Friday, February 19, 2016

40K Friday - On Friday! - Iyanden Update

Amidst all of the other miniatures stuff the 40K painting effort continues. I don't have any new battles to report (though I am working on an old one)  I have made some progress on the army itself:

Aside from the photobombing Heldrake that's the painted force so far.

  • Farseer (and a potential Autarch)
  • 15 Dire Avengers
  • 10 Striking Scorpions
  • 5 Rangers
  • 5 Fire Dragons
  • 1 Falcon
  • 15 Wraithguard
  • 2 Wraithlords
I recently finished the wraithguard and one of the wraithlords. The newer DA's arrived already painted as did the scorpions but they could use some touch-up and I need to finish snow-coating the bases. Sixteen mini's from bare plastic to finished in about 6 weeks though is pretty good for me based on the last couple of years. 

That said, the ultimate goal with this army is 3000-5000 points of finished, painted, Iyanden Eldar.:
  • The core of it will be a Wraith Host formation which is a spiritseer, a wraithknight, a wraithlord, and 3 units of wraithguard. The bulk of that is now done. The spiritseer is in progress and the wraithknight is under construction.
  • The other core will be a combined arms detachment of two farseers leading some combination of aspect warriors, a pair of ranger squads, some vypers, a falcon, and some war walkers.
  • One for-sure aspect host formation will be 3 squads of dark reapers. I took this as an experiment in a previous battle and found it to be very useful against bikes & jetbikes. They've been marine-killers for years but that no-jink rule makes them nasty against bikes too. Given the prevalence of other Eldar armies, White Scars, and Ravenwing it just makes too much sense not to take them.
After those 3 elements it gets a little less certain. The avengers could make for another shrine as I am intrigued by the idea of 30 BS5 dire avengers stepping off of 3 wave serpents and blowing something off of the board. I also have fire dragons, scorpions, and two squads of swooping hawks that could all fit into either the CAD or another shrine. They will all be a part of the force, I'm just not sure how and it could change from fight to fight. Then I need to find a way to work a squad of warp spiders in there too.

Long term I also plan to build a guardian host too, hence the vypers and war walkers mentioned above. I have all of the units, it's just painting another 40-odd figures that pushes this to "later". The plan for now is to spend 2016 focusing completely on this one army - acquiring the units (that's pretty much done), building them, painting them, and playing the army exclusively. So far it is working fairly well and I am happy with the result.

Right now I do not plan to make it a jetbike army. For one, Apprentice Blaster is doing a pretty good job of doing that with his Saim-Hann force. Second, that's never struck me as an Iyanden kind of thing. Theme is more important to me than this year's trendy netlists.  Third - I'm perfectly happy with a wraith-heavy force. It's one of those eldar-only things. I've wanted to build one for years and now I'm finally doing it. I may build a jetbike army someday but it won't be this army.

And yes, I know it would have to be a ridiculously huge fight to take all of those things at once but part of the fun of having a "mature" army (notice I don't say "finished" - they're never finished) is having options available to you and not having to take everything you have just to make the points. 

That's all for now!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

40K Friday on Thursday: Bolt Action and Flames of War

I've been a student of World War 2 since I was a kid and got interested in the airplanes from the war. I got into board wargames like Squad Leader fairly early on but given my interest in RPG's and miniatures it seems like I would have spent more time with WW2 in those as well ... but I haven't.

There aren't many WW2 - era RPGs. Other than various superhero games and Weird Wars the list is short, probably because a) it's a war and b) there's no healing magic so characters tend to be short-lived.

There have been WW2 miniatures games around probably since the war itself and that seems like a better way to explore the conflict in a game sense. Weirdly though, I have never really jumped into WW2 miniatures in a big way. I suppose the boardgames scratched the itch for a long time while the miniatures were a wizards/robots spaceships thing. I've been ready to move on from this for a while now - I just haven't committed to anything yet.

Flames of War has been around since 2002 - that seems like a really long time, especially considering I picked up a rule book and some mini's for it and played maybe one tryout game at a store then never touched it again. It's a great looking game and it's very well supported but for some reason it has never grabbed me. Why?

