Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Boars and dragons

Real life scuppered last Friday's plans for what looks like a fine scenario from Gaj over at Warhammer for Adults, pitching my chaos lord against a dastardly witch hunter, so instead I found myself playing Dux Britanniarum.

I was very impressed by the battle rules, both as a set of wargames rules and as an evocation of the period. The campaign rules are apparently even more impressive.

The pre-battle praying, fighting and boasting really helped add to the flavour, and I would think only really work within the dark ages setting. Most of the rules it would seem though could happily be warped into a more standard fantasy setup, which I'm definitely keen to try out for my Newhammer project (although it definitely falls down on my 4th rule for that, more on that later).

Some of the systems, such as the activation process and the random element to movement are probably old hat to people who haven't been out of the wargaming loop quite as long as me, but I quite enjoyed working within the constraints they imposed. The lesser control than I'm used to also seemed to add a slightly more relaxed air to the proceedings (although that might be down to a good opponent and GM). The system for shock (impacting both morale and fighting power) also seemed both a good idea and well implemented.

The real heart of the game though is the Fate card system, whereby throughout the game you can buy random cards, which may be more or less useful for a particular side (or even in some cases completely useless) and can then be spent to boost a unit during its turn, or help counter an opponent's move. They give a nice hidden element to the contest, vaguely reminiscent of the role of magic in Warhammer, and also I felt added a hint of the mythic over the mundane. However they also impose a real limitation on the flexibility of the game (or conversely creates the ability to produce supplements) in that each new army needs their own card set. While I'm sure you could invent your own, in much the same way as you could invent your own codex for modern WH40K, this would always be unsatisfactory and subject to debate.

So while I would heartily recommend the game for some dark ages skirmishing, I'm also disappointed that it's inherently limited in what it does. Although I do have some plans for some dabbling...

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

A late (half) orc

Early orctober was looking quite productive, then suddenly it's late November and I've only just got around to finishing this guy -

Shaman with Skull Staff - classic Grenadier sculpt available from Forlorn Hope Games (amongst others).
Once I finally got my brushes in hand again he was a pleasure to paint, and I'm really pleased with the way he turned out. I'm trying to minimise my drybrushing (although I still used it here on the fur, staff and hair) and instead shade by hand and mostly I think this has turned out quite well. As always the camera highlights some issues which don't really show up in the flesh, but I'm resisting the urge to go back and fix them until I've got a few more chaps painted.

It's savage orcs next, although I'm not sure if I can get mine looking as good as Thantsants' tribe. After that I'll probably find myself painting another shaman - I have a really bad track record for keeping wizards alive in battle, and the trouble with narrative gaming is you can't just show up using the same figure who was killed last time. But I do have two more orcs and a hobgoblin caster queuing up to plug the gap...

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Reikland versus reality - some conclusions

Ages ago I rambled on about older and later incarnations of the Reikland, specifically about how far there are between the "points of light".

At the time my view was that Andy Law's map was probably a more realistic view of the Principality - but less interesting than the Death on the Reik version in terms of adventure. Now I'm not so sure...

I finally sat down to work out some demographics, drawing on figures from Wikipedia, and S. John Ross's Medieval Demographics Made Easy, and here's what I've come up with. There's some pretty extreme hand-waving involved here, so probably any other conclusion is equally if not more valid, but with a couple of tweaks it seems that the Reikland Gazetteer is at least plausable.

In Demographics Made Easy terms Reikland has 2 cities (Altdorf and Nuln), although it shares them both with neighbouring provinces. Despite the Renaissance setting, given how surrounded and riven with enemies (orcs, beastmen, etc.) the Empire is I'll stick with just 9x the number of towns compared to cities, and not the 14x the number. So we have 18 towns.

With the random 10% to 40% drop in size from town to town, here are my 18 towns compared to the Gazetteer -

Generated town Pop Reikland town Pop (adjusted)
Town A 7200 Carroburg 8000
Town B 5040 Bogenhafen 4500
Town C 3024 Kemperbad 3750
Town D 2722 Ubersreik 3500
Town E 2177 Dunkelburg 3000
Town F 1306 Auerswald 2500
Town G 1176 Schoppendorf 2500
Town H 1058 Delberz 2000
Town I 952 Stimmigen 1750
Town J 857 Grissenwald 1500
Town K 686 Grunburg 1200
Town L 411 Rottefach (nr Altdorf) 720 (was 88)
Town M 370 Autler (nr Altdorf) 648 (was 81)
Town N 296 Segeldorf (nr Nuln) 518 (was 48)
Town O 237 Geldrecht (nr Altdorf) 414 (was 49)
Town P 213 Koch (nr Auerswald) 373 (was 95)
Town Q 128 Wurstheim (nr Nuln) 223 (was 78)
Town R 102 Kleindorf (nr Grunburg) 179 (was 35)

Of course this is very arbitrary, but the exercise did highlight what seemed odd about the Gazetteer listing, being the complete lack of any settlement in the 101 to 999 population range. So selecting some villages at random (but concentrating near Altdorf and Nuln for obvious reasons) I've upgraded a few to towns.

