Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Moving on to Malifaux

So while I excitedly await reams of Skorne errata for my Hordes collection, My Esteemed Opopnent and I decided to move on to Malifaux.

To be more specific, I "refereed" a Malifaux game yesterday, as My Esteemed Opponent brought his equally-esteemed girlfriend to give the game a try. To no one's surprise, she ended up really enjoying herself, and the evening ended with her making plans to pick out a crew of her own. I've got my fingers crossed for some sort of campaign or at least semi-regular Malifaux play this year.

This game was the Guild's own Sonnia Criid and her Witchling Stalkers messing with the Viktorias and their all-lady crew of Outcasts. Our new player took the Outcasts and got into the game immediately, doing a great job of sticking to her Schemes despite coming under the fiery attacks of Sonnia and her napalm-hurling minions.

Seriously, when you go up against Criid, be prepared to see lots and lots of BURNING tokens on the table. I've seen this crew in action once before and it was brutal. Sadly for My Esteemed Opponent, he made the Classic Malifaux Mistake™of losing track of his Schemes in favor of going after blood for blood's sake. By Turn 4, he realized it had become impossible for him to win due to a combination of losses and ignoring his Schemes, and so conceded. And so the plucky Outcasts managed to not only Defend Their Turf but also Plant Evidence implicating Criid and her crew in some tomfoolery or another.

As I said, I'm looking forward to playing more Malifaux; my one critique of the game is that it runs verrrrrry slowwwwwwwly when you're first learning the game and your crew; this is easily solved, but not if you go more than a year between games like we did!

Here are some shots from the game. It ended up largely revolving around the wagon in the middle of the intersection. The board looks a little sparse to my eyes (though it's still way more crowded than what we're used to with WarmaHordes!). I've got 2-3 more buildings in my painting queue, plus more scatter terrain, so future urban encounters should be a bit more crowded...

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Warmajournal #2: Privateer Press, Why Do You Make It So Hard For Me To Love You?

In my last post, I was looking forward to getting into a regular rhythm with WarmaHordes, taking the new edition as an opportunity to build up mastery of the rules. To this end, I started paying a bit more attention to the community at large and to announcements from the game's publisher, Privateer Press.

I wish I hadn't.

The latest FAQ and Developer's Notes from Privateer include some very dismaying news. To wit:
  • Starting this summer, Privateer will no longer include cards with its models. For those unfamiliar with the game, cards are essential to playing. Going forward you can download the cards for free as PDFs or use their for-pay War Room app. There is also talk of offering cards as POD, but that hasn't been finalized as of this writing.
  • The latest FAQ includes a bunch of updates, but for the Skorne (the only faction I play), it simply says: "Skorne has many, many changes coming. They will be receiving their own errata update in January of 2017. Stay tuned for some exciting changes!"
Exciting changes? Oh boy! I'm just so...

Seriously, what a way to get the wind taken out of my sails. Right when I'm settling in with the new edition, familiarizing myself with my warlocks and beasts and troops and whatnot, I get hit upside the head with the promise of "many, many changes" to come. I don't really care if the changes are good or bad at this point. The timing is just awful.

That's very much a personal beef on my part, of course. The decision to stop printing cards is something that affects the whole community. Judging from the tone struck in the Developer's Notes, I don't think this is going over as a very popular decision, either. Nor should it.

The high-quality cards that come with each pack are very much part of the game's charm for me. To replace those with PDFs printed off my inkjet (costing me time and money) or to go all-digital (and pay Privateer for the privilege) seems like a pretty cold lunch in my estimation. The claim is that this is so cards can stay "current" and they can engage in a more-or-less continual process of tweaking based on "fan feedback."

