Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Battle of Clontarf, 1014 - Community Game AAR

Last weekend, Bob Fanelli put on another one of his homebrewed community games, this time focusing on the Battle of Clontarf. 

Fought in 1014, Clontarf saw the clash of the aged High-King of the Irish, Brian Boru, against a Irish-Norse coalition, led by the kings of Dublin and Leinster, Sigtrygg Silkberd and Máel Mórda mac Murchada. The end result of the historical battle saw the Norse-Irish forces broken, and the power of the vikings in Dublin curbed. Brian Boru lost his life in the fighting, however, along with his son and grandson. 

In our fight, six Norse-Irish warbands fought against five Irish warbands. A sixth group of Irish fighters - the Uí Néills - waited on the Irish right flank, hoping to see which way the battle was swinging before heading into the fray.

Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted the picture of the initial positions, so we'll have to jump right into the fight. 

On the first turn, many of the clans issued challenges to each other, hoping to generate Wut points, which would later be needed for combat. Luck seemed to favor both sides - while my Dal Cassian champion was cut down on the far left flank of the Irish line, the Irish champions in the middle of the line managed to cut down their Norse-Irish counter parts.

The two shield walls advanced towards each other. Across most of the lines, warbands crashed into each others fronts, but thanks to the non-involvement of the Uí Néills, the group holding down the Irish right flank was charged not only in the front, but in the side as well.

Combat in Bob's rules involved a deck of cards that represented actions that units could perform. These were Kill them All, Take their Standard, Drive Them, Amuse Them, Disengage, and Rest. Depending on what card each side played, results could range from both sides slaughtering each other, to gaining points of fatigue, or backing off. Spending Wut points added to the amount of casualties caused. For each enemy model killed, a unit gained a Wut point back. And after each turn spent in combat, a unit gained two fatigue points. Fatigue put a negative modifier on the amount of casualties spent, meaning more Wut points were needed to cause casualties.

By the end of the second turn, both sides had bloodied each other, tallying up and collecting Wut.

Of course, it was at this point in time when the Uí Néills decided to join the fight - on the side of the Vikings.

And then, the third turn. Notice anything missing? In two combats, both warbands wiped each other out to the last man. One of the Irish warbands pushed their opponent into the bay, killing them and generating a massive amount of Wut.

But the Irish were essentially gone on both flanks, with the Dal Cassians down to three men and the warband on the right slaughtered as the Uí Néills attacked them in the side.

With a bit of maneuvering on the fourth turn, and the Dal Cassian champion killed in a challenge, the the group reached a consensus and decided to end the game there. The end result was the exact opposite of the historical situation - while the Irish lost the battle, Brian and his family survived and escaped.

We found the rules for the game interesting, although there were some concerns regarding Wut generation and potential limits for units. Additionally, it was only at the end of the fight that we realized that using the Drive Them and Amuse Them cards was much more dangerous than simply trying to kill as many of the enemy as possible - it's difficult to cause any casualties when your unit is completely fatigued.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Painting Update - All Quiet on the Martian Front

Today's update is a quick look at the last units for my All Quiet miniatures. 

These units are the last for the humans, and get them up to 700 points (to match the 700 points of Martians that come in the starter set).

The Rough Riders are a pretty awesome unit, reminiscent of the snowspeeders from the Battle of Hoth. They speed around the battlefield, firing grappling hooks and wires at tripods, either slowing them down or tripping them for massive damage. This is the second unit in the human force, added to the first that came in the starter set.

The other two units are commanders. The infantry command squad allows units to rally if infantry units fail a morale check. The command tank is another tank, but can act as a field commander, allowing the player to spend command points during the game.

Unfortunately, as AQotMF is currently dead, this project is probably going right into the "To Sell" pile, and I'll hope its general rarity will increase the price that buyers are willing to pay.

Next, I'm moving onto the Loch Rysk Warhawks, the human Blood Bowl team that'll be the counterpart to the Baltimork Reavers.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Like a Fist to the Throat - Warmaster AAR

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Dave was kind enough to put on a demo game of Warmaster. I've been looking around for an alternative to Kings of War, and the Warmaster rules are one set that has been paraded time and time again for their design and overall quality. Kevyn, having arrived at the store to play some KoW, but not having an opponent, was roped into playing as well. 

