Monday, 26 December 2016

Happy Christmas, and may your stamina never fail!

Been very busy with work-writing once again and so games with teeny tiny toy soldiers have had to take a back seat. But nice to have a break for Christmas, and especially nice to receive a couple of gaming-related prezzies

Dragon Rampant rules and a Wood Elf Glade Guard box from my parents. Always difficult to "guess" what kind of toy soldiers someone might want for a present, but it can be rewarding too to get something you hadn't specifically had in mind... Now I'll be honest, the plastic wood elves were never really on my radar, and left to my own devices I'd never have bought them. But some of the pieces in this box set are fantasic converion fodder - it even includes little woodland sprites on the sprue! Love it! The banner poles and cloaks and leafy bits are brilliant and very useful, and the heads are just what I need for headswaps. One of the things that's held me back from doing more conversions has been lack of bitz, so a plastic set like this is a godsend.

And that leaves the third prezzie... what's the pile of papers? Well, now that's something REALLY special. The missus and my son have been plotting and scheming for the past month or so working on a top secret project and they've written me a whole new Fighting Fantasy Fleeing Fantasy adventure Town of Terror (or, Forest of Pies). I've been going through some of the Fighting Fantasy books with my son - Forest of Doom, City of Thieves, Island of the Lizard King (I skipped Deathtrap Dungeon because it's a bit too... errr... Deathtrappy for him at his age). He's clearly taken them to heart, and his long-suffering mother has clearly internalised enough of it from hearing us go through them over and over again until we reach those magical words "Turn to 400.." because the adventure they've designed for me is pitch-perfect. It's about 280 entries in total, though I couldn't help but notice that the final entry (in true FF style!) is numbered 400. Here are some of the first few pages...

Surely this is the best Christmas present an oldhammerer has ever received???

...that's the first few pages, I won't scan them all because I want to get back to playing it. I don't deserve them really, do I? Happy Christmas, and may your stamina never fail!

Monday, 31 October 2016

Happy Halloween!

Here's a citadel familiar next to his enormous dad, an Asgard FM71 "Jack-o-Bear" Bugbear, which I've painted for halloween. I thought painting this old figure would be a doddle. Boy, was I wrong. Just couldn't find a way to bring out the magic. Oh well.

Spent a fantastic day at the Foundry on Saturday celebrating the "Night of the Living Lead". I painted a handful of undead highlanders for the occasion - more on that soon. But I had been planning to bring these pumpkinheads too, largely because Matthew Dunn had said he was bringing his gnomes again, and last year they ran the sweet little familiar down in a hit-and-run incident.

This year I wanted the familiar to come back with his dad for revenge. But Matthew was celebrating his birthday (what kind of an excuse is that?) and so his gnomes stayed at home. Revenge will have to come on another halloween.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

A scene from Miniature Wargames magazine in 1986

Here's a bit of a curiosity. I posted this on facebook a few weeks back but figured I should share it here as well. This is the back cover of Miniature Wargames No. 36, from May 1986. This is about the closest they got to fantasy content at this period. No information is given about painter or collectors here; all it says is "Back cover: Life's dilemmas in microcosm. Beset by beggars & booze, priests & prostitutes. Go on, lad! Take the King's shilling. Figures & buildings: Citadel miniatures. Perplexed peasant: Essex miniatures."

I've been trying to figure out who the painters for these miniatures were, whether they come from the Citadel studios or someone at Miniature Wargames magazine or what. Certainly the railway gravel approach to the floor of the diorama doesn't look like citadel style. I know you guys like a challenge, see if you can identify who's responsible for this little lot!

I did a bit more digging and Miniature Miniature Wargames no. 16 has this Citadel Wars of the Roses Bombard and crew "from the editor's [i.e. Duncan Macfarlane's] collection" (Steve Jones on facebook had a recollection that the backdrop might have been painted by Tony Ackland)...

...while Miniature Wargames no. 19 includes these Citadel Samurai again from the editor's collection, and here it says "The samurai were picked up ready-painted at Bill Brewer's 'Rye Stamp and Hobby Shop', Rye Lane, Peckham - always worth a visit". Later in that issue there are essex miniatures which were also purchased read-painted at the same shop. Soooo, I suppose it's not a wild guess to say that the minis in the first pic were also from the editor's collection and could have been bought from the same place? However, on facebook Andrew Mersh said that he used to buy figures from Bill Brewer's shop and they the ones at the front of the scene don't like his style of painting; though the pikeman at the back do. So the mystery is not entirely solved...

