Monday, 26 December 2016

Game Design #72: Power Creep + Special Rules -v- Stats

This is another "inspired by a PC game" post.  I've come back to Mechwarrior:Online after a hiatus of perhaps 9-12 months and really noticed the changes to mechs.  Or rather, the "power creep" of how newer mechs are better than/have obsoleted many old ones.  This primarily is in the placement of weapon hardpoints; high mounted guns are easy to peek/snapshot over hills/from cover vs low mounted guns which need you to fully expose your mech to enemy fire to shoot; where rounds often hit low outcrops and terrain instead of the target.  So if there are two 75-ton Inner Sphere mechs, and one has identical hardpoints, some very low (Cataphract) and the others high (Warhammer, Marauder) the latter are straight-out better.

This is not always on purpose (aka evil greedy money-grab forcing players to pay to "keep up") and can be done unconsciously - designers want to make new, cool(or cooler) toys and as MW:O was originally based on tabletop models, but now - several years on - designers now have a "feel" for how tabletop mechs work in a real-time FPS so they may unconsciously be optimizing them. That's what designers want to do, right? Make things better?

The problem with this is when the new shiny directly obsolete the old one. It's like many RPGs - for example in Terraria I was discussing with a friend how we have crates full of dozens of +1, +2 and +3 etc swords...  ...because I now have a +30 sword.  When items are functionally the same, the best version renders the old item(s) worthless.

I'm sure you've come across it in competitive miniatures games - a particular unit is taken ad nauseam as it is simply flat out better/replaces a rival unit.    It becomes a snowball rolling downhill; if x unit gets a +1 sword, then new units must be equally powerful or more so or no one will buy it - other units/factions will have to be buffed to compensate.  It seems an attractive idea from a sales point of view (make a new unit better, everyone will buy that new unit) but it reduces diversity in the game and can turn off players if it invalidates previous content.  It can cash grab in the short term - but there are long term risks....

Let's use me as an example: for a returning player... who maybe quit because of balance/p2w issues (clans) to come back to find all his old content (mechs in this case) worthless - will they be be inspired to start from scratch; or pay to catch up - or merely quit again, this time for good?  In addition, the introduction of more powerful items tend to make everything else in the game "creep" in power to keep up or be rendered irrelevant.

OT Rant: This topic reminds me of PC MMO games that focus on "endgame" content.  If "endgame" is so much better than the "grind" to get to the endgame...  ...then why isn't the rest of the game as good? Why do you have to play 69 inferior levels so you can be a special snowflake at level 70 and get to the good bit - the end game, the holy grail.  Shouldn't just playing the game be the "good bit?"  Why would you split the game and make the larger portion less relevant/viewed as a hurdle?  The designer is then trapped with the demand for more "endgame content" when the whole game should be just as fun.

Stats vs Incomporables (Special Rules)
If things can be directly compared - i.e. a sword vs a +1 sword, or let's say a model with stats of move 3" melee 4 shoot 3 morale 2 vs a model with move 4"melee 4 shoot 6 morale 4 - then it is easy to see at a glance that one model is better than the other.  Given the choice, players tend to pick the stronger, which is where point systems gain excessive importance and focus (i.e. correctly costing the superior vs inferior models so it makes both equally attractive. 

This is particularly easy with stats which can be compared against each other easily.  If it functions the same (i.e. a machinegun) and one has better stats (1200 dps va 1300 dps) then one is clearly better. The old one gathers dust.  It might as well not be in the game. 

I've heard the term "incomparables" used. This is kinda special rules in most wargames.  These are things that are not directly comparable because they function very differently.  Let's say we want to compare an AoE invulnerability shield to a teleport spell to a lightning bolt spell.  Unless they are obviously out of balance, often their value depends on the situation.   Which one is best depends if you are trying to stay alive, escape with an artifact, or the entire enemy army is standing in a pool of water within lightning-bolt range....

Warmachine is a good example of this. There are so many incomporables (powerful, unique special rules) that the game has a pretty wide range of what is balanced (I'm putting it nicely!) - there's simply so many combos of "overpowered" and unbalanced feats and powers (incomperables) that pretty much anything can be countered by some other whacky OP combo or special ability.

The problem with special rules is that they tend to introduce a higher load on the player/steep learning curve (Infinity and Warmachine for example have hundreds).  They also tend to be difficult to playtest properly, compared to stats.  I mean, if a baseline trooper is 4" move, 4+ to shoot, 4+ to melee, has a 4+ defence save and passes morale checks on a 4+ on a d6; then I can pretty much guess the comparative impact/value of a soldier with a 5" move, 5+ to shoot, 2+ to melee, 3+ defence save who passes morale on a 3+ with commonsense and math.  However deciding the value of troops with incomparable skills like teleportation, magic shields and lightning bolts respectively can be trickier.  I've always found indie games tend to emphasize special rules (many sets have abandoned stats almost entirely - which I regard not a clear cut "better option") which is ironic as playtesting is usually not their strong suit.  Stats are actually "universal" special rules everyone is familiar with (I mean, a MOVE 5" stat does not even need an explanation) which are actually simpler than 101 special rules aka "exceptions."

The steeper learning curve can introduce a higher skill focus (which can be good or bad) - for example I noticed newbie Warmachine and Infinity players tended to get slaughtered more ruthlessly by more experienced ones compared to many other games) but the concern is it is not always better tactics that prevails - but experience/memory to remember 101 special rules. In any case, it may make the game less attractive to casual players.

Anyway, just my musings on power creep/special rules - and may provide a counterpoint to my stats > special rules post in the link above. ....My kids have just charged out to play in the rain, so I better stop now and go supervise...   ...they've gone suspiciously quiet. Better get towels....

Friday, 23 December 2016

More Cheap Iron Winds Mechs + Mechwarrior Online 2016 Round Up

Well here's my last Iron Winds Battle Armours.  Guess there's no excuse not to get to playtesting my homebrew mecha rules.

While doing "research" for this I've rebooted Mechwarrior Online which I haven't played much for the last year.  Since I last reviewed it a year or so back I thought I'd give a bit of a "state of the union" run down for my latest experiences.

Yesterday's painting haul....

New mechs are not proper "content"
I think there's one new game mode and one new map in a year.  In the same time, they have introduced 296 new mechs* (*number might be slightly exaggerated).  I notice this in a lot of freemium arena games, like World of Tanks.  I mean, I understand why - selling new shiny mechs is how they keep their doors open (and probably 1000 times easier to make/balance than a new map) - but surely it is also good to retain customers (not everyone likes playing the same half dozen maps 1000s of times.)   But honestly, there's no point getting a new jet ski if the only place you can use it is the local swimming pool. Over and over again.

I saved the clan Battle Armours for last. This is the Warg assault class.

More Mechs = Less diversity
Due to the way you can customize your mechs (one of the most fun part of the game is mix-maxing weapons loadouts and balancing your weight, cooling and slots) a lot of the time people end up building different mechs with the same loadouts.  You can make two different, unique chassis into something functionally similar.  In the early days, there were only a few mechs and differences were marked; i.e. "this one goes 40kph faster than that one" or "this one has 8 energy slots, this one has only 2.  "this one has jumpjets, this does not"  With the increasing amount of mechs and variants you can end up with very similar builds and the differences between mechs can be cosmetic - literally.  High mounted weapons are good for "peeking" over hills and a good mech body shape can give favourable hitboxes - these can be the main determiners if the mech is "good" or not.

