Sunday 18 December 2011

1/4800 Tumbling Dice Sailing Ships

Having completed an prolonged move of house (miniatures packed in boxes and lack of internet contributing to a general malaise on the hobby front) the first box I found were my 1/4800 Tumbling Dice ships.

I decided it was time to give the Trafalgar rules a run, so a few Family Guy episodes later, I had a small fleet ready.  

Paint Scheme
A scorched brown hull, sails and rigging, chaos black sides, with yellow blobs for the "Nelson checker" look.  I'll get around to gilding the sterns sometime.  Bleached bone over graveyard brown for the sails completed my quick-n-nasty paint job.  I felt the best effect to make the model 'pop' was the white wake on the base.  These took surprisingly long to do, considering my super simple rushed paint job. 

Tumbling Dice 1/4800 Review
+ Good feeling of 'life' in the sculpts
+ Good sense of scale; looks effective as a fleet
+ Affordability - 18 SOL, 3 frigates, 2 sloops, 2 brigs and 2 cutters for $20 = a complete fleet

- surprisingly long to paint even with a quick-n-nasty scheme
- the smaller 2-decker was much smaller than even the frigates in every way. Since they included 12 of these in the fleet pack I presume they represent the popular 74-gunner but one presumes a 74-gunner would not be 2/3rds the size of a larger frigate. I know frigates were as long as many SOL, but the frigates are bulkier to boot.
- no merchant or special ship options (bomb ketches etc) althought the abovementioned stubby 74 looks more like a small merchant than a warship...

 The USB stick gives an idea of the tiny scale of these ships - the biggest would base on a 10c piece.  

 Other Scales
I've revisited this, but so far my internet searching has lead me to conclude:
1/1200 - Skytrex $6/ship. Langton & GHQ fall into more 'models' than playing pieces at $12-15 each.
1/2000 - Valiant has bulk $100 specials that work out to $3/ship.  They are well detailed but a bit fiddly/breakable, and look good either rigged or not.  They fit well enough with 1/2400 apparently.
1/2400 - $3 ea - Tumbling Dice > Old Glory due to superior cast rigging and ability to buy individual ships. Hallmark are finer and fiddlier and seem to be $4-5. They do NOT have the cast ratlines which is probably more realistic but the extra cost is not worth it I feel.

1/3000 - West Wind > Navwar due to price and availability/ease of ordering. Super cheap in packs ($1-50 a ship) but I prefer more 'standard' 1/1200 or 1/2400 scales. Also not a great step up from 1/4800, which is under $1 a ship.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Terrain - JR Miniatures Free Shipping

Report cards have me snowed under and unwilling to spend more time typing than I have to...  but this is worth checking out - the annual JR Minis free shipping sale.

Since shipping is prohibitive for terrain usually, this is a great chance to snap up a bargain. They do 28mm, 15mm and 6mm.

This is last Christmas' order - about $100 for a complete 15mm Middle Eastern town good for fantasy, medieval through modern and sci fi.  Buildings are about $10 each...

Highly recommended

Saturday 29 October 2011

RTS PC Games meet 15mm Sci Fi : OP4S Beta

A wargame combining the best bits of wargames and PC RTS games like Starcraft 2... in 15mm too?

Someone should have thought of this long ago...

Brent Spivey (author of the Origins nominated Havoc fantasy skirmish rules) is beta testing OP4S.  For $5 you get the final full pdf version when it releases plus 50% off any print copies.

The Game Concept
Units pay for actions with a resource called Command Action Points (CAPs).  However, units can "Overdrive" or make extra activations for an escalating cost...  I.e. the 2nd action would cost double, the third would cost triple, etc.

The dice rolls favour the buckets of dice approach with opposed rolls which has been popular lately, with 1-3 a fail and 4-6 a success,with defensive successes used to cancel out attacking successes.

OPS4's RTS soul has a lot in common with games like Supreme Commander
The game scales to 2mm, 6mm and 10mm for bigger battles

A Game not a Simulation
Units have ratings for Attack, Defence, CQ Combat, Resilience (Toughness), and attack and movement ranges.  They also have specialties and traits that give them unique roles. 

Though there are rules for overwatch and suppression fire, the game makes no pretense at hard sci fi and realism.  It has more spiritual links with Starcraft, Supreme Commander or C&C Red Alert than it does with games like "Tomorrow's War."  Along with ambushes and airborne units, there are RTS-esque features like Propoganda Towers, and armies can have Command Doctrines.  

It has a RTS mode where you must build a base and capture objectives which give you resources for movement (CAPs) and building units (Credits).  You can upgrade your tech levels, and the aim is to destroy the enemy base...

Defending bases, gathering resources, capturing buildings... sound familiar?

Something new?
I was expecting "Havoc in Space" but Mr Spivey has impressed me by not using the same game engine as his other games but branching out in a new direction for a different era.   Many rules designers get an original, interesting concept (2HW, Ganesha for example) and then repeat it ad nauseum with only slight cosmetic changes for different eras and genres. Even from OP4S's competitors little is new - Tomorrow's War is simply a modern ruleset with a few laser guns and robots bolted on, and Gruntz copies Warmachine mechanisms so thoroughly I'm surprised Privateer Press isn't concerned.  This makes OP4S a surprising and welcome breath of fresh air. The "Overdrive" mechanism has many applications and offers many interesting choices.  Move one unit repeatedly or many units once?  Or a combination?  You have to weigh the risk vs reward with each action you spend.

My GZG UNSC will be re-tasked for a new game...

Use what you have...
There will be profiles for minis from GZG, Combat Wombat, Rebel Minis, Micropanzer, and Old Crow among others.  Basing can be individual or grouped.  15mm lovers, rejoice!

Verdict: This is only beta, but already looks like a worthy contender alongside Gruntz and Tomorrow's War - fulfilling a different niche and giving more use to that 15mm sci fi goodness!

Havoc: by Voodoo Ink Productions (Fantasy Skirmish)

This is the next on my list after Warrior Heroes from 2HW.  

I must say I prefer a shiny rulebook to a pdf but I was hesitant to splash the cash on an obscure rulebook, even one which had garnered an Origins nomination. 

