Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dark Ages Round 4

Here's our map after 3 Rounds, things are start to take shape with Normans and Saxons totally on the defensive. The Caliphate has just been rampaging, Rich is getting very high scores in his games the Caliphate vs Norman Score last week was 40-28, while explaining the scoring isnt pertinent here, the scores are mainly kill points and the relevancy is your score is used to dicate map move against all opponents not just the one you played this week. So with three high scoring games, the Caliphate is on a tear. Chris and his Byzantines had a very close game versus my Saxons (32-24 his favor) where I wiped our his center division turn 2 on charge from my Huscarls that was a result of Blunder, if you can believe that, and shattered his two main infantry units in that division, a follow up charge the same turn from my Coerls broke the division. Just when you thought I had the upper hand, Chris's cavalry came back and had similar came down who crack the second division first, I had some chances but the dice said it was not to be and he did it
I have been pretty stagnant for last two rounds, and need to make something happen this week. I am playing the Normans this week, so I'll squeeze some of those French territories where I can but we need slow down the green tide. Aaron and his Normans have their hands full with two armies cut off behind enemy lines in the Pyrenees. Should be an interesting week!.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hobbies and their Crossroads


Lately I've found alot of things hobbywise competing for my time. That's outside the obviously important things like my family or Job. I think we all go thru phases with what competes for our time. I had spurts was where all I nearly did with my free time was work on miniatures related gaming. thats dwindled alot of late...while there a couple big miniatures projects coming up and in the works like my Legend of the High Seas event coming up at Adepticon in 2012, trying to get one Ancients Army finished (which is woefully behind, and one of the reasons you seeing alot of photos from the Ancients game sis the Sea of lead of which mine is the biggest!)
Continuing on with more Lord of the Rings figures and terrain for the only tournament  (GW) gaming I am currently doing, and my Battle of the Five Armies game I plan do next Summer. That's a pretty big plate right there, let alone things like taking martial arts, reading, my musical endeavors or an old time sink that creeps up ever now and again for me. Computer games.

Before I got back in to miniatures hobby, in the time consuming capacity that is table top gaming, (that is  versus just collecting them, maybe painting them and putting on a shelf.) There where computer games..I spent alot of time in 1990's during the golden age of PC gaming playing all the hits. mainly in the RPG and Turn Based Strategy department. Spent alot of time and money with these being pretty PC savy for the time I always stayed pretty current with hardware/ technology and games. That dwindled in the 2000's as in my opinion games simply got alot crappier, and while they looked better, I felt the content was lacking compared to past experiences Whether I had outgrown the attraction or developers just realized that as PC and then console became main stream appealing to lowest common denominator was where the $$$ was. 

I don't talk about computer games here, (ever) as its a miniatures hobby blog, but bear with me for the brief distraction, as things come full circle. The last couple years I've noticed games getting a bit better and at least once year I get the bug for about a month to slug my way thru one. Obviously I have a soft spot for Fantasy RPGs...the problem with them I always thought was with the exception of old "Gold Box" Dos D&D game which where great in low graphic, turn based and text heavy environment, I thought every fantasy / D&D based  real time RPG just really fell flat. even in the last 5 years..I tried and barely got my moneys worth out of bunch of the more popular titles. The one shining gem and my favorite Fantasy RPG (and its very light on that subject) is a somewhat obscure game called Severance: Blade of Darkness..which is just a great fantasy combat sim, light on story heavy on exploration and great combat which I find alot of games these days are missing. Repetitive "click, click, click" combat just kills games for me..I like it where you have to actually move, plan your swing and make sure you in the right spot to deliver the proper blow,most current games stunningly seem to fail at either the story or the play mechanics.

