Friday, November 17, 2017

40K Friday - Army Updates: Chaos & Xenos

They've added Guard, Mechanicus, Eldar, and Tyranids since this picture was taken, with Dark Angels and Blood Angels on the way by the end of the year and Chaos Daemons coming in January!

So it's been busy on the 40k front. Really busy.

Iron Warriors

I've fought multiple battles with these guys, mostly losing against Blaster's Space Wolves until I took a heavy tank army - 3 Predators and 3 Vindicators at the core - and blew away his new Thunderwolves. I am happy with how they are developing and there's really not much "new" I need for them - it's mainly a matter of finishing up what I already have.

  • The tank army is a lot of fun
  • The core of big CSM squads in rhinos is also fun
  • The core of 5-man CSM squads with heavy bolters gets the all-important Battalion at a fairly low cost and opens up a lot of options.
  • I have grudgingly integrated the popular 3-squads of cultists as an option as well They're not marines but they are cheap enough to open up a ton of options for the rest of the force. 

World Eaters

Acquisitions are largely completed here as well and most of the army is built - they just need paint. It's pretty much the same force as I described here. The second half of the theoretical 2000 points is a trio of 5 man CSM squads with lascannons to both get me an additional battalion for the 3 CP's and to get some lascannons into the army. The HQ is usually a daemon prince and a chaos lord. I have some other options here I am still fitting in to the force - a defiler, a helbrute or two, a second daemon prince, a melee cultist squad, a lascannon predator - it's good to have options but I need to get in some more games to really nail it down.  I've thought about adding one (or three) land raiders as an option too. The good thing is that with 2 battalions + a Spearhead or a Vanguard I end up with 10 CP's.

Death Guard

 I figured out recently that I can fit 3 battalion's into this one for just under 2000 points. now it ends up being 3 cultists squads, six plague marine squads, the requisite HQ's and not much else, but it does fit.  It lacks speed - I mean it really lacks speed - so I probably won't keep it as the final form but it was a fun exercise. This is another force that's already acquired, build, and even roughly half painted. The only thing I may add here is Typhus and some Poxwalkers, as I do not own any of either of those.

Between those 3 armies I am at roughly 11,000 points of chaos marines a bunch of which is finished. I don't see it going over about 12,000 because while I do like them I also do have other armies I like to play.

Chaos Daemons

I'm just lumping these in to one bunch. I have quite a few, plenty to use as reinforcements for the Chaos Space Marines if I want to go that route. I'm holding off doing anything more with them until the codex drops. That's partly because of the potential for change, and partly because I need to focus on finishing said CSM's.  I still like them and they are a very different army to play from a marine army - I just need to put things in some kind of order.


Well the good thing is that after finishing up all of that stuff last year I don't really need to do a whole lot here for the new codex.

  • I picked up a nice Maugan Ra to lead my 3 squads of Dark Reapers
  • I picked up a nice Asurmen to lead my 3 squads of Dire Avengers
  • I added a small bike unit (3 bikes + warlock on a bike) to add some mobility 
  • I also added a squad of warp spiders for the same reason
  • I added a Hemlock too because it's a wraith fighter and I'm playing Iyanden!
  • I need to finish some of my Wave Serpents
  • I need to paint up some guardians to take advantage of the webway strike stratagem.
  • I need to paint up my Avatar to lead them!

Dark Eldar

I added quite a bit to these guys but I've only played them twice in 8th. They're not really a coherent force yet as I'm still figuring out how I want to play them but they have been fun.

  • Leaders are an Archon, a Succubus, and a Haemonculus
  • Troops are a bunch of Kabalite Warriors
  • Fast attack is 2-3 squads of Scourges and a squad of Hellions
  • Mean stuff is a unit of Grotesques and some clawed fiends
  • Flying boats: 3 raiders and a ravager


Next year's army! I did pick up a Gorkanaut for them. But seriously - next year's army!

Next time  - the Imperial side of things!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Marvel Heroes Shutdown

Well November was already not a great month for superhero MMO games and now it looks like the current Marvel game is going away. It wasn't a traditional RPG, it was a Diablo type game but it was a lot of fun regardless. Here's an article with the details.

