Saturday 30 January 2016

One Page 40K

Having painted up the killa kans I was keen to put them into action. I have played a few games of 40K over the past decade, but I never got to grips with the system, always found it a bit cumbersome. I looked at alternatives but they all seemed just as complex. I wanted a Lasers Rampant kind of game - simple rules, easy to play without spending too much time nose in rulebook. I remembered a cut down version called "40K in 40 minutes" but when I googled I came up with one-page-rules. This is a stripped down version of the original game, the rules really are summarised on one page - though with a very small font! Still, it was worth a shot, so I gathered together all my painted troops and my meagre terrain collection and pitched them against a mate's Chaos Marines.

The game was pretty good. It was 40K-esque but much streamlined. Play proceeds by alternate units, so the orks activated one unit, then Chaos, then back to the orks, etc. An activation is either hold, walk, run, or assault. Each troop type has a quality, roll this or higher to hit in shooting or combat, to save a hit, to pass a morale test. It sounds bland, but there were quite a few different weapons types, walkers, vehicles, monsters and the like. Just enough flavour to make the orcs expendable and the Daemon Prince unstoppable! Our first game lasted about 90 minutes, I think after a couple more games this could easily be trimmed to an hour. As you can see in the photo, it was doable on my dining table, though more terrain is needed. The orks took a real beating from Chaos, though both kans survived the whole game so a minor victory there. It also gave me a couple of ideas what to paint next. Well worth downloading and taking a look.

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Killa Kans

These kans were really easy to paint. I started with black primer, then painted them a chainmail/boltgun colour. I let this dry overnight. The models were then washed with a combination of black and chestnut for a murky brown, with matte medium added to help it settle into the crevices. When that was dry I added some more browns in a fairly random fashion, though aiming for the bits that would be most rusty. Finally I added some MIG rust pigments for extra rusty bits. Then I drybrushed with the base metal colour, to bring the metal back a little. When all that was dry I applied a coat of matte varnish and left them to dry overnight.

The next stage I sprayed the models with some cheap hairspray. As soon as it was tacky dry I painted the panels and armour casings in yellow and black, a few white bits too. Then I used a scruffy old brush dipped in water to scrub and pick at the paint. The water lifts off some of the hairspray, leaving a chipped paint effect behind. Some very worn bits I might touch up again - it depends on how the scratches turn out, it is quite a random technique. I then used a diluted army painter strong tone to give some contrast and depth, a sort of blacklining for cheats. Finally for this step I glued them on the bases then gave them a coat of matte varnish to remove the shine from the hairspray.

The final stage involves painting any extra details, mostly pipes, plus more shading and lining where needed. I also added black brown on the exhaust pipes, gun muzzles and thinned it to make an oily wash to apply around rivets, leaking from random points. Finally I painted up the simple bases, the usual drybrushing on the rocks and a bit of washing with paints and pigments on the sand. Job done, ready for gaming, let's hope they don't get blown up in turn one.

Saturday 23 January 2016

You Kan Not Be Serious!

It's been a good long while since I did anything orky. Eighteen months ago I touched up some tankbustas, prior to that it was six years since I painted a warboss. Six years! Blimey, keeping a blog can sure make you feel old.

I lost interest in the game a long time ago, it was always a background project and I just could not be bothered to keep up with the constant rules and codex revisions. Shifting the game focus from squad-based to anything goes killed it for me too, so I stashed away the orks in a case. A couple of times I even thought about selling them. But now I am breaking them out again to have a go at a rule set called one-page 40k. Simplified, streamlined, easy rules are essential when you swap from one game system to another every couple of weeks.

While totting up points for a trial game, I realised that there's not much fun in my ork army. It's all infantry. Probably at the time my intention was to get through the core stuff before moving on to the more diverse and wacky selections. So partly to fill this gap, but mostly because I like the models, I have built these kans. Just two to start with, there are some restrictions in the rules (which we could easily ignore I suppose), but I am happy to start small and add more if we get on with the game. I seem to have acquired an extra flamer arm, probably from a commission leftover, which suits me fine as I am hoping to get these into combat and roasting marines as quick as their stompy little legs can carry them.

Wednesday 20 January 2016

Dragon Rampant or Saga?

Rather than add huge comments to my previous post, I thought I would start a new one to compare these two systems - it's a question that crops up time and again in various forums and has been mentioned a few times in the blog.

