Monday, October 24, 2011

HE Spearmen Conversion Complete and Southern Assault Day 2

To finish my tournament report, I came into the second round at 1-0-2, which was good enough to be on table 6.  I knew that the two draws meant I didn't have any shot at any generalship awards, but I thought with a victory or two that I might crack the top ten.  It turns out that I didn't need to worry about cracking the top ten.

Game 4 (Lizardmen):  I originally thought I was up against another daemon player (which I was looking forward to); however, when I saw Lizardmen, I knew I was in trouble.  For some reason, I always struggle against Lizards; I personally think they are one of the more powerful 8th edition armies.  This list was a little atypical in that it featured four units of skinks; however, he was using the slann with all of the bells and whistles.    In the end, this game showed the power of augmentations in 8th edition.  He primarily focused on the ward save spell, the shield of thorns, and the toughness spell, using dwellers primarily as a bluff.  The extra slann dice meant that I couldn't hope to stop everything, and he was typically able to get off two of the three spells with no problem.  The swordmasters did manage to sneak around and get a rear charge off on the exposed slann, but they did no damage.  My opponent had some bad luck with leadership tests early but his skill at manipulating the magic phase ensured him a perfect victory.  Only my archmage survived at the end.   The archers were my best unit here again, further cementing my plans to use a more archer heavy force next time.

Game 5 (Beastmen):  For the final game, I ended up in the middle of the pack against a veteran player's beastman army.  My opponent was a lot of fun and as often happens at the end of tournaments like this, neither of us took the game as completely as serious as we might have.  One thing that impressed me in his play was his use of Transformation of Khadon as magic defense.  He would cast it at the end of every round, leaving me with the decision of whether to use 4 of my power dice to dispel it or whether to allow a dragon to charge the next turn.  In hindsight, I probably should have just let the dragon go. I don't know that he would have actually used it, and if he had, it's possible that I could have dispelled it and killed the mage during my phase.  I was worried about him flying into my BSB though, so I kept throwing dice at it. This was really a close game, and I actually thought we were heading for my third draw.  However, after I moved a chariot to block a charge from his largest unit, we found that he was still able to nick my unit as it wheeled in.  It was close, bu this brought my archmage's bunker into a fight they couldn't win.  After that, I ended up retreating away to maintain narrow defeat.  The white lions were my best unit this game, but my opponent did an excellent job of using magic (the difficult terrain spell) and redirectors to keep them out of combat.  I think we ended up about two hundred points a part, making this my third really close game of the tournament (which is fine by me).

 In the end, this was my least successful tournament this year with a 1-2-2 record; however, because the games were so close, I had a lot of fun. My soft scores were good which was enough to put me right in the middle of the pack overall.  In addition,  I was pleasantly surprised to have been awarded the "Player's Choice Award" for best army.  I understand that the voting was very close. Honestly, I'd rather win awards like that than generalship awards as it shows that people appreciated the hard work I've put into my army. 

I also finished tied for second (with about five players) for best painted army.  Both voting results were also interesting to me because my technical skills are not up to some of the other players.  However, I noticed that many of the best technically painted armies had limited conversions or a very basic display board.  On the other hand, I have several notable conversions and a fairly elaborate (if still unfinished) display board.  As I move forward with this army, I plan to add more extras like that in hopes of augmenting my painting (I also think my painting is getting better, so eliminating some of my older miniatures should help as well).  I think the lesson here is that the extras help an army stand out during voting, so they are worth the time (I also think that some armies stand out more than others, but that is a topic for another time).

That's one reason that I am converting these spearmen.  I'm hoping that this unit will stand out on the table, and they will definitely look better than my current spears which were both my first fantasy unit and speed painted. I have the models finished; here's how the unit turned out:

As you can see, there are only nine.  This is because the Phoenix Guard kit is rather annoying in that certain bodies only connect with certain arms.  My tenth figure's arm wouldn't fit.  Hopefully, I'll be able to correct that out of the next box.   I've been alternating between modeling these guys and painting a unit of TK chariots.  Hopefully, I can get a test model painted before next week's post. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

HE Spear Conversion and Southern Assault Day 1

I'm going to use this post to give a quick run-down of my games.  I'm not going to do a blow-by-blow report, but I will share some of what I learned from each.  For those that might not have read last week's post, I attended Southern Assault at Parker, Banner, Kent, and Wayne in Cornelius, NC.  It is a two-day GT style event, and there were 38 players in attendance.

I posted my list last week, and it's pretty close to what I've been playing in the tournaments that score paint.  As I pointed out, there are some flaws in the list, and this infantry heavy set-up has not been nearly as successful as my dragon lists.

Game 1:  We left the house at 5AM, so I was a bit tired and grumpy for the first game.  Luckily, I drew a pleasant opponent whom was playing a Bloodthirster led Daemon army.  This was my first matchup against a Thirster, and they absolutely wreck stuff.  HEs can be vulnerable to big monsters, especially those with ward saves.  Magic probably gives us the best chance of dealing with things like hydras and Thirsters, but Lore of Life is a bit limited in that respect.  Outside of the big daemon, my army had the advantage in combat.  I wanted to use the PG to bog it down, but its fly let him pick his combat.  He really wanted to go get my Archmage's bunker, but I managed to maneuver them an inch behind the white lions, so he contended himself with eating that unit.  It took him several turns to massacre them which gave me enough time to pick up some points elsewhere, and the game ended in a 45 point draw.

The key moment in the game came in the last round when he moved his screamers, whom had been whittled away by archers, to apparent safety.  Unfortunately, he didn't notice that if the PG won their combat that they could potentially charge them in my my half of the turn. The scenario played out in my favor, and I was able to grab some much needed victory points.  The MVP unit for this game was probably the archers, who destroyed some flamers and forced the screamers into a tight spot.  I'm thinking I definitely need more ranged power in future tournament lists.

Game 2:  With my draw and a decent collection of battle points, I moved up a few tables and found myself playing a Dark Elf player.  I've been to enough tournaments to know most of the local players, but this was my second game against a new player.  I like meeting and playing new folks, and this guy seemed to be a very astute player.  He did not have the Sacrificial Dagger in his list, which was a nice change of pace from  typical DE lists; however, he did have the Pendant, which really gave me fits.  He had the Pendant on a Pegasus hero so he was able to fly him right into my white lions, neutralizing my best unit for the whole game.  As you can see, the ability of flying heroes to pick their spots is recurring them of this tournament.

This game really demonstrated the random nature of 8th edition.  Some people hate this aspect of the game; I actually like it. The uncertainty of pulling off charges and the calculation of risk is where some of the most enjoyable strategy lies.  Anyway, we went through about two rounds where no one could land a charge or overrun.  I thought I had picked up the early advantage when I got two units into his corsairs.  He only rolled a 6 for his break roll, so I figured with two units (one of them being swiftstrider!) I had that unit.  I rolled 5 1s.  That's not exaggeration.  This set him up for a combined charge with his blackguard going into my unit's front and a hydra into the side.  The hydra needed a four on its roll to complete the charge.  He got a 3.  That was pretty much the whole game.  Ultimately, the game came down to whether his Pendant pegasus could eat my whole unit of white lions.  Thanks to some judicious use of Regrowth he came up one model short (my least favorite part of 8th -- you kill that many white lions and you deserve some points), and the game ended in a 27 point draw.  This made my archmage the MVP for this game.  In the end, this was a really fun game which featured lots of maneuvering (more fun than just meeting in the middle); a fun opponent and a close ending made this my favorite game at the tournament.

Game 3:  In a game that has made it difficult to draw, I now had two. The tournament gave draws a 10-10 split in battle points which meant that given some decent battle point scores, I was moving slowly up the tables.  For the third game, I found myself up against a TK army that was at 2-0.  I'm pretty well acquainted with TK since they are my backup army.  His list was set up around a Tomb Guard deathstar that contained a Destroyer of Eternity's king, a necrotect, a BSB, and his hierophant.  Needless to say, killing that unit was not going to be easy.

