Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Skaven Clanrats

It took a while, but I finally finished painting up a unit of Skaven Clanrats.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Infamous Tournament

Back in my high school days me and two friends of mine (whom I'll refer to as G and J) engaged in a Warhammer Tournament.  It pit a bunch of warhammer armies in a single elimination tournament.  We had set it up so that each of us would take multiple armies, and if one person would end up having to play against himself, someone else would take on the role of opposing general.  (the point was supposed to be about the best "army", rather than the best "player".)  Two of the players would play a game, while the third would act as GM.  The victory conditions would not be for any other objective than driving the enemy from the field.  Most of the armies were proxied and unpainted, but back then, we didn't care so much.

It sounds like a decent enough system, and many of the games worked just fine, but others went...not so well.  I think originally we had sixteen different armies lined up to play, but when we started to get into it we realized just how long it would take to play the number of games required, we toned it down significantly.  Eventually things broke down so much we ended up not even finishing the thing.

Back in those days I wasn't very diligent about keeping records, so I don't remember the brackets, or even all the games we ended up playing.  I had some difficult calls to make as GM, some of which didn't go over so well (at least for one of the players, and not always the same one).  Naturally, these moments are the ones I remember the most clearly, despite them happening so long ago.

Here are a couple of the highlights (or lowlights) as I remember them.

Empire (Darkwing) vs. Skaven (G)
A short game that lasted but one turn.  The skaven army advanced on their first turn.  Then the Empire forces fired their battery of seven cannons (3 allowed by the basic army list, +4 mercenary bretonnian cannon--all completely legal).  The cannons wrecked several units, which all routed (back then units didn't "break", they routed), causing a wave of panic along the line, and literally the entire skaven army fled.  We all thought this was pretty funny, and moved on...

Norse (J) vs. Dwarves (G)
This game didn't go over all that well.  It started off with the Dwarf player (G) firing his stone thrower at an innocuous looking infantry unit on the Norse left flank.  Unbeknownst to him (and me as well), it contained the army general and his personal bodyguard.  Both of us assumed he would be in a central position to lead the army, but J was being sneaky and tried to place him out of the way so he'd be less conspicuous, and therefore appear to be less of a threat.  In this case, the plan backfired, and naturally, the stone fell squarely on target, taking three of the general's four wounds, and killing a huge chunk of his housecarls.  J was understandably upset by this turn of events, but took his lumps and kept playing.

Then, as the two armies approached in the center of the battlefield, a unit of G's Dwarves charged J's unit of Ulfwerenar.  Ulfwerenar are a unit of Norsemen that can shapechange into wolfmen.

I duly went to part 224 in the WFB rulebook and found the rules for Weres.

I read the (extensive) rules.  Point 5 states "A player controlling weres may attempt to transmute any unit or character at the beginning of the side's turn."  Point 6 discusses bonuses that the player gets to his transmutation roll.  Point 7 discusses how the unit would become frenzied if charged--provided that they had already transmuted into wolfmen. 

I made the judgment call that Point 5 stated that the the player "may attempt to transmute the unit at the beginning of the side's turn", and since it was the other player's turn, he would not be able to attempt to transmute his unit until it was his turn again (and the first round of combat had already been resolved)

J was upset by this, as he felt very strongly that my interpretation of the rule was incorrect, and was unwilling to budge.  His argument was something to the effect that if the unit was charged, it should automatically trigger a transmutation test.  He also felt Point 7 should apply--that if the unit was charged, it should automatically become frenzied (wolfman or not).  His argument was essentially that his interpretation was correct, or if it wasn't, then the rule as written was made no sense.

In the interests of moving the game along, I suggested the D6 rule, to which G was amenable.  That is, roll a D6, and on a 1-3, one rules interpretation would be used, while on a 4-6, the other would be used.  J refused to accept that rule as a reasonable way to resolve the dispute.    Frustrated, I gave him an ultimatum--either accept D6 roll (or alternatively, my original rules interpretation), or forfeit the game.  He chose to forfeit.

Chaos (J) vs. Dwarves (G)
During this battle there was lots of carnage on both sides.  Towards the end of the game, the Chaos Sorcerer cast a spell called "Summon Total Power" on himself, which is as badass as it sounds.

