Saturday, June 13, 2015

Armada Rules: First Thoughts

Over the past few weeks I've managed to knock out half a dozen games of Armada, basically playing through the basic scenario that is covered in the Learn To Play booklet which puts the contents of the core box set; one Victory Class Star Destroyer and some TIE Fighters vs a Corellian Corvette, Nebulon-B Frigate and some X-Wings.

As a long time fan (although not necessarily regular) player of naval wargames (Napoleonic through to Modern) the basic mechanics seem to be really intuitive, but how you use them brings in the complexity and replayability. Ships pick actions, and depending on the size of the ship determines how far in advance you must pick them (not as big a penalty as it sounds), resolve actions, fire at your targets, and finally move. Your opponent does the same until you are out of ships, at which point you move on to your Squadrons of fighters. If you want more information you can either download the rules from the FFG website, or better still head over to YouTube where there are a bunch of videos that will take you through the finer points of the game.

What I really like is that with a relatively short (24 page) rulebook you can get up and running quite quickly (I'd watched one video from GENCON and my opponent had read the rules once) without too much fuss. Of course there is always a catch...

The catch is the Rules Reference booklet which adds another 16 pages of rules, clarifications and expanded reference. Basically it helps with all the sticky parts that they did not want you to have to worry about up front. Of course it also serves (for me) to cause some confusion and delays (told you there was always time for Thomas the Tank Engine) as you try to recall where you read a rule. My thoughts are that when in doubt you should head to the Rules Reference document first if you know which rule you are looking for, and the Learn To Play guide if you don't.

Last up is the FAQ. If you have played X-Wing then you will know how important this particular living document is. Coming in at massive 3 pages I have only managed to skim read it so far, but trust me when I say that it is going to be something worse spending a little more time focusing on once I have my head around the core concepts a bit more.

So what do I like about Armada?
  1. I get to fly big ships.
  2. I get a totally different gaming experience to X-Wing.
  3. I get lots of different coloured dice with lots of different symbols.
  4. Finally, I get to play with some friends that are not interested in X-Wing but want to play a game in the Star Wars Universe.
What am I scratching my head about?
  1. Going to have to paint the Fighter Squadrons.
  2. Need to do some touch-ups on the Capital Ships.
  3. Two rulebooks.
  4. If I really need another distraction from painting my Trollbloods.
What am I yet to come to grips with?
  1. Upgrade cards - no biggie as they are just like X-Wing, but grander
  2. Objective cards - these really bring some complexity (or maybe thinking is the right term) to the game.
  3. The subtleties of each ship class.
  4. And last but not least, how to get the best out of your Fighter squadrons.
I've hopefully lined up a 300 point game with some friends next weekend where we will get to try out a few more things and my job before then is to re-read all the rules etc to try and start bedding down the core concepts.

Bottom line though, I like it and I guess I need to work out how to fit more games in.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Taking A Closer Look At Star Wars Armada Ships

A couple of weeks ago Star Wars Armada finally hit the shelves in NZ so I picked up a starter box to check it out (okay, lets be honest I am super excited!).

I'll take time later to take a closer look at the rules, but after a few trial games I am pretty excited. I haven't seen anything mind blowing in there, frankly the remind me of traditional naval wargames but they are fast, fun, furious, have special dice... and you can fly a Star Destroyer! Thats basically all I need...

I took a few close up shots of the models. After the outstanding (and I really mean that!) paint jobs of the new Scum and Villany ships (the Y-Wing and Z-95) I was expecting that Armada would blow my mind. Sadly they are not in the same league. Don't get me wrong, if I hadn't seen what the factory in China was capable of producing I probably would have been really impressed by the Armada ships, but now that I know what they can do I wish that they had maintained those standards.

So here is a closer look at each of the three capital ships...

First up, the CR90 Corellian Corvette

Secondly, the Nebulon-B Frigate

And finally, the Victory-class Star Destroyer

And a size comparison of all three

After spending some time looking over the ships, and the fighters (which are unpainted) I think I have committed myself to... giving them a touch up (for the capital ships) and full paints for the fighters. Not sure how I am going to fit that in with everything else that I should be working on this year (Year of the Trolls anyone?), but I figure if I get them done as they are released and just "stay on target" it cannot possibly be that difficult?

