Sunday, 26 August 2018

Shadow War - Slugfest

The first game of round four of the campaign saw two of the most successful Kill-teams go head to head, Sergeant Bogrot's Blood Axes and Sister Superior Winnifred's Sisters of Battle. The Sisters were still smarting from their frustrating loss to the Tau and ready to prove their mettle, while the Orks were keen to hold their position as campaign leaders and the only undefeated team.

The scenario: a straight forward Kill-Team fight. Do as much damage to your opponent as possible without losing too many of your own.

Sheer numbers more or less forced the Orks to divide into two groups, with the slightly larger of two moving through the cover of the Promethium refinery. While Sergeant Bogrot lead the other group on a flank attack towards the Sister's left.

The Sisters focused their attention on the central group, moving into firing positions

A firefight quickly broke out. For the second game in the row, Fuzzle made the first shot of the game, hit his target and immediately ran out of ammo. A crack shot who only remembers to load one bullet into his gun.

Despite Fuzzle's excellent opening shot, the Orks took the worst of the fire, though they could afford some losses.

Meanwhile, Sergeant Bogrot's group continued their steady advance down the Sister's left flank.

In the centre, co-ordinated fire from the Sisters was starting to tell. The Sister's shots were finding their mark, while the Orks were struggling to hit anything. Weight of numbers was not helping.

Sergerant Bogrot's forces were finally getting into position.

With no more ammunition, Fuzzle threw himself into a death or glory charge against Sister Superior Winnifred, hoping to delay her and split the Sisters.

Unfortunately for the Orks, the Sisters manoeuvred too quickly for them and the Orks trap failed to spring.

Even in close combat the Orks couldn't find their mark.

Orks were going down in droves. Ultimately, seven went down to only one Sister (Sister Ursula).

A last minute surge by the Orks wasn't enough to turn the tide. They bottle, giving the Sisters the field and tasting their first defeat.

The Sisters won a total of three data caches. Two for the victory and a third for taking out three times as many enemies as they lost. With the Orks only winning one, this left the Sisters as campaign leaders. The Orks were fairly lucky, no deaths and four of the seven Orks made full recoveries. Only Sergeant Bogrot and Snagrip were left with old battle wounds and Molk lost an eye. The Orks spent their credits re-equipping and making sure Fuzzle had an ammo reload, while the Sisters recruited two new troopers, Sisters Hildegarde and Anastasia.

Things were looking good for the Sisters, with nine data caches, to the Orks eight. It would take a pretty impressive performance from one of the other teams to catch up with them in this round.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Shadow War - Hit and Stumble

I've been building up a bit of a backlog of these Shadow War campaign reports. Not intentionally, I've just been playing games, taking pictures and forgetting about the next step. Plus, getting distracted by chronic racism and sexism in the wargaming community hasn't helped.


Anyway, after the last, slightly frustrating, encounter between the Sisters of Battle and the Tau, round 3 ended on a high note with a classic confrontation between Space Marines and Orks. The Mission was a Hit and Run with the Orks attacking and aiming to steal the Space Marines loot. The Orks have a major advantage in this scenario as they're allowed to bring an extra 3 team members when attacking. The Space Marines, for there part, were spectacularly unlucky rolling only two defenders to start the game. They went with Brothers Raphael and Michael because they were armed with Bolters and had a longer range.


The Orks drew first blood, when Fuzzle took out Brother Michael with the first shot of the game. He then immediately failed his ammo roll. Presumably he just emptied his entire clip until he hit something.

 Move out

One down

Brother Raphael proved to be made of sterner stuff. Fragrap flamed him (also running out of ammo) and Sergeant Bogrot hurled a stikkbomb at him before Fragrap finally finished him off in hand to hand.

Fire in the Hole

By this point reinforcements were arriving. Unfortunately for the Space Marines, they were arriving on entirely the wrong side of the battlefield.

Giving Molk ample opportunity to make off with the loot.

