Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Orctober 59th

Blimey he's late.

After a long hiatus from painting I nearly managed to get my brushes unpacked when Orctober rolled around, and then I at least started him with a view to getting him ready for a rather fun Realm of Chaos warbands game last week.

It's OK - the giant's been graviton gunned. Got to love RoC

But that didn't happen, so one of my old armoured orcs stepped up to lead my warband instead.

I'm quite pleased with how he turned out - I've emphasised his orc-iness as his day job will be as part of my elite unit in my orc army, which meant among other things the green shield. He's maybe a bit too muted as a result, although I think the belly plate stands out nicely because of that.

Hopefully I'm now back into painting, there seems to be a bit of an Oldhammer community here in the Exeter area so that should be a bit of a motivator. If the rest of the year stops being quite so hectic.

Edit: I should have mentioned that the figure is Gorkus the Exhile from the Pantheon of Chaos Kickstarter (Knightmare Games).

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Un-heroes for wargames

In my write-up of our play through The Legend of Kremlo I focussed on what I saw as the scenario's weaknesses from a tactical perspective but didn't have space to comment enough on its positives from a narrative perspective - which I've also found to be a strength of other older scenerios. There seems to have been an expectation of many more players (up to five, plus the essential GM, in Kremlo's case) and either a more "ground up" approach to characters or perhaps just a reflection that the rules at the time were more in flux.

Prompted by my recent reading of Citizen Soldiers I've also been thinking about what to me is another of those "where did it all go wrong" moments for Warhammer, which is the introduction from Ravening Hordes onwards of the commander category (for "large scale actions" - there's a topic for another day) and the stipulation that this is the character model with the highest leadership, and also the increasing equivalence of character level / hero status and seniority.

On the fantasy battle front history and literature are littered with examples of force commanders who were anything but shining examples of leaders of men - Earl de Warenne at Stirling Bridge, Edward II at Bannockburn and Constable d'Albret at Agincourt, not forgetting the storied wood elf Forenrond.

Victorian depiction of the Battle of Stirling Bridge
Closer to the present Citizen Soldiers highlights a number of stories where the exceptional warriors were mere troopers, the exceptional leaders NCOs or junior officers, and the more senior officers either inept or studiously avoiding the battlefield. Given the dystopian nature of WH40K (especially in its early editions) it seems a mis-step to have the captains and lieutnants be major or minor heroes.

Going back to Kremlo, the profiles of two of the character models - Ben and Sven (Kremlo's younger "brothers" and rivals) - look like this (adjusted to 2nd / 3rd edition values):

Ben 3 5 2 3 3 1 3 1
Sven 4 3 4 2 3 1 3 1

In later-edition terms these are in no way hero profiles, not even that of a champion, which I find refreshing. And given that they're merely sons of the former cheif that makes perfect sense. In most cultures from which Warhammer armies are formed the same holds true - the commander of a force is probably there because of who they are, not because of their prowess in battle or any skill as a general.

Human warbands from Norsca, the Empire or Brettonia (especially Brettonia!), any of the varieties of elves, dwarves, even Skaven and presumably Slann, probably have had a leader placed over them based on that individual's place in society, not on their ability. Goblinoid society is different - the leader is probably fearsome in a fight (or was once) - but that doesn't necessarily mean they're able to lead on the battlefield. And chaotics, well anything goes - maybe they're blessed by one of the powers (but not yet reduced to chaos spawn...).

Unit champions (not necessarily the unit leader), and any genuine heroes who have joined the army, should be the ones who are skilled at combat. But more often than not their influence will be local to their unit.

In 40K I'd like to see champion or hero profiles for scattered within a squad, and the officers (especially in the Imperial Guard, who I see as exhibiting the worst aspects of the gunpowder-era officer class) having in many cases standard profiles and no real leadership abilities.

The downsides of this approach are pretty clear - from an identity point of view the player will clearly prefer their avatar on the battlefield not to be a complete embarrassment, and in a "line them up and fight" situation these weaker generals will to some degree hamstring their side.

But in games with a GM (you do have a GM, don't you?) this sort of approach would I'd suggest give a much grittier and more interesting tone to the battle.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

A single dwarf

Even I can manage to get that painted...

Kimril is another of those figures I've owned for an awfully long time, and only just got around to painting. I'm pleased in a way - he's looking a lot better than he would have done if I'd painted him in my youth, although still far short of the standard of a lot of stuff in the Oldhammer scene.

