Thursday, December 31, 2009

Games Played in 2009

Most of my blog readers are people who aren't in my regular gaming group now, so I thought it might be interesting to go through the board and miniatures games I played this year with a brief summary of my impressions of each. The order is chronological from the first play in 2009.

Battlestar Galactica:
This is a fun game, although after three plays, and comments from those who have played more, it seems like the Cylons have an advantage. Combined with the fact that in the base game there's no way to decide ahead of time who is going to play the Cylons, this game slides a bit on my personal scale of desirability, although I'm still more than willing to play it if someone else wants to.

Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game: This is an interesting tactical miniatures game from GW. I played it a couple of times earlier in the year, but it's been gathering dust since then. The main draw of this game is the relatively low monetary investment involved compared to other GW games. If there was a community already playing it then I'd join in, but I'm not interested enough to build that community on my own.

Great cooperative game. Took a while to figure out how to win, and even then it still has great replayability with plenty of options to ratchet up the difficulty, especially with the expansion. This one is one of the few games to get on my BGG "fives and dimes" list with seven plays this year.

Small World: Another one of my few "fives and dimes" this one has become something of a staple with our group. The reasons for this are simple game play that's easy to teach, a relatively short play time, and lots of variation in the way that race/ability combinations turn up. It doesn't hurt that there's also a copy in the FLGS game library, which means I don't have to lug it along with me.

Warhammer 40K:
I was big into this in the middle of the year, to the point where it's my most played game this year, but I burned out after a few months. Lots of reasons for this that I won't go into for now. I still think it's a good game, but I think there are games out there that are just as good, or better, that require a much smaller investment in both time and money.

Race for the Galaxy: My second most played game this year behind 40K, and one of two games to be added to my all time favorites list this year. This game has a great combination of theme and gameplay. The nature of the way the game plays results in little downtime, and it scales well as more players are added. We play this game now with the cards from both expansions, but have yet to use the new rules introduced in those expansions, mainly because there's almost always someone playing the game for the first time when we play.

Puerto Rico: My personal pick for the most overrated game prior to 2009. Not that I think it's a bad game, I just don't feel it deserved to hold the #1 spot on BGG for as long as it did. I've played about a dozen of the remaining top 20 games, and I'd rank all but a couple of them over Puerto Rico. I did get talked into playing a game earlier in the year and enjoyed it, but it's still not one that I'll suggest myself.

Dominion: Seems like a good game, but I haven't had the chance to play it much. I could see this becoming one of my all time favorites, but can't tell for sure yet. Hopefully I'll get a chance to play it more in 2010.

Space Hulk: I'd like to get to play something other than the 1st mission of this. A fun game, but I just don't get that many chances to play two player games anymore, and there are several on my list above this one.

Age of Conan: The Strategy Board Game: A decent game, but one that just never clicked with me. For some reason it seems to take as long to teach as it does to play, and it's not that short a game. That alone has kept it from getting replayed in an environment where there's almost always at least one player who hasn't played before. Still, it's something I'd recommend to anyone who enjoys good old Axis & Allies style conquest games. It's not really made in that mold, but it has elements from that genre combined with a shorter play time. Especially if you have a fixed group of gamers that only has to learn the rules once.

Agricola: The game that unseated Puerto Rico from the top spot on BGG, and deservedly so. The more I play this game the more I like it. The way the cards work make every game different. This is the second game on this list to make its way onto my all time favorites list this year.

Ad Astra: This game is a little too light for my tastes, but has been popular with others in the local gaming group. It does make for a nice space exploration/development game that's competitive without being cutthroat.

Marvel Heroes: This game has a great combination of theme matched to mechanics. It's a shame that the developers no longer hold the license, as it could have supported expansions. Instead, it's out of print. If it wasn't, our one play through probably would have sold a couple of copies.

Chaos In The Old World: This is another game, like Conan, that I can appreciate, but that just doesn't click with me. Nice mechanics, but I'm still having trouble developing competitive strategies in the game. I'll play it again, but probably won't suggest it.

Flames of War: My only play of this in 2009 was a demo game. I still love it. There's a good chance I'll be able to get back into this next year as it looks like there's a couple of locals that are finishing up their armies.

Memoir '44: Got a couple of plays of this using scenarios from the relatively new Mediterranean expansion. I still love the Commands & Colors series of games, but as I mentioned before, it's difficult to find opportunities to play two player games.

Bang!: Broke this one out one night when we had one of our larger groups and it was a big hit. A great filler game for larger groups.

Shogun: Finally got this one back on the table. I still really like this game, both the theme and the mechanics.

Wasabi!: Nice game, but makes me hungry. I've gotten it out of my system for now, but am pretty sure it will eventually make its way back on to my "want to play" list.

The Princes of Florence:
One of only two games I played this year that I don't own. It's an interesting game. Reminds me a bit of Puerto Rico and other games in that genre. There's an auction mechanic and you build stuff. I'd play it again, but it's not on my wishlist.

Warhammer: Invasion: The only other game I played this year that I don't own. A surprisingly good card game from Fantasy Flight. Just playing with the cards out of the starter box has been quite fun. I don't know how well it will hold up in an environment where people construct their own decks. It suffers from being a two player game, although it looks like they intend to expand it out to more players at some point. The main reason I haven't bought this yet is that it's in the FLGS's library, and I never play it anywhere other than there. Also, the copy the FLGS has for sale is in a slightly damaged box, and the owner hasn't yet learned to send damaged merchandise back to the distributor.

Steam: I need to play this one at least one more time before making a final decision on it. It feels a little too cutthroat to me after the one play I had, but I'm definitely willing to give it another try.

Felix: The Cat In The Sack:
Finally got a chance to play this one. Don't really care for it. Successful play seems to rely on card counting, which is something that is not fun for me.

Arcane Legions: The last game on this list. It's too early to tell if it will stand up over time, but I've enjoyed it so far. This despite my skepticism going into it. Expensive for a board game, but dirt cheap for a miniatures game. I still feel that the marketing is a bit off. I don't intend to treat this as a miniatures game, in that I do not plan on ever painting a miniature, but I will play it. How much I end up investing in it will be largely up to the others playing it. I don't plan on taking the lead with this one, but will try to stay competitive.

So that's it for 2009. With luck, my 2010 list will be longer.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Photobucket Fail

When I started this blog I used Photobucket to host many of my photos (including my icon). I switched over to Flickr back in the middle of 2008 and after all this time Photobucket finally decided to enforce the "90 day inactivity" rule and disabled my account for inactivity. This broke my icon and a lot of photo links in my older entries.

I don't have any desire to log into Photobucket periodically just to keep my account active, nor do I have the desire to pay for a site that I rarely use (the other option Photobucket has), so I've instead gone through and either replaced or deleted all the old photos I could find. If you happen to run across any still broken links (other than my icon, which seems to be taking a while to update), please post a comment on the post with the broken link so I can fix it.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Play Unsafe

I've read a lot of essays about being a better roleplayer over the years, whether as a chapter in a rulebook, an article in a magazine, a post in a blog, or part of a complete book on the subject. One of the things almost all of these had in common was that they were aimed towards the gamemaster. They might occasionally suggest ways for players to become better roleplayers, but it was usually in terms of how gamemasters could help them to improve their game.

Play Unsafe is unusual in that it is aimed first towards the player. There's stuff aimed at the gamemaster too, and a gamemaster can get a lot out of the stuff that isn't aimed directly at him as well, but unlike most of the other things I've read, the focus is on the player.

The premise of Play Unsafe is to apply principles of improvisational drama to roleplaying. Not being familiar with those principles as they apply to drama, I can only evaluate how well the advice seems to apply to roleplaying, and I think it applies rather well.

The biggest theme of the book, aside from the obvious theme of being more improvisational, is to be more natural. It suggests that you simply react to events in a natural fashion and don't try to be too clever. Sometimes what seems obvious to you may be incredibly clever to others, but when you try to be clever you'll usually just come off as fake.

This theme is expanded upon in five chapters: Play, Build, Status, Tell Stories, and Work Together. The first chapter most directly elaborates on the basic premise, reminding you that you play to have fun, and that when you focus on that you'll play better naturally. Some sample subheadings include "stop working," "be average," and "be obvious."

The Build chapter focuses on building on the ideas put forward by others in the group as opposed to shooting them down and trying to replace them with your own.

The Status chapter describes the differences in behavior between those of high status and those of low status, and how that behavior can be used to enhance roleplaying.

The Tell Stories chapter describes a number of fairly simple tricks to help make your roleplaying tell a better story. Sample subheadings include "create routines and break them," "deliver on your promises," and "reincorporate." This chapter has a lot of similarities to ideas I've seen presented before, but they're presented in a very concise way with simple examples that suggest how they can be used more easily in an improvisational style game.

