Monday, January 28, 2019

On the Painting Desk: Blood Bowl

When I first got the new edition of Blood Bowl I was unsure how much I was going to invest in it.  After all, I all ready had three previous teams of Khemri, Chaos All-Stars, and Skaven.  The new scale was a bit of a disappointment initially.  I mainly wanted the turf and counters as I had always relied on other people for those parts.

It was with some surprise that my family got interested in playing games of Blood Bowl with me.  They enjoyed it so much, that when my wife went to the local FLGS she insisted I pick up some more teams.  Son, I had a new Chaos, Dwarf, Skaven, Elven Union, and Dark Elf team. Then, I picked up an Ogre.  I wouldn't be surprised if she wanted to get a few more teams later too.  It wasn't long until we had started our own little Blood Bowl League- The Deep North League- Southern Regional Conference.  We kicked it off with a single elimination style tournament where each of my family members would take on other family members in the Princess Owayonna Healing Spring Bottled Water Tournament; which was a tongue-in-cheek reference to a local legend.  We even brought the game to play during the Holidays, but we didn't get a chance.   

Well, that was all well and good, but I was getting tired of playing the plastic teams.  Sure it made them easier to transport but I felt the game lost a little.... something with grey plastic models.  Some of the visual impact was lost.  Therefore, over the course of this year I am going to try to get them all painted.

So far I have painted three teams.

The Chaos Goat Herders

These gentleman are the Chosen Warriors of the Goat Herders.  My family though it was really funny to give them elite, posh sounding names combined with a more traditional Chaos-y sounding name.  Therefore we have, Asquith Kneecapper, Brisbane Skullthumper, Todd Organgrinder, and Winston Azhander.

Then we have the namesakes of the Goat Herders, the beastmen.  The picture turned out really dark due to the taking this picture in the middle of the night; but the Chaos wastes are dark and snowy in winter.

What is most interesting to me about the Beastman is that I used a .50 cent acrylic paint from a big box retailer to paint the brown.  I simply watered it down 5 parts water to 1 part paint and got a very wet finish.  In retrospect I think a 3:1 mix would work better.  I then applied this in several layers to get the base coat.  This was an experiment, and I think it turned out really well.  I look forward to trying it with other colors and models as it is far cheaper than dedicated miniature paints.

The Skaven Cheez-Ballerz

I started this team by working on the positional players for the team.  The Gutter Runners, Blitzers, and Throwers.  I decided to make this team a combination of blue, orange, and grey.  I actually used barbarian flesh on the skaven hands and feet to help them stand out from the grey fur.

I used alternating Orange and Blue to be able to differentiate between players on the team.  This would help me differentiate them on the field and still allow for a dynamic and unified looking team.

I used a strong tone ink wash to give them a dark and dirty look.  I have found that my painting style has become much more "gribbly" as I get older.  I just do not have the interest or time for precise painting schemes.  I find this style of base colors and a wash to give me a relatively quick and satisfying result. 

Ork Skulsmash Reeverz
The Ork team is the one from the boxset in the green plastic.  I didn't even bother to re-paint the flesh and just used the bare green plastic for the lowest layer.  Oddly enough, this time I started with my Line Orks. 

These guys did not turn out how I wanted them to at all.  I wanted a Black, Silver, and Grey Oakland Raiders look, but these guys just came out looking like 'Ard Boyz!  Way too much shiny silver and not enough black and grey.  However, once it was completed I didn't want to turn back and they still looked dead 'ard.

Here are the positional players.  Getting the Blitzers and Throwers to look different enough was no problem, different colored balls and hair squigs would do the job nicely.  The Black Orks and Line Orks were a different story.  For those, I used a red wash on the breast and back plates to give a reddish look to them.  I red washed all the armor on the Black Ork Blocker.  In addition, I used a Dark Black Wash on the Black Orks giving them a blacker look, while the Strong Tone was a bit brownish.

So, these guys look like they are carrying around some tough armor and still look a bit different to tell them apart in the field.  I have painted numbers under their bases, and might apply back plate decal numbers to them all later..... but maybe not.  I have no plans to do anything with the bases at this time.

