Fantasy Battles – Age of Sigmar

I promised a long, long time ago to try out Age of Sigmar. Jen really wasn’t interested, but my old Warhammer buddy has gotten into it and offered to show me through it.

We played Wood Elves vs Warriors of Chaos (with a few Skaven thrown in) but I suppose in the new jargon that would be ‘Aelf Wanderers and Sylvaneth’ against… something else? We used Warscroll Builder to come up with 2000pt armies, and since I haven’t read more than the four-page rulebook (and dozens of pages of warscrolls for my two elf armies…) I don’t know if it accurately reflects all of the points options available. Compared to old Warhammer, there are far fewer options. I suppose it’s on the same sort of level as Kings of War – pick a unit, choose small/medium/large and off you go. But I’d have to see the Age of Sigmar supplement that describes pointed battles to understand it properly.

Headline response? I think I’ll try it again, but it’s definitely not hooked me yet. It wasn’t that hard to pick up, although I didn’t really get to learn how to use each unit well. The game played out strangely – because I had managed to get near an objective and that unit didn’t die fast enough, I scored a couple of points and technically won. However, I lost almost my entire army and what was left was too far away to do anything if we’d played longer. Compared to our Kings of War game this one took 3 hours to finish 3 turns, and that took under 2 hours to finish 6 or more – with roughly comparable armies.

Comparing to both Kings of War and old Warhammer, this game is more fiddly. Every model moves separately. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is why it took so much time to play, since the other two games both involve pushing around whole trays of models that fight as a tight formation.

It also feels less tactical, although I suppose the tactics have just changed. I used a battalion rule that let me ambush and come on at any table edge to sneak in behind the enemy lines and start shooting. However, in Age of Sigmar turning around is impossibly easy, the combination of moving and charging means everything is a little bit closer and for bonus points, there is no benefit to flanking your opponents units. It looks like the game needs you to be smarter about which match-ups you get into or what support your units have (since combat no longer prevents you from shooting into or out of combat), and not necessarily smarter about how you move around the battlefield. The absence of any tactical movement rules like fleeing from a charge go along with this.

I’m not sure I like the new tactical direction. I liked the feel of drawing a unit somewhere it didn’t want to be and then hitting it in the side for maximum impact. Since I’ve almost always used Elves you need to be able to maximise their effectiveness with ganging up or gaining some sort of advantage, but there’s no major benefit to either of those in Age of Sigmar. It won’t matter where my Elf unit engages the Chaos Knights, they are screwed unless there are absolutely loads of them – and even then Battleshock will take care of the rest even if they win.

I do like Battleshock as a rule. I didn’t dislike fleeing and pursuing, but Battleshock is one area of the game that just goes faster and still does it’s job. It also keeps units in the fight so you’re not looking at all your fleeing units and wondering if you’ll be able to rally them in time to do something useful with them. The downside is when you realise that your units shouldn’t be in that fight in the first place, and you’d really rather they fled somewhere safer (although having ambushed right along the back line, my units had nowhere to run anyway…)

Another thing I liked was the individual melee weapon ranges. It’s a bit fiddly, the sort of thing that would go down well in Mordheim or Necromunda better, but the idea of a Treeman being able to reach over two models to hit a guy further back whereas swords are pretty much ‘base contact’ is really neat. I noticed that the spear wielders could still attack in two ‘ranks’ if they were bunched up together.

Overall, there are things I think I need to try again to see if I can get the hang of it. I almost feel like 2000pts is too big for a game where you’re moving individual models, measuring 1” ranges to see if they hit in combat (2” for spears) but I’ll try it with the Dark Elves (‘Aelf Exiles’) and see if they get on any better.

Fantasy Battles – Kings of War

With the children away and the Gamer’s Edition rulebook just landed in our laps, we decided to try out Kings of War first. I didn’t bother making proper army lists, I just put out whatever of Jen’s units I could place quickly and some of my own to try and look balanced.

She had the Undead, using her Vampire Counts. These seem to map across fairly well. She had regiments of Ghouls, Zombies, Revenants (using Grave Guard) and Skeleton Warriors with two Vampire Lords.

On my side, I used the fresh new Twilight Kin placeholder with regiments of Buccaneers (Corsairs) and Bladedancers (Witch Elves), a troop of Dark Knights (Cold One Knights), a Dark Lord and a High Priestess of the Abyss (using the very appropriate Death Hag from the old Cauldron of Blood). Adding them up afterwards, both armies were around the 800 point mark.

We didn’t take any updates to any units, or use any terrain this time, and we had a 4’ x 4’ table to play on. No scenarios, no time limit, nothing.