Dave had brought two armies - Chaos and High Elves - of 1500 points, with relatively simple lists as to not overtax our first games. We used some changes to the rules that Dave's group uses, but I'm not sure which of those I'll want to keep using, or if I want to instead try some errata recommend by the Warmaster Podcast crew.

The table was covered in scattered woods and hills, which constricted the placement of our units - neither one of us wanted to take the command penalty for pushing our troops through the trees.

I took command of the Chaos force, which consisted of:
  • General
  • 2 Heroes
  • 3 Chaos Warriors
  • 2 Chaos Marauders
  • 2 Chaos Knights
  • 1 Marauder Horsemen
  • 2 Chaos Hounds
  • 1 Chaos Chariot
I deployed my troops in four large brigades, with the infantry in the center and the cavalry on the flanks. For purposes of the demo, we rounded down when calculating the army's break point, so my army would break when I lost five units. 

Kevyn's High Elves had quite a few more units than I did:
  • General
  • 2 Heroes
  • 4 Spearmen
  • 5 Archers
  • 2 Silver Helms
  • 1 Reavers
  • 1 Chariot
  • 2 Bolt Throwers
Two large groups of spearmen anchored Kevyn's right, and archers on his left. Inversely, his cavalry deployed opposite my Chaos Warriors. The High Elves had a break point of seven (eight normally, but dropped down by one for the demo's sake). 

Kevyn won the initiative roll, and opted to go second - obviously hoping that my units would come forward into bow range during the first turn. I obliged, with all my units advancing. Kevyn's ranged fired was somewhat desultory, only pushing back the Marauder Horsemen back a half-inch.

I began turn two by charging the Chaos Hounds into the Archers on the right. Unfortunately, a string of bad command rolls left my Marauders far behind the Warriors, and left my Warriors and Knights out in the open for retaliatory strikes from the High Elves. The Hounds killed one of the Archer units, but took heavy wounds in return.

Kevyn then charged his cavalry brigade right into the Warriors, and used his bolt throwers to force a units of Chaos Knights to break off from their brigade and retreat. The elven cavalry, however, broke against the Warriors, losing one stand from the Reavers and Chariots each, while causing no wounds against the heavily armored infantry.

Now, with plenty of my units within initiative distance, I no longer needed to worry about making command rolls to get my units into combat. The Hound and Horsemen units went into the archers again, while the Warriors charged into the remaining elven cavalry units. My hero on the left sent the Knights and Chariots into the Spearmen at the base of the hill, and also brought up the Knight unit that had retreated earlier. The General brought up the Marauders, but failed the second command roll when trying to send them up further.

While the Hounds and Horsemen were rebuffed, the Warriors slammed into the prancing horses, killing off the Chariots and Reavers, and getting rid of one of the Silver Helm stands. The combined cavalry charge on the left reduced the two spearmen units down to a single stand, but the supporting archers managed to keep the Chaos cavalry from winning the combat.

Hoping his Silver Helms could break the Chaos Warriors, Kevyn used their initiative to charge them in. Meanwhile, his second brigade of two spearmen units charged the Chaos cavalry brigade in the flank, along with the last stand of the other spearmen unit. Although the single stand unit was wiped out, the Chaos cavalry lost the combat, a stand each from the Knight and Chariot units, and was forced back. Kevyn decided not to pursue, not favoring his chances of an archer unit against the Knights.

With only a few units away from his break point, I sent my Warriors in again, along with the last stand of Chaos Hounds. The Knight, Horsemen, and Chariots also went in on the flanks. The Horsemen took out another stand of the archer unit, but was pushed back. The game was decided in the center, however, when the two stand unit of Chaos Warriors and the Chaos Hound stand took out the Silver Helm unit. The Warriors then advanced into the Bolt Throwers and tore them apart, ending the game as the High Elves reached their break point.

