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Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Zombie Swarm!

I had one of those weekends where I just couldn't summon any enthusiasm for painting. However I really didn't want to let the time go by without achieving something hobby-related, so I decided the time had come to assemble the several boxes of zombies that I'd amassed for use at our Judge Dredd tournament/campaign day coming up in September. We're planning on fighting out a sequel to Necropolis so I knew we'd need quite a few, but I may have got a bit carried away...

That's 175 zombies, assembled and ready for painting. I've got models here from a number of different manufacturers in order to add a bit of variety.

  • The bulk of the models are from Studio Miniatures, a company I hadn't heard of before I saw these at Salute. Excellent sculpts with virtually no preparation work required, it really was just a case of cutting them off the sprues and sticking them together which was a piece of cake. If I have any criticism, it's that there isn't really enough variety. There are only 4 different bodies, with the legs attached, so it's down to the heads and arms to provide variety. I think they'll look varied enough once they're painted.
  • There's also a box of Wargames Factory zombies, which were a real disappointment in comparison. The figures are fine, but they had some terrible mould-lines and needed a lot of clean up. On top of this, the integral bases are too small to be stable and there are no separate bases included. Fortunately I was able to use the bases included with the Studio zombies, where the integral bases were big enough to be useful.
  • Wargames Factory also provided a sprue of zombie vixens, which I actually got for free at Gencon last year (free zombie cheerleaders with every Nazi platoon, you have to love this hobby just for sentences like that). Really nice figures, no prep work necessary but they were a git to assemble. The contact points between the arms and shoulders, and between the feet and the bases, were just a bit too small to be convenient. They do look great now they're done though.
  • Finally, there are the new zombies from Mongoose's Judge Dredd line (received via their Kickstarter project). These are based on Mantic's zombies, with some additional bits to make them fit into Mega City One (primarily heads and kneepads). On paper, you get enough to make 6 zombies, however with one more Mantic sprue (which I happened to have lying about) you can double this to 12. Plus a zombie Judge and a female necromancer/zombie mistress in metal. Nice models but because they're based on the Mantic miniatures they share the same faults, primarily not enough arms to provide enough variety so I had to use some of the spares from the Studio models.
The Zombie Mistress and deceased Judge from Mongoose.
So all told, a productive weekend, even if I didn't get any painting done. I'm going to have to make a start on this lot sooner rather than later though, and get them painted a bit quicker than my usual standard if I'm going to get them done in time.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Apocalypse Just Now - Battle report

Today was probably my final game of Warhammer 40K - Apocalypse using the current rules, given that there's a new edition being launched next month. Our club had hired the hall where we meet for all day rather than our usual Monday evening sessions, which allows us to play the kind of game we just don't normally have time for. In this case, a game of Apocalypse on a 6'x12' table with 5,000 points per side.

My opponent was Mark, who I've known and been playing 40K against since we were both teenagers (more than 20 years for those who are keeping track). We've played countless games against each other and recently I've been coming out on top, our last Apocalypse game was a bit of a whitewash in my favour. This time however I was using a combination of Daemons (only my second game with the new codex) and my corrupted Grey Knights (first game ever) while Mark was using his trusty Imperial Guard and Marines so this was going to be interesting.

I went into this with a cunning plan; start most of my daemons in reserve, make sure I take the second turn to give me a full turn with most of my army off-table where it can't be shot, use the careful planning stratagem and a healthy dose of instruments of chaos to deep strike everything on turn 1. Unfortunately that plan started to go wrong right from the start when I lost my Bloodthirster to a deep strike mishap, which took some of the teeth from my attack on one flank.
Commisar Yarrick leads the Imperial Guard against a large
force of Khornate daemons on the left flank. In the background,
Txeentch horrors lead the assault led by a Prince of Tzeentch.
On the other side of the table I started in a good position; my Grey Knight Terminators, led by the Grand Master and a Librarian, were holding 2 of the objectives, supported by the possessed Dreadknight and a Warhound Titan. The bulk of the Pink Horrors landed on this flank as well, contesting one of the remaining objectives in the centre of the table.
Terminators hold the objectives in the ruins as the Horrors lead the attack.
Those are the titan's feet at the top of the picture.
Back on the left flank, the Baneblade opened fire and obliterated an entire unit of Bloodletters in one round of shooting. Any hope of reinforcing the combat against Yarrick and his fearless retinue was gone, the Khornate daemon prince would have to stand alone.
The prince of Khorne surrounded by Yarrick's entourage. This combat
would continue until the end of the game.
All things considered, things could have gone better in the first couple of turns but they could also have gone a lot worse. We were using the alternative scoring method from Apocalypse Reload rather than the "all or nothing" system from the main rules. At the end of turn 2, it was all tied at 5 victory points apiece. Then the rest of Marks reserves turned up. Pitching in several terminator squads and a dreadnought right where they were needed, Mark was able to turn the tide decisively against me. The left flank was lost, although the Tzeentchian daemon prince was able to destroy the Baneblade before he was incinerated in the resulting reactor meltdown and the Khornate prince was quite happy eviscerating guardsmen (though achieving nothing from a tactical point of view).