Jen placed her units down to cover the flanks, meaning I couldn’t get around the side – I screwed up some of my movement and she got a couple of flank charges on me. My Priestess managed to avoid fighting until the very end and spent the whole game throwing Fireballs around. They are particularly effective against units like Ghouls, which were wavering on the first turn!

There’s a lot to get used to about the game. We both found it odd to do nothing on our opponent’s turn. The combat procedure of charge in, fight, move out without being hit back made it difficult to gauge fights, and progress, and who was going to survive. Early on when I could see all the charges Jen would get in against me I thought it would be a loss for me, then I had a couple of good turns and removed almost everything, making me confident that she couldn’t recover. Ultimately the game came down to my Bladedancers (with 10 damage already) being wiped out by what was left of her Zombies, before the Zombies were blown up by a Fireball. Finally, the last Vampire Lord chased down the Priestess and smashed her into the ground to become literally the last man standing, and Jen won.

When we finished, we looked at the time – it wasn’t a tiny game, though we could still have added more to it – and it took us under two hours. Given how simple the rules were (it takes two turns maximum to learn what everything is and what it does), we were both confident than a bigger game wouldn’t take too much. Compared to Warhammer (all editions until now), no units have unique rules and the stats are much simpler. There’s only a few calculations in the game and they are simple, and based on the rules. For example, Crushing Strength (2) adds 2 to your result when rolling to Damage. It’s a common rule, shared by her Vampire Lords and my Dark Lord, so it was easy for us to know what it meant.

So what did we like about it? Well, it was quick. Although we sat doing nothing until our turn, it didn’t take long to wait. It was also quick to pick up – the stats and rules are simple enough to get into the game quickly and look for tactical opportunities.

On the other hand, it felt like there could have been more choice. I realise that this could be down to only having a few units either side, and not really paying attention to the army lists (the criteria was “this is already ranked on the shelf” and not “what would be an interesting or effective army”), and not using scenarios or terrain. Years of extremely infrequent Warhammer games have steered me towards straight Pitched Battles to keep things simple but Kings of War is simple enough to pick it up from scratch and play a couple of thousand points in a couple of hours, so I don’t think a scenario would be too difficult to add to the core rules.

It’s also a little bit more abstract, yet more realistic. The way that units move – specifically the interpenetration of units while moving (sometimes referred to in Warhammer as ‘virtual pivots’) means that large regiments can reorder in a way properly representative of a real unit. Knowing several people involved in historical re-enactment, I have been told a number of ways that units in wargames don’t behave like real units would. On the abstract side, your attacks, roll to hit and damage is purely a score. It’s not immediately or directly related to the weapons or units, unless you begin looking at them and comparing to similar units in their army or others and telling yourself that this unit must have more attacks because it has two weapons, or that unit has Crushing Strength because they have halberds. In old Warhammer, you would look at a unit’s list of equipment and calculate from that your armour save and damage output. In Kings of War it’s all pre-calculated and without putting that little bit of personal analysis in, it didn’t make immediate sense. Luckily the units that I’d picked were, on both sides, relatable to their statistics. The Witch Elves Bladedancers even acted in a manner I would have expected them to by causing extra morale damage and ignoring morale trouble in their own unit!

Overall, we are both keen to try this out again. Next up though is a play-through of Age of Sigmar to see what this new spin on Warhammer can offer.

Fantasy Battles!

Big news in the world of Fantasy Battles! Warhammer is dead, long live Warhammer!

Warhammer as I know it and love it has been scrapped entirely, and replaced with a new game – Warhammer: Age of Sigmar. I’ve been playing Warhammer to a greater or lesser extent since 4th edition, and it went out on 8th edition. Unfortunately, I only managed to get a few games in of eighth because of time and friends who play dwindling and children making it more and more difficult for Jen and I to set up the table and get the armies out for a game at the weekend.

Not only was the game replaced by Age of Sigmar, but it went out with a five-part series which introduced all manner of game-breaking rules, while the story progressed ever more apocalyptic until the world itself was destroyed – utterly. And I have come to terms with the reasons for this. The background was seen as “too difficult” for new players to get into (I disagree, but we’ll let it slide), the rules were seen as much too complicated and the entry price to the game was too steep. I agree that the rules were complex. Although it was what players like me enjoyed about the game, it gave it tactical depth, it’s not exactly the easiest learning curve for beginners. And the starter price of an army was somewhere in the region of £250, sometimes including books and sometimes not. To have more options or a bigger game, you were obviously adding a whole bunch more to that.

Now, the core rules are free. And a ‘get you by’ set of lists to use the old armies in Age of Sigmar are also free. There are a few big differences though:

  1. Simple rules, only four pages long.
  2. No points costs, balance is decided between friends.
  3. Old armies are not coming back; these are a sticky plaster for old players.