I am also hoping that I can just tidy up the wash where it did not evenly hit the hulls, and then repaint the greys and off-whites, and maybe change some of the colour splashes to differentiate between ships of the same class. As for the fighters I am hoping to airbrush the base colour, then do a little work, through a wash over them and call them done.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Where Have I Been?

Short answer... no where... not really living up to the title of the blog at the moment!

Just realised that we have hit June (D-Day as it happens) and I haven't had an update in a long time! So what is new?
Battlefront has moved! Yep, after the better part of a decade in our old offices we have moved to a new office. Little bit smaller, but nothing wrong with being a bit cozy. Means I might have to be a bit tidier! Last couple of weeks at work have been a whirlwind of packing, unpacking, throwing out, wondering why we did not throw some things out, and finding new places to stash stuff since we dont have any dark corners of an old fish factory to hide things!
I had a long chat (ended up taking 3 or 4 times before the audio recorded) with Ben from Breakthrough Assault last month. Check out audio here... (head straight to the 57 minute mark to get to Act II). I talk about what is happening in the Studio, what is on the cards for 2015, what hobby stuff I should be working on but aren't...

And I have been playing around with some Star Wars Armada... more on that later... (I am terrible taking shots with my phone!)

Finally, life on the home front has been busier than ever with my son picking up a few new hobbies and demanding (literally... "Dad, come play with me!") more of my time. Luckily there is aways time to play with Thomas the Tank Engine!

Hopefully I'll be able to get back into the swing of things over the coming months as I find some hobby mojo, especially with Panzerschreck a month out and some Germans needing to hit the painting table before then.

Catch you next time...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Comets Coming Together

With April coming to a close it has actually been a pretty busy month despite what the blog might suggest. I've been playing some X-Wing, checking out a pretty awesome new Auckland store, chatting to Ben from Breakthrough Assault (a lot) and chipping away at 11th Armoured Division.

Currently I am still in the assembly phase and I was really struggling with the new Comet plastics to get a rhythm going and then something suddenly clicked at our regular Thursday night work hobby evening... I just assembly lined up my last five Comets and (doing 5 vehicles at once)
  1. clipped off the lower hull, upper hull and hull rear plate and glued together
  2. clipped off turret top, bottom, bin, mantlet, then glued together
  3. clipped of hatch, light and gun and glued
  4. turret pins clipped and glued
  5. hull plated clipped and glued
  6. machine-gun section of the frame removed from the rest, clipped and glued
  7. last but not least, tracks clipped out but not glued! Going to be painting them separately and attaching at the end!
It took me more than an hour, but less than two and I was pretty happy about that effort given two tanks a couple of weeks earlier took me about the same amount of time. I did learn though that a pair of really fine clippers is a must for some of those finer parts. I'd been using my large GF9 clippers and they are just too big and unfortunately I'd left my smaller ones at home. Luckily I borrowed Aaron's Tamiya ones and they worked a charm.

With the 10 Comets now all assembled, it is time to hit the M5 halftracks and Universal Carriers. I have a bit of a deadline to hit though as our offices are going to be moving in about a month and the new place doesn't have quite the space for airbrushing that we have now and I'd like to break the back of this army (and my Panzerschreck one) before the move...

Good luck achieving that I say!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

So that was Battlecry 2015

Well the first event of the year is been and gone and I am bushed. Been a while since I knocked out 8 games in two days and I am feeling it.

Upstairs rubbing elbows
Battlecry this year was at a new venue and whilst it was pretty nice, it was quite a bit smaller than the previous one leading to some compromises. On the positive side it was light, airy, in a rather fancy suburb of Auckland (which meant that there were nice places to hang out and have lunch etc, or go for a "between games wander". On the down side though itmissed a lot of the atmosphere of the previous venue where the larger space meant that there were plenty of non-wargaming things to check out. There was also a hiccup in the layout that meant that the upstairs (where I was all weekend) was a bit cramped and really noisy with that many gamers. Day two was not so bad as the Roleplayers moved downstairs and the 1 day Malifaux event had run its course.