That in itself wasn't the problem.  The problem was that J wanted to cast it again in a subsequent turn.  As far as I could tell, there was nothing in the rules preventing him from doing so, other than the general rule that no characteristic can be raised by a level beyond 10, which would just limit the spell's power, rather than prevent him from casting it.  I looked over the magic rules again and again, and found no restriction that said he couldn't cast the spell repeatedly.  Perhaps slightly influenced by the events of the the Norse vs. Dwarves game, I decided  to allow him to cast it again.

Now his general was Toughness 8 (4+2+2).  There was only one thing in the entire remaining Dwarven force that could possibly injure him, and that was a cannon at short range (under 12".  If the Chaos Sorcerer moved further away than 12", the cannon wouldn't be able to kill him as the strength of the cannon ball decreased with distance).  The cannon had a perfect shot lined up, but it had been fired the previous turn.  There was a "heat" rule that said if the cannon had fired in a given turn, it would earn a heat point.  This would give it a 1-in-6 chance of blowing up if it fired again in the subsequent turn if it was not allowed to cool down for a full turn.  G didn't want to risk it exploding, but I argued that he should fire it--he'd be taking a risk, but it was literally his only shot at killing the Sorcerer--nothing else in his army could damage it.  If he waited for the cannon to cool off, the Chaos Sorcerer would have moved out of range, rendering the cannon useless.  At that point the Sorcerer would just roam the battlefield, killing all opposition because he was effectively invincible.  Eventually I convinced G to fire despite his misgivings, and he said he would hold me responsible if it exploded.  He promptly rolled the dice and the cannon exploded.  Game over.

*  *  *

One thing that I did learn from the whole tournament thing, that is by making it a "competition", it immediately created a tension that had not previously existed, reducing the fun.  As such it soured me on the whole tournament aspect of playing.  Now I know that not all tournament players.  I just don't even want to deal with the possibility.  That said, I'm older now, as are those I game with, so I might be willing to run another tournament within that group.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Warhammer Townscape

Note: This is a post I did on Arcadia Prime a while back, but since it applies to the fantasy side of things as well, I thought I'd repost it here.

Back in 1988, GW released "Warhammer Townscape", a collection of thirty-nine card buildings. They were pretty simple, but of decent quality, especially for the day. Back then I assembled some of the simpler buildings, as I didn't want to tackle the more complicated ones. Some of my creations did not survive the years, but many of them did.
Rrecently I decided to tackle the rest of the buildings and construct them. They're just card buildings, so I didn't treat them with the utmost loving care, but assembled them using mostly Scotch tape and some white glue for reinforcement.

In the various boxed editions of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, GW also released some more card buildings, some on stronger stock, which I've also assembled.

Now I've amassed quite a little town. But it's not limited to Warhammer Fantasy--these can be used in Lord of the Rings games as well as Warhammer 40k, representing a town on a low-tech Imperial world.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Mighty Empires

Back when the original Mighty Empires came out, I immediately seized upon it.  It had some cool rules, cool miniatures associated with it, and tons of cool possibilities...

I planned a campaign with my two high school friends (the aforementioned GA and JJ).  I would play the Empire, GA would play Dwarves, and JJ wanted to play Wood Elves.  Three players is probably the minimum required to play the game--I just don't see it being all that interesting if you have just two players.  Frankly, the more the better, but like all campaigns, the more players that are in it, the more difficult it is to keep everyone involved.

Like usual when playing things like this, I get deep into it.  I replaced the thin card tiles with a foamboard creation I made and painted myself (long since discarded).  I made a small map that I could study on my own, without having to refer to the main map board I had created (which I still have). 

Anticipating that my Empire would eventually start a war with both the Dwarves and the Wood Elves, I drafted declarations of war, which I would deliver to my opponent at the proper time, all to add to the atmosphere. 

The campaign was off to a great start...we did a few campaign turns, our empires expanded, and our forces approached each others' borders.  War was imminent, and the first actual Warhammer battle would be fought...  And then JJ quit.  I honestly forget why, but all I can think of is that something didn't go his way, and rather than put up with setbacks, he bailed.  Talk about frustration.  Realizing that the campaign was essentially over before it started, GA and I decided to have a massive battle with all the forces at our disposal at that point in the campaign, just for fun.  We made army lists and we ready to go...but it never happened, simply because we never got around to it.  So ends many a campaign, as I'm sure many organizers can attest to.

Still and all, the idea of the campaign was great.  The Mighty Empires rules set has been updated, but the original ones should still work great.  Maybe I'll have to revive them someday.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Warhammer Quest

Note: This is a post I did on Arcadia Prime a while back, but since it applies to the fantasy side of things as well, I thought I'd repost it here.