The Orks took the opportunity to make a "Taktikul Wivdrawal" and it looked like they might make it off the table and win the day without another shot being fired.

But at the last moment, Novices Sebastiano and Niccolo ambushed the Orks from their own table edge.

Molk was taken down, forcing Sergeant Bogrot to grab the loot. Meanwhile, the rest of the Space Marines were catching up. Forcing Razan to act a rearguard.

But in the end, Novice Sebastiano was taken down, and a wounded Sergeant Bogrot made it off the table with the loot.

This was an enormously fun game that ended on a knife-edge, after initially looking like the Orks would walk it. The Space Marines were pretty unlucky at the start, first with only two defenders and then with all their reinforcements turning up in the wrong place, but Novices Sebastiano and Niccolo timely arrival almost swung things. If it weren't for Sergeant Bogrot's two wounds, it's unlikely the Orks would have won.

In the event, the Orks victory didn't make much difference. Both sides came away with only 1 data cache, though this put the Orks on 7, leading the campaign. They recruited Grob and Skym, an Ork boy and a Yoof respectively. While the Space Marines recruited Novice Angelo, taking them to 9.

With round 3 complete, it felt like a good time to check out the campaign scores.

Kill Team
Data Caches
Team Rating
Adeptus Sororitas
Space Marine Scouts
Chaos Space Marines
Dark Eldar

Sergeant Bogrot's lads remain the only undefeated Kill-Team, though their first victory was largely down to good luck. They were also winning on Data Caches, though the Tau, Sisters and Space Marines were just behind them. While the poor Dark Eldar were stuck at the bottom, seemingly unable to catch a break.

A Shadow War campaign is supposed to run until one side has 15 Promethium Caches. My original plan was to adjust that to 10, but add in a final, big battle to round everything off. Given that, if the Orks got lucky they could trigger the end game after round 4.

As I wrote at the start, I have a backlog of these to write up so, hopefully, I will let you know soon who things went.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Time for Positive Action

I'm returning to the same theme in quick succession, but yesterday, Cavan Scott, one of the writers of the new Warhammer Adventures books for children tweeted this:
This, understandably, lead to a horrified response from a number of wargamers. Gav Thorpe's tweet basically sums it up.
While I largely agree with this, I can't agree that "this is not our community." As much as I'm sure most wargamers wish this were not the case, it has been our community for a long time.

The truth is that the wargaming industry in general, and Games Workshop in particular, has been terrible at representation. While the industry may not have actively welcomed racists and misogynists, by making almost every character white and male, they have done little or nothing to make the unwelcome. They have, in effect, created a safe space for the far-right.

The hostile response to the Warhammer Adventure series needs to lead a to a prompt response from Games Workshop that racism, misogyny and violent threats are unwelcome. Games Workshop certainly used to have a policy that anyone caught shoplifting from Games Workshop or third party retailers would be banned from all their shops and shows. They should extend this to people making hate speech. The company needs to adopt a zero tolerance approach to this.

Secondly, Games Workshop needs to take rapid steps to improve representation in its core games. They have stated that they intend to improve, but that their three year product cycle makes change slow. They need to pick up the pace. It make take time to bring new models to market, but there are things they can do more quickly.

Firstly, they should star work on a new studio army, preferably a Space Marine chapter or a collection of Stormcast Eternals, made up largely, if not exclusively, of not white characters. This is something that can be fixed at the painting stage. This new army should be featured in promotional material and in White Dwarf battle reports.

Secondly, they should take steps to introduce more female characters into their games. For a long time, official Warhammer 40,000 canon has been that all Space Marines are male. This should change. If there has to be an in universe explanation for it, then they can simply state that the new Primaris Marines can be male or female. Space Marine armour is not particularly gendered, so Games Workshop could introduce female Primaris Marines by simply producing a plastic sprue of female heads which can be used with the existing models. They already produce upgrade sprues for the major Space Marine chapters, so a sprue of female heads should not be a major challenge. They should start work on this immediately, and keep fans up to date on their progress.

