Thursday 30 July 2015

A second game of Age of Sigmar

Turn 1
Not one to give in at the first setback (game report here), I invited a gaming buddy round for another try at Age of Sigmar. I stuck with the elves and chaos armies, though this time Chaos Warriors as opposed to Beastmen. They were costed according to a simple scheme which I had found on BOLS (link here). Using this Saga like system I came up with two hopefully roughly balanced forces from my own collection.

The chaos force gained the initiative and rushed on from the left, the newly painted ogres charging into elf spearmen on turn 1. Four wounds on both sides and no battleshock suffered, a nice steady start. Note that the elves are fairly tightly grouped while the chaos forces are a little bit dispersed. This allowed the elves in their first turn to charge the engaged ogres with both the Elven Prince and the Swordmasters, which are absolutely lethal in combat. Suffice to say that troops with 2 attacks each, that hit on 3's, rerolling 1's and then wound on 3's with a -1 rend are potent stuff! Turn 1 death to the newly-painted overweight brutes.

Turn 2
In the chaos turn 2 the marauders surged forward, the horsemen charged the out of position Prince, and managed to wound him, the horses comically far better than the riders. In the centre the large block of marauders moved into contact with the Maiden Guard (which were playing using Seaguard stats). This brought them into range of the Swordmasters who piled in with predictable results - see the half empty movement tray! The marauders at the bottom of the picture made short work of an eagle. Neither side suffered much from battleshock or magic.

In the elf turn, the central unit of marauders were wiped out by the Swordmasters as their reign of death continued. The bolt thrower inflicted casualties on the nearer unit of marauders while on the far side, the Prince retreated to be replaced by the spearmen, who easily defeated the marauder horsemen (I noticed today that the horsemen have two wounds each - we had played just one each - with their two attack steeds this makes them quite overpowered in my mind). The chaos force was looking under pressure, their best unit still to get into combat.

Turn 3
The initiative swung to the elves. They poured fire into the chaos warriors and stripped away a handful with bolt and arrow, then charged in with Maiden Guard and Prince, removing another couple of warriors. In return the chaos forces inflicted just three casualties on the elven fighting ladies. The Swordmasters slaughtered the lone chaos sorceror, though in a flurry of poor dice it took them two combats. By now it was clear that the battle was effectively over. The elves gallantly offered surrender terms to the remaining six chaos troops, then proceeded to mock them as they trudged off the battlefield. Capricious behaviour befitting the haughty ones!

It was probably a better game than the first effort, though the Chaos general was new to the game and made some beginner errors, leaving his units isolated to be systematically outnumbered and slaughtered. It still seems strange that there is no psychology, no real manouevre. I am not sure it's suited to a classic mass battle but is obviously more intended for skirmish gaming, playing like 40k a lot of the time. Maybe we should try it with minimum sized units of 10 or 5, see if it gives better results. A couple more games I think before I throw in the towel, but it's failing to convince me at the moment. Shame really, I quite like the flavour added by the warscrolls, it's the basic mechanics that are the problem.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Chaos Ogres....finally!

Finally in two senses. Firstly, it's been about six weeks since I painted anything, my hobby enthusiasm seems to have evaporated like the English summer. As the end of the month approached and I realised it could be another barren one, I fell back on the old trick of picking something nearly finished and giving it the last couple of hours it needed to be completed. And finally in the sense that I added these to my painting list in 2011. Yes, finally four years later!

These ogres were built around the same time as the ogres with additional hand weapons. I started all seven together but never quite got round to the last three, they were 90% finished for so long. I think the plastic intruder I was never happy with and thought I might pick up a replacement at some point.

It was quite interesting to return to models I had painted four and a half years ago. While my techniques seem to be the same year after year, I was surprised at how basic the painting was and how much differently I would approach these figures if I started them again now. I guess four years is a long time and I have learnt a few little tricks in that time.