  • One, after reading the latest rules it is very much a product of it's origins in older 40K: lots of exceptions and special cases and little modifiers for this and that. Reading those rules did not thrill me with anticipation in the "this would be a blast to play" sense.
  • Two, it's a 15mm scale game and that's one I have dodged for my entire gaming career. I have the expected glut of 25mm/28mm figures from decades of D&D and Warhammer. I have a bunch of 6mm from Epic Space Marine, and a pile of 10mm from Battletech and Warmaster. Other than a Thracian army pack from a a failed attempt at getting into Ancients gaming, I have zero 15mm figs. The main impact from this is terrain - I have very little terrain that's going to look right with this scale. There's a not-inconsiderable effort needed to fix that situation.
  • Finally, there is the expense, both in time and prep. Flames of War armies are not small and because I mainly play at home with friends and family I need to build two of them at least to be able to play a game. I have nothing to cannibalize so I am looking at building up forces from zero. 
Now they do have a really nice starter set that comes with a bunch of infantry and around ten tanks and a rulebook etc but we all know that's not going to be enough. Once you start down that road etc. I'm thinking about using some Epic or Dropzone Commander figures as proxies to play a test game with the Apprentices before I jump into it.

Flames of War's other advantage is that it's part of a system that covers more then just WW2 - there are supplements for WW1, Vietnam, and the Arab-Israeli conflicts as well. They've also just come out with a Cold War  version based on Team Yankee which is supposed to be a faster playing set of rules. That is an attractive feature to the game.

Subject-wise FOW does seem to be a tank-heavy game so if we do get into it I'd like to focus on the North African campaign as I've never played that theater much in any game and it's full of some of the weirdest early to mid war vehicles from Britain, Germany, and Italy. 

The other popular option in WW2 miniatures these days is Bolt Action. I have had the rulebook for a while and we've played with it a little bit - enough that  I picked up some 1/72 plastics for us to use. I was going to stick with those to keep it cheap but I am coming around on the 28mm thing because it's not that much more expensive and it's much easier to tell who is carrying what weapon than on a lot of 1/72 figures. Exaggerated scale does have its upside sometimes.

It is a smaller scale game than Flames of War in the sense that you're playing with a few squads and a few vehicles - platoon level rather than company/battalion level. For comparison it's more like what a 40K battle used to be with under 50 infantry and maybe 3 vehicles total. A Panther platoon in this scale is going to flatten everything on the table so in general it's less tank-intensive though I notice that has become enough of a thing that they have a separate "Tank War" book out for it now. 

There's a really nice starter set for this game too - 40 infantry, terrain, rules, dice etc. Again, that's not going to be enough so once I pick it up I'll be adding to it for years. I do have terrain so it's mainly a question of building and painting the armies. My only other issue here is the subject. While it is Americans vs. Germans which is a perfectly fine starting point for a WW2 game, that's not the first campaign I was wanting to dig in to. Given the emphasis on small formations of infantry and lower focus on tanks I was looking to explore some Pacific battles - say USMC vs. Japanese on Guadalcanal. I've spent a lot of time pushing cardboard Germans around, and Americans and Russians as well. I'd really like to spend time looking at the Pacific and this seems like the perfect game to do so on a tactical level. 

There's been a progression through this week's posts, from "have it, played it, liked it" to "have it, like it, haven't played it" to now "have it, not sure where I am going next".  It's been interesting. If last year was the year of catching up on Pathfinder then i suspect this year is the year of catching up on miniatures games.

More to come.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

40K Friday on Wednesday: Dropzone Commander

The miniature rampage continues ...

I've been interested in this game for a long time and I finally broke down and bought the starter set for my birthday. I am hoping it's the long-awaited replacement for our much-loved Epic games of 20+ years ago.  It certainly feels like it reading the rules and looking at the cardstock modern-type buildings.

It is 10mm scale, and not the 6mm of Epic but it's close enough. Alternating activation, infantry and vehicles in squadron type formations, the aforementioned cardstock city terrain - it feels very much like the old days but with modern rules, modern mini's (multipart plastic kits for many), and a new universe to explore.

I also have to say that it has one of the most amazing starter sets I have ever seen - two decent-sized armies, a nice set of terrain, maps/posters, a full rulebook, a generous set of reference sheets and quick start guides, dice, and even a tape measure! It's a stellar value and I will likely end up with a second just because it's such a great deal.

No I haven't played a game yet but I am painting and building the minis this week and hopefully we can get a game in this weekend. Followups next week!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

40K Friday on Tuesday: Frostgrave!

It's been a miniatures-intensive few weeks here as I've been bitten by the bug again and picked up a few new games. Besides Kings of War our other fantasy game is Frostgrave.