I generally don't fear armies that lean on a single unit. I can use eagles to hold them up while I kill the rest of the army.  However, during this game, I got some early luck and managed to take down his support units quickly.  I also had the chance to combine charge the Tomb Guard, so I took it.  Please note for future reference that even under optimal circumstances that  TG deathstar is a hard nut to crack. Eventually, it broke every thing I threw at it.  Luckily, I got all the TG, but the King lived to plot his revenge.  There's not much to say about this game; I took a lot of points without giving many away.  The MVP was my noble on great eagle who hopped from fight to fight wreaking havoc. Having that flying hero along with a life mage to heal him really helped the cause.

So that's day one.  All in all, I felt pretty good at 1-0-2.  I knew I wasn't in contention for any of the generalship prizes, but I figured that I'd be in line for some challenging games at the top table.

Now, back to the hobby side of things, my phoenix guard into spearmen conversion continues.  I have several mostly completed now.  Last time I suggested clipping the hand of the spear and pinning it back together.  Don't do that.  It makes the spear too short.  I didn't think anyone would notice, but it looks silly.  Instead, it's possible to shave the hand off and then file it flat.  I think that works far better.  I thought I was going to use silver helm bits for the shield arm, but they don't fit.  Therefore, I went with regular spearman arms which seemed to work just fine.  Here's what I have so far.

Looks like a couple need a little more file work, but they look fine to the naked eye. Any thoughts or suggestions?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Southern Assault (10/1-10/2 in Cornelius, NC) and High Elf Spear Conversion

It's aliiiiiiive!  Obviously, it has been a while since I posted.  I went on vacation and later took on some extra responsibilities at work.  The net result has been an almost total hobby freeze.  However, I was able to make it down to NC's newest GT this weekend, and I have picked up enough steam to post once more.  Hopefully, I'll be able to pick up my forgotten wargaming projects and keep this thing rolling.

Primarily, this post will be a review of the new tourney, and I want to say up front that Southern Assault has what it takes to become the WHFB experience in NC.  Jerry and Dan run a great event.  They are super organized and added a lot of unique touches such as the gaming club competition (congratulations Kobra Kai) and a hobby knowledge quiz.  Events like this really bring the gaming community closer together, and I am   hopeful that they can build on this great inaugural event.  If you're interested in the game and can make it up next year, I highly recommend it.

One thing positive that I noticed was the variety of armies present.  I believe there was at least one representative from each army except the Bretonnians.  The so-called power armies (VC, DE, and Daemons) had the most entries (along with Empire) as usual, but I never had to play the same army twice (I drew Daemons, Tomb Kings, Dark Elves, Lizards, and Beastmen).  The final battle point standings help make the case that 8th edition is more balanced as only the Lizardmen placed two entries into the top ten.  Furthermore, some of the "softer" armies were at the top of the heap:  an Ogre player took best overall (and had the most battle points) and a Wood Elf player took home a well-deserved best general.  For those interested in such things, the top ten (out of 38) in battle points were as follows: Ogres, Wood Elves, Dwarves, Lizardmen, Warriors, Lizardmen, High Elves, Beastmen, VC, and Orcs.

I thought the tourney also offered a good display of the hobby side of the game as the painting scores were very close, and I saw some great boards and got some conversion ideas.  I have a few pictures to show off, but I want to get permission from the owners before I put them up.  I did get to take my kids through the displays, and they were thoroughly impressed.  My son was especially taken by the Nurgle army that won best painted while my daughter enjoyed the Christmas themed Dark Elves (including Santa in his chariot ... er sleigh).  Good stuff.

As usual at tournaments like this, the list I took was balanced between looking good and being effective on the table.  Here's what I ended up with:

Archmage (Level 4, jewel of dusk, general)
BSB (Armor of Caledor, Dawnstone, GW)
Noble on Great Eagle (Helm of Fortune, Shield, GW)

27 Spearmen (FC)
15 Seaguard (FC, standard of discipline)
12 Archers (Standard)

27 White Lions (FC, banner of eternal flame)
19 Phoenix Guard (FC, champ with amulet of light)
12 Swordmasters (Standard)
Lion Chariot

Great Eagle
Great Eagle

I made this list pretty quickly since the tourney was a last minute affair for me, but the phoenix guard, great eagles, and eagle lord are all winners.  The white lions are dangerous, but they get whittled down pretty quickly.  The swordmasters shine against non-shooting foes, but in small numbers, they work best off to the flanks.  As far as the list losers go, the sea guard are too expensive for a bunker.  I believe the points would have been better spent giving the archmage the Talisman of Saphery and Forlariath's Robe and shifting the archmage to the white lions.  This also serves to make Earthblood a dangerous spell as it gives the white lions a much needed defensive boost.

In retrospect, my final verdict is that life < shadow.  I won or drew every game in which I got the toughness spells, and I lost every game that I didn't.  In addition, in the game I was massacred, I drew awakening of the wood, throne of vines, shield of thrones, and regrowth.  That's not exactly the most fearsome set of spells, and outside of some special situations, a savvy opponent knows that he doesn't really need to stop anything except regrowth.  That's really the problem with running a lone Life caster.  Outside of Dwellers and Flesh to Stone everything else is pretty situational.  If you head to battle without one or the other, and your opponent can save his dice for the one you do have.  Shadow has some bum spells, but I think the possibility of getting two really dangerous spells is much higher there than with Life.  My next list will probably change the archmage to Shadow and  add a level 2 High caster so that I can get the white lions a much needed ward save.  We'll see how that goes as I get ready for the next tournament.

Anyway, I'll do a rundown of my games in my next post.  I somehow managed to take home a prize, but I'll leave you in suspense about what it was.  In the meantime, I took my prize money and picked up a box of Phoenix Guard to convert into Spearmen.  My spears are very rough having been speed painted before a tournament when I first got back into the game.  The models are also among the worst in the High Elf range.  Therefore, I'm hoping to upgrade with a sweet conversion (I have no idea who to credit for this idea.  I've seen a few such conversions on, but I'm not working from any specific guide).

In the box, you get 6 one-handed and 6 two-handed halberds.  The one handed ones will just need to be clipped from this:

To this:

However, the two handed ones need to have the extra hand clipped out like this:

You can then take your hand drill and drill a hole to pin the weapon back together (I used a 52 bit here). Once you are finished, you have a sweet looking spear (hopefully I can use some liquid green stuff to even out the jagged edge at the joint):

That's enough for now.  Next time I'll give you an update of the games and show you how the conversion is progressing.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My New White Lions

Before I get into my weekly dose of miniature goodness, I want to make a personal plea to vote for Rod Spellman for Ennies Judge.  You can vote here:

Rod writes the general gaming blog "On First," which you can find in my favorites.  He knows more about gaming than anyone I know, and as you can see from his reviews, he is able to analyze them with a keen eye.  I am certain that he would be an outstanding judge, so I hope you will head to that page and give him your vote.  If you have your own blog or are the member of any gaming related fora, feel free to evangelize the masses:  Rod Spellman for Ennies Judge!

Now that I've made my shameless plug, it's onto miniatures.

I've been working on rounding out my white lion unit this last week.  I've been running a unit of 30, which despite its high cost, has been working very well.  They do boatloads of damage, and their stubborn trait helps protect them from a bad round.  Currently, I managed to finish off the unit; however, I used a unit filler to do so.  I'm still deciding on whether I like it.  On one hand, I like the lion models, and when I run two lion chariots along with this unit, the army looks very nice together.  On the other hand, I'm not sure I like having two lions leaping out of ranked infantry.  What do you think?

Looking at the picture, I see that I need to paint the lion's eyes.  A handler might also look nice.  I have an idea for a conversion using the chariot driver, so I might add that next.

Incidentally, the white lions are the only of the new releases that I bought.  I think they far outstrip their metal predecessors.  On the other hand, I was happy with the old Dragon Princes and Phoenix Guard, so even though the new models are nice, I wasn't moved to purchase some.  I will say that this kit upset me a bit because it was far less customizable than most GW kits.  Each body was only matched with two out of the four available torsos, and when I tried to deviate from the guide, the models were left with gaps.  The end result is nice, but I guess I am spoiled by the freedom of the other kits.

