Thursday, July 28, 2011

Alternative Rules

So what to do if you're like me and own multiple Warhammer Fantasy Armies, but have fallen so out of love with Games Workshop's handling of the game's product and rules, that you can barely bring yourself to put your models on the table? The first knee jerk response is sell your stuff and move on to other game systems or genres..and I am doing so, (see my DoC For Sale)with my ventures into Warmachine and huge push with Historicals. However with the fantasy bug still quite alive and 5000 points of Empire on the shelf, all hope is not lost as I've spent some time reading other rules set and am quite pleased with what I find.

Most notable and not by any stretch below the radar is Mantic's Kings of War. Mantic cropped up a couple years back as an alternative miniature company making cheaper fantasy figures. They've been at Adepticon the last two years giving away gobs of promo sprues of their undead line and have rapidly expanded from elves, to undead, to dwarfs, to Abyssal dwarfs, to now Orcs, with rumors humans, goblins and something else not far away. With host of products they've quickly gone from an alternative miniature company to an alternative game company. Now I'd be lying if I said there was a great fervor about the figures, initial word on the elves were they were too slight scale wise to mix in with GW product and werent particularly attractive, the undead fair much better, and I like the promo figures I have..and every collected a bunch of freebie sprues from the guys that werent wanted for my various fiddlings. There are no shortage of manufacturers making Dwarfs and I didn't see or get the need there, the Chaos Dwarf knock offs were a great idea and look great too. Whats apparent to me now with Mantic, that was not early on is that they intended to compete directly with Games Workshop. Not as an alternative miniature supplier for GW but as a direct alternative altogether, hence the need for all the lines of figures.

Poaching pissed off former GW gamers doesn't immediately seem like the best business model, but I have to admit Mantics figures are a whole more attractive when, they cost half of what GW does, and their rules and army lists are free. What I wanted to talk about today isnt some GW vs Mantic debate, as there isnt really one. In real world dollar for dollar market share Mantic isnt even the stain on GW's radar screen compared to the growing blip Privateer Press is. I want to talk about rules, because I've spent some time reading Kings of War free rules and I have to say I like them, alot.

Its not lost on me, that they are written by Alessio Cavatore, who used to work for GW and wrote WFB 7th edition which for me, is my "game"..(remember many of us don't think its 7th ed rules that are "broke" it was the stupid army books by Matt Ward and Gav Thorpe that drove the car off the road).What we have with the Kings of War rules is a WFB 7th ed lite, without many of unnecessary abstractions written into the game to give specialty figures something to do, and without many of the those fiddly movement rules that drove us bonkers. The game is very basic, with smart use of unit stats, and maybe a dozen special rules. Combat revolves losses stacking up against a units "nerve" and making a break test against that nerve..a much better mechanic which similar in some ways to "Hail Caesar", it certainly isnt fighting every combat to the last man as WFB 8th edition is.

"Magic" the fun sucking black hole of 8th edition is relegated to minimal role taking place in the shooting phase as generic ranged attacks, breath weapons, or extra movement. For me -this is what I want from a magic phase, the flavor of magic, that adds to the theme and setting of the game, and does not shove it down your throat and out your rear end right along with your grand ideas of battlefield strategy and tactics.The simple place magic occupies in Kings of A-OK by me. Artillery is handled as basic mass shooting attacks basic on type, there are no artillery dice or wonky distance mechanics.

Characters are treated as individual units and operate as such and as far as I read cannot join units..they're independent operators leading your army..not deathstar creating unit additions, that overpower the game.

The one thing I take pause with is just like WFB it is a ful-on bucket of dice game...horde units are throwing 20 dice as an attack value, and I like the fact other games I am playing a moving away from that. Still that is the top end of the dice its really a half a bucket in comparision, because I had games in WFB 8th where my free company fully engaged was throwing 42 combat that's the proverbial bucket.

Overall I find the game system very interesting and am looking forward to putting the Empire on the field and giving it go...Human army lists are not released yet..I could easily make my own based whats published but I would just assume wait it out. Mantic supports use of other manufactures figures either with or without there own and their rules, being free are taking alot of user feedback into consideration. I find these types of policies very gamer friendly and worthy of your support.

So check out Mantics free KoW rules and give them a spin, I can already see a deeper tactical game due to sole fact there is ton less "random crap" (as I like to say) going on in the game (dice aside, there no "wheel of fortune" to spin either!). You never know, you may just like the game and realize what you are actually missing.