They are actually power armour, but at 15mm tall they scale well as 6mm mechs.

Balance Improved... ...but not a brawlers paradise
I've played during the poptart meta (PPCs+ACs with jumpjets) laser vomit (clan mechs boating mucho lasers) and survived a few LRMpocalypses (where the mindless missile spammers had their day and ECM/AMS was mandated).  At the moment it's reasonably balanced - they talk about a "brawl" meta but that's just wishful thinking.   Close range duels are cool in theory but tend to require specific circumstances - co-ordinated, bold team mates (lol!), the right map, and the right situation.  The vast majority of times you are better off with longer-ranged weapons.

Over time, clan mechs have been nerfed (and IS mechs "quirked" by getting unique mech-specific bonuses) so they are a lot more balanced. Hilariously, a year or so back clanners were claiming their mechs were "balanced" despite dominating the match tables every game with superior speed, firepower and more survivable XL engines.

I wonder what clan these belong to? ;-)

Still "pay for early access" (i.e. disguised pay-to-win)
They still sell mechs for cash months before the general populace can access them - meaning someone spending real life money can gain advantages over someone who does not.  It's not as overt as back when the clans were new and ridiculously OP (the clans seem reasonably balanced now with the exception of the Kodiak and by now most average players have their own clan mechs) but if the item (mech) behind the paywall is even slightly better or offers gameplay advantage (Night Gyr vs Timberwolf) then it's still pay-to-win.

 As usual, with small minis, bright colours are important...

Same oddball community
Mechwarrior Online seems to be a polarizing game.  There are "white knights" to whom PGI (the company) can do no wrong.  There are many bitter veterans from beta who have "quit" the game five times but still have thousands of forum posts. There are the mil-sim guys who "Charlie Tango Foxtrot" and call instructions in game chat with utter seriousness. There are very helpful players who will team up to teach you the ropes and write exhaustive guides.  There are guys who religiously fit out their mechs to tabletop specs even if it is hopelessly non-competitive.

The tanks and infantry (6mm) are by Brigade. They are OK and affordable, but I think GZG are better.  Their buildings I do recommend.

Same grind
Once you get  your first mech, it takes probably 100 games to earn enough for a new mech (there are also hidden costs; weapons, ominimods, and upgrades like endo-steel and double heat sinks usually add a lot to the cost of your mech; and XL engines can cost as much as the mech itself).  Obviously, it's designed to make you spend money to "shortcut."  It's a "free" game but spending $30 or so will definitely make your starting experience more pleasant.

Trial Mechs aren't bad
Back in the day, trial mechs (ones everyone gets to use without owning, but cannot be customized) used to be hilariously bad but now they are quite competitive and a few have rather optimal fit-outs. So as a new player the experience is better.

I may end up using Battletech stats/background as the basis for my mech game - they come with established stats/balance and I do like the heat management to add a more "mecha" feel.

......But still the best mech game in town
If you want to feel like your are piloting a towering steel monster, Mechwarrior Online is still your best bet.  It's repetitive, and not without its flaws, but it's family-friendly, free, and "Dad friendly" - i.e. slow enough paced that old reflexes can keep up and with rounds of ~10 minutes which keeps wife rage under control.

Most of the advice in the old thread is sound, but as game balance changes so do suggested mechs... so here's my December 2016 recommendations.  Generally you stick with one faction in case you want to play Faction vs Faction (a good source of free stuff). Inner Sphere is cheaper (and not gimped like they used to be) so there is that.

As a new player, avoid assaults (they are too slow so if you position yourself wrong you are screwed) and probably lights (they are fast, flimsy and suicidal in rookie hands...  ...but also fun!).   Mechs can be customised a lot, and anything can be played well in random games, though I'm going to give a list of mechs to avoid for both IS // Clan.  If not flat out bad, they are obsoleted by similar mechs who can do the same job much better.

Lights to avoid: Commando, Urbanmech // Kit Fox, Mist Lynx
Mediums to avoid: Pheonix Hawk, Vindicator, Trebuchet, Kintaro // Ice Ferret, Viper
Heavies to avoid: Archer, Orion, Dragon, Cataphract // Orion IIc, Mad Dog
Assaults to avoid: Awesome, Victor, Highlander, Zeus // Gargoyle, Warhawk, Highlander IIC

If you ever have a hankering to try MW:O, it is free - and catch me up - I play as Dunning Kruger Effect on both NA and Oceania servers.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Diary of an Average Painter #3: An Ode to Confrontation (the metal ones, of course!) + a rant

As part of my pledge to buy no more new minis until I have painted equal or more of my backlog, I went digging through my lead mountain for something interesting for my "daily handful" of minis to paint.

I found a box of OOP Confrontation minis and started on some characters which will work for my Weird West/Pulp homebrew rules.  The game has never been played locally but I loved the minis - I think they set a standard when they were released, a little like how Infinity raised the bar when they came out.

There were a few interlopers; the hellhounds are Heresy and the monks-with-guns...  ...I have no idea, they just looked easy to paint.  The yellow-haired chick is a "touched up" Mage Knight clix and I re-painted the trenchcoat an old Malifaux model on the right.

They came on square WFB-style bases but I hate them and gave them my favourite PP lipped bases instead. These Falconers of Alahan are a bit bland but I am deliberately picking models that are not too "fiddly" to paint. Perhaps I should have done lighter tan cloaks in an "Assassins Creed" style.

Correction, I was wrong; they are not OOP any more...  ...and if prices are anything to go on, I am sitting on a fortune.   They are in the Cadwallon Store and also CoolMiniOrNot.  Huh.

There's a good website that identifies the minis - skimming through it, I covet almost all the minis. They have so much character!

Confrontation metals are a little odd in scale; they vary between chunky models that fit beside Warmachine and Warhammer and slender, delicate sculpts that make Infinity models look rotund. I find it a little annoying - I've got a tackle-box full of Cynwall elves that don't really work for my project (which mixes them with Malifaux and Warmachine). Many of the Griffins and Lions of Alahan are a bit too slight, as are many of the Alchemists of Dirz.

On the other hand, the Kelt Sessairs and Wolven fit perfectly with Warmachine Circle of Orboros and indeed could double as (imo far nicer) models for that range.  I also plan to pain the Orcs as they are full of character - I plan on painting them a brown scheme or even red (like an Oni) as I've always hated stereotypical green orcs. Who first made em green? Green makes no sense.

Maybe I should sell some of the thinner mini lines off... or trade them since I am now impoverished in hobby funds. They must be worth a small fortune now.

The rules were a bit too fiddly for me to get into but had some interesting ideas, that like the minis were ahead of their time.  Funnily enough, I think if released now (in the era of boutique skirmish games) the Confrontation game (rules and metals) would be a big hit.  Instead we get Kickstarted random stuff we never asked for (some games, with dodgy rules and fugly mechanics should have been allowed to die peacefully the first time)  

Confrontation, alas we hardly knew ye.  

Rambling Rant: Seeing these OOP minis and the sad demise of this range (shakes his fist at prepainted plastic advocates) reminds me of the whole "no one plays that mini game as they are not supported" cr@p.  Fair enough if you can no longer buy the minis or rules, but discarding a game. ..."because it's not supported" in the sense they are not pumping out dozens of new minis/codexes/expansions/supplements a year? Shouldn't games be played because they are good, and fun?

