Thursday, 21 July 2016

Trials and Transitions

I'll be honest – I'm just not feeling it right now (the hobby that is).

I can't put my finger on what it was but I think spending several months analysing rulesets in great depth, in order that I could conjure up my own unique game, wiped my brain.

I have of course been 'distracted' by my new day job over the last couple of month. Taking on the role of a UI Web Designer has not been without its (good) challenges and I've had to commit my brain completely. Then, add to that equation the fact that I've struggled going back to work full-time after having nearly four months off to look after our baby boy – family time has become very precious right now.

So that's where I've been. What next?

Well, I am now the proud owner of a games cupboard. Yes, we have had an en-suite bathroom in our guest room converted into a very large cupboard and office space. This is a double win. Not only do I now have a dedicated space for the bulk of my gaming gear, I also get to use the office space as a painting area (though I will have to tiny my paints away out of sight after each session… into my gaming cupboard).

Now all I need is the inspiration to get back into the painting chair!

I still have a host of Guildball models to paint. Still love the idea of Guildball but it's not enough to get me painting just yet.

The release of Mk3 WarmaHordes got my interest piqued and I even had a look through my Everblight model collection. This could stir me into action at some point, but not yet.

I really want to paint some more models for my Project Hood game – I have plenty and always looking out for more. However, the rules have hit a bump in the road so my enthusiasm to paint models for it has waned.

I've been playing Blood Bowl on the iPad a lot recently, which got me excited about the board game again… for a while. Not enough to get me painting though.

So what is going to do it?

Well it turns out that one of my new bosses at work has recently got back into wargaming, after playing 40k as a kid. He dipped his toe back in with a game of Lord of the Rings, with the intention of getting back into 40k long term.

As much as I dislike the current 40k rules with a passion (unbalanced, clunky, stale and too bloody expensive to play all round), it did get me looking at the GW website again after a long break. I've always been a marine fan so the recent plastic heresy releases caught my interest.

Am I ready to commit myself to the GW gods again? Dunno.
Is there a way to play 40k using more interesting skirmish-level Warmachine, Malifaux or Guildball-type rules? Now there's a project!

What has really caught my interest is Lord of the Rings. GW are in the process of re-releasing it and some of the plastic kits are reasonably priced. I always wanted to get into this way back when, and having read the original Fellowship rulebook through cover to cover several times I quite like aspects of the rules.

Regardless of what direction I go, I think August will be when things start to happen. We having a gaming day booked with Mr Awdry at the beginning of the month and if his hobby exploits don't inspire then nothing will!!

Thursday, 30 June 2016

WarmaHordes Mk3: All New War

So after a steady build up it's official – Mk3 Warmachine and Hordes is now available.

Along with the new £40 hardback rulebooks there are new faction starter boxes which look really good value. They also include mini rulebooks, tutorials, a game mat, tokens and all kinds of other bits and bobs.

Check out the official Mk 3 "All New War" website for info, background and hobby tips.

The rules were released for free online a few weeks ago and there has been a lot of chatter online about the changes and how the factions have faired. I have to say from what I've seen the changes seem to fulfil the aim of the new editions – not to reinvent the game but rebalance what already exists. The individual abilities and rules within each faction now seem to be more characterful and focus on the strengths and weaknesses of each faction.

Have a look at the new rules yourself…

Prime Rules

Primal Rules

This is all great stuff – free rules!! – and it's made me revisit my old Cryx and Everblight projects.


Now when I say revisit, I actually mean open up some army boxes and paw over old models. I also have a host of unpainted models for both armies (inevitably) so no need to be buying anything (hahaha!!).

We will see.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Zombicide: Black Plague… More Goodies!

After a rather lengthy five month wait, the second part of the Kickstarter goodies for Zombicide: Black Plague arrived today.

Another rather large parcel was waiting for me when I got home from work, containing lots of plastic goodness. I won't distract you any more with chat – just take on board what will be arriving on your own doorstep soon (or what you missed out on)!

Those are some enormous miniatures for a board game – that rat ogre thing in particular, and the running troll ogre is ridiculously tall… fantastic!

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Frostgrave: The Warband Recovers…

After the drama of Tuesday's Frostgrave double-feature, the dust has finally settled, wounds have been licked and loot dice have been rolled (or rather a dice rolling app has been used!).