A big problem these days is that in my old age I'm married with a 18-month-old daughter. Getting to the FLGS is a 20 minute drive. At best I get together with gaming friends maybe once a month.   These are not the days of college/grad school where practically every weekend I could wargame, participate in an regular RPG, try out lots of other games etc. But there are times when I get together with friends for an evening, etc.-This is an opportunity for board games. Problem is, for the most part, these people aren't really into games like 40k or WFB--or rather, one person might be, but their SO is not.  While the term "gamer geek" might describe many of my friends, it doesn't necessarily describe their wives.

What is needed is a game that bridges the gap--a game that satisfies the sci-fi/fantasy urges of the geeks while being tolerable to the non-geeks. In order to work for a mixed group, what would such a game need?
  • 1. (Painted) Miniatures. A big attraction for people who are normally indifferent to this stuff is the painted miniatures. I can't count the number of times people who I know aren't remotely interested the games nonetheless fawn over the miniatures I've painted, never having seen anything like them before. If the miniatures themselves attract their interest, they may stay interested long enough to play the game.
  • 2. Simple rules. It must be simple enough that anyone can learn to play very quickly. A downside to games like WFB and 40k is its complexity. For the geeks, they are so enthralled by the background that they'll put up with the rules complexities long enough to learn them. Someone not already invested in the background will have a shorter attention span. The sooner they are having fun, the better.
  • 3. Cooperative gameplay. Competition can be fun, but it can deter new players. Even if the rules are simple, a player who is new to both the game and the genre will probably feel intimidated, assuming that the uber-geeks playing the game will trounce them because they have so much more experience/knowledge of the game and genre.
  • 4. Quick gameplay. You need to be able to play a complete game in a few hours, even with distractions. It needs to be "light" enough that the game can continue if one person is taken away for a few minutes--getting drinks, using the bathroom, checking on the babysitter, etc.
A game that fulfills many of these requirements is one that I would like to see come back: Warhammer Quest.It had miniatures, simple rules (with potential for more advanced rules), cooperative and quick gameplay. New players even could play the game without realizing that they are (*gasp*) playing an RPG. If described to a skeptical new player that it's a cooperative board game rather than a "dungeon crawl roleplaying game", they may be more amenable to giving it a try. Once they've had fun, then you can break the news of what they were really playing.

Back in the day when Warhammer first came out (1995), I was focused more on 40k and Space Marine (Epic 40k), and less interested in the fantasy side, and board games in general. So I passed on it. But a while back, in looking over some old White Dwarfs of mine, I found myself wishing I had gotten it. With time more at a premium nowadays, I'm wishing it would return. I'm wondering (hoping?) if Space Hulk sells well, that it might spur GW into bringing back some of its other games, if only in limited editions. If Warhammer Quest comes back, I'll be sure to get it this time.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dire Wolves

 I always thought that Dire Wolves would be a cool addition to my Vampire Counts army, but I was less than impressed with the Vampire Counts Dire Wolves models.  The skeletal, corpse-like wolves just don't really appeal to me.  Then I saw this post on the Iron Wolves blog.  If he can use the Chaos Warhounds to represent Fenrisian Wolves (with some greenstuff adjustments), I can do the same thing to represent Dire Wolves!

Hmmm...after some thought and exploring of the GW online store, I came across these:
It's a Warhammer bitz pack, and comes with five wolves.  I'm going to assume the worst and imagine that all five wolves are the same pose.  The upsides are: they definitely look more wolf-like than the warhounds do, they require no conversion work at all, and they are marginally cheaper than the warhounds.  The downside is that they may end up all looking the same (if they're the same pose, but perhaps I could try some pose conversions), and the miniatures themselves are on the old side, and look more "cartoony" than the more modern miniatures.  This will require more thought...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Test Miniatures

I recently did up a few test miniatures to try out paint schemes for some of my fantasy miniatures. I think they came out pretty well for a first attempt:
Skaven Clanrat

Vampire Counts Skeleton Warrior

Grave Guard 

Empire spearman from Averland

Friday, July 23, 2010

Starting the Collection

In the early days (i.e. 1987-1989) I had placed all my miniatures orders directly from Games Workshop in the UK, but to be blunt, I didn't know what I was doing.  I had only the vaguest notions of the Warhammer world and the armies that fought in it, so I just bought miniatures that appealed to me, with little thought of army building per se.

