Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mengil's (Lizard)Manflayers are Hired

The fun of playing Dogs of war in part is the sheer variety of units you can field.  One I hadn't added to date was the available unit of Dark Elves, some of the most ridiculously expensive infantry in the game!

As are the original figures.  The tragedy being I had twenty of the original Manflayer models back in the 90's, now worth, it would seem, about £10 each.  Sad.

So to create the new unit I had a look at the various current offerings out there, and in the end settled on the Black Ark Corsairs as reasonably suitable; I was able to pick up a pack for £13 on eBay.

Now they weren't going to be perfect, most notably in that their cloaks are clearly of a reptilian skin rather than human skin attributed to Mengil's regiment.  But we can easily get round that with the discreet renaming above.  During assembly I noted that though incredibly detailed, these modern GW plastics are remarkably mono-posed.  There is little you can do with their appearance really.

Still that sort of repetition makes ranking up easier, and painting can be straightforward:

I think if I'm honest, I rushed the painting of these somewhat, the armour in particular looks pretty crude to my eyes.  However some things worked well; for instance I used washes on the cloak to pick up the details to great effect, and I had fun with the simple banner - designed to appear like it is made from the skin of some great reptiles.

Not my best work, but to a good enough standard, and they add an enormous 400 points to my Dogs of War army.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Empire Strikes Back

After a while away from the Thursday club, Neil made a return the other week and we arranged a game of Anima Tactics for the week after.

I scraped together all my Black Sun faction for 400 levels:

Meanwhile, Neil had his usual tight formation of Empire.

The battlefield was one of those hideous modern estates made of identikit buildings.  I'm joking of course, we used some of the club's excellent new laser-cut buildings bought mainly for Infinity:

We advanced on one another, and straight away, Neil used one of the devilish abilities to Drag Tsubasa into a suicidal combat with part of his phalanx of fighters.  Straight off the bat it was looking like the usual tough fight!

However I was able to use superior mobility and tactics to get Clover into combat with his devastating Prometheum charge.  However the dice gods betrayed me for the first of many times in the game and his attacks failed to do any serious damage.  The Empire stood around healing themselves and readied to attack again.

In with the undead then, mabe they could break through.  The Raziel NK-X waded in, and the dice failed again.  The only good thing was it weathered the damage the Empire were able to dish out, and the Type 5 next to it was scheduled to explode in the midst of the enemy.

Sadly the Empire were able to pick of my mystic, Promethea, with the same dirty trick that did for Tsubasa, and without control of my undead it was clearly time to withdraw; the battle being lost.

Next time we agreed to try a mission that required the sides to take and hold objectives, as in a straight fight it was far too easy for the Empire to stick together and smash through whatever was in front of them.  If they were obliged to choose between sticking together or splitting up to have a chance of winning the game would be more balanced.

In the meantime, I probably should assemble the two new models for these I bought months back!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

An Open Letter to Mantic Games

Dear Mantic,

I was an early adopter of your business model, and once upon a time - not that long ago really - it seemed like you might be a brave attempt to bring a real alternative to the Fantasy Games market.  Your initial releases of fantasy figures were not to everybody's tastes, granted, but at least you were prepared to put your money where your mouth was and let the customer decide.  With prices so reasonable they made the obvious competition squirm and economy-hit customers sigh in relief it was no surprise to see you keep afloat, thrive even.

You even released a snappy little set of rules - for free no less!  Massed fantasy battle without all the silly special rules that could handle the hundreds of figures hardened gamers tended to accumulate without taking a whole weekend to play.  It was all looking so rosy.

Then it seemed to go awry.

I think you've got either lazy, greedy or a bit of both.  Your next fantasy ranges were a mix of metal and plastic components, a real step back even if it does allow you to expand your ranges faster and make use of already produced parts.  The resinated plastic figures are acceptable, but not really my bag thanks, but certainly preferable.  The rules were still free, but a reasonably priced '2nd edition' appeared  and we were all encouraged to get hold of it.

