Friday, 13 December 2013

Misc. Round up

I've not managed to get much done hobby wise, I've had a lot of things happening IRL; good stuff mind you, but not things I'm going to elaborate on here.

Add to that a good helping of good, old-fashioned laziness and you have a recipe for not getting much done.

There's even been a competition I've failed to go to due to conflicting commitments. By all reports 'Tanksgiving' at Vanguard Wargaming went down a treat. I put together a 1500pt list (which I didn't know I could do) for my Late War Cromwells, but for naught. I did turn up on the day just to say hi, and it seemed like the Axis players were cheesing their way to victory with gusto.

There. Local Interest. Bam!

Speaking of Flames of War the first of my Premium Buildings Subscription deal turned up this week, after months of delays.

Now the saga of the Premium Buildings has been documented elsewhere on the interwebs, but it basically boils down to a spectacularly bad paint job by the slave labourers workers at the company Battlefront contracted to do the painting. After giving them a bollocking they received the new shipment and sent it out to us a fast as possible. Unfortunately...

While the paint isn't horrible, its still nowhere near as pristine as the usual Battlefront offerings.

Apparently, Battlefront received a few complaints and comments on the state of some of the paint jobs and have issued an optional recall. P&P will be compensated with a free blister. Naturally, I am taking advantage of this offer.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Babylon's Burning and Zombicide

How many times should you play a game before you write it off as a bit meh?

Xander and I kicked off round two of the Play All The Systems grand tour with a game which has apparently been haunting him for some time.

Babylon's Burning, from what I gather, was produced as a genuine, big budget attempt to take on Games Workshops offerings head to head. Its lack of a Wikipedia page - a resource who's editors can provide a staggeringly detailed and lengthy page for every single transformer and obscure anime character - speaks to how well that adventure ended.

Apart from making several questionable business decisions the problem is the core rule-set feels very rough, which is a pity as it has some great and very enjoyable concepts.

It was just as well that Xander, despite not having played a game seemed to know the rules pretty well. I thought I'd given them a good look over, but they get complex rather quickly and I soon found myself out of my depth.

The core of the system is the Orders mechanic, which is the best part about it. Orders need to be written down and give to each unit. An order can't be as vague as 'kill every enemy,' but shouldn't be so detailed as to assign ever model the exact coordinates he must move to. The example given is along the lines of 'Squad A to move to position X and hold until relieved or has sustained 3 casualties.' If you want to change an order, an officer, or an order over radio or sent by runner must change the order of the unit in question. This gives it a great Post Apocalyptic feel, with runners dashing across the battlefield to deliver messages instead of every unit moving to some omnipresent sky gods prescient will.

I divided my forces into a fire and a manoeuvre team, with a sniper acting as overwatch, and an officer with two runners assigned to him.

A rather poorly lit photo of my force. Manoeuvre team on the left, fire team on the right with an LMG in the bunkers firing slit.

But here the problems begin to crop up. At what point runners deliver their message in the initiative sequence is not explained, meaning that a squad may loose a turn because they activated before the runner. How much initiative a squad can take is also subjective. Can they take cover if they come under fire with no orders other than 'stick around' or do they have to stand around and take it like a man chump? These questions need to have answers, especially if you're trying to capture the same market as Games Workshop seem to attract. I can easily envisage imaginative interpretations of written orders being the instigators of many a hissy fit as well.

So, my warband shuffled forwards and took up positions, taking a few potshots at Xanders 'cannon fodder' unit. Meanwhile, his elite soldiers took up residence in a building overlooking my troops and instantly killed my sniper, who had climbed a watch tower.

The snipers spies Xanders troops taking up position.
Shooting is resolved by rolling a D10. 7+ is a success. Simple enough, except that there are modifiers for EVERYTHING. There's a modifier for what king of weapon you're using and how you're using it, what the shooter did this turn, what the target did last turn, the relative elevation of the targets, another modifier for the range, per weapon, (unless you're firing full auto in which case a 2 different modifiers apply), what the phase of the moon is and how much alcohol the mother of the shooter drank while he was in utero. This makes taking even a single shot time consuming, and in a lot of cases, extremely difficult as negative modifiers stack up like crazy.