It looks like I might get to try Hordes of the Things this week, so look for a reaction to that game in the coming days!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Storm of Magic Tournament (7/10 ~ Durham, NC)

In the last post, I said that I was going to take a tougher High Elf list to the uncomped tournament at Sci-Fi Genre in Durham.  This is the list that I ultimately took:

Archmage w/ Book of Hoeth
BSB w/ Armor of Caledor and Dawnstone

40 Spearelves
20 Archers (standard of discipline)

24 Phoenix Guard (Banner of Sorcery, Amulet of Light)
30 White Lions (Ironcurse Icon)
14 Swordmasters (Gem of Courage)


My plan was to use the irresistible Dwellers Below to soften up units for my capable close combat troops.  However, when I got there I learned that this was not a straight tournament.  Instead, it featured three of the scenarios from the new Storm of Magic expansion.  Needless to say, this changed the dynamics of the game quite a bit.  Here were the scenarios we played:

Scenario 1:  The only change was that players rolled 4d6 for power dice (with the top two being the dispel pool).  It seemed like 20 to 11 was the regular spread in my games.  At first glance, I thought this was a big advantage to high magic armies.  However, what really happened was that the increased dispel dice allowed  opponents to kill the most important spells.  I'm thinking that if people knew that they were playing this kind of tournament that they might have been able to take more high level casters.  As it was, this rule definitely boosted magic defense rather than offense.

That said, my high elf opponent (who went on to tie for third in the tournament) used his extra dice to power all three of the lore of death character sniping spells and managed to take out my BSB and my archmage by the end of his second magic phase. Despite this set-back, I was able to use my combat troops to claw back into the game.  Some lucky leadership tests and timely applications of the steadfast rules allowed me to squeak out a three hundred point victory.

Scenario 2:  During this round, the rules from scenario 1 stood; however, new rules added a chart on which we rolled each round to see which lores of magic could be cast at +4 power.  This really didn't come into play much.  Most of the time we rolled lores that neither player possessed.

I drew a Vampire Counts army this round, and my increased dispel pool helped me mitigate his magic phase.  I was able to pull the Drakenhoff Grave Guard away from my battle line which allowed the rest of my army to mop up his ghouls.  My irresistible magic phase was annoying for my opponent; I can definitely see why it is banned in most tournaments.

Scenario 3:  The rules from the first two rounds stood; however, this round added the fulcrums. These terrain pieces boosted the defense of the casters (who had to stand on them outside a unit); however, miscasts had to roll on the chart from the core book as well as a different chart than included all kinds of crazy results (turning the caster into a monster, turning all casters on the board into frogs, etc). 

In my third game, these didn't come into play much at all.  I was paired against a Tzeentch/Khorne Daemons army on the second table. His caster got off the fulcrum at the first opportunity, and his whole army shot everything it could at my archmage, slaying him before she could flee into the safety of a unit.  However, I was able to rally by dragging his Bloodletter horde away with my eagles.  His horrors and flamers really had no answer for High Elf combat troops.  Without my mage to protect me, I took a beating in the magic phase, but most of it was magic missiles.  I lost troops, but he wasn't able to eliminate whole units.  In the end, I got everything but his Lord of Change and his Bloodletter horde (which is a ton of points); however, he only got my eagles and my archers.  I knew it was close, but after we added the points for banners and my general, it ended up being a 109 point spread (ten points from a draw).

Ultimately, I can't say I was that impressed by the Storm of Magic magic rules.  To me, they just seemed to slow the game down without adding all that much.  However, we didn't use any of the new spells or army build rules, so perhaps when those are added in, it will work better.  My guess is that the next Sci-Fi tournament will use the full Storm of Magic rule, so it's time to start building up my army of Lammasu (I'll also be sure to have a Bloodthirster to hang out with my High Elves).

Listwise, with my shiny new Book of Hoeth, I was expecting to have plenty of dice with which to destroy my opponents.  However, what really happened was that my opponents used their magic dice to snipe my wizard in the first round of the game.  I only got to use her in the second game (and in that game he did indeed revel in his brokenness).  Despite losing the lynchpin of the list, I was still able to win all three games (1 massacre, 2 regular victories), taking the second place prize (1st place was the Beastman army to which I lost in the first round of the Mocksville tournament.  He had 2 massacres and a regular victory).

The way the tournament went down makes me wonder if I just shouldn't drop wizards all together.  I could take another solid combat block for the points of an archmage.  If I knew that I could get 10 dispel dice every turn, I just might do that.  Sadly, there are no more tournaments around here any time soon.  After the recent flurry, I doubt we have another until September.

That break should give me a chance to work on some of my non-Warhammer models.  I still need to finish my DBA Carthaginians.  I started to use my prize money to buy a Perdita warband for Malifaux (I saved most of it, so I still might), and one of the players in Durham and I have been discussing starting up Field of Glory.  So many models; so little time.

I feel odd closing a post with no pictures, but I haven't painted anything lately.  In lieu of new content, here's a shot of the model that drew the most attention at the tournament: my swordmaster's standard bearer.  This model inspired several discussions about the laws of physics.  Do you think the flag is too much?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mantic Dwarves

Or is it dwarfs?

Anyway, I've long been interested in a dwarf army.  Even when my wargaming consisted of nothing but 40k, I was interested in fantasy and had plans of starting an army.  My first aborted attempt at a fantasy army was when I picked up a box of the brand new, state of the art plastic, mono-pose high elf archers back when 2nd edition 40k was current.  That army never went past that one box.  Later during the height of my 40k period, I grabbed three army books to explore the possibilities of starting Fantasy: Orcs and Goblins, Empire, and Dwarfs.  Ultimately, the lack of Fantasy players in NE Tennessee discouraged me from beginning, but dwarfs were always a favorite of mine.

Ten years later, I am sitting on two Fantasy armies (Tomb Kings and High Elves), and even though both are getting quite large, I still find myself adding to them.  I also have limited play time (one tournament per month and one day of weekend gaming per month), and finding the time to play both armies is challenging.  Nonetheless, the siren call of a new army is always strong, so I decided to take the plunge.

However, I did not want to sink a lot of money into them, so I set a limit.  I decided that if I couldn't get a fully functioning army for under two hundred dollars (US) I wasn't going to start one.  Mission accomplished.  Using the Battle for Skull Pass sets from GW, a heavy helping of Mantic's dwarf models, Ebay, and an after-holiday sale from the Warstore, I was able to put together the following list for a grand total of $107.25:

Runesmith (Reaper Margera)

40 Dwarf Warriors
30 Quarrelers
35 Hammerers
2 Organ Guns (all of this from the Mantic Dwarf boxed army and one extra box of Hammerers)

20 Battle for Skull Pass Miners (dirt cheap on Ebay)
2 Battle for Skull Pass Cannons (a little more expensive on Ebay)

At this point, I have about ninety more dollars budgeted with which to get 2 grudge throwers and some character models, which I think is highly doable. 

My biggest concerns with starting this project were appearance based.  I didn't know how well the Mantic models and the Skull Pass models would mix together, and I wasn't sure how I would like working on Mantics figures.  I have one painted now, and I'm pretty happy with the model.  Here's a shot:

As for the first concern, I think they will look fine together.  Here's a comparison shot:

You can see that the Mantic model is actually more bulky, but not outlandishy so.  The two models' beards also are strikingly different.  I will say that the beard was my favorite part of painting the GW model.  However, I do like the braided beard look of the Mantic figure.  I did an informal taste test with some non-gamer friends and family, and they actually preferred the Mantic model, saying that "he looks mean." Ultimately, I think that people will notice a definite difference in the two company's models, but no more so than when old GW figures are mixed with the new (and larger) ones.

As for working with the Mantic mini, I have no complaints.  They are not nearly as customizable as the GW ones.  Most of them are basically two or three part models, so you end up with fairly similar poses throughout the army.  That's no big deal for me as I think dwarves should be fairly orderly.  That minor quibble aside, working with the models was very easy. They were very clean of mold lines, and they went together easily (very quick construction).  Overall, I found them to be excellent models, and you really can't beat the price (and I'm really looking forward to seeing what they do with their new Sci-Fi game).

