Tuesday 30 August 2011

Firestorm Armada: Reltorza

 I'm not sure how to paint my Relthorza.

I never liked the Relthorza studio paint schemes, as they did not scream 'wierd arachnid race' to me so much as 'grey with some mild pastels'.

The structure of the ships remind me of EVE Online's Rupture class cruiser, with it's metallic bronze hues.

Obviously I am not original in this - Martin from "Fire Broadside" has a nice version similar to the look I have in mind - only a little less metallic than what I envision:
Relthorza Battleship

I could go for a weirder hue - "spiders" makes me think of redback spiders.  This guy has a few variations I might try (see lower down posts)
 Cruisers Paintjob

I'm surprised there isn't more variation - so many talented people tend to slavishly copy the studio paintjob for some reason...

Don't Mention Ze War

I like Perry sculpts so a while back I thought I might pick up some LOTR boxes to paint.  Until I saw they charge $50 for the same 24-man box that costs $27 from in UK (this is after adjusting for currency) and Maelstrom has been banned from selling to overseas customers (i.e. the sort that don't like getting ripped off)

I am not the only one to be irked by this. 

Hitler Denounces GW Price Hike

This afforded me some amusement (I spent the money on a Strange Aeons rulebook instead* - the game looks fun and interesting - review to follow)

*What amuses me are the people who denounce GW self-righteously on the internetz but keep buying their stuff.  I swear the stuff must be cast from 50% heroin or something... it would also explain the prices...

The First Law of Terrain - Part 2

"...how are you going to store it..."

Well, besides the fact I now have a 9x6m shed, I found that the shift to 15mm helps.

I picked middle eastern terrain as it has a 'timeless' feel can be used for any action from 1500 to 2500AD.

I bought enough from JR Miniatures to fill a small 4 x 4 table (perfect for Force on Force) which cost around $100 - which barely buys two 28mm buildings.

Here are some of the buildings (unpainted):

I feel terrain is a major sticking point - good terrain 'makes' a game but I seldom have the enthusiasm for terrain-making as I do for painting - this is definitely going to inspire more 15mm games...

For 28mm, I have ordered some Terraclips from Wyrd Miniatures

 It is fantasy-focussed (for their game Malifaux) but looks really good quality. It is card based (similar to Space Hulk/D&D tiles) but clips together and can be 'layered'. It's like LEGO - you can make any setup you want.  For $50 a pop I think it is real value and versatility.

Here are some unboxing vids showing how they fit together:
Unboxing & Assembly

I like how they store easily in a box, flat. 

A Stalled Project - Last Exile/Sky Pirates

Now I have painted my aeronefs and zepplins I don't know what to do with them exactly.

My rule-set of choice, Bag the Hun, has little provision for larger ships (it is a dogfight game) and the larger ruleset which is the 'official' rules, Aeronef, lacks tactics beyond is  "roll buckets of dice and hope to roll 6s".

I kinda like the idea of a campaign with an airship, with a ragtag group of mercenary pilots who travel around in a campaign earning XP and performing daring missions, a la Crimson Skies.

However I think the 1/600 minis are too small and lack 'oomph'; but larger, say 1/300 biplanes would look seriously out of scale with their 1/1200 aeronef  brethren. 

The aeronef were fun to paint though so it's all worthwhile...

The Lost Fleet (Jack Campbell)

This has probably the best space battles I have read.  They involve massive battles (200+ ships on a side) but ships and crews are characterised well so you wince when a battleship goes down.

Fights are characterised by management of velocity and vector. Ships can accelerate up to .2 light, the fastest speed at which combat is practical.  Beyond that, relativity kicks in; basically ships are moving so fast you are seeing the ship where it was... some time ago. At such speed, computers do all the targeting and humans just press the 'fire' button.

Fights are won by predicting where any enemy will be; as the enemy, unless moving slowly or at very short range, is not where he appears to be.  When ships 'jump' into a system, sometimes defenders do not realise they are there for many hours; the time it takes for the light reflecting from the attackers' ships to arrive at the defender. 

Warp gates provide convenient chokepoints for battles as otherwise ships could simply accelerate away above .2 light and avoid battle.

This dude is also into relativity. He is also smart - I mean, could YOU have pulled the ladies with that hairdo?

Ships have missiles, and lasers. However the most interesting weapons are the 'grape launchers'. These railguns can carry solid kinetic rounds for bombardment, or more commonly, fire a spray of tiny ball bearings into wide arcs. 

Ships usually launch missiles from longer range, spray huge fields of 'grapeshot' to defeat enemy missiles or overload shields, and then finish ships off with lasers. 

