Tuesday 27 August 2013

Cheap & Nasty Scratchbuilt Terrain - 30 minute Building

In blog of modellers whenever they make terrain they seem to do amazing masterworks, beautiful diorama tables that look like they took $500 of gear, and a small team of experts 500 hours to make.

Then there are the rest of us. I personally find terrain secondary to collecting, painting and playing with models. For me, making terrain is like saying the people who built the stadium are more interesting than the footballers playing inside it.  But I don't like playing on a potato paddock so we SHOULD at least mark the field and put up goals, so to speak.

Personally, I simply care if my terrain is unified - not the usual gothic 40k ruins, paper terrain and some random rocks on the same board.  It's like painting models - it doesn't have to look good, but it should look like you made an effort.  

So - could I make a quick "free" building in 30 minutes? I looked around and spotted a bunch of drawers I was about to throw out as some of the internal shelves were missing.

It reminded me of some unfinished apartment buildings that seem prolific to Istanbul.

They seem to dot the landscape - only the concrete "skeleton" is in place. 

Armed with some foamboard, which I had leftover from my "Infinity terrain" project, I quickly set to work.

I would replace the "shelves" with "stories" made of foamboard. I could slip them in and out just like the drawers, making it easy to place troops on different levels.  I wasn't even sure the scale - I popped some 15mm and 28mm and I decided the 15mm was more "to scale."

15mm seems more in scale for an apartment building.

I measured the original plastic shelf bases and cut foamboard to suit. A blunt knife and impatience means I butchered the job a bit, but we're trying for a 30 minute deadline here...
Sadly only AFTER I had cut, did I realize that the end-walls protruded 1cm, as I didn't take into account the .5cm thickness of the foam-board itself.
...so I had to pull things apart and re-cut them down to size.
I use pins to "pin" things into place. You can PVA glue them later but this is a rush job.
I gave it a quick squirt of grey paint before the glue had even dried.
Some GZG UNSC use the building in a game later that night.

Is it rough? Yeah.  Am I proud of it? No. Could I do better next time? Sure. 

I'm confident I can make the second building in 15 minutes.   I was a bit unhappy with the building - the 5mm foamboard is too "thick" and "rough" for 15mm.  Plasticard would of course be better but (a) it's much more expensive and (b) I don't have any handy. You could easily do a much, much neater job with more patience and sharper knife, though.

I'm going to finish it with glass windows made of the plastic off old model boxes but I was up to my 30 minute limit so that's how it will stay for the moment. My aim: if I spend only 30 minutes per weekend, in 4-5 weeks I'll have a respectable 15mm facility/outpost. 

This isn't about my awesome terrain-building skills *cough*, but rather giving an example of how you can make rough but "acceptable" terrain rather quickly and easily, with limited time and budget.  There's plenty off stuff lying around at home that might look good on the game table with a quick spraypaint*.....

Next weekend, a new building....

(*Actually, just realised as I typed this that the "oil pipleine" in the background of the last pic is simply a piece of PVC pipe with a coat of silver spraypaint)

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Antenociti's Workshop Resin 15mm Vehicles G.O.T.

Frustrated by a painting malaise at 28mm level (both my vikings and FIW), I decided to get cracking with some 15mm - a scale I am always guaranteed to paint.A long browse through GZG's website showed me nothing that really "grabbed" me but I remembered being struck by some of the Antenociti's Workshop G.O.T. range a few months back, that had been released in 15mm.  A few clicks later and a parcel was winging its way to the Antipodes.

Price & Customer Service
Using GZG's metal range as a "benchmark", an APC should be around $13-15 for scout vehicles and APCs.  The resin AW stuff weighed in at $11.50 for APCs and only $7 for the admittedly smaller scout cars.  So overall, I saved around $16 buying the resin models from AW instead of GZG.

Delivery was prompt. I ordered simultaneously from AW, GZG, Critical Mass Games, Rebel and Khurasan - all famously quick to pack and send minis - and the AW currently has a 3-day advantage over the other companies, so you can mark me down as impressed. 

