Saturday, 19 November 2016

Orctober 2 of 4... and on to my next project

I finally finished my second Orctober orc -

He's been partially undercoated for the last 20 years so it's good to have him painted!

The other two orcs that were originally in my queue for last month are going to have to wait though, as it's time I turned my attention to Snickit's challenge. I've been vacillating between dwarves and chaos but, at least at the moment, I've come down on the side of the latter - and not just because my prospective chaos force contains about 50% less figures than the dwarves...

Between Macrocosm's Kickstarter and Bood's production of some fantastic figures it seems the style of dwarves I prefer is finally available without resorting to eBay, but I can't quite bring myself to embark on a completely new army, especially with my SAGA vikings needing finishing. Instead a chaos force seems to offer more possibilities when matched up with what I have painted already, and if allied to my orcs means that I'll be able to field a reasonably large force at a point in the forseeable future.

My initial thought was to go with a variation of my Gulgan's Raiders plan, but a couple of things are holding me back from that. Having looked around a fair bit I'm still not sold on a source of currently available thugs, especially not archers. More to the point though I'm still hooked on my first sight of chaos warriors in the 2nd Edition bestiary all those years ago and, despite now appreciating rather more their tactical limitations, I want to create a force centred around them.

First up though are the beastmen, specifically this old broo that needs a lot of attention -

The sword was missing when I first acquired him from my mate Greg an awfully long time ago, but I must admit the butchery to the base (and most of a hoof) is due to my own teenage efforts. Hopefully I'll get at least him finished before BOYL '17...

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Stonethrowers are this overpowered in 3rd edition WFB

The balance, or lack there of, of stone throwers appears to be a perennial topic amongst Oldhammerers. Or at least Oldhammerers who've just played a game involving one.

I pondered some house rules a while ago specifically to tone down their ridiculously accurate indirect fire option, and to make them less of a character killer, but after my recent game which my stone thrower basically won for me I thought I'd take a more fundamental look.

I based this on the fact that a comparable stone thrower and bolt thrower (e.g. 3-man) have the same points cost, and very similar limitations (i.e. you can't move and fire, turning in place counts as a move, 90 degree firing arc) but very different effectiveness. And looking at the rules it's easy to see why this is -
  1. Bolt throwers shoot with a ballistic skill of 3, so hit normal troops at under half range 50% of the time, over half range 33% of the time. Stone throwers will hit 40% of the time (not allowing for deviations which still hit)
  2. Bolt throwers can cause a maximum number of kills equal to the depth of the unit it hits. Stone throwers can kill anything their template can cover - probably 8 or more figures
  3. Bolt throwers only cause hits up to the point they fail to wound - so if your first target survives, everyone behind him is fine too. And subsequent hits are at -1 strength cumulatively (so -2 for the third target, etc.). Stone throwers attempt to wound all their targets independently, and all at full strength
Point 2 is fairly significant, but point 3 is the real clincher.

Against this stonethrowers have two drawbacks, due to the way in which they fire:
  1. They have a minimum range
  2. They may deviate, and so may hit your own troops as a result - although realistically they're equally if not more likely to hit another enemy unit rather than your own unit
So on the face of things stone throwers are more fearsome, but how much more? I coded up a couple of simulations to find out. Both used the same basic assumptions:
  1. A 20-strong unit of humans (the "standard" WFB creature) equipped with light armour and a shield (purely for the movement factor - it won't help them if they're hit by a war machine!) march towards a war machine 30 inches away
  2. The unit is deployed in a wide (10 column) formation, about the most sensible configuration for marching against a war machine
  3. The attackers move first
I ran the simulation 1,000 times, and looked at the number of attackers still standing at the point they make contact with the war machine.

When attacking a bolt thrower, things don't look too bad -

The mean and median casualties are both 3, the mode is 2. For marching straight at a war machine you'd have to say they got away fairly lightly.

Not so against a stone thrower -

Here the mean casualties is 8 and the median 7, but the mode is zero. 17% of the time the unit makes contact unscathed, but far more likely is that it takes significant casualties or even is practically wiped out. The simulation doesn't allow for routing - in fact that's not even necessary for the bolt thrower scenario, as it simply can't do enough damage in a single round - but it's a fairly likely outcome against the stone thrower.