So three of my 7 new teams are done.  Once I get the Dark Elves, Humans, Dwarf, and Elven Union painted I might think about purchasing the next team.  However, there is a good chance I will just buy them anyway!  So far, I have been happy with my progress so far, but I think the Elf and Human team will want a less gribbly style.  I don't know if I am up to it anymore, but we will see!   

Monday, January 21, 2019

Men of Bronze- Now on the Osprey Website!

This post is a flat out sales pitch.

Please buy Men of Bronze from Osprey Games the latest in their blue covered Wargames Series of books. 

Run! Do not walk to pre-order this book!

The process to create this book started a long time ago.  My initial forays into game design revolved around creating a set of rules to recreate Greek Hoplite battles on the table.  Those rules from over two decades ago bear no resemblance to the rules in this book.  However, the flame was kept alive through the years.  Finally, these rules came about a few years ago. 

The game had these design goals in mind as I worked on the rules:

  • Keep players engaged in all points of the game
  • Force decision making
  • Keep it quick and simple
  • Scale and base agnostic
  • Capture the feel of Greek Warfare as I understand it
Keep Players Engaged

The game uses a resource management system called Arete Points that players can use to bid for initiative, re-roll dice, activate special rules, or try to steal initiative.  Therefore, a savvy commander needs to know when to hold his Arete points and when to use them to his advantage.  Frequently, this is when your opponent is acting as the system allows for interrupts of the turn sequence to use these points.  

Force Decision Making

During the game, you will need to make many choices to determine the best way to use your troops.  When a unit activates, their actions are limited.  You as the commander must choose what is best.  Should they reposition, shoot a barrage of arrows, charge into combat, support their fellow citizens, use an Arete Point?   

Units supporting each other is another key component.  Can the Phalanx push through their foes alone, or do they need to be supported by the Peltasts?   Does it make sense to support the archers being charged, or to leave them to their fate?  Units in support can boost the combat abilities of their fellows, but if the main unit is destroyed.... so is the supporting units.  Is it worth it?  

Keep it Quick and Simple

The combat resolution system is easy.  No complex math or cross-referencing.  The mechanics are the same through out the rules so if you know how to resolve a combat, you can resolve shooting and other actions as well.  The mechanics use an opposed dice pool looking for a target number, with the more successes the better.    

Army creation uses broad troop types to keep army creation and management streamlined and simple.  Troops types are abstracted with only a handful of stats and abilities to remember.  

Scale and Base Agnostic

I hate re-basing to play games.  Therefore, I designed this game to be model, scale ,and base agnostic.  I use it with 28mm single based figures, but it can also be played with 6mm multi-based, 15mm single based, 54mm multi-based, or anything in between.  You only need to be able to tell if a unit is in Open Formation or a Phalanx, and the center/leader of the unit.  

All measurements are in base widths that can be of any mutually agreeable distance or table size can be used.  

Capture the Feel of Greek Warfare

As such, the emphasis is on Phalanx on Phalanx combat.  Missile weapons are de-prioritized and the push of the spear and shield is critical.  The Phalanx as a formation has strengths but also weaknesses that a clever commander must use and exploit.  

The rules have army lists for:
  • Greek City-States
  • Persians
  • Hill tribes
  • Macedonians
The system and troops types are loose enough that you can create any historical force from the Classical Greek periods of the Persian-Greek Wars to the Battle of Chaeronea  

If this sounds like a game you would like to play..... 

Run! Do not walk to pre-order this book!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Battle Report: Blucher- Along the Danube

I have been wanting to play a game of Blucher for about two years. I know almost nothing about the Napoleonic Wars and have never really wargamed them before. In truth, it was a bit intimidating with all the foreign unit names, various army structures, and do not even get me started on the uniforms. However, the idea of the “Big Battles” (along with the big hats) was appealing to me.

When I first saw and heard about Blucher, it seemed like a good fit for a newbie to Nappies like me. Most of the square, line, column, stuff was abstracted due to the game scale. Uniforms and army structure were as well. In addition, it was designed to be playable with cards so I did not need to start a big new collection of models. Two years later, I finally got up the scratch to pick it up and the 100 Days supplement.