Equally there's no reason why lots of more villages can't exist, but since the Gazetteer goes down to such small populations I'm happy assuming it lists them all. And a small number suits nicely the zone model described in the world guide section of the rulebook.

All of which is a very roundabout waying of saying I can justify to myself using the Death on the Reik version.

I'll check through the major coaching routes and make sure there's at least a coaching inn (perhaps heavily fortified) for each reasonable days travel. But prepare yourself for a much lonelier journey than would be the case with the later map.

Or at least, you hope you're alone...

One other thing

The reason I mentioned the Wikipedia demographics - the top 3 cities in the Holy Roman Empire in 1500 accounted for around 1% of the empire's population. So taking Altdorf, Nuln and Middenheim (total population 40,224) and allowing a much higher (3%) proportion of the population - allowing for how dangerous the rural areas are - that gives us a very rough population for the Old World Empire of around 1.3 million.

The Old World is a lot less densely populated than early 16th Century Europe.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Still searching for new old hobgoblins

I've been dithering excessively over my new hobgoblins - 7 months and counting  :(  - after having second thoughts over a few of them, and hence broadening my search for other options.

A big part of the problem is that I have two Fantasy Tribe and two C36 hobgoblins that I want to include in the mix, and singles or pairs from four other ranges, while hopefully ending up with a fairly coherent (but not uniform) unit.

In parallel to that, it's quite hard to say what defines a Citadel hobgoblin. The Fantasy Tribe figures are very much in fantasy armour - it's hard to identify any real world parallels. In fact the closest I can come for a match is imperial Roman armour, with distinctly non-Roman helms. See for example this Roman general -

Warlord Games' Roman general - image from Bob's Miniature Wargaming Blog
- whose armour bears a passing resemblance to the Fantasy Tribe chieftain seen here on the right, or so I feel -

Eastern hobgoblin from Mirliton, Armalion Red Moon orc, FT hobgoblin
The later C36 hobgoblins and especially the DL2 Hobgoblin Warriors move to somewhat more of an eastern vibe, but rather than full on samurai armour the C36 miniatures are more like full mail with patches of samurai armour, and the DL2s have samurai armour over flesh, whereas most samurai miniatures seem to be armour over clothing (sort of like the eastern hobgoblin in the picture above, although it's hard to tell much with the undercoating, sorry...).

Nihon orc, Grenadier goblin, FT again for size

The Mirliton Nihon orc shown above seems to me to fit well with the more eastern of the Citadel miniatures, or the N17 Chronicle hobgoblins, however he is unfortunately the only one of the range I particularly like. The others all seem a bit chunky and crude and, as can be seen by the amount of crouching in the picture above, they're also a fair bit bigger than the other hobgoblins I've assembled. The goblin on the other hand is too short, but looks so great I had to include him!

I next looked to the Wargames Factory orc warband, which I rather like, however as shown below they're a bit on the skinny / realistic proportion side, in comparison to these other figures -

Wargames Factory warband orc, FT for comparison
They do however have a good-enough match for the Fantasy Tribes armour, I feel. I'm thinking of heroic-ing them by chopping the body in half vertically and puttying it back together with broader shoulders, and then adding bigger heads - perhaps the Hasslefree goblin ones. Rather more work than I was planning on originally!

I've one further plan up my sleeve - the ronin from Black Hat's samurai range seem a good source for samurai armour over flesh, so again I'm thinking of giving these some head swaps.

I do realise this is all slightly silly - given the amout of work involved I'd be much better off just holding my nose and paying over the odds on Ebay for actual Citadel hobgoblins, but this way is so much more interesting!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Next project - Gulgan's Raiders

The first half of this month was hectic on the real life front, meaning I barely had time to pick up a paint brush. I did though have time to keep up with what's going on elsewhere in the Oldhammer community, and think about the next project that I could fail to find time to paint...

With hobgoblins being very much a current theme - mine should even make it to the front of the paint queue next month, just in time for Orctober - Gaj's chaos thurauder post sparked my imagination. A lightweight chaos force would be a good substitute for the human side of the Dolgan Raiders scenario from the second Citadel Journal and tick a couple of boxes for me. Not only could I use the first Warhammer scenario I ever played for my Newhammer project, but I'd also have some extra options for my combined orcs and chaos force.

I'll concede that this isn't exactly original, but to me using lots of chaos thugs - as my ally Leromides did in our chaos and orcs versus undead game at BOYL - is a bit of a revelation. To me the whole point of a chaos force is getting to field these chaps -

The models are cool, and they're excellent fighters, but as an embittered orc commander the best thing about them is the lack of animosity, and rock-solid personal characteristics (in wargame terms, at least...). I also have to admit the high points cost is quite attractive when you're trying to assemble an army in the quickest possible time!

But, before I talk myself out of it, may I present ... Gulgan's Raiders.