Initially I liked the "not-Stryker" Karbadin APCs best

However I fell in love with the "posability" of the separate tyres from the "Hunchback" APC models.

I do really like the "posability" of separate tyres, allowing the vehicles to look like they are turning, or traversing uneven terrain.  However I am rather dubious about the long-term feasibility having resin wheels glued to rather long thin resin axles.

The total force set me back $60. I'd like to have bought at least an extra APC of each type which would allow me to fully mechanize two platoons.

Casting Quality & Detail
The details are good.  There were a few mold chunks of resin but all were on the underside of the hull and quickly scraped off with a hobby knife. Annoying, but certainly not a major issue.

Details are good, and are better than the GZG metal vehicles that make up the bulk of my 15mm armour.  The AW wheels LOOK like wheels. Not LEGO wheels or some weird liquorice.

Here is a AW APC compared to the nicest GZG wheeled vehicles. Most GZG stuff has a much more exaggerated look.
Often the small scout vehicles/jeeps in 15mm look  like they wouldn't fit a single guy inside, let alone 4 or so.  How does the AW stuff shape up?

It's not a HMMVW, that's for sure. Probably only a 2-man crew by the looks of it.  

The Striker-like APC could fit 8 guys, with a bit of imagination and some Vaseline....

Quick delivery, solid pricing, good detail (some of the better 15mm vehicles I own, although I do like the GZG hovercraft series), nice design.

Recommended? Yes.  I'm making up another order in the next few days for some reinforcements and a few of their other designs.

Saturday 10 August 2013

In Her Majesty's Name - 28mm VSF/Steampunk Skirmish Rules Review

Steampunk and Victorian SF/horror has been on the rise lately:  I've reviewed Empire of the Dead, Chaos in Cairo/Carpathia, Strange Aeons, Rippers: The Horror Wars, and the weird wild west Deadlands.  Since IHMN has its own integral miniatures series, I am going to primarily contrast it with Empire of the Dead - the most "high profile" of the steampunk games which also has a miniature line from West Wind.  

A slim book, with rather dated layout, iHMN is packed full of more content than larger, more polished hardback rivals
 The Shiny
IHMN is put out by Osprey and is similar to the thin softcover "Men at Arms" series, at a slim 65 pages.  With colour pictures  and art throughout, it has good production values.  At only $11 it is cheaper than most pdf rulesets.  I do like pictures of miniatures in game and the rulebook is quite inspiring.

I did not like the internal layout and text style - it uses the rule 3.1, rule 3.2, rule 3.2b 1990s style rules format and a small font.  More subheadings, use of bold or coloured print and coloured captions for rules would have been good.  Considering the huge page margins a larger font could have been used. I found myself re-reading a page several times to find key information which is never a good sign. It did have a good table of contents and quick reference sheet so a tick there.  Considering the price, it is excellent value for money as it is very "complete."
Face Off: EotD is better laid out and is much easier to read and use, and as a large hardback is far more "shiny." However iHMN is simply much, much better value for money ($11 vs $45). You can buy a complete warband for the price difference in the rules. Winner: iHMN

The servants of Ra - definitely a nod to "The Mummy" - available from Northstar
Unlike EotD, IHMN is notably free of the vampires or werewolves and seems less "gothic/occult" in tone.  It does have mad scientists, undead Prussian soldiers, yetis. magic rules and a warband to play the Mummy, but it seems aimed at more "VSF" than "horror." I suspect the omission of vampires et al has been done deliberately, but avoiding them completely seems silly - "Dracula" is a Victorian classic.
Faceoff: iHMN has far more options, but seems to deliberately handicap itself by avoiding legitimate "Victorian" monsters like vampires and werewolves. Tie.

The Stats
 iHMN trims the "stat line" to 4 areas:
PLUCK - an interesting mix of guts and toughness, used to resist hits and take morale tests

SHOOTING VALUE - bonus to shooting rolls
FIGHTING VALUE - bonus in close combat
bonus to "normal" 6" move, modifies some attack rolls

Also relevant is:
ARMOUR - used to block hits

MYSTICAL POWERS - i.e. magic & mad science - only a few factions and characters have this

TALENTS - or "special abilities"

Scotland Yard Company. While I think of it, here is iHMN's official blog link

I found this rather interesting. Each player alternates moving one model each, then each player alternates shooting with one model each, and each player alternates fighting melee with one model each.  I'm used to "alternate moves" but usually each model moves, shoots and/or fights before moving to the next model. This breaks the turn up even further.  It's simple but ensures there is very little "down time" for each player.