Minis do not suddenly become incompatible with a new OS like videogames. You don't say "oh, my Battlefleet Gothic minis do not work with Windows 10 or Android Jellybean 11.1"   They're freaking chunks of metal. If looked after, they will outlast your lifetime.  Rulebooks are only obsolete if you decide they are. I quite like complete series/lines (in both books and minis) - it means I can "catch em all" - and if I like the setting enough...  ...well I'll collect another faction.

I have perhaps 1000 unpainted LOTR minis I picked up off eBay for ~$300 (includes rare metal heroes, trolls, ents etc) because LOTR was not "cool" at the time (it was the lull between LOTR and the release of the Hobbit) and was perhaps seen as a dying system unsupported by GW.  I mean, as long as they are selling the minis and the rules... much more "support" do you need?  It's not like the rulebooks self destruct after 10 years.  With the release of the Hobbit they suddenly jumped to be worth thousands...

People might get "bored" of the same thing?...  ...but this is not videogames.  The average wargamer might play once a week (if they are lucky); I suspect most would be less frequent than that.   A PC gamer might rack up dozens of games in a week. In World of Tanks I notice many players (probably half!) have 5,000-10,000+ games played...  ...admittedly rounds are shorter (10min) than wargames but how many wargamers play with a faction army 100 times, let alone 1000? The percentage would not be high.

I'd be curious how long a wargame would last if it was marketed as "complete" with no rules or expansions planned.  I bet not long - even if it had great rules and extensive miniature lines.

I know "Oldhammer" (playing old GW editions) is hipster but I'm just irritated with how a good game can be discarded as "unsupported" just because a company does not frantically pump out new content.  It's like DLC in videogames.  If people can't throw money at it, it has no value?

*Shrugs* Well I can't wait til the Hobbit is viewed as unsupported so I can afford to complete my collection. Just need those Haradrim raiders....

These guys will be witch-hunters in my homebrew rules.

These guys were just asking for a V for Vendetta paint scheme. When you paint expanses of black, I suspect you are supposed to put on lighter layers gradually. I just sprayed it black, swiped some grey on the raised bits and called it a day.  This makes them look weird up close, but they look fine at tabletop range.  Likewise the rather contrasting light purple highlights on the female.

These witchunters in contrast are more muted; they look more realistic close but more like boring indistinguishable brown blobs at arms length. Some aggressively light brown highlights on the crease of their robes/hats would make them more "in line" with the previous models. As usual, I do as few washes/layers as possible (i.e. either a wash OR a layer/drybrush) and use no more than 5-6 colours maximum.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Affordable Mechs and Mech Game Essentials

I'm tossing up whether to go 15mm or 6mm for my homebrew tanks rules.  With a very tight hobby budget, 15mm look better, but 600% more expensive.  6mm...  nnngh, they look so dinky...  they're so cheap, but would I actually use them?

As I mull this over, I dug around in my 6mm sci fi, and to be honest there's nothing that makes me like that scale. Perhaps because my 6mm is mostly Brigade, not exactly known for their compelling sculpts (their idea of a sci fi tank is a cardboard box with a turret on top).

Anyway, while rabbiting around I found a bunch of Iron Winds battle armour.  They are about the size of  a 15mm infantrymen and would make good "big" mechs in 6mm scale. Jury is still out - I mean, would you play a skirmish game with individually based 15mm? I decided to paint them up and see.  Voila!

Yesterday's painting efforts... I realise why I have almost no backlog in 16mm/6mm scales - it's so freaking easy and quick.

Word of Blake demon series battle armours. I kept the paint scheme consistent in case I want to make it an "army" later.

Some 6mm tanks, infantry and buildings for scale.

The buildings are Brigade and were both cheap and (I think) effective for sci fi.

"The smaller it is, the brighter you paint it"

Anyway, as I'm painting, I'm now thinking about mech rules. I was unimpressed by Alpha Strike - in attempting to simplify the gluggy Battletech rules, they removed things like heat sinks and limb damage - things that make Battletech "Battletech" - whilst keeping a lot of unnecessary mechanics from the old game.  What makes a mech game a "mech" game?  I've already discussed this a bit in the google group, but I'll lay out some key points here:

When is a mech, a mech?
I'll divide them into three sizes
1. The fckhuge = Several stories high, range into hundreds of tons (Gundam, Battletech, Titans)
2. Could transform into a jet = about the size/weight of a modern AFV (Macross, Heavy Gear). Think an Apache gunship on legs.
3. Battle/Power Armour/Exo-suit = a humanoid-size suit that is "worn" (Appleseed, 40K Terminator, BT Elemental)

For the sake of this article I'm confining myself to the first two types.

 The far back/right minis are PAL suits - the smallest BT battle armour.

There Has to be a Sense of scale
Combined arms - tiny infantry scurrying around, normally impressive MBTs to be "stood over."
Tiny houses at waist (or ankle!) height.  The modern PC game MW:O makes the mistake of making buildings so tall the mech does not seem big in comparison. When mechs only fight mechs, it's hard to realise how big they are.

I think it's important to differentiate mechs from human infantry. Many indie mech games are just reskinned 40K.  What makes it a game "mech?"

Heat Management/Energy Management/Travel Modes
This not universal, and is very "Battletech" - but why not a nod to the elephant in the room?  If it can be done simply it does provide a nice differentiation point making mechs more "vehicle" and less "infantry."  I might also include Heavy Gear movement modes (also seen in VOTOMS) where wheels can be used as well to "skate" The mech might even transform - if you have suitable models for both forms.

Electronic Warfare
Some sort of sensor mechanic - to jam incoming missiles, "spot" for indirect fire, or detect mechs out of line-of-sight.  Stealth coatings and chameleon thermal+optic camouflage. Agile scout mechs with sensors who perform recon.

Detachable Limbs
It's always cool when a limb gets blown off.  Or you rip off another mech's arm and beat him around the head with it.   Again, this makes the game more "mech-like" (though there are some cave trolls in fantasy who would debate this...)

Upgrades, Heroes & Levelling
Nearly all mech genres have featured highly customizable mechs - from the special "hero" mechs of Gundam and Macross to the "build points" of Battletech.  Most mech franchises also feature "ace" pilots capable of mowing down hordes of regular grunts, so I think the game should allow pilots to progress from "raw-teenager-who-is-the-Chosen-one" to combat veteran. In other words, a campaign system and a unit builder. 

Due to the scale of the vehicles, infantry and buildings, the power armour have become "big" mechs.

How simple?
Although Battletech has a fervent fan-base and has certainly stood the test of time, I feel the record keeping and gluggy rules are not for everyone.  On the other end of the scale, most simple indie mech games are simply reskinned 40K or are pretty much indistinguishable from most WW2-on infantry games.  I guess it depends on the scale - how many mechs are you trying to get on the table?  However at what point does it cease to become a mech game and simply become an infantry game?

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Diary of an Average Painter #2

Surprisingly, yesterday afternoon my children were content to wander around in my shed rather than insisting on sitting on my lap and "helping" me.  So I picked a few easy-to-paint models and went for it.

These ghouls were very simple; a dark red undercoat, a flesh drybrush, and bone for highlights.  I thought yellow eyes would be cool but it was a poor contrast colour; green would have been better.
I used a very bright red for the blood; it looks a bit silly up close but is effective at tabletop distance (see my previous post re: 15mm-paint-style-for-28mm)

First, some ghouls. They will inhabit my Terraclips sewer system for a playtest of my homebrew Modern Pulp rules (which is a bit of a mashup, containing elements of SoBH, Infinity and Savage Worlds).  A paranormal SWAT team will investigate, lead by their squad psychic.

