Sunday, 10 March 2013

Living la vida... LOKA


Powering through my week like a mucus driven slaughter machine, I come bearing gifts (for those who stray to close)! I have spent so much time on the project I'm about to share with you (instead of painting my disease ridden Nurgle minions) that I've been struck down with man flu of the highest calibre. A gift/punishment I was less than enthusiastic about. But because I love you all so much I am soldiering on!

Known to frequent coffee houses and acost innocent commission painters. BEWARE!

 

A brief history of LOKA

Many moons ago, I was approached by an Italian in a café. That Italian was none other than the prolific Mr Alessio Cavatore and he had tracked me down with a mission. While we drank coffee and idly chit-chatted about days gone by in our old employ, he produce a box. Where he had hidden this box I still do not know and I dare not ask. What I do know is that inside where models of the kind I had not expected.


They were what appeared to be chess pieces… of a fantasy nature.

This was the first time I had seen anything to do with LOKA (cue dramatic crescendo of our classical backing track) and the Italian’s smile beamed with childish glee as I pawed through the unfamiliar miniatures. Whilst I was looking Alessio explained the plan.

The World of Fantasy Chess

He had been selling SHUURO - his own take on chess - for some time. With SHUURO Alessio had taken a step back to the roots and basics of pure wargaming (and chucked in his own creative edge) to make the game even more appealing to those of us who love wargaming in all of its guises. The difference and proven popularity of this shift was not enough though. Alessio had an itch that no prescribed cream would clear up and greater plans were forming in his mind.

SHUURO was just the tip of the iceberg.

Back to basics and then some.

Expanding to the Book of Face

A short while ago a new 'freemium' game appeared on my Facebook feed. It looked like chess but... different. SHUURO: Wrath of the Elements was a fantasy chess game with a campaign map and variable 'forces' to use in your matches. The board had obstacles and I could have three knights, a King and two Queens, or a horde of pawns and a King... Or anything in-between. It was chess customised for tabletop gamers, how I had always wanted it to be, and I was hooked! Huzzah!

Available as a freemium game on Facebook

However, this was not the end. Like a gaming ninja Alessio had been stealthily at work producing a much more varied and in-depth game whilst none of us were looking. The models he had for me were beautifully sculpted and vastly improved versions of the gaming pieces that I had been playing with in Wrath of the Elements.

They oozed character. The sculpting drone Alessio had enslaved with his wiley Italian ways had done a splendid job. I wanted to paint them, which as it turned out, was a fortuitous way to feel (but more about my mission later).

Through the creation of some sort of rule-based sigils and magik Alessio performed a summoning ritual and bound Mantic Games to his will... Or he showed them the game and they thought it looked cool. Who can be certain?

But the chaps at Mantic liked what they saw and soon they were ready to take LOKA; The World of Fantasy Chess to our realm through Kickstarter, where it's currently seeing an explosion of interest. Clearly it's not just Alessio and I who want to play pretty looking, more involved chess!



The game

I'm going to start by talking about the pieces, as I've seen plenty of them lately! In LOKA there are four factions or kingdoms - Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow. Developing the fantasy theme these are - Fire (Agni), Earth (Prithvi), Water (Jala) and Air (Vayu).

Each set is characterised by its Element. Agni pieces look aggressive - billowing smoke and fire. Jala pieces are frozen and corpse-like, embodying water, ice and all the dead from its depths. Just having varied looking, stylised pieces really starts to add some flavour and for me this would have been enough to increase my chess enjoyment.

But there's so much more to it. You can add 'terrain squares' to the board - these might be rocks or bridges and so forth - and each square will benefit a particular playing piece that is on it.




This alone adds so much depth to the gameplay I can’t quite fathom it just yet. Add to that the fact that you do not necessarily have the same force opposing you as you would expect from chess and even more strategic nuances appear. Like a tasty onion, there are layers to this experience.

Do you want to be fielding a lot of week pawns and hope they can swamp your foe, or do you want a force of proud Knights spearheading your advance? The possibilities are endless!





Roll the bones

BUT!!! (and this but is the even more appealing than Beyonce's to a spwaney, luck-thieving gamer like me) the game has dice driven combat! So, its not as simple as maneuvering and taking a piece, you have to be pretty confident that the move you are about to pull is worth it and have a contingency plan to counter the element of chance. Unlike chess you might not win the 'exchange' even if your pre-attack maneuvering is perfect. It follows a simple D8 dice role system and is very simple.  