The downsides of these things are:

  1. No tactical depth; there’s no point to manoeuvring.
  2. Balance between friends will be a matter of trial and error; balance between strangers is impossible.
  3. I love my old armies!

Balance is the big thing. I understand that balance is now a matter of “don’t be a dick” but in reality, my mate and I will need to play a few games to determine what is fair between us. Then we’ll go to a club and either get walked over for being totally useless (maybe our opponent has decided something else is fair with his regular opponents, maybe he’s a dick, maybe he’s trying out something new and doesn’t realise the disparity) or we’ll get thrown out for bringing an unstoppable power force and not playing fair.

Having read the rules, and some reviews, I have come to a few conclusions. It will be a smaller, possibly faster game than old Warhammer but it will not scale well. Every unit plays differently, with different special rules. Very few cross-cutting rules, and very little that can be cross-applied, and since units no longer move as units it will take more time to move things across the table. It will not take as much manoeuvring as the old game, it will be more a matter of “push it forward”.

I am planning to be fair to it, and give it a try. If it is quicker, maybe we’ll have time for a game in the evening when the kids have gone to bed, and it’ll be nice to use the old armies. On the other hand, the game isn’t the same style as I had, doesn’t have the background I loved, and it sounds like they want to rely on scenarios (read: future purchases) to introduce balance and purpose to games. If the rules depth I want isn’t there, and the background I want isn’t there, and my armies won’t be an ongoing part of the game… what’s in it for me?

On the other hand, Kings of War is on its way too. The rules are also free. And it is also faster and just as tactical as old Warhammer. I’ve been meaning to give it a go for a while, and this will be the push. Having read through that this last week, it is very big on manoeuvring. Getting into an opponent’s flank is devastating, getting to the rear is absolute murder. The game is focused on units rather than models, so pushing things around is quicker. It also doesn’t have the background that I have grown to love, but at this point that’s no longer a concession – and they are also planning on army lists to match the old GW ones so with any luck, my Dark Elves will have a place. Having read through, I could probably use my Wood Elves as “Elves” or as “Forces of Nature” and with Undead Jen is pretty well set in any Fantasy game.

So my plan is to try out both of these games, then report back on how they went and which one we’ll move forward with. Wish us luck!

Sinister Statue Skirmish

I finally got around to playing a game of Warhammer with the new Dark Elves, against my regular opponent (once every year or two is regular, right?) with his Warriors of Chaos. We made it 3000 points, to get a few neat toys in, and stuck with the Pitched Battle to keep things simple.

We managed to remember a good deal of the rules between us, and everything just seemed to work the way that I intended. I took a horde of 30 Corsairs with a Battle Standard Bearer, a horde of 30 Witch Elves with the Cauldron of Blood, 10 Cold One Knights, 21 Black Guard, 3 Bolt Throwers, some crossbowmen and a Death sorceress (level 2), a Kharibdyss and finally Morathi as the general.

I was up against a Tzeentch force led by Vilitch the Curseling – there were some knights, a Fire wizard, two units of warriors, some Forsaken and Marauder Horsemen, a chariot, a Mutalith Vortex Beast, some Warhounds and a Hellcannon.

We placed a Bretonnian ruin, and grabbed a Buddy Christ dashboard ornament to sit inside it – flicking through the rulebook, this was designated a Sinister Statue and we completely forgot to roll for it about 30 seconds later. Still, it looked good.

On my left flank, the Warhounds kept running, rallying, regrouping, and running again from the Kharibdyss. By the time I got the hint and pulled it back to deal with other threats, it was almost too late to reach anything. It’s last action was to declare a charge against the Warriors with the Fire wizard, who fled right off the table. It never saw combat.

Morathi was extremely powerful. I took Dark magic, to get the maximum benefit, and loved the fact that all the little things that should work together did. The Hellcannon focused on destroying the Black Guard, while Morathi snuck behind the tightly packed lines and successfully cast Shroud of Despair. Just outside of the effect, the Cold One Knights destroyed the Chaos Chariot easily – causing a panic test in the Marauder Horsemen who were inside the Shroud’s bubble. The following turn,  another unit caused a panic test over there, and the effect just kept stacking… At the same time, outside of the effect, my Death wizard cast Doom and Darkness on the Chaos Knights while the bolt throwers caused casualties enough to make them run off. They probably would have gone off of the table, if I hadn’t taken Doom and Darkness off of them at that point, thinking it could do more good elsewhere.

It didn’t all go well for me – the Witch Elves were charged by the Vortex Beast, and dragged out of the way of being able to slam the fleeing Chaos general’s unit in the flank, Morathi was charged by the Hellcannon and needed to be rescued by the Cold One Knights, the Black Guard crumbled to the Forsaken and the Corsairs fell to the other unit of Warriors, who overran into a bolt thrower.