Here's another comparison shot of the two figures:

That's it for this week.  I'll be playing a tournament this weekend.  There's no comp rules (except for no power scroll and no special characters) and no painting score in this one, so I'm going to take what I think is a powerful high elf list to see what kind of damage I can do.  I'll post a report sometime next week.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tournament Report (6/25 ~ Mocksville, NC) and a High Elf Army

This weekend, I was fortunate to play a tournament at Heroes Headquarters in Mocksville, NC.  The store seemed new, and it is in a good location with lots of room to play.  I believe there were 22 players in attendance which is a pretty good crowd, and once again, it looked as if the tournament drew players from a wide area.  GameonGW (one of NC's gaming clubs) hosted this event, and I've always been impressed with their events.  I've attended some of their Games Day events (held around Thanksgiving), and they always do a top-notch job.  One thing that I was really impressed with was the scenarios.  They set some specific victory conditions beyond victory points.  This changed the games from "meet in the middle and fight" or "stand at the back and shoot," and I really appreciated that.  I imagine that messing with scenarios is a tricky proposition, but I found the second and third rounds of the tournament to be far more interesting than the core scenarios.

Speaking of local events, I did have the opportunity to discuss the upcoming NC Grand Tournament with one of the organizers. Because I'm not sure how much information he really wants out there at this point, I won't share specifics, but from what he told me, I'm really excited about the format.  They seem to have taken the best aspects of some of the larger national tournaments and fused them into what I think will be a welcome (and long overdue) addition to the local gaming scene.  I'll be following the discussion over at WarhammerNC with great interest.

Anyway, I had three really great games at the Mocksville tournament.  I ended up finishing a disappointing 1-2, but both of my losses came down to one roll in the last round.  I also had three really great opponents, and I ended up taking home the prize for Best Army (an amalgamation of paint and composition, I think).  All in, it was a fun day.  I had painted up a couple of new models for the army, so I thought I'd just take a picture of the army in all its glory:

When tournaments score paint, I tend to base my armies less around tabletop strategy and more around what I think will look best.  I was a little surprised that I got such a high composition score.  Clearly, this shows the effects of 8th edition on army lists.  At a 7th edition tournament, when I dropped a dragon on the table, I worried about getting punched in the face.  In 8th edition, I'm given a high comp score. I weep for what has become of my poor, poor dragon.

Here's a quick run down of my games:

Game 1:  I drew a Beastman army played by a player whom I know fairly well and whom I always enjoy playing.  When the game started, I felt pretty good about the game.  He had no shooting with which to harass my flyers, and I felt like my combat troops would match up pretty well.  I'd like to claim that there was some awesome tactical movement, but basically, our armies just plowed into one another in the center of the table.  Overall, the Beastmen really surprised me with their magic, and I really like the way that this player has his list set up.  I don't normally think of that as a dangerous magic army, but he played a level 4 with death, a level 2 with death, and 2 level 2s with beast.  He was able to boost his magic with the herdstone, and combined the miasma/purple sun combo with some nice buffs and debuffs.  My poor level 2 was pretty badly outclassed, and his magic dominance pushed the combats into his favor.  Still, I had a chance to win at the end as my Prince (on foot by this time -- the dragon had died turn 2) ran off the most expensive Beastmen block. I had whittled the 400 point block down to 4 models, and they finally broke.  Unfortunately, I came up one short on the pursuit, which means I got nothing for all of those kills (how I hate that rule).  I lost by 300 and some odd points, so that might have pulled me into a draw.  Even so, it was a fun game with some excellent banter.

Game 2:  I've been seeing a lot of Lizardmen armies lately, and I met with another in game 2.  This one was unique, however.  He was only running 1 level 1 wizard.  I wonder how many Lizardmen vs. High Elf games have been fought in 8th edition with a grand total of 3 wizard levels on the table.  This was the dragon's game to shine (although some skinks killed him in turn five) as he killed a unit of Salamanders, a unit of Saurus, and an Ancient Stegadon.  This was a pretty one-sided game in my favor, but honestly, I can't take much credit for it.  Every key moment went bad for my opponent whether it was difficult terrain, charge distances, pursuits, or magic.  I definitely applaud my opponent for running a cool, fluffy list regardless of its power level as well as for keeping a good spirit even though the fates had clearly lined up against him.

Game 3: At 1-1 with what I felt was decent number of battle points, I was still technically alive.  I matched up against a Vampire Counts player whom I had played before.  His list revealed a couple of holes in mine: I had no magic attacks or magic missiles with which to challenge the wraiths, and I didn't have enough fire attacks to fend off the Drakenhoff banner.  However, the objective made this game interesting.  Basically, we each got to declare two pieces of terrain as objectives, and whoever held the most at the end of the game won.  This game ended up with one of the most intense endings that I've had in a while.  My army had pretty much folded, but I had placed my two objective pieces over on the right flank, and my spearmen and swordmasters had gone over to hold them.  The way the game had progressed, there was really no way for my opponent to claim them.  The Drakenhoff unit controlled one for my opponent, leaving one free.

The VC player moved two units over in an attempt to claim the fourth objective (and send the decision to Victory Points).  My dragon threw himself in front of one of the units to cut them off.  I was hoping that he'd flank with the other unit, so that I could tie both up.  However, my opponent didn't fall for that, so I figured I was done.  I moved a chariot across in the top of the 5th, hoping it could do something, but the dragon had my path to the other unit blocked.  However, things turned around when the ghouls took the dragon down.  With it out of the way, my chariot was able to hit a very long charge to stop the other unit's advance.  My prince held the ghouls, and it looked like it was my opponent who had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  He then made his own hail mary pass in the bottom of the sixth round.  He marched his vampire to where it was barely in range, and landed a banishment which knocked the swordmasters down to 3 models.  He was hoping to panic them, but I held.  However, the casualties were actually enough to move me one base width away from the building, which meant that I had literally lost by one model.  Although the outcome was disappointing, the game was exceptionally satisfying.

This tournament drops me below .500 for the year, but I can't complain.  I won my second prize of the year and had three great games.  All the talk about the GT in October has me stoked as well.  Although I have some Tomb Kings looking longingly at me from the paint station, I believe they will have to wait.  I have three projects that I think will improve the appearance of my army leading for the GT.  Look for some updates soon in which I replace my spearmen with some conversions, build and paint a new centerpiece model, and redo my display board (or I'll continue to be lazy in which case, you won't see anything here).

Oh and Rod, I used the prize money to buy the Malifaux rules.  Just saying.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tournament Report (6/11 ~ Cornelius, NC) and Dwarf Miners

So, I took the High Elves to a tournament at Parker, Banner, Kent and Wayne in Cornelius, NC.  It's the first time that I've played a tournament here, and I really enjoyed it.  There were close to thirty players, and every fantasy army was represented. Painting wasn't judged, which is always disappointing, but otherwise I thought the organizers did an excellent job of running the event.  I'd definitely be willing to make the drive again.

One thing that I was most excited about was the discussion of expanding the Warhammer community in the Southeast.   The organizers made a couple of announcements of note.  First, they will be hosting a GT in Charlotte in October.  This means that we will have two two-day tournaments a year in NC (Brawler Bash is in April) about six months apart.  They also made an announcement about the Masters event that they've hosted the past three years in December.  In the past, local clubs have run mini-leagues and sent their champions to compete.  This year, they will be expanding to encompass other SE states (especially SC and VA).  They will also be opening it to winners of RTT.  In addition to these new or expanded events, they've developed a new website (WarNC) to facilitate discussion between the various areas.  I think that the website helped to contribute to what seemed to be a good turn out at the tourney.  All told, I think that these changes harken an exciting time for the hobby in NC and the Southeast.  Maybe some of my old friends from Tennessee will come over and join in the fun.

Anyway, here's the list that I took:

Archmage (F. Robe, Talisman of Saphery, Jewel of Dusk)
Archmage (Seerstaff)
BSB (Armor of Caledor, Dawnstone, Great Weapon)

40 Spearmen
20 Archers

19 Phoenix Guard (Banner of Sorcery)
30 White Lions (Banner of Discipline)
Lion Chariot

2 Eagles

Both the archmages took life so that I could use the Seerstaff to double life spells.  I wanted to buff the heck out of the White Lions and use dwellers when needed to soften the opposition and take out problem characters.  I had mixed results:

Game 1 (v. Lizardmen):  In this game, everything went pretty much as planned.  I dwellersed his Slann in oblivion, and my buffed unit of white lions pretty much massacred his whole army.  In addition, the dice went very poorly for my opponent, so the game pretty  spiraled quickly out of control.  In the end, I had picked up max. points and felt pretty good about the list.  I figured the only thing I had to worry about was a good dwarven or empire gun list.

