormwarden.

… this get-together blew cobwebs off atrophied parts of my hobby brain that I thought were gone for good. There were a few moments over the couple of days that confirmed for me precisely why I have spent so much of my life obsessing over toy soldiers. It was exactly the shot in the hobby arm that I wanted.

“Looks like eggs benedict is back on the menu boys!”

Part of this was due to the venue, which was absolutely ideal for our purposes, with helpful, friendly and unobtrusive staff that took the edge off a lot of the logistical side of arranging even a modest gaming get-together like ours. I highly recommend Underworld Gaming for this sort of thing.

A photobombing harpy spoils the dark elf Wavewardens attempts to get the perfect selfie…

There were many other reasons that I got such a kick out the event, but in summary, everyone taking part was fun to be around, great to play toy soldiers with and contributed some of the many various additional elements that made the games look and feel the part.

Great success.

A hydra, the Golden Fleece and Dark Knopfler – the malevolent spirit of the Dire Straits himself – generate quite a stop-motion-y vibe even though this still isn’t the most Harryhausen photo of the weekend…

Scroll through the photos to get an idea of how the games looked.

The Old Man of the Sea floats for his unlife, Golden Fleece in tow, for nefarious purpose unknown…
Captain Ephram Wither of “The Kraken” goes toe-to-toe with Captain Bonnie “The Beast”, of the “Antelope”
Feeling elated after beating up a ghost, Bonnie decides to give Talos (yes *that* Talos) what for…
Vicious raptors spice up an already heavily seasoned pot of human, undead and tribal pirates fighting for loot at the feet of a bronze titan at least eight times the size of a man…
Dwarven death-wish cultist overboard!
Talos arrives home to discover that several different species of pirate have been eating his porridge.
“SERIOUSLY GUYS… YOU WERE JUST GOING TO TAKE IT AND RUN???”
“WELL THAT’S JUST RUDE!”
“NOT EVEN A NOTE?!”
The enemy of my enemy of Talos of my enemy is untrustworthy.
Saving Pirate Ryan.
Tribal orcs find common philosophical ground with local frog people, and therefore attempt to kill each other…
Buckle! Swash! Etc!
A localised extinction event.
Animal hybrid pirates.
Sharks, treasure, overboard and general buccaneering.
You have to admire an orc that can clobber a shark out of his way while hauling a treasure chest into a jolly boat.
If that image doesn’t make you long fer the the salty breeze between your tusks, then I don’t know what will…
Bothersome, briny bird-men, buffet bloated, booty-hungry, bilge-rats…
Club Tropicana grog is freeee…
…fun and sunshine, there’s enough for everyone…

That was enough pirates for a while, but after looking at these photos again, I’m already thinking about some more skallywaggery…

31 Responses

  1. That looks like it was great fun! Your Reaper Stygian Barge is particularly inspirational. When I finally get around to painting mine it will be influenced by yours.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was novocaine for the soul grumpygnome, definitely what I needed. I don’t speak for everyone involved, but I think that most involved had similar feelings about it.

      The Stygian Barge was something that I wanted from that Bones kickstarter when it came out, but didn’t get. It was one of those things that nagged away at me for a while until a friend of mine was downsizing his unpainted miniature pile and said that I could have his.

      I was delighted to be able to get it painted and ready for an event like this, to show my appreciation as well as have a nice piece to use in the games.

      I hope to put up a post about painting the barge at some point and if I do, then I will add any notes that I may (or may not) have kept about assembling and painting it.

      Thanks for the kind feedback GG101!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Outstanding!
    That looks like an amazing weekend. Thanks for sharing it

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was great fun Will, and in the context of it being the first proper get together for most attendees since 2019, it was fantastic.
      It was a badly needed and thoroughly enjoyed tonic really.