The concept here is that there was a mighty fantasy city that was a center of learning and magical knowledge. One day something happened and the entire city and surrounding area was covered in ice. Now, a thousand years later, the ice is retreating and greedy desperate  intrepid wizards are coming to the ruin to steal loot rediscover ancient magical knowledge.

Now this sounds like a pretty solid start for a D&D campaign and it would be, but this is a skirmish miniatures campaign system. Each player starts with a wizard and 500 gold crowns. The gold is used to buy hirelings (typically starting with an apprentice wizard) such as knights, thugs, archers, all the way to guard dogs. This merry band of thieves explorers then faces off with other competing bands to recover loot. There are different scenarios but typically it's an objective based game (loot tokens) and success lets you level up your wizard, learn some new spells, hire more hirelings, pick up a magic item, and generally get better. Ultimately the goal is to get to level 20 and ascend to the next level of being but the main goal is to have fun skirmishing with friends.

Now yes, this does sound a whole lot like Mordheim from GW a decade or two back which was itself a fantasy version of Necromunda from a decade or so before that and it's pretty clearly aimed at a similar type of game. Mechanically it uses a d20 for resolution instead of d6's but it is in very similar territory regardless of the exact mechanics.

The mechanics are pretty light - 4th edition D&D this is not - but it should keep games fairly short and it looks to me like there's still enough to it to make it worth playing. The main focus is on your wizard and there are ten different schools of magic each with multiple spells to choose from. A wizard starts with a variety of spells, not just one and not just in your chosen school so you can have multiple magical options. There are different types of weapons and armor and some magical items that can be purchased to gear up your band. It looks like enough to keep things interesting but I won't know for sure until we try a few games.

There are ten scenarios included in the game to keep things lively and a bestiary for use with some of those and for wandering monsters - nothing less convenient than having a bear or a couple of skeletons show up when you're trying to get away with the loot safely excavate priceless artifacts for the benefit of all mankind.

One upside is that if you've been playing D&D type games for a few years you probably don't need any new miniatures to play it - Lord knows I don't. So it's nice to have another game that uses things you already have. If anything, it's an excuse to paint up some of those individual fantasy figures that never seem to get played in the RPG campaigns.

These kinds of games blur the line between RPG and miniatures game more than most with their focus on campaigns, small groups of individual characters, and advancement. People get attached! As such I suppose it competes with an RPG game somewhat but it is still a different enough kind of game that hopefully there is room for both. In videogame terms it's "PvP" and not "PvE" but it's usually a pretty friendly form of PvP. Just to blur the lines a little more there is already a campaign book for a specific series of adventures against a lich in the city. There's also a book of fiction set in the city available as well.

So - read it, liked it, read it again, sorted through a few mini's, and expect to play it in the near future. The game has a lot of cool little touches that I want to see in action. Moire here when I have a game or two finished.

Monday, February 15, 2016

40K Friday on Monday: Kings of War Postgame

I've been watching this game for a while, and once word of a second edition came out I decided to hold off until it was out. That happened last summer. Since then I have watched some battle reports, read some reviews, and tried to get a feel for how the game works. I've liked everything I have seen, so I downloaded the free rules and lists on the Mantic site and figured we would give them a whirl.


I'm a longtime Warhammer player, and by longtime I mean since 2nd edition circa 1984. It was the new hot thing in fantasy miniatures rules back then (and somewhat controversial with it's 1:1 figure ratio) but by the 90's it was The Standard. I'd say I played the most with it during 4th, 5th, and 6th editions, trailing off over the last ten years with 7th and 8th.

I didn't have enough minis back when we started to play very big games but luckily within a year or so TSR released Battlesystem, the mass combat rules for AD&D, and provided a load of  counters perfectly sized for use with Warhammer, so my first year or so of games with it were fairly two-dimensional. It was never our main game as Battletech and later 40K and then Epic all took over that spot in turns, but it was always around.

The last few years it appears that sales were really down, possibly somewhat due to some of the changes in the 8th edition of the game which turned off a lot of longtime players. Games Workshop spent 2014 selling "The End Times" which was literally the Ragnorok of the Warhammer setting and it ended with literally the end of the world. I liked the background that had grown up around the game over the last 30 years so I was sad to see it go.

What replaced Warhammer midway through 2015 was Age of Sigmar, a totally new rules set. Apprentice Red and I played it for the first time over the summer and while I like some elements it is a very different game from Warhammer and just didn't feel like there was much to it. A lack of formations and facing pretty much removes the maneuver aspect of the game,  Sure, we could go back and player older warhammer but it would be nice to have something current that was closer to the old game. 

