Saturday, July 31, 2010

Scenario Gaming Pt.2: an Effective Army

What a week... sorry for no updates recently, but I've been over the top busy.

Last time we looked at scenario gaming. Tonight, I've got a few thoughts on armies that are strong for winning objective/ scenario based games. In my mind, an army based for objectives and scenarios should be balanced around three facets.
1: Mobility
2: Sustainability
3: Adaptability

Mobility: No matter the game system, an army that needs to capture objectives or hold areas of the board has to get there. In 40k, this is taken care of by mechanizing the army. Getting the army in transports not only allows them to get where they need to be, but keeps them safe along the way. In Warmachine/ Hordes mobility comes through the use of spells and the run mechanic. On the smaller board used in PP games, a unit or model with a speed of 6 or more can provide their own mobility. Many casters also bring some method of mobility with spells or feats.

Sustainability: Once the army gets where it needs to be, it needs to be able to put up a fight and stick around. In 40k and fantasy large numbers of troops are one side of this with 20-40 strong ork mobs being very sustainable while the other side are rock solid troops like assault termies with 2+/3+ saves on T4. In Warmachine, synergy between casters and units provide sustainability beyond the basic stats and abilities of the model. Models also have to be able to lay down some way of being able to keep the ground they've taken. Whether it's the supressive fire of an IG squad or the combi strike ability of a unit of mech thralls, the army must be able to fend off any risks for the objective.

Adaptability: The army has to be able to react to forces on the battlefield as well as be able to strike out when needed. This is where a well rounded army comes into play. Having components that can throw off your opponent's plans wherever they are needed can keep the enemy on their heels. The other factor here is just how many models/ units your army has. (don't forget to take into account system rules like troops only scoring) A small army, no matter how hard core its individual units are, just can't adapt well enough to win scenario games.

So... some examples:

35 Point Cryx List
6 raiders + sea witch
6 blood witches + hag
warwitch siren.

The army brings the mobility with high speed across the board, especially in the Satyxis raiders with an 18" run movement. The leviathan is the only "slow" model in the army, but it's 13" range with the spiker makes up for that. Sustainability? eSkarre's feat is the "queen" of sustainability. The blood witches also can go incorporeal and make it very hard to pull them away from a target.  Adaptability? This army is a little small, but every model in the army has a threat range that allows them to strike out when and where they need to.

1500 pt Imperial Guard
Company Command Squad (med, standard, plasma gun, vox commander w/ p-fist)
Infantry Platoon: Command squad w/ 3 flamers and vox.
      3 x infantry squad w/ vox, hvy bolt. grenade launcher
     Heavy wep. squad w/ 3 las cannons
Vet Squad w/ 3 meltas vox and sgt w/ p-fist
Valkyrie w/ multi rocket pods
3 armored sentinels (auto cannon x2 + 1 plasma cannon)
Leman Russ Demolisher

This is my normal IG rollout at 1500 points. I built it to be as well rounded as possible. The chimera and Valkyrie allow some advanced mobility with the sentinels able to keep up for fire support. Sustainability is the guard's middle name, just through strength of numbers. The list also has enough armor to make it tough to crack for melee heavy armies. Adaptability comes through the well rounded weapon distribution in the army. I'm a big fan of heavy bolters, grenade launchers, and auto cannons as some of the most dependable weapons in the guard arsenal.

So there's some more wacky ideas. Feel free to add!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Scenario Gaming vs. Scorched Earth Gaming: Part One

All wargames seem to have two sides to them. Scenario Gaming and Scorched Earth or "Wipe Out" style gaming. For today's blog-tastic bit of wargaming wit and wisdom we're going to look at scenario gaming and the types of armies that excel at this type of gaming.