Each model can move 6" + their speed bonus.  A running model can add 3" but forgoes any shooting. Generally pretty standard.

When shooting, the firer adds his "Shooting Value" + d10 + any weapon bonuses, and tries to beat the target's "Armour" rating.  If the target is hit is must make a "Pluck" roll or it is out of the game. There are modifiers if a firer moved or not, or if the target ran. Tracking this is a bit of a pain and using markers clutters the board a bit.  Rapid fire weapons and flamethrowers for example, can engage multiple targets.  Groups of models may "volley fire" - they can only inflict one hit but they can get a bonus to defeat a heavily armoured target or one in heavy cover. 

Fighting works much the same way, except the target can use his Speed bonus against the attack. Players with a high Fight Value can split the bonus between multiple foes.  When you outnumber a foe you can choose to "Mob" him - similar to volley firing, there is a bonus against the armour, but only one hit can be scored.

Pluck rolls are used if a model takes a hit, or if faced with a morale test (fighting a terrifying foe, for example) - and the Pluck rating must be beaten on a d10.  Many weapons modify the Pluck rating - two-handed sword would be -2, for example. If the roll is under the Pluck rating, it is out of the game. If it is equal to the Pluck rating, it is Knocked Down, cannot act again, and suffers significant penalties. Medics can revive fallen models and help Knocked Down ones recover.
Face Off: iHMN takes "alternate activation" a step further. EoTD is stuck with IGOUGO and is basically GW's-LOTR-with-d10s. Keeping track of movement is a bit annoying in IHMN, though.  Winner: iHMN
I thought the absence of werewolves and vampires was a deliberate avoidance of monsters/occult... until I saw the Black Dragon Tong's yeti... 
Weapons & Gear
The "armour" of a model can range from none, to lined coats, brigandines, steel breastplates etc - or even repulsion fields or anti-electric suits.The armour rating is the score "target number"to beat when rolling  hits with shooting or melee.

iHMN has wide range of (41) weapons, ranging from bullwhips to sabres, revolvers to Nemo-style electric rifles, as well as weird science such as the revivivfiers and electric burst generators.  In addition, iHMN has vehicles such as walkers, rocket cycles, ape howdahs, ornithopters

iHMN has 25 special abilities or "Talents" characters can possess, and although less "occult" than EotD, it has more "magic" or "science" powers (18) ranging from "clouding mens' minds" to levitation and throwing fireballs - as well as having a system to create and point up your own special powers. 
Face Off:  iHMN has double the weapon, equipment, and special ability options. That said,  EoTD's more prescriptive approach would make competitions more balanced and be less open to abuse than iHMN - but 40K-style min-maxers seem pretty rare in VSF.  The addition of vehicles tips the balance firmly to iHMN. Winner: iHMN

There the AAR's on"Matt's Gaming Page" has fantastic terrain.

iHMN has 6 distinct human factions, ranging from Scotland yard to a British rifle company, as well as the Tong, Mummies, cowboys, the USMC and  Foreign Legion, and anarchists. Again, the absence of Victorian horror staples such as vampires and werewolves is notable.

Where EotD has tables for casualties, advancement, recruitment etc iHMN simply uses VP's earned in scenarios as universal currency for buying new recruits or "leveling up" others.   They both work in similar fashion.

