Friday, August 19, 2011

Kings of War: First Impressions (2)

…continuing my soft, uncompetitive impressions of KoW from last post.

First impressions part two:

The Game Dynamic:
- the game is fast… very, very fast (and meant to be very, very big). Although there was a significant pause in the middle of the first round, we moreorless managed two 1000+ point games in about two and a half hours. Again. Fast. By the end of the second game, I could tell that matters would have accelerated significantly if we continued down this path. For a man with a lifestyle frequented by the aforementioned interruptions, this is a real boon. Thankfully, I have a lot of these old odds and ends putzing about the bookshelf and waiting for glory once more. I had just about every dwarf to pass my table since the 80s pressed into service, and I still felt the game was "midsized" at best.

- the game mechanism is really quite simple. At 12 pages, you really should not complain about the state of the meta.We downloaded and were playing in mere minutes.

- the game mechanism is really quite simple… perhaps even a bit too simple. Considering the amount of fun we had, I hate to say this for fear that it will be construed as a criticism, but I feel that my ideal ruleset would land somewhere between KoW and WFB with regard to complexity (does such a thing even exist? anyone?). That’s me. At the end of the day, I think this will lend itself beautifully for a jumping point to some “house rules” mechanism. The system is vague enough that it lends itself nicely to suggestion rather than to proscription, which is a blessing in my opinion. Moreover, I can see how a tweak here and a revision there will produce the exact kind of gaming experience that old friends (or genuinely amicable strangers) will want to enjoy, and to explore with an eye toward one's own fantasy meanderings.

- bring back the d8, the d10, the d20! For a very long time, these have sat on my shelf: unused, but not unloved. I have never really embraced roll-play in my adult years, but always admired the weird and wonderful dice (dice envy? is there such a thing?). I have long felt that if I were ever to design a game, it would include a variety of dice simply for good measure rather than practicality. And while KoW does not actually require the d8, d10, or d20 for gameplay, these forlorn beauties make absolutely ideal nerve and/or casualty markers, as one must tally the number of wounds in each unit in order to measure against its breaking point. I am pleased for the excuse to bring these back to the table, and I have since scoured my old stash to dig out all the d10s that I could find (the d10 seems particularly well suited). In fact, this is the most exciting excuse that I have found in quite some time.

- the aforementioned nerve system is an interesting dynamic, though it took some acclimation in order for me to really embrace the level of abstraction. Put simply, "dead" models are not removed, but rather noted by the unit in question. In most cases, the unit continues to function as normal, and I had a little trouble thinking that a unit was basically fully potent right up until the point that it broke and was removed from the table in the entirety. Interestingly, this tended to encourage me to imagine that any given unit as having broken and fled the table rather than as having been slaughtered gruesomely to the man, or elf, whatever. Does that, I wonder, make this system less violent? I am not sure.   

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Kings of War: First Impressions (1)

So. Roberto Vo5 was in town on leave not long before the family and I left for our little holiday, and we managed a few days’ worth gaming revelry, which was then politely shoehorned by modest consumption.

Our first day, naturally, involved some 40K, of which you will hear about in the coming weeks. On day two of the gaming glut, we opted for something new. Roberto had brought his burgeoning and beautiful High Elf force. I have yet to finish reading the rules for 8th edition. What to do. What to do.
Kings of War. That’s what. It advertises itself as a “beer and pretzels” game. The rulebook is 12 pages long. It is free to download for one and all.

Done and done.

So, in a classic matchup, I dusted off my very, very old Dwarf army and we set about the field of battle. Howzahh!?!

First impressions (in two parts –the generalities today and the gameplay for next post) part one:

The Universe:
- there’s not much to say here yet. I have not been particularly aggressive or invested myself ambitiously with the KoW universe –though my impression from this distance is that it seems rather rote. Admittedly, I do not know much about the fluff such as they have developed it. My impressions on the matter suggest that they have developed a miniature range (see next section) and a ruleset to support those minis, but left the rest a blank canvas. At the end of the day, I think this is a positive step, as I am reflexively shy around rigid proscription.  

- one note: having said the above, I have noted that there is no “human” range yet available on the website, which surprised me initially (as I have been working feverishly on ye olde Bretonnia). Perhaps the more knowledgeable will have something worthwhile to say here, but until I hear further, I will simply hope that humans are somewhere down the road.

(that last point raises an interesting aside –a note on a note, if you will: I have often suspected that most rule systems work through increments of relativity based on the human as “standard” when creating the statistical lines that compose each race. Think of the 3,3,3 statline of the typical IG trooper, or the 4s found with the basic Space Marine as indicative. All else follows from there. Right? What happens in a game mechanism that forgoes the human baseline?)

The Miniatures:
- the KoW range looks really solid to me. The figures are not as epic, dynamic, or evocative as, say, the individual figures of Warmachine, but that stands to reason. The game is largely played en masse and for that mass you get quite a lot of bang for your proverbial buck. I am tempted. Sorely tempted.