The final chapter, Work Together, is pretty much what you would expect. It's mostly about playing nice, but it also describes some ways to introduce character conflict while lessening the risk of player conflict being one of the outcomes.

At 82 pages total, with a large type font, and plenty of spacing, it won't take long to read through and digest this material. I think that's a good thing. The author presents a lot of ideas, but in a clear and concise manner. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in roleplaying.

Note that while I've linked to above, the book is also available from as I write this, and for slightly less. Either way, the cost will be around $20, which might seem a bit high for an 84 page digest size book, but I think it is well worth it.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Episode Structure in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

Other than some organizational issues, and the lack of an index, I was really impressed with the core rules for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. As I get into the gamemaster book though, I'm running into some conceptual issues. Specifically the Episode/Act structure combined with Rally points. Now, there's nothing wrong with suggesting a structure for designing and running adventures, but by tying that structure into a game mechanic, the Rally Point, they make the whole thing a lot less flexible, and less usable with other structures a gamemaster might want to use.

The Episode structure is fairly straightforward on the surface. Adventures are divided into Episodes which are in turn divided into three Acts each. I'd explain what should go into an Episode and an Act, but frankly, I'm still a little unsure. The book gives plenty of examples, but I'm still having a hard time grasping just how those examples could be applied beyond the specific situations given in those examples. One example given is that each act could be a room in a building, but they're pretty firm on the three act structure, so what happens if I want a building with more than three rooms? Do I need to go through a three act episode every three rooms?

They even address this issue with suggestions that each room could be its own three act episode in some instances, but it really doesn't help in defining the nature of what should be considered an act and what should be considered an episode, and what should just be left as "story mode."

All this wouldn't matter if this was simply a set of guidelines that could be ignored or followed based on the GM's preference, but the problem is that the Rally Points are a game mechanic tied to the structure. At the end of every Act is a Rally Point, during which characters get a minor refresh to their abilities which prepares them for their next encounter. If you drop Rally Points you end up dropping abilities that only trigger during Rally Points, and potentially disrupt the balance of the game.

The whole thing seems to have been a poorly thought out system designed by someone who's taken too many drama classes. Drama and roleplaying have a great many things in common, but they also have a great many differences. Also, roleplaying has far more in common with the improv side of drama, whereas the rigid three act structure has more to do with the more traditional scripted side. There's a word for scripts in roleplaying, it's called railroading, and it's nearly universally considered to be a bad idea. No matter how much the book talks about the gamemaster being prepared to improvise, that advice just doesn't jibe with this Episode/Act structure.

Instead, it just comes across as something else that the GM has to worry about: is this and episode or isn't it? Should I end my act here or not? The GM already has a lot on his plate when running a game, and this just seems to be an extra bit of chore for him to have to deal with.

Fortunately, I see a way that I can adapt the Rally Point idea to my more improvisational style of gamemastering by ditching the drama model and replacing it with a model taken from computer games: the save point. Many of the examples of ending an act involve a change of scene, or the beginning of a confrontation with a major NPC. Whenever this happens in a computer game, the game often "autosaves" the game. By linking these autosave points to the Rally Point, I can more easily apply the concept to my own games, without having to deal with the rigid three act structure, and trying to figure out how it applies to the current situation.

Not that the three act structure is necessarily a bad idea, it's not, but it should be a guideline, not something tied to a game mechanic.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: First Impressions

The new 3rd edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay has proven to be controversial. Every new edition of an RPG is controversial to some extent, but the introduction of 3rd edition WHFRP has some extra issues. Before I go further I should state that I'm still reading the rules. This is very much a "first impression" and I may later post a "second impression" if further examination of the rules changes any of my opinions.

First, there's nothing wrong with 2nd edition. That's not just my impression, we're talking about an award winning system that was first published in 2005. Second, there were still books that could be published for the system. Particularly more books focusing on non-humans. Sales may have dropped, but from a fan perspective there are still a lot of things that could be done with the line. Third, in corporate speak, Fantasy Flight leveraged their expertise in board games to bring a new level of production value to the 3rd edition that scared people into thinking that they were making it into some sort of board game hybrid. Fourth, not a few people unhappy with the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons came over to WHFRP and they see 3rd edition WHFRP as being a move in the same direction that 4th edition D&D took.

Some of these concerns are valid, particularly the first one, but others are less so. The end result though is that while the core mechanics of the rules have changed, the core concepts and feel of the game seems to remain unchanged. Here's a list of some things that 3rd edition still has from previous editions: career based character progression, insanity rules, dangerous magic, you can start your career as a commoner, skill and talent based characters, hand weapons (sword, axe, mace, club, hammer, etc.) are functionally identical, and the overall background is the same.

Some of the things that have changed: no more d100, the core mechanic uses a dice pool with special dice; stats and skills have been simplified, although many of the old skills are still present as specializations of a broader category, such as pick locks under skulduggery; the game uses cards, but in practice this is simply taking what could have been put in the rulebook and instead putting it on a card that's easier to reference during the game; new systems for dealing with fatigue and stress; new system for having your character take aggressive and defensive stances; and combat is less tactical.

That last change is worth discussing more, if only because one of the complaints of 4th edition D&D is that it's too tactical, and because people have been afraid that Fantasy Flight was turning WHFRP into a board game. Gone is the battle grid. All that matters now is relative distance between characters and whether or not they are engaged. I love this. While I enjoy tactical board and miniatures games, and can enjoy tactical combat in RPGs, I prefer a more narrative style, and it looks like 3rd edition WHFRP encourages this kind of play.

That isn't to say there aren't issues. I'm still reading through the books, but I have found a couple areas of concern. The first is the lack of an index. With rules spread over four booklets, and the organization in each booklet somewhat spotty, the rules badly need a comprehensive index. It's really inexcusable for a set of core rules for a major RPG to be released without one. As already mentioned, the lack of an index is compounded by some poor organization of the rules. In the table of contents the topic of "Stances" is only listed once, but the actual rules for it are spread out over at least three areas, with no repetition of rules between those areas. This makes it difficult to find the rule you're looking for even when simply sitting down and browsing the rules. Finding rules in play will be nearly impossible.

Another issue is the narrowness of scope of the core rules in terms of characters. The race options limit you to a fairly limited area of the campaign world to start with. This will prove particularly problematical for anyone looking to convert an existing 2nd edition campaign to 3rd edition. Also, some of those races aren't very well fleshed out in terms of career options. There are no advanced careers for either type of elf, and only one for dwarfs. There are some elf advanced careers rumored to be coming in the first expansion, but it's unfortunate they weren't included in the core rules.

Still, I'm really looking forward to getting this on the table and giving it a try.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

RPG Afternoon

Board game night at Castle House Games is still going well. Attendance goes up and down, but we've got a core group of three players (including me), and another half dozen or so that come and go depending on their schedules and the games being played.

Miniatures are going less well, but only for me. Castle House is going strong with Warhammer 40K, and will soon hold their second tournament, but I have yet to regain my motivation for the game. It's been about two months now since I went in on a Sunday to play, and the only thing I'm interested in painting are my Field of Glory miniatures.

I've decided to try replacing my miniature gaming with roleplaying for a while. I've got some interest from the people in the board game night group in starting up an RPG afternoon on Sundays. This would give me a chance to run a series of one-shot adventures in different systems that I've been wanting to try out.

It's not that there isn't roleplaying already going on at the FLGS, quite the contrary, but it's largely of the "we're going to play for 8 or 10 hours starting at around 2pm" variety, which is something that simply doesn't fit into my schedule anymore.

I'm looking more at a 4 to 6 hour time slot where we wouldn't necessarily need to meet every week, and that simply doesn't exist right now, so that's why I'm going to try "RPG afternoon."

Candidates for inclusion in RPG afternoon include: 3:16, 3rd edition Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Dogs in the Vineyard, Spirit of the Century, Chronica Feudalis, and maybe Thousand Suns and some strictly one shot games like The Mountain Witch. If things go well with those, then I may try Mouse Guard or another Burning Wheel based game. By then I may have the RPG itch out of my system, or I may be looking to start a campaign of something. I might even be ready to get back into some miniatures gaming.

This is all still in the planning stages, and will probably have to wait until after Christmas to get started, but it's at least looking like a strong possibility.

They're Here!

The rest of the miniatures for my army came today (well, yesterday, but yesterday only ended a few minutes ago as I post this), so I thought I'd post a "before" picture of the whole army. Of course, the boxes are empty now as I've been working on the legionnaires for a while. Everything is from Wargames Factory except the blister which contains some metal tribunes from Foundry Miniatures. I'm going to use those on my command stands.