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Idea for a collaborative sandbox type adventure, feedback wanted

So I have an idea for a game. It's based on the games of 3rd ed I've most enjoyed, where each player is only bringing a handful of figures. My idea is sort of a collaborative sandbox type game, but I'm trying to figure how you'd work it so it wouldn't be a total mess. I thought I'd put the idea out here and see what people think...

The setting would be your standard fantasy adventure village, you know, something like this (from John Higgins' Grailquest gamebook The Den of Dragons):

Or if we were thinkingmore exotic, something like this (from Titan):

Each player would be tasked with bringing two things to the game:

1) A character and a retinue. Probably no more than a level 10 character (just to give him the extra wound for stickaroundability) and a couple of henchmen. Standard issue adventurers looking for a job. Or blackguards running from a fight. Or pilgrims on their way somewhere and requiring shelter and rest. Or whatever.

2) An NPC encounter. A market trader with something to hide. A comely barmaid who asks the adventurer to do them just a teeny tiny favour and they'd be forever grateful. A shack that looks abandoned, but in fact... Well you get the idea.

So in effect, the village that we set up on the table is divided up so that each of the people playing has designed something interesting that will happen at a particular location in the village (and maybe the encounter in one place will lead to the characters having to head off somewhere else, thus stumbling into the path of the other PCs). The characters all converge on the village, and based on the motivations, explore - perhaps a pious pilgrim will want to visit the chapel first to give thanks. Some may be in need of supplies and head to the shop. The thirsty will head to the tavern. When the characters get to the location of a particular NPC encounter, the person who designed it takes the role of GMing that particular interaction - bringing out the guarddogs if the shopkeeper feels threatened, for example... or controlling the barmaid's jealous half-orc boyfriend... or, hang on, I'm wasting too many good ideas already.

Does that make any sense? Would it work?

None of us would know what the other players had planned in terms of NPC encounters, so ALMOST all of the village would be a total mystery for each player, except of course for the one encounter they had designed (and one would presume they'd have the grace not to take their PCs to the NPC encounter they themselves had designed. Unless they had a serious case of split personality disorder.). What would be interesting is to see what stories (if any...) would organically develop as the characters explored the mysterious village and the different NPC encounters were 'triggered'. My primary concern is the mechanics of turn taking with all of these different things going on, for which reason there's probably a perfect number of players which is large enough to make for an village filled with intrigue and curiosity, but small enough not to be unwieldy and lead to people waiting around scratching their arse while other people resolve an encounter that they're not part of.

This is sort of inspired by the spooky Shadows of Rensburg game Bane GMed at Bring Out Your Lead 2014 and which I greatly enjoyed:

And by jointly GMing Gnomophobia with Steve Beales:

But comes from a desire for wanting to try something a bit more collaborative and experimental where we all have a stake in the mystery and no single person knows quite how the story might develop. Is the idea workable? Thoughts? Refinements?

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

After the Blood Bath

Well what a bloody fantastic day! Many thanks to Warlord Paul for GMing, to Thantsants for bringing all his terrain and minis (and letting me interlope with mine), to Nik for hosting, and to Steve Casey and Ashley for losing being such wonderful gentleman gamers.

In order to get through the whole campaign in a day, Paul made a few crucial tweaks to the classic boxed scenario.

1) The numbers were slimmed down, so generals had the following at their disposal (and remember, for the alliance side, the majority of these would only figure in the final scenario, together with survivors from the earlier action):

Alliance Player A: 2 wood elf characters, 15 wood elf archers and 1 injured elf.
Alliance Player B: 3 human characters (2 of which are wizards, a druid and a crazy old hermit), 10 spearmen, 3 longbowmen, 10 poorly-armed civilians and 1 injured human.
Alliance Player C: 3 dwarf characters, 11 dwarf warriors, and 1 injured dwarf.

Orc Player 1: The Kwae Karr orc tribe (Magyar Ironfist, Bagrash the Shaman, 15 orc warriors and 5 orc archers).
Orc Player 2: King F'yar, 3 F'yar Guards, Silas the half-orc spy, The Severed Hand orc tribe (Hagar Sheal, Grashak Kra and 5 Hobhounds, 15 orc warriors, 5 orc archers).
Orc Player 3: The Vile Rune orc tribe (Fangor Gripe, Guthrum Mane the rock giant, 20 orc warriors).

2) Rather than 2nd edition, we used the 6th edition skirmish/ Mordheim rules, with models moving independently rather than as units.

3) The first three scenarios - Kachas Pass, Ashak Rise, and Linden Way - were all played at the same time; with 6 of us playing we were able to pair off and do these simultaneously, before combining for the final big battle.

