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.