Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It's Rat-tastic!!

For some time now, I've been thinking about a new army for Fantasy Battle. (Disregarding the thousands of points of unpainted Bretonnians sitting in a box in the closet, of course)

In particular, I've been thinking about Skaven. I've never had Skaven models for any of the Warhammer games, although many years ago I painted a box or two of Clanrats for a friend in a trade, but I always had a soft spot for the furry li'l fellas. In fact during the Blood Bowl craze of early 2010 (we haven't actually played it yet) I bought (and recently finished painting) a Skaven team. Pics of those will be coming soon.

Anyhow, when a Skaven army popped up at an amazing price on bartertown, I jumped on it. After three weeks and a bunch of unanswered emails sent to the seller, I was beginning to smell "ripoff" but yesterday a big box arrived...

WOW! That's alotta rats. 150 Clanrats, 75+ Plague Monks, 20 Night/Gutter Runners, Jezzail teams, Ratling Guns, Globadiers, Plague Censer Bearers, Rat Ogres, Warp Lightning Thrower, characters... pretty much a complete army (less Screaming Bell and Stormvermin of course) and better yet, much of it has been neatly painted in block colours.

Of course I'be detail painting and relying heavily on the magical properties of Devlan Mud, and finishing the bases, but it shouldn't take long to get most of this stuff table-ready. The characters and some of the other stuff is unpainted but that's perfect, as those are the centrepieces anyway, I'm just happy that the huge blocks of rats are well on their way to completion.

I bet that alot of people have lucked into armies like this, partly painted that is. I'm intending to post periodic progress reports on how the tune-up goes. It may be more work than I anticipate but I think it will be good fun. "Die-die man-thing!"
ps stay tuned for the new 40K army coming soon as well... what is the matter with me??

Monday, June 28, 2010

Robotech pictures recovered!

At the beginning of the month we staged a Robotech game at Prairiecon 2010. I took a ton of pictures, and then could not find them. Definitely a sign that I suck. But I managed to find them after all - so I can dial back the I-suck-o-metre a little bit today.

Here are photos from the game, which featured a shoot-out at the abandoned RDF base on Mars. Models are approx 1/200 scale, mostly by Nichimo (or whoever actually owned those molds). The "PWNED" token is from Litko, and trust me - that VT fighter got PWNED big-time.

Thanks again to Dallas and Mike F for coming to play in this game and making it fun!

Friday, June 25, 2010

WH40K: Seize Ground/Dawn of War

This past Tuesday, June 22, fellow Conscript MFraser came over to try out his new Space Marine army.

Space Marines
It was the first opportunity he's had to play with all the units he wanted. His army was a straight Codex: Space Marines mechanized force, consisting of (IIRC):

Bike-mounted Librarian (riding with...)
Bike Squad w/ 2 x Melta Guns and a Multimelta Attack Bike (the attack bike was converted to look like one of those two-wheels-in-front trikes you see driving around)
Tactical Squad w/ ML and Flamer, Sgt. w/ PF, mounted in a Rhino APC
Tactical Squad w/ Lascannon and Plasma Gun, Sgt. w/ PF, mounted in a Rhino APC
Tactical Squad w/ Multimelta and Melta Gun, Sgt. w/ PF, mounted in a Rhino APC
Dreadnought w/ Multimelta and DCCW
Dreadnought w/ TL-Lascannon and ML
Predator w/ Autocannon and 2xHB

All in all, balanced and very mobile. If he Combat squads his 10-man Tac squads, Mike will have 6 scoring units.

Eldar Swordwind
I ran with the latest incarnation of my Mechdar, which I've been playing for a few months now.

Farseer - Fortune; Doom; Eldar Jetbike; Runes of Warding; Singing Spear
Autarch - Eldar Jetbike; Banshee Mask; Laser Lance; Fusion Gun
6 x Dire Avengers - in Wave Serpent w/ TL EML
5 x Dire Avengers - in Wave Serpent w/ TL Bright Lances
5 x Fire Dragons - in Wave Serpent w/ TL Shuriken Cannons
5 x Fire Dragons - in Wave Serpent w/ Shuricannon and 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

The small Avenger squads are the newest wrinkle, since I used to run full 10-man squads. Note that there's no close combat capability beyond the Autarch's lance. I miss my Howling Banshees, but the army now has a lot of close and medium range firepower. For example, the Vypers throw out 12 to 21 S6 shots at up to 36" a turn, and can be used for late game skimmer-wall or objective-contesting hi-jinks. I still use the Spiders because, (1) they're beautiful models, and (2) they can deep strike and lay down S6 anywhere on the table. There's also some long-range shooting capability that may make an opponent think a little about their moves.