I gave the basic rules a quick read through and found them easy enough to understand. From there, I went to the Honour Website and downloaded Along the Danube the introductory game. This gives you a basic table lay out, some army cards, and a scenario to get you started. Since my usual wargaming buddy and myself knew almost nothing about the period and the warfare of the time this seemed like a pretty good place to start. Plus, the rules themselves encouraged starting here before moving on. Who was I to argue?

Normally at this point, I lay out the scenario and the forces, but you can find all of that on Sm Mustafa's website at Along the Danube so I am going to skip it this time. Plus, I don't want to embarrass myself too badly by completely screwing up the terminology.

As the attacker, I was the French with 3 infantry corps and a reserve cavalry corp. By opponent was the Austrian defenders with 2 Infantry Corps and a mixed reserve corp including Guards, artillery, and cavalry units.

As the French, I had to get hold of two objectives on the Austrian side, or cause them to break by routing 8 units. The Austrians had to stop me and could defeat me by routing 8 units as well.

I will spare you my usual turn-by-turn breakdown as I was not keeping track that closely. However, a typical game can take up to 30 turns with a turn consisting of everything one side does including moving, shooting, assault, etc. It is an I-GO-U-GO system. The turns are broken down into relative time of day, so on turn 16 you know it is past noon and you are onto early afternoon. At the end of turn 30 it is assumed to be nightfall. I thought this was a clever little timescale that allowed you to match up your fictional, ahistoric, or historic games to the timing of the period.

To start your turn, your opponent rolls 3d6 and keeps the score hidden. This is the amount of Momentum (or activation) points you have for your turn. Having units activate and move costs points. If you move as a Corp it costs fewer points than moving units individually. Units that move can not shoot. You keep moving until your opponent lets you know you are out of movement points. Therefore, the game has a resource management element and gives your opponent a reason to pay attention during your turn.

Units begin as blinds on the table, and are not revealed until they move, are shot at, or an enemy unit gets close enough to see them in Line-of-Sight. This was important during set-up and the very early stages of the game as you do not know exactly what your army will be up against. For example, in our game, I suspected that the top of a hill on the left side of my force would be Austrian artillery, however it was revealed later to be Light Cavalry that swept down on the flank of some of my battered units later in the game. Therefore, deployment is a bit of a game of Blindman's Bluff.

For this game, I decided to mass my II Corp to smash up the Austrian center with I and III corp screening the flanks to fix my opponent. The Reserve Cavalry would then move forward and exploit any breakthroughs. One of my objectives was behind a river on my right flank, while the other was on top of the heights in the center of the Austrian deployment zone. I was not sure what my opponent was planning.

I got to start off with the first turn, and moved across the board with I, II, and III Corps. I soon learned that you would not get enough Momentum to move your entire force, even with careful use of Corp movement. My opponent generally waited for me and kept his units concealed. We exchanged artillery potshots at each other. Artillery and units have an Ammo rating. As Artillery fires this number goes down and it becomes less effective and giving a decisive result, as you roll less attack dice for them. After the game, it seems reasonable that you may want to save your artillery for a decisive barrage, instead of just opening fire as soon as you have the range.

This game does not use a set movement distance, but is instead measured in base widths. Therefore, you can change the scaling as you see fit. In the base rules using the cards a base width is three inches. The minimum for anything is 1 base width with cavalry units being able to move up to 4, and artillery fire 8 base widths. This gives you and idea of the movement to firepower ratio. Musketry is most effective at close range, but is equivalent to charge range. However, a unit that moves can not shoot. Therefore, you need to time your moves accordingly for the maximum result.

Each unit has a starting Elan. As your unit takes hits or engages in close combat its Elan is reduced. It is possible for a unit to exhaust itself by winning close combat after close combat as every time you fight, win or lose; you will lose Elan. With the Elan rules for cavalry/infantry and the Ammo rules for artillery you can see that the name of the game is attrition.