Now along comes- Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I wont bother giving you a game review since there are zillion of those currently available and let's just say I concur with the general sentiment- that it rules, and I was not a fan at all of its predecessor. I am already going through my horde of fantasy miniatures picking out characters for Skirmish gaming and sketching out how to build Skyrim style Barrow or Cairn entrance to go along with my dungeon board, and revist to my skirmish rules I've been working on at a snails pace as I play a host of other games. So, yeah while I might get distracted by a video game now and again, the virtual manifestation of sending your alter ego Dungeon delving, which has my brain churning out a couple dozen ideas for miniatures and terrain isn't necessarily  a bad thing, Between Skyrim  the below pic ( which I am sure most of you who read this blog have seen before and is hands down my vote for Diorama of the year 2011)..I need to get cracking on my own game, inspiration is a fickle muse, when it hits you need to roll with it.

("Outnumbered" by CMON member "Crackpot", photo by "Crackpot" )
        While its creator sites his own influences, this piece immediate struck me as similar to my own adventures as Tukaram in "Blade of Darkness" , my Nord Barbarian in Skyrim, or my boyhood fondness for the "Savage Sword of Conan".

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dark Ages Campaign Round 3

Here is current map as the move portion of turn 3 is under way and the games that will dictate the results of these moves will take place this coming Tuesday. So far the Campaign using Warlord's Hail Caesar rules has been great. We are playing either Pitched battles or picking from a handful of scenarios. As I mentioned as great many battles are fought each turn and it abstractedly resolved thru the one game week. This campaign system , something I cooked up based on trying to solve numerous things that went wrong with many, many Campaigns I've run over the years. Pairs are simply round robin, the only caveat being that if the majority of your battles are against someone in particular then you play them regardless if its two weeks in row. being our third week that isnt a problem yet, and because I got stomped last week by the Caliphate (more on that in moment) My turn hasnt happened yet, and since the Caliphate has repelled and the Saxon invasion, counter invaded and is now sitting in Ireland ( Arabs in Ireland in 1000 AD, my Ancestors are cursing me)
Rich has decided to put the pressure on his neighbors the Normans. Whether I make minor strikes against my neighboors or go for a viking-esque raid on the Byzantine Empire I don't yet. One the benefits in being the weeks loser (ye with least number of Armies on the board) means you get to last, so you can see what the other players moves are. This mimics the "Risk" type board game mechanic I was going for.

As for my game last time around The Saxons invaded, Northern Spain, Rich and the Caliphate counter invaded Ireland.. I made some  small moves againt Neutral Armies and the Normans. The scenario we play was a "Camp Raid" where each player had camps in opposite corners of the board and deploy toward each other (for the short edge long ways) the kicker is one of your three divisions is in reserve and must roll to come on.I had one of my Divisions stupidly near the enemy reserve deployment, and of course fail orders on my part had them not get out of away before Rich got his reserves on first time and roll right over one divisions flank standing at the edge of my camp. Luckily I had some good performing units although not my Huscarls who for once seemed not at all the indestructable tanks they have been. mainly due to getting engaged with cavalry. My Second Division performed well keeping two division of Arabs at bay outside my camp, until my reserves finally came on (3 turns later) and started toward the Arab camp. The pressure from my reserves made Rich have to split his offense force to have some of it go back and support the camp..
There where a few turns where the battle actually started to drift back to my direction but its was not to be and I suffered enough early losses and didnt get the breaks I needed late to really flip it the other way.
As result, Rich got major victory ( or Conquer III as our scoring metric calls it) It was a fantastic and dramatic game.  I did score enough points in our game  to keep from getting totally creamed in some of my other battles on the map many of those resulted in draws or minor setbacks. I still lost enough amries and territories to be in last place but not by a ton. A good week could flip any of us to the top, but right its clearly the Caliphate of Cordoda expanding across Dark Age Europe. Lets see if anyone can stop him this week!>

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bilbo's Birthday Bash, Day 2

I am sure I am not alone in thinking that while I love two day tournaments for the camaraderie and experience, playing on day two is always apprehensive, its always more pressure and its always when things go horribly wrong. I was psyched to see I was playing Chris, as I loved his army and display. I just met him recently and he and his friends from Joliet, IL are fantastic hobbyists who are way into the Hirst Arts thing, like myself and his group supplied many of the great tables at the event.

