Sunday, October 29, 2017

Mixed Bag 8 - Mixbo Baggins There and Back Again

The close of this week has seen a lot of little projects getting moved off my desk. Not as many as I'd like, but there is some movement which is nice. First up is Ixion Hale, an exclusive sculpt by Forge World available only at Warhammer World or certain conventions. I picked him up when I was in Nottingham last April - kind of on a whim - and he's a nice addition to my Heresy Era stuff.

Ixion doesn't have any special rules, so I'll end up using him as
a Praetorian with a power axe or some such thing. 
I've also got it in my head to put together some kind of siege scenario for 40k, so I've been picking up some of the Wall of Martyrs kits when and where I can. I finished off the Vengence Batteries and two sets of trench sections this week. These were pretty fun kits - not a lot of assembly and quick to paint. I undercoated the batteries in Retributor spray, gave it wash of Reikland Flesh shade and then dry brushed the metal with Auric Gold and a final dusting of Runefang Steel. Then it was a matter of painting in the grey panels and dark metals and some weathering.

Beeeeg Badda Boom.
I just built them as battle cannons - probably because I didn't relish the
idea of the gatling cannons being used on my Orks.
I really think these models are just cool. It doesn't matter to me that
they are covered in skulls and skeletons - that actually adds to
the coolness for me for some reason.
The trench sections were undercoated in Rustoleum Weathered Bronze (which is a dead ringer for Leadbelcher) and then the dead Cadians were blocked in, washed and highlighted. The gold plates were handled exactly like the gold on the Vengence Batteries. These really didn't take too much time and I try to remember to keep a sort of visual hierarchy in my painting - soldiers and tanks get the most love, scenery can be a little duller and less detailed and finally the board should be reasonably plain. This helps everything separate out as you view it, and makes for things being easily identifiable.

"Duck behind that golden shield, soldier! No-one will see us there!"
I added grime and rust to the interior sections just keep them a little more interesting. What I really want to know is:
Do the Cadians just throw their dead over the walls between battles? Or do they not get the idea that the wall
needs to be BETWEEN them and the attacker to be worthwhile? Deep questions.
Next on deck is The Emporer's Aquila Action Playset. I hope it comes with a special kind of Cobra Viper inside. I am
unreasonably excited to paint this thing.
Last Sunday I also helped run a game of Muskets & Tomahawks for some friends - a couple of which were new to the rules. The scenery and a bunch of the models were done by my buddy Ron, supplemented by some of my French and Indian troops. We worked together running six players through an action packed game. Everyone seemed to have a great time, and I think we may have convinced some new players to collect their own forces at some point.

Even if the players had a miserable tim, who cares? Just look at that scenery! Ron does some quality stuff.
British cavalry attempting to run some Canadian Militia. The British objective was to massacre civilians. 
One of the British flanks was almost entirely First Peoples. The guys in blue were painted by yours truly.
A Provincial Militia exchanged heavy fire with British Regulars in the center.
The British kept up a steady stream of fire, but it wasn't enough to dislodge the Colonists.
At one point, a special event occurred and the Indian force had to contend with a savage bear attack. This gave the
battle the name of "The Battle of Bear Swamp". In the end, the Colonials managed to save their civilians and repel the
better equipped Red Coats and their allies. 

It was really nice to spend a weekend playing games that didn't have robots or lasers in them. I'm still mulling over putting together a Roman force, but I'm not sure what game system I'm going to use at the moment.


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Deep Thoughts: Lion Rampant

Sometimes its nice to play a game that has been sitting on your bookshelf (in this case a virtual one) for a while and you just haven't had a chance to get around to trying out. Last weekend, my buddy Ron and I dusted off some medieval-type figures and tried out a few games of Lion Rampant by Osprey publishing. Lion Rampant is a medieval era game focused on what I'd like to call "Grand Skirmish". It's bigger than a skirmish game where every guy matters, but smaller than a traditional mass combat game.  Like a lot of the games that Osprey has done, I feel like there is something at the core of the game that I love but something isn't quite gelling with me. This'll be an attempt at collecting my thoughts on Lion Rampant and maybe thinking what I can do to house-rule the set into something that I could really enjoy.

My fierce Normans carried the day three times! I'm sure I've burnt all my gaming luck for year now.
The Pros

1. Figure Count - with most units being either 6 or 12 models and most "armies" consisting of 5-6 units in a typical game, Lion Rampant hits a really sweet spot for me regarding how many models I need to paint up to play a standard game. Each game we had about 50 models a side, which is perfect for a game that isn't going to end up an obsession. I can commit to these size of forces and it felt nice - the rules give a sort of "Grand Skirmish" feel rather than a full mass combat game or skirmish system.

