Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Foul Taste of Victory

So I got my first game in for the Tale of Four LotR Gamers challenge.  I took 175 points of High Elves against 175 points of Tim's Goblins.  You saw how pretty they looked in an earlier post.  Now see how well they played.

We played on a smaller board with lots of terrain.  For once I welcomed the forests.  I didn't use the forests to my advantage.  But I welcomed them, which is more than I usually do.  The scenario was rolled up, "Seize the Prize."  I had Arwen leading 8 swordsmen and three archers.  Let's do this!

So a blow by blow will probably bore you.  I just moved up to the prize and took some shots along the way.  Shooting was OK; I had three bows and killed about one goblin per turn.  As Tim later illustrated for me, I was picking the wrong targets.  I was knocking out normal goblins and not the Prowlers.  That would hurt later on.
Since Elves move faster, I got to the artifact first.  I thought I should probably screen the swordsman who was digging for it.  So I moved all my guys up into a line that ran between the ruins and the woods.  This meant I put all my guys in open ground, not in the forest, and obliged the goblins by moving into a convenient spot for them to overwhelm me.  I kept archers back to deal with the pesky harassment team coming around the far side of the ruins.  I continued to shoot at all the wrong things.  So many mistakes were made.  But, the Elves looked damn pretty throughout the whole fiasco.

The artifact was buried deep, and didn't come up on the first try.  What also didn't come up was a good round of combat for the Elves.  They won a lot of fights and killed nothing.  I mean nothing.  Zero.  This repeated a few more times, until the Elves started to become trapped and that Prowler backstabber rule started killing off the Elves.  (Who were beautiful even in death.)  Luckily, I got the artifact unearthed before the goblins could catch me.  Unfortunately Durburz broke my line in two and goblins were everywhere!  Elves continued to be ineffectual.  I wasn't using Elven blades, being too chickenshit to lose a fight.  I should have used them, since winning the fight and not hurting anything was driving me nuts.

So the artifact carrier was running away at a good clip.  All his buddies were surrounded and dying.  But Arwen finally got to cast Nature's Wrath without it being countered.  So at a very opportune moment, all the goblins were knocked down!  A lot just got up again, but they were slowed down and those I engaged remained down.  I even killed a few this way.  Here's a shot of them all on their backs.
But after this point, all the Elves died.  They all died.  All of them.  Dead. Except for the Elf with the artifact; he lived. My artifact carrier managed to keep up his courage and continue to run.  A goblin was trailing him, and thanks to winning priority a number of times, was able to catch up to the artifact carrier.  They fought for a couple of turns and the Elf won each time.  I got priority, passed my courage check, and exited the board.

Minor Victory for the Elves.

I call this battle report "the foul taste of victory" because I really disliked the game.  (Nothing on Tim, as he was a great player and host; in fact he had to put up with me pitching a fit. Sorry Tim!)  I wonder if Elves are really my thing.  They were even more frustrating than my "defense three" Corsairs were to play.  This is probably just me reacting to a total change in play style.  I'm not used to being outnumbered and having no margin for error.  Well, I've put time and money into these posers.  So I'm going to learn to like them!

Since the games go fast at this points level.  We played another 175 pt scenario, "To Kill a King".  But this time Tim took a Spider Queen and three giant spiders.  Spooky!
I'll make this short.  We ran at each other and a few Elves died before they killed all the spiders, including the Spider Queen.  Arwen stayed away and lived.  So major victory for the Elves.  I still played the scenario like a dufus.  For one, I refused to use Elven blades where they would've been useful.  Maybe I'll learn to play these Elves, but apparently that won't be any time soon!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Dust Tactics: Initial Impressions

So my Dust Tactics game arrived today.  This is a game that I've had on my horizon for a while, but could never justify buying.  However, I came into some extra cash (legally, of course) and my first thought was to pick up this game.  I really like the models that I've seen on the official Fantasy Flight site and from various reviews in blogs and videos.  So regardless of whether I can find someone to play with me, I want to own the models!