Guldan - chaos warrior (double handed weapon, protection rune)*

12 beastmen (light armour, shield)†
Steffen - beastmen champion (light armour, shield)

18 thugs (light armour, bow)
Jurgen - chaos marauder (light armour, shield)

Chaos centaur

3 chaos hounds
Tarak - beastman minor hero (light armour)

Nikolai - human level 2 wizard (5 spells)

As near as I can make out these come within a point or two of the original forces.

* I'm curious why rune weapons were removed between 2nd and 3rd editions (although you could see the case for ditching the Greater Death Rune!). In 3rd edition terms think of this as a cool but expensive way of equipping Guldan in light armour...

† Perhaps these should be thugs as well, but having played lots of WFRP I just can't have a chaos raiders force without beastmen. Plus I've some that I'm itching to paint...

I'm not sure tactically how good the beastmen will be in a fight, given the loss of Static Combat Resolution so beloved by the theorycrafters in moving from a 20 strong unit to only 12. It's also interesting to me to note that none of the units in the Dolgan Raiders scenario nor the later Blood on the Snow have standards - it makes sense in the context of the scenario especially for the former, but I'd not realised until now how much they only became ubiquitous in 3rd edition.

To represent these chaps on the table I nearly have enough beastmen, but only a couple of genuine thug miniatures plus a couple more good proxies for the archers. Instead I plan a mixture of Foundry's Men at Arms and Viking archers, plus some of Warlord Games' Germanic archers for the slightly wilder look.

I'm not sure what to do about the chaos hounds - at some point in the distant past I acquired some AD&D blink dogs for reasons that now escape me, but I'm a bit reluctant to use them as conversion fodder for some reason. So Warlord's mastiff pack might well be the answer there as well.

But first I must concentrate on my previous paint queue, before growing the lead pile!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Orc boar boyz - eventually

The one of my two "should have been ready for BOYL" units is finally done, only a month late...

The remaining unit, my much-delayed hobgoblins, have been jumped in the queue by some savage orcs, for reasons I'll go into in a future post.

It does though mean I've sort-of met the target I set myself in October last year of getting this warband painted -

Sort-of, because they're not quite as done as I'd like - the boar boyz don't have their shield designs done, and neither they or the main boyz unit have standards yet. And some of the bases still need work. However I've started time-boxing myself on each unit in order to get more table-ready, I'll come back to them for a final polish once I've got the fuller warband painted. In theory by the end of the year...

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Stone thrower alternative house rules for Warhammer Fantasy Battle 3rd edition

I got two good games of WFB in over the BOYL weekend, on Saturday participating in the staggeringly impressive siege game, and on Sunday a "smaller" 3000 point orcs and chaos versus undead battle.

As I start once more to get a feel for the game a few rules begin to stand out as off or a bit broken, one of these being the power of stone throwers - particularly in comparison to bolt throwers - to the point we partially house-ruled them during the siege game. Another aspect then reared its head during our Sunday game, and further thoughts since make me want to take this further.

I'm clearly not the first to notice the power of war machines in 3rd edition, it's quite a common theme over on the Oldhammer forum and in fact Dreamfish and Gaj have already introduced some house rules which attempt to tone them down somewhat.

I think those rules take the toning down a bit too far - while you don't want stone throwers to be the focus of a battle, having them being devastating but unpredictable is part of their charm! That said I've always stuck to 3- or 4-man throwers, the large template from a 6-man thrower adds another dimension.

With this in mind these rules attempt to make a couple of things less broken -
  • The accuracy of speculative fire in the rules as written
  • The attractiveness of stone throwers as a way of killing opposing characters

Speculative fire

Speculative fire as written seems far too powerful, since it's meant to represent the crew chucking rocks at a target which they don't actually know the location of - speculatively. They might have seen a unit move behind a wood or hill but they've no real idea of where it is, and certainly not the exact location of the unit leader (unlike their controlling general).

With this in mind in the siege game we doubled the "miss" chance, so that as well as deviating twice as far the missile also deviated on rolls in the range 1-16, rather than only 1-12. How to handle the direction of the additional deviations is up for debate, you could roll an extra d12 for these but I like the neatness of having everything resolved with a single dice roll, like this -

You could also ban the targeting of characters with speculative fire - or, in the words of Erny, just remind your opponent not to be an ass!

Survival of the fittest

In later additions of Warhammer there's apparently a rule called "Look out sir" where a character, if targeted by a war machine, is only hit 1 time in 6, with a normal trooper being the true target the rest of the time.

