Monday, September 26, 2011

Kings of War 2nd ed. and a minor setback

Well, to add to the constant interruption of service her at toomuchlead towers, the shiny new Samsung notepad, expired at the weekend (or some point before, whilst I was away), and so posts will yet again be affected whilst I get the warranty to apply and replace it.

In other news, I have got hold of a pre-release version of the new edition of Kings of War. At first glance there are a few changes to the detail of the rules, but really only cosmetic to speed up play and reduce reference to tables. Of  more interest to all are the expanded army lists which now cover eight races:
  • Abyssal (Chaos) Dwarfs
  • Dwarfs
  • Elves
  • Goblins
  • Humans
  • Orcs
  • Twilight Kin (Dark Elves)
  • Undead
Some of the older lists appear to be expanded to allow for alternate builds, such as Tomb Kings-esque undead, to be catered for. Hopefully some of the weaker forces have been balance a bit more (Mantic had already dealt quite well with this), and it is pleasing to note that the human list has such a broad variety that pretty much any build can be considered. The list certainly covers my Dogs of War and medieval armies perfectly.

Hopefully I can get a game or two in soon, and try them.  With any luck by that stage I should have my third laptop of the year and be able to show you properly what I think of them... 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hail Caesar - A Full Review

A regular has asked for a full review, and after several games of Hail Caesar, I feel in a position to actually enter onto the same.

So essentially we have here a two hundred page hard back rulebook, in lavish colour throughout, as is the way these days.  The mechanics of the rules are probably about half of this , and are clearly presented and well explained with plenty of diagrams.  After one or two reads, play can largely be conducted from the 9 page summary at the back of the rules.

So how do these rules shape up against other systems, how do they work.  Well , my previous experience includes Warhammer, Armati and DBM so I will reference these as I see fit.  HC shares aspects of some of these rules, but is largely different from all of them, and any similarity is likely to be coincidental.

The core mechanic is based on Black Powder, which in turn was descended from Warmaster, perhaps Games Workshops best (if still imperfect) set of rules.  Formations of troops are grouped together to form 'divisions' within an army, and each division is led by a General - one of which is identified as commander in chief.  Units do not have casualties removed, rather they are marked in some way during the game to show losses.  Therefore single figures are not essential, though multiple bases for a unit are valuable to represent formation changes.  Figures based for DBM would work perfectly with this.  The rules recommend basic unit sizes of 16-24, though we have found units of 12-16 to be perfectly satisfactory.

Units move by being given orders, an order being a clearly defined instruction announced by the commander to the opponent(s); such as," the Saxon Thegns will advance around the wood to their left to turn the flank of the Norman line".  two d6 are then rolled against the command value of the general.  the result allows 1 to 3 actions in the event of a success, or may fail, or even result in a blunder (a random move, usually with undesired results!).  Fail and you stop issuing orders with that commander; though the commander in chief has the right to order one re-roll per turn. 

Whilst players often overstretch themselves at first with this mechanic, a few games teach you that restraint is wiser, otherwise there is a good chance troops will be left hanging or lagging behind.  Two other points are that units can move of their own accord once within 12 inches of the enemy; but once they are,they have to align to the nearest enemy and can no longer try clever moves.  This ensures tighter battlelines.

The resultant tendency to maintain formations and fight in a clear battleline has more in common with Armati and DBM than Warhammer, which always looks like a Hollywood battle once a round or two of combat has occurred.

Shooting and combat are similar to Black Powder, but with a slant to hand to hand, units typically role 2-3 dice in shooting or 4-9 dice in hand to hand.  The default being 4+ to hit, in combat both sides roll dice, and in either case, any hits may be reduced by a morale roll (identical to the Save roll in Warhammer).  This is closest to Armati of the three other systems.  Warhammer is buckets of dice by comparison, whilst DBM is on the fall of one D6 and a load of obtuse modifiers.