You can find all sorts of "unboxing" videos on the web.  So I won't bother to go into it too much.  There's an impressive amount of stuff.  Here's what I pulled out of the box.  I left the picture fairly big.  So if you click on it you should be able to get a good view of what's included.
I haven't looked over the rules yet, as I was too involved with the gorgeous figures!  (By the way, you can download the rules PDF for free from the FF website here.)  It took about an hour to unbag and assemble all the models.  But I had some company while doing that menial task.
Each of the models is primed.  You can feel the primer on the models, which is good.  I was surprised to find that not only each model was completely different from any other, but also that each model can be articulated differently.  The heads and torsos move on all the figures.  For the most part, this is cool.  But some figures look a tad goofy, nothing I can't overlook.

The big walkers are what really sold me on the game.  If you can take a Sherman tank and a Panzer tank and convert them into walkers, well, sign me up for that.  I found these models look really good in person and have lots of moving parts.  However, I was disappointed that they seemed somewhat fragile.  A part of the German walker snapped while I was pushing in an arm, and I wasn't using too much force.  Fortunately, it is not a big deal.  Also the machine gun attachments on the German walkers don't fit too well and fall off a lot.  Those will have to be glued in place. 
I tried to take some close up pictures of the individual soldiers, but the flash ruined everything.  So I won't bother posting those.  Trust me when I say the detail level is excellent.  Since I plan to paint these models, I looked carefully at them.  There were some mold lines, but nothing major and no plastic flash.  I expect sanding the mold lines will remove the primer.  So I'll have to live with it.

Finally I wanted to show how these figures stack up to other 25/28mm models.  Here's a U.S. model under guard by two Lord of the Rings Mahud.  (The flash makes the Mahud look crap-tastic.  But just wanted to show scale here.)  The Dust Tactics models are slightly larger than a LotR figure, as you can see from the picture below.
So that's it.  I excited to learn this game, try it out, and paint these awesome figures!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Tale of Four Lord of the Rings Gamers, Phase One

So the first month of the challenge is on, and I've completed my 175 points of Elves.  Meet the gang.

I have Arwen leading eight swordsmen and three archers, a merry little band on a romp through the forest.  It comes to 175pts on the nose.  Originally I was going with an Elven Captain to lead this group.  He's very "fighty" but I can pick up two extra models if I drop him and replace with Arwen.  Besides, I've never used magic before in all my LotR games.  So that's my motivation in selecting her.  Here's a more detailed shot.
So next up is another 175pts.  Since this is an Elf army, I'll basically be adding more warriors as I go.  Spearmen will make an appearance next time.  I also plan to replace Arwen with a Stormcaller.  I like that figure and would also like to check out how it works. Somewhere Elrond will show up.  At 170 points he'll fulfill a month's quota for the challenge.  I'll save him for when I need a break!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Nuts! Don't Miss This Review!

I really enjoy WWII games.  Back in High School a friend of mine introduced me to Advanced Squad Leader.  Despite a learning curve that rivaled a post graduate degree in supply chain management, I got hooked.  In the early 90s, Steel Panthers and other games by SSI continued to excite me.  So it is strange that when I started looking to table top war games I didn't hone in on WWII.  I only recently picked up FoW.  But I've been wanting to do something in 28mm.  I have it on good authority that there aren't many satisfying 28mm WWII rules.

Enter Nuts! by Two Hour Wargames.  Doing WWII at a skirmish level is what I wanted, just taking a platoon or so.  (Flames of War is my game for company level action.)  I read the website, liked what was described, thought that this rules set might be the thing for me.  Interestingly enough, the game can be played traditionally in a head-to-head game, or as co-op or solo play.  In fact, the rules are geared toward co-op/solo.  So that sold me the rules.  I got the PDF file as soon as I sent payment, and the printed rule book arrived in a few days.  Here are my impressions and a short battle report.  Don't miss the report!

