Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year! ! !

It's the final post of the year, so a Happy New Year to all my visitors.  2011 was a fairly successful wargaming year.  I accomplished most (but not all) of the goals I set myself:

  • I managed to play my arbitrarily set number of games (12 - not a lot, but I managed none in 2010!)
  • I joined the local Wargaming club (although not the most welcoming club overall, there are some great, friendly guys there who've made me feel at ease there!)
  • I completed at least a unit/model each month (mostly for sale and mostly Flames of War units)
  • I rationalised my gaming collection, managing to get rid of most of the minis I know I won't paint and games I won't play.
  • I managed to start this blog!

So what was missed?

  • Errr, I haven't "completed" a single project for myself this year (by that I mean I'm not able to field any different forces for a game I couldn't in 2010.)
  • Inconsistency, there were a few periods this year where I didn't manage to get any painting done at all.  Understandable, you may think, but it really wasn't - on occasion I simply stopped painting for no specific reason.
  • The blog has been great fun to write for and has got me involved in the blogosphere in general, but I've been very inconsistent.  I had a modest idea of how often and with what content I would post, but I've not been able to meet that. Not due to having nothing to write about though, more difficulty in actually getting it written down and published!

Given the fact my non-wargaming resolutions were also fairly successful, I'm going to make another list for 2012, with a larger and a bit more specific set of goals for 2012.  These will go up on here for all the world to see in the next couple days.

In the meantime, a Happy New Year to everyone - I'm away to start on the beer!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Whether or not it's a religious event, a secular holiday, or just a good excuse for some time off and indulgence, the Mrs and I wish everyone out there a very Merry Christmas.

Just remember, the terrible TV schedule is the government's secret plan to force everyone to spend quality time together and be nice to each other - best just play along (it's only for one day!)

Monday, 19 December 2011

Just A Quick Update

An early Christmas present is (hopefully) on it's way to me this week!  Tabletop Fix ran a competition recently for a Spartan Games prize, which I didn't win.  However, the actual winner never claimed their prize and I won the subsequent rerun!

So a Covenant of Antarctica fleet box and Dystopian Wars rulebook en route.  After this drubbing, maybe these guys will perform a bit better than my Prussians.

On the Italian Wars front, however, actual work has yet to start.  Seriously, what is it with the Royal Mail? There's one day of flooding and a couple days of icy weather up here, and our mail delivery is running five days late?  I've some miniatures on order from Vexillia Limited and Museum Miniatures, although when they arrive is anyone's guess.

I have been having a look through the various army lists and have decided to start off by building up early French and Milanese armies.  The deciding factor boiled down to the local book store only having Osprey's Fornovo Campaign book in stock.  This has been a fairly entertaining read, charting the first campaign of the Italian Wars, leading upto the Battle of Fornovo - a score draw between the French and Italian City States.  It's also given me some great modelling  ideas, including a command stand of Charles VIII taking a leak (where he was almost captured!)

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Common Gamer Afflictions #1 - AKA Losing Badly

Last night, I suffered from our most frequently encountered affliction; namely, I got absolutely stonked at games night.

Turn one, so far so good
Gaz and I set up a 800 points Dystopian Wars game with his trusty Brits against my Prussians.  This was my first  time running the Prussians and hoped to make use of their powerful guns and plentiful assault troops.  Ahem. . .

This was the table after the first couple activations; top to bottom I had:

Bombers x 2
Cruisers x 2 and Frigates x 3
Frigates x 3
Cruisers x 2
Scoutships x 2

The Kingdom of Britannia had:

Destroyers x 4
Frigates x 3
Vanguard Sub
Frigates x 4
War Rotors x 2

Initially, I enjoyed some success with my scoutships doing a lot of damage to the war rotors and, later on, the frigates.  I tried to avoid the dreadnought in the first couple turns and swing everything on the left round to catch it in the flank.  Unfortunately, the Brits Destroyers and Dreadnought moved straight up and blew both bombers out the sky, as well as putting a lot of damage onto the two cruisers.

End of turn two - note the red (damage) numbers next to the battleship!
On the second turn, the Dreadnought got four of his turrets in range of the battleship and tore chunks out of it.  On my right, the Brit frigates carefully positioned themselves to hammer the scoutships and cruisers.  Finally, my battleship and frigates tried to salvage some honour by taking down the Dreadnought.  It didn't go as planned.

Wreck Row
On the third (and final) turn, The Brits tried to mop up the remnants of the Prussian fleet. Despite my battleship only having one hull point left, no Ack Ack or CC and zero assault marines, Gaz tried to sink it with his Destroyers.  Some terrible dice rolls saw the battleship still afloat, barely.  Lastly I tried to take out the Dreadnought with the Tesla Generator, but disappointing, it failed to activate.

Still, as far as heavy, HEAVY defeats go, this was fairly enjoyable.  Gaz is a great opponent, and I'm starting to relax at the club now (I'm still a bit of a noob there.)  As always, it's important to try and learn from defeats, so:

i)  There's a difference between knowing the rules and knowing the detail of the rules.  My first turn was hampered by Gaz playing a game card that made me discard my own hand of cards - I simply didn't think I was allowed to cancel this action using the Sturginium mechanic.  In turn 2, when I tried to trash Gaz's hand of cards, he stopped my straight away. So, know the details.