Somehow I spaced taking pictures during Chris and mines game so pictures of his army on display will have to do!

Game 4 Vs Corsairs of Umbar (Chris T)

16 HW& Shield
18 Spears
8 Reavers
12 Crossbows

I've have played the Corsairs many times and beaten them many times, they die easy but hit hard especially in the shooting department. I knew that would be a problem because of the scenario which "seize the artifact" in which there were three. I knew hanging onto the Artifact would be hard because of the shooting meaning I had the break Chris asap. as usual Shelob and Shagrat where great, and I early on had all three Artifacts in my possession. but on the far flank my Warg Riders again failed me miserably where the needed to punch thru and break his wall of Corsairs going for the artifact in my table quarter. The bounced off and where mowed down. they did screen for me long enough to get infantry in there, dig it up and pass it off to my Orc Shaman who bolted with it. I had some infantry in the middle who got the center artifact but they where just gunned down by Crossbow fire dropping the Artifact near my deployment zone. while a third Orc headed with far artifact back to my deployment zone, Shagrat left a trail of dead in his wake including on of the Corsair Captains. The problem at this point is that I was long broken again, surviving on making my courage checks, Chris Corsairs moved across the table to my Deployment zone where my Shaman was hiding, Corsairs has already picked up the center one and where closing and another failed courage check had me drop my third one which Chris's troops recovered., My Shaman was getting boxed in with nowhere to run, my only hope was to make my checks and win some priorities to get away and run out the clock, (10 turns from recovery of the 1st artifact), Problem was I lost the last 5 priority rules and hat kept me from not saving the minor loss but also, getting the bonus object which was to get a model into his deployment zone..I had Shelob engage the Corsair crossbows by herself but because I couldnt win a damn priority Chris just kept feeding her 1 at a time, (except on few where they failed there courage) I did kill them all but one, whom got lucky on the last turn and killed her, the only time she died or got close to dying the whole tournament. meanwhile, The lack of priorty wins kept my Shaman from getting out of chris's trap he got swarmed, killed and the Artifact recovered on the last turn. Major Win for Chris, Major loss for me, no bonus, 3 points.
great, fun game despite the loss.

Game 5 Vs Gondor -Osgiliath Veterans ( Rob K)
10 HW& S
5 Rangers
12 Osgiliath Vets
11 Citadel Guard Bow
10 Citadel Guard Spear

This set of ruins should have extremely helpful in getting across the board, it wasnt, it wasnt terrible, but it didnt save me half of the shots it should have as odds would dictate.

I've played Rob lots of times but in WFB, this the first time we met up for LotR. Again Rob's list was shooty army with high defense. I new it would be a hassle, but if I could get past the shooting I'd be ok. The Scenario was standard meeting engagement, this one had built in bonus points for heros surviving, but the goal was too break the other army and get them to 25% and the game would end. The board was absolute fabulous to play on an Egyptian style Hirst board with lots of cover for the shooting,

Why I am always the guys marching across the table while my opponent stands there and shoots at me? I need to figure that one out.

unfortunately despite my best efforts my dice where bloody awful and his were over the top fluky great...I hate to bitch about dice but this was bordering silly. Rob shot the crap out of me, even with tons of "in the way" checks..when we got into combat he was throw 5's to wound like I was throwing 1"s (i.e. Consistently) anyway so despite an awesone double flanking setup that should have did him in, I took so many shooting casualties by the time we engaged, that average losses broke me quick, annoyed, I overlooked a key heroic move on a lost priority roll, that would have allowed me a big standfast check with about a dozen guys. Rob quickly engaged Shagrat , removing that ability, and simply left everyone to stand there and passed the move turn to me to make my checks...I fail easily a dozen courage checks without a standfast and go to 25% and game over. a third Major loss for me, but 6 points as we both picked the bonus points as all our heroes where alive. Great table, and should have be a good game, but lopsided dice rolling made this the absolute worst game of the weekend which is always a drag when its the last game.