Lessons have been learned too. As good as the shooting has been up to now, when things get personal you need big hitters. The only downside to melee combat in Frostgrave is that you're just as likely to be killed as to kill! You only have to lose the combat by a single point to take the full force of your opponents Fight total. In these last two games a combat win was averaging 7 damage against heavily armoured models – that's more than half your wounds right there!

I knew I would need to rebuild my warband slightly after we'd tried close combat. I desperately wanted to include some Barbarians. They are great models (and I own them) and good in combat with +4 Fight. They also have a Two-handed weapon meaning extra damage inflicted, and they can move 6" which is decent. Unfortunately, despite having a few extra wounds too, they have NO armour at all. That's a bit nuts, meaning if hit they're likely to die straight away, so they didn't make the cut.

I ended up going with the slower but armoured Templar instead. This does mean that half of my warband can move 7 and the other half can only move 5. The extra armour will help their survivability and, if I can get Fleet Feet cast successfully, they could move 7" for the entire game.

I had accumulated a lot of cash and a few magic items but decided against equipping my soldiers any further. At this point they're easily replaced and have to prove themselves to warrant a magic weapon!

My wizard walked away from his untimely demise without a scratch. He's level 10 now and I've managed to trim a lot of casting numbers off my favourite spells. He took a couple of magic protection items and a fate stone last game, but it was time for a change.

I got rid of the Ring of Protection and replaced it with the Ring of Teleportation. This will help his movement and allow him to teleport in or out of combat – something I needed last game. I've improved his Fight stat by 1 but also purchased a new Staff that gives him another +1 Fight. He's now quite tasty in combat and another stat increase or two will make him awesome!

The Apprentice saw a bit of love too. As well as benefitting from the Wizard's stat increases, she got a magic Dagger, giving her Fight stat a boost. Having the extra melee weapon also gives her benefits. I also decided that, given her poor casting recently, she should take the Fate Stone. It didn't work for the Wizard (I rolled two 3's!!) but it may make a difference sometimes.

As you can see, I'm nearly out of cash and the vault is looking bare, but I have confidence in my new-look team. I will be down a man in the next game – one of the Rangers is Badly Wounded – which means there won't be a lot of shooting opportunity, but I'll put my faith in the sword… and staff, and dagger, and two-handed sword.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Frostgrave Gets Nasty…

Just before the month comes to a close myself and Bull managed to get another game or two of Frostgrave in. After the opening games earlier in the month, followed by some frantic list re-building, things were developing rapidly.

We rolled for random scenario this time and got one with random encounters and Giant Worms, having to roll every time we picked up treasure. This added another level to the standard game and kept the nerves jangling with each 'worm roll'. Bull was the first to attract one of the monsters, who proceeded to kill his Thief and take a chunk out of his Man-at-Arms. It took a concerted effort and a rather large fire bolt from his Wizard to take the thing down.

Game 1 – no Giant Worms yet but they were coming!

Just before that happened though I managed to have one appear next to my Wizard. It killed the Zombie who had woken it and turned to a group of my guys who were skulking behind some terrain. However, having watched Bull struggle against the monster at the other end of the table, and see how fickle combat is, I devised a plan. Rather than charge my guys in one at a time and swing a sword, I charged all my lowly guys in without actually attacking (thereby not risking a bad dice roll and taking wounds). I then sent my two best combat guys in at the end, who now had the benefit of supporting models. This made the job a lot easier, despite mediocre rolls, and the beast went down in two rounds of combat.

A scramble to get loot off the table and the game was done. We rolled for injuries, loots, etc and revised the teams for the next game.

I had managed to go up 4 levels of wizardry so had lots of little improvements (mostly reducing casting target numbers). I also picked up a couple of magic items and bought a couple more. My wizard was starting to look the business, and now had increased armour and health.

Game 2 – where the randomness became ridiculous

Game 2's random scenario involved little stone huts that may be haunted by wraiths containing the treasure. Only problem was we had no magic weapons between us and wraiths are immune to mundanes. Only the wizards and apprentices could take them down.