The change in packaging is interesting. You can now see the sprues through the clear plastic, which is designed to hang from a retail display hook. The bags open at the bottom with a simple resealable fold (resealable glue, not a ziplock). The cardboard insert has very basic assembly instructions on the back, but no diagrams. Better than the original release, but not by a lot. Overall, I think I still prefer the original cardboard box, but the bag is probably more practical both for manufacturing and retail display.

I'm looking forward to assembling these guys, but I'll probably try to finish my legionnaires first, so this may be the last time you see them for a while.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Roman Update

I have still been working on my Romans, slowly. This has been despite being distracted by other stuff, mainly computer games, including Dragon Age: Origins, which was quite good.

Since I finished up Dragon Age, I've been on a bit of a roll with my miniatures, and now have about a third of the legionnaires finished, aside from completing the basing. I've even gone so far as to order the rest of the miniatures I need to complete the army, as I've become fairly confident in my ability to finish up this project.

At the top of this post you can see all the miniatures that I've completed to date. There's another four on my painting table, and another battle group of 16 is in the final stages of assembly. Assembly is a bit tricky with these guys due to the ranking up issues I've discussed in the past, so instead of trying to assemble them all at once, I've been doing them in stages to help me focus on getting them where they can rank up properly. So far it seems to be working fairly well.

Below you can see my first 'command' stand that includes a cornicen (musician), signifer (standard bearer) and optio (NCO responsible for keeping the other legionnaires from retreating without orders). The stand has no game effect in Field of Glory, it's just for looks. When placed in the back of a battle group, and a stand with a centurion is placed in the front, it completes the mini-cohort look.

Monday, November 02, 2009

The Cohort

Above is one of three pictures I took of my first two Roman bases. You can see the other two if you click through to Flickr.

My goal here is to achieve a quality similar to that of pre-painted miniatures, and I think I've achieved it. There are a lot of things I could do to improve the miniatures. Doing the leather details on the armor, some hi-lighting on the faces, applying transfers to the shields, and detailing the open parts of the sandals would add a lot to the appearance of the models, but at the expense of a lot of extra time. With 80+ Romans alone to paint for this army, plus 60+ other models (many of which are cavalry), I really need to keep things simple if I ever hope to finish.

These are based using .8mm plywood bases from Litko Aerosystems. So far so good, although I'll withhold my final judgment until after I apply the basing materials. Getting them ranked up is the most difficult part of the entire project. The depth of the bases is the problem. You have to model the miniatures with their bodies at just the right angle to get them to rank up properly without hanging over the front or rear of the base.

Next up is to finish modeling and painting the remaining two stands in this first battlegroup. I've got six of the eight models primed and on my painting table now, including the signifer and the cornicen (standard bearer and musician). I just need to finish modeling the optio (second in command of a cohort) and one more legionnaire to round out the century.

I've sat down and figured out what this army is going to consist of if I finish it:
20 stands of Legionnaires
6 stands of slingers
6 stands of archers
8 stands of heavy cavalry
8 stands of light cavalry
3 command stands (probably 2 infantry and 1 cavalry)

That's a total of 645 points and around 155 models, give or take one or two depending on how I do the command stands. To do it I need a box of Numidians, 2 boxes of Celt Cavalry, and 2 boxes of German Cavalry, all from Wargames Factory; plus a set of Roman Tribunes from Foundry Miniatures. The total should be around $120. I suspect that if I get to play this army, the changes I'm most likely to make will be to cut some of the auxiliaries in order to add more Legionnaires, but as over half the models in the list are already Legionnaires, I'd rather start with this.

This list is based partly on ideas from online, but mostly just what I want to paint. The idea behind the list is that it represents a single cohort of five centurys (there'd normally be six if I'm reading my TO&E's for the period correctly), supported by auxiliaries. At this scale each model represents approximately 6 men. Alternatively, the army could represent an understrength legion of five cohorts (normally 10 to a legion), in which case each model would represent approximately 35 men.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Roman Test Model Take Two

I'm working on a further eight models now that I finished my initial test model, but I've made a couple of changes. The first was to change the helmet color to reflect further reading that shows that the standard legionnaire did not start wearing iron helmets until the Imperial era, so the color needs to reflect the bronze helmets that they did wear.

The second change was to change the wash from Gryphonne Sepia to Devlan Mud. The latter wash is darker and I was afraid it might be too dark at first, but it does a much better job of bringing out the details of the miniature, to the point that I may not need to do extra work on the faces after using it.

I'm still experimenting with how best to do the shields. A full wash leads to problems on the flat surfaces requiring touchups with red to finish the model. I'm going to try just applying the wash around the center details and see if that works.

I haven't been taking pictures, but I'll try to get some eventually.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Roman Test Model

No pictures yet, but I thought I'd describe how my Romans are going.

After getting in my bases from Litko, I decided to go ahead and rank up four models and finish one of them so that I could do a test painting. After thinking about it a bit, I decided to go with the shield attached, which worked out OK. Shields are the one thing I usually tend to leave off when painting because they simply make things a lot more difficult to paint when attached, but because their placement is so important in getting these models to line up correctly, I felt I needed to try painting them attached.

Unfortunately, there are a few things that are going to slow down the painting time on these models. The flesh color and the red of the shield requires multiple coats of paint to get to a decent coverage. Also, the soft details I described earlier make my standard wash technique less effective. The detail simply isn't sharp enough to be defined by the wash. The main result of this is that the face needs a little more detail work after the wash in order to look OK. It's not a big deal, but when we're talking about over 130 models it's going to add up. Still, I think these guys should end up looking pretty good as a unit

The following are the paints I used (edited to reflect changes made since original post):
primer: Krylon flat black
skin base: Citadel Foundation Tallarn Flesh
skin top: Citadel Dwarf Flesh
clothing and shield base: Citadel Foundation Mechrite Red
clothing and shield front top: Vallejo Model Color 947 Red
armor, pilum tips, dagger scabbard, sword and dagger pommels: Vallejo Game Color 53 Chainmail Silver (will probably replace with Citadel Chainmail for supply reasons).
helmet: Vallejo Game Color 56 Golorious Gold (may also replace this with Citadel equivalent).
belt, sandals: Citadel Foundation Khemri Brown
pilum shaft, sword scabbard: Citadel Foundation Calthan Brown
helmet plume base: Citadel Foundation Iyanden Darksun
helmet plume top: Vallejo Model Color 915 Deep Yellow
wash: Citadel Wash Devlan Mud

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Retail 101

My retail 101: you're there to sell stuff.

This should be pretty basic stuff. You don't make money if you don't sell stuff. Unfortunately, I saw this break down tonight, so I'm going to rant a bit about it.

Every Wednesday night I run board game night at the FLGS. I usually make a purchase at some point in the evening. Sometimes it's something I've decided to buy ahead of time, and sometimes it's something that catches my eye while I'm there.

Tonight I planned on buying an expansion for Memoir '44 that I don't have yet, but when I got there I saw they had a starter set for Arcane Legions behind the counter, along with a few booster packs. I asked if it was for sale and the clerk didn't know because he thought maybe it had been an ordering mixup and they weren't supposed to get it. I made it clear that I wanted to buy it, but he wouldn't sell it to me because he didn't know if he could.

There's two failures here, one from the employee and one from the manager, with the latter being the more important.

The failure of the employee was to do anything to find out if the product was for sale. He could have asked the other employee that was there at the time (I didn't realize until after that employee had left that he might have had further information), and he didn't call the owner/manager to find out either.

The failure of the manager was to train the employee in the importance of making sales, and to make that call.

As it was, I was a bit pissed off that I couldn't buy a product that was sitting right there. Pissed off enough that I decided not to make any purchase, even the one I had been planning to make originally. So, no sale instead of potentially two sales. Not a good result.

As an aside, I know that on other forums I've commented that I wasn't impressed by the marketing plan for Arcane Legions. I'm still not, but the guys at the D6 Generation have gotten me interested enough in the underlying game to give it a try.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Eldar Victory

I finally got in another win with my Eldar. Part of my victory was due to learning more about using the maneuverability of the army, but I think the bigger factors were upping the points to 1500 and playing something other than chaos and nidzilla tyranids.

The game was against Robert's Imperial Guard. The table had less terrain than I usually play with. This was a conscious decision on our part in an acknowledgment that we usually play with terrain heavy tables at the store. Three hills, two buildings and a central crater were all that was on the table. We rolled up a Capture and Control mission using Pitched Battle, and Robert won the roll to go first.

He set up six vehicles on the table. Three pairs of two, each pair consisting of a Russ and a Chimera. The tanks on the end had a battle cannon/lascannon combo, while the central tank had a demolisher cannon/lascannon combo. The Chimeras all had multilasers and heavy flamers. His right flank Chimera had a psyker squad, the central had his company command squad armed with plasma, and the left flank a veteran squad armed with plasma. He held two penal legion squads in reserve, along with a Vendetta carrying another plasma armed veteran squad, and Marbo. His objective had been placed behind a building on his left flank.