We over here at Xcom wargamers (short for "excommunicated"- as we were from our local GW shop in 2009, with my own nod to the greatest PC strategy game of all time.) all have Warhammer Fantasy armies so the KoW rules have come up before, with our current fondness of Hail Caesar there's talk of a hybrid rule set, (HC rules and profiles with KoW special "fantasy" rules) but before we go there I'd like to give the KoW core rules a try for sure I think they pretty damn good on their own.

There you go, the former figureheads of Games Workshop, who are no longer with company are now writing rules that I really like, for other companies. It should go without saying, (but I'll say it anyway) that we wargamers are all still in GW's shadow, its just how much of that shadow is blocking the sun in your little world that you have to reconcile..that is until Brian Nelson and Dave Andrews start working for either Mantic or Warlord..then will be looking at a full eclipse.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hail Caesar! in the Dark Ages

Another fantastic round of Hail Caesar took place with our Dark Age armies last night, with Aaron and I running a huge English force of combined Norman and Saxon models. 3 Divisions with 5 units per division we easily pushing 300 models. Rich and Chris ran Richs Muslim forces combined with Chris Macedonians proxied as Greek and Latin Mercenaries for another imagined East vs West Skirmish circa 1100AD. English vs Damascus and its Mercenaries.

We put it all down on and 12 foot by 4 foot table (adding a 4 x4 to my 4 x 8) although we only used 11 feet. Big games like this are blast in multiplayer and Hail Caesar rules really shines in the environment. Only our second attempt at the rules but its really coming together, we figure by the third game we will have all the bells and whistles down.

Everyone is gung ho and building up and painting their armies and we are starting a Dark Age Campaign after we finish our current Pirate (legend of the high seas) campaign.

Again forgive the unpainted terrain and models , this will be changing soon and we have solid group commitment to making this game look as good as it is fun to play. Here's a brief narrative I wrote from the English perspective today. that sums up the game Unlike last time, We won the day. I think Aaron is doing actual bat rep with army lists so I will leave the details to him.

In the fog of war...only Archers from division 1 manage to receive their orders and proceed across a forested hill and a volley of arrows routs a small unit of Turkish Archers on the flank, The remaining Saxon forces unintentionally delay, allowing a huge return volley of arrow to break and rout one of our Shieldwalls. Regardless the the Norman Cavalry (set behind a large hill) ambush smashes the Ghulam and Turkoman Cavarly that would threaten Division 1's flank...with the flanking threat gone from both sides the remaining Turks ignore the heavy losses and a retreat order and charge into combat., pushed back by the Saxons who are personally led by the Army General they are then re-engaged and smashed by our Huscarls axes, although the remaining unit of Fyrd takes heavy losses.. Skirmishers from Division 1 move into the hill country and surprise a small group of Berber infantry guarding the second enemy divisions flank and rout. them. Meanwhile the Norman forces proceed across the river to engage the enemies 3rd division of Mercenaries on the right bank.

In the Hill country, disorganization wins the day on both sides, as unaware of whats happening on the left river bank neither unit properly receives orders, causing one unit of Fyrd to strike out alone and take heavy losses from Turkish shooting but none the less holds disordered. being advanced on by the City Guard and supporting archers, The Viking Raiders sweep past the disordered Fyrd in the nick of time and attack both units routing them. the remaining Damascus Light Cavalry seeing its infantry destroyed and on coming Vikings retreats from the battlefield and lone unit of Heavy Calvary follows suit. The remaining Saxon Forces never saw action due to poor weather conditions. (failed order checks)

On the far side Normans and Latin Mercenaries fought to draw..although with Damascus' armies broken the Mercenaries fought for personally glory and eventually pushed the Normans back across the river but to avail as the much larger English army still held the majority of the battlefield.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hardcore is, uh Hard.

my Lich Lord Terminus

On the topic of Warmachine, I spent most of July painting my 1st 35 points. I've had maybe a dozen games this month only half of those with my my new caster of choice the Lich Lord Terminus. At 35 models, it's a high model count for 35 points but I like the undead pirate theme and its mobile tarpit playstyle that's just a delivery system for the big guy into combat.

Reaper and Machine Wraith

Along comes a 35 point "Hardcore" Steamroller in my area with a couple players I know turning me on to the event. The event is tomorrow and looking to get out there a give it try I oblige and signed up. feeling up to the challenge as I finally started winning some games with my current list going 2-2 my first four matches the losses being in one case barely a loss, the other stupidity I should have seen coming. However once my old WFB compadre turned Warmahordes guru Felix came over to demo some hardcore games last night the proverbial rubber hit the road and my head was swimming.

