Sunday, December 27, 2009

Playing catch-up #2: Napoleon's Battles

or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Ten-Sider

I guess this game marks the beginning of my descent into true old-school grognardism - my first game of Napoleonics. Britt invited me to come watch as he and his friend Ron, who runs The Game Connection in Knightdale, played some 15mm Napoleon's Battles. When I got there, Ron was kind enough to step aside and referee a matchup between Britt and me instead (a lesson I should have learned before the Battle of the Four Corners). Ron had set up two fairly equivalent corps-sized forces before we arrived, using his own very nicely painted minis; I got the French, and Britt got the Austrians. We set up on opposite sides of a small village crossroads, and went to work.

This is another of those reports that I totally should have written earlier, because my memories of what went down are shady at best. For example:

I have no recollection of what happened to this unit that had it suffer two lost bases (and that red 3 means it's one hit away from losing another one); similarly I can't recall what I did to the unit in Britt's backfield. If I'm remembering the marking conventions correctly, both those units routed, but lord only knows why. On the left flank, his Grenzers are causing me a bit of grief, which I'm going to try and remedy with a cavalry charge with that unit of light cav I was holding in the backfield. Meanwhile our two infantry units (I think they were both regular Line troops) are facing off against each other on the outside edge of the house. Both of us have our artillery in our centers, taking potshots at each other, and on the right flank we've both lined up two infantry units and our heavy cav (if memory serves, the blue 'disordered' die on my cavalry is due to having made a fruitless charge against Britt's cavalry and bouncing back).

Here's the aftermath of the next turn: my cav charged his Grenzers and scattered them (you can barely see the top of their unit in the wheatfield behind the building). You can't really see past those horses, but Britt and I still have an infantry unit each facing off there on the outer edge of the house/village. I believe our cannons traded shots in the center; Britt put some casualties on me, but one of my two charging infantry units scattered one of his batteries. And on the right, I launched an infantry charge (mentioned above, I believe) across that turnip field and I'm apparently holding my cavalry back for some reason that I can't recall. This is where the subtitle of this entry comes from: I can roll a lot better on 10-sided dice than Britt can, apparently. His Insurrection troops did a lot better than they should have based on statlines, becoming the underdog heroes of the game, but they eventually took enough casualties to rout.

At this point, I've managed to win my infantry duel on the outer edge of the building, causing a third rout, and something or other has happened to cause a fourth rout that I simply cannot remember. I'm thinking it was Britt's cavalry who'd snuck up around my left flank (long way around that forest) and struck my cavalry and came off the worst in the matchup, but I won't swear to it. There are other neat things I remember, but I can't place them into the position they occurred in the game (like successfully getting one of my infantry units to form an emergency square and bouncing one of Britt's cav charges, or having my own heavy horse charge off the back edge of the table chasing down something). But despite my slightly fuzzy memories, I do recall having a total blast - enough fun that I picked up my own copy of the Nappy's Battles rules that night! But I also remember that I basically won due to having a series of really great rolls, as opposed to Britt who had a series of really awful rolls. Still, Napoleon himself (apocryphally) said to Ney, "Go back and find me a lucky general." That game, I was the lucky general.

BONUS CONTENT: Napoleon's cookies

Playing catch-up #1: Heavy Gear

It's been over a month since this game, so this will be a sketchy-as-heck recap. Britt and I fielded opposing GP squads at something like 220TV; my filthy MILICIA proles versus his UMF wageslaves. Britt set up in and around some stoneheads in the steep terrain; my MILICIAmen came zooming in down a longer, gentler slope. Somewhere I should have a scrap of paper that told what our objectives were, but I picked 'Recon' for one of mine, and we settled on the biggest stonehead as the target of that objective.

These are my fragmentary memories and impressions of what went down:

-the shooting felt very very inconclusive until we were practically on top of each other. It made me consider using the 'More Carnage' options in future games, until Britt pointed out the next day that I'd managed to totally miss the modifiers for being in open terrain, which would have made lots more of our shots hit.