Next some Witchling Stalkers.  I deliberately chose red eyes and white wrappings/bandannas to contrast with their drab leather cloaks (oh so easy to paint - you can see I am aiming for the low-hanging fruit...)

These are also to be part of a Modern Pulp playtest (a Weird West setting I chose primarily so I could use my favourite historical, Malifaux, Empire of the Dead and Confrontation minis alongside each other!).  

Buoyed by my progress, this morning I beat the kids up(!) and knocked up some cyborg spider-thingies from Malifaux.

I liked these a lot less, for some reason - not only does the paint job look worse, they were fiddlier, too.  Oh well, more antagonists for my Weird West setting are table-worthy at least. 

My kids were soon awake and came to "help", but I managed one last thing - I turned a Mage Knight golem into a Mercenary heavy warjack. I'll add a warjack gun from one of my Cygnar spares later, but I'm content my $1 clix matches up pretty well with a $10 official warjack.

The Mage Knight clix (right) came with dual shields so I sawed one off with a Dremel. A bit of a rough job but OK from tabletop range (that's my mantra).

As usual, I'm not "showing off" mad painting skills, but showing what you can do with minimal skill, time and effort.  Only one coat was used, and a maximum of one wash.  Most times only 4-5 colours were used.   Anyway, I hope this inspires some fellow average painters out there to grab their brushes out and have at it...

Monday, 12 December 2016

Diary of an Average Painter

Well, I'm probably "poor" rather than "average" compared to the usual bloggers-who-paint, but I'd argue I am representative of the average gamer; competent enough, no stupid colours, understands details, drybrushes and washes, but lacking the ability (or time) to do things like glow effects, non-metallic metal, good faces, or any layered effects, with bland basing rather than elegant dioramas.  Perhaps like me, you also struggle with expanses of flesh, white or yellow.

Looking good on the tabletop vs looking good up close
I'm showing off these werewolves as they are part of my attempt to improve my models at "tabletop range" while perhaps decreasing how good they look up close. This is because I am applying my 15mm techniques to 28mm.

With models with rather bland colours, aggressive contrast and highlights is important. These were a test-run for an orc warband.

These werewolves (not at all inspired by my wife forcing me to see Underworld: Blood Wars) are painted using my 15mm methods.  Most people with 15mm models know the basic premise - use much brighter-than-usual colours, use a limited range of colours, and use aggressive and distinct highlights that "pop".   The other thing I use for 15mm vehicles is kinda reverse-highlighting. 

E.g. traditional technique is to paint the model a darker shade, and edge a model in a brighter tone, with a strip of lighter paint on the edges; as per this spaceship and warjack:
You can see the shoulder pads of the jack, and many of the edges of the spaceship are highlighted in a lighter hue.... only small strips are painted on the raised edges of the model...

However 15mm reverses this technique - as per these IFVs:
You can see the models were painted in a darker shade, then painted in a lighter shade over the top. The edges were deliberately left; I only painted the large flat surfaces.  I'm sure this is not original but I got the idea from looking at a car bonnet; the flat parts of the car are bright and shiny, and it's the edges that are left dark.

It kinda works like a wash - by leaving the cracks and crevices and edges in a darker colour, it accentuates them.  In my opinion, it looks better at tabletop distances (i.e. a metre or so). 

Traditional edging: basecoat dark, then a thin strip of light on the raised edges.
15mm style: basecoat dark, then do all flat surfaces light, leaving edges, nooks and crevices dark.

So I decided to use very strong contrasts, and highlight whole chunks of my werewolves with big chunks of a much lighter tone.

I wanted the muscles to be contrasted, so I did a dark wash before applying a highlight to the muscles.

If you wash AFTER the contrast, it softens the contrast and makes the model shinier or "wetter" - which is what I was aiming for with this Doberman-like werewolf. If the contrast is too much, a wash afterwards will smooth out the rough edges...

I applied the same method to the paints, Up close they look a bit weird, but it looks good from tabletop range. 

The brown pants on the bottom 'wolf' was initially too contrasting, so I washed it after to give it a shinier leather look.

Anyway, hope this helps someone.  As usual, I used only a few coats:

1. Base colour (i.e. dark brown)
1(a). Optional wash to make it contrast more
2. Highlight colour (i.e. light brown) applied across large/flat surfaces
2(b). Optional wash to make it contrast less
3. Add in highlights in bright colours (bone for teeth and claws, red tongue)

I don't think any model used more than 6 colours.  No surface had more than 2 coats and a wash.
 It's quick and looks quite good at tabletop range, whilst perhaps being a bit lacking up close.   But that's fine with me - I spend most of my time with models on the table 3 feet away, rather than holding it up to a jeweler's loupe.

So I reckon 15mm-style-for-28mm works, especially for otherwise bland models in muted colours. As usual, the intent is not to teach your granny to suck eggs - I know I am strictly average as a painter - but instead to inspire fellow average painters to experiment.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Aeronef Rebooted for 2017

I've been quiet of late, due to report card season/end of term pressures. My rare hobby time has been spent doing up some 'nefs so I can do some serious playtesting of my homebrew Aeronef rules.

Longtime readers are probably aware Aeronef is one of my slow-burning homebrew projects, along with supercavitating submarine jets, vector-based space combat as well as pulp and skirmish rules in the Necromunda/Mordhiem vein.

I "speedpainted" these aeronefs over a few afternoons, if the term "speed" can be applied to painting with both a one and three year old sitting on your lap "helping."

Last Christmas I had an ambitious project list, which I spoilt by attempting to assemble some Macross minis first up - after about six hours of frustration I rage-quit and eschewed everything wargaming-related for the next six weeks.  This time, I'm aiming for the low-hanging fruit - easy painting projects and "tidying up" old rules rather than launching anything ambitious.  If you don't aim high, you can't fail so much, amirite?

Destroyers of the Austro-Hungarian Navy.  Apparently green was the actual colour of their early-WW1 fleet. 

The White Ensigns could have been painted on neater but I had some "help" which made them a bit wonky...
Aeronef Rebooted
I tend to mock rivet-counting naval games, but my previous 'nef efforts have intended to devolve in the direction of General Quarters III.  So I am determined to keep it light, and only loosely historical.  I mean, why am I being too concerned about realism in a game involving flying battleships powered by handwavium?   I want it to be in the more lighthearted vein of Man O War than a serious sim, so I chose Warmachine to base the mechanics on, as it is the most over-the-top game people are familiar with, as well as using 2D6 resolution (something I want to experiment with) and offering consistent mechanics.
 I'm experimenting with the"contour map" style of felt hills to make it easy to place ships on them.  At the moment, I'm struggling with how to present clouds - as cotton wool on bases, as a table-wide effect, or a white felt patch placed flat, on top of the hills. 
The 10c tour:
Initiative: Players move ships/squadrons alternately but can "follow on" like in Epic by passing a Command roll, and may either move their own squadron or force an enemy to move theirs.  Initiative can be seized by a contested roll if enemy ships are at close quarters.
Actions: Ships must roll above a Command score and their measure of success determines the amount of orders they may give; i.e. changing speed or altitude, repairing, firing, reloading torpedoes etc.  Better crews can do more stuff in a turn. I don't think reactions are suited to a naval game, but there are some limited reactions available to enemies at close quarters (~2000 yards).
Movement: Ships move the usual 4-10" per turn, but their gun ranges are short compared to many games (i.e. 10-12" or so) making maneuver important.  Altitude matters - plunging fire is more deadly and there are "dead zones" where a ship's guns cannot elevate or depress. There are 6 altitude levels, denoted by a micro d6; mountains extend into the bottom 3 bands and different cloud types provides terrain in various forms.
Firing:  Similar to Warmachine. Ships fire their "battery" with a single 2d6 roll. The chance to hit  "Firepower" is a mix of rate of fire x number of guns.  Firepower + 2D6 must beat a ship's "Defence" which is a mix of its innate size, speed and agility.   If a hit is scored, the firer's "Damage" (shell calibre) + 2D6 is compared to the target's Armour.   Torpedoes act like a powerful AoE weapon; a spray template is placed on the table and aeronefs passing through it are attacked in their movement phase.
Damage: If the damage roll exceeds the armour, there are 4 levels of damage (aka hitpoints) - light, heavy, crippling, and "kaboom". The levels of damage inflict various penalties to movement, command rolls and shooting.  BFG-esque "blast markers" make an appearance as well as smokescreens and clouds for cover.