So I ended up with a smattering of Chaos Warriors, some High Elves, some Orcs, and a really cool unit of Wood Elves called "Skarloc's Wood Elf Archers."
Games Workshop (or rather, Citadel Miniatures) did not have a very developed line of paints yet, and in any case I didn't have much access to buy those that they had, so I reverted to simply using the model paints that I was used to for making plastic model kits.  These were primarily Testors paints and Testors Model Master paints, which were oil based enamels, which required thinner.  I can't believe I put up with that, and am definitely thankful for the acrylic paints of today.
Here's the unit as they are today--they've already undergone multiple paint jobs, as my skills improved much in the early years with practice (and have long since plateaued). I think they're about due for another overhaul though.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Warhammer Siege

Relatively soon after Warhammer Fantasy Battle 3rd edition came out, a supplement called Warhammer Siege was released.  It detailed some rather complex rules to handle sieges in Warhammer.  (On the other hand, the 3rd edition rules were complex already, so by comparison Warhammer Siege wasn't much different)

In trying it out, while I had read the sample scenario at the back of the book and thought it was interesting, I quickly dismissed it as not epic enough.  We had to try a HUGE EPIC BATTLE (classic mistake).  No minor siege of an insignificant keep would this be, where we could learn the rules a little bit at a time and have a clue about what we were doing.  Rather, it would be the assault upon a High Elf city by a huge Evil Army, consisting of Chaos, Orcs & Goblins, Dark Elves, you name it. 
We used the "Mighty Fortress" that Citadel Miniatures had recently released, a neat styrofoam castle that has stood up to the test of time.

Here's mine, 22 years old, and still in great shape.

So we had the battle.  The evil horde forms up outside the city, while the defenders stand guard on the ramparts, stoically watching their approach.  The evil forces prepared for a long siege of digging sapper's trenches, tunnels to undermine the walls, and battering at the walls with their siege engines.

Turn One.  The evil stone thrower threw its first stone at the city wall, aiming for the main gates.  The stone impacted right on target, and the entire gate house section collapsed, completely breaching the wall.


Apparently we underestimated the power of the stone thrower--we didn't want a wussy one in this "epic" battle, so we took a huge one.  And it practically vaporized the castle.

With the gatehouse breached (read: blown away), the Chaos Warrior Cavalry charged forwards, the rest of the evil army swarming to follow.  Out of the breach the High Elf Cavalry charged to meet them.  Very quickly, however, we determined that the forces of good had little chance to survive, as they were outnumbered by a huge margin and effectively had no defensive advantage anymore.  After a few turns of horrendous carnage we called it a day.

We barely scratched the surface of the siege rules during the game, but we had fun nonetheless.  The next time I did a siege I would have to be a little more reserved concerning the army size...

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Miniatures Queue

Over at Arcadia Prime I have up a "Miniatures Queue" listing the amount of miniatures I have left to paint.

Now that I've created this new blog,  I've made some changes to the Miniatures Queue on Arcadia Prime to reflect the addition of fantasy miniatures that I've added to my task list.  I've also added the Queue here as well.

I've split up the Miniatures Queue into subdivisions: 40k, Warhammer, LotR, Battlefleet Gothic, and Space Hulk.  I've left out Epic (for now), because that would truly make things scary.

The queue will probably spike several times in the near future as I get more organized and identify more miniatures I want to paint (and possibly make some ill-advised impulse purchases).

I've removed projects such as terrain projects and other scratchbuilt ideas from the queue.  I do have lots of ideas, but they frequently change.  As the queue is supposed to be a measure of mountain of miniatures I'm trying to reduce, scratchbuilt/terrain projects don't really apply here.

So here's the new queue, as of today:

Warhammer 40k:185
Lord of the Rings:147
Space Hulk:38
Battlefleet Gothic:3

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Warhammer Rulebook

When I made the decision to buy the Warhammer Rulebook, I was originally just going to get the main one, and I made an argument on Arcadia Prime that it was worth the extra cash. But when it came time to actually buy it, I went a little crazy and went for the collector's edition instead.  I'll probably be rationalizing for a long time trying to justify that decision. 
Well, it arrived in the mail right on Friday, July 9, so I decided to do a post about my impressions of it.  First off, it's heavy.  I tried weighing it on a small scale, and after the scale went over 7 lbs it begged  for no more.  So the book is big.  On the GW website they describe is as a "massive grimoire", and it certainly gives that impression.  If you lug this thing around, people will know you mean business.

Heh, my desk lamp shining nearby kind of gives the impression of a holy light shining down upon it...

