Tuesday, July 22, 2014

All Quiet on the Martian Front - First Club Game

Last week we played out first game (hopefully of many) of All Quiet on the Martian Front. The game was a small(ish) game that was based on the Bunker scenario from the main rule book.  There were three bunkers and trench systems in front of a small town that the Martians were trying to overrun and that the Human forces had to defend.

The Martian force was made up of just 6 models:
  • 3 Assault Tripods 
    • 1 with a Black Dust Launcher 
    • 1 with Green Gas Grenades
  • 3 Scout Tripods
The Human force was made up of 36 elements consisting of:
  • 1 Command section
  • 4 Infantry sections (3 stands in each)
  • 1 Machine gun section (3 stands)
  • 2 Rough rider sections on motorcycles (3 stands in each)
  • 3 sections of Mark II steam tanks (3 tanks in each)
  • 2 sections of Mark III steam tanks (3 tanks in each)
In addition to the numbers advantage the Humans had, the also had 3 long trench sections with bunkers in which to hunker down in, and a lot of solid terrain to hide behind.  Would it be enough though?

The Martians had to setup along the table edge, while the human forces were allowed to deploy completely hidden.

Players rolled off and the Humans got the first move.  They responded by revealing their tanks and moving up to fire.  They were able to get several hits from the two units of Mark III's that had deployed in the right hand side of the town.  They scored a critical hit on a scout tripod and took off 5 armour in a single hit, which would make it very vulnerable later on.  They also scored a hit on an assault tripod and took of a single point of armour.

In response to the fire, the Martians moved up, using a command point to double move the assault tripod with the green gas grenades into range.  The injured scout tripod took some shelter in the woods to try and prevent being an easy target.

One of the distant tripods targeted the hidden counter in the trench to reveal a machine gun squad, and then the green gas equipped tripod opened up with his heat ray and gas grenades onto the Mark III tanks behind them, but thanks to AOE also tagged them.  Thanks to so really bad luck on the Martian rolls, the humans only lost one tank.

The Humans did their best to hold the line, but only 1 turn later all 6 Mark III tanks were gone, with only light damage against the advancing tripods.

The Human forces had tried to balance the table, having had to setup first, therefore a good portion of their tanks were on the far left and out of the action for several turns.  Below the left front sees the advance of several squads of Mark II's trying to come to the aid of their allies on the other side of the table.

The right half of the table was not going well, as a scout marched down one trench negating the cover that the machine gun team had and wiping them out.  The black dust launcher went to work on the center trench.  The only good news for the Humans was that on turn 3 and 4 they managed to get a whopping 5 immobilized counters on the green gas equipped assault tripod!  These all came from the bikes madly circling it with grappling hooks and effectively hog tying it.

The immobilized tripod made a great target for the 2 units of Mark III's that the humans spent command points to return to the table as reinforcements on turn 3 and 4.  Turn 4 they opened up on it missing on only 1's due to all the immobilized counters and threw a natural 10 on the damage table to blow it sky high!  The explosion also inflicted some more damage on the nearby scout tripod, but not enough to down it.  Unfortunately, the explosion also took out all the brave rough riders that had made the shot possible.

The next few turns involved the Martians and Humans trading shots along the left hand side of the town as they both tried to get the other the the breaking point.  In turn 5 the Martians needed to kill 2 more human units to break them but failed to do so.  In turn 5 and 6 the Humans won the initiative and only needed to drop a third tripod to win, but were obviously shaken from the explosion earlier and could not hit them.  In the bottom of turn 6 the Martians inflicted casualties on a Mark II tank unit and an infantry unit, both of which failed their moral tests and fled from the table, ending the game.

Yet another game of AQotMF that went down to either side being able win in the last turn.  Pretty much every game I have played has come down to 1 kill either way deciding the game, which to me makes for a really exciting game.

While the Martians won the day, only 2 escaped undamaged, and if the humans had been able to roll at least average on any number of occasions they could have won.

The game played out pretty well as the Humans have huge number advantages, as well as the ability to bring back forces, while the Martians see to shrug off huge numbers of hits before cracks finally appearing in their armour.

I hope everyone had a good time with the rules and that we can get more games in soon!  Especially once some of the more specialized vehicles and tripods show up from the wave 2 shipment.

Tempestus Testus - GWs Imperial Guard Storm Troopers

New Tempestus Scions (a.k.a. "Storm Troopers) from GW
Our good friend Curt is coming to visit later this week, and we are preparing to host one of his favourite games - Warhammer 40k! HAH.  Well, yes, it's true! Not that Curt loves 40k, but that in the spirit of flagellation, we will be running a 40k game during his visit this week!  And I am rushing to get some new figures done in time to participate - "Tempestus Scions", the new plastic storm trooper figures for the Imperial Guard.  