Aesthetic considerations aside, this is extremely dismaying. "Fan feedback" is what leads to these massive errata and FAQ documents, reams of clarifications and rules amendments that seem to reach absurdist levels. For example:
p. 93, Hill
Add the following to the end of the Hill text:
A model moving off of a hill does not fall or suffer falling damage.
Oh, thank you for that clarification! I wouldn't have known what to do about that otherwise! (Note that they are talking about a hill here, not a cliff.) What kind of pixel-bitching asshole necessitated that pointless clarification? Whatever happened to applying common sense during a game? Eventually we'll get to the point where every possible permutation of play gets covered in a 50-page errata document that's almost as long as the core rules themselves. (The current doc is already up to 20 pages.)

WarmaHordes has always been a fairly pixel-bitchy game, and Privateer has always catered to the hardcore tournament crowd. It's just unfortunate, as increasingly I feel like the more friendly/casual player is being edged out in favor of making the game almost exclusively about tournament/competitive play. I've seen this process before (::cough::Magic::cough::) and in my opinion it is always detrimental to the hobby at large.

So I'll wait and see what all this Skorne errata looks like before I play another game of WarmaHordes. I have no intention of selling my Skorne miniatures, as I like their look way too much to part with them, but increasingly I'm thinking I'll have to use them with some other rules set, one that takes itself way less seriously and actually acknowledges that the majority of wargamers play friendly games that don't require errata to tell them that moving off a hill doesn't cause discomfiture. Dragon Rampant or A Song of Blades and Heroes, perhaps. We shall see.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

WarmaJournal #1: 0 Points

This year saw the release of the 3rd editions ("MkIII") of Warmachine and Hordes. Unlike certain other companies, Privateer Press is not given to churning out new editions all that often, and changes between editions are not terribly drastic, as a general rule.

That being said, I'm looking at the new MkIII rules as an opportunity for a fresh start and to finally achieve a certain level of rules mastery over the system, since that is what it demands for a satisfying game. My Esteemed Opponent and I are going to make an effort to get in 1-2 games a month for the foreseeable future, and will be gradually escalating the size of our games each time.

My intention is to keep a bit of a journal of these games here as they progress so that I can refer back and look at what I learned, what I did well, and what I'd like to change in the future.

For this inaugural outing, we played a 0-point game.

"Zero points??"

Yes, it's an odd bit of terminology, and one that's new to MkIII. Just like in MkII, every warlock and warcaster gets a certain number of "freebie" points to take 'Jacks or Beasts, but these freebie points have been bumped up to the point that an introductory game can be played based on just that alone. Ergo, a 0-point game.

We're also going to be making an effort to use scenarios in all our games. I tend to view scenarios with a bit of a jaundiced eye, to be honest. I've watched a couple dozen actual-plays on YouTube and have played a couple scenario games myself, and I have yet to see a game won purely on the scenario's victory conditions; it always comes down to a caster getting killed first.

However, I've recently seen the argument made that, even if you don't win the game on points, scenarios still force you to play the game a little differently than if you were just forming up on the line of scrimmage and charging in. Also, certain casters and models are much more effective in scenario play. That was enough to convince me, so scenarios it is!

In keeping with the simple, introductory nature of this game, we went with the Annihilation scenario, which limits the game to six turns and awards points based on models slain. As it turned out (of course!), the game only lasted five turns, but hey.

Here's the setup:

I won the roll-off and chose to be the Second Player—in MkIII, the Second Player gets to deploy 3 inches further onto the board, and I've found that with Skorne getting out onto the table ASAP is desirable. My Esteemed Opponent chose the table edge on the right of the photo and we were off.

Here's what we fielded:


  • Dominar Rasheth
  • Titan Gladiator
  • Titan Gladiator
  • Commander Coleman Stryker
  • Stormclad
  • Ironclad

Due to the small size of our forces, there wasn't a lot of subtlety to our deployments. Stryker and his 'Jacks deployed on the road and I decided to follow suit.