Painting the ogres has given me a taste for the chaos army once more. I have another almost-finished piece to tackle and have also succumbed to temptation, with more Khorne worshippers on the way. You don't have to possess the cunning insight of a Tzeentchian sorceror to guess what they are. Blood for the Blood God, do we still say that?

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Fireforge medieval archers on the way

Fireforge have announced that they are soon to release medieval archers (they call them Crusader archers). Details are a bit "sketchy" at the moment, the full press release is here. In short, they are resin kits and will be available in August - not long to wait then.

This is good news for those of us building medieval forces, archers are rather scarce models. I was pondering the Perry English Army archers, but I really want something a little more generic and this concept art really fits the bill. We need to see actual sculpts and prices of course, but they look very promising at this early stage.

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Fireforge Infantry first impressions

I have been searching around for some time for figures to make a generic middle ages force for Lion Rampant. The idea is not to recreate one particular historical nation, but rather a stereotypical medieval force. There are lots of metal figures around but not many of them appeal to me - too many have a squat, chunky appearance that I dislike. Luckily, there are quite a few decent plastic sets around and there's a good range of choice at reasonable prices. When a gaming mate offered me these Fireforge infantry at a discounted price, I was happy to raid my battle chest.

The casting quality is excellent, matching that of the Perry plastics - hardly surprising as these are produced by Renedra. The detail is good, crisp without being too clunky. The sculpting is mostly very good, with good proportions and realistic folds in the garments. One minor problem I have is that many of the poses are very dynamic. Given that half of the box can be used to make up crossbow armed men, I would have thought that half of the poses being a bit more solid would have been appropriate. I am no expert on medieval weaponry but I would expect a solid stance is required to fire a weapon. It's not a big problem for me, I am building half as spear armed sergeants, half as hand weapon wielding troops, but worth bearing in mind if you want them for crossbow duty.

The figures required very little cleaning, with faint mould lines easy to scrape off with a knife. They are quick to assemble too, comprising just a body, two arms and head. They are probably the easiest plastic historicals I have assembled to date. This dozen I whipped up in a couple of hours or so, which included a bit of conversion work on weapon length, a couple of Perry head swaps and the like. In terms of scale they are a very close match to Perry Wars of the Roses figures, so you could easily get a box of each and mash them together if you wanted to make generic fantasy/medieval troops. All in all, highly recommended.

Saturday 11 July 2015

A game of Age of Sigmar

The battle begins
I was sad to see the old Warhammer world destroyed. There's been a lot of commentary made around the web, on both sides of the argument. I think the comment that summed up my feelings best - it felt like an act of vandalism. Having said that, we still have over 30 years of creative output to play with, which is far more than most other games can claim. It's a rich world that we can continue to enjoy, through previous versions of Warhammer Fantasy, or using other rulesets. And of course we have free warscrolls for our existing armies to use in the new game, Age of Sigmar. With this in mind, I got my high elves out of the glass cabinet and arranged a game with a long standing Beastlord gaming buddy. I told him upfront what I would be using and asked him to come up with something roughly equivalent. It wasn't a case of winning or losing, it was more an investigation of how the game played. It certainly was good to get the old elves on the table, some of these figures I painted about twenty years ago!

Straight away, we hit what is surely a common problem around the world. The two armies lined up, and it seemed that the elves had come expecting a nice little tea party and a chat about the good old days, while the beasts were intent on cramming in as many participants as possible and causing serious carnage. No points values means some kind of contract between players, but even between us old time friends I think somebody got a little carried away. I cannot imagine how this would work in a shop, I bet the poor guys behind the tills have had a few stressful days of late.

The thin white line
Having read the rules a couple of times I was fairly confident that the game would swing along at a good pace. There's a few grey areas that can be easily overcome with a common sense approach, but I failed to appreciate how much all the special rules would have an impact. While the basic game rules are easy, we spent a lot of time rifling through our printouts to check what special rules each unit had, three or four each on average. To be fair, a lot of these were similar, and after a few games we would probably have these mostly memorised. Like many a simple ruleset, these special rules are where the flavour of the army shines through.