Game 2 (v. Dwarf): So, when I traded lists with my opponent, I knew I was in trouble.  High elves have trouble with shooting lists anyway, and I had eliminated all the fast moving elements from my list.  Essentially, the only strategy available to me was line up straight across the board, march as quickly as possible, and hope for some irresistible force spells.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get double 6s, and his magic defense was pretty stout (Master Rune of Balance, Rune of Spelleater, 2 x Rune of Spellbreaking).  In the end, I was down to a handful of troops by the time I made it across, and his blocks of greatweapon dwarfs made short work of them.

As part of my post-game therapy, I came home and finished my first dwarf unit, some BfSP Miners.  I started painting them because I thought they were horrendous models, and I wanted to see what I could do with them.  I'm pretty happy with the results, and they don't look nearly as awful painted up:

Game 3 (v. Empire):  With a loss under my belt, all the pressure was off, and I was just looking for a fun third game.  Unfortunately, I showed up at the table to find even more war machines than the dwarfs had had: 3 mortars, 2 cannons, and a volley gun.  Despite the wall of shooting, this game ended up close.  I absorbed the empire shooting a little better than I had the dwarf guns, and my elite troops bested his.  If my chariot had made it into his warmachines (it dodged three canon balls before being dropped) or if my spears had been able to get through his flagellants a bit more quickly (40 spears and 30 flagellants spent the better part of three rounds wailing away on each other), I might have been able to pull it out.

In the end, I paid for eliminating the fast moving elements from my army.  I hadn't seen much in the way of shooting lists in 8th edition, with most opponents favoring large blocks of troops.  Ultimately, this was a good lesson in the need for balance in list design.  Anyway, there's another tournament in Mocksville on 6/25.  I'll post a report in couple of weeks.  Hopefully, I'll have more luck there.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

De Bellis Antiquitatis and a Carthaginian Elephant

So I mentioned before that a friend and I have dipped our toes into the world of historical miniatures gaming (you can read his take over at On First).  We have opted to begin with De Bellis Antiquitatis and have managed to work in four games thus far.

If you aren't familiar with DBA, it is produced by Wargames Research Group and is written by Phil Barker.  It features a rules system that is simple but allows for a great deal of tactical thinking.  The old adage about "minutes to learn, a lifetime to master" seems pretty apt thus far.  We were attracted to this particular game primarily for its positive reputation and its low cost of entry.  All that is needed to play are 12 bases of 15mm minis per side.  I currently have two armies (Carthaginians and Parthians), and using Ebay, I have paid less than thirty dollars a piece for them.

Because painting my Warhammer armies dominates my hobby time, I haven't worked on my DBA figures as much as I would have liked.  However, I have finished one elephant, and my Carthaginians are scattered across the painting table as I type.  Here are some pics of the elephant:

I've found that 15mm models take a different set of techniques to paint, and unfortunately, I haven't learned those techniques yet. Hopefully, I will get better as I work through my armies.

Anyway, I'm really enjoying DBA thus far, and I have found the following to be real strengths of the game:

1)  Fog of War Rules:  one of the core systems of the game is that each player rolls a die each round to see how many orders he can issue.  Each number on the die basically allows you to move one of your units.  If a unit is too far from your general or out of sight, the order costs two of your pips.  I really like that you can't count on your plan coming together.  This resource management system forces players to make tough decisions and adds a layer of uncertainty to the game.

2)  Tactical Movement:  movement seems to be a key factor in a successful game.  One thing that attracted me to Warhammer Fantasy over 40k was its focus on movement, and the games of DBA that we have played thus far have featured some fancy movement as the opposing armies have tried to position themselves for maximum advantage.

Of course, a few flaws exist within the system.  While the rules are simple, the author includes very sparse explanations and almost no graphics to help with unusual situations.  An unofficial guide to the rules exists; however, even with this text, my friend and I have had at least one rules question in each game.  It's also starting to seem that there might be a paper-rock-scissors aspect to the game as Bercilak's Roman blades have rolled over my Carthaginians both times we have played and my Parthian Knights have returned the favor by routing his Romans in both their games.  However, I'm not sure that we've given the game a good playtest yet.  We've made so many major tactical errors (allowing one of my own elephants to trample my general, allowing a landing party to be swept back into the sea) that we've joked that our generals are the little brothers of the actual generals.  I think as we pick up more of the rules and tactics that the armies will start to even out.

Overall, I'm really enjoying the change of pace that this game offers over Warhammer, and researching the historical details of the army to help with modeling and painting is a nice addition to my hobby.  However, there are four Warhammer Fantasy tournaments in my area over the next two eight weeks, so my high elves have returned to the painting table.  I have a tournament in Charlotte this weekend; I'll post some details early next week.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Tomb King Army Book Review (part 3 -- first game with the new book)

I finally had a chance to play a couple of games with the new book, so I thought I would update some of my initial thoughts.  I worked up a list that contains mainly the newer units, so I would have an idea of how they worked.  This certainly isn't a powerful list, so keep that in mind as you look over it.  Here's what I ended up playing:

Tomb Prince (Armor of Silvered Steel, GW)
Liche High Priest (Level 4)

50 skeletons (mus, standard)
50 skeletons (champ, mus, standard)
18 skeletal archers (musician)
5 horse archers

3 sepulchral stalkers
3 sepulchral stalkers
3 necropolis knights
warsphinx (fiery breath)
warsphinx (fiery breath)

casket of souls
screaming skull catapult
screaming skull catapult

I'm really hoping that a construct heavy list like this can work because I think it would look awesome on the table.  Of course, there are about $250 (US) in new models there that I don't have, so I had to go to proxy mode:

That's right; I used paper cut out Tomb Kings. That guy actually worked pretty well.  My opponent and I joked about just buying a fancy printer instead of more models. 

Anyway, I got three games in with that list: one against Bretonnians and two against vampire counts.  The Bretonnian list had the standard issue double trebuchets, 6 medium blocks of knights, 3 units of ten archers, some pegasi, a lord with heroic killing blow, the invulnerable BSB, and a lvl 4 damsel.  The VC list featured the grave guard horde with regen banner, 2 units of ghouls and 1 unit of skeltons for core, a block of ten blood knights(!), a vampire with said bloodknights (along with the weapon that brings those pesky knights back), a sidekick caster vamp, and the BSB.
I felt good about my chances because neither of those lists are built for staying back, so I knew the TK's lack of movement wouldn't be a huge deal.  For the most part this was true; however, the Bretonnians were certainly able to pick their combats much to my dismay.  Partially because of this, I ended up being routed by the Bretonnians.  However, I fared better against the VC, routing them in the first game (of course both of my opponents casters were sucked into the warp by miscasts) and losing the second game with VC by 166 points (so close to a draw).

Despite my 1-2 record, I found the army very enjoyable to play, especially because of all the entombed elements in my list. Having those three units popping up where needed added a dynamic element to the game that is often lacking (too many games end up with a scrum at the center of the table). Overall, the games cemented my belief that TK are competitive but solidly mid-tier.  I'm still worried about playing against heavy shooting lists, but we'll have to see how that goes when I actually get a game in against the dwarves.  Here are my revised thoughts about some of the individual units:

Magic:  I found myself very dependent on magic.  Unfortunately, even with the hierotitan and the casket, I found that my opponent was very able to stop the key spells each round.  The killing blow spell attracted the most attention, and I wasn't able to get it off in any of the three games.  However, neither of these armies cared much about me advancing, so I was able to get the march spell off when I needed it. I'll also note that I lost my hierophant against the Bretonnians.  The TK's high leadership made crumbling more of an annoyance than a game breaking occurance (although the catapults are toast).