On day one I played X-Wing in a 60/90/120/150 point escalation event. Dash and the B-Wings turned up with Dash Rendar leading the charge, and then at each points escalation another B-Wing joined the squadron.

Dash Rendar (57) YT-2400 Freighter (36), Push the Limit (3), Heavy Laser Cannon (7), Lando Calrissian (3), Outrider (5), Hull Upgrade (3)

Blue Squadron Pilot (31) x 3
B-Wing (22), Fire-Control System (2), Heavy Laser Cannon (7)

On day two we had more space upstairs than day one
In the couple of playtest games I had the list seemed really good but as it turned out I think I invested some of my points a bit poorly. Dash is excellent, and Lando is a fantastic (if slightly random) upgrade and I am tossing up between Lando crewing a ship, and Lando piloting a ship...

In the end the shortcomings of my list were found out a couple of times, and I ended up down the end of the rankings. Talking with Andrew and Victor after the event I found myself wishing I had taken a Decimator build. Ironically Victor was wishing he went with the YT-2400. I guess the grass is always greener!

Day two and I ended up taking a very low stress 'jack heavy Kara Sloan list to the 50 point Warmachine event.

Captain Kara Sloan - WJ: +6
- Squire (2)
- Defender (9)
- Stormwall (19)
- Thunderhead (12)
- Minuteman (5)

- Minuteman (5)

Journeyman Warcaster (3)

Reinholdt, Gobber Speculator (1)

With no units I knew I would not have to think too hard about placement and if I could get some good matchups I would just shoot my opponents off the table. As it happened I managed to shoot one off the table (pXerxis) whilst two others outshot me (Legion beasts and Retribution Mage Hunters), whilst one ground me down (after I dropped his caster down to 3 health and missed 3 boosted RAT 6 or 8, Pow 15 or 12 weapon master shots!).

Downstairs luxury
Kara is fun and it was great to really try out the Minuteman 'jack. Not convinced that I am a good enough player to get the most out of them, or that Kara is the best caster for them, but damn the look cool (love the Hunter chassis) and I really do have the urge to paint them now! On the downside I am less interested in painting up Bradigus as every man and his dog had a freshly assembled or painted Brad force. Whilst I need every crutch I can get my hands on I am not sure I want to be one of "those guys" running the new broken toy... If I wanted to do that I could just run Banes of Legion beast spam :)

Next event up on the calender is Ides Of March, the big 50 point, 40+ players, all the hard men coming out to play. In theory I will be running my Circle as I have the most options that are fully painted (yep Ides is a fully painted event) but I am really struggling to pin myself down. I have a week to ponder it so I guess I better find some inspiration fast.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cut The Bull, It’s The 11th Armoured Division!

One of the personal challenges I set myself, and have regularly failed, is to build a new 1500/1750 point army for each book that comes out. Nachtjäger is really testing both my ability to put time aside, as well as just committing to one list.

Looking at the releases there are three things that really stand out to me; Comets, IR Panthers and Jagdpanthers, and the FlaK Wagons. Comets have a nice blend of stats that really appeal to me; the speed of a light tank which will let them bounce from terrain piece to terrain piece, then push around the flanks. A comparable gun to the Panther – AT14 just gets the job done most times, especially when combined with the ability to push the flanks. Semi-indirect fire – I’ve always wanted to run an army with this because I find it so challenging to face. Front Armour 7 – not a huge value but enough to keep enemy medium tanks honest by bouncing half of their shots. Plus I get to put yellow and black decals on them!

Panthers and Jagdpanthers are just awesome, and I don’t currently have a company painted so the plastic kit is really my chance to finish one. I’d be going with the hypothetical “Solution B” IR option because I think it looks cool and would make the army stand out.

Lastly the FlaK Wagons… I’m really just looking at the Marine Grenadiers as a delivery device so I can put 4-6 of these on the table. Plus I can use my existing Late War infantry and AA, and it gives me an incentive to paint up some extra items.