-being in motion beats the hell out of being stationary; those defense mods at stationary are horrible, and only Britt's good use of the stoneheads as solid cover made his shoot-n-scoot tactics overcome those horrible mods

-Indirect Fire still doesn't make a lot of sense to me; I think we finally figured it out correctly, when Britt rolled a gear-scaled grenade over a small rise and killed my combat group leader (thereby fulfilling his Assassinate! objective)

-I need to do some 'housekeeping' stuff before our next game; namely, I need to finish making my homemade movement markers, and I should probably print out extra copies of the combat summary/quickref rules (frankly I should do this for every single game I plan to play)

-we need more terrain for these games, as cover and concealment are big parts of the ruleset

Eventually, we finished up, with a marginal win for me due to getting the VPs for my Recon objective. It was a good game, but still obviously a learning game, marred by me having to delve into the rulebook for everything more complex than a simple direct fire roll (and even then I had to look stuff up just to be safe). I like the HG rules; there's a pleasant level of complexity to them that makes even a little 5 gear vs 5 gear rumble like this one fun. There's cool stuff we totally neglected to do, like using our CGLs to set up crossfires; conversely, there's stuff that I still think is a bit clunky in the rulebook, indirect fire and some of the sensor/lock-on stuff being the chief culprits in my opinion.

Things that will probably replace my Burna Boyz for Combat Patrol

Fast Attack: Deffkoptas x3
-all with twin-linked Rokkit Launchas
-equip one with a Bigbomm
PROS: I have the models already from the Black Reach set; Twin-linking the Rokkit Launchas is a good way to counter crappy Ork BS with the low-ROF but high-ST rokkits; adds some real mobility to my otherwise footslogging list for late-game objective contesting; dropping the Large blast template in Combat Patrol sounds like good clean fun
CONS: only 3 of them; unit may be even more fragile than I realize (and I already think it might be heavy on the 'glass' and light on the 'cannon')

Fast Attack: Warbikers x6
PROS: tons of dakka (18 twin-linked shots sounds nice, even at BS2), love the models, more mobility (see above)
CONS: will have to buy 3 more of the minis; will still need to be rolling 6's on the dakkaguns to even glance AV11

Elites: Lootas x10
PROS: potentially sick amounts of dakka, 48" range will be brutal in the 4 foot by 4 foot Combat Patrol universe, at ST7 popping light armor will be quite possible
CONS: will be a stationary firebase so LOS will be a huge issue, seems kinda... dull, and dare we say it, responsible, for an Ork list, even with the random ROF

Elites: Tankbustas x8
-up to two swap Rokkit Launchas for Tankhammers
-w/ Bomb-squigs x3
PROS: stupid fun; killing a Penitent Engine with a 5-point bomb squig would totally make my day; can build them from parts I have on hand
CONS: crappy BS plus only 6 guys firing single shots - on average that'll be 2 hits/turn, but 6 is a really small number of dice so they'll be flukey; will have to model up something for the Tankhammers and my scratchbuilding sucks

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Playing catch-up #0; and the Battle of Four Corners

Dang, I've got a decent-sized backlog of played games to work through, which I'll probably condense a great deal and post about in the next few days. But before I forget them, here's some thoughts I've had about today's four-way demo/learning game of 40k at Hypermind:

1) Four-way games of 40k should probably be 2v2 teams. Way too much downtime for the other players in a four-way, plus while it didn't seem to be a huge issue today I could see the last guy up getting totally shafted on a variety of things, both in set-up and in actual gameplay.

2a) Chaos Daemons DO NOT ENTER PLAY NORMALLY. I am so mad I forgot this, as it radically changed the way Brad had to play them. I'm still not sure how well they'll work in the Combat Patrol setting with their almost total lack of anti-vehicle capability, but not fielding them correctly means I'll never figure out how they'd have actually fared.

2b) they also don't make a great loaner/learner army, as the ones I have built don't have any shooting capability at all, and their Fearlessness means they don't help the person playing them to learn anything about the Morale phase (and I'm not really planning to buy any Horrors/Flamers just for this mini-list). The Berzerkers are better in that while they're still Fearless, you at least have to learn the shooting rules, and make the occasional decision between shooting with them and sneaking in an extra bit of running. Based on these two factors, I really should bash together those Traitor Guardsmen and probably some non-fearless CSMs for my other opposing forces.

