Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Saga in Sparta - Playtesting

So over Xmas I developed an idea I'd had some weeks before, that Saga could be quite easily used for other periods.  It would have been fairly easy to shift it to the middle ages or the Romano British field; but I actually wanted to take it to something quite removed.  Greece.

The rules were not to be changed at all, but I would need to write battleboards up for each state.  I opted to work on four nations, Sparta, Athens, Thrace and Persia, and wanted to make each one distinctive, this meant inventing new abilities.

Of course these need testing, and so we tried out a couple of them at the club.

Mark took the Athenian list, intended to be defensive and well organised, whilst I took the Thracian list, intended to be highly mobile and good on the counter attack but with less punch.

For the most part they worked well; about half of the abilities are standard ones lifted from other battleboards to suit the racial profiles.  As for the new ones, I included skills to reflect both attributes and the style of use of certain weapons.

The game was a defeat for the Thracians, mainly as I forsook an easy win to try out more of the board.  They steadily retired in the face of the enemy, fatiguing them in the pursuit and stretching them out.  But the Athenians were making great use of their attributes too.  One of which at least we concluded fit the Spartans better, and so along with a few other tweaks, there is a little revision work to be done.

Nevertheless the principle is absolutely (in my view) sound.  I just need to make some modifications; and then I'll post the game sheets up on the blog.

Possibly after a little more playtesting!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Battlegames in the Shops

Braving the snows on Saturday morning, I discovered this in our local WH Smiths:


Something of a surprise, I admit I haven't kept up with developments with Battlegames, the last I knew it was being rescued from folding in it's subscription only format.  And now here it was in my city newsagent.

It appeared a little slimmer than before, but the content looks to be the same, a mix of scenario ideas, terrain making and painting tips, figure reviews and editorial.

If you are a British gamer this should be worth your attention.  Look out for a copy.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Kings of War - Siege

A half dozen of us got together a little back for a giant game of Kings of War.  George, who organised the game, decided on a siege combined with a relief force attack.  Myself Richard, Alan and Stephen were the valiant allies trying to rescue the city from the rising forces of undead, led by Rich and Mark.

A large chunk of our forces faced south as a relieving force was know to be on its way.  Indeed it turned up pretty much straight away (funny that) under the command of George, Darren and Gaz.

For my part I took principle command of the cavalry and pike force tasked with blocking the swarm of Orcs, whilst Richard led the attack on the castle.

The relief force was effectively blocked straight away.  Not least by the extraordinary performance of the stars of the battle, my light horsemen, who managed to stop three giants from getting close to the rest of the army, holding in several attacks.

The centre of the Orc attack was blunted against our masses of knights.

One thing we couldn't blunt was the castle walls, which stood firm against all attacks.  Our sole siege tower managed to make the walls, and a general on a winger lion managed to clear the battlements.  But progress in making a breach was painfully slow.

Still, with the help of Stephen's Dwarves, we we grinding down the relief force and allowing our besiegers time to force their way in.

Indeed the Orcs were starting to look so thin on the ground as to be a defeated force...

But it would be too little too late.  Finally after seven turns we had made a breach but the blocking force was broken just as much as the relief force, and so unable to really support the now clearly outnumbered besiegers.  The undead force inside the castle was unlikely to be harmed by what we had outside.

In the end the game swang to the bad guys favour, there just being too many of them to shift.

Personally I'm not a fan of siege games, they don't tend to make good, punchy games in my view.  The visuals may be interesting, but the result is two sides stand facing each other in a slow grinding match where manoeuvre is irrelevant.  To that end I was glad to get the role I did, but even then it was pretty much straight forward.  It was still an entertaining day, and always nice to pop hundreds of painted figures on a nice big table.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sales Again - Vampire Counts

I still play fantasy games, but less of them than I used too.

Fact is they were always the second love, after historical games (but well ahead of science fiction); and it really is, if you are even partly tied in to Games Workshop product, the very priciest end of the gaming market.  Or rather, it is for me.

But it isn't the money so much as space.  I live a modern, metrosexual, city-living, space concious lifestyle; and for my wargames hobby it means that if I want a new army, an old one almost certainly has to go to make room for it.

I have a couple of projects in mind this year that are exciting me, but to make room for them, something has to go.  And at the moment it is two boxes of Dark Ages models, and Three of Undead.

The shock is how many I actually have.  The first army is now on Ebay; 140 models - well over 2000 points for Warhammer, and it's less than half my collection.

It's just not an army I feel any urge to use any more.  Sure, some of it is a bit of a wrench to sell.  Some of the models I've had for over 25 years.  But I'll always have the photographs, so it isn't as if they are gone from the memory.

So if anyone wants to inherit this lot, the link is here

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Wreckage of a future battle...

Misleading titles ahoy!

The Nightowls are launching in to their next project for a club display game, and it's going to be World War two in 28mm.