My grasp of statistics isn't strong enough to put a figure on how much more effective the stone thrower is than the bolt thrower, but for now let's say that the stone thrower is over twice as effective. So if they need toning down, what might be a good way to do that? I've heard a couple of suggestions -
  1. Allow all stone thrower casualties a 50-50 "dodge" save
  2. Have stone throwers always deviate (say 2d6 - 2 inches)
Allowing the dodge evens things out a lot -

The mean and median casualties are now 4, and the mode is again zero. 19% of the time the unit survives unscathed, and there's still a lot of variation but it seems to me a lot closer to the level of damage that the bolt thrower does.

Having the stone thrower always deviate seems to rather neuter it -

The median and mode is now to have zero casualties, although the mean is a single casualty thanks to the long tail.

This makes me fairly keen on the 50-50 "dodge" save - the variability is still there, but given the comparible points value of stone and bolt throwers then this seems a lot closer to the right outcome. Personally I'd give that dodge just to those in outside ranks, but given the formation in my simulation that makes no difference. To me though if a tightly-packed unit is hit in the centre by a big stone then there's nowhere to dodge to!

In a way the "always deviate" house rule seems to make a lot of sense - the indirect fire of a stone thrower shouldn't really have a place on a skirmish-sized battlefield, it would be more suited to siege warfare or on a BOYL-style table of all the stuff. Stone throwers have a clear anti-personnel role in early versions of Warhammer though, so for me that's another reason not to go down that route.

I'll be looking to try this out in games in future, it'd be good to hear what others think!

Monday, 31 October 2016


Early October, it all seems so easy. I actually have orcs in my paint queue for Orctober, and one of them is based already. I can finish one a week which will not only complete my elite warrior unit but will also get me in sight of my goal for the first half of the year!

A manic month of real life later and, well, at least one painted orc is something...

Monday, 12 September 2016

Two weeks' productive painting

BOYL was good for enthusiasm but it was the deadline imposed by last Friday's game that got me actually painting. Figuring I needed six more orcs for my 1000 point force I eventually scaled my ambition back to these four chaps, and made do with a few more that really are due for the stripping jar.

It's hard to know what different people rate as productive output, but this is about my limit for two weeks, and with the motivation of a proper deadline and a bank holiday weekend in there as well. As a result some of the spinning plates of my life are left looking distinctly wobbly, so in conclusion a figure a week is probably my best-case steady output. It's a useful corrective to bear in mind when contemplating Snickit's recent painting challenge.

That said what I'd really like to do is some dwarves for that (about 50 figures) plus finish off my orcs (2 or 3) plus 1000 points of chaos (about another 20 figures) and still make progress on my SAGA vikings. Maybe not going to happen...

Still, at least in the meantime I now have a more respectably sized unit of savage orcs than I had previously. Need work on the bases and tattoos yet though.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Stone thrower wot won it

At BOYL I was introduced to a fellow Oldhammerer called Nick and we got together yesterday for a game of 3rd edition - 1000 points of orcs versus beastmen. Scenarios being important we raided Dragon Rampant for inspiration and opted for the Crystal Gale: 10 crystals placed around the table to add a treasure hunting element to the fighting.

The somewhat blurry photo above shows the initial setup - centaurs, beastmen, more beastmen, a troll with its shaman minder (or is that the other way around?) and a pack of chaos hounds facing (also left to right) some archers, warriors (in mid-move), savage orcs, shaman, elite orcs (also in mid-move), a stone thrower and some boar riders.

As Nick had observed he was fairly outnumbered, but I wasn't feeling too sympathetic at that point as his beastman general had 6 personal attributes - all beneficial ones at that - and I was feeling a bit concerned about facing him. To balance things out his shaman had an attribute of Stupidity, hence his delegation to troll duty.

The game left me with four main impressions: a good evening was had rolling dice, which is certainly the most important thing; those dice are probably more significant to the outcome of the battle than any generalship short of horrendous errors; 1000 points is about right for a short game (somewhat over two hours plus the table setup, attribute generation and so on) and war machines are still overpowered in 3rd ed.

Speaking of dice, Nick's centaurs swept into my archers fairly early on - and after a shocking initial round spent most of the game battling them. By contrast the chaos hounds, with very similar stats, made short work of the boar riders on my right flank and in the picture above are about to kill off my stone thrower crew.