Kevyn's deployment seriously impacted his ability to bring the High Elves' superior shooting ability to bear. Concentrated fire from the bolt throwers and archers could have possibly done more damage as my units approached. Relatively untouched, my units were able to slam home into the elven lines, especially the Warriors. As I said to Kevyn, the Chaos Warrior brigade hit the elven cavalry "like a fist to the throat." As the two brigades traded blows, and while the High Elves were ground down over time, the Warriors came away with only the loss of a single stand.

I also noticed, after playing, we had also skipped other rules for expediency's sake. For example, infantry can't pursue after cavalry. I've got a copy of the Warmaster rules being printed at Staples, so that'll make for some reading material. 

This game has me invigorated to play more Warmaster, which may become my mass-battle fantasy game of choice. The fact that I can print out counters and have an army for less than $15 is certainly appealing, although it seems as though that the amount of companies producing 10mm fantasy miniatures is increasing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Shootout in Stomptown - Fistful of Lead AAR

Last week, I reviewed Fistful of Lead: Reloaded. This week, I got the chance to play a game between two gangs. 

Kevyn took the Bad Guys from Knuckleduster Miniatures, and came up with the "Empty Jugs" gang.
  • Jughead (Boss, Pistol, Deft, Deadeye)
  • Proper Joe (Pistol, Quick, Lousy Shot, Greenhorn)
  • Bottleneck (Pistol)
  • Hipster (Pistol)
  • Scruffy (Pistol)
  • Two Pistol Pete (Pistol)
While I had the Heroes from the same manufacturer, who became the "Aces Wilds" gang.
  • Jake Wilds (Boss, Rifle, Gunslinger, Medic)
  • Buddy Wilds (Pistol, Deft, Lousy Shot)
  • Ezekiel (Pistol)
  • Dusty (Pistol)
  • Wayne (Pistol)
  • Miguel (Pistol) 

The two gangs set up on opposite sides of the small settlement of Stomptown.

The first turn saw both gangs advance, safely outside of pistol range. Even the elder Wilds brother couldn't draw a bead on anyone with his rifle.

Ezekiel was pinned done in the doorway of one of the buildings, but Wayne and Miguel came around in support, along with Jake and his rifle. A hail of fire cut down Proper Joe.

The drunkards weren't going to take that sitting down, however, and Wayne was shot and killed. Hipster and Bottleneck, however, caught a wound and pin marker, respectively.

It seemed that the combat in the center of the town was going in the Aces' favor, as Ezekiel turned the corner and shot Jughead dead besides the outhouse. Buddy was stuck, pinned down by Bottleneck's shots.

Scruffy and Pete were locked in a fight with Dusty. Miguel had survived of fire that saw Scruffy's pistol click on an empty chamber, but took a wound from Two Pistol Pete, who knew a good opportunity to gang up on a good-for-nothing do-gooder when he saw it.

Dusty's next action was to keel over, stone dead. I guess his wound was worse than he thought!

Suddenly, the tables turned against the Aces. Ezekiel was killed by a long range pistol shot from Hipster. Buddy, guessing at how thing things would turn out, turned tail and ran for the hills outside of town. Only Jake and Miguel were left, stuck in the center of town.

Scruffy and Two Pistol Pete came around from the side of the town, and suddenly Jake and Miguel found themselves in close-combat with the enemy. Miguel got away, only pinned, but Jake was killed.

The remaining members of the Empty Jugs closed in on Miguel, who desperately tried to crawl away as the dirt around him exploded with multiple impacts, as well as blood from rapidly gained wounds. Kevyn had quickly learned that close combat could easily go either way, and was particularly bloody - so he was happy to gun down the last hapless lawman.

Finally, the roar of gunfire stopped, and Miguel's perforated body laid slumped on the ground, his blood watering one of Stomptown's wicked looking trees. The Aces were wiped out, and the Jugs went back to the saloon for another drink.

This was a fun game, and the activation mechanic with the cards worked exceptionally well. I may have to pick up some more miniatures from Knuckledusters to represent gunslingers with rifles and shotguns, however.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Morituri vs. Legio XIII - Arena Rex

During the weekend that Adepticon 2016 took place (March 23-26), Red Republic Games announced a 15% sale on their entire Arena Rex line, at both the booth on the convention floor and their online store. I'd seen some people talk positively about the game, and a glance at the rulebook made it seem somewhat familiar to Guild Ball - lots of position, model interactions, combos - without the sports parts.