Here's the book next to my 3rd edition rulebook (which is about the size of the 7th edition rulebook).  The more I think about it though, "book" doesn't really do it justice.  "Tome" is better, and I think "grimoire" does suit it nicely.

The covers are made of a debossed material that feels a lot like leather--either way, it's looks and feels great, and it just oozes quality.  The brass hammer/comet thing on the cover is a nice touch, and looks somewhat antique as well, which just adds to the tome's coolness. The pages are kept shut by a brass clip--it took me a while to get it off, as I was trying to be gentle with it so as not to damage anything.  It turned out it was just stuck to the cover--once I got it off, it slips on and off with no trouble at all, while still remaining snug.

Whew, it looks like I ordered just in time!

The inside is filled with some fantastic art.  The pages are made of thick, high quality parchment paper as advertised, which also adds to the sheer massiveness of the tome.
Some cool High Elf concept art by the master Jes Goodwin.
Flipping through it, it's filled with tons of material, and I haven't even scratched the surface yet, so I don't have much to say about its insides.  But with time I plan on reading the thing and make sure I get the most out of it.

In the meantime it can assume a place of honor on my bookshelf next to some other important tomes.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Early Days

After receiving the catalog from Games Workshop, showing their Chaos Warriors, I remember seeing ad for two publications, the gaming magazine White Dwarf and the wargame, Warhammer Fantasy Battle, of which the 3rd edition had just gone on sale.

There weren't all the many hobby stores in my area--the nearest one, Al's Hobbies, was within walking distance of my house, but was almost entirely devoted to model railroading.  The second one was a Hobbytown, half an hour away.  They mostly dealt with plastic model kits and RC.  Neither one had any miniatures--rather, the Hobbytown did, but it was a pathetically small selection of Ral Partha miniatures for D&D. 

Now with an eye to look for Warhammer-related stuff, I went to the hobby stores.   The Hobbytown had some White Dwarf Magazines, so I bought all the ones I could get my hands on (issues #101-103).  They had ads for the various games that were in productions, such as Bloodbowl, Dark Future, Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Adeptus Titanicus, etc.  Awesome looking stuff.  Unfortunately the White Dwarfs were all that Hobbytown had.

I headed over to Al's Hobbies just to see--the store was very small, and I knew they didn't carry any miniatures...but lo and behold, they had the Warhammer 3rd edition rulebook.  I duly paid the whopping $34.95 for it and brought it home...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

In Ages Past...

With the release of Warhammer 8th edition today, I thought I would use it for the inaugural date of my new fantasy-dedicated blog, Abandon All Hope (of ever finishing painting all my miniatures).  For this first post I thought I would start with a little history of how I got into the miniatures hobby in the first place...

A.D. 1987
Long ago, before many of the present generation of gamers was born, I was a big fan of the Lone Wolf series of role-playing adventure game books by Joe Dever.  I still am, and if you haven't read them, I highly recommend them.  Back then, the series was only a dozen or so books, and when I saw a companion book to the series, I immediately picked it up.

The book, although relatively short at 96 pages, contained a wealth of background material on the series, along with sundry other things that piqued my interest.  One section in particular caught my eye.

I had always been into model building, but up to this point it was limited to model aircraft and ships.  I had always been interested in fantasy, primarily the works of Tolkien, but as far as I knew, there was little outlet for this sort of thing.  Well, I had seen Ral Partha miniatures for D&D, but I wasn't too impressed.  I wasn't much into D&D, rather, my interest was in MERP & Rolemaster, so I had little use for D&D miniatures.  But here was a neat diorama of miniatures representing a giak army assaulting a fortress, coupled with instructions on how to model the castle itself.

Very interested, I focused on the little note at bottom.
I dashed off a note of inquiry to this strange company I'd never heard of, asking about their products. Within a few weeks (the mail had to go across the pond and back) I got a response which included a couple of printed sheets containing pictures of the latest releases, mainly some dudes called "Chaos Warriors."  Who just looked totally badass. They even had names, such as:
Strok'nor Macekiller

Balspew Flamesword


This guy in particular took several attempts to order him, as he was constantly sold out--no surprise, the guy rocks.  But I finally got him.  He's currently stripped of paint because I had painted him over and over again so much that the layers became so thick that most of the detail was obscured.

As I began to learn more about Citadel Miniatures and their various products, I also heard about this game called Warhammer Fantasy Battle.  Soon I would have to check that out...