Scenario gaming is exactly what it sounds like. The game's victory conditions are based around some kind of objective. Whether it's the Capture and Control style missions prevelant in 40k 5th Edition, the old school (and returned versions in battle missions) ambush and breakout missions, or the plethora of missions in the Warmachine tournament document this style of Wargaming seems to be "en vogue" right now, with even WFB changing to scenarios in 8th. The presumed theory is that this is a more realistic method of deciding the victor in our make believe wars. Is it a good indicator of battle and success? When the Allies landed at Normandy beach the battle was technically won or lost by the control of certain pieces of ground. As the landing forces were put ashore they were pushing towards the highground to secure the landing zone. Sounds like a good example of scenario gaming to me. In fact it actually sounds like a "Planetstrike" game for 40k. (complete with deep striking Airborne regiments that scattered... badly) Jumping back a little less than 100 years, look at the battle of Gettysburg. Studying the entire battle as a 4 day campaign an astute gamer can see a scenario based "game" come to light. Each portion of the battle was a series of take and hold missions with very clear attackers and defenders. From Buford's control of the high ground outside the city as Heath's divisions poured down the road to the failed attempts by the Confederacy to "take and hold" the Roundtops or to "Breakthrough" the center of the Union line in Pickett's charge.

One thing seems to be missing though, in none of these examples were there "objectives" in the other armies "deployment" zone. The German officers weren't looking at each other saying "get a platoon down on that beach and take that place where the boats are landing." Nope, they were snug in their machine gun nests mowing down Americans as they ran across the beach until through superiority in numbers and heroism the American troops got through. Likewise, Buford didn't have some of his calvary mount up and try to ride around the flank of Heath's corp to take a special spot back behind the baggage line. Chamberlain stopped his men when they got too far away from his lines, didn't send some forward into A.P. Hill's lines looking for an objective. He held his position, pushed back the enemy and consolidated his forces.

It's easy to see "why" we have these objectives for game balance, but would it be more interesting to have the majority of scenarios include an attacker and defender? I really liked the old (read 3rd edition) 40k missions with attackers and defenders and before we put 40k aside to focus on Warmachine recently, I was happy with the new turn towards attacker and defender situations. Some of the intangibles of "real life" scenario battles are hard to represent in game turns as well. While every wargame has some kind of psychology mechanic, they all fail to the reality of watching your buddies die horribly while your officers seem to be unsure of what to do next. This factor, more than any other, probably is the realistic indicator of the swing of a battle. Likewise, I haven't played a game yet where the ammunition of the units was tracked. Of course this would be a nightmare logistically in the relatively abstract world of wargaming, but using my earlier example of the battles at the Roundtops, Chamberlain only ordered his famous wheel manuever down the hill because his men were out of ammo. ("Brother Sergeant, the bolter rounds are running low." "I see. Brothers? Draw your steel we take this battle to the xenos scum, for the Emperor!") The other interesting gaming condition is our concept of turns. I find limited turns to be the most unnatural thing hoisted on wargamers with regards to scenario gaming. What if the game ended when Amistead's men had reached the "High Water Mark" of Pickett's charge? Does the Confederacy then win the day three battle even though the entire Union army is standing right there? What if the Spartan player rolls to end the game after the Persians loose the Immortals in the second night of Thermopylae. Hundreds of thousands of Persian warriors waiting to see that the inevitable happens, but hey, I rolled well, so Spartans win! Just something to think about.

Ok, so I've babbled a heck of a lot about not much. But what kind of armies thrive in scenario gaming? In part two of my random thoughts we'll look at armies that thrive in this type of game.

Please add any thoughts or examples of your own on Scenario gaming in the comments section.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Feral Warpwolf and Kromac the Ravenous

I have nothing witty or pithy to say tonight. No Warmachine tonight but hopefully some this weekend. Here's some pics of my WIP Circle stuff!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Upcoming Projects or Why I Love Wargaming...

I love this hobby. That's the focus of this post tonight. We've gotten a lot of great games in recently, I've been painting up a storm, read some great fiction and am just on a real high for this insane hobby of ours. I was listening to the re-launch of 40k radio tonight while starting my new painting project and was thinking about how long I've been at this. I started back in '97 with WFB simply from a hobby perspective and had an entire painted army that never played a game. From there I launched into 40k and have stayed steadily involved there on and off with a few side steps back into WFB and now, most recently, fell into Privateer Press. The hobby gives me my fill of art, good story telling, brain exercise, and time with my friends. It's a rare hobby that offers all of those things, and the payback on time and even money spent has always been worth it. The time with friends alone, and the competitve trash talking side that comes with it, is often priceless. On the other side, we were able to host a successful benefit tournament last year to raise over $2000 for Cancer Research.