Looking at all three models I really want to build lists for them but in the short term I think I have nailed it down to one (no surprises given the post title) - the Comets of the 11th Armoured Division.
Thinking about the lists.
My plan is to build a tight 1500 point and a 1750 point force, with no additional options (at least in the short term) and at the same time maximum the number of models that I am excited about painting.

1500 points
Armoured Squadron HQ – 1 Comet 145 points
Armoured Platoon – 3 Comets 435 points
Armoured Platoon – 3 Comets 435 points
Motor Platoon – 3 Squads (with .50cal AA MGs) 160 points
Scout Platoon – 3 Carriers (with extra MGs) 105 points
Priority Air Support – Typhoon 220 points

1750 points
Armoured Squadron HQ – 2 Comets 290 points
Armoured Platoon – 4 Comets 580 points
Armoured Platoon – 3 Comets 435 points
Motor Platoon – 3 Squads (with .50cal AA MGs) 160 points
Scout Platoon – 3 Carriers (with extra MG and .50 cal) 110 points
Limited Air Support – Typhoon 170 points

As you can see, both lists feature the same units, with just some tweaks as to how they fit together. In the long term I would definitely look at chopping things around but for now I was keen to keep to four platoons. Adding in another two platoons would require dropping both of the extra Comets (or 1 Comet and the Typhoon) and reduce my chances of completing it any time soon. These lists also tick a lot of painting boxes for me; the Comets just look cool and I never got around to doing my 7th Armoured Cromwells. The new plastic British infantry are really nice and represent a nice way to start building a Rifle Company at some point, plus they are supported by the plastic M5s. The new Universal Carrier is fantastic with a new 1 piece hull/tracks/body resin model with freshly sculpted crew figures. Lastly the Typhoon is just cool and I have been enjoying painting a few one-off aircraft recently.

The next job is to work out how this will fit into my current painting schedule…

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

2015 Gaming Calendar

With January rapidly coming to a close I thought it was worth taking a closer look at the Wargaming Calendar for 2015 and coming up with a bit of a plan. Also I need to clear the plan with the Master Scheduler (in other words, my wife) so that I don’t get into hot water.

Battlecry - Tigers in the mud
Traditionally one of my favourite events of the year as in the past it was hosted in a big gymnasium and it was filled with people playing a wide variety of wargames, as well as board games and card games. It also had the biggest turn out of retailers of any of the events I would normally go to. This resulted in some good games along with a few ways to be parted from my money. This year they are moving to a new (smaller) venue and dividing the event up over a couple of weekends. Hopefully it will still retain the flavour of previous years and luckily I only have a few weeks to wait to find out!

As for the gaming I am taking a slightly unconventional approach (at least by my standards) and dividing the weekend up in to two events – one day of X-Wing and one day or Hordes (first chance to roll out some Trolls).

Ides of March
Yeah, this is the big one! 40-50 Warmahordes players and a chance to get in a bunch of tough games (that I will of course loose). Ideally I will be taking the Trolls along for their second outing but IOM does have a fully painted requirement (which I am really pleased about) so I might have to put down a backup list with eBaldur and/or Bradigus Thorle and lots of constructs. Super excited about this event

Ides Of March - Sweet trophies!
To go to the NZ Nationals or to not go… that is the question?
This year the New Zealand Nationals will be in Auckland (yay!) but I am really struggling to find the time and enthusiasm put a 3 day weekend into gaming these days. Ten years ago I would have gone in a heartbeat but with more responsibilities comes more hard decisions… not going will definitely put a dent in my efforts to take out the Romanian spot in the NZ Flames Of War Rankings though! I might end up just having to put in a days friendly gaming somewhere instead?

The North Island Convention is on another long weekend (just like the Nationals) but in this case it is in Thames (which is a short-ish drive away from the in-laws house) which might make it a bit easier to get away for a couple of days. Whilst it is too far away for concrete plans, Flames Of War is definitely on the cards.

Panzerschreck - Road Trippin'
Panzerschreck is the ancestral home of Flames Of War tournament gaming and traditionally takes the form of a doubles Late War event. 