It's hard to get excited about a pdf of any sort, to be honest.  This one was 250 pages (!) which means I am unmotivated to print it out.  It is black & white.  However, the explanations ARE good, and repeated in different ways.  However, it would benefit from polishing and could be condensed significantly. As a hard copy rulebook it should not exceed 100-120 pages for the content inside.

Army Types
Units are classified by role i.e. spearmen, heavy cavalry, crossbowmen, archers. 
They also have a set number of Melee Die (MAD) and Ranged Attack Die (RAT) and Damage (DMG) and Armour (ARM). These show how many dice the miniature can roll and function similar to stats in WFB or 40K.  There are only 20 or so types of unit.  This prevents cheesy army lists like in 40k, or surprising your enemy with a new rule like in Warmachine or Malifaux, but is a big disappointment to someone who loves the 'build it yourself' variety inherent in games like Song of Blades & Heroes.

I like any excuse to post pictures of Rackham metals
Gaining "Momentum"
Basically, another word for the 'initiative'. Sometimes it is good to have, and sometimes it isn't. The plyaer with the momentum acts first and resolves attacks first, but also allocates dice first as well.

Since multiple models can only engage on one side of a melee; ie. you could have 2 models attacking 1, but not 2 attacking 2...  this conveys an advantage...
Move-Shoot-Melee  Phases I & II
Player with the momentum activates models in groups of up to 6 (if they are in base contact).  Models perform an action as individuals (such as movement, shooting, casting a spell). The opposing player then makes an activation an so on until one player has activated all models.  If you still have heaps of models left to move after your opponent has moved all of his - tough cookies - you get only 2 more activations.  This allows you to put pressure on your opponent by your choices and manner of activation.

The player with initiative declares how many Melee Dice he will attack with, and the other player allocates defensive dice.   Players total all their attack or defence dice and keep the best 3, comparing them to each other. If the attacker defeats the defender, he then does the same for his Damage vs the defenders Armour - if he defeats him again, the defender is destroyed.  If the defender is not destroyed, then combat continues until the attacker uses all his melee dice.  So if you had 3 melee dice, you could attack with 3 in one mighty attack, or do 3 single dice attacks...

The Swing
If models are still engaged in melee at the end of a phase, the non-momentum player gets a free 3" move for all models that are engaged. This allows him to change the 2 v 1 outnumbering matchups or escape. 

"Cut Scenes"
When initiative (or Momentum) is tied, time slows... it is the moment for heroic actions!  It is simply a phase where each player can take only 2 activations. Given you can choose your best 3 dice - you can actually try to force a cut scene...

The Named
These are heroes that can wreak extra havoc in "Cut Scenes" - they can ignore bad terrain, pass through zones of control, and move up vertical surfacesor over obstacles without impediment and challenge enemy heroes to a duel - real swashbuckling stuff!

Players can use Havoc tokens to modify die rolls and make additional actions.  In cut-scenes heroes can spend lots of tokens for Matrix-style stunts and fights.

There isn't much choice here - a dozen or so pre-made heroes.  The lack of ability to customise your heroes with traits is a bit of a problem for me as I like to mix and match random minis for custom warbands.

For a feel of the gameplay, I found an excellent AAR on this blog

Did I mention Rackham also use to make goblin ninjas?  Ok, I got sidetracked again...

Verdict:  The most original, innovative ruleset I've seen in ages - and I'm probably only rarely going to to play.  They are clever, fresh, and emphasize skill, timing and clever tactics over cheap cheesy gamesmanship. It would be great for human-centric fantasy like LOTR and refighting medieval/ancient skirmishes but the limited troop types and inability to create custom characters tends to limit it when it comes to creating the random warbands I have come to enjoy with Song of Blades.  If it had more rules for customising troops or some sort of 'build system' it would jump to the top of my list.  I think the game is ripe for expansion - a samurai mod, for example, would be excellent.

All in all, worth a look for $10, and if you are willing to cope with a relatively staid army selection, it may well be the best fantasy skirmish out at the moment...

EDIT: I just checked and there is a 15mm sci fi version coming out soon....  which I will DEFINITELY be testing out! I think a western mod is coming out as well...

Friday 28 October 2011

Warrior Heroes: Armies & Adventures by 2HW

I have a large collection of OOP Confrontation 3 metals. As the original Confrontation rules are a bit involved for a casual game, I have been looking for something to supplement "Song of Blades and Heroes" and I am checking out this game and Voodoo Ink's "Havok" which got an Origins nomination not long ago.

Practical Binding
The ring-bound layout is perfect for gaming and can be easily left open on the table without damage.  Sadly, this is about the only thing I like about the layout of the rules.

TL:DR or "Wall of Text" Syndrome
Pages are in 'wall of text' format in 2 columns. I find them a chore to read.  2HW is not a big company, but it I doubt it is any smaller than the guys who put out the amazing "Song of Our Ancestors" - the rulebooks are priced similarly but poles apart in production values and 'readability.'

Off in their Own World
Like THW's 5150, WH:AA has own setting.  That is fine, but since the game is supposed to be for any minis, their naming conventions add needless confusion.  Force alignments of "full sun"  "twilight" or full moon" are simply good, neutral and evil respectively, so why not simply say so?

Using "benchmark" terms such as those used by D&D and Warhammer would have helped.

I mostly am hunting fantasy rulesets to allow myself to use Confrontation Minis. Now OOP, they are very interesting sculpts who were ahead of their time.  The studio paintjobs - like this one - were awesome.
Make your own Army
SoBH's best feature is the ability to customise your own warband.  WH:AA  has a few stats - Weapon, Reputation, Armour, Movement, Hardiness.  There are only a very few skills to chose from, so despite having a much better, more detailed 'stat line' than SoBH they effectively have less variety between troop types.  I was definitely hoping for more skills and variety here. A little disappointed.
The Gamplay
2HW usually revolves around a few charts.  The "Reputation" of the character is the defining stat. You test against this stat with a pair of d6.  I.e. if you are a powerful Rep 5 character then you roll a 5 or less to succeed.  If you are a weaker Rep 3 character you would need to roll a 3 or less to succeed or "pass".
You roll 2 dice and compare your results to the relevant chart.  Two successes gives a good result, one success means a modest result, and two fails are usually bad.