My other big hobby sink is cycling. I actually spend much more time on the bike than I do painting or playing, but something I realized the other day is that my mind often wanders back to wargaming during the merciless fifty to seventy five mile rides that mid summer brings. I was climbing some rough hills the other day and planning the color scheme on my new Circle Army. I enjoy the mental workouts that the hobby brings even when not being directly engaged in. Cycling is a solo hobby no matter how many club rides you go on. The hours on the bike often give me time to think about many things, but I do plan and contemplate my various armies while I ride and enjoy that "double diversion" both hobbies can bring. Both hobbies also give me a chance to "unwind." I have a very intensive day job and whether it's a two hour painting session after my wonderful wife goes to bed or a two hour hills workout, those two hobbies allow me to stay a little sane.

So enough waxing on the fun of this hobby of ours... some new painting project updates.
-pSkarre 35 pt Army: Done!
-eSkarre 35 pt Army: Done!
Next on the table is my Circle Orboros 35 point Army. I entered the Hordes Painting Challenge over at and will be working on a Kromac army for the challenge. I don't know how much I want to play the army right now, as I really enjoy my Cryx armies, but I enjoy the change up for the painting table. The army looks like this right now:
Pureblood Warpwolf
Feral Warpwolf
Warpwolf Stalker
Druids + UA
Shifting Stones
This should be a pretty quick paint project, as I already have Kromac's human form and the feral warpwolf totally finished as of tonight. After that I think I'll be adding to my Cryx armies or maybe finally paint up my Space Hulk set for a change of pace.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Warmachine Tournament Report with Pics.

Well our first WM tourney was today. I went down with Joe and Brandon fully expecting to just have some fun. This was my first time to Games and Stuff in Glen Burnie, and I have to say it is an impressive store with an awesome gaming space. Only problem was the air conditioner wasn't working in the gaming area. It crested at 98 degrees outside today, so it was a little warm in there. The heat didn't get to me til game three, but by then my brain was fried.

Game one. I played a really nice guy who ended up winning the whole tournament. He brought Khador and had pIrusk against me. I was rattled for some reason and made mistake after mistake while my dice seemingly had joined the motherland as I was steady dropping ones and twos on three even four dice. I got ganked by battle lusted Kayazy assassins who were able to leave combat and beat Skarre down. It was a frustrating, but educational game.

Game two was against a beautifully painted Circle army headed up by Baldur. The scenario was kill box. All the luck I didn't have in game one came in this game. I was able to really rip up his army using Blackspot and the leviathan while the Satyxis captain was leaping in, offing a model and jumping back. In the end however, my opponnent moved Baldur with a teleport to get him away from certain death via charging eSkarre, Seether and Blood Witches only to find he was an inch out of the kill box after the 'port! Victory to the pirate Queen!

Game Three was against Joe. We travel for an hour to play warmachine, and end up playing a rematch of last week's garage game. The game was gauntlet and we went back and forth, but in the end ran out of time with Joe having one control point. I could talk about how I could of won it, but he played a much better game than I did, and deserved the win. He went on to get 'jack slapped by a Khador list so I felt better...

Game Four. At this point it was a million degrees, and already 6pm. I hadn't eaten anything and was developing a raging headache. My opponnent was a legion player with a pThag list with plenty of beasts in a close quarters scenario. We smashed into each other, killed a few models, healed our casters. But as 7pm rolled around and realizing we were not in any place to claim a prize, we decided to call it a draw. He was a good guy, with a vicious list. I'd like to play it again, in the air conditioning, and as my first game of the day.

