Nephrite Games is ran by Rolo, a guy who enjoys tabletop and classic computer games. This blog is mainly about my own personal projects, but I also post information about upcoming wargaming releases and news from within the retro-gaming community.
Current Major Project: FRAG FRAG is a tabletop battle game in a dark universe inspired by 90s first person shooters. The latest version is available here.
The updates to this blog are hardly thick and fast nowadays. Unfortunately, that’s due to two issues: (1) a promotion at work and (2) being a key worker during a global pandemic. The overtime has been particularly extreme over the summer.
However, I’ve still been working on things (even if progress hasn’t been great, as I only have a couple hours each evening at best). Here’s what’s in the pipeline:
I’ve cleaned up Warzone Abridged, rewriting some rules to be easier to understand, adding rules for terrain (using material from Warzone 1st Edition, Warzone 2nd Edition, Dark Eden and Chronopia) and am currently in the process of combining it with the expansion book End of Days. This new edition is unimaginatively titled Warzone Abridged V2. The new rules are all written, but considerable layout work is needed on the combined army lists.
Frag has been tweaked and tidied up, and Episode 2 is almost done. Some layout work is needed, fluff pieces need to be written, and the extensive unique character chapter needs another balance check. Rather than releasing episodes, I am considering merging the two books similar to Warzone Abridged V2.
I’ve adapted Frag into a fantasy warband game, similar to Age of Sigmar or Chronopia, but only as a proof of concept. The core rules and an extensive elf army list have been finished, and no further work is planned for the near future. I’ll put up an upload of this soon.
I’ve finished the groundwork for a Heretic megawad / mod. There’s been plenty of modifications to the base game (weapon replacements, new enemies, item replacements, item re-balancing, new power-ups, new special effects, etc…) and the next step is to start creating some impressive levels to go with all the changes.
3D printing and Miniatures
I have two 3D printers, a resin (Elegoo Mars) and an FDM (Ender 3) which I’m using to print miniatures and terrain.
I am switching over to 15mm scale figures for most of my gaming projects, and I have a couple new 15mm platoons fully painted. I’ve had very positive experiences with several 15mm manufacturers, particularly Ground Zero Games and Brigade Models.
In addition to the above, I’ve continued collecting rulebooks and reading up on new developments in the Doom, 3d printing and tabletop communities.
It’s been a while. Work has been quite intense this year. There’s a lot to catch up on. Let’s start with a post on the expansion booklet I wrote for Tomorrow’s War.
I’m enjoying painting 15mm more than 28mm, and I’m actually making quite good progress with my miniatures! In fact, it’s caused me to look around for 15mm rules, especially sci-fi (I’ve been examining fantasy too, which will be its own separate post).
One rulebook I keep coming back to is Tomorrow’s War, which I have posted about before. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it in the past and now I’m getting into the official ‘Tomorrowverse’ setting.
I’ve written up a booklet that contains new armies and quick reference lists for existing armies (high power armies like the Darghaur aliens have a LOT of modifiers). Every army is based on existing miniatures (The Scene UK, Ground Zero Games, Critical Mass Games, Slap Miniatures, and Vanguard Miniatures).
Lately I’ve been really enjoying 15mm. I have assembled a lot of sci-fi in that scale recently and I have Darghaur (sold by Ground Zero Games) and some Critical Mass Protolene (sold by Ral Partha Europe) finished. The Crusties are another alien race to add to the pile. The difference this time is that instead of a platoon I have a whole company to paint.
I bought some contrast paints to experiment with, and tried them out on some 15mm Crusties from Ground Zero Games. I sprayed them white, painted them with GW’s yellow contrast paint, and painted the guns and leather straps. Finally, I gave them a simple brown wash.
The results are… passable. They took mere minutes to paint, and I have 80+ more of these to to complete so it looks like the method I’ll be going with.
Ground Zero Games are excellent by the way. Definitely recommend them if you want to try 15mm.
It’s Quake time. Quake doesn’t get huge amounts of attention anymore, but it has an active community still making content for it.
Quake modding used to be about strikingly different total conversions / mods (Air Quake, QuakeRally, Fantasy Quake, Horrorshow Quake, Special Forces Quake), but nowadays it is more focused on providing an enhanced and refined Quake-style gameplay within the original Quake universe. Quake+. The bleeding edge of Quake modding is Quake gameplay in hugely expanded and often breath-takingly beautiful worlds, often with new enemies. Arcane Dimensions is the most visible of these.
Then are more vanilla offerings that provide a classic experience – meaning no new monsters, no changes to weapon or monster behaviour, no complex scripting and minimal or no use of new textures. Masque of the Red Death by Tronyn is one of those. It’s a mostly vanilla offering sticking closely to the design of the original Quake, just larger and far more action packed than the original levels.