The Austrians generally got to shoot as the French approached to soften them up. However, it was the French on the attack who eagerly throw themselves into close combat across the board, trying to form a break through. The lead brigade of the French II Corp was pounded by Austrian cannon fire and musketry and soon their Elan was reduced to the point where they routed and were removed from the board. However, the next brigade in the Corps dutifully stepped forward to fill the gap.
As a commander, you can choose to “Retire” a unit from the battle voluntarily. This is critical as a retired unit does not count towards your Morale breaking point. However, a unit can only retire in their own turn, using Momentum points, and if there is a clear line to their table edge. Therefore, a clever opponent or poor deployment can make retiring impossible.

By mid-Morning the French attack had come in contact across the battlefield. The weight of the attack in the center managed to tell and the Austrians began to crumble there, but the French Flanks were having a hard time holding their own. Plus, the Reserve Cavalry was having a hard time moving up do to a lack of Momentum. This allowed the Austrians to reinforce the heights with Grenadier units and use their own cavalry reserves on the French left. Soon, the French I Corp was essentially out of the fight and the main attack was blunted by the Austrian reserves.

Casualties on both sides were stacking up quickly. By early afternoon, the French II Corp had managed to force their way through the Austrian center. However, the Cavalry was unable to exploit the breakthrough as the Austrians were closing in on the flanks. By the end of the Afternoon (Turn 19) the French realized that they could not carry the heights. They had sustained to heavy of a toll and withdrew. The Austrians were triumphant!

At the end of the battle, the French had 8 units retire, and 8 route. That is what cost them the game. The Austrians were also on the knife edge with 7 units retired and 7 routed. It was a close fought battle, with the final turns being more of a series of localized skirmishes as the battle lines themselves had completely fallen apart. Therefore, neither of us could efficiently use our Momentum Points by the end and coordination fell apart.

As the game progressed, turns went by faster and faster as we got a hang of the rules and their were fewer units to do stuff with. The Austrians won because they made better use of their reserves and were better able to coordinate all arms of their army then I was. My opponent did a better job using his Momentum Points at the point of decision than I did.

The entire focus of the game is around resource management. There are strong attritional elements to the game combined with Momemtum Points means that success in Blucher is about managing “Friction” since you can not do everything you need to do, and even for the stuff you can do; it will wear down your own troops. Despite that, there are some cinematic moments to be found, like when the first French brigade was blasted into dust, when Austrian guards charged down hill into the flank of a combat and routed the French, or when the French Cavalry came sweeping across the field in a Reserve move and plugged the holes in the French line. However, the general “grinding” nature of the battles will not be to every players liking.

To try and fit this review/battle report into my standard style:

Things I Liked
  • New Player Friendly
  • Resource management
  • Cards as blinds and for play
  • Simple and straight forward resolution mechanics
  • Focus on managing friction

Things I Do Not Like
  • I-Go-U-Go
  • Can feel a bit like grinding

Meh and Other Uncertainties
  • This was just the basic rules so there is a lot more to explore in this game. I will post more about that as I begin to explore the 100 Days Campaign.

It is clear that a lot of thought and design work went into this game to get the right “feel” for the size of battles and the period by using the right level of abstraction and detail. I am pretty sure we did not do everything perfectly. But the author put a lot of working into making a complicated style of warfare into something easy to play on the table. This period seems prone to If This/Than That rules, but these rules are very tight and had surprisingly few of these types of situations.

This was just a quick overview of the basic rules using the intro scenario Sam Mustafa recommended. There is still a lot more to delve into in these rules such as the Scharnhorst Campaign System, Commander personalities, scenarios, weather, and more. I look forward to exploring further with these rules.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Random: Men of Bronze Pictures

This year, my blog will be spending some time (probably a lot of time) talking about Men of Bronze by Osprey.  This is completely selfish on my part as I am the author!   

When you are working with Osprey Publishing, you are lucky enough to have access to their amazing pool of artists and artwork.  It is great if your wargame rules cover a period that they have published on because then the editors can pull artwork from their extensive library.  This artwork serves to really bolster the rules and make them look very professional and cool. 