The rules are unlike anything I've seen before.  The core difference in Nuts! is in the use of the Reaction System.  I was not ready for that when I opened the rulebook.  Turns out, you can get a couple of free rules sets that will give you a working game that is focused on this Reaction System.  Basically it works like this:

  • I activate and move into your LoS
  • You see me and react
  • I will react, and we could end up shooting at each other, running away, freezing in place, etc.
  • Our reactions will cause further reactions, sometimes from figures nearby.
  • Things continue until something happens to end the chain reactions (death, duck into cover, etc)
At first this is really hard to understand.  The list I gave above is an example of what it looks like.  I've played through a few times and found that reactions go in lots of directions, dragging in nearby models and creating a very fluid "turn."  In fact, I'm really hard pressed to find where turns begin and end.

Overall it's a very cinematic feel.  You have a leader who is your "star".  The star can have attributes that help or hinder him in some way.  He's your Hollywood warrior, able to shrug off wounds that hurt lesser men.  But he's not a hackneyed Sgt Rock.  Despite being immune to death from lowly grunts, he still hunkers behind a wall in fear of getting his head blown off.  He is still a real man, worried about his life.  In fact, the high point of this game is that all your modes are real guys, so to speak.

Each model has a reputation rating (Rep), that drive just about everything from how he reacts to how he shoots.  At first, I was confused but after a couple of run-throughs of the game it's a lot clearer.  In fact, the rep is a very realistic portrayal of how a raw recruit might react under fire versus the battle hardened vet on his third campaign.

A battle report of the introductory scenario will help show things a little better.  After that, I'll sum up what I like and dislike about the game so far.

First thing, I don't own any WWII figures.  But have no fear!  Thanks to Hing Fat Toy Company I now have full squads of Americans, Germans, British, and Japanese, all ready for the gaming table!  Too bad they're 54mm figures.  I'll keep using these until I can buy suitable replacements.

JUNE 1944  You're in command of a small group of paratroopers in France.  Your unit has been dispersed all over the drop zone and is currently reforming.  Right now it's just you and three others.  Your major concern is to make it to the rally point.  You are now coming up onto a ruined house.  The squad crosses a road, filtering into the trees beyond.  The ruined house is partially surrounded by a low stone wall.  Woods are beside it.  Two Germans are spotted standing outside, one sitting on the wall and the other leaning in the doorway of the ruins.  Your men fan out, drop into a crouch as they take up positions at the edge of the treeline.  Time to give Gerry hell!

So that's some writing from the book with my own additions.  Enough with the Stephen Ambrose imitations!  Here's turn one:
My turn has activation (like priority in LotR).  This has an added twist in that you can only activate models whose rep equals or exceeds what you rolled for activation.  So rolling low is best, as it allows you to move all models. This reflects hesitancy that a recruit would feel moving into fire.  But since you can group up with a hi rep leader, it's not a problem.
Yes, that's paper cut out terrain.  Don't laugh!  I have no reason to own terrain (other than that niffty GW battle mat) and this actually looked pretty good in person.  So as I was saying, both Dorfman on the wall and Engles in the door see me.  They react by taking quick shots, which elicits return fire from the men being shot at and those within 4" of them.  These shots fly back and forth with little effect due to cover and snap shooting.  But the US Sgt (my star) puts his SMG to good use and kills Dorfman and forces Engles to retire, meaning he runs for safer cover.  The shooting now reveals the location of other German troops.  I roll on the chart provided with the mission and find that the German leader, Arnold, and machine gunner Beck and his loader Conrad are holed up in the ruins.  So this won't be an easy fight to dislodge them!

It's turn two.  Germans win the activation roll, but scored a five. The highest Rep is a 4, so they do nothing.  They are surprised to suddenly come under withering fire and can't react!  Engles is running and Dorfman is screaming for his mother.  (Dorfman was not killed, but taken out of the fight.  That means if a medic can reach him, he might be saved.  It also has implications for campaign play.  If the US catches him, they can kill him or take him prisoner. They'll have to guard him, if the want to do that.  I digress!)
Notice Engles behind that piece of card (which represents trees).  He's hunkered down, meaning I don't see him.  I could remove him and put a marker in his place.  But I face him away to show that status.  Now the US activates, and they had a roll of 2 which is way under the Sgt's rep of 5.  So they start shooting like nuts.  The LMG gunner is actually killed.  Anyone around him of equal or lower rep takes a "man down test" to see if they'll move to safer cover.  Arnold doesn't need to test, and Conrad merely wipes Beck's brains off his face and pulls out his own rifle.  Too bad for that, because Private Baker kills him as well.  Let me tell you this was fantastic shooting by the US.  In my first games, I literally rolled reaction tests for 20 minutes with nothing happening.  (That's something I'm going to fix with a house rule for sure!)  Since no one can see Engles peeing himself in the woods, the turn ends.