Captain Rengrave and Revenant Crew
(numerous conversions abound in alot of the revenant crew..those free mantic promo sprues come in handy and scale perfectly)

Hardcore events, for those that dont know feature a time limit -per turn, in case 5 minute turns.I I experimented with time limits early in my learning of the game (with tiny army) just to see what it was like and didnt really have issue at the time, so it didn't really register. Last night however, oh boy. It registered. I've havent experienced 5 minutes feel like 10 secs in recent memory. Trying to activivate 35 models is 5 mins especially in a Killbox scenario with fiddly units like my bile thralls.(who blow themselves up in 180 degree arc out to 6 inches killing friend of foe) who need to placed exactly..was simply not possible in the rookie state of warmachine that my brain is currently wired. I had several turns where units were missing activations or just activating to get to terminus who I didnt have enought time to sort what he was going to was trainwreck and in short despite doing some seriously killing of felix's rank and file stuff...he just ran his big nasty jacks in on his feat turn and crushed me twice, the second time just for good measure clearly illustrating I am not ready for a 5 min hardcore steamroller in anyway but the paint department.

Blackbanes Ghost Raiders

Given the paint requirements, retooling my list isnt possible by tomorrow morning but its pretty clear to me for an event like this you want to go lean and mean with the least amount of activations possible to do the job...having 3 X 10 man units with special actions...ranged attacks, dual attacks and the tough rule...was just assine, basically counterproductive given the time constraints. What I am quickly finding out about Privateer Press in contrast to Games Workshop is, where Games Workshop writes its core rules to sell you the most models they possibly can, PP writes its events to sell you the most models it can, from multiple lists being required, to totally different formats at different point levels you need a wide variety of stuff just be able to "show up and play" and be competitive. It all good though and with 3 different casters and around 50 models and good selection of warjacks..I have enough stuff..I just need to compartmentalize so I can list build to the event in question and get my head wrapped around all the complexities of this game. SO, with whole life of miniatures gaming under my belt, I must admit that with only 3 months and a couple dozen games under my belt, when it comes to Warmachine, I am not Hardcore.

Bile Thralls

I am going to do my best to get some gaming in August and see where I am in in September and maybe shoot for a 7 min timed event steps right?

On the subject of paint, these are finished and semi finished shots, still have work to do on the big guy like the wings and some touch ups, the rest of the units and solo models (missing from the photos and in my list is a Pistol Wraith) are WIP in the base coated/ wash phase,
I stuck with nautical theme so the colors sea foam green and copper with heavy oxidation are everywhere, plus a little seaweed where needed. I am going to continue along and finish these guys up in the next few weeks and I'll get them up in Warmachine gallery on the sidebar.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Boarding Action

A couple of great games of Legends of the High Seas last night, the 2 games were rounds 9 and 10 of the Campaign roughly half the players are fielding crews of 20 and higher and there are some serious tough customers currently sailing the Caribbean in our little world.

Not the prettiest board yet, the lexan is test piece for doing a water surface..once I dry brush it, Ill see I a couple different colors can mask that rigid geometry

We finally got around to playing the boarding action scenario using my WIP Old Glory Brig as the second ship. pretty much complete outside of the paint and rigging..its sporting a custom add on bottom to give it some height as the stock model is waterlined way too high for my tastes (and the other ships) has an added forecastle and entry point.and is sporting 3, Triple sailed masts. General consensus was that this ship was just to small for this scenario and was really just good for a set the scenario languished un-played through out the campaign. I'm glad some of the guys gave it shot as well a myself, as it was a blast, the swinging climbing and jumping was very pirates of the classic movies. Size constraints and the 1 inch control zone literally meant you had to brawl you way through the mob, both our captains got into some dicey situations as a you can imagine and out of action rolls for your Veteran Heroes and Captain after 10 rounds are not rolls you want to be making Fortunately for the Crew of Delivery we killed most of the pirate crew before the "Red Devil" himself, Guillaume LeClerc got away with a few deck hands.

collecting dust for years..I finally figured out how make this ship work for me aesthetically, hopefully can see the promise here, is should look just as good as "The Griffon" before too long.I plan on two much larger ships for the Boarding Action at Adepticon in 2012, these small ships will be terrain pieces on other boards.

My Navy Crew also prevailed in my defense of the a captured Privateer hero put on trial for piracy as his crew desperately tried to free him from the Prison at New Providence. A good week for the Royal Navy going 2-0 after 2 losses last time. One more round to go before we declare the winner of this campaign coming up in a month. 1 more meeting with 2 games to go. As usual scoring updates are on my Legends of the High Seas campaign blog

A Shot from Prison Break, the Abel Seaman held the line here with some support from my Hired Hands (not pictured) Buy My Marines won the day along with my ferocious Lieutenant who missed the first games being immediately put out of action and then captured has come back "Hardened" and is my toughest sailor hands down.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The truth is out there

Let me tell you about my Saturday Night. I attended Blood in the Sun a 50 player WFB tourney here in my area this weekend but not as a WFB player...I showed up at 8 pm Saturday Night to meet some pals and play Warmachine on the tables for the open gaming they had going on.

