Sunday, 29 March 2015

Back in the Day: Why is my Hobby Wargaming?

I started this blog almost a month ago, and I continue to be pleasantly surprised how much it has encouraged me in a hobby that I was already very enthusiastic about. A friend told me, with a smile on her face, that blogging was just an attempt to validate my own existence (a bit dark I thought). There might be some truth to this, but I would like to think it also disciplines me to carry through with projects I start (always a problem for me) and I would like to hope that people are interested and/or inspired by what I present. Another positive for me personally is that I have seen an improvement in my own writing ability (if not my spelling).

So why wargaming? When I was 10 years of age (in the early 1980's) my uncle took me to Earl's Court in London to a model exhibition. I vividly remember seeing, and being engrossed by, a WWII Pacific wargame being demonstrated based on a the U.S. Marines landing on a Japanese held beach. The wargame was being played on a sand table, and I particularly remember being told how the Americans had shot down one of their own planes because it had failed to respond to the F.O.F. (Friend or Foe) radio message (a D6 roll of 1 no doubt).
My first, and favourite Wargaming book

There isn't any aspect of the hobby that I don't enjoy. Painting, model making, scratchbuilding, admiring other people's work, tournaments, the social aspect, meeting new opponents and old friends, playing competitive games or fluffy games. The only thing that has escaped me so far is campaign based games, but only because I have done so little of this.

Above: From my collection - The first Citadel Space Marines painted as Crimson Fists.

My first wargame was played on my Uncle's patio with WWII 1/72 plastic model kits from a toy shop. Living in west London, I remember a few shops where you could buy toy soldiers in London, Gamers in Exile - near King's Cross. A shop in Kensington - where they had cardboard boxes full of metal Napoleonic figures. A shop in Kingston - where I first became aware of Gamesworkshop and Citadel Minatures. There was also Ork's Nest - still going strong in Central London. And, my favourite of all, the original Gamesworkshop store in Hammersmith, where I can proudly say I played a Warhammer Fantasy Game, my Skaven against Undead.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Drop Zone Commander - Ruins: All Very Distressing

So one of the strategies in Drop Zone Commander to help you achieve the victory conditions is to target buildings, to either, injure enemy models contained within, to reduce the enermy's opportunities for collecting objectives and intel, to open up fire lanes to give more opportunities in target selection, and finally, and most amusingly, to bring down a building on the enemy's sorry arse.

However, the cardboard buildings available in the game do not offer any options in how you represent destroyed buildings on the tabletop. So being a Wargame terrain geek I decided to see what modelling possibilities existed. My own club have decided to build 1 inch high blocks of polystyrene with the same footprint as the DZC buildings with appropriate texture added and painted grey to represent the collapse.

I took a different approach and considered what the cardboard buildings could offer in a quick and easy approach. Below are my photographs to illustrate.

1. Take an unmade building and with scissors cut the bottom inch away from the main body. Please note that you will need to measure this as the inch is less than the height indicated as the height of the ground floor windows.

2. Make the top half of the building as usual, and in addition glue tabs to the inside of the top so that it can sit snugly on the bottom half. Job done.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Inconsistant Gods of Chaos - A Maelstrom 40K Game Battle Report

Tuesday night at the club brought me a game with Dave G. Dave's Chaos Space Marines against my Iron Hands in a 1750pts maelstrom game. Unfortunately, the club had a later start than usual so we started the game knowing that we were unlikely to get through to the end. However, Dave and I have history from previous games, in that we have a really good giggle, and our levels of competency are equally matched, (Dave, I think you will agree I am being very kind. I will not tell the readers that it wasn't until turn two that we realised we had not rolled our warlord traits.........doh!).

I have played two previous maelstrom games, and what I have leant is you will need to play quite a few games before you can judge it's worth. The objective cards randomly selected at the begining of each of your turns add something different to each game and I really enjoy the narrative aspect they add. However, you need an opponent who doesn't frequent the competitive end of wargaming as the cards can frustrate and endlessly annoy you. The cards can be your best friend or your worst enemy. You need a few of these games under your belt and over time these should equal out the luck.

