Monday, 30 July 2012

Iron Kingdoms RPG Preview

Privateer Press have ratcheting up the previews of the new edition of their Iron Kingdoms RPG.  Or, to give it the full title, Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy Roleplaying Game.

After last weeks preview of the table of contents (seriously, not a preview of the contents, a preview of the table of contents!?!) they have released an edited summary of character creation.

After a quick read through, I'm quite looking forward to the actual release.  Not having played the original edition, I don't know how much PP have changed for the new edition, but the new stat arrangement looks straightforward enough, especially to anyone who plays Warmachine or Hordes.

Given the choice, I'd have preferred to see a selection of sample characters, but I can understand that PP are still drip feeding info out at this point.  Looks like yet another purchase down the line.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Black Crusade Characters #2: Ingathiel

More Black Crusade goodness this week with some background on Doug's character, Ingathiel.


Unlike Balthus, Ingathiel has no knowledge of his origins whatsoever.  His memories become coherent aboard the Monarch of Wrath, a human reaver ship operating from the Rifts of Hecaton.  Ingathiel had presumably been captured at some point in his past and the reaver captain made good use of his size and strength in boarding assaults and the gladiator pits.  Not knowing any other life, Ingathiel accepted this for a number of years and probably would have continued to do so indefinitely.

During a journey through a turbulent warp storm, the Monarch of Wrath suffered a number of malfunctions resulting in a swarm of warp entities materialising on board.  The Monarch was well crewed and well armoured, but the number of intrusions increased.  When summoned to the fighting, Ingathiel found he was particularly resilient to the daemonic attacks.  Indeed, he found he could dispatch the creatures with ease.  Seeing the balance of battle swing in their favour, the crew redoubled their defence and began to clear the ship.

However, the crew, already terrified at the daemons attack, were shocked by Ingathiel's unnatural abilities.  Matters were not helped when Ingathiel's eyes started glowing and energy patterns started playing across his skin.  As the daemonic attack diminished, the captain decided to cut his losses and ordered his prized slave, who he presumably blamed for drawing daemons in the first place, killed.

This proved to be far harder to achieve than he imagined.  Ingathiel, distraught at his masters betrayal, fought back furiously against the crew.  As his rage grew, he discovered he could focus the strange blue fire surrounding him and throw it as a weapon.  Although the crew were in full retreat, Ingathiel continued his assault, eventually forcing the bridge and slaughtering the captain and command staff.

With the ship was derelict and the crew mostly dead, Ingathiel was at a loss what to do next.  For no other reason than it was what he always did after battle, he returned to his cell. He found something there he wasnt' expecting.  The creature that stood in the centre of the cell was difficult to define, as if it's form was constantly changing.  One moment it was blue, the next pink or yellow, one moment diminuative, the next double the size.  To his senses, Ingathiel could tell it was akin to those creatures so recently trying to kill him, but this one showed no signs of violence.

Instead, after a few moments of silence, a crude mouth formed on the creature and it started babbling in a stange, unknown.  As the creature spoke, images flashed into Ingathiel's mind; cities, ruins, stars and nebula and many others, all unknown to him.  Suddenly, the sound and visions stopped and there was no sign of the creature, other than an odd electric stink.  To his surprise, Ingathiel found he could recall perfectly every word the daemon had said, along with every image that had flashed into his mind.  Before he could think on all that had happened, the ship shuddered violently in what was clearly a warp translation back to realspace.

The Monarch had materialised deep in the Screaming Vortex, next to the the massive space station Malignant Spire  Ingathiel managed to easily sell the Monarch and found quick employment as a mercenary.  Over the following years, Ingathiel found he had an instinctive knowledge of all forms of combat and tactics, almost as if it he knew these all along and was only just remembering them.  Ingathiel also found his control of the elemental fire grew and he began to experiment with different manifestations.  Psyker his companions called him and they showed him equal amounts of respect and fear.

