Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Orc- and goblin-tober

Despite my grumbling about Mordheim in my last post the game did give me the motivation to get an orc painted in time for Orctober, as well as a goblin sidekick.

After my pasting last time I decided to try a fresh orc warband, and since armour is reassuringly expensive in the game I went hunting through my collection to find some unarmoured figures to bulk out the group.

As far as I can tell Citadel have never made an unarmoured orc archer so this chap with a crossbow got drafted in. I love the variety in the heads of the C16 orcs, and also their "everyday" quality, so I've pulled a few more to the front of my painting queue to give me more options for reinforcements or more to the point replacements... in true tradition of newly painted figures he didn't survive the battle, and my poor luck with the serious injuries rolls continued meaning he won't be back next time.

I particularly enjoyed painting the goblin, to me this era had just the right balance of sinister charm. I'm going for a brighter skin tone and more colourful clothing with the goblins compared to my orcs, I maybe could have gone with slightly brighter clothing but have erred on the side of caution. It'd be good to get one and or two more of these done as well, but realistically I don't think I'll get around to more for a while and frankly I find the prospect of painting a whole Fantasy Battle unit distinctly offputting. The fact that this chap was undercoated with the aim of going to BOYL '13 gives an idea of just how offputting...

Small, easily attainable warbands are definitely the key selling point of Mordheim to me!

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Mordheim, in the springtime

Back in April (I said my next post would be late!) I got to try out this new-fangled Mordheim game that people seem to be talking about these days.

The attraction is obvious - I got to field a warband with just these guys:

And I must have enjoyed myself, as I only remembered to take one picture:

The carnival comes to town

But overall I think the game isn't quite for me.

The real sticking point in my mind is that the metagame just doesn't make sense. It's the same issue as with a Frostgrave campaign, or trying to play a linked series of Realm of Chaos games - it's suspension of disbelief-breaking that these warbands (or a subset from a small sample of warbands) keep on bumping into one another and fighting for the same old reasons. I mean, say they were really exploring and battling over one small-ish area, then surely the bigger, tougher warbands would just go around to the weaker warbands' bases, wipe them out and steal their stuff, and then go back to looting the city?

I'm over-simplifying a little of course, but this gives the idea of what's going on in the back of my mind while trying to get into the campaign.

In a similar vein, the wilderness supplement looked interesting at first, but the scenarios seem a bit off - to me they came across as something you might present to an old-school D&D group (with a full set of henchmen and bag-carriers) rather than a warband out to make their mark on the world.

So, much as I love not having to paint many figures, the game's a bit too small-scale for me.

A few things also bothered me about the rules themselves, which probably not surprisingly I viewed through a WFB lens.

One being the comparative weakness of armour: no different from WFB at its basics, but the relatively larger number of modifiers (from critical hits, to a character's strength, and from "normal" weapons such as axes) means that often it's negated.

The other being the lack of penalties for fighting with two weapons, meaning it's foolish not to go for the extra attack (although I did out of stubbornness). It ought to be something that only a "manic warrior" would do (to quote from the rulebook), and given that these are treasure hunters (who ought to value their hide) you'd think armour would be valued above hitting power. Given that the game world is vaguely early 16th century shields may well be going out of fashion, but to be replaced by body armour along with a long and pointy weapon, or expensive but extremely effective plate, not with a whole bunch of people taking the manic warrior route. But from a warband selection perspective two weapons is instead the "correct" choice.

Still, I will be back - the chance to roll some dice while pushing (a small number of) figures around the table calls for that. But I'll be pining for something larger-scale...

Sunday, 30 September 2018

BOYL Sunday

There probably ought to be something here about how belated this post is, but wait until you see my next one...

On my way to the Sunday of BOYL I took a diversion to Warhammer World to pick up a copy of the reprinted 40K, since my old one has the traditional late 80s binding...

It was kind of interesting to see Games Workshop's headquarters, which really brings home how big a company it is. Anyway, I got my hands on the new, much thicker, edition:

Top: original, practically loose-leaf edition. Bottom: thicker and so far pristine!
And then back to Foundry, where I'd arranged to use my accumulated painted chaos force in a 1,000-point-a-side battle against Paul D's orcs and goblins (and goblins). We'd opted for 2nd edition, which remains my favourite edition for nostalgia reasons, although it was interesting to be reminded just how much of what I consider Warhammer hadn't been included by that point (e.g. no beast handlers or minotaurs yet). And to be reminded of the joys of calculating points values down to quarters rather than merely halves.

