Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dust Warfare: Initial Impressions

Last night I got together with a friend to play Fantasy Flight Game's Dust Warfare.  I had been waiting for this game to come out, since I really like the models. About a year ago I picked up the Dust Tactics board game based strictly on the models.  The board game was fun. But I didn't play it that often. I was hoping the new miniatures rules would give these figures a new life.

I don't actually have the rulebook. So my friend laid out the game rules for me and I tried to keep it straight in my head.  I'm really better off learning things by playing through a few rounds.  The game had some interesting ideas and rules that I've seen in other games.  Tops for me is initiative rolls for each turn that are based upon how well you are doing in the game.  I also like the command phase, which I'll try to explain below.

We only played one game, and didn't get to every rule. For example, we never did any sort of assault, which is usually a big part of the these types of games.  I'll try to explain what I remember and what I did during the game. That should give you an idea of the flow, but shouldn't be taken as the "final word" on the rules.

First you pick your force, just like any other game.  There's a loose force organization you conform to, and being a certain type of force brings special abilities. Choosing your platoons is quick and easy.  I only had models from the big starter box.  So that part went fast.  Then you generate a scenario.  This was very interesting and unique. You make some rolls and get points to spend on mission generation objectives. You can end up with a lot of different combinations.  Our game scenario was that we both picked two secret locations that we had to control at the end of the game.

Once you have forces and scenarios, you set up according to the way your scenario dictates. We were in opposing corners for our game.  Then you are ready to start.  You roll initiative, using one die for each unit you have on the table.  Every "hit" is totaled and the one with the highest total goes second... which is advantageous in this game.  (I forgot to mention you use their special dice with hits or blanks.... but same thing can be done with regular dice by just counting 1 & 6 as hits)  The total of your hits also determines how many orders you can give in the Command phase. Which brings me to.....

...the Command phase, which comes next. In this phase your leader issues orders to any unit within 12". He has as many orders as he has "hits" from the initiative phase. During the normal turn, your units can take two actions which could be: double move, move & shoot, shoot & move, or double shoot. During the Command phase, you can take one of these actions if you want. So you could shoot once or move once.  The key difference is your opponent cannot react to anything you do during the command phase.  During the normal turn, if your unit comes within 12" of an enemy, the enemy can react by interrupting your action. But there's one last thing to know about the command phase.  If you get an order during this phase, you cannot react during the normal turn.  That's a very important consideration.

Once the command phase is over, where both sides issue orders if they want, it goes to the standard turn and initiative order. This is basically maneuvering into cover, shooting at stuff, trying to get your objectives.  The shooting mechanic is pretty easy.  You consult your roster and see what your weapons do to the type of enemy you're shooting.  If you hit anything, the enemy will get saves which are modified by hard or soft cover. Nothing really different for an experienced war gamer.  I will say that for the most part the fighting was straight forward, uncomplicated, and fun.

When your unit gets hit, it takes a suppression marker. If it takes wounds, you pull models that are eligible targets (no shooting around corners in this game). Suppression markers can be removed by passing tests and one can be removed at the start of a new turn. But while you have a suppression marker your unit can only take a single action. Ouch!  If you get more suppression markers than you have models left in the unit, the until breaks and starts to move back toward your board edge.  If they reach your board edge before removing all their markers, they are gone.  It's an interesting morale mechanic that still gives a weakened unit a chance to come back to the game.  It didn't come up with my game, though.

So that is about it for the basic rules.  I'll walk you through the highlights of the game we played last night.  I played Americans versus Germans.  Everything was from the Dust Tactics big box, not the new starter box currently on sale.  We each had three units (called platoons) and two walkers, plus a hero.  There were different special abilities for each side. But the forces were about equivalent, and represent about 100pts.

Sorry for the crappy phone pictures.  I normally take crappy pictures with a different camera.  Here is the set up at the start of the game.  My secret objective is the big center building plus another building off camera to the right.  I have to control them at the end of the game for added points.
After a turn it's obvious the Germans also want that center building.  You can see them cutting across to another building in their corner.  I advance my Ranger and Recon platoons up with my Hot Dog flamethrower walker for support. My big gun, Pounder, stays put to get a good firing position while my BBQ Squad (close combat assault with flamethrower) cuts out of this picture to grab my other objective.

