Thursday, 2 July 2015

End of an Era?

It's silly season here in the UK. This is the time of year when the government takes a holiday, the football season is over, so the papers have nothing to write about  - like most countries we are fairly insular and don't count the rest of the big wide world as newsworthy. Instead we get weather stories - typically floods or a heatwave. This year it's the turn of the heatwave - it was the hottest day in July ever recorded in the UK just yesterday. The BBC website came up with some brilliant "low-tech" hints for keeping cool, including spraying yourself with water, or opening windows in your house.

Things seem to be hotting up on many a forum too, with the latest news on Age of Sigmar causing some massive reactions. As a long term but lapsed player of WHFB, I can well understand the anger, the frustration, the sadness. Anger that the world that was built over 30 years, possibly the richest fantasy world in wargaming history, has been ended in such a brutal, dramatic fashion. Frustration at the complete lack of anything from GW, just a bland logo on the webpage and some (leaked) White Dwarf blurb, which reads in the usual super-cool-awesome way. And sorrow, at the dawning realisation that the game that has given so much pleasure down the years, from the background stories, the stunning art, the collecting of the figures, the painting and the gaming, it's all gone. Yes, there will be free downloads to enable us to continue playing our figures in the new setting(s), and obviously I can continue to play with my collection, using 8th edition (or any of the others I have). But it's not going to be the same. The blow has been softened for me, I have almost expected it for a couple of years, but even so now that it is happening I feel the emotion. When you have invested so much into a hobby, over so many years, it would be inhuman not to feel something when it comes to an end. For me, it's not so much the End Times, more the Sad Times.

I would dearly love to be proven wrong on this, but I reckon there will be no more WHFB as we have known it. The much hoped-for 9th edition will never arrive, not from GW at any rate. They have pulled the plug on that game, that world, and are pinning all their hopes on the new "fantasy" setting. If you are a fan of the new aesthetic, then that's great, a whole new adventure awaits. But it does not appeal to me.

It may well be that a fine new game comes out of all this, which us old veterans could happily use with our existing collections (presumably this is what the free downloads will give us). But the signs are not hopeful - the leaked 4 page "ruleset" seems lacking in so many ways. GW have been telling us for years that they are a producer of models, not rules. With this new setting they are trying out this new business model. I don't doubt there will be some books, but I expect them to be campaign books, less rules as such, more stories and background, pictures of painted miniatures. The rumours that 9th edition will follow on....we must wait and see, but to me it looks highly doubtful. As ever, the truth will out eventually. I try to remain optimistic, but somehow it feels like the end of an era. Sad Times indeed.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Warhammer Fantasy Battle, 1983 - 2015 RIP

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us."

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Tweaking Lion Rampant Again

Over the weekend I played a little game of Lion Rampant with my son (his Father's Day gift to me, along with a cooked breakfast and an amusing card!). I set up a game in Middle Earth, pitching Rohan against invading orcs. My good forces are not huge, I have just 24 infantry and 8 cavalry available. Lion Rampant units are generally 12 infantry and 6 cavalry, so it could have been a very short game with just 3 units. I suppose I could have played half strength units, but instead I decided to tweak the unit sizes to two thirds. Now I had 2 units of four cavalry and 3 units of eight infantry, perfect for a small battle.

I also tweaked the mechanics a little, reducing the dice rolled from the usual 12 per unit to just 8 per unit (two thirds of course). This would mean less hits per combat, but with smaller units I was hoping it would even out. There were no units with an armour value of 4 so I figured it should all work out.

The game rattled along at a fine pace - the orcs stormed into the village and burnt down two of the three objectives, but then were unable to push back a shiltron defending the final prize. Arrow casualties and cavalry charges whittled away the orc numbers and a final desperate challenge by the Rohirrim saw the orc commander face down in the dirt. I didn't take any photos so a stock art picture will have to suffice.

The tweaks worked a treat. The combats and courage tests seemed to play out as they would in a typical full size game. The game mechanics were picked up quickly and we were able to concentrate on the action, not the rules. We did notice that the profiles in the standard game are possibly not well suited to a fantasy environment. With the exception of fierce foot, infantry are better in defence, which is not really what orcs are about. My son reckoned that it's far more random than other games he has played, which is a fair comment. We also noted the lack of differentiation between the two factions, something that Saga battleboards do better. The abstraction of Lion Rampant, while it certainly makes gameplay very fast and simple, comes with the price of all factions resembling each other. If we were to play again, I would make further tweaks to the profiles, to allow more aggresive infantry for the orcs. A really interesting experiment would be to pitch a modified Lion Rampant against home-brewed Saga battleboards, the battle of the tweaks!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Waterloo Stamps

Today is the 200th anniversary of  the Battle of Waterloo, fought on June 18, 1815. I suspect most, if not all, hobbyists will know a good deal about it already. If you are a UK citizen then you may already know that Royal Mail have released two sets of commemorative stamps, which feature some lovely artwork. For the benefit of non-stamp nerds and overseas visitors to the blog, I thought it was worth showing that artwork here. I can understand why so many people fall under the spell of collecting and gaming this era.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Silver Serpent : Rose

The second member of the secretive Silver Serpent organisation steps into the light. This is Rose, armed only with her kimono and, er, metal hands. Like the first member of the clan, this is a Malifaux plastic figure with some miniscule details to test the eyes and patience of any painter. As if that wasn't hard enough, I decided to add a simple flower design to the otherwise very plain gown. It's mostly visible on the rear of the figure.

Progress on the rest of the clan is slow. I have the whole crew assembled and the third member is part painted, as you can see from this sneak peek shot. In gaming terms, these ladies will probably all be defined in the same way, with Jade armed with a weapon (probably a halberd). I think giving them all throwing knives would also be appropriate, secreted away beneath their flowing robes. 

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Rohan reinforcements

Eight Rohan infantry added to my small force. That brings them up to 24 infantry (8 with bows) and 8 cavalry, not a huge army by any means, but enough for small skirmish games. I was wondering about playing Lion Rampant, but rather than half strength units as some seem to suggest, go for two-thirds. This would mean units of eight infantry and four cavalry, giving me five units to put on the tabletop, about the average number for a Lion Rampant force. I wonder if anybody has tried it?