Units can take a limited number of hits, but these in themselves do not destroy a unit, until double their value are suffered, rather break tests are taken either when a unit loses a round of combat (suffers more hits than it's opponents) or has sixes rolled against it by shooting.  The lower the roll on 2d6 the worse the result.  The tables are subtly progressive.

There are two major additions to combat, supporting units add a small number of dice to melee, as does a general.  However any general joining a combat will risk death or injury.  This again swings the game more in line of Armati, but has a similar effect to the modifiers in DBM.  One other point to make is that some units have higher combat values in the first round of a melee than in later ones.  Representing the impetus of an aggressive charge.

As with BP, units can be varied by special abilities or weapons, and a range of sample units are presented.  Along side this the second half of the book provides seven scenario's and therefore 14 sample armies covering two and a half millennia.

To summarise then, you have a set of rules that manage within the core to provide a good representation of the tactical limitations of the period, but with allowance for more flexibility than DBM/Armati without throwing reality out the window, like Warhammer.  The size of formations can be scaled up or down to suit the demands of the players, and with smaller formations works perfectly on a 6 by 4 foot table, far better than Black Powder did.

In general the rules benefit from being effectively a second edition of the core rule system, honed and clearer, giving a better game than BP - which was already pretty good.  With the advent of a supplement of pointed army lists, it is clear that casual and competition play, always popular with ancient gamers, will be accommodated.

Of course, the rules again expect gentlemanly conduct and fair play; not resorting to lawyerly precision to avoid disputes, favouring mutual agreement.  We all know at least one player this will not work with, and the rules will often only be as good as the umpire if scenarios or re-fights are being played.  Still with those proviso's I would say that these are simply the best set of rules for ancient games I've played in twenty years.  And I cannot see me returning to any of the other mentioned systems, any time soon.

There is a mass of options and other material to explore in what is a comprehensive and attractive package.  Why look anywhere else?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Valerium Noctum: 792ad

Arranging a game in a rush, I had to come up with two armies in a hurry too.  And so my game of Hail Caesar in the week was a hypothetical battle between a regional Ottonian King and Norse raiders led by Ragnar the savage.

The Ottonian foot drew up between woodland and some enclosed fields, whilst the Norse, under first time player and recent Roman army buyer Chris, took a wide frontage including a hill to face them.  The Norse were aware that a major part of the Ottonian army was not present but probably roaming the fields attempting to outflank them, so speed was of the essence.

The Norse came on with enthusiasm, whilst the Ottonians decided to hang back and thicken their main lines.  Outnumbered two to one and outclassed in most every way, they had to rely on holding on long enough for their King to appear.

Perhaps fortunately the Norse Hird and Besirkir, their most potent troops appeared to either be being held back in reserve or still to be drunk from the night before.  Therefore the weaker Bondi led the Viking attack, chasing off the Frankish skirmishers before crashing against the lines of spears repeatedly.

The bishop leading the Ottonian levy managed a stirring job of holding the tidy, and by making counter attacks whenever possible, the Franks managed to weaken the edge of the Norse attack.  The Beserkir in particular came off worse in a series of engagements with a dense shieldwall of levy.  Still the Ottonian losses began to mount up and after an hours fighting they were close to breaking.

But at this point the rallying cry of the Frankish king and the thunder of hooves chilled the Norseman's blood.  The Ottonian cavalry arrived en-masse; outflanking the Norse Hird and smashing through it.

The Norse scattered in the face of an unstoppable charge of armour and flesh, long spear and sword.  But the centre refused to budge, and like many a Viking before them attempted to stand and fight to the death.

And to the death it proved.  Though some of the cavalry were eventually stopped, Both the Norse commanders were cut down in combat, and with the remaining Hird already heading for the boats, it was clear that another victory had put the lie to tales of the northern supermen.

Chris greatly enjoyed his game, and thought the rules were something he could get in to; which is a relief, as he has spent good money on a Roman army.  I gave him a pep talk on how to set them up after the game, as he is new to historical gaming, and five minutes on the basics is going to do you no harm is it.