Over the next turns my platoons in the middle exchange fire with Germans coming from the other side. Once the Germans get within 12" my grenade launchers wreak havoc with them. My Rangers get shot up pretty bad but manage to hang on.  Hot Dog takes some hits; you can see wound markers in the second picture. But he cuts over to the German second objective and burns them out of their building.  In fact, Flamethrowers are more powerful against vehicles.  But Hot Dog still did his job!

The battle continued with the big gun walkers dueling across the battlefield.  In walker combat, whenever you take a hit you roll on a damage table in addition to taking wounds.  We didn't remember that until later.  By that time, Pounder lost his duel with the German big gun walker and was destroyed.

Here you see some of my forces hustling across the view of one of the German walkers.  Luckily the walker couldn't react to us, being out of 12" range! 
By the end of the fight I had lost my big gun walker and one of my platoons had been reduced to one man.  On the German end, there were only the two walkers and the lone hero.  We called the game there with a victory for the Americans!
I love these models and the whole "Weird World War Two" theme!  The rule book was a nice hardback with full color slick pages.  I will definitely be investing in the rulebook, and plan to pick up at least two command platoons for each force.  Looks like I'll have to start painting these models soon!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Beastman Warband

At the same time I picked up the Dark Elves I mentioned in a prior post, I also picked up some GW Beastmen at a great price.  I think this collection represents the contents of the old boxes, where you got 10 Ungors and 8 Gors in one box.  Things were so much better "back then."

The collection also came with a minotaur to add some punch.  I'd like to say the new GW minotaurs look great.  But unfortunately all I can say is that they don't look great.  So I'm glad I got this one.  I'll add one more minotaur to this list, maybe one of those cool Avatars of War models.  Also, I think there are two metal Bestigors from the Mordheim line in the collection as well.

Anyway, here's the gang all ready to march out and start some mayhem.

I'm really enjoying putting these small bands together.  Though I haven't played a fantasy skirmish game in a while, I'm feeling quite prepared in case one should suddenly break out.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

FoW: US Rifle Company, North Africa

Inspired by yesterday's post, I decided it's high time that I at least take a group photo of all my Flames of War rifle company models.  I started this project three years ago. But after making that post my blogging halted. I never followed up.

Fact is I continued to add to the rifle company and started to play some games. But then my game group went cold on FoW, as did I.  However, when they picked it up again, I remained on the fence until recently.  I'll share my thoughts on why that happened a little later.  First, here is the entire rifle company.

So everything looks like a bunch of dots.  But it took me 30 minutes to set this up, photograph, and then put away. I'm not taking another picture!  Besides, there's not a lot of detail on 15mm figures anyway.  These are all Old Glory Command Decision models.  Not a single Battlefront item besides the bases!  Here's what you're looking at:

Front square: Company Commander, 2iC, and two bazooka teams
Front row: Three rifle platoons of three squads each, commander and bazooka teams attached
Middle row (from left to right): Weapons platoon of 4 LGMs & three 60mm mortars; 81mm mortar platoon, Machine gun platoon, all with command teams.
Back row: two 105mm Howitzer platoons, with command, spotters, staff teams, and jeeps.

 That's about 1600pts or close to it.  If I add in a Sherman tank platoon, I get over 1700pts.

You're probably wondering why I invested so much time and energy into this game if I didn't play it.  Actually, I did play it.  I wanted a combined arms force, which this army represents.  I have a lot of stuff going on here.  But ultimately I think that's what killed my interest.

If you are a new player to Flames of War, I would strongly suggest you don't start with an army like this one.  There are soooooo many special rules and peculiarities for all of these platoons.  It's crazy.  When I first started playing, I couldn't finish a game.  I thought it was a fluke, but every game just ended with things unresolved.  There were too many rules to learn.  I began to think the game was fiddly and so rules heavy that it was unplayable.  Then the rule book didn't help and we had many divergent interpretations of the rules. This just further confirmed the game was not all that good.

So after a space of several years, I had forgotten everything about the game.  But the feeling of dislike lingered. I started playing with friends again, and we stuck to tanks only.  Oddly, I couldn't pinpoint anything too bad about playing just tanks.  After playing a few more games and then watching a few others, I began to realize that just concentrating on tanks made getting the game basics a lot easier. I started to enjoy it.