  • This may have been a mistake on my part; Gladiators have the Rush Animus, which gives them Pathfinder and 2 inches of extra movement. I could perhaps have deployed further to my right, using the river and copse of trees to cover my advance, moving swiftly up while the 'Jacks tried to negotiate the Rough Terrain.
With the two forces faced off across the board, there was nothing for it but to rush each other.
  • What I'm finding is that, when it comes to Titans, it's all about careful maneuvering during the first couple turns. Titans are at their most effective when they can charge in and do a Slam Power Attack. The Rush Animus seems to be a key to executing this, as we'll see shortly.
Cygnar reached the bridge first due to the superior movement of the 'Jacks. Curse those steam-powered devils!

Even worse, I moved my Gladiator on the road too close and got charged!

  • One of MkIII's most notable changes is that pre-measurement is now allowed. So I would've been completely within my rights to measure the Ironclad's charge range and then move up to just outside of it. With my Rush Animus, I could've probably then made a charge of my own the next turn.
In contrast to my poor maneuvering on the road, I managed to get the drop on the Stormclad as it attempted to negotiate the river. With Rush Animus giving me an extra 2 inches on top of my Charge bonus movement of 3 inches, plus Pathfinder, I was able to surge forward with my second Gladiator and execute a Slam against the Stormclad, knocking him back out of the riverbed. (Unfortunately, I only rolled a 2 for the Slam distance...)

My Esteemed Opponent dropped Stryker's feat at this point, giving all his guys a +5 ARM, which had a predictable effect on how much damage I was able to deal out.

Meanwhile, I did the best I could with Rasheth. Three out of his five spells are useless against a small, 'Jack-heavy force. Worse, I was stymied in my efforts to cast Breath of Corruption on Stryker and wasn't able to upkeep Blood Mark on the turn when it most mattered. On the other hand, I did make the most of Rasheth's new and much-improved Plague Wind feat. It was too little, too late, but I can foresee future games where it will come in most handy.

The picture above shows what was probably the game's turning point. If I had been able to knock that Stormclad back a few more inches, there's a good chance it wouldn't have been able to re-engage my Gladiator on its next turn. This would have left my Gladiator free to turn and charge Stryker (how that would've worked from a rules standpoint, with my Gladiator in the river and Stryker up on the bridge, is a, well, bridge we didn't have to cross...). With Blood Mark reducing Stryker's ARM by 2 plus Plague Wind reducing ARM by 2 more points along with DEF -2, I think my odds would've been good for a kill and a win.

Sadly, this was not to be. The Stormclad shook off its Knockdown and was able to get back into engagement range. Although my Gladiator subsequently tore off the Stormclad's left arm, the 'Jack gave more than it got. Ultimately, the Gladiator went down from a Disruptor Pistol shot from the bridge(!).

The battle on the road was even more one-sided thanks to some hot rolling on the part of the Ironclad. Rasheth went down the following turn and that was all she wrote.

Lessons Learned
  • The Rush Animus is really key to effective play with Titan Gladiators. It allows me to use terrain to my advantage to get the drop on enemy forces and mitigates the Skorne's piss-poor Movement rate. The Gladiator that used Rush and terrain got off a very effective charge; the one that didn't got drop-kicked into oblivion.
  • Rasheth isn't very good in small games—most of his abilities and spells are unusable. Hopefully I can get Makeda painted up before our next game...
  • On a positive note, I've gotten a good feel at this point for the ebb and flow of Fury in the game: rile your Beasts, then pull the Fury off and use it to fuel spells and such from your caster. Good stuff!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Gaming Again (WarmaHordes and Ronin)

After a too-long drought, I'm finally getting to play some miniatures games again. Something about this time of year just seems to lend itself to pushing toy soldiers around a table. (It's not just the inclement weather, either—even back when I lived in L.A., wintertime was always a popular time for miniatures.)

A couple weeks ago I dusted off my Skorne minis and played a small game of WarmaHordes. It was using the MkII rules, as my opponent and I haven't had a chance to really get into MkIII, but we like what we've seen with the new edition and are planning to have a game of it really soon. I'm particularly interested to see how Rasheth's revised Feat works out.

