Saturday, 30 June 2012

An Inspirational Shot in the Arm

This morning I picked up the latest issues of both Wargames Illustrated and Wargames Soldiers & Strategy.  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed both issues - the last few issues of WI didn't do much for me and the last WS&S was garbage.

Instead, this issue of WS&S had plenty on offer; an interesting theme of Colonial warfare including a Saga variant, a Dux Bellorum dark age rules Q&A and the usual entertaining editorials.

Of particular interest was the Norman scenario article (I automatically associate Normans with the Conguest) and a showcase of 15mm WW2 rules manufacturers.

Speaking of World War Two, Wargame Illustrated devotes a fair chunck of space to the new Flames of War book, Devils Charge.  Fortunately, it looks really impressive.  I mentioned earlier the great studio paint job on the German tanks; WI has not only the Konigstiger, but Panthers too.  Both, along with the new American gear, are showcased in a huge battle report that didn't sound too scripted.  Great work.

And staying with World War Two, the designers notes for the Warlord/Osprey rulest Bolt Action are really engaging.  Bolt Action reads like a fairly predictable game with the odd flourish thrown in - the random activation mechanic sounds interesting, it could be a blast or be absolute pants.  I've begun painting my Bolt action Germans in preparation for the release.  That's still two months away, surely I can finish a platoon of figures in that time?

Other than that, there are two hobby articles, one on painting skin and faces and the other on photographing miniatures, both areas where I struggle just now.

What really got interested though was the amount on new releases announced.  Victrix are apparantly releasing plastic Republican Romans (can I get a woooh at the back!)  Quality, the Punic Wars is THE period in history that gets me going - my first wargaming army was an "eclectic" mix of plastic and metal figures that vaguely resembled Romanan and Carthaginian armies.  Nowadays, with so many different ranges of 28mm figures, it would be much easier (and cheaper) to build up a legion or two.  Maybe I should get some Warlord Macedonians painted now, so I've an enemy of Rome ready to go.  And now I think about it, I've been looking for an excuse to buy that metal Phyrrus figure someone released.

If that wasn't enough, Conquest Games have announced a date for their plastic Norman infantry set.  Suddenly a six point Saga force becomes readily affordable.  Lastly, one of the magazines (I didn't notice which) has the greens for Warlord Games plastic WW2 Soviets! Well, those Germans will need someone to fight, won't they.

I remember thinking this last year, but this really is a golden age for wargaming; plenty of new and expanding companies in the historical range; Privateer Press and Mantic muscling in on GW, GW responding with bigger and crazier kits, new RPGs on the way from FFG and Privateer Press, the appearance of Kickstarter etc.  I could go on.  This kind of inspires me to get some projects finished, lest I miss out on any of the goodness.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Fallschirmjager + Konigstiger = Win

Just a quick follow up to this mornings Fallschirmjager WIP post.  Battlefront have put up another preview for Devils Charge, their Battle of the Bulge supplement, here.  And it includes King Tigers with Fallschirmjager tank riders!  Quality.  I remember reading years ago that there was an FJ drop during the Bulge, so hopefully the Germans will at least get some FJ support, if not a full list.

None of the current FJ lists let you use either Tiger tanks, but a tank list with FJ support? Well that's tempting!  What's more, the German armour looks like it's all in that lovely hard-edged camouflage scheme (Surprise?) Great for those of us who don't have an airbrush. Looks like yet another purchase, even if its just one for for the hell of it.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Fallschirmjager - Flames of War WIP

After several months of prevarication, I've finally managed to get some paint onto my 15mm Fallschirmjager. A sold my original Fallschirmjager last year, I was never happy with the paint job I'd done, and have had the models lying around since then. Having looked around for some inspiration and worked on a couple test figures, I think I've settled on how I want the force to look.

I'm planning to get a small force painted (for me) relatively quickly; two understrength platoons, hq & weapons, mortars and some anti-tank guns. So these figures are for the first six infantry bases. Frustratingly, I've discovered that all the PaK 40 trailer components are quite badly miscast, so I'll have to get replacements from Battlefront.

For the last few 15mm projects, I've been undercoating in white rather than black. Although it takes more coats to get a good finish in some colours, it is much easier to get the right contrast between your colours than working over black.

Although I won't get close to their high standards, have a look at what I'm aiming at, John Boultwood here and Ruben Torregrosa here.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Only War - Another 40K RPG!