      Here’s to many more 🙂

      Like

  3. Yaharr! You’ve put a huge grin on an old shipwreck’s face so ye have! Looking forward to next time already 😁

    ☠️☠️☠️

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Looks like a blast! A ton of great looking crews for this event. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • One of the things that I regularly forget to do at get-togethers like this is to take group photo of the warbands/crews etc.
      Considering the standard of the forces on show at this event, not having a photo would have been criminal, so I’m delighted that the images manage to convey some of that.

      Toy soldier gaming is a visual way of passing the time, and half-assed or unpainted efforts are not worth the trouble in my opinion. I am lucky enough to have gathered many gaming buddies that feel similarly, and getting some of them together to create gaming spectacles that look like the photos in rulebooks that I pored over when I was younger is a special sort of bucket list kick.

      I’m glad that some of that enthusiasm comes through from the post/photos Hobbs.

      Like

  5. Looks like great fun! I have a bunch of pirates painted so I really should finish off my terrain and give Ghost Archipelago a spin.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t know if you have played other Joseph A. McCullough games or not heretic30k, but if you have, then you know what to expect from Ghost Archipelago. I am a big fan of JMcC games and that combined with the “lost world”, “Skull Island” setting is a big win for me.

      GA is more of a “Sinbad” sort of setting than a “Pirates of the Caribbean” affair, but equating flintlocks and muskets to bows and crossbows pretty much makes it perfect for fantastical pirate gaming.

      If you have pirates already painted, then I thoroughly suggest that you do the last push to get some terrain ready and try GA out. It is pretty streamlined and generates a lot of fun gameplay moments. If you do give it a go, then please report back 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • I have played a fair amount of Rangers of Shadow Deep & Frostgrave so I have a fair idea of how it will likely play – I am largely just looking for an excuse to have some dinosaurs vs pirates games.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. This was such a glorious weekend, thanks for the write-up and all the organizing work! Looking at those photos again made me really happy and brought me right back to the lost and found city of Tallaght. Looking forward to the Planet of New Orleans…

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was a great weekend Mikko, very much worth any of the logistical hassle that arranging it generated.
      We will definitely return to Underworld Gaming. It worked out too well not to go again 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. ‘Dark Knopfler’ made me snort lustily through my nose as I flailed about for my cutlass and pistol. Seeing a game like this makes me feel like the kid stuck indoors with a broken leg while the other kids are outside playing in the snow. I saw snow once so I know what I’m talking about. I’m deeply jealous and wonderfully pleased that this gaming extravaganza was a success. Bravo to all involved!

    Liked by 2 people

    • “Dark Knopfler” is a creation of Mikko’s, from conception, through design to manufacture, distribution and naming. He nailed it.

      Of all of the toy soldier enthusiasts that I know, with your particular interest in the theme, your absence from this event is the most egregious. You and I will will dance a miniature jig on the 28mm decks yet Captain, or my name isn’t “Frank Discussion”… (which is isn’t, but ignore that for now).

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Amazing stuff. Was this multiple games? It seems like an amazing breadth of stuff to me a single game extravaganza. I’m really curious how talos did. Any scruffs on his feet? Was breakfast rescued from pilfering pests?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was a weekend of primarily two player games MM. We arranged for some multi-player games on the last day, to make sure that we got Talos and the Golden Fleece in play. The photos shown are a selection from all of the games played.

      Most gamers relish the prospect of the multi-player game, but it is almost always a mistake in my experience. It almost invariably runs over time and is often a boring experience for the individuals who have to wait for their turn, so I was against anything too involved really. Thankfully, Mikko (Dawn of the Lead) and Alex (Leadballoony) made sure that the multi-player games were rapid to play and fun.

      Talos could be delayed by a players action at best, he was in no actual danger of being destroyed (although cannon fire from offshore could stun him for a while). Control of Talos moved around from player to player under certain circumstances and Talos managed to boot several crew members into the sea during the game, which invariably got a laugh.

      I remember the result of the “Big Snake” tribes dinosaur egg heist being inconclusive. Some eggs were pilfered, some dino hatchlings were mistreated and several tribe members were chomped by the big momma or taken out by the other crew.

