Thursday, July 28, 2011

Just Because

Things have tapered off for me now that my family is back.  Demands of family life and work.... you know the whole story.  However, I've kept some side projects going nonetheless.  I've got a collection of Reaper miniatures that I bought years ago "just because."  Sometimes it's good to paint things for no other purpose than to enjoy the process.  I do have ulterior motives, however.  I'm planning on using these models for my Song of Blades and Heroes war bands.

Here is Reaper's Darkrasp model from the Dark Heavens Legends line.  I got him a long time ago because I thought he looked cool.  Despite the happy green lawn surrounding him, I think he came out looking evil enough.

Next is another Reaper model, Aysa, from the Warlords line.
I got this model when I got the Darkrasp model.  At the time I was thinking she'd make a good Banshee for a WHFB Vampire Counts army.  Though my WHFB dreams are dead, Aysa can still rise from her grave to fill a spot in my undead SBH war band.

This is all for now.  I've painted several more figures, but haven't photographed those yet.  Also on the bench are several terrain pieces.  I've got to get my new game table more terrain than a few trees and a hill.  Before long, I should have some updates regarding those terrain pieces.  Stay tuned.

Monday, July 18, 2011

WWII Germans

Here's my nascent collection of Axis 28mm figures for WW2, the Germans.

I've been relatively busy this month with painting!  My family has been out of town, leaving me plenty of time to get figures completed.  So here are three squads of German riflemen and associated support teams.  Below are some detailed shots of the squads.

So that's a pretty good base of Germans to start with.  The squad on the top has both Panerfaust and Panzerschreck.  I sort of stuck that squad together with left overs.  So now for some of the other teams.

Don't ask me why I stuck the 81mm mortar on a square base.  I thought I had some plan about mounting the figures on square bases to stick around the mortar.  Then I got over-zealous and mounted everything on rounds.  So much for ingenious planning.

Here you have an MG34 team.  Standing beside them is a sniper.  These should both help up the suppression factor on the battlefield.

Lastly here are a few different angles on the PaK 40 75mm anti-tank gun.  I really liked the way the gun came out.  It was refreshing to paint something where neatness didn't count.

So that's it for WW2 for a bit.  I have about 60 Japanese infantry to paint yet.  But I want to work on some stuff for SBH and maybe start filling in holes in my Tau army.  I also have to re-visit my US force and add in some more units as well.  My paint brushes are going to stay warm for a while!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

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

July is here and that means I've got to post up my 525pt list of Elves.  We're going all the way to 700pts at 175 increments.  So next month will be the final force.   This month comes with yet more change ups to the force.  I've dropped the Stormcaller and added in Elrond.  It make sense to bring him in at this time.  He costs 170 points on his own!  So to fill in some holes to get to the full 525 points I added in two each of Spears, Warriors, and Bows.  Here they are.
Not a lot of models here, as Elrond soaks up a huge chunk of the army's cost.  As I said, everyone else is going with a horde army.  So I have to keep up the numbers.  Otherwise, I'd have kept the Stormcaller in the list.  Elrond got a little extra attention.  Here he is.

I went with my own colors for him. This was also the first time I used Reaper paint triads.  It made the shadowing and highlighting on the hair and cape very straight forward.  The colors of the model are fairly accurate, while the background grass looks like it needs watering.  Don't know what happened there.

So I'm dead last in the challenge.  We were supposed to play games at each point level against one another.  But that's proving too hard to coordinate.  So I lost my one official game and that puts me in last place.  However, I've been getting in games with these Elves "unofficially."  I'm still not very accustomed to their style, but am getting better.

I clobbered a newcomer to the game last week.  I was rather hoping I'd enjoy my usual combination of poor strategy and bad dice rolling.  That would probably ensure the new guy had fun.  As it was I could roll nothing but sixes and wiped him away like a sandcastle on the beach.  Too bad I'll never see that again when I need it. And I likely soured a new player on the game.  Elves!  Can't win with them, can't throw a game with them!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Song of Blades and Heroes Battle Report

As promised, here's a battle report on Song of Blades and Heroes (SBH).  I met up with my friend, Mike, last night and we played a 325pt game.  We played a straight up fight between Orcs & Goblins and Dwarfs.  It was a good old fashioned fantasy stand-by that worked well for this game.