So, we have all this coolness and variety. But more than the simple black and white of traditional chess, in LOKA there are four factions. But, we have not heard of any difference between these factions beyond the aesthetics, so why four? Well, its simple, LOKA can be played by four people at once against each other!

The possibility matrix just exploded. That’s one high octane nail biting 'chess' game right there. :D

Back to my mission

When I got home, I found somehow I had one of each set and a contract to complete. Still a little giddy from coffee and daydreaming about UBER chess I realized that the Italian ensnared me with his evil ways.

So, I was to paint four sets of six pieces. Easy... or so I thought. Then it dawned on me that they would have to be painted in their Element colours and almost solely that. This was going to be a challenge not only to my painting skills but to my colour knowledge and palette picking. Things I had never really given thought to before.

WIP - Green aka Prithvi

 

Earthy goodness

Green - I love green, so that's what i did first on the Prithvi pieces. Flesh, bark, rock and hair were all started in green and then coloured up from there, hopefully keeping the tint and tying all the varied models together. It was actually really enjoyable to get to grips with colour theory stuff again, which I'd not even thought about since my days back in college. You young uns probably weren't even alive then. Back then we had to look at one-another to talk or go into the real world to influence masses of people (not now. Mwahaha! I have the internetz!)

Fire aka Angni

I'm the firestarter (but don't tell my Parole Officer!)

It seemed only right that after indulging in my 'theories' green's complimentary colour should follow, so the red Agni were next. I was really excited about this. You will come to find that after my love of all things nurgly, painting red is my love. So I went at these like a Storm Trooper cleansing a Jawa encampment. With much gleeful enthusiasm and dedication. Like most Storm Troopers ill-fated enough to be in the Empire's employ, I started to find that I was actually a bit crap and started to struggle!

But why? I realised soon after that i wasn't painting red like I had done before, rather I was painting fire in a literal and natural way, which is rather different. Sculpted flames, whilst looking cool, are not my friends!

After a few attempts and resprays (as I fell into the fire trap of painting it incorrectly at first) I did some image research. To fuel me I gulped down a Jaeger coffee or two (from my Iron Cross pint mug, which always fixes things) and then I tried again. It still wasn't easy, but by the end I had learned a few new tricks... like not painting flames backwards. They start light at the source and end up dark which is rather counter-intuitive when you are used to standard highlighting.

Blue aka Jala

With something easy and something hard under my belt I felt I had broken in the LOKA style. I went for Jala mostly because I was secretly dreading painting Yellow. Blue for me is a neutral colour I neither love nor hate painting but by the end of these guys I was rather enjoying using blue, it just seemed to flow and happen easily on the Jala models. As with green I mixed everything I could from a blue base up. With this faction in particular I think it works really well and ties them in together strongly

Yellow aka Vayu


I'm a yella' belly!

Last of all Vayu. Yellow... Joy...

I really did not know what to do. After scratching my head a little and wishing I had not fallen for Italian trickery I decided to cheat. If I was worried about and didn't want to paint yellow then it was easiest not to. I've got the smarts. No honestly I do, its a little uncomfortable sometimes but I have cream for it. 


Instead of worrying what to mix with yellow, what shade to use, how dark etc, I decided to work from brown. Using desert type colours mixed with Scorched Brown-esque paints, going lighter and lighter and only sparingly adding strong golden yellow colours to give the edge. 

This technique along with the grey/white clouds (also worked up from brown) seemed to work a treat. After a brown wash and another subtle yellow/brown highlight it seemed I had achieved a miracle and for once painted a warm smooth inviting yellow! Joy! And unexpectedly I think they were the most enjoyable to paint. 

This was with out doubt one of the most enjoyable if sometimes painful commission I have had so far. As well as enjoying it I also proved an aging Goerdie can indeed learn new tricks!


My fire and earth sets on first kickstarter advert

 

Get behind LOKA

I mentioned that Alessio had launched this through kickstarter and it is going strong, but it can get even stronger. Head to their page, check it out, get involved and help develop the game further in the comments. Become a part of the LOKA community and enjoy! You can also check out more info on Mantic Games website.

Nice clean box design

Well, that's it for now. Over the course of an hour or so in bringing you awesome joy and merriment here I've wasted whats left of my life-essence. I can feel Nurgle's little claw becoming me to the sick bed!

Remember me when Im gone! ;)

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