Definitely keen on this as we normally hire a big mini-van for a nice team building 9 hour drive! I’ve been chatting to Phil about pairing up for a bit of low stress gaming. 

Assuming I get my act together I’ll either be taking an Atlantik Wall Puma company or Romanian StuGs so that could be quite a lot of fun.

Lords of Ruin - More sweet trophies!
Lords of Ruin
I am working on the assumption that this event is happening again this year as it was an absolute blast last year. Sean Lincoln organised a fantastic event in a local pub (down in Wellington). This is my drop dead target for having the fully painted Trolls in action!

Looking forward to this one day W/H event here in Auckland. All the usual suspects will be there, and it will be a low stress event!

We still need to get out ducks in a row with FlamesCon but my assumption is that it is happening… so much for insider knowledge eh! Either way, Romanians all the way baby! Currently thinking that it would be fun to play Early and Mid War, just not confident that I can get an EW Romanian army painted for it…

Well, there we have it, but 2015 event plan… throw in a few 1 day X-Wing events that pop up over the course of the year and it is feeling pretty solid to me.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Year of the Trolls: Designing My Meat Mountain

2015 has finally come around and it is time to start thinking about what I am going to paint if I am going to make "The Year Of The Troll" a reality.

First up how do I build a list that is going to be fairly competitive? Looking around the forums it is pretty easy to see that all the talk is about the "Miserable Meat Mountain". There are a lot of different builds that people are touting and the key seems to involve a couple of units of Warders (defensive infantry) with a Krielstone Bearer (defensive buffing infantry). Throw a good caster, a tough warbeast, and some strike infantry and it sounds like you have a good list.

Now that I know that much I am throwing the rest out of the window and building something that I like to look of!

First up lets find a caster. There are some really nice looking models in the range. One of my favourite models is Grim Angus. His feat is quite defensive which seems to pair up nicely with the whole theory of the list. He can buff friendly troops to help them get into combat, and he can annoy enemy units, making them drop their defence or be unable to charge. Sounds good to me! Plus he has a gun and I love a good gun line.

When it comes to warbeasts everyone loves Mulg. His ability to protect his caster and knock the socks off enemy ones makes him a powerhouse on the tabletop. Plus I watched him roll over me in a game in 15 minutes a few years ago and it would be nice to do that to someone. Does not really matter what you add after that!

Units. The Meat Mountain people seem to have that under control but I am going to make some changes. Warders and a Krielstone Bearer & Stone Scribes are a no brainer. I like the idea of the Champions rather than the second Warders unit. They are semi defensive but have attacking power on the charge. Plus it means that I don't have to duplicate units. Last but not least I am going to add some Fennblades. I love the models and I have real trouble knocking them off when I see them across the table.

Flavour the list with a couple of solos to help the Fennblades move around the table, and a Fell Caller Hero to get them back up when they are knocked down, and it sounds like a pretty decent list.

My 50 point Meat Mountain List
Grim Angus
- Mulg the Ancient
- Troll Axer

Fell Caller Hero

Fennblade Kithkar

Krielstone Bearer & Stone Scribes - Leader & 5 Grunts

- Stone Scribe Elder
Trollkin Fennblades - Leader & 9 grunts
- Fennblade Officer and Drummer - Officer & Drummer
Trollkin Champions - Leader & 4 Grunts
Trollkin Warders - Leader & 4 Grunts

I've already started thinking about expansion options - Kriel Warriors and Highwaymen are looking pretty great but I should probably focus on the first 50 points before I start thinking about the next!

Time to hit the brushes!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Thinking about 2015

I'm on the last day of my Christmas holidays and before I call them over I wanted to take a few minutes to think about what this year would hold for me on the hobby front!

Flames Of War
I can already feel myself going down the proverbial rabbit hole with FOW this year. The impending release of Nachtjäger has me keen on building two different companies. First up is a German Panther / Jagdpanther company - this has been on my "to-do" list for many years but I've just never gotten around to it. With the new plastics coming and the IR gear I think it might be time to take the plunge and paint up a really late war company. The British are pretty exciting too with the ability to build plastic Comets, supported by plastic infantry, riding in plastic M5 half tracks. My current plan is too keep the list tight with 8-10 tanks, a motor platoon and a carrier patrol.