Dave had brought Chaos Space Marines (Iron Warriors) but include a Hell Brute formation, a Chaos Deamon (Warlord), Chaos Spawn and two, yes count them, two Helldrakes (the bane of every right thinking Space Marine). Two 'normal' Chaos Space Marine units, a Chaos Sorcerer, the obligatory two Chaos Cultist units, and two big guns from Stronghold Assault (Wall of MartyrsVengeance Weapon Battery) completed the army.

My Iron Hands feature a Chapter Master on a bike with the Gorgon's Chain and a Thunder Hammer, a unit of bikes with a full complement of Grav weapons, two Tactical Squads, two Scout Squads in Land Speeder Storms, a Thunderfire Cannon, a Stormtalon, three Scout Bikers and a five man Terminator Assault Squad.

I don't intend to give a blow by blow account of the game, but instead, focus on the main points of interest and pivotal moments. Also included below are a few photographs. The scenery is from my own collection, and is a mixture of Warhammer Fantasy and Lord of the Rings pieces.

I cannot lie, the luck gods were on my side in this game. I got the first turn and my first three cards were objectives very close to my troops, and so were the three objective cards I received at the start of turn two. Dave lucked out on his first three cards, and wasn't able to achieve any of them. So what with my Thunderfire Cannon scattering onto a Rhino and taking its final hull point (First Blood) I had a seven point lead before Dave had started scoring. Also, my start to turn two wasn't hampered as all bar one of my reserves came on.

Unfortunately, the chaos reserve rolls failed to bring on the Hellbrute formation in turn two, but the Helldrakes did appear, and although Space Marines know no fear, they knew what pain was going to be brought.

Early on the two warlords came together in a challenge. The Daemon Prince was armed with the
Black Mace, but in two of the combat phases Dave managed to roll a 1 and paid the price with wounds. In at least two other phases the Prince was concussed by the Thunder Hammer owned by the Chapter Master. The result - one dead Daemon and a further victory point for the Iron Hands.

By this time the Helldrakes were destroying Iron Hand units just for fun; combat squaded tactical marines, scouts and Land Speeder Storms were melting away under the Baleflamer template.

My Iron Hands are my goto 40K army when having a pick-up game. (Yes I know, they are painted yellow. The actual Iron Hands colours are black and silver, which I thought was boring. So yellow they became. A successor chapter if you wish). I really enjoy their stamina (6+ Feel no Pain and It Will Not Die). I do take a perverse pleasure in seeing an opponent think he has killed a model, for me to say 'Hold your horses sunny Jim' and then roll a 6 on a D6 - priceless. I also feel that with so many of the maelstrom cards requiring you to be next to an objective, having a highly mobile (Rhinos, bikes and Land Speeder Storms) and objective secured units, gives you every opportunity to keep the points score clicking along each turn.

I do have to accept that the tooled-up Chapter Master is a big points sink. He must get into close combat, for me to have any chance of winning the game. Although I lost my previous maelstrom game against Dave (he fielded his Inquisition and Imperial Knight army) the Chapter Master did bring down the Knight, so I was able to take that rather large crumb of comfort as consulation.

I have wargamed for a fair few years now, and much as a long standing Space Marine Chapter, I have been able to build up some traditions based on my wealth of experience and superstitions (a wealth of experience which I hasten to add has yet to turn me into a very good tactically minded wargamer).

Wargame Superstition One - New Model Syndrome - If you use a new model for the first time it will do badly. This is of course multiplied if you use a new army for the first time. However, there is a condition to this rule which was illustrated in our game, if your are using new models, they won't do as bad if your opponent is using new models which are not fully painted. Example in point, my new Terminators were freshly painted and did get onto the board, and destroyed a chaos cultist unit (yea baby, worth every point!), but Dave's partially painted Deamon Prince had a mare and the Hellbrute Formation did not get on the table at all!

The Chaos Gods had still not finished having their fun as the leader of one of Dave's Space Marine units successfully killed the Scout Biker's Sergeant and, you guessed it, swiftly changed, and Dave's Daemon Prince returned to the table, rather quicker than the usual one thousand years and not in possession of the Black Mace. I guess the Chaos Gods felt that he deserved a second chance. Ahh, isn't that sweet of them.