How did we fare? Well, Thantsants will be writing up a report in due course, but just to give some highlights from the perspective of the dwarves under my command (illustrated with pictures I've nicked from Thantsants - thanks!):

At Ashak Rise, a rearguard of dwarves bravely bought time to allow Snorinn Fimbul to load gold onto a pack mule and lead the gold (and mule) away to safety.

The orcs, characteristically getting hold of the wrong end of the stick, thought the gold was with the mules, and attacked them (suffering fatalities in the process), while Snorrin's dad Borinn ran off with another bag of gold.

At Orc's Drift itself, my engineers undermined the bridge they had been building, so that when the orcs came thundering over, several died and more were washed away as the bridge collapsed underfoot. Alas, all gave their lives for this vallant (and sneaky) action, although not in vain, as the casualties were a major contributor to this side of the Orc attack losing its morale and fleeing.

(The other major contributor was the Drunken Druid Snart casting "Plague of squirrels", which Paul swears is a real spell in Mordheim.)

In the farm compound, casualties were also high.

In the end, King F'yar himself was slaughtered along with his Wyvern mount - here's Borinn posing for a photo, smoking his pipe while perched on the body of his monstrous foe.

A victory for the grand alliance as the remaining attackers fled. Not many survivors were left to toast the victory, however. Though the paychest never left the surviving Dwarves sight...

I'm led to believe that alliance victories are rare, so I'm very pleased by the outcome - I think the changes made for a campaign that was very much in the balance throughout. For most of the final scenario we really thought we had no chance whatsoever - until the Orcs turned tail.

From Orc's Drift to Glazer's Creek
I've always had a weakness for last stand scenarios - perhaps my most treasured memory from teenage gaming is a campaign where my High Elves petulantly occupied a dwarfish brewery and held it against all the odds just to stop the dwarves getting a drink. And of course, Rorke's Drift - or more precisely, the depiction of Rorke's Drift in the film Zulu is the holy grail for wargamers looking for a heroic last stand. Bloodbath at Orc's Drift is a wonderful campaign that captures the backs-to-the-wall guts and glory. I loved the buildup scenarios and the little subplots, and the final battle really had a feel of desperation to the defence.

Fast forwarding to the late 90s, games workshop had another shot at adapting "Rorke's Drift" in the scenario and battle report "Last Stand at Glazer's Creek" (WD222) - one of the major highlights of what I consider a golden age of White Dwarf. Here's the scenario itself, written by Jervis Johnson.

I never played 40k, but I always thought this was a brilliantly designed scenario, and thought long and hard about adapting it for fantasy battle (though never got round to it in my youth - perhaps I will now?). It really works out as a series of battles, simulating wave after wave of attacks from a randomly determined feral Ork force who back off when they drop below a certain number, only to attack again later. The Ork general secretly chooses between 3 and 5 assaults - fewer attacks means that he can roll up a bigger attacking force each time. More attacks, the smaller the force, but the more opportunities they have to grind the defenders down. Each time, the attackers roll up a fresh force, while the defenders only get the survivors from the previous game, so the number is whittled down more and more. There are special rules for casualties winding up in the hospital, and crawling out of their beds as a last ditch defence, adding to the fun. Victory conditions are simple: by the end of the last assault, the defenders are either dead, or some still living. If some are still living, they've won.

What I love about the way this scenario is designed is the way it simulates the attrition of the siege, as the defending forces become more and more stretched. It's a different approach to the final scenario of Orc's Drift, but I think its a fantastic 'take' on Zulu in its own right, and if I can work out a way to port it over to Warhammer fantasy battle (still no interest in 40k!), I'd love to try it out, perhaps for 6th edition to keep it at a reasonable pace? (3rd edition might grind too much to play over multiple assaults).

Lessons from history
I'm unlikely to get into historical gaming of the Colonial Wars (although given my interest in Space 1889, stranger things have happened), but those who are may be interested to note Warlord Games are now selling a Rorke's Drift Battle set featuring suitable terrain and both forces:

And all gamers interested in wargames inspired by Rorke's Drift should have a read of the Osprey Campaign book on Rorke's Drift, 'Pinned like rats in a hole', by Ian Knight.

With illustrations by the Perry's there's obvious oldhammer interest there, but of most use are the pages of notes for wargamers at the back which highlight important considerations for anybody trying to simulate the campaign - such as ammunition constraints in dealing with a numerically superior opposition, and also the "apparent contempt with which the British regarded their opponents", leading to terrible decision making in the early engagements of the Zulu War (given the roleplaying approach oldhammer gamers take, such arrogance is well worth incoporating into the game design). More generally, Knight points out that it's well worth thinking about these encounters from the Zulu point of view rather than getting all hung up on the plucky last-ditch defenders and their stiff upper lips. I agree.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Militant Tendency Entryists at Orc's Drift!