Enter the challenger: Kings of War.

We played two games over the weekend. I had written up a pair of 1000 point army lists for Elves and orcs, stuck figures on some improvised cardboard formation trays, and had it ready to go when Apprentice Blaster arrived.

I'm not going to do a turn-by-turn battle report here. Game 1 was a dead-even tie, Game 2 was a decisive win by the old 4th edition High Elves under Marshal Blaster against my equally-vintage Orcs.

Rolls like this should explain my lack of a win
(it's a "roll high" kind of game)
We talked about the first game and we both agreed that we liked it a lot. We then played again with the same lists and a better understanding of the rules the next day and it was even more fun. Some thoughts after playing:

  • Even not knowing the rules the first game played pretty fast
  • The second game we knocked out in just over an hour even with all the laughing at my horrible rolls
  • The free lists are plenty to get started and are mainly beneficial if you already have an army or six gathering dust around the house. The book lists are very nice and there are quite a few of them. 
  • Magic is way less important in this game, regarding both items and the impact of wizards on the fight.  
  • Point values feel pretty balanced, nothing screamed "broken" to us.
  • It's IGO-UGO but it plays so much faster that this is not the downside I was afraid that it would be. It's nowhere near the old Warhammer turn cycle time or even 40K.
  • While you cannot customize units and characters the way we did in most editions of Warhammer, it still feels like you're building an army - it just lacks the nitpicking over dropping that last grunt or two to fit in one more magic item for your overpowered character. 
  • While the customization element is less, the maneuver element is heightened to at least the best of Warhammer. Movement and positioning is crucial to winning. Units have a certain number of dice they roll in attack, mainly based on the skill and size of the unit. In a flank charge this  is doubled and in a rear attack it is tripled. that's huge.
In our games this maneuver element was critical as in game two for example, elven archers and bolt throwers destroyed one of my two big infantry units as I was ready to charge his infantry. This left my flank exposed and sure enough my orc boys got smashed by elf cavalry who took advantage of it. 

Steady ... steady, looks pretty good

From our experience and what I have seen online the game is built so that it's fairly difficult to just flatten a unit with a single charge. Most of the time units will smash back and forth until one finally breaks. Shooting can soften up a tough unit in advance and of course a flank or rear charge can do all kinds of damage. Setting up that charge, avoiding or minimizing missile fire, the tension as damage piles up on your units, and keeping leaders close to prevent routs by those severely damaged units - it puts the focus of the game on playing it, not preparing for it and that's something I am becoming a bigger and bigger fan of these days. There's plenty of prep already in a miniatures game - I don't need army-building to be the best part of the game. I'd like playing it to be the best part and I think it is.

Stupid elf archery!

 It is a little bit of an adjustment from Warhammer  - it's not "orcs come with light armor and a hand weapon and are 6 points." You can take a unit of 10 orcs, or 20 orcs, or 40 orcs, and there's a statline for each size - that's Troop, Regiment, and Horde. No more min-maxing the numbers with 23 orc boys.

Characters don't join units. Your leader or wizard or army standard bearer are out there all by their lonesome and in general they are not beatsticks who are capable of destroying units on their own. They are mainly there to be inspiring and re-roll bad nerve tests, and throw some spells or some extra dice to push a combat your way. They are not hammers to be feared just because they showed up.

We really liked the game and I have ... several ... old armies laying around so it's a very economical game for us to play. I've already ordered and received the main book and the Uncharted Empires book (which is army lists for the rest of the old Warhammer armies not covered in the main book) and I am trying to figure out the best way to make some progress in getting them painted without losing too much focus on 40K.
Should you try it? Well ...
  • If you have armies for Warhammer and have the itch, go download the free rules and the lists and give it a try!
  • Lord of the Rings armies will work here too with some base adjustments.
  • If you do not have multiple armies but the massed fantasy battle thing intrigues you, again, the rules and lists are free. Mantic makes some nicely priced starter armies and with the current state of warhammer, well, there's always eBay.
  • I suspect that with a few adjustments for scale you could play the game with Warmaster, DBA. and Hordes of the Things armies as well.
So yes, I'm a fan, Blaster is a fan, and Red was around for our second game and is now a fan too, eagerly looking forward to blooding his Wood Elf army in our next go. Expect more posts on it in the future as it moves in right behind 40K at a comfortable #2 in our preferred miniature games.