Saturday, December 3, 2016

Mixed Bag 5 - Zakus and Napoleonic Naval Ships

Lately, my hobby projects have been pretty scattershot - I feel like I'm cleaning up several small projects while trying to prep for a couple bigger ones in the future. At the moment I'm working on a new 15mm scifi army, finishing up a Space Marine force from Assault on Blackreach, expanding my Genestealer forces from Deathwatch: Overkill into a full army, and trying to find the time to start assembling my copy of Burning of Prospero. And that's just what I can think of off the top of my head. My desk is boiling over with a myriad of other little projects that I want to get around to. I thought I'd share two today.

A pair of Zeon mobile suits ready to cause trouble for Earth.
First up is a pair of Zakus from the Mobile Suit Gundam universe. While I've always like the Gundam aesthetic and I've started several of the model kits in the past, I've never finished one. I find them way too intricate and tedious to build. My enjoyment comes primarily from the painting of models, and the longer this is delayed, the less interested I am. These Zaku kits solve that problem for me by coming pre-built and pre-painted. Technically, they are 1/200 scale toys (they stand about 4" tall)  and come fully articulated with multiple weapon load outs. All I really need to do is grime them up with some weathering and then attach them to a gaming base.

A basic Zaku II carrying a machine-gun and a pair of missile pods.
These models were given a shot of Dullcote to provide some "tooth" for
washes and dry-brushing to adhere to before adding paint.
The idea of a giant robit carrying bazooka strikes me as such
overkill that I end up loving this guy most of all.
I opted for mounting them on clear acrylic bases from Litko so that I could use them
in ground or space battles with no work.
I've got one more Zaku to do (the infamous Red Comet piloted by MSG villain extraordinaire Char Anazable) and a few Earth Force mobile suits on the way. I plan on creating some quick and simple rules to use for a multiplayer game. Hopefully that should be a lot of fun.

3 French Frigates on the prowl. I still need to add rigging to the models, but for now
they are certainly game ready.
I've also been working on some 1:1200 Napoleonic sailing ships for use of Osprey Publishing's Fighting Sail rules. While I've always wanted to play naval games set in the period, most of the rule systems are hobbies unto themselves and I really just want to dip my toes into the water, so to speak. Fighting Sail seems simple and abstract enough that even a land-lubber like me can grasp them and have a fun afternoon of quoting "Master & Commander: Far Side of the World" in my best Russel Crowe impression.

The first two ships are metal castings from GHQ. The last frigate is a plastic pre-painted model that
I shaded and highlighted from the Sails of Glory game. Both manufacturers mix pretty well.
I've still got two more French Ships of the Line to paint before working on some scenery. My buddy Ron is going to squeeze a British naval force into his painting queue so we should be able to try the game out eventually.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Muskets & Tomahawks, Oh My!

This past weekend; I got to play a big multiplayer game of Muskets & Tomahawks, a set of rules that cover the North American portion of the Seven Years War (or the French and Indian War as we Yanks call it) by Studio Tomahawk - the first game by makers of the popular Dark Age game SAGA. Muskets & Tomahawks has become one of my favorite games in the last couple years and I try to play it any chance I get, which is kinda funny because I remember when my friends were talking me into playing it I wasn't super excited.

My two units of French Regulars and their Officer in the center
Three units of Huron Native American Allies and their war-chief
And finally, some Canadian fur trappers act as a militia to bolster my forces.

I grew up in the North Eastern United States. Places like Valley Forge, Jockey Hollow, and Bunker Hill were regular field trips as a child. "Last of the Mohicans" was practically required reading in my household. While I had a reasonable knowledge of the time period, I just didn't have much of an interest in wargaming it. I was more interested in later or earlier periods, usually taking place on the opposite side of the world. I guess my familiarity with the Colonial period of American history just bred some contempt for it. Thankfully, I bend pretty easily to peer-pressure when it comes to trying out skirmish level games (30 or so models a side) and I decided to give it a try.