      Shenanigans all round, which is how I like it. Thanks for the feedback MM!

      Like

  9. It all looks awesome and from what Alex tells me it was a great weekend. I’m also glad that the talos I printed him had a good ol stomp around and caused suitable havoc !

    Liked by 2 people

    • Everyone who attended in indebted to you for supplying Talos, heresyofus, thank you 🙂

      Inevitably a “miniature” like Talos is going to determine a lot of what happens in the games that it is involved in, which can disenfranchise players a bit. Mikko and Alex put together rules that made Talos precisely as scary as you might expect – booting scallywags out to sea, treading on bosuns, resisting broadsides from offshore etc – but allowed us to still have a a fun game where players at least had some agency.

      Talos also drew a crowd from the Middle Earth tournament that was also running at the venue, although as it primarily consisted of people in their twenties, some of them didn’t recognise the big guy… that made me feel *old* 😀

      Liked by 2 people

      • It all sounds very cool. The booting scallywags out to sea must have been a particular highlight.

        I’m afraid we do in fact classify as old now. But we are still having fun and that’s all that matters. 🤘🏻🤘🏻 Let me know if you need anything printed for a game, I’d like to contribute if I can. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

        • There isn’t any point in griping about getting older, but it still catches me off guard sometimes (in innocuous ways like in Talos case, rather than, say, building resentment because women in their early twenties don’t regard me as a sex object 😀 ). As you say, all that matters is that you are doing what you can to ensure that what you are getting up to, is making you at least a little happier. This event definitely did that for me 🙂

          I have been checking out your blog HOU, its great! I’m working on vampires myself currently – mine being *particularly* highly saturated compared to your bleached out crowd – so I will have a proper look when I have a few minutes later in the week.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. That all looks bloody amazing. I’m quite jealous, but in a good(?!) way. It’s quite heartening (me hearties!) to hear about how good the weekend was in terms of gaming, revitalisation and enjoyment!

    Liked by 1 person

    • A little bit of envy can be good for motivation 🙂

      It was a group effort, and the payoff was substantial and, without wanting to get to heavy here, it was life-affirming.

      Like you Azazel, I have been at this lark for decades, and while I still love the hobby and associated elements, inevitably I sometimes feel like I am going through the motions, and that there is something missing.
      I’m pretty sure it maps pretty much perfectly on to my MIDLIFE CRISIS™ and as such I don’t actually expect resolution of these issues. In turn, that means that when I do something like this and feel invigorated by it, it is worth a mention I think.

      Life is short and it is healthy to keep an eye on the things that make it more enjoyable I think. Life is in the details, and all that.

      I’m glad that you got a kick out of it Azazel. Your Coral Golem hit the table, but I don’t have any photos of it. I’m certain that some of the others do. I’ll try to have them dig one out.

      Like

  11. Wow. Just wow. All the pics are eye candy, I do love every one of them! What an event to run!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Suber! 🙂

      It was – unquestionably – a group effort. Everyone involved brought different elements to the event, and everyone contributed. That was a large part of why it was such good fun.

      The photos are pretty casual, but capture at least some of the spectacle. It was a pretty fantastic way to shake some of the lockdown dust and cobwebs and get stuck in to some good looking games with some good company.

      Like

  12. That looks absolutely wonderful, I’m glad that you had a great time. The photos really capture the essence of gaming, and as always your captions are perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that it was reading “Viz” back in the early 90s that taught me to enjoy a caption 😀

      As I said above, the point of the event was to boil the bits down to the elements that really matter to the people involved. We never expected a Talos to show up, but the option was there for anyone who wanted to do something like that, once the core requirements were done. The plan was rigid where it had to be a flexible everywhere else, and worked out pretty well.

      I’m looking forward to the next opportunity 🙂

      Thanks for the feedback Argentbadger!

      Like

  13. Fantastic stuff!!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Come for the figures, stay for the puns – or maybe the other way around. In any case, as always a pleasure and inspiration to peruse your hobby show and tells.

    Liked by 2 people

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