The crew by that point had more than earned their keep. Their three shots of the evening (when they weren't busy animositying) had hit the shaman and troll (killing both, although the troll regenerated) and the general's unit twice - sending him routing off the table with a couple of his surviving beastmen. I was fortunate that due to the long minimum range of the stone thrower their failed animosity rolls couldn't inflict similar damage on my own units!

Definitely the dice were on my side, so I'm no doubt due the opposite result one evening soon. I was however left with the feeling that I should do a version of my 1000 point force with no war machines.

My final blurry picture of the evening shows the dispositions when time ran out. Nick was 4-3 ahead on the crystal collection front but depleted in terms of forces.

Which brings my to my final impression of 3rd ed - you can quite quickly get to the point where the result seems clear, but actually getting from there to a definitive end can take a long time. So it's quite handy sometimes to be stopped by the clock.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Going all modern (briefly)

I was tempted into playing a game of Force on Force this week at my local club - modern wargaming really isn't my cup of tea but this had all the right ingredients: a GM-lead scenario with mis-matched sides, hidden movement and complex objectives.

It turned out I was leading a force of rebels somewhere in the South Caucasus who were buying "a package" from a shady dealer who'd arrived by light aircraft. The authorities had got wind of our location and arrived just as we were concluding the transaction.

The above picture is from early in the game - the authorities have a big chunk of their forces in the wood on the top right and a few more behind the buildings at the top of the picture. One of my teams has started up the leader's Mercedes to help him get away, but it's all about to get very bloody.

The shooting emphasises troop quality as much as their equipment and the rules seem well set up handle opposed actions (such as when a unit comes into the line of fire of an enemy on overwatch - will the overwatch unit open fire before their targets can act, or not?), morale and the impact of wounded on the remainder of the team, suppressive fire and all that. 

As I said, modern isn't really my cup of tea as it's all a bit close to home, but I suddenly feel the need to paint up some gangers for Logans World or some such...

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Very belated BOYL report

I only managed a single day of BOYL this year, but it was as inspirational as always.

I spent the day playing Norse and Harry's and Siege of Dumezil Hold scenario from the First Edition Redwake River Valley campaign (although actually a lot of the day was spent wandering around chatting and admiring other people's models).

Harry has created a lovely set of dungeon tiles to go with his Frostgrave winter terrain, which allowed for the exterior and interior of the siege / assault.

My lads were leaving the messy fighting around the gate to some other fools (who did have the help of a couple of giants!) while we attacked a couple of sally ports. Our objective was to kill the dwarf king and destroy an artefact of theirs, leaving them too demoralised to help in the war against Psammon.

An interesting aspect of First Edition is that a character's attributes are rolled and adjusted for their species. I ended up having my hero Gublub (formerly Grack the Wise) with a very low intelligence and subject to stupidity, while my shaman Gruk the Loon was subject to frenzy. The latter came in handy as he also rolled up a mostly useless selection of spells.

As with the system of traits in Dragon Rampant I do think these random attributes really add to the game. Although sometimes you're going to end up with something a bit duff it does make you think of the leaders more in terms of personality than just as a generic champion, and also embrace the possibility that they're not actually very heroic.

I'm not sure whether it was Gublub's stupidity or my own tactical ineptitude that enabled the dwarf king and the dwarves' sacred artefact to escape, but in my defense dwarves are no easier to dislodge from tunnels in first edition than they are in later versions. We did decide though that the surviving orcs wouldn't be too unhappy - with the dwarves having fled and their commander felled by the devestatingly effective elven bows they were now in possession of a rather comfortable dwarven hold. Given his size Gublub seems favourite to become the new leader but I'm not so sure - Gruk is just as good in a fight and being subject to frenzy might tip the balance! If nothing else if should make for some interesting leadership debates...

The Rise of Morcar

There were several other impressive games on the day but for sheer weight of models on the table a mention has to be given to the Rise of Morcar game.

This scale of battle isn't really my cup of tea, but it's good to see someone doing it, and not only to see some of the models that had been produced for the occasion. Though having said that, somewhere in amongst that lot for example are some of the most interesting chaos spawn (or other gribblies in that vein) that I've seen. But equally when you focus in on what looks like a "normal" unit, and it turns out that actually it's a unit of trolls, then that's not my Warhammer.

But if this is your cup of tea then Snickit's write up contains lots of pictures, if you've not seen them already.