I was tempted to keep some stuff in reserve, but without an Autarch in the list I decided it wasn't worth it. Instead, I lined up my vehicles across the board, keeping them spaced out enough that a scattered template wouldn't just scatter onto another vehicle. I believe my order, from left to right, was Wave Serpent with Storm Guardians, Wave Serpent with Storm Guardians and Farseer, Wave Serpent with Fire Dragons, Fire Prism, Fire Prism, Wave Serpent with Fire Dragons, Fire Prism. All my Wave Serpents were armed with bright lances and shuriken catapults.

I won't try to do a turn by turn battle report, instead I'll try to hit some of the highlights. First turn shooting by the IG did some minor damage, but didn't blow up any vehicles. I think I lost a bright lance off of a Wave Serpent, and that was about it. This was one of my biggest worries during the game. A lucky round of shooting could have crippled me at this point thanks to the relatively open table, instead I was able to put my plans into motion on my part of the turn.

I moved my fire dragon transports toward the tanks in his center and right flank and disembarked them. They then blew up both tanks with concentrated melta fire. The ones in the center had no problem, but I got a bit lucky with the ones on the flank as I only got three shots and they were just within range, but my usually crappy penetration rolls evened themselves out a bit by getting a destroyed result. My Fire Prism fire was largely ineffective, something that would become a pattern for most of the game, although they still did their job by attracting fire.

Turn two saw all of his reserves arrive except for Marbo. One penal legion squad was able to charge my Fire Dragons on the flank, while his shooting started to take a toll on my vehicles. I don't remember what went when, but I gradually lost most of my Wave Serpent weapons, and by the end of the game all but one was either wrecked or immobilized. Fortunately, I never had one blow up while troops were still inside. He unloaded his command squad to take some shots at me, but failed to do anything.

The melee with the penal legion and the Fire Dragons would end up lasting until turn 4 or 5 due to the 3+ armor save of the Exarch and no armor ignoring weapons in the penal legion squad. I couldn't decide whether or not this was a good or a bad thing as I had several opportunities to drop a template on the penal legion if they hadn't have been stuck in melee.

On my part of turn two I moved my Wave Serpent with my Farseer up to his command squad, disembarked, and wiped him out with concentrated fire from flamers and shuriken pistols. At some point I got a template on the other penal legion squad by tracing line of sight through an open doorway, but I don't remember if it was turn two or three. I didn't destroy the squad, but did knock it down to only four or five models. Unfortunately, the one remaining tank on that side of the table prevented me from exploiting the damage.

The events of turns three, four and five are a bit jumbled. On turn three I re-embarked the survivors of my storm guardian squad with my Farseer (they had been shot up by his Chimera on his turn). This was the first time I'd re-embarked a squad during a game. I then rammed the Chimera that had shot up my Storm Guardians with a weaponless Wave Serpent, destroying the Chimera. That Wave Serpent would then be immobilized by him on his turn.

By turn five he had dismounted all but his psykers, who had killed themselves with a Perils of the Warp on turn four leaving only their handler in the Chimera. I had broken one of his Chimera mounted veteran squad with a tank shock and then moved the Wave Serpent that did the shock close enough to contest his objective, although it immobilized itself due to a dangerous terrain check in the process. He had immobilized the Wave Serpent carrying my other Storm Guardian squad by disembarking his veteran squad from his Vendetta. My Storm Guardians then disembarked and wiped out the veterans with a little help from Doom and Guide from my Farseer that was close enough to help out. Meanwhile the Vendetta managed to get itself immobilized as well, from either a Fire Prism or my last remaining bright lance, I can't remember which. My Storm Guardians had to run around the front of the grounded Vendetta to try to get to my objective to control it (the Vendetta was too far away to contest). I also moved the Wave Serpent containing the remains of my other Storm Guardians and the Farseer to control the objective, just in case the first squad of Storm Guardians didn't roll high enough on their run roll to make it (which did indeed turn out to be the case).

The game then ended with me controlling one objective and contesting another. I would have found it difficult, but not impossible, to win if the game had continued. My Storm Guardians in the open would have taken some fire from the grounded Vendetta and the heavy flamer of the psyker's Chimera, but were spread out enough that they probably wouldn't have been hurt too badly. If he'd cleared his objective by destroying my immobilized Wave Serpent, I'm not sure how I'd be able to contest it again, so a draw would have been the likely outcome if the game ended on turn six unless I managed to get a shot at his penal legion squad on his objective and knock them off it, a possibility since I still had one Fire Prism left, but a long shot.

I think the odds would have shifted back to my favor on turn seven as long as my Storm Guardians survived, as I'd probably be able to get that long range shot with my Fire Prism and I don't think I'd have too much difficulty keeping Marbo and his penal legion squad from contesting my objective. Still, it would have been close no matter what.

Going back to my original claims about why I won, the 1500 point level lets me put in my Fire Dragons, which gives me an all but guaranteed kill on a vehicle if I can get them in range. That let me eliminate two out of three of his tanks on turn one. The bright lances and fire prisms are supposed to give me vehicle killing power, but it never seems to be very reliable. The other factor was playing against an army with units that weren't quite so tough. My Storm Guardians kicked butt against units without a 4+ armor save, completely wiping them out in one turn of shooting.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Roman Holiday

Well, it's a holiday from 40K. I picked up some boxes of Late Republican Romans from Wargames Factory during a one day sale they had on them a little while back. My intention is to do up an army for Field of Glory, even though I don't actually have anyone to play the game with. For now I'm just clipping the sprues and thinking about how I'm going to assemble and paint them.

The plan is to keep the paint job as simple as possible, and I've even considered trying out the Army Painter system on them, but I think I'm going to go with using an airbrush to basecoat them instead.

I thought I'd go ahead and do a first impressions review of the models. They are good but not great. The detail is a bit soft, but I think it will look good once it's painted up. If you're used to the crisp detail of a Games Workshop plastic miniature you're going to be a bit disappointed. These are the first models that Wargames Factory did, and they admit that they didn't quite get what they were aiming for. In fact, they included a couple of free sprues of their latest models, Ancient Germans, and they are up to Games Workshop's level of quality in terms of detail. I don't want to exaggerate the problems with the Romans though, as they are still nice minis.

Since these models are "official" Field of Glory models, I think it's fair to evaluate them based on how well they work with that game. The box comes with 48 miniatures, enough to make twelve stands, or three minimum size battle groups. This is the minimum amount of stands you can take in a Late Republican Roman force, so that's good, but you'll probably want more than the minimum if you're going for an army of around 650 points (recommended tournament size for 28mm scale tournament games of FoG).

More important is how they rank up on the 60mm x 20mm bases that the game calls for. It is a bit tricky, but not impossible, to get them to rank up four to a base. The key appears to be properly assembling the shield arms. When I was trying to figure out how to put these models together a google search for images turned up another blog that criticized the models for not ranking up. The problem was that the models had been assembled incorrectly.

Most people assume that a shield is strapped to the arm by one or two straps and held with the arm parallel to the ground. This is true of some shields, but the Roman Legionary shield had a handle placed in the middle of the shield that was held like you would a bucket. So, if you model the miniatures with the arm held parallel to the body instead of the ground, then you should be able to rank up the miniatures as long as you're careful. If you instead model the minis with the forearm parallel to the ground, then the shields will stick too far out to get the models to rank up properly.

The fact that I had to do a google search for images in the first place does turn up one weakness of the product: lack of instructions. There are no assembly instructions for the miniatures, not even a picture of a completed miniature. The front features a nice painting of a line of legionnaires throwing their javelins, the back has a painting of a legionary marine taken from an Osprey book, while the sides feature a cutout tent for use as part of a camp marker in the game, and several tokens for marking status in the game. Overall, an attractive package, but of little use for figuring out how to assemble the models.

Fortunately, their website features some pictures of assembled and painted models, and there are a few more elsewhere on the web, but there's room for improvement here.

If I get the Romans finished, then next up would be to get some boxes of Wargames Factory Numidians. Creative use of these sprues should allow for most of the remaining core troop choices in the Late Republican list to be made. The upcoming Ancient German Cavalry box should allow for most of the remaining core choices to be taken.

If I somehow manage to get the army completed, then I'd probably look at putting together either an Early German or Ancient British force to fight against it, since both these forces would be appropriate opponents, and can be put together with models from Wargames Factory.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Internet Fame and Other Stuff

As I write this a google search for "Hydra Flak Tank" returns my blog in the top five hits, and a search for "Hydra Flak Tank conversion" returns it as the second hit right behind Dakka Dakka. Naturally, this has resulted in an influx of visitors to the blog, which, of course, has just happened to coincide with a more sporadic posting schedule than usual.

