Friday, April 30, 2010

"Moral Victory" in Regina

Last weekend I attended the Flatlands Fantasy event in Regina, Sasksatchewan, and played in the 40k tournament! What was I thinking? Well, let's be clear - the real reason was to visit with Curt and check out their awesome new place in Regina. Curt was a great sport, and accompanied me in my Custer-like entry to the 40k event.

The event itself contained a rich selection of diverse stereotypes you expect to see at this sort of event - from the the unpainted armies, to the "socially awkward" power gamers, to people who pay other people to paint the figures, and are shocked to learn that you bother to take the time to paint your own.

The tournament was a 1750 point event, and you were encouraged to make your army as cheesy as possible. I brought out my Deathwing army (pictured above) and was such a moron that I failed to realize that the Librarian, Chaplain and Captain all count as HQ choices, so in the end I went in at only about 1600 points.

The games were a wash - I was defeated in detail twice (thanks to 40k's absolutely moronic "reserve" rules, which should just be called what they are, "random f*****g arrival"), and won a "moral" victory againt a Tyranid force in a game where I ignored all the fluff (i.e. teleporting on to the table) and started everyone in one corner, shooting the other guys to little bits!

I would have to say the last game was the worst, wiped out by a Tau army with about three painted models, and most not even primed (you can see it starting to set up in the background of the photo above).

But on the whole, I enjoyed it. I won "Best Painted", which was very nice, but considering there were armies without painted figures, not exactly much for bragging! Not close to the kind of tournament that WarCon used to run, but still fun. The organizer of the tournament did a heroic job keeping the train moving, and while he knew the rules well, knew 40k for what it was, and kept it all in perspective.

Was also fabulous to see Curt and Sarah once again. I look forward to another trip down the highway to see them again later this year!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Cape Ortegal, 1805

After sinking the Graf Spee, Dan was eager for more naval action. As Captain Dan Strachan he was ready to face Rear-Admiral Sylvain Dumanoir in the battle of Cape Ortegal. Four French ships that escaped the disaster at Trafalgar are encountering a small British fleet of four 3rd rate ships-of-the-line and four frigates. This scenario is taken straight from the Trafalgar rulebook by Warhammer Historical. We played the rules without any changes, except that I redesigned the display sheet in a way that is more intuitive to me and that can also fit 4 ships on a 8 x 11 sheet instead of only 2 with the official design.
This is my reconfiguration for a 3rd rate ship-of-the-line. Boxes are marked off from left to right, or from top to bottom on the masts, and the letters represent the effect of sustained damage. B = loose 3 cm. F = loose caronade. G = loose heavy gun. X = crippled. + = sunk. J = -1 command check. # = decrewed.

This is the initial deployment. The 4 French ships are on the left side, abreast. The 4 British frigates are in column on the top right of the board. Coming toward the camera is a column of 3 British ships-of-the-line. Waiting to enter the board is the Namur, supposedly delayed, but Captain Dan rolled her on the board as early as turn 2.
The scenario was to be played on a 4'x6' board, but the battle took place on the upper half, and the important events took place on the upper quarter. In the Trafalgar rules, ships that "hold the weather gage" (i.e. closer to where the wind comes from) have a decisive tactical advantage because they move after those that are further away from the wind. As you can see, Captain Dan and I deployed our ships consequently. Next time I host a game with the Trafalgar system, a house rule will prevent players from deploying closer than 60cm from the edge where the wind comes from, otherwise we might end up playing "chicken" on the first 5cm strip of the board.
The objective of the scenario was for the British to capture (i.e. cripple, sink, decrew or board) the French Flagship before turn 15. The Formidable was my flagship, and it was adorned with a big blue banner for recognition.
My initial plan was to use the Mont-Blanc and the Scipion to protect both the front and rear of the Formidable and to try to hold the weather gage. My fourth ship, the Duguay-Trouin, was to be used as a bait to distract a few British ships away from the Formidable and/or to harass the British squadron from behind. I also had a slight advantage in command since there was a rear-admiral aboard my flagship.
This is the third turn of the game. The French vessels are highlighted in blue circles. You can see my lonely Duguay-Trouin at the bottom right. Not even for a second did Captain Dan lost sight of his objective. He paid absolutely no attention to the juicy bait. The British frigates circled behind my main squadron and the 4 ships-of-the-line turned toward the Formidable. I thought I could quickly get rid of the frigates, but they are much tougher than they look. And with 2 heavy cannons, each of these small one-decker carries the same long range firepower as any of my 3rd rate vessels. The pesky frigates rarely came close enough to have a taste of my caronades and my batteries of light cannons.
This exceptional picture taken at sea level shows the hand of Aeolus, God of Winds. This explains how the wind pushes sail ships.