Face Off: iHMN has far more variety than EoTD, which only has only werewolf, vampire, inquisitor, and 4 almost identical human factions.  Most importantly, iHMN allows you to create and stat-up individual random models while EotD only fits to a template. Winner: iHMN

There seems to be a sequel in the works which includes Vatican monster hunters, darkest African, Russian spies and Asian secret societies. Sounds good - and if it's also $11, a no-brainer purchase...
There are standard scenarios: Retrieve a a VIP, "breakthrough" to the opposite end of the board, assasinate enemy leader, discover secret documents/relics, hold the fort, escape, king of the hill, catch the pigeon, and destroy the escaped mutant.  These can have "complications" added such as fog, minefields, night falling, local police arresting, earthquakes, etc.  There also is a wide range of locations ranging from London back alleys to the Orient Express.
Faceoff: iHMN offers more options, but EotD lays out their 5 basic scenarios more clearly.  Tie.

TL:DR - The Matchup
Despite being a much smaller, cheaper production, iHMN edges its more polished rival, by having an more involved turn sequence offering more involvement than vs a rather staid IGOUGO.  EotD is pretty much a d10 version of GW's LOTR or "Legends of the Old West" which is a plus or minus depending on how you look at it.  Further, the wider range of warbands and equipment (and the ability to "stat up" random models from scratch) means iHMN offers more flexibility.

Recommended? Yes.  A more flexible, involving game than it's major rival, iHMN is a steal at $11.
It's my "new best" VSF skirmish ruleset.

Tuesday 6 August 2013

By Dagger or Talon Review (Tomorrow's War Supplement)

"Deadly Aliens and Enhanced Special Forces" said the blurb. Since differentiating between humans and aliens was one of the weaker points of Tomorrow's War, one of my all-time favourite rulesets, this seemed a no-brainer purchase.

I like the new layout a lot more than that of it's predecessor, Tomorrow's War
The Shiny
Well I am only operating off the pdf, but I am presuming my book will be hardcopy, similar to Tomorrow's War (I think I read somewhere it will be a different size i.e. A4 vs B4 or something). At $30, add on $23 postage (!) and the supplement is an eye-watering $53. That is a LOT for a rulebook (probably the 2nd most expensive in my collection), let alone a supplement. The first 13 pages are fluff about the "Tomorrowverse", a near-future hard sci fi setting that the authors are happy for you to use or avoid as it suits you - sort of a generic toolbox of ideas.  The dark green page background from Tomorrow's War have thankfully been removed and By Dagger or Talon is much easier to read and use than its predecessor. It has a solid table of contents and the pdf I used was bookmarked to make it pleasantly easy to find things. 

"Making Alien Races" & Special Forces
This was the bit that excited me most as I felt that the use of aliens was the weakest link in Tomorrow's War.  It's inherent in the game design -  there is a single stat "Troop Quality" which is either d6 (conscript) d8 (trained), d10 (elite) and d12 (superhumanly heroic).  Each mini gets a dice to attack or defend with - heavy weapons add extra dice on attack, and armour adds extra dice to defensive rolls. Not a lot of differentiation, but at least it's super simple, right?  Well no. Troops can also differ in Morale, Confidence (sounds similar to Morale, right?), Supply (lots of ammo to burn or not), Armour and Tech Level as well as weapons and equipment - so they DO have a "stat line" almost as complex as say GW's LOTR (Shooting Skill, Melee Skill, Strength, Defence, Attacks, Wounds, Morale) whilst being less "descriptive" and thus By Dagger & Talon requires more rules to learn.

While Tomorrow's War works fine for vanilla humans, it does not differentiate between alien forces particularly well and By Dagger & Talon adds more "Special Rules" to make them "alien-er."  This part of the book lists some questions to ask yourself as you make up an alien race. There is an example of race design, but really this is more a bunch of generalisations than a "character creator."

Special forces humans include the nanite enhanced, synthetics, cyborgs, genetically modified - there are recommended special rules for each of them.  There are force lists for GZG Crusties and the new "enemy" race, the horned Darghau. GZG are making an "official" line of Tomorrow's War minis and there is also stats and sample unit lists and weapons for the US Army, Republic of Arden, the DRP, and the Foreign Legion - all of which are available as GZG minis. 

As usual, the lack of a "points system" is a glaring omission. I know the zillion arguments for and against, but it helps balance pick-up games better than blind guesswork, and if you don't like em, don't use em. (I know there was an attempt to make a basic points system on the forum but it withered on the vine.)