There is a n opportunity for Games Workshop to push back against racism and misogyny in the wargaming community, they shouldn't miss it.

Monday, 28 May 2018

A few thoughts on Warhammer Adventures

I think it's fair to say that the announcement that Games Workshop would be publishing a range of novels aimed at children has had a mixed response. So far, there have been basically two categories of negative response. The first is that the Warhammer 40,000 universe, in particular, is not at all suitable for children and that doing this will inevitably lead to a "dilution" of the original concept.

The other has been straightforward bigotry.

Some people have less of a problem with the idea of children's books and more with them featuring characters who may not be white and male (or even more shockingly, neither).*

A large part of the problem here is that Games Workshop is based in a country that still treats "White and Male" as the default and everything else as a deviation from that. So introducing a non-white and non-male character looks, to some, like a political statement. This completely misses that presenting all characters as white and male is, itself, a political choice.

It's fair to say that Games Workshop has not had a great record on representation over the years and has been more than willing to follow this "white and male is the default" line. Female characters have existed, but they have tended to be restricted to specific units or armies, often with suspiciously little clothing.

As far as non-white characters go, Games Workshop has, if anything, been even worse. The Warhammer World was set up as an analogue to our own world in which the most of it outside of Europe was either unexplored, uninhabited or full of monsters. Gav Thorpe, rightly, pointed out that there are a quadrillion humans in the Imperium, but its funny how most of those painted by the design studio have ended up as white.
This is something that Games Workshop have been trying to address, albeit slowly. A handful of non-white characters have crept into Age of Sigmar and more female characters have started to appear as well. If Warhammer Adventures is setting a new standard then this is definitely a good thing, though they may still have a long way to go.

Recently, I have been trying to paint a few human models as non-white, as much because there was no reason not to. My Sisters of Battle and Blood Angel Shadow War Kill Teams both feature non-white models and I painted my Lord Ordinator as black.

The odd thing about painting non-white humans was realising that the paint colours made to represent human skin tones are pretty much all white skin. I have gone through a lot of "flesh" colours over the years: pale flesh, tanned flesh, rosy flesh, rotting flesh and even dark flesh, and they are all different shades of white flesh. The only exception is "Orc flesh" which is green. My darkest "flesh" colour is Game Colour "Heavy Skintone" which might be just about dark enough to represent someone from the middle east. To paint my Lord Ordinator and my Scout Sergeant I had to use Vallejo "German Camo Black/Brown."

Imagine if you were a 10 year old looking to get into miniature gaming having just read a Warhammer Adventure story. You just got one of the the starter sets and are looking for some paints for your Space Marines. Imagine you are looking through the racks of paints for some suitable colours. And now imagine you are not white. Wouldn't the range of colours labelled "flesh" send a pretty clear signal that this is hobby is not for people like you? That the company that produced them didn't even remember that you exist?

Miniature gaming desperately needs to move beyond the assumption that everyone is white and male. Warhammer Adventures are a tiny step in the right direction.

*I think my favourite stupid reaction is the claim that the character Kiri wearing a hood means she is supposed to be  a Muslim. A Muslim in a fantasy world with no concept of Christianity, Judaism or Islam and which the actual Gods interact with humans and be bought in the shops and added to your actual armies.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Shadow War - The Good, the Bad and the Atrocious

I've gotten a bit behind with my Shadow War updates. I've been playing the games, but not finding the time to post about them. So here are three quick reports in succession.

Round 2 - Game 3 - Dark Eldar Wyches vs Orks

The first game, which was also the last game of the second round saw the Dark Eldar Wyches take on the Blood Axe Orks in a straight forward Kill Team fight over a relatively open field. Nevertheless, the Ork Spanner Boy Snagrip was able to get into position on top of the Promethium Tower and spent most of the game peppering the Dark Eldar with fire.