Not exactly revolutionary, I know, but the club is working with something akin to the sponsorship of Warlord Games and so plenty of free or cut price product is coming our way to help put on a display game for Bolt Action.

I've already been given my part of the task, thankfully not troops to be painted on my part, but instead preparing scenery and accessories for the game.

One part of this was a box full of resin miscasts (aka: cr*p) which I was asked to turn into something useful.  An eccentric selection it was too; mostly just chassis' - two Bren Carriers, a Hetzer, an SU76, an R35 - but also a near complete SDKFZ 250/9 and partial trackwork for several stuart tanks and a Tiger.  So barring one half track, none of it is close to complete.  But that is fine when a destroyed tank is likely to be a burnt out hulk.  To that end I set about chopping and changing parts to make more sense.

A snow day from work helped (the joys of working for a college!).  The half track and a Bren gun carrier were easily fabricated; but then I got ambitious with the R35 chassis and some Stuart tracks:

Knowing I was working on a wreck, I could play fast and loose with a few of the details on this model of a 4.7 cm PaK(t) auf Panzerkampfwagen 35R(f).  Over a hundred of these vehicles were converted from captured French tanks and most were lost in the fighting in Normandy and later around Arnhem.  Hacking up the Stuart running gear proved surprisingly effective, whilst the fighting superstructure was built from scratch.

Now onto the painting.  And it was to include burnt effects.  The method is an elaboration on my method for producing weathered paint on armour (see the quick links), and boils down to:

  1. Undercoat whole model with an 80/20 Black Red mix
  2. overbrush whole model with rust
  3. drybrush with natural steel
  4. repaint burnt out area by stippling heavily with black
  5. lightly stipple with various greys
  6. at the limit of the burning apply a fine stipple of white - to represent the limit of burning and the effect t has on the paint
  7. Paint the undamaged parts of the vehicle as normal, going just over the limits of the white
  8. reapply the white, as well as additional ash as you see fit on top of any other weathering effects
The end results will hopefully look something like freshly burnt out vehicles:

The burning carries on into the base, think about how fire may spread both on and off the model, for example on the Bren carrier the fire has mainly been contained by the crew compartment, also the scattered metal track has stopped it spreading too far on the ground.

A lot of work, but actually pretty simple if done methodically.  By the way the observant may notice a Mantic skeleton head has snuck into the scene.  A grim little detail perhaps, but an honest one, and also it was that or have a headless driver stuck in the Warlord model.  I guess this chap wasnt able to escape after his vehicle hit a mine...

I want these to actually suggest the fearsome results of what we oft too casually refer to as a 'knocked out' or 'brewed up' vehicle in games.  The true effects of an armoured fighting vehicle experiencing a fire in its ammunition, would often leave behind grimmer results than even these models imply.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Another German in 54mm

I'm in a hurry so the picture must speak for itself; done for a friendly painting challenge:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Learning to use a Bolt Action...

How do you learn a new set of rules?  Buy a copy, read it in depth and then arrange a test game; get an experienced player to show you the ropes?  I'd prefer the latter in most cases, followed by a solid reading of the rules afterwards.  However this is not the approach I ended up taking with Bolt Action, Warlord Games latest set of historical rules, for WW2 games.

Myself and (younger) Richard brought WW2 troops to the club on the first Sunday of the year, when others were already playing Bolt Action.  Borrowing a set of rules and the knowledge of someone who had at least read the book once, we set to try the rules out without so much as a clue as to how they would work.

To begin with we picked a couple of 500 point forces (the smallest the rules cater for).  Richard had two squads of infantry, a mortar, Bazooka Team, an M3 Half Track and a Lieutenant; I initially had two smaller squads, a Hetzer tank destroyer and my own junior officer.

Finding a basic scenario, I deployed per the rules on the defensive and we set to:

I had to defend the crossroads, so placed half my force in the ruins next to it.  The rest was in reserve.

The game that resulted was to say the least, one sided.  The turn mechanic is by unit activations randomly drwan for sides, but then you may choose which unit may activate.  With six activations to my two initially, Richard was able to pile on the pressure, by the time my second unit of infantry appeared, the Germans were already on the back foot.

Once the command and control mechanics are out of the way - units can receive one of six different orders, and if they have not been activated yet in the turn, have limited options to react to enemy activity - the rest of the rules are now more complicated than say, Warhammer 40k.  You roll to hit, then to wound/damage targets all on D6.  Some of it is for me overly simplistic, and not as subtle or sophisticated as Kampfgruppe Normandy for example.  But it rattled along well enough, given we were probably missing lots of rules anyhow!

Given the situation, my defenders of the crossroad, being pounded from all sides soon collapsed.  My Hetzer never even made it on to the table, and I had soon lost.