Somewhere around here, with one game barely finished, you decided to launch into another genre.  I guess we weren't surprised that it was a Sci-fi wargame, but I think we were really disappointed to see that it was stylistically a copy of your major competition so closely.  Warpath hmm?  If what you wanted to do was simply take your first set of rules, make the minimum changes to them in order to make something that resembles a game with guns and vehicles, and then take your fantasy ranges and do the same thing not only did you succeed, but you also ripped off your obvious competitor.  Point for point.

Disappointing.  I mean Space orcs?  It doesn't matter how you dress it up, we know what they really are, it was lazy when they did it and it's twice as lazy for you to copy them.

Which brings me on to your third and final warning; this:

Fantasy American Football?  REALLY?  I can't help feeling it's been done before.

And I've not even mentioned the dungeonquesting and spacewreck clones.  You know what I mean, lazy, lazy, lazy.

We all know there is a dominant force in the fantasy game market; and it is evident that you are developing a business model that is emulating theirs; some might call elements of that into question anyway, but is it so necessary to copy their actual games equally slavishly?

At one point it did look like you would bring something long overdue and wanted to the fantasy genre, but you've proved to have no original ideas - companies like Spartan Games and others have stole a march on you by taking chances instead of cloning everybody else.

What is left is some simple rules, some reasonable figures, and a sense of a massive missed opportunity.

Please, try harder.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

20 Questions Answered...

Why it scarcely seems six months since this one came around in another guise ;-) One I started if I can be so bold!  Still it'd be nice to have a pop at someone else's questions so let's have a go.  I make no apologies for any inconsistencies to my past responses!

1.  Favourite Wargaming period and why? 

It's a repeat and it hasn't changed lately.  Though I love the Classical Ancients period and Napoleonics increasingly, WW2 is the one I've always indulged.  A childhood influence.

2.  Next period, money no object?

The Jewish Revolt - and it will happen, but if I was really going out on a limb and money was a tiresome irrelevance, 28mm Samurai of the warring clans period.  Someone else can do the painting!

3.  Favourite 5 films?

Militarily, Zulu sneaks on the list, but otherwise it'd be Clerks, Bladerunner, Castle in the Sky - Laputa, Tampopo.

4.  Favourite 5 TV series?

Mythbusters, ER, House, Big Bang Theory and Family Guy. But I would hate you to think I actually watch that much tv!

5.  Favourite book and author?

Favourite author is Douglas Coupland, who wrote Generation X, Microserfs, All Families are Psychotic and many others.  But favourite book is To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee; her one and only novel.

6.  Greatest General? Can’t count yourself!!

I'm not an expert in this area!  I'll have to plump for the Duke of Wellington

7.  Favourite Wargames rules?

Still Black Powder, though I do play more of Hail Caesar at the minute.

8.  Favourite Sport and team?

Favourite sport is snowboarding, I was pro for a little while afterall!  

That's me!

We don't have teams, that's how we roll!

9.  If you had a only use once time machine, when and where would you go?

There are so many days in my life where I'd like to make a better informed decision, it's hard to choose.

10. Last meal on Death Row?

Hmmm, propably a nice Lamb Dhansak.  Dunno really.

11. Fantasy relationship and why?

Hubba hubba:

12. If your life were a movie, who would play you?

Matthew Broderick; good luck pitching that idea...

13. Favourite Comic  Superhero?

He may not count as a Superhero, but those are rubbish anyway ;-)

14. Favourite Military quote?

"Nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won."  Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington 

15. Historical destination to visit?

Would like to make it to Jerusalem and Masada one day.

16. Biggest Wargaming regret?

Some days starting!  But probably selling my collection of Warhammer 40,000 Rogue trader models for £30 in about 1992.  Nowadays what I recall having would've been worth several thousand pounds :'(

17. Favourite Fantasy job?

I've had two already; Snowboard Guide and Club DJ, it'd be nice to add author to that list but I don't think I have the wherewithal!

18. Favourite Song Top 5?

Impossible to choose in a way, I'm a music omnivore; but here goes:

19. Favourite Wargaming Moment?

Times with good friends and lots of prettily painted toys; what else?