I'd expected to be outnumbered, but not quite to this extent!

1,000 points buys a lot of goblins and orcs
I started out sending my chaos hounds out on the flank, with a target of the bolt throwers but stopping off via the nearby unit of orcs. I know this isn't the best way to use the hounds, one day I might even remember that! They hit the orcs hard, but not hard enough.

Meanwhile my main force was heading for the enemy centre, in good chaotic tradition. Not unexpectedly the goblins have fanatics waiting for this sort of thing. It turns out that in 2nd edition fanatics don't have quite the impact I'm used to from 3rd edition, so I let disposing of them tie me up rather than ploughing on through.

Oh-oh, fanatics

Part one of Paul's cunning plan was that one of his heroes had a weapon with the Sleep Attack ability. It knocked out the hounds' handler, and deprived of his leadership they routed at their first check. Meanwhile my mortar was killing the odd orc here and there, but overall having very limited impact.

Part two of Paul's cunning plan was a shaman with Zone of Steadfastness. A minor bonus of the zone is that these goblins became immune to psychological effects, but the real point is that it tripled their number of attacks. Even with their low weapon skill that's a lot of fightiness, and they held off the charge of my minotaur and beastmen -

And quite quickly killed the minotaur. Paul was particularly keen that I captured this moment of the battle!

The minotaur falls to the unexpectedly mighty goblins

The goblins versus beastmen battle became the main focal point. The beastmen were slowly whittling them down, but couldn't afford the casualties they took in return. And meanwhile my chaos warriors, having taken a diversion to avoid the fanatics, were very slow in arriving.

By the time they did get to the battle, it was looking like a bit of a lost cause, although in points terms I had the majority of my warband still in action. But this fight was all happening within the Zone.

My beastmen had been very resiliant, passing several rout tests, but eventually the shear numbers of orcs and goblins chewed them up.

I generally find this sort of simple game as a good, relaxing way to spend BOYL Sunday, as everyone tends to be a bit frazzled after a full Saturday. What to start painting for next year and, especially after a lost battle like this, how to play things differently, then tend to occupy the brain on the drive home.

In hindsight I was annoyed with myself for my approach to the second half of the battle (and a bit about the hound deployment). I sometimes wonder if wargaming isn't really the hobby for me!

I try not to meta-game either in army selection or during the battle itself, but to both me and my battlefield alter ego it was fairly apparent that even that number of orcs and goblins shouldn't be all that worrying to a combat-centric chaos force such as this. The shaman was clearly the main threat on the field. Once the trap of the Zone was sprung I should have thrown everything at trying to kill him, certainly my mage's powers and perhaps my un-engaged warriors. But equally I should, contrary to the normal approach for a chaos force, have tried to widen out the battle and not have everything fighting in the Zone.

Still, well done to Paul: his minions' plan was a good one, whereas I didn't really have much of a plan!

Sunday, 12 August 2018

BOYL was last week...

... but I've only just properly got back to the internet via Sussex (holiday) and London (work) so have only got to blogging about it now.

Given the lateness there's no point in me doing a general write-up and loads of other people have done great ones already. So on that topic I'll just link to Thantsants' and Whiskey Priest's posts, which in turn link to lots of other write-ups.

I hadn't been sure about what to plump for as my Saturday game but in the end Thantsants' Rigg's Shrine game caught my fancy. Currently having vikings on the brain and recently-ish having played the Kremlo scenarios I thought it'd be interesting to do a Kremlo conversion to bring to the game. I'd originally planned to spruce up an extra unit of vikings to bring with him but in the end only managed to add a single berserker to my group.

I was pretty happy with how he turned out, given that he's only my second substantial conversion. There are several bits that aren't how I'd like, and results are never as good as the concept you have in your mind's eye, but he's definitely good enough. I was helped by the fact that I was taking on something alien, and the eye lets you off where it would be far more critical with a human figure, and also because Kremlo is a bit of an oddity having a very different head shape to other Slann of the same era. I used Kremlos by Thantsants, Aiteal and Greblord as references, as well as the C32 Palace Guard for general size and shape. In the end he's a bit between those two and so not recognisably either, but he did the job.