Ingathiel primary motivation is to learn more of the creature he encountered aboard the Monarch  and discover the meaning of the message he was given.  Ingathiel is certain that he was chosen for a particular journey, the visions he saw and the creature's message have convinced him.  Ingathiel's travels have taken him to many star systems and planets, he has spent years trawling through ancient books in hidden libraries on forgotten worlds, he has visited countless shrines and spoken with innumerable mystics in the Screaming Vortex gaining snippets of understanding here and there.  The latest trail Ingathiel is following has brought him into contact with Balthus, whom he recognizes from one of his visions.  Why this is so and where they head next is, as yet, unclear.

Creating the Character

Doug wanted a psyker character for Black Crusade, so chose the Sorcerer archetype.  This gives Ingathiel the ability to use psychic powers and gives him a number of of associated skills.  The psyniscience skill helps Ingathiel sense others using psychic powers, Scrutiny makes him skilled in assessing data and peoples moods or motivations, lastly Forbidden Lore (Daemons) gives him knowledge of Daemons, their nature and abilities that most people will be unaware of - very useful for conducting rituals etc.

Talents in Black Crusade are abilities or traits that a character can either do or not do (skills differ as a character can get better at them.)  As a Psyker, Ingathiel is given Meditation that helps him recover from the fatigue caused by using psychic powers and combat, and he also has a certain amount of experience to spend on psychic powers themselves.  It's worth noting that during character creation, characters will not be aligned to a particular Chaos god; it is only by gaining a certain mix of skills and talents that a character will become aligned.  This is significant here as it means that Doug can't pick any God specific powers at the moment (golden oldies like Bolt of Change or Stream of Corruption.)  With that in mind, Doug gave Ingathiel the Doombolt power (for combat) and kept the remaining XP points for later in the game.

When it came to Ingathiel's Passions, Doug picked choices based on the backstory he wanted.  Ingathiel is seeking knowledge and is certain he is on a legendary quest, so he has the Foresight pride, increasing Perception, but lowering Fellowship.  Psychologically damaged but his experiences on the Monarch of Wrath, Ingathiel is always on guard against treachery, so he has the Betrayal  disgrace, giving him some starting Corruption, but making him very untrusting (and untrustworthy.)  Lastly, Ingathiel has the Arcane motivation as he seeks to understand his visions, giving him yet more Corruption and increasing his Intelligence at the cost of a little Strength.  After these adjustments, Ingathiel's stats are:


I mentioned in the last BC post that Corruption was the negative marker (too much and you "lose" the game,) but it's a little more complicated than that.  Many skills, particularly psychic skills, need a higher Corruption to work and, in this case, that represents how under the sway of Chaos your character has become - how unholy he is.  So gaining Corruption can be quite important; the balancing factor is, depending how you gain said Corruption through either success or failure at a task, you may well end up with glorious Chaos gifts (Darksoul, Magnificent Horns) or hideous mutations (Eye-stalks, Tentacles)

So Ingathiel is looking pretty healthy so far.  He has average weapon and ballistic skills, as well as average Strength and Toughness.  Although not very agile, he has a high Intelligence (useful for all those Lore tests he'll be making,) very high Willpower (essential for using psychic powers) and above average Perception and Fellowship.  At this point, Ingathiel still has a plenty of XP to spend, but Doug wants to save that until some of the more powerful powers are available.  Finally, after acquiring some Warp-Totems and a tasty looking Plasma pistol, Ingathiel is ready to go.

Hopefully you've enjoyed the back stories and the summary of how characters are created in Black Crusade.  Next time, I'll put up a couple session reports from earlier in the year featuring the two characters.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

I bought a house today.

OK, sorry, that's a corny old post title.  The first of Battlefront's french village range arrived today; the Calais House.  On impulse I opted for the subscription deal for all twelve(?) buildings, plus some extras.  I've no idea of the release schedule or what building is when, but as BF are billing each house separately, it isn't a big initial outlay.

To be honest, I've not bought this for immediate use, but with an eye for the future.  Not only are my Fallschirmjager sitting accusatively on the painting desk, but I really struggle to set up a 6 x 4 table in our house.  However, we are trying to sell up and move somewhere bigger (and if the economy would like to pick up, that would be a big help.)  The Mrs is a big of a obsessive lister and on her prospective house checklist (big kitchen, reasonable garden etc) she has put "Scott's space or Nerd room" in the definate column.  So I'm starting to look forward to the time when I'll have a dedicated space for gaming and painting (and, you know, raising a family etc.)