The Forsaken moved onto the Witch Elves, but they were destroyed in short order. Once the Hellcannon was dealt with, the Cold Ones charged Vilitch’s unit (now rallied) and broke it (even though Morathi’s second Shroud failed) and the Chaos Knights charged Morathi. The game was called at that point, as I still had more than half of my army and there was only the Warhounds and 2 Chaos Knights left, but I insisted that we finish the turn and the Chaos Knights finished Morathi off with that, so it wasn’t a complete rollover.

I think the main boost in that game was the Shroud of Despair scattering and disorganising the Chaos lines, and being pleasantly surprised that Morathi isn’t too bad in combat. In particular, her Leadership test for Enchanting Beauty (designed to be failed) along with the Shroud of Despair (everyone suffers from failing Leadership tests) means that you could end up with a big penalty to a unit’s Leadership, for crossbows or bolt throwers to force a panic test in.

On the Warriors side, the Chaos knights did alright to kill Morathi (even with that crippling penalty), and the Hellcannon did impressive damage against the Black Guard in a single shot. I think the top unit had to be the Warhounds for getting the Kharibdyss out of the game, essentially, and being the only Chaos unit to not suffer a single wound.

So what do I think of the new Dark Elves? The magic I used was mostly the subtle stuff, but in concert with other effects it was devastating. Getting everything lined up, in the right place and at the right time, might be a challenge if the opponent knows what is coming though. Murderous Prowess was a nice bonus, and occasionally gave me an extra wound, but nothing special. Always Strikes First is a massive boost, much better than Hatred was in the previous version. The Dark Magic lore attribute was too difficult to remember, and feels a little weak for what it does. Maybe if I wasn’t using Morathi, I’d be throwing more dice at spells and then would be doing a little more with it, but by the time I remembered that “hey, I have a lore attribute!” I only cast a couple more small spells and didn’t get a double or triple to trigger it.

I wasn’t too impressed with the Cauldron of Blood. It’s a nice Ward save for the Witch Elves, and makes them a little more deadly in combat, but I didn’t get into any big units to really try that out in this game. It’s a very expensive way of boosting Witch Elves as well, being 200+ points of Hero allocation. In a smaller game, I don’t know that I could justify it.

Next time, I would either repeat the Shroud of Despair with a Bloodwrack Shrine nearby to try and really force the issue, or I’ll replace the ‘powerful wizard’ magic with some Doomfire Warlocks, and completely swap the subtle stuff for the big blasty stuff. Hopefully, the next game will be less than 12 months away…

Dark Elves – First Thoughts on 8th Edition

I’m a long-time Dark Elf player, and been waiting excitedly for this new book. Every time a new army book comes out, I see the new monsters, monstrous infantry and monstrous cavalry, and wonder what this will mean for the Dark Elves when they come. So now I have the book, here is what I have noticed.

Background

I regret that I read the book backwards – the last thing that I looked at was the background. As I have three previous editions of the book, I’ve noticed that each book has a distinct style. The 4th edition book was heavy with background, but dry, like a textbook. It presented the facts plainly without emotion. The 6th edition book (there was no new book in 5th edition) was almost the opposite – few facts, little history and lots of ‘first-hand’ accounts from the point of view of the Dark Elves. 7th edition brought a happy medium – it was a more detailed background than 6th, but gave some of the flavour of the Dark Elf outlook. 8th continues this style, but changes the perspective slightly. The Dark Elves of old were bent on revenge, but 8th makes it more clear that they are not alone in madness among elves. Also, unlike the previous books, the history of the Dark Elves does not start with Malekith and the Sundering, but with the beginning of the High Elf civilisation and Aenarion. They share the same beginnings, and have the same first king. The history of Bel Shanaar is told entirely from the point of view of Malekith and the province of Nagarythe, and that is where the history diverges and the race appears to split.

Models

New models! So many new models… Unfortunately, not all are available yet. I like the new Warriors, I thought the little domino mask style helmets on the old ones were a little strange. Even the ancient 4th edition (single pose, one piece, sword above head) warriors had better helmets. The only models not changed are the Cold One Knights, Reaper Bolt Throwers and the Corsairs.

The new chariots are unusual, they seem a little bit too close to the ground.

I don’t like the new Hydra. The old Hydra, while being metal and attached so delicately to the base, looked more dangerous than this one. The heads are large, full of teeth, and not like the dumb snake heads of the new Hydra, and the pose is running, charging, not sitting and watching. I also don’t like the claws coming out of the Hydra’s belly – it doesn’t make sense to me. On the other hand, I do like the Kharibdyss model – the pose looks more suitable to a sea monster, unused to land. The maw in it’s belly where the Hydra’s odd claws are looks more like an unnatural sea monster.