Scenario: Seize Ground - we had 4 objectives (two crates, a dug-in Pathfinder, and a Ghostwarrior) spread across the center and eastern half of the table. Whoever controlled the most objectives with scoring units (i.e. Troops) at the end of the game would win.

Deployment: Dawn of War - I won the roll and decided to go second and played the Reserves Denial ploy, putting everything in reserve, with the Warp Spiders teleporting in. Mike kept one Tac squad mounted up in reserve. He Combat squadded the others, and placed a ML team in the northeast corner, and a Lascannon team in the woods north of the abandoned heavy artillery piece.

At the top of the first turn, Mike's forces (except the lone Tac squad in reserve) came on the table. See photo below, looking east, with Mike's forces on the left, northern, table edge .

From west to east, there's the Predator, the bikes, a Rhino with a Combat Squad on board, the Lascannon/ML Dread, the Lascannon team, the Multi-melta Dread, the ML team, and another Rhino with a Combat Squad aboard.

Top of the second turn, Mike's reserve unit came on in the northwest corner. He advanced the Predator in the middle, with the bikes behind, and the other Combat Squad in a Rhino advanced south into the northeast table quarter.

I decided to use the Autarch's "+1" for Eldar reserves rolls. Everything came on except the Vypers and the Warp Spiders. I pushed the two Fire Dragon Serpents flat out in the centre and the west, to gain cover saves. The Avenger Serpents came on in the southwest corner, protected by terrain. The Prism came on centrally, to pot shot the Marine centre. The Farseer and Autarch came on in the southeast corner, hiding behind a hill. Fire from the Serpents immobilized and stunned the Predator.

Top of third turn, Mike pulled back the bikes, to respond to my deep thrust with the Fire Dragons. He moved up the western Rhino to support the Predator. Concentrated Marine firepower shook the Serpent in the centre and pulled off its turret, but it was still free to move.

The Spiders decided to show up in the bottom of the third turn, dropping beside the big artillery piece. The Farseer Fortuned the Autarch, who sped off 24" towards the easternmost Rhino. I advanced one Dragon Serpent to the west of the Predator, moving up the EML Serpent in support. In the centre, the other Dragon Serpent advanced and disembarked their infantry. The Brightlance Serpent moved east.

Eldar shooting pulled the turret off the Predator. I targeted the centre Rhino (not the Dreadnought walker) with the Dragons , to keep those scoring Troops deep in their deployment zone - the Rhino blew up, but the Marines survived to hunker down in the crater left by the Rhino's passing. The Fire Prism killed a couple of the Lascannon team with a focused shot. The Spiders merely shook the 2-gun Dreadnought (blast that "Extra Armour").

Top of the fourth, the eastern Rhino-mounted Combat squad dismounted to shoot up the Autarch, who received a wound. The Librarian contemplated casting a power, but the presence of the Runes of Warding dissuaded him. The bikes moved up and concentrated fire wiped out the dismounted Dragons . To the west, the other Dragon boat went down to melta fire from the mounted Tac squad, firing out of their Rhino, but 4 Dragons survived.

The Eldar responded by a general advance, including the Vypers (which finally showed up). The Serpent of the now-dead Dragons shifted east a little, to both contest the objective and free up space for the Warp Spiders to move up. The Farseer moved up in support of the Autarch. The Autarch moved over the combat squad, to set up an assault from their rear. The Spiders jumped towards the Lascannon guys. The surviving Fire Dragons ran toward the western Rhino and the Predator, which were both immobile, to assault them (at the time, I thought auto hitting two stationary vehicles would be better than firing at one). The EML Serpent moved up in support, contesting the northwest objective (hopefully this would draw some heat off the centre and east). The Brightlance Serpent moved flat out east, towards the objective (the Ghostwarrior) in the southeast table quarter.

Eldar firepower killed three of the Combat squad in the wreckage and one Lascannon squad guy. The Autarch killed three Marines with her lance, and then survived the Sgt.'s power fist. Four Meltabombs merely shook the Rhino and pulled a weapon off the Predator.

Time to switch dice.