The defensive and active characters 'react' to each others actions by rolling reactions, until one character is unable to continue.
1. An active character moves around a corner
2. A reactive character sees him and rolls a reaction test.  Perhaps the reacting character passes the test and fires
3. The active  character rolls a test to see how he reacts to being fired at. He passes and gets ot shoot back etc.
4.  Perhaps the reactive player is hit and falls down. Since he cannot react again, the reaction sequence is over.

A new character is moved and a new sequence of reactions is played out if applicable. 

To recap: individual units are moved one at a time Warmachine style, and they can trigger reactive actions by the non-moving player.  Reactions and reaction tests continue back-and-forth between units until one unit  is unable to react.  The another unit is chosen to move, and the process is repeated.

The process is a lot simpler than it appears in the rulebook.  It is interesting as it takes some control from the player and places emphasis on the quality of the troops, who do not always react the way you would like them to.   2HW has free demo games which give you the feel for their system, a move which impressed me a lot.
The game Malifaux itself has a ridiculous and offputting amount of special rules, but their terrain boards are perfect for fantasy.  I review them here
Combat & Magic
Combat is quite interesting and whilst not, I feel, as cinematic and 'fun' as SoBH the unpredicability and reaction charts add interest.

Magic is much more interesting and comprehensive than SoBH, with a wide range of spells (40 or so).  It would be quite easy to create your own and add them into the list.  I was quite impressed with this section.

Scenarios and Campaigns
This is the always very comprehensive in 2HW games.  The ability to play solo or co-op is very handy. Although it can at times feel like a bunch of house rules thrown together at 5 minutes notice, the depth and comprehensiveness in their campaign rules are hard to beat and give a real RPG feel to your games.   The toolbox is very comprehensive and can be as simple and complex as you like. There are a lot of good ideas here that could be applied to other games and genres.  I also like the fact they allow you to calculate a figure's points, unlike many other scenario-based games where they say "Points values are the antichrist - we insist you be scenario-loving individualists just like us!"

In fact, I would suggest this is the best reason to buy this rulebook instead of just playing the free CR.3 Swordplay demo.

 An overpowered, nigh-unkillable hero typical of GW. Yours for only $61!  Citadel Finecast - so much better than metal..
I like the way they treat heroes or "Stars" as they call them. Unlike WFB's impossible-to-kill warriors with improbably high stats, heroes are more defined by their ability to chose their reactions rather than 'react' at the whim of the dice.  If killed, they can even return next game, having cheated death miraculously, albeit with reduced stats. 

If you can wade through the rulebook, a decent skirmish game with a very comprehensive campaign and scenario building toolset.  In fact, they fulfil their boast of meshing RPG with skirmish game rather well.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Trafalgar & 1:4800 Sailing Ships

Another Warhammer Ancients 50% ruleset.  Interestingly, although the book is shiny and very nice to look at, the cover broke off the book while I was reading it in bed.  A bit weak, considering the handling and usage most rulebooks receive.

 My rulebook fell apart on the first read through.  Maybe that's why they're selling them so cheap - or is that just my cynicism talking...

Ignoring the 90 pages of fluff, charts, illustrations and historical info, there are about 30 pages of rules and they seem modelled after Battlefleet Gothic (which is not a bad thing as, like any discontinued GW line, they are quite good).

I suspect they would make a Napoleanic nerd froth at the mouth, but they  have a simple enough movement system, and I like the idea where the ship upwind has the initiative -a simple but realistic idea.  Ships can reach, run and beat into the wind at varying speeds. They can raise and lower sails which I suspect may be a bit irritating to track in practice. Ships use command checks (i.e. pass a target number on 2d6) similar to Battleflet Gothic/Warmaster to perform moves like tacking.

Gunfire is simple (buckets of dice hitting on 4+ on d6 with a few modifiers) using different coloured dice for light and heavy cannons and carronades.  Ships can fire at any point in their move which is good as it avoids ships teleporting past enemies unscathed. 

There are rules for boarding, shore batteries, mortars, collisions, ship's boats, fireships and other age-of-sail quirks. 

My only complaint is record keeping. Naval and spaceship games are cursed by always incorporating millions of hit boxes and Trafalgar is no exception.  It does have a clear, intuitive layout but there is no way you would refight Trafalgar without a lot of friends, and a complete weekend to spare. 

Verdict: I have yet to play it through properly, and it probably doesn't count the rivets as much as historical gamers might like, but the game system has a sound base in BFG so far as playability is concerned.

1:4800 Ships? Really?
Basically I am a cheapskate and was attracted by the $20-for-a-fleet idea. 

I have test-painted a ship or two but as my camera is not handy I will rather lazily link you to the excellent SteelonSand blog, as my paintjob is rather similar.  The model is rather blocky and I found I needed to rely on drybrushing a bit vaguely to kind of suggest detail, which worked a bit better than it sounds. 

The "Forged in Battle" 1:3000 scale looks a little better with $50 for the entire British Trafalgar fleet

1:2400 has improved detail but the rigging is a little weird. You can't ignore it like 1:4800 and the cast-on rigging is a little bulky. There is a comparison shot here of Hallmark, TD and Old Glory.  Individual ships for Tumbling dice are around $3 each which is still affordable. 

1:1200. These are for the serious modeller. And the seriously rich. Langton is the acknowledge boutique line and come in at about $70 for a squadron of 4 ships, which would set you back $1000+ to play Trafalgar 1:1.  
 Although not as detailed as Langton or GHQ, Skytrex are less than half the price and at $6 each seem the best price/detail ratio of any 1:2400 or 1:1200 ship. I am considering a "test order" of a dozen ships or so if the 1:4800 games are a success.

Now I'm off to listen to my Pirates of the Carribean soundtrack again...

Monday 24 October 2011

Legends of the Old West

I recently bought a bunch of Warhammer Historical rules during their 50% off sale.   I like the LoTR system that underpins the "Legends" rules and find the move sequence infinitely preferable to the usual IGOUGO format.

Back from school camp, I hastily painted an outlaw and lawmen band, whilst watching "Tombstone" "Open Range" and "Justified" for inspiration. Val Kilmer was awesome in Tombstone - possibly his best ever role. I also really like Justified - all though not "old west" per se there is enough gunplay and quickdraws to rate a mention. Timothy Olyphant carries the show, like he did in Deadwood (possibly the best ever Western).