Next Time Tommy!
ii)  Squadrons of two medium class vehicles suck in Dystopian Wars.  In previous games, I suffered from having too few squadrons to activate, penalising me at the end of each turn (Dystopian Wars uses an alternate activation mechanic.)  However, having lots of small squadrons (I had 4 x 2 medium squadrons) is not the solution to this problem, as each squadron simply doesn't have the firepower to do any real damage with only two ships.

So, not an auspicious start for my Prussians.  Next time (apart from being fully painted,) the fleet should feature the Sky Fortress and hopefully some of the newly released ships.  We'll see what happens.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

New Project - Great Italian Wars

Wordy post alert!!!

As I've mentioned on a couple occasions, I've been looking for a new historical project to get my teeth into.  Lots of ideas have temporarily taken root in my brain, only to fly straight back out again.  Eventually, I decided to make a list of criteria to help narrow the choice down:

i) Historical.  I want an historical project; something that would combine not only modelling and gaming, but also give the grey matter something to do too.

ii) Something new.  Ideally, I want to try something I haven't collected before, so no Greeks or Romans, no ECW, neither of the World Wars.

iii) £$£ It's not the time of year to go spending loads of cash on yourself, so I'm looking for a relatively cheap project.  By that, I mean a project where any initial costs are relatively small, so I don't have to shell out a lot of cash to get started and a project where I'll be able to add small units/models at a time.  In practise, this means using either plastic or a small scale.

iv)  Variety.  Ideally, I'd like the chance to stretch my painting skills beyond your standard units/uniform and try some different colours and new techniques.  I'd also like an excuse to make more of my own terrain and create some interesting bases too.

So these were my criteria.  But what were the choices?

Initially, I thought of Saga and collecting a few dark age warbands.  I've read a fair bit of popular history on dark age Europe, so I wouldn't be approaching this blind.  There are also a load of plastic 28mm figures available (Gripping Beast, Wargames Factory, Conquest Games.)  In the end though, I want to try something a bit grander, something that takes up a lot more table space than a skirmish level game, something that takes a bit of dedication and commitment.

Thoughts then turned to a Samurai project.  There are plenty of great looking 15mm ranges out there, notably this range, and a quick google search suggested there are also plenty of ruleset options available.  I also know next to nothing about Japan in general (except what Akira and The Last Samurai taught me,) so a Samurai project would certainly scratch the history itch.  But ultimately, the lack of historical opponents available kind of put me off, at least for the moment.

But in the end, I decided to try something completely new to me - The Great Italian Wars.  So how did I settle on this?  Well, I mentioned months ago that the Mrs bought me Trade & Treachery a few months ago.  It's the second Field of Glory: Renaissance supplement dealing with 16th century Europe.  After flicking through the various army lists, it became clear that with a few common units, you can easily form the core of several armys.  That certainly matched my plan to be able to add to the project piece by piece.

Reading through the historical notes (and looking on Wiki) I very quickly realised that I know absolutely nothing about 15th Century Europe, either historically or militarily.  To me, the 1400s mean the Wars of the Roses, the HYW, Agincourt etc, while the 1500s are all about Stewarts, Tudors and Flodden.  Ruvo, Novara, Marignano and Pavia all (until recently) mean absolutely nothing to me.  I'm looking forward to some new reading material!

Lastly, there is certainly a lot of variety on offer.  From the outlandish Landsknecht outfits to the heraldry of city states and monarchs, there is plenty on offer to stretch my painting skills.  Militarily, the 16th century saw the demise of the traditional knight as the cavalry force, saw the rise of artillery, saw the firearm become ubiquitous on the battlefield and saw many changes in tactics and formations.  All of which can be represented on the tabletop!

Now, as many veteran wargamers will know, the secret to any new project is transforming your initial enthusiasm into some tangible results.  In this case, this means getting some units on the table.  To that end, I've placed a tentative order for some 15mm missile troops from a couple different manufacturers.   As mentioned earlier, I've opted for units that are usable in more than one list and don't need a lot of individual figures per base.  Pics to follow once they've arrived.

So there we are, my new project - purely for me and my own enjoyment.  I'm very happy with my choice and can't wait to get the first few units painted and get some games in!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

What A Christmas Present!

Just had to post this Xmas offer from everyone's favorite, Spartan Games.

Quality.  Unsurprisingly, the Mrs said no.

I think I'll add a "donate" button to the blog, just in case anyone out there is feeling particularly generous.

Still alive and kicking...

Wow, just where did the last two weeks go?  As usual, the real world has no consideration of my toy soldiers!

The only thing I've painted recently is a test base for a new Fallschirmjager army.  I'm quite happy with how the camouflage has turned out, but I think it needs to be a bit simpler with slightly bolder colours.  Taking photographs is still proving troublesome in the house.  Not enough direct daylight and some yellow lamp bulbs mean you get pictures like the two above and below.