40K RPG fans rejoice - Fantasy Flight Games have announced Only War, the fifth core book in their line 40K roleplaying games. This time, you've joined the ranks of the ubiquitous Imperial Guard.

From the news page:
"In Only War, each player takes the role of a Guardsman, a member of the Imperial Guard and one of the countless billions of hardened conscripts constantly fighting on myriad fronts at the whim of the Adeptus Terra. In control of this martial alter ego, players go forth at the behest of their officers to fight the eternal and implacable foes of the Imperium – the foul xenos, the mutant, the heretic, and the dark forces of the Ruinous Powers."
My initial thoughts are mixed. The setting chosen is the closest yet to tabletop Warhammer 40K and probably the most restrictive in terms of 40K background. Presumably you won't have to spend half a session digging latrines or standing sentry, but if you're away fighting xenos or heretics on your own, then I'd rather play Dark Heresy or Rogue Trader. On the other hand, the setting could offer a lot of opportunities the other games struggle to offer ***cough*** vehicle rules ***cough***

As part of the build up, FFG have put up Eleventh Hour, a starter adventure, here. It looks a fairly by the numbers affair, and I can't really find any signs of what makes Only War unique, but there are a few nice touches in there. Regardless, it goes without saying that I'll pick up the full book on release, Amazon are already offering it at a decent discount!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Demo Games - Teach 'em or Crush 'em?

On Tuesday, I helped Gaz run an intro game of Dystopian Wars at the club.  We just used our starter fleets, minus the bombers, with some random scenery.  Only one other person was actually playing (he was expecting more,) but c'est la vie.  It was an enjoyable evenings gaming, lasting only two turns, but taking some time to explain the nuances and strategies as well as the rules.

The last time I ran a full intro game was when we were away at the DW tournament in April.  At that time, I thought it best to "go easy" on the new guy, and played in such a way that not only would he get to experience most of the common situations (different guns, aircraft, collisions, boarding etc,) but also get an easy win.  Afterwards, I hear grumblings that, for whatever reason, he didn't like the free win.  It couldn't have been too bad, as he bought a starter fleet from one of the traders there.  Oh, btw, I let him win against a random fleet I made up on the spot, my tournament Empire of the Blazing Sun list is still undefeated!

Now I don't believe you wanted to do that. . .

This time, when I took over at the start of turn 2, I decided to play with the view "the burned hand teaches best" and punished a poor move by sinking the opposing flagship.  However, I left worrying that this had been a bit rude.  We'd introduced the mechanics and given a generous amount of advice, but should I have also given the easy win?  I certainly don't play wargames to win,  far from it in fact, and I don't know any others to whom winning is the most important thing in a game.  So does it follow that a new player would feel better about a game if they get an early win in?

Anyway, Corrado, hopefully you enjoyed Dystopian Wars - next time, try and keep your Battleship less exposed!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Rose Tinted glasses time - White Dwarf


For the first time in about a year, I bought a copy of White Dwarf.  We were on holiday and I always read a lot, so just wanted something else to get the wargaming fix in.  I didn't how much I missed the old familiar, self-satisfied GW rag.  It reminded me of my younger days when getting WD was essential for new rules and models (no internet in those days, kids.)

This didn't seem like a great issue, but was enjoyable enough.  Most of the issue was taken up with their new releases, which isn't a great surprise, but there was a good mix of rules, painting and pics.  I quite like the recent trend in 40K to get these bigger kits out in plastic.  I'm really tempted to pick up a Storm Talon to paint, just for the hell of it.  There was also a decent article called "The Battle For Cardrim" but I'd have appreciated a battle report (however scripted) to go with it.

Good.  Good, but not great.

Still, I can see a lot of changes from the magazine I remember.  The tone of the writing has become much blander; much like commercial promotional material, they talk about one great unit or kit choice, then go to pains to say that all their other units and kits are equally great too TO THE MAX!  Contrast the writing to Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy or No Quarter and the difference is quite stark.  Probably it was always written this way and is due more to my tastes changing than any massive change in editing.

Is it just me, or has the standard of the painting declined as well?  There wasn't a 'Eavy Metal masterclass, but there was a painting guide for two of the new flyers.  Neither guide came close to the standard of the studio models?  I still have plenty of the old masterclass articles and refer to them all the time (my Warmachine Khador troops are painted following the Space Hulk Terminator guide,) a shame if they've gone.  And another thing, where are the prices for all the new releases?

Ah, a list of model shops in Moldova and Macau - how would I cope without?