In the centre, the marine commander (and Mark's warlord for this game) finally turned up along with a pair of Chemdog tanks which wore down the daemons before the Warhound turned up, gunned down the surviving marines and trampled the marine commander underfoot. But in the meantime, a pair of Vendettas had managed to kill the Dreadknight, take the objective he was holding and shoot the Grey Knight Grand Master in the back. At this point my army was down to less than a dozen models (although admittedly one was a titan) and we'd hit our time limit. A convincing victory to the forces of the Imperium, but a thoroughly enjoyable game nonetheless.

Now I just need to get my mind out of Apocalypse and back into regular 40K mode, I've got a campaign game tomorrow, and I haven't even decided which army I'm fielding.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Battle Report - Judge Dredd Miniatures

Tonight was club night, specifically our Judge Dredd miniatures campaign. We've been playing this for a few months now, and it's getting to the point where some of the forces involved are getting a bit silly (in terms of their size relative to the others in the campaign). But due to the way the mercenaries system works you never wind up outnumbered by much (if at all).

I managed to get two games in tonight with my vigilante super-heroes, which is a disappointment compared to some of the early rounds where we were managing three or more games on each campaign night but still better than the others who struggled to get a single game completed. But given the size of the zombie horde Matt was fielding against Paul's beleaguered Citi-Def, that's not really surprising.

One of the tables we were using to represent Mega City One.
Unfortunately, not the one I was gaming on tonight.
Both games were against Adrian's renegade robots, a scary proposition at the best of times with his (frankly terrifying) demolition droid that can make a mess of any opponent in close combat. Add to that the fact that he's now equipped it with suction cups so that it can climb buildings, and you've got nowhere to hide.

Our first game was a bit odd, it was using the Scrawl War scenario from the Block War expansion book which requires each gang to scrawl their graffiti tags on various points across the scenery. When the game ends, whichever side has the most tags in place wins regardless of casualties taken. My heroes used their jetpacks to carry them easily to the targets and get their tags in place early, before opening fire and taking out some of the robot minions. Then Adrian's demolition droid got into play, along with his combat droid toting a missile launcher, and he really started to make a mess of me. I didn't last long, but because my tags were still in place I won on a technicality. Thankfully, none of the damage had any long lasting effects so we were ready to go again.
Adrian's renegade robots, before he started adding mercenaries
Adrian had used the credits earned from the last game to recruit another demolition droid, thankfully this one was a lower level than the other so it might be a bit easier to take on. The scenario this time was Turf Grab, played on a 2'x2' table each player needs to gain full control of 3 table quarters by eliminating all the enemy models in that quarter. A small table meant that we were going to start right on top of each other, so we packed it full of terrain and went at it.
The (somewhat cramped) table from the Turf Grab game
My heroes aquitted themselves well this time, but the real star of the show was the newest addition to the force. Dreddpool's new sidekick Nocturne spent the game taking flying leaps of the scenery to do over Adrian's combat droids in unarmed combat, along with mopping up a couple of robodogs who tried to assist. Dreddpool got lucky and survived several rounds of combat against both of Adrian's demolition droids, until it became obvious that they would be all that would be left of his force at which point Adrian called it quits and retired to mend some of the damage done.

