Bolt Action: Soviets vs. Germans
First up, I got to put my freshly-painted Naval Infantry platoon on the table for a game of Bolt Action with my regular opponent, Steve.
One of the things I really enjoy about gaming with Steve is that he cares as much as I do about historical fidelity. Bolt Action is going after the 40K crowd with its design sensibilities, particularly in regards to its point-based army lists, and I know there are people out there who bring that "40K tournament" attitude to the game and their force construction, but Steve is not one of those people. My list is modeled on Spring '42, and so he restricted himself to that period as well even though it meant not having access to a whole passel of vehicles capable of dealing with my KV-2.
But that's part of why we play historical wargames, isn't it? Steve got to have that experience of being a German platoon leader up against a beast of war that none of his own armament was able to easily overcome. He even abstained from taking air support, as he's highly ambivalent about its use in the sort of scale of engagement BA models. A man after my own heart!
The game ended in a draw. We modeled a dawn assault over muddy ground, which severely limited fire and maneuver for the first half of the game. Essentially, we ended up with a hunkered-down firefight over much of the table, with the bloodiest action occurring over on my right flank - Steve tried to move up a squad of combat pioneers under cover of hills and woods to take out my KV-2 in close assault, but before they could close the gap across the road my tank's howitzer spoke and it had nothing nice to say: it took out the whole squad with a single shot!
Steve got a bit of revenge later in the game as I moved up my People's Militia squad to cover my KV-2's flank and they were annihilated by one of his Heer squads, operating in tandem with a halftrack.
I'm still enjoying Bolt Action (especially as I slowly master the rules - more on that topic below), but I'm also interested in trying out some systems that are a bit more "simulationist" in their approach: Chain of Command or Combat Patrol. BA's arcade-style mechanics can sometimes feel a bit jarring (particularly with scenario objectives and the like). Steve and I are going to play a game of Operation Squad soon, too, and I'm very much looking forward to that.
Warmachine: Cygnar vs. "Cygnar"
Another fresh force from the Challenge was my contingent of the Cygnar rebel Magnus and his two 'jacks, along with the mercenary contingent of Croe's Cutthroats. After a couple cancellations (one due to me, one due to him), I managed to get my regular WarmaHordes opponent Dave over for a 25-point (well, actually, 24-point) game.
Alright, so, as I mentioned above, part of the enjoyment in playing miniatures wargames is becoming comfortable with the rules. Unlike with RPGs, which encourage but do not (usually) demand system mastery in order to play (particularly if you are on the player-character side of things), with wargames you really need to have a good grip on every aspect of the game in order to really enjoy yourself. And because wargaming is fairly secondary to my primary tabletop hobby of RPG gaming, I usually find myself with weeks or months separating a given game, which means I'm usually pretty rusty on any given rules set when I do get a chance to play. In addition, what miniatures-related time I do have in between those sessions is usually prioritized to painting my figures or working on terrain instead of studying the rules, as is my bias.
From my first game I've been aware that WarmaHordes is a particularly demanding mistress in regards to system mastery. Probably more than any game I've ever played, to be honest. I can understand how dedicated players get so obsessive about nit-picking every little aspect of the rules, even if I don't necessarily agree with the attitude.
At any rate, my awareness of the system's demanding nature meant that I've always understood that eventually I'd start enjoying my games a lot more. Well, that time finally came last night, and it was due to one HUGE OVERSIGHT on my part finally getting corrected.
As we set up our forces, I made the casual observation to my opponent that he seemingly always managed to field more forces than me. He furrowed his brow, realizing I was right and that my force looked particularly anemic this night. Perhaps it's because this was the first time I was fielding a proper Warmachine force (as opposed to Hordes), and he's much more familiar with the former, but he asked me a couple questions and it soon emerged I was wholly ignorant of the bonus Warjack/Warbeast Points you get with your 'caster selection!
Essentially, this meant I'd been cheating myself out of at least 5 points (i.e. around 10-15% of the points total) every time we'd played. No wonder I kept losing!
Yes, I am an idiot.
To be fair, even now knowing what to look for, it took me a good five minutes to find the relevant section in the rulebook. As far as I can tell it's only mentioned once, and not in the section on 'casters but in the section on force building. That's what I get for reading the rulebook in bits and pieces and skimming over certain sections.
Now, the funny thing is that this discovery actually ended up re-firing my enthusiasm for the game. After all, my last couple defeats were very close-run affairs - imagine what I'll be able to do with a "proper" force!
So this realization (which fortunately happened before we started playing) left me 6 points short. I didn't have any other WM-friendly troops to field, so Dave suggested I field my Croak Raiders this time out. Six points was enough to buy me a small unit, and off we went.
Well, all I can say is that I immediately felt the difference. Without those Raiders, I would have undoubtedly suffered another drubbing. With them, I was able to get a bit tactical and force some of Dave's units away from his 'caster.
His effing Hunter 'jacks (how I hate them so) messed me up pretty good, but in the end I pulled out a victory with the stars of the game, Croe's Cutthroats. Holy shit, these guys are brutal. Stealthy and deadly as hellll. They scythed right through his unit of Sword Knights, which was, I think, rather unexpected for both of us! This was chiefly due to Magnus's "Calamity" spell buffing them the whole game, and their poisonous "Murder Weapons" being especially effective against living targets.
The game was won when Dave sent his 'caster, Captain Victoria Haley, forward to chain-lightning the Cutthroats only to look on in horror as I informed him that their Stealth ability prevented ranged or spell attacks beyond a 5" range, a range they were currently comfortably beyond. The next turn I bum-rushed poor Captain Haley and that was it.
Dave did get one last bit of revenge before that, though. His solo hero, Allison Jakes, was close enough to get in a shot and basically blew Croe's head clean off (Dave rolled boxcars for damage!), but the end was inevitable by that point.
As I indicated above, this has really got me fired up to play more WarmaHordes. I'm fairly itching to try out my Rasheth "Chain Gang" list - after the game, I did some calculating and realized that, after factoring in the Warbeast points and dropping a couple smaller units, I can field it with a full unit of Nihilators and a full unit of Croak Raiders!
(The Croak Raiders proved a nice distraction in last night's game - they ended up getting pretty much decimated by ranged fire and Dave's Stormblades - but I can see potential for much mayhem at their webby hands in the future.)
Also, I gotta think about what mercenary unit to order to fill out Magnus's now-anemic list...