At the event he bumped into two other Kremlos, including this one of Harry's who turned out to be the last Kremlo standing. Side-by-side the flaws with the head are more apparent, with mine being rather too plain, but I'm happy enough with him.

The Rigg's Shrine game looked spectacular, with the jungle looking great but overshadowed by the sheer amount of work that the shrine had taken Steve to build which really showed in the end result.

Here it is fully assembled after the game -

And in action, with the final showdown near the high altar -

Best of all the game was fast paced (we got through nearly 20 turns) while still allowing plenty of time for chatting and admiring little bits of lead. It left me with a desire to get more stuff painted, and soon (perhaps the year after next) to contribute more substantively to one of these big games. As Whiskey Priest points out in his call to arms, to get the most out of BOYL you really want to be rolling dice, and there are relatively few games - such as this one and the Helsreach board - that cater to pickup players. One of these days I need to do my bit in that regard.

So that was my Saturday - next I'll look at the 1000 points of chaos versus orcs game that Paul D and I had planned for our Sunday.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Traders - 40K style

Deadlines are coming thick and fast at the moment, with these chaps being needed for our Exeter Oldhammerers session yesterday. I was able to find a fair bit of painting time last weekend, and just about managed to get them varnished in time for the game.

I've owned these chaps for donkey's years, with the Metal Magic adventurer on the left having got his undercoat probably 25 years ago. Originally the plan was for them to be a 40K version of my Fallout traders - quite a prosperous merchant by the look of it, apparently a rather security-conscious one at that.

The scenario called for him to be an Imperial Governor, which he seemed to work quite nicely for as well. The trouble is, now having a toe in the 40K door, you start to think: he probably ought to have some sort of lackey in robes, and here's this guy with a bit of armour on who I ought to paint up, and so on. A slippery slope.

But next deadline... BOYL... 

Friday, 22 June 2018

SAGA berserkers

My first SAGA unit completed, to go with my warlord from 2½ years ago.

I'm only counting them as 3 towards my total for the year as I made a reasonable start on these in 2016 (undercoat, flesh and a few other bits).

Hopefully progress from here on will be somewhat faster, as I feel I'm starting to get myself better setup for painting in our new house, as well as working out how to set targets that will roughly be met.

One aspect is having at least some of my painting stuff on surface (although that may not always be possible) and painting in small batches, so that rather having to get stuff out and tackle whatever's next to do I can find something smaller or larger that can be done in whatever time's available.

More important though is motivation, which for me seems to come down to short-term, achievable targets, ideally with something concrete such as a game at the end of it. "Paint my vikings this year" simply isn't going to happen, endlessly procrastinated and distracted by other shiny things. "Paint my berserkers for the game in two weeks" might just about happen - although the chaps might have to go into battle without their shields.

And polishing off the last little bits generally does get done, as the finished model is where the payoff is for me.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Warhammer Fantasy Brawl

To me the best bits of the gaming blogsphere are posts which make you think, and Whiskey Priest's SuperUltimateHammer post from a few weeks back is one such.

I feel that while system is important the scenario is more important, which got me thinking in a way I haven't before about the scenarios I enjoy and why. A big influence on what I feel makes a good Oldhammer scenario are the ones I had access to when new to the hobby, shaded by more recent gaming experience. Key factors seem to be size and mood.

In terms of size less than 100 models a side seem right to me. I don't want a true skirmish game of around a handful of models per side, I want the scenery to be something you can make use of rather than manoever around, and (surprising to me) I don't really want the massed ranks of troops. This isn't so much about avoiding all the painting so much as a magpie nature, I'd like to be able to do lots of different forces and setups rathern than build a monolith.

Mood is less easy to define but part of it comes back to the size question. I'm much more interested in a game about a boatload of vikings up to trouble or a raid on a caravan rather than formal battles, which especially in Warhammer seem to quickly tend to the self-important. I can't imagine an old school scenario which involves having to stat up the Emperor Karl Franz, nevermind putting him on a griffon...