Despite this, the Dark Eldar were able to advance and actually make into combat, only to discover that the Orks were more than capable of holding their own

With most of the Dark Eldar, including their leader Cyrix, down or out of action, the battle hinged on a close quarter melee.

But with the fight having bogged down into a war of attrition, the Orks had the upper hand. The Dark Eldar bottled involuntarily with a roll of 10. Giving the Orks their second victory and 3 data caches, and the Dark Eldar their second loss.

With this game over, round 2 was complete, all six Kill-Teams had fought two games apiece. At the end of the round, the results stood like this:

Kill Team Data Caches Wins Losses
Orks 6 2 0
Adeptus Sororitas 5 2 0
Space Marine Scouts 5 1 1
Tau 3 1 1
Chaos Space Marines 2 0 2
Dark Eldar 2 0 2

At the end of round 2 I randomly determined who would be fighting who. It's still early enough in the campaign that I didn't want to see any repeated match ups, so I re-rolled until I got a completely fresh set.

Round 3 - Game 1 - Dark Eldar Wyches vs Chaos Space Marines

For the first fight of Round 3, perennial losers the Dark Eldar and Chaos Space Marines ending up fighting each other, meaning one would come away with a victory. The Dark Eldar ended up as the Attackers in the Raid mission, requiring them to sneak into enemy territory, destroy the hidden stash and get out again. The mission started well, with the Dark Eldar sneaking up on the sentries undetected.

Unfortunately, once they were spotted, reinforcements arrived quickly and the Dark Eldar found themselves under heavy fire again.

Despite this, they were able to eliminate the sentries and reach and destroy their target.

But the Plague Marines fought back hard, surrounding the Dark Eldar and leaving them hopelessly outgunned.

With all his comrades eliminated and no obvious route of escape, the Dark Eldar Styx was forced to bottle.

The Dark Eldar had achieved half of their goal, but it was still a loss. The Plague Marines achieved their first victory and 3 data caches, but it didn't go all their way as they suffered the first death of the game when Brother Reapus died from his injuries. The Plague Marines took advantage of a 100 credit bonus, thanks to the "Hidden Cache" random event and recruited a second Specialist Gunner, Brother Rancid, while the Dark Eldar recruited a 10th Wych, Heskar.

Round 3 - Game 2 - Tau Pathfinders vs Sisters of Battle

For the second fight of round 3, the Tau fought the Adeptus Sororitas. I was looking forward to this as the two shootiest teams would be taking each other on. I was hoping that the Sisters better armour, ballistic skill and range would match the Tau's higher strength and armour penetration.

I rolled the Ambush Scenario, putting the Tau on the defensive. Turnabout is fare play given what they had done to the Orks. And, as with the Orks, the Tau leader Tas'vou and one of his colleagues were able to ambush the ambushers.

Unfortunately, the dice were badly against the Sisters from the start. They scored a couple of early hits, but spent most of the first two turns missing on 2s. The worst possible outcome, given they could re-roll 1s thanks to the "Light of the Emperor roll." Then on turn 3, when they couldn't used it any more, they started rolling 1s.

Meanwhile, Tas'vou came out strong, pinning 2 Sisters and leaving another trapped.

With the pressure relieved on the main body of the team, they were able to bring all their fire power to bare leaving most of the Sisters pinned. In the end, only 2 Sisters were actually down, but all the rest were pinned and Tau marker lights meant they couldn't rely on cover. To avoid a massacre, the Sisters had little choice but to bottle.

This was a pretty frustrating and disappointing game in which one side simply underperformed thanks to some quite unreasonably bad dice rolling. It had me half wanting to junk the entire result and play again, but it was getting late and I never like taking back results. In the end, both teams came away with 6 data caches and the Sisters didn't suffer too many serious injuries. They recruited another Sister, while the Tau, having reached their maximum number, upgraded their equipment.