Skeletons: My units of fifty with shields were rock hard while they had their prince. Unfortunately, the armor of silvered steel broke down pretty quickly against the high strength attacks I was facing in these lists.  When the prince died, the skeletons broke down pretty quickly.  50 seemed to be a pretty good number to me, and I'll probably continue to play at that size.  I'll also note that archers and smiting go well together; I found myself wanting more archers on the table for sure.  I may drop back to one block of shield skeletons and use the other unit to buy more archers.

Stalkers: I questioned taking these guys in my last post; however, I found them very useful in all three games.  They really hurt warmachines and high armor targets, and their misfire didn't hurt them too much.  They even helped out in several combats by coming in from the rear.  They were probably the all-stars of the list truth be told, and I'll be placing them in every list (at least for a while).

Knights: They are very powerful and have a good save, and they really force people to think when they come up behind them.  They do have trouble in wars of attrition, but I feel they are a very solid unit.

Warsphinx: The Brettonians had no trouble with these things.  The low armor and the fact that anything can wound them with a 6 means they are more vulnerable than one might think (heroic killing blow also is painful).  Still, they dominated the VC core, cutting through a units of ghouls with ease.  I really want to like these things, but they are just too easy to take down.  A block of tomb guard would probably been a more effective choice.

Horse Archers:  I still love them.  They got into a trebuchet in turn 2, which is excellent for us.  Against VC, they were able to redirect the dreaded bloodknights in one game (I was able to vanguard right up in front of them and turn them away), and they kept a unit of ghouls busy for two rounds in the other.  I think they serve a very valuable purpose for us.

Hierotitan:  I'm torn about this guy.  I made good use of both of his spells, and he helped the sphinxes out in combat.  However, I did find it a little difficult to keep him in range of my hierophant (who was bunkered behind my lines) and the extra casting value isn't as useful in a single mage list as it would be in a list with multiple casters.  I may just take a regular colossus next time.

Casket:  I still feel this is our automatic choice.  The extra dice are invaluable, and the spell is great against both small annoying units as well as heavily armed units.

All in all, I enjoyed playing my army, and I never felt outclassed as I sometimes did with the seventh edition list.  I'll be fiddling with my list in my continued attempt to make a viable construct-heavy army (and maybe I'll pick up a boxed set or two of the new models -- I'm itching to paint some Necropolis Knights).

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tomb King Army Book Review (part 2 -- units) and a Tomb King Chariot

Hopefully, I’m going to get my first game with the new Tomb Kings book next weekend.  I’m looking forward to it.  I’ve been studying the units and reading lots of lots of internet posts trying to figure out what the way forward is for TK in 8th edition.  However, one thing that I am sure of is that I will be using a unit of chariots.  The idea of masses of chariots is what attracted me to TKs in the first place, and I ran 12 in some of my 7th edition lists.  For some reason, I like the aesthetic of the chariot.  I run them in my High Elf list quite a bit, but TK is almost unique in the ability to field units of chariots.  

However, because TK were always my secondary army,  I never  actually finished painting a chariot, so I really wanted to get a unit painted up before next my first game with the new book.  Here is the finished product:

I'm pretty happy with it.  However, it did take more time than expected; I'm not really looking forward to painting 5 (or 11!) more.  Here it is from a couple of other angles:

In looking at the new book, one thing that strikes me is the variety of unit choices and army builds we have available now.  We can do heavy chariot, heavy construct, elite infantry, horde infantry, gunline, monster mash, and probably others.  Indeed, I think the new Orc book also offers a lot of choice.  This seems to be a design choice for the new edition books, and I’m hoping that the designers will be able to keep this trend going with their upcoming releases.  That said, I don’t think I’ve worked out how to set up a TK army yet.   

 As I look through the book, here’s what strikes me as effective:

Tomb Kings: sharing their WS with their unit seems really good. WS 6 Tomb Guard?  Slap a halberd in their hands and hit them with Biorona’s timewarp, and you’ve basically turned them into immune to psych swordmasters with fear and killing blow.  In addition, I really think the Mask is a metagame changing item as well (TK may become the skaven’s worst nightmare), but we’ll have to see how eliminating the general’s ld bubble and the BSBs rerolls works in practice.  However, as I think about making a list, I don’t think TKs will have a place unless it is for the Mask.  Unless your going for some item combo, Tomb Princes are probably a more cost effective way to buff a unit’s WS. 

Tomb Princes:  again, sharing their WS with their unit is great.  I’m thinking of slapping a King with the Mask into the Tomb Guard and a prince in the armor of silvered steel in with some shield skeletons to form two solidish anvils.

High Priests/Priests:  A lot of people are lamenting our loss of healing; however, I actually think I’ll be healing more in the current edition than I did last edition. Under the old book, I had to spam incantations in order to get the charges, the extra catapult shots, and the extra combat attacks.  It seemed like I never had any casts left to actually heal anything (and I tended to play a king heavy army).  Getting a heal with every buff, means that I’ll actually get to raise something now.  I also like having access to light; however, I just wish we had some mechanism that would allow us to pick our spells. I think running a level 4 with Nehekhara Lore and a level 2 with light will be a powerful combo.  However, because getting the key spells out of light will be so difficult, I can see myself going with a single level 4.

Skeletons:  Shield skeletons have gotten dirt cheap.  They are still terrible and will crumble away quickly; however, a unit of fifty or sixty skeletons should be able to tarpit a problematic unit, especially if they are WS 5 with the prince.

Light Horseman:  I’ve seen many claims that they are too expensive.  However, I can see scout + vanguard causing the enemy problems.  With EtBS units not being able to charge until turn 3 now, this unit might be our best chance at getting at war machines early.  I'm kind of regretting the fact that I traded all my horsemen away now.

Chariots:  I’ve already revealed my bias in favor of chariots, and the move to d6 impact hits makes these so much better.  They also got cheaper.  They are also core now regardless of general.  I think chariots will probably find a place in most lists. Indeed, the fact that they heal easier than constructs might actually make them the hammer of choice.  Take 6 for the added impact power, lose a couple as you move up, heal the unit back, get into combat and lose a couple, heal the unit back.  They are also fast.  I'm really looking forward to using my chariots.

Necropolis Knights:  I love the model, snake surfers and all.  I love how much damage they can do.  I also think that being able to bring such a hard hitting unit up behind enemy lines can cause a lot of headaches for opposing general.  I’d like  a unit of 4, but I guess since I’d have to buy two boxes to get them, I’ll end up sticking with 3.

Casket of Souls:  In my opinion, this is a no brainer choice. It adds to our magic phase, is hard to kill, and has a nice bound spell.  Again, this seems to be the closest thing we have to an automatic choice.

Tomb Guard: I've already raved about these guys.  Getting a couple of buffs on this unit is the thing that dreams are made of.  I’ll be taking a unit of 30 with halberds with the mandatory healing banner.  On down the road, I’ll experiment with spending all the core points on chariots so that I can take two units of these guys instead of only one.

All of this sounds good; however, there are a few things in the book I’m not crazy about:

Not being able to march:  This is going to hurt. Badly.  I think gunline armies will destroy us.  Even if we gear up to shoot, we are not going to outshoot dwarves or empire.  We only move 4 and depend on magic to march.  If our enemies hold their dice to stop the march spell, it will take us until turn 4 to get into charge range of the enemy line with our skeleton blocks, and there’s no way that we can make them move forward, even with 2 catapults, a casket, and a bunch of archers.  My gut tells me that this rule right here ensures that TK will not be a top tournament army.

Sepulchral Stalkers:  I might need to play with these a bit before completely writing them off; however, they seem a bit overcosted.  They won’t do much in combat.  Their gaze attack does make them a good bet for earlier war machine removal; however, they have a chance of killing themselves with it.  That said, there are some units that they can punish, and I imagine that lizardmen and dwarf armies will dread the sight of these guys.  I might try a unit on down the road, but for now, I’ll be leaving them at home.

Ushabti:  They got a little cheaper, so that’s good.  However, the twin nerfs of making them harder to heal and giving them str. 4 and great weapons (so always strike last) instead of str. 6 (and striking on initiative) means that they probably didn’t get cheap enough. Overall, I’m left feeling that the Necropolis Knights do what they do a little more effectively and will probably claim the spot in my lists that Ushabti used to fill.