The LoToW rules seem simple, and whilst not possessing the tactical naunces of, say, Force on Force the game was quick and smooth with plenty of fun moments.  I picked the "High Noon" scenario and grabbed out my unpainted Sarissa terrain and some undercoated Renedra barrels.  Rather uninspiring to look at, but after a week on camp with a horde of 10 year olds I wanted to "get my gaming on" again. 

The outlaws stare down the main street

The outlaws charged up main street whilst the marshalls tried to flank them to either side.  The marshalls drew first blood, sniping an outlaw hero from the length of the street as he hugged the cover of the building.

The outlaws are about to be flanked!

The other outlaw hero and the desperado leader shot a marshall attempting to flank them, but the marshalls go into a building to take them in a crossfire.  The next few turns were hectic, with improbably misses, heroes fanning six guns into hordes of enemies and heroic actions from the respective leaders.  Another outlaw hero was gunned down and they fled off the main street away from the marshalls who were taking cover in a building.  The marshalls pursued.

The marshalls fire from cover. The lift off Sarissa Precision roofs are shown to good advantage.

Cornered, the outlaws got the drop and initiated a last ditch charge.  The marshall leader was hit a second time by a shotgun blast aimed at a deputy in front of him, but the other lawman hero battered his opponent in close combat to force a "Head for the Hills" test.  The desperado leader who had fought heroically until then, failed the first Pluck Test of the game and the banditos made a run for it.

 The desperado chief fails his morale test and the bandit gang flees

On the campaign tables, the desperado hero gained "Deadeye shot" as, coincidentally, did his heroic sidekick who recovered from his battering by the marshalls, albeit with a chest wound that would prove troublesome.

The chief marshall  "Survived against the Odds" and gained "Trick Shooter" as did the rifleman henchman who scored the games first kill.  The deputy with 2 kills gained "Trigger Happy".  The marshalls sustained the only death of the game with the shotgun henchman later succombing to his wounds.

EDIT: I just realised that I rolled on the Skills table before the attributes table - this will need to be re-rolled which will give more random-ness in skill ranges.  

All in all:
A simple system, easy to play, and for players of GW LoTR games, there are no surprises here - it is practically Middle Earth with six guns. 

Not incredibly tactical, but full of exciting incidents and deeds of derring-do and supported by a robust campaign system.

Very enjoyable.  The quality rulebook is well worth the price, and definitely a steal at 50% off.

Also worth looking into are: The Rules with No Name (free but, I feel, aimed more at 1-player-1 model convention games) and Six Gun Sound (arriving in the mail soon - when it comes I will run an identical scenario to this one and compare the two systems)

Friday 14 October 2011

The Resin Alternative - Superior Skirmish Terrain on the Cheap

Terrain can make or break a game, and for those of us not blessed with unlimited scratch-building time, cost is a big factor. 

I spent a bit of time researching terrain last month, and one that caught my eye was Sarissa Precision - a company makes terrain from laser-cut 2mm mdf.  Mdf is the fibreboard common in hardware stores - an engineered wood product made from compressed wood fibres - it is used a bit like plywood. A lot of people use them for gaming surfaces... but...

A building made from thin wood, glorified particle board? Can it be any good, you ask?

The answer: Very, very, good.   And pretty darn cheap, too. 

The first thing I noticed was the precision and detail. My wife (generally indifferent to my 'toy' collection) was fascinated by the intricate detail laser-cut into the surface.  The pieces fit perfectly together and display a level of detail easily equal to any resin terrain.  The mdf is lighter than resin and considerably thinner, with a superior strength-to weight ratio.  Unlike resin, there are no rough edges. The terrain is perfect out of the box.

Although naturally a little 'boxy', the building detail is very good, even unpainted 

The second thing I noticed was the wood smell.  So unusual when handling minis, the wooden feel felt so 'right' for a western board.  In fact, I am unsure if I will paint my western houses, or instead play around with oils and stains to emphasize the 'natural' feel.  If I do decide to paint, the raised laser etching will lend itself well to drybrushing and I am considering using the 'distressed wood' look - there are a few tutorials about

The kits fit so prefectly they require no gluing and simply clip together. Furthermore, the lift-off roofs are perfect for skirmish gaming. Usually something you 'pay extra' for, they are part and parcel of the mdf approach. 

Although they work from a uniform template (small, medium and large buildings) there is good variety in the building fronts with 4-5 designs in each category.  A few extra dollars bought me some sloped roof conversion kits, which gives the 'roofline' some variety as well and made buildings a bit more obviously different. 

The company, Sarissa, impressed me a lot. I had excellent communication with them (and free delivery for all orders over 30 pounds/approx $50).  They also listen to customers.  For example, my Black Scorpion gunslingers are 'heroic' (32mm-ish) and dwarf many other 28mm lines like Foundry etc.  However, in response to customer feedback, Sarissa recently released a 'heroic 28mm' building series with resized windows and doors etc. As a result, I have the option of buildings perfectly scaled for the size of my miniatures. Very nice!

 Some of the buildings with unpainted Black Scorpion minis to show scale

They are diligently adding to their range and they have a railway station,  livery stables, a church, and a saloon straight out of Deadwood.  I bought a 'box set' of more boring modular buildings but the specialty stuff has some really nice interior detail.

Many buildings like this adobe jail have significant interior detail.

I felt the buildings were priced very attractively and I feel they give excellent 'bang for the buck' - $100 for enough buildings to make a western cowtown is quite appealing.  Hovels are the only resin buildings I found as comparetively cheap and they lack the lift off roof feature essential to skirmish gaming.

In resin, Hovels are compeititvely priced, but I feel Sarissa's lift-off roofs and interior detail wins out

Storage. Despite the space advantages of storing the the terrain flat (the buildings pictured fit in a box the size of two hardback A4 rulebooks)  I will probably be keeping my buildings assembled for 2 reasons.  

Assembly time.  This utube example shows someone from Sarissa assembling a building in 22sec.  For the rest of us mortals, it is a bit slower and more fiddly. However, unlike Terraclips, you actually could take a dozen  buildings to a mate's place and easily assemble them in 15-20 minutes before a game.

My main reason not to disassemble/store the buildings flat is the apparent fragility of the joins.  The tabs that slot the buildings together are quite thin. I am scared I will break off the tabs with repeated assembly/disassembly.  Some of the porch posts are painfully thin and I would prefer them to be in metal instead as I can see the matchstick-like pieces of wood breaking rather easily.

