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.