20. The miserable Git question, what upsets you?

Bigotry.  Racism.  Intolerance.  "Daily Mail Readers" who think these things are acceptable, and like to blame political correctness instead of their own narrow minded attitudes.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Scratch built Wolf Chariots

Utilising some spare models, pewter wheels, some of the Wills planking sheets and scraps of plasticard; I assembled a couple of Wolf chariots over a couple of evenings:

Now each one was assembled with no more than a passing reference to a tape measure, but I would advise remembering to cut the slot for figure bases (if required) before assembling the models, unlike I did!

Then it was on to a quick painting job so they could race off to the table:

I used a couple of very old GW Orcs as the Goblin bosses in charge of the chariots, but given the very cheap availability of goblins and wolves on the net, if should prove no problem for a budding modeller to assemble chariots like these from scraps for a few quid.  The hardest part might be the wheels, but simple round discs of planks would be easy to make by using a large coin as a template...

Think I need to make some more!

Zvezda 1:100 range expanding

Here's a teaser photo, Zvezda are adding to their Art of Tactic game and range of accompanying models to expand in to the Invasion of France.  Though the colour of the model suggests the Western Desert may also appear in time to me:


Also due out initially is the Matador truck, along with 1:144 Hurricanes and 1:72 Infantry Teams, based on their previous forces I would expect 1:72 artillery and Flak, other 1:100 tanks (the matilda Mark I is rumoured) and perhaps armoured cars. You can glimpse the releses on Zvezda's own pages here:

A their plastic kits for this game represent about the cheapest entry for WW2 in the 15mm scale, I'm sure many gamers will watch this with interest.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Kickstarter Phenomenon!

I'm sure some of you are already aware of Kickstarter, and how it is beginning to transform how the gaming hobby is funded*.  Well I've succumbed to its' seductive charms now as well.

Partly because I found a range of purely miniatures on it with a truly old school feel to them.  Reaper miniatures in the USA are producing new models in a polymer plastic, but to the ethos of classic fantasy models of the 80's and 90's, you know, before everything became so game specific.

So in a moment of retro weakness I find myself expectantly awainting the following sometime next spring!:

This is a summary of all currently unlocked rewards included with your Vampire pledge. It includes 117 Bones Miniatures and 1 Metal Sophie.

Some will find their way into my various fantasy armies, some will find a home in my mediaevals, a few will just be painting projects (what else can I do with a robot Gorilla?!) but the variety of them is frankly exciting, and I now just have to put up with a ridiculous wait whilst the models are cast up.

Well, I did fund it with Paypal cash so it isn't like it's real money!

Still hurry up March; and I better not see any other temptations in the mean time...

*And if you haven't figured it out by now, Kickstarter allows companies to propose a product and allow customers to pay up front to fund the production; if a product is not funded you pay nothing, if it is, you get what you paid for, and quite likely more besides as an incentive.


Painting activity has been pretty good of late, helped by the fact that working on Orcs and Goblins requires no more than a shaded glaze to put detail on to them.  The latest items here are a rescued Orc chariot, which had apparently been assembled in the dark, with GW's special 'melt everything' glue, and a rather nicer (and now rarer) metal River Troll:

Whilst I was defending Flemish honour the other Sunday, there were a number of other games at the club, including the first use of my Idol of Gork; rather confusingly in a Marlburian period game using the 'Maurice' rules.

A large number of the rest of the members were beginning a Warhammer 40k campaign with a number of Combat Patrol games; whilst not a player of the game any more, I am still taken with some of the models, and find I fall in a minority of people who like the Stormtalon gunship - known informally as the Space Potato:

George's model looks pretty nice doesn't it....

Monday, August 13, 2012

Voet tegen Paard: 1384

Another game of Hail Caesar, another dip into Mr Grant's scenarios.  This time lifting almost as written the Horse against Foot scenario.  I was in command of a long train of Low Countries troops, whilst Laurie led a mounted army (with just a handful of foot troops in the vanguard) of the Holy Roman Empire.

Battle opened with my Flemish troops strung out along a road, whilst the enemy cavalry rode over a crest perilously close to us:

I had first turn, and quickly used initiative moves to get my lead troops into the farmland to the left of the road.  Keeping my orders to a minimum, I was then able to execute some simple turns of face, wheels and withdrawals to  face the foe.  (We had both used map deployments before the game).