The smaller Austro-Hungarian fleet has a unique style of nef which I found preferable to the barge-like "German" range as the antagonists of the British Empire.

Rationale: The aim is to make a game that is not simply a rebadged WW1 naval game but one where altitude matters creating new, unique tactics. Mountains, clouds and various blast markers and AoE templates should provide plenty of "terrain."  There is little rivet counting - damage is the same 4 levels for all ships, and more effort is spent on command and initiative rather than resolving shooting.   Crew quality is very important - better crew can do more things in a turn, and react better under pressure, rather than being +1 to shooting.  All ship classes should have a valuable, unique role. There is a deliberate focus on making escort/destroyer class 'nefs a valid ship class - vital to all fleets for scouting, escort, interdiction and boosting command/initiative. Eminently survivable, whilst perhaps not a 1:1 match for a battleship, they can dictate an engagement with their speed and agility - compared to the flimsy uselessness they exhibit in many games. A 1v1 with escorts should be just as fun as a 1v1 with battleships and no less tactically interesting.While it's not particularly fantasy-steampunk focussed, handwavium is embraced as I don't think "realism" should be the ultimate goal of a game involving flying battleships.

Stay tuned for some playtest reports which should be inbound in the coming week.

By the way, for those interested in aeronefs but not the glacial pace at which I work on rules, the talented Eric Farrington (among his many other projects) has done a very polished and professional-looking set "Castles in the Sky" - it has a Battlefleet Gothic vibe which will appeal to many.  There's a discussion in the google group where feedback and playtesting is welcomed.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Game Design #71: "Zone of Influence" Facing, Focal Figures, Arcs & Flanking Fire

"Zone of Influence"
I'm using this in the sense it is the area a unit can impact: it is basically a unit's move+shoot.  A unit with a 6" move and a 24" shoot would have a 30" zone of influence. 

I was pondering this when fiddling with my homebrew Aeronef rules.  I was balancing smaller escorts (10" move, 8" firing range) to cruisers (8" move, 10" firing range) to battleships (6" move, 12" firing range) and noticed the symmetry. 

Whilst there is obviously gameplay implications (re: move/shoot ratios and unit balance) I was musing more on how this relates to table size & terrain density (i.e. units with a 48" zone of influence on a 48" sq table vs units with a 18" zone of influence on a 4x6' table).  Also, could we look at "effective zone of influence" - the range at which a unit can effectively engage enemies. I'd say my rule of thumb for "effective" range is 25% lethality (i.e. 4+ on d6 to hit, 4+ on d6 to wound) with 12.5% if a unit is in cover. 

Weapon Arcs
My train of thought then veered to weapon arcs (common in the naval/space genre, and by default my game of flying battleships as well).  Maneuvering to bring optimal weapon arcs to bear while remaining out of enemy arcs adds many decision points. 

Obviously, weapon arcs are often used in skirmish games (where each side controls a squad of ~10 individually activated soldiers al la Infinity, Mordheim etc) to determine which way a soldier is facing and to allow maneuver into "blind spots" as well as creating more positioning decisions. 

But what about in platoon games where a squad of 4-10 is moved as a singe entity (Bolt Action, 40K)?  Most games give the multi-figure units a 360 field of fire, presuming at least a few guys are always facing the right way, but that isn't necessarily accurate.

My suggestion: rather than try to face all minis the same way, perhaps have a "focal figure" (i.e. leader or guy on unique base) who determines the actual facing or location of the unit.  Then you can scatter the other figures (aka hitpoints) around artistically. I'm not saying a unit cannot have a 360 field of fire, but perhaps all fire to the "blind side" is -1 or -2 penalty or something to show the unit is primarily focussed elsewhere.

I think having a "facing" or optimal weapon arcs adds more decision points - aka tactics or opportunities for you as a player to influence the game.

Back to the focal figure - I think this has applications for AoE and cover.  This is not a new concept, but one I think that deserves more currency than it presently enjoys. 

Perhaps a little off topic: I also like the rule "you're in cover if you are within 2" (or whatever) of a piece of cover - regardless of the side of the cover you are on."  I like the fluidity it suggests - figures are not precisely frozen in place on the tabletop like waxwork dummies, but the placement of the mini shows the "approximate" location of the actual soldier, give or take a few seconds. I.e. they notice contacts, then dive through a nearby hedge.   This generally means units are in at least modest cover unless they are really blatantly crossing an open paddock (or you have a really wide open, boring gaming table).  What I'm trying to say is: I like the idea that a mini shows "roughly" where a soldier is, rather than precisely denotes the exact "freeze frame" location of the soldier.

Flanking Fire
I'm not claiming this isn't common in historical games, but I've noticed many of the "popular" wargames I have do not really emphasize this much, if at all.  Given the "pin and flank" is a core tenet of warfare, you'd think games should always have pretty hefty bonuses for outflanking.  It's not tricky either - especially if we use our "focal figure" - then any unit engaged from two units more than 90d+ apart suffers significant defence penalties or maybe loses cover bonuses. 

Well, this is not the most deeply-thought out article ever, and each topic could be explored in better depth. A quick TL:DR of points covered:

+ If our units have a "zone of influence" (move+shoot) what implications does that have for table size/design?
+ Weapon arcs/unit arcs - they add more decision points than "everyone sees and fires perfectly 360"
+ Using a single "focus mini" to define unit facing/position; this also opens up other game design options
+"Fluid positioning" i.e. minis do not precisely denote the exact "freeze frame" position of the soldier/unit
+Flanking/flanking fire - a key element in warfare, but many popular rules don't emphasize it much

As usual, I don't claim to have the "best answers" - I'm more tossing out food for thought.  Why do wargames make certain predictable design choices? Are there better options?

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Game Balance - Key Points

I think I've explored this more thoroughly elsewhere (I think in one of the game design series) but recently been playing a few PC games where game balance is an issue has revived my interest in this topic.

Basically, most game designers "nerf" (or weaken) overperforming ("OP") units and tries to "buff" (improve) underperforming units.  The aim is to have units that can perform to similar levels but have different abilities.  I.e. the holy grail is a game that is asymetrical yet balanced; there are different units for different playstyles, and each unit can be unique and can be strong in particular areas, but none is inherently more powerful in the long run, in a range of situations over a long series of games.