3) Kill Britt's Penitent Engines at all costs. They're just plain nasty at this level, and the minimum amounts of anti-tank I'd been planning on in my earlier listbuilding exercises just doesn't seem like they will cut it. I haven't looked through all my other codexes (I wish GW would say 'codices' since that's the actual plural) yet, but I am thinking the PE's are the only 'fighty' walkers available in the CP setting. I know that the Eldar have their ugly War Walkers, and the Guard can bring Sentinels, but neither of those are the kind of CC ugliness that the PEs are; and in the small boardspace of a CP matchup, the PE's low armor and lack of long-range shooting are much less of a drawback since they're getting stuck into CC by turn two at the latest.

4a) I need to print off and bring multiple copies of the following-
-the quick-read rules from the back pages of the main rulebook
-summary sheets for all forces
-FAQs/erratas for all forces
-some sort of contact sheet/'league info' handout package to facilitate getting new people interested...

4b) ...because we had one person in the store today approach us during setup, and he seemed really interested in getting involved, so I grabbed his e-mail address; having a nice concise one-sheet handout (with some league info, my e-mail address, etc on one side, and a copy of the Adepticon CP rules/guidelines on the other) would have been perfect.
EDIT TO ADD: a stack of these for Denise to give out if people ask about the league might not be bad either; plus maybe an info sheet for the store bulletin board.

5) I really desperately need to shield my Burna Boyz with something. I keep creeping them forward in the deployment phase, and they always get slammed into CC without ever getting to drop a single flamer template. If this keeps up they might be 150pts I'd be better off spending on Lootas or even Deffkoptas; as it stands their Meks with Kustom Mega-Blastas are my only reliable anti-Penitent engine weapons, but I'm just not getting to use them in anything like a manner that makes them worth their pricetag. It's a shame, because they're probably my favorite Ork models, but what can you do?

6) my loaner World Eaters need some list work (assuming I keep them in the loaner pool, see #2b above); while I shoved in a few plasma pistols at the last minute today for a faint attempt at giving them anti-vehicle capability, it didn't seem like enough. I'm pretty sure their krak grenades will be fine against APCs, but again Britt's fighty-assed Penitent Engines screw that math all up.

7) We really need to figure out how to handle bunkers in this CP setting; I like the tactical decisions that having them available will bring to the game, but I also don't necessarily think that having something that's virtually untouchable on the board is a great idea either. I think giving them an AV of 12 at maximum is a good start; I just worry about some future game where the vicissitudes of terrain placement give one person a scoring (or even just a contesting) unit that is totally unshiftable, standing on an objective or scoring a table quarter. I'm not saying we shouldn't allow them at all (or at least I'm not saying that yet); but I do think I need to think about them more.

8) I need to build some cheap-ass terrain I can leave up there; preferably running the gamut of cover values, rather than just the pretty solid 4+ ruins that are already there (although they did look nice, and added a lot to the tactical space for my Orks at least). More terrain, and more types of it, will hopefully reward us with both prettier pictures for the blog, and more interesting games. Also I should really try and source a 4x4" chunk of cheap-assed green or brown or something fabric; something I won't care about leaving up at the store that will lay flatter on those boards.

9) I need to figure out if people are ever going to be playing when I'm not there, and if so I need to decide if I should put my cheap-assed old template set and a scatter dice in a box or a bag or something for Denise to hide behind the counter.

That's all I can think of for now. Pictures to be added later when I locate my frigging USB cable.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

40k Combat Patrol: who to bring to the dance

So as mentioned in the previous post, I'm still thinking pretty hard on a third* opposing force to try and get built/painted before New Year's for the embryonic store CP league I'm trying to get off the ground. Some outside perspective would be quite helpful, so I'm going to expatiate on the choices I mentioned earlier and pray for feedback. Now at the moment I think I have exactly two readers, but a) I'd be happy to get both their opinions, and b) presumably at some point someone else might read this and I'd be happy for them to chime in too. So, here are the choices, complete with my proposed CP lists for said choices, and some pros and cons for each.