Unusually for Aberdeen, I was able to pick up some nerd-related products while shopping with the Mrs.  A local shop (not one I particularly like though) had the new Hordes book, Dominion and the latest No Quarter magazine.

I've had no more than a brief look through each, but Dominion looks to be quite a good buy.  Skorne and Everblight are my Hordes armies of choice and both have some great new goodies.

Lastly, I'm still looking for a new project to get my teeth into.  There's enough sci-fi kicking around this blog, so I really fancy something historical for a change.  Despite looking through a lot of rulebooks and a heap of websites, I still can't settle on anything, not even what scale or time period to use!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Gears of War - The Board Game

This finally arrived last week!  And well worth the wait it was too.  Buying this was a timely reminder that, economic crisis aside, it's always best to pay for your internet shopping with a credit card.  I ordered this in October, from unnammed online retailer (*a**a******,) who prompty did nothing with my cash.

A frustrating experience all told, but, I finally got a refund through the credit card company.  In the end though, I bought this from Maelstrom Games, who sent it out the next day!

I planned to put up a review/game report on Gears of War, but, I've been having real difficulty taking decent photos in the evening since the clocks change (damn energy saving light bulbs!)  Hopefully, I'll get the chance over the weekend during the day. If not, the Mrs is much better with a camera than I, maybe she'll lend a hand.

Instead, here's the best looking unboxing video I could find on Youtube:

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Black Crusade - First Session Report

Thanks to the miracle of modern science (well, actually, just a couple mobile phones and a laptop,)  I was able to finally run a session of Black Crusade, the latest 40K RPG from Fantasy Flight Games.  I roped in a couple of former members of the Granite Gamers (our old University wargaming group) to play as the characters, while I ran the game itself.

Serocil might look like this, but significantly more unholy

It was all a bit short notice, so, to save any hassle, I generated a few characters to choose from and adapted an old Dark Heresy adventure to a suitable evil theme.  This was the first rpg session I've participated in a couple years and the first I've GM'ed in even longer, so it took a little while to get back into the swing of things.  After half an hour or so, we were back rolling dice like veterans!

The session began with Taran, a renegade Imperial commander now in the sevice of the Dark Gods, and Serocil, a Dark Mechanicus Heretek, arriving at Tarsus Hive with the vague aim of spreading corruption and death amongst the Hive population.  We'd decided that Taran looked "normal" enough to still fit into Imperial society, but Serocil's many augmentations looked far too unholy for him to walk around freely, so he disguised himself as Taran's sevitor/bodyguard.  To keep the deception authentic, We also decided that Serocil could only communicate with Taran via the voxlink with one word messages.

The duo decided to pose as Inquisition agents and contact the local Adeptus Arbites to get an idea of the political situation in Tarsus Hive and the various criminal groups in operation. This was the first stage of the adventure and relied on Taran making successful charm, inquiry and deceive skill tests while dealing with Imperial personel.  Meanwhile Serocil made lots of scrutiny, tech and logic tests to covertly access various security systems in the hive. Thanks to the Infamy point mechanic, Taran was able to pass a particularly difficult inquiry test to find out the chief arbitor had apparantly been contacted by Inquisitorial agents some months earlier!

After leaving the Arbites headquarters, the pair had a good knowledge of the key installations in the hive, the amount of and location of the security forces as well as a rough knowledge of the various criminal gangs operating in the area.  They then toured some of the hive, focusing on areas they thought vulnerable to attack, namely the water purification plant, the main generators and the hive's ruling court.  At this point, they also failed to notice they were being tailed.
Hive Tarsus

With a little prompting, Taran and Serocil decided to head to the lower levels of Tarsus Hive and find a secure base to operate from.  Whilst moving through an industrial plant area, they were ambushed by a gang of hivescum.  At this point, they could have talked their way out of things and, indeed, used the gang to help them find a base.  Serocil, however, decided he'd had enough of hiding under his extravagant disguise, so threw it off, pulled out has plasma cannon and started glooping people.

Moving further into the Hive, they caught a different gang preparing an ambush and successfully intimidated the leader into taking them to their lair.  A successful security test revealed the lair was indeed a secure place to fortify and, after making a couple violent examples, the loyalty of the remaining gangers was guaranteed for the time being.

At this point, the climax of the session arrived, as did the mercenary squad trailing the duo, who appeared and attempted to take the heretics into custody.  Apparently, something about Taran and Serocil in the Arbites headquarters had made someone suspicious, and they had then used this team to keep track of them.  Fraternising with criminals was all the evidence needed for the mercs to act.

This last action was actually a bit underwhelming, as I overestimated how strong the merc force would be in combat (I used the bounty hunter and guardsmen profiles from the Black Crusade rulebook.)  Serocil was easily cutting down troopers with his plasma weaponry, while Taran charged forward with his power sword and killed the leader.  In the end, I didn't even use the gangers to support the fight.

