Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New Places, New Faces - Empire of the Dead AAR

Our Empire of the Dead group had its second campaign day recently, and since I actually made it to the store on time, the group managed to get in a couple games each. 

In the first game, my Lycaons squared off with Bob's gun-wielding Gentlemen's Club. We would be playing a Fracas mission, which basically tasked our gangs with killing off the opposing enemies. Our gangs fought in the countryside, which featured a hedge maze, church, some ruins and a graveyard. As we were deploying in opposite corners, Bob's gang took up position in the cemetery, while my pack walked in through the hedge maze. 

I got really lucky and managed to win the roll to see whether or not the game would be played at night or during the day. Knowing that the 18" line-of-sight rule for nighttime games would greatly affect the ability of Bob's gang and their pistols and rifles, I opted to play at night. 

While the four humans either took the center route through the churchyard or hopped the hedge maze and traveled the long way around, my Wolf, Packmaster and Beastlord traveled together in that respective order. Any shots Bob might get before the wolf pack could get into close combat would have to be directed at the closest model - i.e., the Wolf, which I would happily sacrifice if it meant I could get the two werewolves into close combat.

My plan worked perfectly, with the Wolf soaking up two turns worth of shooting before finally being put down. By that time the Packmaster and Beastlord were in amongst Bob's club members, and body parts and intestines flew through the moonlit air as the werewolves tore into the aristocrats. The gentlemen tried retreating with a running gun battle, but the werewolves superior movement speed meant that the end of the game ended up looking like this:

Bob only managed to get a single model of the table without any damage (luckily for him it was the one armed with the repeating rifle) and his men took some serious injuries in the post game results. I lost my Wolf - it was captured by Bob's gang during the fight. I had the option of attempting to rescue the miniature next time I played Bob, but I had gained so many Shillings from my victory that I just bought a new beast and named it Twowolf. Sister Amelia, the captured and converted nun from Carl's gang, took a rifle round to the chest, but was remarkably uninjured. I used the rest of my winnings to improve some of my gang members, and to give my Beastlord the Bloodlust skill. Now he could hop from a won combat into a new combat, providing him with the ability to avoid being shot at at all if enough enemy gang members were close enough. 

My second game for the day was against Gary's Nosferatu. We were playing in an urban environment, and once again rolled up the Fracas mission. Deployment this time was a straight lines across a table edge, and I deployed by gang in its usual little squads. Gary did the same on the opposite table side. 

I also won the roll to see if it was night or day. Now, Gary had been dealing with a rather poor string of rolls regarding this part of the game, and had only been able to play games during the day. This meant that his head Vampire was forced to shield itself from daylight. This took Gary's faction leader down from being a monstrous creature of the night to a somewhat mediocre fighter who couldn't even take a gun to offset the penalties. Feeling somewhat cocky from my last victory, I decided to give Gary a chance to use his awesome vampire miniature and give his Nosferatu faction a real game - so we played at night.

My gang ran forward, going in pairs apart from the Packmaster who went down the street on the far right. Gary opted to keep most of his gang together, pulling away from the werewolves as they traveled across the right side of the table.

I quickly lost two gang members. The crossbow Wolfskin was downed by the Bat Swarm - Gary was rather pleased by that - and the Graf tore into Sister Amelia, who had forgotten to bring her Holy Symbol. 

As Gary's gang swung around to my left, the two Wolfskins that had gone up the middle were suddenly set upon by a Bat Swarm. Despite having been blinded in the previous campaign game, the Swarm managed to survive several rounds of combat with the Wolfskins, effectively shutting them down and allowing the vampire Graf to charge into the melee. Both Wolfskins went down quickly, unable to keep up with the whirling dervish of blades and fangs.  

Meanwhile, my werewolves and Wolf ran panting through the street, still trying to catch up with the vampire's gang members. The Wolf arrived first, and was filled with lead for its troubles. 

The MVP award for my gang went to Packmaster Silas, who managed to hold off the Vampire and two of the Bat Swarms long enough for the retreating Beastmaster to return and join the fight. Realizing that his Graf was suddenly at a severe disadvantage against the two werewolves, Gary elected to have his gang retreat.

While I technically won, Gary's gang had been so far below my own in its Standing that the bonus Shillings Gary received for playing against me nearly put him at the same amount for the after game results. Unfortunately for me, while Twowolf, Sister Amelia, and Sally (one of the Wolfskins) survived, the other two Wolfskins did not. This was a blow, as the Wolfskins that both had important improvements to their ability scores - the crossbow-armed subordinate had better Marksmanship than the standard grunt, while the other had improved Strength. This was advantageous, since he was armed with an Axe (which further increases a model's strength in close combat) and a Bow, which damage output relies on the Strength of the model wielding it.