I noticed the two-story building tended to have the top story fall apart when removing it the top floor to get at models on the ground floor inside.  I ended up glueing the top story together with PVA to prevent this - but permanently lost the ability to store it flat. Annoying.

 Here is an example of the very thin porch posts, and the offending 'top floor'. 
Overall - I think these buildings are great value for money. I was very impressed by the quality and detail of possible with the laser-cut mdf. The lift-off roofs are perfect for skirmish gaming.  Sarissa has a growing European and WW2 line (28mm AND in 15mm) and I will be definitely checking out the European townhouses, which will have a wide range of uses for more modern scenarios.
 These also come in 15mm scales and there are designs for WW2 gaming

Saturday 8 October 2011

Terraclips - Fantasy Skirmish Terrain Solved!

I have finally got my long-delayed Terraclips.  Designed in collaboration by Wyrd (makers of Malifaux) and Worldworx games (well known for their pdf construction kits) these rules were supposed to be released in August 2010.  However they were re-worked as they were found to be 'of insufficient quality'.  Which speaks well of the companies involved - they sacrificed the quick buck in pursuit of a higher standard.  There has been further delays as demand has outstripped supply.

Worth the wait?           Definitely

Storage room (or lack thereof) is the curse of most terrain. The pieces came in a single box (pictured at the back of the photo below) about the size of a rulebook.  Terrain storage issues are now a thing of the past.  The terrain for a Mailfaux board takes up less space than the rulebook!

The card terrain, although not etched or to the super-high standard of the latest Space Hulk, is excellent quality.  The pieces fit firmly together and there is a 'solid' feeling absent in many card constructions.
My wife snatched the boxes off me and immediately started to assemble a "Sewers" board.  There is a real LEGO-like element in construction. 

The pieces are double-sided with different designs on each, allowing for a wealth of build options.  The art is quality and has a pleasing 3D effect. Note the bridge crossing the sewer towards the far end of the board.

There are plenty of pieces in a single box.  This "Sewers" kit provided enough terrain for a complete skirmish board approx 3 x 3ft. 

You get plenty of "bang" for your buck.  I was surprised at the large quantity content that was in the box.  You can easily build the terrain shown on the box art with a single set and have leftovers.

The terrain is also very versatile. I am planning on using it for fantasy (Song of Blades, Mordhiem, LOTR), pulp/horror (Strange Aeons), Victorian Sci fi, and medieval games.

Although I am overwhelmingly in favour of this terrain, I do have a few concerns.

The connecting 'clips' are sold separately.  This is claimed as a 'feature' to save you money, as you can buy only the clips you need and save $$$. In practice, I found I used 3 sets of clips for only 2 sets of terrain. There are 40 of each clip type in each box. After building the terrain, I found the "I" clips and "L" clips were all used up but I had truckloads of "T" clips left over. So the proportion of the clips per box (for me at least) was wrong. I will end up buying more, not less, clips. This is really annoying.

Affordability. I really feel the lack of connectors hurts the 'value'. A terrain box is $50 and a box of clips is $20.  I dislike the fact that I could have another awesome terrain board for the cost of two boxes of stupid plastic clips. $50 for a full featured skirmish table is a bargain - $70 is less so.  However given the man-hours to scatch-build something similar it is reasonable. For gamers like me who prefer to spend time painting minis to constructing buildings, it is a godsend. 

Upper stories will struggle to support your typical 40x40mm base heavy metal models (like Confrontation Wolfen or Warjacks) unless very well supported. It is still card terrain, after all.

While the wall connectors are surprisingly unobtrusive, the ones connecting the floor tiles stick out quite prominently.  I notice there are none featuring on the front of the box - I presume the box cover photo has them superglued together.

There is a 1" grid sneakily hidden into the flooring design if you look for it - which could be a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it.  For me, it is so unobtrusive it isn't an issue and may prove handy for RPG players.

I did not like the "Streets" set as well as the "Sewers" set as it seemed to have less build options, and I feel perhaps you need a second box set to get the most out of it.

Setup time is rather long. It is easy to store, but not fast to construct.  You definitely won't be able to take it over to your mates house and setup a table in 15 minutes for a quick game - my wife (a LEGO/Meccano veteran) took a few hours to build 2 tables.  Obviously with practice it could be done faster, but setup/packup time is quite significant.  Verdict: Easy to store - but not as portable as you might think.  

On the upside, it is rather fun to set up and you could definitely talk your kids into putting it together for you!

Overall verdict:
I am in love with this terrain and am buying multiple sets.  Not that I need to - there is enough in each individual box for a very complex skirmish  table - but simple because I want to build a huge 8 x 8 mega-table cityscape with multiple levels - and with Terraclips, it is now possible.

Thursday 6 October 2011

The First Rule of Terrain 3: FASA Hangar 18

Since my new rule is that 25% of all wargame budget must be spent on terrain - in order that I actually play with my lead mountains - I decided to pick an area in which I have been actively painting minis this week. 

I decided to get some sci-fi ish terrain for my jet 1/600 games.  I wanted something that could work as 1950s jets (i.e. Nazis in space) through to the current day.  So a pulp-y + sci-fi vibe would be good.

I remembered seeing some pulpy stuff on Hangar 18 FASA.

The Sky-Kings lines has some very cool looking Weird War 2 planes

This is like a B17s beefy, supercool big brother

I couldn't resists a flying aircraft carrier that might work with my 1/600 biplanes (another incomplete project)
I thought this might work for VSF as well...

...oh, terrain - yes, that was what I was after!

Of course I needed an airfield, and some targets - a radar station, factories and weapons dumps, and a V2 launcher. 

I suspect this radar station has been based on a shameless Heroclix-ripoff base

The models look like they will fit comfortably inside my 1.5" hex-ruled Hotzmat - they are very close to the exact hex side according to helpful measurements on the website.

Nothing like stopping the launch of a doomsday missile to make a scenario interesting...

Cost was about $3 per hex; so a 3-hex large terrain piece was around $9.  I'm looking forward to getting these - they should add flavour to both WW2-era jets and more modern/sci fi scenarios. 