It's not that I haven't had things to blog about, it's just that I've been doing most of my posting on various internet forums instead of on my actual blog. I thought I'd just do a few quick updates.

Assault on Hive Evelyn: This is on hold for a bit due to the map not being ready. Robert at the store is supposed to be working on it, but he's had other projects that have taken priority. I should probably step up and take over, but I've kind of lost motivation for 40K. I think it's just temporary, but at the moment I'm just not that interested in doing anything with it. I think a game or two of something else, like Flames of War, would probably give me enough of a break to get back to it, but while there's still some interest in FoW, it looks like it will still be months before anyone other than me is ready to play.

Terrain Projects: Since these are all 40K related, they fall into that category of my having no interest.

Painting: I have been painting some, just not 40K. I picked up five Heavy Gear models that the store was clearing out (they've been there ages) and painted them up. Unfortunately, I messed up the clear coat on at least one of them and am having to do some touch-up work on it. I was originally going to use these models to test winter whitewash camo, but instead ended up trying out the Tamiya weathering powders I got a while ago. I'll try to write up how that went some time.

Board Games: This is my main gaming interest right now. I'm always really looking forward to Wednesday night to play board games. We played Agricola for the first time this week and it was quite fun. I even bought a little iPhone app called Agriscora so I wouldn't have to mess with the little scoring pad the game comes with.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Learning with the Eldar

I've now had six games with my Eldar ranging from 500 to 750 points, and I have had four draws, one loss, and a win. My first game, was against 500 points of Orks. I had two squads of Storm Guardians with flamers, each in a Wave Serpent, and an Autarch as my HQ. One Wave Serpent was armed with a twin linked Bright Lance and the other with a twin linked Shuriken Cannon. This game was a true learning experience, mainly in a negative aspect as I learned what not to do.

My opponent fielded an Ork army with two 21 man mobz of boyz and a Warboss. My plan was to whittle down one mob to half strength using the Wave Serpents and then assault it with both squads of Storm Guardians. Unfortunately, that never happened, as I just wasn't able to do enough damage to a mob to bring them down to the level where I could think about disembarking from the Wave Serpents and assaulting them. As a result, I ended up just playing keep away for the entire game, which wasn't really that exciting for either of us.

I did get the opportunity to see how hard it is to assault moving vehicles, as my opponent attempted it against one of my Wave Serpents and I was able to just move on past after his unsuccessful attempt. This happened late in the game, and it taught me that I probably don't have to work quite so hard at playing keep away.

About that time I also figured out that what I should have been doing was trying to take out his warboss, as we were playing annihilation and he hadn't grouped his warboss. I might have been able to take it out and won if I hadn't been so focused on the mob of boyz.

The next week I got two games in, the first at 750 points. This let me add Warlocks to my Storm Guardian squads, have bright lances on both Wave Serpents, trade my Autarch for a Farseer, and add a Fire Prism. I was up against Space Marines this time. A Dreadnaught in a Drop Pod, a full Tactical Squad, and a half Tactical Squad in a Razorback with a Librarian. This list had a lot of melta weapons, and the Librarian had been tooled out to try to neutralize my Farseer (he changed his list when he heard he was playing Eldar).

This game was interesting, and was a learning experience, but was made slightly less fun by the fact that I had to be constantly watching my opponent. If I didn't then strange things would happen, like meltaguns transforming into multi-meltas.

I had decided to be more aggressive in this game, and while the end result was still a tie, I was more satisfied with my results. If I'd remembered to take +1 attack for assaulting, then I might have even won. My first experience using a Fire Prism has convinced me of its usefulness, and that I need to include multiples of them in my larger list. It proved key to whittling down my opponent's squads, and almost won the game for me by eliminating all but one last model from the Tactical Squad sitting on one of the objectives.

My Storm Guardians also proved their worth as I was able to bring the triple template attacks of the Warlock and two flamers into play. The result was impressive, and would have been even more so if I'd realized that they generated automatic hits. I was rolling to hit models under the template, which was not correct.

My Farseer would have been more useful if I'd remembered to use him more, but as it was his Doom ability helped a bit, and my opponent never got the chance to use the Librarian's Psychic Hood to nullify it.

In the end, I made some mistakes with the rules that hurt me, but I felt my tactics were fairly sound, and we ended the game each controlling one objective.

My third game was back to 500 points, and my opponent was again Space Marines, but run by a different player. I went back to my original list I played last week, and he brought two Tactical Squads and a Master of the Forge, which I felt was an interesting choice as an HQ. One Tactical squad had a Plasma Cannon and a Plasma Rifle, the other had a Flamer and was joined by the HQ.

My opponent made what I felt was a tactical error by not starting his Plasma squad on his objective. If he had, it would have made things more difficult for me. Instead, he started both squads away from his objective, and moved his close combat squad towards his while ignoring mine. I encouraged this by feinting towards his objective with both my Wave Serpents, only to reverse course with one of them in the fourth turn in order to rush back and garrison my objective.

Before doing this, I had spent the first three turns the same way I did in my first game, sniping at one of his squads. The difference was that my plan wasn't relying on me doing damage in the shooting phase. Anything I did manage to do was simply a bonus. I was really just maneuvering to keep him away from my objective while contesting his.

On the fourth turn I got more aggressive as I put my endgame into play. In addition to my already mentioned move towards my own objective, I unloaded my other squad hear his objective and then tank shocked his tactical squad that was approaching it from the other direction.

While they easily passed the morale check, they were moved a bit away from the objective, and my opponent became temporarily focused on my Wave Serpent instead of continuing to move on the objective. He still beat me to the objective, but only after I'd positioned my Storm Guardian squad to assault him on my next turn.

The pre-assault shooting was quite effective, the assault itself not so much. I barely lost the combat, but rolled terribly on my moral check and fled. If the game had ended, then I would have tied, but instead it went one more turn, and I realized that if I could guess the correct distance from my Wave Serpent to the objective, that I could Tank Shock him off of it. I guessed correctly, and then followed it up by shooting with my Storm Guardians that had recovered from their panic, and finished off the last of his Tactical Squad. The result was I controlled one objective, and he controlled none. Victory!

My next game didn't go so well. It was at 750 points and I was facing daemons. I decided to take a chance and hold my entire force in reserve, but poor reserve rolls led to my force coming on one unit at a time and getting defeated in detail. In retrospect, I would have done better if I'd just deployed normally, but given that it was a kill point mission I probably would have still lost.

The next game I again faced Space Marines, and again made a draw. My opponent made a couple mistakes in his list creation (he thought he took assault marines, but had selected devastators in Army Builder, and he decided to stick with what was on his sheet instead of changing it mid-game, which I was OK with), but I was unable to capitalize on them to force a win. If I'd been a bit more aggressive in moving my vehicles into difficult terrain, or if the game had gone on another turn, then I probably could have done it, but as it turned out it was another draw.

My most recent game was against Chaos again, this time Chaos Marines. Chaos just seems to be the bane of this list so far. I managed to pull out a draw, but I only had around four models left on the table, and I'm not sure what I could have done differently to have improved my situation. I actually got a bit lucky on some of my rolls. so I can't even blame the dice.

The one thing I did pull out of that game is that I probably need to learn to accept a turn five draw if it leaves me in a position to win on turn six. Odds are that most games will go to turn six, so risking it all to win on turn five isn't the smartest strategy if you know it's going to result in you getting your butt kicked if the game goes to turn six. I basically sacrificed a Wave Serpent and a squad of Storm Guardians in an attempt to win on turn five. If the game had ended on turn five I would have won, but it didn't, and as a result I had put myself into a position where I couldn't win on turns six or seven.

I do feel that I'm learning how to use the units I've fielded so far, and am looking forward now to getting some Fire Warriors on the table.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Podcast Update

It's been a while since I updated my list of podcasts that I listen to. There haven't been too many big changes, although my order of preference has changed a bit.

The biggest change is that The Order 66 Podcast is pretty much off my rotation. I'm still subscribed, but I haven't listened to an episode in ages. I'm around 20 episodes behind at this point, with no real intention to catch up. It's not that the podcast stopped being good, it's just that I can't see myself playing the game anytime in the foreseeable future, whereas I am doing a lot of miniatures gaming, so I'm more interested in podcasts covering that. I still recommend it to anyone with an interest in the Star Wars Saga edition RPG, and even possibly to someone with just a general interest in either RPGs or Star Wars.

The other big change is that Dice Like Thunder has now become my favorite 40K specific podcast, ahead of 40K Radio. Part of this is that I simply think the guys at DLT have a better grasp of the game. Part of it is that the guys at 40K Radio are really adamant that they are doing "internet radio" and are really pushing the live show aspect.