So... in the end? More practice needed. Hordes is tough and I think I'm still hitting too piecemeal. eSkarre felt much more prepared to deal with the scenarios and the tougher lists. pSkarre seemed to rely on getting lucky. Still plan on sticking to the lists, but definitely need to play them some more.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mechanithralls and Final Tournament Prep

First, here's my finished max unit of Mechanithralls in all their shambling, rotten, steam punk glory. I had fun painting these guys, and tried to keep them simple so I could turn over the whole unit quickly. The skin is a base coat of hormagaunt purple, then thrall flesh washed with the flesh tone citadel wash and then highlighted again with thrall flesh. All the gore, muscles, etc. is citadel dark flesh, highlighted with red gore and washed in old school chestnut ink. I stuck with the dark flesh for the highlights on all the hoses and such and gave them a few different ink washes to make them look suitably grimy. The armor is tin bitz highlighted with pig iron and then liberally washed with Devlan Mud. The skulls were Jack Bone, highlighted with Menoth White Highlight and then washed with sepia citadel wash. Finally I picked out the eyes and vents with necrotite green and then one last highlight with the green mixed with white. I painted these guys in groups of three (except for the color test model) which seemed to make them go down much easier.

In my pSkarre army I'm taking for the tourney tomorrow the Mechanithralls exist to tarpit away objectives. The necrosurgeon will keep a stitch thrall and herself close to the unit to make sure she can replenish any unfortuante casualties and that alone should make these power fisted skeletons a thorn in anyone's side. If my opponent wants them gone, he will have to focus more than just a few shots or a wayward solo on them. The mechanithralls also pose a serious threat under Dark Guidance and Skarre's feat turn, so I'm going to keep an eye for any opening when they can make a quick move on a jack and tear it apart.

Tournament Tomorrow!

So we will be making the trek down to Games and Stuff tomorrow to see how we fare against other Warmachine players. My lists are set, pSkarre and eSkarre, and since the variant being used requires both lists see equal play, I'm glad I got some play testing in last Wednesday night. I'm going in expecting to lose so any victory will be huge. Look back tomorrow night for a full report, hopefully with some pictures!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Warmachine Tournament Lists + "The Kill Mechanic"

So Sunday is the Warmachine Tournament... after tonight I think I've cemented my two lists. I want to predict that I will lose every game on Sunday, but it'll still be fun. I won three in a row tonight, but two of them I really had no right to win. In one my opponent's dice just didn't like him, and the other I won through my opponent forgetting to do something before moving on in his activation. We did play with timed turns which was strangely intense.

So the lists:

minSatyxis Raiders + UA
min Satyxis Blood Witches +UA
Max Mech Thralls
Necro Surgeon
3 Black Ogrun
Satyxis Raider Captain

Warwitch Siren
min Raiders + UA
min Bloodwitches +UA
Satyxis Raider Captain

The second list seems to be a little more cagey and built for scenario play, while the first is my run forward, punch enemy in face and hope for the best.

So our discussion tonight, post games, was "the kill mechanic" of a Warmmachine list. How does your list get the job done. In our group we have a great Retribution army based on Garryth which can shoot through things with mage hunters, move all over the place and generally set up a ranged assassination run pretty quickly. We also have a Khador list that is a huge swarm of Winterguard which are there to clear out the rest of the army leaving things open to a Sorscha feat turn that spells death and destruction. Our Legion player uses the speed of his beasts to set up eLyl for a ranged hit and our troll player has Mulg. Just Mulg. Throughout all of these, we've noticed ourselves developing a definite series of events that are our "kill mechanic." In looking at my tourney lists, I see two kill mechanics for each list. The first for both lists is the raider + backlash = dead caster, Against Warmachine armies, this will probably be my main plan for putting the hurt on my opponent. In the pSkarre list, the kill mechanic is definitely her feat turn. Get a charge lane for Skarre or the Seether, or even any of the units, pop feat and hope for the best. The e Skarre kill mechanic is a little more vague. In that list, I think the KM is also based around her feat, but this time it's all about putting the opponent in a position where he's over extended, and now can't do anything for a turn. I think that this gets inside an army and puts them in a spot where there are several ways to do the deed... a "black spot" if you will...

So that's my two cents after an evening of drinking and Warmachine. I'd like to see some actual comments on this post. What's the kill mechanic in your army? Is it usually the same? What's the "perfect set up" that gets you the win?