To be honest I mainly object to this rule on account of its name - it doesn't seem to belong in a Bretonnian or Empire army, never mind orcs and goblins! It also seems to give characters a bit too much immunity compared to the rules as written, so I'd suggest something like this instead -
Heroes are quicker, more ruthless and luckier than is typical of their kind. As a result, when associated with or leading a unit, not only do they not get hit by ordinary missile fire, they're rather less vulnerable to war machines as well. If a hero is a target in this situation then roll 1d6:

5-6: the hero spots the incoming projectile, or perhaps reacts quicker to a warning shout, and manages to move out of the way. They take no damage
3-4: the hero is slow to react and only manages to avoid harm by shoving past their fellows, inadvertently pushing one of the troopers into harm's way. If there is a "spare" trooper (i.e. one not originally within the target area) they take damage in place of the "hero", if not no additional damage is caused
1-2: the hero is hit as normal
Aside from the above two suggestions I'm also not sure about the points values of stone throwers, particularly in relation to bolt throwers. I've noticed that Warhammer Armies doubles the cost of both of them compared to the 3rd edition rules, but stone throwers still seem rather cheap for a couple of reasons -
  1. For a target you can see the hit chance is always 40% with a stone thrower (13-20 on d20). By contrast for orcs or humans (BS of 3) the hit chance with a bolt thrower is 50% under optimal conditions but given any modifiers (long range, soft cover) this swiftly drops away
  2. For stone throwers any target under the template is automatically hit and you then just need to cause a wound for each individual model. For bolt throwers second and subsequent casualties are subject to diminishing returns - not only do you have to wound the previous target in order to have a chance of wounding further targets, but also the strength of the missile is progressively reduced. Therefore bolt throwers just aren't the mass killers that stone throwers can be.

Countering this is that bolt throwers don't present a threat to their own side in the event of a miss, and also have no minimum range, but taken overall still seem much worse value than stone throwers. I feel then that stone throwers should cost twice the points of the equivalent bolt thrower (as in fact was the case in 2nd edition).

Comments? Thoughts?

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A year's worth of painting

I'm in retrospective mode at the moment. To be more honest I was planning to be in 6-month retrospective mode in July, although as with so many other things it's been pushed back to "after BOYL".

I'm not sure I have enough stuff painted yet to qualify for the Army Shots thread on the Oldhammer forum, and my output (and quality) pale in comparison to Orlygg's three years' worth of output, but in the last year I've gone from this -

to this -

Not an army yet, especially as I wouldn't be cheesy enough to field two war machines in a force that size, but a decent allied force for a battle or siege.

At my current rate I'll be at my BOYL target (24 more figures!) by about the end of the year, and my year target by who knows when...? But progress is being made!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Looking for Newhammer

Some posts on the Oldhammer forum and around the wider internet (Old Fogey, Lee Brady) have got me thinking. Oldhammer (assuming by that you mean to be playing in a certain narrative style with old rule sets - 2nd / 3rd edition in the case of fantasy) is all very well, but it's by definition limited in scope because of those rule sets. The fact that they're out of print means you're reducing your number of potential players, within an already niche hobby.

So I thought it worth trying to understand what's appealing (at least to me) about those older rule sets other than their out-of-print-ness (and hence GW no longer making your army obsolete in favour of their current sales target). And then I want to discover what current rule sets - if any - reasonably support an Oldhammer style.

Here's what I came up with:

1. Character-driven (within reason) - characters shouldn't be the be-all and end-all, but should be important. You should know, and care, if they're injured or killed, without them sweeping all before them.

2. Characterful units - as well as being the crux of the fighting, units should have character and differentiation. Goblins should be cowardly and none too dangerous in a fight, dwarves should excel over men in a straight toe-to-toe fight.

3. Support 'large skirmish' games - this sort of follows from point 1, in that if characters sway the battle then we have large groups but not armies. Not to say that a character can't be significant in a meeting of armies, as the tale of Troy will tell you, but I want characters to be people not demi-gods. So 100-ish figures per side at a 1:1 ratio suits me nicely.

4. Complete and self-supporting - the rules should contain everything you need, including spells and a bestiary, and a method for creating and costing your own creatures.

Although not on the list, since as long as (2) and (4) are catered for you should be able to fit this in yourself, a strong game world and a balanced set of factions are also important to me.

Although Warhammer's Old World is often derided as being derivative (or, more to the point I suspect, derivative but lawyered-up), to me that's one of its great strengths. Its use of archetypes not only allows a wide range of figures, from dark ages to late medieval, to find a place, but also provides a good starting point for narratives. It's also interesting (to me at least) to find out more about the parallels it's drawing from, and the often even more fascinating stories to be found there. Thanks to the Empire and hobgoblins I now know a lot more about the Holy Roman Empire and the Mongol invasions than I did a few months back (more on the latter another day).

On the balance side of things 2nd edition is pretty good, since there's only one race-specific weapon (ball and chain) and very general war machines. On the war machine side of things 3rd edition started to lose the plot (in hindsight), although within the context of the rules themselves the race-specific side of things was reasonably muted. Over the next few years this became the norm (or so it seemed to me) with various additions via White Dwarf in support of new model releases, which coincided with my exiting from the hobby. I'm sure with appropriate discussion / house ruling all of this could be worked through in a mature manner, either agreeing on certain aspects being overpowered or working in ways for items to be used by the 'wrong' faction. However whether a rule set tends towards the 2nd or late-3rd edition model might well be a reasonable indication of where a rule set is heading and hence whether it's right for me.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

I love this stage of miniature painting...

... when you finally get to the shading / highlighting bit.

My painting's going very slowly at the moment, mainly due to real life commitments, and I've pretty much resigned myself to not getting the miniatures I want painted done by the time BOYL 2014 comes around.

