[WM/H] Lyoss Is Burning

Had a cracking game of Warmachine vs. Hordes last night.

Player: Kapt. Von
Faction: The Master Race Skorne
Casters: 1/1
Points: 35/35
Lord Arbiter Hexeris (*6pts)
* Titan Gladiator (8pts)
* Titan Sentry (9pts)
* Aptimus Marketh (3pts)
Cataphract Incindiarii (Leader and 5 Grunts) (9pts)
Paingiver Beast Handlers (Leader and 3 Grunts) (2pts)
Praetorian Swordsmen (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
* Praetorian Swordsmen Officer & Standard (2pts)
Mortitheurge Willbreaker (2pts)

Player: The Laird Holmes
Faction: Elf Qaeda Retribution of Scyrah
Casters: 1/1
Points: 35/35
Adeptis Rahn Shyeel (*6pts)
* Phoenix (10pts)
Dawnguard Sentinels (Leader and 9 Grunts) (9pts)
* Banshee (10pts)
* Dawnguard Sentinel Officer & Standard (2pts)
Stormfall Archers (Leader and 3 Grunts) (5pts)
Arcanist (1pts)
House Shyeel Magister (2pts)
Mage Hunter Assassin (2pts)

Scenario: Mosh Pit
Nice symmetrical terrain layout: the Pit was ringed by a forest, hill and patch of broken ground on each side at 4″ intervals, and contained a couple of obstructions (big rocks) about 60mm in base area, for interest’s sake. Didn’t matter too much apart from giving the Stormfall Archers elevation and encouraging me to split my forces around the obstruction on my side of the board (with Hexeris hiding behind one for a couple of turns, because I don’t have a pair).

Didn’t take pictures. I had a new caster, new measuring tools and a mogul biryani to manage, and the game took a good couple of hours anyway ’cause the Laird Holmes and I are both… shall we say that we both like to think things over? What with one thing and another I didn’t want to slow affairs down any further.

The lists were gentlemanly, with no FA: C doom pieces besides a bit of caster support, no turn two win buttons – and the play focused on piece trading and Getting Shit Done rather than camping arbitrary areas of the table for abstract points. Doesn’t mean we weren’t playing to win, but we were also playing to make a game of it. When travelling to a venue and paying club fees and so on costs you a good £20 a time before the curry is factored in, you don’t want to spend more time setting up and tearing down than you do actually playing the damn game. When I approach a wargame with this in mind, all the Internet babble fades away and I remember why we’re here.

Once again, some poor Retribution player brought Rahn and then had him clipped by an Incendus shot, spending the rest of the game on fire. Titan Sentries are well hard and Lord Arbiter Hexeris is also a bit fierce – although a list with him at the helm is notably slow after one’s had the luxury of the Supreme Archdomina. I missed my Tyrant Commander and would consider trading two Arcuarii out to put him back in. People who say he’s just Black Spot on a stick aren’t trying hard enough – I have a post prepared on this topic but I want to finish painting the model first. I find it amusing that my supposedly backfield, spellslinging, not-getting-involved warlock ended up making a melee caster kill on his first day out, while my allegedly front-line sword-swinging warlock has yet to draw a blade in anger. Doin It Rong, as ever.

This was also the first game where my Praetorians didn’t make a suicidal run across the table, but settled for edging sideways, fanning out and baiting. They still died – well, half of them died, Marketh was running on a full soul count for turns two, three and four – but they mulched some Dawnguard and chewed up a Banshee a bit. On a related note, his Lairdship deserves a brownie point for being the first person to remove one of my Cataphracts, let alone three.

I am also experimenting with spod sticks for the first time. Thus far they are good for getting right in next to the model, but they break the game’s flow while I count and recount inches and screw/unscrew the measuring tools. There are two sets in different colours, so I’m thinking that it might be a decent idea to prepare an odd numbers stick and an even numbers stick to improve flow.

Profitable evening out.

[WM/H] Road to SmogCon II – Dead and Breakfast

Anyone interested in a convention report covering five versions of the same RPG scenario, with no pictures of the actual content (because I was too busy running the games to faff around with any of that Instagramming-pictures-of-your-dinner nonsense), plus a single insanely casual game of Hordes vs. Warmachine?

Also, an obnoxiously British gatorman and his friend.

I hope so, ’cause that’s what you’re getting.

I have to confess that despite having forty days on the clock, I didn’t actually achieve everything on my to-do list. The models didn’t have much more paint on them than in that last post, the last player character model was actually bought five minutes after the first demo session ended, the scenario wasn’t tested and the Mammoth is still in bits. The maps, however, looked smashing, mostly because I had nothing to do with them other than describing what I wanted to Robin and then leaving well alone for a few days.

The scenario itself was pretty straightforward: the PCs had been captured by Skorne and offered their freedom if they agreed to help the Skorne out in attacking a Khadoran border fortress, by delaying or destroying the reinforcements on their way to the fort and then meeting up with the Skorne to support the attack. Each of the PCs had a paragraph or so of motivational notes designed to thicken the plot and encourage arguments, betrayals and contrariness. Most of the NPCs were entry-level mooks, but the commanders of the Skorne assault and Khadoran defence were statted out like proper characters with about 50 XP sunk into them – in other words, they’d mulch any single PC who tried to take them on.

Only one group out of five stuck by the Skorne, honoured the arrangement and helped Razaak the Undying seize the fortress and claim his prize. One group attempted to betray him, got caught out, and managed to escape their bonds in time to backstab him during the attack. Another group fragmented, ended up killing both major NPCs and founded a petty mercenary kingdom in the deep Khadoran tundra. Yet another switched sides and agreed to work with the Khadorans, earning themselves a contract with the Greylords Covenant, and the last lot were going to play it straight but lost their cool in the heat of battle and decided to slaughter Razaak and his army before they were halfway across the field. (In retrospect, naming him ‘the Undying’ was asking for trouble…) I’m proud to say that at least one PC was taken out in single combat with the Undying in each session, though, and that – exactly as planned – every group had some internal tension over whose side they were on.

Spending the weekend running the same scenario allowed me to directly compare the playstyles to which I was exposed – the hardcore roleplayers who went back to try and negotiate with Razaak, the competitive Warmachiners who poked at the edges of the scenario and looked for ways to break it, the first-time roleplayers who took my advice about using everything on the character sheet to heart, and the one group who spent at least sixty of their hundred and eighty minutes coming up with increasingly elaborate plans to delay the Khadorans, blame the Skorne, switch sides and get everyone killed. (To be fair, it worked!) It also meant that I could run it in my sleep by Sunday morning, which is good, since that’s essentially what I ended up doing.