So I was interested in making sure we had a good mix of models.  The Orcs weighed in with one Leader, a Shaman, five Orc warriors and four goblin archers.  The Dwarfs suffer from their elite status when it comes to numbers.  They had a leader, rune priest, an Orc slayer, three warriors, and two crossbows.  We marked off a 3' x 3' area and went at it.  I played Orcs and Mike played Dwarfs.  Mike won the roll off and had me go first.

The first few turns of any game with a "kill 'em all" objective is usually filled with lots of movement.  This was no different.  What makes it interesting is rolling for activations.  Due to my low quality on Orcs, I generally never got more than two and often ended my turn early.  If you fail your activations on two or more dice, you pass the turn back to the other side.  Deciding how many dice to throw for activations becomes an interesting "mini game" of risk management.  It starts from the first turn, so you are actively thinking rather than just moving up models.

Here come the Orcs.  You can see that some models were left at the starting zone because of failed activations.  It was sort of a boon later on, as it turns out.  (All of these are iPhone shots.. which are not too good when it comes to minis.  But you get the idea.)
The Dwarfs use the house at the center for cover.  The orcs will try to go around one side, and send some archers to the other side.  Dwarfs move slower, using the small movement stick of 3".  So Orcs have a speed advantage here.  There's an interesting aspect to movement.  You measure from the front of the model base and move up to the back of the model base.  This is stated in the rules, and is different than the standard GW way of things.  So larger based models go faster.  But they can be engaged by more models as a trade off.

Orc shooting is crap.  You dice off using your combat score, which is low for goblins.  So combined with a low quality (meaning fewer activations) and a poor combat, they don't stand many chances to hit.  A Dwarf crossbow dueled with my night goblin almost all game.  Shooting in this game is more effective than LotR but not as deadly as WHFB.  It's about the middle ground, which is nice.

Eventually the first Orc charges up around the house.  Because you move in straight lines, it takes a lot of activations to run around a corner and fight.  I manage to get him into combat, but he doesn't have enough activation to fight.  It's OK, because he can fight when the Dwarf activates.  Besides, I was hoping to bring up some help.  I had contacted the Orc Slayer, which is lethal vs Orcs (not Goblins!).  This means as long as he wins combat, he will kill any Orc.  So this guy was a priority target!
But the dice gods were against me.  I had plenty of models to come up to help, but I blew two activations and sent the turn back to the Dwarfs.  Mike decides he can't go wrong with his Quality 2+ leader and rolls three dice.  But he gets snake eyes and one success!  The turn comes back to me after the leader makes move to a better position.  So even a "sure thing" Q2 model has its risks.  Feeling lucky, I activate the Orc in combat and the Orc Slayer takes his head.  First blood and it's greenskins!  Due to poor rolling and getting out of leadership range, my Orcs start to string out.  Here's what it looked like for me at this point.
That Shaman and the night goblin archer were trying to "one-two punch" a kill on the crossbows.  This is done by first transfixing the model with magic and then shooting it with archer (or vice versa... they both had the same stats so it didn't matter).  A transfixed model is treated like a knocked down model.  So any combat defeat or successful ranged attack would kill it.  But I wasn't getting too far with that.

Now it comes down to the big scrum in the middle where the game will be decided.  Mike had been holding back his Dwarfs, but was now bringing them up.  The warriors become Q2 when in range of their leader.  So they could do some serious damage.  I form up a line and the dwarfs engage.  Rather than write up the outcome, here's a before and after set of pictures.