I think I've also done articles on why true balance is inherently impossible, unless units ARE bland carbon copies of one another, but I'd like to focus in on the balancing method, with applies to wargames as well.  Or perhaps, three very common mistakes.

Common Balancing Mistakes
Namely, the tendency to
(#1) nerf/buff several things at once
(#2) nerfing/buffing things dramatically (the sledgehammer approach)
(#3) try to be clever by nerfing/buffing things indirectly, rather than using trying to deal directly with the issue. You know, Occam's Razor and all that....

Changing/Balancing Multiple Factors
The problem with (#1) is buffing/nerfing multiple things at once violates the scientific method of testing - i.e. "change only one variable at a time."    Changing multiple things can result in both unintended effects, contribute to (#2) over nerfing/buffing, and finally, worst of all - you have no idea which change caused the end effect.

Say you have an overpowered unit, which stats and game experience suggest is overperforming.  So you nerf its weapon range, AND rate of fire, AND reduce its armour.  Not only does this often result in (#2) "overbuff"/"overnerf" due to multiple buffs/nerfs often having a multiplicative effect on each other...   ....but perhaps after this "balance"  the unit is now underperforming - but there is a problem. You have no idea which was the significant factor.  Was it weapon range that mattered? Or was it the rate of fire? Or was it the weakening of its defence?  You can only guess - because you changed them all at once.  It wasn't a "fair test."

Making Radical Changes (i.e Sledgehammer Nerf/Buff)
These seldom work out well.  Changing the gun range by 10%, maybe even 20% - means you are adjustingly slightly. Fine tuning, as it were.  Doubling or halving gun range (changes in the 50-100% bracket or more) tend to suggest to me that designer had no clue as to game balance in the first place and is swinging wildly trying to fix a radical imbalance. Changing several factors (see #1 above) at once (say 20% rate of fire, 20% weapon range, 20% extra damage) can have the same effect; even if the individual changes are minor, they often add or even multiply one another to create a massive power spike (or drop, if the changes are negative) - for example in the above example the lethality per round would be increased ~40% (20% damage + 20% more rate of fire) as well as having the "kill zone" extended 20%.   Cumulatively, it's fair to say the buffed weapon is 60% more powerful than the original.

While I'm mentioning WoWs, the Youtube channels of iChase and Flamu are useful sources of information on improving your play...

The Indirect Buff/Nerf
This one will take a bit longer as it's a bit harder to explain.  It's a change that does not deal with the problem directly but indirectly; perhaps buffing a unit by nerfing its counter, rather than directly improving the unit's stats.  The problem with this as it often causes unintended consequences and often results in more sweeping changes to overall balance rather than specific and direct balancing.

I'm going to use World of Warships as an example here, as I've been playing it a bit lately.
Basically, there is a problem at high-tier games, whereas battleships "camp" at far sides of the map, parked stationary and bow-on, and just "snipe" at each other all game at ~20km ranges. No one plays cruisers, as they can get insta-deleted by battleship salvoes.  This is a problem as the game was designed for BB > CL > DD > BB in a kinda paper-scissors-rock.  Destroyers (without cruisers to counter them) launched walls of torps, further encouraging battleships to camp at the back.  In lower tiers, the gameplay is far more dynamic, and all ships have a role. Why is this?

Well, the primary difference between Tier 5 and Tier 10 is battleship gun range, and battleship gun accuracy, relative to both other classes and speed/survivability. There's a big difference between a ~15-20km effective range and a ~10-12km effective range - the ships are still moving ~25 knots so the move:shoot ratio is moved dramatically (50%+) in favour of shooting effectiveness vs maneuver. In contrast, cruiser and destroyer gun effective ranges are more similar between tiers - maybe a couple of km.  The second is the "cost" of damage; if your ship is sunk you "lose" in-game currency and actually go backwards in your game progress.   So we have a circumstance where players are (a) excessively punished for taking damage/dying (b) have the ability to shoot across the map and harm each other.  Due to the excessive penalty, battleships are scared to advance or maneuver tactically where they will attract fire; and instead focus on presenting a minimal target. Due to the gun range, they can still contribute to the fight (albeit at limited effectiveness, but the risk/reward tradeoff is worth it). The range/accuracy boost is a big deal as maps stay the same size; therefore at higher tiers you can take focussed fire from multiple enemies all across the map.  At low tiers, with short gun ranges, you only take fire from the few enemies in your immediate vicinity.

So.... what's the core issue?
Players are shooting at long ranges, camping, and afraid to move to objectives for fear of sinking.  Gameplay is static and boring.   Cruisers are too easily killed by battleships. Fewer people played cruisers, thus making the class cruisers were meant to counter (destroyers) more attractive.

As a wargamer I would say "the dice roll chance to hit/kill is too high, and the move:shoot ratio is skewed in favour of shooting."

The simple solution:
Reduce the maximum battleship firing ranges, and reduce the long range shooting accuracy so it is more proportionate to other classes/the relative speed of the ships, as per the better balanced tier 5.
Further, reduce the "punishment" cost for sinking so players are willing to advance and maneuver and "take risks" to get into positions optimal for winning a battle, not just optimal positions for staying alive.

The roundabout solution:
The WoWs devs have tried to address the problems in a range of ways.
They tried to make cruisers more attractive by giving them radar (thus increasing their ability to counter stealthy destroyers) - effectively nerfing destroyers.  They further nerfed destroyers by reducing torpedo range (and making torpedoes easier to spot and dodge).  Unsurprisingly this did not fix the problems.  Despite the nerfs to their natural counter, battleships did not suddenly boldly advance into the middle of the map for close-range duels, and cruisers did not become more popular.  Because the designers did not fix the core problem directly.

Their latest idea - reduce battleship bow armour so they will advance and not sit parked bow on at extreme range.  I'm not sure how removing battleship armour will make them braver and more willing to advance and risk their ships, but hey...

When balancing a game, don't fall into the common traps. Make sure you
(a) change only one variable at a time
(b) make minor adjustments to stats and percentages (+/- 10-20%, not doubling, halving etc)
(c) identify the issue and deal with it as directly as possible; don't try to be clever with indirect nerfs and buffs that effect the unit through secondhand means (i.e. "flow on" effect).

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Tyranids and Lost Ones; more speedpainting

Another quick and cheerful bunch of minis to inspire the less-perfectionist amongst us.  I deliberately used even LESS colours than usual; mostly craft paint actually.  I'm kinda enjoying the "minimalist" challenge and I feel I'm getting solid result for minimal time investment.

I had an hour; I managed to paint and base 19 miniatures in that time.  The Tyrannids with their brown scheme were particularly easy and was pretty much brown craft paint, tinted appropriately

I wanted my Tyrannids to be more "insectlike" hence the rather dry brown paint scheme.  They will feature more as pulp and fantasy enemies rather than sci fi; as Weird West predators which roam the buffalo plains; fighting against 100 Year War longbowmen etc - I wanted to make them less slimy and "alien" and more "natural" and insectile. The little swarm Tyrannids do look like some sort of giant desert flea-thingie and the big ones do have a bit of a "mantis" vibe so I think I succeeded.

I was really fast, slapping on an undercoat, using a lighter shade for the "shell" or carapace bits, and highlighting with a still lighter shade.  Viva la craft paint!  My only "detail" was the blue tongues.

The Lost Ones are from Helldorado: the conquistadors-invade-Hell theme of the game is very awesome but it was kinda obvious the game was never going to gain traction - I've tended to re-purpose the minis for other games.  They'll make a good savage tribe in a pulp "Lost World" genre pulp game.  In hindsight I should have used a more contrasting light shade of green to drybrush over the top to make the muscles "pop" more.