I'm going to diverge into a rant for a bit here. I'm very firmly of the opinion that one of the biggest advantages of podcasting is the ability to listen to it when I want to, not when the producers of the show decide to make it. Scheduling a time to stop everything and go listen to some guys make a podcast feels very pre-VCR to me, and I have little to no interest in doing so. Of course, I can still listen to the recorded episodes of 40K Radio, but as they aim more and more of their programming towards live call-ins, and other audience participation elements, I feel more and more left out. The Order 66 also suffers a bit from this, but to a lesser degree. It's all starting to feel very cliquish from my perspective. I'm sure that's more an issue with me than the show, but it's still an issue that has me enjoying the show a bit less.

On the other hand, DLT is very much a podcast, and a good one. As the disclaimer goes at the beginning of their show "there are certainly things with which you will vehemently disagree," but it's still both informative and entertaining. It's also one of the few podcasts which I have liked enough to go back and listen to old episodes of, something I'm still in the process of doing. One disclaimer about recommending it though is that they're currently undergoing a rather big change in that the founder of the podcast has moved to California (it's based out of Chicago), and rather than trying to do it over Skype, they are switching to an alternating cast format where the guys in Chicago do one episode, and the next is done by the founder and some friends of his new to the podcast. It's too early to tell if this is going to work out over the long run, but it seems to be going well so far.

As good as DLT is, World's End Radio is still the podcast I look forward to the most, followed closely by the D6 Generation. I've already gone over both of those in prior posts.

Podhammer is back, sort of, but it's been a bit sporadic lately. It's common knowledge among his listeners that the host has been through quite a lot lately, and presumably still has major issues to deal with aside from podcasting. For those interested, his earlier hiatus was a result of his wife filing for divorce, and since then he also lost his job. He has found new work since then, but it's quite possible that the work is more demanding on his time than his old job was (pure speculation on my part). I'm hoping that he works things out and gets back to podcasting, as I enjoy the show despite not currently playing the game it covers.

This Week in Wargaming
has also been very sporadic, with both the hosts having various difficulties going on that limited their ability to do a podcast to the point that the co-host had to quit entirely. It would be more accurately titled This Month in Wargaming at the moment, but Troy McCauley has announced his intention to get things back on track. We'll see. My wallet has enjoyed the respite, but I'll still be happy if this one gets back on a regular schedule.

I'm still listening to 40K Warcasting, although it is firmly in third place on my list of 40K only podcasts. I'm not sure if I can finger exactly why that's the case. I feel that the DLT crew is the most knowledgeable about the game, but the 40K Warcasting crew is probably at least as knowledgeable as the 40K Radio crew. It may simply be that 40K radio comes out more often.

That's pretty much my list right now. I've been sampling a few other podcasts, but that's on hold for now as I catch up on back episodes of Dice Like Thunder. I'm sure that in a few months my list will have changed again, if only because the shows have. That's the nature of podcasting.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Assault on Evelyn Hive

We're going to be trying out a simple campaign for 40K at Castle House starting either this Sunday or next Sunday (just depends on feedback and if we have everything ready in time).

The goal is to give a nice narrative without restricting anyone's ability to play the game the way they want to. With this in mind there are no required point sizes or special scenarios, or anything like that. You just show up at the store, sign up to join a side and find someone on the other side to play against.

The background is that some malevolent Power of Chaos has set its eyes on an Imperial Hive World and launched an assault on its capital. Nearby Imperial forces have responded to its defense, while opportunistic xenos forces have thrown in their lot with the forces of Chaos in attempt to take the Hive.

The campaign will be three weeks long and will be played out over a map made of the Planetary Empires tiles, with a Hive City tile in the middle, and three tiles extending out from it in all directions. This results in a hex shaped map of three rings around the central Hive. The Chaos side will start controlling the outer ring which contains three scoring hexes. The Imperial side will control the middle ring containing six scoring hexes, and the inner ring containing three scoring hexes.

The first week of the campaign, the Chaos side will hold the initiative. This means that prior to each game the Chaos player will choose a hex to attack that must be adjacent to a Chaos controlled hex. The Chaos and Imperial players will then play a game of 40K at whatever point value they agree on. If the Chaos player wins, he will get to place a flag on the board indicating that Chaos has taken that hex. If the Imperial player wins, they hold the line and keep the Chaos player from advancing, and will be able to place a marker in that hex indicating that it may not be attacked for the remainder of the current campaign turn. In the event of a draw, the hex does not change hands, but may be attacked again during the same campaign turn.

Starting with the second week of the campaign, the Imperial side will have recovered from the initial shock of the invasion, and both players will roll off before each game to determine who is the attacker. The attacker will then get to pick the hex they are attacking as described above. If the Chaos player is the attacker the game is played out exactly as described above. If the Imperial player is the attacker then the only difference is that you reverse the roles and if the Imperial player wins then rather than placing their own flag, they will be allowed to remove the Chaos flag from the tile to show that the Imperial forces have re-taken it.

The only rules in choosing hexes to attack is that you cannot attack into a hex that has already been successfully defended that campaign turn, and you cannot attack from a hex that cannot trace a path of friendly hexes back to a supply point. For the Chaos side the supply points are the three scoring hexes they start with. For the Imperial side the supply point is the Hive City.

At the end of each campaign turn (which will either be Saturday afternoon, or Sunday before any games are played), the campaign points will be totaled for each side. Each side gets one point for each scoring hex controlled. At the end of three campaign turns the side with the highest point total will be declared the winner.

An alternative victory condition for the Chaos side is to successfully take the Hive City.

An alternative victory condition for the Imperial side is to successfully take all three scoring hexes in the outer ring.

If people enjoy this style of play we may try for something more elaborate in the future, but I wanted to keep things very simple and easy to use for our first attempt at this.

I started thinking about this campaign several weeks ago, pretty much right after we saw the previews for the Planetary Empires tiles. Around that time we were regularly getting in six to ten players, and had as many as six games going on at once in the store. For some reason things have slowed up a bit and we haven't had to set up an extra table since the day we had to set up three, which was about a month ago now.

The campaign idea was planned as a way to simply add some fun to what people were already doing, but now I'm hoping that it might bring some people back in. Unfortunately, I spent so much time thinking about the rules that I didn't spend much time on the fluff, which is a lot of what campaigns are about.

As to the time spent thinking about the rules, it was mostly spent thinking up more complex systems and then discarding them. This campaign framework was mostly a result of pruning. I should also acknowledge that it was inspired by the Firestorm campaign system from Battlefront. I'm not sure any of the ideas from that system ended up in the final version of this system, but it provided a good starting point for brainstorming.

One final note, the campaign title comes from the Evelyn Hills Shopping Center, which is where Castle House Games is located. Yeah, that's how little time I spent thinking up the fluff.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Easiest Conversion Ever - Hydra Flak Tank

There's been a lot of talk about using the quad gun provided in the Aegis Defense Line for converting a Chimera into a Hydra Flak Tank. The Forge World version of the Hydra has a huge quad autocannon mounted onto the back of a Basilisk chassis. The quad autocannon in the Aegis box is only about half as big. This actually makes for an even easier conversion, although it doesn't look at all like the Forge World version. I'm calling it the Aegis pattern Hydra Flak Tank.

You start with the current Chimera kit, fully assembled, and an assembled quad autocannon from the Aegis kit. This assumes that you haven't somehow permanently attached either the turret on the Chimera or the quad gun to its Aegis base.

You're also going to need the bit of sprue from a flying stand, a 40mm, or a 60mm round base. The small cylindrical piece on the side that you have to clip off before using the base. Cut it from the base and use a file to make the piece entirely cylindrical, then glue it to the bottom of the round base of the quad gun. That's it.

Now you can simply remove the Chimera turret and replace it with the quad gun, and you can still put the quad gun back in its original base for use in the defense line, and the turret back on the Chimera for use as a regular Chimera.

Edit: I noticed shortly after posting this that I'd foolishly followed the directions in the box and assembled the barrels upside down. Fortunately, the glue hadn't set, so I was able to take the ammo canisters off and assemble it correctly. Something to be aware of in assembling the gun, but it has no bearing on the conversion.


I'm rather pleased with how my trees turned out. I did a bit of green stuff on the trunks to fill the major gaps before priming. I had started this months ago, but stopped because of how big a pain it was to prepare the green stuff. This was because it was old and stiff and required a lot of work to mix the two parts, once it was mixed it worked fine, but it simply took too long to get to that point. I finally broke down and got some new green stuff, and was able to finish up the work quickly.

For painting the base piece I followed the same process that I've done for my other terrain: brown base with ochre drybrushing and a mix of static grass on top. For the trees I started with the same brown base, but then used a heavy drybrush of Anita's All Purpose Acrylic 11084 Rainy Day Gray on the bark. I did the leaves on the sprue, using Anita's All Purpose Acrylic 11040 Hunter Green as the base with a moderate drybrushing of Anita's All Purpose Acrylic 11057 Spring Green on top. I then went and did the branches with the same technique I used on the trunk of the tree.