I decided to take the plunge, and ordered the Ludus Magnus starter and the rulebook. Unfortunately, the starter was out of stock, and so it may be several weeks yet before it arrives. Luckily, Kevyn took advantage of the same sale to buy two starter sets as well, and so demoed the game for me last week. 

Kevyn took the Morituri starter - the Egyptians - which consisted of Zahra, Ur-Kek, and Mago. I was given the Legio XIII starter - the Romanized Gauls - with Aquila, Gaius Pallidus, and Ban-Luca. The two ludi began two feet away from each other, as the game recommends.

The first turn was rather uneventful, with both sides advancing towards each other. I moved Gaius Pallidus twice (his movement distance was 4", compared to Ban-Luca's 5" and Aquila's 6") which gave him a Fatigue marker.

In the next turn, Kevyn's actions echoed mine - he moved Ur-Kek twice, while Mago moved around the rocky hazard. Ban-Luca and Aquila moved up to screen Gaius, who used the turn to remove the fatigue marker.

And then, thing's got a little crazy. Mago managed to get into a fight with all three of the Legio XIII members, with Aquila demonstrating the ludus' ability to move through and displace their own models. Ban-Luca took plenty of hits, however, and the whole of the Legio ended up fatigued without managing to take out Mago.

Another round saw Mago, Zahra, and Ban-Luca all taken out. Gaius would have gone as well, if not for his Stoic ability, which kept him around for another turn.

Unfortunately, that didn't matter. The Morituri's ability to remove all Fatigue markers during a clear turn, combined with the Last Man Standing rule that made every turn a clear turn in which the last remaining model of a ludus can still act, meant that Ur-Kek could keep swinging. A counter attack from Aquila almost took out the Egyptian gladiator, but couldn't do enough damage. Down went Aquila, and the Morituri claimed victory.

It was a fun, quick game, and I'm definitely interested in getting my Ludus Magnus starter. The rules are simple enough that, like in Guild Ball, it's probably best to jump right into the larger game formats as quickly as possible, as it's in the model interaction that the complexity comes from. I think either Kevyn or I may try to work on an arena soon.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Fistful of Lead: Reloaded - Kickstarter Review

April has been pretty good to me so far. Not only have I received my copy of the Open Combat rules, but I also found my reward for the Fistful of Lead: Reloaded Kickstarter in my mailbox a couple days later. 

I've considered dabbling in Western games in the past, and even played Wild West Exodus for a little while. But WWX leaned too heavily in the sci-fi realm - I wanted something more like the old spaghetti westerns, John Wayne's movies, or the newer, grittier western movies we've been seeing in recent years. I looked around and found games like Gutshot or Dead Man's Hand, but the Kickstarter based relaunch of Fistful of Lead got my attention. So I took a gamble and put myself down for a physical copy pledge. 

The author, Jaye Wiley, made an interesting choice and had the rules printed out in the form of a comic book. I'm a little worried about the long term survivability of the rules because of this. But, in the worst-case scenario of the book falling apart, I'm sure I'll be able to scan the book and keep it as a PDF. 

I'll be honest - the rulebook is not pretty. Last week, I talked about Open Combat's rulebook as coffee-table quality. Fistful of Lead's book is not that. It's black and white throughout, and has some problems where some of the italics in the text are choppy. The book is, however, is cheap, economical, and provides players with exactly what it says on the tin. 

The rules take up about a quarter of the pages. Everything is pretty straight forward - there's no real difference in gang members, so everyone shoots the same, moves the same, and fights the same. 

The game has an interesting activation mechanic in the form of a deck of cards. Each player is dealt a number of cards equal to the amount of models they have on the table. One player acts as the "Caller" and calls out the symbols, starting with Kings and ending with Deuces. A player throws down a card if they have it, and can use that card to activate a model, once per turn, and can take two actions. If two or more players have the same card, then they use the suit to determine who goes first; Spades, then Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs last. Some cards have special qualities. A model activated with the Queen of Hearts, for example, can heal one Wound. Any model activated with a Deuce can fire twice per action. And Aces can count as any card - but are beaten in priority by the "real" version of the card, if played at the same time.