 Bonus points if you can identify this guy....

Another thing I've been doing is "touching up" old models; perhaps they have chipped paint, or need rebasing, or would benefit from a wash or highlight.  Some merely had meh paint jobs.  This is also fast, and has rejuvenated many of my older models.    Do you have any wince-worthy paintjobs? Perhaps you can simply tidy them up rather than starting from scratch....

Saturday, 10 September 2016

World of Warships Revisited

This is a "dad game" - a slow paced PC game with very few controls, and 10-minute rounds.  Cunning is superior to twitchy reflexes.  And of course, it's all about WW1-WW2 warships blasting chunks off each other. You can play with/against other humans or co-op vs AI bots.  In short, it should appeal to the average wargamer.  I've done other posts about this game, so I'm going to focus on changes since the last time I played (~6 months back) and then indulge myself with a rant.

So what has changed since last Christmas?
Well, there's new German battleships, for one.  Sadly this means games are crowded with even more mouthbreathing battleship drivers as everyone rushes to try them out and progress to the best ones.  The Russian cruisers are out and are not at all overpowered (*cough* Russian developer bias *cough*).  The Royal Navy still aren't in the game (after all, the Soviet Navy won WW2, right?)

I liked the new minimap and in addition, the markings that define where smokescreens start and stop are a great improvement.

In the latest patch, their is a very handy colour-coded "armour viewer" which shows the thickness of the armour on your ship, including magazines, citadels, turrets etc. 

Apparently high tier Japanese destroyers have been nerfed (surprise surprise) due to the whining of battleship 'tards and they are going to "rebalance" (i.e. nerf) the mid tiers as well.

There's a nice event on this month giving away two rather good ships (a tier 5 Kongo and a tier 7 Myoko).

Captain Skills have been adjusted (but as usual there are pretty much must-have skills for each class so there isn't really a choice if you want the optimum skillset) and so have ship upgrades.  

The biggest (and least welcome) change for me is the new "matchmaker" which decides what ships you get matched up against.  Basically, tier 5 ships get shafted by always ending up facing superior tier 6 and 7 ships.  Given tier 5 is the most popular, fun, accessible and balanced tier (all the ships are good and there are no "lemons") this is a major annoyance to me as a casual player.

It's a truism that the smaller the ship, the bigger the balls of the captain....

So is World of Warships fun?
Yes, it is.  I've enjoyed getting back into it.  There's a range of playstyles - you can spam your guns and dodge like a madman with a gunboat destroyer, sneak about and ninja torpedo stuff with Japanese destroyers (though they will be nerfed soon due to salty tears of battleship drivers unable to bother to steer left or right and dodge them).  You can drive a mighty armoured battleship (thought most people with these hide at the back of the map as a battleship and snipe ineffectively, fleeing after a single destroyer 5"shell scratches their paint) or be a multirole cruiser that showers things with 6" shells or precisely fires 8".  If you prefer boardgames and don't like ships at all, you can fly planes from overhead view RTS-style as a carrier.   If you have friends and a microphone, there is great potential for teamwork and the relaxed pace means there is time to randomly chat/plan ahead.

The Rant
As you may have inferred, I'm not a fan of battleships.  Actually, I like battleships fine. It's just the players who use them. For some reason this class invariably attracts the biggest retards on the team. "Hurr dur - I haz biggest gunz," perhaps? Dunno.  But for whatever reason, inevitably, the biggest ships on the team are driven by the biggest tools, who are definitely not the sharpest in the shed.

+have the highest average damage done per game
+have the highest win-rates
+have the most armour
+have the most hitpoints
+have the biggest and most long ranged guns
+have the strongest AA
+have the ability to dodge their biggest threat (torpedoes)
+can repair massive amounts of damage

-are slow to turn
-have slow-firing, slow-turning guns
-are not very sneaky

So, as expected, battleships are incredibly survivable and can dish out awesome damage, while being a little unwieldy.  Sounds like a perfect ship for someone who isn't afraid to mix it up, and can plan ahead a little. Sadly, 99% of battleship players possess neither of these traits.

Battleships can dodge torpedoes.  Just most of the time they choose not to bother.  Far better to whine for nerfs on the forums... (4:30 for torpedo dodging using WASD "hacks")

Battleship drivers are whiners.  If there is more than 2 destroyers in the game (out of 15 ships) there will inevitably be a battleship driver whining in chat. What? They may actually have to pay attention to where they are going in case of torpedo attack, and can't simply mindlessly sail in a straight line and focus on shooting all game?  Of course, it's fine if there are 6 battleships - hey, it's the only target they can hit.  In addition, battleship whines have resulted in nerfs to carriers and destroyers (who were designed to stop battleships wandering off alone) which has also indirectly nerfed the usefulness of cruisers (who counter said aircraft and destroyers). 

Battleship drivers are wimps.  Their damage parties can repair more damage than the entire hitpoints (flotation capacity) of a destroyer. Multiple times.  Their armour (if correctly angled - which is a big if given the average IQ) can shrug off capital ship shells.  They can eat half a dozen torpedoes and fight on.  Yet most battleship players run from the slightest hint of "trouble" (this could be defined as a cruiser 1/5th of their size) and tend to snipe from the extreme edges of the map ~20km, where they seldom hit enemies and cannot influence the game.  It's not uncommon to see cruisers and destroyers heading for the objective and battleships heading the other direction. 

Battleship drivers are dumb.  They loftily avoid peasant strategies such as zig-zagging and tend to sail blissfully along in straight lines, presenting their broadsides to the enemy (for more "dakka") which makes them vulnerable to enemy fire and torpedoes.  And in the game, there is a beeping torpedo alert, so it's not like they can claim they are "ambushed."  Most times the average battleship player will avoid the mission objectives and even run away from them if there is a weaker enemy presence there.

So, don't mince your words - tell us how you really feel....
It's so frustrating when the most powerful, toughest ships in your fleet are operated with someone who should not be allowed to use anything more complex than a spoon.  When a ship that requires thinking ahead (the main battleship weakness is they and their guns are slow) is piloted by someone who does not think. Period.  When a ship capable of soaking up immense amounts of fire hides behind smaller, flimsier cruisers using them as meatshields, or snipes from extreme range, running away from the mission objectives.  You'd think having the biggest guns would compensate for having the smallest balls but apparently this is not the case.

I've played hundreds of games over the last year but only seen a handful of good battleship players.  Usually these are fast battlecruiser types (Kongo, Scharnhorst) - so I suspect they were played by cruiser specialists who were moonlighting.

World of Warships is fun, simple, free and very good with friends.  It's full of team mates dumber than AI bots (usually in battleships) and if you want the Yamato/Tirpitz/Iowa be prepared to play a LOT to earn them.   There's been a few good quality of life changes, offset by the new matchmaking system which has shafted Tier 5 ships - to prepare to ran up to tier 7 (and to a lesser degree, tier 6) to get the new "sweet spot." 

Friday, 9 September 2016

More Speedpainted Monsters

Another quick-paint session. As usual, the aim is minimal paint time (~3 min per model) with few coats, and only a few colours used.  There's no "ten coats to get the perfect tone" nonsense - it covers the black undercoat and I wash them only if needed.

I had about an hour to myself this morning (grandparents = awesome for distracting youngsters) though my three-year-old did briefly "help."

