Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Siege Update - Towers, walls and Longbeards

I haven't actually spent all of the last month moaning about Warhammer Age of Sigmar; I have made some progress on my Warhammer siege project.

Firstly, the fortress is finished. I finished off the gate and towers in much the same way as the walls. Which is to say, spraying them wolf grey, adding blank ink and then two levels of drybrushing followed by some umber ink scattered about to make it look lived.

For the towers and gates, I also had to worry about doors. These were also dealt with pretty quickly. I painted them Vallejo leather brown, gave them a wash of Games Workshop Agrax earth shade (dark brown basically) and a light dry brush of Vallejo tanned leather. I then painted the metal bits in Vallejo steel with a bit of black ink to take the shine off (literally).

Tower, before the doors were done

But, despite this being a siege campaign, I don't actually need the the fortress for the first scenario and possibly won't need it until the end. Following the rules laid out in Warhammer Siege, I randomly generated the first scenario which would either be "Send for Help" in which the besieged see the besiegers coming and send out a messenger or "Forlorn Hope" in which a besieged patrol encounters the besieger vanguard and tries to delay them for as long as possible.

For this scenario I needed an appropriate scenery piece for the patrol to defend. For this I dug out an old ruined fort I had in my scenery cupboard. The fort was made in the late 1990s by Target Games, then the publishers of Warzone and Chronopia, but it was a nice, versatile piece of scenery and has served me in unpainted form in a number of games.

I painted in pretty much the same way as the fortress. The only difference was that I painted the patches of moss in Vallejo olive green, with a wash of Games Workshop Thraka green to give them a bit of depth. Like the fortress they don't stand up very well to close inspection, but should look fine on the table where focus should be on the models.

Speaking of which, part of the appeal of the siege campaign was that I had two armies, Dwarfs and Chaos Warriors, I could use that were already painted, mostly. I still have a few unpainted models on both sides that I wanted to use. The first of which was my Dwarf Longbeards.

The Longbeards were originally released at the tail end of Warhammer 3rd edition. They were released by Marauder miniatures, which was a semi-independent division seperate from Citadel, in much the way that Forge World is now. When I started collecting, they were pretty much the only part of Games Workshop producing new fantasy models and they had a page or two to themselves in each White Dwarf. These models were the only "official" Longbeards all the way through fourth and fifth edition, so they veterans in more ways than one.

My Longbeards were some of the first models I got for my Dwarf army back in 1996 (God I feel old). At the time, GW sold most fantasy models in packs of four, but command groups in packs of three (Champion, Standard Bearer, Musician) which made it obnoxiously difficult to build a regiment of a sensible size without having left over models. For years, my Longbeards served faithfully as a unit of 19 usually bulked up with the edition of a character, such as Runesmith.

I retired the Longbeards at the start of 6th edition because I was immediately drawn to the new Longbeard models just released. I planned to buy a whole new regiment of them but, when the time came, whatever had drawn me to them seemed to fade away and I bought Hammerers instead. Despite this, the old Longbeards remained retired and so I didn't bother to paint them when I painted the rest of the army.

For the first scenario of my siege campaign I wanted a Dwarf unit with a bit of punch, so I dug out the Longbeards and a quick flutter on Ebay got me the elusive twentieth member of the unit. I only need ten for the first scenario, so I focused my efforts on getting ten done over a long weekend.

I kept the painting simple. I sprayed them all with Army Painter Plate mail and gave the areas that would stay metal a was of black ink. Cloth was painted red, in keeping with the rest of the army, with gloves and pouches in leather brown. I painted the beards in Vallejo silver grey, which is almost white, but gave them a light grey wash to add some depth. The bases were painted leather brown and flocked with small stones to maintain consistency with the rest of the army. Their original shields had long since gone walkabout, so I replaced them with some leftovers from the plastic dwarf warrior box.

With the models and scenery finished, I just have to play the game.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Considering radical options

I promise I'll try to move on from this Age of Sigmar stuff. I'm sure this is the last post, or maybe the second to last.

Anyway, I stumbled across the following post 


As interesting as the post is, I am more interested in the comments. It seems to me that reaction to Age of Sigmar can be divided into two camps and the two are largely talking across one another.

One side is pretty angry with Games Workshop for dropping a game, and a game world, that they largely liked. They see it as deeply cynical, motivated only by a desire for short-term profit. Viewing Age of Sigmar from that mind set you are bound to see it in negative terms. The other view point is that, for better or worse, Games Workshop had produced a new set of rules and we may as well see what we can get out of them. Games Workshop's motivation may have been cynical, but that doesn't actively make the game bad and we may as well judge the game on its own merits.

The two sides are not really talking to each other because one is motivated by a desire to see Games Workshop fail because they feel they deserve it, while the other doesn't really care about Games Workshop at all and just ones to play a game or not based on its own merits.