So Hail Caesar has another convert, and we are hopefully getting to a stage where I can consider organising big games like I have for Black Powder.

Which is obviously a good thing.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hail Caesar Supplement on it's way

Good news for those of you who only play points matches or competitively!

Yes Warlord Games recently announced the army lists supplement for Hail Caesar.  63 lists covering the biblical and classical periods up to around 100ad.

This will be a great injection to interest in the rules, granted my preference is for refights and scenario's but there is no denying the simplification in getting a game of an evening.

The book will retail for £18, which compared to some of the Warhammer supplements sounds like good value, time will tell.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Anima Tactics - Les Jaeger

Prior to moving house last month I made a start on a second team for Anima Tactics, models I'd gathered over the previous few months but yet to start.  After several large projects the idea of painting just five models in detail again appealed, and meant that there wouldn't be too much to pack during the move.

Once shifted I was able to complete the project in short order and get to gaming with them.  So swiftly in fact, that the first photographs of the models were taken at the LWGC:

 Les Jaeger are the Azur Alliance's special forces team, tuned to stealth operations.  They are a mix of stealth, hit and run tactics and mystical forces.  The team above, supported by one of their agents is suitable for 200 level games.

In command is the Colonel:

A model requiring lots of paint effects that are new or unfamiliar at least to me.  The flame came out reasonably, but I always think of it as a definitively unrealistic object to make in metal.  As for the lighting effect of the flame on the Colonel's clothes, well, it's okay for a first try but I'm not overly impressed.

Reinhold is second in command, and a specialist combat psychic:

 Like all of the models in this team, the bulk of the model is black.  Which means a fast paint job.  I highlighted each character to a slightly different theme, in this case, working up to a navy blue.

Kyler is the third of the team, and is a specialist in stealth and close up assasination:

Um, the only thing to say about this model is, that were it not part of the team, I wouldn't have bothered with it, as it just looks wrong from every angle.  Some of the very early AT models are not all that good, this being one of them.  To their credit they do seem to produce resculpts of some...

The last key member of the team is Kirsten, a long range specialist with a mysterious past:

A good model, rather simple though.

Lastly the team is filled out with Agent One:

Possibly my favourite of the models.  Being the most recently sculpted.  Incidentally, if you are looking at the bases and thinking what's going on with the untextured bit?  Well, it's actually filled with Water Effect; and clearly it doesn't show up on the camera very well!

Subsequently to taking the photos, myself and Joe had a small 200 point game, Joe has a couple of the Wanderer figures which teamed up with those of my collection.

The game was reasonably well balanced, but the advantages of Les Jaeger were enough to swing it.  In AT single faction teams are at a distinct points advantage over alignment based, mixed groups.  One of the highlights of the game was Reinhold using his psychic powers to move one of the few pieces of scenery on the board that wasn't fixed down.  Straight into a collision with one of Joe's warriors.

And the other was him blowing Joe's sole survivor apart with a final psychic blast.

Leaving little more than a puff of smoke.  Between them Reinhold and Kirsten were easily the most effective of the team, The Colonel was highly useful, but unlucky; whilst Kyler proved about as attractive a proposition as his model.

Still my first win at Anima Tactics in ages, which was nice.

Friday, September 09, 2011

How the Professionals do it

I've featured Dan's armies before on the blog, as I'm a great admirer of them; he's well known in Warhammer circles for producing some of the most imaginative, best painted, and toughest tournament armies.  He was in at the LWGC last week with his latest force:

That's an entire 1500 tournament Chaos Warrior army.  Typically Dan goes for small super-elite forces he can pretty up easily.  The Chaos Warriors are based on Black Orcs and certainly look the business.

Sadly the Chaos Sorcerers' are somewhat hidden at the back of the units, one of which featured a marvellous swirl of books flying round the wizard.