Onto the Calais House though.  The house comes in three separate resin pieces and each floor easily holds two medium Flames of War bases.  The paint job is pretty basic and quite rough in places.  Like most of the Battlefield in a Box range, this will benefit greatly from a little extra work.  I've heard that the painting standard varies quite wildly so be prepared for a little work if you go for one of these.

Despite this, I'd say that this is still well worth the slightly high price for two reasons.  Firstly, I'm quite happy to pay a little extra couple pounds to have someone else fo the guts of the painting.  Secondly, and probably more importantly, it will take a big effort to force me to buy a lot of unpainted resin and get it on the table (hell, haven't got my army done yet,)  so buying these simultaniously prods me to get some painting done and should make gaming more enjoyable in the future.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Things you don't want to hear at a job interview.

Well last week didn't turn out as I'd planned.  Some progress on the Hoplites and Fallschirmjager, but not as much as I'd hoped.  Three reasons for this;

i)  I got a job interview at short notice that took up a couple of days with travelling and prep.  I didn't get offered the job, but at least they were good enough to actually call and let me know.  Much better than the last interview I had a couple weeks ago.  It went something like this:

Guy in suit:  Hello.
Me: Hello.
Guy: Pleased to me you.
Me: Likewise.
Guy: *** Small talk ***
Me: *** Small talk ***
Guy: *** Small talk ***
Me: *** Small talk ***
Guy: So tell me a bit about yourself.
Me: Blah, blah, blah.
Guy: And how long have you been speaking Italian.
Me: . . . . . . Errr, I don't speak Italian.
Guy: . . . . . . Oh, your CV says you're fluent.
Me: *** sigh *** Nope.

There was another half hour of this, I'm pretty sure they had someone else's CV but my app on top of it.  Muppets.

ii)  Xbox.  I got back into Mass Effect 3 and Skyrim last week as expansions have just been released for both of them.  I'd forgotten how quickly the hours drift by when you're into a game.

iii) The Reality Dysfunction.  This is one of the few books I've started reading but didn't finish (the others being American Psycho, Paradise Lost and something be Anthony Trollope.)  I was initially put off by the glacial pace of the plot and the direction of one of the plot strands.Second time round however, I can properly appreciate what a cracking read this is.  It has everything you'd expect from modern sci-fi; blurry technology/biology divide, interesting future human history, cracking dialogue.  Something the author Peter Hamilton is known for is the sheer scale and scope of his novels, this is pure space opera and well worth the 1221 pages of text.

Of particular note, there are plenty of instances where I've reread a passage or chapter because they were just that good.  I don't know if I'm the only person who does that with a good book, but there are so many of these here; the Lord of Ruin, the Ly-cilph/singularity mix, Joshua and the mayope deal.  Too many to list.  One little gripe though; if humanity has had centuries of genetic engineering, or geneering, then surely some (male) scientist would have figured out a way not to accidentally get a girl pregnant?

So I'm still working on the two units this week, hopefully I'll get at least get one of them finished.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Black Crusade Characters #1: Balthus

We managed another session in our Black Crusade campaign this week, although we only managed to fit in a short encounter and some combat before we ran out of time, short and sweet.

I've intended to put up more Black Crusade content on the blog (they seem to get a lot of attention,) but for a few reasons I haven't managed much.  Last week, I started writing up a couple of our earlier sessions, but before I put them up, I thought it would be a good idea to hear a bit about the characters we're running.  So I asked the guys for a bit of background material and some thoughts on how they created their character.  First up is Cal's alterego, Balthus.

Balthus might look like this.  None of us can draw, so
we simply reuse the artwork from the rulebook.


Originally, Balthus was a member of the Maréchals Triomphant space marine chapter. Details are unclear, but somehow the Maréchals were caught up in the Dovinian Schism and brought before an Inquisitorial Conclave for punishment.  The entire chapter was sentenced to undertake a penitant crusade lasting a century, into the Kalmar expanse.  During this time, the chapter were denied 
resupply or the authority to recruit and replace fallen brethren. Finally, despite years of constant struggle against the xenos of the expanse, the Maréchal Triomphant were deemed tainted beyond redemption and ordered to return to their homeworld and prepare to be disbanded.