Let's start with some basics. Both games are designed for small warbands, around 30 to 50 figures per side I would say, depending on your chosen force. You can play on a smallish table, Saga in particular recommends 4x3, while Dragon Rampant makes no stipulation but from experience you can play on a typical dining table of 5x3. Both systems are easy to learn and after a handful of games you probably won't need the rulebook too much. Games will typically last an hour or so, once you are up to speed.

Dragon Rampant uses an activation system. Each unit has a score from 5 to 7 it has to equal or exceed on 2 dice to either move, shoot or attack. If a unit fails to activate because you roll under the activation score, your turn ends and your opponent takes a turn. Assuming you are successful and attack (say), you roll 12 dice (or 6 if your unit is at half strength or lower), with a score needed to hit the enemy, between 3 for the best troops and 6 for the worst. You then take the number of hits, divide by your opponent's armour and arrive at a number of casualties for your enemy. Combat is simultaneous, so your opponent does the same. Any side taking casualties tests morale, again a simple 2d6 roll, with deductions for each casualty suffered in the unit to date, comparing it to a morale value. You might pass with no effect, retreat and get battered (shaken) or rout. That's the game in a nutshell.

There are a dozen or so profiles to cover all troop types - Elite Mounted, Heavy Foot, Greater Warbeast, Light Missiles being examples. There are no lists as such, you decide which profile best matches your troops, make any upgrades, pay the points. As I said in my previous post, this works well in a low fantasy setting. If you think that an orc with a spear is the same as a man with a spear is the same as a dwarf with a spear, then you will enjoy the game. There is no racial differentiation in the game - no in built adjustments for the speed of elves, the doughty dwarfs, the tough hided orc, etc. You can emulate this to an extent with the profiles and the upgrades, but there is a limit to what you can achieve with the handful of profiles. Personally, I think it would work better with Lord of the Rings figures rather than Warhammer style play. At any rate you don't have to spend much to give it a whirl, it's very cheap on BooksEtc if you live in the UK, or as an e-publication.

Saga has less profiles! There are just four troop types in the basic game - Warlord, elite, regular and levy. The warlord is free, then you pay one point to hire 4 elite or 8 regular or 12 levy troops. The standard game size is 6 points, so you could have just 24 elite troops, or 72 levy, at the two opposite ends of the spectrum. Typically you will have about 40 troops. Once bought, you can field your troops in units of from 4 to 12. Each unit on the battlefield (not levy) generates a Saga dice, while your warlord generates two Saga dice. Having rolled the Saga dice you place them on a battle board, to determine which of your units are activated and any special features or powers they will use. These battle boards are designed to emulate different play styles - Vikings are aggressive with many combat bonuses, Danes are more defensive, Welsh are more of a skirmish force. There is an excellent primer that explains the basics far better than I could.

To play fantasy games you could just take the existing boards and proxy them for your own forces - I have seen the viking board used as uruk hai, the Welsh board used as Wood Elves, that kind of thing. Or you can download (free) the Fantastic Saga mod, which I detailed in this original post. There are additional troops types to cover beasts, war machines and a very basic magic system. The mod originally contained boards for Dwarves, Undead, Wild Tribes (chaos) and Elves, with newer boards for orcs and dark elves, plus plans for more. The battle boards in the free download will give you a very good idea of the kind of thing that the game aims to achieve.

The original set of Saga rules is not as cheap as Dragon Rampant, nor is it available in electronic format, but unfortunately you need a copy to understand the basic rules. Note that you need the original rule set, not one of the expansions. There is a newer version set in the Crusade era, though the rules are the same - it's more Saga version 1.1 than anything - from various reviews I have read this is an excellent book, but higher priced than the original dark ages book.

Game preference is a very personal thing. I enjoy both games and I have talked about them at length in various posts (click on the labels to check out my past ramblings). Neither of them will give you the full Warhammer Fantasy experience - these are small warband games, more akin to 40K with skirmish movement. Both can be used to emulate, in a simplified way, different fantasy races. Dragon Rampant is cheap, easy and quick to play. For my money, Saga offers a little more, even though it has a higher barrier to entry (note that £25 counts as expensive in historical wargaming!). The boards are designed so that each force plays differently, there is more tactical nuance, it really gives you something to think about each turn. I am happy to play both games, but if I was ever forced to choose just one, it would be Saga. Having said that, my best advice would be to try Dragon Rampant first, it's readily available and very cheap. If you find you still have a fantasy shaped hole in your life after that, then maybe look more into Saga.

