Saturday, May 30, 2009

Imperial Guard

I've had the beginnings of an Imperial Guard army since shortly after they first released the Steel Legion miniatures back during the Third Battle for Armageddon promotional campaign. I bought the Steel Legion army deal off someone on Waryammer who didn't want it anymore, and built on that.

The main thing keeping me from fielding an IG army on the table has always been the numbers of troops I've had available. Under the previous codex you had two troop options: Infantry Platoon and Armored Fist Squad. The problem was that for every Armored Fist that you took, you had to also take an Infantry Platoon. I barely had enough infantry models to field a minimum size Infantry Platoon with an an Armored Fist Squad, so my options were always extremely limited. Combine that with many of my other models butting up against each other in the force organization chart, and I was lucky to be able to put 750 points on the table.

The reviews of the new codex I'd seen all talked about how guardsmen had dropped in cost, and made it sound like you were going to need even more troops to field an effective IG army. I figured that meant no IG for me in 5th Edition 40K, but then I actually read a copy of the book and discovered that in addition to the old Infantry Platoon, there are now two other Troops choices, neither of which requires that you first have an Infantry Platoon, and both of which only require ten models. This gives me a lot more options to construct viable lists using only my existing models.

In addition to new Troops choices, there are also new HQ choices, including the Lord Commisar and Commisar Yarrick, which mean I can take single model HQs, instead of the five model count Company Command Squad. Sure, my lists are likely to be far from optimized, but they will let me put up to 1900 points on the table without assembling a single new model! I see my Eldar staying on hiatus for the time being, and some 40K games with my IG in the near future.

Boardgaming in NWA

My wife's in Chicago through Sunday, which means I'm spending a lot more of my time at Castle House Games. I don't know if I'm just more sensitive to it now that I have less time to waste hanging around in game stores, or if it was different at BDG, but there seems to be an awful lot of talking about gaming, and not a whole lot of actually playing games going on at the game store, even thought there's plenty of available gaming space.

When I go into Castle House there's almost never a game being played unless there's a scheduled event going on. If I've got more than a few minutes, I always try to get one going, but my success rate is around 50%. When I do get people to play a game they always say something like "wow, it's good to get a game played, that was fun!" It's like it's a novel idea to actually play a game in a game store.

Fortunately, I have been able to get some gaming going the past couple of days. Thursday it was several games of Pandemic in a row as we struggled to finally pull off a win against the game. We started with a two player game and added a third player after our first or second attempt. After five plays we finally won one, and called it a day when I was unable to persuade anyone to play a game of Dominion.

The game itself was fun. I had played it solo before, and playing it with a group didn't offer any surprising new insight. It's a fun game that I can see pulling out again. The cooperative nature is also a good way to meet new gamers as no one has to worry about whether or not to crush a newbie, or what level of trash talk is acceptable.

Yesterday I went to the store expecting to play a game of LotR, but one table was full of hirst arts molding supplies, and the other had a game of 40K set up on it (I have a little mini rant on that game that I'll go into at the end). Fortunately, I wasn't actually that psyched for a game of LotR, and I noticed that the store owner had opened a copy of Small World for the store, so I suggested that we play it instead.

As we set it up we attracted a third player who was wondering what we were doing. This is actually pretty common. If I can get one other player interested in a game, then I almost always get another player or two who will join in. The trick is getting that first player.

The game was slow going at first as we got used to the rules, but was fun overall. I definitely want to get another game in, not least because I think I have a better grasp of the strategy involved after coming in dead last.

From a retailer perspective, my experience with Small World shows the potential danger of having too many store copies of games. I like Small World. I would normally buy a copy of Small World, and before playing it I was debating whether to buy it at Castle House or order it from BDG. The problem is that I will most likely only ever play it at Castle House, and now they already have an open copy available for play. Why, other than supporting the FLGS, would I now buy a copy?

As a gamer, I really like their policy of opening store copies of interesting games, but I've tried to caution the owner a couple times about being more selective in this policy. For example, he has an open copy of Agricola. Now, it is the highest rated game on BGG, having unseated the long time champion Puerto Rico, but it's also a rather hardcore eurogame that sells for over $80. I think I'm the only hardcore eurogamer in the area, and I'm not going to buy it anytime soon because I know my odds of getting someone to play it with me are close to nill, plus I now have an open copy at the store I can use if I do find an opponent, so I don't think he's going to get much of a return on that particular investment.

Now, I could see having an open copy at BDG, because there are several hardcore board gamers there who I could see buying a copy after giving it a spin, but that just isn't the case here. It's one of those examples of every store having a different set of conditions that it has to operate under.

One solution might be to restrict the use of the store copies to demo games and not allow them for casual play, or to divide them up into two groups: one available for casual play, and one only available for demos. That would let the owner and employees get familiar with some of the games, and show how nice they are, without providing a disincentive towards buying them.