My French column advances towards a small village in this game. It is also the first time I made a mat made from
teddy bear fur.
Muskets & Tomahawks uses a card-driven unit activation system which also creates the turn order of the game. Each player contributes a number of cards to a shared deck depending on the types of units they are bringing to the battle. During a turn, the deck is shuffled and then each card is turned over in order. Each card allows a certain number of actions to be taken by a specific type of unit per player. Once all cards have been run through, the turn is over and the deck reshuffled. The system provides a lot of command and control "friction", and players have to come up with general battle plans that they need to adjust as events unfold. The system also ties into army building, as taking a less diverse force means contributing less cards to the deck and this adds an interesting dimension to the game.

My buddy Ron has a fantastic array of scenery for the game.
The other place the game really shines is in its support of narrative-style play. Each side randomly determines its mission and the game ends when one side achieves its objective. Additionally, every player receives a side-plot which acts as a second objective in the game and achieving this can turn a loss into a tie or minor victory into a major one. There is enough variety in these missions and side-plots to really keep the game fresh. I can honestly say that I have yet to play two games of Muskets & Tomahawks that have felt the same.

British Rangers advance through a field to be a pain in the rear.
Like I said, its become one of my favorite games to play and it goes to show that you've got little to lose by trying out a set of rules that you may not be interested in on the surface.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Half the Size and All the Fun

Its been a while since I've unpacked my 15mm scifi models and I've been itching to game with them again lately. A while back, some friends and I got the bug and we ended up building armies for the GRUNTZ game system but got burnt out on the system after some hard core play. Which is a shame, because I really enjoy 15mm as a scale to paint and play in. 15mm does vehicles really well and on the whole armies can be put together for a song compared to 28mm.

15mm is perfect for maximizing your gaming space as well.

One of the fun parts of 15mm scifi is that its so generic that you have the opportunity to create your own stories. I decided to base my army on an oppressive mega-corportation called Zark Industries. Zark Industries makes everything from diapers to death rays and its interests span the galaxy. On worlds that populate the Fringe, Zark Industries uses its power like a club - standing in for local government and militaries. Zark Industries brokers no interference from local populations who may oppose their plans and routinely pacify rebel groups that take up arms against them.

The primary troops are Genetically Optimized Occupation/Neutralization Squads - or G.O.O.N Squads. These clone grown troops obey without question and fight to the end without the burden of a conscience. 

Heavily armored and wielding state-of-the-art weaponry, GOON Squads form the backbone of the army.
The Army is commanded by a local Chairman. Her support unit is even more heavily
armored than the rest of the army.
The heaviest weapons are incorporated into drone units.
15mm also allows you to grab models from a variety of ranges. These AT-43 troops in power armor become huge crowd-suppression mechs in 15mm. Larger vehicle kits become immense dreadnoughts with very little work or cost.

Mobile Suppression Walkers allow for crowd control in built up cities.
I used several pieces from the AT-43 range to make heavy weapon variants.
Polecat Patrol Vehicles lead rapid response teams.
A Mammoth Class Command Truck acts a mobile headquarters from which to
coordinate Zark Industries nefarious plans.
The final unit in the army is the Ajax Class Control Ark. Its built off the chassis of an AT-43 Karman buggy and is meant to be center-piece for the army. The Control Ark was super ridiculous when stat-ed out in GRUNTZ and I probably would only end up using it as an objective in a game nowadays.

The Control Ark is meant to crush all resistance with little regard to the consequences.

I think my next project in 15mm is going to be a rebel group to fight the evil corporate interests of Zark Industries. I've already got a bunch of troops for it, and 15mm scifi paints up so quickly. I know a lot of people are daunted by the scale, but if you aren't painting troops that have to reference historical units then you can really crank stuff out. Most of what I've done here with the infantry is just basecoats with an ink wash for shading. Plus, 15mm is so cheap that there really isn't an excuse to try it out yourself.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Taxis, Limos and 'Stealers!