Now I understand that we all had taken a big bite of a complicated game. This was no trouble for some.  But for me it was more than I wanted to deal with. For now, I'm sticking with tanks and rotating in other unit types. This way, I learn all the special rules in manageable bits.  That's how I'd recommend a new player approach FoW.  You could also just play infantry only, getting down those rules before worrying about tanks, recon, artillery, air support, ambushes, transports, and on and on and on. 

So this force will not likely hit the table for a while yet.  But I expect parts of it will. I even intend to add some new units to this, like AT guns.  One day I may be playing the whole thing like I originally intended.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Adding to the Flames

Flames of War is a game that I've wanted to like for a long time. Everyone else seemed to really enjoy it, but I couldn't get into it.  However, recently, I think I've turned the corner with this game.  I find myself looking forward to the next opportunity to play it.  In fact, I'm adding units and thinking of trying new things.  Hence, the subject of today's post.

I've been playing a US tank company for North Africa.  It seems my gaming group has landed at the oddball points total of 1625, and now that has become our group standard.  I thought I had that many points in tanks but discovered I had miscalculated.  So to remedy that, I added in two recon platoons.  Here they are in all their reconnaissance-doing glory.

 I basically just had to add two M2 half tracks to make these platoons.  I snagged the infantry stands out of my rifle company.  The jeeps are from Old Glory's Command Decision line, and I already had them as well.  Since these two platoons are pointed so cheaply, adding them still doesn't stretch me to 1625pts.  But I plan to drop one recon platoon and add another Sherman, which will put me almost to the exact mark.

Here's the full Tank Company as it is today, without the extra Sherman tank.
You can't see too many details in this photo.  What I have in the front are the Company Commander and 2iC in M5A1 Stuart tanks.  Flanking the recon platoons are two Sherman tank platoons.  Tucked into the back is another light tank platoon of M5A1 Stuart tanks.  The Stuarts are also from Old Glory, in case anyone is interested.

What I like about this force is that it is compact and very portable.  For the most part, it was very inexpensive to buy.  I'm finding the game easier to learn by just playing with tanks.  Adding these recon platoons will introduce a new facet of the game to me.  I wonder how they'll play and how to best use them.  I gave each platoon bazooka teams, since I'll be playing other tank companies.  Otherwise, these guys won't have much to say on the battlefield.

As I mentioned, I have a full US Rifle Company for North Africa.  I'll break out those models and take a picture of them.  I have never documented my Flames of War armies.  So I'll get to that soon.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dark Elves

I have always wanted a Dark Elf army. It was on my list to buy right after I completed my Ogre Kingdoms army. Well, I never finished the ogre army, and that means Dark Elves became a forgotten plan. As time went on my friends stopped playing WHFB and GW prices made it an impossible project.

While I wasn't looking for this army, a great deal came my way. I was able to pick up a lot of stuff, more than I'll use for a skirmish game. Here's a picture of the everything I picked up.
So what's in these boxes?  I spent some time cataloging everything.  Since some of these are "old school" models I guessed at what they were.  The list is in no particular order.
  • 3 Sorceresses with skull staff
  • 1 Sorceress on Cold One
  • Morathi on Dark Pegasus
  • Cauldron of Blood and crew
  • 4 Repeater bolt throwers
  • 3 Assassins
  • 18 Cold One Riders with Command
  • War Hydra and 3 handlers
  • 40 Spearmen with cmd
  • 32 Crossbows with cmd
  • 20 "Old school" plastic warriors (Hand weapon & shields)
  • 1 Executioner Command team (5 models)
  • 38 Black Guard with Command (Some old school models in this; I guessed they were Black Guard)
  • 14 Shades
  • 20 Corsairs with cmd
  • 10 Dark Riders with cmd
  • 32 Witch Elves with cmd
  • 2 Familiars
That's 260 models and a retail price of $1,364.  I won't report what I paid for this, but it was not $1,364!  The nice thing is these are all assembled and unpainted with no basing.  I get to do it my way!

I'm not playing WHFB anymore, and no one around me is interested.  At a cost of $1k to get started, it's no wonder. While I have a lot of models now, it's still not enough to make standard units.  I'd still have to dump more money into this to get a playable army.  I wouldn't do that, but do plan to get that awesome DE lord on a black dragon.  He'll be my reward for painting this whole force.