We effectively had three huts each to raid, but I decided to raise the stakes. Up to this point we've played things very cautiously, grabbed our three loot each, fired the odd shot across the bow of our opponent and escaped off the table to roll for goodies. I had three huts pretty well within reach, but a fourth could be got at with a bit of a push!

I sent the wizard's group down the right flank to the furthest of my 'safe' huts and sent the apprentice and her group on an attack run down the left, to try and grab a fourth hut. The huts were gradually opened, none had wraiths in them… except for the fourth hut I was after. Bull had his wizard and three guys over there, one being mauled by the wraith. He had dropped walls all over the place to block line of sight, but I had two Marksmen and a Knight alongside my Apprentice waiting on the other side. I would either grab the loot while Bull was distracted, or take down the wizard.

On the right, Bull had similar ideas and sent his apprentice and followers against my wizard. I had dropped fog to stop the pot shots and we both lined up either side waiting for the opportunity to pounce. I spotted an opening – Bull had left his apprentice very close to the fog, and well within range of my Treasure Hunter. He sneaked behind the apprentice and slit his throat…dead.

Back on my left Bull dropped more walls to slow me down, so I moved my apprentice round to take a Bone Dart shot at his Ranger. Damage done but not enough to kill. I was left exposed and she was taken out with combined shots from the Ranger and Sorcerer. No apprentices left!

Back on the right, I charged all my guys through the fog, outnumbering a Marksman 4-1. Two attacks later he was dead. Then the silliness began.

Bull moved his Knight into base contact with my Wizard, in doing so giving me the same 4-1 advantage. The next several round of combat involved me losing guys to this single Knight, despite the massive numbers advantage. My dice rolls were single digits, Bull's upper teens. This showed how flawed and random the combat mechanics are in this game. I should have killed the unsupported Knight in a turn or two, or three. No, I was reduced to taking a massive risk with my Wizard on his last 5 health points to attack the Knight, taking off a couple of wounds, before my supporting Ranger finally managed to finish him off. In the early rounds I had had a +10 attack bonus and still lost four rounds of combat due simply to extreme dice rolls!

The flaw is the use of a 20-sided dice. It allows too big a swing between results and you can end up with ridiculous outcomes. Throw in the critical hit (optional) rule that doubles damage and things are just daft.

It was something I had wanted to test for a while – what happens if you really go for it against your opponent? Your soldiers are easily replaced – even an unequipped Apprentice is easily replaced, gold is so easy to come by. Would the reward be worth the risk?

Anyway, having survived by the skin of their teeth my Wizard and Ranger fell back through the fog, grabbing cover where they could. To no avail though as Bull's Ranger followed them through and shot the Wizard at point blank range.

By this stage things were starting to get silly. Bull had pulled his Apprentice away from the Wraith to avoid my troops. My troops meanwhile waited behind the wall for things to develop. The Wraith eventually killed Bull's Thug then skulked back into the hut.

Given that I had no magic users on the table and Bull's had moved to the other side of the table, we would have been playing for hours before the Wraith had been killed and loot extracted. We called the end of the game.

The aftermath…

Despite the heavy losses on both sides, one of my Rangers spends a game on the bench and Bull's Marksman died. Just goes to show that taking a chance and having it go badly wrong is not the end of the world in Frostgrave (as it would have been in Necromunda). It also shows that stacking a combat as much in your favour as possible (as good generals and wargamers learn) does not always affect combat the way it should.

Next we'll see what the warband looks like now…

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Frostgrave Warband List…

So after two games of Frostgrave things are starting to take shape. Both Bull and I have been relatively cautious in our tactics so far, grabbing our three treasure tokens and skulking away, restricting combat to long-range pot shots and spells.

I've already mentioned my reservations about the game. I don't think it has the longevity of Necromunda or Mordheim but it has reminded us of what we love about the crew development side of those classics (even if your crew doesn't actually develop in Frostgrave!).

After the elation of taking out Bull's apprentice in game one was soured by the after-game rolling putting me way behind for game two, things have balanced out a little. I managed to sell a load of stuff to build up my gold reserves (one of the main universal criticisms of the game) and have turned my crew upside down.

The gang…

Yep, I basically binned my entire crew and hired a whole new elite bunch (something you could never consider in Necromunda)… and still have cash to spare.