Taran venturing into the underhive

With that last action, we finished the session and left Taran and Serocil for the time being. The pair were now reasonable secure in the underhive, with a base to operate from and a gang of thugs under their control.  News of the massacre in the industrial plant would surely be all over the hive by now, spreading fear to the law abiding population.  Taran and Serocil were now well placed to work out the next stage of their insurrection.

However, there are still a number of dangers facing our evil heroes!  It's unclear if any of the merc strike team escaped the encounter in the underhive and however useful a gang of hivescum are, they are unlikely to be of much use if superior security or criminal forces attack.  Lastly, there are the unconfirmed reports of Inquisitorial agents working in Tarsus Hive. If the rumours are true, the two groups will almost certainly come into conflict in the future.

So that was our first RPG session in years!  I'm not sure how regular this will be, as it needed a lot of planning just getting the three of us free on one night (even with us just on phones and computers,) however, as a one-off it was an absolute blast!

I really like a lot of the mechanics in Black Crusade and, even though we set the game on an Imperial world, it felt quite different to any of the other 40K RPGs I've played.  We're going to attempt anothr session in the near future, just to see how we fare against some tougher opponents and try out the Ritual and Minions rules!  Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed reading this report.  Please let me know if there's anything you'd like explained or if you've any suggestions for future sessions! 

Friday, 11 November 2011

Goodbye Cruel World. . .

Hello crueller, but much more exciting and fictional world of Skyrim!  I know lots of you out there will be playing this soon, I just thought I'd mention my first four hours of gaming have been great so far!  For those of you not in the know, check out this trailer:

Swords? Yup. Orcs? Yup. Spells? Yup. Dragons? Yup. Stirring music? Yup. Giants herding Mammoths? Yup.  Sounds like this game has everything (haven't seen any horse armour yet though!)  Oblivion took up about sixty five hours of my life, hopefully this will last even longer!

On the non-computer-game front, I've actually been quite busy this last week, with three different gaming projects going on.  I'd like to talk about each of them in turn and so have decided to give them their own post each.  The first post will go up sometime this weekend!  

Saturday, 5 November 2011

X-Factions! Or how my army breaks the rules!

Last week I had a couple random games of Hordes and Hell Dorado with a couple friends. Cal pointed out, after being on the recieving end of a rather nasty assault by my Everblight, that I always pick armies that, in his words, "break the game's own rules."  This got me thinking...

Many, if not most, game systems out there have at least one faction that breaks the rules set by the game.  A faction that differentiates itself from others in the game, not simply by it's image, back ground and stats, but by the fact that they ignore, or even master, at least one core principle of their game, making them an. . . . . X-Faction.

The most obvious example I can think of would be the Undead in Warhammer Fantasy. They absolutely rock the psychlogy section of the rules; Undead ignore fear, terror and panic, they don't break from combat or flee.  At the same time, they force (most) opponents to test for both fear and terror, risk losing combat, fleeing and causing panic in their ranks. And, back in good old seventh edition, the Undead were even better at this!

Ok, so the Undead don't
ignore the psychology rules, but they do allow the player to ignore fear, panic, terror etc in a defensive way, concentrating on using them offensively.

But why do so many games feel the need to include one of these X-Factions?  What makes a gamer choose to go down this route, rather that pick a more conventional force?  Btw, I'm not about to start arguing that any of these factions are broken or unfair.  I accept that most games do an excellent job of balancing out their various armies, and it's extremely rare that I'll ever complain about something being "broken" (I'm looking at you British Armoured Regiment!)

The main reason I see for including an X-Faction is that it is a very simple way to highlight the "otherness" or isolation of a faction in the game's background.  For instance, any Hordes players out there should easily identify the Legion of Everblight by this description.  In the HoMachine background, the LoE are a faction on the edge of the world's map, being tucked away in the north amongst the mountains.  The LoE is also very secretive, absorbing a tribe of Elves (the Nyss) into their culture, not simply to create an army, but to keep their presence hidden from other powers in the land.  Finally, the Warlocks and Warbeasts of the LoE are all linked to the conciousness of their ruler (the dragon, Everblight) and are continually atuned to his thoughts and commands.

So how best to convey this sense of insularity and strangeness through the rules?  Well, as the faction's Warbeasts are created from each warlock's blood (long story,) the rules portray this by allowing the LoE to ignore apart of the Frenzy rules for the Fury mechanic (this is known as the Blood Creation rule.)  Hordes is a risk management game; force a warbeast to do too much in a game, you run the risk of it turning round and (literally) biting you on the arse.  As the LoE Warlock personally creates each warbeast, should a warbeast freny, it will never attack it's master.  I'm not going to discuss actual game tactics here, suffice to say it can be a royal pain in the arse when this happens.

I've got three heads, six legs, no eyes. . . And I can still fucking see you!