It’s my own fault really; myself and my roommate Charles both conked out early on the Saturday night, woke up at 2 a/m and said “fuck going back to sleep, let’s hit the Iron Arena.” The result was a leisurely game ‘twixt my Skorne and Charles’ Retribution – it had to be leisurely since neither of us could count reliably and one of us had lost the tape measure, resulting in a lot of bodged measurements with spray templates and widgets. It was… well, it was a delightful bloodbath. Praetorians fell like teardrops in the face of the Retribution’s firepower, and elves baked to a crisp beneath the shells of the Incendiarii. Charles’ feat turn saw my entire battlegroup slammed halfway back to the table edge and flat on their backs; mine saw a prized character myrmidon downed and the last Praetorians cutting swathes through the Houseguard infantry. Charles called it after that – with one battered warjack, five infantry models and a warcaster on fire, it wasn’t quite clear how the elves could punch through forty-eight wounds of Cataphract infantry to reach Makeda and avenge their dead.

Charles’ conservative, control-heavy, let-them-come-to-you-and-perish-before-your-awesome-firepower playstyle doesn’t transfer to roleplaying games, though. In the absence of players for the last demo session, we joined the Epic campaign on the other side of the hall, and… well, by the first round of the second combat Charles’ Stormsmith/Storm Sorceress was an unconscious heap in the corner, blacked out from racking up twice the recommended number of fatigue points and badly hurt from bouncing a blighted Nyss just far enough back for it to counter-charge her. I’m glad to say my Monster Hunter fared a little better… at least he managed to cut up a Nyss Sorceress before rocks fell and everyone died, quite literally. Last job for the day was to retrieve Charles’ entry to the Golden Thrall painting contest (shortlisted for the Single Miniature trophy) and crawl off for a curry and a well deserved kip.

Here’s the thing about SmogCon. It’s bloody expensive (I wouldn’t have been able to go if I hadn’t been splitting the room and food costs) even if you aren’t buying back into Privateer Press’ games in order to attend – but every time I go I remember that there’s more to PP games than tedious 50 point Steamroller tournaments where every millimetre counts and the army lists are built to win the games before they start.

One-day tournaments attract a particular kind of player. SmogCon attracts everyone. If you play anything produced by Privateer Press you’ll be able to play it there, and given that it runs non-stop from 9 on the Friday to 5 on the Sunday, you’ll be able to play a lot of it. Going to SmogCon is a breath of fresh air (as it were), and it turns me from embittered ragequitter to born-again fanboy every time.

 

[WM/H] Road to SmogCon II -"Nobody move! I've dropped me brain."

I don’t know why, but I invariably cock up every game I play with Pete. I don’t even have the excuse of heatstroke this time. Not to take anything away from him, of course, the big lad played a solid game and I manifestly failed to do so, but I did end up just shoving figures across the board into the teeth of Cygnar POW 10 and it’s only Pete’s frequent inability to roll numbers like 4 or 5 on two or three dice that kept me in the game. For what it’s worth, I brought the same army as last time and Pete had something like this:

Commander Coleman Stryker (*6pts)
* Defender (9pts) (the only dubious choice here)
* Ironclad (7pts)
Black 13th Gun Mage Strike Team (4pts)
Trencher Chaingun Crew (2pts) (underrated, lemme tell you)
Gun Mage Captain Adept (2pts)
Journeyman Warcaster (3pts)
* Charger (4pts)

I’m not going to bother writing up the game because a) no photos (my army’s still not painted) and b) you’ll get the gist from examining the big lesson that I learned. I’m not playing Makeda or the Titan Gladiator as far upfield as I should be; both of them are melee pieces which I’m treating like spell support, and the consequence is a piecemeal attack.

In this game, a more bold advance and a spot of Fate Walking with Makeda would have let me keep Karn in her control area, which in turn would have meant I could force a few rerolls on Pete’s Ironclad, which in turn might have meant I’d had a living Molik Karn to mess with on my third turn. I also need to ease off on the running to engage nonsense and look for opportunities to smash things; again, with the benefit of hindsight a properly ramped up Molik Karn (Enraged and under Road to War and Rush for extra verve) could have been trashing Pete’s Ironclad and engaging his Defender rather than going for a “if I survive this turn you’re dead” run against Stryker with both heavy warjacks alive and well.

I have to either adapt my play to the army list, or alter the army list to conform with my playstyle. I’m more tempted than ever to roll up with Lord Arbiter Hexeris instead, for reasons which warrant a post all to themselves.

Progress on the scenario has been nonexistent bar the acquisition of two more player character models (a Gatorman witch doctor/bokor and a Farrow slaughterhouser/chieftain). I’d like to plead “busy with work” but the truth is I’ve been through a bit of a slump in which the only miniatures I’ve given a damn about are the Oldhammer Orks I’ve been buying to cheer myself up, and the only gaming I’ve been doing is a long weekend of WoW which induced dough-like immobility until a looming deadline forced me to engage with real, productive work instead of low-outcome work substitute.

WoW really is like aspartame or methadone; it’s not a second job you have to pay for, it’s a job-like experience for the conventionally unemployable or the chronically depressed. Which you have to pay for. I think that’s why a disturbing number of WoW roleplayers choose to roleplay ordinary civilians with boring jobs and civilian problems; for these people, that’s an implausible and enticing fantasy that’s an improvement on their actual lives. For me, the game is an equivalent to binge drinking. If I’m feeling miserable I don’t go out and get tanked up (stupid medication makes that an unpredictable and rather short experience); I sit around pulling the WoW lever for cheese until the experience has become so stale that I start doing things again to avoid its numerous and sluggish obligations.

Anyway, the point is that I haven’t felt like either statting up any antagonists or painting any models, which must change over/after Christmas. I’ve deliberately not booked any work between the 21st of December and Epiphany; for once, I don’t have to spend Christmas fretting over money and income, and so I’m not going to. Hopefully I’ll spend that time actually doing some hobby, putting the Mammoth together (it’s cleaned up! that’s progress!) and giving everything a good coat of spray primer and its first layer of ink at least.

[WM/H] Road to SmogCon II – Wrath of Karn

Suicidal drinking game of the week: take a shot every time a Hordes player makes that reference.

Game News:

A semi-triumphant return to Dice and Decks after several years’ absence without leave went well. Very satisfactory to catch up with the chaps who kept me sane during the six bloody awful months in Gloucester; very satisfactory to confront the Laird Holmes* and his Retribution again.

We played two games at 25 points, with lists that looked a little like this:

System: Hordes
Faction: Skorne
Casters: 1/1
Points: 25/25
Supreme Archdomina Makeda (*5pts)
* Molik Karn (11pts)
* Titan Gladiator (8pts)
Paingiver Beast Handlers (Leader and 5 Grunts) (3pts)
Praetorian Swordsmen (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
* Praetorian Swordsmen Officer & Standard (2pts)

System: Warmachine
Faction: Retribution of Scyrah
Casters: 1/1
Points: 25/25
Lord Arcanist Ossyan (*6pts)
* Hydra (9pts)
* Hypnos (9pts)
Houseguard Riflemen (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
* Houseguard Riflemen Officer & Standard (2pts)
Arcanist (1pts)
Houseguard Thane (2pts)

Terrain was a rough circle with a smallish hillock (elevation), a smallish copse (concealment, rough terrain), a smallish area of broken ground (rough terrain) and a smallish rock (obstruction) on both sides of the table, and a long jagged linear obstacle running across the middle. I quirked an eyebrow but I trust the Laird Holmes’ instincts: rejecting the conventional wisdom in most regards, the Laird’s approach generally works out for the best. Scenario? HARDCORE SCENARIO, because that’s all you need for Warmachine and Hordes**.

