Sunday, 29 March 2015

Joker's Box Of Tricks



Last time out I had a look at the gear and skills that my 200 rep Batman crew will be taking with them for our tutorial game in a couple of weeks. Now I want to have a brief look at what I will be up against.


Joker

The big thing that J-man has in his back pocket are the traits Trickster and Kaos Agent. The first allows him to change the position of his tokens when he activates. Wow – this is a big deal and basically means he doesn't have to do any forward thinking at the start of each turn. The latter trait allows him to remove an opponent's token from the bag at the beginning of the game (meaning the game will end a turn sooner) but worse (better?) than that is he confers the Trickster trait onto all his Henchmen! Now we have an entire crew (possibly) who can react to things as they activate, rather than planning their actions at the beginning of each turn. That is a huge deal and considered borderline 'broken' by many as the advantage it gives is immense.

Inspire gives Henchmen close by an extra Action counter to use as they see fit. This will mean that Joker's bodyguards will be able to do more, making things a little tricky. Talking of which, Luck allows the Joker to re-roll a single dice roll that affects him directly – including an attack against him. This could potentially pull him out of the fire if timed correctly.

Regarding weapons, he has a Poisoned Knife that will inflict a single blood damage – it has a nasty critical hit effect though, poisoning the target for more damage or removing their action counters. He also has Explosive Teeth – remote controlled, which when combined with his Total Vision will mean he can shoot around corners.

The ace up his sleeve has to be his One Shot Gun. Given that Joker's Total Vision allows him to see almost anywhere on the board, this weapon could be deadly. An automatic his inflicting 3 blood damage is bad enough, but a crit will remove the target as a casualty – the end. That is nasty!



Henchmen

Most of the henchmen that Bull is likely to include in his list have the Let's Go trait. This gives Bull the chance to be able to immediately activate another henchman after one has finished his go. This chain activation could be utilised well at key moments in the game.

Each individual henchman has a couple of additional traits that will prove a nightmare for Bull to remember, haha. They're all pretty functional without being outstanding, adding extra individual flavour. I'm not going to try and remember them myself.

The Joker's henchmen do have a decent collection of weapons though… and all of them do blood damage. Axes are getting re-rolls and inflicting 2 blood; the Shotgun inflicts 2 blood and a stun. I need to stay clear of these if I'm going to survive the game.



Conclusions

The henchmen, on paper at least, are easy prey. I'll be hitting them on 2 or 3+ and they'll be hitting Batman on a 5+. They only have 4 Endurance on average so not a lot of staying power. If I can get the drop on them, I could incapacitate them before they can react. Things are never that easy though and the various traits will come into play to get them working as a team or gumming up the works in some form or other.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, my 200 rep crew can't inflict any blood damage so the Joker's crew will always be a recovery roll or two away from full strength. I won't be able to claim any VPs for casualties, only KO's, so I already feel on the back foot. In contrast, Bull's Joker crew have plenty of ways to inflict blood damage on the dynamic duo and potentially remove them from the game. I'm kinda realising why I prefer to play as the bad guys!



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Thursday, 26 March 2015

Batman Closes In On Joker


We've been watching the Joker put together his crew online for a while, now it's time to go toe to toe. Batman is going to hunt down the Joker and put him out of his misery.

We're starting with a straightforward(!) 200 rep starter game in a couple of weeks while we get some experience under our collective belt. Hopefully this should enlighten us to the basics of the game. I've already decided on my crew make up, but I'm going to have a look at exactly what abilities and gear I'll be taking into battle with me and see if I can work out a plan.



Batman (Arkham City)

First thing of note, the big man's Inspire trait will be wasted as I'm not taking any Henchmen for these initial games, but that's ok – one less thing to worry about.

My main focus is on a combination of the Batclaw, Sneak Attack and Total Vision. The claw allows me to get up high on terrain – out of reach and sight of the enemy. I can then move around on rooftops or bide my time and use the claw again to drop on an unsuspecting victim, thanks to my total vision. They wouldn't be able to defend themselves with a block as they couldn't see me when I launched the attack. Ideally I need to incapacitate the model I attack before they get chance to retaliate.