"Dig for victory!" - Dwarvish wartime propaganda campaign

Followers of the blog may recall I made a start painting up figures for McDeath with Arka Zargul and 4 miners - and promptly sent the trade union militants off to battle in one of Warlord Paul's skirmishes. Well I'm now up to 9 out of the 10 figures needed for that particular band of workers. I just need one more - I'm hoping to find one or other of these to complete the unit:

Perhaps ironically, they'll be getting an outing tomorrow not in McDeath, but in a somewhat streamlined version of Blood Bath at Orc's Drift that Warlord Paul will be running tomorrow with The M1 Marauders, where they'll be doing double duty as The Engineers of Osrim Chardz/ The Dwarfs of Ashak Rise. In fact, we'll mostly be using Thantsants' amazing collection of Orc's Drift miniatures, and he's such a bloody good painter I always feel a bit shamefaced lining up my own efforts next to his. But I do like to play with my own little fellas and I needed the encouragment to work on some painting after missing out on BOYL. The engineers are accompanied by a couple of dwarves armed with Crossbows, borrowed from my Chaos warband, and a wounded fella (or is he just drunk?)
. Oh, and a donkey. As you can see, I have the models used for Borinn and Snorinn Fimbul, but not the scenario-exclusive model for Osrim Chardz, so we'll use Thantsants model for King Gorrin from the Dwarf Lords of Legend box, as he's practically in the same pose. (Full disclosure - I have King Gorrin myself, but made such a balls up of painting him, he's back in the dettol.)

The version of the campaign we'll be playing tomorrow will be with a smaller number of figures and using the mordheim rules to get through it in one day. All the same, having never played Orc's Drift in any way, shape, or form, I'm really looking forward to it.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Battle Report: The Despoliation of the Wirheal

From "Notes from a damp and insignificant islet" by Willhelm von Brissen:
Of the Wirheal, this much can be said: it is a peninsula.

Back during the first weekend of July, VanLoon, Thantsants, and myself gathered for Gauntlet, the Deeside Defenders annual show. Our task: to avoid buying too much from the traders, and to have a small campaign of linked warhammer games with our Chaos Warbands. We failed in the first task, but succeeded admirably in the second. This is a reasonably short account of the campaign we played. I don't have so many pictures, which is partly why it's so abridged.

The backstory
In recent days [in fact, Gauntlet 2014], hordes intent on treasure hunting found and ransacked the chapel of the Forgotten Goddess Deva.

Now the Wirheal is weakened. With the Goddess Deva has been thrown out of her resting place, the land that once slept has been rudely awakened. Bands of marauders pander to the whims of their foul patrons, desecrating the land and pillaging its most sacred locations.

YOU are the champion of a god of Chaos. With your band of miscreants, you are intent on despoiling this corner of Albion. Glory and eternity await: but first you must prove yourself against the followers of rival gods. And the mysteries of the Wirheal will pose their own challenges.

Answering the calls of their respective gods are my Nurgle warband, The Posion Dwarf and the children of stench; Thansants' warband, Boris Forktongue and the followers of Brehkshhit, God of Diminishing Returns; and VanLoon's warband, Dimspittle and the followers of the Divine Tuluk.

Game 1: The Bonks

From "The Highways and Byways of Perfidious Albion" by Willhelm von Brissen:

Near the hamlet of Birwall are the ancient burial mounds known as "the bonks"*. Believed by superstitious folk to be the resting place of the feared warriors of days best forgotten, very few will admit to going near the mounds, and those that have passed by at night speak of unnevering forms and sounds appearing amongst the bonks. Children, characteristically reckless in their youthful exuberance, are much less inclined to treat the mounds with awe, and take great pleasure in the innocent pleasure of rolling eggs down the banks of the mound. Sadly, several children have lost their lives in recent years, torn asunder by the talons of giant eagles and owls while hunting for ever-larger eggs with which to impress their friends.

(* based on true history - there used to be mounds known locally by this name, levelled to make way for Birkenhead Park)

The three warbands converge on the burial mounds, intent on looting them.

Dimspittle, champion of the Divine Tuluk, is the first to reach the a burial mound, but the chill finger of the Barrow Wight defending his barrow is too much for him.

His followers are left to finish the work of robbing the tomb. Their leader may be dead, but they are rewarded with great treasure... a Frostblade!

