Sunday, 27 May 2012

Games that Define us

We're in the midst of a heatwave in the UK, and I always struggle to paint when its hot. So no project updates for you today. However, a meme that is doing the rounds, which I picked up on at Frontline Gamer, the games that define us as wargamers. Here are mine:

Advanced Hero Quest

I don't recall my early gaming career well, but I believe it all comes back to this. My Dad bought it to play with my brother, who is five years my senior. From this small seed my brother and I's interest in the hobby grew. Each of us has felt our enthusiasm wax and wanes as circumstances dictate, but it's always been one of our joint interests.

EDIT: Battlemasters
As Gharak rightly points out, this was where I first got into gaming. An MB game either licensed from or heavily inspired by GW, this got played loads. Ahhh, the memories!

Warhammer 40K
Like many people, for years GW was all of the hobby I knew. Everything revolved around local GW store and the friendships made there.
The mainstay was Warhammer 40K, second and then third edition. After an initial flirtation with Eldar, I played lots of Imperial Guard, the pinnacle being my entirely converted Adeptus Mechanicus Tech-Guard army. I dabbled with Space Wolves and Chaos Marines too. But Imperial Guard were my favourites and in hindsight I wonder whether Guard players have a predisposition to move towards historical games.
Of course, I also played the whole range of 'Specialist Games', most of which I could be much more tempted to return to these days than 40K itself. Blood Bowl is a great board game, Necromunda was a classic, Man O'War was ace.

Warhammer Fantasy Battle

I always preferred 40K, but also had a WFB force of...Empire! Humm, not hugely different the Guard, really. I preferred 40K because my brother always destroyed me at WFB, fielding a beard-tastic savage Orc and forest goblin force. Sorry bro, but that was mean, my poor 'umies' didn't stand a chance.

Leaving my home town and local GW for Uni, I had little time for wargaming (between working, studying and socialising, not necessarily in that order). My one visit to the official Student Union wargames club put me right off. Unfriendly people, all playing the same old 40K, albeit released from the GW store requirements for painted armies. Blergh.
But I still gamed a little with my brother, visited the town centre gaming shop and eventually found a second, Patriot Comics. Mostly a comic, RPG and CCG store, it had just started stocking Rackham's Confrontation game. I was blown away, the miniatures were stunning. I got very into the game, mostly playing the oft-overlooked Orcs - I wonder if my Brother whupping me had an influence here? I had a lot of fun converting a Roman-themed force of Orcs and was active in the fledgling UK community, the UKCORD.
It all ended badly - Rackham's baffling decision to overhaul Conf as totally new game, except being big battle using pre-painted plastics (which bombed), coupled with my move away from the city on graduation killed off my love affair with Conf. I've still got many of my miniatures, beautifully painted but packed away. Just in case anyone fancies a game of 2nd Ed...


As Conf tailed off, I started buying into Infinity. Similarly beautiful miniatures, similarly eye-wateringly expensive. The game was different, tactically intruiging and the reaction system actually worked. All was well with the world and my wallet cried out for mercy. But the abovementioned move, power creep of the new releases and bitty release of new rules put me off. I recall getting crushed by the new Combined Army shortly after release, realising they had everything I could put on the table, just far better. I found the system was encouraging me to throw increasingly cheesy forces into the board. After my brother deployed six Yu Jing with missile launchers, I replied by deploying just one model, the rest being hidden deployed or droptroopers. These days, I still drool over some of the new releases, but I don't own the up to date rules or any particular desire to play the game.

Board games
Mostly the increasingly popular Euro-games. Again, I can blame my brother for this one as he introduced my family to Settlers of Catan at Christmas. Since then I've bought, or played, most of the best-known Euro games, either with the family, the missus, old friends or new. These days, I get more game time with board games than miniatures games and have amassed a decent collection.

.45 Adventure (Pulp)

Worth noting though I wouldn't really call it a wargame, more an RPG with miniatures. I never really got into RPGs in my youth, though I dabbled on occasion at DnD or WHFRP, and at Uni a home-brew cyberpunk-esque game we called 'Darkworld'. But my brother's love of Indiana Jones and other cheese got us into Pulp gaming with miniatures. We find it a lot of fun to play and a lot of fun to paint as well as design, if time-consuming. I'm lucky that he carries most of that burden!