This is the moment when the Formidable struck colors after being crippled. The Formidable is highlighted in a circle. My other ships are in squares. Note that the Scipion is on fire. Captain Dan consciously concentrated his fire on my flagship. My other vessels were still capable of fighting, and the British vessels all survived with various degree of damage. It was a very pleasant and exciting game. This was my third attempt at mastering the fine art of sailship combat and I will certainly prepare more scenarios in the future.
1 bottle of wine, a few cans of Pepsi, 1 bag of nachos and 1 jar of salted peanuts were absorbed during the game.

The Fate of the Graf Spee

In January of this year, Curt and Dan came to my place for a naval campaign simulating the hunt for the Graf Spee in 1939. The second game, with Captain Curt Langsdorff in command of the famous German pocket battleship, ended in the harbour of Montevideo as 4 British cruisers under the command of Captain Dan were appearing in the distance, sealing the fate of the Graf Spee. The campaign was great fun, but the captains felt that the engagement was not conclusive and that the German ship could pound her way through the British blocade. It was only this past weekend that the final battle of the campaign could be played, using the simple but efficient General Quarters rule system.

The historical engagement distance was 10 miles, which translates to 200 centimeters at GQ scale. To give the ships some rooms to maneuver, I decided to have the game played on the floor. This was also to serve as a test for future big naval battles like Trafalgar. The downside is that my poor dogs had to be kept out of the playroom :-(.

Captain Dan, after spotting the Graf Spee, decided to immediately close in. Under his command were the heavy cruisers Cumberland and Exeter, as well as the light cruisers Achilles and Ajax (his 4th ship is masked by his left elbow). With all the bending and crawling involved, the game prooved to be as much a physical challenge for the captains as it was a strategy challenge. Not wasting any time and despite the distance (21 000 yards), the British squadron opened fire at once.

After a few salvoes, a lucky shell hit the un-armoured rear deck, ripped the steel deck down to... the rudder! and jammed it! The Graf Spee started circling starboard. Captain Curt's dedicated crew frantically tried to repair the damned thing but, after a few turns, the repair team's diagnostic could be summarized with this one German word: "Kaputt". Deciding that he'll have plenty of time to repair his ship after disposing of the pesky British boats, Captain Curt kept his 11" guns thundering while doing the Merry-Go-Round.

Meanwhile, Captain Dan ordered his ships to split into two squadrons in order to annihilate the Graf Spee with a clever pincer maneuver. Achilles and Cumberland were heading to the South while Exeter and Ajax would circle around the Graf Spee and attack from the North. As they were closing in, the British ships were showering the German pocket battleship with shells. Most of the 6" and 8" hits were bouncing off the thick armour, but as the British ships were getting closer, at a range of 9000 yards, things were starting to look bad for Captain Curt. The Royal Navy light cruisers were using rapid fire with their 6" guns, and the German was doing the same with his secondary armament. The Graf Spee lost one main turret, then the other one, while the Cumberland, stubbornly heading toward the enemy despite her damage, was sent to the bottom of the bay.