The game says it should be scenario-based, and provides some basic scenarios, along with others to be used in the campaign rules. There are plenty of classics covered, from train robberies to cattle rustling. My favorite was the Bar Room Brawl, where players can only use their fists - no guns allowed - and takes place all in once building. Things can get a little crowded in games with more than two players!

Gang Building is also pretty simple. A starting gang gets 15 Build Points. Each gang member costs 1 BP, and can be given a weapon, which costs either 1 or 2 BP. Additionally, two members of a new gang can be given up to two positive and negative Traits (for a total of 4). A positive Trait costs a point, while a negative Trait gives back an additional Build Point for use elsewhere. To keep players from min-maxing negative and positive Traits, they're assigned randomly by drawing a card from the deck.

As I said earlier, the game comes with rules for campaign, so you can take your gang across the wild west, improving or losing members along the way. Eventually you'll stock up enough Renown Points to call for a Showdown scenario - a straight up fight to the death at noon.

Along with the rulebook, I also received some other physical rewards from the Kickstarter. Two quick reference sheets will help cut down on the amount of times that I'll have to check the rulebook, and I'll probably get them laminated pretty quick. The kickstarter also provided a free pair of d10s for backers, as well as a nifty MDF badge. A stretch goal gave each backer some free MDF tokens, and I ordered some more, just in case. And the themed poker deck is pretty cool, especially since the cards that have special affects in the game have the text printed on them as a useful reminder.

I'm excited to try out the game, and have already put in an order with Knuckleduster Miniatures for a couple gangs to paint up and play with.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Dwarves vs. Forces of the Abyss - Kings of War AAR

Only Gary, Dave and I managed to get together to play some Kings of War this past weekend. I forgot to record my game against Gary, where his Dwarves won a minor victory against my League of Rhordia in a Domination scenario. Not wanting to leave completely empty handed, I decided to stick around and watch the game between Gary and Dave. It would also be my first chance to see how a Forces of the Abyss army played. 

The scenario was Pillage, with five objectives placed on the table (one began under a Dwarf unit). Dave's Abyssal army was on the left, and included a few Abyssal Dwarf allies. Gary's Dwarves arrayed themselves on the right.

During the first turn, the Abyssals surged forward, the Succubi and Gargoyles taking the lead. The Dwarves shuffled their lines forward, firing off a few volleys in the hopes of knocking out a few of the weaker troop units. This failed, unfortunately, and the hellish monstrosities quickly regenerated their wounds.

The Abyssals then went to work on the Dwarven lines, quickly shredding Gary's left flank until only the Steel Behemoth remained. Dave began to swing his own left flank around, wary of Gary's cavalry units hidden behind the woods.

Another round of combat saw the Abyssals bounce off the stout Dwarven lines. The Steel Behemoth was keeping Gary's left flank protected from the Gargoyles, who couldn't see past the massive machine to be able to charge the units in the center of the line. The opposing cavalry units still held off, neither commanding willing to commit their units into the fight to only be charged by the enemy.

Unfortunately, the devilish strength of the Abyssal units wiped out Gary's Bulwarker horde, opening a gap in his line that needed to be plugged with the Brock Riders and other units. Another gap opened on Gary's left flank, with the distance between the main Dwarven line and the Steel Behemoth increasing, although the warmachine continued to hold on against constant attacks.

At this point, at the beginning of Turn 5, Gary decided to concede and pull his battered forces from the field. He knew that he couldn't beat back the Abyssals and move onto the objectives in two turns, while Dave only had to shred the remaining Dwarf units before moving back and winning the game.

Gary has had consistent problems with the Dwarves - while they can take a punch, their slow movement speed and relatively pillow-fist attacks means that, in objective based games, the stunties are always on the back foot. A future Forces of Nature army might give Gary the maneuverability he desires, however.