Still, despite misgivings, I continue to feel GW drawing me in again.  Definetly not Fantasy though, GW lost me there when they reduced my Skeleton Warriors to 5 points in an effort to make me buy even more.  But 40K was my first "proper" wargame and, although Black Crusade keeps me in with 40K, I do miss the full game.  With the convienently announced new edition, I might have a look sometime.  Probably I'll wait until any new box set comes out first though.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

For my birthday this year, I decided to treat myself to a new game and, after a lot of deliberation, I jumped for the Lord of the Rings: The Card Game by Fantasy Flight Games. This is a bit of a departure for me, not having played many card games in my time.  A couple months ago, Adam at the club ran me through the Game of Thrones card game and I really enjoyed the experience.  I was tempted to just get my own copy of that, but the fact that LotR can be played either co-op or solo swung the decision for me.

The game as it looks with one player.

There was a bit of a palavar actually getting the game.  Nowhere locally had the core box in stock, so I had to order if from Maelstrom Games (with a nice discount.) Suddenly, it was unavailable there too, leading me to get it from Amazon, but, as we were close to leaving on holiday, I ended up forking out for next day delivery!  Still, it arrived the day before we left, so it all worked out fine.

FFG market LotR as a Living Card Game.  The core box set has everything you need to play some enjoyable games and there is plenty of variation and replayability on offer.  The "living" part of the games comes from the model FFG use to expand the range.  After the core box comes a "cycle" of six adventure packs, each containing a fixed selection of cards to add to the original game.  After the first cycle, comes an expansion, then another cycle of six and so on.  From what I understand of other games, for instance, Magic: The Gathering, the difference here is that the contents of each pack are not random, so you're not at risk of dropping some cash only to get duplicate or useless rare cards.  Instead, you can pretty much choose if you want to buy a pack or not with no real detriment to your game.

The player area, complete with three heroes and two allies.

The game contains four starter player decks, one each from the four spheres of influence in the game.  Each sphere has its own strengths and drawbacks; for instance, the Tactics sphere has cards that excel in combat and dealing damage to enemies, but struggle when it comes completing quests.  Ultimately, LotR is a deck building game, and the real meat of the game in the long term involves building a set of cards that complement the heroes you've chosen and your preferred style of play.  Each adventure and expansion pack increases the amount of player cards you can choose from and you'll find there are lots of ways to go about creating your own decks.  Another quirk of this model is that FFG can add different mechanics to the game without requiring extensive rule changes.  The first cycle of adventure packs add "Song" cards that fit seamlessly into the game.  Quite appropriate, as in the books, you can't read five straight pages without someone bursting into song - it's worse than Glee (ok, not really.)

The Staging area with one active Location, two Enemies and another Location

FFG have made some interesting choices in where and when they have set the game.  Obviously the game is set in Tolkien's Middle Earth, but the game takes place in interegnum between the Hobbit and the Fellowship of the Ring novels.  As a result, you are not slavishly following the plot of any one book (with all the continuity problems of getting a "wrong" outcome,) but charting a different journey with different heroes through the same Middle Earth.

Ally, Event and Attachment cards from the Player deck.

And ultimately you are on a journey.  The base box gives you three quests; Passage Through Mirkwood, Journey Down The Anduin & Escape From Dol Guldur, and each can be played individually or as one large linked quest.  The adventure pack cycles follow the same pattern with a range of thematically linked scenarios.  The first adventure pack cycle, Shadows of Mirkwood, sees a group of heroes trying to track and capture Gollum, on the way fighting Trolls, helping the odd eagle and getting lost in some eerie ruins, all very familiar.

Three of the twelve heroes in the core box.

So what do you get in the box?  Well its an FFG game, so you get two big sheets of tokens, a well written rulebook (decent index and an excellent reference page) and 226 playing cards.  The cards are divided into three general catagories; quest cards, player cards and encounter cards.  The quest cards give you details of what the quest you are on actually involves, how to complete it and any special rules or effects that take place.  Player cards include the heroes you play the game with, allies who assist them, attachments like weapons and armour you can give them and event cards that help them or hinder their enemies.  The encounter cards consist of enemies (including grunts and some named enemies,) locations the heroes need to explore and treachery cards that hinder the heroes progress.

Enemy, Location and Treachery cards from the Encounter deck.

