Saturday, March 29, 2014

Judge Dredd: Mega City One Judges

I can't claim to have been a longtime Judge Dredd fan. I was familiar with the comic during my college days, but back then it was hard to get where I lived. However, I really enjoyed the last Judge Dredd movie that came out a few years ago. Anyway, when I saw Warlord was making a game out of it I was interested. I did nothing about it until I saw the hardback rule book at the Gathering in the Desert event last month. It looked so interesting that I finally decided to get the Judge Dredd starter set.

I haven't read the rulebook yet, but it looks great. I'm particularly interested in the campaign system. I'm expecting to really enjoy collecting this game!  Without further ado, here's how my Mega City Judges turned out.

I kept the loud, comic book style colors. Really, there is no other choice as then it wouldn't look too much like Judge Dredd. I did have some room for interpretation, and added a few nonstandard color choices. The starter adds in an extra figure you can't get anywhere else for both the Judges and the Street Gang factions.  Let's go through what these models represent.

The two on the left must be "riot police" type of judges. The big, gold "riot" lettering on their helmets is a dead giveaway. One has a riot shield, and constantly topples over, and the other has riot foam. I was hoping for a flame-thrower.  The other is a street judge with a pistol.

The two on the left are cadet judges, so I assume they have crappy stats. The far right is a Psi Judge. I've no idea how psychic powers work in game, but the model looks suitably "magical" for its purpose.

Lastly we have three street judges. The center judge is the model that comes with the starter set as an exclusive (I think it's exclusive, anyway). The far right is the only model with the option for a weapon. I made a very gamy, min/max decision for this. I gave him the weapon that was easiest to glue onto his arm.

So there you have it. I've got the street gang models on the table next. I'm not sure I can bring myself to use the outrageous paint schemes, but when would I ever have the chance to use my fluorescent paints if not on these. Once the gang models are all painted, I'd like to take the game for a spin to see how it plays.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Operation Bagration: Germans

I'm still planning on playing through the Operation Bagration campaign byBritton Publishers.  I have to build the entire Russian force from the ground up. So I thought it would be easier first to tackle the additional German units I need for the campaign.

Basically I needed more tanks and other vehicles. I was a bit lazy in researching camo patterns and colors for this campaign. I just did everything to match what I already own. Here's the run down of what I've added.

There are Peter Pig and Battlefront models.  The four soldiers tossing grenades are Peter Pig models. These were not necessary for the planned campaign, but I had the models handy and so painted them. The motorcycle troops are from Battlefront. I have three more in the blister, but since they were a pain in the ass to assemble, I won't bother until I need them. Finally, there's a Kubelwagen from Peter Pig. It had a bunch of interchangeable heads, which was cool. So I made it like a command vehicle, with the brass riding in the back.

This is just a better shot of the motorcycle and Kubelwagen.  Now on to the self-propelled guns.

Both are Battlefront models, with a Hornisse on the left and a Marder III on the right. Interestingly, the campaign book called for a Nashhorn, which I could not find anywhere. Turns out the Hornisse is basically the same thing. Who said miniature gaming was not educational!

More Battlefront tanks here, with a Panzer III on the left and a Tiger I E on the right. The Tiger had a lot of bits to it and no instructions. I was surprised I figured out the assembly on my own. Usually I end up with spare parts that I should not have.

At last we have two Panther G models from Peter Pig. These tanks absolutely suck. They suck hard. They were very expensive, and not worth what I paid. First, there is a visible gap between tracks and hull. I mean light shines through. Next, the turrets don't fit into the hull properly, and one I jammed in so tightly it can no longer move. That's after trying to file the hole larger. Lastly, no amount of glue holds these together. I've scrubbed them down so there's no residue, used a gallon of superglue, and they still fall apart on touch. I hate these models but I'm stuck with them now. Stay away from these.

So there are all the extra Germans I needed to play the Operation Bagration campaign. I won't just use these for the campaign, of course, as they all have application in other games. They were mostly fun to paint. I used Plastic Soldier Company's spray paint for these to speed up the process.  Their German tank colors are too bright for me, but once I apply a wash they look a lot better.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Chain of Command: Initial Impressions

I've heard a lot of positive reviews for Chain of Command by Too Fat Lardies. These are rules for WW2 platoon level games, and were released last summer. As such, I'm a late arrival to this game, and therefore won't bother going into heavily detailed reviews of the rules. There are many great reviews done already, and the guys at TFL have released  a series of demo videos that will show you how the game plays.  I just wanted to share my thoughts on a couple of play-through sessions and add to the already large dialog on this game.