Also, a brief comment on my part during the game led to Dave revealing an apparently massive collection of Warmaster miniatures. If everything works out, I'll hopefully have an after-action report for next week.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Open Combat - Kickstarter Review

It's said that good things come to those who wait. I've gotten a little proof of that truism with the arrival of my copy of the Open Combat rules for miniature skirmish games. 

This updated release of the previous version, authored by Carl Brown, originally funded through Kickstarter at the end of March, 2015,. The physical copies of the rulebook were planned to be released mid-summer in the same year. Unfortunately, a series of unfortunate events, including the bankruptcy of the printers that Second Thunder had originally chosen, meant that delay followed delay. Now, a year after the Kickstarter originally ended, the books have finally gone out to backers.

This was fine by me, as one of Open Combat's biggest strengths is its relative openness when it comes to miniature use. Games that I played in the meantime, like Saga and Frostgrave, all provide miniatures that can be used in Open Combat, as it's a set of rules for low-fantasy and pre-gunpowder historical games. 

As for the physical product, it's a very high quality book, and would look fantastic out on the coffee table. A matte cover with varnished images catches the eyes, and the colored glossy pages throughout the book look fantastic. It's not a very long rulebook, but that's fine; the rules don't need to be excruciatingly detailed, and there's no background or world to build up. 

The majority of the book is taken up by the rules, which are relatively straightforward. Open Combat is a skirmish game in which players will create small forces of 3-12 miniatures and play on a 24"x24" playing area. And when I say "create," I'm serious. Players fill out the profiles of their miniatures from the ground up, from their characteristics to their equipment and skills.

A profile is made up of the following characteristics:
  • Speed
  • Attack
  • Defense
  • Fortitude
  • Mind
Increasing these costs a point of Renown, and new warbands usually start with 150 Renown to work with. So a model with 4 Speed, 3 Attack, 4 Defense, 4 Fortitude, 2 Mind, and equipped with a Spear and a Shield will cost 19 Renown. These characteristics can be decreased over the course of a game, and will negatively affect a model accordingly. So a model with 0 Speed will be unable to move, while a model with 0 Mind will have its Attack and Defense values cut in half. And any model that hits 0 Fortitude is killed. 

It should be noted that, while the rules can be used for fantasy games, there is no obvious magic system. The rules suggest that "magic" simply be skinned over certain skills and weapons. Future supplements will address this hole that may bother some potential players. But the rules should work for those players looking to play in worlds akin to those found in the Song of Ice and Fire books, or other series that deal with fantasy worlds with little to no magic.

Another large chunk of the rules are dedicated to the campaign system, which was added thanks to the success of the Kickstarter. These allow players to create and retain warbands over the course of a number of games, with rules that can help even the playing field between two warbands of greatly unequal Renown (the resource spent to create miniature's profiles). I'm looking forward to trying these out with my Dark Ages miniatures. 

For those of you who might be worried that trying to build your own profiles might be difficult, Open Combat provides plenty of examples that players can work with. The campaign sections has mercenary profiles for hired hands, and an additional "Sample Profiles" gives even more examples, including such staples in Fantasy as dwarves, elves, orcs, goblins, and trolls. It even demonstrates how certain abilities can be treated like magic to create profiles for vampires and wizards. 

Additionally, Carl has talked about additional supplements, both digital and print, that will expand on both certain historical periods and more fantasy elements. 

As for now, I'm certainly excited to dive in and give these rules a try. Expect an after-action report on the blog soon.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Painting Update - Wargods of Aegyptus

This week's post is a quick painting update, as I unfortunately didn't get the chance to play any games during the last week.

I finally finished the last of the Asar miniatures I have for Wargods of Aegyptus; a Harbinger, who is the leader of the warband and the chosen of one of the gods; a Priestess, who brings certain tokens of favor depending on what god the Harbinger serves along with some minor magic; a Hero, who is more capable in combat that the rank and file soldiers; and a Master of Words, the Aegyptus equivalent of a wizard.

With these finished, I have a small 750 point force, which is about half of what is needed for a full sized game. Hopefully I'll get to use with with the collections that some of the other local players have, and I'm still considering what units to buy to at least get to 1500 points.