Saturday 16 January 2016

Dragon Rampant First Few Games

I managed to get a couple of gaming sessions in the last few days. I was keen to try out Dragon Rampant with the newly painted chaos warriors. Having played Lion Rampant in the past, the rules were a breeze - the two games are practically identical. There's a few more troop categories and upgrades in the fantasy rulebook - to represent beasts, magic, undead and such like - but the base mechanics are unchanged.

My first game was a home match, the diminutive dining room table just about big enough for a standard 24 point game. The chaos warriors faced off against Bretonnians, with both armies containing just four units each. We warmed up with a straight up pitched battle type affair, then rolled up a scenario for a second game. Just like Lion Rampant the games run easily, there's virtually no rules checking involved, just the occasional glance at the profiles - I still think the last page of the book should contain a summary of all the profiles rather than the frankly useless blank profile chart. The Bretonnians brought along a spellcaster but it seemed to have little effect. All in all, a decent enough debut for the ruleset.

The next session was round at the more spacious gaming dungeon, the chaos warriors facing an all mounted Empire force. As we had more space with the standard 6 x 4 table, we upped to 32 points each - each force now contained five units, which gives a better game I feel. Two more scenarios offered a little more flavour and again we whipped through with little need to reference the rulebook.

Two sessions, four games, the rules are easy to pick up and genuinely fast play (every rule set claims to be fast play these days, with varying degrees of veracity). I can understand why the system is popular with the more casual gamer and at wargaming shows - they are ideal for this kind of audience. For myself, I wonder about the longevity of the system. With about a dozen profiles designed to cover the multiplicity of troop types in fantasy gaming, there's lots of duplication involved. A Blood Beast Daemon of Khorne has the same profile as a griffon. A unit of ogres has the same profile as a unit of marauders. Chaos knights are the same as Empire cavalry. For a rich and varied background like the Warhammer Olde Worlde, I am unsure they are suitable. For low fantasy gaming, like Lord of the Rings, they are probably better suited. This is not so much a criticism as an observation - the rules are simple to learn, quick to play, highly abstracted - beer and pretzels style gaming.

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Blood Rage Fenris

I received my copy of Blood Rage in September, I backed the kickstarter project and it came in on time. Ironically, I then left it untouched for three months, treating it as a xmas present to myself. Over the holidays I managed to get in a couple of games and it plays really well. The rules are well laid out and easy to understand, there's even a youtube video to give an overview. It's quick to pickup but there are plenty of different strategies to try, so I reckon it could become a staple xmas game for the future.

As a boardgame then, it's pretty good, but the main reason I bought it was to acquire the miniatures. I knew upfront that these were to be pvc, not plastic or resin. This means plenty of value for money as pvc minis are cheap, but at reduced quality - the miniatures are less sharp than plastic or resin. I was keen to paint up a test figure and went for one of the larger monsters to speed up my test.

Cleaning was reasonably easy with a sharp knife - there are few mould lines to contend with. I was worried about the primer sticking to the mini as it seemed quite shiney, so I carried out a little test. The wolf I painted with some watered down liquid green stuff, the boulders I left bare, out of the box. The result? Absolutely no difference whatsoever - the primer and paints took to both sections in the same way. So for future painting I know not to bother with the extra step.

Painting I stuck with my usual techniques. On this model I did quite a bit of drybrushing on the fur and it worked well. Washes and glazes performed well too. The model does lack a little of the sharpness I am used to in quality plastics, but it doesn't worry me too much. Base coats, glazing and drybrushing have yielded a decent result. My next test is to try painting up the gods, a range of more typically man sized figures. Five of the six gods included in the game are shown here, primed and washed. To my mind these would also make excellent character models in a fantasy/semi-historical warband.

Monday 4 January 2016

Review of the Year - Painting

Another year gone by, so as is traditional it's time for the annual look back at hobby highlights. This post will look back at my painting efforts over the past year. There's a companion gaming review post to summarise dice adventures.

The start of the year was dominated by the Lion Rampant project. Over a period of four or five months, I built and painted a complete late medieval force of Perry Miniatures Wars of the Roses figures. It was nice to complete a project in such a short timespan - some of my projects have been plodding along for years!