Turn three and the German position is crumbling.  The US paratroopers are sensibly remaining in cover, making them hard to hit with the unsteady and panicked return fire from the Germans.  The Germans activate first.  Since these are NPCs, I roll a focus test to see what they will pick for targets.  Arnold may not be the bravest Nazi, but he knows what has to be done.  He has an SMG and good chances to force back some of the US trooper facing him.  He sprays three shots into the trees, forcing Private Able to retire.  But return fire from the US Sgt takes Arnold out of the fight, toppling back into the ruins with a gurgled scream.  The next German group to activate is poor Engles.  He becomes more frightened, decides the trees are not enough protection and makes for the ruins.  Since he is still considered "hunkered down" the US doesn't see him thread his way back to the ruins.

It's now time for the US to activate.  Private Able rallys and the Sgt gives the order to run for the wall.  They're going to storm the ruins and clear it out for sure.  Private Baker readies a grenade (by passing a test) and can throw it when in range.  The US paratroopers line up on the wall, Private Baker hauls back and throws it perfectly.  They now see Engles whimpering inside, balled up like a kid who lost his security blanket.
The ruins aren't enough to ward off a grenade.  A cloud of dust and debris belches from the small house and then all is silent.  Engles is taken out of the fight (maybe he's barely alive, deaf and dazed under the rubble), and so the area is cleared.  Victory for the US!  Now to get to that rally point!

So, Nuts! is a fun game.  What I like is the cinematic feel, the individuality of the models, and the fluidity of the fights.  What I don't like is throwing dice for every damn thing all the damn time.  Maybe it's because I'm playing solo, but there are so many tests to take, I'm always rolling dice.

There's also vehicle rules and rules for artillery guns. On the THW Yahoo group you can download rules for mortar fire (which seems a glaring omission from these rules) and for artillery barrages.  The game is definitely meant to be played with a platoon at most.  If I played this at the platoon level solo, there's no way I could do it in two hours!  All those reaction tests followed by reaction tests!  But for a few squads this is really a great game.  It takes some getting used to the reaction system.  But it's starting to clear up for me.  I'll test out the vehicle rules next, using some of my 15mm FoW stuff for that.

Overall, I think Nuts! is a great game with a lot of potential for story and campaign based gaming.  I'll keep you posted on where I go with it next.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

It's Small World Afterall

Time for another LotR battle report!  So the plan for last Friday was to test out changes to my Far Harad 700 point list.  But it wasn't my day, and I couldn't get to the game at the planned time.  Too much "real life" was in the way.  So by the time I did arrive, it was late.  Like usual, I was playing at Tim's house.  He's a great guy and lives very close by; so we tend to get in a lot of games.  We also tend to get talking and keep talking.  So it was really late and I thought we wouldn't actually get to gaming.

But we decided a friendly 175pt game would be both manageable and a refreshing change of pace.  Besides, Tim thought it would be a good opportunity to try out his Tale of Four LotR Gamers list.  I also happened to have Corsairs in the box with my Far Harad.  I scratched out a list and we were ready to go.  I took a Bo'sun with 15 corsairs, nothing special but for a three unpainted bowman models.  If you didn't click on the link above, I'll tell  you that Tim took his Goblin list featuring Durburz and a bunch of prowlers.  We shortened the board size and chose a meeting engagement for the scenario.

I absolutely love these small games.  I had 16 models and Tim had 20 models.  The turns moved quickly and the fights were quick.  But the game was no less complex and even at the small points scale, there were still a lot of great tactical decisions to make.  I think this game scales nicely from small points up to 700pts.  I've never played anything larger than that, so can't comment on those 1,000 point monster games!