The first game was a bit of a wash, because I boldly advanced Mr. Karn upfield and the Laird Holmes didn’t focus fire on eliminating him and left a perfect Side Step route to Ossyan. We discussed the matter briefly and I asked very nicely if I could execute the Molik Missile Run (scenario two) just once, to see what it felt like. It was a very brief non-game, but since we were playing 25 points we could rack ’em up and play again.

This time, the Laird’s rust had been knocked off a bit and he was back on form, eliminating most of the Praetorians (including the Officer) as they ran in to engage his Riflemen, while his battlegroup Void Locked Molik and shot a big chunk off the Gladiator, wreathing it in that “no charging for you mate” aura from Ossyan’s gun. I misdeployed Makeda slightly; she spent rather too much time trucking through Rough Terrain, not being able to Leash anyone anywhere exciting or Stay Death on the Praetorian officer, and Molik ended up out of control range at the top of my third turn.

All of this led to a slightly more interesting game, in which I had to scramble to get Makeda upfield (Engine of Destruction was the only way to get her over the wall) and needed a Paingiver to Enrage Karn, bypassing the “no forcing” restriction and ploughing into Ossyan again. Had the Laird but abandoned Chronomancer and cast Admonition on Ossyan himself, I wouldn’t even have been able to do that, and I’d have had to resort to the old-fashioned solution of smashing up heavy warjacks face to face.

Obviously these are 25 point games, with all the benefits (short, sweet and focused) and drawbacks (imbalanced and prone to abrupt endings) thereof, but I feel surprisingly in control of affairs so far. I am quite taken with the Praetorian Swordsmen, after some initial doubts: Keltarii are the superior choice as jamming infantry but I feel that Road to War and Vengeance stack well, turning the Swordsmen into a fast-moving meat grinder that doesn’t have the small command range and angling problems that the Nihilators present.

The army is built to deliver Molik Karn, and I wonder what it’d do if that wasn’t an option. I have a Titan Sentry built up and I am tempted to play a future friendly with him instead: that would make room for Orin Midwinter in the list, or I could drop the Beast Handlers down to four models and fit in a three point piece like the Tyrant Commander or Marketh. I’d make a straight swap for Tiberion if I didn’t want to build him on a metal Sentry body to offset the weight of the mace and head.

Hobby News:

Everything from the All In One box is built now and has had the liquid green stuff applied to gaps (with intermittent results, but it’s my first go with the product), except for the two Huge-based kits. I think I’m going to sell on Epic Xerxis: I’m not that interested in him as a warlock and it’d allow re-investment into things like actual characters for the IKRPG scenario and some alternative pieces for the Skorne army. Likewise, the second unit of Incendiarii are likely to go: they take up a lot of my finite case space and I’d rather have alternative models (like a wave of Cyclopes for Makeda’s Theme Force, or a unit of Cetrati or Gatormen) than doubling up on the one thing.

RPG News:

Well, the scenario is planned out, in terms of decision trees that set up the encounters. My plan is to pre-set the “maps” and have a general idea of what’s going to be in each encounter, but have different ways into the encounter and different dynamics depending on what the players have decided to do. Player choice will have an impact on how things happen but what things happen will still be set in advance, in order to facilitate my plans.

To-Do List: November

  1. Prime and start painting the army.
  2. Source materials with which to build up the Mammoth’s base.
  3. Purchase Minion models to form the cadre of IKRPG characters.
  4. Prepare maps for IKRPG scenario.
  5. Stat up final versions of PCs, NPCs etc.

* – apparently he owns a parcel of land in Scotland.

** – OK, some of the Steamrollers are all right. The one with the small box in the middle and an objective at each corner works for me, for instance, especially if you pick the objectives carefully to Forge A Narrative and set up terrain around it. It’s the ones with arbitrary flags and abstract zones that I can’t abide.

[WM/H] Road to SmogCon II – Skorne Again

For those not in the know, SmogCon is essentially Privateer Press’ big European convention, held somewhere in the general vicinity of London (it keeps growing too big for its venues). A couple of years ago I foolishly mentioned to organiser-bloke Jon Webb that I’d be up for running some Iron Kingdoms RPG tables if he needed me to, and when we ran into each other at Salute earlier in the year it turned out he’d remembered. This started off a process of escalation and a renewed interest in all things Privateer, and… I cracked.

SKORNE
Shown also: Sisters of Mercy merch. Incidentally, their Rock City gig was the bomb.

One: I wanted some antagonists for the IKRPG demo, because that is the supposed point of my presence there. Secondly: it was going to be an Unleashed demo, which meant a Hordes army, which is fine by me because I find the Fury system more fun than Focus. (I’m not going to say it’s better, but more things happen with Fury and things happening is generally cool.) Thirdly: it was going to be Skorne, because Skorne rock. Necromantic, sado-masochistic, pseudo-Persian hate-elves with a warped samurai aesthetic – and that’s the most fanboy sentence I’m going to type this year. I innocently asked around on the UK WM/H trading community to see if anyone had any spare Skorne, and it turned out that Rob from Arcane Scenery & Models had an All-In-One Army Set and some other odds and sods going begging, and now here we are again.

Here’s what I have to work with:

  • Supreme Archdomina Makeda (solid infantry ‘lock, decent in a scrap in her own right)
  • Xerxis, Fury of Halaak (‘beast ‘lock, not sure about him: looks hard to protect but I’ll give him a whirl)
  • Aptimus Marketh (useful free-spell-and-free-upkeep support solo)
  • Molik Karn (the All-In-One box is basically built around the Molik Missile tactic as far as I can see; the things that make Molik go faster plus the infantry power to clear the field for his remorseless charge)
  • Two Titans. I’m thinking one Gladiator, for the animus and the second-line beatstick, and Tiberion, for a super-tough Shield Guard to chill with Xerxis)
  • A Mammoth. Having pissed and moaned about Gargantuans and Colossals since they arrived, I have now resolved that if they can’t be beaten, they must be joined, and having joined them, I can take careful notes on how I get beaten and therefore learn how it works. Also, it provides a smooth way to progress to the standard-issue 50 point game from my preferred 35; it’s a single model and thus doesn’t clutter my head with extra activations, and it does a lot, what with the ROF3 gun and the bulldoze and the impressive melee punch.
  • Two units of Cataphract Incendiarii, which might be one more than I want; we’ll see. I do like heavy infantry and guns and Fire and these are heavy infantry with guns that set things on Fire.
  • One unit of Praetorians, about which I am in two minds. The Supreme Archdomina wants Swordsmen, for the Vengeance and the multiple attacks on her feat turn; my heart wants Keltarii for the Parry, the Reach, the higher DEF and the general jamming potential, also because they look cool. I’ll probably go for the Swordsmen: they are the signature Skorne unit and that makes them perfect mooks for the IKRPG scenario.
  • The obligatory unit of Paingiver Beast Handlers, without which no Skorne army is truly happy.
  • A Tyrant Commander and Standard Bearer, for bullying the Praetorians into running faster and not away from scary things. Also a great boss for the IKRPG scenario.