Privateer Press have further refined this by adding new creatures to the LoE army list.  As Everblight has grown more cunning and confident in the background story, he has created new Warbeasts with more intelligence and the capacity for independant though (another long story.)  This is represented in the game by the three Nephilim Warbeasts available; very high Threshold stat, but don't have the Blood Creation rule.
The LoE have another X-Faction talent (see what I did there?) with their Eyeless Sight special rule.  Basically, the models for most LoE Warbeasts don't have eyes, but see through some other alien sense.  I don't know what came first, the design of the minis or the rule itself, but it's another way of seperating the LoE from everyone else.   No other Hordes list makes much use of this rule.
Giant Armoured Samuri Belligerent Insane Robots?  Yes please!

How else might a gamer be interested in an X-Faction.  How about effectiveness in an actual game?  For instance, take the game Eden, by Taban Miniatures.  Eden is a small skirmish game (max 7-8 figures per side) much like Hell Dorado or Dark Age and is set in a post-apocalyptic Earth.  Like most skirmish games of this scale, each miniature has it's own stat card used for tracking damage and describing any special rules or abilities.  Unlike most skirmish games however, a miniature's stats can change during the game depending on how badly injured they become (for instance, hack most of his arm off and a thug won't be swinging it back at you.)

The ISC faction, however, ignores this stat/damage mechanic completely; meaning that each miniature is as effective at the end of the game as it is at the start.  It's thematic to the game as the ISC is a faction comprised of robots from some, presumably, pre-apocalypse corporation and thus, more resilient to damage than the average human.  Is taking an X-Faction such as the ISC a power gaming choice?  After all, if I have six minatures to control, four of which have one damaged stat, it would be very easy to miss the damage and use the original number.  If my opponent had miniatures with damaged stats, you can be sure I would make sure he used the damaged numbers!  Or is it an easier army to play with as "I don't have to bother learning that rule."

The answer to both questions is, of course, no.  The ISC and the other X-Factions here are no easier or powerful to play than any other faction in their respective games.  The LoE are a glass cannon army, if anything survives their first assault (or gets to assault first,) then the LoE are exposed as being horribly frail and fragile.  The Undead in Warhammer may get to ignore psychology , but their average troop choices have woeful stats.  While a Matriarchy or Jokers player in Eden may field 6-8 miniatures in their force, the ISC will be lucky to have 4 minis.

X-Factions seem to be a sci-fi and fantasy phenomenon.  Although each army in, say Flames of War or Field of Glory: Renaissance, has their own special rules and army list, none of them take wholehearted liberties with the core rules.  And plenty of fictional games don't make use of an X-Faction; I can't think of any for 40K, Firestorm Armada, Dystopian Wars or Hell Dorado.

So there we go, not entirely sure what my aim was with that little ramble - just surprised to see such a common theme in the various armies I've chosen (and even then only after it was pointed out to me!)

So, any other X-Factions out there I've missed?  Do you ever pick the odd-army-out?  Do you like armies that break the rules?  Thanks for reading and feel free to let me know your thoughts!

Monday, 31 October 2011

Rationalizing. . . Or selling off some unwanted loot.

Part of this past weekend saw me spending some time rationalizing (terrible word!) my wargaming activities and priorities.  This meant making some decisions about what games to keep around and what to move on.  In the end, three things have been given the heave:

First to go was Malifaux.  I've played a couple dozen games of Malifaux, but can honestly say I haven't really enjoyed any of them.  The first few games, we were still learning the rules.  Then, I played a few games with my first starter set; moving on to trying a couple other crews.  In the end, I'm perfectly comfortable with the rules and have worked out several different tactics, but I'm still waiting for the fun to start!  I still think it's a very commendable game, with a great card mechanic and some wonderful background fiction and artwork, but I've decided it's just not for me.

Secondly, some WWII stuff has gone.  Some rules, Disposable Heroes & A Coffin for Seven Brothers and Rapid Fire, and some miniatures, 28mm Bolt Action Brits.   Why these choices? Well, I don't see any point in collecting the same army in two different scales (I have a 15mm Brit Infantry army for Flames of War,)  and I've never really liked some of the mechanics in either of the two rule sets.

Lastly, the last of my Warhammer stuff has been packed up and is ready to ship out.  Actually, I only have a couple of  army books and some unpainted Vampire Counts miniature left.  I've never been able to enjoy 8th Edition Warhammer.  When it was first released, I felt that GW had 
accentuated all of the things I disliked about WH Fantasy; random movement, random magic, super-hero characters, uber-monsters.  After a year or so, these trends seem to be firmly entrenched in GW's business plan, so it's time to say cheerio to Warhammer World (at least for the moment.)  So, for the first time in about 20 years, I'm not able to have a game of either WH or 40K with my own books and minis!  I'll still keep up with GW news and products and, of course, I'm loving Fantasy Flight's 40K RPG series of books, but for the moment it's time for a break.  Maybe with 6th Ed 40K next year I might change my mind. . .

So with a bit of space on the shelves, and some cash in the PayPal account, I kind of feel like starting something new.  No idea what yet, historical or sci-fi or fantasy?  Completely new game or existing rules?  6mm of 28mm? So many choices.  Any suggestions anyone?