Thanks to shortened deployment zones, I avoided the trees that are always in front of me!  I just ran for the hill to try to get my archers on the high ground.  I only had three, and thought they might be able to snipe a few goblins to even up the numbers a bit.

Hey, I think I can see the ship from up here!
Since this was a meeting engagement, there wasn't a lot of consideration about where everyone should be and what they should do.  The plan was to get stuck in as fast as possible and plow through the enemy.  My Corsairs are superior fighters, and are so confident in their skills that they fight in pajamas.  The goblins were a lot tougher with armor and shield, some boasting the dreaded "D6" that makes my dice hurt when rolling to wound.  As we closed in, I think one of my bows might have killed something.  However, once within 6" range my throwing weapons heated up.  Totally four goblins went down with throwing knives in their necks!

The lines clashed, evenly matched to start.  A few turns of push and shove ensued, with equal losses on both sides.  But then the Corsairs stared losing fights.  Recall the pajamas I mentioned a moment ago.  A lot of the boys started dying.

Meeting the goblins and trying not to die

The key moment of the game came when the Corsair Bo'sun lost his fight to Durburz.  It was actually a tied fight, and I lost the roll off.  The poor pirate would no longer be able to shout at his boys, encouraging them to greater achievements.  He failed his Fate roll and died where he stood.  In fact, in that round, both forces broke.

So as you can expect, I started winning priority from this point forward.  Therefore my cowardly sea dogs kept melting away.  The goblins, though broken, were all within Durburz's 12" stand fast.  So they hung around to finish the job.  We played until every last Corsair had fled or died.  But truly amazing was the lone Corsair who survived three combat rounds being trapped.  He died on the fourth attempt, shielding to the very end.  His heroic efforts sucked away four goblins and helped his fellows prolong their agonizing defeat at the tiny hands of goblins.
Buckler by Zildjian
When you don't have a force on the table, you don't generally have to look up victory conditions.  I assume it was a major victory for the goblins.

It was a refreshing change of pace to play at the small points level.  I hope I can play more in and around this number.  Up to 250-300 points is ideal for a few hours of leisurely gaming.  Tim and I really took our time with this, intermixing the game with our on-going conversation.  So it took some time to get done.  But if we concentrated, we could've got two games in during that time.

While I didn't learn anything useful about my Corsairs, having played them a lot over the years, I did learn about goblins.  I learned that Prowlers have some nasty abilities.  The backstabber rule was cool, but we didn't get to see it too much in play.  But couple that with a weapon that can be either two handed or single handed and throwing weapons, and you've got yourself a neat package of hurt for the points.

It was a good game that could've went either way for most of the fight.  But the Corsairs ended up having a day that reflected my own.  Still I had fun and look forward to trying this points level out with my Elves.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Soon to be Out of Control

The title of this post should be a clue as to how excited I was to find the PDF rules for Legends of the Rising Sun.  I've been waiting for these rules to come out for some time.  I first heard rumors of these rules around the time I was getting into Legends of the High Seas.  As soon as I heard about it, I knew I would want to jump into it.  It seems these rules have been out for a little while, and I'm a late comer.

Initially I was worried the rules would turn out to be some lame kung-fu game, with indiscriminate flying or killing enemies with moves like "Terra Raspberry Spike Attack."  You what I mean: a game that ends up playing like bad anime.  Well, I'm happy to report there is nothing like that here.  In fact, it's an honest attempt to bring 17th Century Japan to the skirmish games table.

So I purchased two packs of Perry Brothers Samurai models.  I'm anxious to get started on painting them and get in a game or two.  But this will soon be out of control, because I want to have all the gangs listed in the rules.  So I will need monks, peasants, ronin, ashigaru, etc.  In other words, I'll be buying a lot of these models.

I've also heard rumors from the guys I regularly game with that we might be able to do some Samurai wars.  So, that leaves me to wonder how to base these minis.  Should I put them on round bases for skirmish games or the square bases for war games?  Well, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.  For now, I'm pretty amped about these rules.  I'll post up when I get some of the models painted.