My plan for SmogCon, then, is to sit myself down and run two IKRPG: Unleashed demo games per day, except for whatever day when the Hardcore event is on; on that day I shall be playing in Hardcore. I’m unsure with which of the two warlocks in my possession I’ll be scrumming down for that, or whether I’ll sneak off and pick up one of my other favourites between now and then. There are a few more bits that I’d like for the army – an Extoller Soulward, Mortitheurge Willbreaker and Cyclops Raider, i.e. the usual support network for the Mammoth – but I don’t think the Raider is essential for Hardcore since everyone’s going to be barging into the middle anyway and things should be moving within range of its guns of their own accord. Also, both Makeda and Xerxis can make the damn thing move faster. It’ll need some testing.

I’m not talking about the demo scenario too much, because I don’t want to spoilerise it before the event, but if it goes well I will be typing it up properly and distributing the PDF for great justice. At the moment I’m trying to decide if it’s worth me investing in some new models for Unleashed protagonists, or if I’ll use stuff in my existing collection and build a party from the conventional game.

I will be talking about painting, once I’ve worked out how I’m going to paint them; the one thing I’m not doing is setting myself up to paint any bloody filigree. Step one will definitely be “ink or drybrush armour so that the trim ends up the colour I want it”, and step two… I haven’t decided yet. It might involve painting in the flat of the plates like I did with my Circle (although there’s a lot more armour on the Skorne and a lot more of them), or it might involve going for plain unlacquered armour like one of the houses detailed in the most recent No Quarter Magazine, and saving my effort for the skin and cloth which are less frustrating to do. I did try to find my notes on how I painted my Epic Skarre, ’cause the idea of painting my badass desert-dwellers with appropriately coloured skin appeals to me, but to date those notes have not surfaced. I’m also thinking about adapting the technique I used for my Revenants and inking them with off-white hide armour, with the mandatory vermillion of House Balaash displayed on the cloth. Off-white armour, red cloth, black skin. That seems like it has legs…

[WM/H] In Praise of Hardcore

It seems odd that someone of my die-hard casual convictions (a contradiction in terms, I’m sure, but I will fight to the death for my right to not have to fight to the death, or at least until I’m bored) would embrace Hardcore, and yet, and yet…

Hardcore’s not perfect, in its current incarnation, but it has always had the seeds of glory in it and here’s why.

Fully painted

We are not tinboys. The spectacle of the wargame is important; if it weren’t we would all be playing chess or something. There is something about these tactile objects which speaks to us on a level that has nothing to do with rules and other abstract notions. They don’t have to be perfectly airbrushed hyper-realistic works of art, they just have to be done properly, they have to look like you were trying to achieve something by painting them. If you commission someone to do this, there is no shame in that. If you commission someone to do this and you accept a painting prize for yourself, you are a heel and a rotter and you deserve a slap.

One list

List chicken is a needless faff. I think you’re going to drop ARM-skew so I drop my ARM-cracking list and then you drop your high-DEF infantry swarm instead, and we have ended up in the exact situation that the multiple lists are supposed to avoid. All we’ve done is stress each other out and second-guess each other and start the game with bluff and suspicion and “gotcha!” – in bad faith, as the current discourse has it. There will always be players who struggle to beat other players and lists which struggle to beat other lists. No amount of extra lists are going to absolutively posilutely prepare you for everything you are likely to see across the table. Cut the crap, build one list and accept that you’ll meet your hard counter eventually.

Any points value

All points values have their virtue. 15 points skips the preamble and gets right in at the deathblow. 100 points is an art form seldom practiced in our unfortunate, uncivilised age. 50 points is still an acceptable median for most and I accept the argument that it allows you to balance and fine-tune your list’s capabilities so that it has some tech for everyone. My dislike is largely down to a personal inadequacy: I’ve never quite managed to build a 50 point list that I can run smoothly.

Death Clock

In Stallroller – sorry, Steamroller – 1 and 2, Nationals finals seldom went to round three, and events were often won by the player who could manage the clock to combine the alpha strike with the last chance to move models in the game – bugger that. Timed turns have one very significant flaw – nobody uses up all their time on turn one and everyone needs an extra minute every turn when facing denial-heavy forces (like, say, most Protectorate armies, where you have to work out what you’re allowed to do and to whom). Death Clock is the way forward. Here is your time: one minute per point. You have agency, you have control. Divide and use your time as you see fit.

Mosh Pit

This game is quite complicated enough without adding in “choose your objective type and track its damage and remember which one your opponent has bearing in mind they probably all look the same”, or “you get this many points for controlling and this many points for dominating the flag and that many for controlling and that many for dominating the abstract zone and – ” No. Enough. Elegant design involves paring down rules, not adding more.

There is a circle in the middle of the board, 24″ in diameter. If you have a model completely within it and your opponent has no models completely within it, you win. If your caster is alive and your opponent’s caster is dead, you win. If you have somehow managed to go through the entire event round with neither of these things happening, you both lose.

Hammertime

What’s that? Some jackass is playing keep-away? OK, fine. We had a rule for that back in the Mark One days. If your caster ends their activation completely within 7″ of a table edge on any turn, you lose. Job’s done. Current Hardcore’s POW 14 is too easy to soak; this is a more effective deterrent which allows even a SPD4 caster on the very board edge to get back into play if they run. This matters: the point is to discourage hiding in corners, not encourage convoluted chain-Telekinesis shenanigans.

Four prizes

Fastest caster kill. Most games won. Most opposing points destroyed. Nicest looking army, according to the judges.

These prizes are easy to administrate and they reward individuals who have taken an aspect of the game as far as they can go (efficiency, generalship, sheer mayhem and the craft of miniature wrangling). No ‘best overall’ which invariably leaves someone feeling gipped, and no sportsmanship scores for people to tank or act like jackasses to earn or scare them away from using the judges for their intended purpose. Besides, the thing about sportsmanship scores is that they depend on who’s met/drawn whom – it’s not like painting where you can go around and inspect everyone’s contribution during the lunch break.

And on the fifth page:

You don’t have to make the kind of plays which require the precise marking of arcs, the turning of games on laser-thin lines between bases which don’t quite fit snugly because the models are bigger than their game volumes, and the abolition of three-dimensional terrain. Somewhere along the line, this game for alleged post-pubescents has become one of counting millimetres to avoid free strikes, and touching woods for a bonus without standing in them for a penalty, and blaming yourself if your opponent takes the game way more seriously than you do.

This is not what Warmachine and Hordes are about.

Having a Pair means that you’ve grown up and admitted that being the best at toy soldiers doesn’t mean jack shit and isn’t a life-defining goal. Nobody worth sleeping with cares that you can auto-win on control points with your teleporting Circle army without a single model needing to make an attack.