At a range of 6000 yards, all ships sent their torpedoes almost simultaneously. That is what the tapes on the floor are for. The Graf Spee is on the top left corner. The German autonomous weapons hit both the Exeter and the Achilles, sending them to the kingdom of Neptune. All the British torpedoes missed, but the constant firing from all the guns at such close range was enough to send the stubborn German ship to the bottom of the sea. It costed the Royal Navy 3 cruisers to get rid of the German commerce raider, but seaways in the South Atlantic were now safe from surface threats.


Monday, April 12, 2010

More Elysian Air Support

While my 40k Elysians will hope for a fair amount of support from their Valkyrie troop carriers, I also wanted them to have some pure gunship support. When Forgeworld originally came out with the line of models, they included the Vulture Gunship to accompany the Valkyrie troop carriers.

While the plastic Valkyrie has (mercifully) replaced the Forgeworld model, they still offer Vulture gunships, and I picked one up as part of my Elysian splurge. I finished the model this weekend. Here are a few pictures.

These models, once solely resin (and almost impossible to assemble for experienced and patient modellers, never mind someone with my limited patience) now take advantage of parts from the plastic Valkyrie. Basically, you get a full plastic Valkyrie with a bunch of resin bits - the engine, the cockpit, and the tail assembly and extra wing hard points.

The Vulture has a chin-mounted heavy bolter, and then four hard points to load additional weapon sets to your taste. For a weapon load, I opted for twin punisher cannons. I think that gives this thing like 20 ST 5 twin-linked shots, which sounded pretty good, plus it looks cool. Only downside is the two weapons take all four hard points.

But even that down side is limited. The weapon loads are more limited...while you might think that loading this type of vehicle up with AT capability would make the most sense, the rules (ah yes - the 40k rules) are such that you are actually wasting points on a Vulture model, becuase the rules don't let you stack up on one weapon (i.e. all missiles, or all autocannons). In an actual conflict, a mixed weapon load would make sense. In 40k, where being really good at one thing leads to maximum value in the game, mixed weapon loads are a flush, and you actually end up with a Valkyrie that can't carry troops.

Also, the "Vendetta" variant of the Valkyrie, with three twin-linked lascannons, is likely to hunt tanks as well as any Vulture, plus it can still carry troops. So while GW may be successful in selling some more Valkyries this way, they kind of put the conventional Vultures out of a job.

The paint scheme is the same green to match the Elysians. I had a lot of trouble with the decals on this one, with heavy silvering despite my efforts to prevent it (gloss underneath, then dull-coat after).

And while the combination with the plastic parts is a frigging dream compared to the previous all-resin model, the combo still has some slight oddities. For example, the canopy (from the Valkyrie) doesn't quite seamlessly fit the Vulture cockpit. And as always, you have to watch out for the stupid, bukly skull-shaped shoulder pad on one of the pilots.

Chances are this thing will be shot down regularly, but I do hope one day it catches one of Dave V's Dire Avenger units in the open and ventilates them, soul stones and all.

Now, back to more Elysian grunts, and more Valkyries....

Thursday, April 8, 2010

40K Battle Missions - Scorched Earth

The other night I had a fun game of 40K with MikeA. It had been awhile since we had gotten together, and it was good to catch up and shoot the breeze while we played.

I went with a slight tweak of my Swordwind list:

Farseer - Fortune; Doom; Eldar Jetbike; Runes of Warding; Singing Spear
Autarch - Eldar Jetbike; Banshee Mask; Laser Lance; Fusion Gun
6 x Dire Avengers - mounted in Wave Serpent w/ TL Shuriken Cannons and Shuriken Cannon
6 x Dire Avengers - mounted in Wave Serpent w/ TL Missile Launcher
5 x Fire Dragons - mounted in Wave Serpent w/ TL Shuriken Cannons
5 x Fire Dragons - mounted in Wave Serpent w/ TL Shuriken Cannons
3 x Vyper jetbikes - each w/ Scatter Laser and Shuriken Cannon
5 x Warp Spiders - including Exarch with dual Death Spinners
Fire Prism grav tank

Total = 37 models, at 1497 points

Swapped the TL Bright Lances for TL EML on a Serpent; longer range and can still pop transports. Swapped one shuricannon for a scatter laser on each Vyper jetbike - longer range and greater firepower when moving up to 12". (Against forces like Saim Hann, with their "jetbike slide" fade away move, the extra range may be crucial.) Also, brought back Doom for those times when an enemy squad just has to be put down.