- and of course, the proxy effect means that (as we have here) you can simply fold an existing fantasy army of almost any persuasion quite nicely into the mix. As I suggested above, KoW has breathed new life into my interest in Fantasy tabletop strategy –an interest that had otherwise been languishing horribly for months if not years. It’s good to be back.

- more on the miniatures soon, as I hope to have some firsthand experience in the reasonably near future.

The Cost:
- any way you want to slice it, KoW is a bargain. I am not one to whinge about price increases, but the models are both solid and wondrously cheap in comparison to any other range that I have seen. Above, I mentioned that you can proxy old WFB models to play KoW, but I expect to see as much or more traffic in the other direction: solid and inexpensive masses of KoW miniatures on the table standing in for High Elves or Vampire Counts, etc. It just makes sense (and I know one individual already working some of that undead magic… looking at your FrozenJoe).

Saturday, August 13, 2011

WIP: Saruman of Many Colours

“He who breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom” –Gandalf the Grey

Only about 70% completed, Saruman here has the distinction of being my very first dabbling in the Finecast experience. I have always liked this model (I have one in metal as well as a Starky from yore when Pitmann and I were regular LotR opponents), and I thought it would make a solid, appropriate symbolic start to this new direction. Goodbye metal! Hellooo Finecast.

I have noted with some considerable interest all the whimpering and whinging on the internets with regard to the state of the stuff, and I am pleased to say that my solid, first-hand impression is that the moaning has been massively misplaced (as usual). Go figure. The Finecast material is simple to clean, light, crisp, and a genuinely notable improvement from its metal predecessor. I have, and will, be purchasing more with well-mannered zeal.

Finecast 1. Internet “wisdom” 0.

 My treatment of the model is not ideal, you may note, but he is a first run and daubed purely for the love. It is distinctly unlikely that he will ever see the tabletop …although I would genuinely like to have another bash at LotR. Still, I painted the figure purely for the experience of attacking a single figure with significant levels of attention; it has been a very long time since I indulged that particular pleasure.

To represent this turning of the page, so to speak, I have painted him as Saruman of Many Colours; when young, I was enraptured by Saruman’s treachery (specifically Gandalf’s line quoted above), as well as this quirky, dated snippet from the old animated interpretation. I recall during the scene as it is described in the book, Gandalf notices the shimmering of broken light beneath and within the white of Saruman’s ancient robes before Saruman reveals himself as a ring-maker. With a nod to that idea, I have tried to shade what is essentially a "white"-ish figure, and specifically Saruman’s cloak, with as many different tones as I am/was able (orange, yellow, green, purple, dark flesh, blue, gray), and a few more after that. It was a decent adventure, and the results are interesting if not exactly wondrous. How appropriate.

“For I am Saruman the Wise, Saruman the Ring-Maker, Saruman of Many Colours!”


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Rule Bretonnia!

In recent weeks, I have been asked many, many times about what is next on my plate. After the really rather intense sequence of ambitious table projects for Killzone at AdeptiCon and HoA at Gamesday, I have decided to reel in the hobby zealotry just a bit.

But only just.

Bretonnia. I must thank both Pappa JJ and Roberto Vo5 for their very generous donations to the next chapter in this grand hobby experience. Both of these fine fellows have been astonishingly kind and giving toward the (leathery, rotting) meat and (rare, uncooked) potatoes of this fledgling force. Admittedly, and with some measure of shame at that, my Bretonnian misadventures –ahem my WFB misadventures full stop- have been over a year in the making; in fact, I have yet to actually play the current edition, but hope to remedy that quite soon. To that end, I have finally jumped in the deep end of this project with two units of roughly 30 old peasant archers each.

One thing that always bothered me about Bretonnian armies as I have seen them is that they often seem rather thin on the peasantry in favor of the more viable and worthy, but foppish, knights. If any army positively begs for teeming hordes of wretched and unwashed reprobates, surely this is it.

And so this is my start. Of course, I intend to indulge a few noble knights along the way, but I aim to field at least 100 peasants of some stripe in any 1000 point army. We shall see what happens from that humble start.

In order to accelerate the drudgery, I have sprayed these fellows in two colors (the second as the merest suggestion of a highlight) and a wash before bringing brush to the task. The third photo (of my second unit) below here gives some idea of the effect that I am searching for –grimy, dull, dark, and uniformly so. I must admit that I have never, ever tried to paint 30 nearly identical models in one sitting before… more on that experience as it develops.  

After I have finished the first 100 peasants, I intend to reward myself with a Trebuchet (thank you again Roberto) and/or a few knights. Then it is back to the peasantry for round two.

Rule Bretonnia (in the imperative)!

Competitive? I haven't the foggiest, but doubt it.
Fun as all get out? To be sure.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Heroes of Armageddon: Inspiration (2)

Porky’s Expanse. I suspect many of you do so already, but I encourage you, all the same, to visit Porky early and often. You will always be pleased that you have done so.

One of Porky’s contributions to the HoA project was his month-long ‘geddon on it series (the link sends you to the compilation post but, again, I encourage you to stay a while and have a look around once you have settled in).