I’ve got the same ambivalence about the Witch Elves – the Witch Elves themselves are awesome models, absolutely amazing. The Sisters of Slaughter, I’m really not so keen on. They also look too much like the Witch Elves, with just a head and weapon swap. I’d love to get some new Witch Elves to use as either unit, since they are distinct from the dozens of old Witch Elves that I have, but the price – £35 for 10 models – is absolutely ridiculous. None of those for me.

I really like the Doomfire Warlocks and the Bloodwrack Shrine – I’d like to get both, but I think I will try to magnetise parts of the shrine in order to get the Medusa off as an option. The new Executioners look good too.

I’m a little disappointed that there isn’t any monstrous infantry or monstrous cavalry – I’m pretty jealous of all the other new armies that have got those. There’s enough monsters that I don’t get to field because one of my most frequent opponents was an Empire player that I don’t really want any more.

Rules

Since 6th edition, all elves are Toughness 3. Even the mighty heroes. It’s an awful curse. What I notice in this edition however is that they become a little more survivable – the Cauldron of Blood can join units now and gives a ward save, Doomfire Warlocks get a ward save (except against Slaaneshi units), Sisters of Slaughter get a ward save in close combat… even the Sea Dragon Cloaks, which have had the same rules since 4th edition, have been modified to be a straight 5+ save (rather than 6+/5+ conditional one).

In 7th edition, all Dark Elves got a Hatred of everyone. This has been replaced with two rules – Always Strikes First and Murderous Prowess. In the 8th edition rules, I think these two are much better. Since Dark Elves have high Initiative, they were usually going first anyway – with Always Strikes First, this allows them to get a re-roll against people with lower Initiative. That replaces the re-roll from Hatred, which only applies in the first round (but does apply all the time). Murderous Prowess just boosts that with an extra chance to wound when you fail.

Magic

The new magic is amazing! I’ve noticed some amazing combinations, although they might rely a little bit on getting lots of dice in the magic phase.

Power of Darkness – my big problem with the Dark Elf infantry is that in the main, it is pretty low Strength. This spell is a very easy way of boosting Strength with the additional benefit of regaining power dice. Having a Witch Elf horde with 50 poisoned attacks at Strength 3 is OK, but having them at Strength 4 (with the murderous prowess re-roll too) is really cool.

Shroud of Despair – this spell is the subtle edge of the Dark Elves magic. Cutting units off from their high Leadership and re-roll abilities, with increasing penalties for failure… if it’s possible to force a whole ton of Leadership tests in a single turn (see strengthened Witch Elf horde above), a chain reaction of fleeing units could ensue. One breaks, the next one must test at -1, the next one at –2… The Bloodwrack Shrine also reduces enemy Leadership by one, and the Kharibdyss forces units in base contact to re-roll successful Fear checks so their non-General, un-re-rollable Fear check has two chances to fail each turn and give the Shroud of Despair penalty to all the nearby units… Delicious!

Word of Pain / Arnizipal’s Black Horror – these two spells appear made for each other, the only problem is that you need a powerful Magic phase to pull it off. Reducing a Chaos Knight unit’s Strength by D3, then hitting them with a Black Horror, seems like a perfect combination. Of course, if the Word of Pain only reduces them by 1, there’s almost no point casting the Black Horror.

Doombolt – where Shroud of Despair is the Dark Elves subtlety, Doombolt is the Dark Elves destructive streak. As a signature spell it can be chosen multiple times, and when boosted it looks really nasty. Just a big, raw display of force. BANG. Then again, I’ll probably roll four 1s when determining how many hits that is… with the Word of Pain, it makes it that much better against high Toughness targets (at Strength 5 it won’t take much to reduce them to wounding on 2s) so it looks like a reliable alternative to the Black Horror if their Strength is still a bit too high.

Conclusion

So what am I going to do? Well, I’ve got a whole ton of models to paint. I think I’ll make it my goal to clear my painting table in 2014, and maybe even make a start on Jen’s Vampire Counts. Until then I can’t really justify new toys. I want to try the Cauldron with my Witch Elf horde to make them more survivable, and try out the Dark Magic to buff them up. It’ll be cool if I can try out some of the combos above but I doubt it’ll work as well as I described. I don’t have a Kharibdyss or a Bloodwrack Shrine (though both are on my list for as soon as the painting table is cleared…)

Other than that I don’t think my army list has changed too much. I will probably add more bolt throwers now that they’re cheaper, and not Rare choices. I’m going to have to arrange a game at Vanguard Wargaming if I can’t get a game in with friends soon.