OK, now for my mini-rant on the 40K game. When I walked into the store I saw a couple of regulars playing a 750 point game of 40K, but I wasn't too worried, we still had about an hour until my opponent would be off work and I figured we'd have time to get in a game of LotR after they finished if the owner didn't want to clear his hirst arts stuff off the other table.

I proceeded to spend my time talking and shopping until the owner was ready to do something. Then we came back to find the 40K game setup in mid-game with no one at the table. One of the players was standing off to the side and we asked him what was up, and he said that his opponent was taking a WoW break. Now, there was a lot of card gaming going on as it was Magic night, and I thought he was talking about the WoW CCG, which would have been bad enough, but then I look across the room and see the other player sitting at his laptop playing the actual MMOG!

You don't start a game on the only available miniatures table only to stop halfway through to go play a computer game! It's not just rude to your opponent, but to everyone else that might want to use the table. We let him know in no uncertain terms that he either needed to get his butt back to the table to finish the game or else clear his army off the table, and I think they went ahead and finished the game. I'm not sure, because it was at this point that we decided to play a board game instead, and while the 40K game was right next to us I really didn't pay much attention to it.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Panzer Tracks Updated

I've made a few posts on Panzer Tracks this month, including one today covering some of my research into a unit I'm considering building for Flames of War. Probably not too entertaining for most, but those of you interested in the nuts and bolts of WWII history and how it relates to gaming might find it interesting.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Yet Another Rant on Battlefront

As you've probably already figured out if you read this blog, I'm thinking about getting back into Flames of War. There are a few customers at the FLGS that have shown some interest, and I'm thinking about either finishing some of the half-done projects I packed up when my wife-to-be first moved in with me, or working on some late war armies.

Since I've been painting LotR miniatures lately, I decide that instead of breaking out the Model Colors and going straight to work, that I'll start by going through some of the Flames of War books I've bought over the past few months, including the Firestorm: Bagration campaign system. The Firestorm system was advertised as having several things in one: It's a campaign framework, a set of special scenarios, a set of skirmish rules, and a stand-alone "General's Game" that uses the board and unit markers on their own without needing to play games of FoW to determine the battle results.

It's this last bit that I decide to take a look at first. I skim the rules, set up the board, and start my first turn. I immediately run into a question, and I can't find the answer to it by skimming back over the sections I think might help.

So, I clench my teeth and head over to the official forums, log in, and do a search. Nothing. Not nothing as in no answer to my question, but nothing as in no search returns at all. The search engine is completely broken. I start doing a bit of browsing in the rules questions forum, and one of the first posts I stumble across is saying something like "hey, it's a miracle, I got the search engine to return something." So, apparently I'm not just running into a rare problem with the search engine. That same thread is about an issue that was a hot topic two years ago, when I was last playing the game: whether or not tanks with a turret can choose to rotate their hulls when they fire. Without going into a lot of detail, basically the rules as written made having a hull mounted gun better than having a turret mounted gun 9 times out of 10 (something that's the complete opposite of historical reality). It's classic Battlefront that this rather basic issue has yet to be resolved so many years after the release of the rules... or has it?

A couple pages into the thread Phil (the designer of the game) says that the 2nd printing resolved the issue and states that tanks can indeed choose to turn their entire hull instead of just their turret if they want to, it's entirely up to what the player thinks is best in the current situation. Cool. Issue resolved... or is it?

Someone immediately digs up the list of changes between the 1st and 2nd printing and this ruling isn't among them. Someone else goes through a copy of the 2nd printing rules they have access to, and they can't find it there either!

Apparently, the only place this ruling was ever made was in Phil's head! Of course, it's also possible that it's been made in the forums before. Remember those forums that don't have a functional search feature? Yeah, those forums.

I give the above as a case study of why I love Flames of War, but hate Battlefront.

I'm seriously starting to wonder whether or not it would be worth it for someone to just do a fork of the Flames of War rules. It's not like there's any IP in the game that's proprietary. All the fluff is historical, and the mechanics aren't copyrightable. Heck, they're all just evolutions from other game systems anyway (remember, it started as a mod for 40K). Even the army lists are based on actual historical TO&Es. The only possible area of infringible territory is with the point costs. That would be the trickiest area to work with anyway since BF has never released their system for determining point costs, so it would probably be easier to just do them from scratch.

The problem is that I'm not the man for the job. I'd want to change too many things that make Flames of War what it is, like nationality traits. Of course, now that I think about it, those are the one part of the system that might need tweaking due to possible IP issues. Of course a name change would probably suffice, and could even lead to more accurate descriptions. For example, we could change the name of "Hen & Chicks" to "Stupid tank rules that should only apply during a limited portion of the Early War period." See why I'd be the wrong man for the job?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Gamus Interruptus II

I almost forgot about game night tonight, and since I was running late I went ahead and called first before heading over, just to make sure that my opponent was going to be there. He was there, but family issues meant that he was leaving. Again, something completely out of his control, so I'm not complaining, just explaining why I wasn't able to get in a game of LotR. There's a good chance he won't be able to make it next week either, in which case I may try to get in a game of D&D if there's still room in the Dungeon Delving group. There's been a lot of interest in it, so it may be full by now.