So, in conclusion, by the end of turn three, and the end of our game, I was 11 points to 3 up (I had also scored all three secondary objectives). Ok, so I accept not a proper victory, but an enjoyable game none the less.

Oh, and by the way, I promised myself not to use the word fickle when describing how the Chaos Gods had behaved during the game - promise fulfilled. Happy Wargaming.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Post Human Republic - The Pretty Faction IMHO

When my local wargaming club started to get into Drop Zone Commander (DZC) I must be honest I wasn't blown away by the game or the models. My fondness for 40K means it takes a lot for my eye to be turned by other gaming systems and the cardboard scenery, small scale of models and the limited scratchbuilding possibilities in DZC didn't really do it for me.

The club have now become a bit of a thing in the DZC world (see the Orbital Bombardment Blog and Podcast), and to avoid being 'Billy no mates' I decided to join in with the fun. So what army to choose? As with most of my decisions it was based on the look (yes, I am that shallow), and I decided upon the Post Human Republic whose models took my fancy and what's not to like about walking tanks! Actually, the choice was also based on my initial views on the other factions; Shaltari - models which appear to have passing resemblance to bear traps (I will never ever understand how gates work!). The Scourge - aliens with multi-story car parks for dropships and skimmer tanks that are a little too flat and look like road kill. UCM - the models are fine, but quiet generic, and I cannot get excited about them - sorry. And when I took the plunged into the game the Resistance were only a glint in the games designer's eye. I do like the curves on the Resistance flyers and bigger tanks, but I am afraid that the buses knock it on the head for me. Oh and another thing, how on earth are the buses 4DPs? How has a passenger bus had enough armoured plates bolted on to it to become twice as resilent as a purpose built main tank (Hannibal)?

So PHR it was, and below is my current 1500 point army. (This is the army prior to the recent points changes announced by Hawk Wargames).

Things learnt whilst using PHR:

1. Your army is likely to be smaller in number than the opposition. The casualties you take early on will have a greater effect on your abilities later on in the game. Don't yet your army become unsupported. Odins are tough as old boots, but don't take them for granted, they will die if you leave
them with their bottoms hanging out in the wind.

2. For an army which is much slower in comparison to other armies, make use of redeployment. Yes you will not have the opportunity to shoot, but, the enemy will be caught off guard by the sudden and unexpected appearance of your models. And for focal point games this tactic will give you a fighting chance.

3. The Athena will frustrate you more often than not. Not coming on from reserve or rolling the dreaded 1 when seeing if it comes on each turn. (Please see the rules for Forward Observers to try and resolve this). But, when the it arrives and does its party piece; shooting down small drop ships, and stopping objectives being removed from the table, it will win you those tight games.

4. Helios, Helios, Helios. What a fantastic piece of kit. Never has there been a more obvious auto-take.

So here is my army list for the army pictured above (I can make no promises on the accuracy of the point calculations) - this before the recent point changes.

Hand of the Sphere
Command Squad: Zeus (Battle Vizier), Odin, Neptune - 281
Mercury Scout Squad: 4x Mercury, 2x Triton + A2 Missiles - 100
Sirens: 2x Sirens, Triton, Stealth Missiles, Miniguns - 150

Battle Pantheon
Support Squad 2x Phobos, Neptune -171

Immortals: 2x Immortals, Triton, Miniguns - 107
Immortals: 2x Immortals, Triton,  Miniguns - 107

Immortals: 2x Immortals, Triton,  Miniguns - 107

Heavy Pantheon
Heavy Squad: 2x Odin, Neptune - 175
Helios Squad: 2x Helios, Neptune - 165

Air Wing
Athena Squad: Athena - 135

Total Points - 1498

Here is the full family portrait:

I have been using a version of a PHR army since I started DZC, but I am now considering a second army, and the Scourge is the way I am going to go. It's all to do with the speed. It must be so liberating to go charging around the Wargaming table. Such a difference to the poor old plodding PHR.