 My 3-year old did the sandbags. I rather cunningly gave her a big stiff old brush, and spread the paint thinly on the palette, which got a drybrush effect which I wanted.  

I'm not sure where the ghouls and Cthulthu-thingies come from - RAFM or Black Hat I suspect...

The hound-things I think are Dark Eldar from an early iteration of 40K.  As you can see, I've been digging through my boxes of random models...

No idea where the robed dudes come from either. I have a vague feeling they were meant to be pulp cultists, not monks.  

The limited paint selection, and use of few coats (only 4 models were even washed) kept the time from undercoat to basing/tableworthiness to an hour for 16 miniatures.   Using the same paint scheme for the (red undercoat, flesh drybrush topcoat, yellow eyes, cream claws/teeth) means they can be used as a unified enemy for pulp or fantasy.

Again, this is not an "aspirational" pro painting post, but one to encourage you to quickly slap some paint onto models and get them out on the table. It doesn't need much skill, time or effort to field functional models.  And as you can see, even a 3 year old can paint terrain.  There's no reason (besides laziness) to field unpainted or undercoated minis or terrain. 

I'm having fun finding random models and making them "table worthy."  Kinda by accident, there is  a warband of monsters taking shape from a range of manufacturers, including quite a few Mage Knight/Horrorclix. 

I've painted my dozen models for the weekend - how about you?

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Random Musings (Painting/Smartphone Apps/Anima Tactics)

I don't have the time for a big review post, but I have kept busy hobby-wise of late.

More on Painting...
I've continued my craze of "cheap and nasty" painting. I hunt up minis that look easy to paint, and aim to spend no more than ~3min each on them, from basecoat to basing.  I am even deliberately using cruddy old brushes which I seldom bother to rinse.  I call it "ghetto painting" and it makes me feel like a rebel.  Actually, I'm now questioning why I bother to paint the underside of that wizard's robe...   ....I mean, no one can see from tabletop range and anyone picking up a 28mm wizard to look up its robe is either (a) seriously disturbed or (b) holding it at such close range other painting flaws are going to be obvious anyway.  Also, I am no longer painting the inside of shields.  Yes, for those who paint their shields separately and attach them at the end... honestly, who notices?  I've decided I am going to be at peace with myself, and paint a crapton of minis.

These Mage Knight golems got a metal undercoat, brass armour, and a brown wash to dull the brass. Red eye-lenses, and a brown gun-stock were the only details.  I'd like a better contrasting eye, but my bright red went gluggy.  If I had more time: I'd highlight the brass with gold, and maybe put some contrast colours on the gun and "dorsal fin."  Total time: 25min (+5 min to base)

Golem Arcana - Smartphone Wargame
I often wonder how smartphone integration could be used.  Golem Arcana goes a bit further than I envisioned - using small magnetic dots on the board and on the minis, it also tracks the models' real-world location in the app.  You can interface between the digital app and the board with a bluetooth stylus.  The odds to hit are pre-calculated, and the dice are rolled for you.   Missions, events and objectives can be triggered by the app.  You can have conversations with NPCs on the tabletop.  Finally a good way to do hidden movement?    Interestingly, the armies are lead by knights digital characters who exist only in the app.  Knights command a golem each, the golems actually being the piece on the map.  Ancient ones can be summoned, also digital-only creatures who can grant powers.    The game explains all possible moves, and hit moves, as well as explaining any special abilitie or attacks - the end of the need for rulebooks?  After I spent time poring over their kickstarter, I came across this review which kinda sums up the key points.  The developer (Harebrained Studios) did the very successful and well-regarded Shadowrun PC game and is working on a Battletech game which I will be very interested in when released.  In short, I'm not racing out to buy Golem Arcana (mostly due to pricing) but I'll be interested to see what the future holds.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then poverty is the father....  ....these Mage Knight golems will go with my Warmachine forces as I simply cannot afford the PP stuff anymore. Once, at $30 a pack of 6, I would buy a random pack for a fun project.  Now, it's climbed to $50-$70 for the same amount of minis - GW territory. Plus, I did not appreciate the shift from metal to plastic. I'm sure it's for the benefit of the shareholders modellers.... 

Anima Tactics recently was withdrawn by its parent company.  A small scale skirmish game with anime/RPG overtones, I have never got into it despite owning the rules for a decade...

Anima Tactics - Restrospective Thoughts
As this game was recently "wound up" by Cipher Studios, I dug out my rules to see what I had been missing...

This rulebook is too dense to do a full detailed "restrospective review" (unless folk are really interested) but I've been looking through the rules again of late.  Arriving at about the same time locally as both Infinity and Warmachine, I never got into it - it was even more complicated than the former and seemed to have the CCG feel of the latter.  Besides I'm not a huge anime fan - anime, like rap culture, seems to be purpose-designed for/by 12 year old boys.  The art style is a bit hit and miss, but generally is good and the rulebook is very glossy and well produced in full colour hardback - definitely AAA quality. 

Aimed at ~4-8 minis, in the games I spectated back in the day, it seemed quite tactical and deep due to managing the many powers and abilities each mini has.  Each mini is a "hero" with their own hitpoints (boo) and mana and action points to control.   The minis seemed awesome for modern pulp (with many Illuminati with katanas and priests with miniguns) but as they are finescale 28mm* like Infinity they don't really go with any other conventional 28mm stuff. (*I'm not going to say "realistic" proportions in regards to any mini line containing a size 4 girl with DD boobs wielding a sword bigger and heavier than herself)

The interesting bit about the rules, I think, was how it used a "reaction" system of sorts, mixed with a action-point system.  Only certain actions were allowable as reactions (usual dodge/counterattack), and any action points you spent reacting were deducted off your own turn. Reactions occurred at either the start or end of an enemy turn, which removed much of the complication a la Infinity "everything happens simultaneously."  Also at the time I liked the use of d10 over Infinity's d20 which I think "swings" too wildly.  The energy system adds a nice element of resource management - if you spend it all on special attacks and combos, you may be left vulnerable and unable to defend against enemies. Coming back after all these years, the rules are not as dense as I first thought - it's the 101 special powers and abilities that are offputting. It's very much a RPG-mini game hybrid, and many characters seem to fit RPG "support-buff"  "tank"  "dps glasscannon" archetypes. (I think it is based off a RPG?)  From a gaming point of view, it's most like Warmachine in it's CCG-y feel, in that every model is a warcaster.  

Why I never really got into it: Besides the finescale sculpts, the use of hitpoints is acceptable I guess at such a small scale, but I dislike the "everyone-is-a-named-hero" which (for me) kinda handicaps your own creativity, and I am not a fan of the presence of anime-y underage-looking teens in short pants and crop tops. In addition, the many, many unique special rules and powers gives a steep "buy in" akin to latter day Infinity, Warmachine etc.  Also, the ridiculously involved backstories with bio inclusions such as "likes - pizza"  "dislikes - his archrival Frederik" which seemed kinda kiddy - the bios and character sheets reminded me of a teenager designing their own superheroes.

Verdict:  Some depth in the mana-combos-CCG style and some nice sculpts; too teen-anime in style; whilst the rules themselves aren't too tricky, the special rules make the buy-in a bit too steep for my level of interest.  Still a "nope" for me.  

If you really don't care so much about painting, why not use prepainted minis? 
I think these prepainted toy dinosaurs answer the question.... I think 3min with some craft paint is time well spent....   ....also, I like the ability to do something outside the usual studio paint scheme.