There's a bring-a-giant-slayer spot on what it seems will be one of the fabulously decorated tables at BOYL, where hopefully he'll get a run-out and come to a suitably glorious end.

I'm really looking forward now to getting some paint on some other dwarves, which after all was one of my first objectives when I got back into the hobby, but currently it looks as though they're about fourth in the queue. So next year probably...

Monday, 10 July 2017

Beastmaster complete, challenge failed

2 weeks until BOYL '17, 24 figures still to paint. Perhaps time to admit defeat?

My beastmaster is complete -

He's an Alternative Armies Dogman Elite, so arguably not proper Oldhammer, but then his hounds aren't very Oldhammer either. Apart from his mohican I was aiming for "ordinary" - his hounds should be the interesting part of his unit - and I think he's turned out quite well.

Unfortunately that's going to be the only unit of the warband that I finish before BOYL. While I'm sure there are some who would make good use of the remaining two and a bit weeks to churn out another unit or two, given that we move house on the Friday of BOYL there won't be much miniature painting in my near future!

I'm not sure what I'll be aiming to paint after BOYL, it probably depends what the wargaming options are in my new part of the world. I'm keen to carry on with my plans for this warband, but it might be one more project that ends up on the shelf...

Thursday, 6 July 2017

The Legend of Kremlo

Back in March (life's been hectic!) an Oldhammer session that a number of us had arranged fell through, which left Paul and I looking for an alternative plan at short notice. Having long owned but never played The Legend of Kremlo the Slann from the first Citadel Compendium, and remembering that Paul was about the only person I know who owns any Slann, I suggested we give it a try.

Given the short timeframe, and faced with the hurdle that it's a Warhammer 1st edition scenario (but neither of us own those rules) we had to wing some bits of it (in hindsight not very successfully in places), but a good day's gaming was had which is what counts!

Part one - Skeggi

The scenario is in two parts, the first part concerns a Slann raid on Skeggi, a Norse coastal village somewhere in Lustria, which just happens to have the eponymous Kremlo as its chief.

Skeggi map for the Kremlo scenario. © Citadel Miniatures 1983

Our first challenge was setting up the table to match the scenario map as closely as we could. The map is pretty exact, and the table smaller than probably most Warhammer games at only 3 feet for the longest edge. I think we got it pretty close -

The Slann objective is to kill 12 villagers, and given there are 12 fishwives on the far side of the river from the village itself Paul quite sensibly attacked them. It then became a race to see if the other villagers and their local berserkers could get to the Slann before they could slay the fishwives.

As I mentioned in the intro we were winging the rules somewhat (or at least, playing a first edition scenario via second edition rules) and I'm not sure how much that impacted the outcome. As proper Warhammer geeks will know, in 1st edition strength and toughness are on a 1-6 scale (or more specifically, for toughness, an A - F scale). Recognising that the numbers for strength given in the scenario looked low we bumped these by 1 and used the 2nd edition charts - foolishly in hindsight as the combat resolution charts are given in the back of the Compendium!

This made both battles more lethal than they should have been, but this was offset in the first battle by an oddity of the scenario rules for the fishwives, or at least our application of them. These state that the fishwives become subject to frenzy if any of their number are killed - which in 2nd edition terms would seem a bit odd except in the case of missile fire (since you roll for frenzy when charging into combat, and it seems unlikely that the fishwives would lose one of their number to combat, leave combat and then charge back in). Anyway, we let them roll for frenzy while in combat, and suitably enraged they gave the Slann quite a hard time.

Not quite enough as it turned out to survive until the villagers came to their rescue, and with the fishwives dead the Slann made a tactical withdrawal fled into the jungle.

On to Zapotec

Enraged by this massacre, Kremlo leads the Norse in a revenge attack on Zapotec, his former home -

Zapotec map for the Kremlo scenario. © Citadel Miniatures 1983

Again Paul's scenery did rather good good job of recreating Lustria, but notably with much less river than in the scenario map -

The map and the scenario rules seem to hint heavily at how the Norse should approach this battle - except for one wooded hill the jungle is inpenetrable other than via narrow paths, and detailed rules are given for the speed of the Norse longship in different sections of the river and with varying numbers of crew.

So the obvious approach seems to be to have the berserkers man the oars, have the other clansmen (with throwing axes (or bows - but that doesn't seem very Norse!)) man the gunwales, and the scenario becomes a gauntlet run.