The Orcs were demolished!  My Orc leader managed to kill the Orc slayer dwarf.  But otherwise Orcs got wiped out after a few rounds.  Thankfully the Goblins were all far back.  So the slow moving Dwarfs would have to walk up to them while I took arrow shots.  The Orc leader in the middle took a serious beating.  He has the "tough" special rule.  This basically trades his quality for wounds, so every time he is "killed" he actually lowers his quality.  Once he hits quality 7 he dies.  It took some fighting but he died!

The leader special rule is essential for low quality troops like Orcs and Goblins.  But part of the special rule is that when the leader dies, all remaining models take morale checks.  This was a doubly bad thing for me, as the Leader's death was also the 50% break point for my force as well.  So models would take two tests.  I didn't have to do that, as most models ran off the board when they saw their mighty war boss finally stagger and fall under the angry dwarven axes.  Only a goblin and the shaman remained, and they probably wouldn't last another test.  We called it at that point with a major victory for the Dwarfs.  They protected the village from the Orc invaders!

This was just such a fun and quick game.  It took us about an hour to play, even with all the casual talking that fills up most of that time.  If we'd been playing a campaign or linked series, I could've checked to see which of my models lived, were wounded, or taken captive.  But it was our first "real game" and just wanted to see how it played.

So it held up as I expected.  The rules play well, the two stats augmented with special rules make for well rounded troops.  One thing we noticed is that the points system is a little bit "fudged."  By that I mean my Orcs cost nearly as much as the Dwarfs.  However, Dwarf quality and combat were better.  This is significant because it makes it harder for me to double their combat rolls for a kill.  I should've had more models or better stats to make up for the similar point costs.  I guess if you are playing with friends, just don't be a douche bag and select a power army.  You could easily do that and get something way over powered for the points.  But this is not a tournament game, and so should not be a problem with friends.

I can't say enough good things about this rules set.  I was really able to get involved from the start and play out a skirmish encounter with hardly any referral back to rules.  Not that it's perfectly clear rules.  In fact, the book organization needs a lot of work.  But for most of what you want to do, the basic rules and quick reference guide has all of it handy.  I will definitely be playing more of this game.  I'm planning some lists specifically for it.  So watch for more on that front in the future.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

WWII Americans

In my last post, I promised a battle rep for SBH.  However, I'm going to jump this in front of that planned post.  Here are my WWII Americans, two squads with a 60mm mortar team and a LMG team.

Here are some shots of the individual units.

I painted these as Rangers, as you might be able to tell from the small blue "Rangers" diamond patches I put on their left shoulders.  I'm thinking these guys fall into the 2nd Ranger Battalion that was active from D-Day on.  Rangers were also active in the CBI theater as well.  While these models probably don't reflect jungle gear, I don't really care.  They've got the patch!

I wanted to post these pictures because I'm well on my way to finishing my second unit of Germans.  I wanted to show the completed "first wave" of US forces before the Germans.  I'll finish the German force and then return to the US force.  I have a 1/60 scale Stuart tank, HMG team, and some flamer throwers & snipers to fill out the rest of the force.  Once that's done, I'll either take a break from WW2 or jump into my Japanese forces.  I'll just have to gauge my desire for that when I get there.  The Japanese are the most numerous, numbering about 50-60 models.  I just bought the entire line to save myself the trouble of buying more at a later date.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Coolest Fantasy Skirmish Game That You Never Heard Of Before

I used to consider Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game as the best skirmish fantasy game I had ever played.  But over the years every game has become 600+ points with as many models crammed into your list as you can possibly get.  My Corsair army has more models than my 40K Space Marines and just about as many as my planned Tau army.  Players in both casual and tournament games are generally trying to get as close to the maximum model count of 75 as possible.  In short, it's still the best game I ever played.  But it's not skirmish and hasn't been for a long time.  At least not in my opinion (which I'm sure the world disagrees with, by the way).

So I went searching for a fantasy skirmish game to scratch that itch.  It didn't take long to find Song of Blades and Heroes (SBH) by Ganesha Games.  I could really end this post now with me just telling you to go spend the $8 for the PDF and get this game.  You won't regret it.  The game is awesome, and once you play it through a few times you realize what looked like a light and breezy game has a lot of meat to it.