Perry plastics

Ok, not quite a game, but a milestone worth noting, as the proliferation of good quality plastic historical miniatures has been a key factor in my jumping into historicals. This has been the mainstay of my hobby activity in recent years.

The Future?
Well, a raft of projects on the go, including a scale shift to 15mm and back to SciFi. Then who knows, as I really am a gaming magpie (oooh, shiney!), especially considering the number of projects which have passed my painting table which don't even come close to making this list...

Friday, 25 May 2012

Giveaways galore at Frontline Gamer

Frontline Gamer is in the middle of a series of giveaways as he hits new follower targets. Not only that, he's very insightful hobby blogger, if occasionally controversial. So his blog is well worth checking out on it'd own merits:

Frontline Gamer

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Broadside show, Kent

The organisers of Broadside are trying to get word out after a problem their advertising. I'm happy to do my bit.

So, if you're free on Sunday 10 June in the Kent area, head to Broadside 2012. I'm hoping to head over from London, so may see you there!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

And the winner is...

...Red! Thanks all for your votes - find a snap of squads one and two below.

I decided to tone the visor back a bit and keep the pure red highlight around the top edge of the visor. As Curt suggested, I added a white flash too. I'm not entirely convinced it looks that realistic, but I like the effect. I may finish it with a gloss varnish on the visor, but they need their matt spray first.

Presents arrived from Khurasan today, yay, more to assemble!

Gruntz AAR and review

As Samulus describes, we played through a game of Gruntz the other night with my fledgling New Vedith Defence Force troops facing Samulus' robotic Autosentia. We threw together some stats for what we had as best we could and played around 100 points. I had two NV infantry squads with support weapons, a platoon command base (Mal standing in) and two IFVs which had fortunately arrived from Antenociti that morning.

The battlefield from the NV perspective. Terrain was cobbled together from what I had already, except the alien jungles I knocked together during the week from some plastic fish tank plants that Gharak gave me years back.

We were a but short on suitable counters, so used red gems for waxed (wounded) troops, blue for suppressed, White dice for a command 'push' order which grands a bonus action or for vehicle damage and a small green dice for prone which gave combat bonuses.

An NV IFV's laser and missile weapons take their toll on the Autosentia assault troops.

The IFVs spectacularly fail to bring their weapons to bear on the Autosentia mech, whose Gatling gun decimates an NV squad. The Mech was a bit overpowered for its size, something for us to tweak.

Autosentia light infantry combine fire and damage an IFV, which was helpfully laser-painted by the nearby drones. But NV infantry push forward and gun down the light robots. I conceded shortly afterwards, although close it was a rules taster rather than a competitive game and we wanted some time to discuss our thoughts.

So, what did we think? I'll start with some pros:
-really nicely presented and well-written rulebook for a bargain download price of £6. We struggled to find some specific rules (such as what flamers do), but overall a solid product
-interesting mechanics which seem to mostly work right. Although I wouldn't personally agree with all design decisions, such as the lack of a rate of fire, Samulus and I both felt it was a very good base which we could tweak to our taste
-easy to use unit-builder with a points system. We were happy to use it as a guide and bend the rules if needed. And having not played before, some of our first efforts were a little bit skewed - the mech too powerful and IFVs seemed pretty tough.

Cons? Happy to report there isn't much that we felt we couldn't tweak to suit with our own house rules. Something I'm increasingly happy to do, as I have developed pretty specific tastes in rulesets. These were the things we thought could be improved:
-command system. While we used the alternative activation rules and there is a small command element in the way you can use your command base, i think this could be deepened. I've already an idea for how to develop this further. Also, the need for a command base didn't really fit with Samulus's robot force.
-I can see the mathematic appeal of a 2D6-based combat system but it became a bit ungainly with our 8-man squads as we only had 5 different pairs of dice. We will try 4-man fireteams next, breaking out special weapons as attachments.
-the range of modifiers meant shooting became a bit maths-y, adding 2D6 plus stat, plus or minus modifiers, with a target number that could also vary from modifiers. We really needed a decent reference table and for personal taste I might streamline some of the modifiers.
-Gruntz sure died quick, even in cover. If we use smaller fireteams, I'm toying with the idea that cover and prone status should grant Gruntz an extra wound rather than a to hit modifier, from small arms fire at least. I don't think this will break the core system so we'll try it out and let you know how it works.
-Some oddities like equipping combat knife being optional, but free. I'd have thought all but the worst rabble would 'count as' having a ccw, be it knife, gauntleted fist or rifle-butt!