Skirmish campaigns: Cowboys, Sailing Ships & Pirates - half price!

$20 Delivered
The Warhammer historical section is having a halfprice sale.  This is fantastic value as the rulebooks (now $15 each) are also only $5 shipping worldwide.   Even at full price at $30 they are very good quality productions  - my Legends of the Old West is one of the best-presented and well laid out rulebooks I own, with great quality, illustrations and lots of 'wow factor'.

For those unfamiliar with Warhammer Historical, they offer historical versions of GWs Lord of the Rings  and 40k rules.  These rules are far better rulesets than the originals and have excellent campaign systems a la Mordhiem. 

Their Legends of the High Seas pirate skirmish rules include ship combat and I have ordered this and a copy of their Trafalgar naval rules which should integrate well. Although often derided by Age of Sail 'purists' Trafalgar is apparently much simpler than the often 'beardy' overcomplicated age of sail rules. It is similar to the excellent Battlefleet Gothic rules (IMO up there with Space Hulk, Epic and Bloodbowl as one of GWs few decent games) so I am looking forward to my ruleset.  I will compare it to my Cutlass! rules when I get my Black Scorpion pirates painted up.

I own Legends of the Old West (cowboys) and have just ordered the "Blood on the Plains" and "Showdown" supplements. 

Potted Review
If you are familiar with GW's LOTR skirmish you know the basic mechanics.  They use a modified IGOUGO sequence, where Side A moves, then Side B moves, then Side A fires, then Side B fires.  It's still simple, but mitigates many flaws of the IGOUGO system. 

Heroes can interrupt and move and fire out of sequence at they use up their 'Might' points.  Heroes can also activate and affect friendlies within a certain radius of themselves.  Heroes can also use 'Fate' points to cheat death, using it to roll to save wounds.  Heroes have usually varying amounts of Might or Fate (usually 1-3) and managing this resource is very important.  Unlike 40k, they seldom possess monster stat lines; they simply use their Will and Fate to influence the battle and pull off heroic feats rather than being an unstoppable monster that can kill entire squads single-handed.

Campaign Rules OK
These are not the most complex rules and they lack a 'reaction' or 'overwatch' system that I prefer in skirmish games, but the rules are slicker, smoother and more 'tactical' than 40k.  The star of the show is the campaign rules.  You can start your own band of gunslingers, lawmen, bandits or indians and have them progress from a humble cowpoke to, well, a "Legend of the West." 

More than simply what you get in the box
In addition, there are numerous free Legends supplements covering different eras - for example I have downloaded the free Legends of the Rising Sun samurai mod to use with my Perry samurai warbands. 

In short - great value for what you get - well worth snagging a copy.

PS: They also do WW1 and WW2 books and a set of "gladiator" rules that look interesting....

Thursday 29 September 2011

28mm Oriental Terrain

I'd like to give my Perry Samurai a paint and an outing, and I have my eye on the skirmish game Bushido.

So I reviewed my options:

John Jenkins designs has some nice buildings. But at $34 for a simple village hut it would want to be.  Also, I want them for skirmish games - for that price they'd need to have a lift off roof.
An excerpt from their catalogue. That's over $100 worth of buildings in the shot.

Hovels is nicely affordable - at around $15 a building they are under half that of the previous contender. 

A much more affordable option

Finally, Oshiro model terrain.  This sits halfway between the two previous on the price scale and seems the most detailed. The sculptor seems very meticulous, has lots of interesting terain pieces, and at around $22-25 a hut it is seems decent value.

The best blend of price and quality?

Last option - and sadly, probably the best -  scratchbuilding!  lillijonas on "Tom's Boring Mordhiem Forum" has done some inspirational stuff with towels-as-thatch roofs and my wife has proven a useful assistant in the scratchbuild department.  Being able to enter buildings is essential for a skirmish game.

I've attached linked photos from the thread:

his village so far

and a picture of a WIP

Truly inspirational.  I wish this guy had his own blog - he rivals the stuff from Matakishi's teahouse. 

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Airborne Carriers

I am wanting some airborne carriers to go with my jets, to serve as a home base and an objective to attack.

  I seek a Sky-Captain style airborne carrier. "Calling Sky Captain!"
 1/700 WW2 carriers and a sci fi carrier alongside Tumbling Dice jets - Egyptian MiG-19, F-105 Wild Weasels (painted by wife), USN A-7s and Mirage IIIs in Israeli/French paint schemes.  IAF Neshers are in the background.

I got a 1/700 carrier (Shikoku) which I am thinking of turning upside down, to give it more of a Last Exile feelwith hangar decks front and aft low down; or I could use my assembled Yorktown 1/700 flat-top with some plumbing fittings or LEGO rotors in a more traditional flying-carrier look.

My other option is a space kit.  This Space Battleship Yamato from Hobbylink Japan is a reasonable shape but, like the carriers, too small scale-wise. 1/700 is definitely petite compared to TD's rather bulky 1/600s.
As you can see, the A-7s and Mirages would have a tight squeeze on board their respective carriers - that's why flipping the carrier to hide any obvious size issues might be handy.

A helpful TMPer pointed out a fantastic job on a similar project at the SteelonSand blog. He did the 'flip it over' thing and had a lot of success. It looks great - very inspiring!

The best one I've seen is this - I have no idea where/who came up with this - I'd love to find out!

I'm not 100% sure an airship like this would work for my purposes though - I'd like an all-rounder that could be used for 1930s pulp as well as my 1960s sci fi 'Riftworld' project.

I also have a new idea - a Weird War 2 game where P-80s, Vampires and Meteors and MiG-9s battle Me 262s and weird German what-ifs.  Perhaps in flying carriers, over the secret Nazi Antarctic base - or in space, fighting on the dark side of the moon with specially modified jets!

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Mercenary Air Force

I have become addicted to painting my 1/600 Tumbling dice planes and I may get more, having powered my way through most of the models.  Having abandoned attempts at subtle fine detail in favour of the most colourful historical paint schemes I can find, I am enjoying myself at last. 

I chose 1960s-70s aircraft as this seems to be the 'boom' period of modern jet combat. (I discount Suez and Korea as they were primarily WW2-with-jets; radar and missiles had yet to change things a lot)

*6 Day War
*Yom Kippur War
*Indo-Pakistan conflicts
All my planes are common, widely exported, and participated in one or several of the above wars.   Pictured are ANG F-104s, F-100s and late model F-86s.  Indian Folland Gnats, RAAF Mirage IIIs, Vietnamese MiG-17s, Czech MiG-19s, and a generic MiG-21. 