I'm not a big fan of blogs advertising things for sale, so I'll just point you in the direction of my eBay page, just in case you may be interested in my castaways!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Dystopian Wars Blazing Sun Reinforcements - WIP

On the painting table this week are some reinforcements for my Empire of the Blazing Sun fleet:

These are the "Japanese" faction from
Spartan Games' Dystopian Wars.  The Dreadnought is joined by a squadron of five Destroyers and a pair of Inari Scout Gyros.  I'm constantly surprised by just how much detail Spartan have been able to cram onto each of their models;  the dreadnought in particular has a huge amount of small hatches, doors, windows and pipes visble.  Even the hull itself is textured enough to show detail, even after a huge amount of drybrushing.

This thing is absolutely covered with little details.

On each model here, the white hulls have all been finished, as has the wooden decking.  I've started the metals on the Gyros and the Dreadnought and, again, just started the red on the Destroyers.  I like working on two or three different things at a time to help break up the occasional monotony of painting.  Once, the metals and red have been finished, I'll colour the ship lower hulls with a dark brown, add some fleet markings and decoration and, sigh, begin the mind-numbing job of painting the individual windows (there must be close to 100 of these over all the different ships I have!)

The best paint palette ever!

Despite the paintwork not being finished, these have all had their first game of Dystopian Wars, against my usual opponent, Gaz, and his Kingdom of Britainna fleet.  The game ended up being a minor loss to me; not only did I deploy my flyers on one flank (meaning they were out of the action for most of the game,) but I was woefully short in squadrons to activate, 6 to 9, meaning I wasn't able to pick where and what to fight or make the best of my long range firepower.  We're still coming up with a few rules issues after each game, but compared to our first game, the turns flow by quite smoothly now.

Lastly, there has been another flurry of Spartan Games announcements and previews this week.  Instead of posting some here and blethering on, I suggest anyone interested take a look over at
Tabletop Fix.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

My Warhammer Historical Haul'O'Booty

Whenever I see a sale or bargain, I try to do one of two things; get something I'll get a lot of use from , or try something I'd not normally buy, but am interested in.  Thanks to Warhammer Historical's 50% sale, I've had the chance to get the best of both worlds:

Chariot Wars:  A Warhammer Ancient Battles supplement for biblical combat.  I've a couple 1:72 scale Egyptian and Hittite plastic (Arfix?) armies packed away, just waiting for a decent set or rules.

Trafalgar: A great rulebook and a workmanlike set of rules, I've had a first edition copy for a couple years, but the amount of errata and faq published meant I'm quite happy to get an updated copy for £10.

Waterloo:  What a book!!! Close to 300 pages, hardback pages, history, campaigns, rules, hobby - the whole package!   £18 is an absolute bargain, not to mention a great introduction to the period.

Vlad the Impaler:  Another WAB supplement, about a period I know exactly nothing about. What better excuse to buy another rule book.

The Art of War:  Err. . . See previous entry.  I thought this was about several countries in far east, but is actually about ancient China only.  Still, an interesting and (from a European point of view) alien period of history.  This book has some great photos in it.

Armies of Chivalry:  Another WAB supplement with inspirational photos.  I bought this primarily for the Wars of the Roses lists, but there is a surprising amount of content here.

All have the great production quality you'd expect from Games Workshop (however unloved Warhammer Historical has been.)  Waterloo is an immense tome, on a par with the eighth edition Warhammer rulebook for quality and above it for content.  Furthermore, I think Trafalgar is an example of the (almost) perfect wargame rulebook, with a skilful balance of rules, history, hobby, scenarios and inspiration, combined with some wonderful illustrations and photographs and, above all, with a design philosophy that puts the gamer at it's heart.

So whatever my misgivings of why there is a big sale at WH, I'm really happy with what I've picked up as a result. Even though I'm still undecided as whether or not to pick up the Great War rules.

Finally, word on the t'internet says that WH have more books in production.  Lets hope any new products measure up to the fine standards they've set themselves.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Space Hulk: Death Angel - A Review

I've decided to try and post up some reviews of games and books I've picked up and found interesting or enjoyable.  I'm not a fanboy or advocate for any particular company, but as I generally don't enjoy writing negatively, I don't think many negative game reviews will appear here.  First up is Space Hulk: Death Angel, a standalone card game from Fantasy Flight Games.
This isn't the kind of game I would normally opt for, not having played many card games in my time.  However, three things persuaded me to pick this up; Firstly, I've been looking for a couple of smaller games to add to my collection and, after hearing some favourable comments, thought this might fit the bill.  Secondly, the fact Death Angel can be played solo and, finally, the fact I got a nice, big discount on the RRP.

Death Angel is essentially a slimmed down version of the board game, Space Hulk, minus the board and miniatures.  If you're unfamiliar with Space Hulk, then imagine the film Aliens, but set on a derelict space ship and with much more heavily armed, and armoured, marines - you won't got far wrong.  Set in the Warhammer 40K universe, Death Angel pits Space Marine Terminators from the Blood Angels Chapter against swarms of Genestealers.