One way to chip away from distance is the Batarang. I have three of these for the game and because they are remote controlled I get to ignore any Blink rolls for intervening terrain – awesome! When combined with my Night Vision it would appear that I can literally shoot around corners – OMG!

Defensively, Bat Armour gives me an effective armour save of 5+, whilst Counterattack allows me to hit back should I block an attack. A big issue is the lack of Martial Artist which would negate consequences of being outnumbered, something that will happen with Batman. I need to be aware of this – Batman is good but will be dragged down if facing multiple foes at the same time.

Should anyone get to Batman while he's up high, his Batcape will prevent any damage should he be knocked off or bodge a Jump move between buildings.

The one thing that does bother me is that a lot of these abilities / gear require a Special Token, of which you can only have a max of 3 per turn. I foresee resource management being a big issue and careful choices having to be made at the beginning of each turn.



Robin (Tim Drake)

Boy Wonder also has a trait that won't come into play this weekend. Follow Me gives nearby henchmen an extra move token. Again, this will come in handy in later games with cops but for now it's one less thing to forget to do.

The Batclaw is a part of Robin's kit too, so I can see these guys swinging around the place like Tarzan. An instant move of 30cm to any elevation in range will come in handy for rapid escapes as well as dropping in on goons. Tim also has a couple of Flash Grenades which Blind and disorientate enemy models – these will be a perfect precursor to a melee attack and a great way to break up groups. Robin's Bo, with its Handy (rerolls!) and Reach effects, sounds like it's going to be a great weapon. Looking forward to hitting a few clowns with that!

Both Batman and Robin have the Detective trait. This will mean that I can cancel an opponent's Pass at the beginning of each round. Unfortunately, seeing as I will be heavily outnumbered, Joker won't be able to Pass, so another trait I don't have to worry about. Robin also has the Searcher ability. This allows me to reduce the Joker's strategy points by 1 before the game starts. If we do go for the optional Strategies (unlikely in a training game) it will prevent Joker from accessing the 3 point strategies which is good.



Conclusions

I usually get a vibe for a game before an opening battle, but I confess I have no idea how this one is going to play out.

The main thing I've noticed is that I don't have any weapons that inflict blood damage, though there's a lot of stun damage to go around. I think these means that I'm not able to inflict any casualties, only KO enemy models – this is a massive negative if true, as I won't be able to remove any of Joker's crew from the table.

In addition, the fact that I could be outnumbered 3-1 is something I need to keep in the forefront of my mind. I can't go charging in and expect to come out the other side – I will have to employ guerrilla tactics until I can reduce the number of enemy models, making best use of Sneak Attack and Total Vision.

I could have gone for a boat load of cops to accompany Batman, and the fact I didn't means that I'm missing out on the benefits of several traits. But it would have meant unpainted models on the day no doubt and I love the idea of taking Batman & Robin. I may regret this decision if I'm meant to be babysitting objectives to get VPs.

At the same time I need to remember that this is a tutorial game day so, while there will be banter abound, I have to learn as much as I can. No point sneaking about for 6 turns, only for the game to end and come away none the wiser about how it all works.

Anyone else any thoughts?

Next I'm going to look at the Joker and see what I need to watch out for…


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Monday, 23 March 2015

Painting Mojo



You guys have seen how much I've struggled getting back into painting, due to lack of practice and lack of time. My own perfectionist tendencies have also got in the way, ensuring I've not been happy with anything other than my best results.


Yesterday we had Bull and his lovely wife over for lunch and managed to get a bit of hobby chat in. It was enough to get me motivated to spend some time in the evening painting, on this occasion I took my time more and enjoyed it by not putting any pressure on myself.


I still managed to faff around with Batman's cloak and cowl without great results, but the work done on his body suit is getting things back to where they should be. Still need to blend some layers but things are looking up.

Better than that, my motivation is back after a short hiatus. Just in time too, as there is a new player in town – not only will Batman have to contend with Bull's Joker crew, he now has to deal with the emergence of Michael's Penguin.



Friday, 20 March 2015

Shades Of The Batman…



When it came to painting up my Batman miniature I needed some inspiration. The beauty is, there is no shortage of inspiration out there so the only difficulty is making a decision.

There are so many incarnations of Batman throughout his media-based life so far but today I'm looking at the more mainstream visuals – my painting style leans towards the dark side so my research focussed on a somewhat limited palette.