Basically, a heroic captain is awakened from cyro-sleep and finds himself in charge of a fleet (by reason of his 100 years seniority). Due to the high attrition of crews in the war, and the near-suicidal tactics developed over the 100 years, his experience and tactics are unparallelled.  He leads his fleet  - which is stranded deep behind enemy lines, dozens of 'jumps' from home - in an odyessy which will cover much of the known galaxy.

The writing is solid but unspectacular (the personal scenes are a bit clumsy), but the battles and tactics are interesting and strung together in an engaging manner, and the author (a navy officer himself) has a good grasp of military life. 

This is series the best spaceship sci fi out there, and the series (which started with 'Dauntless') has been rebooted with a new book recently...

Monday 29 August 2011

Triplanetary - Old School Style

Many starship games have a wet-navy style movement so it is WW2 in space.

Now in space I feel 3D movement is unnecessary: 3D matters in air combat due to gravity and it's influence on the aircraft's energy - in space up and down have no meaning and the two objects fighting determine the 'plane' anyway.  However vector movement IS essential - otherwise you might as well grab a set of WW2 naval rules.

I have yet to come across a better vector system than Triplanetary.  Whilst hexes, transparent sheets and chinograph pens are a bit messy (and old school) the same rules principles can be applied with a single 'drift marker' which is surely less effort than recording speed and writing orders in a ship log sheet.

Triplanetary Link including Movement Rules

I'd say this is the "One True Way" of vector movement...

Lightning Strike - Underrated Gem

Lightning Strike is an underrated game, poorly supported by it's parent company DP9.  It has vector movement for ships, but simplifies things with mechs and fighters. Simple but elegant movement rules make the mechs more agile, but the fighters faster when afterburning in a straight line.

Pictured are some of DP9's nice but pricey fleetscale minis

Lightning Strike has many cool features including ace pilots and crews who can pull of 'ace' feats and can gain skills and experience.

They also have an 'order system' similar to GW's BFG - a ship or mech can go into several 'modes' - i.e. "afterburner" double speed but -3 defence; "lock on"  +1 attack but -1 to be hit; "evasive action" +3 defence but -3 to attacks. This can be tracked with a single counter and adds a layer of tactics to the game.

But where I think it shines is damage.  If you don't get my explanation this link to their free Heavy Gear demo rules uses the same system. Heavy Gear rules

Most starship games have  damage systems that consist of rolling buckets of dice and crossing off a zillion hitboxes and making lots of special 'critical hit rolls'. Book-keeping and dice chugging can be a chore. Not so with Lightning Strike. 

Basically, both attacker and defender roll opposed dice.  The amount the attacker wins by (say 5 compared to 3 = success by 2) is the amount multiplies his weapon damage by. So a damage 10 weapon x 2 success  = 20 damage.  

This damage is then compared to the defender's Defence/Armour.   If the attack exceeds the defence, it does light damage.  If the attack doubles the defence, it does heavy (significant) damage.  If the attack triples the defence then the defender is blow up "kaboom!"

The levels of damage "light = no major effect bar a -1 to some rolls"  "heavy = significant hits, speed and firepower halved" and "kaboom"  tends to mimic the space battles I see on TV and give a  level of detail a task group commander WOULD know, and simulates the effect of 'criticals hits' without actually recording them.

A task forcecommander does not count ever rivet on his ship, or concern himself if the H4-deck power couplings are on the blink - nor does he count every round remaining in every weapon.

Whilst not a mass fleet game, Lightning Strike is specifically  tailored for gundam battles, allowing fighters and capital ships on the board at once. Whilst allowing more of a focus on fighters and their ace pilots, the bigger ships do not bog the game down too much and their is a good balance between 'crunch' in their fighter rules and the ability to field a dozen or so at a time...


I have been trying to get a Gundam game sorted for ages.  

I have some DP9 fleetscale mechs to use with Firestorm Armada ships.  I chose FA as they are huge ships and do not look ridiculously out-of-scale with the mechs. DP9, although pricey, make far nicer mechs than GZG. I am looking into clix or Ironwind games Battletech elementals, but metal ones I have would have to be cut messily off a base. So the overpriced DP9 mechs currently rule the roost.

Basing mechs, however, has been an issue.  Attaching the mechs directly to a flight stand looks silly and emphasizes the 'standing' poses of the models.  However, this solution is looking good:

I used a plastic counter (tiddlywink) from EM4 along with some of their flight bases. It looks a little shiny in the shot but looks good in natural light. The tiddly wink is simply attached by a 3x1mm rare earth magnet to anothe rmagnet superglued to the flight stand - so no glue is needed - which can cloud the plastic.