The games starts with your marines arriving at the void lock (airlock) and seems them progress through various locations in the ship, on the way fighting through larger numbers of Genestealers, in an attempt to meet the victory condition at the final location.  During set up, players randomly choose their teams of marines and set up the mission by randomly picking hidden location cards for the squad to travel through.  Given the fact there are six marine teams and eighteen locations with four seperate victory conditions to (randomly) choose from, there is a fair amount of replayability.  Add in the fact that there are eight terrain cards and thirty event cards to choose from each turn, the chances of playing exactly the same game twice are fairly slim.
Here's Death Angel set up on turn 1 - beer optional
Once you've familiarised yourself with the rules, Death Angel itself plays out very smoothly indeed.  So smoothly, in fact, that it's initially quite difficult to see the tactical choices available to you. Instead, the game relies on you taking time to look at your available options, set up your marines to support each other and take risks by, for instance, forcing you to choose between defending yourself and progressing the mission.

The rules themselves are elegant and surprisingly complex given the simple way combat is handled.  The turn has four seperate phases that flow together quickly enough, so that each player isn't left doing nothing for too long.  Each team of two marines picks an action to perform that turn, they carry out that action, the genestealers attack and, lastly, an event card is drawn, spawning new or moving current genestealers and resolving a random event.

Tactical choices come into play in a couple of interesting ways.  For instance, players can't show each other the action cards they've chosen that turn, all cards are revealled at the same time (you can, however, discuss your situation and options.)  Actions are then carried out in a strict order, so that one team completes their actions before another starts theirs.  An example of this could be:

Marine 1:  I'll go and activate that control panel, if you support me by killing the genestealers behind me.
Marine 2:  No problem, go for it.
. . .
Marine 2:  Damn, I a haven't been able to kill them all.
Marine 1:  Ok, I'll still move up, but just defend myself, not activate the panel.
Marine 2:  Lets hope more Genestealers don't arrive then.

Add in the fact that each marine team can't choose the same action for two turns in a row, marines can't defend themselves when attacked from the rear, genestealers can move in their phase and that event cards can both help or hinder the marines, then you're presented with a game with a good level of tactical depth, variety in games and random decisions (for instance, combat is resolved with a die roll.)

It's obligatory for one of the players to say "They're coming out of the God Damn walls!!!" whilst playing this game

So, have I any criticisms of the game?  Well only a couple.  Firstly, I think it would have been helpful if the author/publisher had acknowledged that Death Angel needs a certain degree of abstraction on the behalf of the player.  The cards representing individual marines are arranged in a column called the Formation.  However, the Formation has nothing to do with any actual tactical formation you adopt, rather it's simply a device to organise the table.  However, in our first game, I had difficulty explaining this abstraction to the other players, especially when the game has other mechanics called "Movement" and "Travelling."  This may simply be down to the fact I've little experience with card games, but a quick paragraph setting the player's expectations would have been useful.

Secondly, the rules are presented in a peculiar way that, initially, really put me off playing the game.  You're initially shown how set the game up, but are constantly directed to the back of the rulebook during this step.  Then you're shown the turn sequence and again directed to other areas of the book.  This is really a complaint with the rulebook, not the rules themselves and, of course, once you've learned the rules, it ceases to be an issue.

Death Angel after turn 5 - a random event card just moved all the Genstealers behind the marines.
Two turns later, it's all over.

So there we are; Death Angel, a great little game, ideal for casual gaming over a few beers, for killing some time at the club waiting for other players to finish or even for getting your gaming fix without needing lots of miniatures, terrain and space etc.  At an RRP of £20 (and obviously available for less,) Death Angel is an enjoyable game, either solo or with some mates, with lots of replayability and a surprising amount of depth.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Throne of Everblight

Now, I try not to put up too many plain news posts here, as there are plenty of blogs and websites out there dedicated to just that.

Instead, if something appears on t'internet that provokes enough of a reaction, well that goes straight up and I'll try to put a little opinion there as well.

Today is just one of those occasions, as Privateer Press have finally released an image of the upcoming Legion of Everblight Battle Engine:

This was always going to be the easiest engine for PP to get "wrong."  The Skorne and Trollblood artwork looks excellent, but are both quite safe with regard to the overall theme of the factions.  The Circle engine has had plenty of publicity, is suitably esoteric, but really doesn't do anything for me.

This, however, looks the absolute business, and completely different to anything else in HoMachine.  I'm really looking forward to reading it's rules and I'll be using this as a spur to finish off the various LoE minis I have kicking around the house.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Warlord, Hordes and Spartan news

The biggest nerd news of the last couple weeks is Warlord Games announcement of a new set of WWII rules.

Not the biggest shock in the world, especially with Warlords vast Bolt Action range of miniatures.  Perhaps the most surprising thing about the release is their decision to join with another company to produce the rules.  After the success's of Black Powder and Hail Caesar, Warlord must have been tempted to try this alone.

However, the joint venture with Osprey really makes these rules a great prospect.  Now I'm assuming that as Osprey will be publishing, the books will follow their Field of Glory/Renaissance/Force on Force template of a hardback rulebook and smaller, softback supplements.  This format is something Osprey have become very proficient in; each release since the original FoG rulebook has improved on the previous one.