What I like about Hardcore is that it’s fast and furious and fun. You don’t have time to quibble over every rule or measurement because you’ll run down your clock; you have to keep things simple and brutal and straightforward instead of gimmicky and bean-counterish. I’ll even let you bring your laser lines if you’ll let me declare the intent to leave no gaps. Deal?

[WM/H] Back on the Rack – Thoughts on Skorne

I haven’t been Weak. Not yet. Allow me to explain, if explain I can, what has been going through the old brainbox for the last week or so.

It started innocently enough, with the accidental assembling a trio of brave souls ready to face the worst that the IKRPG could throw at them and give me a chance to join the Century of the Fruitbat and use that Roll20 whatchamacallit. One of the players has an Enthusiasm regarding Skorne, which guided me in the direction of Iron Kingdoms Unleashed and the Skorne Empire rulebook. That brought something to mind – the half-remembered promise that this year (by which I mean next year, obviously) would be the year I finally ran some IKRPG tables at SmogCon. That brought to mind the chilling truth: to run the IKRPG successfully, with actual people, one conventionally requires miniatures. (You can run it as a conventional RPG, but it’s so obviously configured as a way to use your Warmachine and Hordes miniatures that it loses much of its charm if you do.)

Then there was a moment of horrible synchronicity, because this git happens to be what’s goin’ on in terms of Skorne releases at the moment:

Looks smashing, doesn’t he? This sort of chinked off my having seen the Skorne Army in a Box down at Firestorm a while back, and the creeping certainty that I’d like to run a Skorne-themed adventure at SmogCon, and that led to me looking at the other SmogCon events.

Hardcore. That’s interesting. I always quite liked Hardcore, and then I sort of had a shower thought about my old “as few actors as possible” policy in Hardcore events, induced by having seen the single circulating image of the Desert Hydra Gargantuan. Two Gargantuans (one of each) and Archdomina Makeda. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right? One of them gets hurried up the field under Savagery while the other tanks under Defender’s Ward. It doesn’t work as well as I thought it does, because Savagery doesn’t work the way I remember it working, but it did make me giggle in my secret heart and I think I’d quite like to play with a Gargantuan and see how it gets killed when I’m the one using it.

On that “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” note, I’ve been poking around Battle College and the forums, just to see what’s hot and what’s not these days. Besides the traditional Molik Karn delivery system, I’m seeing a semi-standard ranged support bloc (the Cyclops Raider, Mortitheurge Willbreaker, Extoller Soulward and a couple of warbeasts with good guns, like the Aradus Sentinel), and two infantry units edging out most of the competition: Nihilators and Incendiarii, both because they muller enemy infantry by the double handful. I quite like the look of the Praetorian Keltarii (little Hexerises with Parry!) and the Scarab Pack (that’s a lot of wounds to have damage transferred into, and some fun interactions based on their being a unit of warbeasts). The Siege Animantarax has received an erratum that makes it scarily shooty, although if we’re talking about guns I still have a sneaky soft spot for Venator Reivers.

In terms of casters, I used to be all right with Master Tormentor Morghoul back in the day, I like the look of Master Ascetic Naaresh (not a one-trick pony, but with a fun set of gimmicks to do with taking and healing damage and a lot of mobility), Lord Arbiter Hexeris (ranged support caster with an arc node; sound like anything I used to play?); any of the Makedas, or either of the Zaals.

Knowing where to start is a bit bewildering though. When I start thinking about armies, the urge is to go back to basics; one man, one starter box, and maybe look around for a Journeyman league, ’cause that structures the list-making experience around a defined point of entry, rather than me having to make my mind up. And of course it has to make a playable and amusing IKRPG scenario too. And there is the sad truth of Skorne and all things related thereto: painting that armour kills me and I need to find a way of doing it outside-in, letting the filigree paint itself during the early prime-and-ink stages of my process and focusing my attentions on stuff that isn’t so fiddly that it’s unsustainable in the long run. At the moment I’m thinking some sort of hide armour (similar style to my SAGA figures actually) and putting a lot of effort into painting the skin (something similar to my old Epic Skarre might work). That’s why it’s all been thinking so far instead of doing. The brain needs to settle and the initial fizz and fiddling subside before I go out and just buy everything.

[IKRPG] Actual Play Review: Iron Kingdoms Role Playing Game

In theory, I should hate the IKRPG.

No, really. It’s a three-hundred-page rulebook with great slabs of abilities, skills, spells and complicated item construction systems; it starts with a Fantasy Humanities Textbook and doesn’t hit the gameables until a third of the way in; and, while it insists that it can be played without miniatures, it reads like such a straight upgrade of Warmachine/Hordes into a single-figure action-RPG that you’d probably be a bit mad to try it.

Then again, in theory, I should love the IKRPG.

I play Warmachine and Hordes – have done for eight years – and can generally be counted on to give Privateer Press the benefit of the doubt (not always: see also character upgrade kits, Colossals, and the increasingly transparent attempts to make No Quarter a must-buy). I owned (though never quite found time to play) the D&D 3.0 sourcebooks for the Iron Kingdoms and generally liked them (although I’ve never forgiven them for The Longest Night, ‘that adventure where you follow a DM PC around for a three-day murder-tour of Corvis).

Since I enjoyed it from the player side of the screen (an unusual seat for myself) and since I know the rules and setting fairly well and it’s been suggested that my ongoing attempts to teach new players might be enabled by working with something that’s known rather than something I’m making up as I go along, on balance, I thought it might be worth a pop with my usual Dark Ages Vampire / Star Wars d20 rabble.

Continue reading “[IKRPG] Actual Play Review: Iron Kingdoms Role Playing Game”

[WM/H] Road to SmogCon: At The End Of The Road, He Calls Everyone Home…

Let’s start with an admission.

I played eleven games of Warmahordes over two days and lost ten of them.

Weirdly enough, this doesn’t bother me as much as it might. It’s all in the expectations. I went to the Winter Warmup thinking I might win something; I went to SmogCon thinking I’d probably win nothing, but that if I got to catch up with everyone I know from previous clubs/the tournament circuit, and play a shitload of Warmahordes, and try out the IKRPG at last, and take home some swag from the SmogPit, I’d be basically happy.

I managed to miss Russ entirely, and I didn’t get to play many of the Darklords in the end, and I did end up dropping from the Con on the Saturday night. Turns out that sleeping on the floor of the drawing room, for about three hours, after a twenty-two hour day, renders you quite vulnerable to chronic sleepiness and con-plague; since I need to be awake and in possession of a working voicebox to do my job, I decided to bail and sleep off the side-effects rather than drag myself through a painful Sunday.

Apart from that, though, mission accomplished. My second three-day con ever, and the first where I’d be doing anything more stressful than host a panel or two and spend the rest of the weekend in my hotel room writing, surfacing for dinner and the occasional round of Mijnlieff, and I bloody loved it.