It occurs to me that my last post on Age of Sigmar was very much from the second perspective, demanding that Games Workshop not be allowed to spin their behaviour however they choose.

So this post is an attempt to look at Age of Sigmar from a more optimistic bent. The corehammer post above makes the point that we have to view AOS as redefining the the kind of experience we expect from a wargame. With that in mind, two thoughts occurred to me.

The first is that Age of Sigmar all but invites you to make up your own rules. This occurred to me when I was looking through the Warriors of Chaos war scroll and looking at how to represent my Nurgle Champion on Palaquin. According to the "official" rules, he should be treated as a Chaos Lord on a Daemonic steed. This doesn't sit well with me, Daemonic steed are faster, stronger and tougher than Palanquins, while Palanquins have more wounds and attacks. But the Daemons of Chaos war scroll includes rules for Epidimus and his Palanquin, so why not splice the two together? But while I'm at it, why not make up your own rules for any or even all your units to put your personal spin on them. Games Workshop have removed a lot of the old weapon and upgrade options, as well as throwing out magic items, chaos rewards, vampire bloodlines etc. So why not make up your own?

Of course, you always could make up your own rules, but this never squared well with the old points based system, in which the default mode was to play to a set points value based on the restrictions of an army list. If you knew and trusted your opponent you could start playing with rules and scenarios, but this was not standard behaviour. But now, with points gone, the only option available is to trust your opponent. And if you trust them to bring along a sensible, balanced collection of models, why not trust them to invent their own rules..

I'm thinking of practicing my photo shop skills and making some proper war scrolls specifically for my models.

My second thought occurred to me when considering that Age of Sigmar is largely unsuitable for competitive games. With that in mind, why not throw out the rules altogether? There is venerable history in the Roleplaying game community of playing with no written rules at all and having game play develop based on a negotiation between player and Games Master. This produces a different kind of game, and one that will not work if the players (including the GM) are at all adversarial, but it is still a valid activity.

Could we have a situation in which two players play out a scenario, devised by a games master, who determines the outcome of all combat based on his or her judgement of the situation? It could still involve dice rolling if you like, but the GM decides what dice to roll and the outcome. For example, "well those Orcs are fighting uphill in difficult ground against human spearmen. On the other hand, the spearmen have suffered heavy casualties and are pretty demoralised. I think you have a 35% chance of victory, roll a D100". Again, this is heavily based on trust, but we need that to enjoy a game with no points. If we don't need points, why do we need any of the rest?

Plenty of wargamers have described their hobby as "playing with toy soldiers" their tongues only partly in their cheeks, but why not take this to its logical conclusion and dispense with the rules?

Monday, 14 September 2015

Rise of the Kage

After many months of basically not thinking about it, my copy of GCT's ninja-themed board game Rise of the Kage arrived on Friday. I had put money into the Kickstarter months back and then done my best to forget about it.

The nice thing about Kickstarters is that you can suddenly find yourself in receipt of a huge crop of new games or models that you paid for months earlier. The downside is that in can derail your existing plans (this should have been a post about painting the Warhammer fortress).

ROTK is an "asymmetric" game in which 1 - 3 players control ninja, sneaking into some location to accomplish a mission, the details of which are not fully revealed until part way through the game, while the other player controls the guards and and a "boss" character who leads them. In some ways the game is reminiscent of dungeon crawl games, like HeroQuest or Dungeon Saga, in that several players each controlling one model can team up to take on a "GM" like player who controls a larger number of weaker opponents. But the emphasis on stealth adds an interesting new dynamic.

One of the original selling points of the game was that there would be two of each model in different colours to represent different states. So you have orange models for unalert guards and red for alert, grey for undetected ninjas and green for detected. Somewhere along the line, GCT seem to have realised that this wasn't financially smart and dropped it from the commercial release of the game, where states will be represented by counters. So only we Kickstarter backers get the two colour models.

Unfortunately, something went a bit wrong and GCT sent out the wrong ratios so most of us do not have exactly fifty percent in one colour and fifty in another. This is not exactly a disaster as we still have the counters, can easily re-paint a few models and GCT insist that we have far more than we are likely to need for the game in any case.

That said, GCT's first announcement of this screw-up was actively confusing and pissed off a lot of people who felt they were being fobbed off. GCT's later response struck a more apologetic tone. Given that anyone buying the game outside of the Kickstarter will only be getting models in one colour, I am not overly bothered.

Seguing from what we didn't get to what we did, we red alert level backers received two fairly substantial boxes, one for the base game and one for the docks of Ryu expansion.The contents of both is substantially similar, each contain three ninjas, a selection of guards, cards and a double-sided board.

GCT made the decision to package everything as if we had bought the game in the shops, which meant that each box came with a collection of models packaged inside, with the extra, alternate colour models, packaged separately in a small white box. Having pledged a little extra, I also got a third boss model and some cards to use the models in Bushido.

