Sunday, 2 September 2018

Sherwood September

A month ago, Mr Awdry demonstrated his Donnybrook-based Witchfinder game which was another overwhelming success (after the stunning Congo last year). I came away inspired and compelled to have a go at creating a demo game day myself, and so it is time to start the process.

A lot of thought has gone into what I would do, and it will be a game based in my 'Hood' universe – my version of the Robin Hood saga. The thinking has gone well, and I even took a set of well-known rules and re-purposed them for the Hood setting and characters… but then I changed my mind.

Anyway, there is plenty of time to iron out some rules, what matters is a suitably appropriate and stunningly immersive set of models and terrain to use on the day. September seemed a good date to start and so I have. First step is to start assembling the models, and making any 'modifications' that may be required. I then need to paint a lot of figures and even more trees!

Then, as if all that wasn't enough, we get to finish the month off with a trip to Tabletop Gaming Live at Alexandria Palace – can't wait!

Stay tuned.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Donnybrook Witchfinder

I've had almost 3 months away from the blog doing 'stuff' but felt compelled to add a random post after yet another top drawer day of gaming at Awdry Towers.

You may remember our last major outing to the Congo – Michael goes all out to construct a gaming table that sucks you into the narrative and builds the tension via email before we even leave home (and yes, we get homework!). It really is a pleasure to take part in one of Michael's adventures.

So he's been going on about doing a Witchfinder game for well over a year now, but things had stalled somewhat. When we managed to get a day booked into the diary back in June for the first Saturday in August, I suggested that Witchfinder might be a welcome change of pace. And so it came to pass.

The gaming table in all its glory

I love the fact that Michael decided to abandon his original plan to use the Witchfinder rules he's purchased and decided to mould his game around the Donnybrook ruleset. That's the sign of a true creative mind!

Now, I'm not a fan of the old blackpowder and flouncy hats era, but Solomon Kane I can buy into, so I took a leap of faith (so to speak). The rules themselves are…odd. They use the now very common practice of using different sided dice to represent different ability levels – D6 being your recruits and D12 being your heroes.

The Witchfinder leads the Poachers
Anyway, Michael had gone full tilt and created a raft of characters and units, very colourful and rather cleverly named, for us to use with their own rules and abilities lifted from the rulebook. Very excellent stuff.

Now, I'm not a fan of the random. I'm a bit of a control freak you see. That comes from being a tournament player for so many years where you tried to eradicate or circumnavigate random events as part of your strategy and tactics. It also comes from writing my own rules – too much random can leave the player with a feeling that they're on a passive ride with no influence on the outcome. Donnybrook flies in the face of wisdom and creates a game that is so random and chaotic you have no choice but to embrace it. You certainly can't have a serious game with these rules because you cannot have any real form of control over the outcome. Balance?…pah!

Activation is determined by drawing cards from a deck containing all of the characters and units taking part – the activation deck if you will. That's all fine, a very good mechanic. However, there is a Turn Over card in there too, and when drawn the deck is reshuffled and you start again. The outcome of this is that a single unit or character can go several times in a row, or in my case, not have a go at all for several turns. This creates an immense amount of imbalance and randomness – and that's before you throw the random event card in there too (which on one occasion sent an entire unit of Bull's troops home because they missed their families)!!

So as you can see the hilarity was never far away. Even when you were on the wrong end of the random you kind of had to smile. The big finale was a great example of this. I had finally beaten Michael's Villagers by the skin of my teeth, his last unit the Angry Mob in full flight towards the table edge. Up pops the Random Event card and attempts to drop a new unit of elite troops emerging on a flank as a relief force for the Villagers – luckily for me Michael didn't have enough models to fulfil the criteria, so it turned out to be travelling performers instead, else I would have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory no doubt.

Evil is coming!!

Needless to say, we had a fab time. We played three games during the day – same scenario – which meant we each got a couple of goes playing as well as a go being the dealer and overall games master.

In the first game my Villagers managed to hold off the advance of Bull's Cultists, despite some early losses. After lunch Michael's Villagers were swept aside by Bull's Cultists, only to be beaten again (only just) by my Cultists. So the Cultists have definitely broken through the outer defences and the village of Muchwhinging could soon become the focal point of the next skirmish.

The Witchfinder and Doxy face off against the evil Gareth of Oldham

We learned a lot about the rules and had them down by the end pretty much. We definitely missed a couple of things out, and we felt the characters were generally underpowered (aside from the doxy's stiletto heel through the chest of my vampire hero!!) but a great time was had by all.