As I say, these opinions can pretty much all be easily fixed with house rules. I would definitely recommend people looking fir a ruleset to check out Gruntz.

Also, the author of Gruntz was kind enough to comment on Samulus' blog with his response so in the interest of balance, please see here. It is great to see that Robin is open to constructive feedback and I'm pleased to see that at least some of the points are already being tweaked for future editions.

Have a nice weekend, bloggers!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Cast your votes please!

Not the French Presidential elections. Not to help Greece elect a government. Not even for the winner of Britain's got Talent. No, this is the vote you've all been waiting for.

I'm undecided on how to paint the helmet visors on my GZG infantry. So I'm throwing the question to our hobby community. Which of these do you prefer - red or jade? It could go either way. Nail-biting, eh?

And with flash:

Assuming I keep the rest of the grey/blue colour scheme, if you have any other suggestions for good colours, I'm all ears!


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

SciFi project: first finished minis

I finished these 15mm Ground Zero Games UNSC infantry over the past couple of weeks. I've a whole platoon of them to do, but thankfully they are pretty quick to paint.

They are magnetically based onto steel FOW-size bases which I ordered from here:
Highly recommend them, steel bases have a nice weight to them, he is happy to make custom sizes and delivered quickly. 

I haven't got the photography right at this scale as they've come out a bit bright, especially the blue, which is somewhat less lurid in real life (Vallejo magic blue). I'm not set on the red visors, though they are a standout feature. Might try a different colour on batch two. They really need a coat of matt varnish, but I'm all out. 
And this infamous smuggler captain and his first mate were among the freebies GZG were giving out at Salute.

Samulus of 'Life vs Gaming' and I are planning to test some rulesets out later in the week, I'll let you know how we get on.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Jumping ship to Vallejo - impressed!

With GW overhauling their paint range again and with my disastrous experience with both their purity seal and skull white sprays, I decided it was time to jump ship to Vallejo Game Colour. As I'm not made of money, I'll make the transition over time, replacing and buying new colours from the Vallejo range as necessary.


So I've been trying out my new colours as well as making some colour swatches to check compatibility (which look fine actually). And I must say I'm impressed so far. I like the consistency, it's quite thick but flows well and gives a smooth finish, unlike the GW foundation paints. Colour coverage is great....mostly. I've had issue with scaly green and jade green being watery, but I think they just need a lot more shaking. I hope so anyway. I'm also surprised that I like the dropper tops, although it increases wastage at each use, I think it will stop me throwing so many dried-up pots of paint away. Especially as with GW I can be lazy and paint straight from the pot or leave them open as I highlight a whole colour.

They even blew me away on price. I bought six pots and it came to £10-something at Dark Sphere, who sell at discount. A bargain compared to GW so I'm not surprised Vallejo are putting their prices up soon.

Issues? Well the colour swatches on the rack seem to occasionally be well-off, after settling on magic blue for the very specific shade I was after it ended up totally different to the colour I was after. But it still looks good on the minis that I wanted it for. Similarly, jade and scaly greens look like they should be different enough to be base coat and shade as I planned, but they actually look pretty much identical.

I shouldn't be surprised, I've heard many times that Vallejo were the paint of choice for many good painters these days. I'm actually a little disappointed that it took me so long to make the jump.

Hope y'all are having a nice weekend and enjoying the sunshine.

*(I didn't buy this set, it was just the most suitable image I could find :-) I'll post some pics of my results with Vallejo soon enough though!)

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Projects

It's time for a list. After considering my Salute purchases (as well as the pre-Salute purchases and post-Salute purchases), I thought it fitting to document my current hobby projects and predict where they're going this year.