By far the biggest offender, however, is the strictest implementation of True Line of Sight I have ever seen. You know how most systems take the cover value from the object being hidden behind (heavy cover, light cover etc.) and you supposed to assume that individuals are ducking and diving and that swords and banners and helmet plumes stretching skywards don't count for the purposes of targeting? Yeah. Not so much here. You get a modifier based on on how much of the figure you can see. So it's not a given that a soldier will crouch behind a perfectly serviceable two foot wall, no, it's assumed that he'll just stand there in full view like a lemon. This hurt Xander particularly badly as his elite troops rather obligingly stood silhouetted in the big picture windows of the sandstone building like the juiciest coconuts at the fair.

Another irritating oddity is the targeting mechanism which allows individuals to shoot at individuals. To paraphrase Xander, it has an individual based mechanism in the middle of a squad based game. It's usually assumed that squads fire at squads and then the defending player assigns hits. Flames of War takes this one step further with certain weapons being able to prioritise certain vehicles or infantry units types, but the general rule is, everone takes a hit before anyone takes two hits. This stops gamey players from focussing all their fire on a squad's heavy weapon or leadership element. Here it's just a free for all, meaning that I poured all my fire on Xanders LMG and exposed commander while ignoring parts of the squad that were less valuable. It should be noted that because of the modifier party semi-automatic rifles really come out as the weapon of choice, having an intrinsic accuracy bonus while allowing multiple shots to be fired over respectable ranges.

With his elite troops whittled down, my manoeuvre team actually attempted to manoeuvre and, reinforced by the officer and his runners, began to advance. Some bursts of ineffective close range fire closed out the game as Xander decided to concede.

Get 'em lads! They're mostly dead anyway. Mostly.
Clunky is probably the word I would use to describe Babylon's Burning. I can't find its' creators lacking in heart (for this was surely a labour of love) or balls (for valiantly taking on GW's hegenomy), but the systems just drags in so many places. Which is a pity, because imagine where it could have got with a couple of editions. I mean 40K has had what? 8 editions and look at where it's got... Ok bad example, but it's a lot more playable than the original Rogue Trader.

The written orders mechanic is so satisfying and it makes the feeling of commanding a real force so much more real. It's just a pity a bit more work didn't go into the rest of the mechanics.

I don't know if I'll be revisiting Babylon's Burning, but as I asked at the start, can you really write a system off after only one game?

Hopefully I've helped Xander get it out of his system. Next on the Big Pile o'rules is After the Horsemen.

But before that, Zombicide. I love this game. I can't believe I didn't hear about it on Kickstarter. I'm not going to wax lyrical as I'm no doubt already late to that particular party, but I cannot overemphasise how much fun I had!

Thanks to Xander and his lovely parter for letting me take up their living room for the majority of a day to move little men around and roll dice.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Scavenge Skirmish Survive Battle Reports

This Saturday saw me play my first ever games of PA in the form of Scavenge Skirmish Survive. Xander turned up with a KR case full of suitable models with S3 stat cards to match, and between his scatter terrain and Vanguard's snow board we put together two very good looking boards.

The end of the line - my forces appear from the right, Xander's from the left.

The bands closed quickly on each other with both of us getting used to the movement rules and activation bubble as well as concealed movement rules. Because there were only two of us playing a game intended for multi-player participation, we quickly abandoned the activation order cards in favour of just rolling dice, with odds numbers drawing event cards.

Xander's sniper laid down some fairly ineffective fire while my group swarmed up the column of rusting cars, plundering them for anything that remained. I found a medikit and a sledge while Xander's band managed to scrounge up some items as well, but no food.