Top of the fifth turn, the Marines to the west dismounted by the objective there and opened up on the Fire Dragons, killing three of them. One Dragon was left, but his morale held. The Combat squad survivors in the wreck moved into the woods, to get near the other objective and the Lascannon guy. The bikes moved west and wrecked the EML Serpent, but some Avengers survived. A Dreadnought wrecked the other contesting Wave Serpent. A missile managed to shoot the turret off the Fire Prism. The lone close combat was inconclusive (lots of 1's and 2's rolled).

Bottom of the fifth, the Fire Prism moved flat out behind the wrecked skimmer, to create a wall pinching off the eastern objectives from the bikes. The other Wave Serpent moved flat out northeast to claim the Ghostwarrior objective and threaten the Pathfinder objective. The last Fire Dragon on the table finally destroyed the Predator. The Farseer moved up behind the Multimelta Dread destroying it with her Singing Spear. The Warp Spiders moved up near the woods, contesting the objective there, and then shot at and wiped out the two remaining members of the Combat squad.

Each side held one objective; Mike rolled for random game length, but the game continued.

Top of the sixth turn, the bikes roared back east and shot up the Spiders, leaving only the Exarch alive. The ML team in the northeast fired at and downed the Farseer. The Tac squad moved into woods by the the objective, and gunned down the last Dragon.

In the Assault phase, the power fist sergeant fighting the Autarch finally died. The Lascannon guy was over 3 inches from the nearest objective, so Mike moved him into assault with the Spider Exarch; if that Marine survived, that would claim another objective. The Bikes assaulted the Exarch, too. The Exarch (Initiative 6!) concentrated all his attacks on the Lascannon guy, killing him with a punch to the throat; as the Eldar war priest started kicking the Marine corpse, the Librarian stuck a Force Sword in the Exarch's kidney, sending him into eternity...

Bottom of the sixth turn, and the Eldar had to get busy. The Vypers moved flat out towards the northwest objective, contesting it. The last Avenger Serpent moved back south, using the hull of the Fire Prism as cover, and still claiming the southernmost objective. The Autarch finally killed the last Marine she was in combat with, and consolidated towards the ML team.

The score was one objective to nothing in favour of the Eldar, but the random game length roll decreed a seventh and final turn.

Everything the Marines had that could bear opened up on the Vypers, leaving a lone Vyper contesting that objective.

The ML team opened up on the Autarch, wounding her, but she remained stoic.

We didn't need to play out the bottom of the seventh turn, since the score remained Eldar-1, Marines-0.

Result: Eldar Victory

This was an exciting and tense game. The Eldar game plan was to keep the Marines bottled up in the northern half of the board, and to try and claim or contest objectives in the end game. Accurate Space Marine shooting and an extended game length made the outcome less than certain, with the outcome riding on the results of a series of single die rolls.

Thanks a lot Mike; I look forward to our next game!

Battle Report - so I guess that was Lasalle...

Last night we assembled at Dallas' place for a first try at the Napoleonic game Lasalle, using 15mm figures. As you might notice from the title, I was kind of underwhelmed by the rules. More on that later in the post.

The game was very basic, set on a 6'x4' table which featured a crossroads near the middle as an objective. We certainly were not attempting a particular famous battle, but rather a plausible small encounter that might have happened somewhere in the 1809 campaign. A hefty Austrian brigade was on the defence, with two regiments of Cuirassiers as reinforcements off table. The French were on the attack (of course) and rolled in with an infantry brigade and a regiment of Chasseurs and one of Hussars. Each side had an artillery battery.

Bill and Brian took command of the Austrians, while Dallas and I got moving with the French attack. Dallas and I split our force, and a good portion of the game was one of maneuvering to attack. Dallas led the bulk of the French infantry - six battalions - toward one half of the Austrian line, while I led the artillery battery, the cav and two infantry battalions to secure a hill and pin some of the Austrians down. Dallas was to deliver the hammer blow that would send the Austrians packing!

Thanks to the arrival of the Cuirassiers, however, and some red-hot rolling from Bill together with some not-so-hot rolls from Dallas, things got pretty rough for the main attack. With no Cav support on his side, the Cuirassiers started to stomp on Dallas' infantry. The Austrian infantry, with their huge battalions, got in on the act too. Caught by the combined arms, and with my cav too far away to help, Dallas' attack columns got whomped.