A more colourful image of Batman (like the one above) was the obvious place to start. This colour palette would be perfect for painting miniatures and creating impact on the tabletop. To me, however, it was a little bit too 'Ultramarines' and as such wasn't a contender for long.



This next image neutralises a lot of the bright colour of the first, whilst maintaining a good level of contrast between the blues and greys. I do like the blue tones but the grey is a little on the light side for me.




Here we have an almost monotone outfit – the blues replaced by black. As much as I like the idea of having more black, it just seems to have lost something. I do prefer this version of the yellow belt, not so bright with a richer yellow than the others.




The Dark Knight himself is the epitome of dark. With an all-black outfit he is definitely the coolest (looking not un-Vader-like) but this causes it own problems on the miniature table. It would make for a rather dull model I feel and black can be difficult to highlight/shade.




Given that the model I chose to paint it's not surprising that I went for Batman's Arkham colour scheme. The cape and cowl are more off an off-black shade of blue, supported by mid-grey for the bodysuit and touches of black here and there. The yellow belt is toned down too, ensuring it doesn't zing out at you against the desaturated colours around it.

The only question remaining is can I match this in my painting?




Monday, 16 March 2015

Rulebook Design – Batman Miniatures Game


After months of waiting, my pre-ordered copy of the Batman rulebook finally landed last week. I haven't had a lot of time to go through it but thought I would do a quick post with first thoughts, with my designer head on.

It is a solid, hardback book, slightly smaller than A4 with 170+ pages and makes quite an initial impression. The front cover is very glossy and is embossed in a rather odd fashion – rather than embossing the whole of batman or the logo, they've embossed keylines across his cape.

The back cover has a matt finish except for the photo of miniatures which has the same glossy varnish and odd keyline embossing as the front cover.



Inside the pages switch between a two-column and three column grid. This appears to happen in a random way on a page by page basis. The book is chock-full of photos and artwork – they have definitely tried to get as much in there as possible, which makes for a very visually interesting book.




The first draft set of rules that was available for free online was plagued by overuse of imagery with text laid on top, rendering it illegible to most people. It was a real chore to read. Thankfully this book is a vast improvement, however, there is the odd occasion where the designer has gone for style over function. The page above show the double-page spread dealing with the rules about executing the plan. It's been made to look like a newspaper for some reason and as a consequence I flipped passed it thinking it was a filler piece. Only later did I realise that there was some important information to be found here. Style over function.




Other pages in the book has the designer flexing his creative muscles again, flowing text in and around images so that they conform to specific shapes. Again, this looks great but isn't the easiest thing to read. In the example above it doesn't really matter as it's background text from the back of the book, but you wouldn't want to be doing this with key information.




The guys at Knight Models have gone to town with their models and terrain, showcasing just what is possible. It features some of the best skirmish terrain I've seen in a very long time and a comprehensive collection of the miniatures available for the game at this time.

I haven't read the rules themselves in any depth, so I can't comment on how far things have moved on from the draft rules. The rulebook does let slip some of the upcoming gangs that will appear in the game – including the Court of Owls… awesome!

I have to say that I rather like this book. It's very garish at times from a design perspective and in your face, a pseudo comic book almost – Kris Marquardt will hate it – but it's well worth a read or adding it to your rulebook collection.



Friday, 13 March 2015

Batman: Cape Fear…


It's not like I haven't painted capes and cloaks before. Maybe I'm just off my game, out of practice or simply distracted but the two models on my painting table at the moment are driving me insane.

I've painted this Batman model twice already, but haven't been happy with the results so far. To be fair this was largely due to the poor colour choices. I didn't have a decent blue in my paint collection – it's not a colour I've used very much – so a purchase was needed.


The latest attempt is much more what I had in mind when I started. I began with Army Painter Black and slowly added Vallejo Imperial Blue (Game Color). At the point where the mix was 50:50 I stopped adding blue and started adding white. This stopped the colour becoming too vibrant and remained very much a grey/blue. These latter layers were very watered down to make sure they weren't too harsh and built up highlights slowly.

The final result is very subtle – the out of focus photo doesn't help – but I really like it. You can see the distinction between the blue cape and black undercoat elsewhere which is what I wanted.