Following on from this I have a small pile of Israeli Jeeps that are undercoated and ready for pin washing. I'm really enjoying the look of the Sayeret list from Fate Of A Nation and whilst I don't have much to paint to field a Jeep company I am worried about how I will fit it in given all the other projects competing for hobby time this year.

During the break I've also taken the opportunity to tidy up my garage and I came across a pile of Soviet ISU assault guns that I bought during the River Of Heroes play testing, so many years ago. Given how much I love playing tank destroyers in World Of Tanks, the idea of building a small focused ISU company is very appealing!

Last but not least, I'd like to make an effort at qualifying for the NZ Masters this year. I already have a feeling that I wont have the time but I will leave the thought sitting in the back of my head and see what my chances are looking like come the middle of the year. Of course I want to have a little side challenge... I want to do it using Romanian tanks! With the release of the StuG and Panzer IV plastics I can build most of the army using these new kits. Throw in some infantry in 251s, heavy artillery, recon and maybe a Stuka and I might have a fun list!

Dust Tactics
I've taken a bit of a hiatus on painting my Dust models after getting the first 100 points completed, but playing in the tournament at FlamesCon has gotten me pretty excited about pushing on and getting the next 100 done. I just need to make a call as to what it will be. I've completed all of my Steel Guard models, so I need to turn my focus to either the SSU heavy tanks, or Red Guards infantry. Both are tempting and will look great when done. I guess I need to schedule in a tournament to help me focus my energies!

WarmaHordes - aka The Year Of The Troll
Yep, 2013... I mean 2014, no wait, 2015! The Year Of The Troll... This year I am making a serious attempt at putting a fully painted, 50 point, Meat Mountain on the table! I'll explain the Meat
Mountain later in a future post, but suffice to say it involves lots of Trolls, with lots of hit points. To help me achieve this lofty goal I've enlisted the help of local WarmaHordes painting guru, Chris Baker. His ability to paint to a high standard, at an exceptional pace has become legendary round these parts. Of course no matter how hard he tries I wont be able to paint as well, or as fast, but he has shown me a few tricks that I have been trying over the Christmas break. More on that later too!
X-Wing (and Armada)
I don't really need to say much on this front. There is nothing to paint, you just put the models on the table and away you go. Of course there are some exciting releases that FFG have already shown off that I really like the look of. It is nice to have a distraction that does not require any brush time.

We have been doing a lot of lunch time X-Wing at work and the ability to power through a game in 2-3 lunch breaks has been really good. We are also really lucky to have a vibrant tournament scene here in NZ thanks to a couple of local organisers and some pretty outstanding local stockists. Which reminds me, I have to go and check out the new store that just opened - sadly here in Middle Earth that is not a statement that we get to make very often! I hear that they are running quite a few 1 day events that would be fun to get involved with.

Building Battlefields!
A bit like the Year Of The Trolls, this is something that has been on my Christmas "to-do" list for a number of years. I have bought a lot of the Battlefield in a Box range of products because they are the perfect combination of pre-painted and well priced! That might sound like a sales pitch but I really believe it when it comes to these items. I generally cannot be bothered building terrain from scratch, let alone painting it (I'd rather be painting miniatures) so the range ticks the box for me. What I would like to do though is put a little flock on them and spruce them up a bit. I've picked up some storage tubs in the Christmas sales and will get everything sorted out and hopefully at some point this year I'll get them all finished.

I also came across a blog post from my friend Pete over at The Fields Of Blood and I am pretty envious of his finished Tablescapes Urban Tiles! 

His painting guide was really good, and most importantly made the task sound really easy... so it looks like I will need to make an exception to my "not painting terrain statement". Somewhere on the 2015 painting plan I need to find time to knock these out. He said it only took about 12 hours, how hard can that be to find!

So, that is my 2015 plan... 1 week into the year and I am feeling confident! 

Good luck with your plans and hopefully the new year treats you well.