Khurasan Felids deploy from an APC in a game of Tomorrow's War
Special Rules
There are about 43 new "special rules" to make your aliens and special forces "special" and to add a modicum of difference between your d8 average human marine and your d8 ravening space ooze fiend from Uranus. So yes, we do get ways to better tell aliens apart from "humies" - but that's 43 new special rules to remember. 

Perhaps I'm a little jaded - in the dozens of games I trial each year, I notice current game design tends towards super simple stats (maybe only one, like in Tomorrow's War) and a zillion exceptions to the rules, in the mistaken belief this is simpler overall. No, actually having to learn dozens and dozens of extra rules does NOT make the game simpler. 

Some of these are quite interesting and add quite a bit of flavour - beserkers, teleportation, burst movement and psionics add quite a bit to the overall game toolbox.

These are pretty good, but also kinda hard to translate to "different" forces as there is no points system. I.e. the scenario might be perfectly balanced for the precise forces and weapons given, but I'd have preferred points lists and generic scenarios, perhaps with random secondary objectives or secret side missions.  The sort of thing is done well by Malifaux, Muskets and Tomahawks, and Dropzone Commander which are streets ahead of By Claw and Talon, especially in terms of replayability and generating interesting random scenarios. The scenarios might be awesome to play, but they're kinda prescriptive.  I'd label them more a interesting source of inspiration than anything else.

Finally there is a list of miniatures suppliers. I find it interesting that although GZG is the "official" supplier many other 15mm companies are listed, such as Critical Mass, Khurasan, and Brigade.  How different from GW's practices!  I can recommend them all - I haven't had one bad expererience and they all had prompt delivery and superb customer service.

GZG UNSC-L advance through Dropzone Commander 10mm Cityscape terrain
A dozen pages of fluff, some generalisations about race creation, 43 new "special rules" to customize your aliens and human forces (some quite interesting), and 9 rather specific scenarios.

Recommended?  Maybe if you live in the US where postage is reasonable.  If you are a "Rest of the World" purchaser I'd give this a miss or grab the pdf if you're super keen. For me, it simply does not have enough content to warrant the price tag. If it was a $20 softcover or a $10 pdf, great, but as it stands I'm not overwhelmed by the "content for money" factor. Tomorrow's War is an excellent game, and I highly, highly recommend it - but for me (perhaps with overly high expectations) By Dagger & Talon was somewhat disappointing. 

Note: Before AAG fanboys send in angry comments, be it known I'm a big Ambush Alley fan - Force on Force and Tomorrow's War are some of my favourite games and I admire the success story of the family-style business and the way they conduct themselves and operate. If you buy the book, it's going to a very worthy business. However, just like Infinity's Paradiso supplement this one, for me, falls a little short.

Thursday 1 August 2013

Dropzone Commander Card Terrain with 6mm Minis

This is for "Mr Average" from TMP.

I initially thought "6mm with 10mm buildings?"
Small scale minis with big buildings (especially big windows and doorways) = stupid, right?

But I plunked down some models on terrain..... and was surprised how well the models fit with the roads....

The 6mm vehicles fit the road markings really well. Note the thin cardboard base tiles curling up which I complained about in my review.

But what about the doors and windows etc? They are usually the biggest give-away for out-of-scale stuff.
You could drive a tank through that door.... literally...

The infantry are dwarfed by the air conditioning ducts...

This angle isn't too bad, although it IS a generously sized doorway...

This show illustrates how the 6mm fits well with the roads, but poorly with the buildings....

Ultimately it's up to you. Whilst the roads are a good fit, the base tiles are the worst part of the DzC cardboard set.  I personally am not a fan of having huge doorways you could drive a tank through, and it's not like there isn't a plethora of affordable 6mm terrain options.  A while back I bought (and reviewed) some 6mm terrain from Brigade Model: buildings were only $1.50-$2 each. 
To be honest, 6mm is the one scale I could never be bothered scratch-building terrain for as it's so cheap and easy....

While you COULD certainly use it for 6mm if you weren't fussy - why bother? It's not like 6mm terrain costs that much anyway....