However, Osprey does not have a large library or range of miniatures for their war games series.  Instead, they ask the author to provide images and photos for the book.  That means as the author you need to have access to models, terrain, and photography equipment for your chosen period of rules. In my contract for an Osprey Wargame Series book they ask for at least 30 300DPI or better photos of models in action. 

This actually turned out to be harder than I expected for a couple of reasons.  The first being that I am not much of a photographer!  The second being I am not much of a painter!  The third being I did not have a great terrain selection.  Those that have followed my blog for a while probably realize that I am more of a Do-It-Yourself style gamer.  That is good enough for my basement and gaming group, but not good enough for publication. 

I purchased the models I would need through Victrix and got a talented friend of mine named Nick Heckel to start painting them up for me.  Then, I managed to buy a few simple Greco-Roman terrain pieces from a local pet store.  I also purchased a professional table covering.  From there I spruced my terrain collection up with some lichen and a few scatter terrain pieces. 

I borrowed a very nice Cannon digital camera, some lights, and a tripod.  I really didn’t know how to use it, but after some trial and error I got the basics of using the Macro lens down.  From there, I just took a lot of photos and tried to judiciously weed out the bad ones.  This left me with about 100 digital photos I sent to Osprey to choose whichever ones they wanted to use.

Here are some of that did not quite make the cut.

Unfortunately, my armies only consisted of 28mm models.  However, the rules themselves are scale and basing agnostic.  The only stipulations are that you need a "Leader" for some measurements, and be able to determine if a unit is in Phalanx or Open Order.  You can use a token to differentiate Open or Phalanx, and any model in the center of the Unit as the "Leader".  Some folks have asked for other scale models for the rules, but alas I just did not have other scales of models to take photos of.

I am interested to see which pictures actually do make the final cut into the book.  Plus, I am super excited to see the artwork that they select.  I have seen the cover art, and it was amazing.  It looks very different than the Work-In-Progress cover you see on the Pre-order pages!  I can't wait to hold it in my hand!  

I hope to have a fully painted Spartan, Corinthian, and Macedonian army for photos and battle reports soon.  In the meantime, you can see my painted forces in action in this Desecrate the Sacred battle report for Men of Bronze .  


Thursday, January 3, 2019

Random: 2019 New Beginnings... on Old Ideas

Welcome 2019!  

It will be a glorious year for wargaming and hobbys.  Well, at least that is what I hope!  Typically, this time of year I lay out my guidelines for the coming year and my goals for what I am going to accomplish.  This allows me to stay on track and avoid becoming a hobby butterfly flitting from project to project. 

If you look at my 2017 and 2018 goals lists, you will see that I tend to break them down into four categories:

1.       Purchases
2.       Painting and Modelling
3.       Rules Writing
4.       Miscellaneous Hobby Stuff

This process has served me very well and allowed me to accomplish many great things each year.  Despite this success, I think I am going to change the formula up a bit.  Instead of focusing on those four categories, I think I want to focus my year on game periods or genres.

I was looking at the By Brush and By Sword blog and I was taken by the idea of the 6X6 challenge.  Basically he chose 6 game systems to try and play 6 games for in the year.  I did not think I could do that, but I did like the idea of focusing my year on game systems or periods instead of the 4 categories I had listed above.  This is going to be tough to pin down! 

Period 1- Ancient Greeks
With the imminent, release of Men of Bronze coming out from Osprey it makes sense to me to focus on this period for 2018.  This is what I want to accomplish for this period:

1.       Create a Social Media strategy to help promote Men of Bronze including a new blog, Facebook Page, Youtube Videos, etc. 

2.       Complete painting for 2 of 3 new armies including: Corinthians, Spartans, or Macedonians 

3.       Purchase and paint a box of Victrix Greek Cavalry

4.       Use painted Greek miniatures to create two rival Greek forces for Of Gods and Mortals

5.       Create an Argonauts warband for Broken Legions

6.       Document and post 6 battle reports for Men of Bronze for the year, including 1 or 2 video batreps. 

7.       Create a Quick Reference Sheet for Men of Bronze

Period 2- Diadochi of Alexander
Assuming Men of Bronze sells well, Osprey was interested in potentially publishing Heirs to Empire as well.  This is an army scale game set in the warring Diadochi period after Alexander the Greats death.  It uses a variant of the Men of Bronze rules with a unique flavor for the period and army size. 