The centrepiece of the army (if it is fair to call any part of this force the centrepiece!) if the amazing flying sorcerer; riding a monolith through the air.  Whether this counts as a chariot or flying carpet I don't know, but it was certainly impressive.

If it goes to form, these will win a few best painted awards, place highly or win a few tournaments (Dan certainly knows his way around a game of Warhammer as well as a paintbrush) before ending up on eBay to fund his next project.

For some this would seem a shame, but I think Dan gets as much pleasure from coming up with and executing his next grand idea, as anything else.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Silva Arsia: 509bc

Here I am with an early Republican Roman and Etruscan army in 20mm, and a copy of Hail Caesar; so what would make more sense than refighting one of their battles.

Of course in terms of historical accounts, the material for the period is pretty limited, the Romans at this time did not leave detailed records, and so what is handed down by their historians is rather scant; whilst the Etruscan language remains one of those untranslated mysteries of history.  This game was based on the extraordinarily limited available material - you can read a pretty full account of what is known on Wikipedia; it won't take long!

Like many an ancient battle the terrain was essentially an open plain, but for effect, the forest of Silva Arsia flanked one edge of the board, with the foothills of Rome to the other.

Gav took control of the Etruscans and made his deployments. The Etruscans had three commands; Tarquin led 6 units of Hoplite infantry and 2 of bow armed skirmishers; Veii led 2 units of Second Line troops, 2 Italiot allied units, a unit of Ligurian warband and 2 Javelin armed skirmish units; lastly Aruns led 2 units of fine Etruscan cavalry.  He put the heavy troops on his left, whilst the Cavalry were obliged by history to face the Roman horse on the right.

I took command of the Romans formed of Brutus leading 3 units of poor cavalry; Pubicola led 4 Hastati units with 2 units of Leves skirmishing before them; behind these was a Lictor leading 4 units of Principes, 2 Triarii and a unit of Accensi guarding the flank.  Forming up a Roman army is a no brainer!

What happens after that is anyone's guess.  I won initiative, but failed to deliver any commands, and so Brutus' army stood implacably in the face of the advancing Etruscans.

A handful of shots from the Etruscan skirmishers were enough to scare away the Accensi.  Publicola tried to advance the Hastati to meet the enemy, but instead orders to withdraw were received and the left flank of the army simply wandered away.

Meanwhile the Cavalry were doing most of the actual fighting on the Roman Left, and by the time the Hastati returned to the front line, both Brutus' and Arun's cavalry had exhausted one another with a series of savage charges.  The weaker Roman cavalry managed to survive due to greater numbers, but both sides had to retire.  This would prove an infantry battle.

The Romans in three lines were on the back foot but the Etruscans were no match for the resultant deep lines of support.  It turned out that the inability of Pubicola to motivate his men did at least leave short lines of command.

The Etruscans began to turn the Roman right, but were not actually having an effect on the Romans.

The deep Roman lines were of course bolstered by the Triarii.  Tarquin thickened his own lines and tried to wear the enemy down, but only found his forces withdrawing from every charge. 

Still the grinding match was wearing down both armies, both were getting close to losing a second command.

Gav risked delivering the Coup d'Grace, by putting the command of Veii into a final charge against weakened left of the Romans.  Alas for him it failed, the Romans maintained order and their counter attacks were enough to finally break the fighting will of the more junior Etruscan forces.

In fact it was at a point where his main forces were still largely unscathed.  The Romans were all over the place but they had made enough of a mess of the enemy to claim victory.  It was a narrow scrappy affair, but it went to prove that the Roman way of war was superior to that inherited from the Greeks.

As time would ultimately prove.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Some Painting Updates

It's a mixed bag today, but the end of the month has passed so I shall point out that the pledge result for August was 44, against a target of 30.  Being the 70eme Ligne, five Anima Tactics models (to appear soon); and the diorama below:

Yes, this was mine, I'm sure regulars guessed that.  An unwanted 40k Dreadnought, two Hasslefree miniatures naughty kids and a Miniart diorama were combined with lots of spare bits, clear plastic, barbed wire and naturally, paint.