Assembling it is a bit of a pain, and the result is rather fragile. I don't plan on these leaving the house, so they should be OK, but if I were doing these for a store, or for transport, then I probably wouldn't bother with the leaves.

After assembling, I went back and touched up the leaves with the Hunter Green where I'd cut them from the sprue before hitting them with the matte sealer.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

40K Stuff

I had posted on Facebook that I got my order of rare earth magnets in and was planning on magnetizing my Valkyrie model this past weekend. That didn't happen as I was still on a roll with terrain painting, so instead I got most of the job done on a set of GW woods (I'll write up how I painted them once I get some pictures).

It will probably be another few days yet until I get to the Valkyrie. Today I started back on a couple of Eldar models I'm hoping to have ready by Sunday. Why Sunday? It looks like Sunday is going to be 40K day at Castle House, and this Sunday we're starting our 'non-league escalation league.' Since most of the players are either new, or new to 5th Edition, most of us think it would be a good idea to start small with some 500 point forces to get things going, like in an escalation league, but without the actual league part.

I've already played a 500 point game with my IG, so I figure I'll switch to Eldar for this coming game. The main thing I need to do is put together another flying stand as I intend to use two Wave Serpents in my force, but I'd also like to get my Autarch painted in case I choose to use him as my HQ. That's what I worked on today, getting the base colors and wash done. Tomorrow I hope to finish it up and then hopefully do the basing on Friday.

I'm also expecting my Pig Iron heads to get here tomorrow, so I may end up getting distracted by IG, but I'll probably be able to stick with the Eldar for now.

My one concern about the 500 point 40K games is that they're talking about keeping it at that level for a couple of months, and I really need to boost it to 750 or 1000 to get a feel for what units I need to add to my Imperial Guard army. I just don't have very many options at 500, and feel like I'll be getting bored at that level, and not really learning a lot about my army. If they really want to keep it at 500 then I may have to put together a Space Marine list at that level in order to keep things interesting for me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Oh Look, Skulls!

So, after ranting about too many skulls on the Arcane Ruins kit, I next decided to do the Temple of Skulls. At least you know what you're getting with this one. Seriously though, it's not a bad piece of terrain. It's a little funny that it's marketed as terrain for Warhammer Fantasy Battles though, because I think it makes a better piece of 40K terrain. There are few places where a movement tray is going to fit, but plenty of places to put individual models. Also, the piece is tall enough to provide some serious blockage to line of sight, which is something that's rare on a 40K table due to true line of sight. I'm looking forward to actually having it on a table during a game.

As for how I painted it, I used a combination of the techniques I used on the hill and craters with the techniques I used on the Arcane Ruins. The base uses the former, while the actual ruins use the latter. The main difficulty is deciding where to make the border between the two. after basecoating in Krylon gray primer. I used a combination of logic and ease of painting to decide where to make that border. I then used a tank brush to paint that border in brown, followed by my 2" brush to paint the larger areas. Finally, I went in with a regular large paintbrush to do the small bits where there needed to be some brown.

After the brown was dry, I did my drybrushing, starting with white on the gray areas, followed by ochre yellow on the brown areas. I switched to a 1" brush for this to give me more control over where the paint was going, and used a tank brush where things got really tight.

After the drybrushing was done I applied static grass to parts of the brown area, particularly all along the bottom edge. I decided to use all scorched grass, with no patches of regular grass, given that the coverage was already broken up enough due to the nature of the piece.

Overall, I'm pleased with the result. I could have spent a bit more time on it and gotten the details a bit neater, but as it was it didn't take me much longer to do than the other pieces. I might still go in and do the small skulls in bleached bone and a wash, but otherwise I'm done once I give it a clear coat.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Easiest Terrain Ever

I've been working on my Arcane Ruins from GW, and I have to say that it has to be the easiest terrain project I've done yet, short of just laying a felt mat onto the tabletop. Primed with Krylon Gray primer, drybrushed with white craft paint, use a matte sealer, and done. I could have used green stuff to try to cover up the joins from the assembly, but that would have multiplied the total amount of time it took to do this project several times over.

I really like the results, although the GW fetish for skulls makes it less useful with non-GW games, or even with Lord of the Rings, which is what I originally got the kit for. I didn't put any of the extra skulls on, but there are more than enough molded right in to make it an obvious GW product. Still, it's a minor point for an otherwise good kit that can be assembled in multiple ways.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Painting GW Terrain

I thought it might be helpful to go through exactly how I did my GW hill and craters. I followed the same general process with each, which was basically the same process suggested by the packaging of the terrain painting kit.

Step 1: Use a 2" brush to cover the entire piece in dark brown. I used the dark brown that came with the terrain painting kit, but in the future will probably switch to a slightly lighter chocolate brown craft paint I found.

Step 2: Also using a 2" brush, drybrush ochre yellow onto the areas that aren't going to be covered with static grass. How heavy a drybrush you use here is just a matter of taste. I did lighter on the hill and a heavier drybrush on the craters. Again, I used the paint that came in the terrain painting kit, but found an ochre yellow craft paint that looks to be nearly a match that I plan on trying in the future.

Step 3: Mix up a roughly 50/50 mix of pva glue/water and paint it over the areas you want to apply the static grass. I used an old GW tank brush for this purpose as I needed a bit better control for this stage in order to avoid getting static grass where I didn't want it. I used two shades of static grass, starting with spots of one by just grabbing a handful and dropping it on the spots I thought looked good, then turning over the terrain and letting the excess fall off onto a piece of newspaper, repeating this until I had the coverage I wanted. I followed by doing the same thing with the second shade, but over a different piece of newspaper so that I could recover the excess grass and keep the shades mostly separate. Once I had the coverage I wanted, I blew lightly over the entire area to help cause the grass to settle into a more upright position.

With the hill, I covered up significant portions of the hill, roughly as shown in the pictures on the box, leaving only the vertical signs, and some other small areas showing. With the craters I only covered up the flat edge to help it blend in to the table.

I followed the GW recommendations of putting spots of the regular grass followed by filling up the rest of the area with scorched grass. I did this with the idea that I'm eventually going to do a complete table in the same manner; however, if you're planning to use the terrain with a standard green flocked mat, such as those made by GW or Monday Knight Productions, then you should probably reverse the ratio, doing spots of scorched grass followed by filling up the rest of the area with regular green grass in order to better match the game mat.

Step 4: Seal it up. I ended up using a couple coats of matte finish. The first was a cheap Krylon matte spray I'd been meaning to experiment with for a while, and when that didn't provide as matte a finish as I'd hoped for, I did a second coat using GW matte.

That's it. Doing the hill and a package of moonscape craters took me about five days from start to finish, but I only actually worked on them for somewhere around three hours total, with the rest of the time just being time between steps for things to dry, or simply having to wait while doing such unimportant things as work and sleep. If I could have cut things down to just waiting for things to dry, then I probably could have gotten them all done in a single day.

Monday, July 06, 2009


Finished up one of the craters. I'm pleased with how it turned out, although it brings up an issue with the terrain painting kit: not enough ochre paint for the drybrushing. The bottle was only about half-full to begin with, and drybrushing uses it up fast. Even considering that you're only going to be drybrushing the stuff that isn't going to be covered by static grass, I still don't see how there's possibly going to be enough to do a Realm of Battle table.

I may have to find a suitable craft paint substitute just to finish up the craters.

After the craters I'll probably try to work on the Arcane Ruins, which means a trip to the craft store anyway. I'll also probably pick up some compressed air for my new Citadel air brush when I go, so I may get sidetracked in learning how to use that on some of my old IG vehicles.

Terrain Projects

I finally got around to diagnosing and fixing the problem with the fluorescent lights in my garage (a bad ballast). Normally, that would have nothing whatsoever to do with gaming, but the light in question is the one that illuminates the part of the garage that doesn't actually contain automobiles. Instead, it currently contains a bunch of stuff that still hasn't been fully unpacked from our move, a bunch of scrap and junk that was there from before we moved, and a couple of tables that I hope will become my gaming space.

That last bit is the important part for my current project: terrain. I need more of it to have some decent games. I've got a couple of green flocked mats for most games, plus a blue felt one for air and sea battles. I also have a decent, but not overwhelming, supply of terrain for 15mm games (mainly Flames of War), but I lack much in the way of terrain for larger scales (mainly 40K).

I've been slowly trying to fix that problem by buying the occasional piece of GW terrain. So far, I've got a hill, a woods, an arcane ruins, the moonscape craters, and the new temple of skulls, but some have needed assembly, and they all need to be painted. Since my normal painting area is a Citadel Paint Station, and some of my terrain is as big as the paint station, I haven't been able to get to it before now. Now that I've got a couple of big tables with decent lighting, I've started to fix that.