I should have rolled this flank up in turn and been into the main line on the next turn, no not only because my Warg Riders, once again consistently 5 games in row failed to their, but even Shelob couldnt get any kills because I could win any fights..bad dice and Fight 3 vs Fight 4 are a bad combo.

So all is not lost I finish the tourney 1-3-1, my soft scores are always maxed out so I hope I am still somewhere in the middle of the pack. I was very happy to hear my named called when it came time for the Best Appearance Award. As its always a Razor thin margin and there where alot of great armies there. Chris who I played in Game 4's Corsairs where close in the unning in fact he picked players choice, but I managed to squeak it out this year, again I've now won it in 2009, was runner up losing the tie breaker to friend Jamie Welling in 2010, and winning in 2011..I guess I now have something to prove things on the hobby side have become more competitive than the actual games themselves (which I can quite seem to get a handle on (designing a list that works hobbywise and gameplay wise)

Let me finish up but showing some pics of some other great armies at the event. There was a separate painting contest, that I had two entries in but neither of those could pulloff a victory but in retrospect I did not really have the time to do anything new and used one older model and did a new one kind of quick and both could have been better. So better luck next time there. I'll do a separate post on the painting contest next.

The next big Lord of the Rings events in the US are Gathering in the Desert in Phoenix, in February and of course Adepticon in April, working getting myself to the former but I will surely be at the latter.

Bilbo's Birthday Bash, Day 1

Bilbo's Birthday Bash 2011 @Chicago Battle Bunker.

The third year of BBB has come and gone, and let me say it was an awesome weekend, Brent and the staff at the Battle Bunker hosted another great event..with the best terrain I have seen at any miniatures event period. As you've read here previously paid registrations were at 42
which is the highest total of LotR players at single event in U.S. to date. Unfortunately with a large number of traveling players attending and several unexpected illnesses the final count to show up was 34, still surpassing most local tournaments for more popular games and still besting any LotR events in recent memory. We had players from all over the Midwest, Florida, California, and Virgina show up.

A brief rundown of my games. LotR tournaments are always played to variety of unique scenarios. This year we had the perk of 4 bonus objectives, that were passed out to us in an envelope to be used at our discretion one per match. The objective was secret from your opponent, to be revealed at the end of the match. This created some interesting twists late game and we all scrambled to meet our bonus objectives. it was a 600 point event and, my list was a Mordor, Cirith Ungol to be exact my list being:

Shagrat, Warleader
Orc Shaman on Warg
18 Orcs HW&S

4 Mordor Uruk Hai with 2HW's
10 Orcs with Spears

1 Orc with Banner
8 Warg Rider HW&S

Another shot of my army and display. Dont worry it looks more intimidating than it plays. LOL!

Game 1 vs Isengard Raiders ( Jeff R)
Uruk Hai Captain
35 Scouts HW&S
6 Scouts Bows
4 Warg Riders.

Scenario was "control the battlefield" centered around 5 objective markers. My bonus objective was "headhunter" meaning I needed to kill his heros, and I tried. The game was pretty straight forward scrap, the table was fittingly the Orthanc labor camp, so it had the large wooden scaffolding that this place is known for, these where particularly great for Shelob who could climb to the top and come down with ease. my army was split into 2 sections one on each flank. The Warg Riders all going after Lurtz and everyone else going after played out predictably, my side with Shagrat and Shelob folded up Jeff's one side pretty easily, but my Warg Riders just bounced off Lurtz and Co. I killed some but ended up back pedaling leaving him that table quarter. In the end we each 2 table quarters and were fitting over the middle, both armies broken, we sweated our courage checks, and the game ended a draw..I did pick up 2 bonus points for killing Sharku and the Uruk Captain.- 12 points.