Although I gave my planes historical paint schemes, they are random in era and locale; I am not gaming a specific conflict.Instead, pilots are battling within the Riftworld.  In 1967, a series of anomolies appeared in the sky over the poles. 

Here is a picture of a rift above Alaska.

Reconaissance aircraft investigating these phenomena discovered them to be wormholes.  All the wormholes lead to a new planet - an uninhabited world, with identical flora and fauna to our own, including many now-extinct species. 

Spearheaded by USSR and the United States, there was a rush to settle the new planet.  Fleets of transport aircraft flew colonies throught the rifts to establish a foothold on the new world. 

The new planet 'Riftworld' - has many rifts, each leading to new earthlike planets. As sovreignty claims drag through the courts, powerful corporations amd government-backed organisations scramble to stake their claims, and make valuable discoveries.  Mercenary fleets of airships, helicopters, transport aircraft are common.Military surplus jets such as MiGs and Mirages are constantly in action as corporations violently enforce their claims...

Sunday 25 September 2011

Modern Air Combat: Another incomplete proje...

Another project I dug out this weekend.  Inspired by Area 88, Yukikaze, and the graphic novel Titanium Rain* I bough a selection of 1970s aircraft a few months back. 

 A scene from the strange, rather incomprehensible anime Yukikaze. It had a few cool dogfights though.

I went for 1970s as the aircraft are still quirky and varied, although not as much so as my favourite aerial period, the 1945-1955 period where we had planes like the Vampire and MiG-9.  Also missiles are not as impossibly lethal as they are supposedly today, where 'teh best radarz wins'.

I was initially a little disappointed with the 1/600 planes. They look OK on the table (and they scale well) but they are pretty bland and impossible to detail.  I thought I would paint up some of the 100 or so I have before abandoning them for 1/300 scale. 
Here are some F-104 Starfighters. Behind is a very rough Ho229 in 1/76 I bought from a cheapo Chinese website for $8.  The bits didn't even fit together and as you can see it is rather a mess.  The aim is it is to serve as a gigantic aerial fortress/mothership like in Skycrawlers. 

Skycrawlers has some great pulp WW2 action but a very long tedious philosophical story. All the best bits are on Utube - don't waste your time on the movie.

I am aiming for an Area 88 vibe - mercenary pilots battling a faceless foe in some desert kingdom. Mixed aircraft, with F-8s flying alongside A-4s, Mirages, Phantoms and MiG-21s. I even have some campaign rules (called Mercenary Air Squadron) which I got off Wargamesvault.  They look rather good, too and can be played independently of the miniatures game. 

For tactical combat the C21 Air War rules are the simplest I can find that still have some crunch.  The rest seem hyper-real and designed for 1 v 1 duels, not the squadron sized engagements I envision. Or are simply guessing games, Wings of War style *cough* Check Your Six *cough*.   

There is a huge battle on Area 88 which I can't find.  Here's a small clip from the start of the series.
Anyhow, I just found a bunch of unpainted EM4 starfighters and a random packet of MiG29s which have distracted me in my painting aims. Hmm - New Years resolution will be not to start anything I won't fini

(*A great comic, but a qualifier: the artist drew himself as the main character, a piece of self-opinionated douchebaggery that beggars belief)

Saturday 24 September 2011

Song of Blades & Heroes - Rejuvenating your fantasy collection for $10

A fantasy skirmish game for 5-15 figures that can be used with a rpg supplement. A big-battle ruleset is also pending release.   If you have any fantasy figures, this is the best $10 you will ever spend.

This game is another that allows you to collect and use random models on the tabletop.  The game has a excellent stats-builder that allows you to replicate any model in your collection.  Old Confrontation 3 metals, Reaper minis and Perry samurai can clash with GW fantasy or even woodland creatures. You can try interesting minis without having to 'buy into' a system.  Using the Excel warband-creator spreadhseet is great fun and I have almost as much fun creating unique warriors and warbands as I do playing.

You can field a Rackham dragon alongside Games Workshop Dark Elves - and it's 'tournament legal!'

The game itself is simple (the quick reference chart fits on a small triangle that doubles as a measuring ruler) but has a layer of decision making absent in most skirmish games:

Each player rolls 1-3 dice for each character they choose to activate.  The number they need to "pass" depends on their quality. I.e. standard troops need to pass a 4+, elite elven ninjas might need a 2+. 

The more successes, the more a character can do, but if 2 or more rolls are failed, then the turn immediately passes to the opponent - even if you had models you still had not activated or moved.

So you have a decision - do you attempt a lot of actions and risk failure - or 'play it safe' with less actions?

 I'm not interested in the Warcanto rules (they look over-complicated) but I do find the minis interesting. Song of Blades allows me to have my cake and eat it too...

Stats are simple - a single 'Combat' score modified by the models traits and special abilities.   I feel these are overly simple - the scores should have been divided into Melee Attack, Defence, and Missile at the very least - but most players say this is part of the game's charm.  Magic is a little too simple too, with generic 'freeze/slow' and 'fireball/bolt' spells keeping things balanced; but more variety would be good.

Combat is actually very good and quite fun and cinematic - characters can be forced back, knocked to the ground where they are vulnerable, and 'gruesome kills' can be inflicted - forcing morale checks on nearby allies.  This is really entertaining stuff, with unlikely escapes and spectacular deaths. 

Perry Samurai such as these (a random photo I grabbed form google) may be historicals but they are also a valid 'fantasy warband'.

The game has several pdf expansions, including one for a wide-ranging set of weather and terrain effects, and a rpg-lite supplement allowing warband campaigns including dungeon crawls and a level-up system. 

 The game is great in that games last around 30-40 minutes and several warband clashes can be played in an evening in a series of linked clashes.

 Have a Reaper frost wyrm you don't know what to do with? Stat him up for Song of Blades and slot him into your next game!