Five dudes for $42CDN - OUCH!
Tons of bits and options - but still, only five dudes...f*ck you, GW
In the fluff of the 40k setting, we know that in the event of a real threat Space Marines are dispatched to "deal with" the problem. These Space-Marine-situations generally involve outright, often hopeless, heavy duty fighting which the Marines are literally bred for, and well-equipped to deal with. 

Assembled and waiting to be primed

The Marines are of course very elite troops, but "elite" in the sense that you can send 100 of them to open battle and they will subdue an entire planetary rebellion, not "elite" in the sense that they deploy quietly to operate in a commando-style fashion.  Sure, the Marines will deploy behind the lines, but that's only because they have found the source of the problem, and are sending a bunch of nasty fellows in drop pods to deal with it directly. Who needs a long walk when you can just hop out of the drop pod and smash the Emperor's enemies right away?

The "Tempestor" a.k.a a sergeant
I tossed the vox caster on him...I liked the look of this, but I don't intend to use the vox casters on the table as they are pretty useless...and if you give one to a trooper, he loses his weapon...
The Imperial Guard storm troopers have laboured long in this shadow, a favourite troop type of Imperial Guard players. Elite army soldiers, well-equipped for commando-type jobs and special missions that would occur in the context of an Imperial Guard deployment, like sabotage, long-range recon, demolition of high-priority targets, abduction of prisoners, rescue of prisoners, assassination etc. Cool stuff, but not stuff that a Space Marine Chapter Master would worry about dispatching even one of his payroll servitors for, much less a company of valued Marines.  The storm troopers filled this niche gap, albeit one that existed mostly in the minds of dedicated Imperial Guard fans. 

Hot Shot Volley Gun - this gun looks super cool, but has the incredibly dumb "gets hot" special rule attached to it...sigh
You can see a bit of the back pack here - they sure carry a lot of stuff into the field!
As far as I can tell (and I know a more knowledgeable hobby fan out there will correct me if I'm wrong :) the Storm Troopers first appeared in the second edition of the WH40k game - this would be in mid-late to late 1990s, I think?  They had things that appealed to an Imperial Guard player - a better ballistic skill, and lasguns that could really hurt! How cool!
The original 40k storm troopers...the first plastic versions were faithful to this art work, and are prized parts of many Imperial Guard collections
The original storm troopers were plastic monopose figures, with metal officers, metal special weapon troopers and a metal heavy weapon team. They wore berets and stoic expressions. A lot of Guard players I know look fondly on these original figures, and they often fetch a premium on Ebay. I have personally never really liked the originals - the poses were very limited, and the two-man heavy weapon team was silly.  But I loved the overall principle! Elite troops to buck up your regular hapless grunts. As an Imperial Guard fanboy, I was in!

"Tempestor Prime" (or something like that) a.k.a. "Captain" - you have several posing options for him, but they are all pretty melodramatic

Not sure this get-up makes sense for a commando operation, but hey - it's 40k :) There are a depressing number of skulls on this model - too many to remove sensibly, but he certainly looks unique...
As 40k evolved into the 3rd edition (and since then, into what I like to think of as the 34567th edition, as I find them all to be so similar to each other) the Storm Trooper models changed.  I can no longer recall what year they were issued, but metal storm troopers appeared, and these were (and still are) some of the coolest sculpts GW ever issued. These looked like dark future SEALS! Cool guns, lots of optics, heavy armour, but still sort-of-sleek and ominous looking.

A group of Scions

A further evolution came in the form of the "Kasrkin", originally elite Cadian troops.  These were also some of the nicest GW sculpts I have seen, certainly a lot nicer than the plastic Cadians. The Kasrkin, to me, looked more like "heavy infantry" than commandos - some heavier armour and guns, but with the bulk and the heavy cables for the "hot shot" lasguns, I couldn't really see them sneaking around behind the lines. I still loved these models - and I painted 30 of the frigging things about 10 years ago to play a "Grenadier" Imperial Guard detachment - heavy infantry in APCs, backed by tanks etc. So fun.

Another view of the pack - each one is a little different - some have grenades, some have knives etc.