Game 2 vs Lothlorien at Helms Deep (Tyler D)
16 Galadrim Spear and Shield
9 Galadrim with 2HW

14 Galadrim with Bows

3 Galadrim Knights

Scenario was "Contest of Champions" centered around a selected champion racking up the most Kills, my Champion was Shagrat, Tylers was Gimli. I had Shelob run up one flank and harass which worked very well, while I fed Gimli as few models as possible hoping to get Shelob on him at a key time. on the other side my Warg Riders went after Haldir, and once again bounced off. and basically got wiped out with little to show for it, Shagrat is a killing machine but by the time I marched him up the middle in his horde at the 14 Elven Bowmen, I got shot to pieces and was about broken. Gimli was ahead of me in kills by 3 or 4 at that point, and when Shagrat finally got into combat and totally wiffed, my heart sank. However subsequent turns went my way and Shagrat shot up to 6 kills in a hurry, now one ahead of Gimli, again both armies broken late game surviving on "standfast" courage checks, a flubbed priority and bad round of combat put tyler on losing side of the equation and we met the 25% victory margin and I had the Major Victory, but it was right down to the wire. I pick up 20 point plus 1 bonus point.

Tyler had the best looking Elf army there hands down, much better than another one that got alot more attention as it had a fancy display board. Why? you ask -Color!. Tyler's deep muted take and the traditional blue and gold of the Galadrim, were so rich they just popped, our two armies looked fabulous together, in perfect Good vs Evil contrast.

Shelob earned her keep this game, being the catalyst that broke the elves, allowing Shagrats
one kill lead, to bring it over the finish line.

I got a ton of compliments on this Orc Shaman model, but man, did he suck in combat as a performer, I got almost no milage out of his "fury" over 5 games..these guys (Warg Riders) are going back on the shelf for quite sometime.

Game 3 vs Isengard Raiders (Jeff G).
Uruk Hai Capt.
13 Pikes

12 Hw&S

6 Crossbows
Troll with Spear

5 Warg Riders

Isengard , again..a much nasty list despite the lesser numbers than round 1. The scenario was Storm the Camp. Jeff parked his crossbows mid table and said "come and get it" I tried my dual flank approach again my warg riders ended up against his on the same flank ( the curse of " winning the die roll" and setting up 1st, I was hoping to lose so I could get them on the opposite flank) My Wargs bounced off Jeff's and hurt me bad, my Warg Riders were cursed all weekend, as the absolute poorest perfomers in my army. with one flank folding up and crossbow dropping 3 guys a turn, I got into it in the middle with the majority of jeff's troops and had to bring Shelob over from the other flank to help out. I cleared the middle including the troll but with significant losses, I was broken long before Jeff and my troops specifically the ones protecting the camp, ran away, leaving my camp undefened. with my wargs gone he rolled his Wargs into my undefened camp ending the game before I could try to assault his, with basically just Shelob and Shagrat left. Major Loss, 3 points no bonus.

Game 3 of day 1, I didnt get a ton of pictures to come out on this one , basically here is my mob running up the middle into crossbow fire..with troll lumbering at them. Man, Orcs are Stupid.

So 1-1-1 on the day, not bad but the lack of shooting was catching up to me, Shooting is a dicey subject in this game, most swear by it, many say its just a waste of points, I was in the latter category, when it comes to Mordor. Unlike my Grey Company which was all bows..Orc Bows are terrible 5+ shooting at Str cant kill anything, but neither were my Warg by game three I was wishing I had 10 orc bows just to volleyfire but more on that for day 2.

I should add, that LotR's players are some of nicest folks you meet period, while I had played 2 of my 3 opponents on day 1 previously, they were all awesome guys that were a pleasure to play, and that alone is worth the price of admission. Day 2 up next.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

When bad ideas catch on.