We agreed to have another go, with an additional recommendation that I change my list to a more reasonable one.  Out with the Hetzer, and in with a 75mm Infantry Gun, Machine Gun team and an armoured car.  The next scenario was an Envelopment encounter with the Americans on the Defence. My orders were to get into the American Deployment zone, or off their table edge.

This game, given we had equal numbers of units on table was far more balanced.  My armour's mobility allowed me to destroy Richard's and run amok in his rear lines.  It helped that the American Bazooka couldn't hit a barn door at ten paces either.

It's worth adding that when activating units, nothing is certain.  Once a unit has received a pin token for being hit by fire, it has to take command tests as part of it's activation.  A typical command rating would be 9, but each pin token reduces this by one.  To actually receive an order you must roll below your current command rating on 2d6.  Commanders can add a couple of points to the command rating, if in range.  Similarly when shooting, pin tokens reduce the effectiveness of fire, drastically, so allowing them to build up is a real problem.

Units, can choose to rally to remove them, but we never got around to the morale tests that would see a unit up sticks and run. As it was, the Americans found themselves under a lot more withering fire this time, and certain of their units were soon trapped under cover:

I also lucked on to the effective use of smoke rounds from my IG18.  Even though they only create soft cover in effect, their psychological effect, and coverage was considerable.  Smoke swathed the central road, and allowed me to advance freely, making good use of the lie of the land to get several units in to the American rear.

At the end of this game, honours were therefore even.  And my view of the rules was that they are simple, but effective enough.  There is enough subtlety within the command and control to place the relatively simple shooting and movement rules in a reasonable context.

These are in no way a radical departure from anything that's gone before, but they are competent and the glossy production will doubtlessly attract players.

And as it turns out, they are very easy to learn.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The 2012 Pledge - finale

Ah, another year over, another year of painting.  I won't even attempt to say whether I've painted more than I've bought; possibly I'm up on that one though a couple of big investments in figures may have made the profit marginal.

Enthusiasm with my last purchase of the year - Samurai Battles - led to a fine flourish at the last gasp.

I began churning the Zvezda miniatures through the system from mid December, there's still lots to do - what with 122 models in the set - but I made rapid progress by keeping things really, really simple.

One side are red, one purple.  Both are simply done with a suitably coloured undercoat, then the armour picked out in a darker shade.  Then all the details (I could be bothered with, which was far from all of them on these incredible little miniatures) were added.  

Finally the models had the transfers added to their sashimono's before being given a wash of Army Painter Quickshade Ink - Strong Tone.  It's the first time Ive used this ink, but it's pretty good.  I found it needed thinning (lord knows why anyone wouldn't thin it out) but the results were not dissimilar to my home brew efforts over the years.  

Having painted about half of the models, I based them:

The two sets of rules in Samurai Battles use different basing conventions, but noth that can't be worked around.  I decided that Command and Colours would work fine with bases of four infantry, or two horse, and the use of casualty markers.  This allowed me to work to a standard system, except for the command bases which I kept the original diorama bases that came with the game.

40mm square bases with lots of flock.  I also left one corner blank, to add a painted icon (in keeping with the rules) to, as well as leaving at least one of the flagpole pegs free so that the command banners could be used if required.  The aim is to use these initially for the board games, but to work up in time to traditional wargames,; once I can retrieve my unpainted collection of 600+ plastic Samurai from my brother's place!

Cranking these out was a pleasure, and made up for the slow pace of the previous units of 28mm Napoleonics.  The results for the last three months of the year in fact were:

  • 16 Spartans
  • 1 large Anima Tactics Model
  • An entire 10mm Lizardman army, worth 52 points!
  • 25 Vikings
  • 4 German infantry in 54mm (worth double!)
  • 9 Guard Chasseurs 
  • 6 Greek Cavalry
  • 4eme Dragoons & General Foy 
  • 68 points worth of Samurai and Ashigaru
Bringing a quarterly total of 238, and making for a grand total on the year of 678, against a target of 360!

Good stuff.

So, 2013?  Well aside from finding it easier to type as it doesn't have a tricky 2-0-1-2 combo in it, I think the pledge will stay the same, but may become even less formal.  In simple terms I don't yet know what the year will hold and whether I will maintain the commitment to keep painting.  In a way I hope not, as looking back at my painting totals, when they were low I was generally having a lot of fun in that month.

So here's hoping for acceptable, but not excessive painting output.

Maybe I need to create a social life pledge as well, but I don't imagine people on here would appreciate that...

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Saga: There's a Gael Blowing in...

Shortly before Xmas I had my first game for about 5 years(!) with Paul, a big Dark-ages fan with some excellent brush skills:

Some of Paul's Anglo-Danish

His warlord, sticking it to one of the enemy!
 As to the games, in the course of an afternoon we managed to run through three different Saga battles, beginning with the Warlord Duel scenario - where each Warlord has 12 wounds and the first man down loses:

For the first game I used 6 points of Vikings, including a fair mix of men.  My Warlord had to go forward to face Paul's Anglo-Danish leader, and initially came off the worst, losing four of his wounds for two in exchange.