In retrospect, I fear that these last two posts could give the impression that inspiration simply landed on my lap and came together cleanly in one courteous swoop. It did not. I was initially fearful of the blank page, the open space, the unchartered landscape that I was meant to evoke. I spent a silly amount of time thinking about how the grand table would look once it was fully formed and how, exactly, the foothills of a hive should look in smaller pieces –and specifically those little details that might make this landscape look genuine …horrible, but genuine.

To this end, Porky was tremendous help.

The beauty of Porky’s project, as it was happening, is that it made a slow but hugely evocative trickle of imagery day by day by week by month. They allowed time for ideas to coalesce and images to form fully. When taken together, the narrative these fragments create is absolutely brilliant. When taken as individual snippets, I found myself latching on and returning to small sections of the poetic form, sometimes focusing on just a single image or word to help make the empty space become real.

Thank you, Porky.  

I have reproduced here a selection of Proky’s poetic narrative fragments that I returned to with the greatest frequency. Of course, it is something of a crime to remove these pieces from the larger narrative they create, so again, I recommend you to Porky’s compilation of the narrative whole. Moreover, I have accompanied these sketches with “atmospheric” images that they helped inspire.

 Day 5: Purpose
Supplies arrive from orbit, fill bays.

More than we can guard.

Citizens pilfer. Why? We come to protect.

Whence need on this productive world?

When they produce munitions, equip warriors well?

Day 14: Nurture
Blood drips. Ears ring.

The lowleveller looks back. They nod to each other; the man crawls away.

He alone carries the memory out.

Shadows crunch closer. She wishes they had spoken.

Day 17: Storm
The figures move, approach through the haze. Now? Why? The men murmur, unsure.

True intelligence... "Call off the strike!"

The drone rises, but the craft is deep in the sky, unheeding.

Day 21: Gain
The foe. They bellow.

Is it mourning? Speech? Offering?

He feels other than his masters, would willingly parley.

Why deny the truth?

When all feel pain, there is a common language.

Day 29: Action
He studies maps, deployments, desperate. The foe enters the City. The City rises against the defenders. And now...

They march in. He senses their discomfort.


He reaches for his sidearm.

These last two submissions were hugely inspirational at the time, but never made the direct reference on the table that I had desired. With the first, I had intended to create a lone, fried servitor at a window scene. Alas, the window idea was scrapped, and the servitor remains unpainted on my desk. For the second, I had actually built and painted quite a few large sections of GW barricades; however, once we saw the overwhelming number of models that would be placed on the tables, the barricades were set aside to make room for the staggering mass of troops already in the scene. Look for them in a future battle report.

Day 1: Mission
A world of wastes fills the window.


The servitor's mind whirrs. Where? Commander is displeased. Brush extends. Tension. Camera scans, veins swell.

A fuse blows. Embers sprinkle the deck.


Day 12: Resistance
Barricades span corridors.

Orators recruit across levels, from guilds, drones, gangs, even cults. Few smiles, little respect. But they join.

A lowleveller offers water. I thank him.

Barricades span. The City.

This will be my last HoA table post for the foreseeable future. Thank you for your support and encouragement.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Heroes of Armageddon: Inspiration (1)

Today, I am going to revisit the photos that I posted early on in this caper and join those images with some more detailed photos of the tables; specifically, I intend to contrast those moments in which the tables deliberately try to emulate what I found kicking about town.

This one was likely quite obvious. I deliberately toned down the green here in order to more accurately mimic the GW Foundations range, as well as to make the color scheme come together more fluidly. The Grey color I reserved for the underhive to ensure that the two elements were visually distinct. Moreover, the underhive had more space to be grotty and horrible, as befitting the grey coloring.  

This pipe leapt out at me early in the process and I wanted to be sure he found a happy spot on the table from day one. I was not thinking about any grand gesture (though there ended up being quite a few pipes in the final mix), but rather a more simple statement about the mysteries of industrial machinations. Why on earth is this pipe here and to where does it go? Where do any of them go?

This one was my favorite. Perhaps a more bold architectural gesture, I stumbled a bit when thinking how I could get a bridge onto a table depicting the desert of an industrial wasteland. One word. Sewage. What better example than the Chicago River, which now flows in reverse thanks to the miracles of modern engineering and which politely sends nearly all of Chicago’s stinking onions down the Mississippi. Hello New Orleans.

These images were always going to be more difficult to reference with precision, but Tall Paul spotted this grating (for ceiling lights I believe) and we had a notion that we were going to make it fit somewhere, somehow.

As mentioned with the first appearance of these images, the Forge that rests along the river near my home has reached a nearly mythical status in my imagination. And again, two of the most interesting aspects about it cannot be recreated here (or on the tabletop): the deep, hum of the fires and the staggering heat coming of the place at all hours.You can also see in these photos where my ideas about the ashen/dust colors should emulate.

And there you have it. 

Next post I will revisit a more open-ended source of inspiration, specifically the "‘geddon on it" series from the Porkster at Porky’s Expanse. If you somehow missed this, have a gander at the minimalist, poetic sketches that Porks created for the HoA project and then revel in the way he has built a narrative, a reality, with casual and seemingly effortless strokes.