I'll start with a Pie chart. Unfortunately it doesn't illustrate anything except that I'm balancing limited hobby time across a number of projects. But I do like pie charts (and it adds a splash of colour to what could have been a long rambling post).

1). 28mm Napoleonics
Definitely in a consolidation phase. After two years I've a fair amount painted up and while I do have plenty more minis and terrain to paint up I intend to take a break from the most of it. I will get the Colours sorted on all of my painted units before setting it aside completely. I think next year Gharak and I will come back to gaming Napoleonics and I'll be enthused to pick up the brushes again.

2). 28mm Vikings for Saga
Six point force painted, one point left to finish. In an ideal world I'd buy one more unit of Bondi as an eighth point for maximum flexibility. But I can always add that later, for now I'm content that it is mostly finished and is something I might actually get a game of every now and then with people who aren't Gharak.

3). 28mm Pulp
This will rumble on (especially as Gharak and I are mid-adventure). After my early 2012 drive we've plenty of encounters to play with perhaps just the odd extra miniature required. As a varied project means it is great to drop Pulp figures into a separate painting project to mix things up a little. It also doesn't need much buying for it at the moment. Happily it will get gamed again this year: we need at least one more session this summer to get our heroes out of their current pickle!

4). 10mm WWII British
Was finished (!) as a platoon plus support, then I picked up a few more bits at Salute but they should be quick to paint up. I'm in a bit of a quandary with rules, but those purchases should give me a small Blitzkrieg Commander-sized force. At some point I'll buy BKC and twist Gharak's arm into a game or two or grab a game in my local area.

5). New project 1: 28mm Greek Mythology
Gharak is in the driving seat for this one, creating a complete skirmish game with fluff, rules and sometime down the road it's own miniature range. Ambitious as always, my brother. The game will be a skirmish scale with suitably heroic combat, set in an alternate world taking its inspiration from Greek Mythology. And my role? A mix of advisor, rules collaborator, playtester, painter and who knows what else! We're working on test forces for each faction, so I've the start of a Minoan force on my paint table, Minotaur and all.

6). New project 2: 15mm SciFi
While I didn't really need a new scale (or a new project right now!), I've been tempted to dabble in 15mm SciFi by Samulus. I've an order in with Ground Zero Games for a platoon of infantry and I'll grab my pick of cool vehicles and air support to face his Autosentia. Ive set on a colour scheme and written some fluff for my faction, which was a fun way to spend an hour. Again, not set on any rules as yet, but 15mm seems popular for SciFi, so I've no doubt we'll find something fun.

7). Resurrected project: 28mm Wild West
One on the horizon, after backing Blackwater Gulch with 20 of my hard-earned pounds. Resurrected because a few years back Gharak and I bought a bunch of cowboys and Legends of the Old West. Gharak built some terrain and I got some erm...half-built. We played a few games and set it aside. Once BG is released in the autumn I'll paint some cowboys and finish my terrain.

In summary, seven projects, four of them current. Eep, plenty to be getting on with...

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Salute purchases: Part 2 and Flag Dude review

A Salute preorder with Flag Dude means I can finally finish each of my Napoleonic units with their Colours. Here are the first few - the Spanish infantry.

When I started the project I hadn't thought about how to do Colours, so merrily got on with painting. I settled on Flag Dude after seeing them at Salute a couple of years ago. But that meant a bit of work to cut off the poles and drill out the hands. While my modelling skills are up to it, I did mangle to paint jobs a bit and snapped arms off to make life easier drilling, so once re-assembled I had to spend a couple of hours tidying the paint jobs up. My fault for poor planning! I also re-painted the finials to match how I paint red and bronze, which was out of preference rather than necessity. The British which I've still to do should be much easier as the Perry plastics' hands won't need drilling out.

So what are Flag Dude's banners like? Well, I love the flapping effect he achieves and they are surprisingly durable. I'd really like to know how he does it. He was happy to research and make up some custom designs for me, which was great customer service with just a few weeks notice before Salute. The flags come complete with painted finials and poles which was a big draw for me. They are priced at £4 each, I didn't think that was bad. You can get much cheaper sheets but you're paying for ease of use and durability here. They are large and poles are very strong, being made from steel wire rather than brass. Which I think is great as I've broken quite a few of the plastic ones. The steel poles are a tad thin visually, but being steel are already hard enough to cut to length (I had to buy better clippers to do it...).