Things really got interesting when Xander took up a defensive position between the Wheetabix lorry and the trees. And I drew the Wolves! event card.

Everything's worse with wolves...

Suddenly, a situation that had been looking extremely dicey for my strung out group turned on its head as, over the next few turns the wolves went all The Grey on Xander's men. They have a +3 bonus in melee.

With the canines distracting his attention and then eviscerating much of his force my band managed to regroup and push into the area around the house.

"Hands up all those who ain't dead yet..."
In a blaze of mediocrity my shotgun and SMG armed youths managed to fell a survivor of the wolf attack and Xander after pinging a last frozen paintball my way decided it was time to fall back.

After a chat about putative campaign structure rules we reconfigured the battlefield into a business park set up and drew forces randomly from among Xander's collection

The set up, half way through the game

Setting up diagonally across from each other on a 6 by 4 board meant we had a lot of space and time to manoeuvre. I went scavenging through the buildings finding food and fuel and setting up a stockpile while Xander made the smart move of making a beeline for the more resource intensive car park.

Despite getting a very nice band evenly divided between a gun and melee group, including an assault rifle my immediate plan was scuppered when the first event card drawn was Out of Ammo and we tied, meaning our men had brought guns to a knife fight, but forgotten their ammo.

A short blizzard claimed an isolated member of the opposing band while mine massed for an assault on the men in the carpark. This got a to a farcical start when my cultist ran down a youth armed with a catapult and was unceremoniously killed by a pebble to the face.

His mates soon avenged him...

The assault proceeded into the carpark, bottling up most of Xander's force while his sniper who had found a tin of ammo laid down rather ineffective defensive fire.

The final showdown, with Haribo loot.

A final push into the carpark followed by a counter attack finished things off in my favour. Things got a little dicey when a youth with a greatsword rushed into melee but by then I knew how to play the melee game and some careful positioning brought him down.

The two games were great introductions to the genre and the system, and were beautifully represented as well. I hope that the next time we meet, Team Retard as I'm calling my collection, is up to standard.

Tomorrow I'll post some notes about rules issues that came to light as we were playing.

S3 After game thoughts and notes

The games we played highlighted a number of interesting things.

Firstly, children really are worse than useless. Their deficit in Action Points (AP) means they can’t keep up with the adults, and even a single move – two at most - as part of a group will leave them out of the 3” radius activation circle requiring a whole other Order Point (OP – using this terminology to avoid having two rules with the same acronym) to move them which will probably never happen once combat is joined. I think in future we’re going to houserule that they get free activation. They’re only really worth it to ferry things around as they’re worthless in combat with their -8 penalty. Apply that to ranged combat as well and you can arm them and even then statistically speaking they will never hurt anyone even if they’re outnumbering their target.

Speaking of outnumbering, apart from some vagueness around the rules as written melee combat is fast, brutal, realistic and quite satisfying. Outnumbering gives a huge advantage although well-armed and motivated fighters can get lucky and limp away from an unfair fight. The randomness of the wound chart means that there’s always a messy chaotic element to melee (as there should be) but by making good matchups on the turn you charge or counter charge you can more or less predict the outcome of fights.

There needs to be a little clarification around the melee rules. The rule that calls for some models to get half their dice when wounded or outnumbered for instance; does this mean that you half the number rolled on the dice before modifiers or after? We played the former as it seemed to make sense and it worked for us. It made sense as the rules disadvantaged the figures ability to act and not the effectiveness of the equipment he was carrying. Also in two on one fights the rules are not explicit as to who takes wounds in the case of results of X, Y and Z, where X>Y>Z and Y is the outnumbered model’s total. We played it so that both Y and Z took wounds, the idea being that Y managed to do well enough to injure one of his attackers but was injured in turn by X.

And – segue! -  speaking of outnumbering; Don’t Mess With Wolves! They will fuck your shit up! There needs to be a little bit more structure around their use. When they act in the initiative (we gave them a separate roll) and how they react to long range fire or just people moving around outside their rather small 6” ‘zone of control’ isn’t detailed.