Scorpions:  Speaking of an older unit that finds itself with a new unit taking over its role, I think the scorpion loses out to the sepulchral stalkers in the war machine hunter sweepstakes.  I have three of these babies painted up, but I can't ever see taking more than one.  It's almost as if they planned to weaken one of the more popular 7th edition choices.  Nah, it couldn't be.

Sphinxes:  T8 is good.  They can do a lot of damage (especially the war sphinx). However, war machines and poison attacks are going to eat these guys up.  I think taking 2 might ensure that one gets into combat (and could be really nasty against some armies).  However, taking 2 war sphinxes is pretty expensive.  I’ll have to playtest a bit to see if I can find a place for them, but they probably won’t be in my first list.

Entombed beneath the Sand:  This is one of our most flavorful rules; however, taking away the ability to charge on the turn the units arrive hurts, especially for war machine hunting.  Even if you get the units out in turn 2, you're still not getting to charge until turn 3 (assuming you don't scatter too far away), and I'm sure said war machines will take some defensive shots in the interim.  Not having to place the marker at the beginning of the game helps offset the loss as does a more forgiving misfire chart, but I'm still disappointed in this.

Overall, I think the book is a great improvement but won’t be displacing any of the top builds.  I’d say the same thing about the Orc book by the way.  Frankly, the fact that both of the new army books have some variety, good internal balance (even the units I said I don’t like really aren’t that bad), and good external balance (solid mid tier stuff) is a good sign.  If they can keep this up, 8th edition might be remembered as the beginning of the golden age of army balance.

Hopefully, I’ll have a game in by the next time I post, and I’ll have a better idea how some of this works.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tomb King Army Book Review (part 1 -- fluff) and a Warrior of the Golden Host of Mahrak

Although I’m sure everyone is more interested in discussing the units, I’m going to start my review of the Tomb Kings book by going through the background material.  I’ve heard it said that the fluff is that stuff you have to flip through to get to the rules.  I’ve also heard it said that the fluff is the reason the army books cost 42 dollars instead of 30.  However, I actually find a lot of value in the background material.  Indeed, I think the books with well written background help painters and modelers find unique approaches for their armies.
For example, there is a bit on page 17 of the new book discussing “Legions of Legends.”  This little paragraph of fluff introduces several painting/modeling ideas that could really make a TK army pop.  For example, I could see picking up some Lizardmen bits to adorn the warriors of Raestra’s Crocodile Squadron and ending up with a really well themed army (which is helpful in racking up painting points at tournaments if you aren't a great painter).

The one that most interested me, however, was the Golden Host of Mahrak.  Essentially, these guys walk through molten gold in order to decorate their bones.  A golden host of skeletons sounded pretty cool, so I decided to paint one up to see if it would be a viable scheme for my skeletons (I have quite a bit of my army painted, but I don’t have a single skeleton).  What do you think (I'll apologize in advance for the picture quality. I lost the charger to my good camera and had to use a backup for this one):

I kind of like it, but I’m not sure I’d want to have to keep explaining why my skeletons are painted gold. I might just keep it as a unit champion or something.  Still, this shows the importance of a good background section.  The old Tomb King book was excellent, definitely one of the best background books of last edition.   One of the best parts of the old book was the border of the fluff section that detailed all of the kings of the seven dynasties with little blurbs about each written in a pop-ancient Egyptian style.  The book also had some great fiction pieces, many of which were written by Graham McNeill (one of my favorite Black Library authors).  For example, “Tales from the Oasis” details a Arabian desert guide telling some Northern treasure hunters about the area.  He details several kings including Tutankhanut, the prince who has gathered some living followers into his armies.  I noticed that a lot of wishlists for the new book included some desert riders so that people could build Tuts army (come to think of it, Ol’ Tut had a gold body too – he was from Numas though.  I wonder why they didn’t make that connection with the Golden Host of Mahrak). Finally, I always liked the first person journal of the faux-Indiana Jones and the faux-Lara Crofts ill-fated attempt to loot a Tomb King pyramid.  All in all, the old book had some interesting details and a good sense of humor. Indeed, I’ll hang on to the old book just because of its great background.

So, how does the new book compare to its forerunner in terms of fluff?  Overall, I’d have to say fairly well.  I miss the longer narrative pieces.  The new book relegates all fiction pieces to sidebars, and even then, I don’t know that I’d really call any of the sidebars fiction.  The lack of fiction is no surprise; the newer books don’t have near as much of this as the older ones.  Like I said above, the fiction pieces were often gold mines  of details for modeling, so I miss them if no one else does.  However, the book makes up for the lack of fiction with abundant sidebars (containing things such as the legions of legends), a good overview of some of the different areas of Nehekhara (the first person didn’t really individualize any of the cities), and a description of some famous battles (which give a glimpse at some alternate kings).  Scattered about these sections are some great stories.  My favorite is about a group of Brettonians who plunder a pyramid and think they have found the body of a lost Brettonian hero.  They take the body back, set it up in a reliquary, and start parading it around battlefields.  Unfortunately, it  is actually a sleeping Tomb King; mayhem ensues when he wakes up.  Going through these sections has yielded several ideas for theming the army which is what I think is the most important function of the fluff material (compare to the current High Elf book which really doesn't give any concrete ideas except for theming by province).

The actual history section was much more detailed than the last book, and they really fleshed out the background, especially about the Mortuary Cult.  One of the things I was most curious to see was what they would do with the Black Library’s Nagash trilogy, especially the first one which is set in ancient Nehekhara. I know a lot of people hate the book; I actually thought it was a decent read.  However, some of the details were a bit out of place with the old TK fluff (Ushabti as humans?).  It looks to me like they kept some of the ideas from the novel (the sphinxes, details about the Black pyramid), but largely wrote the story to adhere more closely to the original background material (I won’t spoil the novel, but this is a different Arkhan than novel one; Ushabti are statues).  Overall, I thought the history section was a bit dry and encyclopedic, but it’s history.  What are you going to do?

All in all, I was pleased with the background sections.  They gave me an idea for making my army unique, even if I don’t follow through with it, and that’s exactly what a hobby book should be aiming to do.  I do feel that the new book lacks the dark humor that permeates the old book.  However, I’d argue that the dark humor is being excised from pretty much all the new stuff, which I think is a shame.

Wow, that was a long post again.  Be on the lookout for my next post in which I’ll review some of the new units.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tomb Kings Army Book Review (intro) and a Casket of Souls

I know I promised a look at some historical figures; however, I have postponed that for two reasons.  First, 15mm models are annoying to paint, so I have washed my hands of them for a short time.  Second, the new Tomb Kings army book is out!

Obviously this book has been a long time coming, and with the old book being one of the weaker WHFB armies, Tomb Kings players have been anticipating this release for a long time.  By now, everyone has seen the models, and while I think they are a mixed bag, there is no doubt that this release represents a pretty significant reimagination of the army.  Where once I lamented the fact that we were too VC like; the new TK book seems to sever all ties between the two armies.  I'm really excited to get them on the tapletop.

Overall, I think TKs are my favorite WHFB army.  While I think a handful of armies have a better aesthetic (including my High Elves), I really like the background and flavor of the Tomb Kings, and I'm hopeful that the new book preserves that.  What I plan to do here is work my way through the book and share my reactions and thoughts as I attempt to get them ready for the next tournament (personal things got in the way of my attempt to give the 7th ed book one last go at the May tournament, so I don't have a tournament report).  I'll tell you what I think of the book, review some lists, and then tell you how they performed on the table.  My TK army also is lagging a good bit behind the High Elves in appearance, so I'll also show you my progress as I get the army ready of the table top.

