Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Green Horde rides forth, supported by a soulful Orruk Shaman

Today I finished a major part of the project I started on September 18th by applying the final blobs of paint to my Orruk Boar Chariots. Now five of these machines stand ready to enter the table and cause a mediocre bit of havoc.

Grunt, grung, stab, stab, Waaagh! (and all that...).
To be very honest I never really liked the concept of chariots, but painting these has changed my mind. I did a lot of converting as I found all of these in various states of 'crushination' at the bottom of second hand Warhammer lots I purchased over the past few years. Aside from the boss-chariot (only by name, no rules available), I'm quite happy with my Fury Road inspired 'guitar-guy' chariot.

Warhammer games of all stripes need more 'guitar guy' conversions, or am I the only Fury Road fanboy wielding a brush?
It should actually be called a drum-tar I guess, bringing it on par with the key-tar in the realms of bad taste. The leather clad head is actually part of the Runtherd kit. I also took some time with this chariot (and the other two newly finished ones) to add a bunch of bits. It all makes the mono-model look different enough to get a messy Orruk horde look. I did not give the boars all the attention they should get but these models are so ugly, I just get annoyed staring at them for the time required. So these have been painted at a very negligent high speed.

Over there! Stab 'm! Stab 'm good!!!!
Sorry for the rather badly focused picture here. It is autumn so I have to take quick shots between rain. With a (delayed) move still in the works most of my usual backdrops are also unavailable. Perhaps I should switch things around and build some terrain next, but then there is the risk I will not finish my Snotlings and regular boyz. No, I should stick to the plan and just extend Orctober into Nidvember...

Meanwhile, safely from the back of a flying monster, the view was amazing...
Lets finish up the chariot project with a top-shot. I decided a bit late into the project to add some flowers to the bases. I actually bought those to spruce up my Higborn Aelf bases but I think it works quite well with the Orruks too.

Aw man, do I have to use Gaze of Mork? I'd rather just sit around and mope....
While waiting for my (grossly overused) Agrax Earthshade to dry I took a brush to this soulful Orruk Shaman. I love this model for his melancholic expression. As for the paint I decided to keep it mostly simple and just use a lot of different browns. I took some time with highlights, washes and glazes on the staff to give it a proper magical feeling.

I've held this sword up against so many different metal models I've lost count. Now it is finally on the back it was made for.
As I finished the model up I spotted a small metal cilinder on its back and realized that it was needed for an orphan sword I had in my bits box. So not only did I finish another Orruk, I also solved the mystery of the odd dagger*. All in all I had a splendid Sunday and even if I don't paint another Orruk in the next two days I think I can call this Orctober a success.

*scenario pending ;)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Storytelling in wargaming through AoS Open War Cards and other means

Playing this scenario pack actually got me to read Shakespeare (for a great bard, he showed a decided lack of interest in featuring treemen in his tales).
True old school Warhammer requires a game master as well as (at least) two players to fight battles. Fantasy (and sci-fi) wargaming followed pen and paper roleplaying in that regard. That is not entirely surprising as Gary Gygax & friends started D&D out as a variant system to wargaming. It should be no surprise that the oldest game supplements Games Workshop released tended to be adventure like campaign packs linking mutliple battles into a story. I vaguely recall playing through The Tragedy of McDeath campaign in the eighties (sadly with cardboard counters (if only I had taken the 100 quid miniatures deal way back then)). Unfortunately I remember the long discussion between players and GM about the utter lack of balance in the missions better than the actual game itself. That and playing an Appetite for Destruction cassette so many times the tape actually wore down. Sigh, happy times, nostalgia.  Looking back through the booklet makes me want to revisit this scenario someday, AoS style of course. It has rules for buildings that beg to be made into warscrolls and scenario's with interesting special rules. Let's first finish my drawn out move to a new house, then do something with the Grudge of Drong and set McDeath AoS style to somewhere after that...

A group of Rattlebone undead take on some Seraphon for no reason at all.
Regardless of gaming system, nostalgia and worn down tapes, narrative play and the accompanying scenario's tend to require a few very dedicated players or they go off the rails ('discussing game balance' ranks somewhere below 'doing my taxes' on my 'fun things to do with spare time'-list). Also it requires a steady stream of scenario's with (preferably) ready made lists (that limit the odds of finding an opponent with the right army). Age of Sigmar at launch was supposed to stimulate narrative play by doing away with points. All it proved was that this made quick pick-up games almost impossible to organize. For regular games (narrative, matched or competitive) some sort of 'balancing system' (points, power levels) helps all involved grasp the size of the battle and the time required to play it. All nice and well but how do you stop regular games from devolving into 'slaughter the other side' exercises?