+ Great excuse to paint and collect cool but random  minis without having to 'buy into' expensive game requirements - the best $10 you will ever spend

+ Simple but interesting decision-making when deciding on each characters actions; risk vs reward

+ Combat is cinematic and fun

+ Fast, fun play allows linked battles or a 3-4 game mini-campaign to be played in an evening

+ Warband builder allows you to build your own characters and stat them out

+ Dungeon crawling supplement - usually 'RPG-lite' means 'painfully complex skirmish game which resolves combat slower than a rpg' - in this case it means 'lite, fun fast wargame that has rpg elements.'

- Although the traits modify things to a degree, the single 'combat' stat should have been divided into 3 (melee, missile, defence) with no extra complication

Overall: If you do not have this ruleset, visit wargamesvault and buy a pdf now.  It will put the fun back into fantasy gaming. 

Thursday 22 September 2011

Gritty Fantasy - Recommended Reads

If reading the same story over and over (Raymond Feist/David Eddings) is boring; if talking dragons (Anne McCaffrey) seem stupid; if and impossibly brave, noble heroes and heroines (Terry Goodkind) induce a gag reflex; if puns are not your thing (Piers Anthony); if the author has taken 12+ books to defeat the dark lord (Robert Jordan); or if you feel the most fantasy rips off every Lord of the Rings cliche (Terry Brooks)....  ...then this list may be for you.

There has been a wave lately of 'gritty fantasy' - usually low on magic, with both heroes and villains who are motivated by realistic goals (revenge, power, greed) and possess human faults and motivations.  Unlike traditional fantasy, not  everything is black and white - gritty fantasy has shades of grey. 

 1. George R.R. Martin. With his "Song of Ice and Fire" series he practically invented the genre.  A very good TV series has been developed from his work.  Tends to be a bit wordy and had a 5-year hiatus between books.

 2. Joe Abercrombie. I feel he has really refined the genre, stripping it back to its bare essentials.  Violent, uncompromising, with an interesting array of characters. He also knows how to wrap up a trilogy in 3 (3!) books instead of dragging out a series over 12 or more.  Mr George Lucas, take note.This is an author who genuinely tries something different. 

3. Paul Kearney. Probably THE most underrated fantasy author, ever. His military fantasy in his "Monarchies of God" and "Macht" series is second to none.

4. Patrick Rothfuss. His "name of the Wind" is a bit more of a traditional 'coming of age' story, told with a new freshness.  A talented newcomer.

5. Scott Lynch.  His "Locke Lamora" series following a group of thieves make compelling reading. 

6. R. Scott Bakker. His "Prince of Nothing" series is uncompromising and philosophical by turns.  Difficult but rewarding. 

7. Stephen Erikson. I like this series, but its epic scale can be a little offputting.  It falls for the "too many books in a series Wheel-of-Time syndrome"  and while it is a fresh take on the genre, I feel keeping track of all the characters requires some sort of computer program.

8. Paul Hoffman.  His "Left Hand of God" perhaps tried to do too many genres at a time, but was nonetheless a refreshing change and an interesting read.

9. Daniel Polansky.  His "Straight Razor Cure"  was excellent for a first time author and I feel his future works are definitely worth watching.  Somewhat a grimmer, more violent version of the Locke Lamora underworld vibe.

10.  Brian Ruckley.  The "Godless World" trilogy also actually stopped at 3 books.  Violent, harsh, quasi-norse fantasy.

11. Andre Sapkowski.  The Witcher videogame was based on his books, many of which are twisted, ironic takes of old fairy tales. A cult hero in Poland, he deserves better recognition in the west (so more of his books would be printed in English!)

12. David Gemell.  Technically a writer of heroic fantasy, his heroes and villains were clearly aligned, but not always 'pure white' or impossibly evil.  Had quite violent action scenes for his era. 

13. Guy Gavriel Kay. Also not so much a 'gritty fantasy' author so much as an honourable mention. His realistic approach strikes a chord. Stephen Lawhead writes in a similar style.

14.  Grey Keyes.  The "Briar King" quadrilogy has some harsh plot twists and is a worthy inclusion.

15. David Anthony Durham.  "Acacia" has some huge plot twists and is developing well in book 2. 

16.  Brandon Sanderson.  "The Way of Kings" seems a better than usual series from this author, with a more grounded hero than usual.

17. Daniel Abraham.  A very talented author - a complete change of pace from normal fantasy. Highly recommend. His "Dragon's Path" is more traditional but the "Long Price Quartet" is his most famous work.

18.  Richard Morgan. Makes a real attempt to turn fantasy conventions on their head. A gay hero is something I could have done without, though.

19. Stephen Deas.  Talking dragons!  Bleeech!  However, he makes up for it with the backstabbing politics and intrigue. 

20.  Jon Courtney Grimwood.  An established author but a new entrant in the fantasy field.  His "Fallen Blade" was a good read but did not match up to his other series. 

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Infinity - Yu Jing

I have really be enjoying Infinity of late.  The 'reaction' idea works really well and I would like to see it used in more genres (i.e. space fighters/spaceships/other skirmish eras like Westerns etc)  It is quite a crisp, fast game, shorn of all the 'special abilities' and I think it would transfer well to other genres.  

Last game I played against Achilles (ALEPH) for the first time, and boy was he a monster!  We were playing 'use the coolest looking models' rather than official points list but he shrugged off small-arms hits like a light tank. He charged up the middle and killed a Moblot and a Kazak Veteran with ease and was only taken down by repeated hits at long range from outside his ARO arc.  Very cool, but I wonder if multi-hit models kinda mess the game balance and tactics too much.
Anyway I am trying to get my Yu Jing painted and ready for action.  These were my favourite faction to paint and are the only ones 90% complete (the rest I abandoned in dispair over my inability to do the models justice). I dislike overly colourful "Space Smurf" style uniforms but I felt a splash of colour was needed to unify my models. 
I have not got around to painting the Zhanshis so far as they are rather boring sculpts.  I am not a fan of the orange-plated Celestials and may repaint them, restricting the orange to a shoulder plate only to make them more realistic and less garish. I also have a ninja hacker that awaits a good paint scheme. 

My Yu Jing need more units - a pair of Tiger soldiers (rifle, HMG) would give more options with one cheap blister.  A doctor, a cheaper hacker option, and some tankbusting ability would also be useful.  However, for sexy factor, these transforming remotes take the cake:
It's like a TAG and Yaoking remotes had a baby...