As the rival factions clash, The Poison Dwarf, Champion of Nurgle, fares better in combat and bursts into the tomb, bringing out a Cursed Blade.

While Boris Forktongue is rewarded with a Spell Shield. (Very useful in a game where nobody has brought any magic users.)

The bonks all well and truly pillaged, the forces of chaos turn their attention to their next target...

Game 2: The Monastery at Birwall

From "And may it sink beneath the waves!: Further enquiries on the topography of Albion; or, why does my editor keep sending me back to this godforsaken rainy backwater?" by Willhelm von Brissen

The hamlet of Birwall would scarsely attract the notice of even the most stimulus-starved of travellers were it not for the monastery here, which offers refuge for the weary and has a monopoly on ferry transport across the river. Though the small community of monks claim to be holy men of great charity, the extortionate rates they charge for safe passage tell a rather different story, as does their stockpile of crude weaponry. The monastery contains a modest library of chained books. Though one would be most foolish in expecting tomes of true learning to be kept in such a place, it is nevertheless possible that some of the manuscripts may be of interest to scholars wishing to understand the backwards beliefs of the people of this corner of the isle.

It is natural that the followers of the Gods of chaos should want to the lay waste to the home of the priests of pious men. Yet they seek out the monastery not only with destruction in their hearts; but also with a lust for the knowledge that will lead to the slow death of the Wirheal itself. They seek the location of the Green Knight, and such knowledge is to be found in the pages of the books in the monastery library. The monks steadfastly block their way.

The campaigners for Brehkshhit and Tuluk reach the doors of the monastery quickly. The monks do their best to prevent them from gaining access, though their incantations have little effect. Meanwhile, the beastmen of nurgle attempt to clear the way of Brehkshhit supporters for their own champion.

The monks turn out to be little more than a nuisance, as Mongo, now de-facto commander of the Tuluk force following the death of Dimspittle, insists that he has first right to access the monastery.

Meanwhile the Poison Dwarf has had to do his own fighting, following the disappointing performance of the beastmen in his charge. He proves more than a match for the Brehkshhit thugs, but quickly finds himself surrounded.

Meanwhile the way is clear for Mongo to enter the monastery library and to find the tome containing the fabled whereabout of the legendary Green Knight. One question remains. Can he read?

While Mongo tries to hold a book the right way up, outside things have got rather messy. The troll Yuukip has spewed up bile, which not only renders the Poison Dwarf incapacitated, but also splashes back onto Boris Forktongue and takes him out too! The followers of Tuluk make good their escape with the knowledge they seek while their rivals clean up the mess.

Game 3: The Chapel in the Woods

From "A Walk in the Woods; or, why don't they cut these trees down? - a modest proposal to speculators about the business opportunities afforded by the exportation of lumber from Albion" by Willhelm von Brissen

Locals speak of a long forgotten "green chapel" in an unknown location deep in the Forest of the Wirheal, associated with a figure of legend known as the "Green Knight". The Green Knight is said to be the champion and defender of the Wirheal. For as long as he lives, the forest shall grow green and thick. But should he die, it is said that the forest will die with him and all manner of wickedness shall emerge from its rotting stumps. Your humble writer's dilligent enquiries revealed that nobody can offer any clue as to the location of the chapel, and as nobody has ever actually seen this so-called knight, such tales can safely be discarded as drunken foolery.

Nestled in the woods are the ruins of the Green Chapel, the location as revealed in the pages written out by monks many generations ago. Mongo and the devotees of Tuluk approach the crumbling walls... but they have been followed!

Mongo crosses the threshold of the chapel first, the beastmen of Tuluk a few steps behind in support of their champion. They try and make good their early arrival as the rival warbands close in.

Hounds from across the marshes chew on the warriors of Tuluk, allowing the Poison Dwarf to pass unmolested.

Meanwhile, Mongo rounds the corner and comes face to face with the Knight Who Says N... I mean, the Green Knight! Frostblade in hand, he charges...

But is overpowered!

As Mongo breathes his last, the Beastmen of Tuluk hold back a minotaur on the steps of the palace, seemingly oblivious to the sound of their leader's failure.

The harpies of Brehkshhit swoop in but can do little damage.

While Boris Forktongue and the Poison Dwarf engage in heated debate, three plague toads of Nurgle fight to consume the body of the Minotaur they have snatched from combat with the beastmen.

The beastmen, meanwhile, advance and, picking up the Frostblade dropped by their leader, attack The Green Knight once more.

Did they succeed?

Nah. The Wirheal is saved. For now...