This caused an split in the chapter.  Some insisted their duty was to accept the judgement as just for their past, others insisted it was anathama for Space Marines to passivly wait for death.  In the end, most of the remaining Maréchals chose to reject Imperial authority and leave the Imperium entierly.  Firstly, the fleet returned to their home world, unleashing a devastating bombardment that destroyed their fortress monastery, before heading away from Imperial space.  Pursuit was never far behind.  For years the remnants of the chapter evaded pursuing Imperial forces, raiding for resupply when the opportunity arose, until they were finally cornered in the Hamiss star system.

Balthus was among the handful of survivors to escape the slaughter.  He moved from system to system, conflict to conflict until, eventually, he found himself in the Screaming Vortex, in the company of other renegades and heretics.

Balthus has a healthy hatred for the Imperium and naturally seeks revenge against the forces who destroyed his chapter.  Yet his hatred is tempered.  He knows that, ultimately, he will not bring the Imperium down.  Instead, he holds his very survival as a victory against the enemy, a sign that for all the might of the Imperium, he continues to triumph over them simply by existing.  So he fights where and when he can, preferably against the Imperium; each day he survives is another wound inflicted.

Creating the Character

Below are Balthus starting stats.  Most of these are self-explanatory if you've ever played an RPG or 40K/Warhammer.  A characters Infamy represents how feared and notorious he is while the Corruption stat represents, well, how corrupt his soul has become through evil deeds, contact with daemons etc.  Black Crusade, like all the 40K RPGs, uses a D100 mechanic, generally the higher the stat the better.  At this stage Balthus is still relatively unknown, but isn't that corrupt either.  When your character reaches 100 Infamy, you have become so powerful you essentially "win" the game, but having 100 Corruption sees your character become so degenerate you "lose."


Balthus follows the Chosen Archetype.  Unlike most other RPGs, Black Crusade doesn't make use of classes or roles.  Instead, players choose an Archetype, a group of Skills and Talents that point their character in a general direction, but from there characters can progress in any way a player chooses.  As a Chosen, Balthus starting skills are mainly concerned with combat and in particular melee combat.  Although all Chaos Space Marines are skilled in combat, Chosen are particularly deadly.  This however comes at the expense of other areas, Balthus is not as skilled in command and tactics as he could be, nor is he particularly skilled out of combat, communicating with aliens or gathering information etc.

Black Crusade uses a mechanic called Passions to give your character some, well, character.  Each character chooses (or randomly rolls for) one Pride, Disgrace and Motivation that not only describe their personality, but change their stats or give other effects.  In this case, Balthus has opted for the Fortitude Pride, increasing his Toughness at the expense of his Agility and Intelligence, the Dread Disgrace, increasing his Perception but lowering his Willpower, and finally the Legacy Motivation, increasing his Infamy but, again, lowering his Intelligence.

As with most RPGs, players get a small amount of experience to spend on their characters before the game starts.  Compared to human characters, Chaos Space Marines get very little experience at this point (due to their higher stats,) so Cal gave Balthar the training to correctly use power weapons and the Furious Assault Talent (who doesn't love Furious Assault?)  Players can also give their characters some extra equipment for starting the game.  We bent the rules here slightly, giving Balthus a good quality Legion Power Sword (hence the earlier training) in addition to his armour, bolter and chainsword.

So that's Balthus, former loyal servant of the Emperor, now rogue, renegade and heretic. He's not exactly blessed in the brains department (but by no means thick,) but is more than able to carve through most opponents he'll face while dodging most incoming attacks. Although Balthus is handy at intimidating and threatening people, he'll need help with most other social and other skill tests.  Fortunately, no one ever travels alone in the Screaming Vortex. . .

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Hoplites WIP 2

I managed to get a couple hours painting on the Hoplites today.  Finished the skin tones and most of the armour/tunics.

I'm really out of practice on 28mm figures and keep letting the paint run into areas I want shaded.  Although I'll probably go over the recesses with some inks, I really don't want to get too hung up on every little detail.  Another job finished today was cleaning up the 24 shields for these guys and it took *$&$%"&£*$ ages!!! Next time this is the first job I'm doing!

