Monday, November 28, 2016

Three tips for organising and designing an Age of Sigmar (or any other wargame) campaign

With the release of the Age of Sigmar General's Handbook we have been given some really nice guidelines on playing campaigns. This (at least to me) has always been one of the things that would truly make warhammer work. But from the old school pen and paper campaigns on hex maps (that tended to bleed to death), to the campaign books like Sanctus Reach (that tend to putter out after a few games) it is hard to get a campaign right. With the many forms on offer in the General's Handbook I decided to give the ladder campaign a try at my local gaming club. The result was the Conquest of Crawling Swamp

Don't release all the fanatics at once you gits! This is a campaign!
Finding other players for Age of Sigmar
Finding a few players exited about starting an Age of Sigmar campaign is no problem. For me there is our local hobby club (Sword Brethren Eindhoven) and the local Games Workshop is always willing to lend a hand if you're looking for other players. With the spread of one man stores it is getting easier and easier to find opponents and keep playing. 

Tree campaign preparation
With some interested players lined up the next step is preparation. The tree campaign in the General's Handbook uses a simple flow chart that assumes two factions fighting. As the first battle results in either a victory for one side or a draw the campaign flows into one three different scenarios after the first battle. From here you can get creative with lots of diverging paths or you can make players flow back to a recurring 'draw' battle if their sides loses after a win. The example campaign in the General's Handbook links six scenarios to form the Clash of Wills campaign.

Three tips for organizing and designing an Age of Sigmar (or any other wargame) campaign
I set up this first campaign to have fun (first) and see if I could learn a few things about campaigns as it went along second. As the campaign has drawn to a close I think I can distill three thing I've learned on organising and designing an Age of Sigmar campaign:
  1. Keep it short
  2. Keep it simple
  3. Consider mulit-player or multi-battle

Short and simple boys, I should Waaagh and we stomp 'm good!
1. Keep it short
Rule number one for any campaign is to try to keep it short. A long term story drawn over years is very cool, but especially as a beginner it is easy to make mistakes and as a short campaign ends quickly you can learn and move on. Aside from that with long term campaigns players are going to lose interest and leave. I call this campaign attrition and this also happens with short campaigns. The advantage of a short campaign over a long one is that it is over so quickly you will probably reach the finish line. For this campaign I opted to link three (with a maximum of four) battles. We ended up fighting three. Looking back, I might consider just linking two battles for a first campaign. It sounds short, but that is quite ok. 

The master moulder told us to start simple, but with lizards that big you need a full grown abomination to survive!
2. Keep it simple
The trick to tree campaign design is to pick a few fun battles and connect them. I went through my stack of Age of Sigmar Realmgate Wars books to pick scenario's that looked interesting and put these in the flow chart (that is the reason my campaign booklet is not online). Have you noticed what the GW scenario's have in common? They keep it simple. A standard Battleplan has one or two extra rules, a special set-up and modified command abilities. Keeping things simple helps everyone (especially inexperienced players) keep track of the rules. Adding times of war, general specific abilities, regiments of reknown and so forth is cool, but for the start keeping it simple is better. Using (and slightly adapting) the battleplans on offer helps a lot in this. So if you plan to keep it simple, why not use these to your advantage.

Multi-player battles in Age of Sigmar are fun if you ask me, but they are not for everyone.
3. Consider multi-player or multi-battle
This was the big one for me. In picking the tree campaign I never considered how to factor in all the players. The example campaign uses two sides/players, my opening battle pitted ten players against each other. I balanced it out to two sides by allying Death with Order and Chaos with Destruction. But the small opening battle turned into a 5000 points to a side mega-battle played out over two connected tables. The second campaign battle featured two tables with two versus two battles. The final battle went back to one table (as was intended) with three versus three players (see the note about campaign attrition, in this case players who dislike multi-player battles left rather quickly). Looking back it would have helped to consider multiple battles joined together in the tree beforehand, giving players a choice of going for multi-player or one vs. one matches. 

Campaigns are fun
The most important thing for any campaign to succeed is having fun. On that count it doesn't even matter if it dies due to campaign attrition. As far as I'm concerned having fun is actually the most important thing in playing wargames (WAAC-players (Win at all cost) please exit left and head toward the 'serious tournament' section of the internet). Forget winning, focus on having a good chuckle with you opponent. That is the reason I made the comic style battle reports. It helps everyone remember the last battle and have another laugh about particular ignominious deaths, bad die rolls and silly miscalculations. The next campaign will probably use another recipe from the General's Handbook. As I'm working on terrain for the Mighty Battles scenario's my guess is it will be a narrative one. After that (or maybe at the same time) a Matrix Campaign. We'll see. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Building buildings for Age of Sigmar Mighty Battles battleplans

As a rabid collector I couldn't resist buying the amazing hard cover Age of Sigmar books. Since then I've been toying with the idea of playing through all the missions from the books one by one, campaign style.

Big linked campaign battles are awesome, even when fighting against unpainted troops.