The actual game performance of the storm troopers was very poor - after all, their lasguns were S 3, and in the era of the 34567 edition it is the AP of the weapon that matters (and yes, a lot of 40k players will spew disagreement about this, but I stand by it).  Increasingly, the 40k has become a duel between heavy weapons (that is, until you get into "close combat"), and the "hot shot" lasguns were of dubious value (i.e. none).  Same with the 4+ save - it sounded nice in theory, but never showed its value in practice. You played storm troopers/Kasrkin because you liked the figures, not because you got good results on the table.

A five-man storm trooper squad

In the sixth edition Imperial Guard codex, out of the blue, GW's fickle rules flakes suddenly gave the "hot shot" lasguns an AP 3.  This is sufficient to knock out a Space Marine! And yet...the gun is still S 3...so...whatever you need to do to sell figures, I guess...this post is already too long, but I guess all I will say here is this is what happens with the S/AP system...that's a rant for another time.

Through the ages - a SEAL style metal trooper on the left, a "Kasrkin" in the middle, and a new plastic Scion on the right

Another comparison of the different models

In the era of the 34567th edition, there have been different ways to try and field a force of storm troopers.  For a time you could use "doctrines" and have them as "grenadiers".  You could get "sort of" storm troopers by taking veterans (who could get carapace armour, but not the "hot shot" guns).  And now, we have the "Tempestus Scions".  They have their own pamphlet-codex (which I won't get into here, other than to say don't bother with it unless you are a storm trooper fan boy like me) and a whole new set of plastic figures.

Which direction is Regina?
The set is pretty neat.  You are now able to make command figures and command accessory figures (like the medic, standard etc), something the lead figures of the third-and-later editions never did have beyond a couple of sergeant figures.  The Tempestus design pays homage, in my view, to each "era" of the storm trooper figures. There are beret heads (assuming the Catachans haven't ruined berets for you) as a shout-out to the originals.  The "hot shot" guns look very much like the SEAL version of the storm trooper, as do many of the helmet-variant optics. The armour plates somewhat evoke the heavy-infantry "Kasrkin" look, as do the hulking packs and weapon cables.  But they are still unique, with elaborate, flowery armour accents that suit the setting.  And, sadly, a LOT of skulls...but since they are plastic, you can shave quite a few of them off with minimal effort to leave a slightly-less skull-heavy figure.

The expense of the new models is horrifying ($42 CDN per box of five figures), but if you are like me, and you painted a bunch of the older storm troopers, you will find these can fit in with those older sculpts with a bit of imagination and a similar paint scheme.  That's my plan, and if I can bear down at the painting table (kind of hard, as the weather has been so nice for once), I'm hoping to finish enough of these to see some action this week. Will they suck on the table? Maybe! We'll see!  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Egyptian T-55 Tanks for "Fate Of A Nation"

Egyptian T-55 platoon in 15mm - models from Battlefront

The "Fate Of A Nation" roll-out on the painting table continues.  Here is a group of T-55s from Battlefront.  The models are 1/100 scale/15mm size.

The Battlefront T-55 model is nice, or at least a think it could be (stay tuned for more on this).  It is a little larger than the T-55 available from Khurasan, and a little smaller than the one available from Peter Pig. I prefer the size of the Battlefront model to that of Khurasan or Peter Pig, but I have to say that Khurasan's model wins out on good size, value AND really nicely cast accessories (like hatches, MGs, options on the fuel tanks etc - see Dallas' post here for some pics - they are beauties).

Decals from Battlefront
BUT, I have to say this about the Battlefront model - I generally like Battlefront a lot, but the quality of their accessories is really starting to slide.  On these tanks the hull and turret are resin.  The quality of the Battlefront resin is something I am starting to wonder about - on the BTR-152s, the hulls were breaking in the blister pack.  On these tanks, I had cracks on the decking over the treads - still visible on one of the painted models if you look.  These were cracked straight out of the packaging. This pisses me off - for what you pay Battlefront, you shouldn't have to piss around fixing that, or worrying about it.

If you look over the road wheels on the left side of the picture (the right side of the tank) you will see a chunk of deck missing - this is damaged while in the packaging, and trend I have noticed with much "Fate Of A Nation" front stuff from Battlefront - a serious piss-off considering how much you pay
On the Battlefront T-55 the cupola MG, the hatches, the fuel tanks and tracks are all cast in metal.  And the casting quality on these components is completely in the shitter. It's just crap.  At least the road wheels look OK on the treads, but overall tons of flash. The treads have appalling mold lines.  The cupola MG and fuel tanks are really, really weak. The fuel tanks have terrible seams and mold lines, and are cast in once piece  And don't tell me it is "isolated", as I picked up quite a few of these tanks and they are all showing the same problems.