It came along in 2013 and I dabbled in it some and then eventually I became a "burst" player - I would jump in and play it a lot for a month or three then let it go for a while. That let me run a fair number of characters up to the level cap of 60 as I would pick a new one every time I rejoined to re-familiarize myself with the game.

While Iron Man was still "me" in game I probably had the most fun with Hulk, running through "Monday Midtown Madness" jumping up and down like a madman with a screen full of enemies and smashing everything in sight. It was very theraputic.

The premise was multiple universes spilling over on top of each other which explained why you could see multiples of the same hero running around at the same time. yes, it was a videogame but somehow it all made comic-book sense.

Those frost giants don't stand a chance against TRIPLE CAPTAIN AMERICA!
The game is still up as I write this so if you have an interest in grabbing some screenshots of your own that is still possible.

That said the door is closing. Ah well. Hopefully something new and cool comes our way down the road.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Gaming Minutia - Playing Surfaces

One of the practical considerations when running a tabletop RPG is "do we need a map?"

I've run superhero games where we really didn't use anything to keep track of where people and things were because it was easier to keep them in our heads. We might have miniatures to represent our heroes and some for the badguys, but that's mainly to keep up with who is where in a general sense - character A is at the bank robbery, character B is at the big fire, and character C is at the city jail.

For most D&D type games though, the answer is yes. People moving and fighting in confined spaces means it's often good for everyone to know just where everyone is.

For those, for a very long time, the solution has been the good old Chessex mat - erasable, flexible, portable.I have 3 of them and they are the standard by which I judge other solutions. I've played every edition of D&D on them at some point, along with Pathfinder, Champions, GURPS, Star Wars, Deadlands, and a bunch of other stuff that was popular in the 80's & 90's.

When I was looking at starting a new D&D game with a new edition of the rules I decided to try something newer so I got this:

It's a Hexers RPG board (you can find them on Amazon) and along with a set of multicolor dry erase markers it makes for a nice change from the more limited palette of my wet erase markers. It's a fold-up hard board and has hexes on the other side so it's useful for a variety of games.

Now I thought that having a white background would be more like drawing things out on paper but in practice I find that's too bright for D&D type games. I'm so used to the parchment colored background of the chessex mat that the bright clean white with bold black lines looks too high tech in some weird way. For modern, sci-fi, or superheroes I think it will be fine but for D&D it really throws me off.

It's also smaller than my chessex mat so I feel a little constrained when the party goes exploring.The heavy borders make it hard to join up with another map too.

A possible middle ground is the new item from WOTC:

 This is the "D&D Adventure Grid" and it's also reversible, though in a different way:

With a green grassy-looking background on one side and a grey stone look on the other it's pretty versatile as long as all you need is a square grid. Also note: no border so we could add on additional boards though the edge squares are not full squares. I'm thinking about getting one or two more and maybe cutting one of them into sections to add even more flexibility. I really like this one and I'll be trying it out this weekend for the first time.

Now I am not generally a fan of dungeon tiles but there is one set where I make an exception:

These are from the Star Wars Galaxy Tiles that WOTC published when they were doing Star Wars d20, I have 2 or 3 sets of them.

My problem with Dungeon Tiles in general is that while they are handy for those dungeon passageways we all know and love they tend to cripple creativity when it comes to rooms and details in general. I find people start defining towns and dungeons by what pieces they have which is as bad a case of the tail wagging the dog as I can think of. If I am running a published adventure I can guarantee that there will be at least a few things I cannot recreate with tiles and I hate having to intermix printed tiles with hand-drawn paper or mats.

The reason I like the Star Wars tiles is that the universe has a fairly specific look to it, particularly Imperial facillities, and the tiles enhance that by presenting that same look. No, I would not use them for a battle in a desert canyon on Tattooine (I'd use the Chessex mat!), or the forests of Endor (I'd use the green map above) or Hoth (I'd use the white one above!) but for ship interiors, and Imperial base interiors - something that tends to come up quite a bit in a Star Wars campaign - they are really handy and so avoid those issue I have with tiles in general.

What about Dwarven Forge? - just a more expensive version of tiles to me. I already have a fair amount of miniature terrain for actual miniatures games and when it fits I use it - see above. I am not looking to spend much more on what are in the end miniatures-optional games.