Also... anyone interested in my earlier mentioned D&D campaign being run this summer check out We'll be keeping a running log there of everything that happens in game. We had an awesome lead off 7 hour session last weekend. Board game night last week entailed two great rounds of Killer Bunnies and the Search for the Magic Carrot. Some night when I'm not so tired, I'll put a review of that awesome game on the blog.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Getting Ready For My First Warmachine Tourney

Before I start with tonight's engrossing blog topic, I just want to relate to everyone how fricking hot it is in Baltimore right now. 105 degrees yesterday and 101 today. I was on the road on the bike for a 25 mile ride this morning before 7am and it was still 90+ degrees by the time I got done... I love summer, but this is a wee bit ridiculous... especially considering that five months ago we were buried under almost five feet of snow... but I digress...

So on to things Warmachine related. Severl of the members of our gaming group have decided to attend our first ever Warmachine Steamroller Tournament on July 18th. We're going to travel the grueling 45 minutes down I-95, through the Harbor Tunnel to a land of grim darkness, spoken of only in hushed whispers by those too foolish to know better... Glen Burnie.

We're not newbies to wargame tournaments, having played in quite a few 40k events over the years, but this should be interesting. Warmachine seems to be a little more intense in the tournament circles, so who knows how this will shake out. Combined with the fact that we are still a little new to the rules, and I'm just a little nervous about the whole deal.

So, what does one do when going to a tournament? (well after securing the freedom for the day from the wife that is...) Probably a good idea to start by reading the rules. Privateer makes it easy with their steamroller rules all in one place. Here they are if you'd like to read along.

So going through the rules, the first two sections aren't anything new. Bring your own stuff and have printed army lists. Nothing different for a 40k tourney scene vet. The next section is about painting and modeling. Again a moot point as I try to only bring painted armies to events. For anyone who's interested though, Privateer events do not require painted models, which is nice for some of the guys in our group who are... slow.. when it comes to painting. From there it's sportsmanship and pairing information, again nothing out of the ord. Be nice, play fair, good people play good people, we will end up in the bottom teir.

Next we hit turn length. This IS something a little new. 10 minutes per turn is going to feel rushed for me since I really tend to pay a lot of attention to things and think things through before moving my models. Add in the fact that my A list will be infantry heavy, and I'm a little concerned.

Then the rules get into scenarios. We haven't played many scenarios as we've learned the game, so this will be interesting. The change in deployment zones makes sense, no big deal. Then the scenarios... Most scenerios seem to revolve around controling zones. A little close reading also shows that assasination will always win. The flag missions seem a little more complicated, and will probably just lead to assasination attempts. I definitely think we will need to practice the scenarios over the next two weeks.

What to bring? My next step is going to be to start to build some lists. I'll post them as I iron out what I'm taking this week, but I think the best bet will be to stick to what I've been playing.

Tomorrow night is board game night, so not much WM to address, but I hope to get some pics of my Mech Thralls up.

Have a great one!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Thousand Sons: Quick Review

Ahh summer, the time of year when I get caught up on my reading.

As I mentioned a post or two ago, the first fiction of the summer was Graham McNeil's A Thousand Sons (ATS.) As Horus Heresy books go, this one was decent. I put it just below the excellent Flight of the Eisenstein and above Legion. Nothing still touches the original trilogy or the gem that was Fulgrim in my mind. Hand's down though, the best Horus Heresy story is the World Eaters short story with Kharn playing therapist to Angron, but I digress.

Anyway, ATS is part one of a two part look at the Thousand Sons and their role in the Heresy. Without spoiling too much, there really isn't any great reveal in this novel, as the plot sticks pretty close to the cannon as it has been developed over the years, with the addition of Magnus' motivations as revealed in Horus Rising.

The Good: Magnus and Arihman are characters. Not just Black Library characters, but actually have a little bit of development to them. Everyone else was a name and stereotype, but these two actually shined. We also get another glimpse at the Big E himself in this book and he is treated much more heroically than what we saw in Legion and the short story anthology. The action is hot and heavy, with a real focus on the fact that Magnus and his legion were full fledged sorcerers. We've seen nothing like this in 40k fiction and some of the battle scenes were very cool. The theme of hubris was well developed for the first 3/4 of the novel, but became a little heavy handed towards the end. Magnus screwed up. We got it. He thought he could do anything. Yep, you made it clear. The twenty or so monologues and expositions about how blind and stupid Magnus thought he was just really felt like repeated kicks to the teeth.