Lastly, and keeping with the Greeks, check out this weekends Pearls Before Swine comic. Nothing like a good pun and some cartoon violence to brighten your day!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Sport, Black Crusade and Sod All Painting

Little in the way of any tangible progress so far this month.  Real life has been relatively busy, but the real cause of my lethargy is the June/July sports schedule!  The Tour has started, taking up any free afternoons I have.  The Tennis occupies any evenings.  the ODI cricket takes up the odd day.  Then there are weekend events like the F1 and MotoGP.  The Mrs has resigned herself to the constant accompaniment of crowd noise, commentator babble and me jumping up shouting "Coom on Andy!" Bless her.

The weather has precluded any outdoor activity this week (holiday tan has gone and it's back to the pasty white look again!) which meant I was able to get a little gaming in.  I've managed to fit in two sessions of Black Crusade, which we are really enjoying.  The characters the players are running have got to the stage where I can introduce some of the nastier enemies Black Crusade has to offer.  The next source book is due out sometime this month, so we're trying to complete the story arc we're on now before starting on the new material.

This guy saw a run out last week.  Nasty.
I'm still keen to have a proper stab at Force on Force, after getting a couple more source books for my birthday last month.  Last week, I tried some solo games using proxy figures, just to get a handle on the rules properly.  After you get your head round some of the abstract concepts (cover, line of sight etc.) the game flows very smoothly.  The problem I've found is that I can't seem to settle on a period or conflict to collect.  I'll leave this alone however until I get a couple other things finished first.

Next week, the main aim is to complete the first unit of Hoplites and, secondly, to get the first batch of Fallschirmjager figures done (although I doubt I'll get them based though.)  Add into the mix a quick Black Crusade session and I'll call that a good week!  We'll see how it goes...

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Venexia Miniatures - Some Good News?

Some good news courtesy of Madaxeman, that Venexia have sold their miniature range to an unnamed American company.  No mention of timescale for any releases, or even if there will be a release, but this is still better than no news whatsoever.

Sadly, progress on my Italian Wars project stalled quite suddenly when Venexia stopped trading.  This was all the more frustrating in when I missed the announcement and so missed the opportunity to pick up all of their excess stock.  Damn.

Great book, but haven't enough figures for a game yet.

There are a few companies out there with a range of 16th century figures, but after looking around, none approach the quality Venexia gave.  Fingers crossed for some more news.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game - Gameplay

Today, I'd like to carry on talking about Lord of the Rings: the Card Game (LotR) and specifically the gameplay.  You can find my first post on the game here, where I've given an overview of the core box game and components.

Three Lore heroes from the starter box, a Threat cost of 30, about average. 

The core mechanic in the game is the concept of Threat, essentially, how serious or risky the situation for the heroes is.  This is used in all areas of the game, from setting the initial difficulty to deciding what enemies will attack you.  It is also, in essence, a resource to manage, if a players individual Threat level gets too high, that player is eliminated from the game.  During set up, each player sets their Threat counter to the total Threat of their three heroes.  In the example above, the player would set their Threat meter to 30 (10 + 12 + 8.)

Player area on the left, Staging area in the middle, Encounter deck on the right.  

The are three areas used in the game, the player area, the staging area and the quest/encounter area.  The object of the game is to move through the deck of quest cards, usually no more than three cards, by earning enough Quest points and meeting any conditions on those cards.  Trying to stop you is the Encounter deck, from which the various Enemy, Location and Treachery cards are drawn into play.  The player area is where the heroes are set out and where any further characters are placed.

LotR plays in a seven phase turn, which sounds long, but is very streamlined once you are familiar with the sequence.  The turn starts with the Resource, followed by the Planning phase.  The two are essentially one big phase, Resource starts with each hero getting one Resource token and each player drawing one additional card into their hand.  So far, so good.  Planning then lets players spend their hero's resource tokens to put cards from their hand into play.  As I mentioned last post, the cards you can play are either Allies, Attachments or Events.  A key choice you make here is whether or not to get more characters into play early in the game or to save your resource tokens for later to afford more expensive cards.