However, I was able to sneak my Besirkir into the line, and target the Warlord.  Nothing in the scenario said I needed to kill the enemy leader by my own leader's hand!

In typical Besirkir fashion, they died to a man in the attack, but in inflicting 14 wounds on Paul's warlord their sacrifice also assured my victory.

For our next game we opted for the escort scenario, and I changed to one of the new forces from the 'Raven's Shadow' supplement - the Norse Gaels.

Paul had to try to get at least two out of three religious souls off my side of the table.  He began by pushing down his left.  My axemen tried to intervene.

The Norse Gaels work on the principle of fighting challenges with the enemy; one on one combats which boil down to a single opposed roll.  Should the Norse Gaels win, they can then apply specific advantages to the ensuing melee, most of which will ensure the odds stack well in their favour.  A real gamblers army.

So whilst the left larger went Paul's way, in the centre my men smashed the escort and sent it running.

 Sadly for me, with nothing left to cover the left, Paul saw his opportunity and kept on running, forsaking fatigue to put as much ground between him and I, leading him to victory.

Honours were even then, and there was time for a final game.  For which Paul switched to his Vikings.  I stuck to the Gaels, but decided to take their special character, ending up with a force purely formed of noble warriors.  Seeing this and given that we decided on the most basic 'Warlord' scenario, Paul opted for his own special Character too.  As we prepared to engage, it was fair to say we both had very similar forces.

But in this second battle, the Norse Gaels challenges were particularly effective; allowing me to take down one of Pauls units of Hearthguard in short order.  Allowing us to outflank his force.

Paul took his remaining force forward into my second line, but the combo of my battleboard and some fortunate dice rolls was such that I was able to heavily deplete his lines without losing so many of my own.

Paul then forgot himself, it's fair to say, and used his Warlord as a main attacker against my right flank.  The resultant skirmish saw a stain of Viking warlord blood on the dirt road as my axemen again did their execution.

And so I took the prize in the final game.  I may not be able to stop religion in it's tracks, but a hairy bloke with an axe never proved to be a problem!

The new boards add some different aspects to the game and are, if the one I used is typical, quite entertaining.  They are certainly distinct enough from the originals to be interesting, and not too repetitive.  As for getting a game against Paul again, well that was its own reward.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Blue Skinned Fury!

Back from the longish break for the holidays,and I've yet to consider a review of the year just gone.  There's plenty to catch up with anyway.  First of all I added some more Lizard Kin to my 10mm army.  A different breed of infantry, more cavalry, a battle priest/king and a mighty flaming catapult - loaded onto the back of a giant tortoise!

With all these awaiting first blood, I arranged a game against Ste, who was beavering away on his old collection of Warmaster Dwarves.  He was looking to have a go at Kings of War, and who was I to refuse.

His army featured masses of Dwarven Beserkers and cannon, whilst mine was filled with massed hordes of spears, our own version of fanatics, and some grandiose beasties.

For the first game we rolled up the 'Kill and Pillage' scenario and deployed.  Ste put most of his fanatics on his left, with all the artillery in a line in the centre.  Against it I deployed my hordes of spears, with big-hitting flankers.

I advanced into the centre forcefully.  But it was the flank attacks that were really to make the Dwarves regret offering battle.

KoW is a game that rewards coordinated action and an ability to push the battle to be fought on your terms.  Winning the game is much less in the hands of who can write the dirtiest list, but rather in terms of who can command the canniest force.  I was able to use the flanks to concentrate attacks, and bring maximum force to bear.

The net result, for Stephen, was thankfully, not covered by the camera!  The Dwarf beserkers were destroyed by shooting and cavalry charges, whilst the cannons were easy pickings to large units that could weather the firestorm to approach them.  The beasties (dubbed the Death Chicken and the Death Tortoise) made short work of Ste's right flank, and it was all over , as what little of his army was left was surrounded.

It was a valuable learning experience for him, and it also left enough time for a second round.  With different terrain , we deployed again.  This time Stephen sought to divide up his artillery park, and aimed to use his Beserkers as a second fighting line instead of as frontal assault troops.

The Lizard Kin advance was far less successful; with fewer targets presented, and Ste aiming to pick off the threats that he missed in the first game, our attack soon broke down amongst the buildings of the village.

By game end, we had again made it in to his artillery park, but precious little else was working in the Lizards favour.

I was willing to accept defeat in the second game, and that left it one all on the day.

Nice to give the Lizards their first taste of battle, and Stephen his first game of Kings of War.  The Twilight Kin list I use as my Lizardmen is interesting, varied and potent.  A good choice I think for them.

A good little day's little gaming!