However I did realise while painting my last batch of orcs that I struggle with enthusiasm at the base coating stage, so this time around I tried changing from my normal routine. Rather than basecoat everything then shade and highlight second, I tried with a couple of chaos warriors doing each main area fully from basecoat to finished, then moving on to the next. It does seem to help with the motivation side of things, even though I'm not sure it makes me any faster. So I think I'll stick with that approach for a while.

I'm not 100% happy with the way these two ended up. The shields especially I think are rather weak, after thinking with my last batch I had done a decent job on shields. And the green armoured guy has a rather heavy handed shading wash, amongst other things.

Other than doing the bases I need to move on to the next pieces now though. I'll come back these along with others of my recent efforts once I can field a useful amount of painted figures. Meanwhile the lesson learned is (surprise) preparation is key - although I'm loath to chop at the figure the green chap needs to lose his shield boss to give me a flat area to work on, whereas his compatriot needs some work to flatten out the join between his shield and the figure.

I've a battle looming in less than a week though, and at least 3 more figures (ideally 5) to get done by then...

Sunday, 27 April 2014

More orcs, finally

Hectic real life and occasional lack of motivation have slowed my painting speed to a crawl in recent months, but my next batch of orcs is finally ready (for basing), including the first few of Erny's generous donation.

Their standard bearer isn't done yet (still in The Jar) and I've another 8 to add another day once I've been sidetracked onto some other units.

Amongst the many things I've learned from the Oldhammer forum is that it's OK to have irregular troops still have a unit identity. Hence these chaps are all painted in a variety of muted brows with the occasional touch of reds, and all have the same shield device (although they didn't all get the memo about the white background). The chaps at the left and right ends of the rear rank have kept their original 1980s paint job, except for new sheilds, hence the significantly different skin tones. There's reasonable variation even within the new batch though, so no harm there.

Originally my main Boyz unit was the classic Bad Moon tribe with red shield devices, but since this lot have an unhealthy association with a bunch of chaos followers, and with Morrslieb being green like them, I figured a slight colour change was appropriate. They're hence now the Mad Moon tribe (it'll end in tears...).

There's still plenty of room for improvement with my freehand sheilds, but they're getting better. 

Monday, 14 April 2014

Random parenting insight into my hobbies

Inspired by Snicket's vaguely related post about younger relatives and gaming I've finally dusted this off my draft pile... Posts on consecutive days? Whatever next?!

Being somewhat older now than I was when I started playing RPGs, and Warhammer Fantasy Battle a few years after that, I now have children who are themselves (independently) showing an interest in these hobbies. And it's enlightening to consider my own reaction to their interests.

A few years ago (before I'd discovered the Oldhammer movement, perhaps before it even recognisably existed) our eldest boy got into Warhammer 40k. I vaguely mentioned I'd played myself in my youth, and my wife and I saw it as a convenience in terms of buying Christmas presents, but otherwise I didn't express much interest. In hindsight I should have at least involved myself in the painting side of things but was held back by a couple of factors, partly not wanting to encroach on the hobby he shared with his friends but also coloured by my own rejection of the Games Workshop of 20+ years ago. Anyway, after a year or so his interest waned and that was that.

Then several weeks ago our number 3 son (counting in age order only, I hasten to add!) very hesitantly explained that he wanted to play Dungeons and Dragons with his friends, and seemed a bit nonplussed at our casual acceptance of this.

The point (I'm getting to it, honest!) is that, if he'd wanted to play Warhammer rather than D&D, my reaction would be more complex and probably in many ways less supportive. My reason - I'm betting the current edition doesn't contain anything along the lines of "Of course, there is nothing to stop you developing your own world background, or of adapting the background from any book you have read to form the basis for your games" (WFB 3rd edition, Introduction, p9).

Warhammer has always been a sales tool for a miniatures manufacturer, but from what I've seen (although this could be me confirming my own prejudices) modern Warhammer is proscriptive rather than creative, whereas a role playing game can't help but be about creation and imagination.

In the hypothetical scenario where he did want to play Warhammer I could of course espouse the virtues of Oldhammer, but it'd be my eccentricities versus what his peers are playing and the marketing budget of the 800lb gorilla. And (again, from what I've seen) modern Warhammer doesn't even give you the tools to make it up for yourself - for example number 1 son's version of the 40K rulebook is only a third of a rulebook by 2nd edition standards (Combat only, no Battle Magic or Battle Bestiary, and with the points values section of Combat removed).

Hopefully I'd be able to create a small bubble of enlightenment amongst him and his friends, but I'm guessing that (for example) giving gifts of non-GW figures would lead to the same expression of contained disappointment as when, in years gone by, a relative bought him the big console game of the season - but for the wrong console.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Signs you're not painting quickly enough, and some '87 trivia

I finally finished the first 4 troopers of my Boyz regiment for my orc / chaos / hobgoblin / moving-goalposts army (finished in the special sense of no bases or shields yet) and moved on to the next batch. These were undercoated at the same time as the first 4, and now need dusting before they can be painted! I may need to up my pace a bit, as I'm hoping to get these ready for BOYL '14 in August...