In this Planning phase, players would have to beat a score of 5 Threat

Following is the Planning phase where your heroes and characters make progress on the current quest.  They do this by Exhausting (placing the card on its side) and once all players have decided who to Commit or not, they total up the Wisdom of all these characters.  To make progress, this total has to exceed the Threat total of the Enemy and Location cards in the staging area.  Sounds straightforward right? Well kind of.  Before you calculate the final Threat total from the staging area, one card per player is drawn from the Encounter deck, possibly adding to the Threat total.  Either way, the total Wisdom and Threat is compared and any difference is converted into progress tokens on the quest (higher Wisdom) or added to each players Threat meter (higher Threat.)  Something to remember though is that characters who Quest will not be able to do anything else in the turn (such as attack or defend.)

The next two stages help players remove Threat from the staging area.  The Travel phase lets the players make a Location card the active area, removing its Threat from the staging area. The downside of this is that while there is an Active Location, players won't make any progress on the Quest until it is dealt with.

The Bight Patrol will engage Players with a Threat above 5, which
 would be almost everyone.  The Marsh Adder, Threat 40, will only attack
 the strongest players when things are very serious!

The Encounter phase firstly lets each player choose to Engage an Enemy card in the staging area.  The Enemy card is taken from there and moved to opposite the players area, again removing its Threat from the Planning phase.  Now the Enemy is up in the players face, it will attack in the next phase.  However, things aren't quite as straightforward as that. Each Enemy has an engagement Cost on their card, if a players Threat meter is equal or higher than any Enemy's cost, those enemies will Engage that player as well.

Ah, Faramir, one of my favourite cards.  Helps others Quest with his
ability, good at defending and can take a bit of a beating!

Next up is the Combat phase, where Enemy cards engaged with players will attack and then players can attack in return.  I'm not going into any detail here, as I'll do that in the future. Lastly is the Refresh phase, where all Exhausted cards are readied and each player increases their Threat rating by one.

So there's the game turn in a nutshell.  Hopefully I've conveyed that, above all else, LotR is a risk management game, where every decision you make has an unknown element to it. Have I dedicated enough characters to Quest this turn?  Do I go to this Location or try and progress the Quest?  Do I play lots of Ally cards to get more characters in play or do I play Attachment cards and have a small group of really powerful characters. Making the correct choices is fundamental to success.

There are lots of occasions, however, where you'll be faced with some awful luck, and draw the one card you had hoped to avoid.  One of the mechanics I enjoy most about LotR, is that each phase has a point where players can act, either by playing an Event card or making use of a special ability.  As a result, you always have the opportunity to act or react (assuming you have said card or ability) to an unexpected enemy or effect; too many enemies in play?  Play a snare card to stop them attacking.  Too many location cards? Play a scout character to help explore it.

Don't want to deal with a specific Location card?  Attach this to lower it's threat!

Of course, using these depend on having the correct combination of cards in your deck as much as it does luck, and this is the last core mechanic of the game: deck building.  Now this is a whole other area of the game to explore.  There are a couple of rules to follow in building a deck (max of three heroes, minimum of fifty cards and no more than three copies of each card,) but other than that, you're free to mix and match whatever combination of cards you have.  Of course, buying any of the expansion and adventure packs greatly increases the choice of cards you have available (and those things are like crack, addictive!) I'll talk more about this in the future, if there's any demand, as I am a complete novice when it comes to this kind of game.

Finally, a word or two on the difficulty level.  Common practice at the moment is for designers to make cooperative and solo games as difficult as they possibly can be.  The reasoning being, if difficulty is set too easy, gamers won't stick with the game long term. With LotR, you could be forgiven for thinking that the game is monstrously hard.  Now that is true to an extent, but to understand the game properly, we have to return to an earlier point I made.  The core box set is a great little game in it's own right, but it is, in essence, one long introduction to the full Lord of the Rings card game.  The aim of the core box is to teach you how the different spheres behave and point you in the right direction when building your own deck.

In case you haven't picked up on it yet, I love Lord of the Rings: the Card Game.  The designers have managed to get the balance of risk, choice and luck just right and I enjoy the mental exercise of trying out different combinations of cards.  Next time I'll try and put up a report on an actual playthrough of the game.  I'm trying to come up with a way of doing that without it simply being a long post with lots of pictures with cards.  Until then. . .