Laurie did not waste time in coming on to the attack, and his front line of Prussian knights and foot charged home.

It was at this stage we both discovered his cavalry could not charge home against the front of ordered pike, and so they pulled up short and his infantry began the attack.  The were slowed and harassed by Flemish handgunners as they closed.

Forcing some back, and others to run.  Meanwhile however a rash charge by one unit of Pike had shown that intimidation was the strength of the Flemish troops, and it resulted in an unseemly rout of my infantry when the superior German horse were allowed to fight defensively.  The knights exploited the gap and threatened our flanks

The Pike retired and formed an angle to limit flank attacks by the Germans.  At the same time our rearguard began to try to turn the Empire's flank  and our plucky handgunners continued to plague the Prussians with shot.

On more than one occasion the Germans charged the Handgunners, but every time the evaded, most often behind the lines of pike.  They would prove to be the star players of the Flemish army.

Recognising the problem, Laurie sent his Saxon cavalry around the right of the road around the small copse my skirmishers were firing from.  I turned to face with some heavty infantry, but Laurie had bigger fish to fry...

Instead he circled around my artillery, which had been laying down a steady fire on his cavalry on the hill.  Shortly beforehand one of his Saxon units charged my token force of foot Men at Arms, putting them under great pressure.

But on the left some unsuccessful charges against the non-pike troops - who always benefited from the close support of their rallying generals - and a reinforced barrage of handgun fire led to the Prussians being in very hot water, and slowly their morale began to crumble.

On the road the troops charging the Men at Arms were beaten back, but then Saxons charged the artillery, and to the Men at Arms rear.  The Artillery stood no chance.

But with timely support from Flemish citizen infantry, more of the Saxon knights were repulsed.

By this stage one of the German commands was irretrievably broken and with casualties mounting, Laurie was forced to quit the field.

This scenario is an excellent one, with the foot army having staying power but lacking attack strength whilst the horse army can hit hard but is smaller, tires easily and cannot sustain combat both armies are evenly if disparately matched.  Deploying from maps certainly added to the uncertainty, and the Hail Caesar rules are perfectly suited to this sort of unequal and flexible battle.

Laurie was unlucky in that several times his troops refused to respond; whilst my shorter lines of communication, in part permitted by his aggressive forward deployment, allowed my main force to operate freely and conservatively in mutual defence of the centre of the field.  Constant work by the Army general and his subordinates saw critical Low Countries troops kept in the fray long past their direst moments.

In conclusion, highly recommended as a challenge for both players, and a good way to spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Conversion Corner - Orc bows to Swords

Back in the days of Warhammer 6th Edition the boxed set contained Orc and Empire troops.  Now it was generally conceded that for the Orcs the Choppa Boyz, Chariot and Hero were fine, but the Arrer Boyz (below) in Game terms were pointless.

Now inevitably, I've gathered many of theses guys in job-lots over the years, about 32 or so, and they remain cheaply available on eBay and other online trade forums.  But as only a completist or lunatic would field Orc bows in Warhammer (when Night Goblin bows are so much more worthwhile) the question remained what to do with them.

I recalled many moons ago seeing a post on the Warhammer Forum however that showed they actually converted to swordsmen quite easily.  And so I tried to do it myself.

First of all I needed some material to make suitably Orc-y shields from.  I settled on a premoulded planking sheet from a model railway manufacturer - one sheet was enough for thirty shields, and the pack contained four sheets for £3!

A craft knife and some ingenuity, and the basic surface of the shields was ready.  Next I needed choppa arms, for the conversions.  For these I found a tolerably priced supplier in Germany of bitz and so splurged £8 on 24 sword arms.

Some of the original models already had hand weapons so I didn't quite need as many as troops.

Now to begin preparing the troops.  This chap - his head hidden by his shoulders - shows the essentials; The bow is cut down to form a handgrip for a shield, the knuckles are removed to give a flat surface.  The right hand is cut off, and the arrows are either cut from the quiver, or trimmed down to form a knife handle.  (I also found the end of a bow cut down to a fairly convincing knife handle too.)

Then simply cut a weapon free of its' old host and fit it in place with glue.  Likewise for the shield and knife if present.  Then one useless figure has become useful, and dynamic!