Mike rolled with Nurgle Chaos forces, including a winged Daemon Prince (with Warp Time), 3 squads of mechanized Death Guard with meltaguns and a couple of Icons, a pack of daemons, a Vindicator assault tank, and a Defiler walker. The tanks are very old school, which really suits the theme of the army.

Scenario: Chaos forces landed and were implementing a scorched earth strategy. All area terrain was either smoking (no LOS through it), or on fire (smoking, plus dangerous terrain). D3+2 objectives were placed randomly (in our game, three objectives were rolled up); whoever controlled the most objectives at the end of the game would win.

Below can be seen our initial setup. Looking west, Chaos are in the northeast table quarter, mostly near an objective in the ruins. Another objective was in the warp gate to the west. The Eldar set up behind the burning woods, near the final objective located on the hill in the southwest. The Eldar kept the Warp Spiders, a Dire Avenger squad and both Fire Dragon squads in reserve. Chaos were to deep strike their Obliterators.

The Swordwind's plan was to hold on to the southwest objective, kill the Chaos transports so their scoring troops couldn't get there too, and contest the other objectives.

(Click on the photos below for larger images.)

There were some real tense moments. The Swordwind lost both Dragon squads, a Wave Serpent, and most of the Warp Spiders in the fight around the easternmost objective. Mike tried to kill off the last of the Spiders with a reduced pack of daemons, but the daemons surprisingly lost the hand to hand fight.

Mike teleported in his Obliterators right by the warp gate. In retrospect, he suggested that this was an error, since they were Doom-ed and quickly went down to close range fire.

In the centre, I ended up sacrificing the Vypers, the Farseer and the Autarch, who acted as speed bumps trying to keep the Chaos troops bottled up by the warp gate.

The game ended after 6 turns. Despite losing their ride to an errant Vindicator cannon round, a squad of Dire Avengers managed to retain control of the southwest objective. The remaining objectives were contested by Swordwind tanks and the surviving Warp Spiders. Where have I heard that before?

Result: Eldar Victory

All in all, it was a fun game. Mike's Chaos army is shaping up rather nicely. The Daemon Prince, in particular, is an imposing and impressive model.

Mike and I look forward to a re-match, maybe with Mike's WIP Eldar army.

Balloon Busting

The Balloon Buster Expansion Set has recently been released for Wings of War miniatures. The set features a 1/144 Caquot balloon model (good for every European nation at war) and an Allied Nieuport 16 armed with Le Prieur air-to-air rockets. Two versions of the set are available, with different color schemes for both the balloon and for the Nieuport 16. Both include a decal sheet to customize the balloon models.

Frederick and I each picked up the yellow balloon, which set contained a French Air Force Nieuport 16. Kevin got the grey/brown balloon, with a Nieuport in the colours of the Lafayette Escadrille. The balloon models are very detailed. The many supporting cables are well represented. In the basket there's even an observer with binoculars.

The rulebook explains how to add balloons and Le Prieur rockets to WWI air battles, plus offers new missions. In the rules, balloons can take a lot more damage than a plane, and they are immune to many special damage effects. However, if a balloon is set on fire, the fire does not go out, and multiple fires may be set. So, balloons are particularly susceptible to munitions like incendiary bullets and rockets.

On Good Friday, Brian, Frederick and Kevin came over to push some planes around, and try to set some balloons on fire.