As with most W/H games I've played so far, this one came down to failing to act at a critical moment and things quickly spiraling out of control. This time, it was the Skorne who got the thrashing...

Then this past Saturday, I sat down with my wife for a game of Ronin, the samurai skirmish game from Osprey Publishing. It was great to finally get a chance to play, nearly two years after painting up my two buntai (gangs).

We ran the basic "Skirmish" scenario to get a feel for the system, and I was duly impressed. It's very quick to pick up, and close combat is lots of fun and incredibly bloody! The game ended up culminating with a deadly showdown amidst the pillars of a local shrine that left the site strewn with corpses.

Other highlights included my sohei (warrior-monk) getting brained by a peasant's mattock and the yojimbo (bodyguard) of the Ikko-Ikki's leader getting knocked senseless by a bullet meant for his lord, then standing by helplessly as his lord was cut down by the opposing samurai.

In the end, it was a fairly one-sided victory for the Bushi in part because I was absolutely on fire with my dice rolls, but also because using the peasantry of the Ikko-Ikki is a bit trickier than wading in with professional warriors.

We both enjoyed the game quite a bit, though, and are thinking about giving the campaign system a spin. Amazingly for a first outing with a game, I didn't forget any major rules—a testament to Ronin's tight, simple design.

Some selected shots from the game:

Friday, April 08, 2016

Another Bolt Action Outing

This week I had Steve, my regular Bolt Action opponent, around to my game room for another session of WWII action.

This time I fielded my 1,000-point Brazilian list in a (very) late-war scenario. The time: April 1945. The place: northern Italy. As German resistance collapses, the Allies surge forward to try and bag the withdrawing Axis forces.

In order to simulate the situation on the ground, we played the "Envelopment" scenario with my Brazilians as attackers. We decided to try another play variant introduced in the Ostfront supplement: Steve took half the points value, but I only had half the normal number of turns to secure victory. Steve took a much-reduced platoon of Luftwaffe Field Division troopers, heavy on the anti-tank weaponry, as he knew I was going to run a vehicle-heavy list.

Indeed, my list has gotten even more vehicle-centric after a bit of play-testing revealed some weaknesses in my original design. Gone are the MMG and mortar teams, along with the (technically illegal) partisan team. Now, everything is vehicle-mounted, which I figured would help me with my race to get off the far side of the table.

(If you're unfamiliar with the Envelopment scenario, the attacker gets 1 VP for each enemy team destroyed, 2 VP for finishing the game in the enemy's deployment zone, and 3 VP for exiting a team or vehicle off the enemy's table edge. The defender gets 2 VP for each enemy team destroyed.)

Steve was considerably worried about his prospects as he saw me pour all my activation dice into the cup, but it turned out that only having half the normal number of turns proved the perfect counter-balance. I ended up winning the game, but only because I was lucky enough to roll for a bonus turn at the end of Turn 3. Had the game ended then instead, I think I would have been lucky to squeak a draw.

And despite my victory, the LFD did manage to deal me a pretty bloody nose, taking out my Greyhound armored car (with a really lucky long-distance panzerschreck shot!) and forcing the crew of my M10 to bail out and run for it.

I wanted there to be plenty of blocking terrain as well so it wouldn't be a total cake-walk.

Because of the river, I was obliged to send most of my forces up the road on my right.

The first wave rolls onto the board.

That infantry gun blocking the road proved a tough nut to crack and really slowed me down!

The Panzerschreck team takes their shot at the Greyhound. They needed a "6" to hit...


One of my two "close combat" squads debark and engage a German squad on the hill.

After a sharp exchange of fire, the hill is cleared and taken.

The M10 fords the river and attempts to flush out the 'Schreck and a sniper team, with no success.

On the final turn, my units pour towards the opposing table edge, their way clear. The final Victory Point tally was something like 16-6, but the game was much loser than that indicates.

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