Anybody call for a cab?

Who has exact change? Quick, or the Magus will be mad we're late!
Not so long ago I ordered the "Imperial City Car MK-IX" from a company called Warex Minis on Ebay. I was really intrigued by these models and thought it would make a great bit of terrain for the Grim Future of the 41st Millennium. At $30 the price was right so I took the plunge. Shortly thereafter, the model arrived via certified mail.

"Look, lady - I only speak two languages: English and Bad English!"
The city car was cast in resin and came in two pieces - a front and a back half. The casting was pretty nice with only a few imperfections - it had a few air bubbles and some minor mould-shift - but nothing that couldn't be cleaned and filled with very little work. There was some minor cracking in the resin on one side, but again a little filling and a careful paint job has hidden most of that. Scale-wise, they are slightly small - especially when placed next to a model on a thicker base, but I can live with that.

Love the design of the grill. Its functional and Gothic all at once.
This side had some cracks in the resin (towards the rear fender) but a
grimy paint-job hides most of that.
I guess the skull is used for backing up? I wonder if the Arbites
pull you over if its out?
From the moment I saw the sculpt, it screamed to be painted like the taxi from "The Fifth Element". I was so jazzed to paint this model that I cranked it out in less than a day. Most of the heavy lifting was done with a coat of Rustoleum "Sun Yellow" spray paint which was then shaded with an orange wash and then a layer of Army Painter Strong Tone ink. The rest was just about dirtying the vehicle up and picking out details. Upon finishing, I decided to order another, a "Genetic Coven Limousine" for my burgeoning Genestealer Cult army I'll be building (I was given another set of Deathwatch:Overkill and I really don't have a good excuse to NOT paint up at least a 1000pts of the little critters).

The Genetic Coven Limo. Look for me to paint this bad boy up in the future.

These are really fun sculpts and very nice castings too boot. Even just used as scenic bits to jazz up a table to make it feel more like an Underhive, these kits were a good buy. I'm looking forward to seeing what scenes I can make on my boards involving them.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Dreadfleet and the Lord of Death

I missed doing an entry for last week because I was busy taking a quick trip to the East Coast to spend a weekend playing games with my buddy Rob. I really needed to just de-stress and hang out with an old friend, and this was just what the doctor ordered. It was like attending a convention, just with less unwashed strangers and more booze. We got in several games of Dreadfleet and Deathwatch:Overkill as well as a nice big game of Warhammer Age of Sigmar.

The Heldenhammer squares off against the Bloody Reaver over the rights to Turtle Island
The first game we played was Rob's freshly painted copy of GW's Dreadfleet. I've heard a lot of negative things said about Dreadfleet since it's release, and while I understand a lot of the criticisms I have to respectfully disagree. Our first game nearly confirmed my fears - a one on one game of the Empire ship vs the Vampire flagship that seemed to take FOREVER. The introductory scenario was super tedious and seemed way too random in its combat mechanics. We then marched onto the second scenario, where a Sea Giant immediately stymied my ability to win the scenario in the allotted time. But Rob and I persevered, having felt we fully understood the system, and played a game with both fleets vying to scoop up treasure floating in the sea.

Rob's paint jobs were stunning, and the models were so much larger than I expected.
The third battle underway. I had already sunk 2 of the Dreadfleet's warships by this point.
This is where the game shined for me - there was constant action and crazy events changed the game at the drop of a hat - like Rob's Skaven vessel burning from stem to stern and still managing to fight at nearly full strength.  At the point I thought I had the game locked up, a random Mer-Man attack on my fleet killed the crew of one ship and caused the magazine of another to explode, sending both ships to the briny depths. By the final roll of the dice, my stomach hurt from laughing so hard at the absurdity of it all. I think that players looking for a game with predictable outcomes and careful strategies will HATE Dreadfleet with a passion, but those willing to roll with the punches and enjoy the randomness that you loved as a kid rolling on charts in the Dungeon Master's Guide or classic Realm of Chaos books will have a great time.  The games does an excellent job of providing an "Experience" (yes, with a capital "E") that Rob and I will remember for a long time to come. I've come to value that as I've gotten older, and its more of a hallmark of a good game than one with predictable game play. That, combined with just how beautiful the models are in person, has made me open to picking up a copy for myself if the opportunity presents itself.