Second Games Night of 2013

We recently hosted our second games night of the year. Unlike the last one, where we started early and crammed in many many short games throughout the day, this games night was mostly taken up with long games.

The day began with a long game of Warhammer for Jen’s Vampire Counts against Dan’s Warriors of Chaos. She did relatively well, although I believe her spell choices were poor (despite having two doubles, she did not choose Hellish Vigour or Vanhel’s Danse Macabre!). The Terrorgheist at least survived the battle, and was last seen chomping through the back of a unit of Chaos Knights. Although we couldn’t work out victory points due to time, we eyeballed it and decided it was probably a minor victory for the Warriors of Chaos.

Once that was finished, I pounced on some of our new players (while the turnout was still fairly low) to teach DreadBall. That game was cut short by departures, but more players arrived at the same time so we reset the board and played again. This is the first time I think someone I’ve shown DreadBall would not play again, probably because the rules were not grasped as quickly as people usually do. It was an exciting game though, with the Corporation player scoring 5 points throughout the game despite the Forge Fathers keeping at least two of them injured at any time and, by the end of the game, killing three! In the final two turns, the Forge Fathers scored a 4-pointer and a 2-pointer to bring it back to 1 point in their favour. The Corporation player got the ball to the 2-pointer spot, and the whole game essentially came down to the final roll – two dice, requiring at least one 4+. And they flubbed it, the Forge Fathers win!

I love exciting games like that, and we had everyone present hanging on the outcome of that final roll. One old friend noticed that DreadBall is very much like ice hockey, which is interesting considering the game mechanics were originally designed for hockey or a hockey-like game. It’s a good way to get her into it again some time!

Once that long game of DreadBall was out of the way, we brought out Kill Doctor Lucky as a nice, simple, uncomplicated game for two rounds. The first was over quickly as over-ruthless bluffing let a murder attempt through without challenge (Tight Hat killer!), and the second was surrendered to the victor as she had 24 spite tokens to a combined total of 1 spite token across 5 other players and she had a car waiting for her outside for 20 minutes while she tried to turn that into a win! We gave her the win, and retired for the night.

It’s a shame we didn’t get to play so much, I think that was my fault for pushing a 2-player game onto people who weren’t quite used to tactical/strategic games, and I was going slowly myself because of the huge amounts of overtime I’ve been doing in work recently. I was exhausted way before the end of the night!

I’m not sure when the next games night will be – we’ve got a busy calendar ahead of us with DreadBall tournaments and the like, and I’d like to squeeze in a movie night at some point. The top candidate for that one would be the blu-ray box set of Resident Evil or new Batman trilogy that I picked up for Jen’s birthday/Christmas last year.

(Oh yeah, and we all lost the game)

Defence of the Northern Watchtowers

I’ve been itching to get back to regular Warhammer games for a while now, spurred on by listening to podcasts like Bad Dice and Garagehammer, and by some of the awesome new plastic kits that have been produced for the recently updated armies.

Luckily, I have a good friend in the same boat who just bought the new Warriors of Chaos book and wanted to take it for a test drive! I asked for a 2000pt game so that I could get a feel for the rules again, since it’s been at least a year since my last 8th edition game, but I was convinced into going for 3000pts. I’m glad that I did, I got to put in all the toys I wanted short of a dragon!

For my army list, I took heavy inspiration from the advice of Ben Curry on Garagehammer. Units of 30 in horde formation, Death Hag with a Cauldron of Blood and Battle Standard Bearer, and Shadow magic on a level 4 Sorceress. I also took a level 2 Sorceress with Metal magic, just in case I encountered Chaos knights.

The scenario was a Pitched Battle, and we had an Altar of Khaine on the table – it was very quickly decided that Chaos Warriors were invading Naggaroth from the North, and the Dark Elves were defending. We don’t go in for complex stories for our games, but a bit of context rather than ‘we wanted a rumble’ or ‘I’ve got all these toy soldiers’ improves the game quite a bit.

I was pleasantly surprised at just how well it turned out. Whenever I eschewed the Cauldron’s 5+ ward save in favour of an extra attack, I wish I had taken the ward save instead. I also completely forgot the Banner of Murder on the Black Guard, and they were wiped out. Overall though, the game went tremendously well and despite the high armour and Mark of Nurgle making it incredibly difficult to wound the Chaos Warriors, I scored almost double the victory points. At the end of the game, there was only one Chaos Warrior unit still on the table and going toe-to-toe with 30 Dark Elf Spearmen and a single Chaos Knight musician running off the table (one more turn would get him off the board).

The game started poorly for Chaos, with Warhounds using the Vanguard rule to get closer to my lines, then failing their Terror test when my Hydra declared a charge. And fleeing through a Chimera, causing a Panic test, and sending that running off too. Neither unit would play a part in the game.