81-90 Abdul Goldberg stole your ship off you....oh Abdul you rascal!
The original Rogue Trader and the Realm of Chaos books had lots of wonderful tables to generate narrative missions. No old school gamer can forget the Rogue Trader Plot Generator with Abdul Goldberg; everyone's favorite rascal. These work rather nicely to give a sense of purpose to games. They do however require a GM to work out if there are any special rules to spice up the scenario.

I really loved this expansion to 5th edition 40K. Also: could we get plastic Vostroyans please GW?
For a wargaming world without GM's, Games Workshop offered a set of basic scenario's in the rule book. As I was on a Fantasy hiatus I have to focus on 40K for a bit. the 5th edition 40K book had six scenario's. I remember playing them so much they got boring. Each scenario consisted of objectives to claim, a (few) special rule(s) and gave some sense of purpose and story. The Battle Missions book released around 2010 (going by the stolen picture above) offered a lot more fun. This expansion featured three specific scenario's for every faction in 40K. You could fight through a typical Tyranid invasion for instance. Sixth edition 40K added Maelstrom of War missions to this palette. Maelstrom missions require six objective markers on the table and give the players cards with specific goals (for instance: claim objective marker six by the end of your turn). This makes the player's goals asymmetrical which in turn makes for more interesting battles. As goals shift it (occasionally) manages to reduce armies camping on a single objective.

I really feel the need to invest in another (few) Arcane Ruins. They serve as the basis for interesting terrain (and are cheaper then the AoS specific kits).
Back to Age of Sigmar. One of the strengths of this game is the ease with which you can spice things up. Need an unholy lodestone to take center stage? Give everyone within 3 inch with the 'wizard' keyword a +1 to casting rolls while there (and subtract 1 bravery from all others within 3"). Or maybe add a table of effects and allow priests to pray. The campaign books and battle tomes give you a lot of scenario's to try out and the (sparse) terrain warscrolls give some extra inspiration. Still I mostly play matched play scenario's. The narrative scenario's are presented as generic but tend to require specific armies to truly shine. Most scenario's also give one side a decided advantage. This doesn't matter with the right sort of opponent, but in a more general setting can quickly kill all fun. It also doesn't help that you need to plan ahead to play a scenario, making them less useful for quick pick-up games, or last minute gaming club skirmishes.

Open War cards: pull a few cards from the deck and you get a ready made scenario with an interesting twist.
To solve this GW has released Open War cards (both for AoS and for the new 40K). For Age of Sigmar the cards consist of 12 deployment cards, 12 objectives cards, 12 twist cards, 6 ruse cards and 6 sudden death cards. These cards do wonders for a quick narrative game. You take one of 12 random deployment styles and objectives. In the battle pictured above my Greenskins faced of with a Spiderfang Grot army. The objective was to kill as many enemies as possible (counting wounds from killed models). To be sure, there are a more interesting objectives in the deck but this was the one we were dealt. We deployed in triangular deployment areas with a 12 inch gap between the armies. So far this would do as a standard scenario. The beauty of Open War cards comes from the twist. You usually take one twist to spice up the game. In the game above we were fighting in the Dead of Night reducing all weapon ranges (and casting ranges) to 12 inches. There was a chance of things clearing up during the battle (this didn't happen, making my poor Greenskin artillery crews very unhappy (prior to becoming very dead)). As we were in the mood for more challenges my opponent and I decided to draw a second twist. Apparently Gork (or possibly Mork) took an interest in the battle. We both had a chance of getting wounded through the wrath of the gods every round. I have not used the ruse or sudden death cards yet. These are used to balance out a game where one army is markedly weaker then the other. Twists make the game more unpredictable, which tends to give you a lot of laughs. They also build story. This battle turned into a the story of a Greenskin army getting ambushed in the dead of night by a ravening horde of giant spider riding Grots (and my poor Orruks got utterly annihilated in the process).

As it turns out, not all spiders can be murdered with a simple rolled up newspaper.
Storywise Open Play cards may not hold a candle to playing a full on campaign of linked scenario's. Someday I will update and play Grudge of Drong, McDeath and (while I'm at it) Terror of the Lichemaster in Age of Sigmar. While looking for the time to do that, I'll use these. The cards work very nicely if you want to keep your games varied, not get stuck with a lot of preparation and still get a nice injection of story each time you fight a battle. Here's me hoping GW will release an expanded deck in the near future. Open War Cards are a truly lovely innovation that expands upon the old scenario tables.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Age of Sigmar Siege Warfare: The Great Wall

Due to a lot of other things happening I have nog been able to paint this week. Instead I thought it might be fun to make a quick battle report of my first siege battle with the new Age of Sigmar rules presented in General's Handbook 2017. I rather fondly remember drooling over the pages of the venerable Warhammer Siege expansion for Warhammer 3rd edition. It contained a lot of detailed rules for simulating sieges that eventually resulted in battles (to be fought on the tabletop). Unfortunately due to (among other things) a lack of time I never actually got to put any of the fancy rules to practice. To me it is a bit like the old Realm of Chaos books, even to this day wonderful to drool over, but never really practical to play. Having said that, let's take a look at the Age of Sigmar ruleset.