I rolled up to the venue at about two p/m on the Friday, ‘fresh’ from a four-day depressive funk, about three hours’ sleep since Thursday morning, and a six-hour marking session as I tried to cram in all the work I should have done instead of sitting around in my dressing gown, feeling near-fatally miserable and playing Hearthstone. Took me a while to find the Mandolay Hotel, as I’d come in on the ‘wrong’ side of Guildford; fortunately, I stumbled on foppish Nick Topham and the lovely Adrienne and they informed me that no, I hadn’t walked up that sodding great hill for nothing.

Anyway, I got in and, lacking any of that tedious ‘hotel room’ business to deal with, threw myself straight into the SmogPit; a run of tables open for casual gaming all weekend, with every game played accumulating points that could be exchanged for Valuable Prizes, or for Mr. Chom’s Mystery Boxes. I had my eye on the nifty Iron Arena template sets, and set myself two missions: earn 25 Pit points to get some templates, and play on some of the special scenario tables.

The undoubted highlight of my first day in the Pit was FINALLY getting to play the ‘Smoke on the Water’ scenario from Escalation… but I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. Let’s run through the first day’s Pit results:

  1. 35 points vs. Jay’s Trollbloods. Lost after an Earthborn Trampled and Goaded through difficult terrain to nab Ossyran, who’d moved upfield to try and Chronophage Cannon the aforementioned Earthborn and missed.
  2. 35 points vs. … someone… with a Cygnar army. I conceded this one after horribly botching my second turn, effectively denying my army a turn of shooting and thus the opportunity to do anything before being massacred. Wouldn’t normally have done that, but my opponent was also playing in Hydra later in the night so I figured we might well draw each other again and get a proper game in.
  3. 35 points vs. Darklord Dave P.’s shiny new Convergence of Cyriss. A player I’ve never beaten, and an army I still haven’t figured out, but a game I played surprisingly well, only just failing an assassination run on Syntherion, who was left on two boxes by the time Ossyran’s feat turn was over. I regret nothing – the closest I’ve ever come to beating Dave, and it was marvellous catching up with him.
  4. 35 points vs. Benj’s Menoth – SMOKE ON THE WATER, and a Battle Box game ’cause we were killing time between Hydra registration and the actual event. My notes start to become indecipherable at this point… “fucked up – nearly lost, ate 2 frees, nearly won”… I think this is something to do with poor movement of Kaelyssa or one of her ‘jacks, against a knocked-together eFeora force (which isn’t, technically speaking, a Battle Box, but whatever).

And then it was Hydra time! Y’know, the event for which I put together this whole Retribution project in the first place, since my Mercenaries would be virtually unplayable in the format. 35 points, same list with a random caster from a pool of 5, running from 2100 to 0300 (or ‘whenever we’re done’, as foppish Topham put it).

First round: I drew Ossyran (who I’d been playing all day…) against Khador, with the new Super Epic Mega Plus Butcher – the one with the two Arguses (Arguii?). I lost this one ’cause I gimped my activation order on a turn in which Ossyran was engaged by Fenris but somehow (due to high DEF, I think) still alive. I moved my Dawnguard on the basis that I could CRA into melee, which of course I can’t: one of those things you don’t know if you started out playing Cryx and don’t know a Combined Ranged Attack from a Massive Casualties Check. I also learned that you can’t Combine charge and non-charge attacks, having made some decisions involving Houseguard Halberdiers on the understanding that you could. Had I just had Ossyran swing his sword and kill Fenris, I’d have been in a reasonable position to just shoot the Butcher’s army out from under him and then stay out of his way until I could win on scenario or something.

Second round: Garryth. Oh poop. Against Lich Lord Asphyxious. Oh poop poop. Arguably the best warcaster in the game against arguably the worst. And yet, and yet… this was the game I managed to win. With Bane Knights carpet-bombed by Stormfall Archers, dying of Fire on their own turns and thus not getting to Vengeance, with Bile Thralls Combustioned off the field (though this did mean the poor Phoenix got rear-charged by the Withershadow Combine and turned into a Harrower), and with Halberdiers dying in droves to Venom and Nightwretch blasts, the game was a rather tense pile-up until Garryth was able to leap forward, drill Asphyxious with two bullets, feat to prevent him spending his eleven focus to teleport away, and then chase him down to plug two more shots in his face and finish the job.

Stewart… didn’t take it well. He had my usual face – the “what the fuck, I had that in the bag, I hate this game” face, and much like myself he needed a good five minutes to pull himself together and apologise for his graceless behaviour. All was of course forgiven; I’ve been there and done that too many times in the last eight years, and that is Garryth’s game, really; lose, lose, lose and then seize on the chance for a crafty last-minute win.

Also, apropos of nothing, I miss Cryx.

Third round: Kaelyssa, vs. Paul F.’s Legion of Everblight with Rhyas at the helm. A somewhat overambitious assassination attempt on a camped-up Rhyas with Rapport upkept left Kaelyssa too far forward, and gave Paul a textbook ‘walk in and whack’ Rhyas kill. The PGs who’d taken over from Foppish asked if I’d be dropping, given that I couldn’t win anything and it was well after one o’clock by now. I said words to the event of “sod that, Hydra’s what I built this army to play!” and pressed on…

Fourth and final round: Ravyn, vs. a nice bloke called Luke running eKreoss. Tackling Menoth in timed turns is always difficult; working out what you’re actually allowed to do takes up precious doing-things time, especially at two in the bloody morning. Despite that, I managed to dismantle the army pretty well, shooting up Exemplars and reducing Kreoss to his battlegroup and support elements. Unfortunately, I bodged up the activation order again – what should have been a “shoot the screen, CRA the caster, charge in with the Phoenix to finish” became a “charge the screen, charge the caster, try for dodgy Flank run” – once again, I failed to implement the Blood Bowler’s Lessons (“Greed Ain’t Good”, “Safety First” and “Don’t Roll Dice Unless You Need To”). In my defence, it was two a/m and I’d not slept in twenty-four hours.