With our strength / toughness blunder the Norse had a difficult time of things, but conversely with a shorter river it probably worked out about right. Nonetheless, by the time they reached Zapotec there were only enough left standing for a doomed charge into their foes, although the Norse victory conditions are for Kremlo to poison the spawning pools which was still a possible outcome.

As the Norse player I wasn't too sad when Kremlo was shot down, and genocide was averted -


I'm glad to have finally played this scenario through. Given my lack of tactical acumen it's completely possible that I approached the battles entirely wrong, but they seemed to me to be much too linear with Skeggi being a race and Zapotec a gauntlet. The scenarios have plenty of narrative flavour but very little depth. There are options for up to six players, for example having different people play Kremlo's ambitious younger brothers, but while this would add tension it doesn't seem to change the tactical possibilities.

Also, much as I'm coming to enjoy the Lustria setting, I can't see myself adding to my handful of Amazons or my single not-Slann in order to visit very frequently.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Modern-ish chaos hounds

9 weeks until BOYL '17, 25 figures still to paint

My painting has slightly fallen off a cliff for the last couple of months due to the pressures of real life. I'm starting to have to face up to not meeting this challenge, but I'll get a few more churned out at least!

I had a bit of a hunt around for chaos hounds when I decided to add some to my warband. Naturally my first thought was of the classic chaos hounds, which have been nicely showcased on vonkortez's blog, but not having been a chaos player back in the day I'm not emotionally attached to them and by modern standards they're a bit on the small side.

As an alternative the hellhounds from Heresy Miniatures looked rather nice and I was on the verge of ordering some of them when a batch of 1999 chaos hounds came up on eBay.

I'm mostly pretty pleased with how these came out, especially the scorpion tailed one, where for once the colours I ended up with were about what I had in my mind's eye. The green and grey one isn't quite as planned, but I'm still fairly happy with it.

The colour schemes are meant to reflect a creature being formed without quite understanding how actual creatures work, and for the same reason I've gone for blue on the fleshy parts. They still need basing (as with the rest of the force) and a handler - coming soon!

But at least that's a further 69 points with paint on.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Gruesome goblin-ing

On Saturday Nick and I headed over to Paul D's place for some long-overdue Oldhammer. Paul had set up a scenario and I was to field a goblin-only force for the first time. It's something I've been interested in trying ever since I got back into the hobby - I was wary of their general cowardice but intrigued by the possibilities of the ultimate horde warband.

Goblins are way down my painting list at the moment though, so it was great to be able to make use of Paul's extensive collection for the experiment. Much easier than painting the 103 figures needed for my 750 point force!

I'd like to write up a proper report but given that I still have to do the write-up of our Kremlo games from a couple of months ago I'm kind of hoping someone else will beat me to it... Meanwhile I thought I'd give some first impressions.

Underlying it all is the issue that I'm clearly not good at this generalship lark - Paul had lots of advice (or perhaps more accurately classed as astonished questions) at the end of the game which, if the ideas had occurred to me at the time, might have made things less heavy going. One was distinctly situational but others were more routine and in at least one case I should have known the better course of action. More games and hence more practice are probably a big part of the answer, but one of my weaknesses seems to be that I'm not good at seeing some of the tactical possibilities of the terrain.

Other challenges had more to do with goblins, specifically their appalling personal stats, and my warband selection. My deployment, and not remembering to keep my general central, were also slightly self-inflicted hurdles.
  • On the selection front I really don't like warbands where the troops are just cheerleaders for the heroes, but I went a bit too far down the opposite path having only two heroes and two low-level wizards (albeit that my general was level 20 - and still extremely cheap being a goblin). In future I'll go for at least two decent level heroes (15+, so as to get a Cool bonus as well as Leadership).
  • Even with heroes it's a given that goblins are going to fail most Leadership, panic and rout tests. That being the case the key is to minimise any such tests. So for example, if being charged, running away is not really an option - it will likely turn into a rout, and other nearby units will follow suit. Far better to hope for the best in combat (and trust to deep formations).
  • Deployment and maneuvering are also key - flanks need to be kept protected. That unit at the bottom middle in the photo above is outside of the wall so that they can safely deliver their cargo of fanatics - but having them exposed like that turned out to be bad...
  • Generals don't belong in flanking forces or off chasing objectives - best to keep them central where their Leadership bonus can be used as widely as possible. This is the one that annoys me most, as I remember it being a mistake I've made before!
It'll be some years probably before I get to give goblins another proper go, and I'm kind of looking forward to the challenge. Meanwhile I'll go back to painting my chaos warband, and revelling in their stats...