CHAOS SPACE MARINES: Alpha Legion, 400pts
2 squads (1 scoring), 2 vehicles, 13 troops

TROOPS: 8x Chaos Space Marines
-Icon of Chaos Glory
-Asp Champ with PF
-mounted in Rhino w/ Havoc Launcher

ELITES: 5x Chosen
-3 flamers, 2 meltaguns
-mounted in Rhino w/ Havoc Launcher

PROS: well, other than liking the Alpha Legion and thinking that two APCs (one with the possibility to use the Flanking rules) at this level might actually be a pretty hard thing to beat, nothing specific
CONS: having to build/paint two Rhinos, which is something I haven't tackled yet; the Chosen will require some light conversion work as I'm planning on making them on the so-called Doghouse-pattern Marines; there's already two, if not possibly three power-armour/bolter toting lists spoken for in the league and this would add one more to the MEQ (Marine equivalent) pile; only one troop choice for objective-grabbing; lowest troop count of any list I'm considering (even the one I'll mention in the footnote that I cleverly teased with an * above)

ELDAR: Craftworld Iybraesil, 398pts
3 squads (2 scoring), 2 vehicles, 15 troops

TROOPS: 8xDire Avengers
+Exarch w/ twin shuricats, Bladestorm

TROOPS: 7xDire Avengers
+Exarch w/ power weapon+shimmershield, Bladestorm

-both with Scatter Lasers

PROS: Eldar are neat; this avoids the issue of MEQ spam at the league level; the only conversion work will be trying to magnetize the Vyper weapons for future versatility
CONS: I keep hearing that Eldar are a finesse army, which means that handing them off to someone to use as a loaner/learner group might be counterproductive; I'm unreasonably skittish about painting and assembling the Vypers what with their clear canopy bits and all

TRAITOR GUARD: The Recusant 113th
4 squads (2 scoring), 1 vehicle, 3 walkers, 26 troops

TROOPS: Veteran Squad x10
-2x flamers
-mounted in Chimera, total 135pts

TROOPS: Penal Legion squad x10, 80pts total

FAST ATTACK: Scout Sentinel Squadron
-3 Sentinels, all with Autocannon, 120pts

FAST ATTACK: Rough Riders x6
-2 swap hunting lances for Grenade Launchers, 65 pts total

PROS: lotsa dudes, again we avoid turning the whole league into a MEQ fight
CONS: lotsa dudes, plus 3 walkers and an APC to build (although the Chimera doesn't seem like it will be too bad); the Rough Riders will be one of the more conversion-heavy things I'd be looking at building for these possible lists

So, anyone got any real pressing reasons I should go with one of these over the other?

Oh yeah, the footnote:
* I also realized that in additon to the tiny-model-count (21 models woo hoo) Slaaneshi Daemons list I've already built, I've also already (probably over 2 years ago) built ~2/3rds of a 16-man World Eaters list that will probably not win but would be stupid easy and fun to use, and probably also stupid easy and fun to paint. So I guess I am, in my own way, already contributing to the dreaded problem of MEQ spam. The sickness is within us all....

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Trying to put together a 40k Combat Patrol league at the FLGS

I've been blathering about it for something like a year now, and I'm making a big effort to get said league off the ground in 2010. The guiding document will be the 2009 Adepticon rules/scenarios packet, since they were kind enough to extend permission for me to use said resource when I contacted them. I've been waffling and waffling on which army I'll field for this event, rotating through basically every Warhammer 40,000 army I've got minis for (which is an embarrassingly large number of them for someone who's never played more than half of a demo game multiple years ago). Having said that, I think I'll be putting together three lists: one for me to field as my 'official' league entrant, and two as opfors and/or if anyone else wants to get in on the tourney and doesn't have an army of their own as of yet (based off Britt's offer of his teams to people in the Blood Bowl leagues he's run, hint hint Chris this is basically aimed at suckering you into at least playing, if not collecting).

For my actual list I think I'll be running some Orks (a decision almost entirely precipitated by finding out they finally made plastic gretchin that don't cost a fortune), putting together a nice little low-model-count Chaos Daemons list for opfor #1, and still deciding between Eldar, Traitor Guard, and Chaos Space Marines for opfor #2. At the moment I've got tentative responses from a handful of players - Alton has mentioned bringing some Black Templars, Britt actually has (and is therefore I guess not really tentative) Sisters of Battle, there are two possible Tyranid entrants, and Brad is (I think) still looking at some sort of possible list, maybe some sort of combo Guard/SM list from one of the older Inquisition codexes?