It was such a good day that I've been inspired to create a fully immersive experience of my own for another time – stay tuned for more on that!

Bull has written up a fantastic piece about the day – read it here!

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Awaiting Moderation…

by Richard Anderson

This morning I stumbled across a box of hidden gems – not literally you understand, but more in the shape of a folder in the back end of Blogger called 'Comments – awaiting moderation'. In it I found 2 years (!!) worth of comments that had been deemed questionable by Blogger (for reasons mere humans will not understand) and were sitting patiently for a green light from myself to be seen by the wider world… except I didn't know they were there!

Apologies to you if it was one of your comments that didn't appear on the blog after you clicked 'Publish'. I have pushed them all through this morning (except for a couple of legitimate dodgy ones) and now realise the blog wasn't quite as quiet as I had thought (and that you guys probably thought I was just being rude!).

Whilst I'm typing I thought I'd give a bit of a hobby update.

by Richard Anderson

I guess the big news for me this week is that The Dark Crucible will be making a comeback soon – I'm going to speculate and say beginning of next month. I decided that of all the rulesets I was trying to create, this one was the simplest (you'd think at least) and the best candidate for being published. Needless to say, it has been a labour of love and dedication since the turn of the year in lieu of any real hobby time. Solo playtesting has been happening for a good three months now and things are close to being coherent enough for 'outsiders' to view it. Don't get me wrong it's still clunky and full of bugs but it will be interesting to get some feedback from someone other than the mirror!

by Max Dunbar

My other ruleset Hood has been a beneficiary of my dedication to TDC as some of the rejected rules and mechanics have filtered their way to Sherwood. Whereas The Dark Crucible is a light ruleset that can accommodate almost any pre-gunpowder model you may own, Hood will have specific characters and no generic attacks or stats. It will very much be character and adventure driven, so wiping out your opponent may not always be a good thing.

The only real progress that has been made on Hood recently though has been the visual side. I have been collecting imagery on Pinterest for months and months and now it's time I stopped hiding behind my Pinterest Boards and started drawing my characters. With that in mind, I have deemed June to be A Sketch A Day month, while I reacquaint myself with pencils and paper. Stay tuned for future blog posts about that. You'll see some of my recent 'Pins' in this blog post.

by Johannes Helgeson
Project Out Of Time is, well, stuck in time a little bit. I'm not feeling sci-fi at the moment (although Netflix's Lost in Space was very entertaining), plus it's by far the biggest project on my list, so I feel the need to cut my teeth on the other two before I try and tackle something so complex. On the upside, my use of the STA mechanic in The Dark Crucible (borrowed from OOT) seems to be working well, so that will save time when it comes to implementing the Energy mechanic for my sci-fi rules.

If you want to keep up to speed with how The Dark Crucible is going, check out my game design blog link in the sidebar – I don't want to clog up this blog with playtesting stuff so it's all on there.

I do have a new game mat from Deep Cut Studio (which I may do a review of) for playtesting and now I feel the need to paint my terrain and a few figures – there may be some genuine hobby blog posts here yet!

Stay tuned for more!!

Sunday, 29 April 2018

A Zombicide Start To The Weekend

So it turned out there was an Exit guardian!

I haven't played ZOmbicide Black Plague in some time. We reckon it's probably been at least six months which, considering it's our go-to game, is strange. I haven't played Green Horde since it arrived at Christmas, I only opened the box to get a look at the models up close.

That all changed this weekend.

Friday at work, being the last Friday of the month, was Free Project Friday and Team Social Afternoon. We ended up playing Zombicide Black Plague in the meeting room – an 8-player mash-up with many first timers and all the big monsters. It was fun, took a while and realised I'd forgotten a lot of the details in my absence from the game. There was lots of cheating in the end to ensure we won, but it won over a couple more admirers so no doubt more gaming in the future.

An opening win with Green Horde, by the skin of our teeth

To be honest that was the warm up, because the morning after myself and Bull travelled to the now very shiny Awdry Towers to get our first taste of Zombicide Green Horde. I'd heard lots of tales about how the new version plays but you never know for sure till you try it yourself.

We managed to get through the first game with a win, but it was touch and go at the end. The game felt claustrophobic and the swaggering confidence often seen when playing Black Plague was gone. The hedge and water mechanics were good additions – don't end the game in the water end of a map, it's a nightmare. The trebuchet was awesome, though it didn't see any action in our opening game.