Apropos of this, while searching through a pile of semi-discarded RPG stuff I came across a promo flyer for the release of Ravening Hordes in 1987. The offer is for 5 different 2500pt armies: Orcs and goblins, Dwarves, Dark elves, Elves and Norse. The total models involved are -
  • Orcs and goblins: 274
  • Dwarves: 141
  • Dark elves: 123
  • Elves: 139
  • Norse: 147

I may have chosen poorly!

It's also mildly interesting to me that chaos, which is so closely identified with WFB these days, doesn't merit a mention. Or perhaps they just didn't need promotions to sell chaos figures.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Brand new hobgoblins (sort of)

I'm a big fan of Whiskey Priest's how to Oldhammer initiative which has been taken up enthusiastically by the community on the forum.

While I still covet a fair number of Citadel miniatures that were successfully marketed to me in the late 80s I think it's important to emphasise the gaming as much as the collecting, and to support current manufacturers making some great miniatures at sensible prices. I also like the mindset of finding a miniature you like then working out what rules should represent it on the table, which seems diametrically opposed to the GW marketing message of the last 20-some years of selling the model by making the unit it represents desireable or required.

So, inspired by Aiteal's hobgoblins and zoggin-eck's 'back to the source' approach I took a second look at a number of figures that I'd previously rejected as suitable orcs but which I realised would make fantastic hobgoblins, at least in my view of them (heavily influenced by the 2nd edition Bestiary): scrawnier than orcs, with a distinct eastern / Mongol horde vibe and head hair.

So, over the last couple of weeks I've taken delivery of a number of packages of brand new models - a mixture of Armalion Red Moon orcs (via Ral Partha Europe) and old Grenadier Nihon orcs, eastern hobgoblins and goblins:

And here they are ranked up, with Harboth and a C36 Hobgoblin for size reference:

The Red Moon orcs are a great fit for the older Citadel hobgoblins. I'm not so keen on their hairy arms and legs, so I'm trying to work out how to represent that as furs instead (easy on the arms, might need a bit more work around the feet).

The Nihon orcs are slightly taller and bulkier than I'd have liked, but I'm sure their mates will be glad of some big lads to push to the front rows! The great thing about goblinoids in general is that a bit of size variation is to be expected, so the overall impression is fine. I wouldn't want too many of these in the unit though.

The eastern hobgoblins and goblins are just perfect. Unfortunately, although there are other variations in the range, those are a bit hunched for my taste (a bit of a Nick Lund trademark) so I've limited myself to just three of them.

I'm really looking forward to starting painting these. I need to get the orcs that are front of my queue finished first, then we'll see if my painting can do justice to the models.

Thank you Whiskey Priest for helping me broaden my horizons a little!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Reikland versus reality

I managed to pick up a copy of Death on the Reik last week in decent condition for a very reasonable price, but with one downside. As seems to be common, it was missing the A3 Reikland / Castle Wittgenstein map, which is obviously not ideal.

On the plus side it did make me think rather more about how Reikland should look than I otherwise would have (and perhaps more than is healthy!). It also made me more conscious of an insightful post I read on G+ recently about how geek fans (that'll be me) sometimes loose sight of theme because of over-emphasis on facts. You'll see what I mean in a minute...

Back to the maps - there are lots of useful Reikland maps on the internet, and Gitzman's Gallery collects some of the best ones together. There's a wide variation in what they portray, which is fair enough for a pseudo-16th century setting, but the detail which is bothering me is how densely populated they should be.

Exactly where point A is in relation to point B is fairly irrelevant to the characters on the ground, but what is relevant is if you leave (for example) Bögenhafen on the road to Altdorf and travel for most of the day, how many settlements do you pass? As it gets later do you press on in reasonable expectation of getting to the next town or village?

Going by the map in Shadows Over Bögenhafen (Hogshead version) there are 3 coaching inns and a village between Bögenhafen and Heiligen on the outskirts of Altdorf. The detailed map in Gitzman's Gallery (which I believe is by Andy Law, who knows his WFRP) has 4 coaching inns, two villages and a town on the same route.

This may seem like I'm being pedantic, but hopefully that's not it. The Warhammer Old World, and especially the Empire, is fun because its a bit more modern than the usual fantasy setting, and can give rise to themes that wouldn't work in a more traditional medieval setting. To support the scheming nobles and growing merchant class that we all all know and love you need a certain scale and level of advancement to the place. But that same scale and modernity act against the lonely wildness of parts of the Empire, with beastmen (and worse) lurking in every stretch of forest.

Even the more densely populated maps have plenty of wildness for such things to roam, but I think I rather prefer the "points of light" approach of the older maps, where every settlement of any size in Reikland (Harke, population: 25) can be listed on two sides of A4.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Old world / real world empires

My official excuse for buying dwarves on eBay is to put together the entire forces of the Blood on the Snow scenario from White Dwarf 91. It occured to me that, given reasonably priced old school dwarves are hard to come by (but plenty of manufacturers make compatible humans), my non-orc force could be the human elements from that scenario plus (initially) a few of the dwarves.