EDIT: while it's implied by the nature of a blog, I am of course soliciting suggestions as to which of the three potential second opfors I should put together. Show your work!


My perennial opponent Britt and I are both also getting into Heavy Gear. I stockpiled tons of minis over the course of the past few years, and I'm finally getting around to doing something with even some moiety of the pounds and pounds of lead they represent. However, our first game - game might be an exaggeration, skirmish might be more fitting - was a frustrating, stop-and-go affair at best, which is totally on my head. While I'd read the rules over the course of my protracted buying spree, a tenuous, mostly theoretical grasp of a ruleset is arguably worse than useless when the rubber meets the road for the first time. We split up a MILICIA GP squad I'd assembled and primed, plunked down some incredibly basic terrain and went at it. I don't think I got any pictures that night, which is just as well because I really made a hash of the rules, and wasn't even able to look stuff up terribly quickly. After grinding to a halt, we took another stab at it, and the followup match seemed to flow noticeably better and was much more fun, although still a halting mess. Fortunately, I think our enthusiasm for the background, the miniatures, and the rules themselves (despite my hamfisted attempts to interpret them) won out, and a week or so later we played a much, much smoother (although still quite interrupted by 'damn let me look that back up' moments) match between my MILICIA trash and Britt's UMF blockheads.

Game the second: or how I leared to stop worrying and love the assault phase

My second game of Flames of War with Britt (and again, with his minis) was much more complex, but still fun. He's wisely been introducing one new game concept per matchup, and our second game introduced infantry. It introduced a lot of infantry, to be perfectly honest:

I will try to get Britt to remind me what the exact flavor of badass was for all those Russians I was looking down the barrel of in this picture - was it a Shock Battalion? In any event, there were more than enough of them, and my Germans were spread throughout the little town just enough to ensure that each assault flowed into a new counterassault und so weiter until basically all my foot were dead.

I managed to pull out a win anyway, through a combination of lucky dice rolling and historically questionable usage of StuGs as machine-gun platforms. At the time we weren't quite certain we handled the assault rules correctly, but as far as my follow-up readings go I think we got it pretty much right. I did find it interesting that while shooting in FoW is strict IgoUgo, there are reactive elements in the assault phase that the main game mechanics seem to be lacking. I'm not sure about the design philosophy behind this, unless it's maybe that pure IgoUgo with infantry would marginalize them into unplayability?

The Blog as Artifact

I'm making this post as a sort of clearinghouse for the actual layout/interfacte/whathaveyou aspects of this blog. Comments, complaints, or suggestions about readability, color schemes, layout, linking, etc would be most beneficial if placed here.

Intro (as painless as possible)

These 'opening salvo' kinds of things are always the shakiest, due to the hassles of figuring out both the content and the medium. So in the interest of clarity, this is going to be a blog about my miniatures gaming stuff. I've been interested in it for quite a while, and have accumulated tons of models without ever getting much further than a handful of painted squads with virtually no table-time. But starting this fall, I decided to finally get serious about this as a hobby, and so far I have had a great deal of fun. So in order to make this stuff a little simpler to talk about with people I know as well as other people in the hobby, I'm putting this blog together. As I begin, I'll be working from memory on my first handful of games this fall.

My friend Britt got me to finally actually play a game of Flames of War earlier in the fall (utilizing his minis, of course; we'll be a bit further along before we get to pictures of minis I own, and even then they're going to be primed at most for a long time), which I will rather arbitrarily be defining as the starting point for this blog's purposes. It was a straight-up armor vs armor matchup, with my Germans coming off much the worse for wear:

That's a lot of burning German armor. Still, I had a good time; it was a simple introduction to the ruleset, and while I know FoW's "I go/You go" set up is a sticking point for a lot of people, it seems like (based on this game and the two followups we've played thus far) a simple, straightforward ruleset, and possibly one of the best ones for me to use as my point of introduction to wargaming. In any event, this opener is out of the way now, which is probably a good thing in and of itself, regardless of quality.

EDIT: it would be both correct and politic to mention that the inspiration for this blog, as well as its name, comes from my friend Chris Norwood's blog, which is a really good boardgaming blog that you're probably already reading if you're looking at this blog.