1.       Complete publishing process for Heirs to Empire

2.       Purchase, paint, and base two 6mm successor armies from Bacchus Miniatures

3.       Complete painting my Victrix miniatures for Macedonians and Successors including a unit of Successor Phalangites, Hypaspists, and Heavy Cavalry.

4.       Purchase and paint a Victrix War Elephant

5.       Take good photos of these models for Osprey

Period 3- Roarin’ 20s!
I have had a gangster game called Turf War that I am eager to try out and update for sales on the Wargame Vault.  To do that, I need some photos of miniatures to replace artwork in the current PDF.  I am also interested in some other gangster era games, especially Call of Cthulhu/Strange Aeons type games.  I think these types of small scale games can be popular with my group and family.     

1.       Purchase and paint enough 28mm gangsters for 2 gangs (about 20-25 models)

2.       Pick-up some 1920’s style farm for games in a rural setting or safe house.  This can be resin, paper, or MDF but the less work I need to do on it the better.  Any recommendations?

3.       Buy and paint Cthulhu-esque Lurkers from the Reaper Bones line

4.       Update the Turf War book with model photos and remove other artwork

 Period 4- Blood Bowl!
Okay, it is not a historical period but it is a genre!  My family has been very interested in playing Blood Bowl as a family game.  We have a small family league, and I have been slowly working getting teams and painting them.  Therefore, I am confident that my family will keep wanting to play this game in 2019.  Therefore, I should added it to my list of goals….

1.       Finish painting all of my current teams (Dwarves, Skaven, Chaos, Elf, Dark Elf, Ork, and Human) and hirelings (Ogre). 

2.       Pick-up the Dwarf and Skaven alternate board

3.       Pick-up and assemble two more teams to bring me to 12 total teams

Period 5- Napoleonic
In the end of 2018, I was able to finally get my start on my long time fascination with Nappies.  Sure, I am a noob that knows almost nothing about the time period BUT I picked up Blucher, the 100 Days Supplement, and La Salle.  Therefore, I have a start into the period. 

1.       Play a game of Blucher, most likely the intro scenario Across the Danube

2.       Pick-up the new Osprey Wargame Series book Rebels and Patriots

3.       Complete a draft verion of Mageloque

Period 6- Frostgrave
I have had all the Frostgrave books and supplements for some time.  However, my local group has been slow to adopt it.  They are more sci-fi than fantasy types, but I am interested in giving it a try.  With the new models that allow for all-female warbands I think I have the hook for my family to give it a go and start a campaign in our household.  This is the biggest wildcard on the list.    

1.       Purchase and paint enough plastic kits and fantasy models to make 3-6 wizard warbands

2.       Purchase the Maze of Malcador and Ulterior Motives, then post a review of them

3.       Build, buy, or create enough terrain for a frozen city board for a 3x3 table

Period- Random
This is all the other stuff that I would like to accomplish, but are of much lower priority than the periods I have listed above. 

1.       Finish OnlyThe Strong Survive dinosaur fighting game and get it in the WIP section of the Blog

2.       Keep trying to get 1 new blog post up every 2 weeks at least

3.       Buy two armies from Vanguard miniatures to use with Rampant Galaxies

4.       Buy all the Dracula’s America Books, Last Days, and all the Osprey Wargaming Series of books that come out

5.       Purchase the Gangs of Rome Starter set

6.       Start building a Victrix miniatures Roman Republic and Samnite army

7.       Play some Aquanautica Imperialis

8.       Source two fleets for Castles in the Sky

9.       Sell 1 new war game pitch

Looking at the guidelines for this year, it is clear that my eyes are WAY too big for my wallet.  The only way this will work is if I win the lottery, sell a lot of PDFs on Wargames Vault, sell a lot of copies of Men of Bronze, or some combination of events.  Last year, I set my sights pretty low.  This year I am setting them far too high.  Looking at the list, this could be more of a 5 year wish list rather than a single year plan!  It will be fun to see what happens.  

Wish me luck!