Masque of the Red Death opens with a desperate battle against huge numbers of knights, death knights, fiends and scrags. The beginning is one of the hardest sections and if you’re not a master of monster infighting the fight is almost unwinnable. It gets easier as you pick up new weapons but the battles against huge numbers of monsters carry on throughout the level. The architecture is impressive but vanilla. It doesn’t make you wonder whether you’re playing a next gen game in the way that limit-breaking ‘Quake+’ levels do. It’s most definitely a Quake level.
I found the fights enjoyable for the most part. The level gives you a clear goal – get the rune to the door to leave – and a clear sense of progression – fight your way up the tower to get the rune. What I didn’t enjoy was how the large monster hit boxes restricted movement and made the combat in tighter spaces more of a chore, particularly the fight against the knights along the battlements.
The number of monsters really felt incredible, but I managed to win most of the battles first time. Ammo was tight in a few spaces but I almost always had what I needed to progress, even though I only managed to find 1 out of 8 secrets on my first play-through.
Masque of the Red Death is certainly worth a try. It’s an intense experience with a satisfying sense of progression.
The Cacowards are the best source of quality levels and gameplay mods for Doom. Anyone who wants to expand their experience of Doom engine gameplay should look there for the best mods and levels. That isn’t to say that it covers all quality content, but it’s certainly a good start.
Special mention for the 2x upscaling project – a project that uses multiple AIs in tandem to redraw the Doom sprites at double the resolution.
This is a trailer for Sonic Robo Blast 2 ver. 2.2.
SRB2 is a mod for Doom that creates a unique 3D Sonic game in the style of the older games. Honestly, it’s probably the best Sonic has ever been in 3D. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect (3d Sonic sets a low bar). The controls have always been too slippery for my liking which makes precision platforming a pain.
It’s nice to see this mod getting some love. It’s over two decades old (originally created in 1998), and it was a technical marvel (for the Doom engine) when it came out. The new release looks like it has added a lot of impressive new effects (destructible terrain using polyobjects!) and I’m looking forward to trying this.
15mm gaming has become increasing popular at my local club, with games like Flames of War and Team Yankee being especially popular. But I am a weirdo who likes to explore obscure rulesets and create my own games where I can.
I also have a resin 3d printer. This combined birthed a nice little mini-project.
The current total is 9 Abrams (the basis for Command and Conquer’s medium tank) , 2 Mammoth tanks, 3 stealth tanks, 2 flame tanks, some prototype M24 Chaffee (the basis for Red Alert and Command and Conquer’s light tank sprite). I’ve also made a massive set of Tiberium terrain and spore towers. It’s been very difficult getting some of this to print but I’ve relished the challenge.
I would like to restate that this is a mini-project. I am doing a quick army list book for the Critical Mass rules with no major changes. Along I was mulling a mass battle 6mm to 15mm sci-fi game after FRAG, I don’t want to let this district me from FRAG anymore than it has.
On 20th June, Amid Evil left early access. I’ve owned it for a while, but not played past Episode 4 (of 7).
I have really enjoyed my time playing Amid Evil, but it hasn’t grabbed me as hard as DUSK did. Something about the combat in DUSK feels more polished, and I find the pseudo-realistic level design and atmosphere a little more immersive.
However, it’s still a great retro-FPS throwback. Seven episodes with four levels each, with gameplay that is reminiscent of Heretic. Some of the level design looks absolutely gorgeous, and the designer clearly had fun making crazy patterns in the level editor.
Lately I’ve had my eye on a company called Wargames Atlantic. They’re a US/UK based company producing some sci-fi and fantasy staples in HIPS plastic. They are making their debut with two plastic kits.
For fantasy, they’ve gone with the Skeleton Warriors. No surprises as skeletons are probably the most popular fantasy miniatures kits.
By the looks of things, this kit will be useful for skirmish or regiment play. The skeletons look more classical than pop-fantasy, reminding me of Wargame Factory’s Greek flavoured skeleton kit. However, these look much easier to put together.
For sci-fi, they’re releasing the Raumjager. 28mm scale human infantry with greatcoats, masks, and several suspiciously familiar weapon options. They’ve got an obvious WW2 German look and when combined with the very 40k style weapon options they scream Armageddon Steel Legion.
Again, I’m reminded of Wargames Factory and their Shocktroopers, but the Raumjager look much more crisp and detailed. The reviews that I’ve seen have been positive, one even comparing the level of detail to Games Workshop. I’m unsure about that claim – I haven’t been able to hold one in my hand yet. They certainly do look nice at least.
The above pictures are all from their website. I’ve emailed them asking for more information, but I’ve not been paid to mention them (ha!). I’m just very excited to see someone else enter the generic sci-fi market.
We need more kits like these from more manufacturers. As I stated in my Tomorrow’s War / sandbox gaming post from last year, I believe that tabletop is most fun when the players are able to take ownership of the setting and their troops. Forge the narrative as Games Workshop says. It seems like Wargames Atlantic really want to sell to 40k players, but there’s a wealth of great sci-fi games out there.