One thing I've noticed is that Bolt Action and Chain of Command are constantly compared and contrasted, and people always want to know which game is "better." Besides the WW2 setting and the platoon scale, these two games couldn't be any more different. If I had to weigh in with what the difference is, here's my thought. Bolt Action is the game with a neat (if questionable) points system for tournaments and pick-up games. The rules are simplified and standardized. Chain of Command would never work as a competitive tournament game (no true points and a lot of randomization would be an endless headache for judges) and the rules are filled with details and differences.

Neither game system is better than the other, but distinctly different. You could play both rules, and would use them for different purposes. Chain of Command is going to be a lot better for scenario and narrative themed games than Bolt Action. CoC is also difficult to teach a new player, I would think. Whereas Bolt Action would allow you to play a game with a total stranger who has only a passing experience with war games. Both do a fine job modelling WW2 combat, albeit in different ways.

My verdict is that Chain of Command has some strong parts and some weaker parts. I can't say I'm thrilled with it, nor can I say I've disliked it. It's simply different from what I had expected.

The game is "scale agnostic" and works for anything, which is a huge plus. The ideal scale is 15mm, which is my preferred scale, though all the examples are shown with either 20mm or 28mm models. They recommend a 4'x6' table, but I played on a 4'x4' without too much trouble. Larger is better, of course.

Cover is pretty essential in this game, or your soldiers will die too easily.  It doesn't require an insane amount, but much of the game mechanics rely on cover to be useful.

The game starts with a unique deployment system called the patrol phase. You move patrol markers about until both sides "encounter" each other in no-man's land. From there you drop back to cover to find where you will place jump-off points for your troops. Determining the jump off point is a little awkward, even more so than they show in the books or videos. In both games I ended up with something much like standard deployment zones, only closer than usual.

The jump off points will allow you to place your men within six inches of that point. Of course, vehicles are not allowed to use jump off points, but must come in from your table edge. But where on the table edge?  Well, on a road from your table edge. If you have two roads, what then? Pick one. What if you have no roads? The rules are silent on that point. Maybe you can't bring them on? Maybe they have to dropped in from gliders? Matter transports?

And here we come to probably my largest complaint for the rules. There are so many exceptions like this, and not all of them cover many contingencies. Must a road be present in every game? The rules would lead you to believe so, especially if you have vehicles. It's nothing you can't fix yourself with a little logic. But now you're beginning to see why this is not a good rule for tournaments or pick-up games.

Turns are different in this game, and phases are more important. You can have dozens of phases in a game, but maybe only 2-3 turns. My games did not last more than three turns each, though I had maybe 15-20 phases per game.  Each phase represents a small portion of time and you roll command dice to determine what you can activate or bring on the table. As a result you won't activate every unit every phase. You only get five dice to use (six if you have certain elite troops) and only results of 1-4 allow actions by your troops.

One of the more interesting things about your squads is they are broken into teams, and each team can act on its own. There are generally three parts to a squad: the NCO (a junior leader in game parlance), an LMG team and a rifle team. The numbers of each team differ by nationality. These teams can be further broken down as the player wishes by using the leader to assign soldiers to new teams.  This creates incredible tactical flexibility for a rifle unit. Of course, with that flexibility comes some complexity, but its necessary to make the system work.

In addition to random activation, you have random movement distance as well. You can move 1-3d6 worth of distance in inches, depending on what you want to do. So you can never be sure of where you can go. Again, I like this a lot,but I can see this driving some players crazy. Vehicles move the same way, but get to add distance to the rolls depending on the terrain the vehicle is on.  Infantry get what is called "tactical stance", which is 1d6 of movement that ends with one level better of cover. So if you end in the open, you'd be considered light cover, etc.