The main even of the weekend was game of Age of Sigmar on Rob's beautiful scenery. We played a tournament game from the General's Handbook - the Escalation scenario with 2000pts for each side. Rob brought out his magnificent Nagash and I set my Bloodbound to battling the Lord of Death.

The battle commences! Over the course of the game, more units graduated onto the board until the board was clogged with the fallen.
Some Bloodreaver lead the assault. They were wiped out in a single turn by the combined effort of Nagash and his skeleton warriors.
One flank was secured by Satan himself - a mighty Cygor. 
The Lord of Death faces off against the Cygor. A literal clash of giants finished the battle. The Cygor fell to Nagash, but at least I managed to get the big man down to his 4 last Wounds.
Man, what a beast - Nagash is seriously powerful and I felt like I was behind the eight ball  from turn one. I think if I had Archaon or a Bloodthirster in my army I might have thought it was a more even playing field. Thankfully, the Tournament rules meant Nagash wasn't just raising entire regiments of skeletons each turn, because with Rob's nearly inexhaustible supply of painted models we'd probably still be playing. In the end, I barely squeaked out a victory by securing the objectives but I still don't fully know how I did it.

It was a fantastic game and an amazing weekend. While I enjoy painting, its always nice to get some great games in against good opponents - it makes the effort worth it all.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Warhammer Quest Silver Tower - Deep Thoughts

Last Sunday I got together with a group of friends and we took my newly completed copy of Warhammer Quest Silver Tower out for a spin. We thoroughly kicked the tires of the game through the first two scenarios and had a grand time. I managed to get a great group play with and we had a lot fun laughing, teasing, cursing our luck and pondering the mysteries of the Silver Tower. If I only used that as a criteria, Silver Tower was a phenomenal purchase. But I'll try to look at some of the other aspects and you can draw your own conclusions.

The Pros

- Games Workshop continues to hold its position as the 800lb gorilla in room by producing premier components for its games. The miniatures are up  to the high standards you'd expect. They push the envelope of how thin they can get some parts - I had a few broken pieces in the kit before I even cut anything off the sprues - but the final products are incredible sculpts. Honestly, I don't think there is a model in the set I didn't like. For those who enjoy assembling and painting models, this kit is worth the price. Those looking for quick assembly and getting figures on the board quickly would be better served elsewhere.

- There's a lot of interesting mini-games and riddles that the players are confronted with rather than just rolling a die to see what happens during the game. Silver Tower takes full advantage of a sort of "choose your own adventure" design in the adventure book. to create an atmosphere of mystery and confusion. As we played the game, all of us really grew to appreciate these elements. They turned what could have been a typical dungeon crawl game into something a little more special.

- The game is highly co-operative but still gives players the chance to muck with each others' plans and keep the game fresh. I'm usually not a big fan of co-op games, so still allowing players to compete with one another in-game really makes the Silver Tower shine for me. The only thing better than defeating a room full of baddies is playing a card that allows you to reap the rewards alone!

- Once the game mechanics are understood, everything flows quickly. Nothing feels super complicated, but we did still need to refer to the rules quite a bit.

- The use of a "Destiny Phase" at the start of each turn was really novel. Not only does the roll give the possible addition of dice to a shared pool, but it can also act as a random event generator. The collective intake of breath waiting to see the outcome of the die roll was a great shared experience for our group. The shared pool and the ability to draw from it was a lot of fun if someone got greedy and their gluttony didn't pay off.