Speaking of painting and modeling, the new book inspired me to finish a model that has been in permanent work in progress mode:  my casket of souls.  This was another salvage job, and unfortunately, the model was missing the two  birds that are supposed to decorate the lid of the casket. The model seems to be Indiana Jones inspired, so I wanted to pay homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark (I'm not the first to think of this, I am sure).  I had put this together a while back, but I never finished painting it.  I finally got back to it this weekend, and here's what I ended up with:

I really need to redo the flying skulls.  My skill in creating them got better with each one that I made.  The first one is really rough (even has a big ol' thump print in it).  The third one (the one that goes over the priests head) looks pretty nice.  I need to tear the first two back down and try to make them look as nice as the third.  Making them was pretty easy.  I took a paper clip and bent it into the shape that I wanted.  I then wrapped some green stuff around and smoothed that out.  A little paint, and it was ready to go.  Here it is from a couple of other angles:

When I go back to redo the model, I'm going to make a couple of changes.  First, I'm going to use a hobby drill to make some holes to insert the ends of the paper clips rather than just green stuffing them to the side of the casket. Secondly, I would like to base it.  My vision is to find some sort of ancient temple terrain piece that it could sit on.  I'm thinking it should be circular and have a few steps up to it, maybe with some pillars around it.  Unfortunately, I haven't found anything that will work.  For now though, I think the model is good enough for the table top.  I would like to find the birds that are supposed to go on the top.  If anyone has some casket birds lying around the house or knows where I can find some ancient temple terrain., let me know!

I've gone a bit long here.  My plan was to begin the review in this post by reviewing the new background section of the book, but I am already in TLDNR territory.   I'll save that until the next post.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

BB Game 4 and a Bone Giant

A couple of posts ago I wrote, "I'd hate to spend a bunch of time working on  a Bone Giant that was useless with the next book," so of course, I ultimately decided that I should spend my time this week working on a Tomb Kings Bone Giant.  This model was a definite salvage job.  I got him as part of a trade I made in which I sent a bunch of excess High Elves off for someone's broken down Tomb Kings.  As part of said trade, I got a whole lot more value, but some of the models were broken, missing pieces, or poorly painted (sometimes all three at once).  This bone giant was in the box, and during my initial refurbishment phase, I just tossed him in the bits box.

For my kids, the bits box is a source of wonder and excitement, and they come running when they see me get it down.  The broken down giant skeleton in particular captured their interests, and they kept bothering me to paint it.  After some prodding, I finally did it, and here are the results:

Being a salvage job, I didn't have a base for him, so I'll have to work on that later.  I've been thinking out putting my Tomb Kings on resin bases, so he might serve as the prototype for that project.  I had fun painting the model except for the legs.  No matter what I did, those leg wrappings came out looking like 1980s era leg warmers.  I tried white, bubonic brown, and ultimately red, but it didn't matter.  He was just destined to look like he's channeling his inner Olivia Newton John.  Now that he's finished, all that's left to do is keep my fingers crossed that the new book makes him more useful.  With less than one week to go until the new book comes out, I'm getting excited to see how the army is going to play.  Here are a few more shots of Olivia the Bone Giant:

Anyway, my fourth game at the Bash was against the player who ultimately won best painted.  He had used a lot of unit fillers, which I am not sold on.  However, his army told the story of an Orc invasion of a Dwarvish mine and each unit featured a little diorama of Dwarfs and Goblins locked in mortal combat.  It was a very cool idea.  His army also featured the Arachnarok Spider, giving me my first opportunity to play against the new big monster.

Indeed, by this point at the tournament I was 1-2, so winning any generalship awards was out of the question.  It was time to have fun, and fun for me in this game meant killing that spider.  So after deployment, I took my hardest unit,  the phoenix guard, and chased it down.  Phoenix Guard are not meant for monster killing; however, they are very hard to kill.  I wanted to see what the spider could do against them.  Ultimately, it did quite well.  It tosses out lots of attacks and is very resilient.  It won two consecutive rounds of combat by itself against a block of infantry, which is pretty good for a monster.  However, leadership is its Achilles heel.  The first time it lost, it fled (his general had gotten pulled away from it).

Ultimately, it escaped from the Phoenix Guard and preserved its points.  Somehow though, the rest of my army defeated the rest of his, and I came out with a win.  It was a fun game, and I really enjoyed playing the new Orc and Goblin book.  The old book seemed to have too many game slowing rules; however, the new book seems to maintain the quirkiness of the army while streamlining some of the effects.

Hopefully, the next post you see here will represent a bit of a change of pace.  There is a tournament this weekend at Sci-fi Genre in Raleigh (very fun and well run tourneys -- I highly recommend them), so I'll have results from that.  However, as I mentioned earlier, I'm starting to get into historical games a bit, and I will probably get some games in next week.  This means that instead of painting more bones I will be working on painting up some of the most fearsome enemies of RomeI should be able to post some test models soon!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Brawler Bash Game 3 and Some Giant Eagles

I have been working on painting up something big this week, but it's not quite finished.  So instead, I will show you one of the conversions (or kitbashes?) that I made for the Bash.  One problem with slamming big blocks of figures into each other is that said blocks often do not like to line up.  Flyers are the worst.  They typically have huge wings (or in the case of dragons, huge tongues) that stick out and prevent easy alignment.  I've been using Gamezone's eagles lately, and I like them a lot.  However, they practically spill out of a 50mm base.  To fix that problem, I tried this:

Through the magic of bits sellers, I was able to procure 4 of the rocks from the High Elf Dragon kit.  They give the model about six inches of height which puts them well above any infantry that they may have to line up with.  I also think it looks pretty nice.  The conversion was pretty easy.  The rock is designed for a chariot base, so getting it onto a 50x50 required some careful cutting.  This cutting created some holes in what was left, and there were also some indentions where the dragon's feet were supposed to go.  I used a little green stuff to fill those holes, trying my best to sculpt the greenstuff into rock form.  

The eagles then had to be attached.  Gamezone's eagles are metal and possess significant weight.  Balancing them on the rock was difficult.  The swooping one below was simple.  He had a little peg on his tail feathers, and I was able to use a Dremel to drill a perfect sized hole into the rock.  A little glue has held him up perfectly.  The soaring version above was a nightmare.  I tried gluing.  I tried pinning.  I tried praying.  Nothing would make him balance on that rock.  I ended up breaking one of his feet off.  Finally, in despair, I ended up just greenstuffing him to the rock.  Fortunately, the angle of the rock and his giant wings tend to hide the fact that he no longer has feet, but he looks a little rough upon close inspection.  Alas.  Here are some shots of his more cooperative comrade:

As I said, I purchased the rocks in bulk, so I have two rocks left.  I'm trying to figure out what else I can do with them, so if anyone has ideas...

It is appropriate that I am discussing eagles because they played a significant role in game three.  I was 0-2 coming into that game, and I really didn't want to end the first day with no wins.  However, I felt pretty good because I have played Bretonnians more than any other army, and my opponent confessed to knowing very little about High Elves.  As an aside, the hall we were in had gotten so loud that it was almost deafening.  My opponent and I were shouting at each other and were still not able to really understand each other.  That coupled with the fact that this was my third game of Warhammer in nine hours made for some very uncomfortable gaming to say the least.

Anyway, the army I was up against seemed very 7th edition in design.  What I am seeing a lot out of Bret armies is large blocks of peasants, lots of archers, and of course, dueling trebuchets. This army centered on knights.  It did have a trebuchet, but only one.  It also featured a lord on hippogriph, which is not something one sees every day.

For all intents and purposes, the game ended in turn 1.  I took the first turn and moved my horde of white lions into range of all his knights, hoping they would charge me.  They did, and I can say that I truly felt guilty when I explained what 30 strength 6, rerollable, always strikes first attacks meant.  He did a little damage to the white lions, but three units of knights were fleeing.  The eagles got the trebuchet the next turn, and my opponent was left with few options to hurt me.

I will hand it to my opponent though because he made a nifty move with his lord to give himself a chance to win.  We were playing Blood and Glory, which I think is the best of the core scenarios.  I love the way it punishes armies with few banners (and hence few units). I think every tournament should include some version of it to balance deathstar armies a bit. Anyway, I had my general, a banner, and my BSB in a bunker unit hidden behind my lines.  My swordmasters were positioned to protect it from said lord, but they failed their terror test and ran off, allowing his lord to redirect into my bunker's flank.  The only thing that saved that unit was poor rolling on his part.  He flubbed the charge, I stood, and in the next round I was able to finish off the last banner needed for victory.

All in all, it was an enjoyable game against an opponent who definitely kept things fun.  A little drama at the end spiced things up.  This was also the only game in which my horde of white lions did anything.  I know a lot of people swear by them, but as I'll talk about next post, I'm not sold.  Hopefully, I'll also have some pictures of the model on which I have been working.