My first project has been the simplest one: painting the Citadel Gaming Hill. A while back, in preparation for this, I purchased a Citadel Scenery Painting Pack. I'm sure it would have been significantly cheaper to just buy some brown and ochre craft paints at a hobby store, but I basically decided to pay for the convenience of getting everything in one package. In theory, there's enough paint, flock, and glue here to cover a 4'x6' Citadel Realm of Battle Gameboard, so I figured it would suffice to do several pieces of terrain.

There are some good and bad points to the pack. You do get a good size jar of brown paint, and a lot of scorched grass flock. The problem with both of them is how they come packaged. The pack comes with a 2" wide paint brush. The bottle of paint comes with a mouth that's smaller than 2". That means you're going to need a palette. The flock comes in a tightly sealed bag that is not re-sealable. You're going to spill some, and you're going to have to find another container to store what's left over. This would have been OK, if I were getting some sort of bulk deal on all of this, but I'm actually paying a premium over what I'd pay at the craft store, so it's a bit disappointing.

Still, the results aren't bad. The colors work well together. The included brush is going to get worn out fast when using it for drybrushing, but 2" brushes are cheap to buy at the hardware store. I haven't actually used the included flock, but it's the same as the flock you get in the Citadel tubs, which is what I'm using now (I'm just going to refill the tubs from the bags when they run out). Leaving out the time it took for the various stages to dry, it probably took less than an hour to finish.

Next up, I'm going to do the moonscape craters using the same method. I'm also going to head to the craft store to get some different colors for doing the arcane ruins and the temple of skulls.

Longer term, I want to do some complete tables. Flocked mats are OK, but I've been wanting to do a full table for Flames of War for a while now. In preparation for that, I ordered a hot knife for cutting foam. After it gets here, I'll be heading to one of the DiY stores to get some foam board. I don't know that I'll start by doing a complete table, I may just do some smaller pieces first, but I want to eventually do three 2'x4' sections that will form a 6'x4' table representing the area around Kharkov in the summer of 1942. Mostly rolling hills with some wooded areas. I'll probably just model the rolling hills into the table, and maybe a road or two, while leaving room for the Battlefield in a Box river to be placed, or for some movable trees to be put down.

If that works out well, then I'll probably work on some other terrain tables as well, but that would be much further down the road.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dungeon Delves Update

A while back I played in a couple sessions of the local Dungeon Delves group at the FLGS. Since then I've often been playing miniatures games on the nights the Dungeon Delve group meets, but even when I haven't been I've skipped the Dungeon Delve. The reason is simple: pre-gens. A couple of weeks ago the people running the group decided to switch to pre-gens for the games. It's understandable why. They were seeing increasing amounts of time being wasted in pre-game prep as people came unprepared to play, and this was only going to increase as the levels that the adventures were designed for increased.

The problem is that character design was pretty much the last vestige of actual roleplaying that existed in what was essentially a scenario based miniatures game. Now that even that element is gone, I see little reason to participate, despite the fact that the people running it seem like a great bunch of guys.

The thing is, if I wanted to just play a scenario based miniatures game, there are better options out there. Descent is a big one, and one I happen to own. In fact, from what I've heard, Descent with the Descent: The Road To Legend expansion sounds like it has more roleplaying elements than the dungeon delves, with more player choice.

This isn't meant to be a rant on the game, or the people running it, just an expression on my part that it's not currently what I'm looking for, and an explanation as to why I haven't mentioned it recently.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hammer's Slammers

This time last year I was reading The Complete Hammer's Slammers collection of stories. Apparently someone at Mongoose Publishing was doing the same thing, because they just released the Hammer's Slammers supplement for Traveller.

Physically, this is one of the best products I've ever seen from Mongoose, which isn't saying much given their track record, but in this case the work is adequate. It's a 208 page book, full color, and hardbound. The bindery and printing are of good quality. The artwork is acceptable, if not exceptional. I believe a good portion of it has been recycled from supplements for the Hammer's Slammers miniatures game, but I could easily be mistaken since I've only seen excerpts of those books. There are cut-away views of both a tank and combat car, which should be a nice treat for most Slammers fans. The only really bad art in the book comes from the tactical maps used in the sample adventures and history sections. They are cheap looking cut & paste jobs.

The layout is generally good, and so far I haven't noticed any glaring typos. This is apparently due to the work of Will Chapman, a professional layout and graphic design artist who was recently hired by Mongoose. This is one of his first projects with the company to reach print. Hiring him was a long overdue move by Mongoose, and one that can only lead to good things for their product lines.

The book itself is a supplement to the Traveller core rules, and requires those rules to be used. It starts with short overviews of the Hammer's Slammers Universe (HSU), and the way the mercenary business works in it. Both of these are of interest to both the gamer and Slammers fan, but are limited in the amount of information presented.

Next up is Character Generation. It looks like they did a good job with the new character careers covering the different specialties within Hammer's Slammers, but I think there could have been a little bit more effort put into harmonizing the careers from the core Traveller rules with the HSU. For example, there's no evidence of an equivalent to the scout career in the Hammer's Slammers universe (HSU). There's also not much evidence of a Traveller style navy or marine force. It's questionable whether any of these three careers should be allowed in Hammer's Slammers character generation. Another example is in the mustering out benefits for the core book careers. There's no TAS in the HSU, and ship shares are going to be pretty useless in the average HSRPG campaign. There probably should have been a discussion about replacing these with something more appropriate to the setting.

After the Character Generation rules is a History of the Slammers. This is one of the more interesting sections from a fan's perspective as it organizes all the different campaigns from the stories into a coherent timeline. In the books themselves there's a definite beginning and end, but it's unclear where a lot of the stories in the middle occur. The narrative of the history makes it appear that there's no room for additions, but the year by year timeline shows that there are plenty of gaps where the GM could create his own missions for the Slammers to participate in, if he doesn't want to accept the default situation of setting the game after the Slammers have once again become a part of the Nieuw Friesland Army.

After the general history is a Character Roster of many of the main characters from the books. As an interesting point going back to the character generation, write-ups of these characters make use of the nobility, rogue, army, and citizen careers, in addition to the new careers presented in the Hammer's Slammers book. There's also a chart of stats for generic Slammers personnel, but no equivalent chart for any opponents they might face.

The Equipment chapter comes next, and this is another of the sections that fans will find most interesting, with descriptions of small arms technology in the HSU, including cut-away illustrations of a powergun, coilgun, and flechette gun. There's new rules for dealing with how powerguns deal with cover, and how coilguns use energy and penetrate armor. There's also a description of armor available and a short section of other equipment and technology that appears in the HSU.

After Equipment comes the real Equipment, the Super Tanks and Other Vehicles. The Slammers are all about the tanks, and they get lots of good coverage here. Fans will enjoy the detailed descriptions of the vehicles, including cut-away views of a tank and combat car. Another section of high interest to the fan.

The Table of Organization of Hammer's Slammers is next, which also includes a few pages of camo patterns used by the Slammers in different environments. I suspect this was recycled from the miniatures game, but don't know for sure.

If you're only interested in this book as a fan of the stories, then you're pretty much done here. Next is new vehicle combat rules that introduce a new scale between personal and ship to resolve battles between military vehicles in the HSU. I haven't looked at these very closely, so I can't say how well designed they are. Generating missions and running the game are the topics of the next chapter, and there look to be some interesting ideas there that could be mixed in with the stuff from Mercenary or adapted to other games, but I haven't spent a lot of time going over them. A pair of adventures and an index round out the book.

There is one issue that makes this book slightly less useful to fans of the books. The RPG obviously draws its information from the books and the miniatures game, but it ignores three novels that weren't Hammer's Slammers novels, but were set in the same universe. This may have been a conscious decision as ignoring those books allowed them to slide the HSU more easily into the core Traveller rules. Since the Hammer's Slammers stories don't go into how space travel works, borrowing the core starship rules from Traveller works fine, but these other stories do go more into FTL travel and communications, and the details don't mesh very well with the way it works in Traveller.

Adopting the information from these books would have required creating a whole new rules system for starships for inclusion in a game which really doesn't deal with starships, so it's understandable if they chose to leave them out, but it does make the book a bit less useful as a sourcebook for the stories as certain assumptions in the book directly contradict the way things work in the established canon.

Even taking this into account, I think this book is worth getting for most Hammer's Slammers fans; however, as a game book I'm not sure how valuable it is. There's already Mercenary for Traveller, if you just want a military based sci-fi campaign using the Traveller rules. The assumptions of the HSU do create some different possibilities given the relative impotence of air power, so that might make it worthwhile for some groups. If you have a group that likes playing military style RPGs, then it's probably a good purchase, but for the general roleplayer it's probably not going to have much use.