There are also poster maps and flip-mats and they do have their uses. I have a ton of poster maps from my 4E adventures and some of them I have used a dozen times while others I have never used at all. They're sort of like bigger dungeon tiles - useful when they fit but not something to tie yourself to. The Paizo flip-mats tend to be more broadly useful but since they are a standalone purchase I have far fewer of them.

What about the monitor-as-tabletop option? One of these days. I feel that you have to build your table around the whole thing and I am not really looking to undertake that challenge just yet. There are so many maps available in electronic format that it makes a lot of sense.

For now though, I have yet to find anything that is as flexible as the tried and true pens-and-a-drawing-surface approach that we've been using for decades. That said, it's good to have options.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok

There are some spoilers here so skip this one if you haven't seen it yet

I saw this over the weekend and it was awesome. The Thor movies have been more fantastic than the other Marvel films in that they typically do not deal with car chases, skyscrapers, bank robbers, hacking into some computer system, or corporate intrigue. They are much more about what's right and what's not set against a backdrop of fantastic vistas, monstrous creatures, and tremendous fights. This third Thor movie amps up all of that and outdoes the rest in sheer spectacle.

Bonus: We also get a side view and what is presumably the cinematic universe's take on Planet Hulk. I'd love to see a full Planet Hulk movie but I assume this is about all that we're going to get on that.

There's not a ton to discuss - if you like the Marvel movies you've either already seen it or plan to see it and you should!

Cate Blanshett does a great job as Hella - an interesting, competent villain who's plans largely succeed despite what the heroes attempt. She's billed as a tremendously formidable opponent and she lives up to that, opening with shattering Thor's hammer and punting him and Loki out of the world. even when they do find their way back she pretty much handles them again! The only way you stop her is to unleash something at least as bad if not worse - Surtur! "A titan to fight a titan" to quote a completely different movie.

This gets to one of the more interesting aspects of the movie - there's no reset button! Thor loses Mjolnir early in the movie and he doesn't get it back! Thor is injured significantly later in the film and it does not magically heal up before the movie is over. The Warriors Three are dispatched early on and they stay dead!  Perhaps most significantly Asgard is threatened, taken over, and in the final battle, destroyed! It truly is Ragnarok! The remaining Asgardians are a group of refugees, looking for a shining planet ... well, you know the rest.

I have to say that on the list of "things I never expected to see in a live action movie" Surtur destroying Asgard would be a significant one. I used to own some Thor comics where he made it into Asgard and seeing that up on the screen was wild.

So yes, I liked it and I am looking forward to the next Marvel thing!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Keeping Up with the Torrent

One second after that particular picture is pretty much how it feels right now ...

But that's what happens when you take on too damn many projects at once. You might think I would learn but that's just kind of how it goes around here.

  • There's all the usual stuff - wife, kids, job, pets, commute ... the baseline stuff of grown-up life today
  • A high school band member in the fall in Texas = Marching Season Hell. There's a game every week, and a contest every week, and a late practice every weeknight there's not a game or a contest
  • Older kids = them driving older cars which tend to break at the least convenient time. Some days I'm Adama, some days I'm Tirol, just trying to keep the planes flying ...

So game-wise ...
  • Warhammer 40,000 is on pace to release ten (10!) new codexes from July through the end of the year. That's unprecedented, and the fact that we have 8 of those 10 armies covered in this house means I've been picking up codexes (and the associated datacards) every month. Reading them, much less getting to play with each of them, has been a challenge.
  • As we've grown more interested in 5th Edition D&D I decided some time back to go ahead and pick up the rest of the books. That meant another 6-7-8 books to pick up and read. No, they're not all new this year but catching up was a big challenge when added on top of the 40K stuff. Thank goodness they aren't publishing on 4E's schedule this time.
  • I started running a FFG Star Wars game - had to read the rules etc. for that again
  • Got the PDF for Mutant Crawl Classics - have to take a run through that!
  • My V&V 3.0 hardcopy arrived - have to check that out
  • A BASH! bundle? I like that game I should grab that.
  • Hey look a new ICONS book - need to read it!
  • That new 5E game in the Forgotten Realms - need to pick up some of the relevant material and read through it too!
  • Oh the other 5E game I started? Set it in the Scarred Lands? Well now I need to go refresh myself on that too!
  • I finally got the finished PDF of the new Star Trek RPG - of course I have to read through it!
There's also trying to read some non-gaming books, that whole catching up on some comic book stuff goal for this year, not to mention trying to paint some mini's for all of these initiatives ... 