The Cons

- The game play book isn't laid out particularly well in my opinion. Certain key rules are "called out" in decorative panels, and they can sometimes be over-looked. Constantly pawing through the rules made things a little slower than they had to be.

- I'm not a huge fan of the dice pool mechanic used for the Heroes. It works just fine, I just don't particularly enjoy the reliance on luck and the extra step slows down the pace of play. The mechanic just seems to be a way to differentiate the game without really adding much, in my opinion.

The ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

- Is it better than the original Warhammer Quest? That all depends on who you are. If you want it to be a pseudo-roleplaying game with huge amount of monsters and story-lines, then probably not. If, like me, you are looking for a board game with a continuing character advancement; then its at least as good if not better. As I've gotten older, I find I prefer games with more streamlined rules and I don't require a total open-world concept for a board game.

- Even if you just assembled and don't paint the models, its a significant time investment. I consider that part and the painting of the models to be as big a part of the enjoyment as playing the game, so I roll that into my assessment of if it was worth the price.

- Re-playability? So this is a sticky question for me. It took us approximately 5 hours to play 2 scenarios: so if we can play through all 8 quests that would be 20 hours of gaming.  Considering I only get to play maybe once or twice a month, I think that's plenty of time expect from the game. The matrix for randomizing opponents in the game may add "some" re-playability, but if you have the time to replay a 20-hour game repeatedly, this probably won't be as good a value for you. Its just the right amount for me.

I had an enormous amount of fun playing and look forward to venturing back into the Gaunt Summoner's realm. Between the game and the hobby-time I've gotten out of this purchase, I can't recommend it enough.


Friday, October 14, 2016

Silver Tower Finished!

I finished up the last of the models for Warhammer Quest Silver Tower this week and am ready to actually play the game this weekend. In fact, I managed to get the last model done with a couple of days to spare! I figured I would be painting furiously until my friends were knocking at the door, ready to play; but somehow I did it. The last three models were all kits that I'd waited to tackle till the last minute because of their complexity, which was a foolish way to do it. I should have broken up some of the simpler models to do with a couple of these peppered in.

Hey, hey! The Gang's all here!
First up was the Tenebrael Shard - master assassin and huge fan of White Snake with that hairdo and those pants. Yikes! This model was everything that has turned me off from Dark Elves for years - thin parts, 80's hair metal aesthetics and self-indulgent silliness. He turned out fine, but I was really glad to be done with him.

He travels down the only road he has known.
Like a drifter, he was born to roam alone.
The Mistweaver Saih was the next model that I tackled. This is probably my favorite model of the set - the whole sculpt has a really nice sense of motion and flow and the design feels fresh to me. I know there has been a ton of hand-wringing that Slaanesh has been written out of Fantasy, but I'm hoping that the Mistweaver is the model for the direction Games Workshop takes the Aelfs, because she has a ton of Slaaneshi iconography on her. She, the Shard and the Darkoath Chieftain make fully half of the Heroes baddies and I think it would be interesting to have the forces of the Aelfs teetering on the edge of turning to Chaos.

Miiiiiiist Weaver, I believe you can get me through
the niiiiiiight...
I saved the biggest model for last - the Ogroid Thamaturge.  Again, he looked like an intimidating model to paint, but I managed to get him done in two evenings of work. I opted to ape the studio paint scheme to save some time - I didn't want to end up with something that just wasn't working with a hard deadline.

I've never heard a fart rock song that uses the words "Ogroid" or "Thamaturge".
Let me know if I've missed something somewhere.
So that's the second Games Workshop boxed set I've finished up this year. I'm now eyeing that new Horus Heresy boxed game "Burning of Prospero" so that may be in my future. I can't wait to play Warhammer Quest Silver Tower and I'll share my thoughts on the game next week.