One of the models is undoubtedly a bit more awkward, as he is loading:

This chap needs more trimming and care than the others, and also needs a full replacement arm; but this can still be done effectively:

Note the tip of a bow serving as a knife.  As a final touch I rummaged through a box of spares and found the shield bosses from a set of Skeletons, adding them to give more character:  Additionally a horn was made out of spare parts to make a musician (stowed on his back for fighting) a standard bearer was already part made, and finallt a normal Orc warrior was recruited to lead them:

You'll notice that there are a number of them who seem largely painted.  Way back in the day I painted up a dozen of these  for my fledgling army, but soon realised they were of little or no use.  It was still a little galling to convert them, and I'm not really looking forward to trying to match the painting styles.  But the whole unit of 32 is ready to be painted and take its' place on the battlefield some time in the future.

Not bad for the price of a tenner or so...

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Board Games Day

Last week was a week off work, mostly indulged on a holiday and wedding attendance up in Scotland, but on Thursday I caught up with Ross for a day of board-gaming; Ross having the luxury of independent means!

We kicked off with a game of Khet Laser Chess, at which I was outfoxed, before moving to Battlelore:

We began with a historical scenario, and I was able to turn around initial setbacks by retreating my battered units and sending in a glorious - if suicidal - cavalry charge to cover them.  Ross was defeated in a close battle to the finish.

Personally the temptation to paint the cute little miniatures would be overwhelming!  We then tried the Fantasy version of the game, or at least dipped our toe in to it by playing a scenario featuring the Goblins.  I quickly learned that the Goblins are terrible fighters, even if they are numerous.

So I was 2-1 down.

Next up was a round of the Call of Cthulhu card game.

The aim of the game is to complete stories with your investigators, minions and monsters.  To be fair at first I was somewhat lost by the explanation of the rules, but like many games it is so much easier just to pick up by playing, after a desperately slow start I was down two stories to nothing, but pulled an intimidation blinder - managing even to scare Cthulhu himself off the scent - to win the game three stories to two.

All square we moved on to Summoner Wars, a game we both knew and a simple wargame played with cards that allow for a degree of uncertainty but with an overall theme.  As such it plays like a straight-forward version of Magic the Gathering with movement over a basic battlefield, as a bonus there are some 18 different races released.

My 'Dark Elves' earned a disgracefully easy victory over Ross' Humans.  Taking it to 3-2 in my favour on the day.

In the evening we adjourned to the club for three games of 7 Wonders, now firmly in my top ten list of games.

With at least six players in each game I was only placing between second and fourth, but it is the sort of game with an internal narrative leading over blatant competitiveness; so a good time was had by all, regardless of their finishing position.

Very entertaining.  Hopefully next time I'm able to indulge in a ten hours of board gaming, we can dig out one of the real epics though.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

The Green Tide Rolls in Anew

Like all gamers, no project ever seems finished.  It had been many months since I felt any need to add units to my Orcs and Goblins, but after my tournament performance I was motivated to clear away a few more chaps from the box of figures.

Cue another ten Orc Big Un's with twin Choppas:

The 'classic' models from the 6th edition boxed set.  Like all GW boxed set models they become incredibly easy and cheap to come by after their edition of the game is obsolete; a time-frame that seems to chime with the attention span of the average younger gamers - funny that!...

It does meant that I can now boost my Orc horde to an impressive 50 troops:

Which is not to mention the other 65 painted and 40+ unpainted Orcs I have.  I may have to consider an all Orc army as my next variation of the O&G lists.  This is one of the beauties of the O&G army in Warhammer, it has such a history and variety of troops that it is almost unmatched for variety and options.

Speaking of options, I also painted up a handful of Gobbos from the box, Assembled by a modeller with more enthusiasm than talent (we shall visit their efforts again), they included a Night goblin wizard modified with High Elf parts and base, a fanatic and a Metal Skarsnik and Gobbla model - worth over £20 new, but so crudely assembled it was close to a throwaway!

Thankfully a basic shaded paint job was able to save them:

So those fourteen models added some 450 points to my army; Impressive stuff.

And there's more to come...