Game 2 was a challenge indeed. So much so we had to press the restart button after a few turns in as we had made some fatal mistakes in our early strategies. Take 2 was going swimmingly. We had got to the trebuchet and were pretty much owning the board. However, as we confidently headed towards a second victory, fate stepped in to slap us in the face. We ran out of runner models, meaning all runners on the board get a second go – combined with a 'runners get an extra go' card flip we were wiped out in a single turn within reach of the finish line.

Our problem was two-fold. We were using just the contents of the Green Horde starter box, so no fancy weapons and limited zombie models. It meant we didn't have the volume of dice when attacking to clear out the masses of zombie models coming at us. The majority of weapons were only hitting on a 4+ at best, so even a handful of dice was only going to get you so far.

Needless to say we all had fun and thoroughly enjoyed a re-introduction to Zombicide.
There will be more to come!

Sunday, 22 April 2018

When There's No Gaming – Playtest!!

You know me – I've got to do a possible cover mockup before I start anything!!

There's been no gaming for a few weeks now, thanks to Easter holidays and people busy with work, etc. yet things have not been quiet. I have finally got a viable version of my The Dark Crucible rules into playtesting. It's quite exciting as I've stuck with it since the turn of the year – very unlike me – and am feeling good about it so far.

This last week has seen some intense solo playtesting and I've catalogued the latest instalment on my other wargame design blog – you can read my playtesting thoughts here.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Imperial Assault – 3 Player Battle

Thursday this week saw a reintroduction to Imperial Assault, as Ryan and I showed Rich the ropes –He took to it like a duck to water!

We hastily put together three Skirmish armies – Imperials, Rebels and Scum (sorry, mercenaries). Using the 4-player Hoth board layout, we lazily chose the deployment areas nearest to our seats. We were concerned that Rich would be piggy in the middle and get battered on both sides, but we needn't have been concerned – he just went gunning for Ryan who realised he'd chosen an awful deployment zone and was boxed in completely.

Rich got the honour of using the newly acquired Boba Fett mini for the first time. He was one of the stand out characters of the game, able to inflict a lot of damage and heal himself quite nicely too. The Wampa and Nexu also proved to be intimidating, even if the former was something of a one-hit wonder – Fugs taking it down with prejudice after it scored its first kill.

The Nexu on the other hand was having a whale of a time, actively looking to Cleave as many Rebels as he could. The Rebels were gradually losing number under a devastating assault by the Mercs – Fugs just couldn't get out of his deployment zone and ended up retreating to where he started.

In the meantime the Imperials, led by the simply awesome Vader, marched slowly from the opposite end of the board. Rich had left a couple of Tusken Raiders to hold a console in his deployment zone, and these were both dispatched by Vader in a single attack.

The Mercs were getting low on numbers now, after the Rebels rallied. But just as Fugs thought he could see some light the Imperials arrived, strolling past Boba Fett to take up the fight with the Rebels. Seeing that things were about to go south quickly, Fett took the opportunity the fall back and ensure he would at least survive the game.

The Imperials had been nicking the points along the way, finishing off units that were already on the ropes. As such it didn't take long to Vader to claim victory, with the Rebels on around 18 points and the Mercs on a misrepresented 6.

It was a great way back into Imperial Assault, all in preparation for us starting a campaign game next week. Stay tuned!

Monday, 12 March 2018

Necromunda: Opening Exchanges

We'd had a week or so to prepare, and now it was time to see how this new edition of Necromunda actually played!

Last Monday I had a day off, so Bull and I arranged to have a gaming day. We managed to get three games in as well as the post game bits. I'd brought my new MDF terrain, and it made a superb centrepiece to the gaming table.

Game 1 was a very cagey affair. Bull had his heavy on the mdf silo tower which gave him excellent line of sight to pretty much the entire board. My guys were hunched at the bottom of the stairs, preparing for a three-pronged attack (though no idea how that would actually pan out).

My two big shooters – Ganger and Boss both with Grenade Launchers – made their way up the stairs to the main platform, flanked by a couple of Gangers in support. My Hammer-wielding Champion went left, supported by a couple of Juves. The remainder went through the middle and to the right.

The mission was simple to kill the other guy, without taking too many casualties yourself. I was having the expected day – lots of awesome shooting, knocking guys down, but nothing going through to cause any concern to my opponent.

We managed to knock the Orlock Heavy on his backside, right after he ran out of ammo. Then my Grenade boys managed to deck (almost) the entire Orlock gang thanks to blast templates!