Despite the high casualties, we did punch back. My "diversionary" attack actually got some good results, with the Hussars shattering an Austrian battalion that could not manage to make it into a square. Dallas got a pound of flesh too, running over an Austrian battalion in the woods with a well-coordinated punch by a pair of attack columns.

The game ended in a draw - we were actually pretty close to capturing the crossroads too. Both sides were near their breakpoints. But I have to credit the Austrians - they really bloodied the French nose.

Here are some pictures from the game:

I have to say the rules were a let-down. I had really high expectations for this really intelligent, Shako-consensus-shattering new game and in the end it was a struggle to interpret the rules (which are not that clear in many cases) and there are some things that were just bizarre, like an Austrian line charging a French attack column and ending up with a huge advantage. Generally speaking, the plus-size Austrian units had huge advantages, and in line they can sweep everything in front of them. How did these guys lose the war?

Another whacky feature is how the game turns are counted - one turn is actually just one set of actions by one side. Most of us recognize that as a half-turn. I think the intent, with random turn ending, is to try and incent the players to get everything done that they can, because you could literally end up with the game ending before you have a chance to respond. But the feel was off, and it leads to constant confusion in the rules because this idea of a turn is hugely non-intuitive.

Another nit - no conforming. Considering all the other things you abstract in a game like this, a lack of process where units conform to each other once they contact is a pain, and the board gets cluttered with all sorts of odd angles, bonky formations and frankly looks terrible.

Any positives? Yes - the structure of the game turns. It takes some getting used to, but Mr. Mustafa has really engineered something cool there. Basically, you start a turn by "reacting" to what has happened - you shoot, make countercharges, and resolve the combats. Then, you move. It's neat, because as the commander, you get to unleash your charges, but you don't get to see how they will work out in your own turn - you just have to wait and hope. Seems right to me. It's great effect, but as I said it takes some getting used to, because it is very different from other games.

In the final judgement, the rules were disappointing. I'm not about to write off Shako, even with its challenges, to dive into Lasalle. At the same time, it's too soon to write off Lasalle. The first game with any new rules set can be bumpy, so we'll definitely have to try it again sometime. But don't watch for me to rush out and paint any damn artillery limbers :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Game this week - Napoleonics with Lasalle

This week we will return to the Napoloenic era and take Lasalle, the new rules by Sam Mustafa, for a test drive.

Sam Mustafa is the brains behind rules like Grande Armee (Napoleonic) and Might and Reason (Seven Years War). I have always found his rules to be innovative, thoughtful and fun, lending themselves to some great games (well, except for games where I play the Austrians and face the Prussians in the Seven Years War). I still have great memories of the Grande Armee game Curt ran for us a couple of years back, where the Austrians won at Marengo, thanks to Brian's grenadier brigade single-handedly overrunning the French line and wrecking their flank.

Lasalle is intended to be "tactical". I am not intelligent enough to split the hairs, but I think this means "above skirmish, and below division", or something like that. Fellow conscript Curt C is way more eloquent and knowledgeable on this point, but I think that one thing Shako struggles with is the brigade level of command. It tries to represent brigade OBs in the games and approximate every battalion in the field, but cuts out the brigade level of command, distorting the command and control. In Lasalle, you will not try to represent the huge encounters like the Battle of Waterloo (or you could, I guess, but that doesn't seem to be the intent) and will instead enjoy smaller actions that occurred in all theatres in all times. Or, you can play a small part of one of the larger, more well-known actions.

I think Lasalle is also part of Sam Mustafa's attempt to develop some kind of unified field theory for horse and musket gaming. In his introduction, he touches on how people have always tried to adapt his rules from one period to another period or setting (i.e. Grande Armee for ACW). He postulates that gamers have this innate desire to have one set of rules for everything. Speaking as someone who has pushed around a squadron of X-wing fighters hunting a Star Destroyer using an adaptation of Lord of the Rings rules, I suppose that might be a little true. Still, I believe Sam is over-thinking it. A glance at any gamer's bookshelf will tell you we will always buy another set of rules. The reason we try to apply one set of rules to other periods is because we really love rules that don't suck, and Sam is pretty good at generating those.

You can check more into the rules yourself here, and also learn a little more about Sam Mustafa's "Honour" system (of which Lasalle is a first part).