After a quick chat with Corehammer‘s Neil (the rest of the lads were off at Ill Blood in London), I found a quiet corner in which to doze and did so fitfully, awakening at 0530 to the sound of the night manager watching Takeshi’s Castle. Lacking the gumption to attempt further sleepage, and gasping for a cuppa, I essayed forth to the SmogPit once again – many of the chaps were still awake, most notably Jimmy ‘GStar’ Stark, who’d been running the Pit since midnight and who was still in a fit state to throw down on the Smoke on the Water table again. Day two went no better than day one…

  1. 35 points vs. Jimmy and his Trollbloods – Smoke On The Water again, and my fifth game and fifth opponent, earning heap big bonus points. This was a loooong game for two insomniacs, neither of whom had really had any rest in two days. My one fatal mistake was putting my Dawnguard in the middle of the barge rather than toward the back; to get them into the action they had to move forward toward Boris the Night Troll, who kept them locked down in melee with Warders for most of the game. With Grissel standing behind walls or elevated on walkways, under the protection of the Krielstone, I just couldn’t land a kill shot on her, although I did, to my glee, manage to Force Hammer/Telekinesis a Dire Troll off the side of the barge.
  2. 35 points vs. Alex and his Retribution, in the Beer Barrel Bash! scenario. A fun one on paper, with a tent that handed out Fearless/Tough/Stumbling Drunk/Hyper-Aggressive if Dominated, and barrels that needed to be moved back to the deployment zone or destroyed in order to score control points. Alas, this was a non-game in which Alex had the perfect list to remove two barrels on cue and score full points for the third. Might have been more fun if Garryth hadn’t had to spend the whole game hiding out of the effective range of Alex’s Mage Hunters, too, or if I’d managed to hit his Kaelyssa with my Eiryss.
  3. And finally, needing to earn three more Pit points, I opted for a 50 pointer against Paul G’s. Privateers. A huge infantry swarm with a Colossal. In 50 points. Was I mad? After the Winter Warmup, had I not learned that this was a game I’d hate?
    I didn’t. The Galleon is much less scary when it doesn’t have Dougal hiding behind it (he’s not welcome in Captain Shae’s Theme Force, you see), and the infantry swarm stayed sufficiently bunched up for a few key Star Falls on their back line and a run of Halberdier stabbings up front. My Banshee drew the Colossal’s tender affections and my Phoenix, on the other flank, had free reign to hot-swap Death Sentence between Pirate units as needed. Garryth had a route to plant two shots on Shae… and alas, didn’t quite manage it. The only piece I had left with which to land the kill was the flanking Eiryss, who’d run around the side of Paul’s army two turns ago for that express purpose… and who I’d forgotten to move for two turns. Bugger, blast and damnation.

With 25 points under my belt and the template set in my pocket, I hied me onwards to the Iron Kingdoms Role Playing Game demo. I’d been itching to give this game a go for a while, but not being made of money I couldn’t justify dropping £45 on it sight-unseen. Long-suffering demo-GM Lewis D put on an outstanding show. While I’ll be making another post down the line (here or on COREHAMMER) in which I actually review the IKRPG, I’d like to take the time to thank Lewis for one of the best RPG sessions I’ve had the privilege of playing in, and for convincing me that the game was not only worth a shot but potentially a better route into the Iron Kingdoms for yours truly than the wargame is.. I would also like to apologise to my fellow players for ze outrageous Llaelese accent, and for deciding that my logical course of action was OBVIOUSLY “convert to Thamarism and take over the antagonist’s cult”. I’d actually like to play my character in that group again – being the token evil teammate’s always had a certain appeal to me, and the chaps were outrageously good sports.

Now, I’d registered for the Scalpel tournament on Saturday night, but at this stage, the thought of playing any more Retribution made me want to throw up. There was the prospect of Malifaux, but it’d involve a trek down to the other SmogCon site, and I haven’t so much as glanced at the M2E rules for my Gremlins. There was Mr. Chom’s SmogPit BattleBox tournament, but… well… I stopped off behind the Pit desk for an hour’s nap, and Chom – despite instructions – woke me after registering people for the mini-tournament, not before.

Under the circumstances, and with the option of a half-hour walk, an hour’s train ride, and a night’s sleep in my own bed, I decided that might as well be the end of the road.

[WM/H] Road To SmogCon: List Review and Game Reports!

After a poor showing at the Winter Warmup and a lukewarm finish to the Clapham Wargamers’ Guild league (the latter due to ill health and parlous finances), it’s time to have a look at my Retribution; what I have, how it’s done, and how it might be expanded in future.

First up, a reminder of the list:

[random warcaster] – pool comprises Garryth, Ravyn, Ossyran, Rahn and Kaelyssa
– Phoenix
– Sylys Wyshnylarr

10 Dawnguard Invictors + Officer & Standard
10 Houseguard Halberdiers + Officer & Standard + Soulless Escort
Stormfall Archers

Arcanist

The Casters

Garryth I have only used once (damn that not-getting-to-club-ness) and botched a few rules in that game. Nonetheless, I did manage to learn a few things; Garryth demands to be played forward, and it’s probably worth moving him into key (i.e. Dominatable) areas and camping focus unless there’s a very good reason not to do that.

Rahn I have also only used once (ditto) and while I misplayed the game, I did feel that he was able to cut the mustard without a swarm of Battle Mages backing him up. There’s a lot he can do on his feat turn in and of himself, with Sylys and a resilient arc node and an Arcanist to place the latter where it needs to be.

Ravyn and I have a complex relationship, though we’re on our third or fourth date now, which is an improvement on my partnerships with either of the chaps. In both the two league games, Ravyn did a lot without doing a lot; placing down Veils of Mists to protect me and help me reposition, buffin’ the shootin’ like it’s goin’ out of fashion, and threatening to murder everything with Vortex of Destruction even though she never actually touched anyone with the sharp end of Hellebore. I’ve seen her jump out and butcher half a unit at the end of a game, but I think she’s more subtle than I’ve been giving her credit for being.

Ossyran I am very comfortable with, although I’m still settling into the niceties of his rules after one loss and two wins. I think he’s the caster most suited to my collection; the Quickened Halberdiers, Shatter Stormed Invictors and Admonitioned Phoenix are devices which I’m comfortable with deploying (although I do need to speed up the resolution of AOE attacks, they’re such a flippin’ time sink – I miss just saying “Purge, POW12 auto hit, take it off or take Corrosion” and having that be my clearance strategy).

And finally, there’s Kaelyssa… who I can’t figure out like I can either of the 6-focus casters in the middle. She and Garryth are in an awkward “does this, does that, but where’s the win button?” pickle and if either of them turn out to be my dud for SmogCon I won’t be too sad (though I’ll cry tears of blood if I have to leave Ossyran out). I’ve won games with her, but mostly through accidental stuff like good matchups and fluke hits from Halberdiers.

The odd duck in the room has proven to be new arrival Issyria, who… well, I’ll talk though her in her own post, since I am very conflicted. Suffice to say that I may try and grab her before or even at SmogCon and might run her through Scalpel as the ultimate learning process. We shall see.

The Battlegroup and Arcanist

The Phoenix has proved to be an excellent toolbox as single ‘jacks go, although even with the Arcanist it’s struggled to take down other heavies (four straight-dice rolls could be enough but have often ended up failing me). The two things I’m still struggling with remembering are the gun (although I have fired it a few times now!) and power attacks, especially for slamming something into a key target and then arcing a spell into it.

Talking of the Arcanist, I concede that he has definitely made the list run more smoothly, even if it’s just been providing the focus for the Phoenix to run or boost a gunshot, although he has frequently found himself left behind if it’s had an ambitious turn. I almost wonder if two of them, one running and the other activating, might not guarantee that one’s in the right place at the right time, and whether that might not be a better buy than the Soulless I don’t really know how to use.

Sylys, meanwhile, is just always always always useful; there isn’t a single caster I’ve run with who hasn’t appreciated the free upkeep spell and the extra efficiency from Arcane Secrets. Best two points I’ve ever spent. The hard part would be choosing which caster to run without him in a Character-restricted environment.