The books will presumably have access to the vast library of images and artwork from Osprey's back catalogue which can only be a good thing.  Lastly, in my opinion, Osprey have never been a company to take the piss with the amount and frequency of supplements they print.  So hopefully we won't see an endless stream of unnecessary supplement books simply to generate £$£ (I'm looking at you Flames of War!)

Meanwhile, Privateer Press are busy preparing us for the next Hordes book, Domination, with two new Epic Warlocks, Vayl and Hexeris:

Vayl, Consul of Everblight

Lord Arbiter Hexeris 

Massive improvements on the original, Primal sculpts.  Considering all the movement phase shenanigans she gets upto, Vayl always looked surprisingly static.  Here there's much more fluidity and dynamism to her.  Hexeris looks suitably malevolent, but I think he could have been given a little more variety compared to the original. 

Now what we really need to see are the Hordes Battle Engines (the Circle Celestial Fulcrum looks a bit meh to me.)

Spartan Games have posted up some images of their upcoming Capital Class flyers for Dystopian Wars:

Kingdom of Britannia Eagle Class War Rotor

Initially, I thought this looked a bit of a mess; the hull looked too bulky and the propellers seem pathetically tiny.  However, after looking at it for a little longer, the Eagle does grow on you.  It has a certain "plucky British gumption overpowers the laws of physics" feel to it; bloated, ungainly. . . armed to the teeth!

Empire of the Blazing Sun Tsukuyomi War Gyro

This guy looks the place though, kind of an amalgam of the Nakatsu Cruiser and the Inari Scout Gyro.  It also has plenty of character with all those gyros and turrets.  Certainly looking forward to seeing this in the flesh (resin.)

And also from Spartan are the first of their new sculpts for Uncharted Seas: 

Human Condor Flagship

Great looking new design there, very "Age of Sail" - I'd love to see how this would look with some rigging and webbing.  I've never been that interested in Uncharted Seas, but with all the resculpts being released, I might have a closer look.  Considering it's one of the cheapest games out there to get into, that shouldn't be too hard.

So there we go, some news from the last couple weeks and a few comments.  Love to know what everyone else thinks. . .

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

50% sale at Warhammer Historical??? Wtf?

Arrived in the inbox this afternoon:

"Warhammer Historical Sale

There is massive 50% off all Warhammer Historical books for a limited time only so there has never been a better time to try that new system or grab that supplement book. To see these great deals head over to our online store."

Two things.

Firstly, great news for picking up a bargain on a range that is typically high on price (and quality to be fair to them.)

Secondly, it;s a bit of a kick in the teeth for those who bought Kampfgruppe Normandy (£48) or Waterloo (£36) less than six months ago.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth, but possibly the most expensive (rule)book GW have released ever half price within six months?

Makes you wonder what exactly they're planning for Warhammer Historical, as I can't remember a sale from GW in the last dozen years.

Still, I'll pick up the updated version of Trafalgar and a print copy of Warmaster Ancients and be happy with that.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Black Crusade! Finally arrived. . .

Just a quick post to say I've (finally) received my copy of Black Crusade from Fantasy Flight Games.  And well worth the wait it was. . .

I've never been that much of a role player - in fact, I've never actually ran or been involved in a campaign for more than two consecutive sessions!  But occasionally a few of us get together and run through some scenarios over a few beers.  After reading through the preview adventure for Black Crusade months ago, I knew I fancied running a game or two as the "bad guys" so preordered this in June.

Black Crusade follows the usual FFG formula for a 40K RPG; lots of rules, lots of background and lots of options.  Basically, if you've ever read through Dark Heresy or Deathwatch, you'll be familiar with the format here.

In keeping with the chaotic nature of this book, Black Crusade does away with all the separate advancement tables for each class.  Instead you pick a basic character type and the choices for advancement are guided by which Chaos God you're favoured by.

Other exciting additions include; the ability to recruit Minions (hired goons to follow you around and generally make you feel like a proper bad guy,) Compacts (basically missions designed to keep your heretics focused on something other than killing each other) and Daemon Weapons (these look much nastier than those originally available in Dark Heresy.)

New additions to the adversaries include the Dark Eldar (Warriors, Incubi and Mandrakes) and the Necrons (Warriors, Flayed Ones, Immortals and the massive Tomb Stalker.)  There is also a fair bit of guidance for mixing the four 40K rpgs, including the Hordes rules from Deathwatch and using Black Crusade as a source for villains in the other three systems.

The book itself is up to Fantasy Flight's usual high standard with lots of fluff and background material.  There is a mix of older and newer artwork, some of which looks absolutely lush!  

So, after my initial read through, this looks a great book to pick up. Even if you're not into RPG's, but just a 40K fan, there's plenty here to interest you.  For RPG fanatics, it looks like FFG have built on an already solid ruleset and added enough new flavour to keep it interesting.  Looking forward to getting this on the table.