But I'm in the mood to write, lucky for you.  Let me introduce the game in more depth, and see if I can't convince you to check it out.  Incoming wall of text!

First, it's a skirmish game.  Hooray for not needing to buy 50+ models before you can "really play" the game.  You use whatever models you have on hand.  That was a huge selling point for me.  I have a lot of WHFB models gathering dust.  Also, I can now buy all those delicious Reaper models that I've wanted, not to mention get some use out of my Warmachine/Hordes stuff.  My only complaint is the mish-mash of square and round bases.  Can't have it all, I guess.
The overall game structure feels a little like Mordheim mixed with a little Lord of the Rings, plus some standard miniature games rules thrown in.  The system is very simple and easy to learn.  Best of all, there are no charts to consult or stupid markers to put next to models.  (I hate that marker shit... put a marker to show retreating, put a marker to show a charge, put a marker to show that there's a marker next to the model.....)

You build your warband to a 300 pt level, which will get you about 8 - 12 models.  You can do more if you want to.  But wasn't I just complaining about model bloat in LotR?  I've gone up to 400 pts with still less than 20 models.  You allocate 1/3 of your points to "personalities" that are models with certain rules.  The remainder go to your regular guys.  You don't need a leader per se, which is nice.

If you're into models with heavy stat lines, look somewhere else.  All models have only two stats, Quality and Combat.  That's all you need.  The models are then modified by special rules, of which they are many. Those two stats with the special rules make SBH easy to learn and play.  Believe it or not, the two stats still embody the stereotypes you expect for certain fantasy races.  For example, Dwarfs are rock hard and brave while Orcs are still numerous and run off when things go bad.  That all works with two numbers.

The game itself moves quickly and is based on activations.  You roll from 1-3 dice per model.  Compare the result to your quality score and anything matching or exceeding the number is a success.  You can take one action per success.  At first I thought I'd hate this aspect, but have found that it's really the heart of the game and ups the strategy factor by quite a bit.  In fact, I wish other games had this.  The twist is, any time you fail two activation rolls, you will pass your turn back to your opponent.  If you rolled three dice, got two failures and one success, you still take your one action.  But then the turn goes back to your opponent even if that was your first model activation.  So the decisions you make are meaningful and will alter the game.  If you have a a 5+ quality model (you must roll 5 or better on a d6 to pass) then you better think twice before rolling for two activations.  But what if you want to move and attack a juicy target that you know you could crush?  When do you activate that model and will you roll two or more dice?  (HINT: Always roll 3 dice on the last model you activate, since two failures don't mean anything at that point.)

As I mentioned there are a slew of special rules.  Despite the number of rules, they are easy to understand and memorize.  Many are old gaming stand-bys like Hatred, Terror, Fearless, etc.  Some were harder to understand, like Drain and Poison.  But after a second reading they were easy to get.  Special rules can make each model unique, or can define the character of a type of troop.  The rules aren't always beneficial (like Coward or Greedy), and negative special rules lower the points cost of the model to compensate.

Combat is fast, but not overly deadly in one-on-ones.  That's actually good, since with 10 models a side deadly combat would end the game really fast.  Basically, you roll off and add in combat scores plus other modifiers.  If I double your score, you are killed.  If I triple your score, you die a gruesome death and everyone around takes a morale check.  If I just win but don't kill, you either are knocked down or pushed back (recoiled, as they call it).  The key is to get models knocked down or "transfixed" with magic.  You can kill models in these conditions just by beating them in combat, no need to double a score.

It's time to bring this post home with an old fashioned Pros and Cons analysis.