Since I mention EM4, I have been very impressed with them.  I wanted a more generous amount of dice for Force on Force and while I was at it I bought some coloured tiddlywinks for tracking the status of models in various games..

Very cheap, very handy - and shipped across the world at improbable speed.  They also make minis - I have some of their Silent-Death fighters (you get 12 for a few dollars) which are a great bargain for space games:

The First Law of Terrain

...is consider how you will store it BEFORE you start making it...

I picked up some Infinity figures from Maelstrom which inspired me to make some terrain to fit the anime-like 'theme' rather than the random hotch-potch of stuff I have been using in a desparate attempt to stop everyone killing each other with 'reaction fire' by turn 2...

So I am working with 10cm (4") increments. Most buildings will be 10 x 20, 20 x 20, or 10 x 10 or some variation thereof.  I have gone for a prefab look, and I am sticking to low-story buildings. Building tall ones is a bit self-defeating as I am trying to block line of sight, not open up wider fields of fire. 

Here is the WIP in 'storage' mode:

Here are the same buildings spread out a bit: 

As you can see, storage should be a cinch. I have also placed doorways so they can be placed end-on, side-on or in an L-shape and still interconnect.

8 buildings down, 12 to go...

Black Scorpion Miniatures: Cutlass! Rules

While buying western minis from Tombstone, their pirate line caught my eye. Now I am a sucker for undead pirates; their range includes dwarves, orcs, elves and undead in additon to the more usual historical seafarers. 

I also like rulebooks. So their shiny new 'Cutlass!' rules were a definite buy.  My reasoning: (a) if I like them, I have an excuse to get some undead pirates  I can make an informed decision on my future wargaming needs. (b) I am interested in pirates, but am not interested in paying for 'Legends of the High Seas' - basically a pirate version of 'Legends of the Old West' with different fluff and a few minute rules changes. 

The rules ARE shiny. Excellent production values on a par with GW or Privateer, with lots of pics of well-painted minis.  The rules themselves use different types of dice (Dd4, d6, d8, d10, d12) for attributes, Savage-Worlds style. I.e. a legendary fighter might have d12 'Combat'; a scrawny goblin might have d6 Constitution, etc.

The most interesting thing is the play sequence, which is a bit Infinity-like.  One side is 'active' at a time and uses 'orders' generated by their captain to move, shoot, take actions etc. The level of orders is depleted each time a new order is given, but in an interesting twist, you may take the same action with multiple models, up to the number equal to your current 'order level'.  I.e. a shoot order may allow say 5 models to shoot, if you have a current order level of 5.  The next turn your order level would be 4, and thus only 4 models could act on a single action.  Enemy models may 'react' in certain circumstances (if enemy approaches, if shot at and missed, etc) and if successful may seize the initiative and become the active player.

Combat is pretty standard except the ability to choose to parry and riposte, which adds flavour to swordfighting.  Weapon range seems tied to the abilities of the firer, Ambush-Alley style. 

There is a campaign system, with a list of skills, items and upgrades.  There is a scenario generator and a well-fleshed out advancement system.  It looks like a lot of fun, but I am a little unsure about balance, not having played it.  Determining a figure's points value by simply adding all attributes seems a little glib to me - I strongly suspect not all attributes are created equal. 

In summary - an interesting set of rules that FORCES me to buy some pirates to go with them...

Black Scorpion Miniatures: Tombstone miniatures

I got a nice package in the mail today from Black Scorpion.  I have been eyeing these models off for some time, and as I now own 'Legends of the Old West' (a LOTR-spin off) and I would like to do a western game.  I have an eye to using the minis for 'Deadlands' (weird west) and perhaps as Malifaux proxies.

Basically, the minis are as nice in the flesh (or rather bare metal) as they look on the website. With free P&P they work out to a little under $3 a model which is excellent value.  They had very little flash - about 5 models out of about 30 even needed any 'surgery' and it was very minor at that.

There was an interesting mix of models - female gunslingers, townfolk, lawmen and bandits.  There was a good range of poses and whilst they were not as dynamic as Malifaux there was a good range.  In particular, a fat townsman with a huge bushy beard brought a smile - they definitely have character!

I will post a comparison shot between an unpainted Black Scorpion and a Malifaux figure to give a size comparison soon - they are pretty similar.  Since I am unlikely to get them painted in a hurry, I'll link to photos from their official website.


I will be definitely be going back for more townsfolk and Apaches, if I can get interest going with the forces I have.

Here is the Malifaux (Lady Justice) vs Black Scorpion comparison shot:

Balck Scorpion are a little smaller but not 'out of place'