As for the results, well I was pretty happy with the miniature graffiti, even if it proved curiously prescient.  As I suppose is the oxidisation of the burnt out Dread. 

The narrative of the scene being that the kid with the missile launcher was responsible for destroying the Dread with a hit to the left arm that caused the storm bolter ammo to cook off, setting fire to the rest of the machine.  Her friend, as any kid would has got her smart phone out to capture the result. 

The oxidising took about 8 layers to build up.  Then it was sealed with hair lacquer on the blue side and thereafter painted as if new.  This could then be soaked off and rubbed back to replicate melted and burned away paint.  The Hairspray technique is well established, but this was my first try at it, the results look more realistic, but to  gamer will look a little untidy, and it's not as quick to do as simpler weathering techniques.

A few nods of approval and favourable comments, but no prizes.

Elsewhere it was a month of scenery, some of which we've seen.  The main reason being that they were all commission jobs or for the club.  So I could hand them over to their new owners when done.

Two more buildings for Jason's Sylvanian town:

and lastly a few Lord of the Rings ruins, which wouldn't look out of place in parts of Post Roman Europe I think.  I could see the Huns all over these...

Monday, September 05, 2011

Corsairs of the Crimson Sea

It was pirate versus pirate, salty sea dogs baring teeth against one another, in my last game of Freebooters Fate.

 We stuck to a simple scenario and inevitably we had a certain number of similar characters in our forces, though Ian, my opponent, did choose to field Blackbeard, and some other different crew in his crew.

Blackbeard came off worse in an encounter with my knife thrower, and long rifle.  But over all the game swung slightly to Ian.

He kept back a number of his troops in the company of his Captain Rosso, and thanks to early injuries in my party, I was forced to engage from a safe distance, with some loss of ability.  A late charge by a deckhand didn't do enough to redress the damage.

Still my pirates cannot be too downhearted, not seeing as they recently seized control of a beauty of a ship:

Two in fact!  This is the smallest of the Playmobil pirate ships, which due to a little wear and tear I managed to acquire on eBay for £3.50.  It comes as you can see with a substantial mast and rowing boat.  As soon as I can figure out how to make it a waterline vessel, and what to do with the rigging and so forth, it shall be another major project to kick off!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Iron Owl Painting Competition - Entries

A small field of entries did not detract from the admirable efforts of the entrants in the Iron Owl Competition when it was held at the LWC on the 6th August.  Now through one thing and another we've heard enough about, I wasn't able to report this at the time so I'm a little fuzzy on the details.  I'm not going to go to great lengths on the models or painters, sorry!  Let's just enjoy the models... 

 The main entries.  This and all images below can be clicked on to view larger images.

 Savage Orc by Craig, owner of the LWC, and his entire painted collection I think ;-)

 A Malifaux goblin on a pig!  The wings are added apparently.

 A scratch built Baneblade tank, by Alan.  A pretty impressive effort.

 "These are Our Ends, Bruv".  Some blogger upstart did this diorama.

Another Malifaux figure, mounted on a clockwork base.  This was one of the prize winners on the day, and is by commission painter, Jon Kerr.

54mm Dwarf warrior.  Another of the winners, quite rightly.

 Beastman Dragon Ogre by Daz.

 Dark Elf sorceress, by first time painter, Karen.

 54mm Inquisitor model.

 Another of the same Malifaux model.

 A Warmahordes figure.

 Crimson Fist Terminator.

 Malifaux again.  These were beautiful models, and got my vote.  And a prize.

 One in close up.

An Infinity model.  Another prize winner.

I didn't get photo's of some of the entrants, but that is sadly the bulk of them.  Still this was the first time the event was run, and one has to hope it's not the last.