The Bad: Remembrancers... ugh. Can someone writing for BL please figure out how to include them in the story so they don't all seem exactly the same? Is there a Horus Heresy plot guide that says, "all Remembrancers will consist of a wise old man, a physically attractive woman with strange powers and a male figure with a heart of gold who is taken in by the Astartes and ends up feeling betrayed. Oh, by the way, make sure at least one Remembrancer dies in some really over the top manner to try to elicit an emotional response." Beyond that, it felt like this novel suffered from trying to stuff too much into its pages. The descriptions of Prospero were really flat, because McNeil was trying to tell us too much about its history and have a subplot going on. The Space Wolves were also written in such a way that they seemed like a legion of goons. It will be interesting to read Abnett's take to see if this was simply due to point of view, or if the BL cannon is set on the Wolves now.

Overall, not a bad read for proprietary fiction. I still hold that the whole series should of been written as one long series in chronological order with viewpoint chapters a la George Martin or Michael Sharra. The next book in the series is released this month and focuses on assasins!?!

So that's your lit review for the night. Speaking of George Martin, is that guy ever gonna write his next book? Man, it's been like five years!

BTW, don't forget the Tour de France started yesterday. This year's tour is shaping up to be one for the history books, so even if you're not a cycling fan, try to catch some of it. It's much more exciting than World Cup soccer....  kidding... some what....
  Go team Radio Shack! Go Lance!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Satyxis! Part 2

So last time I took a look at painting the flesh tones on the lovely ladies of Cryx. Tonight I'll hit some of the other painting pieces but also give my spin on how the three Satyxis choices work out in an army.

Painting The Horns: The white horns on my Satyxis are a four part process. Over black primer, I give a base coat of jack bone. This is highlighted with Menoth White highlight on the ridges of the horns with special attention given to the point of the horn, while leaving more of the base at the bottom. After letting this dry completely, I was the horns with Citadel Gryphonne Sepia. The wash finishes off the shade and helps blend the base and the highlight together. The final stage is simply putting the model under my shop light and hitting the final highlights with some Menoth White Highlight. Skarre's horns were done in a much more elaborate method, but that's why she's a warcaster!

Metal: The satyxis in my army have two different metal tones. Their silver and their gold. All of my metal is given a base of Citadel Tin Bitz. For the silver, I lightly overbrush Beaten Iron leaving just a hint of the Bitz showing at the bottom of things to make the metal look a little more worn. I highlight with mithril silver and usually wash with Devlan mud to dull everything out a bit. The golds are also based on tin bits, but use a Vallejo Gold paint instead of P3 or Citadel. I highlight with a hint of Mithril Silver and usually do a watered down Chestnut Ink wash to give my golds a red hue.

The Girls In My Army: As of right now, my satyxis raiders have more caster kills under their belts than any other unit I've run. The raiders are my shock troops, but I still play a little cautious when it comes to sticking them out there. Even with the Seawitch's incredible boost to their survivability, they can't stand concentrated efforts to bring them down. I tend to make use of their speed and pathfinder to have them work the flanks to look for a nice juicy warjack to go after. With the release of the captain, this strategy is working even better as she makes them faster than ever and immune to knockdown effects. Coupled with pSkarre, I've found this unit to be absolutely awesome. Double feedback kills casters if you can get it off. Dark Guidance and the Sea Witch's powerswell kill anything you need dead. Don't forget to keep an eye out for crits on the lacerators for the knockdown effect and don't forget to attack with the girls' horns!
The Blood Witches are much more of a speedbump unit in my mind. Run them up. Mix 'em in. Kill off some infantry. Use the Hag's mini feat to stay alive for another turn, and really throw a wrench in your opponent's plans. The Blood Witches shouldn't be taking on anything other than infantry. First they don't seem to be able to do much against jacks, but secondly the effects on their weapons are made to kill lots of one wounds guys. With gang putting them at a respectable MAT 8, odds are they are going to hit. If you get a kill against regular infantry, you are almost garunteed a second with the mini sac strike ability granted to the unit. Alternatively, start creating clouds and shield the bulk of your army that is coming up the middle.

So there's my two cents. All opinions are based only on my experiences, so please point out any holes in my reasoning! I hope to have some Mechanithrall pics up for everyone soon. Happy Fourth of July!