For the game, I will put together a little bash em' up scenario featuring Austrians and French. Allegedly you can use any basing system with Lasalle, so we'll break out the 15mm lads. The rules call for artillery batteries to be represented by multiple gun models, so we'll struggle to have much artillery out there. Even worse, the rules call for limbers (triple blech - painting limbers sucks) to represent the guns on the move. Finally, even though you allegedly don't have to rebase, the rules are cemented on the principle that one gun model has the same approximate base width as one of the infantry bases. My artillery is based for Shako, and this does not work out (unless I use a Bill Clinton definition of "approximate"), but I think we'll survive for one game :)

Finally, to keep up with the Napoleonic theme, I have adjusted the poll on our blog, returning again to one of my favourite themes. We'll get you yet sure to vote early, and often, from multiple IP addresses, in order to create as much pressure as possible on Mike F. It's what friends do.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Prairiecon 2010

It's a little late, but just wanted to give a big "thank you" to Dallas and Mike F. for rolling out to Brandon on June 5th for Prairiecon. We ran a game of Robotech Saturday afternoon, and later in the evening Dallas ran a game of "Sink the Star Destroyer" (Editors' note - I may have used the wrong name, so Dallas might have to fix that).

With the exception of one gentlemen who perhaps needed to get out of the house a little more, the Robotech game was a lot of fun and looked good thanks to Dallas lending me his industrial buildings which made for a fine "Mars Base" where the Zentreadi and the Robotech Defence Force could shoot each other to pieces. Dallas and Mike were enthusiastic players on the alien side. While the plague of terrible rolling that started with our play test on June 3rd continued for the Zentreadi, the overall result was still a victory for the aliens, if for no other reason than the RDF players were using some pretty beardy "tactics" - like Veritechs hiding behind the destroids, for example - what VT pilot would even go near one of those loser things?

I took a ton of pictures of the game, but somehow lost them (ARRGH!). So here is the surviving pic. I'm so lame!

Thanks again to the organizers of Prairiecon for letting us come out to run a game, and to Dallas and Mike F. for supporting and playing!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Game this week - Robotech

This week we will playing Robotech. The game will be a trial-run for the scenario we are hosting at Prairiecon in Brandon this Saturday. And at the risk of making Brian H's head explode, I'll be adapting the Lord of the Rings rules engine for the game!

We often joke about how we use Lord of the Rings to play everything. And I don't even know if we're kidding that much when we say that - we use it for Zombies, Sudan, Star Wars space combat, as well as actual Lord of the Rings games. It's a very, very versatile and simple rules set, an example of how GW rules that are not 40k are actually very good.

In the past we have played Robotech using an adaptation of "Mobile Soldier in Action", a set of free rules on the web intended for battles set in "Mobile Suit Gundam".

I like the MSIA rules a lot, but they get a bit slow with more than a few models per side. One dynamic of any Robotech/Macross encounter is that the aliens are sure to outnumber the human side - by a lot! MSIA struggles to flow in that kind of set up. Another key dynamic of Robotech/Macross is that the alien mecha, while really big and scary-looking, is actually made by some universal-lowest-price-reduced-quality-contractor, meaning they bring a quality-of-quantity type approach to a battle, and individual battle pods get mowed down like chaff by the heroes. Looks great on screen, but using the MSIA approach of worrying about whether some expendable battle pod has lost a leg or has damaged sensors etc. is not useful. The UN Spacy guys should be able to gun em' down, or hose them off with missiles, while the aliens rely on inexhaustible numbers and a few characters to try and carry the day.

I am hoping that LOTR engine can handle this a little better. There will be challenges for sure - LOTR is great for settings where close assault/hand-to-hand combat occurs. Can't say that is a regular feature of Macross, unless you count Roy Fokker's battloid putting its gun right against the sensor of a battle pod before emptying the clip as a "close assault". What kind of close attack is a giant, ostrich-legged pod going to make anyway, other than to stomp on civilians? The SDF-1 does "punch" the odd alien ship, but that is still a shooting attack of sorts too. Macross is just not a hand-to-hand combat genre.

If you are interested in scenario details, here is the blurb from Prairiecon:

Scenario: Bye Bye Mars

The SDF-1 has landed at an abandoned research base on Mars to recover supplies, only to be ambushed by Zentreadi battle pods. Can the RDF defenders hold the line while the SDF-1 prepares to escape, or will the Zentreadi overrun the thin line of Destroids and Veritechs to capture the SDF-1 while it is trapped on the surface?

See you this week! And go Blackhawks!