[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.

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…