One of my Juves was hit badly, then hit again and went out of action. Not long later a second dropped. I managed to take out one of Bull's Gangers before the Orlocks pulled out.

One of my Juves missed game 2, the other was going to have to see the Doc – but he wanted to charge me more than the Juve was worth, so we let him die and recruit a new Juve!! No mercy!!

Game 2 was a "Defile the Relic" mission, but we hadn't got more than a handful of turns in before both Gangs failed bottle tests!!

Still, more xp and cash going into the pot.

We rolled for game 3 and got Sabotage. The Orlocks would be defending a piece of terrain in the middle of the board and my Goliaths (with their huge bulk and 32mm bases) would be sneaking in to destroy it hoping the sentries didn't detect them.

In fairness, despite a lack of any kind of strategy, my boys got quite far in before the Orlock Juve got the fright of his life, walking round a corner to literally fall over the Goliath Boss!

Once the alarm was raised it all kicked off – my boys were trying to shoot the terrain piece, the Orlocks trying to shoot us! Eventually the terrain piece blew and I had to survive the rest of the turn so I could Bottle out and escape. It was a blood bath. No inch was given. It really was a free for all. I was lucky to escape with a couple of casualties, both of whom will miss my next game. Bull also lost a couple, with similar end results.

We went our separate ways, after totting up the cash and xp, to contemplate how to spend our winnings. I blew through a lot of cash, upgrading key models. I also managed to get a Move increase for my Boss and a Toughness increase for one of my Gangers. I have no doubt Bull has done the same, so the next game will be ramped up to a new level.

Have a read of Bull's perspective of the day

…as we prepare for round 2!!

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Necromunda 2018 Begins

When it was announced that GW were re-releasing Necromunda, Bull and I were very excited. We had played a campaign many years ago, Bull having played several in the past with many fond memories. The release of (essentially) a board game version came as a bit of a surprise and disappointment. Necromunda is all about the 3d environment, that's one of the core aspects to the game, along with the campaign and character progression. Imagine my surprise then when it turns out there is no campaign in the main rulebook!

I had no interest in getting invested in this new version, until Bull presented me with the boxed game as a Christmas present. I went out the following week and bought the Gang Wars supplement (another £20 for the campaign and 3d environment rules!). I had a read though the books but, in true GW style, the rules were overcomplicated, leaning heavily on random elements and the layout and order of the information within the books made no sense – user experience is a thing now! People like myself get employed to make UX as smooth as possible. Of course there were the obligatory typos and lack of proof reading expected in GW publications. My friends at Anvil Eight Games take such care and attention to ensure the wording in their books is as clean and easy to read as possible, it's proofread to death and still hits deadline – GW has much bigger resources yet seem not to care for such things. Frustrates me beyond belief.

Nevertheless, Bull and I got a date in the diary to have a go, but we needed some seriously 3d terrain. In the same week I 'discovered' Red Beam Designs. They had some of their hive style mdf terrain on offer and I couldn't resist. When the parcel arrived I was overwhelmed by the mass of mdf pieces and it took me three evenings to get through it and create my pieces of scenery. I then added the magnets that were part of the package and… it was beautiful. A very well designed piece of kit, that could be broken down into smaller chunks and rearranged as I wanted thanks to the magnets. I was blown away – storage will not be an issue. Alas, I read not 24hrs later that Red Beam is closing down, which is devastating. Their kit has been so well thought through and the end result is awesome. Shame.

Alongside the terrain building, I had list building to complete. The gangs now are much more characterful, which means I am very restricted on what weapons I could take for my Goliaths. To add insult to injury, having completed my list I discover that the sprues don't have a very good weapon selection. I had to tweak my list to fit what was available on the sprues (which is actually two of the same sprue). I had only 1 – ONE – stub pistol available, with a very odd arm angle, and no – NONE – fighting knives. Bull had a similar experience with his plastic Orlocks – they weren't created for campaign players at all. Given that weapon swaps and upgrades are part of the game, it wouldn't have taken much to create a set of plastics that could swap out weapons easily – not here, if you're not building the models on the front of the box you're going to struggle. Plus there's no visible variations between Leader, Champions, Gangers and Juves – they all look the same.

I managed to get a crew together that I was reasonably happy with. Models built (though not painted – no time!) and I was ready to go. On Monday this week we finally took our first steps into the new look world of Necromunda.

To be continued…

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Goodbye 2017… Hello 2018…and goodbye!