Scenario: Two Allied observation balloons are spotting for off-table artillery. Locating German scouts, they frantically signaled to be winched down to the ground by their support crews. The Germans had 12 turns to knock down the pair of balloons, which were defended by a flight of Sopwith Camels...

Frederick and Kevin can be seen below sitting behind the western table edge. Their 3 Sopwith Camels came in roughly from the northwest, trying to use their tight turning ability to get on the Germans' tails. The 2 German Albatrosses were run by Brian; they had incendiary ammo, and would try and take out the two Allied artillery observation balloons. They flew in from the southeast to try and take both balloons in succession. Flying the all-red Fokker Triplane, I flew to the north of the Albatrosses, and would try and keep the Camels busy.

(Click on the photos for larger images.)

Brian's Albatrosses line up on the southernmost balloon. Meanwhile, my Triplane mixed it up with the Camels.

Below, Brian contemplates his next move.

Brian's planes scored hits on the first balloon. The Camels have now abandoned their skirmishing, and can be seen flying over to come to grips with the Albatrosses.

A big dogfight ensued as both sides' forces converged on the same airspace.

Confused by the whirling melee, one of Brian's pilots accidentally flew off the western table edge. That pilot could look forward to the relative comforts of an Allied prison camp.

Since the Germans had lost half their incendiary firepower, I figured we had to turn to "Plan B." Accordingly, I kicked the Fokker around and attacked the already-damaged balloon. Through sheer luck, the Fokker managed to set it on fire.

Mmm, toasty.

Brian expended the last of his Albatross' ammo into the damaged southern balloon, then turned back east towards home. Meanwhile, my Fokker made an unsuccessful pass at the other balloon, closely pursued by Kevin's RAF Camel and Frederick's Belgian plane.

Performing an Immelmann, I set up the Fokker for another attack run on the balloon.

I managed one close-range burst on the balloon. However, the Allied pilots had correctly guessed my intentions. A no-deflection shot sent the Fokker down into the mud, and its pilot into the waiting arms of his Allied captors.

With the loss of two planes, and the balloons merely being damaged (albeit one was on fire), the scenario result was an Allied victory.

All in all, the game was tremendous fun. The on-fire balloon was within a single burst of being destroyed, and IIRC all the surviving planes were suffering from one sort of damage or another. I look forward to playing with the balloons again. Maybe three barrage balloons protecting a vital installation...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Elysians Catch a Lift

Elysian Drop Troops will not be much good if they can't get a ride to the battle! I have started with the Valkyries, and I finished my first one for them over the weekend - here are some pictures.

The paint scheme is a very simple green, which will work with both the Elysian troopers and the Bundesguard if they ever need to fly somewhere. For a weapon load, I went with the rocket pod and the multi-laser. From what I can tell, I think it makes the most sense, and plus I love the look of the rocket pods. Three of these things flying in a squadron will be able to lay out a fairly high volume of abuse. This will be the weapon combo for the balance of the Valkyries in this force, although I will do a couple of "Vendetta" gunships as well (which are armed with several lascannons and are great at killing vehicles).

Although the scheme is basic, the models are actually a pretty slow go, as I like to paint the cockpit and the pilots, and even a cursory effort there tends to slow the project. Besides, as I have ranted many times, I am not at all a patient model builder, so this part of the project will be slow going for sure.

Compouding this challenge is that Valkyries are not all that expensive points-wise, meaning a 1500 point army will be able to field quite a few of them! A good problem to have, but one that will slow down the production.

I'm torn on the notion of adding door gunners to some of the models. It will be a pain model-wise, for one thing (even though it will look pretty cool if I can pull it off) but I am also not sure if that is a good investment in points or not. How often will the heavy bolters come to bear on targets, vs. the rockets and the multi-laser?

I'll probably do the next one with door gunners anyway, for a looks-cool-factor if nothing else (it can be the CO's ride or something) and wait till I get some game experience with the Valkyries to see if the door gunners are worth the trouble.