Considering I knew many players there, it was certainly weird showing up a Warhammer tournament and not playing Warhammer, and I had to explain myself to at least 3 people. But this is the world I now find myself in. I was a registered player and attendee of this event and planned on playing all the way up until probably the last week of June. When an odd series of occurrences somewhat snowballed into all 3 of us (myself and the two guys I was riding over and rooming with from our club) having serious issues with attending the event. For me it was a quick but mandatory overnight, out of town work trip getting in way and not allowing me to be there Friday night as planned. Instead making me head out early Saturday morning for the 10am game one. While not the earliest table call I've ever had but if my 730 am flight home touchdown was late (and when you count on those things they always are) with a 45 min+ drive to the venue.. I was screwed.

On top of that I also to face up to the reality this had become a major tournament with alot of notable regional players and I had played exactly ONE game of WFB since Adepticon. My knowledge of the 8th ed rules is still muddled with 7th ed hold overs that my brain isnt letting go..I know zero about, nor I have played a game against 8th ed version of Orcs, Tomb Kings or even VC,or Dwarfs..8th ed incarnations. The cool terrain contest aside, spending a few hundred bucks to get rolled all weekend suddenly became less than appealing. With 10 person wait list with a couple diehard players I know on it...I did the right thing and bowed out (in fact all three of us did). in favor of people that should be there.

As a result I was glad I did because the first thing I hear when I show up besides people are shocked that a Bretonnian player with one Trebuchet is running the tables and way ahead ( he goes on to win B.O.- so congrats guy whomever you are!) The other talk is that they changed the blood & glory scenario and (there was only one) when you lost your banners you didnt lose the game, just couldnt use your general or BSB any longer. Considering I signed up for this event after Adepticon, on the talk that alternate means of scoring where being considered, including Blood and Glory on numerous scenarios. I would have seriously been bummed out to find out the day of how the scenarios actually shook out. (They did not release the scenarios before the event)

I am sure they did this because of pressure from the status quo to go with the flow, that "flow" being the horribly annoying way Warhammer is currently being organized. The result being standard "by the book" scenarios with B&G neutered so people didn't whine. Outside of confirmation for myself in that I made the right decision, this event looked super well organized and well run by some great guys.(They even had the scores up tonight! ) If I only I liked the game in its current state, I surely would give this event a big thumbs up. IF you are digging 8th edition and its current tournament application then do put this event on your list next year for sure. Unfortunately for me, it was only again confirmation, with an outside looking in revelation that there will be no Warhammer Fantasy Battles for me in the foreseeable future.

We must take these changes in life in context. For me context is everything. I am one of those people who sees something under a different context and its just not the same. Regardless if its outward appearance remains unchanged. A great example I like to use to illustrate my mindset is the TV show from the 1990's the X-files. I loved this show when it aired for probably 5 years, (Coincidentally the same as my love affair with WFB) My girlfriend (now wife) and I planned our social lives around watching this show, (because my VHS recordings of it at the time looked like crap) and used to get together with a group of friends on Friday nighst to watch it religiously (kind of like our current "club night") As its almost decade of seasons rolled on, and of course like any show its quality deteriorated, I became aware of what an utter contemptuous d-bag David Duchovny apparently was in real life how he didn't particularly like the show, and it was just a paycheck until he could get some "real movie work" . While a normal person can separate things like that from the their enjoyment of it, I just cant and eventually there came a point when I watched the show and all I could think about was how insincere he actually was (I guess people call that acting?) and soon after I ceased giving a shit about the show, stopped watching it and life went on.

A funny anecdote I must add here in that many years after the show was off the air somewhere around 2007..I met Gillian Anderson a few times as she and I shared the same taste in restaurants and I kept seeing her at a particular place I like to eat near my work...eventually I was seated next to her and her husband and small child, while I with my wife and small child. we exchanged pleasantries, and eventually saw and repeated the episode again with some more chit chat. While very charming and nice, her comments on the show in our brief conversations where akin to hey it was "cool" but it was again "a paycheck".

Games Workshop is like the X-Files to me, I can still appreciate it to a certain point but in the end I am finding it hollow and insincere because of antipathy it has for it customers and too many of its customers obliviousness or acceptance of that antipathy. While one shouldn't obsess about thing you can have no control over and just enjoy what you can, there is no disputing GW's variety of offenses of late really pushed some buttons with me, that have had an impact on me as a player.