I thought it would be remiss of me to not do this annual post. This blog has been a driving force for my hobby exploits over the last 8 years (almost to the day) and so it felt only fitting that I do one final review.

2017 started with a lot of optimism (as most years do). I was keen to bring back Tuesday gaming with Bull, which had been the source of so many good times back in Tunbridge Wells, before I had a wife and family and a mortgage. We managed to keep it going for quite some time (which I'm very pleased about) before it fell away.

The first half of the year was undoubtedly dedicated to Zombicide: Black Plague. It was an easy way to get the Tuesday gaming up and running and proved quite addictive. I even went out of my way and expanded my collection of survivors (many of which have now been shown the Ebay exit). In amongst all this Zombicide goodness I'd managed to get a couple of Blood Bowl tutorial games in with Chris, who was very enthusiastic and managed to beat me on both occasions.

The Zombicide craziness hit it's peak in May with the Green Horde Kickstarter. Then came the new 40k and Zombicide was all but forgotten.

I was really enjoying the new 40k rules. My Primaris army was slowly building (and being painted) and evolution for it and Bull's Orks meant there was a fresh challenge each week. Then just as quickly as it had started, 40k disappeared from the gaming landscape – my last game coming just before my holidays at the end of August – Bull and I were just unable to get another date in the diary.

I spent much of the following two months doing what I do when there's no gaming – write gaming rules. I genuinely thought things were coming to a satisfactory conclusion. However, as I was introduced to more new games – each one having a facet that I really liked – I found myself going around in circles and no closer to a final rules draft. It was then that Mr Awdry introduced me to Imperial Assault.

I have to admit that for a good six weeks I was thoroughly addicted to Imperial Assault. I thought I had found the epitome of skirmish gaming. I even managed to get Ryan back over playing games and he always provides a stern challenge – very competitive and always ready to push the rules which keeps you on your toes and opens your mind to differing interpretations. But strangely the Imperial Assault bubble burst just as I purchased the Hoth box set and finally had my hands on some Snowtroopers. Painting Stormtroopers didn't help and the skirmish game had become rather power gamer – the campaign so complex it just wasn't appealing.

December saw me return to Games Workshop, not to the newly released Necromunda, but their recently released Shadespire. This took a similar format to Imperial Assault and simplified it, distilling it down to an arena environment and objective cards that could be recycled. There were hints of what I'd been trying to achieve with both my Dark Crucible and Hood projects. I managed to get a solid evening's gaming in with Ryan to see how it played. Very fast and very brutal is the short answer. But yet again, the bubble seems to have burst very quickly – the game started to feel a bit shallow – and I've been left in something of a hobby wilderness. I think perhaps nothing is really catching my imagination right now.

So what's the plan for 2018?

The plan is to scale everything back. I don't have the time or enthusiasm to build/paint anything these days – far too many other life priorities – so the idea of starting a new army or indeed finishing anything started is not terribly realistic – it would have happened by now if it was was going to happen at all. I will be keeping my Iron Warriors in some form or another and my Dark Templar, but the rest of my 40k models can go.

Similarly, the board games are getting out of hand. I will be offloading the original modern day Zombicide stuff as it holds no interest anymore. The Black Plague stuff is worth keeping, though some of the more sort after survivors can go back on eBay (I've already sold quite a few). Green Horde will go straight onto eBay when it arrives. I'll be keeping my Imperial Assault stuff – it's Star Wars after all! – and I'll hold on to the Shadespire models as it's easy to dip in and out of that game. Aside from that, pretty much everything else can go.

I seem to be waiting for the next Malifaux – that game changed my perception of wargaming and was a true revelation to me when it first appeared. As I said earlier, I'm struggling to be inspired or enthusiastic about any of the games I'm seeing right now (beyond the initial couple of plays). I like the idea of the upcoming Kickstarter "Hate" and the models that have been previewed on Facebook, but I will not back any more Kickstarters so that rules out that game as a potential new shiny. The wait continues.

With that in mind, the blog no longer has a role to play in my hobby time. It had become a monster that needed feeding and so, given my hobby has been very quiet in recent times, the blog has become redundant. I will keep it up as people seem to find some of the posts of value. I may even reinstate a more helpful navigation so that visitors can go straight to the topics of interest. But there will be no more regular updates. I may add a post once in a while if something hobby significant happens, but I no longer wish to feel obliged to write blog posts.

Thanks for following over the last few years. There's been some good stuff produced, some great games played and a fair amount of ranting. It's been a fun ride, but time to take the foot off the gas.

Happy 2018.


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