  • Skirmish based, play with any fantasy models you have
  • Simple rules that encompass just about everything.  You only need three dice and a tape measure.
  • Price:  Pay $8 for the main rules and bring your own background fluff.  You've got a full blown game in hand for about the price of a fast food lunch.
  • Tactical and strategic depth of play
  • Lots of expansions available to add more to the game, also low priced or available as a bundle.
  • Strong narrative component:  This game just begs you to create your own narrative for your warband and it's battles.  The campaign expansion book takes that home nicely.
  • Design your own model stats and points with a free Excel worksheet.  Now that six armed demoness sitting on my table will have a gaming purpose.
  • Adaptable to historical games.
  • Highly solo friendly!
  • Additional rules, rosters, and FAQs are spread out over the expansions. Looking up stuff is sort of ridiculous like that.
  • You move in a straight line always.  So taking a corner will cost two activations.  I know the rules are trying to be simple, but come on!
  • Minor complaint: gear doesn't seem to matter too much.  It's supposedly figured into the models quality and combat scores.  But I'd like for a massive battle axe to count for something more!  (I was happy when one of the expansions introduced the Heavy Armor special rule.  I'd like more of that.)
  • Potential to "game the system" and create unbalanced lists.  You just have to agree with your opponent on what is fair, otherwise it could be a power gamer's paradise.
  • No one is going to play this game with you.  "Their game" is so much better and SBH is too blah, blah, blah  (I'm sure they'll find something less than perfect to bitch about.)
So in my opinion there are many pros and not so many cons.  Also, there are three expansions that you really should get to fully enjoy the game. Ganesha Games is coming out with a bajillion different games based on this system.  They're planning Historical Skirmish for ancients.  They already have Napoleonic skirmish rules that seem well received.  I'm waiting for their Flying Lead rules for modern skirmish to come out with the WWII supplement.  There's just a lot to this company and I'm pretty excited about it.

I'll put up a battle rep on one of my solo games.  That might help illustrate the rules better.  If you've read this far, let me know.  I often wonder if anyone plows through all of this verbiage.  Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Building a Gaming Table, the Final Outcome

At last the table is completed and in the house!  Tim and his son came over this morning to help move it inside and attach the top to the base.  It looks absolutely wonderful and I can't wait to get some gaming done on the new surface.  Tim had me throw a die on the table for good luck. I got a "4", which was pretty encouraging. 

I had to hit it with some touch-up paint to cover some of the mistakes.  It's funny because every time I look at it or see a new picture of it, the table looks like it needs more touch-up.  I have a big storage compartment underneath it, and I'm going to plan how to use it best.  I'm terrible at taking advantage of space.  For one, I'm putting as many of my armies into stacking boxes as I possibly can.  I have too many metal tool boxes, etc, that don't stack well.

Anwyay, here's a shot of the table in the front room.  Overall I think it looks great.  I just need to buy a few bar stools to sit on while gaming. 

I'm glad this is done!  Thanks a million to Tim and Mike for building me this great table.  I'm looking forward to plenty of fun games with it.  Now I just have to build terrain to put on it!  Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Building a Gaming Table with Extra Drama

Not more than one day with my new table, and drama strikes!  The action is supposed to happen on the table, not to the table.  Here's what I found when I entered the garage yesterday while enjoying my cup of morning coffee.

That beautiful pine finish was warping and bowing out!  The finely joined edges were pulling apart.  So after a good five minutes of strongly wishing I wasn't seeing this, I sent these pictures to the experts.  Mike and Tim conferred on matters and suggested I try a few things.  In the meantime, I sanded the base for painting and tried not to act too weepy.

This morning Tim came by with his friend, Mike Pop (not sure on the spelling of his last name).  Mike P is a professional carpenter.  In about two minutes he essentially told me I was hosed.  Pine is not a good choice for drier than hell Arizona.  He graciously offered to take the top back to his shop and put on some MDF siding.

I was expecting Mike to slap on some basic siding and call it done.  I hadn't expected all the incredible work he put into it.  He didn't have enough MDF to make strips of the right size, so he actually joined two pieces together.  It was amazing; I can't even tell where the joins are now.  Then he sanded everything down and rounded the edges.  Here's what those table edges look like after Mike finished.