When you invest a ton of time and money or emotion into someone else product you want it to be as important to them as it is to you, but in life that often just not the case. its just a "paycheck".

There are just too many of other great games out there to sit there and say "I want to believe" when as a guy with all kinds of miniatures not just my 5000 points of painted Empire the miniatures/wargaming hobby keeps chugging along and getting bigger and better all the time.

So that was my Saturday night I sat at tables of a Warhammer tournament I wasnt playing in -playing Warmachine and actually did wonder if any of guys were upstairs watching reruns of the Xfiles.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hail Caesar- Putting it to the test!

The battle line are drawn, a whopping 325+ models

We played our first game of Warlord Games new "Hail Caesar" rules last night and I am glad to say it was great success..despite the mandatory rulebook scouring the game moved along, well played well and most importantly felt like a "real wargame" . After years of Wargaming with results determined by random dice idiocy. It was great see a game where I felt the randomness was in "all the right places". I really felt like we were in control of our forces and results were risk vs reward based on choice of engagement. I think there is good balance in this games effectiveness between the excellent orders systems, the minimization of shooting, (where it can, of course be deadly, but not game controlling) and a great Hand to Hand systems, most of our questions had to do required movement due proximity of enemy units and what happens to units that have retreated have not broken. I answered 99% of these myself by going the rule book in detail with examples of our own play fresh in my head. (Disordered but unshaken unit moves off the table is it destroyed?)

Games is big enough that I can only fit half in a shot.

Mocked up command stands. Hail Caesar recommends round bases for command units and square for regular units for easy id...I like that idea...looks cool too.

Our game was set toward the end of the Dark Ages with my English Forces (Saxon /Norman) vs Muslims circa 1100AD either an unaccounted for skirmish or something that could have been during the First Crusade, Rich ran his awesome Arab force which can easily proxy just about any Muslim force from Ancient times up until 1400 or so thats a pretty good investment as a historical army and that being the case his force is pretty large and mostly painted as he been working on it for a couple years now.

This was not good for Rich's Ghulam Heavy Cav., we got a bit cocky after this and decided to try out a "sweeping advance" sounded good in practice but I ended up disordered, facing another cav charge, not such a good idea after all.

Norman Knights in the flank couldn't break these guys one of the only incidents in a 3 hour game were fluky dice roll had any impact.

My Saxon forces on the other hand are straight up to Hastings era force (Alfred to Harold), so we added some Normans in to round it out to be a joint English force similar to what I imagine Henry the would of looked like although I am sure he would have had much more Cavalry. Yes I know my army is completely bare lead or primed, at this point. But since my last Hail Caesar post I made alot of progress with the modeling and figuring out "what" I want this army to look like, which was something I wasn't wrapping my head around with WAB. So do expect some paint soon as this game is winner and if I am loving it I am surely painting it. Although there are rules for a multiplayer game, we played it as one on one, even thou Aaron was running one of my Division with the Norman additions to my force.

Conquests Norman Knights..a great kit and to scale..with Gripping Beast, Crusader and Perry well with Warlord plastics..not always the case with new plastic figs.

Army lists are posted here courtesy of Chicago Terrain Factory.

Playing on the full 4 x 8 table was really the minimum required here, as when all was laid out there was over 325 models on the table. Now that's what a proper wargame should look like! There was too much going on to field a battle reports see the comments under the photos for some insight into the battle. The Muslims won in squeaker mainly due to my shaken Huscarls who were managing to holding fast despite being "shaken" eventually retreating into a hill and being destroyed on a tied combat.

End of the game here, my Huscarls taking there second flank hit of game, after winning and breaking a flanker in a previous engagement. tied the combat with only 1/2 attacks..force to make a break test..I rolled a "5" with no modifier, I had taken 6 wounds at this point my Stamina total so I was "shaken" thereby making my break result.."Give Ground Disordered with Supports together" While I didnt have any supports I retreated straight into that hill to the right, which broke me.

Look for lots more Hail Caesar soon, as the 2012 Adepticon Ancient online Campaign incorporates multiple rules sets (not just WAB)

My Crusader Viking Raiders here on the right were the money, Destroying those light cav to the top of the photo and doing a sweeping advance into the other unit of cav, destroying them in two turns. The Vikings "Tough Fighters" rule, gives you one failed attack reroll, you wouldnt think one die is a big deal but it is...these guys where my all -stars.

4 Wounds and two units of enemy cavalry later but still solid and victorious!, alas they weren't in the middle of the table were we eventually got butchered....


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