While this was problematic, both Wolfskins were easily replaced by new members, and they were outfitted with the old members' equipment. I also decided to get rid of the few stakes in the group (since they hadn't done anything against Gary's vampire) and instead equipped all of the humans with two Axes each. I'm looking forward to seeing how this increases their melee ability in future games. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Big Box Terrain - Kickstarter Review

A month or so ago I received my reward for supporting Angry Mojo Games' Big Box Terrain kickstarter. The small mountain of mdf terrain sat in its box for some time before I decided to sit down and get some work done, mostly in response to the second Empire of the Dead campaign day coming up. 

So I cleared my hobby table, unpacked the box, readied my wood glue and got down to business. 

The terrain went together over the course of a couple days. I needed to take a break to allow the glue in the first kits I had assembled to dry. 

When I finished, I found myself with enough terrain to satisfactorily cover a 4'x4' paying area. If one were to treat the sarcophagi and gravestones as linear terrain that provides cover, it makes for a decent cemetery to have a shootout in, as there are plenty of places to hide.  

The entrance fence is more decorative than anything else, but it still has plenty of detail, like the individual tips of each fence-post. 

The large mausoleums have removable roofs, making them the perfect place to hide secret rites and rituals from the prying eyes of the public.  

The smaller mausoleums don't have removable roofs, unfortunately. They can still provide cover, however, or be spawning points for hordes of skeletons, ghouls and zombies. 

These spooky trees were pretty easy to assemble. The smaller trees came in two parts that slotted into each other, while the larger tree was eight individual sides that were individually slotted into three circular pieces that held the sides together.

Providing a nice place to relax (if relaxing in cemeteries is your kind of thing) is the gazebo set. The gazebo was probably the most effort intensive pieces to put together in the entire kit. It took two base pieces, fifteen individual posts and fence parts, and seventeen pieces for the roof! But it came together quite easily, providing a great (and potential malevolent to anyone named Eric) centerpiece. 

The fountain and floral-patterned benches accentuate the area. These pieces of terrain would probably work well in other settings, like a Victorian estate or American town. 

A collection of sarcophagi came with the kickstarter set, each (like the mausoleums) imprinted by a name chosen by one of the higher level backers. 

And it wouldn't be a cemetery without plenty of gravestones, and Angry Mojo didn't disappoint. Each stand has five slots, and there were plenty of headstones to chose from. Three types were both common and more numerous, but there were enough individualized headstones to make each stand different looking.

For a $50 pledge, I got enough terrain for a Empire of the Dead table, and even more for games that take place on smaller tables. While the Cemetery Set on Angry Mojo's website isn't quite as extensive, it does provide a good place to start, and could easily accentuate a table with some buildings or forests on it already.

I'm very glad to have gotten all this terrain for such a great price, and I'm looking forward to using it!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

WWII Day at Graeme Park

Every year a local park puts on a weekend dedicated to WWII living history and battle reenactments. The sound of music straight from the 40's drifted through the air, past women done up in rather impressive victory curls and men (and some boys) in uniform. 

I dropped by on a beautiful Saturday afternoon just in time to see a squad of Germans square off against a number of Americans, with a single British Paratrooper and a couple French Partisans tagging along.

As an overall thought - I wasn't particularly happy with the chosen location for the demonstration. It was in a rather overgrown field that blocked plenty of the events going on, so much of what the spectators experienced was a combination of the sounds of blanks being fired and the reenactors yelling at each other (sometimes in German, which I thought was a nice touch), and the occasional colored smoke grenade, which I assumed was used to indicate when certain events in the demonstration should take place. I thought the demonstration I went to a couple years back, which took place in and around a small collection of buildings, gave a much better show. Still, there's nothing quite like watching a bunch of reenactors running through the woods firing blanks out of rifles, sub-machine guns, and machine guns at each other. 

After a mandatory yelling of orders, the Allies went to one side of the field, and the Germans to another.

There were two viewing areas for spectators. The first was placed in between the Allied and German starting positions and was so crowded that I would have needed a stepladder or stilts to see anything. The second viewing area was placed behind the German starting position. Luckily for me, a great deal of the other spectators moved to the other area, so I got to see some of the later action.

The Germans were quickly forced back by the attacking allies, having been flanked on their left from the outset.

Some of the German reenactors were lucky enough to be captured instead of 'shot,' but there were some pretty convincing death tumbles. Kudos to the MG-42 gunner who managed to give the Allies a little scare after they thought all the Germans were either 'dead' or captured.

There was also an area for the living history folks who didn't take part in the demonstration, but whom had dug a convincing defensive positions, complete with machine gun nests and fox holes. I got to watch a little drama unfold as the replica M1917 sprung a leak, and a couple of its crew members leaped into action to repair it.

It was a fun event to attend, and I'll definitely try to remember to visit next year's WWII weekend.