I have one more game to play in this round, Blood Angel Scouts vs Blood Axe Orks. Hopefully this one will not be so one-sided.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

A Malign Digression

So everyone remember my brilliant plan to stick to one project at a time? Also, does everyone remember how I was going to focus on painting my English Civil War models while I continued my Shadow War campaign with, now, fully painted models?

Well that went a bit wrong, when I accidentally slipped and bought some stuff for Warhammer: Age of Sigmar. I am a bad person.

In my defence, it came about because I was meeting up with my little brother for the Beachhead show in Bournemouth, largely because it's closer to him than me an meant I could do the travelling for a change. I was looking for a way to spend a bit of money without derailing any of my existing projects (because why go to a wargames show and not buy anything?).

Malign Portents is Games Workshop's later Winter/early Spring event and has consisted of a, relatively low key, online campaign accompanied by the release of a rule book and four new character models, collectively referred to as Harbingers. Although I have largely avoided Age of Sigmar, my eye was drawn to the characters because all four of them slot into armies I already collect.

The Darkoath War Queen is part of the "Slaves to Darkness" faction which basically means Chaos Warriors, the Fungoid Cave Shaman is a Night Goblin/Moonclan Grot, which I have been collecting for years but haven't got round to painting. The Lord Ordinator is supposed to be a Stormcast Eternal, but he doesn't actually do anything for the faction of which he is a part. Instead, he boosts up War machines, which makes him a perfect fit for my Dwarfs. Finally the Knight of Shrouds is essentially a souped up Wraith and can be just about squeezed into my rather unfocused and scrappy collection of Undead.

My thinking was that if Warhammer 8th edition were still around and Games Workshop put out four characters all of which fit into existing armies and two of which fit into armies I have painted, I would snap them up. It seemed a silly time to be dismissive of Age of Sigmar.

I picked up the Lord Ordinator and the Darkoath War Queen at Beachhead, along with the rulebook and grabbed the other two Harbingers since. I painted the first two in double quick time and even managed to squeeze in a quick game to test out the Malign Portents rules.

Speaking of which, the Malign Portents book is rather good. £15 for an 88 page hardback, makes it one of Games Workshop's cheaper books and compares pretty favourably with the army books I bought in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It's a bit of a grab back of background material, scenarios, rules for the new Harbingers and for the titular "Malign Portents." It also has a fairly good balance of background material to rules and with only a few pages of photographs of models and minimal filler. A big improvement over the early Age of Sigmar "Realm Gates" books which seemed to be all bulk and no content.

The premise of "Malign Portents" is that the Great Necromancer, Nagash, now promoted to God of the Dead, has been gathering up all the magic in the Death realm of Shyish for some nefarious purpose. This has led to all kinds of omens and portents which have been interpreted by Wizards, Priests and the Harbingers. In game terms, this is represented by Prophecy points which are randomly determined at the start of each turn. The points can then be spent on various special effects by any character, rather like spells. The effects you can use are determined by the portent you are following which you can choose or randomly determine at the start of the game.

In addition to the six general portents, each Harbinger also has a set of special effects unique to them. With all of these special effects in play, Games Workshop have, conveniently, put out a deck of cards with all the abilities on them, for you to keep track. This an obvious money grabber, but I snapped them up anyway because I am a mug and because they reminded me of the spell cards from 4th and 5th edition Warhammer.

Overall, it's a pretty decent rule book with something for most players. Even if you don't want or can't use the Harbingers, the Malign Portents can still be used by other characters and there are a few scenarios to try out, including one for Skirmish games, as well as a few extra random tables and special effects to use if you want to play in the Realm of Shyish.

Overall, given the relatively low price of the book, I can see Malign Portents encouraging a few past players to give Age of Sigmar a second look, so smart marketing on the part of Games Workshop.

And just to prove I haven't completely neglected my official projects, here is my latest unit for the Pikeman's Lament: 12 Musketmen including one with a long hunting musket. There is an example of one of these at the Basing House Museum, so I couldn't resist including in my company.