After a few early reports, I had been concerned that the models would be a made from very soft plastic with poor detail. This turned out not to be the case. The plastic is not quite as hard as Games Workshop's or Renedra's hard plastic models, but harder than Mantic's restic. There are some mould lines and most of the guards ended up with bent spears, but this should be fixable with a bit of hot water. The casting detail is excellent. This is particularly noticeable on Minato, the boss from the expansion, whose individual scars can be picked out. The only draw back is that the models seem a little small compared to those from Bushido, which is disappointing given I plan to use them for that game.

 Minato, scars and all

I have read through the rules but not tried them yet. As with Bushido, the rules are better laid out for reference than for learning. The manual runs through all the cards and components first, explaining what everything means, but often using terms that aren't defined until later in the rules. It only starts to make sense once you get to the end of the rule book, and you may have missed crucial information on the way. For example, it took me some time to find out the number of starting guards (its on the boss sheet).

Unusually, the expansion contains no additional rules, just extra cards and a single sheet defining the set up areas on the new boards. Everything else in included on the new cards, which suggests the game will play very differently depending on your choices of ninja, board and boss, all of which impacts the available cards.

I'm looking forward to giving the game a go, though it will probably be some time before I try painting any of the models.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Warhammer Siege

The first book to bear the title "Warhammer Siege" was released during Warhammer 3rd edition and Warhammer 40,000 1st edition and, unusually, was designed to support both games. It included rules not just for assaulting castles and fortresses, but also the various accoutrements of sieges, supplies, starving out, undermining etc. Sadly, I never a read a copy, so I can't write about it with authority.

The second Warhammer siege was released roughly half way through the life span of Warhammer 5th edition and only covered Warhammer. It arrived at a point when Games Workshop had released army books for all of the established Warhammer armies and had no immediate plans to release any more. The idea that army books should be refreshed periodically had not been established. Instead, Games Workshop was experimenting with new ideas to maintain interest in Warhammer, including the campaign packs, collections of linked scenarios bundled with cardboard scenery, and this.

Flush with cash from a summer holiday job, I bought Warhammer siege almost as soon as it was released, along with a few packs of the siege equipment that accompanied it and the massive, plastic Warhammer fortress. The fortress may be the only example of Games Workshop dropping the price of something after its release. According to the price tag on the box, I paid £75, it was later dropped to £50 and, shortly before it was recently discontinued, could be had from the Games Workshop website for £61.50.

I never painted any of my siege gear, which was standard behaviour for me at the time, but I did play and enjoy a few siege games. It's fair to say that I didn't really get my money's worth.

Book divided into four sections.

The book is essentially divided into four sections. The first covers the nitty gritty of playing a game with a castle on the table. It deals with assaulting walls, towers and gates, siege equipment like battering rams, ladders and siege towers, and defensive gear like rocks and boiling oil.

Section two covers building a castle. This feels quite odd to modern eyes. It's easy to forget that there was a time when Games Workshop encouraged players to build their own scenery. On balance, it's probably a good thing that you can buy scenery instead of having to improvise with bits of cardboard, lego and stuff from model railway shops. But its a bit sad that players are no longer encouraged to use their imagination to create unique scenery pieces.

The third section presents a series of siege-related scenarios. I write related because only two of them use the full siege rules and only one more requires you to put a castle on the table. Most of the rest of them are small scale affairs simulating the kinds of activities related to sieges, such as undermining, sending for help, sallying out inflitrating and so-on.

The reason for this becomes apparent in section four, which covers the siege campaign rules. These allow you to play out a siege in full as a mini campaign, culminating in a full scale assault on the castle or fortress. The mechanics are quite clever. After an opening scenario, players carry out alternating siege turns in which they choose an action to take. These can be full-blown scenarios, or more abstract affairs, such as bombarding the walls, which is managed with dice rolls. The besiegers and the besieged have a different range of options and you can play either a fixed or variable number of turns. The effects of the siege turns are carried into the final assault scenario.

With Warhammer eighth edition's retirement, this is really the end of the Warhammer game that I know. For better or worse, Age of Sigmar is really a different experience. The effect of this has been to encourage me to try some different ideas and to dig out things I haven't looked at it in a while. Having looked over the siege rules, there doesn't seem to be anything that can't be pretty easily converted to eight edition. The points cost of the siege equipment might be a bit dodgy, but I can't see it wrecking the game. Plus, I already have more than two painted armies for Warhammer, which means I only have to get the fortress and the siege equipment painted, and I won't even need them for the first scenario.

With that in mind, I have made a pretty quick start, with the first of my walls already finished.