Slann raid on Skeggi - a brawl not a battle!
Going back to the system question, it's noticable that older scenarios tend to be much smaller, and I think it's no coincidence that with these the rules creak a lot less, and can have some of their quirks be strengths. So I thought I'd count up the troops involved in the scenarios which I had access to in my youth (even if I didn't get around to playing Kremlo until last year).
  • The Legend of Kremlo the Slann (1st ed, 1983)
    • Young Slann braves attack a Norse village as part of a coming of age ritual. The Norse try to destroy the Slann village in revenge
    • Players: GM ("essential") and 2-6 players
    • Skeggi - Troops A: 15 warriors, approx. 30 civilians (5d6 villagers, 12 fishwives) = approx. 45
    • Skeggi - Troops B: 4d6 braves = approx. 14
    • Zapotec - Troops A: 27
    • Zapotec - Troops B: approx. 42 to approx. 64*
  • The Magnificent Sven (2nd ed, 1984)
    • 7 washed-up heroes / personalities are recruited to save a village from Slann raiders
    • Players: GM and 2 or more players (up to 14 all with victory schedules!)
    • Troops A: 7 heroes, 40 villagers = 47
    • Troops B: 77 Slann
  • The Dolgan Raiders (2nd ed, 1985)
    • A tribe of nomadic humans attack a hobgoblin caravan passing through their lands
    • Players: 2-4 players (GM not mentioned)
    • Troops A: 45 humans, a centaur, 5 war dogs = 50
    • Troops B: 6 lobotomised slave ogres (chained to caravans), 52 hobgoblins and goblins, 20 "civilian" goblins, 10 wolf riders = 88
  • The Vengeance of the Lichemaster (2nd ed, 1986)
    • A skaven raiding party and the Lichemaster both want the McGuffin hidden at the monastary. The Master of the monastary is an insane Frankinstein-esque wizard
    • Players: GM and 3 players
    • Troops A: Master, 12 warrior monks, 5 wizard monks = 18
    • Troops B: 44 skaven, 4 firethrower crew = 48
    • Troops C: Lichemaster, 52 undead (plus any summoned) = 53
  • Blood on the Snow (2nd ed, 1987)
    • A force of goblinoids have captured a dwarf outpost and occupied a nearby shrine to Sigmar. A force of dwarfs and humans aim to drive them out
    • Players: GM and 2+ players
    • Troops A: 54 dwarfs, 54 humans = 108
    • Troops B: 65 orcs, 86 goblins and 3-man stonethrower = 151
  • Forenrond's Last Stand (3rd ed, 1987)
    • Famous but inept elven commander gets his troops drawn into an ambush and himself killed. His second in command tries to extracate the survivors
    • Players: GM and 2+ players
    • Troops A: 20 elven infantry, 32 cavalry = 52
    • Troops B: 50 orcs, 73 goblins, 20 wolf riders = 143
  • The Valley of Death (3rd ed, 1988)†
    • A goblinoid raiding party looking for a fight is confronted by the armies of two dwarf holds, protecting their homeland
    • Players: GM and 2-4 players
    • Troops A: 128 dwarfs, 5-man stonethrower, organ gun
    • Troops B: 64 orcs, 2 trolls, 142 goblins, 2 chariots and 5 bases of snotlings = 215

* It's very hard to count the Slann troops in the Zapotec scenario - the player gets to pick 3 units out of 5, and 3 of those units are a random size, as are the number of defending villagers at points throughout the gauntlet
† When first seeing The Valley of Death my thought was "that's a lot of figures", I've never played it and have no real desire to

Graphing those troop numbers the picture is rather clearer - 

Troops for the listed scenarios, significant growth over 5 years but essentially the same ruleset
Other than the numbers there are a few things of note with the scenarios -
  • In the first three there are significant numbers of "civilians" who are pressed into combat, the last three are much more traditional Warhammer forces
  • The Magnificent Sven has the most "heroic" setup, but the characters' backstories are jaundiced rather than pompous
  • Vengeance of the Lichemaster has three conflicting sides, for the first three scenarios and Blood on the Snow there's conflict (or at least competition) within one of the sides 
So coming back to Whiskey Priest's question of what I want in my game -
  • Large skirmish - figures move as units, but individually (like SAGA or Age of Sigmar)
  • Capacity for fine distinctions between troops, especially characters
  • Variety between characters: not all leaders are strong fighters and vice versa; a skilled swordsman may be physically weak
  • Guidelines for unbalanced sides and complex victory conditions (e.g. an outnumbered force needs to hold out for a certain period, or escape an ambush - how much smaller should they be?)
  • Psychology reflecting the fantasy setting and stereotypes (especially fear, animosity and hatred) and other limits on the player's control of their troops
Unfortunately I don't think the exact ruleset exists, but it's there somewhere within the various versions of Warhammer.