The Units

The Halberdiers have rapidly become my favourite infantry unit – they have everything they need to be good chaff and with their unit attachment they become quite a serious threat even off the charge. I’ve had one or two issues with them, though. Deep-deploying clusters of Halberdiers and support pieces rapidly become AOE bait, and a few blasts on Halberdiers have clipped high-DEF stuff sheltering among them, and it’s occasionally been difficult working out whether to fan them out (to control lanes with their Reach and have the depth to charge the rearmost ones into whatever engages or murders the front ones) or cluster them up (to ensure high ARM engaging things that I want engaged and get mileage out of Team Effort).

I’m somewhat less enamoured of the Invictors. In principle, they’re brilliant; in practice, I’ve had trouble making them work. They’re slow, they have middling range, they tend to get snarled up with the Stormfalls and rear Halberdiers, creating big clusters of AOE or Trample bait. They may work better as a flanking force, with the Phoenix deployed centrally to support them with spells and Flank (or for them to help the Phoenix with Flank charges to disengage it) but then I worry that their lack of SPD will betray them; not all my casters can necessarily get them moving. I haven’t also been able to get much legwork out of Extended Fire; either they’ve lacked sufficient targets for it to be worth using or I’ve been running them as a flank or second line unit, waiting for a kill-shot that never comes.

The Stormfall Archers, though, them’s brilliant. Well. Not quite brilliant. Brilliant would involve them hitting reliably; standing still and Sniping’s pretty good but if they want to use either of their fancy shot types they often have to move into range, and RAT 5 just doesn’t cut sufficient mustard a lot of the time. I’m also having trouble with placing them; they occupy the same sort of range band as the Invictors and so they want to be in the same space a lot of the time. I’ll have to experiment with flanking the Archers, sending them out on their own, or with co-ordinating the two units across the battle-line rather than matching them up 1:1 against particular targets.

The Soulless, meanwhile, has seen one game and done next to nothing in it. I’m still thinking about which unit I want him in, or whether to just bite the bullet and take a second Arcanist instead. Putting him in the Halberdiers will help with clearing upkeep nonsense off them, but they tend to be so close to the enemy that -5″ on the range of enemy spells isn’t really that big a deal. Putting him in the Invictors might help them continue performing (or underperforming) but it leaves the Halberdiers prone to any Crippling Grasp that comes their way. I ‘unno.

The Future

I already own a Vyre heavy myrmidon chassis, which is going to be a Banshee/Sphinx magnetised wonderbunny as soon as I can find my sodding magnets. Commentary on the Banshee will be reserved for when I haven’t denied myself an assassination opportunity with it (by slamming the target out of range of my entire army), lost its primary weapon to a free strike which it wouldn’t have taken if I’d just been patient and trampled instead of trying for a charge, or lost it turn one to a Colossal focusing all its pernicious attentions on the poor thing.

Having watched some far better players at work during the Winter Warmup, I conclude that I need to be getting my buns into the scenario control zones sooner, especially if not running Ossyran. What’s needed is something that Advance Deploys, is quite hard to wipe out, and can ideally put some threat out on turn one. Some species of Mage Hunter, in other words, and I can only really afford/be bothered to paint one unit. That means Strike Force or Infiltrators, with Commander Eiryss as an option for either or the Officer for the Strike Force. I currently lean toward the Strike Force; they have two Unit Attachment options and thus can be fielded as Advance Deployed, Pathfinding shooters in two lists at tournament level, and I generally like my Retribution units to have guns rather than not have them (the Halberdiers are an honourable exception because they’re just so damn pretty).

The Houseguard Thane would also help matters in that regard. As mentioned in the previous post, I’ve evaluated him purely on the obvious synergy (with the Riflemen) and not on the ramifications of scenario play (a 14″ run or 11″ Shield Wall with most casters, jumping to an obscene 18″ and 13″ with Ossyran, plus Fearlessness, plus another gun that’s not FA:C). That was a mistake. I’m also seeing more and more the viability of solos in scenario play; while a unit needs to have half its strength in the zone (thus affecting the wide footprint and base for threat projection that makes infantry good in this game), a solo just needs to plant its own base therein, and the Thane’s essentially supportive nature means he can probably be parked on a flag and left to his own devices provided a Halberdier’s within his CMD range.

Solos also make me think thoughts about Battle Mages. I could go for the unit here, but truth be told I’m more into a handful of solos; two Magisters and two Artificers. For starters, the above comments about solos seem perfectly suited to midfield support pieces like Battle Mages; for mains, I need something else for Rahn’s feat turn besides the man himself; for pudding, oh tasty tasty pudding, I’m very tempted indeed by Rahn’s No Quarter Theme Force, “Fires From On High”, for 50 point games. Advance Deployment on my slow Stormfalls, Sylys and Houseguard Halberdiers in-theme, a discount on the Phoenix and, crucially, a requirement to take something I’ve been looking at for a while.

Hyperion. Yes, I’m looking at the eighty pound eighteen point Colossal and thinking “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Well, there’s a bit more to it than that. There’s also my oft-noted difficulty with large numbers of actors; sinking 20% of the available points into one model should help me with managing the amount of stuff on the board. There’s the imminent emergence of Issyria, who is (as we shall see, and as has been said) pretty much tailor-made for Hyperion. There’s also the small matter that I could continue my Warcraft-themed aesthetic by painting it up as the Dark Animus. I don’t usually go much on big, expensive centrepiece models, but if it were to see play in every 50 point game and help me overcome the difficulties I have in playing such games (“here’s 35 points of stuff, which I know I can handle, plus Hyperion”)… that might actually be worth the investment.

At the moment, I’ve set Hyperion as my pledge reward for keeping all my Nerd Year’s Resolutions. Some of these are, typically, under negotiation, mostly the ones that involve buying or doing new stuff rather than the ones that are actual restrictions. At the moment, here’s the pledge-list:

  1. I will start up and run an in-house WFRP game which will run for at least six sessions.
  2. I will build/repair and paint/restore at least 2400 points of Vampire Counts, with at least 500 points of totally new stuff.
  3. I will build a viable Good force and Moria battlefield for the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, and make Hark blog about them.
  4. I will paint and base a 50 point Retribution army by the end of March, and then purchase no more.
  5. I will lay hands on two starter sets plus kit for Freebooter’s Fate and run at least four demonstration games.
  6. I will not transfer more than two WoW characters during the entire year.
  7. I may build new Magic decks but I will not buy new Magic decks; they must be based on cards within the collection or obtained through drafts/boosters.
  8. I will do all of this on a budget of no more than £300, plus whatever is earned from selling unwanted goods.

Stand by all that and I can buy Hyperion at the end of the year. WFRP might stand for Warhammer Fantasy Role Play or Weird Fantasy Role Playing, depending on how ambitious I’m feeling; the Lord of the Rings might be nudged sideways and be called ‘Hark’s responsibility’. About time one of my co-authors did something around here.