All in all the game is unpredictable, but strangely does allow you to make plans that you can actually follow. Just expect them to be adjusted as the battle develops. The team concept allows even a single unit to be able to handle a lot of different situations creatively and models real unit actions. Unlike a lot of rule systems, you can have a unit's LMG team lay down suppressing fire while the rifle team closes for the assault. It's a refreshing change from "everyone does the same thing and fires at the same thing" of most other rules.

Finally, a word on how to win the game: it's not a kill 'em all situation, but a game about rendering the opposition combat ineffective. This is done either by actually destroying units or breaking their will to fight. Everything depends upon your platoon's force morale score. This is something that 
changes from game to game, and many players will dislike this.  You roll for a random force morale at the start of the game. In one of my games, the German side started at force morale of 8 (the lowest) and the US side started at force morale of 11(the highest).  Whoops, huge, randomly determined advantage alert.  I think some people will argue that a game is determined right there, with one die roll. While it's not a "done deal" I do think there's merit to that argument. In my game, the patrol scenario required one side to drop below a force morale of 3. The US killed one junior leader and a German rile squad and achieved the victory condition.  Even as the US was taking casualties, they were far more ready to fight than the Germans. So, again, that's a great narrative but an awful pick-up game experience.

In sum, Chain of Command excels at modeling the chaos and "friction" of the battlefield and allows for real-life tactics of the period. It creates a narrative with random events, force morale, and command dice activation. Where the game gets challenging is in the myriad little rule details that add nothing to the game or make it difficult to play. One example of this is turret rotation. Your tanks have a turret rotation of 120 degrees.  That's not a typo. Hold on while I get my fucking protractor.  That's an utterly stupid restriction, since it's hard to measure and is actually pretty crucial. So I've got to house rule it to 180 degrees, which is a lot easier to understand.  You'll find a lot of crap like that buried in these rules, and ultimately it detracts from an otherwise excellent game.

I will have to give it a few more tries to solidify my impressions and decide where this game fits into my rotation. It's definitely a great solo game, since so much is determined by dice rolling.  However, with friends it could be a fun game to pass an afternoon. I'd never play with a stranger or casual acquaintance, and definitely not in a competitive tournament!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Nova Corp Security Force

As promised, here are the Reaper Bones models I worked on last week. I got an extra set of these models with the Kickstarter, figuring they'd make some good generic sci-fi models. I think I added a blister of three extras to beef up the size of the squad to fourteen.

The color scheme was inspired by a Ford Mustang I see in the parking lot at work everyday. It's black with a vibrant blue stripe running through it, and quite impressive. Anyway, I swiped it for these models, adding in some dark gray for the fabric portions of the armor. They have something that looks like a bedroll on their backs. It was really strange, and not having any fluff to fall back on, I really didn't know what it was. I painted it a green-brown color and called it a day. Who know what it really is?

Weapons all seem the same, though several models are in unique poses. The bare-headed guys can be squad leaders and the dude pointing can represent a senior leader. I gave the pointing guy a different colored badge to denote a different status.

Not much else I can say about these guys. I don't have any immediate plans for them, but felt like tackling these models as I work through my Kickstarer box. At this point I realize it won't be finished before the next one arrives, but I still plan to take a good bite out of it before it does.

That's it for now. After taking a break from 15mm WW2 I think it's time to start working on my Operation Bagration stuff. I've got a lot to work through on that project as well.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

1/600 Scale Japanese Planes

Now that the Olympics are done, I'm able to return to my hobby table and get some painting done. The prior two weeks were utterly consumed with my watching sports that I never think about except every four years. It was fun, but time to get serious again!

Here are the Imperial Japanese Navy planes for the planned Guadalcanal campaign.

This completes what I need for just about all scenarios, except one. I still need to get a few more planes for that one scenario. The green planes are ten GM4 Betty bombers. They're good sized planes even in this scale.
The white planes are twelve classic A6M Zeroes. Their color is not actually white, but a very light tan that unfortunately looks white in these pictures...even in real life too. Not sure what happened, but I think the contrast with the black cowl makes them look lighter.
My decals arrived from Dom's Decals in the UK. I was quite nervous about putting them on, but in the end it wasn't so bad. They are not individual decals on the sheet, so you might see some shine from the clear transfer paper in these pictures. Overall they look nice, and I'll re-do my US planes with the decals.

So now all I have to do is learn how to play Check Your Six, and these planes will take to the air over Guadalcanal!