It was done pretty quickly. I sprayed it with Army Painter Wolf grey, gave it a wash of Vallejo blank ink, then drybrushed it with Vallejo stonewall grey and wolf grey (which is a lot lighter than army painter wolf grey, presumably they use different wolves). I added the stains using Vallejo umber ink. The process was pretty rough and ready, but should look pretty good on the table. 

Friday, 4 September 2015

Complete by starting

Warlord games have a new box of World War 2 German FallschirmjÓ“ger's out.

I have always felt a bit funny about World War 2 gaming. Largely because as brilliant and lovely as these models look (and they do) you are still being encouraged to buy a big box of Nazis.

But the if you scroll down the page you will be encouraged to

"Complete your collection with a full FallschirmjÓ“ger Starter Army"

Which doesn't make any sense when you think about it.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Bushido Game 3 - Shrinecraft

You may remember that, a few months back, I played the first two games of a planned three game Bushido mini-campaign. I got through the first two quite quickly by my standards, but stalled on the the third. This was partly because I got distracted by painting projects, partly because the third game was going to be bigger and would require more effort and partly because I ended up in the UK Games Expo Bushido tournament. This not only meant practice games but culminated in eight hours of Bushido in one day, in which I did very badly, which left me a bit bushidoed out.

But, I felt the need to put the campaign to bed before moving on to my next project (of which more soon hopefully) and so I finally got motivated to write up the Scenario and play the game.

In previous instalments, the Monks of the Temple of Ro-Kan investigated strange goings on at Shimoda village. They found the village largely abandoned and were attacked by Oni. Having seen off their attackers, they learned from a badly wounded survivor that the rest of the villagers had been taken into the mountains.

Meanwhile, the captive villagers attempted to break free from their Bakemono jailors, but with half their number defeated only managed a draw.

As Game 3 begins, the Monks, accompanied by a surviving villager, have made their way to an old shrine in the mountains. The Savage Wave plan to sacrifice the villagers in order to defile the shrine. In game terms, this meant a shrine in the middle of the table with an idol at each corner (for a total of four). The Savage Wave earn scenario points for placing a captive on an idol, and the Temple get them for rescuing them. Both sides can also earn points for holding the shrine. As with most Bushido scenarios, the side with the most Scenario points gets a victory point at the end of turns 2, 4 and 6.

You can find the complete details of this scenario, along with scenarios 1 and 2 here:


On to the game


Turn 1

Both sides split their forces, The Bakeomono made their way over the rocks, taking advantage of their camouflage ability (which makes them invisible in cover) and summoning more of their number as they went. The Monks Riku and Kenko, and the peasant Atsuko, went to meet them.

Meanwhile, Suchiro, Hotaro, Aiko, Gori and the Earth Kami went the other way to face the Oni Zuba and Bobata and their human slave.

Turn 2

The advance continued with Kenko and Riku approaching the Bakemono. Riku summoned a wall of water to protect them from the Bakemono arrows.

Gori and Hotaru faced Bobata while Suchiro secured the shrine for the Temple. But Zuba's placing of two captives on the friendly idol, meant that both sides had 2 scenario points each and neither side got a victory point.

Turn 3

Bobata went down, but took Gori with him and the slave, seeing an opening and coming down from an Oni blood high, took out Aiko.

Kenko and Riku fought Zuba and the Bakemono. Despite Wu Zang's curses, the monks held their ground thanks to Atsuko's healing ability. Meanwhile, Suchiro rescued the captives Zuba had placed on the idol.

Turn 4

The Oni slave outran Hotaru and the Earth Kami to place a captive on the far idol, while the Bakemono archers made their way around the front of the shrine to help him.

Zuba and the Monks battle was still inconclusive. Zuba took damage but still held out. At the last moment Hotaru secured the shrine. The Temple had 6 scenario points, 4 for freed captives and 2 for the shrine, while the Savage Wave had 3 for the captive on the far idol. The Temple scored a victory point.

Turn 5

Hotaru and the Earth Kami attacked the slave, preventing him from placing any more captives while Suchiro ran to help. The slave was badly wounded, but a combination of good luck and wound sustained from fighting Bobata allowed the slave to bring down Hotaru.

The Bakemono archers, now accompanied by a beater approached the far idol.

Despite Wu Zang's curses rendering Riku slow and weak, the Monks still defeated Zuba.

Turn 6

Suchiro freed the captive placed on the far idol, but the Bakemono beater and one of the archers placed two more, while the third archer tried to secure the shrine.

Wu Zang twice attempted to curse Kenko without success and he was able to defeat a Bakemono, but it was too late to make any difference.

Fortunately for the Temple, Riku was able to secure the shrine and defeat the Bakemono archer.

The Temple scored 6 scenario points for freed captives and 2 for the shrine, for a total of 8, while the Savage Wave scored only 6 for captives on the far idol.


Victory in this game and this campaign went to the Temple of Ro-Kan.