At first, the game settled into a fairly familiar pattern. The elves held back and shot as much as they could. The archers took advantage of their special rule and loosed a storm of arrows (double attacks for one turn only), and combined with shots from the bolt thrower and reavers they brought down most of the advancing minotaurs. The reavers had a nice rule that allowed them to shoot, then move away, in classic fast cavalry fashion. They also had a basic two shots each, which increases to three per model if they stay more than three inches from the enemy. So they turned out to be a very potent force and kept the right flank under control for the whole game. 

The thicker, beefier brown line
The beasts ran across the board as fast as they could, then attempted multiple charges, most of which fell short, allowing the elves to strike with their bows once more. At this point I should really have withdrawn and then shot, there is no penalty for moving then shooting and there's no risk in hanging right back at the edge of the board, as nothing ever flees. But inevitably these things are forgotten in the thick of battle and the forces came to blows. Centigors butchered archers and were in turn wiped out by swordmasters. Both chariots found it impossible to resist infantry blocks. Magic was practically non-existant, a mage bolt dealt the killing blow to a doombull, but in return the beast shaman conjured a monster from thin air.  

Combat tended to be extremely brutal. Casualties mount up very quickly, then the crap shoot that is the batteshock test invariably adds a few more. My units of 15 spears melted away in one single combat, the beastly blocks had far greater staying power. There was no need to outflank or manoeuvre for position as there is no real advantage to orchestrating combined charges. Units fight in alternating player turn, so it can be easy for a unit that has been charged to strike first and remove the charging bonus of the enemy. 

A fine spectacle, but how does the game play?
After three or four turns we wrapped up. As expected, the armies had met in the middle and destroyed each other. It felt a little predictable, a little flat. I had come to dislike WHFB 8 because everything died, in Age of Sigmar this is turned up to 11 (though magic is strangely less important). The outcome may well have been different if the sides had been more equal, I reckon my army was around 1500 points whereas the beasts were packing 2000+ points. With a little more planning we could probably have a better experience, just using the points values from the old books would be a starting point, though clearly units have changed in their effectiveness. There's no psychology whatsoever, no real need to move carefully, very little in the way of tactical planning. All in all, I was a little disappointed that a once fine game had been reduced to a not very subtle dice rolling exercise. I really did no want to write this, there is far too much moaning on the web about the game, but the experience was a let down. Maybe there will be future expansions to refine the rules, but at the moment I would rate it as the poorest version of the game I have played.

To end on a positive note, it was good to see the elves on the tabletop after all these years - I will certainly not be burning them! We will be returning to these two foes in future games, the first of which we will fight using an even simpler set of rules - Lion Rampant. Our initial task is to thrash out army lists for the elves and beasts. We will probably also try out some of the other rulesets on offer, perhaps Saga, Hail Caesar or Kings of War. The struggles of the Elves of Ulthuan will continue.....

Friday 10 July 2015

Mierce Miniatures Metal Mayhem!

Mierce Miniatures have a kickstarter running, to produce some of their figures in metal. They certainly do produce top quality sculpts - arguably the finest in the industry. They are aimed squarely at the premium end of the market, with matching premium prices. I have always admired the Darklands range, but being a frugal type of chap, have resisted their merchandise on account of the cost. However, these days I am more likely to play skirmish gaming and don't mind paying a little extra if I think the quality matches the price. These offers certainly have me tempted. I have selected my three favourite hosts in the pictures below, but there are plenty of different styles on offer. If you baulk at the price but would like to show them support, they are offering drinking companions at £10 a figure - about the price of a round of drinks for you and a couple of mates. If, for some reason, you are looking for a new fantasy world to game in, or fancy painting up some top quality figures, take a look. Here's a link to the kickstarter project, there's just a few days remaining.

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.
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