The armies
Before I get started on organizing this, I have to take care of two problems. First: proper armies. I am working on a Chaos host and I actually have quite a few unpainted Stormcast Eternals around, but if it is going to be a campaign there will be other players. They will probably have a different armies then the ones in the book. As it actually stands, this first problem is no problem at all. The Battleplans allow you to use any army you want. Although it will be a good idea for players to have models with the TOTEM and PRIEST keyword in their army.

The margins of Battleplans have interesting doodles that can help inspire terrain, here are a few of my renditions of those doodles for use in this project.
Planning Age of Sigmar terrain
Second, and that is the big on, is terrain. The armies might differ, but terrain can and should be build to represent the proper Time of War zone and to support the missions. That will be a fun project to get started on with the end of year holiday coming up. The first step to this is indexing the missions in Age of Sigmar - Mighty Battles In An Age Of Unending War. The book features eight missions spread over three Time of War battlefields:

  • Hold or Die (Brimstone Peninsula)
  • The Watchtower (Brimstone Peninsula)
  • The Ritual (Brimstone Peninsula)
  • The Trap (Greenglades)
  • Breakthrough (Greenglades)
  • Pre-Emptive Strike (Greenglades)
  • Sudden Assault (Hanging Valleys of Anvrok)
  • Storm the Walls (Hanging Valleys of Anvrok)
This could have worked for the relic, but it has been themed to my Swamp terrain and is more suitable to the Realm of Life.
Brimstone Peninsula
Next up is identifying the terrain needed. Every battleplan features an example map that is (mostly) rather poor on terrain. All the terrain used on the maps is for sale as a plastic kit with GW. That is useful if you're not a scratch builder and practical to get some idea of the sizes. To play the Brimstone Peninsula missions as per book you need 2 Sylvaneth Wildwoods, 1 Skull Keep (tower) and 1 Baleful Realmgate. To be sure every entry is all the terrain pictures in the respective missions! The Brimstone Peninsula does add 6 (numbered) geysers as a terrain feature to be used in the Time of War missions and also adds the extra that all terrain used should be covered in smoke. 

I have build enough of this style terrain to fill a table. So I've got the Greenglades covered.

Greenglades
The Greenglades in the Realm of Life are rather better filled with terrain. The maps feature 5 or 6 Sylvaneth Wildwoods each, 1 Skull Keep, 1 Baleful Realmgate and 2 Ophidian Archways. The Time of War rules for greenglades mention that extra Sylvaneth Wildwoods can spring up during battle. Of course this can be any piece of scenery with an appropriately sized base. Lucky for me I have already built a full set of swamp terrain so the Wildwood equivalents for my set are ready for use. 

I could always use the Citadel Fortress if I change my mind about building my own Chaos Dreadhold.
Hanging Valleys of Anvrok
Last but not least are the Hanging Valleys of Anvrok. This is where the last two missions in the Mighty Battles book are set. Unfortunately this book offers no Time of War rules for said valleys. These can be found on page 42 of The Quest for Ghal Maraz. Sadly no extra terrain is mentioned in these rules. On the plus side the last two missions are actually rather dense on terrain and use 3 Ophidian Archways, 3 Numinous Occulums, and 1 massive chaos fortress. 

A shot of my Mordheim city. I should make a blog about this.
What to build
That gives me an interesting 'to-do' list for building Age of Sigmar terrain for the first book. If I make sure the buildings are all based generic enough to be used in every realm I need the following buildings (with a base size indication in parenthesis): 
  • 2 Brimstone Peninsula Wildwoods
  • 6+2 Greenglades Wildwoods
  • 1 Tower (Skull Keep)
  • 1 Baleful Realmgate
  • 3 Ophidian Archways
  • 3 Numinous Occulums
  • 1 Chaos Fortress
  • 3 Siege objective markers 
As I said, I already have a nice collection of Swamp Terrain, so I can check item 2 of the list. I also have a rather large collection of Mordheim ruins that I have not shown on my blog yet. I will want to build six new ruins that are about the size of the Archways and Occulums. I'll try to tie the GW-look into it (slightly) although I do want to put my own stamp on it so they can be used with my Mordheim ruins (maybe a half timbered look). I'll probably have to make the three archways and one occulum look like ruined parts of a curtain wall to tie them in with the fortress for the last mission. However it goes these will be six different buildings, making it a step up on using the two standard plastic kits available. The only standard kit I'll use is the Baleful Realmgate as I happen to have one of those in my bits box. 

Swamp keep is finished, but unfortunately I need a keep to use on the Brimstone Peninsula.
Building a keep
Building a Skull Keep will be lots of fun as I have some experience working with the GW kit and giving my own twist to it (with a lot less eye-damaging protrusions to keep me and my opponent safe while using True Line of Sight). I think I will make a Chaos Dreadhold of it as that works a little better as a keep. Making enough room on the battlements and giving it at least some character to hold its own against the GW kit will be fun challenges. 