I've got some great plans for this army, especially the Witch Elves.  I want to paint them up as Drow, not the pale-faced bad boy elves that GW does.  Also, I should really consider looking at Kings of War as an alternative to WHFB.  I bet this force would work fine.  Now if only I can find an opponent for KoW!  I have two other armies in GW format to use in KoW.  I just need a willing player.

That's all for now.  I've got some painting to do.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Plastic Soldier Company Tanks

It was a busy week for me, not leaving much time for working on my models.  With the time I had, I finished my box of Plastic Soldier Company 15mm Sherman tanks.  These five Shermans complete my Flames of War 1500pt US Tank Company for North Africa.

 I've been lukewarm on FoW.  It's a game in which I've actually invested a lot of time and money. But every time I play it, I'm just "whatever" about it.  I think I want to love it, but just finding it hard to do.  I have a 1500pt US Rifle Company as well.  So the game does have my interest.  I just need something to click.  I think playing a tank company might be the ticket for me.

The models themselves, two close ups of the tank commander and a tank, and then all 5:

At first I absolutely hated these models.  I found them fiddly and with unclear assembly instructions.  There are a lot of options and not all options go together.  They do show you what you're supposed to do.  But somehow that is not enough.  Putting the tracks together sucked.  It wasn't until the final two whenI learned the "Tao of Track Assembly."  Once I got it, the tracks went together easily.  I guess I'm prepared for future purchases.

I also used a slightly different paint scheme on these, using a yellow-green for highlighting.  This makes them looks slightly different from my other tanks.  But overall, I think I'll use this scheme for all US armor.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Warmchine and Hordes!

I have finally decided to get back into Warmachine and Hordes.  I've actually wanted to get back into these games for a while.  But I didn't have anyone in my gaming group interested in playing.  However, I've found someone who is willing to play these games with me.  That's all I needed for the green light to get more models.  Actually, I own a few that have hung around for years.  Now I'm finally putting them together for the table.

I've got a collection of Khador for WM and Legion of Everblight for Hordes.  Both have been documented on this blog. I'm more interested in Hordes at the moment.  Also, I'm interested in Circle of Orboros more than LoE.  So I started a (very) small collection of Circle models.  I can use my LoE models to re-learn the game.  For WM, I'm still fine with Khador.

Up first is the excellent plastic Warpwolf model.  This looks so much better than the metal version.  I was surprised that it didn't go together with plastic glue, but still needed super glue.  It's a great sculpt and feather-light. The kit allows you to build three versions of the Warpwolf.  I chose the Feral Warpwolf build.

I like the way this face came out.  Here's a close up shot of it. 
Of course a warbeast is nothing without a warlock.  So I picked up the variant of Kaya the Wildborne to keep the big beast company.
 So you have a sense of scale, here is the sum total of my Circle forces as they stand today.  The Warpwolf is pretty big.

Since I have Legion of Everblight models.  My friend donated an extra Forsaken model he had but couldn't use.  This picture came out fuzzy, but looked OK on the camera.  I really need to go back to my iPhone for its camera.  It's a lot better than my Canon Powershot.

I don't even know why I'm showing this, since the picture is shit and it looks like I painted it black and gray.  I guess I'll retake a better one some day and re-post it.  This came out looking nice, but I didn't follow my LoE paint scheme from years ago.  Frankly, those old models don't look so good next to my latest stuff.

Finally, for Warmachine, I had an Ogrun Bokur model I purchased years ago.  I had no plans to use him at the time.  But I loved the look of the model and wanted it in my collection.  I think he came out nicely.  I'll have to find a way to fit him into games somehow.

Since he's a mercenary, I gave him what I felt seemed like a neutral "military scheme."  He's like a US Sherman tank, only with a big polearm!

This model has a great face, and I thought I did a fair job painting it.  So here's a close up. And no, I didn't use Micron pens to dot the eyes.  That's paint.

That's all for now.  I still have a Khador Warjack hanging around from several years ago.  But I want to focus on filling out my Circle of Orboros force and adding in a few more elements to LoE.  I haven't actually played a game yet since I left of with this years ago. But I'm pretty excited just to be working with these miniatures again.