A ragtag unit of fifty Moonclan Grots managed to line a rather large part of the wall.
This should come as no shock to anyone: the rules have been simplified. The General's Handbook 2017 offers two battleplans for those of us too lazy to come up with our own. The siege battleplans don't assume you have a fortress and can work just as well if you use different terrain. As an example the book shows a picture of Sylvaneth defending a forest outcrop against invasion by Khorne Bloodbound. The two battleplans assume a 'fortressy' shape to your terrain. Battleplan one: The Relief Force marks out a rectangle that needs at least five pieces of terrain as the defenders deployment area. Battleplan two: The Great Wall draws a wall shaped line over the center of the table. This is the plan we picked for our battle. I fought with 2000 matched play points of Greenskins versus a Gutbuster army. I took the plastic fortress I had at home and we sprinkled some club terrain on the board.

With a roar the hungry Gutbusters assembled to eat my supplies (and probably the Greenskins themselves too).
In both Age of Sigmar siege battles you place objective markers on the board. In this mission the table half on the defender's side of the wall contains two objective markers (one about nine inches behind the gate, and the second one nine inches from the small table edge).

My Grot artillery clusters around an objective marker made with Rendera barrels.
To balance ownership of walls (or other terrain) at the start of the game, the defender has to deploy one unit in reserve for each one fielded on the table. You start the battle taking on the enemy with about half an army until reinforcements show up. To simulate the preceding siege, the attacker chooses to focus on starving the enemy, battering the walls or tunneling. The defender picks between gathering supplies, re-building walls or counter-tunneling. You check both choices against a small table and this gives a bonus on three pre-game rolls you make for: starvation, battering and tunneling.

After the initial battering of the walls, a tower and a section of wall completely collapsed. This was expertly simulated by a badly glued wall, a random ruin of just about the right size and a lot of squinting and imagination.
In our case I assumed my Orruks had been feasting after taking a 'umy fortress' (Gather Supplies), the Ogor player did what any brute would do and chose to break down the walls to take the Greenskin's food (Batter). First we took a starvation roll for each Orruk unit. Normally a unit would suffer D3 mortal wounds on a 5+, in this case it was a 6+ thanks to the Gather Supplies action. After that we rolled for each piece of terrain, usually it would be breached on a 5+, that turned into a 4+ thanks to the Batter action by the Ogors. Two sections of the wall collapsed before the battle began. Luckily for me the final roll-off showed that no tunnels were dug beneath the walls.

Moonclan Grots and Orruk Arrer' Boyz tried to shoot the Aleguzzler Gargant as it advanced towards the breach.
AoS Siege makes it possible to play a quick and fun siege battle in an evening. It does require some creativity. For instance the Batter rule actually states that no abilities for a battered piece of terrain can be used, but that it still provides cover. As GW has only produced terrain rules for their plastic kits (and my opponent and I had not planned any homebrew rules in advance) it would have had no effect on the fortress walls. We decided to replace the broken tower and wall section with 'ruins' as a result of the 'broken' action. Another thing we agreed on beforehand was a way to quickly simulate defenses. The movement rules of AoS state that a model can move over terrain by measuring horizontally (assuming it climbs). To give the walls a bit of spice we decided that moving (or charging) onto a garrisoned wall required a deadly terrain test (roll for each model, on a 1 it is removed as a casualty). This made the breaches extra valuable to the attacking player.

With a roar the mighty Stonehorn charged the gate...only to bounce of it on the first attempt.
Another rule we decided on was for the gate. We gave it 8 Wounds and a 4+ Armour Save. The Stonehorn made some horrendous die-rolls, taking two turns to bash the gate out of its hinges.

With two mighty blows from its horns the Stonehorn battered down the gates and charged the courtyard.
As mentioned the garrison is waiting for relieve troops (in both siege missions). In this mission I got to roll a die for every unit not on the table, it would move onto the table in the rear of my deployment zone on a 5+. I was not very lucky with the reinforcements. My General actually failed to appear on the table during the game. The sneaky boss probably saw his troops failing at defending that part of the wall and decided to fly off on his Wyvern and 'get sum lad frum over 'zer to 'elp out'. Perhaps I should rename my army 'Da Lads Frum Over 'Zer'.