I thought I'd look a bit into which period of European history most closely relates to the Warhammer 3rd edition Empire, so as to be able to interpret historical figure manufacturers' catalogues. It's commonly known that Brettonian armies are early medieval and Empire armies are late medieval / renaissance, but what does this mean in terms of dates (or, more importantly, historical wars and hence figure ranges)?
There is clearly some hand-waving involved, however taking Warhammer Armies* as a reference point my guidelines were -

  • The dominant infantry weapons are the halberd and crossbow
  • Pikes and spears are also in use
  • Arquebuses are used but unreliable

According to Wikipedia -

Arquebuses were first used in any significant numbers by the Black Army of Hungary (1458–1494) but this was unusual for the time. They started to come to the fore when pike and shot formations were developed by the Spanish following their defeat at the Battle of Seminara (1495), with the first notable success of this tactic being the Battle of Cerignola (1503). By the Italian War of 1521 these formations were starting to dominate the battlefield. Battles such as the Battle of Ceresole (1544) still have a Warhammer 3rd ed level of technology, but it seems to be that the Empire is earlier than this.

Halberds were a primary infantry weapon during the Burgundian Wars (1474–1477) and Wars of the Roses (1455–1485) - though the English used bills. Pike regiments at the time also incorporated halberds or zweihanders when fighting other infantry but when the role of pikes became primarily protection for gunners the role of halberds declined. The English retained the bill (in conjunction with the longbow) for some time after the pike and arquebus were adopted on the continent, with the Battle of Flodden (1513) being notable amongst other things for being a contest between the two systems.

So where does this leave me? It seems somewhere between about 1470-ish and 1521; perhaps if I had to go for a specific date then 1493, the start of the reign of Maximilian I as Holy Roman Emperor.

I could have reached a very similar conclusion by noting that Wargames Foundry sell their ex-Citadel Empire figures as Wars of the Roses, and that the Perrys have similar ranges both for WotR and European Armies, 1450-1500. However I wouldn't have learned so much in the process, for example why historical Burgandian armies are also a good reference, or why Foundry's gendarmes seem as appropriate as their Renaissance knights as Empire substitutes.

As an interesting aside I came across a useful Brief History of WFRP Time in my search which states that Sigmar's real world equivalent (except without the godhood, obviously) is from around 714-814, which might be an interesting campaign one day.

* For extra old school appeal I could have used Ravening Hordes and the results would have basically been the same. WA is handy though because of the additional illustrations

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Looking forward and back

Maybe not the most original post subject ever. I'm even going to steal a topic list from Blue.
  • Collecting 
  • Painting
  • Gaming
  • Blogging


Collecting isn't really my problem at the moment so much as painting...
Having discovered eBay and trades on the Oldhammer forum I've pretty quickly managed to get all the orcs I need for now to make a decent force. There's a few specific miniatures I'd like one day, but I'm trying hard to resist just orcs I like, and it's hard to justify that it's orcs I need.

I'd like to be building up a dwarf force as well but unfortunately I'm mainly after Citadel Perry dwarves and eBay prices seem steeper than I'm prepared to pay. The Skaven were a "too good to resist" buy - I'm planning one day to put together Gnawdoom Greyseer's warband from Vengence of the Lichemaster. In fact, about the only standard Warhammer armies I can't see myself collecting a few of one day are Brettonians and Slann (phew). But I'm luckily not an obsessive collector, and the most expensive sculpts I'm after are a few Jess Goodwin ogres so while it'll I wouldn't really like to think about the total cost involved it all ought to be managable one day...

There are also a fair few old (and not so old) RPG books and modules I'd like to get my hands on at some point.

Goals for 2014:
  • Put together a 1000+ point non-orc force
  • Acquire some non-wargaming stuff


I have an odd relationship with miniature painting - I like finishing a set of miniatures, and when given the chance I find it relaxing, but as so often it's the case of "I need to paint these figures for [reason]" I often also find it a chore. On the other hand, at least with a deadline I get stuff done!

As well as getting to the point where I have a painted force to play with, I'd also like to get to the point where the need to paint such-and-such is gone, and I can paint what I fancy at the time.

Goals for 2014:
  • Improve my colour mixing
  • Improve my colour scheme planning
  • Finish a 1500+ point orc force with a few variations
  • Finish painting my forum avatar


I played 4 games of Warhammer this year, which is about 4 more than I expected. The insidious thing about this hobby is it's easy to feel involved (collecting, painting, and reading) while not actually playing. But hopefully, having found other people who enjoy this little niche, I can get a few more games in this year.

Goals for 2014:
  • Properly re-learn the 2nd and 3rd edition Warhammer rules, without mixing them
  • At least one game of 2nd ed
  • At least one day of this year's Oldhammer meet in Nottingham


I wonder if there's anyone who resolves to blog less next year?