The Forsaken rolled poorly for mutations, getting two turns of Always Strikes Last. This gave my 30-strong Corsair unit a chance to kill them off. The Chaos Giant was taken down by the sheer number of Poisoned Attacks that my Witch Elves had, but on the plus side he fell on top of them and killed another nine.

The Black Guard performed alright, but I forgot that they had the Banner of Murder entirely. This would probably have helped a little bit. Luckily, before they were destroyed another Hydra assisted with a flank attack and the Witch Elves got into the front with Okkam’s Mindrazor cast on them – this was one of my aims of the game, to try and get their massive volume of attacks boosted with the Mindrazor. Although the Black Guard were wiped out (they only had a Standard Bearer left at that point), the Chaos Warrior unit was completely devastated.

That was the only way I could have got rid of the Nurgle Wizard General, who had managed to cast a few spells successfully and thus had a boost to Toughness and Wounds of 3 or 4 – even with Mindrazor, that would be a difficult prospect. Running him down after a failed Break test was much easier.

I also faced a Slaughterbrute (proxied with a Great Unclean One, for the Nurgle theme). This got into combat with my Cold One Knights, who failed every Stupidity test they had to take. The Knights managed to knock at least a wound off each turn, and the Slaughterbrute thankfully directed it’s attacks against my general two turns in a row. Since he had the Pendant of Khaeleth (roll under the attack’s Strength and you get to ignore it) and the attacks were Strength 7, nothing got through to him. It kept the Cold Ones out of the game, but it could still have been more effective if it had been supported more by the nearby Forsaken or if it was paired with a larger, tougher combat unit to push a probable win into an absolute win. I think that next time, I may be facing a Mutalith Vortex Beast.

All in all, I was really pleased with my new army list and I’ll definitely take it again. It may even give me a chance against the Empire gunline that has plagued me for so long…

Forest Dragon Crystal

I got a game of Warhammer in this weekend- the first of the year! To inspire me to paint more, I chose to forego the Dark Elves (many of which remain unpainted) in favour of the Wood Elves (only a couple of special characters unused). The army was planned on the assumption that I’d be fighting Chaos but there was a surprise twist with my opponent, who decided to bring his Bretonnians instead.

Still, after the initial panic attack, I realised that we had a lot of forests that could be put down and I’d just have to stay out of reach of the nasty nasty lances.

dryad2Terrain was set up pretty much as a straight line down the middle of the table, consisting of a tower, a wall, four forests (after the Wood Elf free forest was placed) and an interesting candle holder that was sat near the scenery shelves, shaped like a dragon holding a crystal. On the agreement that we first remove the candle, we decided that it would make a great centrepiece for the game, and the story went roughly along the lines of “Bretonnian lord wants forest dragon crystal to bling up his castle, Wood Elves don’t like people wandering around the forest”. Nothing too major.

Using the forests to funnel the lances into really obvious traps didn’t quite work – they were a bit too obvious. Slowly, over the game, I picked off all the peasants and foot troops but failed to make much of a dent on the knights – including a combined charge from Wardancers, Dryads and Glade Riders. It reinforced my belief that Wood Elves should never, ever engage to the front of a unit. And that I should probably have used the Killing Blow dance. Also, angles of possible fleeing should be considered, as my Warhawk Riders drew a combat and automatically fled – though they would have rallied automatically too, they went through a block of peasant halberdiers and were wiped out. They could have quickly reached the other side of the battle (the one with all the knights) and helped with some rear charges to destroy a knight unit or two.

That being said, not too much of the army was destroyed – Wood Elves are very, very good at staying out of the way.

At the final tally, there were only 70 victory points between us (Wood Elves very slightly ahead) for an extremely solid draw. Hopefully we’ll have a rematch at some point, since that Bretonnian lord still wants his bling, and the Elves didn’t do enough to put him off yet – all they did was clear out the riff-raff from his army!

Back on the Wagon

My gaming has been suffering recently. I’ve definitely been on target with “spend less” – although the temptation to grab a new rulebook or two has been pretty strong, I’ve managed to avoid it. Unfortunately, real life has been getting in the way of getting any actual gaming done – I’m busy, my gaming group is busy, no-one ever lines up a day together. I have, however, used a few days off of work to get ahead on my Dark Elf painting.