It's just been ridiculous here this fall. 

Some of it is trying to run multiple campaigns at roughly the same time - I haven't even started diving back into my Rifts stuff for the Thanksgiving Rifts Incident. I think a lot of it is starting and running multiple games while 40K is in overdrive. I mean I spent 2015 catching up on Pathfinder and 2016 catching up on FFG Star Wars so I've done this kind of thing before, just not with two major games at the same time. The good news is that I'm caught up on D&D books for 5E itself. The bad news is that the first 40K release of next year is another one that I will need to pick up.  

Grousing aside I am amazed at people who manage to run just the one game, and focus in on just the one game, without getting pulled into others. I don't totally understand it, I certainly have no capacity to emulate it, but it's definitely a positive thing at times. 

It's also getting towards that time of year where I declare a plan for what I am going to run next year. I expect some hard choices there, but we will see. 

In the meantime it's mostly D&D, Pathfinder, and Star Wars with some chance of M&M and Savage Rifts in the forecast for later this month,

Monday, November 6, 2017

Against the Giants, and the Other Giants, and Those Giants Over There ...

I've always liked giants as fantasy opposition, They're big enough to be a real threat to characters, they're themed in different ways to give some variety, but they are close enough to human to have understandable motivations and at least some potential for interaction and conversation. Thinking back I had giants as the main antagonists in my old Fantasy hero campaign. That was a homebrew thing but it was certainly inspired by some of the published material,

AD&D gave us three adventures with giants.

I remember seeing them on the shelves in the local mall toy store and they were part of what intrigued me enough to dive into this new "Dungeons and Dragons" thing.

In a see of boxed kids games these stood out. By the time I was buying adventures they had been repackaged as Against the Giants.

It's such a classic now that I think it gets forgotten but the material in here is a great example of old school adventures. There's not a ton of plot, not a ton of NPC's, it's just "here's a monster lair - go to it!" and the player motivations are largely left up to the group to decide. You can go with anything from a Seven Samurai scenario "please help us - we are but simple villagers" to a Dirty Dozen approach of "there's a royal pardon waiting if you'll go solve this problem".

Second Edition gave us the same material, updated with 2E stats, plus a more specific location and scenario. It's less generic, but still pretty adaptable and it includes encounters outside of the lairs. I recall a particularly nasty shadow dragon terrorizing the countryside. I don't see much about it online but it's a nice update for the new edition.

Third edition didn't give us a new published module but there were some fan conversions and WOTC released updated 3E style maps for at least part of it. It was still a lot of fun in the new edition too.

4E gave us "Revenge of the Giants" which is an awesome update of the concept. In this version some of the giant holds are on other planes and are really well done. There's a much heavier emphasis on the elemental aspects of the giants and they are more magical, less mundane when it comes to their abilities,

A few years back Pathfinder took their shot with the Giantslayer Adventure Path which is six adventures that focus on giants as opposition. There's a pretty good mix of things here too and more giant types are included than in some of the earlier material but it is still mainly about fighting giants.

For 5th edition we have Storm King's Thunder which is the latest of the big giant adventures. It covers a variety of types and while it doesn't get quite as elemental as Revenge it does add some interesting elements to giants and to their lore, and the lore of the Forgotten Realms as well. There is of course much more plot than those old AD&D adventures but that's just how it goes today.

When digging into options for my 5E game I had originally planned to include the G-modules as a big part once they were high enough level. Once I had a chance to look SKT over though I changed my mind and I am making it the centerpiece of the new campaign. For whatever reason they just never get old for me. Sure, you can make them big boring bags of hit points but they can be so much more than that! Give them a culture, a society, some motivations, and even some names! Then mechanically change things up a bit  - "Hey, this one's a cleric!" - heck, try making one a bard - and suddenly they're a real part of your world.