Finally, the campaign rules, and even objectives for single games need some work. According to Xander, a common objective is to gather enough food to feed your group, but despite having a dozen and a half search points at least in both games and searching nearly all of them, we only found one food item over the course of both games. When we were considering Campaign-asizing the first encounter we realised that the result would have been a complete wipe of both parties. Some work needs to be put into making this game work as a campaign game. I have some ideas in my head but I don't want to get sidetracked away from my own projects.

Sunday, 1 September 2013


I recently got my mitts on the new Overlord book and found that there had been some substantial changes to my para's.

While combat platoons stay the same in price, all of my anti tank has received APDS ammo giving both 6 and 17 pounders an extra point of anti-tank with a resultant increase in points cost. While this might slightly scarier for any Panzer IV's floating around and might give some of the big kitty players something to think about I'd still probably rather have the extra change.

As it is, I can play the lists I already play, by dropping the sniper and 2 dice of air support (down to sporadic - something I was toying with anyway).

My Tetrarchs have also gone up in price for no readily identifiable reason - maybe because they now have cautious movement and disengage without being recce teams.

Speaking of which there is a new list for Airborne Armoured Recce, allowing you to field an entire army of Tetrarch. Now this is probably a little much even for me and my love for the little beasties, but they can be mixed and matched with Cromwells which is heaven for me! My two favourite tanks of WWII fighting in the same list. It's also opportune as I noted in my last post, I have all my Cromwells ready meaning I can field this list right away with para infantry support. All I need to round out the list is a captured Sd Kfz 10/5 flack track.

Thing a Week 4

So four things in twice as many months. So much for forcing myself to paint things.

Here's my latest offering.

The photo's a little overexposed but I'm pretty happy with the way they turned out, despite a little flub with the highlighting and yet another technique for getting the weathering to look realistic.

With these two complete, and thanks to the repricing of units in the new Overlord book, I have completed both my short term goals of a 900pt Tank Aces force and a minimum strength Desert Rats List.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Scavenge Skirmish Survive mob

I've managed to swing myself some S3 action at the start of September, and to this end have had a rummage in the lead pile for suitable figures to start painting up.

A motley crew indeed.
Composition wise, they're probably not all that optimised, despite being fairly heavily armed, with a pump action shotgun and an SMG in their ranks. I've also skimped on the abilities, leaving only one figure with Fighting & Shooting (Lead Adventures Not!AliceFromResidentEvil) and one Leading and Organising (the slightly modified Musketeer Miniatures Brigand Character).

I'm pretty sure that my conversion from a Brodie helmet to a beanie has left the commander looking like he's a monk. I might have to really emphasis the fabric of the hat when painting.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Scavenge, Skirmish, Survive: Corrections and Clarifications

The creator of Scavenge, Skirmish, Survive got in touch with me through the Post Apocalyptic Wargames Forum after reading this review. I'm honoured!

I have a couple of clarifications to issue.

Firstly, I misread the rules regarding blizzards. In order to be affected a model has to be outside and without a supply bag. As almost everyone has a supply bag the rule will effect very few models.

Secondly, the extra expense of boy characters was, as I suspected, a typo, or rather, a holdover from a previous version of the rules, so SCUM lose this one.

Hot Infantry on Infantry Action

For someone like me, who likes statistics but has very little idea how they work having the following aide would probably be very useful.

Playing a force in Flames of War that mostly consists of elite infantry backed up with a few support options, if often find myself disregarding my squad's small arms in favour of retaining my gone to ground bonus. Most of my platoon's kills come in assault rather than from actual firefights.

To satisfy my own curiosity, and for the edification of you, my reader, I present the probability of effective small arms fire in Flames.

Below are the numbers (rounded to the nearest round number) presented in a handy cut out and keep format.

To Hit
No of kills
With Bulletproof