The particular style of batch-painting that I favour is ‘do every model at once’, meaning that my current batch is about 60 Corsairs. The downside to this is that until you pick up a model and examine it, as I did this week, it becomes difficult to work out how far away you are from completing. I’m just about entering the final detail stage, which for me means that I’ll be dividing models up into groups of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ for particular things. The first will probably be gemstones – every model with a gemstone goes in one group, which becomes a small batch for painting. When that’s finished, I’ll go through the batch checking out models to see if they need anything else done – belts, buckles, whatever. If they don’t, then I can actually call that model finished! So for me, entering this ending stage is very exciting, because the psychological obstacle of having sixty scowling warriors staring at you on a painting table makes the sense of achievement that much greater. And the increased sense of achievement will make me want to play more, meaning it’ll be more likely that I manage to organise a game!

corsairs

Another thing I was doing with my free time was planning a role-play campaign. I’ve got a rough skeleton story sketched out, I just need to flesh and structure it a bit more and see what it becomes. My gaming group also have a role-play campaign going that was geographically inaccessible to me, but has fortunately moved closer, that I’m now invited to. That’s a weekly affair that will score many many points on the ‘play more’ part of the deal, and possibly save me the trouble of buying new rulebooks – role-play groups are great for borrowing and sharing books, or buying second-hand. That should also help nip the temptation to spend in the bud.

I think role-playing games are one of the best kinds of games for a frugal and/or social gamer – you might well buy a few expensive rulebooks, but you can bet that someone else in the group has done the same and that becomes a pooled resource. To get started, all you need is to borrow some dice (or still rather frugally, buy your own set for a few pounds) and there you go! I’d heard somewhere that they first took off in popularity around the time of a recession, where people were watching their spending and to have a game based almost solely in imagination was a very frugal way of enjoying yourself – it may not be true, but it sounds plausible!

So to recap, I’ve had a lousy time of not playing enough games. Real life has been interfering, preventing the planning of games nights (for my board games fix) and regular wargaming opponents. But it looks like regular gaming is getting back on the agenda, and if there’s one thing that I’ve learned from my new year’s resolution experiment, it’s that having a real plan of action (not just a hopeful goal) will make all the difference. So you can expect next year’s plans to be much more solid!

Unwelcome Revelation

Well, it’s been a little while since I posted last. I’ve been a bit ill, again. Tonsillitis, for the first time in over ten years, which I can thank my son for – I seem to catch almost everything he does.

I’ve had a few days off this week as a chance to recharge my batteries, and to get a bit of headway on some of my projects and year’s resolutions. I think, since I am still thinking about my resolutions late in March, I must be doing pretty well at them.

The filing continues slightly ahead of my target, and I’ve worked out that it takes just under an hour. If I stick on a podcast and get going, I can get it out of the way nicely. I’ve just thrown away the first bin liner full of shredded documents, which feels good.

I’ve started driving lessons again, helped by the drop in stress that I’ve stopped looking for a new job. I’ve got to get back into the swing of driving, get used to the car, build up my confidence a bit more, then I should be ready to book the test. So I ought to be able to take a test by June or July, at the latest, allowing for long waiting lists.

The eBay sales have been slow – I got so close to the end, I didn’t bother doing any more work for a few weeks because I was ‘so close’. Still, I think I can push through that with the last few days of time off, and see if I can finally get one of these tasks crossed off. Since I’m not putting time into this one exactly, I don’t think I can start the German lessons even when it’s crossed off.

We had to cancel our planned Family Tree meeting a couple of weeks ago because of illness, but we’ve scheduled it in again for next weekend. Luckily, one of Jen’s cousins has already done a good chunk of work on their side of the family so we should have quite a head-start on that one.

Wargame Tools Datafile Creator has gone off to some friends for testing! I’ve got a list of tasks to finish before I give it out further, and the second program (the Rosterfile Creator) has had some good progress so far. Both parts should be out in open test by the end of the year (almost definitely by September), very easily.

The unwelcome revelation is the Dark Elf plan. I counted over 150 models, and given how much of the year is left I’ll be needing to paint 4 of those a week (and some of those are cavalry or monster models) to reach the target. While not impossible, I have all these other things to get sorted too (alongside a full time job and a family) so I doubt this one will succeed. With my batch process of painting, I know that many will be finished in one week (after several weeks of no progress), so this is difficult to gauge but I am going to prioritise and say that all the Corsairs will be finished first, then the Cold One Knights. Then I’ll have to pick something else (probably the Dark Riders). Ultimately, this resolution will not be finished and I know it. Still, there’ll be a lot less for me to do next year!

That being said, I’ve been able to get most of the models assembled, based and undercoated ready to go. While the weather holds this morning, I’m going to get another batch sprayed and that will give me all of the Corsairs ready to go. It’ll be my largest batch yet – about sixty models, altogether!

I may yet be able to finish it – as I reached the end of my Wood Elf army, I went to stay with my parents for a week and spent the whole time painting. Needless to say, you can make a lot of progress when you plug away like that!