As I've come to expect from FFG, production value is pretty high, the cards have a nice finish to them (although I'll probably buy some protective sleves) and the tokens are the made from the usual FFG card.  The text is very clear to read and the design and layout of the different card types is pretty logical. A word or two has to go to the artwork used in LotR, all original artwork (I think) and all very appropriate and characterful.  Most player cards also have a sentance or quote from one of Tolkien's novels, it's a little thing, but they are all apt for their card and add just a little extra flavour to the game (especially if you read the full text every time you play the card!)  I love all these little touches littered throughout the game, you can tell that the designers not only know their Middle Earth, but are genuine Tolkien fans.

Three of the named Enemies from the core box.

There's very little in the game I feel able to criticise, which is pretty unusual.  If pushed, I could mention that the sphere of influence logo on the player cards is on the wrong side for a right hander, making sorting through the cards a little awkward.  The wording on a couple cards could be clearer too, but I believe the FAQ covers all the ones I've noticed. All in all, this is a great purchase and I'm really glad I opted for something a bit different.

Having played about a dozen games or so, I'm comfortable enough with the game mechanics to start to see potential combinations and, ugh, synergies (I hate that word.)

Next time, I'll go on to talk about the actual gameplay and then I'll try and find a way of posting up a report on a game.  In the meantime, FFG have made a video overview of the game, complete with "American Voiceover Guy" check it out here.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Ebay User "serra_angelccg" you are a douche!

I mentioned in yesterdays post that I made one exception to my disconnected holiday - namely, checking into eBay to see if I'd won a couple auctions.  Turns out I had, a mint copy of Dark Heresy Ascension at a very, very reasonable price.  But no, apparantly the seller, serra_angelccg, no longer had the book to sell.  He says he tried everything to cancel the listing (did he not try the "end listing" option?)  Maybe he genuinely sold the book to someone else, or, more likely, he wasn't happy at the final price, but in either case, he's a douche.

Now I've never left negative feedback for any problems on eBay, but this guy has really cheesed me off.  On the other hand, this really isn't the kind of thing you should get too worked up over, especially when still on holiday.  So I'll hold off for now, if I get into a foul mood sometime in the next few days, I might do something.

Ahhh. Rant over and I feel a bit better for that.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Back From Holiday

The view from the porch. Perfect.

Well, we're back from our little holiday, and very relaxing it was too. . . well, apart from the terrible drive home and a whole lot of hassle picking up the cat that is.  We had great accommodation, great weather (for the west of Scotland) and some great days out.

Count the Midge bites - not troubled all week, bitten 18 times loading the car!

Despite the fact we took a laptop with us and that the cottage had internet access, I did a pretty good job (with one notable exception) of disconnecting from real life.  No emails, texts, tweets, updates and all those other things that usually seem so important.

What a load of hassle picking up this wee girl.  Not that she was bothered though. 

Gaming didn't get abandoned though as I got a couple games both Eldar Sign and Death Angel.  Most evenings though, I ended up playing a quest or two of a new game, The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game.  I'll talk about this game in future posts, but for now, I'll just say that I can't recommend this game enough, one of the best board/card games I've ever played.

Great little game, 

I managed to get though three books while away, which is about average for a holiday.  Two, Desert Spear by Peter Brett and Sworn Brother by Tim Severin, I've been holding off reading as the first books in their respective series were so good.  Both were excellent and really enjoyable to read.

Lastly, it was my birthday while we were away, so a couple nerdly gifts were waiting for me. Oddly, I found myself taking a year off instead of adding one.  For some reason, I was adamant that I was 35 this year, and it wasn't until an old school friend got in touch and reminded me that we were only 34!  Result!

Second time that's happened, when I was 27, I thought I was only 26!

I'll get back reading your blog posts over the next day or so, looking forward to see what you've all been upto.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

A Good Start To A Holiday!

The start of June usually heralds a good long holiday for the Mrs and I.  This year is no exception, and we'll be away soon for a well deserved break!  Before that we have a few days to potter around and generally relax. . . . At least that was the plan.  We took one of those touristy boat trips on Friday, looking to see some seabirds and dolphins etc.  Its a long story, so I'll just mention that these guys were involved in us getting back to shore.

Today was a bit more leisurly with some board games.  Gaz and I had a run through of Castle Ravenloft (enjoyable, but not terribly exciting) and Death Angel (elegant little game, but REALLY difficult.)  I'd have liked to play another game, but Maelstrom Games have yet to send it to me.  Grrrr.
No painting this week, but I will hopefully get some done before we go.  Low odds on a new nerd purchase or two over the next couple weeks!  Have a good week everyone!