I build andpainted this one a while back for my local GW, unfortunately it is not mine, so I will need to build something different for myself.
Chaos Fortress 
Last but not least is the Chaos Fortress with its accompanying three siege objective markers. The fortress is described as: "Towering over the surrounding valley rises an imposing fortress, a vast stronghold that dominates the land as far as the eye can see." I think I will do something with a cliff to give it a seriously oppressing look. It is a fortress in Chamon so maybe do something metallic with it will give extra points. Also the last mission requires three siege objectives that will be placed on or within the fortress boundaries, so that will mean I can go wild making ovesized levers and the like (with the accompanying fun of making up extra rules for them). 

I see more of this in my future. Let's try to remember to take enough WIP pictures this time.
Planning and building 12 new terrain pieces 
All in all I should be planning and building 12 new terrain pieces to play through the missions in book zero (Ghal Maraz is officially numbered 1) of the Age of Sigmar Realmgate Wars. A nice challenge to sink some time in (in addition to regular painting of course). I think I'll start with drawing some plans, finding out the exact measurement of the GW terrain, and cutting some MDF bases. Watch my blog for progress reports.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Moonclan goblin squig hoppers attack! (AKA how to fix hobby fatigue)

I spend the last month working on a variety of chaos models, especially my Silver Tower set when suddenly the dreaded hobby fatigue set in. For me it is that point where the time needed to finish a painting project seems like real work instead of a hobby and I just don't feel like it anymore. I still completed the Grot Scuttlings but the results where poor enough to put the project on a temporary hold. So how do you fix hobby fatigue?

Add DJ Silverado's Boing song here....
My remedy is to box up the project I no longer feel like and either a) buy a new project, b) build some terrain or c) grab an old project box and restart that one. In this case I went for c) and grabbed my box with of Orc & Goblin remnants I had left when hobby fatigue set in.

A shot of my Orcs and Goblins project box.
After spending some time indexing and adding models I (impulse) purchased over the year to the box I decided to try and finish four projects from this box in the next go. These are: painting my Squiq Hoppers, finishing my horde of Grot Spider Riders, restoring and painting my Grot Wolf Riders and painting the humongous lot of plastic Moonclan grots (formerly knows as Night Goblins) from the Black Fire Pass set I have left from second hand purchases. If I have any love for greenskins left (or if I brazenly alter my own priorities) I might get started on my battery of Grot Spear Chukka's instead.

Work in progress...
I started out putting some red on my Squig Hoppers, ignore the shaman and squig herders in the same picture, I am not secretly working them as a side project ;)

Ready for mass painting.

As the next step I readied my goblin horde for mass painting. These will be done with a quantity over quality mindset. I used double sided carpet tape to paste them on cardboard, ready for a rattle can base coat and airbrushing.

The Good, the Bad and the Snotling, featuring:

Sentenza also known as 'Squig Eyes'

Tuco, ugly but effective

Blondie, stole a heart of gold once (lost it later)

Over the course of the day I painted up my Squig Hoppers. In my view these models are amazing as they manage to combine the silliness and ultra-violence all orcs & goblins collectors know and love (from a safe distance). I especially like the goblin with the wooden sword and as the lip of the squig broke of its foot I had a good excuse to mount him mid-jump. 

Supporting cast member #17
Supporting cast member #53
These Grot Squig Hoppers were all bought second had through different lots so I had to settle for two duplicate members on the team. Or as I secretly call it, a reason to one day buy a new box of Grot Squig Hoppers (and a Grot Warboss on Great Cave Squig while I'm at it....).

Scuttle, scuttle, scuttle, squueeeeee!
In between coats of paint on the Squig Hoppers I painted three Grot Spider Riders. I have 20 of these models and got no further then painting the spiders pink before boxing the project. The center Grot was very hard to paint as a previous owner gunked it up completely (and I was too lazy to remove the old paint). They still turned out OK I guess (still need to think up a better/less lazy way to do the feathers). For anyone wondering the spiders are pink because a) painting pink is awesome and needs to be done as often as possible (here's to you lord Fulgrim), b) my wife is deeply afraid of spiders, and realistic looking ones can not be displayed in the house.

This is going to be a lot of work....

I finished this day with some (zenithal) airbrushing of my Moonclan Grot horde.

Are you ready to get green faces?
As the big picture completely fails to convey that the basic blue/black layering of the Moonclan robes I took a closeup. I'm still on the fence about applying a wash of Nuln Oil or leaving them as is (or maybe going for an oil wash. I guess I'll decide on that later, right before applying green to the face (with a regular brush I'm afraid).

No these guys are not the victims of Grand Theft Spider, with cavalry I prefer to paint first and assemble later.
The green guys in the background are the 17 Grot Spider Riders that I have left. They have had a base coat of (Vallejo) Goblin Green followed by a zenithal highlight of Goblin Green mixed with Vallejo Dead Flesh. After these coats where dried I applied Coelia Green Shade. Next step a few highlights and a lot of browns for the loinclothes, spears and (most) other details. And those damn feathers...