My only disappointment was the pixellation on the designs, which is noticeable on the diagonal lines especially, the close up above should demonstrate. They could do with higher definition images, but I admit I don't know how easy that is to do. But it is something I'd have expected as the price point seems to be at the premium end of the market. In fairness it is also only visible from close up and at tabletop distance they really do look fabulous. What do you think?

Two milestones

Noticed that the blog hit two milestones in recent days - 30 followers and 3000 pageviews. Ok, not up there with the big boys (I'm looking at you, Angry Lurker, BigLee) but not bad given I don't get chance to post that often. I've also noticed I'm getting a consistent 30-ish page views a day, even when I'm not posting, I think the 'you might also like' widget helps.

In honour of this, I hope to spend a little time tweaking the blog over the weekend. Also, inspired by other bloggers' recent giveaways, I'll look to find something to give away when I hit 50 followers.

Friday, 4 May 2012

First Salute purchases complete

My hobby time has been patchy this past week, a long week at work has sapped my enthusiasm. Here's hoping I'll get back on course over the bank holiday here in the UK. But I did find time to finish these movement trays last night.

Ok, so these aren't exactly the interesting bits, they should come in useful for Saga and were a bargain price from Warbases.

I've not tufted them as I thought they would be easier to transport and more durable that way. The miniature bases have plenty of tufts anyway.

And how they'll look on the table, filled with angry-looking Vikings ready for some pillaging:

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Pulp Adventures AAR: Where in the World.. Part Two!

Ive not had chance to post the second Pulp game my brother and I played back in April. I hope you've been looking forward to how it ends.

As we left it, Professor Hemmingway and stalwart companion Mr Singh have survived their crashed plane, collected what equipment they could and escaped both unhappy locals and a vicious sandstorm. Unfortunately, their third companion and pilot had to be left behind!

As it turns out, what appeared to be an uninteresting crevice opens out into a hidden cave system. Ever curious, our heroes head out to explore, after pausing to lick their wounds and take some tea of course. Here they are at the top, while shadowy figures patrol a large cavern below.

As they work their way down the rocky paths, they discover some small, hardy-looking ponies (yes, ponies. Though they might look like dogs, they are ponies, honest). These might come in useful. Our heroes take no chances and open fire on the locals. But the numbers of enemies could well take their toll.
Locals close in, as the camerawork takes turns all vintage.

As our heroes fight off the angry locals, bad luck heaps upon bad luck, with a very peeved-looking tribal heavy emerging from his tent (perhaps the shooting woke him up), backed up by two bodyguards. Singh takes aim and fires, emptying his pistol. The heavy hesitates, buying our heroes a few seconds, but then recovers from a full panic. Damnation! The Professor makes a dash for the ponies, hoping Singh is close behind.

Urging his mighty(?) steed on, the Prof flees towards the entrance. Meanwhile, Singh falls under the weight of the tribal horde. This appears to be a theme for Singh. These most recent travels have not started well.

A few lessons from this game. The heroes were well underpowered, coming into the second scenario two men down. Also, the Prof isn't much of a combat character, being about as much use as a chocolate teapot when the firing starts in earnest. I the we'll have to tweak the satlines and write in some more mid-level combat characters. We're finding that Level 3 combat heroes are too powerful, but Level 2 non-combat characters are a bit weak (we use the .45 Adventure second edition rules, including character design).

It should also be noted that we had a poor draw of encounter cards, with what I'm told was all three antagonist cards coming out in the first four draws. Though we use a pre-set encounter deck, perhaps we need to tweak things on the fly if this happens again. And the final lesson - My brother needs to mention that he's written horses into the encounters - I've had to dig some spares out to add to the painting pile.

I mentioned an ending, but unfortunately, that's as far as we've got. Things are looking decidedly bad for our heroes at the moment, an escape will have to be planned before the next instalment in June sometime. If we survive this we might one day make it to India!