2. The Combat System - the combat system for Lion Rampant is ridiculously simple and flows elegantly. Full strength units roll 12 dice, half strength or less units roll 6. Count up the number of dice that rolled equal or higher to your Attack score (if you're attacking) or Defense score (if you're defending) and divide the number of successes by the target's Armor. The result is the number of casualties (rounding down). Easy peasy. No cross-referencing, no detailed counting of figures in range, just a simple donnybrook roll to see who kills who. Units generally have different Attack and Defense scores, which adds some nice diversity the roles that different troop types fulfill during a game. Finally, after removing casualties, EACH side that lost soldiers needs to test their Courage to see if they stay in the fight. I like this because it means that the side that "wins" a really bloody scrap doesn't just get to walk away from the consequences.

3. The Scenarios - we got a chance to play three games and they all felt flavorful well-thought out. The system really tries to focus on narratives and for the most part succeeds. There are a few places that it becomes a little heavy with these rules, but its nothing that I don't think couldn't be streamlined.

The Battle of Pig Pen Lane all set and ready to go. If nothing else, I always know that a game against Ron will
LOOK really nice.
My Norman knights close in on Ron's Foot Sergeants. It was nice to break in my new gaming mat with lovely
The Cons

1. Rolling for Activations - I'm sure that I'm in the minority here, but I feel like these style of mechanics are the absolute worst concept unleashed on the wargaming world in the last 20 years. They really just need to shrivel up and blow away as far as I'm concerned. Lion Rampant's command system works by the player choosing a unit and attempting to roll higher than the score tied to a specific action (such as Moving or Attacking or Shooting) on two dice. Success indicates that the unit can activate and failure immediately ends your turn and passes it to your opponent. In theory, these type of systems are designed so that you take less risky actions first or focus on crucial segments of the battlefield before pressing your luck elsewhere. In practice these command mechanics actually do two things - first, they run the very real risk of unlucky players being unable to anything for long stretches of the game. In our first game, Ron (through some spectacularly creepy luck) failed nearly every test. He spent most of the game just waiting for me to strike when and where I chose. It was boring as sin. In later games, when his luck evened out a bit, it led to the second failing of these types of command tests - predictability. By the end of game two, I knew exactly the order that both Ron and I would activate units when given the chance. We started with conservative rolls and worked our way up to riskier ones. EVERY. TIME. Which sort of begs the question of why do we need this mechanic at all? Why not just assign units a fixed place in the turn? All the friction and fog of war these rolls are supposed to generate either becomes rote activations or total inaction, with almost nothing in between.

2. The 3" Rule - In Lion Rampant, units are required to stay at least 3" from any other unit (friend or foe) unless they are engaging them in melee combat. This is another place where theoretically I can see why this was done - it creates clear zones of control, forces you to play across the entire board, reflects the medieval tendency to fight in long lines of troops rather than in depth, and makes for less visual clutter. Instead, it led to log-jams where single figure can prevent reinforcements (friendly ones at that) from getting to the battle, or strange column formations in tight deployment zones along the short edges. Its just frustrating and I can't seem to find an actual mechanical reason to justify it. Its not like other games where you have random charge distances and the authors want to make sure you might fail on a roll of double 1. Instead, it mostly seems to be about log-jamming your units and it just makes for a less interesting game.

Game 2. Ron's forces attempt to hold a crucial winter food store. My men are out for blood and snacks. 
A Clash of Minor Nobility! Our knights ended up meeting in the center and a might ruck
developed. Unfortunately for Ron, none of his reserves could actually help out because of the
damn 3" zone of control his own guys were creating. 

1. Ditch the Activation Roll - next time I'd like to try eliminating the activation rolls and replacing it with a Command Roll where at the top of a player's turn they roll a d6 and add one to the score if their army leader is still alive. The resulting # is how many units they can activate this turn (with each unit only allowed to activate once per turn). I'll need to rework some of the abilities (like the Schiltron formation or activating Crossbowmen costing 2 activations, for example) but this should keep the friction in the battle without running the chance that one side may simply get to do nothing for a turn (or several).

2. Reduce the the 3" to 1" - or simply ignore it totally. Some friends who've played the game in past simply ditched this rule all together and reported that it didn't negatively impact their games.