Usual combo of Zandri Dust, pin washing, sponge chipping and weathering powder

These still paint up OK and one might wonder if, because of that, these little nitpicks on quality really matter? Well, they certainly matter to me. For what you pay Battlefront, there is frankly no excuse for crap quality and it is very, very disappointing.  Khurasan's tank accessories, by comparison, are almost flawless - and if a one-man band like Khurasan can have decent metal bits cast, then an org the size of Battlefront can frigging figure it out too.  It is very disappointing to see Battlefront get so many things right (the sizing, the magnets, the decals etc.) and then screw up on the quality of the parts.

An easy target from an IDF gunner

Battlefront does retain one important advantage over Khurasan - it is generally open for business, whereas Khurasan is increasingly either out of stock, or closed to catch up on orders, or both.  This is why I ended up ordering Battlefront T-55s in the first place.  It was a dumb move. Don't make the same mistake I made - avoid Battlefront, and dodge the Khurasan supply situation. Order from Peter Pig, which I should have done, and will do in the future...the Peter Pig tanks are a little heftier, but worth it for the combination of high quality and actual availability.  It makes up for the headache you get trying to figure out their web site.

You can also try Old Glory - I haven't seen them myself, but their 15mm T-55s are supposed to be excellent.  If you can figure out whether it is Old Glory 15s, Old Glory 25s, or Skytrex, or Quality Castings, or whatever the !#$#!@ it is, then good luck to you...

Detail on the cupola hatches and cupola MG is really, really poor - bottom of the barrel in my opinion. The casting of the fuel drums as a single piece is also another weak point, and you will go blind filing off the mold lines to make them presentable...
In "Fate Of A Nation", the Egyptian tank unit selections are essentially companies, and can be rolled out in company-like strength of nine or ten tanks.  We have tested "Fate Of A Nation" and based on that I can sense three T-55s would barely last one turn, and probably not even get a chance to return fire before the IDF gunners wiped them off the table.  So these three will need company.  In all, I am aiming for a total of nine tanks in the unit. 

I like to paint lenses...adds character to the model.  In actual combat operations, I think they are often covered, but that's no fun!
But will I get there soon? When it comes to focusing on a gaming project, I generally have the attention span of a two-year-old.  I have actually managed to be fairly focused on this "Fate Of A Nation" stuff for like a couple of months, which to me feels like ten years.  In this recent run I have managed to finish infantry, APCs and air support for the IDF, and infantry & APCs, more infantry & APCs, some AAA tanks and some heavy tanks for the Egyptians.  I am so close to finishing a basic force for the Egyptians - I just need to finish another six T-55s (and maybe a few other bits) and I'm there...it seems so close, but I am kind of exhausted on the Egyptian tank front for now...stay tuned for another diversion as we prepare for another visit from our good friend Curt from out west!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Martian Front is progressing...

A long while ago I saw a Kickstarter (sorry to use a swear word, at least in Greg's opinion) for a game that really caught my eye.  The idea of the whole game and setting is based on one of my favourite books, even though neither movie made was all that great.  The game is called "All Quiet on the Martian Front" (AQotMF) and based on H.G.Wells book "War of the Worlds".

A Martian Assault Tripod with both a Heat Ray
and the dreaded Green Gas Grenades
The theory of the game is that the first invasion took place and then the Martians died out, but now 10 years later they have come back with a vengeance.  In that time frame though Earth has prepared.  We now have some weapons based on the Martian technology left behind, and have developed huge steam powered tanks and guns.  The look is steam punk / WW1 / WW2.  While it takes place in 1910 some of the weapons and guns would normally have been almost WW2 level, but due to the advances made after the first invasion the Earth is further ahead in the timeline.

Two units of infantry, a command stand, a machine gun unit,
and a squad of motorcycles.
While I got into the Kickstarter because of the figures and being too cool / goofy to pass up (or Cute in the wife's words) and thought that no matter what the rule set was like since the figures were 15mm(ish) I could use them for any rule set we liked.

As you can see, even though it is a 15mm game,
the martians are HUGE!
However as a pleasant surprise the rules supplied are actually really well done!  The rules are written by a few ex-GW employees namely Priestley, Cavatore, and Baker, which makes it maybe a bit more surprising since the current GW rules are not all that great (maybe because these guys left?).  While the rules are not hugely complicated or in-depth, they are excellent in their simplicity and allow a game to play really quickly and "feel" right, meaning it feels like I think it should fighting the Martian tripods.  
4 units of tanks, 2 units of Mark II's (each armed with a single 4" gun)
and 2 units of Mark III's (each armed with 3x 4" guns)

Now that I have two 1000 point forces painted, I will be getting the figures out for a game soon with the Fawcett crew.  Here are the rest of the images of the stuff I have painted so far, and a few pictures of a game that I played with my son to show how quickly things can go wrong...