I have to say that the upcoming price increase for GW miniatures may kill my budding interest in War of the Ring. A current box of most plastic cavalry is six for $25. A pre-order box of six Galadhrim Knights is $33. That's a pretty significant increase, especially if the infantry boxes go up by a similar amount. It pretty much removes the argument that WotR is affordable compared to the other GW games. While I could still afford to play, it will probably keep anyone else in this area from considering it, thus eliminating any possible opponents.

I'll still play LotR, but it probably means that my plans for expanding at least one of those forces into a WotR army will never come to pass.

In the meantime, I've been painting 15mm miniatures for Flames of War. I've painted about 30 more Soviet troops, adding to the around 50 or so that I had already painted, although I'm waiting to base them all until I get another platoon of SMG troops painted so I can do them all at once. For now, I'm taking a break from the troops and am working on a new objective marker. I'll post some photos of that either here or on Panzer Tracks eventually. I've also assembled a T-34/85 and am debating whether to paint it up or assemble the other four that I have first.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Learning the Ropes

After the failed attempt last week, this week we were able to actually play the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game. We didn't play a full game since we were learning. Instead, we started out just facing a couple of miniatures against each other as I explained the rules, adding a few more in to explain different points. Then when we were comfortable that we had a basic grasp, we put an approximately equal number of points in the middle of the table and had at it.

We ended up with ten Warriors of Minas Tirith and a Captain against eight Uruk-Hai and a Captain. It was a close battle with the advantage swinging back and forth until my opponent managed to trap my Uruk-Hai Captain in place with some flanking moves and did the two wounds he needed to do in order to take him out.

At this point I noticed that both forces were broken (under half strength) and explained the Courage rules. His Captain was able to make his courage tests while my remaining force dwindled away over the next couple of turns, not having a Hero to make Stand Fast saves for them.

We both enjoyed the game, and my opponent left with the Mines of Moria starter box and a plan to start a Moria force. He's already got a Balrog painted up, so it looks like I'm going to need to get some more heroes, since I don't even have enough points yet to match that monstrosity!

Below is the situation right before my Captain got trapped and killed:

Panzer Tracks Reborn

Back when I was going a different direction with postGeek, instead of just using it as my general gaming blog, I created Panzer Tracks. Panzer Tracks is a WWII blog that is largely centered around my Flames of War gaming, but also has several book reviews, and even a description of my visit to Corregidor. With the way I use postGeek now, it would make sense to integrate my future posts concerning Flames of War into postGeek, especially as I've already done three rants about Battlefront here, with a fourth one in the works that I may or may not eventually post.

The thing is, while it would make sense to use postGeek for my Flames of War posts, I like the idea of having a separate blog for all things WWII. When I get interested in Flames of War my interest tends to spill over into a study of the general history of the period, and those kinds of posts don't quite fit the postGeek format (whatever that is). So, with my interest in doing something with Flames of War on the rise, I've decided to dust off Panzer Tracks, update it to the latest Blogspot format, tweak the interface a bit, and start using it again.

For now, my plan is to post Flames of War gaming posts and WWII related posts over in Panzer Tracks, while simply posting links here when I think it's appropriate. I'll also try to keep the Battlefront rants here, but that may change.

So, if you're interested, head over to Panzer Tracks to check out my current brainstorming ideas for a couple of late war armies.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Tae Guk Gi

Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War is a Korean made movie about the Korean War. I've seen it described as the Korean Saving Private Ryan due to the realistic brutality of the combat scenes, and I think that's not a bad comparison as far as it goes.

The movie follows the story of two brothers drafted into the South Korean Army as the war opens, and uses their story to show many facets of the tragedy that was the Korean War for the Korean people. The film doesn't shy away from showing the atrocities perpetrated by both sides during the war, atrocities committed both by and upon civilians and soldiers alike.

The film has been criticized in a few areas, mainly in not adhering as accurately as possible to some of the combat effects. The tanks aren't as accurate as they could be, and there are times where weapons behave in an unrealistic manner, but most people aren't going to notice this. I'm one who usually does, and I knew to expect it going in, yet I really didn't notice it while watching because the story itself held my attention.

It's also apparently been critized by some for not showing much of the US involvement in the war. Those criticisms must have been made by Americans without a sense of irony given how much Hollywood overemphasizes the role Americans played in just about every war we've ever participated in. Besides, the story focuses on soldiers who are part of the 1st ROK, a Korean Division, and not a US force, so it's quite natural to not see US troops. There are a few mentions of US participation, specifically announcements of the Inchon landings, and McArthur's crossing of the 38th parallel. There's also CGI American planes in the final battle sequence.

What the critics in this case fail to accept is that this is a movie about the Korean experience in the Korean War, not the American experience.

Overall, it's a movie well worth watching if you have an interest in the period, or simply an interest in a good war movie.