3. Re-work a little of the Narrative Stuff - the game has Boasts and Leader Qualities, but there's simply a little too many for my tastes. By game 3, Ron and I had totally forgotten about the Boasts - probably because neither of us wanted to chew through the 18+ list of ones in the book. That stuff needs to be there - it just needs to be presented in a more manageable way.

Ron's Biddowers lured my Lord into a forest and tried to fill him full of arrows. Luckily he and his men rode the filthy
peons down before any real damage was done.
If nothing else, I'm really happy to have another game to use these figures with. I painted them up for SAGA,
played a few games and our group was losing interest in the rules. Sigh.

So there is my huge wall of thoughts on Lion Rampant. Like I said, there is something here I could really, really like - my head was immediately buzzing with building a Roman army for the game system - but some of the core stuff is just getting in the way of a fun game for me. I look forward to tinkering with the system so I can try and get something I'm really excited to play.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Imperial Fists' Contemptor Dread Done!

Whew! I finished up the Contemptor dreadnought that I got from Forge World this week. I think this puts a pin in my Imperial Fists for a little while. I'll try and get a group shot together soon, but in the meantime here is Tribune Aramas in all his glory.

He's coming atcha!
Head and Chest detail.
I'm hoping the firepower of a twin lascannon will help with enemy tanks.
A view of the engine block.
Detail shot from the left side.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Review: Wargame Mat by Killing Fields Terrain

I'm not usually the kind of guy to do a product review - but I try to make exceptions to champion new products or companies that make something that I really like. A couple of weeks ago I ordered a new wargaming mat from an up and coming company called Killing Fields Terrain ( and it arrived on Friday. I've had three days to noodle with it, and I thought I'd share my opinion of the product.

I've always really liked the look of mats made from faux fur cloth. I've even had a go at making my own, but the cost was intense for the first attempt. I needed to get the fur (about $60 for a 5'x3'), an electric pet shaver to trim the fur (another $20) and then spray paints (another $30ish dollars) to color everything. The results were really nice, but it was a long, smelly process (the off-gassing of the spray paints takes a while to dissipate).

My own efforts.

Killing Fields Terrain offers a dyed mat at 4'x6' for about $80. I figured that just getting the mat as a base to experiment on would be worth it, so I ordered one. It arrived in a quick fashion, folded inside a nice sturdy box that I can use for storage.

The mat right out of the box and on my kitchen table.
A little tussling of the fur with my hand and it was ready to go.
The mat has really nice "pile" (length of the fur) and can be further shaved into.
One of the things I really like about fur mats is the ability to shave in permanent "roads" on them. I grabbed my electric pet clippers (a cheap brand I wouldn't come near my dog with in a million years) and set about creating some roads.

After a shave, I used white glue and sprinkled sand on it.
Once dry, a light dry brush of a light cream finished it off.
Then it was just a matter of draping it over some hill forms and adding my usual scenic embellishments!

Ready to fight!
The mat is draped over a hill here, creating a nice gentle rolling slope.
Lighting the whole set up was a challenge, but there really is a nice range of color in the mat.

I couldn't be happier with my purchase. I would highly recommend this product. If you're in the US and in the market for a fur mat, take a look at - it'll be worth your time. I'm seriously considering ordering a second mat when I can so that I can play a nice big 4'x12' Napoleonic game on it!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Imperial Fists Finish Line In Sight!

Tartaros Terminators ready to rumble.

I've managed to get a lot done on my Heresy Era Imperial Fists in the last two weeks. A unit of Terminators, a Vindicator siege tank, and a Legion Command Squad to go with my Praetorian. Whew! This means that all I really have left is my Contemptor Dreadnought to do and I think I'm ready to call this project done for a little while. What to do next is the big question - more Napoleonic troops or possibly starting a long desired Imperial Roman army top the list. We'll have to see.

My Legion Command Squad. I made the standard bearer by using
a loose Primaris Ancient standard. 

The Vindicator was quite a project. I learned a lot and would tackle it completely differently if I do another. I made some big mistakes shading the vehicle, but I think the layers of grime, chipping and rust that I added disguised it all pretty well.

Boom. Boom. A Zoom Zoom.
I really dig adding hazard stripes if for no other reason than antagonizing Iron Warrior players.
I'm really happy with the weathering on the dozer blade in particular.
I moved the crane and shell more forward on the vehicle. It just didn't feel right on the back. I know the Vindicator
is loosely based on a WW2 German Sturmtiger, and those had the loading crane over the cannon. Unfortunately,
I just couldn't get it look right on this model.

With any luck, I'll be able to finish up the dreadnought next week and then put up some shots of the whole army.