My output for this year has been pretty low, even with the artificial boost of a battle report. I also need to broaden out from wargaming / miniatures stuff, as it was an RPG article that got me hooked back into the hobby in the first place.

Goals for 2014:
  • Fairly regular posting (more than weekly, excluding battle reports)
  • Some stuff about other worlds and other games
I've deliberately tried to keep these goals unambitious, what with having a family and job as well as a hobby, it'll be interesting this time next year to see if I was unambitious enough...

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Reading list - 2013 (part two)

It's noticable that I've read significantly less books in the second half of the year compared to the first. Despite the boost of the summer holiday I'm doing more figure painting or less commuting than before.

The Three Evangelists - Fred Vargas
Another from my wife's recommendation list, and well worth a read. Detective stories aren't really my thing, I think I'm far too trusting and take characters as presented rather than trying to work out whodunit. I had no idea who the baddy was, but did enjoy the characterisation of the main protagonists - academic historians each with a different speciality who think their fellow historians are misguided at best if not actually dangerous. Sounds like some geeks I know!

The Legend of Deathwalker - David Gemmell
I spent a good part of the book wondering whether I'd read it before, eventually deciding that I hadn't. Suffice to say that it follows Gemmell's tried and trusted formula however it's written as well as ever and still manages to get you emotionally involved with the characters despite being a bit heavy-handed in places.

I especially continue to enjoy his portrayal of the Nadir - I've no idea to what extent they're intended to reflect the culture of Ghengis Khan's raiders or were invented from whole cloth, but I imagine that to your average fantasy literature fan they're more real than the real thing. I also find them useful in considering how orcish culture might actually function in the Warhammer world.

Things to do one day - re-read all the Drenai books in chrological order.

Lord of Emperors - Guy Gavriel Kay
This had everything I was looking for from the books on my reading list - a good story and it had me reaching for the history books afterwards.

The characters and the city of Sarantium are brilliantly brought to life, and while I have my frequent quibble that the ending doesn't really reward the characters for the journey they've taken us on they do fare about as well as they could hope for after becoming involved with the political elite of the city.

On the RPG setting side of things it's surprising (at least to this ignorant reader) how sophisticated the ancients were on all sorts of levels - medical, engineering and social to pick just three. We're vaguely aware of this, if only from "what have the Romans ever done for us?" but somehow experiencing it in a novel paints a deeper (if narrower) picture than a text book can.

The default pseudo-Medieval setting of your typical RPG does give a convenient shorthand for any group of gamers to congregate around, but books like this show how we're often limiting ourselves as well.

Noble House - James Clavell
An abrupt change of era to this novel set in 1960s Hong Kong. A good read, although you always suspect that the lead character's plot armour is too thick for the ending to be particularly surprising. Also quite interesting in illustrating just how much the world has changed in the last 50 years - sexual equality for example might not be quite there yet, but it's come a long way.

The Raven in the Foregate - Ellis Peters
Ellis Peters delivers what I was hoping for from The Seventh Trumpet, but then this was a nice safe pick from the bookshelf to occupy a train journey or two. Cadfael's a bit too comfortable and the era of King Stephen and Empress Maud a bit too familiar to offer much new from an RPG setting perspective, however as always there's the odd insight to be found.

On the one hand law and civil society is surprisingly strong (although this presumably varies from location to location, with the sheriff of Shrewbury being more upright than his more famous Nottingham counterpart), on the other a time of civil war is clearly the richest in terms of gaming opportunities and the odd bit of murder hobo activity. Also in an era when relatively few have horses to ride, and may not have one conveniently parked, simply running (or walking) away is often a good bet.

Criminal - Karin Slaughter
A thriller rather than a detective novel, so more my sort of thing. Brilliantly weaves between 1970s Atlanta and the present day, with a significant focus on the sexual politics of the earlier time. Things had moved on slightly from '60s Hong Kong, but not actually very far...

The Hundred-year-old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson
This book came out as one of my wife's book club's favourite reads of the year, unfortunately I was right in suspecting it wouldn't really be my thing. The novel's tone is just too whimsical for me, especially seeing that Allan really does get away with (sort of) murder. Allan himself is also a bit of a contradiction - on the one hand the world would be a better place if more were as even-handed has him, however it's hard to accept that anyone could be that uninterested in how the world around him works.

A real strength of the story though is how it brings home how poorly we value older people in the western world. No one is going to be quite as remarkable as Allan, but anyone of that age is going to have a lot to offer and isn't merely an inconvenient independent person out to frustrate the old persons' home director.

House of Silk - Anthony Horowitz
Another strong recommendation from my wife's book club. A detective novel though, so had me mostly lost, although I did manage to pick up on the most obviously flagged of the villains... Although I've not read any Sherlock Holmes in a long time I think it's fair to say that the prose (if not the plot) could have been written by Conan Doyle himself.

The main plot is very modern which is good in its way, but distinctly not of a piece with the original novels. I was left hoping Horowitz will revisit the characters in future (which has to be taken as an endorsement of what he's achieved with this novel), but that when he does he mixes some Victorian plots in with the more modern ones.