Slowly but surely reinforcements entered the fray to support the archers on the walls. Unfortunately the Orruk Warboss never turned up....
In the final turns I tried some heroic moves to stop the Ogors from taking my stolen supplies. It was to no avail. The Ogors managed to claim both objectives and had a fantastic lunch on my Greenskins expense.

Being a sporting player I immediately upended the table and started stomping on my opponents models while yelling the rules where bad between tears of rage (either that or I'm subtly trying to cover up that I forgot to take a picture of the table in the last turn ;).

All in all the siege rules work quite well and lead to interesting themed battles. They will work better if there are some homebrew rules for general terrain (like walls with ramparts). This might be a nice community project, especially in combination with the unofficial Warscroll Designer. The basic scenery rules for Age of Sigmar should serve as a decent starting point. Now to find the time...

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Orctober has begun, and I already have a head start...

The season of 'named' painting months: Orctober, Nidvember and Deadcember has begun. Usually I get around to observing these by the time the months end, but this time I have a head start as I've already started working on my old Orruks in September. This Monday I finished the second chariot from my restoration project.

Don't know why, but I'm a big fan of this Orruks expression.
This chariot has been featured in my earlier post here. It was missing the entire yoke so I replaced it with plastic chains from a couple of old Bretonnian sprues. A few riders for my chariots were missing so I purchased a small box of four extra (snap-fit) Orruks. Bad idea, these have their shields lumped on their arms. The sprue is now stuck in my bits box. I'll find a use for it someday.

The chains to replace the missing yoke work well enough (just don't allow any real charioteers to look up close ;)
Instead of these Orruks I've used the body of a 40K Runtherd as the boss in this chariot. I've also remodeled the great spear so he's holding it straight up. No mystery as to who is the Da Great Khan of this unit (even though there are no rules for a commander I still want one). I'll probably go back to this unit later to fix a slight gap in the large spear.

So you managed to survive a big Orruk lance, biting boars and scythes? No problem, I'll stab ya!
I've turned the boy in the back around as there was no way to fit him in facing to the front without either looking silly or as if about to stab his boss. As he's no Skaven I turned him around, ready to stab the hell out of any hapless survivors.

Two chariots are ready to ride, three more to go.
So this brings my painted chariots to a grand total of two. Work has already begun on the other three. Here is a quick older picture of where I started out from last month.

The five chariots at the start of September. 
I've taken the last three of the chariots and started out by stripping of as much of the paint as possible. As always I've used Bio-strip 20 for this miracle.

Plastic model covered in (un-thinned) layers of paint? Apply Bio-Strip...

...wait a bit....
The nice thing about Bio-Strip is that (after a bit of a soak) you can use an old toothbrush and water running from the tap to get rid of it. It leaves no smell behind and for a lot of paint jobs a single application is more than enough. For some of these old Orruks two did not quite completely do the job.

...rinse under running tab, apply toothbrush (sorry toofbruz) and the problem is solved.

As you can see the chariots are clean enough to repaint properly. Some of the old glued connections broke and had to be fixed as well. I also had to co-opt a few left-over 40K Ork bodies to fill out the chariots, luckily these are reasonably compatible (just watch out for bolts and bullet jewelry and it is ok).

The trick with chariot crew is even though you have to paint them separately, you do want to make sure they will fit.
Above is a test build of one of the other chariots. And here is are a few more shots of the 'final three'.

My final three chariots with their crew failing to keep their feet (drunk Orruks).
The same chariots with their basecoats applied. 
I'm not going to talk too much about these as they are not finished yet. As you can see the chariots have been covered with the Mournfang Brown base coat from a rattlecan (this speeds up the paint work a lot). The bases have been decorated and sprayed with a cheap black base coat, the orcs themselves have been basecoated with Vallejo Black (for the airbrush) and I've airbrushed their basic skin tone on as well.

Is there such a thing as too many Snotlings? (answer: yes, they are quite useless to be honest (but the sculpts are fun!)).
Of course chariots are not alone on the menu. I've also been working on and off on two Stone Trolls (almost done), and on the unit of 20 boyz (not even close to done), a shaman, pump wagon, a unit of Moonclan Grot Spearman and a number of Grot war machine crews are also on the table. I added my blob of Snotlings to the pile. Somehow these give me the feeling I can paint them quickly, making it possible to take both the bases of these guys and the pump wagon of my 'to-do' tray. In other words, time to apply more green.