There is an argument for a final, sharp, almost white highlight, but I'm not brave enough given the troubles I've had so far. I'd rather crack on with other parts to the model and come back later.



The biggest issue I've had, however, is Tim Drake and his yellow cape… in fact the red and green armour too haven't worked out either. The lesson to be learned is that I should stick with what I know and stop trying to be too clever (in this instance at least). I have my yellow recipe and red recipe perfected so should follow them.

The next shocking photo reveals two things – my messy over-painting and how the sepia wash made the yellow cloak look muddy. I'd started with GW Averland Sunset and got a solid flat colour. I then added white into the mix to create some highlights. The result was a little stark but smooth. I then added the wash to create a more golden effect but it only resulted in a muddy fail.

However, this is proof that painting is being done, which is good. I just need to wrestle back my painting mojo and not be afraid of painting these bloody capes!



Tuesday, 10 March 2015

RIP Dad


I don't often post about family things on here – it is a gaming blog after all – but some things just have to be acknowledged. Yesterday my father-in-law Albert Eugene McGlone passed, after several months of illness.

I only met him in person the once, not long after my wife and I had moved in together almost eight years ago. He was larger than life in every way and left an indelible mark on his son-in-law to be. He had the brash, loud personality that we Brits often associate with Americans, and the large waist size to go with it. He was always laughing and making a joke. His curly moustache was his signature though and something of which he was most proud.

He had a boat-load of tales about growing up in and around New York and would happily regale anyone who would listen. Having a sheltered upbringing in Wigan I loved hearing about all his adventures…embellished or not. He also had gems of worldly wisdom to bestow during the short time he stayed with us back in 2007, and I remember every one.

We've spoken on the phone in the years since he visited and got on great. I always hoped we would go over to Florida to visit him once life settled down, but life doesn't and time slips away as did the opportunity.

With the birth of young Finn, we received an increasing number of phone calls from the States and started a schedule of Skypes to introduce our new baby to his Grandad.

As Dad's health deteriorated further he found it hard to speak so we posted videos of Finn's development online for him to view at home, without the pressure of being onscreen himself. He loved watching them and looking at the photos we sent. He got upset at the prospect of never being able to cuddle his new grandson and it is my one regret that they we don't have a photo of them together or that I wasn't able to chat to him again in person after all these years.

So goodbye dad. You've left a rather large hole in our lives but you will be remembered.

Sometimes we get caught up in the importance of our hobbies and other things that don't really matter. Days like this puts everything back into perspective.


Friday, 6 March 2015

Batman: The Court Of Owls



I've never really been a comic book reader. I never had a comic-related influence in my childhood so the closest I came was the odd copy of Beano or Whizzer & Chips. The only REAL comic book series I vaguely remember reading was Return of the Jedi, but don't recall much about it.

With the interest in the Batman Miniatures Game, a perfect opportunity presented itself to redress the balance and investigate this gaping hole in my upbringing. But where to start?


I randomly went onto Amazon and ordered Dark Knight Returns (the Frank Miller classic) and Batman: Earth One as I like the idea of a re-imagining. Eagerly looking where to go next I saw that Steve at Bleaseworld had read my mind and done a Batman reading material post.

Soon after I ordered the Court of Owls and have been glued to it for the last fortnight. Wow.

The story starts off with Batman fighting ALL our favourite villains at the same time in some kind of Arkham breakout, ably supported by The Joker (?? what??). That doesn't last too long and the main story begins and the mystery surrounding the Court of Owls is slowly revealed.


Very quickly Batman meets the Court's assassin – The Talon – and almighty dust ups ensue. However, the Court want to break Batman completely and psychological torture is the order of the day – at times quite graphic and horrifying.

This is a stunning book. The artwork is jaw-dropping and full of movement and action. The story is riveting and at one point the pages are upside down to add to the distress and mental anguish being displayed. As with all opening acts the story sets up book 2 perfectly and I can't wait to get stuck in.


For anyone getting into the Batman Miniatures Game, or indeed looking for something to read, I can't recommend this book enough. I've really enjoyed the story so far and the artwork is inspiring. Hopefully some of it will translate to the tabletop!




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