I woke up this morning got my cup of coffee and sat down at the computer to do my normal routine, check my email, and browse the news and hobby feeds and this one seriously put a downer on my day. The announcement that Black Scorpion Miniatures is switching to resin is some akin to finding out the maker of your favorite soft drink its changing it formula, because somebody somewhere "thinks its good idea."  You'd think Games Workshops, bad press over "Failcast" (and whether sales or lack of back the hype in unknown to me, but regardless the BAD vibe is out there for all but the most faithful). would have enforced the old adage, "IF IT AIN'T BROKE DONT FIX IT" but apparently this is lost on Black Scorpions master sculptor and head honcho, Adam Clarke.

I love Black Scorpion miniatures and while thankfully, I have enough Pirates of theirs and other manufactures to make a 3000 point WFB army. It doesnt mean I'm not interested in new releases and with talk of Old West picking up around here as the next skirmish game we dig into, I have easy a good 3 dozen figs I want to pick up. Mr. Clarke goes into detail on why they make the switch, and to his credit he doesn't follow GW's lead with the bait and switch price increase, but the same old justifications/ rationalizations for covering that its just a cheaper manufacturing medium just isnt flying with me.
The primary reasons everyone likes to sell you is it looks better and holds more detail, and maybe so to a perfect cast. However considering Black Scorpions has some of best detailed pewter sculpts on the markets this is completely negligible. I can also tell you I have two of Black Scorpions' convention only exclusive releases in Resin and they do not in anyway look better than the pewter figures, in fact I was hoping they released the one (Lord Nelson) in Pewter because I thought it would look better.
Another line of bunk they like to sell is its lighter? well who cares Black Scorp doesnt release models for large format tournament style games so you're not hauling 100's of figures, and do you want models that can take handling and game play or ones the fall over when a breeze comes threw the room or can bend and be bent back or break and shatter?

Metal/Lead/ Pewter miniatures are the medium of craft and have been since this hobby got going in late 70's for old farts like me, who have involved in it since then. It "is" the medium, its part of the craft, the nostalgia its "what it is". Of course I realize the cost and mass production have forced the necessity of plastic and resin figures. I havent even really got that accepting of plastic, while I have alot of great plastic figures. And at the time I started this blog, (Note: Plastic Legions)  I even convinced myself that plastic was the way to go forward in the hobby, based on GW's excellent plastics however as time went one I dug into other plastics out there. The writing on the wall was pretty clear I sure have plenty of mediocre plastic figures that really just remind of bag of plastic army men from the corner store but at 10 times the price. The issue with good plastics or course being price, which is why we have resin, its cheap, it feels cheaps, it looks cheap, its toxic.
Resin is fine for some things, like terrain. I look it at like plaster..its a cheap medium for making things in simple molds and gets the job done for smaller detail work as its cheaper than metal. Whoever thought its was a great idea for fine detail, hand sculpted, expensive miniatures, had the makings of great Con man because thats the bottom line, period. COST. No matter how they dress it up to you. Since Black Scorpion hand packs and cleans their products ( BS miniatures are also some of the cleanest out the package metals, I have seen). Something that its buyers surely appreciate, so I hope that its not following GW's lead there too and going on the chopping block a surely lethal combination for a small manufacture.

Games Workshop has of course pushed this charade on the gaming public for the uber boutique Forge World with its great sculpts and horrible quality or their "Finecast line" it all boils down to increase profit with a cheaper medium and marketing to make you think its better. I'm not sure if Black Scorpion has delusions of grandeur with its new Cutlass game thinking its going to cash on the GW faithful by going to resin as a selling point (laughable but true) or not. . But I think they need to do some research on who their customers are. Where fans and customers of Black Scorpion miniatures clamoring for a switch to resin and I somehow missed it? maybe so. Somehow I think if presented with the choice of a small price increase or a switch to Resin, people who buy figures for small skirmish games when presented with a choice would opt for the former.
I guess I could go to over the "Lead" (note: not "Resin" of even "Plastic) Adventure forum and ask around but I am pretty sure what the answer will be...sometimes this Hobby just makes you want to bang your head against the wall. I guess I wouldnt care if they didnt make stuff I actually had an interest in. And so another one bites the dust and creates a secondary market for own figures working against its itself...sigh.


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