At the end of game we worked out that we both had forces worth more than five times what they were worth at the start of the campaign, but that pales compared to what Matt will be able to field if he spends all his remaining credits on more zombies (84 models on the table in a small-scale skirmish game is just wrong). We should have some truly epic confrontations coming up soon.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

God of Battles - First Impressions

I spent today up in Nottingham at Foundry, where they have a truly impressive set of gaming tables set up on the main floor of their building and open their doors to the public every Saturday. God of Battles is the new fantasy wargame from Foundry written by Jake Thornton (of Dreadball fame, amongst others), and on the first Saturday of every month he's running games at Foundry. I picked up a copy of God of Battles at Salute but hadn't had a chance to play it yet, so this was my chance to play an intro game with instruction from the designer.
One of the gaming tables at Foundry, a valley with proper sized hills
Right off the bat, I'll just say that I am hugely impressed with this ruleset. The basic rules are deceptively simple, but they manage to capture those ever elusive aspects of wargaming; playability and realism. Or at least as realistic as you can hope for in a fantasy game anyway. I'd read through the rulebook before the first game (last night in fact) but I was still impressed with how easy it was to pick up once the game was underway. It helped that all I really had to do was concentrate on the tactics, unlike a lot of games the rules flow so easily and don't stop you from doing what comes naturally so you wind up fighting the battle rather than gaming the rules.

The game is a fairly straightforward alternating-activation system, with a few added tweaks. The biggest is that each side has access to a number of stratagems and can choose to play one per turn, immediately before activating one of their units. These stratagems can allow you to do things like activate a second unit at the same time, mark an enemy unit as activated (so they can't act this turn) or remove an activated marker from one of your units so they can act again.

All movement and measurements are done from a unit's leader, to an opposing unit's leader where appropriate; the rest of the models are really just there as wound markers for the unit. It's a little odd for someone coming from a Warhammer background, but it works really well and saves any arguments. Another thing that seemed odd but worked well is that the number of models in a unit govern not just how many dice you roll when attacking but also when defending; each dice succeeds on a fixed roll that depends on the unit involved with any modifiers adjusting the number of dice rather than the target number. Nice, simple, straightforward and remarkably instinctive once you get a turn or two under your belt.

The armies advance across another impressive battlefield
My first game was against a guy called Matt who had also never played before (and who it turned out I knew from playing CCG's against him about 10 years ago, small world). We each had fairly small forces, mine were Blood Gorged (aka beastmen) while his were Orcs. Both very aggressive armies so we could get stuck into things quickly. After a turn or two of maneuvering, we got stuck into things fairly quickly. The big turning point in the battle was when I managed to bring my elite unit of Ravagers alongside his Orc Ironskins, use a stratagem to remove their activation marker and then charge into the flank of his unit. With supporting attacks from a chariot and a minotaur, the Ravagers made short work of their target and went on to rampage through the remains of the Orc army. The result was pretty definitive but we both enjoyed the game and I learnt a lot.

The Orc Ironskins fall to the elites of the Blood Gorged army
I got a second game in against a guy called David who was a pathfinder for Mantic games, and had also never played God of Battles before. This time I took the Orcs and he had the Blood Gorged. Having seen what the Ravagers could do I made sure to charge them with the Ironskins and play the battle on my own terms. It worked, the Ravagers and Ironskins tied each other up for a few turns, before I managed to get some supporting attacks in again and wipe out the Ravagers. Only for the Ironskins to get trampled underfoot by the minotaur. In the end, this game was much closer and came down to whether I could wipe out a unit of Blood Gorged brutes before my Orcs got overrun by the enemy chariot. As it turned out, I couldn't.

So two games done, in approximately two hours each. It says a lot about how easy it is to get the hang of the game that, on our second turn of the second game, Jake just said "you guys really don't need me any more do you" and just left us to it.

If I have any issue with the rules it's that the big monsters really don't live up to their billing. We had a troll and a minotaur in our games, but with a couple of exceptions they generally weren't aggressive enough to do much damage and simultaneously tough enough to shrug off anything thrown their way. It made for a lot of drawn combats when they were involved.

So yeah, I can't recommend these rules highly enough. Simple, fun and highly tactical. I can't wait to see how they scale up to larger battles rather then the small skirmishes we were playing today. Anybody at the Peterborough club can expect to be pestered to play a game sometime soon.

P.S. We also got a chance to talk to Jake about Kickstarter and what he thinks of the runaway success of the Deadzone project. Short answer, he seems a bit blown away but he wishes Mantic would stop making promises that depend on him writing more scanarios, rules, characters etc. without running them by him first. :-)