MDF will stay straight and true for the life of the table.  So rather than try to make the pine work, going to the MDF at this stage was the right thing to do.  Mike P is an awesome guy, and like Tim and Mike W he donated his time and effort to my table.  He's not even a gamer! 

So Tim and I took it back to the house and after doing some other stuff in the afternoon (like getting lunch!), we came back and started painting.  Tim helped me with getting down the base coats for the trim.  Then he took off for the day.  I stayed at it to finish painting the second coats on the trim and the first coats of the top and panels.  A dust storm blew through while I was painting inside the box.  I had my garage door open and crap got all over the sides!  I had to pick out the big stuff.  It doesn't look too bad.

Here's what I've got so far.

Those edges don't look too shabby now, do they?!  I've got touch up painting to do and a second coat for all the light colors.  But I'll get that done tomorrow morning.  Tim volunteered to come by and help me move it into the house.  It only weights a ton, now that I've added all that MDF siding.  By tomorrow night I should have a gaming table in my house!  Woot!  I'll post up when the table lands in its final destination.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Building a Gaming Table

I've always wanted a gaming table.  However, for years I just didn't have a need for one or even think that I could build one.  I had kicked around stupid ideas for some time, but nothing ever came from it.  One night, I was talking with my wife, and she told me I could build a table and put it in my front room.  This just goes to show that your spouse can still surprise you even after 20 years of marriage.  I never expected her to agree.

So I had one major problem.  I'm not handy.  No that's not modesty; that's reality.  I'm the guy who hammers a hole in the wall while hanging an 8x10 picture.  I'm that guy you never let work a power tool without supervision.  But I am fortunate to have two good friends who are not only quite capable but also quite generous. After some talking, they both agreed to "help" me build my table.

Tim K from Cursed Treasures and Mike W from Da Green Skins came over last night to "assist" me in building the table.  I will define "assist" as building the whole damn thing by themselves while I asked if anyone needed a drink.  On Tim's advice, I picked up a Simpson Strong-tie workbench box and the necessary lumber.  He had the truck; so he helped me to pick up the lumber.  Mike came up with a design to meet my wife's crazy requirement to make the table look good.  Can you imagine such a demand?  With the materials and plan ready, we started yesterday in the afternoon.  We made sure to pick and "excessive heat warning" day to work on this.  It would build character.

I was astounded by the array of tools off-loaded into my garage.  I own a hammer, screwdriver, drill, and some sandpaper.  That's my set up.  But last night that garage had nail guns, chop saws, sanders, cordless drills, just about everything you could need.  Here's Tim and Mike making the first cuts on the chop saw, probably the most important tool of the entire production.
The work went smoothly.  There were numerous unexpected challenges along the way.  But Mike and Tim found ways around each one of them.  The only catch was that it took a lot longer to build than anticipated!  Here are some shots of framing up the base.

This base would form a pedestal for the table top.  The bottom of it would form a shelf for storing my stuff.  The table top would be framed separately and be fit to the pedestal.  Here are some shots of that action.

At some point I was feeling pretty guilty just standing around doing odd jobs.  So I had offered to help finish screwing in some of the legs.  However, I still managed to make a mess of that. It was apparent that letting me use the drill would add several hours to the job.  At some point, I was assigned sanding duties to plane down an overhang on the bottom shelf.  At last I was useful!  Here's a shot of me getting excited with the palm sander.
After several more hours of work the table was ready to come together.  Tim and Mike put in some MDF to create a finished look to the pedestal.  Then 6" pine boards were carefully joined all along the edges to give the top a classy, and finished look.  We set the top on the pedestal, unattached for now.  Here's the result.

You can see in the bottom picture that we left one side open for me to access my stuff.  All in all, it is one awesome looking table!  Now it needs to be sanded down, painted and stained.  That's phase two.  The final phase three will be bringing it out of the garage and into the living room, where we'll attach the top to the pedestal.

I really, really, really have to thank Tim and Mike for their commitment and effort to this project.  It took nearly eight hours to build this.  It's a lot more complicated than it seems, let me tell you!  I can't wait to get this finished and in the house!