My painting mojo was obviously firing on all cylinders in spring, for I quickly fired off a few more units for various projects, including some warg riders and  Rohan troops for my Lord of the Rings collection, and these undead vikings, which I am unsure what to do with - something will come to mind at some stage. Sometimes it's good just to go with the flow and paint up what you fancy. 

After all those units I wanted to slow down and concentrate on some individual figures for a change of pace. We had started playing In Her Majesty's Name, which requires just 10 or so figures for a complete force, so I made a start on my oriental faction, the Silver Serpent, with these rather finely featured Malifaux figures. Actually, I slowed down to such an extent that this trio took me over three months to complete!

It was some time in late summer that I bought the Age of Sigmar starter boxset. I kept the chaos figures to add to my collection and sold the rest. I painted up the warriors, marauders and daemon beast model, and also finished painting a unit of ogres plus a lord on jugger, to give myself another skirmish faction to play in various game systems. 

Last but definitely not least, I started a dwarf project. Even though I already have a fully painted army for Warhammer, and a fledgling Lord of the Rings force, I could not resist buying a complete army from a forum sale. It's a project to savour, one to mature down the years. I painted up possibly my finest single figure of the year in the shape of a dwarf champion, followed by a splendid looking unit of rangers. More short beardy painting is sure to come in 2106. 

I reckon 2015 has been a good vintage for my painting. Two warbands completed - the Wars of the Roses force and the Khorne Warriors - and a good start made to a dwarf army, plus a little progress made on my Lord of the Rings collection. Looking to the year ahead, I am determined to get two small forces together for some steampunk gaming, so more work on the Silver Serpent and some new figures. The boxset of Blood Rage figures is calling to me, more vikings on the way. And no doubt the dwarfs will make an appearance too. I don't like to plan my painting too much, my enthusiasm for projects ebbs and flows and I make best progress if I just paint whatever takes my fancy at the time. 

Review of the Year - Gaming

It's time to look back at how the dice rolled over the past year, with a brief review of my gaming adventures. There's a similar review of the year's painting if you have not already seen it. Most of my games are played in Matt's gaming dungeon and you can find his blog here.

At the beginning of the year we were already well started with a Dux Brittaniarum campaign, with the luckless viking Ivar Sveinson attempting to invade England. The game mechanics proved easy to pick up and we enjoyed a good half dozen or so adventures. The campaign system seemed less than satisfying, and after 2 campaign years we came to a faltering halt. I have often thought that, with a little tweaking, the rules would form the basis of a nice little fantasy skirmish game.

Spring arrived and I was busy painting my Lion Rampant retinue. A few games were enjoyed (by me at any rate) in Matt's dungeon, it's a shame that the rest of my group didn't really take to the system. I even managed to get in a couple of games in my more modest gaming area. It's more cell than dungeon so can be a bit limiting on my 5 x 3 dining table, but it looks good with my homemade terrain and mat.

Summer came in the usual damp and dreary British way, and with it the bombshell that was the destruction of the Warhammer world. I had not played the game much over the past few years, but I was pretty sad to see the old game destroyed like it was. The replacement system I tried a few times, but as a skirmish game I think there are better alternatives, and the new aesthetic leaves me cold, so it felt like the end of an era. 

Much of my gaming over the summer months was down in Matt's dungeon, where we enjoyed a good number of games of In Her Majesty's Name in a Victorian Cumbria setting. Matt has also started to play Very British Civil War using mostly Bolt Action rules and I tried a couple of games of that too. The picture below was borrowed from Matt's highly entertaining blog.

Towards the end of the year we have been playing more fantasy games again. We tried adapting Lion Rampant, but found more success in Fantastic Saga, a fan-written mod to Saga. I was able to dig out some old friends in my dwarf and undead armies. 

A decent gaming year, I would have liked to have seen my Lion Rampant force get on to the battlefield a bit more, but it was good to get out the old fantasy figures. More Fantasy Saga games are on the agenda, with Dragon Rampant and Fanticide and even Of Gods and Mortals still to be tried out - so lots more fantasy gaming in 2016. I am also determined to get my oriental gang adventuring on the streets of Victorian Cumbria, and hopefully even get together a little steampunk set up of my own. And that's just the skirmish games! 
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