3 Scout Tripods and 3 Assault Tripods.  Totaling almost 1200 points,
meaning these 6 models add up to 200 points more than
ALL of the Human forces in the pictures!
A Machine Gun unit and a Rough Riders Motorcycle unit.
The Motorcycle unit all have tow hooks and chains and can
attempt to immobilize the Martian Tripods making the easier to hit.
The Mark II steam tanks.
The Mark III steam tanks.
The game is based on a D10 system, almost everything Human dies in 1 shot if in the open, and the game has a move-shoot-move mechanic. The move-shoot-move allows you to pull out from cover, fire, and get back in cover before being shot at, which is critical for the humans.  It also allows the Tripods to advance at a blinding speed though, as the Assault Tripods have a 8" move and the Scouts have a 10" move. Meaning they can cover 16" or 20" respectively in a turn!

In a test game I played with my son last night he advanced the Martians against the town sweeping all the way around onto my side of the table.

The Tripods surrounding the town!
To react I spent several command points to bring 2 previously destroyed units of tanks back into play and launched an attack against the tripods trying to pull them away from the town.  However, the tripods are tough as nails and I only managed to damage 1 of them.  The next turn, the Martians turned around and...

The Martians turned to face the 6 tanks...

... and all were gone!
Even before all 4 tripods had finished firing! 
If I remember correctly only 3 had to shoot.
Anyway, there are the images for the new game and models, and while I may get flack from some gamers due to the cartoony nature of the tripods and the over the top steam punk nature of the tanks, I really like them :-)

Best of all, the game play so far is a lot of fast and furious fun.

I can not wait until wave 2 gets here, at which point I will have even bigger Tripods and tanks, as well as some of the really bizarre / goofy weapons like Tesla guns, Land Ironclads,  clamper tanks, mono-wheels, and more!

Oh, and I am sorry to report, that I lost the game by 1 unit to Riley...  He is of course now grounded for the rest of the summer.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Battle of Yavin - Part I

Last Thursday at Dallas' place we recreated the first part of the Battle of Yavin (from one of my favourite movies, STAR WARS), as Red Squadron strafed the Death Star prior to Gold Squadron's attack run.

We used two of the Gale Force 9 space station mats to create a 6'x3' Death Star surface. The squad sizes, respectively, were about 200 points for the Rebels;  less for the Imperials, but the 6 turbo laser turrets had no points value.

I had planned on adding Chewie in the Millenium Falcon with Han as a gunner, and Darth Vader, but I am saving them for an actual trench run game when my resin Death Star terrain comes from JR Miniatures.

Kevin and Indo each ran a trio of X-Wings led, respectively, by Luke Skywalker and Garven Dries (Red Leader). Dallas and Jim each had 4 TIE Fighters, with Dallas also running the squadron leader, Howlrunner. The Rebels had to destroy all 6 turbo laser turrets; the Imperials had to try and stop them.

The Rebels set up across the the board, to reach all the turrets.

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The Imperials set up all 8 TIE fighters across from Luke.I guess that farm boy had gotten them mad...

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The stats for the turbo laser turrets (taken from a GenCon trench game) were as follows:
  • Pilot Skill 0
  • Attack 2
  • Agility 1
  • Hull 3
  • Shield 0
  • 360 degree arc of fire 
Dallas had sourced the turrets online from an old game:

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First turn, the Rebels dove into the fray and destroyed two turrets!

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Luke and his buddies then flew past a turret, and shot down one of Dallas' TIE fighters.

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In response, Jim and Dallas ganged up on Luke, shooting him out of the sky!

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Meanwhile, Indo nailed a couple more turrets, unmolested by the Imperial fighters.

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Indo moved to join the fur-ball.

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Kevin and Indo's X-Wings concentrated their fire and destroyed the last of the turrets.

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As Kevin later pointed out, it took the better part of 8 TIE fighters to take Luke out - allowing the Rebels to WIN the game!

Luke will probably be back for the actual Death Star trench run. I shall treat it as a "script re-write"; who the Imps THOUGHT was Luke was actually Jek Porkins. Also, Gold Leader's Y-Wings, Darth Vader, and Chewie & Han Solo in the Millennium Falcon will all be at the party.