I did look at the magic items to deck out my wizard and apprentice, but individually the items didn't have that big an impact (a +1 or +2 bonus when rolling a D20 doesn't improve your chances that much) so I didn't bother. Now the crew is in place (I can't really improve them any more except the odd magic item) I can turn my attention back to my Wizard.

The boss…

As I said, I sold everything I could and learned a new Grimoire spell – Furious Quill – to help clear out the vault. The main focus has been to get the casting number of my most used spells down as low as possible, so I've used my experience points to chip away at these.

I learned early on that you have to attempt to cast something every turn to get as much experience as possible in a game, even if it's an arbitrary spell of no particular use. This has helped me get to almost level 5 after just 2 games.

I only have the one offensive spell with Bone Dart. Whilst it has already provided some death and damage I could do with having options. Damage orientated wizards rule in Frostgrave so this would be the way to go it seems, even if it's a little one-dimensional.

Then there's the cash. I do have 300 gold left. Do I splash out on a base upgrade or fancy gear, or do I save it for a rainy day?

Saturday, 14 May 2016

First Game Of Frostgrave

An impromptu gaming morning today saw our first foray into Frostgrave. It's been on the radar since the back end of last year, but today myself and Bull finally got to give it a go.

Despite loads of reading up and warband prep earlier in the year I was completely unprepared for today so had to write out my list and make spell choices on the day, whilst Bull sat patiently waiting with his printed out spreadsheet and fully painted models.

Archer takes a pot shot at approaching enemy

Eventually we got stuck in to our opening game and things plodded along in a rather uneventful fashion. Bull sent his Apprentice's group forward to grab a token in my half of the board so I decided to let my Archer take a pot shot… miss. My Apprentice then had a go at casting Bone Dart – a suitably Necromantic shooting spell – at the rather brave, if foolhardy, enemy. Spell cast successfully and I rolled to shoot. After a little mental arithmetic it appeared that I had killed Bull's Apprentice stone dead! That sent shockwaves across the table – shooting is devastating if you roll a reasonably high score, let alone a 20. Everybody dived for cover next turn to avoid a similar fate.

Bull's Apprentice (the laid back dwarf) gets downed by the Bone Dart spell

The game rumbled on, a few shots pinging across the table here and there with with no more drama aside from one of my Thugs being taken out by Bull's Ranger. We'd each grabbed three lots of treasure and retreated to our respective table edges. I had contemplated making a charge into the enemy lines to mix things up, but had second thoughts and we all lived to see another day.

Should my Archer and Man at Arms (left) charge into Bull's retreating warband?

The after-game exploits are equally interesting as the roll for casualties, loot and experience related stuff. We got to choose our base and equip it, employ new bods and prep for the next game. All the killed models returned to their rosters none the worse for their untimely demise and we were ready to go again. Bull had managed to accumulate an enormous amount of money due to some good loot rolling and his new-look warband was very well equipped. I added a couple more Archers but nothing more, despite gaining an extra level of wizardry over Bull which made little impact.

We went into game 2 and this was even more cagey, with brick walls and fog banks being cast all over the battle. Some long range fire was exchanged – Bull lost a Ranger and I lost a Man at Arms and a couple of Thugs. 90 minutes later we were done with three more treasure tokens each and a lot of dice rolling to do.

So there we have it. Our respective warbands are established, both maxed out in number just needing better gear. Despite being a couple of wizarding levels higher than Bull, it has little impact in the game. Bull's mass fortune on the other hand speaks volumes, and he is now in a position to buy magical items and potions and really tailor his warband.

It's an interesting game with an exciting premise. I found shooting combat rather unbalanced due to the use of D20s – you either did almost no damage or wiped your target completely from the face of the earth, there seemed to be no middle ground. It's also a shame that the rest of your gang don't get rewarded for their exploits. It all comes down to your wizard and what he accomplishes in-game. The only problem with this is that he is the one character you're trying to keep safe and out of danger!

It's still early days for Frostgrave. Bull is very keen to get stuck in more and I'm interested to see how it develops. At the moment it's all feeling a little unbalanced to me, but we haven't even seen melee combat yet – our board was a little too open for that – so there's plenty more yet to experience.

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