Giants: A ton of hit points, a ton of options, and a ton of fun!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Old Scarred Lands Campaign - Year 1

I ran a campaign in the Scarred Lands during 3rd Edition D&D and it was one of the best games I have run and had maybe the most memorable ending of all. Prior to this, in third edition, I had run:

  • A Greyhawk campaign that ended up centered around Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil (this one ended in a TPK)
  • A Kalamar-based game that was tied to Kenzer's "Coin Trilogy" which frankly was not that great (this ended because the players wanted to go back and finish the Temple adventure in Greyhawk)
  • A second Greyhawk campaign that returned to the Return to the TOEE (this too eventually ended in another TPK - that temple was dangerous, OK?)
After this it was time for something different, so we played a few other games then after about 6 months we came back to D&D 3E. 

We started in May 2005 with six players - a Ranger, a Half-Orc Fighter, a Rogue, a Paladin, a Cleric, and a Dark Elf Wizard disguised as a High Elf.

Sessions 1-3
The first adventure was "The Serpent Amphora" which was a free intro to the 3-module series set in the Scarred Lands. It took 3 sessions to work through and while it was pretty railroady (there were some fights you were definitely not supposed to win) it did start with a set of athletic contests during some holiday games that was a nice change from happenstance tavern meetings or other traditional D&D campaign kickoffs. I also worked in "The Wizard's Amulet" the first Necromancer Games adventure and that was well-received too.

Session 4-6
The group decided to head north towards Vesh and along the way kicked off "The Dragonfiend Pact", a fun little Goodman games DCC adventure.

Session 7-8
Continuing northwards the party played through the Crucible of Freya set around east Onetenazu. This is another cool adventure and instead of starting in a keep on some borderlands you end up attacking a keep full of orcs ... on some borderlands. They had made it to 4th level by the time they finished this up.

Session 9
The party then travelled through the Canyon of Souls to Amalthea and began exploring the Tomb of Abysthor. Actually this session was just the journey and exploring the shrines to Thyr and Muir between Amalthea and the burial halls that are the core of the adventure.

Session 10-11
These were spent exploring the first level of the Tomb and the interesting features like the Font of Bones!

This wrapped up 2005. We stayed pretty closely to an every-two-weeks schedule though we did miss one here and there. With six regular players one or two person's schedule issues did not derail a session - unless it was mine!

As the game went on I wrote up more and more details on Amalthea - it's condition after the Druid War, various organizations, facilities, and characters who lived in the ruined city. I had forgotten how much info I had on this city until I started looking back through my notes in preparation for the new 5E campaign but it's pretty extensive - probably the most I have done to detail an area since first edition. A lot of this is because there isn't much detail on Amalthea in the Ghelspad book and I wanted to give my players an interesting home base. It was a lot of fun and maybe the new campaign will make its way there at some point.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween

Ah the classics ...

Happy Halloween!

40K Halloween: The Bloodthirster Challenge

What's scarier than one greater daemon of Khorne? How about THREE GREATER DAEMONS OF KHORNE!

This whole thing started when I happened to notice that Apprentice Who's new Tyranid army was roughly 1000 points and 3 Bloodthirsters come out around 1000 points. I offered to have my three monsters fight his whole army and he accepted the challenge. Mine is a Supreme Command detachment while his is a Battalion so he will have 6 command points to my 4.

The setup: We had a mission with some objectives but they won't matter. It's the Swarmlord and his super friends vs. Khorne's Avengers!

Turn 1 Chaos:

Come to papa!

Turn 1Tyranids:

Turn 2 Chaos:


Turn 2 Nids:

Two of the nastiest things in the game head to head!

That's a lot of wounds piling up quickly ...
Turn 3 Chaos:


Turn 3 Nids:

"Piling in" - literally!

Not going down without a fight!

Turn 4 Chaos:



Turn 4 Nids:

The End!
So the answer is that 3 Thirsters is probably not up to taking on another nasty HTH army all by themselves! I maybe should have ganged up on the Swarmload first and avoided the swarms of smaller creatures but I thought one BT could handle him! Clearly not! Also Smites are mean when you have no defense and no Smites of your own!

Anyway it was a fun game and didn't take all that long to play. We may do it again here with the new Imperial Guard using a tank army just to see how that goes.